Nikki Boss • Holly Schofield •
Ville Meriläinen • Jake Walters •
plus Joyce Chong
Paul A. Hamilton
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Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.
200 CCs is an anthology of microfiction, collected monthly. Inquire online for submission guidelines.
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Holly Schofield’s “Sixth Sense” originally appeared in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, April 2014
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Since starting 200 CCs, I’ve received a steady
stream of submissions. I love reading them, but
after well over 200 of them (I kind of like the
parallel there), it’s hard not to start noticing some
Because I don’t restrict genre, I get a lot of
literary work—set-in-reality, dealing-with-life-asthe-author-perceives-it
kind of writing. I get lots
of magical realism—mostly familiar settings with
maybe one or two fantastical adjustments; plenty
of science fiction—often future-set tales where
most anything goes as long as it can be explained;
and quite a bit of fantasy—past or present-set
stories where strange things happen frequently
without explanation or just “because magic.”
And now and again I’ll get a horror story, or a
poem, or the occasional memoir. I haven’t seen
much historical fiction to date; or very many
mysteries or thrillers—some of those may
have more to do with the format than anything
What I see only very rarely are the truly
unclassifiable stories. The ones that leave you
guessing, or scratching your head, or laughing
at the sheer audacity of something that ignores
every rule, takes the piss out of narrative
structure, blatantly defies convention.
These are mad gambles, really, and I think
microfiction is a perfect opportunity to take
these sorts of wild risks. Sometimes I imagine
myself sending one of these surreal abuses of
language to an editor and I have to supress a
little shudder. It takes a lot of moxie to show
that much disregard for the typical.
Does the scarcity of these mean we’ve
allowed the so-called rules to limit us too
much? One of the patterns I notice in the
submissions queue is a lot of similar themes
and structures. “Guy has existential crisis, and
then dies”; “Guy laments his lack of
understanding of women, and then dies”; “Guy
encounters a strange new bauble or power, and
Ignore the Signs
Not all unsubverted trope-heavy stories end with
a tragically ironic or dully unearned character
death, but there is a certain ho-hum grimness to a
lot of failed short fiction. What I’m finding is that,
while this is probably endemic in short fiction
across the board, it feels very pervasive in the
microfiction I see.
If you’ll forgive the amateur diagnostics, I
wonder if this isn’t a symptom of authors
following too many of the rules writers are
deluged with. We’re told to make the stakes high
(what could be higher than mortality?) and to
aim for characters that are relatable (who hasn’t
questioned everything; who wouldn’t be curious
if something changed the game?). But what if
checking those boxes led to telling similar
stories? Compressing these kinds of “by-thebook”
tales removes a lot of the nuance that
differentiates one story from another. What
might (emphasis on the uncertainty) forgive
a familiar tale at longer lengths—details,
angles, subtlety—reduces a shorter version
So imagine chucking off those warnings.
There are signs posted everywhere, most
just grow accustomed to obeying them. In a
real way, you have to look directly at them
and give them consideration in order to
consciously disregard them.
And yeah, it feels dangerous because it is
dangerous. By no means do all brazenly
unconventional stories work. They are
prone to spectacular failure. Then again,
maybe it’s worth—if you’re going to fail
anyway—failing magnificently as opposed
to drably missing the mark.
As readers, the best we can do is try to
keep an open mind. Let stories that
don’t fit our expectations percolate for a bit
before judging. And ask if that strange tale
is showing us something beyond our
—Paul A. Hamilton
If Zombies Climb Ladders
by Ville Meriläinen
It was the end of the world as we knew it, but
some things never changed. You were always a
hopeless romantic, and I hated to let you down.
When I said we should start thinking of tying the
knot, you thought I meant something sweet, so
instead of a noose I got you that ring you were
eyeing before all this shit went down.
I took you to the old church and we sat on the
roof watching stars and the city teeming with the
dead and listening to their growls and the song of
nightingales in the park. It was then I realised I
hadn’t thought this through. We exchanged vows
with no way out.
You asked, “Does it count as consummation if
zombies climb ladders and we’re royally
screwed?” I’d never seen them do much anything
than shamble on without purpose, but I guess
we’d find out in time. We were supposed to be
home by now. I hadn’t brought any food or
water, just some rope.
I wrapped my arm around you and told you, “If
zombies climb ladders and death tries to do us apart, we’ll tie our hands together and walk as
Ville Meriläinen is a Finnish twenty-something student and a miscreant of the arts, with a penchant for bittersweet
stories and a passion for death metal. His noir fantasy novella, Spider Mafia, is available at amazon.com for the
perusal of anyone who ever wondered what might happen if cats in suits had to save the world from spider wizards.
by Holly Schofield
The familiar tingling began across
Mara’s scalp. She grabbed her
spacesuit and had both legs in by the
time the space station’s klaxon
sounded. She’d been preparing for
this her whole life. Her father said
her inherited precognitive powers
would diminish as she matured, but
today seemed evidence they were
Suit, helmet, gloves, check.
The other crew members were just
beginning to suit up.
The pressure was dropping fast: a hull breach two levels down. Seconds counted. She grabbed the
She slammed the hatch shut behind her. No need for anyone else to die. Beside a view port, air
screamed through the meteoroid’s thumbsized entry hole.
Sealant, a metal patch, and the shrieking stopped, along with her tingles.
“Just in time.” The captain caught up to her. “How’d you react so fast?”
“Good reflexes, ma’am.” She wasn’t about to reveal her abilities. They had always served her well
—calling 911 at age seven before she smelled smoke, being the city’s best teenaged lifeguard, a
dozen other averted disasters.
Including this one.
She hid her smile of satisfaction by looking out the viewport, just in time to see the second, much
larger, meteoroid hit.
Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities
of city and country life. Her fiction has been published in Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy Science Fiction”, Crossed
Genres, Tesseracts, and many other venues. Upcoming stories will soon appear in Unlikely Stories’ Coulrophobia
anthology, Bundoran Press’s Second Contacts anthology, World Weaver Press’s Scarecrow anthology, and
Metasaga’s Futuristica anthology. For more of her work, see http://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/.
by Nikki Boss
“When you come back, I will be here like this.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing to you but
everything to me.”
“Sarah.” I love how
he says my name,
“Come here.” I pull
him to me, my hands
cupping the back of
his neck. He pulls
“I have to go.”
“You could stay if
you wanted to.”
“I can do anything I
“In the bathroom,” I tell him. He goes to fetch
them and I use the moment to light a cigarette.
Inhale deeply and let the smoke unfurl from my
I ignore him.
“Say-ruh.” I will not go to
“James.” I state his name
rather than reply. Take another
drag and let it poison me.
“You can lie in that bed all day
and it does nothing.”
I spit back. “I can do whatever
The door slams. He is leaving
“Except stay with
me.” And there it is. It does not matter what I
want or what he wants; there will always be this.
He scans the room for his clothes.
Nikki Boss lives in New England with her husband, children, and too many animals. She
is currently a MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches middle school
by Jake Walters
The frosted glass made my face a ghost's, floating between worlds, eyes too wide. What I saw: a
goddess in her ripening middle-age, full of love for me, her fingers laced together with an
unfamiliar man's. Seeing her smile, through the cold, a smile hesitant and fleeting. Like she was a
free woman, her first day out of jail. If she glanced toward the window, I would step back a foot and
disappear. Not completely, but the way a story does when the book is closed.
She never looked. Still I drifted backward, until the darkness swallowed me. Funny how it
swallowed me, like sleep at an inappropriate time.
You always awaken from such dozing embarrassed,
not refreshed. I was embarrassed for her, for the
man sitting across from her, for me. And for Dad,
drinking his third or fourth Michelob already this
evening, wondering where She was. Wondering
when I would wander back from working on my
Chemistry project at a pretend friend's house.
As I walked home I tried not to imagine the next
time I will be called upon to kiss her: at a bedtime,
upon leaving for college, or perhaps only at her
funeral. Tried not to imagine the labyrinthine
nightmare memories that would conjure.
Jake Walters has been published in several journals. He teaches English in Transylvania.
by Ahimaz Rajessh
In Nazareth—that intricate yet simplified
labyrinth—if you were of the kind that walks in
twos, eight of its pathways led to the centuryold
church that Canon Arthur Margoschis (with
the aid of hundreds of nameless, faceless
Nine of them, if you count the ten foot wall that
divides the boys' school campus from the
If you had been a lamb, or a child with
rapacious craving for climbing, running and
jumping, or of the kind that is arboreal, you
would know a wall is as well a pathway.
After the scarcely attended English church
service, out of pure habit or instinct or both,
Yesu took the ninth pathway one Sunday night.
Vaulting it with his pole of a foof (a hoof that's a
foot) in a hole that Jebi carved out two decades
ago, leaping upon it and landing as he did, ever
so quietly (an inch shy of six foot) Yesu raced
toward the southern exit, as the never-onceused,
derelict basketball court (that marked the beginning of the slow demise of a once-remarkable,
now fading institution) under a starlit sky, cast its shadow aslant.
Ahimaz Rajessh has been lately published in Flapperhouse, The Fractured Nuance,
7x20, Cuento, unFold and Pidgeonholes. His writing is forthcoming in Milkfist,
theEEEL, and Strange Horizons.
y Joyce Chong
This month's stories take on a myriad of
themes, from apocalypse to mortality,
betrayal and departures, but what struck me
the most was the looming sense of
inevitability in the background. We
spend our whole lives trying to balance
our focus between the here-and-now
and the future. I'm not suggesting that
the arrival of the zombie apocalypse is
impending, but inevitable endings always
seem to be on our minds. Then again,
when every story is only a couple
hundred words long, conclusions arrive
faster than expected.
In If Zombies Climbed Ladders, Ville
Meriläinen shows us new beginnings just
as the world is ending, and redefines the
vow “til death do us part”. Marriage
looks a little different in the apocalypse,
and there are several knots to be tied
here. But even this leaves questions about
these characters' futures. If death won't
separate them, then what about the
fraying threads of a rope? Even after
death, or un-death, we still find ways to
go our own directions.
We follow a similar theme of mortality in
Holly Schofield's Sixth Sense. What if,
instead of us lingering on the future, it came
to you instead? Precognition can seem like a
useful thing to have until it fails you, and this
tidal turn only becomes more likely as time
goes on. It's not just mortality that this story
reminds us of, but it's also how quick we are
to forget about the good things we have in
We're all familiar with departures in one
form or another. Nikki Boss' The Other is rife
with a multitude of complicated emotions.
The dread of being left again, the stubborn
resolve to hold strong, the lingering sadness
in the room, housed in the upholstery like the
persistent scent of cigarettes. Why do we
leave? Why do we stay in situations where
we are always left behind? There's a whole
world of obligations beyond that door, and
we can only avoid inevitabilities for
so long. How do we decide when to
stay put, when to move on, or does time
decide for us?
Stranger Kissing by Jake Walters
touches on another type of betrayal
beyond being left behind, and instead
looks at what it means to be made
accomplice to a lie. Secrets aren't
durable, and like a rope tether at the
end of the world, their dissolution is
inevitable. If they aren't let out, they
break down and disappear with their
keepers, leaving only trace elements
behind. We're left wondering what the
future holds for these characters,
whether these rifts will come to light or
stay suppressed, splintering hidden
fractures in the family.
We conclude with Runaway Lord by
Ahimaz Rajessh, which explores the
paths not taken. The unconventional
paths, at least. It's not only in unexpected
places that we find new wonders, but in the
things overlooked by routine. Sometimes
all it takes is one risk to find new
perspective, the hidden roads that lead to
strange discoveries. It's reassuring to know
that leaving doesn't always mean the end.
Sometimes departures are inevitable, but
they aren't always sources of dread and fear.
Departures can bring new growth and
opportunities. Yes, death and heartbreak is
inevitable, but so is discovery, innovation,
and awe. Even if we are left behind, if
there's nowhere to go and we've come to the
end of one road, there will always be new
paths opening up around us, and new
directions to explore.
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