HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.

Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…

Memory of the Future

Tobey Hiller  


He sat in a gilt chair.  His chariot had stalled in a rancid fog, which reduced visibility to 20 feet.
–Tule fog, he shouted.  It will clear in a minute! If it doesn’t, we’ll sue!
But particles of soot rained from a black sky, and the coal tar in my nostrils, along with the stench, made it hard to breathe.
–Do you like my helmet?  His smile showed a flash of dagger tooth.
Yes!  Yes!  Yes! the crowd shouted in unison.  Four or five people collapsed from the effort.
–Do you like my sceptre?  I just love it!  He lifted his golf club.
More affirmative shouting.  The crowd stood on the prone bodies of the people who had collapsed, gasping like beached fish, beneath the trample.
–Do you like my cabinet?  He opened a box on the seat next to him.  Inside were 3 small figures about the size of Punch and Judy marionettes, two men and a woman.  One, a grey-haired man in rumpled clothes, looked up and grinned.  He raised a blunt-nosed handgun and pulled the trigger.  Bang!  Out shot a white flag with the words “Heil It!” into the air.
The crowd roared.  Right hands soared upward into a forest of fingers.
The second man, in a dark suit, didn’t smile or move.  He was sitting on a large pile of money.  He stared at a phone in his left hand, frowning.  In his right hand he held a crumpled newspaper.  Or was that a ball of caramel corn?   
The third little puppet, the woman, was blonde in the same way platinum and yellow diamonds are blonde.  In fact, maybe her hair was made of Rumplestiltskin’s pale promise.  (Where the needle was, no one knew.)  She was dressed in a white dress trimmed with crystals, and her belt was rust.  She smiled and stepped out of the cabinet in 4-inch heels onto his lap, careful to miss the places that might cause pain or some kind of enlightenment.  She nestled in, purring like a cat.
Everyone cheered.  She waved and held up a contract in Chinese.
In the distance, I heard the moan of ice, the roar of fires, the long howl of a wolf.  The trees said words they had reserved for warning.  The sky ached a certain grey. Minerva, in the form of an owl, entered on stage left.  She flew low and in utter silence over him, over the crowd and out of the picture.

TOBEY HILLER writes fiction, flash and poetry. She has a novel and 3 books of poetry out, and her work has appeared in a variety of journals and magazines, most recently Askew, Ambush and Canary. You can read her story The Seventh Blue on-line at AbleMuse.com.