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Queen of Flowers

Holley Cornetto

Flowers bowed to worship as she frolicked through the bright rays of summer sunshine. She rolled through the field, her hair shimmering with goldenrod pollen, and cheeks bright with the flush of roses. Her dress was hemmed in Queen Anne’s lace, and a crown of daisies adorned her head. She was the queen of flowers, the embodiment of summertime itself.

She came to rest on a blanket of Bee Balm, dreaming of the taste of honey on her lips. The warm breeze caressed her skin, bringing with it the scent of lilacs. She was all things beautiful and carefree. The swishing of tall grass in the wind sang her a lullaby, and there she slept, cradled in the care of a summer afternoon.

As she slept, a butterfly with orange and black stained-glass wings fluttered at the edge of her dream. The monarch tickled her ear, whispering promises of metamorphosis. “Soon, you’ll become a woman.”

“I don’t want to grow up,” the girl whispered into the breeze.

The butterfly placed a gentle kiss on the girl’s cheek. “We all grow up. Though some treasures you’ll lose, others will take their place.” Though the creature was lovely, the words she spoke were frightening.

The girl woke with dewdrop tears on her cheeks. Despite the monarch’s words, to her, transformation and change were ways of saying she wasn’t enough. She didn’t want to grow wide in the hips and large of breast, nor did she desire the lunar cycle that brought red with it each month.


She returned to the field the next day, trying not to dwell on the horrible words the monarch had spoken about the future. She shed those thoughts like a heavy winter coat, and instead chased a pair of dragonflies as they darted among the waterlilies at the edge of the pond. The scent of honeysuckle trailed behind her.

She fell to the ground, blowing out puffs of dandelion seed laughter. She settled onto a pillow of bachelor buttons and watched the clouds form shapes just for her as they traveled across the sprawling sky. As the clouds shifted and changed shape, she thought of herself, likewise transforming into something else.

“I’ll never change,” she whispered to the flowers.

The flowers sighed their relief.

The breeze carried a gentle humming sound, so soft she might have imagined it. Soon, the humming became buzzing, and the buzzing became a whisper.

“You need not change,” said a droning voice.

“They can’t make me!” she insisted.

“Indeed not,” the voice agreed.

The girl rolled onto her side and saw the golden-striped bee hovering over a thistle blossom. She gasped. She’d once been warned of the bee’s terrible sting.

“Why so shy?” the bee asked, moving closer, to the next blossom. “You belong among the flowers, for only they are as lovely as you.”

“Can you help me? Can you make it so I never have to leave?”

“It will cost you a kiss.”

The girl shook her head and turned away.


The days grew shorter as summer waned, but still, the girl returned to play among the flowers. She tried to forget the butterfly’s words, which now seemed an ominous warning, but she could already hear the school’s bell ringing in her mind. Her perfect summer was fading fast.

The asters were starting to bloom, and melancholy tainted her play. Soon, even the unrelenting cheer of the black-eyed Susans would vanish. She sat against the massive trunk of a willow. Her carefree expression was gone; her brow knit with a dark cloud of looming responsibilities. A butterfly – a monarch – landed on her shoulder. She swatted it away in frustration.

She thought of the bee’s offer.

A kiss.

Only a kiss.

She bolted upright and ran through the field from one patch to another of late season blossoms. She found the gilded prince along the border of the field. The girl doubled over, breathing heavily.

“You can make it so I don’t have to go back to school, or grow up, or get married, or have children, or…” her words ran together in a breathless jumble.


“Okay.” She knelt in the grass and closed her eyes.

With a single kiss, her throat constricted and she struggled for breath. She lay down in the field one last time. Days and weeks and months passed, and her crown of daisies withered, but she remained, forever a girl.

Author Bio: Holley Cornetto’s stories have appeared in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, Dark Recesses Press, and Flame Tree Press Newsletter as well as anthologies from Cemetery Gates Media, Eerie River Publishing, and Kandisha Press. Her debut novella, We Haunt These Woods, is available now through Bleeding Edge Books.

She is a member of the Horror Writers Association, and holds an MFA from Lindenwood University with a concentration in fiction. In 2020, she was awarded a grant from Ladies of Horror Fiction. In addition to writing The Horror Tree’s weekly newsletter, she regularly reviews for Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Ginger Nuts of Horror, and The Horror Tree. She teach creative writing in the online MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University.

Holley’s unsettling fantasy story Coal Dust and Shadows was the very first story in the very first edition of Wyldblood Magazine and will be reprinted in our upcoming Best of Wyldblood anthology.

In the City of Chuckling Roses

Tara Campbell

Your girlfriend will find them charming, if a bit weird, but that’s why she’s been wanting to go. Each variety is different: the magenta ones will remind her of how her brother chuckles when he doesn’t want to admit her jokes are actually funny. She’ll say the yellow ones laugh like her mom when she’s with her dad—she loves that her parents are still so into each other. Like, they’re married, but they’re also best friends, she’ll say, and you’ll nod as though that were something you’d ever seen before.

Then you’ll come to the deep-red roses with scalloped petals, and your girlfriend will say they giggle like her mom when her dad’s being all gushy; but when she says it she’ll be smiling and scrunching up her nose because deep down she thinks it’s cute. She’ll call it cute but what she doesn’t say, doesn’t need to say, is that she likes it because it makes her feel safe, because they’ll stay together, because this is what love can be.

The purple-pink variegated roses will chuckle like her teacher watching TikToks her class made as part of their history finals. We still had to write papers, your girlfriend will say, but Mrs. J is coming around. And you want to be happy for her, to admire her confidence, but you’re afraid you won’t really hear anything she says, or even let this day happen, because you’ve looked the place up and watched the videos and heard all the chuckling; and the magenta roses sound like your dad every time he cursed and told you to learn how to punch; and the yellow ones sound like your mother’s sad laugh all those nights your sister would ask if he’d left for good this time; and the deep-red ones cackle like him when he’d come back home stewed, fouling the air with sweat and menace; and the variegated ones laugh like you did every time your mother said That’s it, we’re leaving, because you never, ever did. So you’re afraid you won’t hear anything your girlfriend says in the City of Chuckling Roses; you’ll be concentrating on calming your breathing, on keeping your hands still, on not ripping every last flower off its stalk and trampling them in their beds.

You have until tomorrow morning to decide: do you disappoint her now by begging off the trip, or disappoint her later by failing to contain your rage?

Or even later, like failure-to-propose later, or marriage-and-kids later, or drinking-your-feelings later, or cheating-and-lying later, or you-made-me-do-it later, or only-staying-for-the-children later? And which of those laters would count as giving-things-a-chance later, and which would be keeping-her-tethered-to-a-broken-man later? You’ve seen all these laters before; what’s to stop them from happening all over again?

The next morning you get up, shower, and follow her into the train. She’s always loved flowers. Seems fitting to let the roses decide.

Author Bio: Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse, and graduate of American University’s MFA in Creative Writing. In addition to Wyld Flash, her publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She’s the author of a novel and four multi-genre collections including her newest, Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom

An Itemized List of Charitable Contributions

Addison Smith

Vantablack Top (XL) $219 – I wore it once, and Connor wasn’t impressed. It was a beautiful piece, thin carbon nanotubes hugging my skin, dark enough to fall into, with tiny stars floating in the void. When he looked upon me, he was supposed to look through me, into me, lose himself in the darkness. He said it was cute and went back to shooting zombies in his video game. I went out that night, alone, absorbing the light around me. He was my fiancé. He should have been there. He probably wishes he was.


Moonglow Cami (XL) $39 – I worried I was trying too hard, so I tried this on. A camisole bathed with moonlight. He looked up for only a moment, said it was too bright, that it hurt his eyes. I offered to take it off, giving half a smile. He looked away. Still, I tried.


Persistent Vapor Robe (XL) $199 – The vapor was water, cool on my skin, never forming into droplets of condensation. I wore nothing beneath, because I was desperate. I needed human contact, and I thought the way it hid and revealed my body would be alluring, that I could be a mystery for him to solve. We slept together, but did not make love. I kept it for a long time, and always meant to wear it again. Until I no longer had to. Until I realized it was not worth fighting for his affections.


Dress of Starlight (L) $329 – I never wore this one, but it is still my favorite. Callie wore it, that night we bumped into each other at the mall. It was the night I wore my Vantablack top, and it absorbed her light. It filled me, but her glow never faded. It took a moment to realize the glow had nothing to do with the dress. We talked for hours, and laughed, because we had places to be, and I had someone to go home to. My phone rang. I didn’t answer.


Engagement Ring (Size 8) $249 – A gift from Connor. Worn for a while, then discarded.


Firelight Skirt (XL) $139 – I wore this several times, when everything was new and exciting with Callie and I. The tickling flames reflected how I felt inside, and how I wanted her to see me. And she did. I bathed in her gaze and her affections. She borrowed the skirt sometimes. I didn’t mind.


Dress of Cast Shadows (XL) $349 – I wore this on our one-month anniversary. It hid and revealed in darkness and penumbra, and when I wore it, Callie’s eyes shone. When I removed it, they were just as bright. They burn when she looks at me, in ways his never did. When she looks at me, not the fabric I disguise myself with. She held me, and I knew I didn’t have to beg.


Wedding Dress (XL) $829 – This one has no starlight. No tricks of science to draw the eye, or beg for attention. The dress was nothing but a way to display myself as I stood beside my love, her eyes on me, my face, my eyes. We laughed, because we are always laughing, and I caught the twist of her smile, and couldn’t help but return it. I thought for a long while about keeping this dress, this memento of a perfect moment. But the moment is still here, and I have all I need to remember it.

Author Bio: Addison Smith is an author and laborer living in upstate New York. His fiction can be found in Fantasy Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Daily Science Fiction and others. He has recently discovered the joys of brewing coffee in numerous ways, and will gladly talk your ear off @AddisonCSmith.

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New Fiction – Queen of Flowers

Holley Cornetto’s wistful fantasy Queen of Flowers is this week’s free flash fiction, available on our website now (follow this link straight to the story) In other news, we’re now accepting submissions for new fantasy and science fiction stories (follow this link) and we’re accepting preorders for our first Best of Wyldblood anthology, out onContinue reading “New Fiction – Queen of Flowers”

Send us a story!

On Wednesday we reopen for submissions – so if you’ve got a great science fiction or fantasy story in need of a home, we want to hear from you (short stories only this time – we’re open to longer fiction in January). We also want great art and reviews for our review column – books,Continue reading “Send us a story!”

Runs Like Clockwork

A Steampunk Anthology

Airships and sorcery, steam driven nightmares and mechanical men.

Thirteen sepia tinged stories laced with adventure and the spirit of a Victoriana that never was.

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Wyldblood Magazine # 8

Ten tales of myth, legend and science gone wrong in the latest collection from Wyldblood.

Stories by Jordan Chase-Young, Celine Low, Nancy Pica Renken, JL George, Kathy Gollan, Michelle Ann King, Tom Learmont, Brianna Suazo, Rev. Joe Kelly and Mark Rigney.

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