“The Exhibition” Dark Fiction by Ervin Brown

An animal lay on its right flank, black and blue wounds crawling in a line up its back. Jack, only eight years of age, had never seen such a sight. He stepped in closer and gripped his hands tightly around the bars, cradling his chin between them. Two men, muscular and dressed in all black, appeared suddenly. They dragged the animal out of its cage.

“Are they going to help it?” he whispered.

Mr. Schmidt turned over his shoulder to find his son staring deeply into the habitat. Jack was startled by the firm grasp of his forearm.

“Get it together, Jack. It’s not safe to be doing that.” Mr. Schmidt bundled himself tightly in his fur coat, the strong February breeze jabbing at him like a crystal blade.

Jack trailed slowly behind as his mind wandered, his older brother, Finn, complaining about which flavor to buy at the ice cream stand.

“Do you think this concerns me?” Mr. Schmidt asked, throwing his protests to a halt. Mr. Schmidt crossed his hands and traipsed off the pedestrian walkway. “Shut up the both of you. You’ll get the flavor I choose for you. Like you always do.”

“I don’t even like ice cream,” Finn said. Jack’s older brother, who was tall and skinny, was downtrodden. His teenage face was smeared with grease like a frying pan. He took his hands out of his jacket pockets and rubbed them briskly together, blowing warm air onto them from his lips.

“We’ll take three cups of vanilla,” Mr. Schmidt grumbled, stroking the light stubble on his jawline. He wore a grin of false enthusiasm creeping from his mouth to his forced-up cheekbones.

The Schmidts walked away filled with edginess and fatigue.

“That’s the last food you’ll be getting until breakfast,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Jack didn’t say a word. “Give me that cup!” Finn shouted at Jack.

Mr. Schmidt ripped the cups out of their hands and tossed them directly into the pavement. Jack and Finn watched as the last of their ice creams’ melty remains drained through the sewage bars.

“Good riddance,” Mr. Schmidt said.

The Schmidts sat in a cobblestone circle around a sizable, empty stage. People quit shuffling about and found their places in resin chairs. They faced the platform against the backdrop of a low-hanging curtain. The voice of the crowd softened to a low whisper.

Mr. Schmidt yelled, “When’s the show going to start?” He rolled up his sleeves to feel the fresh air. With his bare skin exposed to the cold, tousled hair stood like a stiff flag from his arms. Lights of bright colors flashed from projector heads into the sky where a vermillion-violet sunset was quickly fading.

“Silence everyone! Let the show begin!” The slow and bone-weary clapping of the audience in their huddled stances was muddled by their mittens. The master of ceremonies was revealed in a man looking to be over six feet wearing striped red and white slacks and a long-sleeved shirt of the same distinction. “I am Mr. Williams, foreseer of many truths and daredevil of courage and adventure! We’d like to start tonight’s show by asking for someone to accompany us on stage!”

Hands were raised from a few of those seated. Mr. Williams searched acutely among the crowd’s faces, faded by a screen of their vaporous breaths, and found Jack whose size and age stood out from the rest. Stepping from the platform into the seating area, Mr. Williams knelt by Jack’s side like a giant coming down from the clouds. He asked, “Will you be my volunteer?”

Jack merely stared at the man.

“Go on then,” Finn whispered. “Don’t be a chicken.”

Jack was near speechless, he gave a quick look to Mr. Williams and slightly nodded his head, keeping his mouth shut. Mr. Williams offered Jack his hand, wrapped in a silk glove, and they walked together back to the stage. The center was marked with an “x” by two pieces of duct tape.

“Do you know how to hold one of these, son?” Jack looked from Mr. Williams to the pistol he was holding. He had seen this kind of gun before in an old Western.

“Yes, sir,” Jack said as he took the weapon, placing his tiny index finger on the trigger.

“Woah, there!” Mr. Williams cried. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

He turned to face the crowd. “What you are about to see is a live slaughter, performed by this brave, young man. In a moment, an animal will be brought out for us. And the boy will be permitted to fire the weapon.”

Jack stared at the spot on the stage before him, marked by that “x” in fear of what was to be released there. Jack was near petrified. Two of Mr. Williams’ assistants, muscular and dressed in all black, walked behind the curtain to get the animal.

Upon their return, they brought with them a creature about the same height, weight, and age as Jack. Two arms, two legs with a boyish face. His skin looked as though it could crumble like chalk. His hair was spotted and raggy with a dirt tint covering his bloody torso. His hands and feet were shackled with rusty manacles and thick metal chains drew down his bare chest.

The assistants gripped the boy tightly around his shoulders as he floundered and punted at the men’s shins. They threw him directly onto the “x”.

“I hope you don’t mind, dear boy. We thought it not right to have this animal killed by someone much stronger or larger than itself.”

Jack raised the weapon to aim. He looked at the boy across from him, waving the tip of the pistol narrowly in his direction. It was now that the shackled boy had lifted his chin, exposing his face to the crowd in their wave of diluted whispers. The boy had luminous green eyes that shined clear across the squalls of swirling sleet.

Jack wrapped his hand around the pistol and locked his eyes shut.

“Now, boy! Do it now!”

Jack stood still with fear, his wintry gumboots clinging to the floor. He quivered from the consternation, the trepidation.

“Come on, what are you waiting for? Fire!”

And then, Jack pulled. Taken aback with full force, shock waves rippled through him.

The shackled boy had not yet realized the bullet had passed through his skull. He touched his finger to his forehead and witnessed as a drop of blood strolled down his finger. Eyes wide open, he fell lifeless to the floor. Those rosy pink cheeks faded forthwith to an ash gray.

“It is deceased!” cried Mr. Williams, and the crowd turned into a frenzy.

Jack and his brother stared incredulously at each other from across the circle. And their father who was never impressed was mildly impressed, something the boy rarely saw. On Jack’s face, a tear fell to which he immediately lifted the cuff of his shirt. He wiped his face clean to see the joy and excitement of those that surrounded him.

Everything was calm as if a glowing golden light had shined down upon him in the gorgeous winter’s night. Snowflakes began to fall from the rimy clouds landing on the shoulders of a boy who was now a killer. Jack looked at his father’s approval and was at peace.


Ervin Brown is a writer from Southern California. His other works can be found in Art Block Zine, The Dillydoun Review, Beyond Words Literary Magazine, Grime Prophet Mag, Aurtistic Zine, and Drunk Monkeys.


The December 3 Issue Will Be Delayed

Due to unexpected family issues, the December 3 issue of The Chamber will be postponed until December 5. Don’t worry everyone is safe and healthy and in good spirits. I had to take an expected trip out of state for almost two (busy) weeks. Consequently, I have not been able to dedicate myself to the magazine as I normally do. Everything should be back of normal for the December 10 issue.

Phil Slattery

Publisher

New Interview

Thank you Julian for doing the interview. It was a fascinating, enjoyable read.

Outlaw Poetry

The kind folks at The Chamber Magazine interviewed me recently about my work habits as a writer and artist. I’m always indebted to these lit journal and web publishing venues for showcasing my short form fiction and poetry.

I’m a big believer in publishing often and to as many supporters as possible. It’s thanks to The Chamber Magazine (and others) that my work grows stronger every time.

Interview with Author and Filmmaker Julian Grant

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10 Speculative Fiction Magazines Accepting Submissions NOW – Paying Markets – by Erica Verrillo… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

on Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity: Here are ten literary magazines currently open to submissions of speculative fiction and poetry. They are seeking a wide variety of subgenres: Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Dark Fantasy, Horror, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Myth, Folklore, Surrealism, Slipstream, and Weird Fiction. All of these are paying markets. Some accept reprints. None […]

10 Speculative Fiction Magazines Accepting Submissions NOW – Paying Markets – by Erica Verrillo… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

OPEN Call for SUBMISSIONS: The Sirens Call – Halloween 2021 – issue 55 | #Horror #DarkFiction #eZine #OpenCall #Reprints #fiction #stories #flash #poetry @Sirens_Call — The Sirens Song

#SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN: for the 55th issue of The Sirens Call eZine. We accept short #stories, #flash and micro #fiction, #drabbles, and #poetry that fit the #horror or #dark #fiction genre. Plus, this is the Halloween Issue, so let’s keep it creepy! #darkfic #flashfic #microfic visit sirenscallpub.com for details.

OPEN Call for SUBMISSIONS: The Sirens Call – Halloween 2021 – issue 55 | #Horror #DarkFiction #eZine #OpenCall #Reprints #fiction #stories #flash #poetry @Sirens_Call — The Sirens Song

Appearing in The Chamber on August 20

What’s coming up at The Chamber…

The Chamber Magazine

New issues appear Fridays at 10:00 a.m. CDT/ 4:00 p.m. BST/ 8:30 p.m. IST/ 1:00 a.m. AEST (Saturdays).

“Aperture” Fiction by Dan A. Cardoza

Dan’s most recent darkness has been published by Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Black Petals, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Bull, Chilling Tales for Dark Nights Podcast, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books, Entropy, HorrorAddicts.net, Mystery Tribune, Suspense Magazine, The Yard Crime Blog, Variant, The 5-2.  Dan has been nominated for Best of the Net and best micro-fiction. 

“Nightwalker” by Joseph A. Farina

Joseph A. Farina is a retired lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. His  poems have appeared in Philedelphia Poets, Tower Poetry, The Windsor Review, and Tamaracks: Canadian Poetry for the 21st Century. He has two books of poetry published ,The Cancer Chronicles and The Ghosts of Water Street

“The Little Wild” Fiction by Julian Grant

Julian Grant is a filmmaker, educator, and author of strange…

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Interview with Author Niles Reddick

Niles Reddick
Niles Reddick at Parnassus

Biography

I was born in Southern Georgia to a working-class poor family. I started working when I was 12, mowing grass. I was a custodian and then worked in hotels through high school and college. I worked for the Air Force as a civilian, worked as a counselor, and landed in higher education where I taught and then became an administrator. While I wrote in high school and college, it wasn’t until I was teaching that I had my first publication. Married with two teens, we live in Western Tennessee.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I would say that my greatest accomplishment was having a story published in The Saturday Evening Post, and then being named among the best new fiction by The Saturday Evening Post in 2019. However, the accolades from some of my published books have also been very nice.

Why do you write?

I think writing evolves as does the reason one writes. When I began, I wrote about feelings, frustrations, etc. It was a limited and maybe egocentric form of writing, but eventually, I wrote about things that happened in life, injustices, humorous stories, and much more. I think one can’t stifle creativity. It’s a very natural way of being in the world.

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 think I have a very “normal” process. I typically compose on my computer and I write early in the morning (I get up at 4am without a clock and always have). I typically go back two or three times to edit, but I usually read most things out loud to my wife. Generally, I catch more errors that way. She also likes to offer her comments. By the way, she doesn’t always like my stories and I’m okay with that.  I then rewrite a couple of other times before I send pieces off for consideration. Sometimes, I have had acceptances the same day, but while those are truly rewarding moments, they have been few and far between. I have had thousands of rejections, but I have also had stories published that were often rejected. I’ve come to know that “fit” is an important part of the writing process that most of us don’t understand even if we know the editor, the magazine, and the requirements. I can even read published pieces in a magazine and still not know “fit” and I’ve read pieces in magazines and couldn’t believe the editor selected or published it. There’s something about the process that is ambiguous and maybe always will be.

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

No, early in my career when I was really trying to get published, I had friends who were faculty members review and offer feedback, and I have had other published writers read drafts and offer feedback (such as Lee Smith, Janice Daugharty, Inman Majors, and others), but other than my reading stories out loud to my wife (to mostly catch errors and get any opinion she might have), I don’t ask anyone and I find it a bit awkward when someone asks me to offer a blurb or review or even feedback on a draft. I’m becoming even more shy about that.

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

Well, I have a flash fiction collection titled For the Cheesecake (title is from one of the stories published in Forth Magazine in L.A.), a novella-in-flash titled A Blessing and a Curse, and about thirty unpublished stories I’m constantly submitting for consideration. While I certainly don’t have expectations of anything happening, I do have an agent in CA who is pitching two films and a series for me.

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?

I am teaching a flash fiction workshop through the Pat Conroy Literary Center in South Carolina and am excited about that, and I’m judging a flash fiction prompt for Vancouver Flash Fiction in British Columbia this month. The above submitted works will hopefully get picked up this year. I have several stories forthcoming in multiple journals and magazines like The Hong Kong Review.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

Some of my work has been meaningful with nominations and I think they speak to quality, but I don’t know if they will survive the test of time like other writers may have historically. Plus, I think what survives is changing rapidly. There are lots of writers out there, many publishers, and a lot of magazines that come and go. This has never been about money for me. I have a career. I often joke that I couldn’t pay one month’s house payment with what I have earned in royalties through the years, but to be recognized by peers has been meaningful to me. This year, The Citron Review took a story titled “Keeping Time” and then nominated it for a Best Microfiction award, The Boston Literary Magazine took a piece titled “Mean Boys” and nominated it for a Best Microfiction award, and other magazine in New York, Big City Lit nominated my story “Rotarian on Vacation” for a Pushcart Prize, my third Pushcart nomination. Ultimately, I should be satisfied with what I have done—a novel, two collections, and a novella (plus the ones coming)—and the recognition. I never expected any of it and if I dropped dead tomorrow, I would leave this world very appreciative.

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

Most of them that are bad typically say something good, so I’m not sure they are actually bad. I think they bring attention, and like the news on a nightly basis, I’m not sure it’s the good or bad that matters. It’s the attention, and actually, I’m not sure I think that’s how it should be, but it’s reality, and what’s even sadder to me is that I don’t think anyone really reads them and I don’t even think a lot of people read in general.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Don’t give up. Keep it up, keep going, trying. It’ll happen eventually, but you might want to ask yourself starting out, what do you want out of this? If it’s money, you might want to stick with your day job and do this as a hobby. I don’t mean that to be discouraging. On the contrary, I mean for it to be a wake-up call and to be realistic.

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

I think social networking and social media are GREAT and have been important to me in my writing/publishing. I actually went to New York City to read with a group of writers I’d met via social media. I really didn’t know any of them and interestingly, some of them thought I was British because of my name—Niles Reddick. When I got on stage to read and this deep Southern accent came out, they were stunned. I thought it was hilarious.

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

Website: http://nilesreddick.com/

Twitter: @niles_reddick

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/niles.reddick.9

Instagram: nilesreddick@memphisedu

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niles-reddick-0759b09b/