Thursday, January 18, 2024

“Hosting a Tempest” • by Ian Li

A tempest rushes down Mary’s chimney and nests in her fireplace.

Her house is a haven for uninvited guests. Mice holed up in her pantry feast undisturbed. She names the weeds sprouting through her porch. An adopted ghost even haunts her wardrobe.

She wonders what storms consume. It turns out, nearly everything. Wood chips, boxes of blueberries, Q-tips, marshmallow canaries—all are swept up into its many bellies. With a sharp gust, it rejects chocolate ravens, dark sunglasses, and a handful of blackberries, and refuses to be persuaded otherwise.

Poker in hand, Mary lets loose a flurry of stabs, the fireplace echoing with clangs of metal on brick. Message received, the hateful tempest storms off.

Mary decides to take applications next time.

Ian Li (he/him) writes speculative fiction and poetry from Toronto. Formerly an economist and consultant, he loves spreadsheets, statistical curiosities, and brain teasers. Find his writing at Radon Journal and Flame Tree Press, as well as at


Have a Kindle? Find out what you’ve been missing!
Buy the four latest issues with just one click!

(Or buy just one, if that’s what you’d really prefer.)


The Pete Wood Challenge is an informal ad hoc story-writing competition. Once a month Pete Wood spots writers the idea for a story, usually in the form of a phrase or a few key words, along with some restrictions on what can be submitted, usually in terms of length. Pete then collects the resulting entries, determines who has best met the challenge, and sends the winners over to Bruce Bethke, who arranges for them to be published on the Stupefying Stories web site.

You can find all the previous winners of the Pete Wood Challenge at this link.

This time the challenge was to write a flash fiction piece playing off at least two of the following key words: cat, poker, storm, sandwich.

More stories to come!