I tried to think of a pithier title and couldn’t come up with anything.
You can’t know what happens after you die. The piano feels screws loosening, feels a crowbar somewhere underneath. Wood cracks, splinters. It’ll be soon. They’ve already pried off its ivory keys. At least it doesn’t hurt.
There’s a pling sound as its strings are cut, the last music it will ever play.
* * *
“What a unique table!”
The table feels a hand run along its glossy surface.
“It looks like it was made from a grand piano top.”
Was I ever a piano? the table wonders. It can’t remember. Unfortunately, you can’t know what happened before you were born.
copyright J.S. Brand
“It takes patience,” the lunatic had said. “A sledgehammer won’t work. Only beauty overcomes death.”
By the light of a bone-white moon, I felt my way to my mother’s grave, carrying a purloined hammer and chisel. I started carving swirls into the marble, then starbursts and graceful figures until I transformed that baleful guardian into revivifying craftsmanship. I prayed I would see her again—not some ghastly reanimation, but really her.
“There was a grave robbery,” my dad said at breakfast. “Someone destroyed a headstone. The body is missing.”
My soul leapt.
“It’s the one right next to your mother’s.”
copyright Jeff Arnold
Even pawns can become queen. Just keep moving forward.
I may only be a lady-in-waiting, but over the years, across the chessboard, the queen has taught me everything until I am sure I know more than that hapless prince.
So one night I take a large pillow and go to the queen’s bed.
Just get to the end.
Regicide? No, promotion.
I put on the crown and march to the hall.
“The queen is dead! Long live your new queen!”
I don’t see Sir Geoffrey until he stabs his sword into my side.
I always forget how the knights move.
copyright Roger Bultot
The phone rang immediately. Of course.
Be strong. I picked up the receiver.
“Josh,” the female voice said. “You covered your camera again.”
“Look, I’m just not comfortable—“
“Josh.” She was chiding. “It’s for your own good. How many lives does SIS save?”
Everyone knew the statistics. Special Interior Surveillance saved 47,000 lives a year. They said.
“What if you have another panic attack? Like last month? We need to see to help you.”
My chest was already tightening at the thought. “Okay,” I mumbled.
She made a kissing noise into the phone. “Thanks, Josh. SIS loves you, remember?”
She takes her first tentative steps onto the runway, foreign territory after a year’s absence.
The crowd erupts in applause at her appearance. She can read their thoughts in their expressions.
She’s beautiful again.
You can’t even tell she was sick.
At the end of the runway she pauses. Reaching up, she pulls the wig from her head, her smooth scalp reflecting the harsh scrutiny of the spotlights.
The expressions change to shock. The applause falters.
Someone is still clapping. One little girl is applauding wildly, a grin on her pale face, a bright bandanna tied around her hairless head.
copyright Sarah Potter
Night of the Living Job Applicant, Jessica thought as the man shuffled in, clutching a scribbled resume. IT guys were scruffy, but not usually abandoned-corpse scruffy.
“Job.” The voice was like dusty silk.
Taking the crumpled resume, Jessica noticed a gap between the shirt and glove. There was no skin, just thick threads running next to white bone.
The eyes were glassy, unfocused. She got the feeling this was less a person than a machine, being controlled from the inside.
Still, they were an equal opportunity employer.
“Any experience in web design?”
The head jerked once. Up. Down. “Oh yes.”
Jeremy stared at the bread, horrorstruck. It was the fifth heart.
Maybe the sixth.
Last week, he’d gone to a fortuneteller and somehow a seven-of-hearts had gotten stuck in the tarot deck. The fortuneteller gamely forged ahead, declaring he would die after seeing seven hearts.
Now he’d seen five—maybe six: that cloud had either been a heart or a camel.
Jeremy finished making his sandwich and left for work. Stepping outside, he heard a screech of metal. He looked up just as the heart from a new erotic cake bakery sign bore down.
It wasn’t a camel, he thought.