The Witch Who Walked The Shore (1st Place)

Gaynor Jones Your mother used to tell you stories about the witch who walked the shore. A gnarled, mangled woman with mossy seaweed trailing from her scalp and claws where her hands ought to be. A woman who had been trapped underwater for so long that her putrefied skin rippled across her body as she […]

Interview with Gaynor Jones, First Place Winner

Interview by Sudha Balagopal The witch in your story is a powerful, albeit unseen, character. How did the idea of a witch that haunts the sea come to you? Did she arrive fully-formed or did she develop and grow as you wrote the story? Was she the figure from whom your story began or did […]

Saudade (2nd Place)

Philip Charter When Richie McManus lost his hand in the hydraulic winch, he said he screamed like a banshee, but the North Sea winds whipped the noise away. I was hauling in gear on the port side and the alarm light was the only thing that snapped me out of my own thoughts. McManus was […]

Interview with Philip Charter, Second Place Winner

Interview by Neil Clark Saudade, the concept, really got us editors gabbing away and going on all sorts of tangents when we were discussing your piece during the judging. It was a lot of fun! Could you tell us a bit about how and when you came across the word? Was it your starting point […]

Lyrics For a Life at Sea (3rd Place)

Bayveen O’Connell Manifest. Dad is the captain of my imagination. I’m from coastal people who say the sea is a gateway to other worlds. The Atlantic, the colour of shifting dragon scales, gives me something to dream of: a life beyond our little Ballyscannell crossroads. High tide, all hands on deck, set sail.  Heave away! […]

Interview with Bayveen O’Connell, Third Place Winner

Interview by Edward Bassett Why do flash and microfiction appeal to you as narrative forms? I love paring stories back to their essence, telling a tale in the most condensed way while creating movement and emotional resonance. My favourite thing about writing in this short form is the natural high of (sometimes) being able to […]

Seven Tears (shortlisted)

Nuala O’Connor To call the merrow-man to the shore, you must shed seven drops of eye-brine into the sea. This is what lonely fisherwives do, when their men are away after swordfish and beluga, away for year-halves and more. The merrow swims through your dreams, his body offering rare comfort and, on waking, you long […]

All the Broken Things (shortlisted)

Melissa Bowers VII. Afterward, every beach is vacant. Our children still race for the sand, rip at the fluttering caution tape, ignore our frantic warnings, and we scoop them up and haul them away before they can tell what has become of the ocean. The rest of us know better—we’ve seen the horrors up close, […]

A Hole in the Wing (shortlisted)

Ian O’Brien The slowboat heaved on the black ocean. The weather seemed to have followed her from Dublin, lashing the deck, the windows, the roof. A baby was crying and she forced her way out onto a sheltered part of the deck. She tried to light a cigarette and gave up, found a bench to […]

An Aversion to Popular Amusements (shortlisted – CW: SUICIDE)

J.L. Willetts It’s not my first time. There was the time I tried to hang myself but got it wrong and spent weeks wearing a polo neck jumper in the dead of summer. Then there was the paracetamol that wouldn’t stay down, came up like I’d been force fed a box of chalk. You said […]

Origami Wars (shortlisted)

Amy Barnes My father sleeps skeleton-folded in a closet box. His face is pressed against his knees, a jumble of paper bones and battles, neck bone connects to the thigh bone connects to the hand bone. We unfurl him on holidays, a faded tribute laid on an empty dining room chair while his flag hangs […]

Leviathan (shortlisted)

Sutton Strother In her last life, your mother was a whale. She makes no secret of it, so you grow up carrying this knowledge like you carry the birthmark on your left shoulder. She raises you on grilled octopus, chilled calamari, fish with all their little bones left in. “Whale food,” she calls it, though […]

A Baby Born En Caul Can Never Drown (shortlisted)

Sara Hills 1.  En caul babies are as rare as giant squid and underwater cairns. En caul means born inside the amniotic sac; a mermaid birth. En caul babies are the luckiest humans on earth.  When you’re old enough to read, you find such facts in books.  You repeat these facts as a mantra, the […]

Last Boat

Ed Barnfield “You have ancestors. Remember them, their names. The Moken, the Sama-Bajau. Lives before yours, expended on the water. Follow their example through the storms.” The children nod, although they can barely see Mayer Franken in the fuligin gloom. His voice is cracked, parched, but the words keep pouring. We say, when an old […]

Thirst

Lorraine Thomson Alabama, Alaska, Arizona. Ever been thirsty? I’m talking about a thirst as deep as the ocean. A thirst like that – a real thirst – drives a person crazy. I don’t know if it changes them, could be it just coaxes out the evil that’s been lurking there all along. There is one […]

Two Tusks

Katie Oliver Being a narwhal with two tusks sounds fun, doesn’t it? Special. That’s what I thought too, once. Granted, it’s better than the crushing embarrassment of being a male with no tusk. You don’t see many of those round here, cast off as they are, frigid water and darkness their only companions as the […]

Flint’s Left-behind Girl

Jess Moody “I know an island.” The words that saved the lips that spoke them.  The Captain had no time for my opinions, he’d said. His men, no love for my songs. Harpy, sea-witch, a hex for such a girl as I to be on board. So they’d muttered, louder with each bloody sunset.  Anyone […]

Sea Mother

Jason John Kahler The oars broke the water as the morning sun broke the horizon. The first hours of the summer solstice woke slowly. Tomas navigated the two-person skiff away from the dock and toward the open water beyond the mouth of the bay.  The row to Hirvosurry Rock would take half the day. He […]

Put Weed in the Drawing Wave

Kate MacCarthy On Maundy Thursday in 1911, Ruaridh waded out waist deep into the water. The Atlantic was a glaucous grey-green in the dim light before dawn and mist obscured the horizon. He  dragged heavy legs through the swell with both arms raised above his head, careful not to spill a drop from either bowl. Once the […]

Amelie

Lauren Foregger This house is more like a ship. If it weren’t for the chimneys and the pitched roof, I’d consider calling it that. I think the house would prefer it. The five bedrooms teeter on the edge of the cliff, the slate-colored waves slicing at the craggy shoreline below. The spray just barely reaches […]

Account of the Sea Lady as Told by a Servant Girl, 1597

Amber Garcia I name every nick, cut, contusion, like children, as I rub my shorn head and when I come to the cut above my right ear, the body of a man falls over the cliff, flailing. I watch his cloak hood flap like a wing as he falls, sucked under with green drops of […]

Salt Tears

Sue Dawes He never takes his shoes off to walk along the beach, says he hates the way sand invades every crease without his permission.   ‘When’s dinner?’ he asks. Sophia washes the ocean from her fingers. ‘Not long.’ He walks to the window where she keeps driftwood and fragments of sea-polished glass.  On a sunny […]

The Last Prophet

Lisa Blackwell The bird stands at least a foot taller than any of the other birds on the rocky outpost. It’s head and shoulders bolt upright, a prophet in black and white. It’s large razorbill beak, as big as its head. We take it alive, the three of us, we think it will fetch a […]

Sea Animals

Sharon Boyle I am a butcher by trade. That’s what I tell my fellow passengers of merchants, their wives, soldiers, and able-bodied seamen – not that you would ken they were able after letting our mother ship, a French frigate by the name of Medusa, run aground in an exercise of high negligence. So we […]

The Sea Change

Jan Kaneen When hunger’s making your insides growl, and rain’s a-rattling your midnight window, and you’re lying in your driftwood bunk waiting for the door to whine open and your Ma to lean inside to tell you it’s time – the very second she does you whip yourself upright, shove Greymalkin onto the good-earth floor, […]

It Had Been Calling to Her

Peggy Riley It had been calling to her.   She could hear it from the water.  Revenge, it said.  Take back what was taken.   Its cries drew her up from the sea.  Out from the waves she heaved herself, onto this shingle beach to pull its empty air into her lungs.   Night here had its own […]

A Celestial Undoing

Sara Dobbie Henry is obsessed and there is nothing Celeste can do about it. She emerges from below deck, fraught with disappointment. Sees him standing starboard side, aiming his telescope into the ebony blanket of night sky swathing the sea.  High above them Orion mirrors Henry’s intent, and Celeste envies the constellation this kinship with […]

Winter 2020

by Anuja Ghimire A wintry Texas morning, I wait for the sunThe full moon, a star, or two by the windowGolden Pothos I’ve tended to since JulyLeans closer and closer to me by the windowA quiet neighbor’s roof is a leaf’s fall awayI never see her when I dream by the windowThe tips of leaves […]

Grief Is A Story I Was Told On Rosary Beads

Electra Rhodes Mam was laid out cotton-starched on the bed. The stillest I’d ever seen her. She’d not like to be known this way so I made a bit of busy noise at the door. As if I’d only just arrived. She struggled and gained no real purchase against the slip of the sheets, so […]

What Is or Is Not True

Laurie Marshall While it is true I did not accept his proposal, that did not prove that I did not love him. I was raised by an independent woman raised by an independent woman raised by a survivor of war and famine and things that may or may not have been true but which were […]

Parent and Child

by Rebecca Ruvinsky A sense of living alreadyin the past. He is lookingat a dying woman whileshe is breathing. Eating.She can only eat soft food,but she tries some of his.Chews. Spits out what shecan’t swallow, but she livesoff of the flavor. Jokes, I don’t needthe calories anyway. Five years after the funeral, herson wonders if […]

My Rooster Booster

Frances Gapper Skipping most stages of poultry production including death, he’d blagged a ride in the delivery truck. He was free-range organic, farm fresh. Howdy Ma’am! We often danced in the kitchen, a wild whirl we called Rooster Booster. Laughing our heads off. We cried cock-a-doodle-do! As he was pecking morsels of oat crunch from […]

Sun in Our Eyes

Rebecca Ruvinsky The audacitywas circumstantial: we didn’t know we wereflying until it was toolate to stop. Then, we’re hopeless, trippingover each other, fawn-like with our fresh wings. Gangly never suited youso well. We got used tothe shedding, to waking up with feathers in our hair.Your head was always upin the clouds in those days, and […]

The Light Falls Through

Jared Povanda With angular gaps in the branches. Light everywhere. In my hair, on my skin, claws of it and petals. A bullet went through a person last night, exit wound in the back, and as I walk the quarantine weight away day after day, I think of the fragility of bodies. I think of […]

Rama Lama Ding Dong

Sutton Strother On the album cover the Rock Star reaches out, so you take his hand and pull him free, out of the picture and into the rose glow of your bedroom. He coaxes you into a sloppy slow dance as he sings along to his own music in an off-key slur. His hair is […]

Sitting on a Stool by a Bar

Jesse Millner Once I saw a man punch a homeless guy in the face.It was afternoon. It was the mid-1980s. It was a baron the near West Side of Chicago. It was Charlie’son Randolph. It was winter and when the homelessman walked in, the cold followed him the way it does,bringing that brief shiver before […]

The Avenue of Slurred Dreams

by Jesse Millner It was cold then, mid-1980s, Chicago—authentic winter with below zero daysand the wizardry of turquoise ice alongthe lake, shaped into sheets and bergs,rising and falling with the water’s rollingbreath. A walk along the Lake, northboundon Sheridan Road, ice-glazed and shiningwith the light of that distant late 20th centurysun. A treacherous walk past […]

What Butch Says

Tania Hershman            Butch says I need to watch everything you do. I say, But he’s just sitting there. Butch slaps my back. Exactly! says Butch. He brings me pens and notepads. He moves my chair to the window. Butch says it’s like spying. He says I have the skills for this. He says it’s not […]

Cosmic Lovecraftian Love

Wyatt Winnie Saturn ringsaround cul-de-sacs,adhesive radio wavesjamming, jamming transmissions fromNeptune to Mercury searchingfor staticky reception andconfirmation of alien life. She’s wrapped hertentacles around hisenchiladas, somethinghis friends can’t believe, not on Monday or Tuesday,despite the Wednesdayproclamation of his love. They’re just feelings,he says.They’ll go away. But on Thursdayhe’s swimming onhis motorbike ina giant spacesuit and eating […]

Corona Legal

Wyatt Winnie They’re out of horchata againand I don’t know how to tellthe othersI’m not Corona legal,at least not in this state anyway, seeing ashow I’m the only 17-year-old chillingat the adult school. But Laura knows,all 23 years of candy appleMexican lipstick and single-motherhoodpushing her stroller down Alhambraavenue with the vatos cat-calling herdespite her Gerber […]

Each Breath a Chain

Sara Hills After school and on Saturdays we couple up and make-out under the overpass in the middle of town—under shirts, over jeans. Our parents say the tunnels are full of rats. They tell us to take the long way round, warn us about gang violence and drugs, but we laugh them off. The only […]

Addressing her inner voices

Shannon Kenny I have a thick skinbut the patriots and bigotsare wearing it thin.The blood of the world is all over my phoneand laptopand my kid’s waking up.Be nice, assholesI’ve got a day to get through. Shannon Kenny is a writer and actor from Durban, South Africa. She and her family love to laugh. And […]

U.I.

Frank McHugh Universal indicator of right, wrong,good, bad, life or death. Of course,no-one nowadays can make a decisionso the digit wavers, not committing. Hitch-hiker’s appeal, texter, gamer,licked and sticked to seal the deal:pudding-prodder, opposable, appositegripper of handlebars and pushchairs,the more rounded of the brothers,Peter’s apostle, pollex, a page-turner. The mighty thumb has replaced conversation betweenmy […]

Running

Julia Kelly And we ran through the streets, stars like comets streaking the black sky, two girls  laughing,  pounding the concrete through the ugly beauty of the city, the arcing bridge over the black glitter of the river, breath cold and clear, painless, tireless, high above the pavement now from whatever drug we’d taken, we […]

Plastic

Nora Nadjarian I’ve spoken to thousands of art dealers listed in the yellow pages. I’ve turned the thin pages and made over a thousand calls asking for art made of plastic, which will keep for a thousand years. The art dealers call back and say the Ocean, the Ocean. I suppose they mean dive in […]

Star Fall

Joyce Wheatley There was the “fall.” “Dropped on her head as a baby,” Mama said. Nothing congenital. Nothing genetic. An accident. Story retold at every family gathering. “Dropped on my head as a baby,” Aunt Vivienne said, twanging like Loretta Lynn. “I don’t remember none of it.”  Her caramel voice melted, southern-refined as Blanche DuBois […]

The Vampire Visits The Bog

Meg Mulcahy We sit ditch-side in curdled breeze and watch as curlews tango in briar and thorn. Bodies like mine are made of bogland, stacked and drying. Wind song of the rushes tussle breathes for me, stifled lest the world end. The vampire’s disembodied hands tell me nothing except that the curlew dwindles because of […]

There; Fixed.

Amanda Wilkins Our dirt smelled different, I say.Rust and library paste,Ground up talons and the blood of mice.Sure, it had the same grind, same weight, same color as mostBut,Ah –That distinct smell.“Chuh,” goes my shovel,And that sound takes me backTo the time you tore your yellow Sunday dress on the bridge,Over the creek, behind our […]

Last Night I Dreamed

Jesse Millner of Chicago back in the 1980s when I drank shots and beers with Polacks and Puerto Ricans in West Side bars, sometimes until dawn licked the city skyline, bringing meaning to the Sears Tower, 1454 feet tall, 110 stories of glass and steel rising above downtown as I lowered myself into the driver’s […]

The Chair

by Jesse Millner The neighbors are Labor Day loud now that the rain has driven them in from the golf course. Why must they yell and smoke cigarettes? I avoid everyone on my way to my car or the occasional trip to the dumpster where I see discarded chairs and mattresses piled up next to […]