Steps from the Edge

“There’s a world in my toilet bowl. Right there, can’t you see?” Clive’s hazel eyes are large and pleading, as if his sanity, the pride of his life he’s been losing slowly the past three years, will be confirmed if only I can agree.

I humour him. “Yes. Stormy skies, right?”

Clive wiggles his eyebrows at me, a rare lucid moment, as he tugs off his red wool socks. “Don’t be silly. Sunny skies. I’ll be on the six o’clock news tonight; you’ll watch, won’t you?” And there’s the drop again.

I nod obligingly and help him into the shower, settling him gently on the bath bench. His wrinkled skin reminds me of an apple left too long in the sun: brown, haggard, and soft.

He emits a shriek on the drying cycle, high-pitched, like a rabbit caught in a coyote’s locked jaws.

“Clive?” He’s motionless, except for his eyes. They’re rolling, dancing, fighting a battle no one else can see.

Then I see the water.

All around his feet, splashing down, rotating from the toilet like a torrent, the water is black and putrid.

“It’s backed up!” I shriek.

His vision clears, as does the water. I gape at the floor, at my dry socks.

“Amazing,” he says. “You were right about the storm clouds.”

The next day I enter his home. Water everywhere, with the deepest levels near the bathroom. “Clive!” I yell, as I race from room to room. “Where are you?”

Phone in hand, I remember the previous day’s events. I inch to the bathroom, to the toilet, gazing down into the bowl.

I see a world, zoomed in to a tiny town. A thick red sock, matted from rain, lies discarded on the road.

I know the police will never find him.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:
Honourable Mention and Community Pick!

Once Upon a Murder

“Mon Dieu!” I whispered upon opening the door to the ornate Parisian townhome with rose emblem windows and a portico strewn with de-potted lavender.

Staff were sprawled upon the age-darkened, chevron-style oak flooring, throats slit and glistening.

A slick glove wrapped around my throat. “I’m just…a…translator!” I gasped.

“Parfait,” a deep voice rumbled before giving me the obsidian kiss.

I sit here now and translate on paper, staring into the muzzle of a Darne V22 shotgun.

He sits across from me, spouting French boasts. Exploits. Massacres.

I sneeze; my hand jerks. The shotgun kabooms.

“Merde! Work now, death later, madame translator. You’ll ruin my fun.”


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Francine’s Wrath

The documentary was a bad idea, but Betsy didn’t think her dairy farm would be raided by authorities on the second day of taping. “Top dog alert” swept through the camera crew, until it reached Betsy as she clamped the last milking cup onto Francine, her favourite Holstein.

Camera crew three alleged they heard a kerfuffle, and a scream.

Betsy was led away in handcuffs on suspicion of second-degree murder. She claimed it was Francine, in response to Agent Nabi’s inappropriately placed hand—Hey, top dog! Mind your hot dog!—but the authorities wouldn’t budge.

She still cited Francine’s influence as the cruiser slammed into the nearest tree.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Y 2 Eyes

“Hey, numbnuts, you know what tomorrow is, right?” His braying laugh reverberated through my sensitive ears.

“Stop it!”

“Fine. Freakazoid! You blue-eyed and green-eyed freakazoid!”

I stood there hyperventilating, my tiny chest rising in faster sequences, my face flushing deeper than the deepest aubergine. I felt a tiny pop, then a scurrying through my skin. Odd.

“You’re a freak with the Y2K virus. You’ll be dead tomorrow, your skin flayed and stinking!”

Good guess.

The next morning all that remained of my bully was a bloody, pulpy mess, his pajamas coated with traces of extraterrestrial gunk.

Who’s laughing now?


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Dragons: A Documentary

“What rubbish!” Winnifred Firebreather said as she plopped down upon the beige settee. “They aren’t moving.” She gazed in annoyance at the troops on the field. “Terrible programming. Do change channels.”

“I tried, dearest.” Wilfred’s nails tapped on the armrest, quartz-like threads raining in all directions. One large shard ricocheted, slicing across the chest of the nearest soldier.

Winnifred flicked a shard from her iridescent décolletage. “What’s for supper tonight?”

Mr. Firebreather suppressed a sigh. “Skewered game with roasted vegetables … minus the game. Don’t suppose—”

Winnifred had already launched herself away, swooping at top speed for the freshest, juiciest foot soldier.

The episode had just become interesting.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Tattooist En Plein Air

Flesh is Leah’s canvas, although she practises designs on the recently deceased. Those already gelatinizing are just billowing cushions destined to spill their contents.

It is true plein air work, but she makes deals with the undertaker to avoid much of the later decay.

She glances up from within her outdoor work shed, watching hunters traipse down the snow-packed road. The leader carries a gingered crimson bundle. She must hurry, for she’s inking his departed son.

He spots the clothing bundle, his son’s tattered jacket.

With a roar he’s upon her, inking her neck beyond the dermis, down deeper where vessels bleed scarlet into the pulsating black walnut ink.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Burnt Alizarin

It all started with a splash of blood. Sofia stared in surprise as the crimson juice welled up from an aching temple, dripping down, splashing most messily onto the porcelain sink. Each fresh drop scattered into many, until her bathroom sink was covered in little ruby dots bleeding their way down into the abyss.

“Shit,” she whispered. “Just what I need.”

Cutting paint out of hair was bloody work.

She grabbed a nearby cloth — pristine white no more — and dabbed at her face. She’d been rushing, trying to remove the evidence, the proof she’d been at his home that afternoon. Sloppy behaviour for an otherwise flawless presentation.

Of course he’d figure it out, but not before it was the right time.

Sofia had worked hard the past week, sneaking into his house through the garage. Sometimes she used the back gate. She caught a glimpse of the neighbours during one of her nighttime visits, grunting and moaning away, the window wide open and blinds pulled up for all the world to see. Well, all she saw was the fleshy backside of Mr. Hausmann. That was something she didn’t care to repeat.

Costa was out of town: some dreary business trip. He’d asked her to go, but she knew it was just perfunctory because he never liked when she got too involved in his meetings; he said her outfits were too revealing. Too much skin? Gah! That guy was a prude. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d made a move on her. She was the one who had to turn on the charm, warm him up while wearing something akin to a granny nightgown. It was enough to turn her off at the same time.

His boss had spent more time focusing on her chest than on Costa’s latest mind-numbing proposal, and could she blame him? She’d nearly fallen asleep herself.

At any rate, Mr. Prude was in for a surprise. Two weeks ago she decided she’d had enough of his moralistic behaviour, and it was time to teach him a lesson about flat love. It was time to make him squirm.

Last weekend she’d set up her easel, her paint palette, her brushes. She’d propped up a photo. She’d spread out the drop cloth.

Now, the painting was nearly complete.

Sofia frowned at herself in the bathroom mirror, at the bandage now plastered to her temple. She had community service in the morning, garbage picking along the highway. All that for a lousy minor accident. It was hardly her fault; the guy was distracted, but she’d been on her phone. And now they’d assume she was hitting the sauce before driving and had scratched up someone else’s car.

She reached into her back pocket for her phone. Gone.

“Crapola! I bet I left it at Costa’s.”

Before long she was driving back towards his house, passing by familiar oak trees swaying gently in the midnight breeze. Sofia parked in the driveway, bypassing the garage for the gate, and ducked low to avoid sight of Mr. Hausmann and his nude nighttime adventures. She slipped through the side door.

Her phone was right beside the painting. Several missed calls and a text. She didn’t check them, though. Her mind was elsewhere. The scent of the drying paint drew her in to a familiar place, a familiar joy. It had always been like this, ever since she’d first wandered into Grandpappy’s studio when she was a child. She’d sat in awe, gazing up at the canvases, the row of brushes glistening with wash water, the paint smock smeared in alizarin crimson and sap green. Grandpappy had glanced her way, a smirk skirting his lips. He turned the painting around, giving Sofia her first glimpse of a naughty nude. He laughed until the tears blurred his vision, thinking he’d scared her good. He was wrong.

Sofia gazed at her painting, at the smooth legs and the strategically perched fingers. The naughty nude was back to scare Costa.

Just then she heard a faint thump. A slight scuff. She grabbed a paint knife and slunk for the shadows. She never got there. A man in a black hood hit her from behind, smashing a door weight against her skull.

Costa arrived home early, ten minutes later. He found her lying on the carpet, her head leaking cadmium red, and her hair sticky with alizarin.

The naughty nude was gone.

Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Ink After Dark:

The Green Dragon Room

“Eww, is that a dead body?” Anita recoiled from her dive across the limo’s cushions. She glanced at the other passengers, the “would-be murderers” who gazed with innocence pasted on haggard faces.

The party had been a blast, but now it was time to crash. Home? Boyfriend’s? She couldn’t stomach waitressing, serving any more of the thick, syrupy concoctions bubbling up from behind the make-shift bar.

And now, there was a dead body.

Little did she know her fellow passengers had committed their own crime. They were innocent of the limo murder, but not that of her boyfriend, who was no longer sleeping off drinks at a downtown bar.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:

Magic in the Garden

“What happens next, dear?”

I shifted focus, from the fragrant mint congregating by the Shakespeare Garden fence, to my grandmother’s eager face. Her hands were pressed in anticipation against deeply furrowed cheeks.

“Cheeky Chipmunk scurried home, waved The Chipmunk Times, and shouted, “First prize! No one can beat me at woodworking!” His family gathered ’round as he pressed five chippy dollars into Mrs. Chipmunk’s hand…”

A tiny snore. Grandma was asleep.

Her frail chest rose softly, and her lips curled into a smile. As she dreamt, I turned my attention to the tulips and waved to the little chipmunk who had inspired my tale. He winked, and scurried away.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:
Runner Up!

Meadows of Deception

See their eyes? They’re watching me. Waiting for me to stumble. Waiting for the moment they can rise from blood-drenched forms, grab rusted daggers, and drive each point deep into my belly.

They’re coming! Dragging twisted flesh and jagged bone, the rot, the sludge, the stink.

You reach out to soothe fears. You see the battlefield as it is; I see it how it was. How it still is beneath sweet meadow grass and swooping meadowlarks dotting the sky.

Gopher hole opens; your ankle sinks deep.

I shriek and flee, knowing by your screams each time the dagger strikes home.


Copyright © 2016 by Emily Clayton
Originally appeared on Microcosms:
Honourable Mention!