November Contest Winner: Fernando’s “Mind the Gap”!

Mind the Gap

you say of things that behave in unexpected (unexplainable) ways that they are haunting (haunted).
but to haunt is to occupy a place you are not supposed to be, to exist when you should not.
a sense of uneasiness, the gap between the expected and the unexpected, the wanted and the scorned, the comforting and the scaring.
that’s where you find us.

it’s a place like the gap between the train and the platform when you need to take that single step to enter the train and you hesitate.
“Mind the gap!” the speakers would blare in London bellow, and like that gap, a haunting feeds on — and draws out — the irrational.
we revel when we are not paid attention to.
like tripping into a train, a good haunting best happens when you’re looking elsewhere.

And now i must excuse myself, and, while i appreciate your offer, i must refuse.
you invited me here.
you opened the doors and let me in.
you showed me around.

i am wanted here.
i am expected.
i can’t haunt you.

so, good tidings to you.
someday, we will catch up.
your unesteemed interlopers.

November Contest Winner: Taylor Skaalrud’s Haunting Poem

They can’t see what I see beneath me; marooned & timbered stories.
The sea of history resurfaces, It,
Trauma creaks and seeps and seeks its ghost.
It finds familiar feelings.

Wound in the wound it writhes with time’s tithes – the tides;
the black-bile-mould that festers beneath floorboards that
pours forth from holes in the souls that line these walls
until it touches something – someone warm.
An ember to hold onto to turn house into its home.
But this chill house’s hearth cannot house a lively flame
and so, it smothers shrouded Allison with love beyond the grave.

November Flash Reveal

Our editors got caught up watching Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and couldn’t resist basing the monthly flash writing contest on that show. We gave our Patrons an image of The ALP’s home-base in Saskatoon (a character home over 100 years old!) and asked them to haunt the house.

Our winning submissions include an eerie poem by Taylor Skaalrud and a letter written by a ghost by Fernando! We will be posting these flash pieces on our blog over the next few days, so be sure to check them out!

Do you want to get in on these contests? If so, all you have to do is head over to our Patreon page, sign up to donate $2/ month, and bingo, you will receive immediate access to our contests and early access to our On Editing blog series. The top three flash pieces will be featured as the winners on our blog every month. The donations made on Patreon are collected on the first of every month, so if you sign up to donate anytime during December, you will get immediate access to all the perks, but you won’t be charged until January 1st!

October Contest Winner: Erin Vance’s “Crepuscular Time”

I sit, bitter as unwashed and overripe lettuce. I cannot move.

My fleshless limbs dig into the bones of the old chair. It creaks beneath me, wheezing like a mucky lung. The moths flutter like angry feather dusters against my hard, plastic eyes.

A backdrop of yelping coyotes situates me in this house, a stinking carcass holding me in its shuddering frame. The wind licks the pipes and the bricks and I feel it sharp and prickly on my bare legs.

I want to go home.

At first, I was thrilled to taste air again. I was thrilled to be a part of a household again, posed by a man with rough hands, breathed on by strangers wandering through the house.

Eventually, my joints became stiff. The sun burnt my eyes. How I wished I could close them on those hot days. I felt each layer fade, become smaller, weaker.

I want to go home.

The crew left months ago. They muttered something about asbestos. Rats. The house was condemned. Me, with it.

I want to go home. Even if home is a plastic bin in the basement of a department store. Even if home is an incinerator. Even if home is a dumpster, reeking of diapers and mouldy pizza and stale beer.

I want to no longer feel the twitch of cold against my chest through this moth-eaten sweater. I want to move from this chair towards the hollow rattle of the radiator and melt a little bit at a time until I am pliable once again.

The rats quiver in the walls. Their scuttling keeps me awake at night. Their abject screeching scares the moths who perch still and twitch on my coarse lashes.

They crawl into my open mouth. They taste chalky and restless, weighed down by my silicone saliva.

I want to taste the wetness on the air, to blink away the moths and smell the skin of a plucked wren. I want to crawl out of this place, bloody my knees on the wood floor, drink from a cold stream, and taste fresh dirt in the evening chill. I want to be like the moths, and fly away, into the light.

I want to go home.

October Contest Winner: Fernando

“what is this ground?” from-jonah-of-the-kiln da-thumps in anxiousness. even though all of-the-kiln are near, the rustle of the tools against the brushes and their sweaty-earthy smell reassuring, they can discern just one other muffled step-talk.

“why can i hear no one else?” from-jonah dada-thumps then turns to their closest companion, hoping to smell their identity, giving up on recognizing their gait.

it’s mother.

from-jonah mouth-sings relief as mother nuzzles them.

“there, there, come, come” jonah-of-the-kilns swish-thumps close to their feet, then again and again and again until they stop shaking and ta-thump back “i am well mother. where are we?”

“you were sleep when the translation happened, that is disorienting, isn’t it?”

“yes. i couldn’t feel the grass anymore, the ground is difficult to listen to and smells like bad water. i don’t want to translate anymore.” from-jonah pa-thumps with finality.

jonah mouth-sings exasperation and nuzzles them again.

“not all translations are this bad, and it is better if you’re awake. you will try to be awake next time, won’t you?” jonah tata-thumps.

“yes, mother, i will” from-jonah ta-thumps.

“come now, the elders know of this place, we will find better ground up the slope, but need to keep close together and pay attention,” jonah tata-thumps, “this is important,” papa-thump, “warning will travel slow on this ground, you need to listen with your ears to noises you don’t know, not just step-talk,” pa-thump, “tell me when you hear anything,” pata-thump.

from-jonah-of-the-kilns nuzzles their mother back, mouth-singing resoluteness as they move out.

“this was bad for your first translation, but you will get used to it, then learn our histories.” jonah sings resolve da-thumping for only they to hear “then perhaps you will open ways yourself one day.”

October Contest Winner: Amy LeBlanc’s “Can You Hear Me Now?”

It wasn’t supposed to rain that night, but still, their shoes and boots filled with moisture within minutes of arriving. They stood around the spot where they’d be digging and crossed their arms over their chests, in part to keep the cold away, but also because the closing off of the body brought them some sort of comfort. One wore running shoes with mesh tops soaked through with water. Many wore practical work shoes, only one wore rain boots, and one wore a pair of rubber flip-flops that sunk into the mud. They stood around the time capsule with mud crusted over its corners like sand paper. When one person began to speak, it was as if they all exhaled collectively and four conversations began simultaneously. It sounded something like this:

God, you’d think we’re a coven standing out here in the rain.

Didn’t you used to be a witch in high school?

I was a Wiccan.

Who are we missing?

Same difference.

I think this is everyone.

Why are there so few of us? Wasn’t everyone from our class invited?

Maybe people don’t want to go back to who they were in high school.

I got divorced last year.

I had the time of my life in high school.

It wasn’t for me.

I got sick, but I’m better now.

I’m in publishing.

What happened? Didn’t make it as a writer?

I’m sorry to hear that.

No, I just got a better offer.

I hope things start looking up for you soon.

I settled down. I took on the family business.

Oh god, the funeral home?

That’s the one.

Really though, who are we missing?

That place used to give me the creeps.

It’s not so bad once you get used to the smell.

Have you sold any houses yet?

Still waiting for that first catch.

Where’s Dani?

Do we start without her? Him?

Wait, you guys don’t know Dani?

I don’t remember anyone with that spelling, but I’m sure I’ll recognize them once they’re here.

I checked my yearbook, but I couldn’t place them.

Should we wait?

Does anyone have Dani’s phone number?

Well? Should we start?

Leaning his weight on the shovel he’d brought, one man inched closer to the capsule, his knees cracking like the springs of an antique couch as he went. No one responded. When the shovel pierced the lid of the time capsule, a small sound that none of them recognized came from beneath the lid of the box.

Writing Contest Reveal!

This month we decided to make our Patreon contest more challenging and had our participants write a fully realised scene without relying on visual images. We encouraged our writers to give us stories (or poems) so complete that it would be hard to tell the lack of visuals, and they delivered. Stay tuned for flash fiction from our top three winners: Amy LeBlanc, Erin Vance, and Fernando! The uncanny awaits- we will be posting one story a day, starting this afternoon!

If you want to get in on our monthly Patreon contests (and have a chance for your work to be featured on our blog–we choose the top three each month!), then all you have to do is head over to our Patreon page and donate $2/month (or more, if you feel like it). That’s it. (Check out our blog post about signing up if you have any difficulties.) If you sign up, Patreon will charge you on the 1st of every month. This means, that if you sign up to donate any time in November, you won’t be charged until December 1st, but you will get immediate access to participate in the November contest.

October Flash Contest Winner: Erin Vance!

A Half-Life

It was the landlord’s policy to do an inspection of his property every six months. He had been trying to contact his tenants for several weeks, but his phone calls, emails, and letters went unanswered. The occupants of the other apartments in the building were no help, either. They kept to themselves. One woman, in the apartment above his, a violinist, told him that she hadn’t seen the couple recently, but that she did hear a keening most nights, coming from the apartment. The landlord waited until the snow and ice melted to go to the apartment in person. His son had died after being impaled by an icicle that fell off the building’s roof- the reason he rented the apartment out, now. The landlord did not go outside in the winter months, if he could help it. It was lonely, yes, but he did not want to risk what the newspapers had dubbed “the Canadian Lobotomy.” He knocked on the apartment door. It was a ground level and had its own entrance. He shivered, standing right where his son had died. The landlord looked up at the eaves. He knocked again. No answer. The landlord began to knock harder, louder. A black shape slammed into the large window adjacent to the door. Its wings flapped against the window. The landlord could hear a low shrieking through the thin glass. He pulled out his keys. It was right on page three of the lease that no animals were allowed in the apartment. Full stop. As he turned the key and opened the door, the creature flew right into him, knocking him back with its weight. The landlord swore, lying on the ground now, watching the bird slowly ascend before landing in the elm outside the apartment building. Its wing knocked loose a lingering icicle, thin and ragged in the March sun. The bird continued to shriek, “Help! Help! Help! Help!” The crow’s feathers were mottled, unkempt. They did not resemble the oil-slick feathers of the birds he was used to seeing. The landlord stood up. Even from outside the apartment smelled of bird shit and metal. And a bit like a bottle depot. An awful hissing came from the kitchen. One of the radiators was covered in the animals’ excrement, which had eaten through the metal plating. Steam hissed, rising from the holes. Water spurted onto the floor. The landlord rushed over, closing the valve. “Hello?” He yelled into the apartment, “Is anyone here?” There was silence. And then a wailing came from the bedroom. It sounded like a woman sobbing. He walked across the apartment. All of the blinds were drawn. The landlord fumbled for the kitchen light switch. On the wall, where there had once been a pantry, hung eleven rabbits, skinned and rotting, their flesh sloughing off onto the hardwood. The landlord gagged and stumbled towards the bedroom. The door was ajar, but only just. Inside the landlord expected to find Mrs. Crawford, one of his tenants, emitting the high-pitched wailing. Instead there was only a crow, tucked neatly into the bed as if ready to go to sleep. The lamp on the bedside table was on. The crow wailed, burying its head into the pillows. The landlord stood in the doorway, unsure what to do next. He heard a something behind him, something rummaging around the den. He turned from the keening bird in the bed and closed the bedroom door. A crow stood on the couch in the small den. It thrust its beak at the television remote. The flat screen sprung to life. The landlord walked slowly into the den. The crow looked at him. The landlord felt like a child being silently berated by his schoolteacher. And that was the first time the crow spoke. “You don’t know your ass from your elbow, Mr. Linden. This place is a shit hole. I’m sure you see why we haven’t answered your calls. This shithole’s cursed or something.” After that, there was no keeping it quiet. The landlord was taken aback by the words, more so by the fact they were coming from a bird who was watching The Trailer Park Boys. Not knowing what else to do, he moved closer to the crow, “go grab a beer and I’ll explain.” In the fridge, the landlord found cases of cheap beer. He brought two cans into the den. “You fool, put it into a dish.” The landlord and the crow drank their beers, the other crow still crying in the bedroom. “She hasn’t adjusted as well as I have. She misses her mother.”

August Flash Contest Winner: Erin Vance!

Hello! About a month ago we started our monthly writing contests for our donors on Patreon and promised to post our top 3 picks on our blog–we only have 1 contest entry for this month, but it’s really good. The first contest has closed and the second is launching later today (bonus round: if you start donating before Wednesday you’ll get a hard-copy of antilang. no. 1 and get to participate in the writing contest!).

Without further adieu, Erin Vance’s “Happy Hour”

After she let the rhubarb rot with its roots still anchored in the garden, Aoife filled the prescription. The pharmacist’s ivory coat was stiff like rawhide. He handed her the medication. Aoife plodded home along the dirt road, breathing the dust until her chest felt tight and her head spun. Meclizine hydrochloride. Take two tablets at onset of vertigo symptoms. If dizziness and nausea persists, take one tablet each hour, not exceeding thirteen in a period of twenty-four hours. Do not operate heavy machinery or drink alcohol while taking this medication.

Aoife swallowed hard and coaxed saliva to the front of her mouth. The medication was fetid, chalky. The tablets stuck to the sides of her tongue, began to dissolve as she choked them down her throat. Aoife rounded the corner to the house she shared with her mother, to the porch, to the overgrown garden, the decrepit oasis where the mosquitos were still leeching the blood from her mother’s hands. Aoife’s mother sat on the porch in a pink housedress, a gin and tonic in one hand, the other lingering over a jar of Arbequina Gourmet Stuffed Olives. Aoife’s mother had a proclivity for the anchovy stuffed ones. Aoife liked them because the image of the goddess Mnemosyne was transposed onto the label in faux-gold leaf. Aoife kissed her mother’s forehead, the white hair soft like feather grass. She dropped the paper bag from the pharmacy on a table and went inside to mix herself a drink. Three o’clock meant gin and olives. It was three forty-five. Just enough time to have two or three gins before four o’clock ushered in vodka and soda crackers.

Image result for pigeon

Aoife settled in a plastic chair next to her mother and flung her dirty sandals off the porch. The two women sat in a dry sort of silence, the air around them astringent, smelling slightly of formaldehyde or insulation. Aoife refilled her glass, and her mother’s. Her hands were clammy from the condensation. A pigeon impaled itself on a metal spike, upon which had previously hosted a citronella candle until it melted off in the sun. The macabre interlude prompted Aoife to bring the vodka onto the porch. She sucked on unsalted soda crackers, her head spinning again. She wondered if she should take more of the medication. She popped two tablets into her mouth. They were lost in the wet sludge of crackers and vodka and saliva. The pigeon twitched. It let out a sound that was half-squawk, half-scream, a multi-lingual death growl. It was only three feet away from where Aoife and her mother sat. Aoife sucked on a cube of sugar, filtering vodka through the cube as it dissolved. The bird whirled around on the stake, like a child swinging a hoop around on a stick. It made Aoife dizzy. It wasn’t really whirling. It couldn’t be. She wondered if she should take more of the medication.

Aoife stood to refill her mother’s glass. Her feet were wet. They’d been damp for a long time. She picked up the crystal glass and it splashed onto her hand, stinging where she chewed the skin away from her nail beds. The astringent vapours coated her body. Aoife felt unclean. She turned to the pigeon on the stake. Flies were swarming it. They formed a big, black cloud. Aoife cried out and they were gone. The pigeon was gone, too. Not even its bones remained.

Aoife wondered if her mother had also seen the bird, had also seen it whirl and disappear. Her mother was silent. Aoife sat. The plastic chair dragged against the wood with her weight. Aoife closed her eyes against the spinning afternoon. When she opened them, the sun had set. Out of the corner of her eye the porch light bounced off of the pink fibres of her mother’s housedress. She wondered if she was an amnesiac and brought the drink, still stiff in her hand to her lips. The liquid was warm. Her mouth buzzed with fruit flies. Aoife wretched. She flung herself onto the ground. She writhed, spitting and gagging, tearing at her lips, scraping her cheeks and tongue with her jagged nails. Her head was full of bugs. Aoife ran screaming, straight into the stake. It caught her in the neck. A pigeon cooed in the distance. She gasped, but did not struggle. She fell and closed her eyes, clutching the wound, and went to sleep.

Her mother did not stir.