Last Stop Fiction

Jun 04 2015

Hello, readers.

For the time being First Stop Fiction is closing for new submissions. “For the time being” may or may not be permanent. We haven’t decided.

We still intend on responding to all submissions received up until this point (from up to one year ago – some are from July), and publishing those we accept until we run out. All stories published will stay online on this site for at least two and a half years, and probably much longer, since the domain name is registered far in advance.

If you are significantly female-identified, you might want to submit to Moonsick Magazine, which our newer editor started up recently.

We’ll let you know our plans once our queue is empty and the last of our accepted submissions are scheduled for publication.

Thank you, sincerely, for reading.

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The Narrow by Seyward Goodhand

Feb 20 2015

To the left of my bicycle wheel, an ocean yaws off a ridge. Looks like the end of the world, gravity wrenched into a concave when the moon fell. Stare into a valley of slip, roil and foam. To the right of my wheel, quicksand ripples away into the rigor mortised heat of an infinite desert. Both deadly but the ocean apocalypse seems worse right now. Probably because of the noise.

“Keep your wheel straight!” screams Celine over my shoulder.

She’s hooked her arms under mine. Her seat is loose and she’s nervous about it. Behind my ankles the rusty spikes where Celine’s pedals used to be spin in the elemental glare.

“Faster!” she screams.

My wheel churns on an edge between two fates. Mesmerizing, a tightrope walk along a jaw. I don’t look into the cosmic ocean bowl or I’d get sucked right in, a trick of perspective, but the siren surf roars so wildly half of me swells with blood that yearns to surge out. There’s nothing so addictive as annihilation, that’s what all the substances try to emulate.

“Straighter!” screams Celine.

She won’t tell me whether or not the forest and beyond that the field where we can build a house is just up ahead or five miles off in case I falter at the moment I feel hope, just like she won’t look into the ocean either, or cry.

Seyward Goodhand’s fiction has appeared in echolocation, PRISM International, Grain, Riddle Fence and Journey Prize Stories 23.

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Broken Kilometer by Jody Falco

Jan 23 2015

Unfortunately, for me, that one gesture clarified the situation. We were on West Broadway and Broome, crossing north.  I reached up and straightened the collar of his blue coat. Without a word, I knew. I knew as soon as he reached his hand up and put the crease back in that collar.

I knew I was this white girl who wanted too much, was too married, and wore her skirts too long. And that he was a black man with youth and beauty, the hands of an aristocrat, and standards.

I knew then that’s who we were and who we’d always be.

The gulf widened and we were both swallowed up.

Jody Falco is a writer living and working in New York City.

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Die Here by Natasha Arnold

Jan 10 2015

I want to die under Glencar Waterfall. My parents are taking pictures of it while my Grandpa starts telling us some fairy tale about a family of sidhe that haunt the waterfall behind the veil of their plane of existence and I want so badly to dive off the rising walkway. Onto the rocks. Crush my skull. Let the falling flow batter what’s left of me to meatshreds. I do not want to leave a beautiful corpse. There is no such thing.

“They say if you squint at the water, you can see the faces of the fairies,” Grandpa says.

Every word I have to listen to exhausts me more and more. I feel like I can barely stand by the time I ask him, “What even are fairies?” and before I finish asking, I wish I had no mouth.

Grandpa says, “They’re many things. Might be magic, might be spirits. Might be both.”

“So they’re ghosts,” I say. I’m thinking my parents either can’t hear or don’t care. I am always thinking this.

“They could be,” Grandpa replies.

So I straighten myself. All over, my body goes rigid. In the waterfall I look for faces, and I imagine someone, someday, gazing into it as well and making out the foam-white impression of my face. They call me a magic spirit. They don’t know anything about the beaten wisps of tissue I left behind, years or decades or centuries earlier. I bet my parents are looking at old suicides as they snap away at the image of the fall.

Grandpa takes a breath of the forest air and says, “It’s so peaceful here.”

And it is, I agree.

Natasha Arnold is a third-year student in Old Dominion University’s Creative Writing MFA program. Her work has been featured in Oblong Magazine, and will be featured in The New Guard’s fourth volume as a Machigonne Fiction Contest finalist. She currently lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Khira by Uzodinma Okehi

Dec 11 2014

“Pal, to be honest with you, I don’t even fuck with Asian girls like that.” He’s sipping coffee, saying this. His arm on the bar. This was before they started tearing out the old dais. 

“That’s real. Yet we’re here, surrounded. Besiged. Buried alive, this whole world of Asian girls without asses. Wrap your mind around it. Think about what all this means. Black heroes. That’s you, that’s me. In exile, from a country that despised us. Stubbed us out. That crushed us, a thousand times over. We were humiliated, spat upon by women. The idea of an artistic life was unthought of, an absolutely-  

“No, right. Listen, can I take the room for a couple of hours? I can barely stand up anymore.” I said. Could have been that I was hiding it. Maybe I was pissed off, maybe, but more than that I was exhausted . . .

That’s what it was like. Suffocating. Purple lights along the ceiling. Third floor, the Wing-Wah, no windows. The mirrors. A maze of mirrors, and hallways, and once the image sneaks in, it’s over everything, every surface, and when I closed my eyes I could still see Khira rearing back, stretched out on the bed, Benoit gripping deep into the flesh of her waist, fucking and spanking her, and I don’t even remember what day it is, night or day, or if I was even sleeping or not . . . 

And everybody’s got problems! Waking up in the stairwell, rolled in my jacket. Green sequins, throbbing, painful hard-on. Get up, stocking feet, the hallways. Out into the palace, the Wing Wah. And weird without the music, the floodlights, with scaffolding all around. I sat down with the Chinese carpenters, the three of them, in flip-flops, they stopped to give me a once over, then back to laughing, eating. I lit a cigarette. By now I could tell it wasn’t a stage they were building, rather, a tri-level, wraparound couch. Artistic, if that wasn’t exactly the word. Benoit was a megalomanic, that was his deal. My problem was I now spent too much time trying not to think about Khira. Khira, with her watergun at the faucet, holding it up to the light, tracing bubbles in the tubes. Khira, laughing, teaching me the Cantonese words, watching cartoons . . . Khira. And just about everyone you meet thinks they own you.

Uzodinma Okehi writes and draws a zine called Blue Okoye.

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Bill, Judy, Doug, and Annie by Steve Miller

Nov 13 2014

Excluding holidays, almost every Friday evening for the last year, Bill has had plans. He and his wife, Judy, play board games with another couple, their friends, Doug and Annie. The first Friday of the month, the game is Scrabble. The second Friday, it’s Monopoly. The third, Scrabble again. And the fourth is a wild card. Who chooses the wild card rotates, as does the couple in charge of snacks and refreshments. Bill’s wild card is usually Trivial Pursuit, which he usually wins, but not always. He’s seriously weak when it comes to the Arts and Entertainment category. Judy prefers Operation. Doug likes Connect Four, and Annie likes Clue. One time on wild card night, she insisted everyone dress up as a Clue character. She was Mrs. Peacock.

The couples had moved into the same neighborhood down the street from each other, one right after the other. One day, Bill was out mowing the lawn, cross cutting it a second time in order to make checks, like on a baseball field. Doug’s weed whacker was dead. He used this as an excuse to introduce himself to his new neighbor. Bill happily lent his new friend his weed whacker, and he went ahead and gave him a bag of commercial grade fertilizer and a broadcaster to apply it. When Doug promised to pay Bill back, Bill told him, “Don’t sweat it, man.”

Judy and Annie work together at the drywall plant, but they don’t work on the line. Each was fast to point this out to the other the day they officially introduced themselves in the cafeteria. “I’m an accountant,” Judy explained. “But I wasn’t always. My psych degree only got me so far, like assistant manager of curtains and drapes at Penney’s. So I went back to school.”

Annie is a database programmer. “How long have you done that?” Judy asked.

Annie said, “Since college. Almost ten years.”

Then they both admitted that they’d watched each other a bit since moving in. They laughed. Annie invited Judy and Bill over for dinner. She said, “That fertilizer sure perked up our lawn right away. Doug couldn’t believe how friendly Bill was.”

Last week it was an angle grinder, a pipe wrench, and an aerator. The week before it was a power washer, a jigsaw, and a leaf blower. What will Doug want to borrow this week? Maybe Bill will refuse.

Steven Ray Miller is from Colorado. A long time ago, he earned an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He currently enjoys living in Milwaukee where he teaches composition at the local technical college. He and his super smart wife have two dogs, pug mixes named Otis T. Pooch and Edgar Von HuffNPuff. Steve’s garden is small and sometimes successful.

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Rung by Sean Pravica

Sep 19 2014

A hook right into the left temple. Then: look down, hands and knees, blink to find color. The rest is faded. Open eyes reveal the pastels of stopped time. Shut them, psychedelia. Amoebas. Mitosis.

Finding north in the long ribbons of jasmine and honeysuckle. My nose is the most living thing for miles. It is the most interesting person I have ever met.

The yard is clean and well-tended. I’m in the center, but I stand near the hedges lining the perimeter. A sprinkler head is under foot. Soon, concrete.

There’s a heartbeat coming quickly, and there’s a pulse throbbing, and there’s a flash. There is a breeze, there is a thought, there is a fear.

Walking from one freckle on the porch to another, small steps, slow steps, the cellophane wrapping of the world crinkles but it all keeps going.

“Those guys…how hard they get hit…keep going.”

I’ve made sense. I believe I have. I have spoken. The response given was positive, as though I made sense.

They keep talking. The informal, one-minute rounds of our backyard boxing matches have ended. We are tired. We are all satisfied to conclude the session.

There is relief operating at different levels.

Sean Pravica is a writer and entrepreneur living in Southern California. His stories and poems have appeared in a number of places, including Bartleby Snopes and Red River Review. He has been nominated for writing awards, including Sundress Press’ Best of the Net and storySouth Million Writers Award.

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Two Days after Her Birthday by Andrew Gordon Rogers

Aug 07 2014

A cold rain was falling and the sloping driveway was a waterfall toward the house. Jayne had whined all morning about things, pleaded and argued about her hair and her clothes; she refused to brush her teeth. When she was ready for the day and wanted to go outside to ride her new bike she asked nicely, almost curtseyed her way into it. John obliged. He wrapped her up and packaged her in her over-sized raincoat and her green rain boots; he put her mother’s old scarf around her neck. They pulled the pink bike from the garage; she gazed at it with wide eyes and bit her lip. John wiped the seat before she crawled up, the drizzle from the gutter thumping onto the thinning cowlick on the back of his head.

Ten minutes. Nothing more. Then we go inside, okay?

That’s the deal?

That’s the deal.

Okay, Dada. Push! Push!

John started her on the far end of the driveway reservoir and pushed her toward the sidewalk leading to the front door. The water split under the front tire, pushed small waves to the side. Half way, Jayne’s feet slipped from the pedals and she put them up in front of her and let the pedals twirl underneath by themselves. They reached the end and John carefully turned her around.

Alright, here we go again. This time, keep your feet on the pedals, got it?

Got it, Dada. Push! Push!

They went again, in the other direction. Jayne let her feet slip again and again held them high above the pedals. John shook his head and smiled. They reached the end.

Alright, this time you try. I know you can do it. I’ve seen you.

He rubbed his nose into hers. She smiled brightly and giggled from under her vinyl hood. Rain soaked John’s shirt.

Only if you promise to hold on.

I promise to hold on.



Okay, I will try. Don’t let go, Dad.

I wouldn’t dare.

She pushed down on the pedals, lumbering one at a time, and the handlebars turned with each push so that the front wheel was wobbling back and forth the whole way. John held the back of the seat to steady the bike. She got stuck between pedals before the end and couldn’t push through it. She looked back at her father, her face red with anger. John raised his eyebrows, pushed a deep breath from his pursed lips, reminding her to keep calm and keep trying. She grunted and tried again. John gave her an unnoticeable push and she slid forward a foot and pushed the other pedal and got out of her spot, pressed forward further until she reached the end of the entry sidewalk.

I did it!

Great job, kiddo. Try it one more time?

Just one more?

Just one more. You might get too wet.

I promise I won’t. I am waterproof.

I wish you were.

Fine. One more time. Let’s go!

She pushed on the pedal but her foot slipped off the teeth and down to the ground.  The bike tipped sideways and she began to fall. John grabbed her arm and pulled up before she hit the pavement. The bike clinked to the cement. She began to cry, her eyes closed and her mouth wide, devastated. John pulled her close and reassured her, laughed a little at her dramatics.

It’s not funny, Dad.

It’s a little funny. Everything is fine. You and your bike were lucky.

I don’t think it’s funny.

She wiped her face hard, her nose and eyes.

Let’s just go inside, she said.

You don’t want to –

He looked at her face. It was stern and disappointed – an exact replica of her mother. The rain tapped on her coat.

Alright, kiddo. Let’s go inside.

Andrew Gordon Rogers graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in Creative Writing and currently works in Marketing. He resides in the Kansas City metro area, with his wife and two children, and spends his free time working on short stories and his first collection of poems, entitled Stations. His poems have appeared in Kiosk, Houston Literary Review, and Counterexample Poetics. Excerpts from his work are often posted here:

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Germs by D.P. Southwell

Jun 26 2014

The bag was delivered at noon. Dr. Sherman smiled carefully when he opened it and wider after inspecting it. It was a body bag.

Body bags were germproof, like all of Dr. Sherman’s favorite things. Body bags were to contain decomposing – he blanched – flesh. Dr. Sherman had nightmares about germs.

This lab room – this stainless and porcelain castle – was a sanctuary. But there was one problem with the sanctuary: him.

So he spread the bag on the floor and unfolded it. It was inside-out, black and coffinous.

It was inside out so he could seal it from the inside.

D.P. Southwell was born in the woods of north Michigan, and has been a roughneck, roustabout, surveyor, farmhand, and currently works in publishing.  He is married to the girl of his dreams and has a veritable dirigible of a baby.  He has been bitten by a tiger (true story).

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Closed for Submissions During June

May 31 2014

During the month of June, First Stop Fiction will be closed to new submissions.

This year, First Stop Fiction has attracted many more submissions than we have before. We’ve gotten behind on our queue. We used to be able to respond to submissions within a few days, but now we are too far behind for this to be feasible. So we’re going to take a month to handle all submissions currently pending.

We’ll keep publishing stories as usual! The only difference from usual is that we won’t be taking new submissions for one month. If you’ve submitted to us already, rest assured we will respond.

You may notice that it is not yet June. If you’d like to submit to us before we close for a month, therefore, please do so today.

And, while you’re on the site, please do check back in a couple weeks for the next story.

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