Olivia’s memories were a heap of soggy brown leaves. Gone were the bright colors and sharp edges. Instead her mind wandered through decomposing mush.

Someone was looking at her. Olivia stared into those keen hazel eyes, groping for recognition, but the detritus of long years crumbled away in her grasp. My sister, she thought.Maggie? Do you need something?”

The expression twisted into concern, and Olivia realized her mistake.“Joanna,” she said, correcting herself. “I’m sorry. Sometimes it all just gets a little . . .”

“I know, mom.”

Her daughter spoke compassionately, but with a pitying note that turned Olivia’s stomach. Or maybe that was actually something she ate. She had obviously eaten some of the turkey and potatoes that had been piled on her plate, though she couldn’t remember it. A child ran past. Whose kid? She had no idea. But they were at her house, so they must be related to her. There were people moving all around her, a cacophony of voices, a swirling current she couldn’t keep up with.

Life, vibrant and clear, and growing in the midst of it – love.

“Mom? Is something wrong?”

Olivia’s eyes were clear and shining when she answered, “I’m just so thankful.”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox


“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“What? No, I’m fine,” Kalisha answered a little too quickly.

“That’s not what I asked,” her mother said, narrowing her eyes.

Kalisha groaned. “I just know how you can be sometimes, and I really don’t want—”

“Oh hush, child,” her mother interrupted. “We won’t be too hard on Robby when he gets here.”

“That’s the thing—”

But then the doorbell rang, and her mother’s eyes lit up. “Oh good, he’s here.” And with that, she turned sharply and walked away from her exasperated daughter.

“Mom,” Kalisha hissed.

“George,” she called to Kalisha’s father. “Get downstairs. Kalisha’s boyfriend is here.”

“Mom, before you open that door—”

Too late. She swung the door open with a flourish to stifle her daughter’s protestations. Standing on the porch was a slender, bright-eyed young woman with messy purple hair. “Good afternoon Mrs. Johnson,” the stranger said.

“Oh. Hello. Are you . . .”

“Robbi,” she answered. “Yeah.”

Kalisha held her breath.

“Of course you are,” her mother said, face broadening into a smile. “Come in, come in.”

Robbi strolled in casually and planted a kiss on Kalisha’s cheek.


Still smiling, her mother called out, “George! You owe me twenty bucks!”

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Dread (part i)

She waited.

She checked her phone. No missed calls; no new messages.

She watched the news until she couldn’t anymore.  All those faces. All that pain. Strangers who seemed all too familiar but who still couldn’t answer the question she really cared about.

She checked her phone. Nothing.

It got dark early. Severe, dense clouds looked down from the sky, ready to burst like the multitudes marching through the city streets. Watching the sky was as bad as watching the news. The dread, she realized, was inside her so it manifested in whatever she looked at: folded newspapers, cracked paint, sun-faded family photos.

She checked her phone. No calls. No messages.

Fear. Rage. Futility.

She hurled the phone across the room, and before it had even struck the wall, she let out one sharp, agonized sob.

She waited.

No one was coming to check on her; no one would help pick her up. Finally, she rose, retrieved her phone, screen now cracked, and turned the news back on.

Smoke. Scattered figures running. A flash from something off screen. Shouts and screams. A stammering newscaster. It was starting to rain.

Her phone rang. Emblazoned in the cracked glass, her son’s name.

age-barros-fKAjOxgZNPg-unsplash - editPhoto by Agê Barros on Unsplash

Story by Gregory M. Fox
part ii

part iii
part iv
part v
Hope: an Epilogue