A once-widower, Winthrop thinks he’s found his match. Athena is modest, kind, and much too forgiving for what he feels he deserves. Lasting for over twenty years, their marriage takes a turn after the couple enters retirement realizing the one hitch to their relationship: Athena can never replace his first wife Winona.
After agreeing to a temporary separation, Athena begins cleaning out some of her belongings. Watching her near an old office closet, Winthrop’s eye is caught by an object hidden inside a box: a tall wooden statue of an eagle that once belonged to her late brother.
Winthrop becomes enthralled by the figure. It’s delicate, intricate, and far too realistic to even be false. With Winona on his mind and visiting him in dreams, seeing the wooden eagle pushes him to believe he may have found a way to bring her back.
Enlisting Keith, a talented woodworker hired to re-construct Winona, Winthrop thinks he’s found the ultimate solution. But immediately after their re-uniting, his confidence is shaken as his dreams morph to nightmares of the day his first wife died leading him onto a path of jealously, vengeance, and a final confrontation he may not survive.
Deborah is tired. At forty years old, her life feels stifled: single and childless working an unfulfilling job as a pre-school teacher’s aide. Living at home with her grandfather, she struggles to care for him as he approaches ninety and longs to transition her life from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
The only thing Deborah has is the darkness. At night, she’s provided a spark of excitement as she hears the evening call to her. Praying on her thrill-seeking desires, Deborah is unable to resist and agrees to follow its direction leading her down a path of sneaking into strangers’ homes.
One particular house haunts her. It is large, quiet, and seemingly vacant at night. Her fears, however, quickly mutate to addiction as she cannot tear herself away. Deborah wants to know it all: who is the family that lives there and why they are never around. And as her own household issues escalate, she gets what she wishes for discovering she has never been alone.
At five years old, Devin is abandoned. Left by his mother at an orphanage, he remains empty until Murray. A young orphan himself, Murray’s different than Devin. He’s confident. Mouthy. The best brother Devin always dreamed he had. Murray is sick though, and his illness is terminal. But Devin doesn’t have to worry because Murray has plans.
Plotting to re-incarnate into a praying mantis, Murray asks Devin for help. Wanting Devin to assist in his spirit’s transition into the insect in the most shocking of ways, Devin is shattered. But Devin needs Murray—loves him, really—so he’ll do anything to keep him around in whatever form he’s able.
Months after Murray’s re-birthing, a tragedy happens in the lawn of their home that they once shared. Devin partly blames himself, but he mostly blames Earl who’s a local maintenance worker and resident expert pest.
Devin needs Murray, but Murray is gone. So Devin needs revenge, and he’ll use it on Earl. He’s planned it all out: he’ll follow him home. They’ll need to journey together. Earl will not get away.
A LIGHT FOR JOSEF
Growing up, Josef did everything right: he worked; he married; he raised a daughter. Family life continues smoothly until the sudden suicide of his mother when Josef is on the cusp of turning sixty. Startled and shaken, matters are only made worse by his daughter Amelia’s admission of an unknown, incurable illness she has somehow developed.
Weeks after celebrating her thirtieth birthday, Amelia dies in Josef’s bedroom leaving him empty. Feeling hopeless and abandoned, he is left clinging to old memories as he muddles through life wondering what to do next.
But there is hope.
Soon after his mother died, he discovered an online forum discussing a mine that may hold a light allowing people the chance to see their loved ones who’ve passed. Gaining the trust of Elk, a man within that ancient community, he prepares to travel to seek out the mine for one last chance at holding them again with no guarantees of making it out of the cave alive.
Irma is a young woman losing her vision. Leaving her job at a local hospital to care for her aging father, she lives with him and her older brother in their home near the rural mountains. Her only solace from the stresses of her household and health is found in the surrounding landscape.
While roaming the hills she discovers a church, which she thinks is abandoned. Returning another night for peace and prayer, she meets a nun who appears as the church’s caretaker. The sister seems kind and understanding, but something about her leaves Irma uncertain.
As her brother’s attitude sours and her father’s health declines, Irma’s eyesight begins to deteriorate at a rapid pace. She feels her only ally is the nun who Irma returns to begging for a miracle which seems to occur days later—but not without tragic repercussions and an impossible choice.
TAKE THE WITCH PATH
Small-town family man Amias has been plagued with visions of a witch he discovered within a nearby woodland. At ten years old, he’d snuck from his home one evening to enter through the brush. Drawn deeper inside, he found the strangest of scenes: a stone cottage, a burning fire, and a dancing woman who he came to realize as a witch. Instead of entrapping Amias within the trees, she let him go with the promise of another meeting and a stinging scar along the side of his face.
Now an adult, Amias is still unable to shake their encounter. Reoccurring dreams of the witch both consume and frighten him. While he is afraid that she may have cursed him, he cannot deny his growing obsession with returning to see her. And once his young son Ivor admits to being afflicted with similar visions of the witch, he is even more determined to journey back to his old cottage to enter the forest and confront the woman of the woodlands one final time.
THE EASIEST OF TARGETS
Malcolm’s day is interrupted by a stranger at his door. He does not recognize the man, and the man does not introduce himself. During their brief conversation, the only thing revealed is an accusation: Malcolm’s wife, Vera, is not who she says she is.
Vera’s day is interrupted by a stranger at her door. She doesn’t know who the woman is, and the woman does not give her name. Their exchange is brief and unexpected—she doesn’t stay long, doesn’t say much, and only teases Vera with a single claim: her husband is not who he says he is.
As visits from their respective strangers intensify, Malcolm and Vera grow more suspicious of one another. The couple begins to unravel as the sting of old wounds resurface forcing them to make a choice: to turn their backs on each other or to come together in an attempt to save their marriage already built on unstable ground.
I WOULD DO ANYTHING
Finnick and his father Brahms are on their way to bury his son. They’ve packed the car; they’ve climbed inside. They’ve headed off to not a cemetery, but a secluded woodland near a distant highway. Now in his mid-fifties, Finnick sits as the passenger with his father, the man who killed his child, behind the wheel. His son, a young twentysomething, lies zipped inside a body bag in the Chrysler’s trunk.
Finnick is torn between the two men: his father, whom he both loves and loathes for his crime, and his son, a boy he just discovered and started building a relationship with months before. Although angered and heartbroken, Brahms is quick to remind Finnick of another similar family tragedy: the death of his mother over twenty years ago.
Told in reverse, Finnick is forced to make a choice after the echoing of his mother’s death. Will he choose to reveal Brahms’s crime losing the last of his family ties? Or will choose his father over his son by offering him a priceless gift? One of dedication and devotion—a vow of secrecy and complete protection.
A young homeless woman has just escaped her captor Lorne. Thinking her path to freedom will come through a winter woodland, she runs past thicket and snow to find an oddly-shaped clearing within the center of the forest. What is even stranger than the clearing is the log house that sits inside it. The cabin has no door, one window, and seems abandoned. Ignoring her instincts, she stays in the woods instead of persisting on.
The woman is both fixated and frightened by the log house. A flurry of questions hinders her from walking away: why is this cabin here? Is she truly alone in these woods? Once confined in a house by Lorne, she is now imprisoned again by this strange cabin, fears of being followed, and the uncertainty of isolation.
With freezing temperatures, no sleep, little nourishment, and scarce shelter, she is unable to decipher reality from imagination. Because of her unreliable state-of-mind and frequent flashbacks of her time with Lorne, she may be pushed to do the one thing she fears the most.
I NEED YOU
She will not say his name until she finds him. She met him nine months before in a shopping mall. Ursula suffers from a disorder, an illness where she can hear no one except for herself. Until that day when she met the boy while Christmas shopping. The boy with the voice that twanged her heart. But he’s gone, and she can’t find him. Determination makes her fearless in her journey to find her “Comrade.” She travels to a lighthouse where she thinks he’s waiting to see her again and speak her name.
Randall is a widower and a father. His daughter Katherine is his only child. Their bond is strong and tightly woven. A diagnosis loosens their thread. Randall’s daughter has a sickness: one unexplainable and incurable. “Caring for the Old and Terminally Ill” shares both stories—one of a father’s struggle with his dying daughter, and one of a daughter’s heartbreak knowing she’ll leave him as his memory slowly fades.
Don lives alone until the day a man appears inside his basement. The man is a stranger who does not move or speak but seems familiar as his father who died from uncertain circumstances. Don’s sister and mother saw it all, but they won’t reveal any of what they witnessed. While trying to mend his relationship with his sister, the man vanishes with no return. Don is left dumbfounded and frantic. Can he overcome another loss, or will “This Man” derail Don from all rational thought?
I Need You exists in 7 stories to remind us all why we are here: to connect together in new relations. To remember the ones we love who’ve disappeared.
Nell missed her chance of bearing a child. Her age is discouraging; she does not want to adopt. At night, she wears her silicone bump to cope with the family she’s missing. If she cannot birth a baby, she is determined to find one to steal. “Scout” follows Nell, a clown make-up artist, as she searches the circus grounds for a sweet little one to call her own.
Nell and Leonard are best buds with a pact: RTK. They are ready to kill themselves on the eve of their twentieth birthdays. Only three people know their plan: two friends from a convenience store where they work and Leonard’s father who has just reappeared in his life. In “RTK,” Nell is hellbent on following through with their promise, while Leonard—with the pleading voice of his dad—may be having second thoughts.
Nell is an elderly pet-sitter for small animals. She lives alone and works on occasion. Her favorite customer is Clementine, a seven-legged tarantula she watches for a neighbor down the street. When her neighbor Delia has to move to care for her ailing mother, she knows Clementine will be leaving with her. Nell becomes panicked and desperate in “Honey.” She can’t let Clementine go, so what will Nell do to keep him with her?
Nefarious Nell is a compilation of numbers: seven stories of deep desperation. Seven Nells with selfish agendas.
A young woman’s baby dies while traveling late one night. Choosing to keep secrets from her husband and therapist, she instead opens up about motherhood to her local mail carrier in “Unfortunate Circumstances.”
A clergyman dedicates his life to the church but refuses to touch his bare skin to a cross. In “Sinner’s Priest,” he reveals his worries not only to God but also to a strange new man he meets in confession.
“Hailey Parts” exposes a husband keeping his deceased wife’s body in their house long after her natural death. He discovers a better relationship with her now than when she was alive.
Red Hands festers with an unhealthy theme of obsession. Each short story contains a catalyst: an object that fuels characters’ feelings of disgust, fear, and pain as they work through ill-fated relationships.
Sometimes the little things aren’t so little: a meeting with a loved one, a stop at a coffee shop, a walk into the bathroom at night. Sometimes these things fester. Then grow.
Epiphany elevates the everyday occurrences of everyday life. Mundanity transforms as the aha moments of the speaker reveal themselves in poetry form. From sadness to solace, this collection is a light on the most valuable asset of being human: our ability to feel.
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