Midnight Rum

A dark night. Clouds and no moon. No wonder he almost falls over the tombstones. Has nothing to do with the fact he’s flying high, caught in the loving embrace of the alcohol numbing his senses.

“Lights,” he mutters. “They need lights in here at night!”

The absurdity hits him. Who needs to see in here? The dead? No one else should be here. But he is. This is the perfect place to drink his ill-gotten hooch.

He was one drunken bastard before he even went down the alleyway behind the liquor store, but he was aware enough to notice old Harold, the evening counterman, standing at the far end of the building, having a smoke and trying to cop a feel from Lucille, the town’s resident hooker.

That left the store unattended. All those bottles screaming out to him, insisting he give them a good home. Ed listened to the bottles, ran inside, grabbed a bag from the counter and filled it up with the nectar of the Gods. It didn’t matter what he grabbed – he liked it all. As long as alcohol was inside, he would be happy. He left through the front door. By the time Harold would hear the bell and get back inside, Ed would be long gone.

“Now I need a good place to sit, lean back, and enjoy a few drinks,” Ed says.

As if by divine intervention, he finds a huge oak tree and, feeling around with his feet, discovers it is surrounded by nice soft grass. Perfect!

“Let’s see what kind of goodies I got. I’ll have to toast Lucille for keeping Harold occupied. I don’t know what he was thinking. The old goat ain’t been able to get it up for twenty years now. Shit! That’s why his wife left him. Shirley needed a man to satisfy her needs. Too bad Shirley left town. I enjoyed some fine ass from that lady.”

He reaches into the bag and grabs the biggest bottle. In his condition, it isn’t easy to open, but when a man is thirsty and needs to get even more of a buzz, he finds a way. He takes a long pull on the bottle, and the fiery but sweet liquid moves down his throat.

“Oh, rum! The good shit! The 151 proof stuff.”

The bottle is a third of the way gone, and he has all he can do to sit up straight against the tree, when the air around him becomes putrid, so bad as to affect the taste of the rum. But Ed is a pro and goes back to the bottle.

“Whatever that stench is will leave soon. I hope it’s not a fucking skunk, though. I’m in no shape to get away from one.”

His vision, which is bad enough to be begin with because of the dark, gets progressively worse, everything becoming hazy. The world spins around him, and Ed knows he will be spending the night with the dead. He’s in no shape now to walk home.

The Ghoul is amused by this pathetic human. To get this drunk is uncalled for. Does he not care about his health? Yes, the monster has tasted the flesh of the dead with remnants of alcohol in their systems. But this . . . but this will be the first opportunity he has had to feast on a living body with as much booze as this one has. The thought of the bliss works into the creature’s mind, and he salivates at the promise of his wonderful feast. How high will he get as he devours this weak-willed man?

Not worrying about being quiet – it doesn’t matter – this sap is too soused to go anywhere, the Ghoul walks up to Ed and sits down next to him, his disgusting stench causing Ed to jerk forward.

“Easy,” the Ghoul says, “don’t move too fast or all that fine rum will come out as puke. That would be a waste, my friend.”

“Who . . . who the fuck are you? Man, you have a huge odor problem!”

The Ghoul laughs. “That’s not a nice thing to say, Ed. Not nice at all. Just call me Algol. That will be just fine.”

It’s hard for Ed to think right now, the rum pulling at him from every direction. Were it not for this Algol character and his stench, he is sure he would be passed out by now.

“What do you want?” he asks him, and as his hand finds Algol’s hairy body, he adds, “Why are you naked? You shouldn’t be out walking around with no clothes on. Damn, you’re hairy!”

Peals of laughter rip across the cemetery as Algor gets closer to Ed. “I never wear clothes, Ed. I live below the ground. I don’t need clothes.”

How does this thing know his name? What’s going on?

“Everyone knows you, Ed. You’re a drunk. Plain and simple. Many nights I heard you stumbling home in one of your stupors. A number of evenings you passed out and spent the night here, not even waking up when the driving rain attacked your body. But those times I wasn’t allowed to interfere with your life. Now, it’s a whole different story.”

This beast is somehow capable of reading his mind. Ed feels his thoughts being pulled on. No! That’s impossible!

“You are luckier than the others, Ed. Your rum will help you not feel as much pain. Rest assured, however, that there will be pain, and the nightmares you think you’re having will fade into oblivion as you feel your life force being sucked out of you.”

No more talking; no more thinking. Algol rips into Ed’s neck with his vile, yellowish black teeth and starts his feast. The searing pain, not inhibited by the alcohol’s presence, manifests itself throughout his body as the taste of the Ghoul’s stench drops onto his tongue.

The blood, mixed with the sweet rum, tastes good to Algol, and causes him to fall under the spell of the alcohol, not in the manner it affected Ed but in a calm, relaxing way. “Ah, no wonder these monkeys like this stuff,” he thinks.

Bite after delicious bite and taste after taste of the sweet blood brings Ed closer to death. The alcohol still in his system has made him last longer than the others before Algol took one bite too many and they met their next appointment – with the afterlife.

Under the pleasant numbing effect of the rum and blood, the Ghoul does not hasten his dinner. This is beyond his wildest dreams! The only thing better would be if Ed were a woman and he could add that other element of ecstasy to this experience.

Moments before Algol sucks the last of Ed’s blood out of his body, the body and mind of the town drunk reconcile with fate and are gone. One last stare; one last gasp.

The Ghoul leans back against the oak, content with himself, even forgetting the hatred inside his soul for the God who did this to him. Times are different now. Revenge. Somehow, maybe, it will come.

He grabs the bottle of rum and drinks from it. There is no need for hurry. He can rid the cemetery of Ed’s existence soon enough. Can’t let the demon rum go to waste.

An hour, maybe two, goes by, and Algol’s hair sensors pick up on something approaching.

What the . . .

***

The tantalizing aroma of a woman drifts through the evening air. Oh, those sweet love juices talk to him, reminding him of his earlier desires. Midnight Rum can wait a little. There are more important things to be taken care of.

All is not quite right, however. This woman is searching for something in the cemetery, stopping every now and then to taste the air and smell what is above, as well as what lies below.

She stops, standing on her toes, and breathes deeply. Algol’s senses become a flurry of excitement! Finally, after all these years, she is here: the answer to his hopes and dreams. A woman of his species! He will not be alone any longer; he will have someone to share his life with.

His new partner trembles in the joy that she is alone no more. How long she has waited for a coupling. On a number of occasions, she had found a mate, only to have him leave, mainly because Ghouls were despised and hated by these weak humans who truly knew so little about them. Same as Algol, they could only guess the effects many of these creatures working together  would have on them. Like Gypsies, they were forced to travel to avoid harm or possible harm at the least. When that happened, they were usually split up, never to be reunited.

Her body hairs tingle with the excitement; her hunger can wait. She needs a man.

Algol stands, waiting for his new mate to find him, her power over his senses growing by the second. He shakes in anticipation of the moment when the two of them become entwined in their display of longing for each other. He doesn’t know if this so-called feeling of love the humans say they have apply to his kind or not. To him, Ghouls have a much more refined approach to life and the joys that titillate their senses.

She walks ever so slowly, savoring every delectable moment to draw him in to her before they make physical contact. His scent, while offensive to humans is a magnet to her, drawing her to his waiting arms. The sound of his rapidly beating heart and the sight of his pulsating body hairs beat against her skin.

Unable to contain himself any longer, he rushes to meet her, pulling her down to the grass. Sensing her need to eat, Algol brings what’s left of Ed’s body to her. “Eat some scraps from the poor departed Ed, Lillith. When you’re done, we will find a larger meal for you to feast on.”

She smiles, happy in the knowledge her new partner will be a sharing one. It is no surprise to her that he knows her name. She knows his as well. Shared powers.

Lillith devours what is left of Ed, surprised at his fresh taste and enchanted with the heady rum flavoring added to it.

“How did you find such a fresh corpse, Algol? His meat was delicious, unlike any I have ever eaten.”

“Ah, Lillith, have you not been repulsed and angered over the injustices from God to make us mere scavengers when we are so much more powerful than the creatures we eat?”

She looks at him, wondering what he suggests, and it creeps into her mind. “You mean . . .”

“Yes, Lillith, we’re no longer bound by the old ways. There is a war being waged elsewhere between God and Satan. Our doings no longer concern them.”

Lillth drools, thinking of the possibilities, the joys, the new experiences; shared ones now that she has a partner. “We can devour the flesh of the living?”

“Yes, my dear, and it is such sweet revenge. Tasty delights that plead for mercy as you slowly partake of their flesh. We are no longer held beneath the esteem of the humans. We are their superiors in every way.”

She bristles at the very thought of consuming the flesh of the victims as they push against her, trying to gain their freedom. Yes, she is the female of the species, but in  matters other than gender, they are equal. All Ghouls are powerful beings. “I shall enjoy this new way to feast. Can we start looking for a meal now, Algol?”

“Yes, Lillith. I have already feasted but you need to eat more. Let’s find you a proper dinner.”

They move to the northwest section of the cemetery and wait for some fool to come by. Their presence is concealed by the trees bordering the sidewalk. Other than their inimitable odor to tip someone off, they are invisible to the naked human eye on this dark night. A perfect evening to wait for prey.

***

The ground moves quickly under Brad’s feet as he runs down the lonesome road adjacent to the graveyard. He loves to run at this time of day. No one else around to destroy his feeling of euphoria when he transcends his previous limits and explodes into unchartered territory. Another good thing about running now is he doesn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him if he has to take a leak, and does he ever need to piss.

He shoves his pecker through the iron fence partitions and tends to business. Before he is able to put it back in his shorts, his dick is grabbed and he is pulled toward the fence, his head slapping against the metal from the force.

Something vaults over the fence and runs behind him, the stench of it and what is in front of him almost causing him to lose consciousness. The taste of wrought iron and putrid mold combine to overpower his gag reflex and he dry-heaves. Laughter sounds out before sharp teeth tear into his shaft, removing it from his body. In total shock and bleeding profusely, he is unable to utter a sound.

The beast behind Brad lifts him up and tosses him over the fence to his partner who feasts upwards on him from the gaping emptiness in his groin. The shock of being eaten alive is made worse by the sight of his attackers. While he struggles against their attack, he tries to reason things out – not easy to do now that he has to mount up some sort of defense.

While his running might have made Brad a super-strong individual, it did not prepare him for the brute strength he would need to escape. But would anything have?

As Lillith munches on the prone form of Brad, Algol tears off one of the runner’s arms and starts chomping away. Lillith jumps to where the blood pours and drinks heavily, the thick red liquid feeling heavenly as it goes down her throat. Her fingers tear off chunks of his face that she shoves into her mouth in between gulps of the warm life-giving nectar.

Brad’s heart goes out of control, pumping viciously before it explodes. Even the heart of a well-conditioned athlete can only take so much. As he draws his last breath, Lillith bites down into his skull and starts eating his brain.

Algol sits on a tombstone and watches his lady with profound respect. She has learned quickly. The two of them will make a fine team.

She finishes up with Brad and stares at Algol, blood dripping all over her, pieces of the man’s innards forming a necklace across her breasts. “That was incredible! I have never had such a meal. This is the best night of my life!”

Algol laughs. “It’s not over yet, Lillith. Let’s drink more of what these humans call rum. We still have a few hours before the sun rises.”

Lillith enjoys the smooth taste of the rum mixing with the blood. The Demon Rum relaxes them both. A great night!

Passions rise again . . .

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2015 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

Helplessly Above It All

I’m fourteen days, three hours and twenty seconds into the mission. So far the spacecraft has performed flawlessly, surpassing all expectations. It’s been rather comfortable as the capsule was designed with more room for the occupant than previous spacecraft.

When I was selected to be the commander of this mission, my wife got the biggest kick out of watching me jump around our little apartment with a big shit eating grin on my face. She said that…

…she said… why am I even bothering to mention her?

She’s dead.

So is everybody else.

I should never have taken this assignment. Prior to the launch, the administrators had told me to say a proper goodbye to her as tensions were high with our rivals across the pond. The risk of nuclear exchange was at its greatest, even more so than during the Cuban crisis.

I didn’t take it seriously.

The officials were still going ahead with the launch and I treated it as business as usual. I cringe remembering my last words to her.

“Keep the steaks warm.”

I watched helplessly above it all as hundreds of nuclear missiles launched from their silos. Had it been a simulation, I would have described the mushroom clouds sprouting up from the impacts as mesmerizing; however, knowing each one signaled the eradication of civilization, I felt numb. My radio had gone silent after a partial scream was obliterated in a roar of static.

That all happened on the second day of the mission.

Through each window, I can see the planetoid carcass that was once Earth. It used to be a beautiful sight with shades of white, blue, green and brown; a source of wonder and full of life. Now it’s an inhospitable cancer, smothered with the unnatural, burning clouds.

I left my radio on over those twelve days but only empty static and the ghosts of my memories kept me company. I would have loved to hear another human voice – even if it had been the enemy.

Not anymore.

I’ve just initiated my reentry procedure. Within minutes, my ship will fire its rockets one final time, propelling me back towards the nuclear polluted earth. When the moment comes to deploy the parachutes, I will simply sit back and enjoy the ride. I’d rather die in an impact crater on the earth’s surface than orbiting above it.

They fire right on cue and I feel the ship slowly descending into the atmosphere.

“Can anybody… me?” The voice crackles through my headset. “My name is…” A burst of static hisses then fades. “If anyone can hear me, please acknowledge…”

I lean forward to reply then stop. There’s no way I can interrupt the reentry procedure. Even if I could, what would be the point? As the flames begin to engulf the outside of my ship, I turn the radio off and lean back into my seat. There’s no reason to give him a false sense of hope.

Sorry buddy. You’re on your own.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

The Remains

Emily was woken by the sound of chopping wood. Jimmy was swinging his axe early that morning. Thick logs cracked, split in two and fell with a dull thud. It was a familiar and comforting sound.

She didn’t have the energy to move around much anymore, even the slightest movement left her gasping with pain. Emily gazed at the large glass of water on the bedside table, wishing she could reach for it. Her throat was scorched and her mouth was sour. She coughed and her chest felt like a rattling heap of bones. Her breath was a loud, tender wheeze.

Jimmy would be in soon. He would stroke her hair and smile down at her. She closed her eyes and pictured him out there in the cold, preparing for their evening fire. She began to recall all the fires they had shared together. It was an exercise she liked to do often. It comforted her and kept her mind occupied, which helped to alleviate the pain. She wondered how long before the fire would be hers alone. Flames flickered in her vision, in shades of orange and yellow, stretching into long, howling faces that mocked her. She didn’t open her eyes again.

***

The first time Jimmy and Emily started a fire they were fifteen years old. They lived in the outer suburbs, a sprawl of dilapidated houses, trashy chain stores and franchise family restaurants, cut through the centre by a highway.

Surrounded as they were by drugs, alcohol and violence, fire became the one vice they couldn’t resist. Fire opened up a secret space, theirs alone, to reside in for a while, as the cold brutal world faded from view. Fire was the secret they protected and which, in turn, protected them.

One day they had climbed a high wire fence into an abandoned car yard. The yard was scattered with the hulls of stripped cars and an assortment of discarded junk. They rummaged through the remains. They sat on a red vinyl back seat perched on top of a pile of old tyres. Jimmy pulled out a couple of bent cigarettes he had stolen from his father.

Jimmy played with the lighter as they smoked, flicking the flame repeatedly. He was feeling agitated and restless. That morning his father, already drunk for the day, had flown into a rage over the electricity bill. Jimmy and his brothers had scattered from the house like insects.

He touched the flame to the seat and the vinyl began to melt instantly, oozing like an open wound, the smell of burning plastic a toxic high. Emily stared at the tiny flame licking the plastic seat.

Jimmy’s face changed as he watched, becoming thoughtful and calm.

“Wanna start a fire with me?” he asked suddenly.

Emily exhaled a grey plume; she shrugged and nodded casually but she was excited by the idea. They jumped down from the seat and searched the car yard for things to burn. There were scraps of foam and rubber around and lots of scattered rubbish. They shredded old newspapers into a big empty drum.

“Do the honours?” said Jimmy and handed Emily the lighter. She lit a wad of paper then tossed it in.

They stood back and stared at the flames that flashed and grew quickly; a stream of black smoke began to curl skywards.

Jimmy reached for Emily’s hand and she took it without glancing at him. A sense of wonder enfolded them, a strange relief and elation.

They both felt it. They knew they both felt it because they squeezed hands, communicating something that couldn’t be spoken.

They were jostled out of their thoughts when someone began shouting.

An elderly man dressed in overalls had appeared and was shuffling towards them from across the yard.

“Hey you kids, what the hell are you doing?”

Jimmy yanked Emily by the arm and they bolted. They easily scrambled over the fence and ran. A few streets away they stopped, out of breath, and doubled up with laughter.

“Fuck!”

“Yeah!”

They looked at each other in amazement. They kissed then dissolved into giggles again. That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair between the three of them, Jimmy, Emily and fire.

***

Jimmy swung his axe slowly to the ground. He looked up at the bedroom window and an acute fear swept over him. He rubbed his tired eyes. He couldn’t bare this anymore. It happened often now. He would find himself running to the house and up the stairs in a panic, rushing into the bedroom, to find Emily sitting in bed reading.

“Do you need anything?” he’d say, relieved and embarrassed, and she would shake her head no.

It had been a year since Emily was diagnosed. Jimmy watched her whittle away; the disease ate her from the inside out. He watched her endure hostile treatment and medication until there remained nothing left to resort.

***

During their life together fire had come and gone. There were years when they didn’t light fires at all. And there were times when everything caved in, like when Jimmy’s dad died or when Emily suffered a miscarriage, and their need for fire returned. They would find a good location, start a small fire and watch as it burnt away their pain, consuming the anger and despair until they could take a deep breath again. They were careful and they were never caught.

Years ago, they had moved to a property in the country. When they saw the large fireplace in the house, they grinned at each other.

As Emily’s condition deteriorated, they lit fires every night. It was the only thing that made Emily feel better for a while. The fire cast a glow of life back onto her face; she nestled in comfortable silence to watch it and a soft rising euphoria dulled the pain.

When Emily was still able to, they went for walks together in the surrounding bushland, collecting kindling and large branches.

It was on one of these walks that Emily told Jimmy what she wanted to do. He hated the idea; it scared him, and he didn’t know how to respond. They had walked home in silence.

***

Jimmy looked up at the bedroom window and fear gave way to something far more bottomless and dreadful.

He climbed the stairs slowly. The door of the bedroom seemed to swing open by itself as he touched it. From where he stood in the doorway, he could see that Emily was gone.

He smoothed out the wisps of hair that framed her face. Tears swelled in his eyes and a painful lump lodged in his throat. He sat beside her for a long time in disbelief, holding her lifeless hand. Pale and frail, it was impossible to tell whether it was life or death that had eaten her away. He could feel every bone and joint in her fingers; he squeezed her forearms and the bones were sharp and thin. Useless bones that no longer animated her. She began to appear like a macabre puppet – a revolting thought – and he had to pull away.

After a while, he walked over to the window and threw it open. A cold gust of winter air rushed in. He looked down at the pile of wood gathered in the yard. He needed to get started as soon as possible.

He began to pace the room, staring at Emily’s body. Panic set in. Suddenly it all seemed like such a bad idea. How could he possibly go through with it? What kind of person would do such a thing? His mind scrambled desperately with thoughts. He didn’t want to do it. It was cruel of her to have asked him. They had talked about the plan a lot and she had made it sound so natural. It was her dying wish.

“I can’t do it!” he shouted then burst into tears, but it was too late. He had to keep his promise.

He scooped her up, gathering her carefully. She was like a bag of sand slipping from his grasp as he walked. He had to stop several times to heave her back up. Slowly he carried her down the stairs, through the house and out into the yard.

The staggered walk to the pyre was a ludicrous funeral march. His heart was thumping and his mind was numb. He had been building the pyre for days now, arranging the logs just right. He had a feeling the time was near.

Relieved to relinquish her body to the pyre, he placed her upon it as gracefully as possible. The body flopped over the logs, the head rolling back at an awkward angle, the limbs sprawled indecently. He rearranged the body until it looked right.

He tried not to look at her as he picked up the heavy jerry can and began to splash kerosene over the wood and body.

Finally the can was empty. He stood there for a while, lost in thought. His eyes and nose were streaming with silent tears.

He wiped his nose on his sleeve then fumbled in his pockets for the matches. He struck one and held it until it burnt out. He did this many times, burnt matches collected at his feet.

Her voice echoed in his head: “I want to burn, Jimmy.”

A flash of anger arose. She was always the more reckless between them. Many times Jimmy had to persuade her against lighting a fire that was too dangerous, too public. He felt cheated and manipulated now by her final act of defiance.

Then the anger disappeared as quickly as it had come and he took a deep breath. With trembling lips, he struck another match. He closed his eyes as he threw it at the pyre and then it was done. It was done and it couldn’t be undone. He stepped back in surprise as instantly the wood went up in huge, crackling flames. The box of matches dropped from his hands.

Flames engulfed and rolled around the body, quickly beginning to scorch the skin. He stared at the horrific vision unfolding before him, unable to move. The flames were mesmerising and in the centre of them was Emily, like a broken discarded doll.

The heat assaulted him in nauseating waves. A terrible thought occurred to him; he should walk into the fire and join her, if only he had the courage.

Before long, the smell began to assault him, a stench of cooking meat, sweet and peculiar. He had not considered what his wife would smell like as she burnt. He covered his mouth, tears streaming down his cheeks.

The smell became a gut retching stink. He ran inside and slammed the door. He leaned against it, sliding to the floor. He held himself tightly and began to weep.

The fire burnt all day. He was furious he had agreed to do this and incoherent with grief. He paced and stormed inside the house, on the brink of madness, unable to escape the smell that hung in the air.

And the ordeal was far from over. There was one more thing he had to do.

All through the night, the fire continued to smoke while he sat awake in the dark. He was thankful when the morning came, hoping the fire had done its job. It took him a while to gather the courage to go outside. He carried with him a small wooden chest.

Emily’s remains were at the bottom of the burnt out pyre. A piled of charred bones, cracked and crumbling. Her skull and hips were still intact; her skeletal form visible. Jimmy wore heavy plastic gloves. He couldn’t bear the thought of her dust on his hands.

Trembling, he picked her up piece by piece and put her into the chest. There was so much ash and there was no way to tell what was Emily and what was not.

He scooped up most of the ashes, added them to the chest and slammed it shut.

***

The wooden chest sits in Emily’s armchair by the fireplace. It makes Jimmy uncomfortable but he can’t decide what else to do with it. It feels like she is still there beside him, watching the fire every evening. The fire throws dancing shadows over the chest. Its brass rim and fittings shine brightly, as if there is a treasure inside waiting to be released.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2015 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved

The Itch

Have you ever tried to get dried blood out from under your fingernails? Not just a little, but a good soaking of it. It’s a real bitch, trust me. No matter how many times I find myself standing over the sink scraping the dried up flecks from my nail beds, it never gets any easier, but the itching just won’t stop.

At some point, you just scrape too much until fresh blood starts to mix in with the old shit and it becomes even more of a mess. At least I know I’m still alive, because I bleed. If it weren’t for that, I’m not sure I would know if I was alive, dead, or something in between. Even with the bleeding, I guess I’m still not totally sure what the hell I am. I haven’t felt pain, love, happiness or sadness since the day that bitch Liza took everything from me.

She knew what she was doing the whole time. She had me doing shit I’d never thought I’d be into. I should have known something was wrong with the whole situation. No woman that hot had ever given me the time of the day, and here comes this exotic beauty that gives me the best sex of my life after an hour of bullshit conversation; no strings attached. Though, if I’m to be honest, I never was good with the ladies and I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of sexual experience to compare it to. In fact, aside from the awkward hand job from Becky under the bleachers during the homecoming pep rally senior year of high school, and the drunken, pity lay from Mary-Sue when I was a freshman in law school, I had never been with anyone but…well, myself. Geez, I’m pretty fucking pathetic.

Look at me. I’m a goddamn train wreck. I can barely look at myself in the mirror. How’d I let myself get like this? I went from a high-profile attorney to living in this pay-by-the-hour motel on meth row, waiting for my next government check. Each time I black out, it’s the same ol’ shit. I wake up in this shit-hole room with blood caked under my nails and the worst fucking headache of my life.

A knock at the door causes an odd churning in the pit of my stomach. I walk over to the door and catch a fish-eye view of a stranger on the other side of the peephole, their features hidden beneath a black hoodie.

“Who is it?”

I scratch at my neck.

The person says nothing and raises their head, leaning closer to the door.

“You’ve got the wrong room, junkie. Get outta here.”

A bit hypocritical of me to call someone a junkie but I can stop whenever I want. Those pathetic losers are hooked. Goddamn, why does my skin itch so bad?

After another look, the person remains outside and slowly removes the hood; I take a step back and nearly fall backward. The face isn’t that of a stranger. No, it’s familiar, too familiar. I run over to the nightstand and grab a switchblade I found in a dumpster a few nights ago. Crouching beside the bed, my pulse hammers in my ears. My forearms continue to itch and I fight the urge to dig into them with the knife. A pounding on the door drags my attention from my arms. I stare at the door.

The banging intensifies and I try to cover my ears, rocking back and forth on the floor like a mental patient. Closing my eyes, I wish myself away to anyplace else. Though I’m not sure what’s going on, something tells me it’s not going to be pleasant.

The door explodes from its hinges, but I refuse to look up. If I don’t see him, he won’t see me. Well, I tell myself that at least. I’m sure he can see me, because I can see him with my eyes closed. I’ve seen him too often lately, and so have others. The blow to my head comes just as I’d expected. Unfortunately, I know the routine all too well. I’ve delivered several ass-kickings the last few months and a good punch to the temple is always an attention grabber. After I shake the cobwebs from my mind, I open my eyes and see him standing in front of me, a malevolent smile etched onto his face; my face.

The room swirls around me and I feel as though I’m on one of those tiny boats circling the bathtub drain that I played with as a kid. My mind spins, looking for traction, trying to make sense of the situation. I begin to piece things together when I see a boot flying toward my face. Brilliant flashes of white light explode in my vision, blinding me. Pain blossoms at the base of my skull.

When my eyes open again, I find myself on the floor in the corner, my angry self standing over me wearing a disgusted snarl. I sit up and push back against the wall. How can it be? How can I be cowering on the floor and towering over myself at the same time. Fuck! My arms itch so bad. My hand finds the handle of the knife and I tuck it behind my back. I hold one arm in front of me and attempt to stand while still gripping the concealed knife. He steps toward me.

“Wait a minute. Hold on.”

He pauses.

“What’s going on? Who are you? I mean, you’re me, but that can’t be.”

I take a couple of steps forward, holding the empty hand up like I’m surrendering. He smiles at me; my teeth are rotted to hell from sucking on the glass meth pipe the last few years. Once he gets close enough, I lunge forward with the blade, sinking it in the soft fleshy part of his belly. It’s warm, kind of sticky as he bleeds and I withdraw the blade. He continues to smile and I stick him again. And again. And again. In fact, I’ve stuck him so many times that my arm is getting tired, yet he continues to stand, mocking me with his repulsive smile.

My arm feels like its made of concrete and I hear myself breathing heavily, nearly panting as I continue to strike my attacker. Jesus Christ it’s cold in here. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus, but when I open them, I’m alone lying on the bathroom floor. The room is quiet; still freezing. I try to sit up, but pain rips at my abdomen. I reach for my stomach and pause when I feel something unusual. Looking down, my heart races. I see the handle of the knife jutting out from my blood soaked shirt. I put my hand on the floor to try and sit up again, but my hand slips in a puddle of congealed liquid and I land on my ass.

Panic stricken, I search the room for something to help slow the flow of blood, but find nothing except remnants of last night’s party. Party is a bit of an overstatement since the ‘party’ consisted only of me, day-old Taco Bell, and the little bit of crystal I could bum from one of my junkie buddies.

My vision fades in and out until I eventually lay back on the floor and concede my fate. It’s a bit surreal. I’m dying yet thoughts continue to race around my mind. I’ve thought about death quite a few times, even tried to bring it about myself, unsuccessfully of course. The itching continues and I labor to bring my arm up to scratch the side of my neck. I dig at the skin there, but nothing relieves the sensation.

My body goes slack. I wait for death to come. I never pictured it like this, it’s quite peaceful actually. Well, at least I’m not suffering like that one guy I saw OD in the alley a few weeks back. That poor bastard seized up in front of all of us, shaking and shitting all over himself. We all just bolted and left him there on the ground, after we went through his pockets, of course.

I close my eyes and realize that it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. I’ll just lie here until it’s all over. My skin stopped itching. This dying shit isn’t so bad after all.

I feel light, almost like I’m floating with no pain or burden. And, dare I say, I feel happy.

Wait a minute. What’s that?

I force my eyes open to find tiny shadows surrounding the room. Whispers drift around me, coming from nowhere in particular, but everywhere at the same time. My skin crawls and an itch with an intensity like I’ve never felt before bites at my neck. I try to move, but it’s no use.

The shadow things scamper around, moving closer to me. My body won’t move no matter how hard I try. One of the things hops onto my chest and leans in close, its ebony eyes overflowing with malicious intent. Before I can react, it slashes a miniscule hand at my neck. It burns with white-hot intensity. I scream, but nothing comes out and the others work into frenzy, howling and jumping around the room, crawling on the walls and ceiling. My skin itches more than it ever has before.

Another strike from the creature brings an even more brutal pain, this time across the side of my face. The other creatures move in and join the one atop my paralyzed body, each in turn swiping their razor-sharp paws across my flesh, every wound more intense than the others. I’m helpless. I can only hope that it’s over soon, because the pain is unbearable. I force a look at my arms and notice that each time the flesh is torn open, it heals only to be ripped open again by the savage little beasts. Continuing to scream within my own mind, realization settles in that this isn’t going to be peaceful, nor will it be quick. The itch will never go away, and neither will these rotten little bastards that are enjoying ripping me to shreds.

 

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Silence

Beneath the shovel, the earth turned easily; he could taste its peaty grittiness along his tongue. The groping fingers of a rainstorm lightly stroked his neck.

He had found the shovel deep in the yard, down near the corner of the shed, at the end of the trail that led him where now he stood. He had followed that trail; it matted the grass down, bent the grass blades, beckoning him forward; there, like an x marking the spot, the shovel, driven into the ground. The top of the handle muddied a shade darker than the rest of the wood; well used.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

Together, they had chosen this idyllic neighborhood, his wife and he, for its rolling hills, colonial houses, for its grocery store where the butcher memorized names, memorized meat cuts for those names, for the church where its worshippers flocked as one, smart in their deep-blue suits, unruffled mauve dresses, for its coffee shop where the scent of dark roast served as opiate for the mind.

Mostly, however, they had chosen this idyllic neighborhood for its silence.

He had never realized how quiet it truly was until they moved into their home, until they unpacked, sorted through their moving boxes, until they made love on wooden floors in empty rooms that did not carry an echo. He had never realized that the open windows delivered only summer’s hot breeze, not the birdcalls from the long limbs of the elms, so pregnant with foliage.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

He had never heard the buzz of passing cars in the street, nor the crickets serenade the night. He had felt the eyes upon his back, however, as he carried the bassinet through the front door, eyes trickling over him as the sweat trickled along his spine, trickling, trickling as he carried the changing table, the dresser then its drawers, the rocker through the front door. He had felt the eyes, saw nothing when he turned. Nothing but sashaying curtains, quivering blinds.

He had never heard the mowers, had never given a second thought how practiced the lush landscapes could remain. Though thoughts and thinking were often difficult when sleep deprived, when thoughts and thinking were disrupted by needy cries of a newborn child.

From their home, his wife cried, cleaving the lulling silence much as the shovel cleaved the lawn.

He had followed that trail, from the front door to where the grass matted down, found the shovel deep in the yard, driven into the ground. He had felt the eyes upon his back as he stood gaping, felt the eyes along his spine, trickling, trickling.

From their home, his wife cried.

Beneath the shovel, the earth turned easily. He tasted dirt. Smelled rain. He called to his wife, stay inside, stay inside, called out above the silence for all in the idyllic neighborhood to hear. He turned, saw nothing. Nothing but sashaying curtains, quivering blinds.

He dug his hole without a further word.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

Lung Berry

What I coughed up quivered like a wad of raspberry jelly. If I looked close enough, which I wouldn’t, I’d probably see little black specks as well, though they were far from seeds. I let my lung berry slide off my palm into the wastebasket by the daybed. My head spun for a moment and I gripped the edge of the mattress, my body tensing, waiting for another round.

It didn’t come.

Praise be. Testify and all that shit.

My lungs rattled like a broken catalytic converter, and were about as reliable as this point. I remember those damned revolting anti-smoking commercials they used to have on TV – back when there was TV. The last thing I needed was to see someone’s moldy neck hole or missing toes, yellowed stumps oozing with infection. They always played them during baseball games, when all I wanted to do was have a bite to eat and smoke my cigar in peace.

They said smoking would kill me.

Ha! Here I am, a goddamn mess but still kicking, and there they are, meat for the Pollywogs. I haven’t heard someone cry out for a while now. The Pollywogs must have gotten them all. Oh, I hear their roars all right, but I’m not afraid. I’m no use to them. Craplungs like me, we got a free pass when those black sperm beasties came charging out of cracks in the earth.

Who said lung cancer was a death sentence? Sure, it would kill me eventually, but better that than having my lungs ripped from me while I was still alive long enough to watch one of those things wolf them down like fat sardines.

There are only two of us left in the apartment building – me and Mrs. Church down in 3B. She’s pushing sixty, a lifelong asthmatic. In other words, a Craplung. We didn’t like each other before the shit hit the fan and don’t pretend to adore one another now. Sure, I bring her those puffers from ravaged drug stores every now and then, but all in all, we keep our distance.

Although there was that day I caught her bending down to pick some broken glass from the floor. Her robe opened up just enough for me to spy two smooth mounds of young looking breasts. I had to stop myself from grabbing them. It wasn’t like she could call the police.

No. Not Mrs. Church. She was only the last woman in the building, not the last woman on Earth. I wasn’t that desperate. Though I did drop a few over my knuckles that night. Too much pressure isn’t good. I think it feeds the cancer or something.

Time to get up. I see the bright pink of dusk outside my grimy window. The little bowl I used to fill with water for my cat Ted is bone dry. Ted went out for a stroll a week ago and he hasn’t been back since. I’d never seen a Pollywog rip the lungs from a cat or dog , but when things were going down, I spent a lot of time running, not observing.

For the past three nights, I’d been searching for Ted, right in the thick of Pollywog feasting time. They steered clear of me, one almost coming within ten feet before literally turning tail. It smelled like sea water, rotting vegetables and some kind of chemical. Not pleasant, but what about them was?

Opening a can of Fancy Feast – shredded chicken in sauce, Ted’s favorite – I grab a flashlight from the peg on the wall, don my fedora (yes, I was a hipster before the world ended) and walk out into bedlam.

I knock on Mrs. Church’s door. “You need anything while I’m out?”

She gives a quick reply. “Yeah, a medium steak from Morton’s.”

I walk away to her laughter. I think she’s becoming a Crazy. This whole situation can break your brain in two. She won’t be a problem. I can take her down if she goes full-on Crazy. Unless it takes her too long to turn and my cancer eats my muscles away. Don’t want that. I add ‘consider taking the old lady out’ to my to-do list. Proactive beat the hell out of reactive.

The night air makes me cough, but not enough to dredge up more lung jelly. Something darts between two cars up ahead. I don’t see it, but I know what it is.

“Here Ted.” I make little susss-susss-suusss sounds. I hear Pollywogs grunting and growling, but no meow.

“This isn’t for you, semen suckers!”

A pair of them round the corner, charging at me. They pull up short well before they get close enough for me to catch their aromatic stench.

“That’s right, Craplung on the prowl. Where the hell is my cat?”

I walk down the block, tapping the can, calling for Ted. Every now and then, I spy a Pollywog and have a little one-way conversation before it scampers away.

It’s then I realize, maybe I’m one of the Crazies. Who the fuck goes looking for a cat, blabbering to beasts from the planet’s center?

I get tired easy. I have to lean against a wire fence to catch my breath. I chuck the cat food over the fence. Maybe Ted will find it later. Maybe he’ll smell my scent and come back to where the rest of the food is.

I feel a humdinger of a coughing fit coming on, close my eyes and will it away. My lungs hitch painfully, but I don’t give in.

When I regain some equilibrium, I open my eyes.

A Pollywog, its black eyes inches from my own, stands before me. Up close, the smell is worse than ever. Its flesh looks wet, catching rainbows like spilled oil. Its tail swishes back and forth, sweeping empty cans and trash under a parked Honda.

The cough hits me like a rabbit punch. A fat gob of lung berry propels from my mouth, splattering on the Pollywog. It shrieks like a classroom of girls having a tub of tarantulas dumped on them.

As it runs away, I scream, “Chicken shit!”

Chuckling as I make my way back, I think I’ll reward my brush with the big bad Pollywog by demanding Mrs. Church shows me her tits. We may be the last of a dying race, but we’re still in charge. Might as well make the most of it.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved

Great Nyctaeus

The Number Forty-Nine lurches as it pulls away from the curb. Hydraulics hiss, and through the settling fog Max makes out brake lights, blinking indifferently in the drizzle. Teeth clenched, he gives chase, struggling against the stream of evening commuters.

Men and women obscure his way, laden with laptop cases and rucksacks, lost in their cell phones, oblivious to all but the hot jargon blowing from their mouths. He breaks from the crowd in time to see another flash of faltering brake lights in the fog. Then the bus slides into the haze and is gone.

Frustration flares inside him, to be swallowed by a void of overwhelming helplessness. Running a hand through his wet hair, he wishes again that he had left the office earlier. There had been a team brief. That file he could not leave unfinished, the conversation with Frederick in the meeting room, it all seems meaningless now in the absence of his lift home. The rain picks up, driving him to take cover beneath the bus shelter. A mad whinny, perhaps the screech of car tyres, fills the street.

In the wake of the six-ten, the shelter is abandoned. Max takes a seat on one of the benches, then stands and wanders over to the timetable. Graffiti obscures the arrival times beneath green stars and ugly swear-words. The next bus might be ten minutes or forty. His shoulder finds the metal post, cold but supportive, and for a moment he is tempted to wait. With a little luck he could be home within the hour.

The thought no sooner enters his mind when he turns up his collars, steps out beneath the sky, and makes for the nearest Underground station. Luck has not been on his side today.

The rain is merciless, and in moments he is drenched. His navy jacket darkens, his white shirt clinging to him like a second transparent skin. The commuter current drags him along.

The street blurs around him. Men and women become base silhouettes; shadows of people glimpsed in his periphery. Shapes sag, stooped against the weather, darkening like his jacket, and it is easy to imagine the rain is responsible; soaking the street, weighing it down, waterlogging the pavement and the people forced to use it. The fog lingers around the road, a blank canvas into which the silhouettes vanish, or reappear suddenly, chased into sight again by headlights and the breathy snort of car engines.

The entrance to the Underground yawns ahead. The current pulls him closer, and even though it is raining, and the station is his destination, he cannot help the wave of panic that crashes over him. Bodies press closer as the stream narrows; flesh and blood and corporate bones digging into his ribs, knocking his shoulders, finding the small of his back. As he approaches the turnstiles, he fumbles in his wallet for the monthly pass that will activate them. Then he is through them, and stepping onto an escalator.

He hates the Underground. If the city’s streets are its thumbprints then these subterranean channels are surely the bare soles of its feet; cankerous, black with grime and ripe with trapped human smells. He detects sweat, and smoke, and the imagined flavour of despair in this place where people crowd and the wind cannot reach –

Despair, but not darkness. Fluorescent strip bulbs line the ceilings, built into the brick or guarded behind strips of wire-mesh, their harsh light as merciless as the deluge outside, every cracked tile, every broken bottle, every billboard plastered with adverts illuminated in the unforgiving brightness. More graffiti covers one of the tunnel walls, language and art reduced to expletives in this place where there is no air and it is never dark –

A train roars through the station without stopping, and he realises he’s standing on the platform. He doesn’t remember stepping from the escalator or escaping the current, but he is here. Carriages shudder past, axles rocking, and he finds rhythm in their terrible speed. He thinks of carousels, and their bobbing steeds, and the motion of real steeds thundering across open fields with nothing but the breeze in their manes and the vast empty sky overhead for company. He used to ride, when he was little and he would visit his grandparents in Sussex.

He knows what it feels like, to take off with an animal and say goodbye to everyone and everything left behind. He didn’t appreciate it then, of course, but increasingly he has been remembering it now. He clings to the memory, covering himself with it, drawing it into him, soothing against his tired skin.

The times on the electronic board inform him that his train is due. He hears it first, its arrival announced by something halfway between a sigh and a mechanical scream. Then the carriages slide into view and he finds himself stepping on-board and finding a seat.

The inside of the carriage is no less bright than the rest of the station. Each seat is mostly plastic, with a covering of something intended to be softer. Stains and daily wear have made the fabric almost unidentifiable. He finds a seat at the far end, slightly away from the other passengers, as the train sets off again.

Alone, he stares at his reflection in the glass window opposite him. In the blackness of the tunnel, the window is a mirror. The harsh light is as unforgiving to his face as it was to the rest of the station. The bags under his eyes are heavy and dark, his skin pale, lips tight. Any traces of humour have been banished by the missed bus. Any traces of youth have been drained by the long day. He thinks again of his grandparents’ house in Sussex, and the horses in their stables, and the young boy who rode them. Eagerly, perhaps desperately, he searches his reflection, looking for some sign that his younger self lives yet, somewhere inside.

“Where are you?” he asks, watching the slight movement of his lips. “Where are you now?”

Lights flash behind the speeding carriage windows, and for a moment he thinks he sees something else through the glass; a horse’s head, thrown back, lips speckled with froth and blood. The glass clouds with hot breath as another giddy scream fills his ears. Then the train is slowing again, and he realises it is braking. Standing, he moves towards the door.

The rest of the carriage is empty. He does not know how long he has been sitting here, or which station they are pulling into. The name of their destination appears on a small screen above the connecting doors but the letters swim in and out of focus. Rubbing his eyes, he fumbles for the button that opens the carriage doors and disembarks.

The platform is similarly empty. He moves slowly towards the stairwell, possessed by the insane notion that he is on an abandoned film set after hours. His life up to this point feels like an act, a supporting part in someone else’s show, or less than that; a walk-on role for which he is not even acknowledged afterwards. He repeats his name to himself, to prove that it is real and it is his. The word echoes around him.

“Max-Max-Max-Max-Max…”

He is at the bottom of the stairs when he hears another sound in the station. Turning, he cranes his head. He is still alone, but the sound is clearer now, growing louder from the darkness either side of the empty train: the casual clatter of hooves against metal.

A part of him is drawn to the darkness of the tunnel. It seems an impossible thing here, where the harsh lights are unfaltering. In darkness there is comfort; respite enough from the rest of the world to draw real breath and find relief. It would be an easy thing, to wander to the edge of the platform and climb down. Then he hears the clip-clop of hooves again, and heavy breaths. When two white eyes appear, floating in the gloom, he turns and flees.

The steps are slippery, or perhaps it is his haste that makes him trip and fall. With delayed dream-momentum he stumbles away, up the stairs and the escalator long since switched off for the night. He races past the turnstiles, all set to open, and into the night-time street.

He does not stop running. He cannot remember ever having run so fast or with such wild abandon. Nor is he quite sure what he’s running from. He cannot see his pursuer but he hears its snorts, feels the warmth of its breath on his face and in his mouth. He tastes blood and sugar-cubes. Puddles shatter underfoot.

It has stopped raining, at least. The fog has lifted, too, the city glistening as though iced. He races faster through the streets, sometimes stumbling, other times reaching new found speeds, but the alleyways are never-ending. He wonders if he could run forever and still not escape, if there will always be another road, another side-walk, another set of street-lights illuminating his face, casting shadows beneath his eyes.

Headlights turn into the road ahead, and through a different kind of fog he remembers something; lateness, another run, the bus he should have caught to take him home. Lowering his head, he gives chase. The wind tousles his hair. The sound of his shoes marries with that of hoof-beats in the night.

It might be the same bus and it might not; the detail does not seem remotely relevant anymore. Exhilaration presses at his ribs, his belly, running like electricity through his limbs.

He remembers other missed buses, and board meetings in which his colleagues may as well have been speaking different languages. He remembers missing files and the inane chatter that spills from Frederick’s mouth whenever his colleague corners him in his office. He remembers the helplessness that consumed him, when he realised that he had missed his lift home. But he is not helpless now. In the cold night, with the wind in his hair and his eyes, he feels free.

The bus is slow, and in moments he has caught up with it. As he pulls parallel to the vehicle, he catches sight of his reflection again in the row of windows and finds himself changed. Slabs of muscle in his legs ripple with each stride, a vast belly swinging beneath him, hooves striking fiercely against the ground: Great Nyctaeus, reborn of this modern Hades!

Moonlight picks out his monstrous shape in majesty; slender but powerful as he thunders onwards. His eyes gleam like two pearls in his head. He glances once more at the windows, tossing back his broad neck. Pink foam from his muzzle flecks the glass.

A dream flits through his head: the sight of an open field beneath empty skies. Then it is gone again. Charging ahead, nostrils flaring, he chases the night through dark satanic streets.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2015 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved

Damned Words 12

ground_copyright
Trail Runner
Craig McGray

Mother Nature’s realm, the one place I feel at home and alive and deadly. I lie in wait. I’m anxious yet patient because I know one will come, and when she does, the waiting will make it all the more sweet. The anticipation builds until I feel like I may burst. Ah, here comes one now. Her shoes pressing into the moist soil and the pebbles crunching beneath her feet triggers my pulse to race out of control. Mmm. I slide the blade across my palm, the pain further heightening my senses. So beautiful, so alive. She has no idea.


Hands
Magenta Nero

Unmarked is the spot but I know the way, I walk there every night in my dreams. Twigs snap under foot, the lush canopy overhead casts dappled light on stones. Nobody knows your resting place and nobody misses you it seems. I return to unearth you, piece by piece, as on my mind the memories play. Carefully I take your hand in mine again. The knotted bones of our fingers slip together and lock. Your hand so thin, white and smooth, the flesh eaten away. My hand soft, pink and lined with the dirt of words I dare not say.


Wholesome Death
Zack Kullis

He huddled between the bush and his meal and snorted his frustration. Nocturnal eyes glared as the light spread across the ground and chased his protective darkness away. Grom dropped the glob of intestines and looked around for the hole to his clan’s subterranean home.

“Piss,” he gurgled.

Grom started to claw furiously at the elk’s belly, thinking he could hide inside the bloody carcass. He pulled out a pile of guts and dove inside just as the sun rose.

His large eyes peered out from the gore, hateful of the poisonous light that bathed the clearing in wholesome death.


Berserkers
Tyr Kieran

I spotted dragons on the water and rang the alarm—hammering the bell with all my strength—but, they were too fast. They hit the shore running, swatting away our arrows like pesky flies. Their strength and size was terrible to behold. We sent a barrage of prayers, efforts in futility as even God was outnumbered by their one-eyed Odin and his troop of Gods. Few survivors were taken, loot for the barter like gold and silver. I saw it all from the tower before fleeing into the forest where I lived out my days in fear of their return.


Street Walker
Thomas Brown

The woods sing to him, and their song is the howl of wild dogs. He wakes to it in his single apartment bed, nine floors above the city, and in the artificial pallor of the subway after long days at work.

There was a time when he wondered where the sounds came from, and why. Then he realised it was him. In this cold, grey place, he bore the forest in his flesh. He is the bear, the crow, the lone wolf with ravenous appetite.

In the relative dark of moonless nights, he hunts well by the glow of streetlamps.


Can You See Me?
Jon Olson

Can you see me? Nobody has yet. Look at that scenery. Rocks spread out like a carpet; foliage draped like tapestries; and sunshine illuminating a path. It looks peaceful, beautiful, undisturbed. Families walk through, children laughing with their parents unsuspecting. Who would feel the need to keep their guard up? This is their leisure, their getaway… and my hunting ground. They are my prey, carefree and oblivious to the danger; unaware of my presence. Slipping silently through the trees, I stalk, then strike. Their fear fills my nostrils; their blood my mouth; their screams my ears. Can you see me?


Intone
Joseph A. Pinto

I will not sing; listen if you wish to, but not today. Empty promises have turned me into a joke and I have finally bought into my own foreshadowing, granted the chance to call my parting shot. I struggle to realize this paradise surrounding me, struggle to be soothed under these vigilant boughs. But you had to know this day would come eventually, did you not? Don’t act surprised when you find me melded with the pores of the earth. Sit at the bole of this tree, write the lyrics I could never mouth, intone the good life I deserved.


Festering Evil
Blaze McRob

Twisted variants of nature rest, their moment of revenge at hand. Those responsible for the ruination of what they once were will pay the ultimate price.

Sunshine rocks the ravine, giving a false sense of bliss to anyone who might wander this way. Evil lurks, festering in the trees and rocks, licking its lips in anticipation of what is to come.

Foot plants sound, steady, unaware. The fool comes closer, not able to see the creatures blending so well into the rocks and trees. In a fraction of a second, the young man drops.

The polished stones drip with blood…


Aftertaste
Hunter Shea

Under the loose stones I laid her down to sleep – my rock, my love. Down the path where we once walked, two souls at nature’s end. To the place we shared our wonder, our hopes, and on that final day, my secret.

I wonder if the worms have hatched, wriggling from her flesh. Prying a stone from the wet earth, I breathe deep, lick its soiled bottom, feel the beetles skitter along my tongue.

Ah, it’s her taste I miss the most.

Was it wrong to tell her my fantasies? My desire to one day consume her fruited body?

Perhaps.


Prize
Nina D’Arcangela

Strike, squeal, wrap – a struggle to breath; it mistakenly exhales. Tighten the coil; death comes swiftly. I feast. My stomach distends; I lie baking in warm bliss. The day’s shine scuttles away; my body cools in concert. I follow, sluggishly laden with my prize. Smooth rocks caress my underbelly; a shedding begins. I slowly work my way through the the maze: peeling, sloughing, morphing; revealing. A tremor travels through the stone bed; my senses heighten. No rustle, no sound, only deep vibration. It approaches. The trail of flesh betrays me; a single glance ends me – the Basilisk is upon me.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2015
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The Lie

Screeching tires broke through the tunes raging in Mark’s headphones. He lifted a middle finger before he raised his eyes to see who was honking at him.

“Get the hell out of the road asshole,” screamed the man as he drove away.

Mark pulled the headphones off as he watched the car. It belonged to a guy down the road. A reckless grin crossed Mark’s face. He would take care of that later. Mark looked at the house as he walked up to the front door.

It had never felt like his house – like a home. The immaculate lawn, trees and bushes trimmed, even the rocks looked like they had been categorized and placed carefully. If there were a 10th circle in Dante’s Inferno, Mark thought, it would have been suburbia.

***

A store-bought scent filled the air as he walked in through the front door. Today’s candle gave off the scent of baked apple pie. Mark scoffed. The oven was for display only. A noise from one of the back rooms caught Mark’s attention.

“Shit,” he mumbled as he put the headphones back on and held his backpack tighter. “They’re back early.”

Mark hurried to the stairs. The parental units made it to the bottom of the stairs just as he reached the top. He moved quickly down the hall while his hands drummed a heavy musical beat against the backpack. The music wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of feet stomping up the stairs. Mark knew the telltale sound of disgust and loathing in their heavy footfalls. He made it to his door before the headphones were yanked off his head from behind.

“I said turn that sorry excuse for music off when you are in this house,” said Steve. It was Dad only if there was company.

“Sorry,” Mark said through clenched teeth, “I have algebra and was getting in the mood to do pointless bullshit.”

***

Beth, Mother when occasion called, pasted a faux smile on as she stood next to Steve.

“We came home early because there is something we need to talk to you about.” Beth’s lips and eyes twitched as she exchanged one counterfeit grin for another.

Mark turned his music up as he replied. “I’ll work on my algebra for an hour and then come downstairs. Something smells great down there.”

Beth’s face scrunched with confusion. Steve looked suspicious. Mark stepped into his room as he continued. “Smells like pie or something. I love it when you bake.”

He closed the door, but Steve opened it just enough for his face to show and glared at Mark. “You have 45 minutes or we will come up here.”

***

Mark closed the door again, opened his backpack and pulled out his bong. The water sloshed against the sides as he prepared the water pipe. The meeting with the parental units just begged for a large hit. He was tired of the lies.

Once the bong was ready, he put flame to the bud. Mark sucked deep and watched as the clear chamber filled with smoke. He dropped the lighter onto his bed and was about to open the window when he decided it was time. The bed creaked as Mark sat down and removed his finger from the carb. The chamber quickly emptied of the white smoke as Mark pulled it all into his lungs. He held it in until his head started to swim.

“It’s time for the truth,” Mark said. His words were carried away on a cloud as he tried to decide what to do. Thoughts bounced around in his head like a pinball machine. Most of those thoughts shied away when he tried to reach for them. Only one remained clear. Truth.

He ground more bud and filled the bowl. Truth was bold and brutal. Mark knew brutal, now it was time for bold. He grabbed his lighter and opened the door. Steve and Beth were downstairs talking.

“… a bad kid.”

“Adoption was a stupid idea…”

“… time to get rid of him.”

He almost laughed. This was going to be great. Mark started noisily down the steps. The talking below stopped, but he’d give them something to talk about. Mark reached the bottom of the stairs and walked into the kitchen. Beth and Steve looked shocked. Mark lit the bud and inhaled a full load. Smoke erupted from his lips as he spoke.

“Now that is how you bake.”

“You sorry piece of shit,” Steve screamed.

Beth had no more bogus smiles. “We give you everything and this is how you repay us? Well, now it’s time for the truth. We adopted you when you were little, thinking we could raise you to be like us. But it wasn’t possible. You’re a bad kid.” Beth’s voice was full of relief.

Steve jammed a finger at Mark’s chest. “We were going to wait until you turned eighteen, but neither of us can stand you anymore. Get out!”

“Since it’s time for the truth,” Mark said coldly, “it’s my turn to share.”

“What more could you share? You’re just a rotten kid.”

A sinister smile crawled across Mark’s face and a shadow fell over his eyes. “That is my lie. The lie. You have no idea how bad I am. Let me show you my truth.”

Mark swung the bong and broke it against Steve’s head. Shards of glass opened his forehead with a splash of blood and gouged out one of his eyes. Mark pulled a knife out of his pocket and slashed the blade across Steve’s neck. Beth was about to scream when Mark jumped up and grabbed her throat with a crushing grip. He turned and watched Steve’s movements go from strong and spastic to weak and sporadic. It didn’t take long for the blood to stop flowing and his twitching extremities to relax.

Mark looked back at Beth, shoved her back against the fridge, and slowly stuck the blade underneath her sternum. He breathed quietly and looked deep into her eyes as she kicked and convulsed.

“Is it better to live with a lie, or die with the truth?”

Beth’s reply wouldn’t matter. Mark was free because he already knew the answer.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Everyone’s A Victim

Smelling salts woke her. Despite the thick fabric covering her head, the ammonia burned strong in her sinuses. It was a smell she knew well; she used it on a regular basis. Her first attempts to move failed. She was bound with her wrists restrained behind her. An overhead light provided little more than a shadowy figure through the hood.

“Welcome back, Ms. Kline.” The voice of a long-time smoker rasped.

The woman struggled against her bonds, nearly capsizing the chair.

“I suggest you settle down a bit,” he said. “Otherwise, I may be forced to do something I wasn’t planning on.”

“What is this?” she shouted back. “Let me go!”

She watched as a thick hand reached out to her and ripped the pillowcase from her head. She winced and turned away from the brighter light. After a moment of blinking, she whirled back around, flinging a verbal assault as she turned, “Fuck you, you so—”

She fell silent.

The sight of him caught her off guard. A middle-aged, obese man stood before her wearing nothing but off-white briefs and rubber boots. The random patchwork of hair on his body and chin glistened with sweat. His mouth rested in a subtle smile, but his eyes glared at her with a palpable intensity.

When she tore her eyes away, she realized she was without clothes as well. Naked and bound, she was sitting in a small space with masonry walls that reminded her of the little coal closet in her grandfather’s basement. This one, however, was lined by a collage of pornography clippings.

“Can you feel how special this place is?” he asked.

She stared at him in silence.

“Here, I can make people see me. Out there, you looked right through me as if I were a ghost. But here, in here, I get all the attention.”

The man stepped closer and caressed her cheek. He let his chubby fingers slide along her skin, all the way down her torso as he watched her. She gave no response, only continued her emotionless stare.

“You know, most women I bring here weep incessantly or pull away from my touch.” He stepped back and gestured to a small table against the wall. Its surface held an array of grimy tools. “That is, until I break them.”

Still no reaction came from the bound woman.

His arrogant smile faded. With all playfulness gone, he snatched up a paring knife and stepped toward her again, this time leaning close; face to face.

“This is the only place on Earth where Heaven and Hell coexists. Your body and your pain will bring me rapture, while no amount of pleading or bargaining will exclude you from this Hell!”

He pressed the blade against her shoulder until it broke the skin with a subtle pop. Blood beaded on the surface. Still, she gave no reaction.

He brought the knife between them, showing it to her, shaking it in front of her face. “Tonight we will share lots of pain. You will not hold silent for long!”

In a swift motion that he only saw as a blur in his periphery, the woman brought her arms around and shoved his knife wielding hand upward. The blade pierced the underside of his chin and he tumbled back against the wall. Before his body settled to the floor she ripped the knife out of him and cut her ankle bonds.

She stood over him, untangling the remaining rope from her wrists while watching him try to figure out what just took place.

“You know, you had me going at first.” She said in a calm tone. “I thought the cops finally caught up to me.”

“How?” he asked with blood gurgling in his throat.

“Learn your knots better… and use thinner rope.” She said, tossing the scraps at him. “As much as it pains me to say this, we’re a lot alike, you and me. Except, I like to play the victim until all the dark desires come out. It’s so much fun to use their interests against them.”

“W-well,” the fat man gurgled, “maybe we could—”

“No, no,” she said laughing. “No amount of pleading or bargaining will get you out of this. Heaven and Hell will still happen, just not the way you had planned.”

She picked up the tiny packet of smelling salts and inhaled deeply.

“Goddamn, that gets me fired up! I’ll save the rest for you, though; you’re going to need it.”

With a smile, she grabbed the utility saw off of the table and went to work.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

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