What follows my first professional short-story sale. I’ve been published in a few places, but Fireside is the first magazine I’ve been in that pays professional rates. They actually pay quite a bit above the threshold for professional rates, at 12.5 cents a word. And you know what?
They are open for submissions until the end of June! They want great stories, regardless of genre.
I’m posting the story they bought here, for your reading pleasure, and as a little teaser. Think you can do better? Then go ahead, send it to Fireside. But first, sink your teeth into my story.
First, Bite Just a Finger
Julia tried it for the first time in a party uptown, a party she only went to because her friend, that friend, the one who knows all the cool people, convinced her to come. Which is how, at the unwinding of the party with the buzz wearing off and after the first stifled yawn, someone suggested everyone try this thing they had heard of.
He, the handsome guy with the receding hairline, started them off by biting the front of his right pinky clean off. Julia laughed nervously at the neat party trick and wondered where the blood was coming from, since surely he didn’t just actually bite off part of his finger.
“Not that again, Toussaint,” someone said, and Julia realized that in addition to the bright eyes and the receding hairline, the handsome guy who was sucking blood from the end of his right pinky was missing the tip of his left one as well. Toussaint’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he let out a deep long sigh and bent his knees a little.
Monday and then suddenly it was Tuesday and she was calling her mother and then felt bad about herself, about a stagnant career and no baby to post photos of on the internet. Wednesday and she had lunch with that friend and they talk about Toussaint and that trick with the finger and how apparently it was a thing now. The new drug. As her friend stuck her fork into the steak she had ordered Julia noticed that her left ring finger was a stub.
That evening she stood naked in front of the wall-to-ceiling mirror that totally tied the apartment together and she thought about the weight she recently gained and what the chances were of getting married at thirty-nine and then she was biting down on her pinky, biting hard and it hurt and the bone grated against her teeth but suddenly with a snap! it was off.
She rolled it around on her tongue and felt a single heartbeat of pain in her finger but then her mind flushed with ecstasy and she was standing on her toes, arching her back and there was a tingle there and she sucked the blood and was reminded of something and the tingle went on and she had to finish herself, by herself.
It was the best she felt in years, physically and emotionally, and all it cost was the little front part of a finger she didn’t even really use. She got looks at work, glances at a bandaged little finger, but they were sympathetic and she liked it and didn’t explain. The day went by a little brighter than the others and once she got home she undressed and did it again.
Julia called in sick to work. She had decided to never do it again, that it was madness, but she felt dizzy and afraid of the shadows. By Sunday Julia was pacing around her apartment, jumping at the phone as it rang but not answering. She needed to eat but all she wanted was her own flesh and in the end she gave in, but clever: she took a knife to her smallest toe (couldn’t reach it with her teeth) and cut it off with a quick slice and then in it went.
She could quit if she wanted to and she did, and went until Thursday evening, when the rest of the toes of the left foot, all of them, were severed and chewed and rolled around in the mouth and oh! the taste and the surge of pleasure rushing through her, seeking out all nerve endings and setting them alight with joy and a numb pain that followed but was quickly forgotten.
She could quit if she wanted to, really.
Her friend, that friend, came over and drew the curtains back and let in a little sunlight and air.
“Julia,” she said. “What the hell are you doing to yourself?”
“Nothing,” Julia said. “I can quit if I want. And anyway this is your fault, you took me to that party.”
“Julia,” she said, an unexpected actual sense of caring in her voice. “That was just a stupid boy doing a stupid thing.”
Julia shouted at her and she left, and then she felt sorry for herself.
She ate her left foot, then her leg up to the knee, and spent a glorious weekend basking in the joy it brought. She didn’t need it to walk; she floated through the apartment, and the phone was ringing somewhere in the background but there were just so many new avenues of joy to travel that she didn’t care. Her friends cared, and her family, but Julia told them to leave her alone, she was fine. Besides, she could quit anytime she wanted.
She ate her back, bit by bit but it all went down and she put on a cape to cover what was missing. A superhero now, our Julia.
Julia stood in front of a mirror and instead of seeing all the parts of herself that were missing all she saw was what was left but she stopped for a while and she tried normal food but it was bland and didn’t sit well in her bowels. She went back to work, on crutches, wearing a cape but they looked at her and she heard what they said behind her (not)back. She got in a fight with her boss and went back home. They didn’t understand, no one understood.
She could quit if she wanted to but she didn’t want to, not really, and then her legs were both gone and she was smiling by herself in the darkness.
She smiled by herself in the darkness. But she could quit anytime she wanted.
Just one. More. Bite.
Her friend, that friend, came by later, finding nothing of Julia but lips, bent back in a smile.
That was the story, now here’s the invitation: if you are working on a story you think might be a fit for Fireside, email it to me and I’ll read it through and tell you what I think.
So go. Get writing.
*Photo credit: Lotus Carroll