“Getting the Boot” Fiction by Ara Hone

Zippo clutched a yellow billiards ball in her fingertips, hitched up a knee, and zinged the ball across the stretch of green, felt-lined table. It smashed through the field of striped balls with a force minuscule in proportion to that which their galactic adversaries had smashed the Earth.

She bird-dogged the gold smear’s trajectory to the corner pocket, and when Hipshot nailed her with his signature body check, she didn’t lift her boot from the sand. She was no crud novice and wouldn’t give the ref a reason to cry foul. Neither was she a war virgin; she knew her duty. With tomorrow’s mission, she might save the remnant of human population from extinction, if she dared.

Zippo’s yellow ball sank the pocket, and Hipshot’s team of pilots howled. Her teammates cheered, kissed their talismans of tiny carved fists, and broke through the defeated airmen to whisk her to the place of honor, the makeshift bar. She wanted to win all the nights to come—the game, the war—and never play either again underneath a sky hung with clouds like thick, oil-stained wads.

“To our leader, General Zippo,” Hipshot said, and the company shouted hear him.

If she’d lost the game, Hipshot’s pilots would have wrenched off his boot and filled it with white lightning for her guzzling pleasure. Instead, it was hers the team pried off for him–the one she’d tramped about in all day, deciding do we fly or not? Beyond the thick wads, electrified sugar lit up the black. Tomorrow, the weather wizards predicted clear skies.

We fly.

While a nurse filled Zippo’s dusty leather with forget-all-about-it-juice, she fiddled with the silver disk at her throat. If she used the technology, she could win. If she used it, she may not find her way back.

The feather-light disk weighed the heft of a man’s soul.

Trade one life for many lives.

She wanted to stuff the yellow billiards ball up somebody’s ideological ass.

Earth needed a home for its remnant…and the secret lives yet to come. Do it. She jerked the disk free, and her head swam. Civility landed on the trash heap the day she’d glimpsed the enemy’s fragile skin and savage gaze through a burning cockpit glass. Do it.

Her heart squeezed at the tilt of Hipshot’s lips.

Camp men embraced the caveman look, but he rose each day and scraped his face clean with a straight blade. Only grandpas grew fuzz, he claimed. Just this morning, he’d rubbed her cheek with his chin and then elsewhere to prove it.

Making nice and playing the gracious winner was for pussies. Do it.

She stealthily salted his white lightning with the disk’s silvery remains, slammed the sand-encrusted consequence into his fist, and hooked up her chin. “Drink, flyboy.”

“To our fearless leader,” he shouted. Glasses clinked in the night. “And to those poor bastards, our brothers and sisters. For them, and the fight.”

“The fight,” the company murmured.

Zippo gripped her own shot of reality and longed for its fire tingling into her toes; the ones left bare by her missing boot. A traitor’s work demanded sobriety. She tamped down awareness of the bright flecks clinging to Hipshot’s lips. His airplane talisman peeked from his unzippered flightsuit, and she inhaled the stirring dust. Flying regs required pilots to observe twelve hours between the bottle and throttle. He had precisely twenty minutes to make the evening’s frivolities count, and it seemed he would drink until cutoff.

She accepted the return of her beaten leather, his fingers sizzling like matchsticks against hers, and a crevasse opened inside. She should go back to the billiards table and the game of crud. Turning away was easier than facing what she’d done.

Pilots died every day.

If he didn’t buy the farm tomorrow, he doubtless would next week or the week after—

Stop with the excuses—shit.

Her hand, the one that signed his reaping, pressed against her belly and its secret within. She wanted Hipshot; heat burned into her cheeks. She wanted this one life for a lifetime. But leadership had its consequences, and he stood six foot tall, too damned dependable, and no longer hers.

Tomorrow, she would order the captain to fly inside enemy territory on a so-called intelligence-gathering mission. When the creatures opened their withering fire, he wouldn’t flee the airspace, not her best and bravest pilot. When he crashed behind their lines, Hipshot, in a signature body check, would deliver Earth’s final, terrible weapon tailored for the enemy, alone.

Withholding all the truth was cruel. She did it to shield him.

Her breath cut like razors—

She kept silent to spare herself.

Someday, when their child ran across a reseeded Earth beneath clear, cloudless skies, Zippo would play the old game with old teammates. Afterward, she would raise a sacred boot to her lips and dribble the warm, sour remains into her mouth and drink to those who made it. She’d salute her love who didn’t.

She entwined her fingers with his, and leading the way through the catcalls and darkness, dared imagine the new world to come.


Ara Hone writes speculative fiction. Before that, she climbed silos at sunset, joined the military when it wasn’t cool, and survived a sales career. She loves books and a great TV series. When she’s not writing, she’s editing for Flash Fiction Magazine. Her best advice? Drink coffee daily. @ara_hone

Get vaccinated.

“In Pursuit of Dreams” Poetry by Yash Seyedbagheri

I dreamed about a thousand zombies

orange sauce slithering across once-youthful skin

their tongues tingled and licked

while I cried out for my mother

but she didn’t come

 

and I dreamed about a man who deemed me

obnoxious and egotistical over a Chick-Fil-A counter

and I can’t even remember why

I was driving a car too fast through traffic

the horns shrinking, the steering wheel slipping

 

but when I woke

I tried to shake it

crumbs on a consciousness

I wandered a winding road, listened to Tchaikovsky, and smiled while the moon rose

but then the bills bombarded

 

the world demanded I pay up, interest rates contracted, fine-print fungus

among us the mustache man marked me

weak, artistic, sensitive, honest, a waste

and the world deemed me

too swarthy, my mustache bolstering a thousand bombs

 

along with that name they always butchered

I tried to have a dream about something, stars, Coen Brothers movies

carriage wheels and balls where I

could waltz across safe spaces, covered by bowler hats and John Goodman’s gun

with all the moonlight and freshly-dried sheets

to sink into

along with a smile

 

but a wolf

wandered out of the woods

speaking in nasal New York accent

 he tried to grab me with his small paws while I ran

and I woke up

 

and washed my wails with Merlot

some Malbec, some Pinot, a bottle of Diet-Pepsi

in a full glass

and tried to waterboard it all

but the glass wasn’t full enough

Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program. His stories, “Soon,”  “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work  has been published in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.

Two Poems by John Grey

It’s a Cat’s World

No one was expecting cat evolution.
What are the odds that yesterday’s furry pet
would be today’s four-legged mailman.
And how they’ve grown.
Once, these felines wrapped around our ankles.
Now they come up to our waists.
And to our faces, when they stand on their hind-legs,
which they’re doing more and more.
Scientists say that, in a hundred years, 
cats will be doctors, dentists, architects, engineers.
They could even be fellow scientists 
pondering the snail’s pace of human progress
compared to their own genetic breakneck speed.
When they become our leaders, 
they may find they have no use for us,
could spay most of our numbers,
keep a few around as pets.
And here comes the mailman now 
with a letter for me,
with a message for my great grandchildren.

A Family of Grifters Watch Over Their Investments

It’s an evening of death.
It just hasn’t happened yet.
Silence prophesizes 
the events to come.

The old man is a shadow,
like a stain
that no scrubbing can erase.
 
The wounds are old.
Only the end will scab them over.
Hounds howl,
speak for all of them.

Out of the darkness,
a finger emerges,
points at each 
of the onlookers in turn
before it withdraws
into the blackness.

The moon’s as thin
as the smile of a cut throat.
There will be no rescuing light tonight.

Just family,
pale-faced,
some with pacemakers,
set to comatose,
others nervous,
biting on their hands.

Grasping, grifting family,
await their share.
Of his money,
once the will is read.
Of hell and damnation,
if he has his way.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and Connecticut River Review. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon.

Interview with Author Rie Sheridan Rose

Bio:

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Things happened along the way, like school and I gave up the dream for awhile. But when I was laid off a couple of weeks before my wedding in 2003, my fiance said I could stay at home and write. So, I have. I actually had my first published story in 1998, but it was still juggling to get writing in around work and stuff. I consider 2003 my real birth as a writer even though I had two novels published by then.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I think my story in Startling Stories feels like the biggest accomplishment, though having a five book series is a close second. Since that is self-published, it doesn’t have the same feeling of “Wow” that Startling Stories gives me.

Why do you write?

I write because the words in my head want to come out and play. 🙂 Because I have these cool stories that other people might enjoy as well, and I am happy to share them.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I am very definitely a “pantser.” I never outline. Most of the time I sit down and start typing and see where the story goes. Revisions are very subjective. I used to never revise because I hated the editing stage–and then one day I realized that the first draft is just the bones of a story, and the revisions are where you get to add the muscles and flesh. Now, it can be one of my favorite parts. And, this year, I’ve noticed that most of the stories I’ve placed are ones that I looked at again and tweaked a bit. Including “Cheap Sunglasses.”

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

I have a group of beta readers that I use most of the time. They are a mix of friends, family, and writing professionals, because you want different types of feedback from different people.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

Well, several of my novels were left homeless when a publisher closed their novel line, so most of those are re-releasing sometime this year. I have a fairy tale romance with a beta reader (who is also a publisher, cross fingers), and I am working on a spin-off novel for my series that may need to be completely rewritten. I also have a poetry book I’m about to start and a couple of WIPs that may or may not go anywhere. Plus I have a goal of submitting at least one piece of work everyday this year to make up for my dismal laziness last year. I am up to 177 so far.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

Everything is still pretty much shut down, though I hope maybe to be back at conventions by the fall. I have a story in Good Southern Witches that debuts in April.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I would like to be known. Not necessarily recognized, but if people hear my name they might say, “Yeah, I read something by her somewhere…”

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

It depends on the review. I got a review once on Amazon that purported to be from a specific user. I knew it wasn’t from that specific user, because it was my husband’s user name, and he hadn’t written it. We tried to get them to take it down, but I don’t think we ever succeeded. Mostly, I look at reviews as opinions, and if they seem to have a valid objection to something, I consider it going forward.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Keep writing. Don’t let a few rejections get you down. I did that when I was in college, and didn’t write for years. What a lot of time wasted! My husband made me a challenge one year to get 300 rejections. It was a kind of aversion therapy. By the end of that year, they didn’t bother me as much. Sure, every now and then, a rejection still really hurts, but I’ve got 80 so far this year… The other piece of advice is keep good records. Make a spreadsheet so you know where things have gone and whether or not they were accepted so you don’t accidentally send something out twice and have the awkward duty of pulling one. And carry some form of notetaking device–notebook, app on your phone, file cards…–wherever you go.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

I think the free version of Grammarly is useful. Autocrit is nice, but costs. The Merriam Webster online dictionary. https://www.rhymezone.com/ for poetry. And for submissions, https://www.ralan.com/ and https://trishhopkinson.com/category/call-for-submissions/ are two of my go-tos, as well as the Open Call groups on Facebook. There are several of those.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

My main social media links are: Twitter: https://twitter.com/RieSheridanRose; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rie-Sheridan-Rose/38814481714; and my main website: https://riewriter.com/. I am also on Patreon as Rie Sheridan Rose and on Pixabay as RieFlections.

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

Always follow your dreams. Write what you want to read. And remember, write what you know doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new and write about it.


From the Publisher: Cover Images

Often, when I list The Chamber in a magazine directory or a submissions engine or elsewhere, the publishers ask for a copy of a cover image. This has been problematic, because The Chamber doesn’t have a cover like a print magazine or a major online magazine and I don’t want it to. I like that people can come to the homepage and see the titles and icons for the issue’s five works (I consider the five work published on a Friday to be one issue). Not having a traditional cover cuts out the crap and takes the reader to the heart of the matter: the stories. Therefore, I created an ad hoc cover of an ancient but elegant door with the The Chamber’s name and “Slattery Publishing” at the bottom as the parent company (I have used this name in publishing my books on Amazon and IngramSpark) and placed it in the top right corner of the front page to be used occasionally as a cover. I was asked for a cover once again when I listed The Chamber with Reedsy’s Directory of Literary Magazines earlier today.

I haven’t been happy with the door cover, because it is rather boring and doesn’t really give any hint of what one may encounter in the magazine. I do like having the bit of additional artwork adding an additional bit of color to the homepage. So, tonight I created another cover to last the remainder of April and I dated it. I really don’t want to go through the effort of finding and annotating a new cover every week so I will produce only a monthly cover and I will consider the issue to cover the twenty stories/poems published in a month. This seems logical. Were this a monthly print magazine, twenty stories and/or poems would be about the right number to include in a monthly issue.

I should probably call the monthly grouping of works as a volume and the ones produced in a week as an issue. This seems a rather trivial matter to me at the moment, so I will take some time and think about it. I like the idea of using format and terminology to a degree as everyone will be familiar with the terminology and there will be no learning curve for readers. I am all for doing whatever I can to make the experience of using and reading The Chamber as easy as possible. The more one has to work at understanding what is going on, the less enjoyable the experience will be.

Therefore, the plan for now will be to produce a monthly ad hoc cover image for the magazine to use administratively to post on other website and in directories, but also to add color and beauty to the homepage.

Let me know what you think as the months go by.

–Phil Slattery, Founder and Publisher

Commemorative Months Option

The Chamber will be offering a new option to authors and poets: if you would like to submit a story or poem that supports a social issue commemorated by a nationally recognized commemorative month (or day), please do so. If it meets The Chamber’s guidelines and if it is accepted, The Chamber will publish it during the appropriate month. This is by no means a requirement of any sort. It is solely a new option available to authors and poets.

However, having a theme will not affect whether a work is accepted. Acceptance is based on quality alone. If you submit a work without a theme and it is accepted The Chamber will always publish it as soon as possible regardless of any theme for that month unless you state that you would like it held until a certain month or day.

For example, if you write a story or poem involving LGBT characters and would like me to publish it (provided it meets all other submission guidelines and if it is accepted) during the LGBT commemorative month of June, please let know and I will hold it until then. If that is not important to you, I will publish it as soon as possible as I do all other works.

Any works submitted must always meet The Chamber’s guidelines regarding subject matter and writing mechanics. If it supports a theme but is not dark in some fashion, it will not be accepted.

To this end, I am adding the following paragraphs to the ends of both the Submissions and the Upcoming Stories… pages.

Commemorative Months

The Chamber is offering a new option to authors and poets: if you would like to submit a story or poem that supports a social issue commemorated by a nationally recognized commemorative month (or day), please do so. If it meets The Chamber’s guidelines and if it is accepted, The Chamber will publish it during the appropriate month. This is by no means a requirement of any sort. It is solely a new option available to authors and poets.

For those interested, below is a list of the commemorative months observed by the US. If you would like to submit something around the theme for a commemorative month, please do. This is entirely optional. The Chamber is not asking for works to be submitted around any particular theme at any time. This is entirely at the author’s discretion. The Chamber will continue to publish works as soon as possible regardless of whether the work has a theme unless otherwise requested.

To submit a work with a theme, note the theme the work is being submitted for in the subject line of the submission. Any accepted works I receive on a particular theme, The Chamber will try to post in the appropriate month. This is a service The Chamber would like to provide for the greater community.

Please note that having characters or a subject that pertains to a commemorative month will not affect whether your work is accepted. Acceptance is based on writing quality alone.

  • National Stalking Awareness Month (January)
  • African-American History Month (February)
  • Irish-American Heritage Month (March)
  • Women’s History Month (March)
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April)
  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May)
  • Jewish-American Heritage Month (May)
  • Law Day (May 1)
  • Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 17)
  • LGBT Pride Month (June)
  • National Hispanic American Heritage Month (Sept/Oct)
  • Constitution and Citizenship Day (Sept 17)
  • National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October)
  • National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Native American Heritage Month (November)
  • Human Rights Day (Dec 10)

Appearing in The Chamber on April 16

“Getting the Boot” Fiction by Ara Hone

A tale of love and betrayal in a surreal, post-apocalyptic future

Two Poems by John Grey

A terrifying vision of feline evolution and a greedy family awaits their inheritance

Interview with Rie Sheridan Rose

Rie Sheridan Rose has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. Her story “Cheap Sunglasses” recently appeared in The Chamber.

“The Rant” Fiction by Todd Matson

A man strives to convince his father to maintain hope despite the father’s pervasive views to the contrary

“In Pursuit of Dreams” Poetry by Yash Seyedbagheri

An unnamed narrator is tormented by vivid, surreal dreams

Appearing in The Chamber on April 16

“Getting the Boot” Fiction by Ara Hone

A tale of love and betrayal in a surreal, post-apocalyptic future

Two Poems by John Grey

A terrifying vision of feline evolution and a greedy family awaits their inheritance

Interview with Rie Sheridan Rose

Rie Sheridan Rose has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. Her story “Cheap Sunglasses” recently appeared in The Chamber.

“The Rant” Fiction by Todd Matson

A man strives to convince his father to maintain hope despite the father’s pervasive views to the contrary

“In Pursuit of Dreams” Poetry by Yash Seyedbagheri

An unnamed narrator is tormented by vivid, surreal dreams

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 7,500 words (note revised word limit) or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

Welcome genres include:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • action-adventure
  • suspense/thriller
  • literary
  • science fiction
  • historical
  • mystery/crime
  • noir
  • romance
  • Western
  • experimental
  • cyberpunk
  • steampunk
  • weird fiction
  • gothic
  • general
  • humor
  • any mixture of the above

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

Bonus Feature: “Reflections on a Wasted Life” Video by Phil Slattery

As a bonus today, I am posting a video I posted on YouTube on Tuesday. Let me know what you think of it.

I am experimenting with YouTube as a means to attract more readers, but I am not a filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore I am experimenting with public domain videos, music, and inexpensive video editing software to develop short but poignant, moving films to feature on The Chamber’s YouTube channel to draw more readers. I have posted on YouTube only a few so far, most of which are experiments. The one above is the best I had made as of Tuesday. These are becoming easier the more I make of them. Soon, I hope to be able to create a a short story using public domain material. I made the one above as an experiment in emotional impact. It doesn’t have a plot per se, just a poignant je ne sait quois.

Let me know what you think of the video above and visit The Chamber’s YouTube channel and let me know what you think of those videos and how I might be able to improve.

Phil Slattery, Founder and Publisher

“Just in Case” Flash Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

The man walked out of the bushes as Paul was walking at twilight along the ravine, the one that ran north toward the Rose Bowl, a mile or so distant. Covered by the stretching shadows of the oak trees, Paul had turned back in the direction of his car, a 1/4-mile away, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the man alter his direction.

Paul didn’t like the young man’s appearance: scrawny, wearing a blue tank top (somehow Paul already imagined giving the police an All Points Bulletin), and dark-skinned, with knotted black hair spun like cotton candy off his skull. Paul increased his stride though his right knee, the one he had injured in high school thirty-five years ago and never fully healed, had begun to ache, the reason why he had turned back to his car in the first place. The man shouted something from behind. He was asking for money, maybe, for a cigarette or yelling from the depths of his hostility or madness. Paul’s heart pumped panic to his limbs as he speeded up his walk and clutched the switchblade in his pocket, the one he carried just in case.

The man’s shrill laugh pierced. He was getting closer. It was a nice neighborhood but quiet at this Sunday, twilight hour. Cars passed infrequently. Paul steadied himself for the encounter that followed. He imagined the response. Paul would not hesitate. The knife would penetrate the man’s flesh. What Paul imagined was the man’s look of surprise and panic filling drug-altered eyes, a second before the pain registered. Oh yes! Paul could imagine it clearly. Oh, he would love to show the punk that a middle-aged white man—somehow he saw the punk as Hispanic or black though he’d only gotten a glimpse in the gloaming—could be crazy too. Oh yeah!

When Paul couldn’t stand the wait any longer, he turned holding the knife.

The man was not there. He was some fifty feet behind Paul and talking on his cell phone. He didn’t notice Paul. “Yeah,” he said, as Paul turned away, “I was fucked up! Fucked up royally on that shit!”

Slipping the knife back in his pocket, Paul turned away, relieved and quizzical, asking himself, Who did the man remind me of? And then he had it, his brother-in-law, Rudy. He was Mexican too. “Hispanic,” he corrected Paul, the first time they met. Rudy had married Paul’s sister, Cindy. They had two kids, Ronnie and Maria, the delight of their grandmother. Cindy had gotten the looks, athletic ability, and ambition: She was a corporate lawyer, the Mexican husband was a high-school administrator. They were cogs in the success machine that had not included Paul.

The kid laughed again, loser, he shrieked.

Loser. It was the word he called himself, pushing fifty and unemployed, drinking on the sly, and watching cable with his mother. His favorite program was Dexter. He never missed envying a guy who had it all, looks, girlfriends, good job, and he could kill anyone he wanted, something that Paul sometimes envied, not that he wanted to be a serial killer, but he could definitely compile a list, beginning with his mother. “I could rent the room for a lot more if you weren’t my son,” she had said, resentfully. He’d kill her then he’d shank his ex-wife, who had cheated on him before leaving him. His father died years ago.

He realized he had been walking in silence for a couple of minutes now. He turned and looked back down the curving street and realized that his pursuer no longer pursued. The kid must have cut east at the narrow cross street. Paul walked another couple of minutes until he reached his car. He saw himself going home and didn’t want to think after that. Starting the car, Paul wondered if the kid wasn’t going to attack someone else, obviously discouraged by Paul’s fast walk and the knife he’d flashed. He drove to the narrow, rising road, and parked. He got out of the car and waited. It was night now and the houses were all quiet, most separated from the street by walls and hedges. A car passed, and Paul crouched down so he wouldn’t be seen. The kid was getting near. No other car was coming. Paul waited. The knife was in his pocket, just in case he wanted to step out and strike and then run away. Just in case he wanted to do that.


Garrett Rowlan is a retired LA sub teacher with seventy or so published stories and a couple of novels. His website is garrettrowlan.com.

“Bad Blood” Poetry by Akubudike Deborah

a bride walks down the aisle, 

staggers on one foot, 

& you can hear a poet 

stutter like her footsteps at every step.

she hides her form underneath her veil, 

wears her father's corpse on her face 

like the holy candle praying for a future.


when the piano starts to play, we can 


hear frogs croaking to an unfamiliar rhythm, from 

deep down throaty laughs of a certain someone 

or people


alongside ruptured chords.

we all stand,

 not sure what the bridegroom's lips call 

to the altar.


Bio:

Akubudike Deborah is a black poet and lyricist who draws her inspiration from various things including the Bible, philosophy, Greek mythology, art, etc. Her work has been featured in The Cypress Journal, The Unpublishable Zine, amongst others. She can be reached on Twitter: @akubudikedebbie; Instagram: @ad_poet and blog: https://adpoet.home.blog.

“Cheap Sunglasses” Fiction by Rie Sheridan Rose

Gillian studied her reflection in the mirror with a worried frown. She looked tired—lines and wrinkles she had never seen before marring the smoothness of her skin. Her eyes looked a bit funny as well…there was an almost golden tint to them, and they used to be sapphire blue. Even the pupils appeared dodgy—more oval than circular. What the hell was going on?

            The most maddening thing, of course, was her hair. She reached up to brush it from her face, and a big clump of it came off in her hand. She felt tears welling up. Her red curls had always been her best feature. Blinking back the tears, she covered her head with a scarf—shades of Grandma Cora for the gods sake—and shrugged into her coat.

            Hopefully the new doctor she was seeing could tell her what was wrong. She glanced at her watch. If she didn’t hurry, she’d be late for the appointment.

            She programmed the address into her GPS and followed the directions on auto-pilot, still worrying about the changes to her appearance. And it wasn’t just that. If it were just superficial changes to the outside, she might be able to live with it…but the constant hissing sound inside her head was driving her mad.

            Thank the gods for Marc. When she’d confided to him on a night of dedicated drinking, he’d clucked his tongue and pulled out a pen.

            “You go see my friend Doctor Asclepius. Here’s his address. If anyone knows anything about all this mad shite you are going through, it will be him.”

            “But how expensive is it? You know I’m between positions at the moment.”

            Marc waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. Tell ’im to put it on my tab. Least I can do for you, gorgeous.”

            She tried to protest, but when Marc Urie got something into his head, it was impossible to change his mind.

            “Maybe I can give him my headache,” Gillian growled aloud to the empty car as the streets outside it got more and more rundown, and the scent of decay and debris penetrated even with the windows closed. “Sent me off on some fool’s errand, I bet. Laughing up his sleeve at how easy I am to punk.”

            YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION chirped the happy little voice on the GPS, and she pulled into the parking lot of a Greek revival office building. She looked at the scribbled address Marc had written on a soggy cocktail napkin, and then up at the facade of the building. This was the place, all right. “Let’s hope this guy is as good as Marc says.”

            She bent for her purse, and the hissing in her head surged. She rubbed her temples, feeling a bit of roughness under her fingertips. Her skin was so dry lately…

            Forcing herself to walk into the building without a stagger, she spoke to the woman at the reception desk. “I have an appointment with Dr. Asclepius at ten.”

            “Do you have your insurance card?”

            Gillian could feel her face heating. “It’s to be charged to Mr. Marc Urie.”

            “Oh…so you’re Marc’s friend. Of course. Through that door, and first right.”

            She followed the directions, feeling a bit dirty for the way the receptionist had spoken to her. As if she couldn’t pay her own way, but had to rely on the kindness of strangers, as it were…and the worst part was that it was true.

            She found the room the receptionist had indicated and sat in the patient’s chair, taking off her scarf and scratching her itchy scalp. More hair came off in her hand. She bit her lip to keep from crying.

            After twenty minutes, she had just about decided to leave in frustration when there was a rap on the door and a man breezed in without waiting for an answer. He was muscular, with a bushy graying beard and twinkling blue eyes. Gillian felt marginally better.

            “Miss Gorgon, is it?”

            “Gordon. Gillian Gordon.”

            “Forgive me. My nurse has horrible handwriting.” He plopped down in the other chair. “What seems to be the problem then?”

            “It seems so silly, now. It’s just…well…my eyes seem to be changing, and I’ve got terribly dry skin, and new wrinkles, and—my hair is falling out.”

            “I see,”

            “Plus, there’s this hissing…”

       “Hissing?”

       “Yes. It’s like it’s inside my head.”

       “Is it like white noise hissing, or a tea kettle, or what?”

       “None of those. It’s…organic. Like an angry cat…or maybe a…snake?”

       “Interesting.” He made a note on her chart. “How old are you, Miss Gordon?”

       The question startled her. “I turned twenty-one in February.”

       He nodded thoughtfully and made another mark on his chart.

       “And these changes started when?”

       “I noticed the first symptoms about six weeks ago.”

            “I thought as much.” He made a note on her chart, sighed, capped his pen, and then leaned forward confidentially, his hands laced in his lap. “I’m afraid I wasn’t so wrong about your name, my dear.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I could send you for a battery of tests, but I don’t think they would do any good. This isn’t a normal ailment.” He sighed again. “Have you read much mythology?”

            She blinked at the apparent non sequitur. “Some. What you get in school, of course.”

            “What is your heritage? Bloodline-wise.”

            “Is that important? Largely English, a bit Irish, some Italian on my father’s side, I believe.”

            “Any Greek, perhaps?”

            “Not to my knowledge.”

            “I think you should invest in one of the DNA tests to be sure, but I believe your knowledge is incomplete, my dear.”

            He reached over and patted her knee. “Don’t be alarmed. This is a perfectly natural occurrence. You’re just coming into your birthright, that’s all.”

            “What do you mean, Doctor?”

            He stood and reached into a cabinet hanging over the desk. He rummaged through it for a moment, and pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses. He handed them to her with a solemn expression.

            “I’m afraid you must wear these at all times from now on, Miss Gordon. Unless you’re home alone, it’s imperative. And, I would suggest removing all your mirrors to prevent…accidents. Marc was quite right to send you to me. No one else would be able to diagnose this condition…but I’ve seen it before.”

            She glanced down at the sunglasses, wondering what he was going on about.

            “You’ll also wish to invest in a collection of kerchiefs. Perhaps a hoodie or two. Believe me, you won’t want to go about with your head uncovered.”

            “I don’t understand!”

            He hunkered down beside her, taking her cold hands in his. “The snakes will be coming next.”

            “Snakes?” She tried to pull away, but his hold was deceptively loose.

            “Do you know the story of Medusa?”

            “Of course…”

            “Wear the sunglasses.”

            “W-why?”

            “My dear, you’re evolving. Somewhere in your ancestry, there was a gorgon. You’ve inherited the gene. It’s recessive, but there are triggers that will awaken it. Stress can be a factor, for example. Marc mentioned you were between jobs. That could be a factor. The bottom line is…you’re turning into one of those creatures.”

            She felt the tears running down her face, and shook her head. “No. That’s impossible. You must be wrong!”

            “I’ve been doing this job for a very long time. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.” He released her hands with a pat of sympathy.

            Gillian sobbed into her hands. And felt flickering tongues licking away her tears.

       He let her cry herself out, moving back behind his desk and pointedly working on papers stacked there.

       When she could pull herself together, she reached up and ran her fingers through the wriggling mass of creatures that had sprouted on her scalp.

       “What’s the cure?” she asked, tying her scarf about her head and squaring her shoulders.

       “Cure?”

       “There’s a cure for everything these days, isn’t there? I’ll pay for it. No matter what the cost. I’ll rob a bank if I have to!”

       “My dear, I am afraid it doesn’t work that way.”

       She surged to her feet. “I refuse to accept that.”

       “Feel free to search, but I have never heard of any way to reverse genetics.”

       “If there is a way, I’ll find it.”

       “I believe you will.” He rose to his feet and stuck out his hand. “Best of luck.”

       Gillian ignored the outstretched hand, walked to the door and turned. “One more thing, Doctor…”

       “Yes?”

       She lowered the sunglasses and stared at him over the top of them.

       He gasped—and froze into stone.

       “I had to know for sure.”             Pushing the sunglasses back into place, she smiled grimly. She couldn’t wait to show Marc…


Bio:

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Killing It Softly Vol. 1 & 2, Hides the Dark Tower, Dark Divinations, and On Fire. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.

Publisher’s Note: Check back frequently for The Chamber’s written interview with Rie Sheridan Rose. Date of publication to be announced later.

“The Cold Spot” Fiction by Janea Speer

“I have a story about ghosts,” Marie said to Dalton and the others while trying to search for something meaningful to say in that awkward moment.  Becky, Davis, Kyra and Dalton looked at her with amusement.  “I mean…I never have seen… a ghost but…I experienced something strange one time.”  She stated as she peered again with hesitation at Dalton and surveyed the darkness of the forest beyond their warm campfire. 

“I was younger.  I went to the city with my Dad.  We went to a summer festival that day.  There were festival tents all around this old Victorian mansion.  It loomed above the wide lawn. It was all brick and three stories tall.”  She paused briefly and looked at the campfire.   

“I didn’t like the house. It gave me an odd vibe I couldn’t shake. But my Dad asked me if I wanted to go on the historical home tour with him.  I said yes.  We got in the house and were led into the living room space.  It was an elegant old home and well furnished.” 

“The tour guide began explaining the history of the house to us.  She talked about the owners and the number of times it had transitioned from family to family.  In the early 1920s, it had been turned into an orphanage for kids after the Spanish Flu epidemic.  Their parents had died from the flu.  The place was run by nuns and priests.  Then for a while, it was supposedly a psychiatric hospital.  In the 1980s, it was turned into a historical home and they began giving tours and stuff.”

She looked around at the others.  “The tour guide began telling us about the hauntings there.  Supposedly there is a Lady in Red that haunts the place, a young woman who had a botched abortion and died.  She is crying and she begs at the front door to see a priest.  There are some other ghosts there too.  There are children from the orphanage.  And they say there is an evil ghost there too on the first floor.  He was a psych patient that committed suicide.”

She reflected on her memory for a moment before continuing, “That day, I followed the tour group into the hallway.  I was standing in the hallway on the wood floor and I felt cold air coming up from the floor.  It felt good cause it was summer.  It was real cold like air-conditioned air.  I felt it all around me but the others didn’t seem to notice it like I did. I remember looking down at the floor thinking the cold air was coming from a hole in the floor leading to the basement. I stood there for quite a while in the cold spot.”

“We continued to the dining room and I stood off to the left of the big table.  The tour guide was talking but all of a sudden, I felt faint.  I felt extremely faint.  I was not sick but like I was gonna pass out. And I was having trouble seeing…. like the room was darkening before my eyes.  I was so worried that I would faint on an antique chair and break it.  So, I rushed over to the next room to the right.  It was a library or den or something. My vision was getting worse and worse and I knew I had to get out of that house immediately.”

Marie no longer looked at the others around the campfire as she talked, “I stumbled my way to the front door, jerked it opened, and rushed down the concrete steps groping for the handrail.  My vision was narrowing, the blackness was overtaking my sight.  I bumped into a few people awkwardly and went around the corner of the house stumbling. With my hands in front of me reaching out to grasp air, I could barely see. My vision was decreasing to a tiny pinhole and then suddenly…… wham!  I hit my face on the concrete sidewalk.  I blacked out about one foot away from a tent spike sticking out of the ground and tied to one of the festival tents.  I didn’t just faint like they do in the movies.  I slammed my face into the sidewalk really hard as if I had been pushed by someone. When I came to, there was a crowd of folks gathered around me asking if I was okay.  I was trembling and the whole right side of my face and neck was bruised, swollen, and bleeding from cuts.”

She looked up now at Dalton and said, “I had barely missed putting my face through a tent spike. If I had hit that tent spike, I would be dead for sure.”

Everyone at the campfire listening to the story was now silent.  She continued, “The cops and ambulance came.  They asked me what had happened.  I told them about the cold air in the hallway.  I told them I thought maybe there was some chemical in the air and maybe there was a hole coming up from the basement.  I asked them to check because I was worried about it. Maybe it was carbon monoxide. They checked the entire hallway.”

Marie shook her head slowly back and forth, “There was no hole in that hallway. There was no explanation for the cold air at all.”

She shrugged.  “I didn’t think much of it.  I figured over the years, I’d just blacked out but one day I told a friend that was big into paranormal TV shows about it.  She said…well, she said I might be something called a sensitive.  She said maybe I was empathetic to ghosts, that I could feel things deeply…more than others.  My friend said I experienced a cold spot in the hallway that day because I felt the presence of a ghost standing beside me, lingering around me.  I felt it but could not see it. And the others, could not feel nor see either. My friend said it might have been the bad one, the evil ghost. It may have been trying to hurt me intentionally and pushed me towards the tent spike on purpose…”

She trailed off.  “To this day, I still don’t really know what happened. I have never ever seen a ghost but perhaps, I felt one nearby that others did not feel. My friend said this ability to sense their presence was a gift.”

She stopped telling the story and looked up to see what the reactions were on the faces of her campfire friends.  No one spoke at first.  They all looked around uncomfortably.  Then Davis interjected with a nervous laugh, “That story is crazy!”   

“Good one, Marie.  How long did that one take you to make up?”  Asked Kyra and she smirked at the others.    

Marie responded timidly, “It’s actually…true.” The others around the campfire exchanged quick sudden glances but said nothing further.  Becky grinned some in disbelief and looked down to hide her expression.  Davis took another swig of the Jack Daniels and looked to the forest to his right.  Kyra pretended to be focused on warming her hands.  Marie stopped smiling and looked down awkwardly.  Dalton placed his hand on hers again and moved closer.  She grasped his hand then and looked beyond the others to the forest and the moonlit sky. 


J. Speer grew up in Lawrence, Kansas and is familiar with the Stull Church legend.  She was later stationed at Germany and Virginia while working for the military.  She now resides in Pittsburg, Kansas and works in photography/art framing.  She has 4 books on Amazon and writes a blog at www.jspeerwritings.com.  

Janea says about this piece:

“These two stories are actually part of a longer story I am working on and go hand in hand.  The overall story is about a young woman who is a sensitive.  She is able to sense or feel the presence of paranormal beings.  The first story submitted is titled The Cold Spot and is a true-life ghost story she recounts to some friends around the campfire on a weekend trip to the lake.  The second story is called Stull and happens the next evening as she and her boyfriend are returning from the lake and encounter the strange and mysterious small town of Stull.  This is a real place located outside Lawrence, Kansas.”

Appearing in The Chamber on April 9

“Bad Blood” Poetry by Akubudike Deborah

The audience is held in suspense on a woman’s wedding day

“Just in Case” Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

A man suspects a man following him through a park is up to no good.

“Cheap Sunglasses” Fiction by Rie Sheridan Rose

A woman receives a different kind of diagnosis on visiting her physician

“The Cold Spot” Fiction by Janea Speer

A woman encounters a mysterious cold spot while touring a Victorian mansion

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry to The Chamber

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 7,500 words (note revised word limit) or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

Welcome genres include:

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • action-adventure
  • suspense/thriller
  • literary
  • science fiction
  • historical
  • mystery/crime
  • noir
  • romance
  • Western
  • experimental
  • cyberpunk
  • steampunk
  • weird fiction
  • gothic
  • general
  • humor
  • any mixture of the above

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

New Public Relations Page

To gather a little useful information about The Chamber’s readership, I have added a Public Relations page to the website. Here people will be able to subscribe, send their opinions to the staff with a couple of simple, short forms, have a little fun with photos of our (fictional) staff, and contribute to the growth of The Chamber by buying one of our staffers a Ko-fi.

On a side note, I have also simplified and updated the Dark Matters Bookstore and Mercantile sections.

Check them out when you have the chance.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 9

“Bad Blood” Poetry by Akubudike Deborah

The audience is held in suspense on a woman’s wedding day

“Just in Case” Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

A man suspects a man following him through a park is up to no good.

“Cheap Sunglasses” Fiction by Rie Sheridan Rose

A woman receives a different kind of diagnosis on visiting her physician

“The Cold Spot” Fiction by Janea Speer

A woman encounters a mysterious cold spot while touring a Victorian mansion

Update on The Chamber’s Format

I made a couple of quick changes yesterday that make The Chamber just a bit cooler.

At the top of the primary widget area (on the right) is now a door with The Chamber’s name and “Slattery Publishing” underneath. This will serve as a cover so that websites that can post a magazine cover will have this. I will change it from time to time until I capture the magazine’s mood just right.

If you click on the door, you will be taken to the About page, which serves as a reception area of sorts. As time progresses, I will try to make it look more and more like a spooky reception area.

On the about page, I have replaced the photo that was at the top with a video I made using Kizoa, Pixabay, and YouTube. With this I am trying to give the viewer a virtual entrance into The Chamber’s offices. I have put this below for your ease of viewing. Let me know what you think not only of the video, but also of how it fits in with the About page and The Chamber in general. I will be toying with this from time to time.

I am tinkering with the idea of making The Chamber not only a pleasurable reading experience but also a virtual experience as well.

Update: The Chamber on YouTube

Over the last few days, I have been experimenting with developing a YouTube presence for The Chamber. At this point, I am not much of a filmmaker. I don’t have the time, experience, or equipment to develop a professional YouTube video. Ergo, I have been experimenting with public domain, royalty-free videos I can find at Pexels.com or Pixabay.com using free video editing software at Kizoa (using the basic free membership demands that I have the Kizoa logo on my works) or the very simple stuff available using the YouTube Studio editor. Above is about the best film I have developed so far. I have a longer one of a minute and fifteen seconds in the works. As I get the hang of making these, they are becoming easier to make.

I have not yet developed an ultimate goal for these videos other than to use as basic advertising on YouTube to draw people to The Chamber website. I do have a vague idea of using the public domain material (visual and audible) and free editing software to develop some type of very short film similar to a flash fiction or even micro fiction story. For the moment, I am experimenting mostly with setting a mood to use in advertising The Chamber. Once I have a few decent ones, I may start posting them on the website to encourage people to submit their YouTube videos to the website for additional exposure.

Check out The Chamber’s primitive YouTube page and let me know what you think. More videos will be coming soon.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry Now.

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 5,000 words or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

Submit Your Dark Fiction and Poetry Now.

The Chamber Magazine is seeking articles, reviews, essays, poems, and short stories of approximately 5,000 words or less including flash, micro fiction, smoke longs, drabbles or of any flavor of short fiction that demonstrates the art of writing dark fiction, whether it be prose, poetry, one-act plays, or any other form of literature.  We want to showcase the genre in all its subtlety, intelligence, art, horror, terror, suspense, thrill-seeking, and gruesome detail. We will accept dark humor provided it follows the guidelines below with regards to content and good taste.

To be good short fiction, the shorter a work is, the more power it must pack.

There is no pay for publication, but the author retains all rights. Reprints are acceptable. Multiple submissions of up to three works per submission are permitted. Simultaneous submissions are permitted, but you must tell us if the work has been accepted elsewhere. We usually respond within a week. Works generally appear a month after acceptance.

More details about submissions are available on the website.

Send submissions and queries to thechambermagazine@gmail.com.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 9

“Bad Blood” Poetry by Akubudike Deborah

The audience is held in suspense on a woman’s wedding day

“Just in Case” Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

A man suspects a man following him through a park is up to no good.

“Cheap Sunglasses” Fiction by Rie Sheridan Rose

A woman receives a different kind of diagnosis on visiting her physician

“The Cold Spot” Fiction by Janea Speer

A woman encounters a mysterious cold spot while touring a Victorian mansion

“It’s Raining” Short Fiction by Francene Kilgore

It’s raining. The first drop touched the corner of my inexpressive mouth. Afraid to taste it, I removed the moisture with the back of my hand. Vacant droplets reached my shoulders. The air, an uncontrollable dampness, raked my nerves. Elusive shattered shelter pushed me beyond the dank cold pour of precipitation. It’s raining. Wet, a drop touched my blouse. The sensation of acid remained on my flesh as the fabric of sanity broke away from the onslaught of venomous rain.  Blinking, protected the view in brief cycles of clarity and vision. The damaged vengeful rain touched me. Mocking my forehead it jolted me to the reality of once was to now be.  Amid cruelty the smell of desperation hung among the heedless rain. Soaked and sealed with literally nothing else to evade the rain, it bubbled on the surface of empty empathy and painful panic memories.  It’s raining.  Unidentified articles reasoned about the importance of being one with the nature of rain. Inadequate and inadvertently the causes of rain risk the smallest amount of my sanity. Welled inside a cocoon unbalanced and buried among burdened puddles,  I hid the true resemblance of my screaming soul staring at the rain.  It’s raining, to mock me. To test my response to reality, my resolve,  my values, and beliefs.  It’s raining inside my skin,  stomach, hair, and veins. Filling me beyond capacity to create,  remember, change,  or challenge the traditions of storms that swell and sweep away all and everything. It’s raining.  As my mind and body fade from this decade to the last. It’s raining. 


Francene Kilgore has a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Concordia University of Austin. She has been teaching writing at an elementary school in Midland, Texas for several years. She says that “Often in my vacant gaze, I hear a melody. Sometimes it’s soft and easing to the mind; other times it’s a frenzy of movements and tones; but most often, it is just you, crossing my thoughts from far away.”