Land Grab

The buildings flow as one attached with lumber and nails and stories of conjoined life across two centuries. On one end the Cape Cod house, on the other a faded red barn, in the middle a woodshed simple and unadorned and wearing a rusted tin hat. My cat Lucky teaches her litter how to kill around cobwebbed corners in the woodshed’s chambers, earthen floor providing perfect purchase for nails to grip. She pounces with speed and soundless surprise on mice that skitter then squeak [defeat]. Lucky keeps the woodshed swept clean and expects the same from her litter, batting them into action with swift swipe of paw. Go, get moving! Wordless feline instructions hang in the air. Hang in the air like brown barn spiders the size of quarters suspended in gossamer webs under doorway jambs and in window corners. Mud-brown abdomens, smears of my fear, blobs cascading in drips like Christmas string lights. I run to the woodshed door in late morning, heart racing as I duck low into dank darkness and smell green wood drying. My eyes adjust. Lucky curls into a tight gray comma, her ear twitch the only movement when mischievous flies float in from summer heat to alight on a black-and-gray tufted triangle. I pull kittens into my lap and stroke softness and smile-all-the-while planning my escape past eight-legged bodies engorged from feasting while arachnid homemakers plan their own escape from a heat that climbs as they do, into rafters, ‘til evening breezes blow. The colony breeds, expands their land grab from woodshed to house. Christmas string lights brown and bulbous soon adorn the outside of two picture windows where inside Mom hangs spider plants and ferns and geraniums. We wake to find the view through glass onto rolling hills draped in gothic garland. Dad blasts them from their perch with a garden hose, diamonds of justice, a watery waving magic wand. 

Ann Kathryn Kelly lives and writes in New Hampshire’s Seacoast region. She’s an editor with Barren Magazine, a columnist with WOW! Women on Writing, and she works in the technology sector. Ann leads writing workshops for a nonprofit that offers therapeutic arts programming to people living with brain injury. Her essays have appeared in a number of literary journals.


Dumb Luck Magnet

Hell is impatient, Hell is unkind. It envies. It boasts. It’s eating a stale box of Lucky Charms without marshmallows and getting towed with $10 in your bank account. It’s not a get-away destination or on a map, it’s a rent-free feeling with an insatiable hunger, submerging itself into the crawl spaces of your anatomy until you’re tarnished and ugly, a gremlin-beast with four eyes and fangs. Hell is learning you’re Irish when you thought you were Swedish. It’s being the only person in the third-fucking-grade who forgets to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and getting pinched until thumb-sized welts line your forearms like polka dots. It’s kissing someone who wipes your saliva off their mouth. It’s winning the lottery and telling everyone you won the lottery, only to realize you’re dyslexic. It’s sitting in a waiting room, hungover and alone, contemplating where your life went wrong, pinpointing that one, crucial mistake that screwed you up indefinitely. 

Hell is having out-of-body experiences all the time.

I’m in a fluorescent doctor’s office with sad, mustard-colored furniture, waiting to hear if I’m pregnant or just bloated. There are other faceless, pregnant-or-just-bloated people filling chairs too. Some wear wedding rings, some don’t. Maury is streaming on the television. I find this both inappropriate and deserved, a prologue to my future life as a Bad Mother, payment for playing Russian roulette with Bad Men. I’m not an idiot. I don’t hook up with every Super Sperm with an erect penis, I just find lonely people attractive, and I sometimes let them cum inside me in bar restrooms and beat-up trucks and motels, parking garages, weddings, bowling alleys, open fields, funerals. I take Plan B, which is like 95% effective.

When the nurse calls my name, I thumb a three-leaf clover and follow her.

Gabrielle McAree is from Fishers, IN. She studied Theatre and Writing at Long Island University Post. Her work appears or is forthcoming in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Tiny Molecules, Reflex Press, Versification, and (mac)ro(mic). Twitter: @gmcaree_


Witch Trial

A man places stones of various sizes 

and weights

on my chest.

One right after the other.

He’s trying to break me. To bind my will to his. 

Slowly, I am unmade. 


Until I am just a pretty snake

who likes soft things. 

Tori Eberle is a writer based out of Brooklyn, NY. She lives with her dog, cat, and a few wild-found animal skulls. Her work focuses on trauma and emotional violence, as it relates to love, loss, and the fragility of the human body. You can find her lurking the dark corners of Instagram and Twitter @eberlexm.


When the goat robbed the Johnson’s home

We captured it. What else could we do?

We found the goat—white with two small curved horns—still on the premises. The Johnson’s said their house and been robbed and trashed, and when we arrived to help clean up, there was the goat. It hadn’t even bothered to run. 

We looked at each other in wonder. What kind of criminal doesn’t bother to flee? Betty Thompson stormed off to bake some angry cookies. She was never the type to manage confrontation.

We tied it up outside, gave it some carrots, and set upon the scene. At this point a question occurred to us: what exactly had been stolen? We could see the mess it had caused, sure, but how were we to know what was missing? The Johnsons, like all of us, kept a tight home with few excesses. But—even though we wouldn’t admit it aloud—we had our secrets, and we preyed upon the opportunity to uncover the Johnsons’. 

So we asked.

Mr. Johnson turned his hat over and over in his hands. It took my horse. The tiny one that fits in the palm of my hand. My joy. My only friend. It is gone.

Mrs. Johnson, who had been staring out the window since our arrival, said, The sun, it rises at midnight for me, but the goat took it. He took my sunrise in the night. 

Braced with this information we went to question the goat. Where have you hidden Mr. Johnson’s handful of joy? Where have you hidden Mrs. Johnson’s light in the darkness? 

The goat didn’t answer except to laugh, and we balked as the smell of tangerines filled the air. 

Later, after we regained our composure and had killed the goat, we stood outside our individual homes. The rain began to fall, at first a sprinkle, then a deluge. We thought of the poor Johnson’s, now ostracized. You can never return from something like that. No light. No joy. How could you meet anyone’s eyes? And we bowed our heads and let the water run down our necks, pool in the small of our backs, grateful and afraid. There is no such thing as coincidence, we muttered, some with much more vigor than others, and we went inside, glad the rain had already washed the blood from our hands. 

Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared in the American Literary Review, the Cincinnati Review, and the Maine Review, among other journals. He is a senior editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Director for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at


Rabbit Song

Run with me to the abbey,

through farm gates, 

to the live wire fence.

Run with me to the castle,

steps crumbling, spider’s webs

still wise in their grasp.

A sheela-na-gigh on a door post

grimaces — so much for the Divine Feminine.

It’s “feck off,” forever in stone.

From any stone wall, where I look,

fortune falls to a solitary rabbit

in a distant field. Once was love, or a song.

Once was forgetting, or leaping into darkness,

leading the way.

Meg Smith is a writer, journalist, dancer and events producer living in Lowell, Mass. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Cafe Review, Poetry Bay, Polarity, Raven Cage, Beliveau Review, and many more.She is the author of five poetry books. Her first short fiction collection, The Plague Confessor, is due out in fall 2020 from Emu Books. .She welcomes visits to and @MegSmith_Writer.


The Mantle

It can occur and does at any time in any imaginable world.

I was sitting at the train station which was rather empty. It was rather late and I was feeling rather sick. I was stamping my left foot and kicking it out to relieve the nerves gone restless in it. I was, drunk, sick, stamping, insistent on reading the book on centuries of trade in Valencia that hung a blur before me.

You must see to understand that it does not require somebody. It can come on as want of somebody. It is a fact that the space put aside for somebody may still be occupied by fearful things.

Before I heard that night the train wind, before I sensed the mild adjustment of light indicative of the train coming on through the tunnel, illumining the charcoal mice ticking under the tracks over late paper burger bags, I saw with difficult focus the fringes of the tunnel mouth and where they fluttered, and the winged flutterings brought me straight to my feet for they were the edges of the space, which does not require somebody, coming on. Looked upon by the other drunks and night shifters and couples faded into the metal benches of the awful hours, I had the strap on my bag around me and I ran, along the platform and stamping my cursed leg and bumping up at the wooden rail of the stairs that I pulled myself up, away from the flapping quiet shuffling edges of shroud.

Out of the emptied station I was out on to the city. The city streets at such time were turned out even of their late nighters and most revels. The roads now celebrated by bent traffic lights and crumbled bollards and unridden save for silent taxis on beetle cruises camouflaged into the drunk hulked dark and the long unstoppered passing breath of unlit buses with all the sound of futuristic urbanity lunging smoothly out of the centre of the city to places quieter still and darker still.

And the cafés, each of them: dimmed to shade the rudeness of upturned tabletop chairs; hotels: gold lobbied and unvisited and concierge out of view; department stores: white, lighted, still, reminiscent of airport or childhood or former fictioned in latter from the car on muffled nighttime drives.

Experiences not, at late time, now, to be stood at and consumed; for on comes that shroud. It is silent and it might be I have only, ever, seen the very edges of it. The edges intimate vastness powerful. It has had me in flight out of the pub, out of the middle current of conversation with others, shroud edges spotted suddenly by a fire exit door, furls of thin black theatre blanket blowing with impending movement and chase, I poured well past liquored junction of coherent speech or sight, but well able still to up myself, and to run. It has had me in a maelstrom up off the bus in places far from home, stomping home instead at pace for the march brings perception of escape where the bus interior brings attacks of panic and frightened palpitation and restive wondering out of which hiding place the terrible shroud will come.

I tripped trash off of curbs and scattered the nighttime foxes up over railings into private parks and stared at a clothes store elevator still for some reason sidling softly up into a higher floor out from the sparse unmoving mill of the mannequins. I would make it home and always did. I would check behind me and see round the turns of unnamed alleyways the fronds of terrible shroud.

You must see to understand, that it does not need somebody at all. It can come, and it does, on where deficiency like carcass outline chalked onto a wall above the mantelpiece has been coloured in with blackened vomit and smeary suggestion of faces left in past which had been loved and lusted over, abstracted into the pursuant form with all the glow of days declared dead at noon, jeans soaked through from the slow traipse of that purposeless heart beaten man, the sterilised taint of train carriages sucked of want but never of sickness.

It comes on where somebody might be wished and where is no one, and is all the more vacuous.

I made to the street where I lived. As I walked it I saw the shroudish sheets fluttering over hedges and low gates where it was too subtle to be caught by street lamp’s low. It was quieter than emptied bin bags. It fluttered like a string of stitched together black moths disinclined to reveal the true mass of their selves.

In the house I put on all of the lights and wished for rain which when heavy forced retreat of the teasing ghoul. There was no rain. I stared into the doorways.

It comes on in its shrouds the thick limp mess of piled unwashed linen and with its straightened anaesthetic airs of doctors’ jellies and hospital bedding, all known in place of sheets shared to warm. The shrouds are coloured in the nameless shade of baggy funeral suits and shift with the quiet that the thing leaves in a wake, quiet and reminiscent of exhaustion and collapse at the return home from baggy funerals, all in place of fitted suits and lifely wedding bells. It comes on with the certain fear of rectal bleeding known far in place of another’s touch. The fear, which causes running, which causes solipsistic truth like the coercion of tyrant deity, is guttural. It reminds of dreams spent choking on swallowed piranha and trying to read aloud numbers written on papers in unreadable hand.

I went into my bedroom for sleep. Only alcohol, and the submission to human routine, allowed it through the horror.

Yes, the stained piled bedsheets look very black and vacuous in the dark.

When I get into bed I wrap myself in them.

John Banning lives in London Town. When he is not too tired he writes things. Some of these things have recently appeared, or will soon appear, in LigeiaThe Daily DrunkRejection LettersMaudlin House, the Bear Creek Gazette, and right here at Dream Journal. He has a very exciting website.


Ticking Off That Must-Do List in Tarapore

If you haven’t yet met Jo, you are not from Tarapore. If your walk at sunrise is a not a voyage of discovery at your new neighborhood, people will suspect you’re faking it. So, you notice noodle-wrappers flooding dirt paths, merrily binging pigs at the dumping corner, greet random people. They tell you about Jo, intent on making you realize you haven’t already met her — woman of resources, always good humor about her, lies only to her mirror, and vocal supporter of madcap jamborees. They tell you she keeps monthly appointments with the palm-reader at the shack by the marketplace, as if you hadn’t already guessed it. Tell you, Jo is someone very happy with her life. 

At nights, you are startled by noises from that house.

Jo having a loud dance party, her husband and she getting wild on the terrace, shouting drunk to their pets, you’re nothing, you are not loved, you loser

The words echo in your ears, haunt you in your sleep. You remind yourself it’s five years on.

Tarapore, you were told, before you were here, is next only to a monastery. You’d think quite the opposite but for your new wife who says she’s had enough of house-hunting, it’s a closed story. 

You understand, clench your fists, unfurl them to spread jam on toast while browsing the morning paper.

Of course, meadows at the far distance, framed by the window, are flushed, their inclines at strange angles, and when one day, Jo waves from her porch, you watering the grass, invites you to coffee, you go anyway, like a midget to a butterwort’s trap.

Jo and you sit across the table, she arranges the cookies, stirs coffee, babbles about Marie and Suzanna and Ronnie.

‘Ronnie’s never had it this bad. They are fitting radio antennas up the Manila Towers. Says it’s raining, and yellow too, can’t quite see how that’d look.’

You can’t decide which of your neighbors is doing what. She tells the story of someone washing dishes and discovering a banded-krait in the kitchen sink. Your muddled brain only registers the stories on the walls— Jo at school, Jo when she was nineteen, Jo in her scornful avatar. You know the look so well.

‘And you?’ 


You doubt if she’s listening that you write, put in layers like cabbages, nothing at the core really, just a lot of shredded bits, as she turns and walks to the room on your left, telling you she’s expecting guests.

She begins to apply makeup. 

You know makeup, you know its power, how it has transformed you from someone head-over-heels in love with Jo for a very long time whom Jo rebuffed regularly, hurled obscene abuses, to someone Jo doesn’t even recognize five years later.

You watch in wonder, her pet, like you were once.

When you pull the little trigger, making sure to muffle the shot with a cushion, you are ex-static! 

Mandira Pattnaik’s writing has appeared most recently in Amsterdam Quarterly, ToastedCheese, Splonk, Bending Genres, Citron Review, Spelk, EllipsisZine and Heavy Feather Review, among other places. Tweets @MandiraPattnaik


In which I Never Die–Only Succeed to Fail: A Dream Exploration in Three Parts

  1. The Recurring Theme

A car, a train, an airplane. A subway. A moving vehicle speeding past the last exit before an insurmountable incline. A bridge to the sky, a highway on-ramp. I panic as my brain scrambles to spot a way out; some means of escaping the inevitable, because the road is so narrow and the guard rails are so low, that I know the slightest swerve will send us careening over the sides to the icy waters below. A sick feeling swells through my stomach as the vehicle climbs higher, at an angle that shifts to ninety degrees. Without fail, it comes to a halt before reaching the precipice, a tantalizing moment of dread passes and then it drops backwards while I tumble, screaming. 

Sometimes I wake up right then, a shriek caught in my throat. Other times I live out a few more never-ending scenes that imprint into a vivid memory that lasts for days, weeks, years. 

2. Examples: 

a) I drive the car at break-neck speed on to a ramp that curves and swirls like a Hot Wheels play set. My kids are in the car, they’re little, and they’re laughing because they think it’s a fun ride. We are rushing forward into a stormy atmosphere, and I notice the break in the road that I have to jump, exactly like the one in the movie Speed. Problem is, I’m not Sandra Bullock and I don’t have Keanu Reeves to talk me through the navigation of such a feat, and we pitch into nothingness, then drop sickeningly, into a river. I frantically roll down windows and shout at the kids to unbuckle their seatbelts, and we manage to scratch and scrape our way out until we are bobbing and drifting and waiting to be rescued. 

b)I am driving a large, long city bus but the steering wheel is set up at the very back. It’s nighttime and the eerie glow of streetlights shimmers against the endless windows. We pass through a slanted space, lights flickering madly like when Willy Wonka took Charlie and the gang on that insane boat ride through the tunnel in the Chocolate Factory. The only passenger is the ghost of a man I once knew, and he looks back at me as if to say, you know how to drive, what’s the problem? But a corner is coming, and I have to make a turn, which is difficult from this ridiculous rear perspective. We tilt and waver, but I manage the turn, only to find the bus is now on train tracks heading up and up. Our speed decreases and I feel a hitch, hear a clink. And just like that famous roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland that pulls you up one hundred and twenty-one feet, holds you for five seconds and then drops you down, down, down, the bus rests, tentative, precarious. The ghost casts me a penetrating gaze right before we plummet into blackness.          

3. Possible Conclusions

I am afraid to lose control of my life. 

I am afraid to be in control of my life. 

I am afraid I will never succeed. 

I am afraid I will succeed. 

I wish I could meet Keanu Reeves. 

Roald Dahl stories leave a deeper impression than you think. 

I really should muster the courage to ride The Bat someday. 

Sara Dobbie is a writer from Southern Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Trampset, Bandit Fiction, Change Seven Magazine, and elsewhere. Stories are forthcoming from Knights Library Magazine and The Lumiere Review. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie


Ice P(r)ick

Apparently, no doctor has found the cause for what we call Ice Pick Headaches: those stabbing, shattering pains that enter the minds of their sufferers like me, then disappear in a hotter flash. They’re not linked to any sort of brain damage, it seems, yet some say they might indicate a flaw in certain pain receptors (given that there is no correlation with any environmental factors).

Maybe that kind of flaw would explain, too, why I still haven’t run from you.

At the bar with my friends, I sometimes admit that when I’m up to my lips with ice, you put me on my knees and you strike—you work away until there’s nothing left but water in my mouth. 

They always urge me to get rid of you, of course (skip the town, if you really need to) but I think that I have too much love for our little Artic, Indiana.

Besides, why should I be the one to leave?

On the days that I still try to reach your good heart, I think of the summer that you and I went to the lavender field close to the library: my favorite spot where I used to sit and read or sleep. You’d laid down with me in that grass just like one would an epic novel, and you’d flipped through my pages with all the attention of a high scholar.

“Oh, so sweet of him,” my mother said to me, later that afternoon, seeing in my hands the flowers that I’d ripped from the ground.

But because it is winter now, I only want to rip my brain from its own stem. I want to wring out my grey matter until I can find that goddamn ice pick, catch it in the act and remove it from the world for good. These last few months, it’s come back to me again and again (usually as I’ve been walking the road to see you), just like the butterflies that used to meet my stomach.

If this disorder is not linked to my environment, as so claims the great Internet, then why does it so happen in such correlations, I wonder? Could it mean that you yourself are not really my environment? Perhaps you are, truly, the ice pick?

Either way, I think that something was set off in me, that day I arrived intending to watch those Marvel movies with you in your room. I think it was maybe that it was ten below zero, that day, or the fact that you were using your scraper-brush on your windshield as I sort-of approached, or maybe because you looked up at me as you continued to do it, and in any case the hearty pain came again and I grasped my head with a new yell.

Somebody said icicles would, hypothetically, make the perfect murder weapon; I think the logic was that icicles are sharp, and they melt, which does make sense. At the time, I must have misheard.

Pascale is Editor-in-Chief of Wrongdoing Magazine and an Editor at a few other publications, including CHEAP POP and Walled Women Magazine. She’s also Staff Contributor for The Aurora Journal and has placed work in Eclectica MagazineMaudlin HouseBlazeVOXWitch Craft Magazine, and many others. She has a BAH from Queen’s University, and she is working on a budding book series. You can read more about her at or @pascalepalaces on Twitter.


In Utero

“You cannot conceive children.”

The first time you hear it, it’s a fluid and twisted phrase.

It’s a punishment.

It’s a criticism.

It’s a fact.

It’s a challenge.

The average pregnancy lasts 280 days, and you’re not even worth that.

So you scream.

And you cry.

And you beg.

And your refuse to accept.

It wasn’t just me, it was my husband as well. Something was wrong with both of us. Lifeless seed trying to find purchase in a womb of splinters.

You cannot conceive children.
Sure you can adopt. You can have a surrogate. My husband and I discussed it.

But I didn’t want to.

I couldn’t.

He felt the same.

I worried that as much as I ended up loving them, because they hadn’t come from me, grown and developed inside, part of me would end up resenting them. A constant reminder of my biological failures and motherly ineptitude. A falsehood from a shadow womb.

My Husband and I would talk, and we’d have therapy, and we’d shoulder the stages of grief in unison.
It broke him just as much as it did me; the nauseous, galvanizing pain at how helpless and impotent he was.

At the park we’d sit and watch toddlers, mothers with new-borns, energetic miracles and we’d end up building a new life and story for one of them. We’d imagine they were ours. What their name was, how they were like growing up, the food they loved, and what made them laugh. We were the perfect parents; loving, devoted, and we’d never take our eyes off them. Not at home, not outside, not at the park.
The two of us made a plan.

And then it happened. Hard work? A miracle? Biological frustration? Whatever the news deems it, it finally happened.
I had a life inside of me.

My husband was enamoured with how happy I was, and I couldn’t have loved him more for his dedication and support. From his constant research and practice, to when he made the first incision, and to when he finally sewed me up.

The Baby was my choice. A small one. Fragile. We wanted to be safe. We didn’t want the stiches to rip.

She was kicking and moving like hell earlier, but she settled down after we set up the internal IV and got the right dosage in her.

The Womb is remarkably expansive. It’s meant to house another life after all. It hurts, oh God it hurts sometimes, but it makes it all worthwhile in the end, the sacrifice your body goes through.
My Husband says I’ve never been more beautiful.

There’s no regret at all, this is what we wanted.
Besides, if you lose a baby you don’t even deserve to be a Mother.
It’s just a moral trade for those who do deserve it.

279 days left.

We wanted as natural a birth as possible, but had to work around it.

It’s fine though, it’s remarkable what love can do.

Pete Smith graduated Lancaster university with a degree in English, creative writing and practise, and immediately put it to zero use. He writes short horror stories, and has worked freelance for sites such as and He once got paid by the BBC for a joke about putting your finger up your bum.