200 CCs - May 2016

ironsoap

Volume 1 • Issue 4

Nikki Boss • Holly Schofield •

Ville Meriläinen • Jake Walters •

Ahimaz Rajessh

plus Joyce Chong

May 2016


Volume 1

Issue #4

Editor-in-Chief

Paul A. Hamilton

Consulting Editor

Nikki Hamilton

Guest Editor

Joyce Chong

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

authors.

Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.

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

http://200ccs.ironsoap.com/

Follow on Twitter @ironsoap.

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

• pg 4: David Alliet — https://www.flickr.com/people/nowherenear/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

• pg 5: David Goehring — https://www.flickr.com/people/carbonnyc/ (CC BY 2.0)

• pg 6: Ray Moore — http://raywmoore.blogspot.com/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

• pg 7: David Muir — https://www.flickr.com/people/daviddmuir/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

• pg 8: Marilyn Maciel — https://www.flickr.com/people/moomoo/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Holly Schofield’s “Sixth Sense” originally appeared in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, April 2014

To help show your support for 200 CCs, visit http://ironsoap.com/200-ccs/support/


the draw

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

patterns.

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

else.

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

then dies.”

Ignore the Signs

3

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

to roteness.

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

artificial borders.

—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

one forever.”

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.

4


Sixth Sense

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

holding steady.

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

patching kit.

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/.

5


The Other

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,

Say-ruh.

“Come here.” I pull

him to me, my hands

cupping the back of

his neck. He pulls

away.

“I have to go.”

“You could stay if

you wanted to.”

“I can do anything I

want.”

“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

mouth.

“Say-ruh.”

I ignore him.

“Say-ruh.” I will not go to

him.

“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

I want.”

The door slams. He is leaving

me again.

“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

English.

6


Stranger Kissing

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.

7


Runaway Lord

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

coolies) built.

Nine of them, if you count the ten foot wall that

divides the boys' school campus from the

church.

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.

8


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

our lives.

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

the plunge

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.

8


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