In addition to Jeff’s two short story collections, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, he is published in The Horror Zine, The Best of The Horror Zine: The Middle Years, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, The Horror Zine’s Book of Werewolves, The Depths Unleashed Book 2, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, and Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018. He is currently seeking a publisher for his first novel titled Tomorrow Will End, a sci-fi/ horror adventure.

For more propaganda, please visit his Facebook Author Page HERE


by Jeff Parsons


A memory returns to me—fleeting and elusive. If I think too hard on it, it might slip away like dandelion fluff caught in the wind. It is a recollection tickling my mind, triggered from how I got here: sitting at the dining room table with my family, enjoying the full spread of a holiday feast, fork to mouth, and savoring a slice of apple pie, my favorite. The gooey-flavored aroma of crisp apples, sugar, cinnamon, and butter crust reminds me of the day I died.


The smell of apples fills the clean, chill morning air. Both green and red apples hang heavy on the gnarled orchard trees and gentle breezes rattles leaves; their earthy scent is carried to blend with the bakery’s mouth-watering aromas. It is a rich seasonal goodness, reminiscent of wholesome home and hearth, older than colonial America and no better place to experience it than at Apple Hill.

Every autumn, the craving for apples draws people from afar to visit High Sierra Apple Ranch, one of the best sites for fresh cider and apple pies. In the maze of tents surrounding the restaurant and bakery, vendors offer yet another popular tourist attraction: a New Age splendor of exotic homemade crafts.

The chatter of cheerful voices warms my heart with a sense of holiday camaraderie. Smiling, I leave a plant vendor’s tent holding a paper bag filled with petite cactus. The songs of happy birds all around accompany my quiet humming.

I wonder if I should continue exploring the vendor tents for some more impulse shopping. Alternately, I could return early to my wife Rachel and daughter Lindy who wait in the long line at the bakery for our traditional order of three apple pies. They’d told me to take my time wandering through the merchant tents, but still, I feel a twinge of guilt. I decide to stroll back to the bakery, a casual five-minute walk at best, browsing the vendor goods along the way.

a tent displaying framed nature photography catches my attention. I linger before a bald eagle picture, admiring the sharp, close-up details of the bird soaring above a mountain lake.

I am startled to hear, “Would’ya look at that!” A volley of murmurs and shouts follow, coming from the bakery line atop the shallow hill and out of sight.

I take a few tentative what-the-hell-is-going-on steps, then bolt, pushing through the excited press of people, darting up the paved incline behind the bakery, worrying for my girls.

There they are, bundled up in matching red and green jackets and hats—safe, in line—eyes tracking something in the endless blue sky like everyone else.

Stopping in my tracks, I gasp out a short puff of disbelief. Sweat blossoms like electric acupuncture needles beneath my wind-breaker jacket.

White lights are zipping across the sky, bright even in the daylight.

At least a dozen. Not ours. Sudden turns. Right angles. No vapor trails. UFOs!

Cell phones are held up at arm’s end for recording—most of the crowd ooh’ing and ahh’ing in loud-voiced wonder—but the mood darkens for others. Some people run for cover into the restaurant and vendor tents, or hide behind the towering pine trees in obvious fright. Some stand still, paralyzed with the same fear. Others panic and scurry to the parking spaces nestled between the orchard trees.

I find it difficult to breathe. There is not enough air for me. My chest grows tight. My heartbeat thumps and I can hear it in my ears. Could this really be a visit from the aliens that I have heard about all these years? If so, where is the military? Where are the emergency alerts that blast through everyone’s cell phones in times of public crisis?

This can’t be real.

I force my way through the crowd towards my family. I call out to them, but they do not seem to hear me.

My agitation becomes further jolted when the aerial display of lights gathers to form a large circle in the sky, accelerating until they become a blur: a solid bright ring shooting off stars of sparks from its perimeter. Inside the circle, the sky disappears and something else appears in its place with a surprising vacuum pop much like a jar unveiling its contents when removing a stubborn lid.

This something is…nothing…an empty whiteness that creates a visible distortion of the surrounding sky. The disturbance spreads; parts separating and descending from the hole in the sky. They float like a myriad of soap bubbles, moving counter to the wind that now flows towards the phenomenon, ruffling my hair.

Time slows as if I had become ready to faint from a lightheaded bout of the flu. My frightened wife and child clutch each other, finally noticing me. I try to get to them.

The world stops moving. The wind stills and becomes motionless…branches, birds, people, and me, too. Painfully aware of my family held immobile only twenty feet away from me—not far at all but it might as well have been a galaxy away. I felt a new emotion: anger at not being able to protect them; to hold them, to hug them, to comfort them.

Unaffected, the bubble distortions wander closer. They pass through trees, buildings, and people without obstruction or harm.

A fuzzy glow appears like a flower blossoming open before me, no more than two feet away in the crowd, eclipsing a short man in front of me. A familiar shape coalesces from the glow, drawing lucidity from the fuzzy static. The shape transforms into Janine Lee, the enthusiastic weather woman for local TV.

Aside from the obvious fact that there is no way this can possibly be Ms. Lee, other tell-tales up the creep-factor: her cheerful brown eyes do not blink; as her head leans closer, it balloons to about twice the size it should be; and she talks through a clenched, pearly-white smile, saying two lines straight out of every cheesy 1950s sci-fi movie: “Do not be afraid. We come in peace.”

In the restricted angle of my locked eyesight, I notice other people also talking to different apparitions.

Behind Ms. Lee, to the right, I see my family, frozen in time. I try to call out to them. Not a chance. I am unable to use my lungs, my throat, my jaw, or my lips. I cannot move anything. I am not even breathing.

Like an old-time celluloid film stalling in the hot beam of a movie projector, bubble voids spread in the air, blank white, edges peeling back with brown scorch marks consuming the reality I knew…the world…the people… my Rachel and Lindy…burning, crackling, the white replacing everything.


Everything is gone; a whiteness without end. There is no depth, except for when I try to run, I can see my fading hands pumping before me but my feet gain no traction, just like a cartoon. My body, like glass, now has no color.

I scream. I can hear my voice, muffled as if heard underwater; unreal, as if in a cotton-bound, drug-induced nightmare.

Eventually, I stop flailing about. I start to float inertly with no sense of up or down. I feel utterly distraught, the hammering of my heart the only thing that keeps me sane, that, and my shallow rapid breathing.

I close my eyes to help me calm down, and it distracts me from the rage of tormenting insanity. My visual reprieve reduces the absolute brightness to a greedy intrusive redness, my eyelid’s blood and tissue the only thing that separates me from the meaningless nothing.

Time without time passes—immeasurable, in a long span of heartbeats and the agony of nightmarish thoughts. Are Rachel and Lindy safe? Where are they? Please, please, please bring them back. What happened? Where am I? What's going to happen to me?

Seeming to be eons later, I begin to hear other sounds, faint at first but drawing closer. I am not imagining them. People are talking, mostly terrified, some trying to speak sense into the insanity.

Transparent as clear crystal, people take form, barely discernible as they randomly float by or through me. When we intersect, we share our lives from the beginning to this sorry end. It is a humbling experience to know how similar the foundations of our lives often are, all the same emotions acting out in different plays, both beautiful and tragic. And then, after such deep intimacy, they drift away, disappearing from view and then from hearing.

There are so many ghostly visions of people coming and going.

I do not have anything to say to anyone, stricken as I am from the throat-clenching emotions of losing my family, but I listen. The few rational conversations touch upon these words:

“I was at High Sierra.”

“Where did everyone go?”

“Where are we?”

“Were those things aliens?”

“Is this some kind of waiting room in their damned mothership?”

“Are we dead?”

“Was the earth destroyed?”

The conversations then change to variations of “What is that?”

A dot spears its way into the snow-blind whiteness. It grows bigger and blacker. More and more people appear, colliding with me and others, passing through each other in a confusing jumble of lives, funneling towards the rapidly approaching darkness.

We all converge, our lives becoming inseparable, one and all the same. The impending darkness ahead consists of bodies, the bodies of those who had been collected, swirling like water plunging down a drain.



My body stretches and tears apart, disintegrating into nothing.

Dead. Then, alive.

I hear muffled noises and the conversations grow louder.

Like drops of vivid watercolors absorbing onto paper, shapes reveal themselves piecemeal, pooling together like small rain puddles in a downpour, to become the living room of my parent’s old house. My childhood family is relaxing, sitting around our large dining room table: my mom and dad, aunt and uncle, brothers and sisters, and cousins. In the middle of the table, plates and bowls of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, peas, cornbread, and pies, both apple and pumpkin.

I realize that I am six years old. One hand’s fingers plus one on the other when I hold them up in the air. Carefree. Cherished. Special. Love surrounds me in playful companionship between cousins, bouncing up and down on a narrow seat, my banquet plate heaps high before me as I gab away, eating unbelievably delicious food, completely forgetting my past.

The festivities go on and on, eternal and everlasting… until the savory smell of sweet apples jars me from the vivid vision.


Hot tears roll down my cheeks.

The memory—so real—breaks my heart and makes me wonder how I can keep going on as my soul burns with the ache of longing.

I am six-years-old, yet I have the mind of an adult. It is enough to comprehend that I once had another life. I once had a wife named Rachel and a daughter Lindy. My girls. My lovely girls. I do not know what happened to them.

Mom’s head tilts as she makes eye contact with me. Through my blurry tears, her kind smile reaches into my heart. She makes the pain go away when she walks up behind my chair and embraces me with her warm hug and wet kiss to my cheek. “It’s okay, honey,” she whispers into my ear. “We’re together now. Would you like some vanilla ice cream on your apple pie?”

I love apple pie. And ice cream is the best.

The wondrous balm of comfort and joy eases into my emotions. I am happy, deliriously happy. I want to hold on to this bliss, but…

It is not real.

Like shadow puppets on the wall, this illusion imitates life and it is lacking the substance of meaning that gives life purpose.

Somehow, I know this realistic simulation serves another purpose, one not my own, controlling me from my naïve six-year-old’s perspective, at least until my errant distraction brings me back to reality. I am in some kind of alien zoo. A sideshow. An exhibit. A primitive intelligence on display.

I scream, fists pounding the table.

Conversation stops.

Everything pales, less cheerful and bright as I wallow in misery. This is not the performance my captors want, I suspect, and they are letting me know it.

Still, the grief of it all makes my tears run.

Rachel and Lindy are gone—maybe everyone else on earth, too. And there is not a damned thing I can do about it.

And there is more. My family at this holiday table: they are all dead and have been for years before I met Rachel. Instead of being happy to see them again, this sick, shallow dream devastates me with sorrow. I miss them almost as much as I miss my wife and child. These people are pretending to be my childhood family and perhaps they are not people at all but merely projections.

My nails dig furrows into the veneer of table wood. The banquet food shrivels black and fetid. The poinsettias wilt.

The scene keeps dimming, draining festive color to a hopeless ash gray as time is parsed by mysterious creaking sounds that seem to come from all around me.

My projections of past loved ones all slump lifelessly to the table: eyes shriveling to dry marbles, jaws sagging, hair sliding to the floor, shreds of skin and muscles following, bones cracking, moldering clothes shifting, bodies caving in—everything that made them appear alive wasting away in a throat-gagging stench.

Mom’s arms drop onto my lap, just dull bones, shreds of dusty sinew, and flakes of skin. Her upper body drapes over my shoulders like a death shroud signifying the end. With a snap, her skull separates and bounces off my knees to shatter on the floor.

I silently wail, mouth stretching open, body shaking.

The light fades until I all I see are still shapes of shadows against the complete darkness. The cold intrudes, gripping me, sharp then numbing; shock distances me, but not enough to dispel my thoughts.

They are gone. My Rachel and Lindy. I believe the aliens killed them. Or perhaps they are both in their own fake, projected world.

Quiet, dark, cold, alone—I will never find my way back to the illusion if I don’t cooperate, but I do not care.