Mania by Katie Schmidt

This unnamed narrator finds no solace in the teachings of God, his father, or science and seeks to make every single one of them pay.

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The Unanswerable Mystery by Katie Clarke

They often resided in The Branded Lynx, a drinking location that was decided by him, of course. They moved symbiotically, and when he was not at work he preferred to enjoy her company in public rather than in private.The establishment itself oozed opulence and class, with hanging lights suspended on gallows and a large black clock nailed on the wall left of the entrance, which seemed to lack any particular function. This fascinated her. The clock existed only to be admired for its ironic timelessness, nothing more. The timepiece took up almost the entire wall, which wasn’t difficult as it was a small establishment. Yet the place, even on its busiest days, seemed to always be sparse and the few who remained inside were always so miserable and alone, even in their herds of two or three. The only smile in the establishment belonged to the bartender and even then that felt like the smile of a ventriloquist. Fake and forced; there only for the benefit of the matinée. The punters ran like clockwork, with porcelain skin and glass eyes, grasping their drinks in their shaky fingers and rolling their heads to face the door to watch as people entered and, every now and again, left.

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Memories by Kelly Josephs

They both continued to reminisce for the better part of an hour, going back and forth brining up some of their most cherished memories. Both women spoke to each other so freely, as if no time at all had passed since they last saw each other.

“And don’t forget back in high school when that scumbag Roy Arnold tried to sleep with me behind your back! As if! He learned his lesson the next day when his pastor was informed about him breaking his celibacy promise. His parents were absolutely mortified,” Carla recounted, remembering the exact shade of red Roy Arnold’s father had been at church the next Sunday when everyone was whispering behind his family's back. 

Many of their memories were quite similar, involving getting into trouble with boys as well as their parents. Always being reprimanded for not acting like proper young ladies. Carla's parents had sent her to too many different finishing schools to try and get her to straighten out. 

“Hmm, we had some real good times causing trouble back in the day, didn’t we?” Jade asked, tightly squeezing her friend's hand.

“But remember what happened here? Wasn’t it… thrilling? All those years ago at this exact spot. It was so exhilarating, I wish we had done it more often when we were still young and able,” Carla spoke, looking pointedly at the colourful flowers beneath their feet. 

“You mean what we did with Brenda Gilligan? She screamed so much that night. Music to my ears.” 

Both women laughed at the memory, loud bellowing laughs that nearly mirrored the laughs that they shared that night with young Brenda Gilligan beneath them.

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Creature in the woods

“And ever since the incident,” said Kyle, holding his flashlight beneath his chin. “The Ruby Forester is said to roam these woods at night, searching for the jewels he never found, and hunting all who enter by inhaling them like a vacuum . . .”

“WhOoOo!” said James in the most chilling tone he could manage. He cast his flashlight onto Megan and Joe.

Their shadows withered in the firelight.

“The Ruby Forester?” asked Megan. She strengthened her grip on the log she used as a seat. She cocked an eyebrow. “You can’t seriously expect us to believe in a man with rubies for eyes who inhales people?”

Joe nodded, agreeing with his sister, “You have to admit, Kyle, it sounds pretty far-fetched.”

“Alright,” Kyle yielded. “The two of you can believe what you want. Just don’t come crawling into our tent when you hear his wooden leg drag across the soil, or his claws trace along the tree trunks.”

The fire sputtered. A sprinkle of ash ascended into the sky, blending with the stars. A sinister breeze whipped the tops of the trees.

Joe stood. “Well, I think that’s enough babbling for tonight. We better hit the hay, it’s an early morning tomorrow, remember? The many species of birds around here aren’t going to document themselves.” He beckoned Megan towards their tent. She shivered and followed. “We need to do our best on this project. If we’re graded anything less than a B, I’m blaming the two of you!”

Kyle and James grinned. They shook their flashlights, humming an ominous tune. Kyle scratched his nails against the tree. “Sleep tight, you two . . . I hope you don’t have a run in with the Ruby Forester . . .”

“Shut up, Kyle!” snapped Megan. She zipped the tent shut. “Can you believe those two idiots? Out of everyone in our class, why did we have to pair up with them?”

“Because they’re really smart, Megs,” said Joe. “Just ignore them. They want you to react like this. Now, let’s go to sleep.”

* * *

Megan woke with a start. She sat motionless, listening: something heavy dragged across the ground. “I’m just being silly.” She turned, opting to lie down, when the dragging transformed into scratching: crrr . . . crrr . . . crrr . . . A set of sharp nails traced the side of the tent.

Megan whimpered. “Joe, wake up . . . Joe!”

The scratching stopped.

Joe murmured, “Megs, what is it?” He wiped his eyes.

“There’s – there’s something out there,” she said. “I thought it was nothing, but . . . it was right outside our tent, scratching.”

Joe listened. “I don’t hear anything.”

“It’s gone now, of course, but I think it might have been a bear. We have to go and check on the car.”

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MYSTERY; A DEPRESSED MAN SAVES ANOTHER MAN FROM SUICIDE, TO BE STALKED BY HIM IN A CRYPTIC MANNER. by John D Theo

And, finally, night-time. I drive to my personal sacred location: Camus’ Bridge - a place of great spiritual importance to me. This bridge connects two large towns like an artery and overlooks a steady river that lies in wait a good fifty feet below. Parking nearby, I slam my car door shut and walk for about a minute to the edge. I hoist myself onto a concrete platform perched on an embankment there, which is tucked on a hill just next to the bridge. The river surges below. I close my eyes and imagine myself unifying with it; a powerful energy that reaches up and absorbs me into it. Slowly, I begin to summon the courage to take the plunge. My stomach churns; here’s hoping that my gut can override my brain. The night wind gently travels through my hair. I look down. A steep drop and then a comforting, welcoming, brutal expanse of deep, dark blue. For the first time, the colour blue tries to hint something to me. What is it? I nudge a little closer to the edge, the ridge of my arse the only thing keeping me from probable death. I look up at the stars. Ancient people could’ve seen vast galaxies from where I’m sitting now, but these days our dazzling lights and compacted cities cover over them. Still, the stars can’t help but produce a strong feeling of contentedness in my heart and stomach and… Shall I do it? I savour my options…if you close your eyes, they say it’s easier…

…Is that laughing? I can hear laughing. Or maybe it’s weeping? It’s human at least, definitely. It’s so dark I can’t determine where it’s coming from. Turning my head in every direction, I finally manage to locate the source of this strange sound. Through the night fog I can make out it’s coming from a tall, seemingly well-dressed figure standing on the other side of the bridge. Somehow, he appears different to me – but only in degree, not in kind. Tonight’s coldness produces within me a spontaneous feeling of strange solidarity with him. I have no idea if he feels it too, or if he even sees me. Carefully, I pull myself backwards up onto the concrete edge – the one that separates me from my death - and jump back down onto solid ground. Walking over in his direction, the fog wraps around me and, underneath two jackets, my shirt sticks to my flesh from the cold. Ten metres ahead, I spot the strange man peering down into the murky water beneath. It feels as if he is on the same trajectory as I am, but with a mere one-minute time delay. As I approach, the contours of his face become slowly apparent and produce in me this uncanny pang of discomfort.

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