—after Alison Knowles

#1 Where Was That Saguaro? 
The performer is a woman on a hiking trail, just off the edge of the city. The sun and moon are having it out in the sky, one too eager, the other unwilling, and the sky is a blue losing interest. It’s dimming shut like a computer screen. Fading like jeans. Like the jeans the woman is wearing, the woman who is standing still and looking up, estimating the hour. Eight? Eight-thirty? She didn’t mean to be here. She is surrounded by jumping cholla, rock and gravel, rustles in what’s dry and dead. She remembers passing a saguaro. Tall, one-armed, with cactus wren pecks slashed into its green. Where is it?

#2 Fire-Breathers Take Over the Street
A street in the suburbs, quiet and neat. Careful landscaping in the median: pink gravel, palo verde trees. To the left of the road the scant audience can see a pet clinic. To the right, an entrance to a gated community. (The houses are sprawling, adobe-inspired.) The street is empty and abandoned until something orange flashes in the distance. Then another flash, and another, and suddenly the flashes are orange and flickering, orange and leaping, lumbering up and over the asphalt hill. The fire spews forth and retracts, shoots up and shoots in. Fire cartwheels, fire tumbles, fire does perfect-ten backflips. Are those people? They’re gone before the scant audience sees. A car drives past, following the speed limit.

#3 IHOP after 10 p.m.
The first sound is the clatter of forks on plates, then plates on hard carpet, then the startled gasps of pancake eaters. The performer is a young woman wearing a church-length skirt and a t-shirt. At the performer’s feet, forks and pieces of plate and pancake gather like disciples. She doesn’t gasp with the other eaters. While the others watch and the waitress leaves, the performer stands still as a suburb, still as a secret, and all the pancake eaters sit bathed in the still. One pancake eater thinks, still here. Another thinks, this again, this still? Still another thinks, but still... 

#4 La Llorana
Three performers sit on the bridge. Their legs swing above the lake that’s in the middle of the city. The performer on the far right whispers her deepest, darkest secret to the performer sitting on her left. The performer who listens to the deepest, darkest secret stands up and dives into the dark water beneath her. When she reemerges, she swims to the shore, walks to the sidewalk, and walks back to her place on the bridge. She sits down and, to the performer on her left, whispers her own deepest, darkest secret. The performer who listens to the secret dives into the dark water, reemerges, swims to the shore, walks to the sidewalk, and walks back to her place on the bridge. The sequence is repeated with secrets of diminishing intensity (i.e. second deepest darkest secret, third deepest darkest secret, etc.).

Victoria Miluch is an MFA candidate at Indiana University, and the former Fiction Editor of the Indiana Review. Her fiction and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Passages North, The Adroit Journal, and the Denver Quarterly.


The Black Fox was spotted in Ezra’s city a third time. The first time she’d been seen visiting injured fighters in a hospital. The second time she’d assisted in a raid on a downtown Golem production facility that demolished nine bipedal behemoths before they could reach the battlefield. Ezra had returned from a cross country trip to find his home occupied by soldiers who studied his ID under flashlights. They searched his truck but found nothing. But they hadn’t found the Black Fox either. Still, Ezra didn’t relax until they waved him past the newly established checkpoint. He prayed, for his grandchildren’s sake, that this civil war would end soon.
             Days later, a clockwork crow snapped a photo of the famous rebel: her teeth bared, eyes narrowed, fire barking from the end of her AR-15. The soldiers shot a panhandler in the city square and the rebels retaliated. The firefight became a major battle with more forces joining on each side. Of course, the Black Fox joined the fighting. Of course, the rebels chanted her nom de guerre: “Nigri Vulpes! Nigri Vulpes! Nigri Vulpes!” convinced they’d win under the invincible soldier’s command. They did.
             Ezra’s bones ached from age but he also played his part. The President-General refused to allow aid into the western region for fear of “assisting dissidents.” Young people threw their bodies into the meat grinder of combat, spies delivered intel to the resistance, and Ezra smuggled provisions into their hurting city. Few suspected an old man might ferry medicine, ammunition, or equipment into the city. The evening came when his employer asked him to smuggle a person past their borders.
             “Please Ezra,” his boss said as he introduced the muscular woman. “She’s needed in the eastern states. Ensure she gets there safe.”
             There stood the woman they idolized. The Black Fox was shorter than him but somehow made him feel small. Her eyes and handshake were both hard as iron. He’d never smuggled a person before but didn’t tell her so. She gave him a long look when he opened the secret compartment beneath his driver’s seat.
             “Miss, my freedom is right there in that hollow with you.”
             The young woman nodded. “I appreciate the risk you’re taking, sir.”
             The President-General often showed up on television, his daughter sullen and mute beside him, roaring into the mic: “Those who assist the enemy, are the enemy.” Ezra considered this as he approached the checkpoint. The exhausted soldier demanded his ID and his comrades searched the truck’s cabin. He looked ahead, rested his hands on the wheel, and thought of how his grandchildren’s faces brightened whenever The Black Fox appeared on a screen. He’d seen that expression few times since this regime commandeered their future. The soldier peered in through the window before handing back his identification. Ezra crept cautiously ahead, carrying the final flicker of a generation’s hope as his cargo. He couldn’t let that flame be extinguished while he held it in his gnarled hands.

Tony Quick is an African American speculative fiction writer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and served as fiction editor to Iowa State University’s literary magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment in 2013. His fiction has appeared in the quarterly speculative magazine, Devilfish Review. His poetry is featured in Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland.  He is currently a Master of Fine Arts fiction candidate at North Carolina State University.


Imagine something of substantial mass—I mean, such a huge mass of such great incomprehensible density—this unthinkably, unbelievably dense and substantial mass of a size we can't even think of it and how it draws everything in with all its gravity, so much gravity like a waterfall, like you're floating along down the river and you hear the rush of the water and there ahead of you the river starts going, starts really moving, starts getting sucked over the side, over a cliff, and you have no choice but to float over into the swirling miasma of the water below except here, here in this black hole, there isn't water but rather this mass, this sickly but strong force of mass, the gravity of which sucks in and crushes everything too curious not to explore its vicinity, its twisting, swirling mass that defies all of what we think we know of physics—that time gets turned on its head, past becomes future and future past, that even light cannot escape, it's so gravitationally dense in there, that even light is collapsed and sound is unmade, words unspoken into this dense mass of light-crushing dark—except in the news today there was a story that maybe black holes aren't all what we think, that maybe not all gets crushed; that there's some evidence, some proof—proved I don't know how; I guess by observation and mathematics (because in what other way does anything ever get proven—by feeling or sense or intuition or wanting, which all tend to fail from time to time, each in its own ways, in the past?)—of cells surviving the suck and collapse, of making it through—which suggests a passage of some sort, through to another world or universe or time or dimension, something we can't now apprehend, something we may never know without trying it ourselves, without passing ourselves into this density and through with a hope (or is it faith?) based in anything other than, what, mathematics and observation maybe?—which is all to say I woke early this morning in the bedroom of our house next to the railroad tracks and I heard the train idling for hours outside our window—which you'd opened in the night, I guess, because the inside air wouldn't move, just collapsed there on top of us, and I woke later with the horn and the brakes' screel—and I went downstairs planning, I don't know, to yell to the conductor maybe or to turn on the television or open the Internet to see what was the matter but I only made it as far as the porch and I bent down to grab the morning paper—as tightly rolled as every other day, bound by one of those red rubber bands we've started to collect—and I held it between my hands, held tight to this rolled-up paper that seemed pristine in its own quaint and unread way, this paper that hadn't yet reported on the man who, in the middle of the night while we slept, climbed the dirt embankment next to our house, stepped onto the trestle that crosses the creek and cuts into our backyard woods, and laid down on the tracks to wait for the 5:45 to Chicago.

Matthew Fogarty is the author of Maybe Mermaids and Robots are Lonely, forthcoming from George Mason University’s Stillhouse Press (2016). He has an MFA from the University of South Carolina, where he was editor of Yemassee, and he is Co-Publisher at Jellyfish Highway Press. His fiction has appeared in such journals as Passages North, Fourteen Hills, PANK, Smokelong Quarterly, and Midwestern Gothic. He can be found online at www.matthewfogarty.com and on Twitter at @thatmattfogarty.


I'm standing in a shop, looking at T-shirts and knick-knacks and things I don't need to buy, and beside me is a kid half my age, looking at the same T-shirts and knick-knacks and things she doesn't need to buy, and I know this kid because we have the same DNA and twenty-five years ago she was me, and at the same moment we pick up the same T-shirt and I think what the hell and she thinks, I don't have the twenty bucks to spend, but one of us is going home with that T-shirt and maybe it's me and maybe it's not me and I can't get my mind all the way around the facts of this situation and then my fingers find the corner of the table and I see someone else, a tall woman with short blond hair and a sway to her hips that she works and works all the way around that table, and this woman is definitely not me but she looks at me, a long time she looks me right in the eye, and then she winks, as if she's done it a million times and this is just one more, one like all the others we've shared through all the lifetimes we've lived and then she picks the T-shirt up and spreads it across the back of the kid half my age and says, This is You, Baby. This is So You. And I reach for my wallet and I buy that goddamned T-shirt and I try my best not to cry all the way home, looking over at the empty seat beside me, trying to remember exactly the way the tall woman's blue eyes met mine, how it felt before the wink, after the wink, right at the exact moment that wink which was just one in a sea of so many winks, split me right in two and left me in that store, holding a T-shirt across my body, whispering someone's name who wasn't even there.

Mary Lynn Reed's fiction has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, The Nottingham Review, and Whistling Shade, among other places. One of her stories was recently nominated for Best Small Fictions 2017. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Maryland. 


Navin and Kamal sit squashed together in the train’s doorway, feet dangling outside, and — as the backwaters meander past; as the last rays of sun strike through swaying fronds; as a barefoot man, machete in hand, climbs a coconut tree; as, from the homes by the tracks, flicker kerosene lamps and waft frying pomfret; as the vestibule creaks behind them whenever a bearer makes his way between carriages — finally talk about the girl they had both kissed, and about the “gentlemanly” way forward. They hold hands as they do; for a moment, the older brother rests his head on the younger’s shoulder.

Abhilash Mudaliar grew up in Australia and India, and currently lives in Seattle. He is finally taking writing seriously, and never wants to stop.


A long time ago she was a person, a specialist in limbo, dipping under railings and pitter-pattering up stairs with the softest of footfalls. Now she’s let her feet turn heavy and her claws go long. Now she’s let her hair grow thick, the kind of underbrush a herd of deer might sleep inside. She’s forgotten all about the fences. 

Now her sweaters are full of holes and when they open up, she won’t care. She’ll welcome the world against her skin, let the beetles scatter anywhere they please. The girl is different now, not so much a girl as a thing that hinges on the scent of fried onions at eight o’clock in the morning, a thing who knows rotting flesh smells a little bit like marzipan. 

The girl growls at strangers. She howls when she feels the sound gush through her windpipe, remembering how her throat was once the worn riverbed of words, twisting into something pretty. Now it’s a tunnel, the longest one you’ve ever seen, and full of silverfish. She thinks if she follows it all the way down, she might find a bit of light. The girl doesn’t smell so great.

Back then she used to think winter was war. Now she knows it is. She sniffs at newspapers in the garbage and acts out all the horoscopes, doesn’t matter whose star she picks. She thinks everything smells like instant coffee. At night the rats mistake her bare ass for the moon.

Once in a while the girl will crawl out of the holes in her sweater and into a dress, let the velvet hang like a lampshade around her thighs, and paint her nails the color of fox blood. She does this to prove she hasn’t yet forgotten the word for mirror. To prove she could still find her way back inside, if she wanted to.

But what’s the point? It would be like trying to make a necklace from two ends of a live wire, like trying to swim deep without first letting go of any air. It would be like trying to fold water. 

No. The girl’s not going home. She’s a bloodhound on the trail, and next, she thinks she’ll be a galaxy. 

Anna GM lives Berlin. When she's not writing, she works at a desk, organizes queer events, and reads stories to anyone who will listen. Her work can be found around the internet at Unbroken Journal, the Olentangy Review, and Slink Chunk Press. She was a finalist in the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award and in The Reader Berlin's Summer Short Fiction Competition.   


A hearty thanks to everyone who submitted to us during this last submissions cycle! Now that we've gone through all submissions, we wanted to share a quick note about our upcoming story schedule, and when you can expect submissions to open up again!


We will be running stories next week (Tues, April 4) through the first week of August. We won't be posting new stories again until early 2018.


Submissions will open back up in October 2017 and run, roughly, for about two months. Submissions chose to be published by CHEAP POP during this period will be published in early 2018.


While submissions are now closed, we are thrilled at the sheer number we received! Us editors are currently reading through everything, and our plans are, tentatively, this: start posting stories in April (through mid-summer at some point), and then open up submissions again, rinse and repeat.

For now, know we're hard at work reading your beautiful words, and we'll be back in touch soon with more definitive plans/announcements!