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Bella's Serial Killer

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Bella’s haphazard lifestyle was the reason she was still alive. She didn’t know it, but her serial killer was a very punctual, precise man with a strict routine. He spotted her some nine months ago, running across heathland. It was 8.56am on a Monday morning. Next Monday she appeared at 8.30am, the Monday after at 9.03am. 

Her serial killer noted these times in a little book and came up with an average. Not that ten minutes here or there really made much difference, but he liked things to be neat and tidy, as little room for error as possible. It was one of the reasons his career had been so successful and his work remained ‘unsolved’. On the fourth Monday she didn’t appear. On his way to the shops one Wednesday morning two months later, there she was. It was 10am. That screwed his average entirely.

At first it annoyed him, but then it tantalised him. Cat and mouse. So, undeterred, he returned to his watching place every Monday between 8.29am and 9.05am. One Monday she arrived at 9.10am…

That Word

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Where did that word come from? I’ve asked this
of myself many times -- the word that just slipped out,
unbidden as an expletive you haven’t used in years –

but now, this word you’ve never used in a poem before
has hopped aboard the rolling poem and, strangely, adds
a pleasing ride and comfort and sound that was not there.

And when the final word falls into place in the poem’s
last line with the sound of a latch on a closing gate,
only then can you ask yourself where it came from

and marvel, as you’ve often done, over the fuzziness
of origins, and especially, that the word arrived at all.



by Glen Sorestad

Catalogue of Husbands

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The catalogue of husbands has arrived and is as thick as a brick. Mum clears all the bits of homework and unopened letters off the dining room table and plonks it down.

‘We get a reduction if we order today,’ says mum in the voice she usually uses in front of other people. She only has a few twenty pound notes left in the bundle she found tucked into the arm of nana’s old chair.

I chew the end of a red pen and stare at the catalogue.

‘I’ve got to go for something different Lily. Men aren’t always what they seem. Just nice. Normal, you know?’

Mum flicks through the catalogue. There is one man on each page. As the pages turn, faces run into each other like a cartoon character who has swallowed a potion.

‘Let’s go to the no frills section,’ says mum, going to the back end of the catalogue.

‘But we haven’t made any rules yet mum, you said always have rules.’

Mum looks up at the ceiling, then talks while I use my best handwriting in a notebook.

‘No beards. Kind face. Likes animals. And children. …

Liz Taylor

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Going out to top up the bird seed, Liz spots Dezzy hunkered by his frozen pond. Takes her a couple of seconds to spot what’s wrong with this picture – a jump back in time. What’s the man doing there? Forgotten he sold his house?

Interfering old buzzard. He could never leave anything alone, once he’d spotted a fault.

Liz, you got a blocked gutter there.

Liz, that back door jamming again?


However much you told him not to bother, he’d wear you down in the end. March round with the appropriate tools. Every job slow and determined, the end result checked and re-checked.

Funny, but Liz can remember him as a bad lad. Smashing street lights with well-aimed bits of brick. His dad was a drinker; Liz’s mum said Dezzy would go the same way. She was wrong, though. He got a job at the car plant; stuck to it. Had some pretty girlfriends, but didn’t stick with any of them. Hard to see why. Like he didn’t want to be nobody’s property.

Liz would have had him. Not for keeping, necessarily: just the having. …

The Last Summer

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There is a light at the end

Of the Garden; garish red and

Beaming back at me, solemnly

I leave the last slivers of

Summer: assuming it will come

Around again.



The glare catches me, promises

A second chance, so I follow it

Past the covered limbs and cracked

Plastics until, I think, a voice

Rumbled deep through the serene air

Dull and plain:


‘No time this is to kill

You live here, you are complicit;

Undo your thousand deaths and leave

This desecrated space before the

Wind blows in a last cash injection.

No time this is, no time’


What does it mean? The light is

Too close to go back now, bright,

Splendid it casts its gaze on a

Child covered in black paint under

The tree. A dull sigh, a quick glance;

The golden clock is telling me – 


I have time to kill




by Stephen Durkan


National Flash Fiction Day!

Happy National Flash Fiction Day 2017!

Hope you've had a great day of reading your favourite super-short stories... Here are a couple of websites to check out: 

http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk

and the marvellous:

http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk

Well done to everyone who got their work featured!

Hope you enjoy a sunny weekend of reading and writing little flashes of brilliance that dance in the light. :)


Fragile Cloud

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June was an unpredictable month of little storms. At three o’clock, a pale Caribbean sun came into view and the girls begged Beatrice to drive them to the sea for an afternoon dip. They missed the salty heat of coral beaches and the iridescent waves.

When they arrived at the deserted beach, the ocean was a cloudy colour. Seagulls sailed in the wind that carried the pitiless odor of seaweed. The girls sighed at the brown sea, and vented to their mother. After ten minutes of lying beneath an overcast sky, everyone retreated to the car and brushed the sand off their feet.
Secretly, Beatrice was glad for the rain. A change in climate was auspicious for a dry island lashed by the long rays of a mercurial sun. But the rain also consoled her. It helped her sleep. Most nights, she would toss and turn on the bed and it was only the clamor of the rain on the galvanized tin roof that could soothe her. 
Tonight, she lay awake waiting. There was no need for a fan. The trade winds blew through the pal…

Reaching Through Tin

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Your image before me
has traveled through time intact, yet your eyes see me here, in my now, your future yet to be.
You are speaking to me with a stare telescoping beyond eons, and I hear you, your thoughts, hopes, ideals, genius and sorrow fully blown.
Reach out your hand, reach through the film that separates us, touch your barrier to  dissipate my radius, and our frontier will be inhabited and haunted all at once.

by Charlotte Ozment



















A note on the image: This is the oldest known intentional photographic self-portrait of a person (Robert Cornelius, 1839) and the photograph that inspired this poem.

Six Questions For... Cafe Aphra

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Greetings all,

If you enjoy hanging out in Cafe Aphra, you may like to check out this recent interview with the current editor, Sara Roberts:

Six Questions For...

Writer Jim Harrington has set up this excellent blog with a series of interviews called 'Six Questions For...' with editors of various literary magazines and journals.

It's a really fantastic resource, with an incredible number of magazines listed, and well worth following for all those of us who are interested in submitting work for publication.

Thanks Jim!



When I Called in Dead

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The boss was angry when I called in dead again. I could tell by the way he didn't respond, gave nothing but a frustrated huff and clattered the phone back to its cradle. Still, there was too much undone to take the day off, so I went to the office as usual.

First stop, coffee, but no one would serve me. Not even Yolanda who knew my usual. She didn't even smile, in fact yelled NEXT to my face and beamed at the fellow behind me. He pushed me out of line.
Nearly missed the bus. It didn't help that the driver practically shut the door with me in it. She was upset, probably because I'd forgotten my pass, but she didn't need to gun the bus forward when I hadn't even found a grab-rail. No one bothered to help me up off the floor.
The only thing I can figure is the boss sent an email. What else explains the reason for the entire office to snub me? Karen, on the front desk, who for years showed me photos of cats, didn't even speak. My office mate didn't look up as …

The Dandelion

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I can’t stop looking at the vase. I was silly to get it out this year. Its loud emptiness is worse than not seeing it at all.

If I’d known last year, I wouldn’t have been so casual about throwing away the flowers. I would have pressed them on to card, covered them with cellophane, sealed them forever.
The breeze blows the curtains and they tickle my arms. I turn my face to the window, the sun hot through the glass. 
I worried about this house being too secluded once, too remote. But he was a country boy, convinced me it was a good idea. He was right. We have been happy. And at least I don’t have to worry about the neighbours judging him now. 
My eyes fill with tears as I watch him out there. Completely naked, rolling down the grassy slope in the garden, shrieking like a little boy. I’m worried he is going to break something, but he never seems too. His mind thinks he is young so his body agrees, I guess.
My heart is a stone in my chest, my throat contracting. I want to scream at him to ‘St…

Sara in Her Father's Arms

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Cell by cell the baby made herself, the cells Made cells. That is to say The baby is made largely of milk. Lying in her father's arms, the little seed eyes Moving, trying to see, smiling for us To see, she will make a household To her need of these rooms - Sara, little seed, Little violent, diligent seed. Come let us look at the world Glittering: this seed will speak, Max, words! There will be no other words in the world But those our children speak. What will she make of a world Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

by George Oppen




(Poem taken from this article about U.S. poet Nick Flynn.) 
I particularly enjoy this quote by Flynn on writing prose and poetry:
“The way I write I don’t see much distinction between the two, although prose seems more suited to daylight, and poetry to night. I try to cook both down to something essential—by the end hopefully some balance between mystery and clarity remains.”

Axel's Flight

Overhead, they swoop and soar, chirp and chatter, but Axel doesn’t seem to hear. His defences strong, resolve weakened, he protests his plight in that way of teenagers. His old head on young shoulders says he was destined to be caged.

My heart breaks to see him, happy in his own skin, with eyes black as the crows, but never to be free as the birds. 
I told him, ‘Accept nothing, Axel; challenge everything.’
He slants his eyes at me as if to say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous; it’s the way it’s always been.’ 
His chair squeaks with each slow wheel rotation but when he’s in a playful mood he’ll make it whir like a rotor that might lift him up to swoop and soar in the blue sky and billowing clouds. 
‘I figure it’d be pretty cool up there but I guess I wouldn’t last long,’ he says. 
‘Probably,’ I reply. I don’t want him to tell me he’d prefer to be up there. He’ll be there soon enough. 
I cannot imagine my life without him, empty of his squeaking and whirring, but I swallow, smile and open the door. He pr…

A Suitable Candidate

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Within days, I’ve selected him from the saloon passengers as the most suitable candidate. Sensitive, tidy – not flamboyant like some of those men. And always attentive to his son – a family man, if you will. I do like a family man. Especially one with no wife! 

If he’s emigrating, he’ll be looking to make friends, that much you can count on. I smile broadly as we pass on deck. His pace quickens. The boy follows, looking down. So, he’s shy – what’s wrong with that? Shy I can work with. Shy I can handle. If only my ex-husband had been so shy!
During lunch, I occupy a nearby table. He orders pea soup. So I order pea soup. He gets out a copy of the Times. And I do the same. His hand shakes as he turns the pages. I might be making him nervous! Is this the right time to introduce myself? Maybe I should bide my time.
Several days pass. On some I don’t see him at all. They must be keeping to their cabin. Once or twice we say a courteous ‘hello’. But never more than that. Not yet. We’re getting t…

A Spell in France

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‘I believe I lost my husband outside the Church of Miracles. I knew he had been there at the time in the gardens, which were dark green and dismal after rain. I was trying to use up the end of a long roll of film and called out to him. He looked back at me and I think he smiled. But when the photographs came back from the developer, he was no longer there. You could just about make out some distant shape, almost a shadow, at the end of the avenue of cypresses, but it no longer resembled a person.’


Cafe Aphra follower M.S. Clary has won three prizes for short fiction and has now published her first novel, A Spell in France, with Matador. It is available as an eBookon Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad and all electronic readers.


Cafe Aphra: Tell us a little bit about your novel, A Spell in France. How would you sum it up for a potential reader?
M.S. Clary: It's a psychological thriller which involves a mysterious disappearance and its aftermath.

Cafe Aphra: Can you tell us about the writi…

Battlefield

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She watched it fall in waves gracefully down to the floor. She’d always been told that it was her best feature, thick and luxurious with a single streak of white. It was natural, she insisted. A reminder of her busy life with four children. That streak was a trophy, the spoils of battle on a field of teenaged angst where more than once she’d had to pick her hill to die on.

That battlefield had changed over the years. Now she was waging a war upon her own body as the chemo worked its gruesome magic. Her life was a whirlwind of doctor’s check-ups, follow-ups and throwing up. Now those very same teenagers were riding into battle alongside her, lances raised and armor ready to fight off the latest onslaught of her disease.

Breast cancer. A large tumor that had grown in the single year since her last exam. She’d lived the past months in suspended animation, going through the motions as they rallied around her. She worked at an elementary school, the kids all making get-well cards, wishing …

The Audition

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This is the story of man who can’t begin to think or question why the unfathomability of all that is good or bad is even comparable to the unending nothing or why the chances are slim or why one would even try and change or what needs changing and how it can even be possible to see the entirety; the plusses and negatives, pros and cons, arguments and counter arguments, or is it even in those terms and if so how and what can be done; about right and left, religion, greed, altruism, nature or what is our nature and why can’t there be more than one, how many times have people been over the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the circular - back to the began; is there more than one person (me?) who thinks this and if so would it be rude and why would it be, why can’t one talk to those dead souls on the train and if one can what would they say (speak souls speak!) would they make their excuses and leave, is there any excuse good enough or what is important to him or her and her and him, if it…

Anti-Ode to Social Media

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The zeitgeist you’ve created
Is a pox of epic reach, A free-for-all of vitriol Via one-way posts and tweets.
Trolls and bullies lurk Behind your anonymic walls, Without a shred of decency (Or any guts at all).
You abet the human tendency To cluster into groups Whose members feed each other And regurgitate their tropes.
Opinions trump established facts; Lies outshout the truth; News that’s false gets more applause Than news that’s backed by proof.
We can castigate each other With a mouse-click-turned-down thumb, And a friend is just a notch On someone’s cyber radar gun.





by J. Craig Hill

Women In Horror Month

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Do you like horror fiction? Is that your writing genre?

February 2017 marks the 8th edition of Women in Horror Month (WiHM), an international initiative showcasing the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. 
At www.womeninhorrormonth.com you can find information about fun events in your area.
These range from art projects to meet-ups, film screenings and performances taking place in various countries all over the globe including Australia, Japan, Germany, England, Scotland and the United States.
Of course there are also literary projects dedicated to Women in Horror Month, such as the 5th annual WiHM issue of The Sirens Call.

Check out last year's issue including a story by one of our Cafe Aphra baristas, B.E. Seidl.
And - worth knowing - if you want to promote your own horror writing project which will take place in February, simply use the hashtag #WiHM8 on Twitter or Facebook and take advantage of a readership of approximately 35,000 readers worldwide!

Feel free to p…

Poker with the Lads

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See the fight last week? Oh yeah
Brutal, kid's got a chance - I like
The Mexican fella that should be
Some scrap who's ordering the
Pizza? That new girl in work? Fucking hell Barry'll be on it like gravy o’er a tattie! A flush beats a straight you
Daft twat - hand us a beer Stan!
Good man.

I don't know why
We are here or what we
Are supposed to be doing
But we are here and doing it
For some shared reason though
We don't know one another or
Really wish to and there's no
Money on the table.
Why do they play  Poker for matches
In prison On TV?



by Alex McMillan