Excerpts from “The Years,” a collection of interrelated flash fictions
by Michael Prihoda
The Year of Problems
Our parents have problems.
Our parents have problems.
I clambered back into bed, feeling more awake than before, and the blue-white light of my clock radio cast a glow over the walls and a portion of my bed. I groaned and turned onto my side, facing the window. My shadow, discernible only as several lumps above the mattress, was projected on the sheer blinds that kept others from peering in.
I tried to bore myself to sleep with the monotony of my shadow, calmly rising and falling, my breathing nearly synced with the ocean waves from my sound machine. I heard the clock chime the half hour.
And then my shadow wasn’t mine anymore.
Like watching a plant grow with time-lapse photography, something bulbous, followed by two long appendages, extruded themselves from near my hip.
A head. Arms.
I looked over my shoulder, but there was nothing behind me to cast such a shadow. The light burnt my eyes, and I turned back towards my window, which had clearly become a canvas for my imagination.
As I squinted so my vision could adjust, the shadow became humanoid. The arms, not so gangly now, grew more refined. It stretched, tilting to face the ceiling. The creature conjured something, then pulled it up to its face. When I saw its long fingers fiddling at the back of its head, a single word floated into my mind.
Then gloves. Pulled on quickly, efficiently.
I swallowed. Sleep was out of the question.
The humanoid being that was behind me…yet, not…whose shadow was projected upon my window shade, continued busying itself with things unseen. Then it turned, so I might see the silhouette of its back.
If I had attempted to move before, fear and revulsion now paralyzed me.
What I could not see in profile, I now made out clearly. Below the creature’s shoulders, formed by the two primary arms, protruded two more pairs of limbs. They stuck out only slightly from the torso, with a few too many joints, and hung limply at the sides, inferior with apparent disuse. Around the head, two angular extrusions jutted out from where its temples would be. Suddenly it turned back, its head bowed close over my shadow, clutching something in its hand.
Another mask. Delicate shadows of several tubes streamed from it, and the silhouette that held it leaned over, closer to the shadow of my head on the pillow.
The sound machine breathed for me now. Slow. Steady. Rhythmic. Calm.
It fastened the mask around my head.
After what felt like minutes, but may have been seconds, the giddy chirp of a bird trilled in my ears, and I reopened my eyes.
The world outside my window was beginning to glow gently with the dawn. More birds joined the first one’s song. I looked at the shade.
The outline of the humanoid shadow was barely discernible in the strengthening light, but before it disappeared completely, I saw it held something long and thin in one of its six hands.
Andi Dobek (‘Andrea’ to her parents and strangers) rarely leaves the confines of her own head, finding the company there much more agreeable and easier to sway than those of the ‘real’ world. Long before she could walk, she began her writing career as soon as she could grip a pen, and hasn’t stopped mutilating innocent paper since. She holds a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois, and another in Web Design and Development. Currently she is slaving over a novel conceived over ten years ago, and her greatest dream is that it will one day see the light.
Andi lives in the Midwest and works at a credit union to fund her next endeavor: an MFA in Screenwriting through Lindenwood University. If you’re socially inclined, you can follow her on Twitter (@andreadobek) and Instagram (@The_Cicatrix).
Another Small Death
Assured his references would be fine, two week’s notice was given, severance check guaranteed. That would give him one month total to get a life.
Freakyfour years gone just like that. Exiting in long strides through swinging doors, Gary walked to the elevator. This whole building, all twenty six floors, would be there when he was gone. His work was unimportant, in a few weeks nobody would remember him.
His hands hung in a gesture of hopelessness. His tongue covered with thick crust leaving a bad taste in his mouth. He sat down more numb than anything else. Shuffling his options like broken glass through his mind…if only one thought could come out straight, one sliver of truth. But truth could be hard to handle, like shards of glass, slashing your face. The bleary sky was streaked by blood red rays from a setting sun. Night approached deep and dark.
Don’t live in the same house with your wife
after you’ve decided to divorce her. See your rabbi,
find a scribe. Observe the sun, divorce
proceedings must take place during daylight.
Do not let the scribe use a form, or any paper
that can be erased, it should be parchment.
Choose two righteous men as witnesses.
Your wife removes all rings, holds cupped hands
beside each other, palms up, fingers
somewhat raised. You hold the Get, tell her
This is your divorce. Accept this document
and you are divorced from me from here on.
Allow the paper to fall into her hands.
She closes her fingers around the document,
lifts it up, places it under her arm, walks away.
Have no further contact.
Delaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Sound Effects (2013, Broadkill Press Key Poetry Series chapbook #4). Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies such as Kansas City Voices, Big River Poetry Review, Houseboat, Bryant Literary Review, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, Philadelphia Stories, and The Broadkill Review. Nina was a 2012 Best of the Net nominee.
We’re pleased to announce our first finalist for our President’s/Valentine’s Day contest, in which Jacob Shelton envisions what would happen if James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur hit it off.
Our contest’s winner will be announced next Friday.
Madeline and Calvin sat quietly on their sofa watching The Omen,
supposedly a horror classic but
Calvin didn’t think very much of it. The pacing was all over the place and he
found the concept of the antichrist to be dull.
“Why can’t you just have a good time on our night off? I told you I would
watch whatever you wanted, we could have watched Honey I Shrunk the
Kids for all I care, I just wanted to spend the evening with you and now
you’ve ruined it.”
Madeline went to bed. Calvin did the dishes and finished watching The
Omen, it wasn’t as slow as he originally thought, and that kid was kind of
creepy. He went in to the bedroom to apologize to Madeline but she was
pretending to be asleep so he pretended to sleep next to her.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Madeline and Calvin are werewolves.
Listen up, Gazelles! Halloween is right around the corner and we want you — that’s right, YOU — to send us your October-themed fiction, essays, poetry, and art.
What scares you? What makes you tick?
Hey coffee shop dwellers, listen up!
We know you are all very excited to be a part of this new literary venture. The Internet is our sea, and WordPress is the rocky ship which will guide us safely to shore.
Please submit your short stories, micro fiction, flash fiction, poetry, short plays, monologues, novel excerpts, and art to The Furious Gazelle.
We accept writing that is good, well-written, and punchy. We accept art that is artistic.
E-mail your story as a .doc or .pdf attachment or pasted into the body of an e-mail to TheFuriousGazelle@gmail.com.
Side note: we reserve the right to change any of these rules at any time or make exceptions when we choose, because this is our damn magazine.