First to a Hundred (Jodi Cleghorn) ~4300 words

There are worse places to be, I tell myself as I look down at the wet, sandy tennis ball in my hand. Like back up at the beach house with Laney and Lucy and their dozens of bottles of new nail polish and Sweet Valley High books and Duran Duran albums. Or on the yacht with Dad yelling at me to move now, pull this, don’t touch that, leave the bloody life jacket be, lean further out, stop being chicken shit. Or ignored by Mum and her friends, fussing over hands of canasta and damp glasses of sweet wine spritzers before lunch. Beach cricket is normally every kid for himself, no cheering, just a bloody-mindedness to get the kid with the bat out so you can have your turn. And stay at the crease as long as possible. But this is no ordinary morning. Read on

The Cicada Clock (Adam Byatt) ~2800 words

The eucalyptus and red gums exploded with thrumming, the air vibrating with the voice of a thousand cicada pupae; the aural accompaniment to the heat haze wafting up from melting bitumen. Thomas turned off the road onto an almost hidden path between two houses and disappeared into a pocket of bushland dissecting the suburbs. As he followed the doglegged track beside the creek the houses disappeared behind a thickening screen of eucalypts; a curtain forming a protective hollow for exploration and tranquillity. His thongs slapped a staccato rhythm against well-worn feet toughened by walking barefoot everywhere except across patches of bindies. Against the commotion of cicadas, a girl’s voice sang: “We built this city on rock and roll.” Read On

Alice Flows (Rus VanWestervelt) ~2300 words

Sunset nears. The rocks are glazed with ice that traps daylight’s last few hues, and the water of Little Hunting Creek that flowed through here just weeks ago is now frozen as if caught in mid-thought.

This is just not the way it was supposed to turn out for Alice and Jared.

“What now?” he asks.  But she does not answer. How can she? Read On