Late night was turning into early morning when something inside her finally broke. She couldn’t deny what was happening, even though she would like to. “So this is it?” she asked, giving in to pain and exhaustion. “After all this time?” Her throat spasmed, voice cracked. “Do . . . do you have any idea how much I loved you?”

No answer of course. She felt the knot tightening around her belly again. Another up-welling of agony. Another spiral into the abyss.

It had all started with a date at a trendy brew-pub all those years ago. They had split an order of parmesan truffle fries. That’s when she knew—from the first taste of those crisp, tangy fries—she was in love. And over all these years, she had been faithful, ordering the same fries almost every time she visited that brewery, each experience as satisfying as that first.

And now this. Betrayal of the most visceral kind.

Had she been stress eating? Of course. Was the high ABV pint she’d ordered a part of this too? Undoubtedly. But there was only one thing she could blame for the chunks floating in her toilet bowl.

“Alright,” she muttered in resignation. “It’s over.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox



Not today, the boy thought. He knew the tone in his mother’s voice meant a bath. But he was ready. He had been practicing. “Abra ka-dabra, zala-ka-zoot!” Cohen said. “Turn this boy into a newt!” A spark, a pop, a puff, and he had transformed. 

Newt-Cohen peered between the leaves of the shrub he had been hiding behind. On the porch, his mother scanned the property with predatory keenness, but passed right over his hiding spot without even a pause. 

He was free!

Through the garden, out the gate, down the hill to the creek. It was one of Cohen’s favorite places to play. Fresh, cool water, soft, squishy mud, and somehow Cohen knew instinctively that the river bank was a variable candy store of yummy bugs and worms. 

Cohen froze. The shadows at the base of a nearby bush emanated a primal menace. 

He should flee. He should change back. He just needed to remember the words. 

A serpentine head emerged from the undergrowth. Dark, beady eyes and violent green scales.

Cohen was panicking, but still couldn’t find the words. 

The snake opened its mouth.

“Cohen Eidelberg!” It shrieked in his mother’s voice. “You come home this instant!”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox


Frost and steam.

Snowflakes glinting in the streetlamps. Breath on cold glass. Fingers tracing pictures; hands closing around ceramic that’s almost too hot to touch.

But only almost.

Mismatched mugs. Faded paint, familiar chips worn smooth. Marshmallows, plump and sticky, squishing together. Lips, stretching in smiles. Smiles tinted by chocolate and tinged with laughter.

Ice at the corners the window frame. Beads of water gathering, trickling down.




Small explosions. Butter and salt. One big bowl. A blanket not quite big enough for two. Two bodies beneath it anyway. Darkened lamps and LCD glow. Static sparks jumping between hands.

Wind whistling down empty streets. Snow drifts like frozen waves, slowly swallowing the whole world.




Mouths opened for laughter, for popcorn, for words unspoken, unutterable, and unnecessary. Shoulders, elbows, knees, hips.

Belts and buttons.

Couch and carpet.

The sudden darkness and silence of a blackout.

Fumbling hands, groping, seeking. Dancing flashlights. Shy matches and eager sparks. A constellation of candles. More blankets. Wine and skin. Heat.




The gentle approach of a winter dawn on a soft, white world. Shapes blurred, sound muffled, movement stilled.

Waking. Whispers. Eyes full of wonder. Full of light.

Underwear (VIII)

She was smirking. He was sure of it. And it was driving Sam crazy.

Kit had been walking with a mirthful spring in her step when they left the station, and Sam had gotten the distinct impression that it was due to some joke at his expense. Now he was trapped behind the wheel of the squad car, that feeling had only grown. His eyes flicked toward his partner and sure enough, she was smirking. Sam sighed. “Something you want to say?”

“Who, me?” she replied. “Nothing to say. I’m just curious about something.”

“Go on then?” Sam said. He was determined to keep his eyes on the road now, but he still new that Kit’s smirk had widened into a grin.

“Boxers or briefs?”

Sam clenched his jaw. He’d known something like this was coming. Kit was not the sort to let a joke die. “Why are you so curious?” he asked with a thin hope of turning the teasing back on her.

Kit was completely unfazed. “You’re wearing briefs aren’t you?”

Sam had the distinct impression that she was examining his pants, looking for some sort of tell. “You think I care about your opinion on my underwear?” He shot back.

Y”ou should! Everyone knows I have impeccable taste.” Sam shook his head, but didn’t say anything further. This seemed to be the same as an answer for Kit. “Sooooo…” she began, intonation dripping with implication, “classic tighty-whities, or did you go for a more daring shade? Every man should have a pair of black—”

“Gray,” Sam cut in.

“Gray? Well it’s pretty boring, but—”


“You’re still wearing the dead guy underwear?” she exploded. “After all your brooding yesterday, you still—”

“I was not brooding.”

“You’re doing it right now!” she said, almost delighted. “You look like you’re trying to get your eyebrows to touch your lips.”

It was such a startling comment that Sam momentarily took his eyes off the road to glance at his own reflection in the mirror. Dammit, she had a point. Kit must have seen the realization hit because she immediately started cackling.

“It’s just underwear!” he exclaimed. But the mantra was no more convincing to Kit than it had been any of the times he had repeated it to himself over the last 24 hours.

“A deeeeead man’s undearweeeeear! Spoooooky!” she said before bursting into a fresh bout of giggles.

Sam’s face was hot. His hands grew sweaty on the wheel. “I have the underwear I have,” he said. It came out softly, not forceful, not a shout. Just a helpless declaration. But something about it must have made an impression on Kit, because her laughter trailed off almost immediately.

They drove in silence for a full minute, both of them staring straight ahead. Then Kit finally spoke. “Boxers.”


“Orange, with little dinosaurs on them.”

“Are you…?”

Kit shrugged. “Now you know what sort of underwear I’m wearing too.”

Another moment of silence as the statement settled in. “You wear boxers?” Sam asked.

Kit shrugged. “They’re comfy.” She was smirking again, but this time Sam was included. “There’s a whole world of underwear options out there, Sam. You’ve just gotta think outside the boxer-briefs.”

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox


His name was Laurentius, and he served the emperor.

“Wine!” a voice echoed across the marble floors. “Wine, you useless son of a barbarian whore.” A milder insult than usual. The ruler of the world was not that drunk. Not yet, at least.

Laurentius moved swiftly, but not to the cellar. Instead, he scooped an ember from the central fire, carried it out to the balcony, and lit a brazier. Light blossomed invitingly in the cold night.

Was this how he served his emperor?

No time to contemplate. Laurentius descended to the cellar, retrieved a wineskin and carried it to the bath chamber. He poured it into the emperor’s cup himself and took the first sip.

“Some nights I wish it was poisoned,” the emperor declared, “and then I’d finally be rid of you.” Laurentius inclined his head politely and exited.

The general was waiting in the hall with a detachment of soldiers. At a nod from their commander, the men moved swiftly into the bath chamber.

Screams in the night.

Meanwhile, general appraised servant. “So, you’re the traitor?”

A bow. “My name is Laurentius, and I serve the emperor.”

The general smiled grimly and drew his sword. “Not anymore.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (VII)

It was a vegan bakery. From inside his car across the street, Sam studied the little shop. Was there any trace? Any remnants of the past showing through the new, trendy facade?

None that he could see.

The problem wasn’t the bakery itself. And he didn’t have anything against vegans. He did have the thought that it must be a sad life without cheese, so all the more need for delicious baked goods. Sure, a cookie without butter or eggs apparently cost twice as much as one with them, but that didn’t seem to be a problem here. The shop was nestled between an upscale boutique and a stylish cocktail bar. There was a Tesla parked in front of him for crying out loud. Clearly an eight dollar muffin would be no big deal in this neighborhood.

Maybe he should have become a baker instead of a cop. He definitely wouldn’t have to deal with corpses as a baker, right? And there was no reason he would ever need to find out that he wore the same underwear as a murder victim. And if he ate a donut on the job, it wouldn’t be some sort of ironic joke, just a perk of the job.

But he liked being a cop. Didn’t he?

Sam knew he should go. Still, his eyes drifted back to the building across the street, up to the second story and the northernmost window, where his old bedroom had been. Dammit if even the windows weren’t different. They were modern, double hung windows that probably didn’t let in a cold draft all winter, then swell so much they wedged themselves shut in the summer. There might not even be a bedroom on the other side of that window. It was probably an office or a storage space. He doubted the people who ran businesses here now needed to sleep in the spaces they rented.

Thinking now of his parents, Sam remembered that he had three missed calls from his father along with three voicemails he hadn’t listened to. He didn’t open any of them up now, but texted his dad anyway: Went by the old place this morning. It’s nice of course, but it’s not the same. Wonder what will happen to it now.

Not the same – an understatement. No abandoned store fronts or plywood panels on broken glass doors. There were actually flowers growing in the small beds along the sidewalk. And even this early in the morning there were people around. There was more life and energy here than in even his best childhood memories. The area had been completely revitalized, and it was all thanks to the clever dealings of Richard Polbrock, the man whom Sam had found dead in his underwear in a part of town as run down as this had once been.

Sam knew that’s why his father had called. He had watched the news and knew that Sam had been at the scene of the murder. And his father would understand why Sam had stopped by the store and apartment that had once been theirs – before Richard Polbrock bought it and canceled their lease. Sam hoped that if they never actually talked about it directly, neither of them would have to admit the truth: that they were glad Richard Polbrock was dead. Sam didn’t want to describe that crime scene to his father. He didn’t want to here satisfaction in the man’s voice, didn’t want to reduce his father to that sort of base cruelty. And he didn’t want to spend any more time thinking about that corpse in his underwear.

It was just underwear, right? It didn’t mean anything.

It was just underwear…

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox


WHY do you climb?

What sort of a question was that? John huffed as he drove a piton into the rock face, and not just because of the exertion. He hadn’t even wanted to do the stupid interview, but his friends had convinced him that it would “inspire people.”

Why DO you climb?

The question echoed in the vacuous space where his answer should have been. How could he articulate something so basic? Why does he breath? Why does he eat? Of course, those were things everyone did. Very few other people climbed mountains on multiple continents. So shouldn’t he have an answer?

Why do YOU climb?

The question stung like an accusation. Why must he justify his past time. Who cared? Certainly not the reporter. She seemed even less interested in the interview than he did. And in her blank, dispassionate stare, John had finally seen the pointlessness of his entire life.

Wind buffeted him on the rock face, howling:

Why do you CLIMB?

Cheek pressed against stone, John looked down. How insignificant he was to that wide world below him. How extraordinary that he should get to see it.

And because the alternative would be falling, he climbed.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (VI)

Sam wanted to destroy something, maybe just himself. He sat in the driveway in the dark for a long time, engine off, his hands gripping the wheel with the same panic that was crushing his throat. What had he almost done? Was he really the sort of cop who would…?

Finally, he climbed out of the car, consciously willing each individual muscle to move, accomplishing something that approximated normal movement. Precise strides carried him to the door. He unlocked it, stepped inside and went immediately to the gun safe, shutting his sidearm away without his usual care. He simply couldn’t carry the thing any longer.

It was not a heavy gun, but having it safely stowed still lifted a noticeable weight from Sam’s shoulders. Unfortunately, this allowed the cycle of confused and anxious thoughts he had been unconsciously suppressing to resume their parade through his mind.

A corpse.

A pair of underwear.

His underwear.

A millionaire.

A slum.

A bodybag.

A corpse.

That body was the gravity well around which all his mixed up emotions now swirled.

He needed a distraction. Settling into the couch of his narrow living room, he finally took his phone off of airplane mode, and the device nearly leapt out of his hands with vibrations from text messages.

“Saw you on the news. Looking good!”

“Yo, did you catch that killer?”

“Was that you on the news?”

“Hey, nice uniform Farnsworth! Saw you on 57. When are we hanging out?”

“Did someone really kill Rupert Polbrock?”

“I can’t believe I’m friends with a TV star!”

And from his father, simply: “Call me.”

Right, so no distractions to be had from his phone. Sam sent the damn thing sailing across the room into the recliner. He hated news cameras, at least when he happened to pass in front of their lens. Attention made him uncomfortable for reasons he had never entirely understood. And Sam really didn’t want to be associated with this particular news story either. But a job is a job. He had to secure crime scenes, and news crews had to secure footage for evening updates.

A part of him was tempted to turn on the news or to look up the video online and see the events the way everyone else did, but even that pulled him back to the image of a corpse lying on a living room floor wearing the same underwear he did.


Sam suddenly felt like he was back in that same room, back in that house that had almost the same layout as his, back in that “slum.” His life was somehow superimposed on that murder site. There was an outline on the floor where a human life had ended. And the gravity pulled him down. Sam rose from the couch and fell to his knees in almost the same motion. He sprawled out on the floor of his living room in the exact same pose that he had found Rupert Polbrock.

Strands of old shag carpet brushing against his lips, Sam muttered, “What the fuck am I doing?” But he didn’t move. In the chair nearby, his phone buzzed repeatedly as he missed a call. Sam stayed right where he was on the carpet, wishing for something to destroy.

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox


“Sorry you didn’t get the promotion,” Lara said. She and Ronni were the only two in the breakroom, but she had still approached both Ronni and the conversation topic furtively.

“Oh, it’s alright,” Ronni answered.

Lara shook her head. “Bastards.”

“It’s fine, really,” Ronni insisted. “I don’t even care.” It was a lie that Lara could see through easily, even though they weren’t that close. But then, Lara wasn’t the one Ronnie was trying to convince. Perhaps it was the very fact that Lara had spotted the attempted self-deception and didn’t call her on it that allowed Ronni to finally admit the truth. “I shouldn’t care, right?”

“You . . . shouldn’t?”

“I hate this job!” she declared. Lara’s eyes widened, which somehow encouraged Ronni. “I hate the people I work for. I hate the way this company treats its customers. Why do I even care what any of those . . . those . . . those bastards think?”

“Yeah, screw ‘em!” Lara suggested.

“Screw ‘em!” Ronni echoed. “Wait—no.”


Ronni sighed. “No . . .”

“Why not?”

“Because . . . I do care, dammit.” She looked around, took in the dingy, depressing breakroom and considered her place in it. “I guess . . . I guess I just wanted it all to mean something.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

A Lot

“Oh, oh hey!” Juliet said, spinning Bianca around and pointing. “This brewery does carryout. We could totally buy a pack and take them up to the roof of my apartment. You’ve gotta see the view!” But when Juliet looked over to see if Bianca was bouncing with excitement too, she instead saw a nervous, wide-eyed face that looked even paler than usual. “Sorry,” Juliet said. “Never mind.”

“What?” Bianca asked. “I didn’t—”

“You don’t have to say anything. I saw your reaction.”
“I’m sorry,” Bianca said, blushing, “it was just . . . a lot.”

Juliet swallowed hard. The words reverberated in her mind, adding to the echoes of all the other times she had heard that same phrase. Next would be the part where the person fled. She forced herself to smile. “People say I’m best in small doses. Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

“But . . . the roof?”

“I was kidding,” Juliet shrugged. “You can forget about it.”

But Bianca was rooted in place. “I said it was a lot. I didn’t say that was bad.”

“You mean . . .”

Bianca hooked her arm through Juliet’s and pulled her toward the brewery. “You move fast,” she said, “but you’re always worth catching up to.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox