The New Faces of Shotgun Honey, Submissions Open for Flash Fiction

Since 2011, Shotgun Honey has been honored to have a variety of talented writers helm what we fondly call the “Gauntlet.” A right of passage for every story that graces our site, where the story is reviewed individually by three submission editors and requires a majority vote.

It started with Kent Gowran, Sabrina Ogden and myself, and has shuffled with following generous and talented folks: Chad Rorbacher, Joe Myers, Erik Arneson, Chris Irvin, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colón, Nick Kolakowski, Renee Pickup and Hector Acosta.

Nick Kolakowski stepped down at the start of the year, transitioning to a role as associate editor for Shotgun Honey Books, an imprint of Down & Out Books. Nick is the author of the Love & Bullets Hookup series, as well as the dystopian novel Maxine Unleashes Doomsday. We hope to see more work from him the future as I recommend all his works.

Renee Ascher Pickup also stepped down in 2019 to focus on the diverse publishing efforts of Bronzeville Books, which we here at Shotgun Honey greatly endorse. She brings a unique view and voice to every project she is associated with, and we’ll miss her contribution.

This lease the talented Hector Acosta to read all those submissions. Because we didn’t want to weight of the world upon Hector’s shoulders, and there was a bit of catch up to do, in December we closed submissions. And now our pantry is bare.

I am happy to announce that Flash Fiction submissions are open once again, and who is going to man the “Gauntlet?”

Joining us for 2020, I would like to welcome Nikki Dolson and Paul J. Garth. Nikki Dolson is the author of All Things Violent and Love and Other Criminal Behavior. And Paul J. Garth is a short story author who’s work can be found on Shotgun Honey, most recently with “Eulogy”, and in various collections and web magazines. Both present diverse POVs from various areas of the US, and Hector likes them. As the senior man, that’s important.

We’re looking for new stories, diverse voices, and interesting twists. Are you ready for the new “Gauntlet”?


Opprobrium

Cole twitched in his seat and scratched at his arms as they took Highway 75 North, Omaha disappearing in the rearview mirror. He reached for the radio, desperate for something other than the hum of the road and the empty landscape and the hot sun and his father’s unbearable silence, but his hand was swatted away.

“Sit still and be quiet, okay?” Hands at ten and two, his father’s eyes didn’t leave the road.

Cole held his hand up to cover his eyes and look out the window. His father hadn’t even allowed him two seconds to grab his sunglasses. Hills rolled by. Private roads to campsites and homes and gun ranges. “Where are we going?”

“The Bend.”

“Oh.” Cole took a sharp breath. Bile filled his mouth. “I’m going to be sick.”

His father didn’t even look. “We’re almost to Blair.”
“Oh,” Cole said. “Okay.”

His stomach settled as they entered Blair. They passed a Runza and a Walgreens, then stopped at a red light. Cole imagined throwing open the door and running. Blair was a small town, the police station couldn’t be that far. But he knew it’d just make things worse. He closed his eyes until he felt the car moving again, ignoring the tears that fell down his face.

They turned onto a county road. He would have recognized it even if his father hadn’t already told him where they were going.

“I thought it’d be a good place for you to see,” his father said. He sat stiff in the drivers seat, sweating through his suitcoat. Cole couldn’t see his father’s eyes, but he thought he could see a line of tears falling from beneath the frames of his sunglasses. “I thought you might want to see it again.”

Cole nodded. “Been a long time since I was there.”

“It’s where you learned to fish, right? Where I taught you?”

“Yeah,” Cole said, his head hanging again with sudden wave of nausea. “I think that’s right.”
His father reached into his suit coat, past the gun. Took out a plastic baggie. “Go ahead.”

Cole took the baggie, hands trembling. He opened it, pushed the powder to the top. He looked to his father, but he’d already turned back to the road.

Cole snorted.

The drug took him somewhere else, somewhere so deep inside his body it didn’t matter where he was at. Where he was going. What he’d done. What was about to happen.

Hands on his shoulder, shaking him. “We’re here.”

Cole blinked his eyes open. They were stopped on the shoulder of a one lane road, trees and bright green grass and the pink glow of the descending sun to the left, the cold gray of the Missouri river to the right. He still felt disconnected from himself, still felt high, but he could taste the ionic fear in the back of his throat again, dull but present. He got out of the car. His father placed a hand on his shoulder, guided him towards the river.

“I was high when they grabbed me.” Cole’s voice broke. “They said they already knew everything. Just needed someone to say it on tape.”

“It’s okay,” his father said. He still wore his sunglasses though the day had somehow slipped to dusk. “I’m not mad.”

He gasped a ragged breath. “I don’t even remember what I told them.”

They were at the edge of the river now. The Bend. “This is where I taught you. Where you caught your first fish. I was so happy that day.”

“I remember,” Cole said.

His father smiled. Stepped back behind him. “You were in the water. Just a few feet in. Go in.”

Cole looked back to his father, then to the river. Slowly, shoulders and knees shaking, he stepped into the water. Felt the cold bite through his boots. Golden light danced at the edges of small waves. He watched. Became mesmerized. Cole  remembered it then, the feeling of the fish in his hands, his father smiling beside him.

“You were so happy,” his father said.

“I was.”

Cole heard the hammer of the gun pull back behind him.

He didn’t close his eyes. He waited, watching pink dusk dance across the silver water, remembering how proud his father had once been.


Apnoia

Tara stands in the corner while Ben stomps on the kid’s neck, the heel of his boot digging into the soft skin of his throat.

“How’d you find us?” Ben screams at the kid. “How the fuck did you find us?”

From the corner, she sees the look the kid gives. Terrified but defiant. She sees how young he looks, even with his broken mouth. Barely old enough to buy a beer. Barely older than her. His lips pull back. Blood coats his teeth and she watches as it bubbles then pops when he tries to breathe.

She goes to Ben. Pulls at his arm. “Stop,” she says.

He jumps at her touch, as though he’d forgotten she were there, but doesn’t stop. The heel digs deeper into the kid’s neck while the kid reaches for the gun, too far out of reach underneath the formica table, until some necessary vein bursts and blood blooms across his chest and blossoms over the carpet.

His body rattles in spasms, then stills.

Tara pulls Ben harder this time, until he steps off the kid’s throat.

She steps away. Breathes deep. Feels the beat of blood beneath her own skin, hot against her cheeks. Feels the capillaries flutter open beneath the flesh. Holds the air deep in her chest, it’s presence an animating force. She takes these breaths, long, deep, until her hands stop shaking. “He wasn’t going to say anything anyway.”

“I just needed to know.”

She inhales again, drowning herself in life, ignoring the smell of iron on the air. “There was nothing to tell.”

They check him for a knife or a phone but find nothing, then remove the kid’s Cut, his black and white PROSPECT badge now coated crimson, before using one of Ben’s aunt’s rugs from the living room to wrap the body.

“There’s a river not far,” Ben says. “I could toss him in. Maybe he’ll come out in the Missouri. Wash up somewhere south. Keep them from getting an idea where we’re at.”

“No,” she says. “We should bury him here.”

“But it could throw them off.” He is standing over the rug, the kid wrapped up inside. His chest puffed out. Eyes bloodshot. The wear, of the kid, of the hiding, of all the miles since Texas now finally seeping through. She can tell he’s hurt – that he’s worried she’s given up. That he wants her to say something. To reassure him.

“Okay.”

She steps out of the kitchen. Through of the wreckage strewn living room, where Ben and the kid had struggled for the gun. Through the front door — glass laying a glittering trail beneath her boots — then onto the porch.

Night has dropped over the house and the fields that sleep around it, the black perforated only by the frost-dried husks of untended crop. She watches the dirt road leading to the house, but nothing moves. It’s as though the entire land has given way to death, and she marvels at his Aunt, the resilience she must have carried in her, to live in such a place, night after night, the darkness growing ever more thick.

She takes a deep breath. Feels the weight of life in her chest again. The weight of it. A physical thing. Like dirt on a body, or a duffel bag filled with cash slung across your shoulders on the ride from from Galveston to Nebraska.

Ben steps onto the porch. “Tara, you okay?”

“We shouldn’t have taken it.”

“They’re never gonna find us. He didn’t even have a phone on him. He didn’t call them.”

“But how’d he find us?”

Ben reaches out, then. Takes her hand. She lets him hold it. Cold skin against cold skin. He starts talking, saying how clean their escape was, but she isn’t paying attention. It’s a story she knows. Instead, she stares into the fields of rotting crops and up at the dull dusting of stars and the invisible horizon where they meet and thinks of the kid in the carpet and all the death that surrounds her.

She takes a breath and waits to feel the life spread in her blood, but nothing comes.

Dropping Ben’s hand, Tara steps off the porch, her ears straining for the sound of engines she knows are somewhere out there, rushing to meet her.


Blight Digest (Winter 2015) Releases

We are pleased to release our second edition of Blight Digest featuring thirteen tales to tantalize and terrorize the senses.

BD-Winter2015-Iss2-v2-fullcover

Table of Contents Features:

  • Farewell, Again by Matt Andrew
  • Burrow by Paul J. Garth
  • The Hunger, The Thirst by W.P. Johnson
  • How Little Sleeps by Angel Luis Colón
  • On Dark Wings by Tony Wilson
  • The Door by Joe Powers
  • Regular, Normal People by Grant Jerkins
  • The Hungry Ones by John Leahy
  • Parts by Jacqueline Seewald
  • Running on Dead Leaves by John Steele
  • Dreaming of Honey by J.M. Perkins
  • Cats for Ginger by Mathew Allan Garcia
  • Serving Justine by Eddie McNamara
  • and a farewell foreword by Bracken MacLeod

Blight Digest is a three season magazine featuring 10 or more stories every 4 months that will feed just about any horror lovers tastes with a twist. The magazine welcomes new and established writers, and readers of all walks of life. The first two editions were edited and crafted by Bracken MacLeod, Jan Kozlowski, Ron Earl Phillips, and Frank Larnerd. Cover art by done by Dyer Wilk.

Be sure to pick up your copy today. And if you haven’t read issue 1, Blight Digest Fall 2014, it’s only 99 cents on the Kindle.

BD-Winter2015-Iss2-v2 Blight-Digest-Cover

Fear is Spreading

 

 


County Road

I pulled my hat lower on my head, gritting my eyes against the dipping sun, watching for the tell tale trail of dust that Jake’s truck would make when it turned onto the unpaved county road. The early spring wind froze my blood inside the vein, and I spit in the dirt, attempting to exorcise the acid that sat tossing in my gut.

The ashen brown hills of northeastern Nebraska spread out low all around me, as if God had one day tired of his work and moved on, leaving only a sky the color of a dead man’s nails as His final touch.

I saw the cloud of Jake’s truck turning onto the road. Above, a bird circled, and the loneliness of the location – once its most alluring attribute – suddenly filled me with a coldness that sat unmoving behind my bloodshot eyes.

Jake pulled his truck up next to mine and killed the engine. I watched him in the cab, packing another grip of chew into the corner of his mouth.

“Gonna keep me standing out here in this goddamn cold?”

He flipped me the bird before climbing out. He looked at me for a long while, taking all of me in; The dusty boots, the frayed Carhartt jacket, the splotchy beard.

The big Indian came at me quickly, crossing the ground between us in two long strides before wrapping me in a bear hug that I could have sworn was designed to induce a hemorrhage.

“Last time you swore you were gonna come up and visit me, and now you can’t even make a pick up on the Rez? I’ve heard of busy, but man, you must me keeping up all night.”

My face was scrunched against the ratty denim of his jean jacket. “Yeah,” I choked out. “Yeah, I’ve been busy.”

He stepped back, eyeing me up and down all over again. “You okay man?”

“I’m fine.”

“Ok, well, you’re right. It’s damn cold out here. Let’s get this done.”

Together, we walked to the back of his truck, where he pulled out a butterfly knife and cut the ties that held down the tarp.

“Look at that,” he said, whistling.

My breath caught. We’d been doing this together a long time, but we’d never seen action like this. In the bed of the truck, wrapped up in bundles tied with twine, were assault rifles and auto shotguns, most, by the look of it, new. A couple of AKs, some Mossbergs, even a bullpup.

“Jesus, you really hit it this time.”

“And you didn’t have to go to the Dakotas to get it. And got service with a smile. How’s that for friendly?”

“Pretty damn friendly,” I allowed.

He reached into the bed of the truck and hefted the load onto his shoulder, carrying it over to mine.

From the cab I got the duffel bag with the cash and threw it to him. “Next time,” I said, “I’ll come to the Rez. You can introduce me to your kids. How are they, anyway?”

“Good man. They’re great,” Jake said, smiling.

I nodded and held out my hand, but, changing my mind, wrapped him in my own hug.

He got in his truck, smiling as I did a three point and pulled away, down the county road.

I knew he couldn’t see them from the dust I was kicking up, but I hoped they’d be smart enough to hang back a bit on the highway. You never can tell with State Cops though. Too edgy, too interested in getting their names in the Omaha paper. Too willing to hold shit over a man who’s just looking to provide.

At the end of the road, before turning onto the highway, I saw them, waiting off the road, their black cars cloaked in tall dead grass.

In the west, the sun was setting, and I sat there in my truck, thinking about the guns in the back, thinking about how they’d best be used on a chickenshit backstabbing coward like myself.

Tears fell from my eyes and I turned on the highway, giving them a thumbs up as I drove away to the east, into the dark.