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Issue 8: April 2011

Welcome to the eighth issue of 10Flash.

10Flash is a quarterly on-line magazine dedicated to genre flash fiction — science fiction, fantasy, horror, suspense, crime capers and slipstream.

Each issue  offers up ten flash fiction stories written around a common theme. Each story in this issue is a response to this warning — Not with That You Don’t.

The stories were written by established and emerging authors in the flash fiction market and they were free to interpret the theme in any manner — and in any of the genres — they choose.

Thank you all for stopping by.  There is an interesting selection of genre stories for you to peruse this issue, some by authors whose names you’ll know and other by newcomers.  I think they’re all great reads.

We’re loaded with writers from the Pacific Northwest this issue.

Portland’s Jay Lake takes us on a journey home, in Brown Bottle Nostrum,  that will have you thinking twice the next time someone suggests that you have your mother’s eyes or your grandfather’s nose.

From Seattle (and its many neighborhoods and suburbs), Cat Rambo leads us to a very special map held together by The Forbidden Stitch, Keffy R.M. Kehrli’s Accompaniment presents a wicked lesson in honesty, Janna Silverstein examines the consequences of indiscriminate wishing in The Misanthrope and Sandra M. Odell (from across the Sound in Bremerton) keeps her tongue firmly planted in her cheek while offering a piece of garage junk As Is.

Karina Fabian introduces us to a private eye who just happens to be a dragon, too.  We giggled a lot over this one and send it along with the hope that we’ll see more of Vern, who has a taste for most things A La Mode.

Anne Patterson Friedman’s With Gleaming Blades suggests that you might never be too old for adventure, while Douglas Swatski weaves a sweet little story about teen-aged boys and flying saucers and worried mothers in Aliens.

Data De Morte is a snarky romp by Lorna Keach.  Remember it the next time you apply for a job.

And speaking of applying for a job, after reading David Grant’s Open-Door Policy, you may have second thoughts about ever returning to the work place.  Neither of us are known to cringe reading a story.  This one is genuinely creepy.

Ten great stories. Have at them.

K.C. and Jude-Marie


fantasy by Keffy R. M. Kehrli

“You’re making me crazy,” Jonas said. “Can’t you play the fucking thing any quieter?”

I didn’t speak. I just kept playing the damn guitar while my cracked fingers bled rivulets that clung to the strings and dripped down the lacquered wood. Eventually I did say that I was sorry, that I couldn’t stop, but he’d already gone out for a smoke. He left the shed door cracked open, so the nicotine-laden winter air flooded in and froze my lungs.

Outside, Jonas’ phone trilled. He answered with a sharp, “Yeah?”

I thought that if I’d known how to play, if I was breaking out into a moving cover of a Simon and Garfunkel song or something, then it wouldn’t be as bad. But I’d never before picked up a guitar. I’d only ever played music in elementary school when we all had to buy plastic recorders and learn “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” So my fingers danced to the compulsion in a cacophonic jangle, caressed strings and frets and made nothing but noise with my pain. I tried to pick combinations of strings that sounded like chords and mostly failed.

“Yes, I realize we’re late. We’ve got problems.”

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

A La Mode

fantasy by Karina Fabian

He sat in my office chair and stared at me, while attempting to look like he wasn’t staring. Trying to get his head around seeing a live dragon, no doubt. I get a lot of that. What I don’t get a lot of is clientèle. People want to believe in dragons – dragon detectives, not so much.

I didn’t have to stare back. I got the gist of him from the moment he entered the warehouse I call home. Common enough face and build as to be unmemorable, cautious by nature, nervous but determined to do a job. Lots of professional ethics, not a lot of morals.

A high-class thug hired by a higher-class human to do their dirty work.

And he wanted to sub-contract. Joy.

Maybe I should have thrown him out, but last week I’d had to resort to eating rats and gophers again. At some point, the bank would overcome its fear of a dragon on the loose and try to foreclose on this dump I call a home. I needed a job – bad.

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]


science fiction by D. J. Swatski

“They’re landing,” Mother yelled from the living room.

Jason tapped at his computer screen to display the image. The snowstorm made for a fuzzy, yet colorful picture. Plasma streams striking the snow and air cast neon blues and reds across the sky.

“Are you coming down to see this?” Mother urged.

“Plink,” sounded the computer. Jason pulled his feet off the desk and leaned forward to study the map. The globe sported a dozen red dots, each starship aligned with a different capital. The dot over Washington, D.C. appeared last. The doorknob clicked as his mother tried to enter. A moment later she popped the lock with a paper clip.

“What did I tell you about locking the door, young man? You will not –” She stopped when she saw the images on Jason’s computer screens.

The dot over Buenos Aires turned black as the picture showed the brilliant flash of an explosion. “No,” Jason whispered.

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

As Is

science fiction by Sandra M. Odell

“What’s this?” Hank said from the back of the garage.

Gary glanced up from a cardboard box of knick-knacks. “That’s my MacGuffin.”

“Your what?”

Gary snorted and shook his head. “It’s a time machine.”

“Get out of here.”

“It is. Doesn’t work, though.” Gary closed the box and added it to the pile on his left. The warm Saturday afternoon was better suited to napping in the backyard hammock than organizing the garage, but Marge had threatened to do the job herself and his pride still hadn’t recovered from her crusade against his attic workshop. “Give me a hand with the skis.” All with broken bindings he would fix one day, honest, honey, I mean it.

“Seriously? A time machine?” Hank said as they hoisted the skis into the loft. “I mean, you’ve invented some cool stuff before, you know, but a time machine?”

“Yeah,” Gary said. “I could never get it to work, though.”

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

Brown Bottle Nostrum

fantasy by Jay Lake

The bottle sits at the back of my grandfather’s medicine cupboard.  It’s old, in that way that so few things are, as if it has accumulated extra mass, extra layers of reality like coats of varnish.  The shoulders are slightly uneven, clearly hand blown, and the brown glass is full of bubbles.

The cap might be cork, but Grand wrapped duct tape around the neck years ago, so long ago the wrinkled gray stuff has had time to generate its own ecology of dust and mites and cobwebs.  There’s a faded label, blank except for one word written in spidery Palmer method script:


Facial what? I used to wonder when I visited summers as a kid and he’d send me to the cupboard for Pepto-Bismol.  “Don’t touch that other crap, kiddo,” he’d shout from the couch — that old tartan one that was so ugly it could have disguised dog vomit — “it’ll take the hair right off’a your chest.”  Then he would collapse into heaving old-man laughs.

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

Data de Morte

dark fantasy by Lorna D. Keach

Shelby put down the gigantic ebony horn she dragged, long enough to wipe the gore from her glasses.

So far, she’d felled the Great Blood Beast of Hanthor, mastered the mysteries of the Foul Scribe of Felchamathea, and polished the floor of Yagfargain the Terrible’s summer cottage, so her long and harrowing journey was near its end.

The temple of the Dark Lord de Morte loomed above her, glistening white under the moon. Its walls had been forged with the bones of countless fallen paladins who had attempted to knock the necromancer king from his throne.

Shelby limped up the stone steps that lead into the Dark Lord’s temple,  kicking away the stray skulls that the ancient desert winds had tossed across the threshold.

A green light beckoned to her from inside. A bonfire of emerald flame burned there, as evil and eternal as the thirteen robed figures who surrounded it.

“Approach, supplicant!” The Dark Lord De Morte’s fiendish voice echoed over the temple ceiling.

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

Open-Door Policy

horror by David S. Grant

Maybe it’s because I drink Red Bull, maybe because I’m the newest member of the team.  I’m not sure the reason, but I know I’m not one of them.

Maybe, there’s an initiation.

They stand around the Phaser 2000 laser printer and drink coffee, they do this every morning.  No words, just standing in a circle, drinking coffee and collectively taking deep sighs.

There’s something I’m not telling you.

Dale doesn’t have a right ear.  Not that he doesn’t have any ear, just most of it is gone, as if he lost it due to disease or lost a major bet.

Jason?  He doesn’t talk, I’m not just talking about the circle, but at all.  He only mumbles occasionally and drinks his coffee, black.

Chris is bruised.  Not ran-into-a-door type bruises, but deep bruises.  The ones that hurt mentally.

Then there’s Andrew.  Scarface.  No one would ever say this, but everyone is thinking it.  Someone took a knife and slashed an “X” on his face, probably foster parents, I hear this is common.

[Click on the title to read the rest of the story]

The Forbidden Stitch

fantasy by Cat Rambo

When you looked in the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul Lost in Ennui, there it was, tucked between pages 22-23.

A slip of paper, translucent and fragile, covered with someone’s scrawl, as thin and crooked as insect legs.  Fishing it out, the paper fluttering helpless between your fingers, you spread it out on the table before you.  Forgotten, the book splays itself to the air, pages promising panaceas for the angst ridden.

You recognize it as a map, that much is true.  But a map as drawn by M.C. Escher, tortured boundaries intersecting and re-intersecting in kaleidoscopic fragments, melancholy fractals.

The territories of the land are labeled: Self-Pity, Mischance, Indulgence, Unhappy Coincidence, Regret.  An unnamed road runs through the middle, marked with a line of dashes, stars and circles showing the cities and towns.

A castle, drawn in patient detail to show the flags fluttering above its towers, bears the legend Doldrums.  A blank space in the center has the inscription above it: Nowhere.

[Click the title to read the rest of the story]

The Misanthrope

fantasy by Janna Silverstein

I hate people. Really. Big genuine hate. So when I discovered that if I hated someone enough I could make them die, disappear, whatever, it seemed like divine intervention.

First it was Jasper Collins, who lived down the hall with his nasty, yappy little dog, Elmo. It was a pug, I think, with a pushed-in face and a constant frown.

Collins played his damn guitar at all hours of the night, croony-swoony songs you played in high school to impress cheerleaders. He was tall and lanky, with black hair too thin and straight to do anything but hang down on either side of his face like cheap tassles on a whore’s lamp shade. He had this adenoidal snort when he talked that made you want to push a handkerchief up against his face and make him blow the snot out of his head.

I went to bed one night wanting nothing more than to sleep when, on the other side of the wall, Jasper Collins started to play his guitar, strum strum strum, the same damn thing over and over again. It went on for hours. I wrapped my head in my blanket. I covered my ears with my pillow. I got up, put on my bathrobe, traipsed out into the hall and knocked on his door to politely ask him to stop. No dice.

[Click on the title to read the rest of the story]

With Gleaming Blades

fantasy by Anne Patterson Friedman

Melinda closed her AARP magazine, pushed back from the kitchen table, and shouted, “Turn that thing down.” Still, the TV’s volume failed to drop, allowing no relief from the screams of slashed Japanese farmers, victims of feuding samurai.

She tromped into the living room where her husband, Gordon, lay stretched out on his recliner with his morning coffee in one hand, the remote in the other.

“Please, Gordon, just pause that a moment.” When flashing swords froze on the screen, Melinda used her softest voice and said, “Honey, I’m worried about you. You’ve watched that same DVD a thousand times. You’re obsessed with that movie.”

He huffed. “Yeah, ’cause the hero’s amazing.”

“So you’ve told me.”

“He’s blind, but he’s got special abilities. Toss a candle in the air and stand back. He can raise his sword cane, unsheathe its hidden blade, then slice that candle clean in half, lengthwise, wick and all.”

As a crazed look settled on his face, Melinda shuddered. Was he losing it? She could live with his forgetfulness, but what if he turned violent? It seemed easier each day to trigger his anger.

[Click on the title to read the rest of the story]