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Deanna Dinielli

     The woman feels glorious in her gown. She pokes a single French-manicured fingertip into the braided bun atop her head to scratch an itch. She has exceptionally beautiful hair, yet today, her wedding day, it is tied up like an afterthought.
     She is overcome by anticipation because her life is about to change. In a matter of seconds Father will take her hand and escort her down the rose-petal sprinkled aisle. She has fantasized about this day for the past three years, but now that it has arrived, she buzzes with nervous energy.
     "Ready, dear?" Father asks softly. He is stoic but proud. "You look wonderful."
     The music begins. Three hundred guests rise at the first chord. Bridesmaids are in position, next to the ushers and her groom, her beloved, the man she will soon dedicate herself to.
     She focuses on him, modernly handsome, facing her direction. The years they've spent together, laughing and crying, elation and frustration united while trying to carve out a domestic utopia, flood her memory. She thinks about riding bicycles along the shore, eating sushi at a friend's restaurant, playing vintage Scrabble by candlelight during the great power outage of 2085. She loves how his thick arms embrace her during the night, and his bedroom eyes seduce her, and his playful half-smile keeps her guessing.
     He isn't smiling now. She takes his hand.
     "Friends and family," the minister begins. "We are gathered for a timeless celebration of love and commitment, one that has lasted the test of mortality . . ."
      The woman looks adoringly at her beloved.
     ". . . since these two met, they've been joined in a spiritual and romantic connection from this world and beyond, for we know that life is just the beginning, and death holds even more wonders . . ."
     Mother weeps. Father grins and taps his foot nervously. He turns to Mother and squeezes her hand.
     The woman recites her vows as practiced. When permission is granted, she gives her new husband a dry kiss. He is wearing heavier make-up than she had requested, and it makes her grimace.
     The crowd cheers. She helps wheel her beloved out of the church.
     Organic rice is thrown. Doves are released. On the drive to the reception hall, the woman leans in and whispers, "We did it, darling. Today I am the happiest woman alive."
     He doesn't say anything. He stares ahead. She hooks her hand through his stiff arm.
     Their limo passes a white truck with "Humidermy: The Next Best Thing!" painted on the side. Cultures around the globe embrace the practice of Human Taxidermy, which has flourished since the mid-century population boom and available land to bury the dead had dwindled to almost nothing.
     It spawned even stranger rituals.
     "We'll truly be together when I die," she whispers. "Until then, I'll love you like I did before the virus took you away."
     He stares ahead.

Deanna Dinielli is 23 years old and lives in South Florida, where she runs a housekeeping business and works on a science fiction novella during her spare time. She has also worked as a travel agent, dog groomer, and nanny. This is her first publication.

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

      She flicked her streaky blonde hair so that it fell over her face, masking her eyes. She couldn't meet his eyes. She knew what he expected from her, the fat bastard. He almost smiled at her, as if to say this was as embarrassing for him as it was for her. But within minutes he would forget her entirely, another faceless girl among millions. He was the same as all the others: hand her a wad of dollar bills and take what he wanted. Just a chunk of meat.
      It was the money, of course. She could point to the very moment she'd started this slow and steady decline. She once believed that her morals were firm and steadfast, like steel. The truth was that she was selfish and shallow and weak. Her morals counted for nothing when push came to shove. She could almost hear her mother's voice: You made your bed, now lie in it. She should have listened to her warnings. But no one ever thinks they will slip into the abyss, not truly.
      She closed her eyes against the pain: a throbbing at her temples, the banging of war drums against her brain. She'd serve him and then another and then another. Bright sparks wheeled and danced against the backdrop of her closed eyes. Somehow, she was going to have to get through this.
      She pulled the corners of her mouth into a rictus grin and opened her eyes into slits. He was watching her with a touch of impatience. There was nothing for it. She was going to have to simply do this.
      She forced out the words he was waiting to hear.
      "Welcome to Burger King, my name is Becky. How may I help you?"

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley is a white immigrant from the barrios of Los Angeles who lives in Spain and tells her son Japanese fairy tales. Previous publications include the Guardian, New Business Magazine, Internet Today, EverydayFiction.com, Dark Tales Magazine, Piper Flyer, Cessna Flyer, Professional Webmaster and rather obscurely, The Winnipeg Writers' Festival.

Round Trip to Gallipoli
Avis Hickman-Gibb

      It's a long distance, from here to there.
      My Granddad used to tell me that as a joke, when I was a little girl. I never did understand what he meant. But we'd laugh and eat ice-cream; it was enough. We connected. They'd visit often, Gran and Granddad, and I'd take him for walks in the nearby park.
      "It's ok, Granddad, don't worry 'bout coming into the park. S'ok, you're with me."
      I had assured him once, on that first walk we took; when he'd hesitated to enter a zone of only women and children. He was failing mentally, even then. Not his fault, if fault there be in these things; more a sad consequence of the motor cyclist who'd knocked him onto his head. That accident caused his brain to start dying - slowly, from the outside in, from that day on.
      He'd forget what he'd just said, at first; end up repeating himself. And again. Then memories which were of more recent date were next to go. Faces, places, names; wiped clean. Finally, he forgot his wife. She wasn't the old lady who cared for him in his present. No, in his mind his wife was still the lovely, fresh girl he'd married all those years ago. Impossible, but achingly sad. If left to himself on his daily walk, he'd be found heading back to Rusholme from Harpurhey; looking for his Annie-girl.
      It broke Gran's heart. Helpless, she watched her lover of over 50 years slipping beyond her touch until one day he was practically all gone, mentally. For her own good then, the family exerted caring pressure on her; forcing his placement into a local nursing home. Reluctantly, she eventually signed the papers. And one foggy November night he was taken there and left with strangers.
      She was inconsolable. He faded in and out over the coming months, but on the good days had enough nous left to recognise where he'd been taken. Back to the very same building he'd been born into nearly seventy-two years before. He'd come full circle. From Crumpsall to Gallipoli; and then eventually back.
      When you think about it, no distance at all really.

Avis Hickman-Gibb, lives in Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. She's had stories in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, PygmyGiant, BackhandStories, Boston Literary Magazine, Short Humour, The Ranfurly Review StaticMovement, Microhorror, Bewildering Stories & The Shine Journal. She's currently working on a book of short stories and a novel but is addicted to writing flash fiction. If you want to read more of her writing, you can find links at: www.WriteWords.org.uk/Hickman-Gibb/".

Property Lines
Amanda Borozinski

      Yesterday morning, sometime after 7:00 a.m., I saw a fox.
      As the rising sun illuminated just the tips of birch and pine, a tight orange shape trotted over the snow.
      Unconcerned by homeowner¹s insurance or mortgage payments, the fox lifted its leg. Now I may claim the shrubs and daffodils. But the mice and voles, the grasshoppers and snakes, the creeks and dens, they are already marked.

Amanda Borozinski is a staff writer and photographer for the Keene Sentinel. Her work has appeared in The Oklahoma Review, Guideposts Magazine and will be up coming in The Northern New England Review and Toasted Cheese Online Literary Journal. Amanda has an MFA from Antioch University, LA. And recently spent three weeks at the MacDowell Colony working on her first creative nonfiction book To Make Our Joy Complete. Amanda can be reached via e-mail: aboro@ptcnh.net.

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