We would like to apologize for the lengthy delay between our finalizing the result of the Lit Bits contents, and our publishing of the winners. The blame can be placed squarely on Mr.Zouch‘s great affinity for Sri Lankan tea, and his recent 5 month escapade across the Subcontinental island in search of the elusive platinum Darjeeling of the Sabaragamuwa province.

But Mr.Zouch is back, and he’s put pressure on us to publish the winners quickly. We’ve been instructed to keep the top 3 winners’ stories under wraps for just awhile longer. However, these 11 fabulous stories are the #4 through #14 winners of the first ever Zouch Lit Bits contest. Thanks to everyone who submitted!

The last embrace
by Angela Alvarez

While falling, a moment of sheer brilliance occurred. An epiphany, the kind one reads about but never really has. But here it was, palpable, powerful, and undeniable. Every problem had plausible solution; every doubt was instantly cleared; every question was unwaveringly answered. There was certainty and purpose and joy like there had not been in a long time. Whatever had made the ledge seem inevitable was now a distant, hazy, and rapidly fading memory. And then, the pavement’s embrace enveloped everything in a rushed swoosh that interrupted all thoughts, and Darkness followed.

Just a Kiss
by Anne Emberline

Seventeen years ago, our first kiss was magic. It was gentle. It was warm and tender. When our lips touched, a shimmering beam of energy melted into my body. It went straight to my heart and built a wall of flames around it, warming me. For years, it kept me warm, even in the darkest of times.
But now, now you’ve kissed her.
Your lips are cold. When they land on mine, they’re tense and empty. The beam of sparkling energy has become an icy flow of water and it pours into me, splashing down over those flames, turning their warmth to smoke.
“It was just a kiss,” you say. “It didn’t mean anything.”
But it’s changed us forever. I can feel it.

A Love Misunderstood
 by Kyle Gallagher 

I never imagined I would be one of those people to succumb to the idea of “true love.”
I spent my life avoiding those feelings of infatuation. However, after years of constant and total emptiness, something changed.
A life changing revelation, but not one I made on my own…
It was you.
The first time I saw you, my life changed forever. Those years I spent distancing myself from everyone, were gone in a flash, a single flicker. Your picture lies beside my bed. Your beauty instantaneously made me change my entire view of life and love.
My days became centered on seeing you, every second away from you felt like a flaming bullet through my chest.
I only wish I had a chance to truly explain my lust for you… Soon…
Stalker is such an ugly word.

Charlotte Sometimes
by Richard Thomas

Charlotte escapes to the field every afternoon, dropping her sandals at the edge of the swaying green grass. She doesn’t tell her husband, who has his head under the family sedan, flayed knuckles from twisting wrenches, the lines on his neck grimy with dirt and oil. She doesn’t tell her daughter, who hides in her lavender room, fingers flying over metal and plastic, earbuds burrowing into her head, a furious scowl filling her face. Charlotte closes her eyes and lets the wind caress her glistening skin, sun-kissed from these wanderings, aching for embrace. As the sharp blades nick at her flesh, her faded sundress falls to the ground, clasps are undone, thumbs pushed under elastic until she is free to spin and sigh, falling into the chittering insects, swallowed by the cool earth.

Billy’s Last Day At Summer Camp
by John Thornburg

Eight AM, overcast.  Fifth graders apply sunscreen and sit on the school’s tattered lawn.  Billy grabs my arm and asks to go inside.  Why? I ask.  Because it is going to rain, he says.  I tell him no so he hides in my shadow.  When I find him he giggles and re-hides.  Last summer Billy threw a tantrum and scratched me, inflicting a scar that zigzagged between two cigarette burns.  Now they’re faded and Billy tells me about trains: steam, diesel, and Thomas. He says he prefers trains without faces.  Is that because you are growing up? I ask.  He doesn’t respond, but he offers me a frozen beverage.  What flavor is it?  I ask.  Blue flavor, he responds.  Later I empty tanbark from my shoes and wonder whether healing is the same as forgetting.

Cooking with Gas
by Craig Wallwork 

Harold hit on the idea of creating sustainable solar energy regardless whether it was day or night. He was going to create a sun. Only a small sun, something manageable, he told me. He figured if he collected enough gasses, mostly helium, nitrogen and hydrogen, and compressed those gasses into a vacuum-sealed box, hydrogen atoms would come together to create nuclear fusion.
The firemen interviewed by the TV reporter said they’d found the remains of a human body and several hundred cans of baked beans. The only part to survive the blast were a pair of buttocks, which, as the report detailed, had been breached by a piece of plastic tubing that ran into a metal box. How much gas Harold collected was a mystery, but all the neighbours agreed they’d never seen such a beautiful fire.

The Last Swan Song
by Anna Souter 

They were spindly children. They communicated in whispers at the edges of sonatas. They were seen occasionally, at page turns and meal times, but they did not exist then. Life without music, they were told, was no life at all. And so they died, when the piano stopped.

From the farm they lived out an idyll of childhood. The hedgerows bowed to them, curving graciously under their pregnancy. The sisters carefully picked petals from their hair at the threshold, slipping silently past the preludes.

Secretly, they hoped that one day they might find a swan in the throes of death, in its last moments of suffering, so they might hear its solitary song. They revelled in the prospect, holding a compact mirror cool in their hand.

by Leonora Pinto 

“Time of death: 20:16”. He stared at the mass. Twenty-one years as a surgeon and he’d never seen anything like it. Had he really just attempted to remove a 30kg hairball from a human stomach?

He trudged down the corridor-of-doom to the parents, his mind still doing cartwheels of incredulity.

“It’s all my fault”, Mrs. Stevens wailed. “I never should have bought her that chocolate shampoo”.

She Lets Go
by Abigail Bellman

Her bare feet create a ripple in the cold water. Shivers rush up her spine. She embraces herself.
“Are you ready?” he asked, lowering her into the lake, his feet planted on the pier.
She peers into the dark, blue abyss. Her reflection glares at her. She shuts her eyes and takes a sharp breath.
“I trust you,” she replied. He was going to teach her how to swim.
Tears dance down her cheek and into the lake, distorting her reflection.
She began to panic. She desperately grabbed for her brother, trying to escape the water. He lost his balance.
She slowly lowers herself off the pier.
He fell, hitting his head on the pier edge.
The water soon engulfs her legs.
They both plunged into the lake.
“I’m ready now.”
She came up.
She lets go.
But he didn’t.

Down There
or, Goodbye to my Long Regrets
by Brian Castner

I knew there was a problem when they stopped serving booze. Then a constant engine roar, burning off fuel. The stewardesses had a hushed discussion, hurried off, returned with old red vinyl binders, pages stuck together. From the bathroom came one wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Attention. This is the captain speaking. Instruments indicate our landing gear will not deploy. Brace for impact.”

The last three hours I had been flirting with the young blonde next to me. She told me about her six tattoos and piercings, even the two down there. A long forgotten thrill shot up my spine when she spoke. She was everything my wife, my life, wasn’t. Now I was going to die next to her.

The tail hit the concrete in a spray of sparks, and the nose edged over.

Spare Change
by Vignette-Noelle Lammott

The car just stopped.
“Nothing’s ever easy, is it?” A homeless creature snorted. He had bleeding gums.

Bottle caps and ash…city snow during global warming.
I pulled out half a cigarette, saved in a gum wrapper

“You know it’s winter when there’s not pigeon crap everywhere” he mused. Truthfully, I’ve never been shit on by a bird. Nothing’s ever easy, is it?

Wind slapped my back; pushing me towards the subway; into the bustle of bodies, sweat, odors, voices. The hum of humanity; train tracks aching like the arms of a junkie.

“One please”, I rolled the token in my palm and pushed it through the slot. That passage…sold, bought, used, reused. It was unnerving to consider how many people I had just touched. I was glad to be rid of the threatening artifact. Contact. Nothing’s ever easy, is it?

>> > The TOP THREE 3 finishers in this year’s Lit Bits contest will be published in our forthcoming inaugural hardcopy edition of Zouch Magazine.

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