J. Eric Castro – THREE POEMS

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CLASS ACT

I came to a stop sign
driving down Memory Lane
and washed my hands of memories that needed to be washed away.
This road by the river
is the only place I need to be.
Here the sun sets in the east, making today yesterday.

I hold on to an image that reminds me of yesterday’s dream
of being the man I wanted to be when I was a little kid.
But now I have to let go, all my dreams have faded away
and now I have to do the same things that my Daddy did.

New dreams have replaced the old,
but I still can’t seem to strike gold.
I tell everybody I meet to realize
that a man can’t win no matter how hard he tries.

Driving down some boulevard,
I came to a place I’d never been.
I thought it was heaven at first, but I’m still in the U.S.A.
I tried to ask someone for directions,
but to no avail–
it seems as if nobody around here really knows what to say.

New dreams have replaced the old,
but I still can’t seem to strike gold.
I tell everybody I meet to realize
that a man can’t win no matter how hard he tries.

I ride through the valley on my
memories again.
Turn and see a girl looking at me, could one day she be mine?
I’m standing by that river on a
Sunday afternoon,
I think I’ve just realized I’ve suddenly run out of time.

New dreams have replaced the old
but I still can’t seem to strike gold.
I tell everybody I meet to realize
that a man can’t win no matter how hard he tries…

…and when there’s a man
with a master plan
why does life persecute him so?
And if it’s a known fact
that he was a class act
why can’t he just be left alone?

WIT’S END

Well, don’t cha know
what you have been waiting for
is coming ‘round the bend
and you’re at your wit’s end.

Well, don’t cha know
a life worth waiting for
is running at your speed
so now’s the time to heed

I have no more time
to dignify the pain.
Yeah, I have no more time
to get on my feet again.

I have no more time
when troubles get me deep
I have no more time.
I said, I HAVE NO MORE TIME!

Well, don’t cha know,
what you have been waiting for
is an eternity out of place;
let it veer off into space.

Well, don’t cha know,
things that were left behind
soon we all shall find
were things of the mind.

I have no more time
to rectify the ills.
Yeah, I have no more time
to get off on the thrills.

I said, I have no more time
to seek fortune and fame.
I have no more time.
I said, I HAVE NO MORE TIME!

Well, don’t cha know
what you have been waiting for
is coming ‘round the bend
and you’re at your wit’s end.

Well, don’t cha know
it happens for a reason
and thus begins a season
you’ll learn when you listen.

SALVATION

Blackened shadows
late at night
I’m going to the gallows
without a single fright

I can’t live today
my body’s aching once again
I’m off the cliff
Lord, won’t you please be a friend…

‘cuz I can’t wait;
oh Lord, I can’t wait…oh yeah
salvation once more
salvation once more

Black-eyed peas
are my last supper.
They’re Seven Seas;
compliments to the chef.

It has been so long
since we’ve had this conversation
and it’s been so hard—
the journey to find myself.

And I can’t wait;
ah Lord, I can’t wait…no, no
salvation once more
salvation once more

Blackened shadows
late at night
I’m going to the gallows
without a single fright]

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J. Eric Castro isn’t going to start your revolution, sing your top-40 hit, or lead the Houston Astros to a World Series championship anytime soon. He is only interested in writing and, as the Editor-in-Chief of Danse Macabre’s DM du jour blog, publishing good fiction. A graduate of the College of Staten Island in New York City and father of two daughters, he has been published in numerous on-line literary magazines, including Danse Macabre, Mediavirus Magazine, Greensilk Journal, and Sparkbright Magazine. His first novel, Rowdies, is available from Outskirts Press, and a novella, Cricket for Souls, is on sale through Muse it Up Publishing. Nightmares—A Collection of Tales, is also available through Hammer and Anvil Press.

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Herman Melville – THE MALDIVE SHARK

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About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head:
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril’s abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat -
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull,
Pale ravener of horrible meat.

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William James – FOUR POEMS

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IN THE BACK YARD, MY FATHER DIGS

 

a patch of damp earth. Spreads manure with a rusty pitchfork,

its handle a forest of splinters. Breaks the crust of another harsh

 

Pennsylvania winter until the promise of fall harvest peers

through clumps of sod like nosy cherubs. He spreads the seed

 

with mechanical precision; a row each for carrots, green onions,

tomatoes to hang from their wire frames. Everything in its proper place.

 

The stalks of corn never grow as high as desired, but he plants them

anyway. Lettuce leaves twist & dance between the peppers, drawing

 

rabbits from the field, waving their leafy hosanna’s in the summer wind.

They are hungry, the rabbits, nibbling ruthless on every exposed frond.

 

Their feast proves fatal, so much of my father’s labor will wither,

abandoned to dry in the scorch of August. When September comes,

 

my mother will wash the dirt from their meager bounty, encase

the colorful bits of produce in glass jars like crown jewels. She will

 

stack them in glittering rows, banish them to the basement pantry,

while my father glares at his calloused hands, seeing nothing of worth.

GODSPEED, CONSPIRATOR

 

listen – do you hear that? something’s coming.

sounds just like a storm. no, wait, that’s not right.

it’s too clean. too sterile. too much like instruments

unwrapped for amputation. this here is more like

rust scraping off iron spike. more like steam

pipe. boiler room. furnace. more like

 

          tear the fucking sky in half,

          pull god to earth by the throat.

 

more like inferno. blast radius. engine grinding

hard against stuck gear & the fuel is dripping

near open flame. every drop of blood in your veins

screaming to be spilled. it’s three a.m. &

everything is closed except the parking lots.

everything is washed in flame. or is it fog?

every light in the sky is a town crier’s torch.

 

         three a.m. & all is not well!

 

I have been spitting out all of my teeth one by one,

spitting to make mud, & Jesus Christ is screaming

at me in my sleep, so I don’t sleep much anymore.

 

the voice on the radio speaks to me through crackle,

he tells me about the black helicopters. clandestine

operations, the secret drug trials experimentation

under cover of night. coffee helps to keep me awake

in the darkest moments but as of late it’s been

swishing around my mouth like tin. like something

warm & rotten, so i spit it back into my wallet where

blood should be. give me new skin to crawl back

to where it’s dry. listen. do you hear that?

 

something’s coming. sounds just like a storm.

BILLY PILGRIM HAS COME UNSTUCK IN TIME

 

Someone has tampered with the clocks in this house. A hand sweeps and ticks, marks the passage of a single monotone second, then an era passes before next motion. We’re told time travels on a linear path, some great creeping thing moving steadily from one point to next, but the transition is not smooth. This morning is a stuck gear, a slow turning of screw to thumb. The same moments ad infinitum, the exact same day lived and relived with agonizing slowness. For an entire lifetime, the clock is stiff as starched sheets; for an entire lifetime the hands do not move. Then nothing happens and the wheels begin to spin again. Someone is tampering with the machinery here. Someone is fucking with time. All we are is slaves to sunset, the metronome, the mercury switch. Faster and faster we run, striving for escape velocity. Stuck in low earth orbit, our timers count down, reach zero, reset like pins on a polished lane. Nothing is novel in today. It is as we are, the same smoke oil and gunpowder’d rust. In the beginning, as it is in the middle, as it never reaches the end. We are copies of copies, degrading in quality with generational decay. Smears of black ink chipped off acetate and plate glass.

STILL LIFE WITH SPRAY-PAINT

 

You’re born in the county hospital, given a strong-sounding Christian name.

Exactly one lifetime later, in the same county hospital, you die. Buried in the

 

family plot lying adjacent to the church where you went for a month of Sundays

when you were young, given the pink-or-blue testament appropriate for your place

 

in the lockstep. Across the street is the high school where you played four years

of varsity ball. Won Homecoming King. Brought home a trophy, took the prettiest girl

 

to the prom. Had your 8×10 glossy framed with the medals that hung around your neck.

Now that moment is suspended on the walls of the town barbershop, where old men grow

 

older, remember  their former glory and its extinguished flame, remind you that

you’ll never be half as fast, half as strong, half as skilled, never be half the man your father was.

 

When you have a son of your own – and you will have a son of your own – your friends will sit,

aging on those same chairs smelling of Barbicide and leather, point at your photo now cracked

 

and folded on the wall.  They will tell him the same nothings that are now being said to you.

You will teach him to throw a spiral so perfect that his worth will never be questioned.

 

Raise him up to drink beer in the woods on Saturday to celebrate the victory over cross-town rivals

on Friday, then go to church on Sunday and erase all stains of wickedness for another week.

 

Nothing this familiar could ever be unsafe. You will vote Republican because your father

voted Republican, because hisfather voted Republican, and his father’s generation won the war.

 

Beneath your eyes, growing dull and lifeless by the year, a smear of dust and grime –

soot from the factories or shit from the farms – covers words written in fine print.

 

Both town charter and family crest read Contents under pressure.

Do not puncture or incinerate container.
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William James writes poems & listens to punk rock, though not always in that order. He’s a two-time Pushcart nominee whose poems have been welcomed home in places like Radar Poetry, Potluck Magazine, Word Riot, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Freeze Ray Poetry, and Radius. He currently lives in Manchester, NH where he pretends to be older & grumpier than he really is.
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Craig Meinhart – THE BEAUTIFUL PLAGUE

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He came out of the bookstore with his customary magazine and coffee and found a seat at a nearby park bench. It was a pretty day at the beginning of fall; the colors had just begun to change and there was a faint chill in the air. As he methodically read from cover to cover, always careful never to skip a section even if it held no particular interest, he noticed the dancing girl out of the corner of his eye.

She looked like a student, a fair haired girl in her late teens or early twenties that danced around the edge of the duck pond with balletic grace.

He put down his magazine, suddenly transfixed by her motion. She moved to an unheard song, reacted to an unseen partner. It was like watching a ballet only the dancer knew was happening. It moved him to action; he got to his feet and  joined the dance. He moved awkwardly, had never danced before in his life, but his crude attempts at grace and beauty never slowed his efforts.

He wasn’t the only one. An elderly woman waltzed with her walker, and a young father spun around with his baby daughter like they were at prom. A boy in his teens leapt around wildly, playing the lead in Swan Lake, and a seriously dressed businessman forgot his important meeting as he entered the fray. Soon everyone around them was a part of the act, struggling to interpret an exotic language with the most rudimentary of skills. Movements were quick and clunky, while limbs were neither languid nor in line. It had a discordant effect. But each was deeply focused, tuned out of the outside world as if that dance was all that mattered.

Pedestrians that came by got swept into it. Traffic came to a stop. Children too young to ride bikes giggled and spun, as did the old and infirm. None were untouched by the charms of a hysteria that spread like wildfire, even the disabled. Those that could not hear saw and understood with perfect clarity. Those that could not see heard the music best of all.

The afternoon faded to dusk then nightfall, and the dance continued on without break. As time went by the man with the magazine got better, always using the ballerina girl as his guide. A natural rhythm forced its way into his limbs through osmosis and repetition. He pushed past the limits of his body, ignoring soreness, exhaustion, and even the need to relieve himself. They all did, none daring to stop once they had begun.

By sunrise the old woman with the walker had fallen, and by mid morning others had joined her. The young and old succumbed to their limitations, but they still moved what they could, even if it was just a wave of the hand or a nod of the head. Some stumbled over the bodies, more than a few collapsed from stroke, and one unlucky boy fell into the pond face first and never raised his head again. By sunset of the next day many more had gone, and by next the morning many more still.

At sunset on the third day only he and his muse remained. She was drenched in dirt and sweat and was breathing heavily, her wiry body looking to be knocked over by the slightest breeze. But she still moved, and was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

He moved with dogged clumsiness, barely able to keep himself up. Every muscle in his body screamed at him to stop, every neuron told him the end was near. But he ignored this and strained to hear the beautiful music that propelled the dance, unsure of what it was but convinced it meant everything. Even when his heart beat irregularly and his limbs stopped moving he fought against collapse.

He reached for her, seeing her silhouette against the last light of day, and she pirouetted away. He cried tears of sorrow and joy, sad to be done with the dance but thankful to have been a part of something so beautiful. And thus contented he died.
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Craig Meinhart has previously been published in the webzines SCHLOCK! and MICROHORROR, is a singer and lyricist in a metal band, and lives in Dallas Texas.
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Fredric Mitchem – THE LOVE SHOP

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I am Edgar Fish.
    
As the summer twilight cast a purple glow over the city, I pulled up to the Love Shop, my supplier for Sangre de Drago. Entering through the red door, I heard playing from a sound system some bells and chanting. There were all manner of the usual herbs, roots, candles, incense, oils and colognes. A collection of dolls – fertility dolls, devotional dolls, vampire dolls and the like – lined the shelves. As well, there were racks of pornographic magazines and comics. The air was heavy with incense. I approached Mister Ulibarri at the back of the shop. He was a short, wispy-haired man with a skull-like coffee-colored face wearing a tropical-patterned short-sleeved shirt. Behind him on some shelves were the familiar jars and bottles of colored liquid – various ‘potions’ and liquors.

Sangre de Drago is not the common astringent sap of the Amazon, but a bitter elixir made of wormwood and more potent ingredients. A token of its abuse, my shaving mirror that morning had revealed the usual rather sallow complexion, the skin and bone having eroded into a less than respectable mask, the teeth betraying extensive dental salvage work. The mask of addiction…
    
I said: “Hello, Mister Ulibarri.”    
“Mister Ulibarri has taken ill. I am Raoul, his brother.

The resemblance was uncanny.
    
“Twins?”
    
“You could say so,” he said in a bored voice.
    
“I’d like a bottle of Sangre de Drago.”
    
“We have no Sangre.” His accent was Argentinean or thereabouts, ala his brother.
    
“Oh, you’re out?”
    
He looked at me dully. “We sell no Sangre, Senor.”
    
What? I’d always procured it here. “But that red liquid up there. That looks like it.”
    
He half-turned around. Turning back, he said: “It is only colored water, Senor.” And he waggled his tongue slightly.
    
“Eh, what is it for?” What was this? Some kind of a joke?
    
“It is for those who believe.”
    
For a moment I felt disoriented, as if my brain were dislodging from its moorings. “But I’ve always bought it here. Have you discontinued it?”
    
“It is only colored water, Senor. All but the yellow one. That is the piss of the goat.”
    
The incense overpowered my olfactory senses. I felt as if perhaps a headache were coming on. Suddenly feeling on the spot – as if something was ‘expected’ of me – I went to the magazine rack and randomly picked out one of the pornographic publications. “Here,” I said, “I’ll take this.”
    
Silently, he put it in a brown bag.
    
Now I sensed a musty smell mixed with cigar smoke through the incense. I felt a hint of queasiness.  “Eh, you wouldn’t know where I could find some Sangre de Drago?”
    
“Solamente wate coloreado, Senor. Solamente agua coloreada.Only colored water, Senor. Only colored water…
    
His resemblance to his…brother…was indeed uncanny. I almost felt a sense of déjà vu.
    
I now began to feel as if I were being deceived. What was the meaning of this? I can tell you that it was my addiction — yes my addiction speaking. I had to have my precious elixir. I said: “May I look at it. That red one?”
    
He leaned closer over the glass counter. His tongue waggled obscenely. In a near whisper he said: “It is not for you, Senor.”
    
I felt as though I were being patronized, treated like a child. “I must taste that liquid! I’ll not take my business here anymore if I don’t. I can have your license taken away.” I made to reach in my coat, as if for a badge or a gun.
    
Moving back from the counter like a snake recoiling, he acquiesced and turned and reached for the bottle of red liquid. “One sip, Senor.” And I thought I heard him murmur a little sing-song “la, la, la with his tongue.
    
I unscrewed the serpentine bottle and placed it to my lips. The rush was familiar, as was the bitter taste. “Colored water?” My eyes were slits as I peered at him. “I’ll take it.”
    
Did Mister Ulibarri look sheepish? “Twelve dollars and forty-two cents, Senor.” He showed some gold teeth sardonically in what supposedly was meant to be a smile, the skin of his skull-like face stretched back to its limit.
    
“Tell your brother,” (?),”I hope he feels well soon.” Leaving the porno rag on the counter, I made my way with my bottle of Sangre toward the door. I saw a man approaching me through the glass. He had a sallow complexion and rings under his eyes. He wore a light summer suit and matching tie. As I reached out to turn the knob he did likewise. – It was my reflection in the door’s full-length mirror.
    
I got back in the Mercury Vesper and, before starting the engine, knocked back a good third of the ‘Blood of the Dragon’. Soon, it having scuttled all sense — unaccountable for my reasons (or lack thereof) — I awoke to that presentiment in the Twilight of Delirium:
    
I stare down at my morning’s tea, the china cup Art Nouveau, with the ivory-colored handle a disrobed woman arching back to meet the lip.     

Reclining ocean maiden, dream of me when I sleep.     

The gun and badge under my coat rested – ready to serve justice should Mister Ulibarri decline to do me service again…
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Fredric Mitchem has had one fiction, “The Bureau of Phenomenology”, published in issue #73 of Danse Macabre. As well, he has had two fictions published in issue #47 of The Café Irreal. He resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his talking cat.
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Gary Hewitt – THE STUFF OF LIFE

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He couldn’t ignore the vultures.

“Jonas?”

Jonas rips open his canteen and flips his canteen.

“There’s no water, my feet are screaming and where’s our team? Harry, I’ve had enough.”

His companion squeezes Jonas’s shoulder.

“I have some liquid if you want. I can’t promise you it’ll taste nice but it’ll keep you hydrated.”

Jonas chokes. His throat splutters sand back into the desert. His eyes are ready to turn into steam.

“I haven’t got much choice have I?”

Harry reaches into his backpack and tosses Jonas a silver flask. Jonas unscrews the lid and blanches.

“What the hell is this?”

Harry points to the interminable expanse of yellow earth.

“You can go thirsty if you want.”

Jonas closes his eyes and swallows. His tonsils threaten a rebellion when the foul wine arrow burns into his stomach.

“Harry, that was disgusting.”

“Jonas, can you hear something?”

Jonas makes out a faint rumble across the endless sand.

“Harry, look over there.”

Harry reaches for his binoculars and punches in triumph.

“Thank God, it’s Peter and Michael.”

Jonas hands Harry his canteen.

“By the way what was that drink you gave me?”

“Oh, it’s only urine.”

Jonas’s throat shivers. His lips release a golden fountain into the scorched Earth. He vows never to take the piss again.
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Gary Hewitt is a raconteur who lives in a quaint little village in Kent. He has written two novels which are currently being edited. His writing does tend to veer away from what you might expect. He has had many short stories published as well as the occasional poem.
He enjoys both writing prose and poetry. His style of writing tends to feature edgy characters and can be extremely dark. Some of his influences are James Herbert, Stephen King, Bulgakov, Tolkein to name but a few

He is also a proud member of the Hazlitt Arts Centre Writers group in Maidstone which features an eclectic group of very talented writers.

He has a website featuring his published works here: http://kingsraconteurswork.blogspot.co.uk/
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Christian Laforet – SUMMER’S FRIEND

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The little girl sat on the edge of the dock, her toes sunk an inch below the calm surface of the lake. She quietly hummed to herself while her fingers absentmindedly twirled a dandelion. Eyes as blue as heaven reflected the picturesque scenery; mountains and trees wrapped around the body of water like a halo.

Her name was—fittingly—Summer, and she had been coming with her family to a nearby cabin for half of her life—all eight years of it. Her parents believed her to be playing with her cousin in the woods behind the cabin; if they found out she was actually alone at the lake they would be quite angry.

Summer had told them of her friend, but being boring old adults, they didn’t seem to want to hear about her special relationship. Even so, the little girl had not seen her friend for almost a whole year. She had eagerly counted down the days until they returned to the cabin by the lake; she was very excited for their reunion.

The man made his way towards the dock—towards the child. He casually looked over both shoulders; empty beach greeted him on both sides.

William—Willie to his friends—had been coming to the lake every day for the past week hoping for just such a moment as precious as the before him.

“Hi honey, what are you doing here?” Willie asked.

Summer leaned back and looked at him; the sun causing her hair to become strands of gold.

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” she stated simply as a matter of fact.

Willie licked his lips nervously; he would not be deterred.

“Oh, I’m not a stranger honey; I’m a friend of your parents.”

Summer stared at the man with her sky blue eyes for a full ten seconds before finally shrugging her shoulders as if to say, if you say so.

The girl’s apathy sent a shiver of excitement across Willie’s body. He licked his lips again then stammered on with, “That’s right, honey…so, what are you doing out here all by yourself?” 

“I’m waiting for my friend. He lives around here and I don’t get to see him too often.” Summer replied as she glanced back towards the lake.

The man looked around once more before making his way up the old, wooden dock. His leather shoes made the boards wail with each step. “I don’t see anybody,” Willie said with a smile.

“He’s not here yet,” Summer responded.

“How about while you wait I get you an ice cream. You do like ice cream, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, c’mon. I drive an ice cream truck. It’s parked on the other side of the trees.”

Willie held out his hand. From Summer’s perspective it was large and calloused, his finger nails were too long, crescent moons of grit stained the undersides.

When the girl did not take Willie’s hand, he began to get angry. He wanted her! But he needed to remain calm—he knew this from experience.

“C’mon honey, it’ll be okay. Me and you will go have some ice cream and by the time we’re done you can meet your friend.”

She seemed to consider Willie’s proposition for a moment but then abruptly said, “No thank you.” At that the little girl turned away from Willie completely as if he no longer existed.

A fire erupted in Willie’s guts; rage fanned the flames sending the blaze through his veins. This little girl didn’t know it, but Willie was a monster, he would make her scream.

Willie was so consumed with his own state of being that he completely missed the joyful squeal which came from Summer. “He’s here!”

Spinning around, Willie made sure the beach was still deserted. Realizing the little bitch would not come easily he decided to just go for it.

Summer leaned forward; her small face split with a smile that would make an angel weep. Behind her, the devil lunged.

Willie felt the adrenalin blast through his body as he drove forward. His feet clattered across the few remaining yards of wood, each step an angry shout, as he reached for his prize. From his vantage point he could not see the water around the girl’s toes begin to churn.

Summer beamed as her friend emerged from the lake. Little droplets of water sprinkled her face and tickled her nose—she giggled.

Willie tried to stop but momentum was not on his side; he continued forward as something exploded from the water. Even had he been able to brake it would have been in vain as a set of tentacles wrapped around him faster than he could comprehend. They hoisted him up into the air; his leather shoes bounced off the wooden planks with a whimper.

Willie tried to scream but the tentacles constricted so tight around his chest that before a single peep could escape, his ribs were crushed; pain fired through his brain. Before his world turned red from the burst blood vessels in his eyes he could see the little girl reach out a hand and caress the smooth, wet skin of the horror which had him.

Summer turned her head away discreetly as her friend gulped Willie down in three massive bites. When the feeding was over, she patted his head. She did not like helping him to eat but at least this time it was a stinky, creepy old man and not a cute little doggy like the previous year. She looked into her the one, oversized eye, and she felt his love for her. They had been best friends for half her life. Gingerly she leaned off the dock and kissed his glistening face. She held out a dandelion which was taken gently by a tentacle.

They sat together for awhile before he had to return to the bottom of the lake and she to the cabin—her parents would be worried. Summer knew he would sleep down there until she came back next year. With one final wave goodbye, the little girl skipped away from the end of the dock, her bare feet singing across the boards as she went.

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Christian Laforet lives in Canada’s southernmost city of Windsor, Ontario. Most of the stories he has published are on a site created by local authors called Adventure Worlds.
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