You ever see A Christmas Carol, the one with George C. Scott? Remember that scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present lifts his robes and reveals two gangly, starving children, and Scrooge asks him – demands of him! - to cover them up, because the mere sight of such wretchedness made him so…uncomfortable?
So, here’s my question: does gazing upon a thing long enough turn you into the thing itself? Or is it the smelling salt that sparks the uncomfortable process of change?
We read a lot of short story submissions. The quality of the writing and the storytelling will always be king for us, but there are other items to consider: the adult ‘level’ of the content, the language, and trying to keep a bearing on our reader’s sensibilities. It’s hard to define, especially with stories like the one you're about to read. Sure, this month's story is a little creepy at times, and might make one feel a bit uncomfortable, but it’s good.
Ghoulishly good.
It’s one of those stories that lingers long after the words have been turned over, the kind equipped with a real staying power, the kind of story that makes you think; it’s a deep longing, the hungering for something so desperately – what would you do, or not do, to have it?
Or perhaps it's as German philosopher Neitzsche once put it, "If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you."
Is there something valuable to glean here?  Am I just conflating two dissimilar things? Maybe I'm just a sucker for masterfully crafted stories? A modern fool?
Or maybe I'm the ghoul?
Danny Hankner
Danny Hankner


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The things we do for love to not get marked as spam.

This is a common email we get, which is why we're responding for our entire audience to see (or not, because the email didn’t get through, ugh). We've checked and yes, you are indeed in the system, and you’ve done all the right things, including whitelisting! Unfortunately, getting past spam blockers has been a battle for us since day one, and continues even now. Despite having exceptionally high open rates when compared to industry standards, our goal is to get our emails into the figurate hands of every subscriber. No small feat. Turns out every email host has its own secret algorithms for how they filter emails into spam (or not allowing them to pass through at all). We'll not exhaust you with the inside baseball of this, but we’re constantly updating our approach to minimize our chances of getting blocked. Here are a few things we’re changing, just so you (and everyone reading – or not reading) don’t feel blindsided:

First, to get past (specifically Gmail’s) ‘clipping’ (which affects our ‘sender rating – think credit score, but for email senders), we’re going to try sending only a partial email. This issue (July 2023) is our first experiment; essentially, we’re sending you just the opening of our issue (thus cutting down the size of our email and avoiding the ‘clipping’, and reducing our chances of going to spam). At the bottom of this email (and future issues, if this indeed helps), there will be a prompt for you to click on which will take you to the full monthly issue. Indeed, another hurdle, but we know you’re ready for this - we believe in you!
Now, are you still with us? Are you sure? Because there’s a bit of drool on your chin. Here, use my ShamWow – pretty impressive absorption power, huh? Anyway…

Second, we’ll likely be experimenting with changing our sending name – what you see as ‘from’ in your inbox. Back when we were with Mailchimp, we went back and forth between “Story Unlikely” and “Danny Hankner” and found we had about 5% higher open rates with my name. However, to keep it consistent, we went with only “Story Unlikely” since switching to Flodesk. In the near future, we may go back and forth between the two and see if “Danny Hankner” helps us land in the inbox. If so, we’ll likely switch. Either way, keep an eye out for one or the other (and just to keep it as simple as possible, if we send from “Danny Hankner”, we’ll still type “Story Unlikely” in the subject line so you know it’s not just me trying to sell you a load of ShamWows).

Don’t you just love technology?
To be honest, we could have never accomplished this 10 years ago, and it’s only because of modern tech that Story Unlikely even exists. So yes, there are a lot of headaches that come with the territory, but we’re grateful to be here doing what we do and hope you can bear with us as we continue to fight the good fight of cursed algorithms (which truly are necessary when you look at the flood of spam emails).

Speaking of which, instead of fighting proxy wars and poverty and drugs and everything else under the sun, could we just funnel like .01% of our tax dollars into taking down all the clowns who send the real spam emails? And spam calls, too? Remember the early days of cell phones when robocalls were thwarted for a few peaceful years, and the only thing you had to worry about was accidentally butt-dialing your ex?
Ah, now those were good times.
The Editors


                Later, he will go to the cemetery to visit her.
               Tonight, he’s watching someone else, namely his wife, pretend to eat the veal scaloppini on a ceramic plate that looks like it costs more than if he bundle black-marketed all of his organs to the highest bidder. She’s long dividing the cutlets, trying to test the law of infinite divisibility and losing, not a bite to her mouth, not yet, and her plate is looking fuller than when the night started.
              Pushed to the lip of the plate are the roasted carrots.
              You don’t like carrots, he hears himself say. His own voice is faraway, dissected into its original components like the veal. It’s a prosaic thing to be hung up on, but there’s a peculiar stabbing feeling in his heart, deep like someone’s shoved a key in a ventricle and twisted it, expecting him to open like something mechanical.
               Roasted carrots, she clarifies. She’s frustrated, teeth gritted, hands still hacking at the meat. She doesn’t like carrots, she had said, offhandedly, saying something to say something. She had also said other things like today being the first true day of Autumn, did you notice the heater was on the fritz again? and that butterfly tattoo she always used to talk about – all of these inconsequential things nestled like kindling around the Big Thing, the log that becomes the fire, that capital D word which meant undo. She says, Did you not hear what I said?
               Roasted carrots, he says back. The key is turning, cranking. Reaching with long fingers, searching the bloody halls of his heart for something misplaced.
               Her mouth’s moving, open and closed like a fish sucking bubbles on the glass of the tank. She’s explaining teacherly, so politely, as if he had closed his eyes their whole marriage, and maybe he had, maybe he needs her to chart the unnavigable journey that took her from his wife to this stranger in the cinched off-the-rack dress.
              Yet, the key has turned, the lid of him opened, all the rotten air coming out, and he is thinking of rice instead, pushed to the side of the plate, uneaten. Thinking of her, the other her, from long ago.
               He was first aware of the way she would pick at the rice. It was that moment that comes in every relationship, when the natural flow of conversation stops, the well dries, and the hormones in your brain are no longer screaming all the things you feel, only suggesting, making pedestrian recommendations. In this moment, the person sitting opposite you becomes clear, solid.
               When this moment arrived, she did not crystallize. The essence of her was not pinned down for him; instead, she clouded, reversed herself, folded inward like origami meant to represent something instead of being the thing represented. What he realized was how much he did not know. And to showcase this, the rice: pushed back and forth, like the wind changing the position of sand dunes on a miniature scale. Not a single bite reaching the mouth.
               He mentioned it. Carefully.
               She said something about not being hungry. That it has nothing to do with his cooking, it all looks wonderful, just, her stomach is being weird. You know?
               He knew. He tried not to make a big deal out of it. She was hungry in different rooms, different ways.
               How had he met her? Let us say terribly. Let us also say coincidentally. In his life, so many rusty cogs and nail-studded gears had churned and turned his life down the only channel whose outlet was here, in the back parking lot of a bar chain whose name he cannot remember. Was this the American tavern one or the Cuban street food one? Did it matter, other than what he saw there, in that back parking lot? The focal point of this memory that bent all light and space around it?
              She was not noticed yet. Wait a little.
              He was sitting on the back stoop of the bar’s service entrance, looking down at his palms blurred through the smoky haze of his own red-eyed joint staring back at him between knuckles, where he had just written in sharpie all these so-called terrible and necessary things called Circumstances. This was a passive habit of his for two reasons: it was nice to outline your own past, as if it was just backstory, and pinpoint all the character development that led you here; and because it washed off. Faded back into his skin, temporary tattoos as he washed his hands for the umpteenth time.
              Mostly, it washed off.  Sometimes hard lines and dots from i’s stayed like scabs or mosquito bites. Scarred if you messed with them.
              This was the only thing he had ever written. Peculiar for someone introducing himself as a writer.
              His ordinary daydreams were abstract and magnificent: they were of his writing project, which he had deemed America’s Next Big Renaissance Novel. He thought of it like that in capital letters, sometimes abbreviated: ANBRN, which then turned into saying it as if it were a real word, Anbrin, a one-word open-sesame that meant all the butterfly dreams that flitted in his skull at night, all the hidden treasures in this universe that could almost be reached if he had a compass. When saying it out loud, it was a way of saying what he was working on when relatives asked at holidays. Been working hard on Anbrin. Came up with a new idea for Anbrin. Gotta throw the old thing out. Start again.
              He had been germinating the Thing for a dozen years now, from its narcissistic “I should write a memoir” conception to its perennial third trimester where it had grown to a sprawling epic, a dreamscape of every literary genre, such that nothing ever need be written again.
              He had yet to write one word. How could he write the quintessential work when he was an unfinished character himself? He continued to sharpie-tattoo his hands, to outline himself, to trace the arc that led him here and calculate the trajectory further into some satisfiable but never cheap denouement. To make some sense of the whole mess.
              One of the sharpie tattoos was of his dad. As these things must go. If a character must outline his backstory, it must begin with his parents, as tiresome and overdone as that is. Just under the stitching keeping his fingers from flying away to work for more diligent writers, a banner read: where is he? Sometimes the W was who. Once, why. They all meant the same thing in the end. A man with a question mark behind him like a sickle-shaped shadow.
              Maybe in a different story, he could have been a demi-god. Gone on an odyssey to uncover which celestial bore him parentage. But his father was no god. Just some everyman who didn’t know how to stick around, like an old band-aid. Okay then. So he had a stranger for a father, a gaping hole where the shape of a man should be, there’s worse, he supposed. When he thought of his father, he would send out a little prayer, a test signal to see if anyone was on the receiving end of the genetic FM. He would say, what do you think, what do you do, what do you know. In time, that became his mantra for all the unknowns of the world. They were not questions, those W phrases. They were declarations. Full end stop.
              But absent fathers are not the story, as much as I can help it. She is. And where was she? Still there? Yes, off to the side, in the periphery of the scene, soon to be centerstage. Sitting on the curb by the dumpster. Smoking too. A cigarette. Half-hidden between the pools of golden light from the droopy street lamps like she can’t find her spotlight.
             Looking back, he can’t remember the specifics of her person, only that she was there. Like a sentient, black-and-white polaroid. You had to shake her a little to get the image to come through. She was pale, he remembers that. And she wore an oversized necklace in the shape of a silver lightning bolt. She must not have been wearing a jacket, because when he saw her, he called out, Cold?
              Fuck off? she called back, mimicking his worried parental tone. She flicked her cigarette at him, but it fizzled out in the middle of the parking lot. A warning shot. Then she was on her way, down the shoulder of the sleepy highway.
              She would’ve made a great tattoo, he said to his sharpied hand. He absently stuck his still-smoking joint into his pocket where it would burn a hole while he closed the kitchen for the night.
               Later, he would trace his fingers along the invisible lines that connected her, from Adam’s apple around the bend of the shrunken nipples, down to the navel, and slingshotting beyond. Maybe an acupuncturist could find better lines, or a surgeon, parceling out the tendons and the bones from the flesh, detailing every nerve, but he only saw what he would write on her. The possibility. All the fantastic words that hadn’t been invented yet tattooed over the pale spread of her. She made him feel as though if he took his eyes off her for one moment, there would be less of her the next time his eyes found her. That she was always receding, diminishing, waning.
               With his other hand, he ran his fingers through her hair until his knuckles caught in the knotted rigging. Caught there, he explored the shape of her head, like he could phrenologize her, get all his questions answered without having to ask them. More brutally, he would have liked to crack open the top part of her head, sink his knuckles deep into her skull, and eat her brains just to understand her. He was acutely aware that she was a stranger in his bed. What do you think? he thought to her head.
               Do you have any scars? he asked. I can’t find any.
               You’re not looking hard enough. She reached up to his eyes and pushed up on his eyelids, revealing the squiggly red veins underneath.
              Peeled, he said, like potatoes. His hand found the zigzag Tetris shape still hanging from her neck, even now, even in their total nakedness. It was blocking the lines he was ghostwriting into her skin. What is this? he asked, slipping a finger under it. It was heavy. Felt like copper. An unoxidized piece of the Statue of Liberty, snatched from under her skirt?
               What do you think it is?
               A broken crowbar.
               She made a buzzer sound.
               An Ankh?
               She laughed at that. An inside joke.
               It looks like a question mark, he said.
               In his ear: Maybe I’m looking for an answer. Her hot breath tickled. She smelled like wet earth, an autumn lawn of unraked leaves.
               The exegesis of her could wait. He followed the unwritten geodesic line across her belly to the warmest parts of her, and enlightenment took a backseat to ancient instinct, knowledge cowed to hunger.
              If he had been writing America’s Next Big Renaissance Novel, the pages would have been filled with only her. He had transferred his beloved Anbrin from the blank page with the blinking, vertical cursor to this horizontal shape in his bed. Stopped writing sharpie tattoos of all the wrong twists and turns in his past and started imagining what a future would look like. As lonely people do.
               He did not notice it then, of course. How could you notice what a person did or didn’t ingest when you were obsessed with how this person was perceiving you, if you matched up to all their secret fantasies and Anbrins? And you, if it could all work out, your Anbrin, if you could wash your hands of all those tattoos?
              How could you notice someone’s diet when you were falling in love?
              He did not notice it until the noticing of it was all he could see: the rice, those sand dunes, back and forth, this way, that. The noticing became those trick pictures with a negative image nestled in between the real ones. Now he couldn’t see what he was meant to see–her–he could only see the absences of her, the in-betweens, grumbling and yawning and black hole empty.
               The majority of his left hand, when it is sharpied, has to do with his mother. He can only recite facts about her sans intention. In fact, there are several moms to write facts about. The one who liked to use the loopy cords of his Nintendo 64 controller to practice tight-tight tourniquets on his arms until his fingers fuzzed with television static–the one who was glued to her bed, arms crossed at the chest like she was trying to keep what was inside her from breaking out of the pores of her skin – or the pretty one? The one with a toiletful of vomit to look thinner and a faceful of concealer to look younger?
              When his mother leaks black lines onto his other hand, it is only to tell how she died. Something that must be written down, recorded somewhere, since no obituary ran, no funeral held, no public consciousness aroused to say here was a person, and that person is gone now. Let us pray. Sometimes the sharpie, speaking independently, says, Sleeping Pills and Champagne; sometimes, Suicide; sometimes just, Undo.
               Two banners on two heads. Two parents that leave and don’t say why. Won’t.
               What do you think, what do you do, what do you know.
               It may be said that he gravitated towards this mystery woman because he did not understand her, because she reminded him of the unsolvable puzzle of his mother. It may also be said that he was trying to correct something to which the child of him knew had gone sour. To know this stranger and thereby know his mother, his father, himself with the black-streaked hands, hold the weighty, blank Anbrin in its physical form. Maybe he was just very lonely and she was just very, very pretty.
               What do you think?
               Next: he noticed the lopsided bed. Alone, in the middle of the night, when you’re expecting not to be. The sheets pushed to the side like rice on the plate.
               What do you do?
               He followed her. Her, a pale ghostlight walking along the thin median of the dead road into the crimeless suburbs of the city; him, her distant umbral self. The first time the moon ever made shadows instead of a little light.
              He was tracing his steps backwards, from his apartment, past the back parking lot where they met, and further. Specifically: the cemetery. This is where she peeled off from the road. Easy, like going home, the way you turn onto your street without your blinker. Ducked her head under the lopsided iron sign in need of more maintenance than the long-term residents inside. The ducking of the head was a reverential bowing upon entering a sacred place of worship. He was shorter than her. When it was his turn, he needed no bowing. Entered: nonbeliever.
               Her feet chartered a figure 8 path through the tombstones, her bare feet barely making impressions on the grass. She did not turn to glance behind herself, not even once, though he was sure he made noise, stepped on a twig, certainly his heavy shoes made earthy creaking noises, flattened the grass into its own grave. Maybe she knew he was there; maybe she wanted him to see. Invite him into the mystery, as all mysteries do if you ask politely. If you are paying attention.
               Near the hill, under a paternal gray oak with long branches like arms to cover the answer to the question he was asking, there was a hole, an imprint in the grass from a bigger shoe. She slipped into this hole the way you might slip into a bubbling hot tub. Nearby, a compact excavator, lifeless with its long elephant trunk resting uselessly on the ground. Job half-done, finish-it-in-the-morning done. He dared to get closer, to come under the shade of the oak tree, he could barely see her now, closer still, hunched over like a question mark, and oh, there is a reason a question mark looks like a curled, beckoning finger.
               What do you know?
             He will bring flowers with him to the cemetery, when he goes, all those years later. They will be real flowers. He will feel it in bad taste to bring to a cemetery something that cannot die.
               The way her teeth sunk into the meat and stripped it cleanly from the bone. The quick slurping of the jagging angel-hair veins. Capillaries bursting like pop rocks in her mouth.
               Ravenous. Swallow-the-world hungry. The Fenris Wolf.
               He watched her feast from the vantage point of a bird perched in the branches. He watched her, and his stomach did not turn–his mind did, it flipped back like a set of flashcards, back to the beginning, cards the same shape as the coffin, the same shape as the door to his mother’s bedroom, and what was in there?
               He opened it, that door. Vaguely, there was something about being thirsty (hungry) and still not being tall enough to reach the sink. Or maybe it was the sounds heard that drew him forth. Sounds like someone in pain, someone trapped in a hole. He opened it then, the same as now, always to sate the mystery, to know, and there: a stranger, supine on the blue sheets of his mother’s bed, and his mother, curled like a wasp, making noises she never made at dinner. She screamed her get out’s, get out’s, and there the memory ended, the door shut, and the optic nerve that tethers memories to everything we see looped itself into a shrugging ouroboros, a thought simple and terrible: I did not know.
               She was starting on the marrow. Diligently sucking it out of the bones like peanut butter through a straw.
             In the morning, she looked like light from the window falling on the bed. Like crumpled-up sheets and pillows in the shape of a person. The only real thing about her was her round belly, that full moon.
             He had loaned his Anbrin to her. What once was his was now caught in between the sleeping lids of her eyes, trapped in these tangles of dark hair. In her intestines, being digested.
             He dug his long fingers through the matted firmament of her hair like shovels. Broke apart the knots with force. 
             He watched her often. Became her full-time moon, orbiting her and illuminating her. Every night a new cemetery (he never knew there were so many), every night a new grave with a new body (this too, never known), and a new hole to cover up before dawn. She devoured rich and poor alike, apparently not picky with her palate. When she had to dig, she did it with her hands like a child building a snowman. The dirt hadn’t time to settle, and it pried easily under her nails, Tupperware leftovers from the fridge. She never made a mess either; she was efficient. A professional. The only silverware she used was the oblong silver necklace that was hung from her neck. She would stick it in the butt of the casket where it hung like a tailpipe and turn it. The motion was outdated, reminiscent of someone cranking a Model T to get it started. What it was, he learned, was a casket key, for sealing and unsealing coffins. It was a piece of backstage work they never show at funerals. That bodies need to be twist-tied shut like a bag of bread. She resealed them when she was finished, leaving only bones behind on a licked-clean dinner plate.
              And who would check? To see that their beloved, their too-recently departed had fast-tracked their decay, flipped a hundred years into an overnight? Bodies are buried precisely because we don’t want to see them rot, expired food is thrown out because we can’t stand the smell. Who was going to check on what we hide in the first place? It was the best kept secret, the silent exchange between her and the turn-a-blind-eye human world. What happens after death is none of our business, wash our hands of the matter. Six feet under and all that.
               And him–what could he say? but that he was that stranger, that pointy amalgam of scapulae and elbows, that Jacob pinned under the angelic terror of his mother? Wrestling a rib for a name? He watched her often, and he felt an unfolding in him, a becoming, but yet a reverse blooming, like the fist of a flower closing to finally catch and hold onto its fleeting pollen. His Anbrin became stale water to him in the face of her, a billboard for a destination an interminable amount of miles out, and here was paradise already here in all its horrific glory, amen.
             And them–how could they know? His customers he fed during the day? The overtime that went behind those pristine dishes, the minimum wage fingers that prepared them? Yet when he offered her his new dinner, the one that required only an online obituary site and a shovel, she understood. Saw the imperceptible shake in his hands, the shiny red veins of his eyes, that blank look in them like he was sleepwalking. How much it had cost him written across his pale face and signed by her name.
               She looked at him with a million looks, and he thought, this is what it means to know someone. And she, maybe, being seen for the first time when she thought she was transparent. Gathered when she thought she was water that could not be held. Maybe.
               She ate.
This time, he pushed the meat around on his plate. This way, that.
               He fingered it, the casket key, that silverware lightning bolt. It left her skin green where it touched her, solar plexus down to sternum, like a grass stain. It meant she was allergic to silver. Not like a werewolf, but like a human being. With allergies and cravings and lockboxes of irrational fears. This green streak on her chest in between her breasts is the one thing to him that stands out clearly about her, the thing he remembers most. That lightning bolt shape that grounded her and gave her form. Everything else was mist.
               Where’d you get it, he asked her.
               Stole it, she said. She was nestled into his neck. Tiny, salty beads of sweat were slipping off her nose and pooling in the hollow of his throat. He was wondering if her teeth were going to graze across his skin, wondering so much that he was practically willing her to do so.
               Is it a skeleton key?
               Right, ha. But I mean: will it always work?
               They used to just be wooden boxes, she said. She faded to him as she remembered, stretched herself back into her memory, and there was less of her to hold. Tomorrow they’ll be pods. Need a fingerprint to open them. Then I’ll have to have a finger wrapped around my neck.
               He gave her an example. Pressed the curved webbing between his thumb and forefinger to her jugular, felt the throbbing under. Can she die? he thought. Who would eat her?
               What was it, he asked, before wooden boxes? Before pharaohs and tombs and pyres?
               Bodies, she said, and was she smiling? She was nearly a cirrus cloud in his hands with the remembering. He held tighter. Said: No embalming, no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup. No digging either. They just left them there, moved on and forgot all about them. But I remembered them.
               Will you remember me?
She nibbled his Adam’s apple. A teasing Eve. A play bite from a dog with sharp teeth.
I’d like to go somewhere when I die, he said. Your stomach is realer than heaven.
               She swung her legs onto the horns of his hips like a saddle. Under the press of her pelvic bone, his stomach grumbled. They laughed at this, and then they ate. The moon hid behind the clouds to give them some privacy.
             The next morning, those sheets were pushed to the side like they had been in those wandering nights of hers, but he knew they would not be pulled back. Knowing was the death of someone like her. She worked better as a story, a fairy tale, a cautionary fable for kids, eat your veggies or she will come and eat your corpse.
             What casket keys open, they also close. Air gets sealed in those lockboxes just as memories do and become a universe of their own, decaying into the abstract, rotting in their own stink. Strangers become stranger still. The sun comes up, and the world goes on, and here he is, more than twenty years later, in present tense again, sitting in the restaurant with the plate of roasted carrots staring up at him while his wife settles the bill away from the table. His Russian doll memory closes, and his wife is just a pale imitation of her from the cemetery, someone you settle down with when you get older and your dreams get foggier. Someone you need like a lighthouse.
             The tables around him are chatting about nothing of consequence. Outside, it’s getting dark. He has spent his life with the currency of memories. A vocation of writing obituaries for strangers he does not know for newspapers no one reads. He cries silently, the way frozen rivers do. What tears come to the surface come as condensation, and he wipes them away with his napkin. It lays crumpled and wet on his lap in the shape of a puffy raincloud, and he thinks that if he were wearing mascara, then maybe he would have scribbled a few, thin black lines on the napkin, like sharpie on hands. Finally written something worthwhile. As it stands, even his tear-stained napkin is blank.
             His wife glides across the restaurant to him, and he tries to see if she has any pages of his Anbrin stuck about her or if they were all lost in the gradual process of life, pages fluttering in the wind. She will go, like mother like father like her from the cemetery, nothing but a spirit, inhabiting a set place while it can.
             I’ve sorted it, she says. Do you want me to go somewhere else for the night? So you can be alone?
             I knew you, he says. Once. Didn’t I?
             People change, she says to the window.
             They share a taxi to different destinations. She checks her purse as she gets out, like strangers on the subway bumping into each other and making sure they didn’t lose anything of theirs in the process.
             Later, when he is an old man, when he goes to the cemetery to visit her, the other her, and brings her real flowers, it will be deep midnight. He will have spent all evening digging a hole in the world, and that night, he will sit in it and wait. She will appear, as easily as a moon from behind clouds. By now, he will not recognize his own face in the mirror, but she will look the same, molded exactly from memory. Casket key hanging from her neck, a pendulum that has stopped swinging.
             You remembered me, he will say.
             You wrote your own obituary, she will say.
             It’s my life’s work.
             It was haunting. And lovely.
             It was true. He will lift the bouquet of wilting flowers to her. These are for you.
She will crumple the petals and sprinkle them over him like soft rain. When she climbs down into the hole, he will lay his wrinkled head in her lap, and she will wait with him as he falls asleep.
             Were you just a story I told myself? he will ask, lids heavy with dreams, voice faraway.
She will stroke his white hair. Gently, kindly, sweetly. Like the raining petals. Like wind.
Maybe that’s all we are, he will say. Stories that breathe. Ghouls in a cemetery, living off the things that used to be alive.
             Like a child, he will drift off to sleep, slowly, slowly, then all at once.
About the author:
Matthew Brandon is a writer/poet currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. His poems have been published in Heron Clan’s Volume V, Quillkeeper’s Press’ Mental Health Anthology, and Free Spirit as well as a short story published in Grim and Gilded Magazine.

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“Every great story begins with a snake” - Nicholas cage
while you were reading
Since day one, growth has been our focus. But whatever is built can only be held up if the foundation is strong. So as we grow, we evaluate, and adjust. What are the things you'd like to see added or changed at Story Unlikely? Send an email anytime to and let us know.
Disclaimer - We can't verify whether or not Nicholas Cage supports Story Unlikely, but as a gentleman and a scholar, we think it's safe to assume he does.

~If you host a podcast and would like one of our staff as a guest, send an email to

Literary Spotlight
Author of nine books and Writing Coach, Lynne Golodner has launched Scotia Road Books, a hybrid publishing imprint for women over 40 with strong voices that need to be heard. Scotia Road Books is now open for submissions HERE.
A member of the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and the Independent Book Publishers Association, Scotia Road Books offers a publishing path for writers that is easy to navigate, open-minded and accessible for midlife women seeking to share their writing with a robust reader market. Authors are vetted according to the standards for hybrid publishing as set out by the IBPA.
Scotia Road Books publishes contemporary, historical and literary fiction along with narrative memoir and essay collections, all by women age 40 or older. Driven by Golodner’s background in marketing, as founder of Your People LLC, the press also coaches authors in branding and marketing and building author careers.

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The Excrement List
Disobey our submission guidelines, 
and find yourself amiss.
Disobey the guidelines,
wind up on the list.
(It's like when restaurants used to post bounced checks on the wall, but for the digital age)
As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no.  Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~ Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking..  Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
Gillian W, Cat T, Adam M, Olasupo L, Mick S, Leslie C, Patricia W, Tim V, Andrew F, Sam P, Aaron H, N. Kurts, Paul W
Disclaimer: Story Unlikely is a literary magazine that publishes fiction and nonfiction, but cannot guarantee distinction between the two.  The views expressed in the articles reflect the author(s) opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher and editors.  The published material, adverts, editorials and all other content is published in good faith. Story Unlikely cannot guarantee and accepts no liability for any loss or damage of any kind caused by this website and errors and for the accuracy of claims made by the content providers.
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