Oversharers Hat Trick

We’re ringing in the holidays with these three flash fiction stories. We hope these short pieces help to keep your brainhole warm as we approach 2023. Please enjoy “Restorative Yoga for the Newly Unboned,” “Adam’s Apples,” and “Hamlet with a Bomb Instead of a Poodle”… and remember… not all gifts are meant to be shared. (But you should share the gift of the Squid with all your cool fiends.)

Restorative Yoga for the Newly Unboned

by Julie Sevens

Herald readers will be delighted to learn that the old hattery on Front St. will soon have a new purpose. Sawyer Metz has been hard at work renovating and refurbishing the shop after the unfortunate incident last spring. The burned-out storefront has been replaced by The Wave, a spacious restorative yoga studio for the newly unboned.

In October, when the first round of unbonings happened, Metz knew she wanted to help her Mad River neighbors. The idea for The Wave came to her during one of her Metaphysics for Corporeal Beings courses. A segment on the care of corporeal bodies sparked an idea for how to address the specific needs of unboned bodies, and Metz founded her new business the next day.

“I just knew that restorative yoga might be the best way for the unboned to regain more control over their physical bodies,” Metz says of the new business’s purpose. “We’re all about muscle control, the mind-body connection.”

Twirling Dervils Café next door is partnering with The Wave to offer nutritious smoothies and delicious puddings. Patrons of The Wave will be able to place orders before the beginning of class and enjoy them after the cooldown. Twyla Dervil will deliver them herself in a custom-built snack cart that slides along the floor to avoid the safety hazards wheels would pose.

funny-story-yogaSuzie Jacobsen, 33, looks forward to building muscle tone and hopes she will eventually be able to help herself from the floor to a chair without any need for scoops or buckets.

Janson Peters wants to give restorative yoga a try himself. “I don’t miss my bones all that much most of the time. I am 73 and my bones were old and achy anyway. But,” he says, “I would like to get out more, maybe get good enough so’s I don’t have to keep my hands in this fishbowl.”

In a tour of The Wave as it prepares for its grand opening, Metz displayed some of the techniques she will use in teaching. The beginning levels of the classes will focus on regathering the body to control the amount of oozation. More advanced classes will begin tendonometry, strengthening tendons and muscles in carefully-designed positions to allow patrons of The Wave to mimic the presence of bones for some positions.

“Our hope is that with some practice the unboned of Mad River will be able to resume many of their favorite activities.” Metz explained. “And until we solve the mystery of why these unbonings keep happening, we can’t be sure we won’t all end up here.”

With a hearty laugh, Metz explained that she might be the only business in town hoping that the well of new customers eventually runs dry. She hopes the unbonings stop, and says her business plan is easily adaptable to any number of other health concerns.

Sheriff Branson shares Metz’s sentiment. He says the county is still investigating several theories on the cause of the unbonings and he hopes to provide an update by the end of the month. So far, the unbonings have not spread beyond the border of Mad River. They also have not slowed down; just this week Edgar Methers was the most recent victim of an unboning.

Metz encourages interested residents of Mad River to attend the grand opening of The Wave this coming Saturday from 2 to 5 pm. The unboned are invited inside for trial sessions and refreshments from Twirling Dervils. Their loved ones and the general public will be welcomed to an ice cream social behind the shop. Metz will also host an open forum at 5 pm to help boned Mad River residents better understand ways they can help their unboned neighbors, and what they can do in the event they wake up one morning and find themselves newly unboned.

For safety reasons, Metz says, she can’t allow boned persons inside during the event, especially with shoes on. Metz also encourages anyone interested in applying for a job with The Wave to contact her. Applicants interested in joining the cleaning staff are especially encouraged to apply.


Adam’s Apples

By C E Hoffman

Once upon an apocalypse, in an abandoned high-rise apartment, the last two businessmen on earth were having an argument.

Once, they had tailored suits, shined shoes, styled hair and manicured nails. Now, their suits were wrinkled, shoes sullied and hair/nails unkempt, what with being unable to access a tailor, shoe-shiner or salon, what with being unable to walk the street without encountering armageddon.

“Coreless apples, Chris!” Jude said. “We invented coreless apples! We basically saved the world!”

“No, we destroyed the world, remember?” Chris, the taller one, countered. “Our genetically-modified spores leaked into the troposphere, infecting the global community with Apathy.”

“Yeah, yeah….”

Chris stared out the window. Fires raged in the West, floods rose in the East, ice stormed the South, and to the North, things looked okay. “Everyone got fat, sick, stopped shaving in the shower, stopped shaving, stopped showering…! The ocean levels rose, nobody cared. Poverty gaps widened, nobody cared! Now we’re the last people on earth!”

Jude protested, “We may not be the last…”

“Well,” Chris pressed his head on the glass, “we’re the last ones who care!”

“Lot of good it’s done us! We’re just gonna die, like everybody.” Jude avoided looking out the windows. The world was redolent of a violent video game with the unappreciated addition of smells.

“Remember the girl?”

“I remember, Chris.”

“I can still see her!”

“I said I remember!”

“We tried to take her with us, but she wouldn’t leave the couch! Then when we grabbed her and you accidentally slammed her head against the television set, all she said was, ‘There goes my TV.’”

“Not the best last words ever spoken,” Jude admitted.

“Remember those teenagers watching the police shoot each other? They just sat there, munching popcorn…”

“They probably thought it was VR! Now stop it! You’re making me crave popcorn!”

“We’re going to die, aren’t we.”

“Everyone dies! What matters is how long you fight it.”

Chris was too busy pontificating to fight anything.

“There must be more to life than death! I remember when people started to not care. Imagination became a novelty, sex a chore. I tried to remind people of the joy in seeing a baby smile or the sun rise!”

“You did not!”

“Well, I thought about it! I was just busy. Trying to cover up Applegate.”

“Quit acting like it’s all our fault! The phones didn’t help much either.”

Chris relented. “True. Particularly after the cerebral wifi implants. And what did the government do, hmm? Nothing! They didn’t care!”

“To be fair,” Jude noted, “they stopped caring long before the Apathy struck.”

“They’re probably in their bunkers sipping champagne as we speak…”

“What kind of champagne?”

“Probably a… it doesn’t matter!”

Jude sighed. “I’d love a drink!”

“There’s no time for drinking! We have to save the world!”

“It’s a little late.” Jude toed a garbage pile that might have once been laundry. “If only we had an Xbox…”

“There’s more than video games at stake! It’s our task to preserve our humanity! To risk everything and start anew! To rekindle whatever hope lies dormant in the hearts of men!”

“But we’re the only men left!”

“Well…” Chris struggled, “There could be women out there. Or some genderfluid folks…”

Outside, the fires and floods duked it out. It was like TV, but louder.

The worst part about the end of the world was Chris and Jude were misfits. Two exclamation points in a world full of ellipses. Too much feeling, too many inflections. They alone would suffer, for they alone cared.

Jude reclined on the couch the previous residents had allowed to gather dust and subsequently rot. He gazed at his friend with something like sympathy. “I’m sorry you’re so bummed over the end of the world!”

Chris tore his eyes from the calamity. “We shouldn’t argue. Love is the only thing that will keep us together! Like Lincoln said, a house divided cannot stand!”


“What do you mean, who?!”

“I dunno. I feel like I could remember…” Jude curled up on the arm rest. “But who cares?”

Chris’s panic reached peak freak.

“Not you too! Didn’t you take the vaccine when I did?”

“I was going to, but we were so busy trying to cover up Applegate… then I thought I was immune… eh, who cares…”

Chris lifted his friend by the collar and gave him a good shake.  

“C’mon! Snap out of it!”

To no avail: Jude yawned while Chris cried the last tears on earth.

“What will it take to make you care?!”

Chris dropped Jude; from his new vantage point on the floor, Jude noticed something on the coffee table.

“Huh. These guys left some weed…” He proceeded to roll a half-assed joint.

Chris continued his meltdown. “What makes people care?! Dammit! I knew we shouldn’t have used the Tao Te Ching as toilet paper! Now I’m going to die, and you won’t even keep me company in my misery!”

“We all die. You don’t seem to get that…”

Chris moaned.

“Why you worrying, man?” Jude licked the paper. “What if Apathy isn’t the disease? What if it’s the cure?”

Outside, the floods won: water pushed on the windows. The glass creaked; the panes squeaked.

“What do you want to do?” Jude asked, but didn’t really care.

Chris sat. His eyes flickered with something like emotion—then it was gone. “Pass the joint, I guess.”


Hamlet with a Bomb Instead of a Poodle

by Robert Jeschonek

“To be or not to be,” said Joji Fak, leaning over the fire in the back alley burn barrel so it nearly singed his bushy black beard. “And by not, I mean I’ll blow the living fuzz outta you with my hot pink machine gun, ya dopes.”

Two of the guys around the barrel laughed out loud, and three others grinned big grins in the firelight. Joji’s one-man performance of the classic play Hamlet was every bit the smash hit he’d expected.

“I just love Shakespeare’s dialogue.” Rotten Robin, a stooped and haggard crone on the fringe of the little crowd, flipped the end of her moldy green scarf with a flourish. “It’s so poetic.

Joji felt a surge of pride and infused his next lines with extra oomph. “What a shame that all this blood should go to waste! Somebody bring me the effervescent mop of tongues!”

“Not the mop of tongues again!” Pupa, a little blond child in front, smiled with gap-toothed delight.

“What about the bomb?” asked a cockeyed, trash bag-clad bruiser who went by the name Laughing Boy. “The one Hamlet said he’d use to blow up King Lear’s wicked daughters?”

“You’ll never guess.” Joji made a hissing sound and raised a filthy index finger. “Ariel the fairy swooped down and grabbed it from him, then used it on her ex-boyfriend, Pucky, who was just about to have a go at his mistress, Bianca the Shrew!”

Everyone cracked up at once, hooting and howling and clapping.

“The end!” Joji bowed, doffed his threadbare red cap, and held it out, as was the custom—though no one living in that alley had anything to offer but the pure gold of laughter and applause.

All except one tall, dark-skinned stranger in the back, draped in a hooded black cloak, blended with the shadows. Joji hadn’t noticed her during the telling of his tale.

Not until now, when she shouted one word above the ruckus.


The joyous clamor faded as all eyes turned to the cloaked woman.

Joji frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Hamlet had a poodle, not a bomb.” The woman’s voice was as throaty and authoritative as the voice of Pious Leader that was broadcast every hour on the hour from the city’s loudspeakers. “Everyone who has ever read Shakespeare will tell you that!”

Joji was instantly on guard. The written word was forbidden from all eyes, lest it poison the saintly soul. “None of us has ever read his work or anything else, I’ll have you know!”

“Everyone who has heard Shakespeare, then,” said the cloaked woman. “What you’ve performed here is no closer to the writings of the great Bard than the oinking of a hundred hogs in a pen!”

Laughing Boy clapped his hands and giggled. “Speaking of hogs, Joji, could you do the Hamlet with the dancing pigs in yellow tutus again? I love that one!”

“Or the one with the white whale who climbs Mount Doom?” shouted Rotten Robin.

“Or the Macbeth where the creature explodes out of the queen’s chest?” said Pupa.

“You people know nothing of literature!” snapped the cloaked woman. “The dancing pigs are from War and Peace! The white whale on Mount Doom is from Lord of the Dick! And the chest-bursting creature is straight out of Animal Farts by Orwell!”

For a moment, the only sound in the alley was the crackling of the flames in the barrel. Then, as one, the street folk burst into uproarious laughter.

“What are you laughing about?” the cloaked woman snarled.

“You!” Laughing Boy howled so hard, he had to hold on to his sides. “You’re the one who has it all wrong!”

“We know it isn’t your fault, though.” Joji shook his head, smiling sympathetically. “You must come from a district where the great stories of ancient times were handed down all wrong, where the great books were poorly preserved and distorted by defective storytellers.”

“Not everyone is lucky enough to have a master teller like our Joji,” said Rotten Robin.

“Clearly, you’ve been a victim of unscrupulous improvisers, the kind who value their own authorial voices above those of the greats,” Joji told the cloaked woman.

“They wouldn’t know To Kill a Strangelove if Atticus Grinch turned into a cockroach right in front of ’em!” said Laughing Boy.

“Yet even the most misguided of storytellers may have a poignant tale to offer.” The cloaked woman smiled darkly and glided toward Joji. “I have a story of my own to tell, in fact—one you are going to want to hear.”

“It better be good,” Joji said with a smirk.

“Once upon a time,” said the cloaked woman, “there was a little teller who played fast and loose with the great works of literature, infusing them with an abundance of his own creative touches. That in itself was not a crime.

“However,” the woman continued, “all stories were judged in that world—in this world—by the harshest of standards.”

“Judged?” Joji’s smirk faded. “By whom?”

“Me, and those like me.” The woman opened her cloak, flashing a golden, star-shaped badge that was pinned to the chest of the red tunic underneath. “We street-critics are everywhere… our word is final… and I have found you exceedingly wanting.” Her hands shot out and grabbed Joji’s arms with strength that surprised him. “Your fate shall be like that of the prince in the true tale of Hamlet… the one with the poodle you so blithely disregarded.”

Rotten Robin frowned. “You mean the story where Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King get blasted and raise poor Yorick from the dead for shits and giggles?”

“Or the one where Gatsby falls for Holden Caulfield and ends up dead because of a tragic mix-up between their feuding cliques at Beverly Hills High School?” asked Pupa.

The cloaked woman swept steel cuffs from a pouch at her waist and clamped them on Joji’s wrists. “More like the one where Hamlet ends up dead for not realizing that telling the audience what you think they need to hear can get you killed.”

“No, please!” wailed Joji. “I meant no harm!”

“Shh!” snapped the woman. “Quiet! Remember Hamlet’s last words? ‘The rest is violence.'”

“Don’t you mean ‘The rest is silence?'” asked Joji.

“Not in this version of Hamlet,” said the woman as she dragged him away by the cuffs. “The one with the guillotine instead of a poodle.”


About the Creators

Julie Sevens is a horror writer and an everything reader. The tentacular appendages of the universe have moved her from Ohio to Philadelphia, to Berlin. Now just beyond the interstellar blastzone of Chicago, Julie lives with her husband, two sons, a doorstep spider named Lentil, and a ghost in the closet who resists naming. Find more of her nightmares at juliesevens.com. Read her question for Aunty Stanky, our insolent “advice” columnist.

Frankenstein monsters don’t get enough genre love. How would you revive the Frankenstein trope in the 21st century?
I love Frankenstein’s monsters and have a story in my pocket about this: the lovelorn fiancee of a recently dead man starts to feel his heart beating again. She follows his heartbeat to an old mining town in Pennsylvania, where she discovers his heart has been used by a mad scientist to create Frankenstein’s monster. After transforming herself into a monster, they violently commandeer Dr. Frankenstein’s wedding and get married, then ride off into the sunset. I suppose if I were to revamp it in longer form, it’d be: “follow the organs”. Maybe each organ has a backstory like this.

What’s your favorite imaginary sound, and why?
The fizzy silence of an em dash.

C E Hoffman (they/them) is a grant recipient, Writer’s Union of Canada member, and winner of the 2022 Defunct May Day Chapbook contest for their chapbook NO ACTUAL SIN. They’ve been published widely online and in print since 2010, and edited Punk Monk Magazine since 2012. C E Hoffman donated their story for your enjoyment so you owe them!

Find their books at cehoffman.net/publications, follow them on Twitter @CEHoffman2, and listen to their podcast Scribbles & Spills. Read their Aunty Stanky question.

Frankenstein monsters don’t get enough genre love. How would you revive the Frankenstein trope in the 21st century?
A Frankenstein amalgamation of all your previous Tinder dates, hopefully amounting to a decent match- or even the love of your life/death?! (I may write this…!)

What’s your favorite imaginary sound, and why?
The dulcet tones of Moby Dick and Godot making sweet, sweet love. Then again, who says that’s imaginary?

Robert Jeschonek is an envelope-pushing, USA Today-bestselling author whose fiction, comics, and non-fiction have been published around the world. His stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Pulphouse, Galaxy’s Edge, Escape Pod, and many other publications. He has written official Star Trek and Doctor Who fiction and scripted comics for DC, AHOY, and other publishers. Read his Aunty Stanky answer.

What’s your favorite imaginary sound, and why?
The whisper of chava gills on a quiet night in Bromead, when every dark thing I have ever considered arises from the muds of Moheva-Ree and forms terrible little whorls on the backs of the 7-foot hooklas with their crests all a-browning and their beak drills piercing the chava shells with little spurts of fluorescent red and yellow ichor/cider.

Who is your favorite acid jazz artist, and how do you think they should adjust their material to appeal to the cephalopod demographic?
Kenny G, of course, is the peerless master of all things acid jazzy on the planet! His material already has powerful appeal to all cephalopods, triggering arhythmic twitchery in even disembodied hunks of plated calamari, so no adjustments are needed. The screams and wails of his blistering, uncompromising sax have also been linked to spontaneous squid ink releases that spell out twisted limericks in Portuguese–and the unexpected psychedelia known to flash on certain chameleons and clergymen in the wild.

About the Artist

Our very own D.R.R. Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and you can get a free copy of his janky retro JRPG, which was formerly on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.

Source images sloppily provided by Craiyon.com, the worst AI artist on the internet.

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