NEW! The Inaugural Issue of Killjoy!

By Juliet Cook

The Inaugural Issue of Killjoy is now live!

Poetry by Sarah Lilius, Jennifer MacBain-Stephens, Jacklyn Janeksela, Juliet Cook, and many more!

“Some humans turn into stinkhorns.
Some nimrods stab their way through.
Some force themselves in with their foul smelling phallus
impudicus. He pushes his slime inside you.”
from Juliet Cook’s poem “FUNGAL INFECTION OF THE HEART”.

More HERE – http://tinyletter.com/killjoylitmag/letters/inaugural-issue

Source:: Blood Pudding Press

A Journey Blessed by Stephen Philip Druce (Part 1)

By Writing Knights Press



Stephen Philip Druce
is a published poet
from Shrewdsbury, England
Shropshire England 1993

“We’ll be in Shrewsbury soon” said the driver.

Gordon had hitched a lift from Manchester with nothing but a guitar on his back and a feather in his cap – finally escaping the crime-ridden council estate he’d lived in all his life. Gordon was a precocious musical talent with a natural sense of rhythm – learning his trade by hitting pots and pans with wooden spoons.

In his teenage years he discovered an aptitude for the guitar and the piano – attributing his musical prowess to his father who played the drums in a jazz band. All the gigs he’d played, the recording sessions he’d been involved in and the useful contacts he’d made in the city, all seemed futile now. Without the offer of a record deal the Manchester music industry had seemingly overlooked him.

With the recent split from his long term girlfriend there didn’t seem to be a good reason to stay in Manchester. “A rolling stone gathers no moss” echoed the proverb in his mind – “I may not be a rolling stone but I’ve had enough moss”.

The town of Shrewsbury resonated with Gordon. He recalled the story his father told him of a fishing trip on the river Severn – which encompassed the town centre in the shape of a horse shoe. He was dropped off on the outskirts of Shrewsbury on a warm spring Saturday evening. He walked towards the town, over the English bridge – that reflected over the rippled water of the river, among the old black and white buildings – “wow – what a mellow town” he thought.

He approached a group of rowdy young people and noticed two tall lads walking slightly ahead of the adjoining gang – so inebriated they were holding each other up like giant matchsticks. Spotting Gordon had a guitar on his back, one of the lads – Martin, asked Gordon if he had a place to stay. Gordon shook his head and so was adopted by the gang.

Martin was a virtuoso slide guitar player and street wise too. He sensed intuitively that Gordon had nowhere to sleep, and as he had a guitar on his back – felt an obligation to invite him to the guitar jam party they were all heading to.

The party house was decorated in guitars of all shapes, sizes and colours than circled the main room and hung from the walls. Unbeknown to Gordon, among the party-goers were some of Shrewsbury’s most accomplished guitarists.

After extra drinks they all settled down on the numerous sofas – “do you want to play a tune mate?” chirped Martin to Gordon – sensing Gordon had something special up his sleeve. Gordon took his green guitar out of its soft case and played a furious funk song with blistering speed – intervening intricate rhythm patterns on the body of the guitar with his right hand – his singing voice soaring with effortless range and raw passion.

The room erupted into rapturous applause and Gordon followed it up with a moving ballad that reduced some of them to tears. “I call it Folkadelic” said Gordon. Martin smiled wryly – he knew Gordon would be special before he’d even taken his guitar from out of its case, but Folkadelic was a revelation and a new music.
Next

Source:: Writing Knights Press

Pepper (January 20, 2017)

By Juliet Cook

I like to think I don’t need pepper spray, because I have enough
pepper and red salt in between my own

fingernails and thighs.

No you don’t, he tells me. You’re just a girl.

He rips me apart, rams himself inside, shows me

I can’t even be in charge of my own body,

so what makes me think I can save anyone else.

He says I smell like pepper, but that doesn’t mean I am

strong enough to fight back.

The pepper works itself into my own eyes and blinds me.

But even if my fingers are temporarily numbed,
they will never be like him, they will never tear others apart

for no reason other than brutal force.

He hates every other

body of sweet or spicy light.

All he wants to do is destroy

other’s blood, in order to feel

like his body is stronger.

He wants to be the boss of broken body parts,

but some of us will refuse to be his apprentice.

Some of us have hearts that cannot be easily baked

in this oven. Some of us have hearts that desire
to rise above all this hate.

~Juliet Cook

Source:: Blood Pudding Press

Grand Tournament VI: Music Contest

By Writing Knights Press

Grand Tournament 2017 Rules

To commemorate the Six Year Anniversary of Writing Knights Press events, we are preparing the Sixth Annual Grand Tournament. Words belong to everyone and pieces must work on the page as well as on the stage. The Grand Tournament is designed to find the best musicians AND performers from all over the world!

I Speak Hick
by 2015 Champion Alexis-Rueal

First Round – On the Screen


1. Entries will be accepted between March 4, 2017 and June 3, 2017. Any entrants submitting before or after these dates will be reminded of the deadline and their submissions discarded. All entries should be sent to writingknightspress@gmail.com. Subject line of emails should read “Grand Tournament 2017 – (Music)”.

2.
a. Single entrants should compile three songs up to between 9:5010:10. These songs should be uploaded to YouTube as an unlisted video. The videos themselves do not have to be super well produced, but making something sound good is definitely preferable.
b. There are no inhibitions as far as genre of music. It should be noted, the performance round may have limited electronic access, therefore acoustic music, or music needing less electronic aid will have an advantage.

3. Preferably, material provided should be unreleased or at least not released during the last 12 months.
a. Previous contestants (including FORMER Grand Tournament WINNERS) are welcomed and encouraged to enter the tournament, however;

4. The videos should be void of the performers (basically, make a video with a picture and music behind it). There should be no images of the performers. Do NOT include the list of songs on the video.


5. In the body of the email include: Band and Performer Name(s) (Pen Names and Legal Names of Entered Performers), At least one Contact Address (email and snail mail), a 25-50 word bio, a black and white musician/band photo (this can be attached), at least one phone number, and the list of pieces included in the manuscript. Team entries should include the author(s) of those pieces.

6. Manuscripts will be scored 0-10 by the five judges by their own calibration.
Second Round – On the Stage
Cover A of Graffiti Wisdom
by 2012 Champion Skylark Bruce


1. The performance round will be held July 29th, 2017 at a location to be named later. The top five scoring entrants will advance to the performance round (there must be at least three musicians/bands to enact this round).

2. Only one prop will be permitted per contestant.

a. Approved props include, but are not limited to: masks, walking sticks, stage blood, riding crops, scarves, whips under 3 feet long.
b. Any mess created by the performer or prop must be cleaned up, or the performer will be disqualified.
c. Not approved props include, but are not limited to: other people, non-service animals, apparatuses of a strictly sexual nature (stimulation devices, gags, fuzzy handcuffs, etc).

3. Performances will be scored 0-10 by the five judges by their own calibration.

4. Finalists must perform the entire unedited submitted manuscript. They do not necessarily have to perform it in the order it is submitted, but no words may be changed between submission and performance.
5. The highest combined score of the manuscript and performance rounds will win. If there is a tie, the performers in contention will be given a 1 minute lightning round performance to decide the winner.
Prizes
Nothing, but Skin
by 2013 Champion Quartez Harris


1. The winners of the Grand Tournament will be get their choice in a release with Writing Knights. This offer does not expire.
a. A 5 track EP.

2. Winners will also receive a $100 Gift Card.


3. Runners up in the Second Round will receive a $15 Gift Card.
Notes to Potential Entrants

1. Anyone from any country may enter the competition, but there will be no video conferencing or competing. If an entrant qualifies from the manuscript round and they are unable to be at the event by 7pm July 29th they will forfeit all possible contest winnings.
a. Starting with the next highest scoring entrant from the manuscript round, alternates may be promoted to take the place of entrants who forfeit.
Example: Jen scores 6th in the screen round, but Joe cannot compete in the 2nd Round. Jen is promoted to the 2nd Round.

2. Competitors in the Second Round who have merchandise are invited to sell it at the Grand Tournament event. Individual consignment agreements will be brokered between the poet, the organizers and the venue.

3. Traveling performers cannot be explicitly offered room and board. Arrangements may be made, but this will be on a case by case basis and are not guaranteed.

4. Scoring of this event is anonymous, but entrants who would like to see their scores and the judges notes may ask to do so AFTER the Second Round has completed.


5. Family members, romantic partners, and current or former Writing Knights Press staff or current event judges are ineligible to compete.
a. Past judges, their family members or romantic partners are eligible to compete as long as they are not disqualified in another way.
Judges
Cover B of Graffiti Wisdom
by 2012 Champion Skylark Bruce


1. This year’s judges will be the same from the Screen (video) and Stage (performance) rounds.


2. Writing Knights will be searching for 5 uniquely qualified judges to judge both the page and stage rounds. There will also be an alternate judge chosen in the event one of the judges cannot attend.

3. Judges will score anonymously from each other and from the contestants in the Screen and Stage rounds.
a. Scores in the Screen round will be sent to the Event coordinator as they are tallied.
b. Scores in the Stage round will be kept secret until all five competitors have been scored.
c. It is up to the Judges’ sole discretion how they will score the contestants.
Compensation

1. All Entrants and Judges will receive a free copy of the corresponding anthology release.

2. All Finalists, other Entrants and Judges will receive free e-copies of the winning releases produced, with an option to buy a discounted copy of the release.


More details will be added as needs arise.

Any questions, comments, or suggestions may be sent to writingknightspress@gmail.com. Any complaints, gripes or bitches can be directed to your usual venting board. We only accept constructive criticism.

Source:: Writing Knights Press

Grand Tournament VI: Poetry Contest

By Writing Knights Press

Grand Tournament 2017 Rules

To commemorate the Six Year Anniversary of Writing Knights Press events, we are preparing the Sixth Annual Grand Tournament. Words belong to everyone and pieces must work on the page as well as on the stage. The Grand Tournament is designed to find the best writers AND performers from all over the world!

I Speak Hick
by 2015 Champion Alexis-Rueal

First Round – On the Page


1. Entries will be accepted between March 4, 2016 and June 3, 2016. Any entrants sending before or after these dates will be reminded of the deadline and their submissions discarded. All entries should be sent to writingknightspress@gmail.com. Subject line of emails should read “Grand Tournament 2017 – (Poetry)”.

2.
a. Single entrants should compile a sample manuscript between 250 and 300 lines long including stanza/paragraph breaks. Page settings should be on documents set at 6″ x 9″ with all margins set at 1″ with 12 point Times New Roman font. Manuscripts not in these parameters will be returned to the entrant and asked to be reformatted.
b. This round is strictly poetry (if you want to enter Fiction/Nonfiction, Click Here, or Music, Click Here). Remember, if you advance to the second round, you will have to perform your entry.
1. Concerning stanza breaks and lines between poems: put only ONE blank line between pieces. Do NOT go to the next page to start the next piece. The blank lines between stanzas, between poems and from the titles of pieces count as one of your lines. Title lines of your pieces also count as one of your lines.

Example:

Title of Piece>>>>>blank line between title and poem
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so is chocolate
>>>>>blank line for stanza break
Chocolate is brown
So are some dogs
Kittens are fuzzy
And so is Chewbacca
>>>>>blank line for end of poem
Title of next piece

3. Preferably, material provided should be unpublished or at least not published during the last 12 months.
a. Previous contestants (including FORMER WINNERS) are welcomed and encouraged to enter the tournament, however;
b. No previous pieces entered to the Grand Tournament will be considered.

4. The manuscript should be sent as an attachment in .doc (Microsoft Office 97-2003) file format ONLY. Files in any other format will be discarded unread and you will be asked to resubmit properly.

a. The file should be named “Grand Tournament Entry”. There should be NO identifying notations inside the entry of the identity of the writer, this includes lines in the pieces themselves.
b. Exceptions can be made in the cases of ghazals (or other poetic forms of this nature) where the poet is expected to “sign” their work. However, the poet should make an effort to disguise their name. Example, “Azriel” could be disguised as “as real.”

5. In the body of the email include: Name(s) (Pen Names and Legal Names of Entered Poets), At least one Contact Address (email and snail mail), a 25-50 word bio, a black and white author/team photo (this can be attached), at least one phone number, and the list of pieces included in the manuscript. Team entries should include the author(s) of those pieces. Do NOT include the list of pieces in the manuscript attachment.

6. Manuscripts will be scored 0-10 by the five judges by their own calibration.
Second Round – On the Stage
Cover A of Graffiti Wisdom
by 2012 Champion Skylark Bruce


1. The performance round will be held July 29th, 2017 at a location to be named later. The top five scoring entrants will advance to the performance round.

2. Only one prop will be permitted per contestant.

a. Approved props include, but are not limited to: masks, walking sticks, stage blood, riding crops, scarves, whips under 3 feet long.
b. Any mess created by the performer or prop must be cleaned up, or the performer will be disqualified.
c. Not approved props include, but are not limited to: musical instruments, audio/visual equipment, other people, non-service animals, apparatuses of a strictly sexual nature (stimulation devices, gags, fuzzy handcuffs, etc).

3. Performances will be scored 0-10 by the five judges by their own calibration.

4. Finalists must perform the entire unedited submitted manuscript. They do not necessarily have to perform it in the order it is submitted, but no words may be changed between submission and performance.
5. The highest combined score of the manuscript and performance rounds will win. If there is a tie, the performers in contention will be given a 1 minute lightning round performance to decide the winner.
Prizes
Nothing, but Skin
by 2013 Champion Quartez Harris


1. The winners of the Grand Tournament will be get their choice in a release with Writing Knights. This offer does not expire.
a. A full length, perfect bound book.
b. A 5 track EP with a chapbook.

2. Winners will also receive a $100 Gift Card.


3. The runners up in the Second Round will be offered a chapbook deal with Writing Knights Press.

4. Runners up in the Second Round will also receive a $15 Gift Card.

5. Honorable mentions from the First Round may be invited to submit chapbook manuscripts.

6. Judges will be asked to pick one or two pieces from each manuscript for consideration in a corresponding anthology release.
Notes to Potential Entrants

1. Anyone from any country may enter the competition, but there will be no video conferencing or competing. If an entrant qualifies from the manuscript round and they are unable to be at the event by 7pm July 29th they will forfeit all possible contest winnings.
a. Starting with the next highest scoring entrant from the manuscript round, alternates may be promoted to take the place of entrants who forfeit.
Example: Jen and Jess score 6th in the team manuscript, but Joe and James cannot compete in the 2nd Round. Jen and Jess are promoted to the 2nd Round.

2. Competitors in the Second Round who have merchandise are invited to sell it at the Grand Tournament event. Individual consignment agreements will be brokered between the poet, the organizers and the venue.

3. Traveling poets cannot be explicitly offered room and board. Arrangements may be made, but this will be on a case by case basis and are not guaranteed.

4. Scoring of this event is anonymous, but entrants who would like to see their scores and the judges notes may ask to do so AFTER the Second Round has completed.


5. Family members, romantic partners, and current or former Writing Knights Press staff or current event judges are ineligible to compete.
a. Past judges, their family members or romantic partners are eligible to compete as long as they are not disqualified in another way.
Judges
Cover B of Graffiti Wisdom
by 2012 Champion Skylark Bruce


1. This year’s judges will be the same from the Page (manuscript) and Stage (performance) rounds.


2. Writing Knights will be searching for 5 uniquely qualified judges to judge both the page and stage rounds. There will also be an alternate judge chosen in the event one of the judges cannot attend.

3. Judges will score anonymously from each other and from the contestants in the Page and Stage rounds.
a. Scores in the Page round will be sent to the Event coordinator as they are tallied.
b. Scores in the Stage round will be kept secret until all five competitors have been scored.
c. It is up to the Judges’ sole discretion how they will score the contestants.

4. Judges will be requested, but not required to submit a piece for the Grand Tournament V Anthology.
Compensation

1. All Entrants and Judges will receive a free copy of the corresponding anthology release.

2. All Finalists, other Entrants and Judges will receive free e-copies of the winning releases produced, with an option to buy a discounted copy of the release.


More details will be added as needs arise.

Any questions, comments, or suggestions may be sent to writingknightspress@gmail.com. Any complaints, gripes or bitches can be directed to your usual venting board. We only accept constructive criticism.

Source:: Writing Knights Press

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (52)

By Writing Knights Press

CHAPTER TEN

* * *

maxszredni@gmail.com
(Three Days Later)

Daid stared at the book on his table. Besides the respectable sum of given-benefit he had found in Raque’s dirty nightgown, this was the only other item his now-deceased friend had been carrying on his person. Up until this point, Daid had been unable to crack open its spine, petrified by the marrow of genius that might spill forth with its disarticulation. Daid had always envied Raque and had often felt daunted by the words of brilliance the man used to regularly spout from his flaky lips.

Now, infused with alcohol as he was, Daid’s curiosity won out over his jealous fear. So what if it is momentous and earth shattering? No one will ever have to know about it except you. No one will ever have to know how great the man truly was.

Tentatively, Daid opened the book’s cover, expecting the first page to be clogged with Raque’s untidy scrawl. But it was empty. Confused, Daid flipped over to the next page—but it was empty too. Again and again he flipped the pages—empty, empty, empty, empty. Disgusted, he was almost ready to toss the book aside, when he saw it, Raque’s entire masterpiece crammed into two lines at the bottom of the very last page:

“Before my Past, I wasn’t. In my Past, I was. Now, I am. In my Future, I will be. After my future, I will not be.”

Daid looked at the sentences for a long while. Then he howled with laughter and was unable to stop until his vomit had choked him dead.

***

For the umpteenth time, Mil pored over the notebook Domei had left on her bed, the final birthday present he had given her before the ekzootion. In it there were words and sketches, many of which Mil could not understand; she didn’t ask anyone to decipher them for her though, because one of the few bits she did understand was the part on the front cover saying: “Do not let ANYONE else see this, Mil.”

(As the years passed, Mil would often revisit the notebook, understanding a little more with each reading. It was a book of change, a manifesto detailing all the wrongs of the town and prescribing solutions to them, one-by-one. Throughout its pages, Domei had built a framework for the changes he had envisioned, an all-encompassing plan for the new and better world that would exist—but only if Mil wished to make it so. And, at the bottom of the very last page, he had written his final words to his sister—“I Love you Mil, now and forever.”

***

In the white chamber, Lelae stood and watched the Lovers, wondering at the small boy who had died in her stead. The next day she went to the wreckage of her old home and fished out her favorite cast-iron pan, rapping it affectionately with her knuckles before heading into the darkness of the surrounding woodland, never again to return to the strange town in the middle of the forest.

END
Start at the Beginning

Source:: Writing Knights Press

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (51)

By Writing Knights Press

CHAPTER NINE (continued)

* * *

maxszredni@gmail.com
The townsfolk nearest Domei dilated around him, staring at the boy who had interrupted their ceremony of justice. Domei could not bear to look at their faces, the yawning lips of the monster’s maw. He felt something wither and disappear within him; his instinct for survival—the animalistic force which had stifled his words when he first tried shouting his confession—had finally abandoned his body, knowing he was a lost cause. Domei understood it was too late to turn back.

“I tipped the Towers,” he said once more, no longer screaming. And Domei was telling the truth—well, most of it; he wasn’t about to tell the volatile crowd about his masturbating in the white chamber beforehand. “It was me that went to them that night, not Lelae. I stole the materials from Clerae’s warehouse the day before I set the traps, but I was going to give it all back—I swear it! I hid them in the field right after the falling, but I can unbury them if Clerae wants!”—the crowd was already stirring angrily—”And I only meant to tip over a few! I thought if I just wedged one over, a couple more would startle and run and trip over the wires and nothing all that bad would come of it because Raque would eventually be there to pick them up. They all started to run though! They all started to trip over each other!”

Domei spoke as fast as he could. The monster’s lips closed in.

“I’m sorry!” he said, tears falling freely down his red cheeks, “I am! I just wanted to—”

Hands were grabbing him by his neck and shoulders—rough adult hands from which there was no escaping. “Wait, wait! Please! I just needed to show people that there might be no answers! That even—even—”

He was not making sense anymore, and he knew it.

Domei had spent all the previous night envisioning this moment. In his hopeful imaginings, his speech had been as smooth and flawless as the ones made at the Town Hall, and the townsfolk had listened to him patiently, eventually understanding exactly why he had tipped the Towers.

That all seemed laughable now.

The crowd taunted and jeered, shrieking their sour hatred at him.

“There might not be answers to our questions, that’s all! I didn’t mean for so many to fall! I even went back to try and apologize to them, I swear it!” Domei attempted to make himself heard above the awful din. He was being pushed closer and closer to the gallows. Caretaker Di was sawing at Lelae’s noose with a knife, ordering for a replacement. “I was just trying to show that—please! Please let me go! Let me go!”

When Domei first decided to confess to the act-of-mischief, he had had a vague inkling what his admission might entail. Understanding he would never be able to live with the guilt of Lelae dying for a crime he had committed, Domei had tried convincing himself of his own execution’s unlikelihood—they are killing her because she is a witch. I’m only twelve, I’m sorry for what I have done, I’m just a child, it was a mistake, I didn’t know Raque would kill himself, I’m just a child, I’m just a child. Domei’s mantra of reasoning had actually succeeded in deluding him that all would end well.

“Silence!” demanded the Head Authority, as Domei was brought before them, still shouting his pleas at the deaf crowd. “Silence, you lying vagabond. You let your charade go on this long?! To the very last second before this woman—falsely accused—was going to be hanged? You are evil! A thief! A liar! A sociopath—a child born to be Forgotten! Born to die as nothing!”

To the side, Lelae was untying her black coif and watching him with her silver satin eyes. Domei did not even think he Loved her anymore.

“You let me apologize to you, let me bend at my waist in order to tell you how sorry I was on behalf of my entire Barracks! You are a Tower-tipper, Forgotten child, and you shall be hanged!”

There it was, as Domei had never truly expected it to be. His body went slack in the townsfolk’s hands, as if the Head Authority’s words had shattered his spine. Domei saw the white rat—heard its rustling passage through the grass. A pair of Authorities lifted him onto the platform by his armpits. His soul broke, spilling into his feet like a punctured egg yolk, understanding its vessel had just stood upon solid earth for the final time. The fresh noose had already been bound to the gallows’ beam, and Caretaker Di was walking over to Domei, holding the same white bag that had just recently been covering Lelae’s head.

For no reason in particular, Domei thought of Paeren, and how odd it was that they were probably watching and hating him along with the rest of the crowd. As the white bag slipped over his eyes, Domei was once more reminded of the giant rat’s fur…could he request a new bag? A brown or black one perhaps? He did not want to die feeling his disgust of the unnatural beast. Maybe he should ask Di, he thought. His old caretaker was wrapping the noose around his neck, pulling it tight. It would soon be hard to speak, he realized. Yes, he had better ask now, before it was too late.

“Can I—”

Domei’s body dropped through the trapdoor, and the rope snapped taut.

Previous — Next
Start at the Beginning

Source:: Writing Knights Press

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (50)

By Writing Knights Press

CHAPTER EIGHT

* * *

maxszredni@gmail.com
All Domei could think of was the white rat and the way its vile red eyes had popped from its skull like ruby buttons. The phantom of its slippery tail still slithered across his hand, constantly causing him to rub his sweaty palm on his neutral. Around him the crowd roared nonsensically at Lelae. Domei shivered, cold despite the wet heat. He knew what must be done but did not know how he could ever make it unfold. The white rat hissed loudly. Domei moaned.

“It was me,” he mouthed to the monster. Why couldn’t he speak? How was he going to get their attention? The words of the exhibit application repeated in his mind—“…guiding our movements to benefit those who we have these feelings of Love for, sometimes to the detriment of our own wellbeing—a phenomenon known as ‘self-sacrifice'”. He saw the Head Authority speaking to the crowd atop the gallows, reading portentously from a ribboned scroll. An occasional word of their long-winded speech would pierce Domei’s consciousness—”heinous crime…Tower-tipping…condemned…hanging”—but their words were mostly drowned in the debilitating panic that was now squeezing Domei to the point of implosion.

The Head Authority rolled the scroll back into a neat cylinder, finished. The executioner—Caretaker Di—fitted a white bag around Lelae’s head, pulling its drawstring tight. The caretaker’s face—the same face that had smiled mischievously at Domei while rubbing blackberry juice on Mil’s ears—was impossibly nonchalant. It was the same face someone would make while yanking a pesky weed out of a patch of petunias.

“It was me,” Domei said a little louder. “It was me.” Still, no one paid him the slightest heed, his voice lost in the crowd’s anxious murmurings. He cleared his throat. “It was me!” he said again, and suddenly his voice seemed too loud. A few of the townsfolk looked at him curiously.

Up on the gallows, Caretaker Di was placing the noose around Lelae’s slender neck. Domei’s violent shaking was dangerously close to collapsing his legs.

“It was me!” Domei told the monster, “I tipped the Towers!” More and more townsfolk were beginning to turn their heads.

He still wasn’t speaking loud enough. Caretaker Di was already walking toward the lever which would trigger Lelae’s deadly descent.

I did it!” he screamed. “Me! Domei! Lelae is innocent!” Why wasn’t Caretaker Di listening? Their hands closed about the lever.

“Wait!” the crowd began shouting, waving their arms at the caretaker. Caretaker Di looked up at them, confused at their cries. “Wait, Di!”

And, finally, Caretaker Di’s gnarled fingers unclasped themselves from the lethal device.

Previous — Next
Start at the Beginning

Source:: Writing Knights Press

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (49)

By Writing Knights Press

CHAPTER NINE

* * *

maxszredni@gmail.com
The next morning was humid and overcast, much like it had been when Domei and his fellow pupils had trudged to the museum. The townsfolk gathered about the gallows nervously. This would be their first time witnessing a hanging, and none of them quite knew how they should behave at such an event—should they jeer boisterously? Should they hang their heads in solemn acceptance of the execution’s sad necessity? Should they glare unforgivingly, letting Lelae know until her very last breath how terrible her actions had been?

What resulted was an odd mixture of all three responses; people yelled at Lelae—who stood atop the gallows, wrists tied, long auburn hair knotted beneath a black coif—they were sorry she was such an evil witch who deserved to die, but such was life, and could she please remember what she had done was terribly, terribly wrong.

To the left of the gallows, Carpenter Clerae leaned on a spade, smoking a cigarette. To the right, Supervisor Toqaer scrawled in their leather bound notebook, face and hands smudged with black ink.

Daid stood near the back of the crowd, swaying in a tide of spirits. He was incredibly angry and could often be seen shaking his head fiercely, clearly hoping someone would notice his distress and ask what was wrong. Daid knew, though, despite the egregious amount of alcohol he had ingested (he was sure his insides were now halfway to embalmment), he could never tell anyone that the woman donning the canvas sack was his illegal daughter.

Just one little slip, he reminded himself, trying to keep his eyes focused, and you could be up there next. Don’t want that, Daid. No—if someone asked what the matter was, he must come up with some other conversation item, even if it were far less interesting than the truth.

Daid turned to the person closest to him. He couldn’t be too sure, what with their coif and the way the world was now spinning, but they seemed young—maybe fifteen or sixteen. “You,” he growled.

The youth turned to face him, clearly frightened by the drunken barber. “Y-yes?” they asked.

“Do you—wait—do you know who taught me—wait! listen—taught me to shave? My face?”

“Uhm—no…who?” They were already edging away. Daid would have to tell them quickly, before they escaped into the crowd’s anonymous blur.

My father! Ha! Bet you don’t know what one of those is—no, was—I had one, though. He had a mustache, and his friends had mustaches”—Daid tried pointing at the white bristles on his upper lip but ended up poking himself in the nose—”just like this! My dad—father—my father taught me to grow this mustache. See it? See what I mean—the way the world used to be—”

But the youth was gone, and Daid was alone. He stumbled to a nearby tavern, forgetting why he had even gone to the gallows in the first place.

***


Lelae stood facing the crowd, using all her willpower to try to not sweat into the rapists’ canvas sack. The crowd’s cacophony washed over her, and she was glad there would soon be Nothing. Like a trebuchet, her body would fall into the space below, and its weight would launch their violating presence far away. Away, away, away…

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Source:: Writing Knights Press

The Strange Town in the Middle of the Forest by Max Szredni (48)

By Writing Knights Press

CHAPTER EIGHT

* * *

maxszredni@gmail.com
Domei went inside, shutting the door quietly behind him. He did not know where his joyful energy was coming from, but it was undeniable, causing the world to shine all the brighter in spite of his recent hardships. His body was an icicle, the albino rat’s red eyes and fat slithering tail kept spontaneously reappearing in his mind, making his spine to jolt and his stomach to churn in disgust, his entire body ached, his wrists burned—and yet, somehow, Domei simply felt fresh,as if Life were rewarding him for the trials he had persevered through over the past few days.

He visited the washroom and gave himself a much-needed scrubbing and tooth-brushing, then went to the kitchen. It took forty-five minutes for Domei to whip the cream and prepare the blackberry coulis. Each time he looked at the whipped cream, he was reminded of the rat’s sleek coat, and he had to restrain himself from hurling the bowl against the kitchen wall with the repulsion and loathing that would shake him. He hurriedly sprinkled a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon atop the dish, then placed it on a tray and ran upstairs to his sister’s bedroom.

Happy Seventh Birthday, Mil!

Mil bolted up from her bed, dazed and scared. Then she saw who it was—and the dessert they had brought her.

“Is that—”

“—cream-and-coulis? Why, yes it is,” Domei smiled, enjoying the perplexed look on her face.

“But—it’s morning!” Cream-and-coulis was always served at night after dinner. Always.

“So it is.”

“Caretaker Fein—”

“—left this morning, so they can’t say anything about it. I could serve you worms for all they would know or care. Now eat up before I get that tray from the kitchen.”

Before Domei could say “worms” again, Mil lunged for the dessert, ripping the tray from his hands.

“Try not to puke,” he advised her.

“Mmph,” she retorted, mouth stuffed with dessert. No, Mil would definitely not be mad about yesterday, Domei thought.

When she was finished eating, he pounced on her bed and play-wrestled her. She screamed delightedly, and he let her win (seeing as it was her birthday). Then they both sat on her crinkled sheets, exhausted.

“Hey, Dom!” Mil said, “guess what?”

“Hmm?”

“The paint is gone from your head!”

Domei grinned, glad he had finally managed to get rid of the stain. Then his face became serious—like an adult’s—and he turned to Mil, binding her eyes to his with a gravity she had never witnessed in him before.

“Mil, I need you to listen to me now.”

Confused at the abrupt change of atmosphere, Mil nodded her head.

“Tomorrow there is going to be an event happening. Some—well, a lot—of people are going to go to it. Do you know about it?”

“The ekzootion?”

“Yes—the execution. Listen, Mil, I don’t want you to go. You don’t want to see what is going to happen there.”

Mil was not the least bit thrilled at his request. “But I want to! I do want to see it! Everyone is going to be going!”

“Just some.”

“You said ‘a lot’.”

“Well, not that many, is what I actually meant,” Domei lied. “Either way, it doesn’t matter. Mil, it’s not like one of the festivals, or anything like that. People are probably just going to stand around watching the—thing, then go home.”

“Watching what thing?”

“Somebody…getting hurt.”

Mil’s brow crinkled. “Why would anyone want to go to that?”

Domei shrugged. “People are strange in this town. I need you to promise to me, Mil, that you won’t go.”

“It’s not fair though!”

Domei did not respond. He knew he wasn’t being fair; he just couldn’t stand the mental image of his sister watching the hanging.

Mil looked at the empty bowl of cream-and-coulis on her dresser, then at her hands, clearly in the midst of some kind of internal conflict. “Okay fine, I won’t go.”

“Mil?”

“What?”

Do you promise?

“Yes, Dom…I promise,” she said, exasperated. She looked like she was about to start tearing up, so Domei grabbed her by her vulnerable sides and tickled her, determined not to let the day’s joyous mood evaporate. She squealed and pushed him away, running around the room in an attempt to evade his chasing fingers.

“Hey, Mil?” he asked, trying to tackle her.

“What?” she screamed, dodging him.

“Do you want to maybe go to the fields later—run around outside?”

Mil paused. “The clearfield?” she asked, nose wrinkling.

Domei thought of the white rat and clenched his fists, goosebumps erupting across his skin. “No, a different field,” Domei said. “Somewhere else. Somewhere better.”

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Source:: Writing Knights Press