Sunday, May 20, 2012

Issue Twenty-One, Volume Three

From the desk of the an editor,

Hello and greetings to this eclectic themed issue of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we are exploring the weirder side of life with odd stories of bewilderment and sublime.
Make sure to check out our online e-magazine on Smashwords for entire month collections of our fascinating stories. Take Larks anywhere you go.
In news: we are going to be changing out hardware/software on our work computers this week. We will still be answering emails but our reaction time may be intermittent.

Best wishes,
Jessica Rowse
LFM Editor

An Unusual Greeting
by Beth J. Whiting

It began with Woody. He wasn’t the smartest man in the world. The receptionist Marsha was the one least surprised by it, although everyone else had their mouths opened.
He walked in with his head sawed in half.
When Woody came up to Marsha he said, “Hello Marsha.”
He lifted up the top of his head like you would a hat when greeting someone.
She saw the top of his brain. It was a pinkish-peach.
She said, “Hi Woody,” looking at him somewhat disgusted.
Then after he was out of sight, people started to discuss it.
“What did Woody do to his brain?”
Being vice president of the company Woody had plenty of money, maybe too much. He could afford to do something like this.
Marsha thought it wouldn’t be healthy to expose the brain to the air like that.
Some people said it was disgraceful. Others said it was just bizarre. Greeting someone by showing your brain? Why not buy a hat?
Woody was a single guy. He had respect in the office due to his rank but he didn’t have any friends. He wore old-fashioned clothes. He wore suspenders and bow ties, both of which gave him immediate notice. He wore shoes that squeaked. If Marsha was buried in paperwork, she could still tell if he came in by the squeak. He wore thick black square glasses. What was he trying to prove by this?
Marsha found it unsettling. Sure, you appreciated the brain and all that it did. However, it wasn’t a bouquet of flowers. It was kind of mushy and pale.
During the next week Marsha had to deal with Woody and his greetings. It made her nauseated. She knew that she wasn’t the only one. Others said it made them feel woozy.
Marsha wondered how his head could stay in place. You could see the halfway line through the forehead of where it was cut.
Marsha accepted that eventually he would be written up for a health code violation.
Then a month passed. The CEO passed by her desk. She could see the saw mark atop his forehead. He greeted her as he passed with a tip of the scalp.
Marsha in her wildest dreams wouldn’t think that anyone would want to copy it.
But they did.
Only people with above-average income would do the procedure. It became a citywide trend, and to think, it started at the office with Woody.
People would say, “No after you,” and take their heads off in a gesture. Soon Marsha couldn’t take the train to work anymore without seeing a professional, business clothes and all with a sawed off head.
 It took three months for this madness to end. Marsha saw it reported on the 6 o’clock news. Roaches, ants, and worms had learned to open the head and crawl in at night. Those who paid for the procedure were paying just as much to cure their infections.
Soon Marsha saw Woody with his head glued back.
He approached her by taking off his hat.
This time she said with a smile, “Hi Woody.”

The End

About the Author;
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy
eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through
the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve
around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she
was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a
tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.

Thump thump, thwack, thump…
Heavy anxious fists slammed on the barrier door. Rhythmic, fast and signaling that Jerry needed to get off his ass and let the scout party back in. Flipping the safety latches open and the removing the steel dead bolts, the thick hatch flew open.
Kara, Hank, and most of James crashed through the door and slammed it behind them. The three lay still for just a moment breathing hard; listening for anything following them.
After a minute Jerry broke the silence, “What happened?”
Hank answered, “We got jumped just as we got to Main Street. Twenty, thirty—it could have been a hundred for all I know.”
Kara said, “Who in the hell is on look out?!”
“Kara…” James choked on the blood filling his mouth, “Please don’t worry about it. I knew the… *hak* risk. Take me to Shelly… I want her to do it.”
Shelly sat in the decaying beauty parlor on the fourth floor of the “Petroleum Building”. It had been an office-for-rent building before the war—not that Chickasha, Oklahoma had changed much during the war. Now it was home for her and the other survivors.
She picked at her breakfast of pigeon eggs and rat meat. Losing appetite she rearranged the beauty implements strewn about the counter. She could hear someone climbing the stairs.
“Shelly! Shelly come quick!” It was Jerry. He was bloody but not bit.
He didn’t have to say why he was crying but he did, “He… he got infected. There isn’t much time. He asked you to do it.”
Her mouth went dry, her legs wobbled, and everything felt like it was falling.
“A flood of zombies on Main got’em surrounded. He’s pretty rough.”
“Where is he?”
“Down at chapel. Father Frisby is praying with him now.”
Shelly flew down the stairs. The families were already gathered in the main hall. The men were concerned and the women were grieving. Only Kara looked up at her. She reflected the anger Shelly was holding. In front the chapel Frisby was consoling Angela, James’s breeding partner. She hugged her stomach and cried onto the Priest’s shoulder.
The rotting floor groaned. All eyes turned to Shelly. She was suddenly all too aware of herself. Butterflies leapt into her stomach. She breathed deeply and held it. Looking forward she walked past the on lookers and entered the chapel.
It was dark, only sparse candles lit the room. Books from the former secondhand shop were shoved against the store front windows. James lay in the baptism tub near the back wall.
“Hey rug-rat, guess I wasn’t fast enough,” he coughed out.
She looked at his broken body. His arm and legs were scratched and bitten to the point of uselessness. One eye was swelling to the point of closure and the other was already turning pale.
“What’s wrong Shell-Bell?”
She could not make a single thought stick long enough to say anything at all. Her butterflies turned to worms seeing him.
“Sorry… I tried to protect you… for dad… but I guess… I guess I wasn’t handy enough to save myself,” he said shaking his stump.
She wept.
“Don’t be like that. We don’t have long before I turn. Let’s make it happy,” he tried to reach her, but remembered his infection and sat back down.
She wiped her tears and looked into his paling eye.
“I… I love you,” she choked.
“I know Shell-Bell. I love you too. Take care of Angela, and the baby for me.”
The door rattled. Hank entered, “There isn’t much time Shelly. He’ll turn any second. Take this.” He handed her a sledgehammer. “We can’t risk the noise with a flood so close.”
Taking the handle, “I understand.”
She walked to the tub and looked into James’s eye one last time. Bowing slightly she let one more tear fall. Looking back the innocent boyish grin slacked and his eye widened. He gripped his chest and convulsed.
“Don’t miss,” he laughed for the last time.
Shelly raised the hammer high above herself. She felt its full weight strain her arms. His convulsions stopped. She could hear the rats scratch at the walls. Then he grunted and started to turn back. Seeing her, he hissed.
Shelly brought the sledge down on the front of James skull with a wet dull smack…
Hank sniffled at the door. He said, “You did good kid. I wouldn’t have the strength for that. Not the kind a sibling would have. Tha…Thank you.”
Shelly stared at her brother’s smashed skull and asked, “Who was on lookout?”
Hank swallowed. “It was… It was Pete. He should still be up there now. But we shouldn’t worry about that now. We all make mistakes.”
She avoided looking him in the eye and just walked back to the door clutching the sledge.
“Can I have my hammer back?” She didn’t answer. “Where, where you going darling?”
“To make a mistake.”
Throwing open the door Shelly raced for the steps. The clansmen cried out in surprise. She took the stairs two at a time. Each flight her anger filled her lungs. Her legs burned and her head pounded.
Reaching the fifth floor she went straight for the roof access. Swinging open the door she saw Pete sipping tea and warming himself over a coffee can fire.
“Hey sweetie, did you come all this way to see me?” asked Pete.
Shelly stood in the doorway.
“What’s that sledge for? Trouble down stairs?”
She closed the door and jammed a piece of rebar into the handle.
“No, the trouble is here… James is dead.”
Pete got to his feet and glanced over the edge of the roof. Seeing the horde of undead on Main Street he dropped his tea. He started say something but all Shelly ever heard was a wet dull smack.

The End.

About the Author;
Daniel J. Pool is a writer and editor from the southern Mid-West. His work has appeared in the Scarlet Sound, Daily Love, and Indigo Rising. His hobbies are telling horrible jokes, tweeting, and putting together plastic models. In his spare time he edits Larks Fiction Magazine.

You can follow him @Filozophy on Twitter.

Thank you for reading and make sure to come back next week for more great literature and art!

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