Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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Close Call in Cell Block 17

by Thomas D Reynolds

Eyes still shut,
I can feel trouble
inside my head,
furious scratching
as of a dozen legs
within my left ear.

Pulling the worn blanket
just down from storage
around my head,
I imagine the disgruntled thought
as black, multi-legged,
wide hairy thorax,
red splotch on its back
like a bent question mark.

"Do you see anything?"
I ask my wife,
as she stabs with a Q-tip
like a wary spelunker
jabbing a stick into the dark
just beyond the lantern's glow.

Then scratching resumes,
intensifies toward the opening,
till panicked, I call out,
"Help me!"

Peering in,
she spots the head
and first two legs
pulling the body through,
and she screams

With a finger,
I drop it onto the floor,
step on it.
With a tissue,
carry it to the toilet.

"Another near escape averted,"
I joke over toast and coffee,
secretly hoping other
delinquent thoughts
passively serve out their time
screaming obscenities
while carving handguns
out of lava bars.

"Do you hear that,
the rest of you mugs?"
I say, looking up
like a warden after a jailbreak
announcing via intercom that the escapee
has been killed as a lesson to the others.

© 2005 Thomas D Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including Combat, American Western Magazine, Flint Hills Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, New Delta Review, The Green Tricycle, Ariga, 3rd Muse Poetry Journal, Sidereality, and Prairie Poetry. My poem "How to Survive on a Distant Planet," published in Strange Horizons, was nominated for a Rhysling award for best short poem.

Find more by Thomas D Reynolds in the Author Index.

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