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mask by lauren raine

There is a moment when everything lines up. The hunter’s eye sights down the crossbow, along the shaft and its razor tip, across the space between, to the heart of the unknowing prey.

In that moment, time stops and the world stands taut, like the crossbow string, waiting for the finger to pull the trigger. That finger, pulling that trigger, will end that moment, and change the Hunt into the Kill.

The hunter waits for the prey to lift her head from grazing and present a clear target. Both are silent, except for the hunter’s pounding heart. He tries to…

Dreaming of horses and cactus and storms turning the streets to mud…the sound of a gunshot woke the Deputy, who leapt up from his chair, snatching his shotgun, and ran down the street towards the town’s stables.

He rounded the corner and saw two standing and one on the ground. The shorter one, a child, was looking up at the taller one, a woman in travelling dress. She had a pistol in her hand, pointed at the unmoving body at her feet.

The Deputy recognized her as Miss Greenwood, who had arrived in Copper Springs a few days before. …

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Mickey’s Tavern is one of those places where your gaze can get lost in the minutiae. Amongst the forest of bottles and glasses live the ticket stubs and bobbleheads, the wrapped condoms and spent lighters, and hundreds of business cards.

Instead of the cliché mirror-behind-the-bar, Josie stares at the accumulated detritus that has gathered over decades. The dust is cleaned out regularly, but the mementos never leave.

With the wave of a finger, she orders her third scotch. Her father drank scotch, and sometimes she feels like she needs to honor him. After a day like today, she wishes she…

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The Imperial Diner sits at an oblique crossroads that’s older than asphalt. It’s a busy downtown intersection now, but a few hundred years ago, before the English came, it was a crossing of footpaths. Walk north for weeks and you end up where Chicago is now. Walk west, and you end up crossing the Mississippi around Baton Rouge. What started as dirt paths has become six lanes of traffic crossing seven.

The northwest corner housed a dry cleaner the size of a small factory. The narrower northeast and southwest corners always seemed boarded up. …

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I know how the story is supposed to go: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, love, marriage, happiness. The end.

Or boy admires girl from afar. The end.

Or boy meets girl, girl says, “Hi, meet my boyfriend.”

Or maybe boy meets girl, girl gets restraining order.

But last night was destined to be different. The day started with me winning $1000 in the lottery. The best days seem to start that way.

It wasn’t enough to really improve my life, and not enough to ruin it. But it was enough to buy me some clothes that…

Stannis unwrapped the bandage on his right forearm with his left hand. The priest sitting on the other side of the desk watched the wound seep blood.

The priest said, “Not gushing. Not an artery. We have a bit of time.”

The priest picked a glass jar from the table behind him and set it on the desk between them. He held it with his left hand, as if to keep it from flying away. He tapped the top of the jar with his other index finger to emphasize his words.

“You are not of my parish.”

“No Brother, I’m…

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Gary stared out the window of the bus without really seeing anything. His fingertips absently rubbed the smoothworn leather of the messenger bag that his wife had given him on their wedding day.

He thought of the twelve remaining school days, and the summer’s promise of nothing to do and nowhere to go. A couple of months to recharge, then back to teaching middle school. He’d started the school year full of plans and optimism. By the end of the year, he felt like he was a cog in a machine that turned angels into monsters.

As his stop approached…

A story of crime in the city

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It is sunset, and on the roof stands the Twilight Avenger, watching the world go by below. The good people go about their lives. They drive home from work, take out the trash, or do their homework, never looking up to see their protector guarding them.

She looks up and down the street, scanning for her enemy. Night after night she hears him, terrorizing the city while the good people cower in fear. But that will end tonight.

Then she sees him, at the end of the street. Dark and menacing. The Wolf…

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Emily peered deep into the ocean below as Alice gutted the one fish they had caught.

“I can see a hundred miles into the water, but I still can’t see the bottom.”

“Then what do you see?”

“Fish, and giant whales,” the little girl replied.

“Maybe you could ask some of those fish to jump into our boat.”

“No, I’m sick of fish. I’m going to ask that octopus to grab our boat and tow us to shore.”

Alice stayed silent; she gathered up the guts of the fish and tossed them into the ocean. Emily turned away from the…

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The essence of a routine is repetition. You’re encouraged to create a time for writing every day. Having your own theme music can push you into your writing frame of mind. Get up in the quiet hours, make coffee, and play the Rocky theme. This creates a familiar trigger that encourages the desired behavior.

Music also addresses a common problem: Silence can be a distraction. Listening to music can fill the void and satisfy the part of your brain that’s always listening.

It’s important, however, to not replace one distraction with another. For me, listening to music with words distracts…

Russell Jelks

My superpower is finding good parking spaces.

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