200 CCs - March 2016


Volume 1, Issue #3

Alex Creece • Deborah Walker

• Alison McBain • Sierra July

plus R.L. Black

March 2016

Volume 1

Issue #3


Paul A. Hamilton

Managing Editor

Nikki Hamilton

Guest Editor

R.L. Black

Copyright © 2016 ironSoap.com. All writing and photography is the property of their respective


Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.

200 CCs is an anthology of microfiction, collected monthly. Inquire online for submission guidelines.


Follow on Twitter @ironsoap.

Images accompanying each story are provided via the Creative Commons license as follows:

• pg 4: Trevor Dobson — https://www.flickr.com/people/trevor_dobson_inefekt69/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

• pg 5: Annais Ferreira — http://www.facebook.com/annaisfotos (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

• pg 6: Jaan Altosaar — https://jaan.io/ (CC BY 2.0)

• pg 7: Kenneth Lu (ToastyKen) — https://www.flickr.com/people/toasty/ (CC BY 2.0)

A version of Deborah Walker’s “Ghost Rift” (pg 4) originally appeared in the Dark Stars [amazon.com]


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the draw

Mansour Chow wrote vehemently last year about

his literary magazine, The Alarmist, going under

after five issues. You can read it in full on

medium.com and know going in that it’s vitriolic

and divisive and funny and smart and revealing in

the way the best editorials are.

There are a lot of things in Mansour’s crosshairs.

The wonky distribution system for magazines

under sale or return models. The distaste of adbased

revenue and the sad fact of advertiser

apathy toward fiction periodicals. The crush of

social-media publicity and the currency of

celebrity endorsement. The curse of free content

expectation. The disproportionate enthusiasm for

writer compensation versus the lack of appetite

for reading short fiction and poetry among the

general populace.

And it’s really this last bit that I think bothers

Mansour the most, perhaps the same fact that

bothers literary brokers of all stripes more

than we maybe care to admit. Truth is, the

market for literature is tiny. Tiny and

fractured. Tiny, fractured, and badly balanced

on the supply and demand scale. Most writers

aspire to novelist status rather than poet or

short fiction author because while the above

diagnoses still apply to books, there is at least

a reasonable aspiration to succeed (in a

capitalist sense) with novels. The same cannot

reasonably be said for those of us trafficking

in stories or poems under 30 pages.

Which is peculiar in a way because if the Web

has demonstrated anything it’s that there is

not a lack of demand or appetite for written

words. Journalism, opinion, vignette,

voyeurism, fabrication, essay, screed,

exaggeration, rant, serial; all find life and

enthusaism in the weird and text-centric

world of the internet. And often in these

contexts shorter, punchier, less attentiondemanding

pieces are valued more highly

than those falling under the “too long;

didn’t read” banner. (And really, what could be

more universally TL;DR-worthy than the modern

Weightless Freedom



But if age has taught me anything it is that you

cannot hate the world for not conforming to your

notion of what would make it better. Worlds that

fit perfectly into an individual’s view are utopias

for one. Sometimes those are called tyrannies. So

yeah, I’d love if more people read short fiction.

I’d love if it were recognized that short fiction is

a great way to use down moments. Far better

than the latest clickbait collection of animated

GIFs. But I can’t muster up enough angst to rage

against that particular machine.

In part, it’s because I’m guilty of it, too. Novels

are decisions: genre, review, recommendation,

cover copy, committment. Short fiction is trust:

hook, surprise, hope, discover, share. It’s the

difference between mail ordering a bar of gold

and panning a river. I read a lot of short

fiction but some days even for me the

minimal committment feels like too big a


And so, if I may humbly submit, the

weightless freedom of microfiction. If

social media condensed rambling blog

posts into morsels of passing thought just

digestible enough to appeal to the masses,

perhaps tiny stories online can create a new

demand. Is there an untapped appetite for

creative, crafted narratives, boiled down to

a rich indulgence? It remains to be seen.

Still, it certainly feels like the effort is one

worth making. And not just because 200

CCs is already making it. In part it’s

because, grumbling from disenfranchised

editors notwithstanding, literature and

fiction still matter to those of us who peddle

it. To those who sweat and weep over

creating it. To those who desire, devour,

and delight in reading it.

The rest is that it whiffs of a barely-kept

secret. It’s right here, waiting to be discovered.

—Paul A. Hamilton

Ghost Rift

by Deborah Walker

Only astronauts from New State China will travel through the Ghost Rift. In the Ghost Rift sleeting

particles of dust make the unseen visible. The Chinese have always known that spirits fill the air.

The crew of the Silver Nightingale laugh at the tortuous routes Westerners take to avoid the Rift.

They’re surprised, but they’re relieved when quiet Sung Li, the newest recruit, volunteers to pilot the


She watches the crew as they climb silently into the

stasis pods. When they wake, they’ll imagine

the feel of ghosts lingering on their

skins. They will make

loud, nervous


Sung Li dresses in the

captain’s uniform. She has travelled

far from the factory slums of Neo Shanghai.

She has risen like a leaping salmon from the swarms of

her contemporaries. Sung Li has travelled a thousand light years from her childhood, and from her

mother’s incessant encouragement.

Sung Li watches the approaching Rift through the metal-glass window. She smoothes down the

captain’s uniform, and she smiles. Sung Li has travelled far. She is looking forward to meeting the

familiar look of her mother’s disapproval.

Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where

she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the

past for future inspiration. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady

Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.


Blue Roses

by Sierra July

Mason pricked his finger on a rose and fell onto his back, panting. He was certain he’d enter into a

coma like Sleeping Beauty. When sleep didn’t come, he studied his finger. Instead of a

red blood pearl at its tip, there was a blue substance.

Without thinking, he licked it. Blackness fell.

It was Chloro who went in to dinner, sat with Mason’s

parents, and chatted.

Mason’s parents had never seen their son so

talkative and imaginative.

“What were you up to before dinner?” his mother

asked. “I saw you playing in the garden.”

“I wasn’t up to anything. As soon as I arrived, I

came inside to learn about humans. I’ve only

seen your species from a distance.”

Mason’s father laughed. “Still in the middle of a

game, huh? Sounds like you’re set for an Earth


Chloro nodded and went on talking.

The parents laughed as he described dinosaurs and other extinct animals he’d seen since his birth.

Detailed how he lived on soil, sun, and water. How he’d waited for a chance meeting with an

organism with legs. The parents laughed on, not suspecting a thing.

Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate, writer, and poet. Her fiction has appeared in Robot and Raygun, T.

Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and SpeckLit, among other places, and is forthcoming in Belladonna Publishing’s

Strange Little Girls anthology. She blogs at talestotellinpassing.blogspot.com.



by Alison McBain

I saw her hair first, the same color as the wind-blown clouds. She was

wearing only a thin shift, and her skin glittered with a thousand liquid

stars, as if she had just bathed in the lake behind her.

She smiled over her shoulder at me, but before I could accept her

invitation, I noticed something that sent a sudden chill up my

back. Her fingers dipped below the surface of the water, but

they caused no ripples in the lake.

I’d never seen a kelpie before, but the villagers had piqued

my curiosity with a warning about unexplained drownings

—I’d not believed them until now.

Glancing one last time at the most beautiful woman I

had ever seen, I forced myself to turn away, my heart

singing in agony. Her banshee shriek followed me all

the way home and echoed through the many seasons

that followed.

Decades later, I still dream of her at night, even

though I have never returned to the lake. I dream of

her with regret, although it is not my only one.

Twice, she broke my heart.

I was born knowing the ways of the world, with a heart that

could resist her malicious magic—an old man’s heart.

I had a son, once. But… his heart was young.

Alison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and three daughters. She has over thirty

publications, including stories and poems in Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, and the

anthology Frozen Fairy Tales. You can read her blog at alisonmcbain.com or chat with her on

Twitter @AlisonMcBain.


Those Three Days

by Alex Creece

Vitality slipped from his dark, calloused fingertips.

Blueish, purpleish, and then grey. Stigmata once

throbbing raw with rot blackened to an

impenetrable void. His palms were a purgatory of

coagulate crust. The eyes of the all-seer shrivelled

upon the salvationless silhouette of the boulder

which obstructed his portal to the next life.

He was dead. Or dying. Or definitely, definitely


He stared at the boulder for hours on end,

blinking less and less until he no longer felt the

need to scrape his sleep-starved lids against eyes

so dry and devoid of sight. Rocks and rubble

etched secrets and scripture into his back, and

eventually he was comfortable enough to settle

into his Grotto of Eden as he awaited his exile into a

new existence. His nerve endings had ruptured—their

own rapture, perhaps—so he no longer felt the searing

necrosis of his physical form, nor did he choke on the

stench of his own decay. He welcomed rigor mortis

eagerly, allowing it to exorcise him of a life left.

A couple of days later, a crack of light seeped through

the edge of the boulder. It caught his

vacant eyes and singed his peeling flesh.

But he remained staunch. He had found

his way through days ago.

Alex Creece [facebook.com] is made of dirt and determination. It’s the latter which laces her

lungs with grit.


y R.L. Black

There is nothing permanent except change.

~ Heraclitus

Change is in the air. The Easter Holiday has

just passed, and in the same spirit,

what once was dead is now very much

alive. Here in the states, we’ve

weathered the winter, a kind of death,

and spring has arrived. Trees are

budding, flowers popping up out of the

cold ground, birds singing. Nature has a

story to tell us, if we listen closely

enough. It’s a story of rebirth, of

regeneration, of renewal, and the moral

of the story seems to be that life goes on

— and that change is good.

We don’t always like change. We resist.

Why? Because we’re afraid of the

unknown. We don’t know what’s

waiting for us on the other side of that

change, and it torments us. We become

like those “westerners” in Ghost Rift,

taking “torturous routes … to avoid the

Rift.” We dodge those rifts, those cracks

in the world as we know it. We are

creatures of habit, after all, and we like

our feet on solid ground. We like to know

where we stand.

In Blue Roses, the parents are so focused on

the normal, everyday world that they don’t

see the out-of-this-world sitting right in

front of them. They totally missed it. They

refuse to even acknowledge that something

has changed. The boy didn’t miss it. He saw

something he’d never seen before, and he

didn’t hesitate to explore. We’re left to

wonder if the parents had missed other

things, too. If they didn’t notice this huge

shift right in front of them, had they been

missing their son and all the tiny, daily

differences, too? Were they refusing to see?

Afraid of what those changes would mean

to their lives?

In Regrets, we see two different ways of

approaching change. The son had a “young

heart.” He saw the magic, and he gave

himself to it. The father, on the

other hand, let fear hold him back,

and in the end, he’s left with only

anguish, more haunting than any

banshee shriek. Yes, maybe the son

drowned, but wasn’t the father

drowning in sorrow and regret the

greater tragedy?

the plunge

How do you feel about change? When

those rifts come your way, how do you

react? Do you find yourself resisting?

I wonder … if we were able somehow

to let our guards down and trust a little

more, maybe we’d find something

magical ourselves? Probably not an

alien invader or a kelpie, but

something … perhaps even something


The greatest change of all is faced in

Those Three Days. Death. Steve Jobs

called death “Life's change agent.”

Death is the proverbial elephant in the

room. Always hanging over our heads.

The end of our physical lives is ultimately

what we fear the most, isn’t it? Because,

like all change, we don’t know what to

expect. We don’t know how it’s gonna play

out. We can have faith and believe that

something wonderful is on the other side,

but we won’t actually know until we get

there. And that’s what makes change so

damn scary.

But if we can face those cracks that come

our way, even when we’re scared, if we can

go there bravely like Sung Li in Ghost Rift,

I think we’d find our own way through, and

who knows, we might discover on the other

side, something not so unfamiliar after all.


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