Skip to Main Content
UAFS logo

Short Stories adapted from "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick": Home

Short stories created by staff and faculty members based on the pictures from "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" book.

Uninvited Guests

Uninvited Guests

By Steve Kite


His heart was pounding. He was sure he had seen the door knob turn.

He was in trouble, and he knew it. From the second he let go of his shoe he knew it. And he REALLY knew it when the flying shoe smashed into the closet door causing it to slam shut with a loud echo throughout the mostly empty bedroom. Yep, there were his parents calling for him to come explain himself. What was he supposed to say? That he didn’t want to be there? That he hated being there? That he hated being away from his “real” town, his “real” house, and his friends? Whether or not he was supposed to say all of that, that’s exactly what he said, and it didn’t go over so well.

None of that was a big surprise, nothing had gone well since he was told that because of a job opportunity the family was going to have to move to a new town, two weeks, TWO WEEKS! before the start of the new school year. “Here it comes” he thought, the stern looks, the exasperated eye rolls, the scolding voices telling him that this was really an exciting thing and he should be thrilled to have such an adventure in front of him. Arms crossed, and bad attitude in place he listened as his parents told him that if he was going to act that way, he would have to do it somewhere else where they didn’t have to see it, somewhere like the basement they said. As if things weren’t bad enough now he was forced to spend his last few days of freedom in the basement unpacking and straightening up all of the moving boxes and there were “thousands” of them down there.

Stomping through the house he made his way to the basement door, down the stairs, and into the dungeon basement, the torture chamber of boxes. Angrily, he began sliding boxes around looking for those marked with his name. This was bad, this was like a real-life version of that

Tetris game that his parents talked about. Move a box, slide a box, move a box, stack a box. This would take forever! He moved and stacked his way through one mountain until he realized that he was staring at the wall of the basement, and staring, it turns out, at something kind of odd; a door of sorts that looked as if it had been painted on the wall, not really paint but chalk maybe? “Probably something a kid had done a long time ago,” he thought, it looked old. “And not much of an artist either” he said to himself as he stared at the crude little door on the wall, still, “why a door?” and “why there?”

The next day he tried to sleep in as long as he could. Maybe his parents had forgotten about the moving box punishment. He stayed in his room for a while and then tip-toed out into the hall. “BASEMENT” came the order, two voices in unison, from the living room. Grumbling and grouching he shuffled through the hall and down the stairs, and there was the door, “Oh yeah, that weird door” he thought out loud. But something was different, it was like the door wasn’t painted or chalked on the wall anymore but was real, like a real door in the wall, sort of. He poked it with his finger but it didn’t seem like it would open or anything. “Uh . . . okay” he thought and he started moving boxes around as he heard his parents listening at the top of the stairs. “You better stay busy down there” “ugh.” He kept sorting through boxes but all he thought about was that door.

The next morning, he was up early and bolting out of his bedroom he ran smash into his dad, “Hey, watch it there!” his dad admonished; a quickly blurted out apology was all he could manage as he sprinted to the basement door and ran down the stairs. The door was still there and it looked even more real than yesterday. It looked, new, like a new old door or an old, new door and had that shiny brass doorknob been there before? He couldn’t explain it but something was very different. As he kept his eye and mind on the door while working, a thought, came to him.

Lunch that day was his favorite, fish stick sandwiches with ketchup and chocolate milk. He quickly crammed the food into his mouth, gulped his milk and, much to his parents’ astonishment, without any encouragement or coercion from them he ran back to the basement. Once safely downstairs he pulled a smushed napkin out of his pocket. “Let’s see what happens now” he thought as he carefully crafted two small fish stick and ketchup sandwiches and put them by the door. He crept back away from the door and waited, and waited, and waited, . . . nothing. “What am I doing” he thought, “this is crazy!” When his parents made him come upstairs that afternoon before he left, he crept up to the door and softly gave a little knock. He wasn’t quite sure about what happened next, but he was almost certain that as he was walking away he heard a small knock come from the other side of the door! “Mom, dad,” he yelled “I’m going to stay down here and work some more.” “No, you need to come up here now, you’ve been down there all day.” “Rats, they never let me have any fun.”

The next morning, he was up early again but before he could make it to the basement door his mother made him eat some breakfast. When he was cleaning up his cereal and milk mess, he looked into the kitchen trash and there, completely untouched and clearly rejected, were his two small fish stick sandwiches! “What!?!?!?!?” “What is it?” asked his mother, “um . . . nothing” he muttered as he tried to ease his way towards the basement. Once on the stairs he stopped and sat down, “I’m not leaving this time” he said to himself as he vowed to watch that door all day. Minutes passed then an hour and he thought about giving up when . . . all of sudden he heard a noise from behind the door. His heart was pounding, he was sure he had seen the door knob turn . . .



By Jordan Ruud




On a mid-November evening -- wind stirring outside as crimson and orange leaves leisurely blew past the window -- Robert sat back with a whiskey and allowed himself a moment of satisfaction. It had been two weeks since it'd last happened, after a year of ongoing torment.

Under ideal circumstances, he reflected, what had happened to his wife Helen and their mutual "friend" Mike a year earlier wouldn't come to mind so much. It's not that Robert wasn't aware of what he'd done. He was simply the type to conceal it from himself in some shadowy corner of memory -- well, under ideal circumstances, that is.

And in such a beautiful living situation as his, that concealment should have been that much easier. The wealth he and Helen had shared made them comfortable. Until there were three. And then just one.

Concealing the two bodies was easy: two large trunks in a space under the basement stairs, a couple sprinklings of lime. He'd only ever gone down there in the first place to visit their wine cellar. Forgetting would be no effort in the least. He would never not think of it in the passive voice: what had been done to those two, not what he had done to them. Had they really done what he suspected? All three of them were past caring now.



The first time it happened was a week after the act. He rose in the night for a glass of water. Blundering through familiar darkness, he tripped over something and sprawled out headlong, then found the bedside lamp. A foot was protruding from under the bed, and it coyly withdrew as he set eyes on it and realized what it was. In his panic, he felt around then looked under the bed, finding nothing.

He allowed himself the next morning to imagine it as a macabre dream. Until that evening when he sat back and felt the teasing touch of long fingernails poking through the leather of his armchair -- withdrawing, again, as soon as he stood in horror and looked. But not withdrawing immediately -- slowly enough that he could see in full. No longer did he have the luxury of thinking he was imagining this.

A finger beckoning through a narrowly cracked door. A blue eye peering up through the sink drain. Opening his desk to see a hand receding slowly, deliberately, into the back of the drawer. In the heat of summer, long hair rippling down from an air conditioning vent. A finger poking out between bottles, wagging at him in reproach, on one of his increasingly frequent trips to the wine cellar.

At his wits' end after nearly a year of this, he knew the only solution available to him. A rented truck, the dead of night, trunks hauled up the stairs, a solitary visit to his boat. Two splashes, and evidence receding to the bottom of the lake. He'd come home and spent an hour prowling the house for any further occurrence of what had been torturing him this past year. Nothing.

Now, this fall evening two weeks after that, he sat in his chair. The room was still and lit only by a lamp on a table by the wall. But in the corner of his eye, by that table, something stirred. He looked directly and saw the lump in the carpet -- a lump the size of a head.

The room was quiet save for an odd fibrous grinding sound. Looking more closely at the lump, he saw a small rippling underneath the lump of the nose: the teeth were chewing through the carpet. In panic he looked around the room and saw a second lump of the same size near the corner. He watched and it moved slowly, tauntingly, down the length of the wall.

He seized the chair from the table and raised it in the air.

The Harp


A short story by Edward Portman

Adapted from a prompt of the same name from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg


Jeremy plunged his hiking stick into the dirt and gazed up the hill. Dense woodland obscured the horizon, but he could tell that there were still a few miles to go. His dog, Scratch, followed close behind, sniffing at all the unfamiliar flora. The hills were getting steep, and the trail had long ended, leaving only natural growth and stone to welcome these visitors. Jeremy wiped the sweat from his brow. In a couple hours, the sun would be directly overhead. The rumors about these hills claimed that a creek would be near the top. Fresh water to cool off in, and to lead him to the true prize of this trek. He lifted the stick out and marched forward.

Every so often, they would find a shaded patch to catch their breath. Jeremy looked back at how far they had come. Was it four miles? No, maybe it was six. At this distance, the camping area was too tiny to make out from the rest of the forest. Scratch was trained well enough to not chase after the rabbits, so Jeremy didn’t need to worry about a leash. They continued onward while the summer sun hit its peak. As they neared the plateau, Jeremy heard running water. His eyes widened with excitement, and he moved towards the sound. Dashing through some thicket, he finally found the creek! The hardest part was over.

Removing his hat, Jeremy uncovered his receding hair line. Though he was only in his forties, what little hair remained was thinning and gray. Staring into the pond, he could see his reflection. The long trek had taken a toll on him. His face was scratched, dirt spread across his forehead, and tiny bug bites peppered his cheeks. Scratch had not hesitated and was rapidly lapping up water. Jeremy cupped his hands and took some for himself. The fresh spring water soothed his throat and cooled him off. He took advantage of the clear water to refill his canteen and clean himself off.

With his thirst quenched, Jeremy turned his attention downstream. It was, after all, the reason he hiked so far. The creek fed into a small pond, framed with large rocks, and shaded by mature trees. On one of these rocks sat a golden harp, unattended but showing no signs of wear. “So it’s true,” he thought, “it’s really true.” Jeremy skipped over the stream and headed towards the harp. Though he had no musical talent, he plucked a string. The note echoed in the tiny grove, and the water began to ripple. He closed his eyes and began to play, his hands guided by an invisible force. He didn’t resist as his fingers plucked the strings in soothing melody. It wasn’t any tune he was familiar with but was comforting in a way he hadn’t felt since his childhood.

The more he played, the stronger the ripple in the pond became, but Jeremy didn’t notice. The sounds of the birds and water were fading away, leaving only Jeremy and the harp. As he continued to play, he felt a tickle atop his head. This recognizable feeling, he hadn’t felt it in a very long time - flowing hair. With each note strummed, his hair was beginning to return, inch by inch.

The legends were true! Finally, a full head of hair again. No more wearing hats indoors. No awkward conversations with his hirsute father. No toupees when going on dates. He could finally feel comfortable with his own appearance again. All these thoughts raced through his mind as he continued to play along.

A loud bark broke the silence. Jeremy had full control of his hands again, but it took him a moment to recollect himself. He turned to see Scratch looking up at him, head tilted inquisitively. Bending down to pet him, Jeremy said, “Hanging in there, Scratch? I’m so glad we made this trip. I’m a new me!” He was beaming brighter than the overhead sun. Jeremy gathered his belongings for the hike back down. As he was about to return the hat to his head, he took another look in the pond and paused. The Jeremy that stared back still had that bald spot.

A Strange Day in July

A Strange Day in July

By Roxy Wylie


In summer’s haze or dreamer’s gaze

I’ll come to you…

In shadowy night or broad daylight

I’ll come to you…


I find myself humming the simple, yet haunting melody more and more these days. It was my momma's favorite song. She would hum it in the kitchen or when she worked in the garden. She hummed it during bed time routines or when she brushed my hair…


Child wonder in storms of thunder

I’ll give to you…

Diamond tears in lingering fears

I’ll give to you.


It was the tune she hummed the day she died. I let my mind and heart remember those days. The days of lingering illness. That hot July day when I lost my whole world…


The hospital room was cold and I snuggled closer to momma under the covers. She smelled like gardenias, her favorite scent. She held Tommy and I closer as she read us a story in the small bed. I loved to hear her read and feel her chest move up and down and listen to her heart beat. As she read I saw a diamond shaped tear slip slowly down her cheek and fall on mine. It was cool and dried quickly, leaving behind a cool impression on my cheek. A tear fell on Tommy’s cheek, but he quickly wiped it away and hid his face from more. Strange how something so small would change a life - a path. Momma finished with “The End” and kissed us both goodnight.


 “ Good night, sweetheart,” she whispered in my hair, “Momma loves you. I’ll always be with you when you laugh or cry.”


She held us for a long time humming her favorite song. Whispering it in both our ears as we lay in her arms then Tommy and I slipped off the sides of the bed and onto the cold floor. Daddy led us out of the room to where grandma and grandpa waited in the hall. He hugged grandma hard. His eyes and nose were red from crying. Grandpa briefly hugged his son and then daddy turned back into the room to be with mama.


We went to grandma and grandpa’s lake house to stay for a couple of days. It was summer holidays at school. I could still feel mamma’s dried tear on my cheek and decided I would never wash my face again. Tommy scrubbed his face and told me he planned to never cry like mama or daddy. The next morning I dressed in my favorite pink dress and tried to brush my hair to please mama. When I came out, everyone’s faces were sad with red noses and watery eyes. My stomach started to hurt and I wanted to run away. Grandma pulled me close and crushed my pretty dress in a bear hug. She didn’t say anything, but I could tell she was crying. Tommy was quiet. He didn’t have any tears and his nose wasn’t red, but I could tell he wanted to. He had angry eyebrows and he looked mad. He has remained mad at the world ever since. Grandpa knelt down and looked in my eyes and told me mama had gone to be with Jesus and the angels. I didn’t understand and Tommy blurted out “She’s dead, dummy! Mama’s dead!” Years later I learned the dreaded word was cancer that took my mother.


Grandma shooed us both outside and shut the door. Tom told me to go away, but I followed him down to the lake. I shaded my eyes against the glaring sun and looked out over the water. Momma always said it looked like polished glass on a clear summer’s day, but that day it looked like sparkling diamonds on grandma’s chandelier over the dining room table. It was a hot day and my dress began to itch. Tom silently skipped rocks, sending them bouncing across the waters like flat frisbees. I wanted to try, too. He was looking far away across the water and didn’t look at me as I edged closer, hot rock burning my hand. Momma would have shown me how to hold the rock, instead I threw it and kerplunk! It sank to the bottom.


 “That’s not how you throw it, silly.” Tom sneered.


Tears welled up and stung my eyes. One slid down my cheek washing mama’s dried stain and dripped silently in the water. I quietly watched him skip rocks. One, two, three… suddenly, the third rock came skipping back! I rubbed my bleary eyes and tried to focus. Tommy threw it a second time and again the rock came skipping back! He didn’t seem to notice and stared out across the lake like he was in a trance. Something splashed near the reeds on the bank and I heard a small giggle. The reeds were so tall that I stood up on the big flat rock we used to have picnics on and peered over. A tiny tip of a tail swirled the water as it slipped underneath the surface.


“Tommy, did you see that!” I excitedly whispered.


He didn’t answer. He stood so still I thought he was a statue. I heard another splash and turned to see a shadowy image of a face and shoulders emerge from the sparkling water. I stood very still, shading my eyes against the sun, trying to get a clearer image of the silhouette. The creature swam close to the shallow shoreline. It was a girl about my age or a little older, but she didn’t look like any girl I had ever seen. She reminded me of the story books mamma would read before bedtime. Stories full of mermaids, angry pirates, and buried treasure. She had large, brown eyes that smiled at the corners just like mama’s - just like mine. Long silky hair fell over her shoulders in curly brown waves. She smiled reassuringly and beckoned. I hesitated. She splashed at me with her tail. It furled and unfurled - translucent in the sun covered in droplets that sparkled like diamonds - just like mama’s cheeks with tears. She beckoned again. Slipping off  my shoes and socks, I waded into the shallows.


“Hello,” I whispered. Half in awe - half in fear.


She seemed so familiar. Like I had met her before. She never spoke. Just smiled, watching me as she bobbed up and down in the water. I told her everything and I began to cry. She looked so sad and swam a bit closer. Her skin refracted the sun into thousands of tiny rainbows. Dark pupils, flecked with violet and gold, mesmerized me. Large tears rolled down her pale cheeks. One fell in the water making ripples that encircled us. Inside the circle I saw my mother’s reflection. Eyes smiling up at me. I felt her presence, a faint scent of gardenia drifted around me in the breeze.  Splash! I looked up and the girl was gone. I dove under the water, but she was gone. I waded towards the shore.


Tommy was looking at me with disgust. “You’re all muddy!” he shouted as he took my hand and helped me out. “Dad’s going to be really upset.”  “What were you doing out there anyway?”


“Didn't you see that girl?” Surely he had to see her.


“There wasn’t anyone out there. I was watching you the whole time and yelling at you to come back.”


“Don’t you care that your rock kept coming back?” I asked him. Genuinely concerned my brother was going crazy.


“What are you talking about? All my rocks skipped perfectly. You know I’m the best rock skipper in school.” I didn’t argue with him. Once Tommy thought he was right, he was right no matter what.


“Don’t you miss mama, Tommy?” I asked.


“ I don’t want to talk about her.” He turned away and went back towards the house. “ You’re going to be in big trouble about your dress getting dirty.” He said over his shoulder.

I came back inside dripping wet and smelling like fish, but no one seemed to notice. Grandma gave me a bath, made us pizza, and tucked us in bed.


Thomas and I are grown now. He is a successful businessman who still doesn't cry and refuses to talk about mom. We used to be so close, but mama’s death separated us and we walk separate paths now.  He has a six figure income, high blood pressure, alimony and child support. We haven’t talked in quite some time and rarely see each other except at holidays or funerals.

I live here at the old lake house with my family. Tom wanted to sell it. Said it was valuable real estate for development, but I bought his share out. I am a local artist and poet, who paints mermaids with diamond tails and pens verses about the beauty of life and sorrow. I never saw her again, but I have a little mermaid of my own. Large expressive eyes and giggles greet me every morning. She cries diamond tears through laughing eyes, just like her momma.

Through life’s joyous times or mountainous climbs,

I’ll be with you…

Through laughing eyes or heartfelt sighs,

I’ll always be with you.

A Parallel Universe

A Parallel Universe

By Carolyn Filippelli



Sam, Emma, Irene, and Mark were going on an adventure to a faraway kingdom.  Resolute and fortified with a few snacks for the trip, they headed out.

Sam had won a ticket for entry to the Parallel Universe.  The directions were on the ticket.  It wasn’t far away.  Also, there was a magic code for entry to get them in when they arrived.

Where the journey might lead- over land, water, or  celestial destinations was unknown.  Nevertheless, like explorers of ancient times, the group set out on the trail.  What they were seeking was a parallel universe where they could escape from problems in their life.  They could forget about homework, chores, parents who didn’t understand, and no time to play and do the things they enjoyed.  They just wanted to be kids and not worry about education, college, future careers, and life responsibilities.  To hear their parents talk, this future didn’t sound like a place where they wanted to be.  They just wanted the freedom to be kids.

In the minds of the voyagers, this new kingdom would be a Camelot, a place where they could pursue their favorite hobbies and enjoy reading, games, and mindless reverie with no worries.  They knew that they could not stay forever in this Shangri-la.  It would be only a short escape.   Nevertheless, it was worth the perils of the journey. 

Eventually, the group came to a gate guarded by two white unicorns.  Sam gave the magic entry code, and the group passed through the portals.

What they found was indeed the place of their imaginations.  It was an equivalent of a modern day Disney Land, a paradise for children.   The travelers to this kingdom revelled in their escape from ordinary life.  They would have to return, but they now had experienced a vision that strengthened and sustained them for journeys ahead.    

The Seven Chairs

The Seven Chairs

By Finn Waters

And so it was decided that seven Magi from seven great nations would sequester themselves for seven times seven years to discover The Universal Truths. The first seven years passed, and in their great tome of The Universal Truths the Magi had written but one thing: Everything has a soul. The second seven years passed, and the Magi had drawn a line through their first conclusion, as doubt crept into their bones. The third seven years and fourth seven years passed with no progress. In the fifth seven years, the Magi decided that they would stop measuring their time and would dedicate themselves to their task until at least one Universal Truth had been recorded.

So it came to be that in a quiet room, seven chairs came to hold seven skeletons, whose doubt-filled bones never wrote anything in their tome of Universal Truths that wasn’t summarily retracted. This, of course, brought great disappointment and melancholy to the poor book. The seven chairs holding the seven useless bonestacks were hewn from trees that were neighbors and siblings to the tree that was pulped to make the cover and pages of the tome, so they had a great sympathy for it. The seven chairs determined among themselves to find some Universal Truths with which they could fill their brother book.

The first thing the chairs decided was that they could not find Truth the way that the Magi tried. Talking among themselves in a musty chamber wouldn’t get them anywhere, and so the chairs decided to shake off their rattling cargo, go out into the world, and return in seven years to discuss their findings.

The first chair, with its long back and four solid legs, walked through the bustling streets of Ghana’s Makola Market, where it spent seven years providing transportation for elders over short distances in exchange for their fables. It gathered dirt around its feet and many tales of naïve animals in need of lessons.

The second chair, a three-legged stool, sailed to America, where it provided a seat for people who use cards and bones and rocks to see into the future. It was adorned with a cushion made of red silk (or so the salesman said), and it learned how to tell the exact story that someone needed to hear in order to heal the heart, mend the mind, or gently guide the feet.

The third chair, armless and uneven, wandered its way into Brazil, where it seated troubadours who taught it songs and dances that tell stories about long ago. Many young people fell in love to the sounds issued from the chair’s inhabitants, and some even carved their undying affections into the wood of the chair for always and ever.

The fourth chair, with its cracked, gnarled feet and winged back, found its way to a monastery in Japan, where no one even sat on chairs, and it learned that everything has a soul (as the Magi had briefly suspected), as illustrated by the many tales and festivals celebrating the kami that imbue everything with life. The monks and nuns of the monastery honored their kind guest by repairing the cracked gnarls in its feet with a lacquer made of the finest gold, in beautiful contrast to the humble wood of which it was carved.

The fifth chair wound up in France, where it learned that walking, thinking, floating chairs are a miracle from The Lord, and that only people have souls (as the Magi had briefly suspected), as illustrated by many Psalms and Scriptures that taught of a Lord who put Man above all else. It was often cleaned and sanded smooth and whitewashed to be more presentable to the dignitaries who would come to see this living, soulless miracle.

The sixth chair, a tall four-legged stool, flew around Oceania, where it observed the beauty and brutality of nature in equal measure. It earned many scratches and bite marks and found many beautiful feathers and shells to decorate itself by closely observing, learning the sounds and signals that animals use to teach their young of the world.

The seventh chair, a curve-legged rocker, took so long to decide where it wanted to go that the seven years had elapsed and its six sibling chairs returned to the chamber before it left. The seventh chair was slightly embarrassed at its indecision and pretended it intentionally stayed back to keep an eye on their brother book.

The seven chairs got to work sharing everything they learned. But when the first chair told of its Ghanian fables, the sixth chair reflected that the animals in its stories didn’t match at all the animals it observed in Oceania. The fourth and fifth chairs learned that the Magi were both right and wrong about where souls reside, but they couldn’t agree on which instance they were right and which instance they were wrong. When the third chair sang about falling in love, the second chair was shocked that there wasn’t a single mention of how the stars decide love and fate and everything else.

Thus the seven chairs very quickly determined that there was no such thing as a Universal Truth, but then decided that this, itself, was a Universal Truth. The great tome of The Universal Truths decided that this was True, but also that it was not worth writing down.

The seven chairs were a little disappointed that they had failed to discover exactly what was and wasn’t True, but were happy that they had learned so very much, even if it probably wasn’t True. The chairs resolved then to go where stories are told -- to retire to libraries, schools and taverns where they could continue to hear stories and learn about things that probably weren’t True, because, they supposed, when nothing is True, everything is true.

As for their brother book, he decided that his mostly-blank pages made him perfectly suited to go be a diary, so that he could learn things that were absolutely true, at least to one person, at the time they wrote in him.

The Third-Floor Bedroom

The Third-Floor Bedroom

By Elias Vattes

Inspired by “The Third-Floor Bedroom” from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg



It all began when someone left the window open.


Events throughout the day had all passed in a blur only the haze of grief and denial could bring. Callum had been discharged from the hospital and been moved to a spare bedroom on the third floor of his paternal grandma’s house to recover from his injuries. He stayed in bed with no energy or desire to do anything.


His paternal grandmother and grandfather had come by earlier, he recalled. His grandmother had been crying again. Callum still hadn’t cried yet. He felt ashamed that he hadn’t cried yet. His grandmother had patted his upper arm comfortingly; she couldn’t hold his hand like she might normally because everything from his hands to past his elbows was covered in bandages. He felt, saw, and heard his grandparents but it all felt so far away.


They had left at some point, but Callum couldn’t recall how or when. He just stared across the room.


The whole room was covered in old wallpaper sporting a pattern of doves.


Callum decided he hated that wallpaper.


It made him think of their home, and especially his dad.


His dad had bred and kept pigeons and doves in a coop on top of the apartment building. It was all gone now. The building, the birds, his home. His little sister. His parents.


Callum felt a pitiful wave of guilt rake through him. He had been the sole survivor of his family.


Callum must have fallen asleep at some point, but he didn’t recall drifting off because next thing he knew the light coming through the bedroom window was tinted orange, signaling the coming dusk. His grandma must have come in because the window was now open, letting in some fresh air to the still musty unused bedroom.


Callum had been about to close his eyes again when something caught his eye. The wall across from him with its all too painful reminder of better memories now had an irregularity. A bird was missing.


It was just gone. Like it had never been there at all.


He stared at the wall for some time, but the space remained bare. He was just about to lay back down when a movement brought his attention back to the wall.


Callum watched unsure what to think as a dove beside the bare space began to peel away from the wall in the gentle breeze coming from outside. First one wing and then the other. Then all at once, like a paper airplane caught in the wind it was gently blowing up and around the room.


The sight of it jogged a memory of watching Mary, the old lady that lived in the apartment beside them. How she would sit on a park bench across the street feeding the feral pigeons. It dawned on Callum that he would never hear her tell another one of her stories about her time working at a daycare.


As the realization hit him the paper dove sailed out right through the open window.


His mind wandered to another memory. The man who lived and worked as a general handyman for the whole apartment building. The man was always so quiet but if anyone ever got him talking about trains, the man could talk for hours.


A sound had Callum looking up to see yet another paper dove floating through the air. He looked on as it too went out of sight through the window.


The memories came faster, and his heart hurt all the more.


His mind flitted between so many memories of his little sister. Holding one of the pet pigeons out for his sister to gently stroke their feathered head. Holding her when she got scared watching The Little Mermaid because Ursula was scary. So caught up in the many memories running through his mind he almost missed as several more paper doves glided out the open window.


He had started to cry at one point, but he couldn’t stop. Not the tears or the memories.


His mom. He had so many memories of his mom. Her helping him paint is own room when they had moved in. Helping his mom bake on the weekend. (Two paper doves flitted out the window.)


His dad. Helping his dad tend to the pigeons. (Another dove soared away.) His dad standing up for him to the principle after Callum was attacked by a bully at school. (His eyes were so full of tears he missed as more doves peeled from the wall and flew away.)


He cried and he remembered until he couldn’t cry anymore, and his brain was just cycling through the same memories over and over again.


Never again. They were all gone now. He would never make new memories with his parents, his sister, or any of them ever again. His last memory of them would forever just be the day of the fire and their funerals.


Callum didn’t know how long he sat there. He couldn’t shed anymore tears, but he still just kept crying. Even as darkness spread across the room as dusk became night.


He couldn’t see anything, but he could still hear it: the sound of paper peeling away, fluttering through the air, and then a beat of silence. He did not recall laying back down in the bed.


When Callum awoke it was daytime again. While he laid there just staring at the ceiling, he wondered if everything had been his imagination. However, when he finally gathered the energy to look around, to his surprise the wallpaper all over the room was devoid of even a single bird.


“Grandma?” He called and a moment later she came into view as she entered the room.


“Yes, Callum, what can I do for you? Are you hungry? I can make you some breakfast,” His grandmother offered walking over to him.


“The wallpaper,” Callum managed to garble out pointing across the room. His grandmother looked where the boy was pointing, alarmed at first but then looked back in confusion.


“What is it sweety? What’s wrong?”


“The wallpaper it had doves on it before—,” Callum started to explain, but his grandmother was already shaking her head.


“You must have been dreaming, Callum. The wallpaper in this room has been like this for years.” Callum didn’t argue as his grandmother changed the topic to what he wanted for breakfast. As she left the room Callum’s gaze trailed to the still open window.


As a breeze blew into the room, Callum relaxed back into bed.


He wasn’t okay, but he thought one day he would be.

Captain Troy

Captain Tory

By Jessica Cantrell


A boy wandered through the misty streets searching for a place to hide against the elements and other evils that were out. He continued walking down a misty cobblestone street when his eyes fell upon a gap between two buildings. Not wide enough for an adult but perfect for a child his size. Quickly he made his way over to the gap and squeezed himself into it. He explored the gap and found it only went about half the length of the two buildings when a brick wall stopped his progress. No one could bother or find him here, he thought.  He curled himself into a ball and closed his eyes to try to sleep before the sun came up. 

He wasn’t sure when he began to hear the whistling or even if he had fallen asleep, all he knew was the sound was getting closer to him. He wasn’t worried, no one could see him here or be able to fit into the space he occupied. He looked down the gap where the street lay and saw a light moving rhythmically to the whistling, back and forth, as it passed his hiding spot.

For reasons unknown even to himself he got to his feet and began shimmying his way out of the gap. Slowly and as quietly as he could began to follow both the light and whistling, as if mesmerized by it.

He didn’t understand why he was following the light and whistling, but he felt compelled to do so. What scared him more was even though he felt compelled to follow the light, he feared it. Through the winding misty cobbled streets in a daze he followed, only noticing the children shaped shadows around him when he drew his eyes away from the light. Still, he followed and so did the other shadows. 

It was only when they broke free of the surrounding buildings and in the open did, he realize what he thought were children’s shadows were actually shadows of goblins. Their small stature was the reason he had mistaken them for children but each and every one had a beard.

The daze that had been clouding his thoughts began to lift as he noticed where he was, he had followed the light and apparently goblins to the docks. Now he could smell the salt air, hear the waves lapping against the docks below, and see the masts of the docked ships through the mist. He also noticed the whistling had stopped and the light had gone out.

He cursed himself for being lured out of his hiding place, he knew better than to follow strange lights or whistling. He needed to leave before the goblins realized he wasn’t one of them. Slowly he began to inch his way back to the safety of the streets, from there he could make his way back to his hiding place. 

            He had heard whispers between sailors, when scouring the docks for work, that goblins were not only bad omens but were also known to snatch a child if an opportunity presented itself. He had almost made it to the street entrance and relative safety when he pulled his eyes from the street ahead of him and glanced back to where the goblins were. They were gone! His heart leapt, where had they gone? 

He shook his head, maybe he was in luck. As he brought his sights back towards the street, he realized there was someone standing in front of him. His path was now blocked by a man, he was definitely a man, as he was too large to be a goblin. The boy raised his eyes to look at the man’s face but as he did the lantern in the man’s hand blinked to life of its own accord. The hairs on the back of the boy’s neck stood up and he readied himself to run, but the boy was too slow. The man’s hand shot out, grabbing the boy by his arm and shaking him. The boy let out a gasp as he was dragged back towards the docks. He thought he heard the man mumble, “he will do, about the same age.”

The boy didn’t understand what the man meant or what he should do, so he did the only thing he could think of, he shouted, “Help! Help me!”

This earned him a rather hard thump on his head, he instantly quieted as his eyes began to water. He blinked away the tears trying to figure out how he could escape when they reached the end of one of the docks. The man lifted the lantern above his head and swung it three times. The boy realized he was signaling someone, slowly the schooner appeared in the bay. 

Now the boy understood where the goblins had disappeared to, they were on the deck leering at him. The schooner leisurely made its way to where the boy and man stood. The boy was thrown onto the deck by the man and surrounded by goblins.

“I see you found us a replacement, Captain.” said one of the goblins closest to the boy.

“Well, you lot weren’t any help, and you lost the last one. The goddess requires a sacrifice if we are to seek her help.” the man, who the boy now understood to be captain, responded as he stepped onto the deck.

“Of course, Captain.” replied the goblin.

“Our heading, Captain?” asked the goblin to the left of the boy. He was missing his left eye, his remaining eye stared at the boy. 

“Now that we’ve got our replacement we will again head towards the goddess’ island. “Man your stations and get us underway.” bellowed the captain “And put him in the brig. I don’t want any trouble from this one.”

The boy was lifted to his feet by the captain, and shoved into the hands of another goblin, this one had both its eyes but was missing all of its teeth. It dragged the boy along the deck until they reached a hatch. 

“Down” was all the toothless goblin said.

The boy began to climb down the ladder, halfway down the smell hit him, a mixture of unwashed bodies, gun powder, and something else he couldn’t identify but unsavory, nonetheless. He also noticed the lack of light, what little there was came from moonlight streaming through the gunports. Once he made it to the bottom, he realized he had no way of escaping, and he began to tremble. 

The goblin must have sensed the rising fear in the boy because it said, “No use now boy, Captain Troy won’t lose another sacrifice. We don’t have time to spare, the eclipse is only a fortnight away and the goddess always requires a sacrifice.”

The boy, having no idea what any of it meant other than he was to be a sacrifice, was again dragged further into the bowels of the ship. Panic and fear began to course through the boy, and it was like none he had ever felt before. He was trapped on a ship, full of goblins, and about to become a sacrifice, his trembling became worse.

The goblin stopped in front of an iron door and pulled keys from its belt. It unlocked the door while keeping its long boney fingers clamped around the boy’s arm. The goblin pulled the door open with a loud shriek from the protesting hinges. The boy tried to peer into the cell, but no moonlight penetrated the space. 

“In” said the goblin as it shoved the trembling boy into the cell. The boy fell against his back onto the opposite wall, fear gripped him. He thought it had been dark when he was brought below deck but in the cell the darkness would be absolute. His trembling intensified.

The last thing he could make out as the toothless goblin closed the iron door was the smirk on its face, then there was only darkness. The boy could hear the goblin’s deep laughter as the creature moved away from the cell. The boy threw himself against the iron door and began pounding on it. After what felt like hours the boy realized no one was coming. He began to weep. 


The End.

Just Dessert

Just Dessert

By: Andrea Parton

She lowered the knife, and it grew even brighter. The pumpkin her mother brought home was glowing, and Edith was certain she heard a faint hissing sound coming from inside.

Mother shouted from the other room, “Have you started my tea yet?” Edith glanced towards the living room, where her mother was watching some obnoxious talk show with people constantly shouting at each other, then over at the electric kettle to double-check herself.

“Yes, mom, the kettle is on. I’ll bring it in after it steeps. I need to start cutting this pumpkin if it’s going to be ready for your dinner.” She heard the squeaking of Mother’s chair as she went back to rocking and watching her show.

Edith turned back to the pumpkin illuminating the kitchen and moved to cut into it once again. The glow intensified, and the hissing now sounded like whispering voices. She laid the knife on the counter, and took a step back from the glow, but a warm feeling came over her and drew her back in to try and hear what the voices were saying.

Her phone suddenly rang, giving her heart a start. She sighed at the sight of her brother’s name on the screen again. She looked at the pot of boiling, gluten-free noodles, bought special for Mother’s friend and their weekly dinner together. She felt a pang of spite as she thought about everything that still needed to be done and decided not to answer the phone. She would deal with him another time. For the moment, she needed to focus on the stupid Jack-o-lantern that Mother insisted on having at the last minute. She took the knife again and tried to start cutting the top, but she was blinded by the glow. As she pulled the knife away again, she could now hear the whispers clearly saying, “Just dessert,” over and over. “What does that even mean?” she asked herself, just before the whistle of the kettle gave her another mini heart attack.

Mother’s raucous laughter echoed in her ears as she prepared the tea, turned the temperature down on the bubbling sauce, and pulled the meatballs out of the oven. Mother’s voice cut sharply into the kitchen: “Isn’t that tea ready yet? I want to be done with it before she gets here!”

“Coming!” Edith carried the tea to her mother, and the whispers continued, “Just dessert,” as the pumpkin emitted a low, steady glow.

“You better not have put any meat in the sauce,” Mother snarled as Edith placed the tea carefully on the table beside the ancient rocking chair.

 “No, Mom, I made the meatballs separately, just as you like them.” Edith tried not to sound too impatient, but Mother just glared at her, and she returned to the kitchen. She stared at the pristine, luminescent gourd for a moment, listening to the whispers instead of prepping the meal like she should be. She was craving a cigarette and fantasizing about her hidden pack in the pantry. She heard Mother answer her phone in the other room and have a quick conversation. Edith picked up the knife again and realized Mother was saying something to her just in time to hear, “just dessert.”

Hoping she had misheard, Edith asked, “What did you just say?”

 “Ruby got held up and isn’t going to be here for dinner, just dessert,” Mother repeated, and something in Edith snapped. She raised the knife and brought it down with all her strength, plunging the blade as deep as she could into the flesh…of the glowing pumpkin.

The whispers and light faded as she crept to the front hall to take the money out of her purse and back to the pantry for her secret stash. She heard Mother calling her name and glanced at all the notifications from her brother on her phone sitting on the counter as she walked out the back door.