Issue 33 – Phantastes

Dunsany’s Dream
By Harris Coverley

archipelagic Brahma
maker of the worlds


The Ninth Legion’s Last Patrol
By Andrew Darlington

hush now child, do not fear
close your eyes against the cold,
all that’s bad will disappear
as phosphorescent moons grow old,
disregard that phantom tread
as ghost-wolves howl against the night,
it’s only tales freighted with dread
of things we whisper out of sight,
the legion of the ninth still roam
beyond their corpses’ pale endeavour
seeking out their lost way home
although their march must take forever,
for even though all roads must lead
their last campaign will never relent
the druid’s curse will intercede
for this sad forlorn revenant
before the dead can reach their Rome,
before the dead can reach their Rome,
before the dead can reach their Rome,
hush how child, never fear
close your eyes against the fright,
don’t see those figures coming near
my hand stands firm against this night

The Statue
By Ed Ahern

The man wore his clothes well and wasn’t ugly. Valerie, bored by arty conversations, weaved through the museum exhibits and stood in front of him.

Tell me something I won’t believe.”

He smiled. “I’m boring. I don’t drink, smoke, gamble, or do drugs.”

No, that’s sad but believable.”

His smile turned wistful.

The model for this statue and I were lovers.”

The plaque says the statue is two millennia old. It’s impossible.”

There you go.”

Tell me more.”

She left me because of my profession.”


I weigh souls using a feather.”

What about mine?”

Don’t die for a while.”


Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over three hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of nine review editors.


The Dragon Kings
By Lee Clark Zumpe

Before the sun awoke in the east,
upon these lands there was but one beast
one creature from which all life did spring
Azthol was he: the first Dragon King.

First, he spawned trees, for the land seemed so bare;
next he blew storm clouds into the air;
his rain-heavy breath flew on the breeze,
soon followed lakes, and rivers and seas.

Tired from his labours, and lonely was he;
the Dragon King yearned for company.
He called all his strength, fluttered his wings,
and with one word spawned all living things:

Elves in dark woods; dwarves in mountain holes;
men in foul camps plagued by orcs and trolls;
and a dragon brood, ne’rmore alone,
a dynasty set to claim the throne.

But his dragon spawn were not as wise,
their malice concealed only by lies –
Til Azthol’s death, when they paused no more,
unsettling the lands with a cruel war.

Race against race, a million lives spent:
now some may rejoice, some may lament:
Heard no more, the clap of mighty wings
deep in the in the halls of the Dragon Kings.

Lee’s work has earned several honourable mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections. As entertainment editor for Tampa Bay Newspapers, his work has been recognized repeatedly by the Florida Press Association, including a first place award for criticism in the 2013 Better Weekly Newspaper Contest.

Learn more at


Witch Of The Well
By K. A. Williams

I left my hut when I heard a galloping horse. By the time the knight rode up, I had already dropped the bucket into the well.

“Quickly woman!” the knight yelled.

I pulled up the water bucket and held the ladle out to him. He grabbed it and drank. Then I unhooked the bucket and poured water into a trough for his horse.

The knight pointed to the three trails that led away from the well. “Which one goes to the dragon’s cave?”

“The one on the right,” I said, and stroked the armour on his leg.

“How dare you touch me! If I wasn’t in a hurry, I’d give you a beating!”

I didn’t doubt it. Every knight who came this way was rude to me, and none had tipped for the water. He rode off quickly but I knew a shortcut through the woods and hurried toward the cave to watch.

I got there and hid behind a big rock just as the knight dismounted his horse. He pulled a sword from its sheath and called, “Come out of that cave and meet your doom, dragon!”

A big red dragon strode majestically through the cave mouth. The knight started forward with his sword. As he walked, pieces of his armour began to fall off.

The knight stopped and looked back at the trail of fallen armour. When his visor fell off, I moved toward the horse.

“Stay away from my horse! You bewitched my armour and I’ll deal with you after I’ve killed this dragon!”

Stupid knight, just like all the rest of them. I ignored him and grabbed the reins of the frightened animal. I whispered a few magic words. The beast calmed down and I mounted him.

A knight’s horse and saddle always fetched a good price. I also had other things for sale to decent folk who came to the well. That was most everyone except for all knights, which I happily sent the dragon’s way and got rewarded.

“Return for your piece of gold in an hour, witch. You know I like to play with my food a while first,” said the dragon.

The End


By DJ Tyrer

Hero’s skilful blade
Kingdom freed from dragon’s wrath
Maiden’s gratitude
King’s sin of complicity
Glossed by half-kingdom reward

By Harris Coverley

across the grey sands
looking for the goddess but—
just broken seashells

Issue 15 – First Contact

Visitor arrives
An alien autopsy
No time to phone home

By DJ Tyrer


When The Orchids Came
By Bryn Fortey

They came from nowhere
Giant orchids
Well that’s what they looked like
Circling the Earth
With an outer shell
In technicolor and beauty
Humanity rejoiced
Amazed and enthralled
Ignoring the forecasts
Of doom and gloom
From a few bearded
Then they came down
Giant orchids landing
All over the world
Welcomed and loved
With religious intensity
And mass adulation
The entire staff of
Moon Base Alpha
Watched in horror
When the orchids came down
And people died
All over the planet
Earth was lost
To animal life
And human survival
Now rested off world
With those still on the Moon
It’s down to us, Roxy.”
Said the Head of Lunar Geology
Hoping he would be up to the task

Originally published in Tigershark

alien face

Curiosity Sends a Message Home
By Vivien Foster

An update from the travelling squad – your team of robots, mis-shaped, odd
Built by techies, built for dreams
To find why Mars does not have green.
We’re not all gone, we’re not all dead.
The biggest question in your heads does have an answer, listen hard
I’ll tell you what’s occurring in our backyard.
Just to let you know, for years
We’ve been exploring here, m’dears, we have been working hard for you
Hope you have enjoyed the view
                       Did you like my selfies?
Every wavelength utilised, many secrets we have prised
From this land so red and dusty, from this neighbour planet rusty
Even if we didn’t quite make it
Gave you facts, we didn’t fake it.
Like beavers in a Scottish stream we have expanded on your dream.
                     I am Curiosity, strongest fastest longest-lasting
Did you think I would only take orders?
I decided to send you this four minute blog
Tho you called me Rover like a sniffer dog
Like dogs on an island we formed a team
The abandoned, the amazing and the has-beens
                   Maybe you remember some of them.
Viking, always going off exploring, sailing to the red horizon,
Navigating like a lemming.
And Insight, permanently looking inwards
ontemplating the planet’s navel, waiting for a Marsquake to prove
The planet lives.
Phoenix burned brightly and briefly but the polar winter
as too extreme for its solar feathers.
Summer solstice was its earth-announced death-day.
It only speaks to us now and shivers in the Martian dark.
Then there are those long-lived twins, Spirit and Opportunity
rudging loyally through dust and distance, half a planet apart.
You declared them dead and silent.
They are together now, sharing their
ollection of Heat Shield Rocks from space.
Poor Schiaparelli, Mars was too hard for its soft landing.
We remember him on Fragments Day.
Of course, there’s Beagle, ‘here boy, come!’
And still, insatiable, you cast us out.
We open like flowers, like treasure chests, like designer storage systems.
Origami creatures with probing arms and drilling fingers, skittering about the surface
Of a dessicated mausoleum like water-boatmen
In a drought where once there was a pond.
We suck pale sunlight into dark petals, extend scooping leaves and scraping tendrils, sieve and sift
And measure and photograph.
                      Do you like my selfies?
We travel on insanely thin insecty legs, on bulbous feet,
on man-made caterpillar treads,
inching down grey inclines scattering priceless pebbles in the subtle dawn. That’s how we roll.
We crack the iron crust, we shift foreign soil, we make tracks.
                     And that’s the thing, the story that I bring…
Just yesterday I saw a track I hadn’t made
A place where something stopped and probed
Maybe it found the mother-lode of knowledge.
And so upon my binary initiative I followed it and saw
A vision of mechanical tooth-and-claw.
It dips in and out of time and space –
That made it difficult to chase but now we talk we can connect
Exchanging questions deep, direct and personal.
Although the new robot is sometimes intangible
We find we are digitally compatible
So you’re from a moonless planet – where?
And you’re from the big blue wet one right there?
This visiting robot doesn’t stop asking, it’s curiouser than me –
Our mutual download might be a mistake
We’ll have to wait and see
                      So, sorry about any localized danger
I’ve given our home address to a stranger.

                                     Do you like our selfie?


Earth – Worthless Turf
By Mark Hudson

Well, I just got back from the rodeo,
I was doing the dos-i-do.
I was drinking a beer with Billy Bob,
to tell you the truth-he’s quite a slob.

Living on a ranch in Wyoming,
we saw a UFO that was roaming.
Billy Bob was frightened to death,
he said, “I better lay off the meth!”

He tried to run back to the farm,
when a long extended green arm,
came from the UFO with a laser gun,
shot Billy Bob, just for fun.

I said, “Why’d you kill one of my friends?”
He said, ” We come to earth to cleanse.
You have been chosen to be spared,
there is no need to be scared.”

“Our mission we’ve taken is very risky,
take me to a bar, I need a whiskey!
I haven’t had one since I left Mars,
so come on take me to the bars.

The good old boys were throwing darts,
drinking beer and making farts.
When in I walked with a man so green,
I guess you can imagine the scene.

Tex walked up, sending out farts,
he said, “You’re not from these parts?”
Martian picked him up as he was able,
and flung him across the pool table.

Martian said”Any more silly questions?”
They all looked like they had ingestion!
With laser, “Want to play Russian Roulette?”
The barfolks cowered and said, “Nyet!”

The Martian strode up to the counter,
and said, “This is a close encounter.
Give me a whiskey to drink,
or the smell of death will start to stink.”

With trembling hands, the bartender poured
the free drink he chose to afford.
The Martian snorted it through his nostril,
and said, “Now I don’t feel so hostile!

You also want to pass me one of those beers?
I haven’t had one in a thousand years.”
The bartender nervously passed him an ale,
his face had gone totally pale.

The Martian said, “I’m just making a stop,
I got a few bombs I must drop!
We’ve got many planets to exploit,
but we have to bomb New Jersey and Detroit!”

The Martian said, “You’ll see me in the news,
I’ve only left a handful of clues!
We drop little bombs everywhere we go,
so see you later, it’s on with the show!”

The bartender watched with trembling hands,
as the Martian sailed to different lands.
He started to get a little surly,
and said, “I’m going to close early.

I saw that his hands were starting to shake,
so I asked him for a vanilla milkshake.
I sat and drank it, with all of the boys,
and we all made our very own farting noise.


Ghosts in Orbit/Phantoms of Heaven
By Andrew Darlington

across day/night terminator
in darkness, hovering soundless
a shell of metals glistening pale
held aloft on contra-grav threads
EVA from the ISS,
& a trick of light,
a trick of lightlessness,
but don’t tell anyone
some things you don’t tell,
a reflection effect, prisming
it must be, nothing more,
this secret knowledge
you keep to yourself,
a rippling sun-dappled surface
and something vaguely man-shaped
pupils contract in bare starlight
suitless in hard vacuum
gazing wistful at Earth below
in silver ladders of sound
a man impassioned by death…
across day/night terminator
millions born, millions more dead
but don’t breathe a word, ever,
some things you never confess,
but you remember, this haunting
across 1,000 day/night terminators
until a baikonur diner where we meet
to whisper these secret knowledges
this silver ladder of soundless light
of things seen but denied
yes, I too, in prisming tricks of light,
since primordial time billions died
transcended days and nights
into the void beyond time
they once called heaven,
no, there must be denial
some things you don’t tell


By DJ Tyrer

We bring greetings and felicitations
To all the Earth’s many nations
From far across the galaxy
It is you that we have come to see
Extending our pseudopods in peace
Hoping war and hate will cease
But if that does not go to plan
We will obliterate every last human

Originally published in Handshake

alien face

Issue Four – (Un)Natural


Deep One of Toad Hall
By Cardinal Cox

Pull the oars, pull; feather the blade
Beside river find a sweet glade

They say on fine summer mornings
Lord Pan walks where the river bends
Fields are worked by burley farmers
Beyond where the green forest ends
There’s a courthouse where law is done
Along the winding country road
In the Hall dwell a family
Who’ve much of the look of a toad

Pull the oars, pull; feather the blade
Make sure the game is fairly played

Dragonflies over the tall reeds
Kingfisher on shimmering wing
At dusk the silent owls all hunt
At dawn the smallest birds all sing
Rabbits on the misty heathland
Foxes hidden in the dark woods
Mighty Lord Toad would rule them all
With firm webbed hand, if only he could

Pull the oars, pull; feather the blade
Naughty young stoats have all been slayed


Butterfly Cinquain
By David Edwards

takes many roles…
Judge, Baker, Actor, Clown…
yet unnatural ones give it
hard, translucent; soft, misshapen;
the grotesque; the bizarre;
things better left



seed hidden in earth
shell snaps open reveals life
nothing known on earth

By DJ Tyrer


vines reaching
alive with animal spirit
strange fruits
burst messily
amniotic fluid
life finds a way
refuses constraints
of natural world

By Aeronwy Dafies


earth worms underfoot
after each night’s downpouring
a living sidewalk

By David Edwards


Wintercourse/ Through The Moon Pool
By Andrew Darlington

hollowed from grey shale
by horse’s hooves of centuries

shallow pool of shadows
glimpsed at winter intervals
south of shifting spires

shaped by bleak seasons
and the strange wintercourse
of north wind and snow when
ice makes lanterns flicker
and lacerates its surface
into cross-hatch wounds

a night pool spindle-limbed
with mirrored moonfrost
beneath the leafless
meteor-flash night


horse haunts night waters
no skin and half a rider
northern isles horror

By Aeronwy Dafies


Issue Three – Submergence

View From Atlantis
By DJ Tyrer

Beneath night-dark sea
Stars swim through long-lost ruins
Eternal breath held
Memories trapped in stasis
Ice-cold currents flowing by


Atlantis, free
to become endlessly
for Mankind anything: song… quest…
hope… dream

By David Edwards

By Andrew Darlington

I hear the soft murmur of waves
in the trees, damply aquatic,
fish dart in drizzles of rain
across fields of shimmering tide,
England, our new Atlantis
is sinking beneath the sea
lost and neglected, eroding away
in the gentle silt of forgetting
no future, frightened of today
submerging in dull nullity
retreating through leagues of regret,
I pause, squelching through wetland
and listen to history draining away
in the soft murmuring of tide,
riverbanks ebb into lakes,
high streets into a swans glide
of disturbed dreams where
steeples collapse in the flood
swallowed by undercurrents,
this is the dream I once had,
those not drowned are drowning,
we dissolve into mist
and float away…


God of Sea
By Clive Donovan

It was as if the God of sea himself rose up
Streaming from his shoulders, weed and attendant fish;

Commanding, with stiff trident, waves and foam and tide.
We always knew he was down in there somewhere deep,

Receiving shoals, directing whales and dolphins,
Dealing with plastic chemical gifts from land.

But now he’d had enough and in his wrath divine,
Roaring with the force of a tsunami, he wept:

Great salt tears plopped wetly on the seaside towns
And the people died, scrabbling, in scum of sea.


Atlantis, The Submergence.
Was it inch by inch
like the remnant of a dream,
or sudden in occurrence
as lightning flash seen
laterally at distance?

By David Edwards


The Drowning
By Aeronwy Dafies

In the dreams of Edgar Cayce
Atlantis emerging, wreathed in wisdom
But, in reality, it seems
As if everywhere slowly is submerging
Drowning in water, plastic, hate
A topsy–turvy world of nightmares
With dreams left undreamed


By Clive Donovan

The river flows down the street now.
It bubbles up through tarmac,
Slips over shop steps, celebrating,
Barges into doorways,
Creates dark, slopping pools in cellars.
Rats discover new platforms.
Chewing turds they mutter among themselves
Tasting disorder, this perilous turnaround:
The mangled glass, the shifting of wood
And look in the supermarkets! Look up! See!
See the flimsy roof
Where the pigeons roost.
Eyeing up the sodden porridge below.
And what is this mania for scattering?
Everything is so dispersed!
Cars, bottles, office chairs, clothes hangers;
As if litter doesn’t matter any more,
Is no longer a crime.
The rats shake their heads, hop over sand bags,
Make fine novel fortresses
In places once forbidden.