Best of the Boards
Lizanne Herd

Born Slippy
Photo Credit: sandman_kk

“Seriously creepy.” —Ana George

“Awesome in its horribleness.” —Lisa Olson

Lizanne is currently shopping this story and waiting to hear back from the markets she’s submitted to, so we’re not able to publish it here. For now, registered members of Toasted Cheese can read “Offal” at the forums. Best of luck, Lizanne!


Lizanne has been writing speculative fiction since 2005. Her work has been published in a variety of online magazines and podcasts, along with her art and occasional voice talents. Email: mizem55[at]

Dante’s Grid

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Liz Mierzejewski

When I first met Dante I was still in college. I was in my junior year attempting to earn my degree in English Lit. At that time I was planning on becoming a teacher. “You know what they say,” Dante would tell me back then. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” He would laugh at his own joke, and at first I would get all insulted, but to be honest, I was never much of a writer. So eventually, when he’d tell that joke, I would have to agree. After all, I wasn’t the creative one. Dante Benedict, future world-famous inventor, was the creative one, and I loved him then even as I love him now.

But right then I had these boxes to bring down to the University. The papers were all over the place, stacks and stacks, in no order I could ever determine. I wished Dante were there right then. But he wasn’t, the poor soul.

“So, you still haven’t heard from him?” asked the professor, Dr. Leitner. He was holding some of the papers with Dante’s drawings and calculations. Dante had tried to explain to me what all of it meant, but gave up when we both realized that I was hopelessly lost.

“No, sir, it’s been four days now—”

“And this is all of it, the papers, the drawings—all of it?” He scratched the top of his bald head, papers still in his hand.

“Uh huh. Those are all the papers, sir. He’s made the cages, though.”

“Well, now…” Dr. Leitner spread some of the drawings on the big table in his office. Light from the enormous windows made the papers look old and important, edges curled up from so much use. He tapped his lower lip with a pencil. He pointed to one of the drawings, a wild sketch of metal filaments criss-crossing, twisted around nails and hooked up to Dante’s computer. He had labeled most of it, but his handwriting resembled broken twigs, angular and sharp.

I pointed to the drawing as Dr. Leitner puzzled over it. “He would put things in there. Pens, cups. Things like that. Little things.”

He shooed my hand away.

“Miss Sloan, please.” He looked up and must have seen my little pout. It has its advantages. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? Small items, like a pen?” He smiled, but it still made him look impatient to me.

“Yes, at first. But it didn’t work. He’d start the machine and there would be a great deal of noise, but nothing much else.” I pointed to the cage sketch. “Noise and sparks. He broke a few computers, too.” He had burned the tips of his fingers one day. And his hair. I can still remember the smell. He had given up on it for almost a week after that.

Dr. Leitner sat down, lifting the sketch up into the light. I could still see the drawing through the paper, sunlight pouring through it from behind him. He put it down and scanned the notebooks filled with calculations. I waited for a very long time while he examined the notes. Dr. Leitner’s office did not have many pictures on the beautiful, old paneling. One yellowed photograph of a child with a huge bull in tow hung between his rather grandly framed diplomas, but nothing else. Two of the fifteen-foot walls carried every book I could ever imagine, disorganized and dusty. Dante’s papers almost seemed at home here.

“Miss Sloan—”

“Penny, please. Call me Penny.”

“Yes, yes of course. Penny, did Dante ever tell you what he was doing?” He licked his lips, but they still seemed dry.

“He tried. Many times. Something about other dimensions, unlimited energy, lots of things. I never did quite understand him. Didn’t he tell you, Doctor?” Dr. Leitner was his advisor for his doctorate. They spent a lot of time together.

Dr. Leitner smiled broadly, his teeth spread across his face like little wooden soldiers in yellowing uniforms. “Oh, yes. Certainly. I just want to make sure that he—” He stopped for a moment and his gaze softened. “Penny, Dante is a brilliant young man, and I just want to find out where he’s gone.” He paused again. “This work is vitally important. You do understand that, don’t you?”

“Well, of course I do!” I protested. I knew Dante thought it was important, so it was important to me. “I love Dante and I want him to come back, wherever he’s gone.” I choked on that last bit, trying not to cry. I breathed in deep. “Do you think we can find him, Dr. Leitner? Can you use these formulas to get him back?”

He didn’t answer. He didn’t make eye contact. The room became silent and then the light shifted as clouds covered the sun. I could feel the heaviness of the moment in my ears, like pressure when climbing a hill. We were quiet for a long time, minutes, perhaps. I wished there had been a clock or something to mark the time. It made me feel like my bones were drying up from inside. And it made me scared. I hadn’t felt scared up to that point, but now I was afraid I might not ever see Dante again.

“Tell me, Penny, what you remember,” he said. He opened one of the notebooks and checked the date of the entry. “What do you know?”

I thought for a moment. Dante was always going on about his work, but not to just anyone. “Penny, I can tell you because you don’t understand,” he had said. “If you did understand, then I would have to keep this a secret.”

So he told me. Every day he would tell me what he had done, what part of the formula he had solved, the inexplicable riddle he had fussed over since I had known him.

“What riddle?” asked Dr. Leitner.

“It was a poem, I think. He seemed driven by some need to make a poem work out just right…” I was trying to think. Dante used the word almost daily and I had gotten used to the strangeness of it. “He was trying to solve something called…” I bit my lip, trying to remember.

“Called what, Miss Sloan?”

“It was the…” It came to me. “The Rhyming Hypothesis.” I smiled. That was it, the goal of Dante’s research.

Dr. Leitner smiled back, but it was that same condescending smile I got all the time from Dante and his cohorts. I wanted to leave.

“The Riemann Hypothesis? Is that it?” He opened up a few more notebooks to find the math Dante had worked out. He pointed to a long set of numbers, zig-zags and fractions. It was all a jumble to me, but I nodded and he pored over the work. “Did he say he solved it?”

I nodded again, more slowly this time. I felt suddenly small. As far as I could tell, Dr. Leitner didn’t care if I were in the room at all.

“He finally got the machine to work, you know,” I blurted. “He made a pen go.”

He seemed more interested in what I had to say now. “Are you sure of this? It disappeared? Tell me more.”

Dante had tried for weeks to make the grid function. He had created a magnetic grid of wires to go over another metal plate, creating a cage just big enough to hold maybe a loaf of bread, if he wanted to. Along the sides he had labeled it with numbers and symbols I couldn’t decipher. He used strange words that looked beautiful on the page, but were gibberish to me. “Nontrivial Zeros” and “Zeta Space.” I remember them not because they were meaningful, but because they sounded like part of the poetry he was trying to figure out.

The first time he had turned it on, I thought we might have a fire. The wires sizzled and hummed. The energy shimmered a cobalt blue along the wires and within the cage itself. He had placed a pen inside. The pen shimmered blue as well, and then began to melt. Then it burned, and finally sizzled. An energy burst flew up the wires into the computer and it emitted a nasty whooshing sound, an acrid smell of melting plastic filling the air.

The next time didn’t fare much better. Dante decided that the plastic was too vulnerable. And maybe the grid wasn’t aligned just right, something like that. He took my tea cup, one of those cheap ones with no character, and planted it firmly in the center of his wire grid, now a cage. He had spent days checking and aligning the filaments. He had purchased a cheap computer to handle the program, just in case it also died. And he started the process. Okay, I wasn’t fair. It did work better than before. There was the blue glow, but this time nothing melted. Instead, the mug fizzled in and out of view, like an image on a zoopraxiscope. For a split second it wasn’t there, and Dante grabbed me by both arms, lifting me off the floor. He all but dropped me when it shattered, sending porcelain shards in all directions. The pieces didn’t escape the grid, thank goodness, but the computer failed again, and Dante was heartbroken.

“What was he trying to do, Penny?” Dr. Leitner asked.

I thought for a moment. I knew, but shouldn’t Dr. Leitner know? He was Dante’s advisor, after all. “Oh, I don’t know…” I said, lying to the floor.

He was quiet, but I dared not look up at him. I began to wring my hands, something I do when I feel trapped.

“Was he trying to make it disappear?”

That wasn’t it, I knew that much. According to Dante, nothing could ever truly disappear. I felt like Dr. Leitner was treating me like a child, and I resented it. I shook my head no.

“Another dimension, perhaps? Did he say anything about another dimension?” He had raised his voice and it was shrill, not at all kind or patient.

My hands were getting hot from wringing. I nodded. I still refused to look up, but at that moment he slammed both his hands onto the table, sending dust and papers onto the floor. “Did—he—succeed, Miss Sloan?”

I could hear his breathing, heavy. I started shaking. I refused to cry this time. He sat down next to me and pulled my balled fingers apart. He held one hand and draped another over my shoulders.

“We’ll find him, Penny, but you’ve got to cooperate.” He squeezed my fingers.

Another moment went by and I said, “Yes, he got it to work.” I could feel his arms go rigid as he said nothing for the longest time. “He solved his riddle, Dr. Leitner. He finally solved it. He told me every zero had its own space. All he had to do was put something in that space and it would be… um… somewhere else. Another dimension.”

“And he figured out how the grid did that? How to align the grid with the zeros?” His voice got low.

“Yes sir, I think so,” I said. I had seen him do that, not six days before. “A large grid and a small one, the one that made the mug disappear.” Why hadn’t he told Dr. Leitner?

“And these grids, they’re still at your apartment, you say? I think I would like to see these grids of his, Penny.”

I led Dr. Leitner to the basement where Dante had made his grids, both secured to large oak tables he had taken from the university. Both computers were still running, both grids giving off a barely discernible hum. He looked over the larger grid, letting his fingers run over the top, minute sparks following his path. He called up the program, which was running in the background. “You do realize the program is still on, don’t you Penny?” I didn’t answer him. He waited a moment and pulled a pen from his pocket. “Show me,” he said.

I flipped on the smaller grid and took the pen from his hand. “Will this get Dante back?” I looked him in the eye.

“We can only try, Penny. I need to understand and to try.” He gestured toward the small grid. “This one here?”

I nodded and put the pen inside. I started the program as I’d seen Dante do a hundred times. The grid glowed and murmured, this time looking beautiful rather than dangerous. The pen gave off one final blue flare and it was gone. Dr. Leitner gasped.

“Wait,” I said. “Watch this.” I did as I had been taught by Dante, typing in the correct code. The grid hummed again, and the pen was there again. “Check it.”

He picked up the pen for examination. “Ohhhh,” he moaned, like he’d been struck. He held up the pen to my eyes. It was horrible. Taped to it was a message written in Dante’s pointed hand: HELP. He leaned back on the table, both palms cupping the lip. “Tell me, Penny. Did he ever use this larger table?”

How could he know? I knew that Dante believed in this man, but he was making me nervous. “Only a few times,” I said. “Only once or twice, maybe. He found a deer carcass a few weeks back and he—”

“Did he ever use it himself?” He walked up close to me, and I leaned up against the computer, arms up to protect myself, from what I didn’t know, but he scared me. “Did he ever get into the grid himself?” He took hold of my wrists. “Did he, Penny?”

I couldn’t look at him, and I balled my fingers. “Yes. He had me help him four days ago. He said you would be able to get him back. I tried, but he said only you could do it.” Tears slid down my face. “Can you, Dr. Leitner? Please tell me you can bring Dante back.”

He paused. “Now Penny, why do that? I have all of his papers now. I am—was his advisor. I have complete access to this technology, wherever it leads us. Bring him back? I’d be cutting my own throat.”

“That’s not true,” I told him. “He told me to give this to you.” I handed him the note that I had read so many times since four days before, when I had started up the program for Dante. Dr. Leitner, I have the solution. It is not in my notebooks. I have it with me. Come and see.

Dr. Leitner refolded the paper and tucked it into his jacket. “Get me there, now.” He climbed onto the table.

“I couldn’t get Dante back. How can I get you back?” I was shaking horribly.

“Send another pen.” He smiled his wooden soldier smile. “I’ll send instructions.”

So I did it. I followed the instructions Dante had given me. The large cage shimmered and glowed, humming its soft song. I watched Dr. Leitner flick in and out of this dimension, just like Dante had only four days ago. And he was gone.

I got Dante back, just like Dr. Leitner had promised. I did send the pen, and a pad, too. I can’t understand a mathematical proof, but I can follow instructions, and Dante is here with me. I can’t say the same for Dr. Leitner. Some people just can’t be trusted.

Liz Mierzejewski is a mother, wife, teacher and part-time writer of speculative fiction. Her work has been published at Expanded Horizons, Clonepod, the Drabblecast and Dunesteef, along with Toasted Cheese! E-mail: mizem55[at]

In Memory of Maggie

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Liz Mierzejewski

Looking at that empty box covered with photographs and flowers that morning, I still held out hope.

“Is she dead?” they would ask me. Some would pull me by my elbow, being discreet in the company of Maggie’s family, but it was always the same question. “Do you think she’s dead?”

With as much discretion, I would whisper. I had to whisper, my voice shot to hell from screaming her name in the endless caverns. “I don’t know.” I want to believe she’s alive, but even using that word right now seems ludicrous, considering the circumstances.

She had come to my archeology research group highly recommended from the post-graduate studies liaison at UConn, and I needed someone on the team with that much enthusiasm, regardless of her lack of field experience. She’d been on a few digs, uncovering the remnants of one of the Connecticut tribes, and had even managed to get an article or two published, in Archaeology Magazine and Current Anthropology. What really came out of all this was an undeniable passion, a desire to connect to the past that was rare, even in my experience. Most of the post-grads I’d worked with had long abandoned the full absorption that would skew analysis, but not Maggie. Give her a scrap and she would tease it and love it like a puppy with a sock. It wasn’t always contagious. Some of the other more staid diggers would shake their heads when she would shout, sharing her discoveries, a child picking flowers. Their laughter didn’t bother her in the least. The item was a transport. The audience, herself. Nothing else mattered.

“Dr. Stiles?” she asked. I lifted my head from the endless sifting going on in the little, cordoned field we had been working the last few months. We had recently found some rather peculiar tribal sculptures scattered among the pedestrian remnants of ancient human culture. We had been filtering out these bits buried in the white stone of Falls Village, Connecticut. It was blasted hot in the reflected light of the limestone beds. I pulled off my standard-issue fedora, trying to shield my eyes from the glare. I thought she might want to show me some more pottery shards, trying to make out the images painted on the outside. This had become her most recent obsession. But no. She had her hands in her back pockets, pulling the waistband tight against her emaciated stomach. The girl just didn’t eat.


“You need to see something.” She turned and began ascending the limestone and marble debris. She hadn’t waited for a response. I turned back to the screet, tossing the spade into the pile of dirt.

“I’ll be back, Kerry,” I said. I could hear her say something to Jim, and they both laughed. My old bones complained as I followed Maggie up the ascent to a little plateau. She now had her hands perched on her hips, and I imagined her tapping her toe with impatience. It was obvious she had made what she considered a considerable find. I muffled my own parental smirk.

“Well, Maggie?”

She shifted, and pointed low, and not with her usual confidence. “There,” she said, “Right there. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s big. Real big.” It was a hole. It looked small to begin with, not more than maybe two feet wide, but damn it if it wasn’t deep. It seemed to go far into the hill and fade to black.

“It’s a hole.” I wiped my face on the edge of my shirt, mixing the limestone powder into my sweat, making a layer of chalky paste. Maggie’s own face was an unexpected mix of guilt and discovery. It reminded me of the first time I found a dirty magazine. Something was going on. “What? Did you find something in it? What did you find?”

“Remember that little figure you found? The female with the… um…” she didn’t want to say enormous breasts, but that’s what it was.

“Yes, yes, of course. The fertility figure. Did you find another?” I bent down to the hole and did a cursory search of the first few feet.

“No, sir. It’s more of a confession.” I looked up, and she was biting her lower lip, brows twisted from some internal agony. I was starting to feel really old. I’m supposed to be her mentor, not her father. “It was mine. I made it.” She winced and turned her head aside.

“What? You seeded the field? That’s— that’s—” It’s criminal, is what it is. “Are you crazy? We could lose our funding! We’d be laughed off any dig… What in the world possessed you to do that? What if we had published?” I had begun to pace on the plateau, and Maggie was now up against the stark, bright wall of the cliff.

In a voice so small she said, “We still could.” My rant was cut off, and I stared at her, my disappointment sitting plainly, I was sure. She did not drop her gaze. Rather, she lifted up her chin. “In fact, I know we can.” She pulled something from a satchel that had been sitting on the plateau. It was small, swaddled in some scrap of cotton. Another little figure spilled into her palm. It was freshly carved, cheaply painted. Another female figure, this time wraith-thin, with representative light brown curls long, and down the back. Maggie had carved herself. Holding it briefly to my vision, she bent down to the hole and tossed the figure. It bounced and echoed out of sight.

Two days later, we found it. Kerry and Jim had been digging in the next quadrant, and it had screed to the surface, old and worn, paint but a memory, rubbed to a worshipped patina. I hadn’t told either of them what had transpired up there on the limestone ledge, and now I didn’t quite know how to tell them that the rejoicing was misplaced. They hadn’t discovered a new Goddess. Rather, Maggie had discovered a passage into the past.

And it was giving us a little bit of notoriety. The liaison from UConn had come by, and examined the figures. He called in some of his contacts, and it wasn’t long before we were getting some local press, all over a handful of bogus figures. We hadn’t told a soul. We couldn’t. Maggie continued to carve figures, careful not to make them too modern. We continued to find them within days, rich with the years that consumed them from the hole to the fields.

How can you explain something like that? To be sure, as the weeks went by, it became more difficult to imagine exactly how such a conversation would take place.

“Oh, yes, and by the way, Mr. President, we’ve been using a time-travel portal to artificially salt our dig site. Isn’t that truly amazing?” The shroud of secrecy was becoming hot and suffocating, more like a wool muffler.

Being published and celebrated was intoxicating, dragging my little team from obscurity to relative celebrity. How could it last? It couldn’t of course, and it didn’t. The fame faded, and the work resumed, and Maggie even began focusing more on her pottery shards once again. We had managed to secure another dig grant through the bogus figures. It would keep us in clover (and maybe even clover points) for a few more months, at least.

But the end of the dig was coming. We were closing up, packing up the last of the equipment. The Connecticut winter was finding its way into our site, making digging uncomfortable, if not downright impossible. Kerry, Jim, and most of the others had managed to get signed on to other, warmer digs that had not yet been spent and glorified. Only Maggie and I were planning on hanging around.

I was helping Jim load the last of the screening equipment onto his flatbed. The leather of our gloves sounded hollow as we shook our good lucks and separated. As Jim and the equipment took that last turn out of sight, I sensed Maggie behind me. Her tiny frame was wrapped in a tatty fur-lined winter coat embedded with the limestone dust. She rubbed her hands together, inexplicably bare of necessary gloves. Her breath froze in front of her as she tried to form the words she was trying to share.

“This can’t be it, Dr. Stiles. It’s been…” She shook her head, unable to put into words what the past five months had been. “I can’t… I can’t let it end.”

I took off my gloves and offered them to her. She begged off with a wave, plunging her hands into her coat pockets. “I’m just here for a few more weeks, Maggie. The holidays are coming, and I’m thinking of visiting some family. You should do the same. There’s nothing left here.”

“Not yet,” she said. She turned and made her way up the now-familiar path to the plateau and our goldmine hole.

“Maggie, we can’t do it. We can’t just throw more stuff in there. It’s not right. It’s unethical, and frankly, it’s just not meaningful.” She ignored me. I was nearly puffing as I made it to the plateau. It had been at least a month since the last time I had ascended this hill.

There in the bitter breeze Maggie stripped off her jacket. “Meaningful? Well, that’s about to change. This site needs meaning; I need meaning. I think we can help each other with that.”

“What are you doing?” My voice was shaky. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I tried to grab her wrists, but she surprised me with her strength.

“Don’t worry, Dr. Stiles. You’ll see me in a few days.” With that she hopped into the hole, barely big enough to encompass her tiny body. The sound of her sliding reminded me of an avalanche of pebbles, echoing into the dark. She was gone before I got a chance to protest.

I did see her in a few days, she was right about that. Alone at the last quadrant, having given up my last chance for a Christmas vacation, I found her. The body was an old woman, all bones and hair decorated with ancient spring flowers. Buried with molded beads and carved figures, it was obvious this was a revered and loved elder, perhaps a teacher.

I had no way to explain this to her family. Where would I begin? “She just disappeared once the dig was closed,” I told them. I just hope they never want to see the article about the strange remains of a tiny woman, odd and out of place, but so natural, buried and loved, a true goddess.


E-mail: mizem55[at]


Best of the Boards
Liz Mierzejewski

Pictures fell and rolled
as she thought them.
On the ground behind her,
they drifted like dry ice
trails and eddies,
curling about her feet.
Tribes of half-done creations
fought and melted
in her retreating wake.


Liz Mierzejewski is a middle school science teacher in Connecticut. Writing fiction is a recent fascination, including a successful 2006 NaNoWriMo. Just a few more dreams to be realized… E-mail: mizem55[at]

The Ships Come Tomorrow

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Liz Mierzejewski

“We can only choose one.” He said it like they had too much fruit.

“What? No no no no that can’t be. Certainly they know we have three—”

“Raena, the rules are very clear…” Thomas turned to hide the fact that he was wiping his face. He coughed a shaky cough.

Raena smoothed her skirt with her sweaty palms.

Thomas paced, careful to keep his faced turned, stopping just once to punch the neutral wall. He hissed and licked the knuckles for relief. A shadow at the door made them both turn.

Noah’s slight frame belied his fifteen years, but the look on his face betrayed them. “I— I just wanted to say…” He looked for clues in their faces. “…I think Skye is up.” They hadn’t moved. Noah turned after waiting, like he was leaving a watercolor.

Raena began crying again. Thomas slipped around her to follow Noah to the baby’s room. He could hear Noah and Zoe entertaining little Skye and his stomach fell to his shoes. Zoe’s puppets were deep in conversation and Skye was delirious with laughter.

“The ships are coming and we’re taking you all! Ha ha!” chirped Puppet Bird.

“Come with us! To a beautiful sky far away!” sang Puppet Kitty.

“Skye!” squealed Skye. She clapped and bounced in her crib.

Zoe saw her father in the door and ran to him, grabbing him about the knees. “Daddy! When do the ships come? We want to go.”

“Daddy, up! Peeeeeze!” Skye had her arms stretched out to him.

Thomas swept up Zoe and gathered Noah into his arms, over the crib, with Skye bouncing and hugging. He pinched back his eyes hard and tight.

“Up! Up!” demanded the baby.

“Soon, Zoe. Tomorrow. The ships come tomorrow.”

The Loading Zone was a riot of noise and families. Many more people were denied entrance, forcing their fingers and pleas through the chain link fence. Barbed wired along the top sported trophies of those who tried and lost in climbing over. Raena was carrying Skye, who was speechless in the chaos and nearly choked her mother about the neck, so tightly did she hang on. Raena spotted a neighbor, one she hardly knew, but he had no children. He had a beautiful woman at his arm, one Raena did not recognize.

“Thomas, over there. There’s Albert Diehl. No, with the blonde. Go ask him, please. Oh, God, please let him say yes.” She pulled Zoe over to her and gestured to Noah to hang close. She watched her husband go over to Albert, but the noise and crush made it impossible to hear a thing. The men’s heads were close.


“Yes, Noah.”

“Why aren’t they letting everybody go? I thought we could all go.”

“We will. Don’t worry, hon, we’ll go.” She pulled him over and kissed the top of his head. Raena did not want to think of what would happen to those left behind. She saw Thomas making his way back, eyes narrow. “What did he say?”

“No deal. There’s no deal, the bastard.” He paused. Looking at the girls, he handed Zoe over to Noah for a brief second and with them occupied, leaned in to speak more plainly. “He wants you. And Zoe. I told him to—”

“Tell him yes. We cannot leave them here, Thomas. We simply can’t. He can have me and he’ll change his mind about Zoe soon enough. She’s only five, for God’s sake. Tell him yes, and help me find another.” He walked back, broken, but Zoe was now safe.

The crowd was forcing its way toward the platform and they were going to have to board soon. All other families were a solid three, with children being passed around for favors or bondslaves. No one was left to take another, none they could find. It was their turn.

“Only three,” stated the guard. His artificial voice matched the lack of warmth in his frame.

“This man, Diehl—he’s on your list—is taking one of them. The baby is very small. She takes up no space at all,” said Raena, smiling at the face she wasn’t sure could even see her.

“Only three. We will choose one for disposal. The small one is undeveloped and disposable.” His arms began to reach for Skye.

“No!” screamed Thomas and Raena together and they backed down the ramp, against the press of those frantic to board. The children gripped onto Thomas and he pulled them out of the current.

Raena clenched her teeth against her fear. “I will not leave my children for the Arrival. Listen, Thomas, I will stay. Diehl will take Zoe, or he thinks he will, but you do what you can to keep her. You take the other two. I am staying.”

Noah grabbed onto her sweater, eyes so wide he seemed cut. “No! Mom, you can’t do that!”

“Mom? Where are you going? Who is Diehl?” Zoe was frantic.

“Raena, that’s ridiculous. I will stay.” The platform was loading the last few. Diehl was impatient and would soon board with or without them.

“Rock, paper, scissors.”

“Wha— what? Are you crazy?”

“Now, Thomas. Rock, paper, scissors.” She began the game, pounding her fist into her palm.

Thomas fought back the tears as he followed suit. He threw paper. She threw scissors. Thomas smiled grimly. She always threw scissors.

“I win. Take the children,” said Raena. She was walking backwards, pulling Skye off of her, passing her to Noah.

“You won, Raena! Get on that ship now. Oh God, Raena, please go now!”

She shook her head, tears falling to her shoulders, never taking her eyes from the little ones.

“I won, so I choose. I love you, babies. Be good, listen to Daddy.” Her words were nearly unintelligible. The ramp was all but empty and a guard pulled Raena to the fence as her family fled.


Liz Mierzejewski is a middle school science teacher in Connecticut. She splits her time between crying uncontrollably and drinking tequila, which she makes in her basement. Being too old for American Idol, she channels her talents into writing whenever she has the time. An avid reader, she sees all the mistakes of other more successful authors, and refuses to sacrifice her gift just to become famous. Her husband and three teenage children work hard to gaslight Liz every waking moment, so she is not even sure of her own name, and generally refers to herself in the third person. E-mail: mizem55[at]