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  • Greetings from Costa Rica

    The first photo pings Luka’s phone at 11:27 am, while he’s scrolling through Zillow listings of houses in Sun City that he can afford but will never buy. The text drops in at the top of his phone in a preview banner, the number is a 720 area code—one of two codes from his hometown, Denver. Someone from back in the day? He thumbs over to the message. It’s a photo without any text. 1. A stretch of beach, water foaming in gentle rills against smooth sand. An apricot- colored sunset sets two people walking in the water as silhouettes. Entering the frame from the right is a woman, cutoff jeans, bikini top, and flip-flops, blurred as she moves in the low light. She’d mid-laugh, her eye crinkled and teeth flashing. Shit. I think that’s Costa Rica. Three years ago, he’d almost moved there. After college, his International Finance professor who’d left academia to run a tiny nonprofit in Limón, recruited Luka to be their Director of Microlending. At the time, Luka couldn’t afford to visit, but after they talked logistics over a soundtrack of howler monkeys and crashing waves, his professor would pan the camera to show Luka the surf and giant green palms. On his own, Luka imbibed every photo he could find of the shorelines. He researched the hiking trails, parasailing, boating, and surfing. He scrolled through listings for houses a tenth of the size of a Vegas house. He mapped a life there, dreamt of a woman, just like the one in the photo, whose perfect day included leaving work while it was still light, grabbing the best rondón from a place only locals knew, and surfing until the sun set. In the end, he dismantled the Costa Rica life in the amount of time it took for him to read the number of zeroes on the offer letter from Le Grande Casino. Now, the memory of that almost-life surfaces. He tilts the phone so that the horizontal picture fills the frame. All the elements that attest to candidness of the shot—low light, graininess, and blurs—do not detract from the raw beauty of the image with its saturated striations of the sky and the fresh-faced openness of the woman’s visage. That could have been me. She could’ve been my girlfriend, teasing me to not take her picture. Clearly, it’s a wrong number, but the kismet of it, that a photo from his once-dreamed life would appear, causes a sense of dislocation so profound that he doesn’t delete it or say, “Sorry, wrong number.” He looks out his window to the wasteland of a dirt lot that is his daily view. He takes a photo. It’s 80% hazy sky and 20% washed-out yellow ground framed by the dark metal of his windows. It’s blown-out hot looking, but he’s freezing in the office and he wishes the photo captured that desert experience of extremes: searing heat and icebox air-conditioning. He sends the picture to the number. A new photo pops back. 2. A close-up of the waves, escrolls of white foam against speckled sand. Okay, unknown number, yes, you’ve got me beat on locale. He wants to hit the comedy of that contrast, so he texts back a close-up from his view: a pen cup half-filled with an assortment of cheap, chewed pens and one neon highlighter. He doesn’t hear anything for days. He fills his time searching through his old bookmarked Costa Rica sites. He browses the nonprofit’s website, reading and re-reading the little stories about the Bribri women-led business that benefited from the microloans. He sends a tentative email to his old prof asking after the nonprofit, then immediately agonizes over the wording—he didn’t want to give the prof false hope about his availability. Or, is it giving himself false hope? His first few months at Le Grande Casino, Luka had been agog at the amount of money moving through the place; he felt chosen and privileged, like he’d been deemed worthy to enter the echelons of a royal family or a drug empire. Yet, it wasn’t as if he handled bricks of cash and went to bed smelling of money. He moved digital numbers across columns on a screen and those zeroes smelled of stale sweat cooled by over-conditioned air. He sits at his desk, browsing houses in Costa Rica he could afford with one Vegas paycheck. His phone chimes. 3. Midafternoon at an outdoor market. Shoppers are blurred in movement, as if the photo is taken with a long exposure, and shopkeepers are in focus as they lean against stalls. The woman from the first photo is left of the frame. In a short-sleeve, denim blouse and a flowing skirt, she’s moving with the flow of shoppers. She stands out because she seems aware of the camera, her face turned away and an open-palmed hand rising to reset the handle of her canvas satchel on her shoulder. Luka imagines they’re at the market together, she’s tired from work, and he’s made one joke too many. She’s speed-walking back to their bungalow to prep some food so she can finally eat, ease all the hangry and forgive him, resting her head on his shoulder as they watch TV. He wants to see the next part of the story. But, he’s not sure about the lexicon and grammar of this weird, visual conversation. Do I need to send something in a comparable setting? Is the idea to highlight how sad America is? He sends a photo of the sterile, fluorescent-lit expanse of the produce section of Albertsons at 11:37 pm on a Sunday, the only person in the photos an overly-tanned woman in her sixties with disproportionately large breasts assessing the lemons. Three days later, when he hasn’t heard back, he wonders if the idea is to highlight how sad his life is, not America specifically. He sends a photo of his frozen Hungry-Man Smothered Salisbury Steak dinner on his beige Formica counter. 4. The woman, in profile. She’s a crescent moon in the dimness of the photo. She’s also at a meal, a fork held aloft with a spear of a long green vegetable—asparagus or maybe green bean—yet her mouth is in the shape of speaking, not eating. There’s a hint of glass and metal. Maybe she’s inside a house. The photo is taken from a low angle and a distance. Like an alley or side yard. Luka wishes he hadn’t seen this one. It’s the first time she doesn’t seem in on it, like she’s not participating in the narrative. So…was she part of any of the photos? Luka shuts off his phone and throws out his dinner. He lies in bed and can’t believe how angry he is at past Luka who chose this generic, safe life that has reduced him to this voyeur by proxy. He thought the person with the pictures had been somebody sharing their life, opening a window onto a view they knew Luka would appreciate, but now he feels like some dirty street-kid pressing his face against the glass of the store, watching regular customers buy all the candy he can only dream about. He punches his pillow and struggles to sleep. He drafts and then redrafts strongly worded texts renouncing this unusual riposte, but then argues himself into taking the offensive with a long list of interrogatives: Who are you? Why did you contact me? Who is that woman? He sleeps only after he resolves to block the number in the morning, without prelude or conversation. He wakes up to 27 new photos. They’re almost all of a boxy concrete house painted minty green. Every conceivable angle of the house is photographed. Interspersed with clear shots of the building are strange close-ups. 11. Weathered, warped sill of wood that creates a gap at the bottom of a closed window. 15. A dangling red shingle. 20. Chain link fence bisecting green grass and a little garden of weeds. 22. The insides of the street trash bin. Centered in the frame is a plastic bag spilling over with tissues, but positioned in a way that the words Playtex Super Absorbent Tampons on the box are readable through the thin plastic. 23. A tree root cracking the sidewalk. 27. The golden orb of a door handle. Each photo is bright and colorful; Luka can’t parse if the beauty of Costa Rica is so potent it shines through even in the grimiest of details, or if the photographer is consciously framing each shot to be impactful. Why this house? Is this his house? Or...is this the woman’s house? Is he stalking her? Can you take something like this to the police? Would LVPD consider a…situation…from Costa Rica? Luka texts his friend Mitch: Who’s that PI your mom used for the divorces? Mitch: Spanner? Guy’s a wank but he’ll destroy whoever you need him to. The contact file from Mitch lists the guy as Spanno-the-Whammo. Spanner is mystery-novel gumshoe come to life. Round, balding, and unfriendly, he immediately eases Luka’s anxiety. Finally, an adult is here to help. He doesn’t bat an eye as Luka explains the situation, simply takes notes with a worn-down betting pencil in a steno pad. He directs Luka to email each photo, but also flips through them, zooming in on details. Luka leans in to try and see what caught his interest, but Spanner doesn’t even pretend to accommodate Luka, keeping the phone close to his own face. He swipes up to access the EXIF data, but grunts, “’Course, it’s scrubbed.” He hands the phone back, then flips to a new page in his notebook for a series of questions about Luka’s history, current employment, and social network. At every answer, Spanner holds eye contact for a few beats, as if he’s not buying any of it and wants to give a chance for a truer answer. In some cases, Luka does splutter out more than he intended to say. “I’m worried about the woman.” Spanner grunts. He inhales hard and cautions, “We don’t know that’s her house in the pictures.” Luka knows that logically, but it doesn’t feel like the truth. “Still, I think we should figure out how to get in touch with her.” “Well,” Spanner leverages himself to standing, “this ain’t much to work with. But, I’ll see what I can do. Anything else comes in—send it to me pronto.” Anxious for either the mystery number or Spanner, Luka has a hard time putting his phone down, which complicates his workout routine at the gym. Pumping iron is only ramping up his heart rate when what he really needs to do is slow it down. The moment he takes out his phone to stop his playlist, it pings with an incoming text. 28. The woman’s face. Her mouth a wide O, the whites of her teeth slivers inside the darkness. Her eyes, blown wide and her arms up—one reaching towards the camera, one moving up to protect her face. It’s pure terror. “Holy shit,” Luka yells. He drops the 30 lb. weight onto the padded floor. 29. She’s against carpet. Her face out of frame, just the curve of her jaw and ear and the arch of her neck. Her dark hair fans out across the floor. A dark liquid, thick and dark as chocolate sauce, a penumbra around her head. Without thinking, Luka turns to the woman sitting up on the bench press and shows her the picture, “Is that blood?” He regrets it as soon as she jumps up with a “what the fuck?” “Sorry!” he yells as she moves away and collapses on the bench she just left. His hands shake so badly, he can’t get his workout gloves off. He yanks them with his teeth and manages to forward to Spanner with the question, “Is that what I think it is?” Spanno-the-Whammo: Shit. That’s not bueno. At home, Luka paces from room to room of the house. His big, empty, pointless house. Spanno-the-Whammo: My guy got to the EXIF data. These photos were taken months ago. My guy in CR says it connects to a cold case in Cahuita. An American expat with her throat slashed. This happened months ago. Nothing you could have done to save her, ok? Luka: GREAT. So he documents a murder and is still walking around free?????? Spanno-the-Whammo: I’ve got a lead, but it’s complicated. Call me. Luka can’t breathe. Why did I answer that first text? Okay, so maybe I wasn’t happy, per se, but this life. It’s good. I choose this life. I choose safe and normal. I can get a girlfriend who is happy and carefree. And you know what? She’ll be here with me and she’ll be normal and alive. The phone vibrates in his hand and Luka punches the green button. Spanner’s greeting is just a big sigh. “Listen, kid, this is big. This is a break in a bunch of other cold cases. That expat in CR wasn’t the first. This guy’s left a trail of dead people all across Europe. So now CIA and Interpol are involved.” “Okay, great! Glad to help out and all but why is he texting me?” “We don’t know. This guy’s smart. Kills in different ways, no clear link between victims—took a while to build a profile on him. It’s those pictures, though, something there.” Spanner’s tone is gentle, avuncular and the care he takes in speaking alarms Luka. “What do you mean? What do you mean: the photos of victims or to victims?” The text chime pings in his ear. He pulls the phone away to look, Spanner’s voice fading to mumbles. 1. The foreground, a wide stretch of jaundiced dirt. In the background, a cube of metals and windows. An office building. For a millisecond Luka’s impressed with the artistry of the image, the highly saturated blue contrasting against the pale-yellow dirt and that low angle positioning the building as a shimmering icon in some futuristic corporate dreamscape. But a millisecond after: That’s my office building. From outside, across the dirt lot. 2. A picture of Luka at Albertsons. His hair flopping over in his eyes as he fills a plastic bag with apples. In the background, a busty, tanned woman holds a lemon close to her face to smell it. Spanner’s voice, wafting up from the phone, “Luka! Kid, come on, let me explain.” 3. A close-up of a big black trash bin from the street. An empty Hungry-Man Smothered Salisbury Steak dinner on top of plastic heaps. Luka puts the phone back to his ear, and interrupts Spanner, “It’s too late. He’s here.” “Shit,” Spanner’s shouting is a rumble of rocks, “Luka! Stay calm, you hear me? Don’t open the door for nobody! I got Vegas PD on their way.” His phone pings again. Ping. Again. Ping. Spanner is a stream of inane encouragement, a series of hang in theres and we’re coming punctuated by huffed breaths, as if Spanner is trying to talk and run at the same time. Ping. “He’s sending me my own story but from the outside looking in, you know?” Ping. “No, I don’t know, kid, what’re you—” Ping. “If you don’t stop him, Spanner, he’s going to use my story to lure someone else in. My weird, sad life packaged together as bait for someone else.” “Kid, what’re you saying?” Ping. “Just that they’ll see the pictures and the pictures don’t show how it felt, you know?” “I mean, I guess—but, kid you’re getting ahead of yourself. We’re close!” Ping. Luka pulls the phone away without hanging up. He knows what the next photos are without looking. He knows Costa Rica would have been the better life. He knows that if he could do it again, he would choose the complicated life, the scuffed, charmed, make-less-money life traveling to volcanoes, taking pictures of macaws, learning to speak another language so earnestly his clients forgive his bad accent, and counting bigger things than zeroes. And he knows that he won’t get the chance. Luka looks up to squares of black that show nothing of the outside that is burnt air and flatness as his phone pings with pictures of his house, every security weak point beautifully lit and perfectly composed. Reneé Bibby (she/her) is a writer based in Tucson, Arizona. She teaches at The Writers Studio and reads for Brink. Her work has appeared in PRISM International, Luna Station Quarterly, Taco Bell Quarterly, The Worcester Review, and Wildness. Her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions. Reneé coordinates a yearly Rejection Competition for writers—all writers welcome! More at reneebibby.com.

  • Gift of the Fey

    Tira plucked the sethel flower off the stem and sucked the starlight from it. It hinted at sweetness, teasing like the moon on this cloudy evening. “Get out of there, foreigner!” One of the old human women from the village shook her cane at Tira. “Go on, get!” Tira hunched her shoulders. She had her gloves, hood, and scarf on, but the constellations on her skin twinkled through the fabric anyway. The old woman must have spotted her glow from the road and traipsed down to the sewage drain just to chase her off. The sweetness faded on Tira’s tongue, and she tore a few sethel weeds and stuffed them in her pocket. “It’s not your field. It’s no one’s. You can’t tell me what to do.” “Just like those weeds.” The old woman traipsed towards her, shaking her cane. “We don’t want you here.” “Why not?” Tira straightened, the nectar stuttering in her veins. A sliver of exposed skin at her wrist flickered, the points of light there fading, and her stomach rumbled. She needed more sethel flowers. “Because I’m fey?” “Now don’t turn this around on me,” the woman said. “I don’t see shimmer. The problem is you’re a thief. I’ll call my two boys on you, see if I don’t.” “You don’t know anything about me.” “I know you’re a leech!” The woman swung her cane. “Tapez,” Tira whispered. The constellation wrapping her torso—Tapez, the Winged Warrioress—flared crisp and bright through her clothes in the darkness of the late evening. The cane clanged against her skin, and the woman cried out. She dropped the cane and held her hand as if she’d hit a steel wall. “You can’t hurt me,” Tira said. She took off galloping down the road before her tears called her bluff. Tira’s mother brushed out her daughter’s hair, humming after a simple meal of potatoes and herbs. They camped outside of town in the shelter of a little copse of trees away from the road. “How can I make them listen, Mama?” Tira chewed on her nails. “Is there anything I can do?” Her mother gathered strands of hair and plaited them around Tira’s head, pinning them with age-freckled hands. It seemed only months ago that her mother had had clear eyes and a smooth voice. Time played cruel, though, with humans, and ‘months’ to Tira meant ‘years’ to everyone else. “You can’t make someone hear when they muffle their own ears, dearest.” Tira played with the stems she had grabbed before the old woman had chased her off. She’d already drunk the rest of the sethel nectar, or condensed starlight, and still her skin flickered like tremulous candles in the too-warm light of day. Activating her constellations took so much energy. Tapez’s wings around her waist lay folded and dun. Iliadri’s Eye on her right wrist, the symbol of sharp sight, blinked as if sleepy. “Anyone can take sethel on the side of the road. No human wants them; they’re weeds. Why do they care if I do it?” She tore one of her nails and it bled. “I didn’t ask to be like this.” “Now, listen here, young star-fey.” Her mother gripped Tira’s shoulders, and her eyes flashed with protective anger that reminded Tira of starlight. “You sprung up with a shimmer, with nary a drop of fey in your bloodline. Some people see that and get afraid. They see something they didn’t plant as a weed, as something to be dug up. But others—like me, dear heart—see it as a gift.” She pressed a kiss to the top of Tira’s head. Tira laid the sethel stems by her bedroll and wrapped her arms around her mother. “I’m so lucky to have you for a mama. I want to be like you and see the best in people.” “Why, what a co-inky-dink. I want to be like you.” She tickled Tira under the arms, gentler than she had in the past, with shaking fingers. Tira shrieked and they dissolved in mock fights and laughter, until her mother left to sell herbs in the village and Tira fell asleep under the shade of the trees. The next night, Tira wandered the roadsides, searching for sethel. She kept to the edge of the ditch, away from the view of the road. Her stomach rumbled. She could use Iliadri’s Eye to cause the starlight in the sethel weeds to glow but activating another constellation so soon would drain her to the brink of exhaustion. Within half an hour, two figures sauntered through the field towards her, carrying a pitchfork and a shovel. Tira dashed up the ravine towards a wooded area, but her breath shortened in her lungs, and the glow of her skin sputtered, and her pursuers had no such difficulty. “Fey-leech,” one of them called close behind, with a thin voice like a reed in the wind. A young man. “Our grandma said you’d be here.” The other raced to cut her off in front. She slowed, shot a glance behind. The first stabbed his pitchfork into the ground. “You have five seconds to get out of here.” “I’m hoping it don’t, Vasr,” said the boy in front, the one with a shovel. His chin seemed to have thought about growing a beard but had hesitated and stopped halfway. “I’ve heard they bleed purple, and I want to see.” Tira bolted to the side. Half-beard boy chucked his shovel at her. It sliced into her calves, knocking her to the ground. She cried out. “No, no!” She didn’t have enough energy to activate Tapez yet! She tried to stand, but Vasr kicked her in the side and pinned her to the ground with his knee in her chest. “The knife, try the knife,” Half-beard said. Pain along her arm, a deep cut. Warm stickiness, like nectar, leaving her body. Her skin flickered. So tired. Exhaustion had dogged her before this, and now...what was the point? Why fight against such loathing when it flared so constantly? “Yes! It worked!” Vasr’s thin voice, high and shrill. “Aww. It’s just red.” How would her mother see these two? Would she find any “gifts” hidden in the muck of their hatred? Her mother could do that—see things where others didn’t. Reveal them… A desperate idea shimmered in her head, and the backdrop of pain blurred out. “Iliadri,” she said. The Eye flared on her shoulder. “What’s that? What’s she doing?” Tira opened her eyes. She’d always used Iliadri to find sethel before, but now, with it directed at the two boys, it illuminated something else. Something on their skin. Iliadri’s Eye peeled back their humanity, revealing a single star shimmering inside each of them. Wonder overcame her pain. Did stars hide inside all humans, waiting to shine, waiting to be found? I’ve seen starlight in Mama’s eyes, before. Once exposed, the stars spread like weeds in a wild field, and the two boys’ skin shimmered, lit up with hundreds of little points of light. “Ahh! Ahh! Make it stop!” She slumped, her energy drained, everything she had spent. Vasr screamed and ran. Half-beard stared at his hands. Fey hands. “Now you can... see how we bleed,” she said. Half-beard lifted his head, and then reached out for the shovel. He traipsed over to her, anger, fear, and loathing connecting in his eyes like a constellation of war. Dear Tapez, she thought. I had to go and taunt him. She didn’t have the strength. Her eyes closed without her consent, and darkness dragged her under. When she woke, the shovel lay at her feet. Emmie Christie’s work includes practical subjects, like feminism and mental health, and speculative subjects, like unicorns and affordable healthcare. Her novel A Caged and Restless Magic debuted March 2024. She has been published in Daily Science Fiction, Infinite Worlds Magazine, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. Find her at www.emmiechristie.com.

  • The Savior of Battery Island

    From where you crouch, the city is a swarm of lights. You hear the horn of the final ferry and know it carries the day’s last tourists. And the handful of locals who work in the city, they’re unlocking their front doors right about now, settling in for supper. The island feels like itself again. Except for the dark rot you smell. It drifts up at you, across the swamp and through the trees, riding the harbor mist. The stink of them makes you sick with anger. A simmering rage. To come here. Bring their filth. The audacity to think they’d fit in. Belong. You squeeze your hands into fists, relax, do it again. Since you first Awakened two days ago, you’ve gotten better at sniffing them out, tracking them. It’s easier at night, when the tourists have gone back to their hotels across the bay and the pizza ovens are cool and the lobster roll carts are locked away in the garage behind the inn. At night, with the cacophonous dream of summer sleeping, there are no distractions. Just the buzz of insects. The wash of the tide. The suck of the earth on your bare feet. You push your face out and upward, pulled by the moon, and breathe deep. Again. And there it is. A tendril of sickly decay snaking up from somewhere below. To the east. You move along the edge of the ancient battery, all crumbling concrete and fading graffiti. Silently you pause, lift your face again. There it is. You mark cardinal south by the Headlight on the mainland and begin climbing down the backside of the battery. Then it’s sixteen quick paces, a turn to the east, and you’re gliding toward the far side of the island. Near the lighthouse you stop. There hasn’t been a keeper for many years, you know, but sometimes the private security guard from The Shorecrest parks his cart there to catch a nap. He’s not there now, nowhere you can see, so you hasten to the lighthouse and quickly ascend, pulling yourself up the thirty-two damp iron rungs. You know it’s close. The stink of it fills your nose, bullies up into your sinuses. Then you catch the fresh edge of it, no more than a hundred yards from you, and you’re down the side of the lighthouse, scrambling across the boulders above the tide pools. You see him through the window. The disgusting thing sits on a couch that once belonged to Mark Frewer. Mr. Frewer, who always let you sneak a piece of taffy from the bin when your mother wasn’t looking. A kind man. A good man. And now this thing sits on his couch, watching his television, sucking his microwave dinner into its sickening mouth. Its face is a caricature. Its flesh an offense. You feel the rage in you fire up, begin to hum like a diesel generator. Staring at this repulsive approximation of the good man you knew, you are filled with holy fire. You find a window in the kitchen. Let yourself in. “Luther!” the thing says, seeing you approach. Your name is a blasphemy on its lips. Repugnant. You push the knife into it there, its revolting mouth. It begins to make noises and thrash. They all betray themselves like this in the end, and you feel vindication. The fire burns clean and white now. You twist the knife, pull it out, push it back. The thing’s repellent hands swipe at you, slap like paddles. You push the knife into what looks like a neck. Once. Three times. A volley of blood parades onto the television. Or what would be blood. Were it human. You pull the thing onto the floor and open it with the knife. The reek of it is nearly overwhelming. You don’t know where they come from, but it must be a vile and wretched place, a cesspool of abomination. But you learn more each time. And as long as they keep coming, keep encroaching, keep replacing, you’ll be ready. You’ve learned so much already since Awakening. They don’t know who they’re dealing with. What you’re willing to do. To protect your island. In the flickering light of the television, you begin to take the thing apart. You’re awakened by the chug of a helicopter. Even down here, in the dank belly of the battery, you feel the pressure shift as the thing goes overhead. You carefully creep to the mouth of the cement throat where you’ve slept. Peek around the corner. The woods are still. You slink across the wet concrete, peer out the other side. The reeds betray nothing. Moments later, you crawl on your belly across the battery’s roof, look out toward the cold Atlantic. The helicopter sits idling in the meadow across from the lighthouse. Near it, the island’s only liveried cruiser flashes blue streaks across its wall. The sun still hides below the sea, but the sky blooms apricot across the horizon. Muffled voices, crackling and alien, shoot up at you from behind. You scramble across the battery once more, settling down on its western edge, looking across town to where the ferry steams closer from the terminal at Old Port, its deck a fireworks display of pulsing blue and whetted shatters of red. They’ve found the thing at Mr. Frewer’s, you know. And from the crowd you can make out gathering near the inn, they’ve likely found the creature that took Andrew Nielson’s place in the apartment over the bike shop. The horror that came from away and replaced your mother. In your very home. How dare they. You watch the ferry draw nearer. You hear the chop of another helicopter and see it now over the water, racing to pass the ship. You thought you’d have more time, but you don’t need it. Let them come. This is your island. Your family’s. For generations. So let them come. They don’t know who they’re dealing with. You’re Awake now. Jacob Strunk has been short-listed for both a Student Academy Award and the Pushcart Prize in fiction, as well as the Glimmer Train short story award and a New Rivers Press book prize. His genre-bending fiction has appeared in print for over twenty years, most recently in Coffin Bell, The Writing Disorder, and his 2023 collection Screaming in Tongues. He earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program and teaches film and media in Los Angeles, where he lives with a few framed movie posters and the ghost of his cat, Stephen.

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  • 7th-Circle Pyrite | A literary journal celebrating worlds beyond

    7th-Circle Pyrite A literary journal celebrating worlds beyond Issue 5: July 20th 2024 "We have to do something with all this sulfur ." 7th-Circle Pyrite is a celebration of all that transcends the physical or mundane. Spirituality and religion, paranormality, magic, horror, occultism, and the macabre all have a home here. ​ The 7th Circle of Hell as represented in Dante's Inferno is reserved for those who have committed acts of violence. In the world we live in—where violence runs rampant—sometimes we may feel Hell is already here. And if that's the case, let's take the dregs of life—sulfuric as they may be—and turn them into something more beautiful. We are an inclusive publication. Diverse viewpoints are always welcome, and we do not discriminate based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, spiritual ideology, health, physical appearance, or any other aspect of a person's identity. ​ We publish original poetry, short fiction, essays, and artwork. You are invited to submit your work! Click here to view our submission guidelines. News & Updates Newest 03/16/24 01/20/24 11/18/23 10/15/23 Issue 4 of 7th-Circle Pyrite is now live! May 18, 2024 The fourth issue of 7th-Circle Pyrite is now live! April 1st marked the date our short fiction submissions reopened and also the start of National Poetry Month in the US, so the submissions we received for this issue showcased a tremendous amount of talent from writers all over the world. We thank all of those whose work appears in this issue, as well as those who have continued to support our journal with their wonderfully creative submissions. To view the content in Issue 4, click on the cover art in this announcement. ​ If you feel inclined, we also encourage you to read an editor interview with Keiraj M. Gillis, featured here on Duotrope . ​ We are continuing to accept submissions in all categories for upcoming issues slated for July 2024 and September 2024. Please see our submission guidelines for more details.

  • SUBMISSIONS | 7th-Circle Pyrite

    Submissions What We're Looking For 7th-Circle Pyrite accepts poetry, short fiction, essays, and visual art whose content explores spirituality, the arcane and macabre, horror, paranormality, magic, religion, occultism, or whose style embraces dark and/or gothic imagery. These themes include — but are not limited to — the following: ​ Religious/spiritual beliefs and practices Death and the afterlife Astrology, tarot, and magic Paranormal or extraterrestrial experiences Mythology, folklore, and urban legends Demonology, spirits, and the supernatural Cultural tales and traditions Dreams, signs, and omens ​ Write about your relationship with God. Write about that haunted, dilapidated house you and your friends visited as kids. Write about your astrological insights. Write about your thoughts on death, Heaven, and Hell. Write about that one unexplainable event that happened to you that no one seems to believe. If you can travel beyond the material and mundane, we want to hear from you! We do not accept work that includes prejudicial, inflammatory, or disparaging content aimed at a specific racial or ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation, age, or religious group. Additionally, 7th-Circle Pyrite is opposed to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for the creation of literary and visual art. Submissions that use AI in any capacity will not be considered for publication. ​ Submission Guidelines Please review the guidelines below that correspond to the type of submission you're looking to present. Additionally, please take a few quick moments to fully review the FAQ that follows. [Note that you must be 18 or older to submit work.] Submit 1-3 original poems for publication consideration. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. You do not need to notify us if your poetry is accepted elsewhere. Previously published works may be submitted. Maximum of 100 lines per poem. Submit your poems as an email attachment to 7thcirclepyrite@gmail.com as a PDF (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) file. Include the following in your attachment: Your full name (exactly as you would like it to appear on the site)​ A brief author biography (150 words or fewer) written in the third person An author picture; can be a selfie or professional headshot, but must include your face and modest attire One poem per page A title for each poem Use the subject line " 7th-Circle Pyrite Submission: Poetry " for your email.​ Essays Submit 1-2 original essays for publication consideration. NOTE: "Essay," as used by 7th-Circle Pyrite , refers to informative and/or argumentative pieces, as well as creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction pieces may detail experiences and information that is autobiographical. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. You do not need to notify us if your essay is accepted elsewhere. Previously published work may be submitted. Maximum of 2,500 words per essay. Submit essays as an email attachment to 7thcirclepyrite@gmail.com as a PDF (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) file. Include the following in your attachment: Your full name (exactly as you would like it to appear on the site)​ A brief author biography (150 words or fewer) written in the third person An author picture; can be a selfie or professional headshot, but must include your face and modest attire Essays separated by a page break A title for each essay Use the subject line " 7th-Circle Pyrite Submission: Essay " for your email.​ Submit 1-2 original pieces of short fiction (short story or flash fiction) for publication consideration. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. You do not need to notify us if your stories are accepted elsewhere. Previously published work may be submitted. Maximum of 2,500 words per story. Submit your fiction as an email attachment to 7thcirclepyrite@gmail.com as a PDF (.pdf) or Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) file. Include the following in your attachment: Your full name (exactly as you would like it to appear on the site)​ A brief author biography (150 words or fewer) written in the third person An author picture; can be a selfie or professional headshot, but must include your face and modest attire Stories separated by a page break A title for each story Use the subject line " 7th-Circle Pyrite Submission: Short Fiction " for your email.​ Artwork Submit 1-3 original pieces of visual artwork (drawings, paintings, photography, or digital art) for publication consideration. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. You do not need to notify us if your artwork has been accepted elsewhere. Previously published work may be submitted. Submit artwork as individual email attachments to 7thcirclepyrite@gmail.com as a PDF (.pdf), PNG (.png), JPG/JPEG (.jpg, .jpeg), or TIFF (.tiff) file. (Each image should have its own attachment.) Include the following in the body of your email: Your full name (exactly as you would like it to appear on the site)​ A brief author biography (150 words or fewer) written in the third person An author picture; can be a selfie or professional headshot, but must include your face and modest attire ​​ The titles of each of your art pieces; these titles should also appear in the file names of your attachments A blurb to accompany each of your pieces that explains the theme it represents; each blurb should be 200-500 words. Use the subject line " 7th-Circle Pyrite Submission: Artwork " for your email.​ Poetry Short Fiction Submission FAQs Q: Who is encouraged to submit work? A: Everyone! Both emerging and established writers and artists 18 and over are encouraged to submit their work for publication. Q: Is any form of payment issued to contributors whose work is accepted? A: At this time, no, there are no payments issued to contributors whose works are selected for publication. Q: What rights do I have as an author/artist if my work is accepted for publication? A: Authors and artists whose work is selected for publication remain the copyright holders of and retain full rights to their work. 7th-Circle Pyrite does not restrict authors and artists whose work is published on our site from doing as they wish with their work elsewhere. Your submission to 7th-Circle Pyrite authorizes our journal only to publish your work on our site. Q: How long does it take to hear back about the status of a submission? A: We strive to follow up on poetry and artwork submissions within 30 calendar days, and fiction and essay submissions within 45 calendar days. We ask that any inquiries into the status of a submission be sent only if you have not received an acceptance or declination email within the number of days relevant to your submission type. Q: How much work can I submit at a time? A: You may submit as many pieces as are allowed in the ranges referenced in the guidelines above for each submission type, but please refrain from submitting additional pieces of that submission type until you hear back about its status. For example, you may submit two poems and three pieces of artwork at once, but we ask that you not resubmit any additional poetry or artwork until you hear back about your original submissions. Please be sure to thoroughly review any acceptance or declination letter you receive, as it may reference a time window during which a resubmission would be unreviewable. Q: Is there a fee required to submit my work? A: Submission to 7th-Circle Pyrite is free of charge. Fees are neither incurred nor collected at any time, for any reason. Q: If a submission is accepted for publication, is it edited first or published as is? A: If a piece is selected for publication but contains a small number of minor grammatical errors, the errors will be outlined in an email to the author. The author will then be given the opportunity to make the requested corrections prior to publication. Q: How often is new material published on the site? A: We publish bimonthly (every other month). Q: In what mediums is 7th-Circle Pyrite distributed? A: 7th-Circle Pyrite is an online publication only. We do not circulate or distribute print-based content at this time.

  • CARDS | 7th-Circle Pyrite

    Cards 7th-Circle Pyrite features six tarot-style cards on its site. Click each card below to learn more about its significance in relation to our journal's mission. (TIP: Use the search terms "alien," "ghost," "minotaur," "gorgon," "baphomet," and "harpy" in the Archives to find works related to the themes each card represents.)

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