by Marleigh Green

Tom knew there would be consequences when he knifed Andre in the ribs, not that he’d had much choice in the matter. Andre had been mad-dogging him across the yard for weeks, and everyone had whispered that he was fixing to do something. Tom never found out what the something was. 

The creaky cot squeaked every time he moved, but other than the sounds he made, the cell was silent. It was concrete, windowless, with an iron door that bore a rectangular view of the hallway beyond. He barely even heard his neighbors. The only human interaction he’d gotten in the past month was from the guards, stopping in to drop off his meals. 

Back when he was a kid he used to hear his mom say “small world.” He never got it until he went to prison. There was no world smaller than prison, except maybe the world in solitary confinement. He got an hour of sunlight a day, and otherwise, he was alone with his thoughts.

Tom had always hated most other people. The “minor” things that seemed to bother nobody else were nails on a chalkboard to him. An ex once told him everything pissed him off. She was probably right. Fuck her, anyway.

He never imagined what torment solitary confinement would be for him. He’d spent his whole life believing that hell was other people. When they were carting him off to solitary as punishment, he thought it would feel like a vacation from the assholes he shared this place with. 

“Hi, Tommy.”

Tom sat bolt upright at the sound of the voice. He’d forgotten that voice, or so he thought. But it returned to him like a warm breeze brushing against his cheek, warmer even than the speaker herself.

His eyes landed on the corner, where the toilet was. Standing beside it was a woman he knew extremely well. 

Her profile was to him. Even as he blinked hard to erase the image, she remained. She wore a black sleeveless dress that reached to her mid-calf, her feet bare. She’d been thinner the last time he saw her but now her hips and waist were full and rounded. Her naturally red hair was tied in a ponytail, exposing her neck, where a blazing orange and yellow phoenix was inked.

At the sight of the tattoo, he couldn’t help but scowl. He hated tattoos on women. They never looked good. He had plenty of them himself, but that was different. She never would’ve dared get a tattoo when she was with him, but she hadn’t been with him for a while.

“Isla?” he whispered.

His ex-girlfriend nodded, still facing the wall. Tom was too frozen in place to get up and get closer. Too afraid. This had to be a hallucination brought on by the lack of human contact, but she looked so real. And she wasn’t going away.

Swallowing, he asked, “What’re you doing here?” 

“He made me an offer.”

“Who did?”

Isla’s ponytail shimmered as she slowly turned her head to him, and at the sight of her face he recoiled in disgust. It was mangled and bloody, her right eye completely missing, her cheek so marred he could see her teeth through the hole in it. The scars ran down the opposite side of her neck and the arm she’d been hiding from him was a shredded stump.

You can read the rest of this story by purchasing our print issue or our online flipbook (coming soon)!

Author Bio

Marleigh is a 32-year-old pre-published new adult fantasy author from Los Angeles, California. She graduates from Emerson College with a Master of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction Writing in Spring, 2024. A longtime writer, she resides in her native city of Los Angeles, and is working on her debut novel, World Breaker, the first book in her Dark Horse series.


Instagram: @authormarleighgreen