He sits in the bell tower: watching, waiting; scenting the air.
It has been far too long since his last meal, not because he hungers, but because he craves. So many years of eating spoiled meat, the rotted flesh of the dead; so much time held in subjugation, fearing the wrath of a god that does not exist – these things no longer shackle him, he no longer recognizes a master other than his own desire. However, the invasion of his privacy, his sanctuary, after the last frenzy came to light has forced him to stay his hand, to crawl back into the warren beneath the ground to avoid unwanted attention; as well as forced an unnatural silent abandonment of his home. This is his true birthplace – the place he shed the bonds of superstition and started living for himself; he is loath to leave it.
So he sits in the bell tower of the old church that boarders his domicile and he waits.
A fog sits heavy upon the ground this night, cloaking all but the nearest object, masking all but the loudest sound – but not to his senses. He sees and hears with a sharpness the pathetic human rabble can’t even comprehend. Frustration and anger setting in, he is about to descend from his perch when he hears it…
“Come on! I know you’re scared, but do you want to go back and let him beat you again?” The boy’s hushed voice asks, “I’m not gonna let him hurt me again, and I don’t wanna let him hurt you.”
Her small hand trembling in his, one only slightly larger than the other, she looks to her older brother through the mist with tears running over her chubby, flushed cheeks. “No… I don’ wanna let Uncle hurt you or me no more. But Mommy and Daddy said we should stay there. That man read it from the special paper. The paper that said Uncle was s’posed to take care of us until they came back.” Tucking her head into the dirty teddy bear she clutches in the crook of her arm, she begins to sob – small feet trying to keep pace with her brother.
“Look, Mom and Dad aren’t coming back. That man with the paper said they are dead – do you know what that means? Dead!” Hearing her wail even louder, he stops for a moment to kneel in front of her. “Look, I’m sorry I yelled at you, and I’m sorry I said mom and dad are dead so mean like that, but it’s the truth – I know you don’t want it to be true, I don’t want it to be true, but it is. So now it’s just you and me, and we gotta protect ourselves.”
“Uncle is s’posed to protect us…” she shouts, spittle flying from her swollen pink lips.
Jumping up and clamping a hand over her mouth, he tells her to hush. Tells her that if anyone hears them, they’ll be sent back to Uncle’s house and he’ll beat them for trying to run away. He tells her he’s bringing her to say goodbye to their mom and dad before finding them a new safe home where they don’t have to worry about being afraid of a backhand that will tear her cheek open, or a strap that will leave him too sore to sit for days. Gently rubbing his thumb over her injured face, he sees it begin to bleed again. “C’mon,” he yanks her small arm out of anger; anger at himself, anger at their parents for dying and leaving them on their own. “We’re doing this and you had better stop crying about it or I won’t let you say goodbye to Mom and Dad. Do you understand?” This last statement hushes her bawling, and she nods her head as hiccups and quiet shudders escape with her heaving chest and still watering eyes.
Feeling ashamed of scaring her into silence, he puts his head down and starts walking once more.
Listening all the while, the Ghoul’s quills vibrate with the stuttering rhythm of her nearly imperceptible weeping. They are headed his way; where else would dear old Mom and Dad be if not in his burial ground? One clawed nail rap-tap-taps on the exterior metal of the bell before scratching its way down the surface, sending out an eerie wail of protest from the bronze. He begins making his way to the ground.
“I can’t go no more,” she protests as she plunks herself down upon the sidewalk.
“We’re almost there,” he replies as he pulls on her arm trying to get her to stand. “I told you to put on sneakers not those silly shoes. Now, come on, get up.”
“I like my pretty shoes, momma gave them to me! She said they were my princess shoes!” The bear is thrown; her arms cross her chest in protest. Looking into her face, he can see he’s made another mistake; her lips are curling, cheeks puffing up, and eyes beginning to squint for yet another outburst.
“Shh.” Finger to his lips, he bends down. “I’ll carry you and you don’t have to worry about walking. Okay?” he pleads, hoping she won’t start screaming this close to their destination.
From the fog, another voice answers, “Let me. I’m much stronger and I believe where you are headed is just over to the left.” Both children freeze in terror, trying to peer through the dense fog to see who is addressing them.
Slowly, walking with a paced gate, a hunched figure begins to emerge. Holding the teddy bear out in front of it, it speaks to them once again. “I have your toy animal, would you like it back? And if you are tired, I can easily carry the both of you.” He comes into partial view – the boy pisses himself, the girl begins to giggle.
“Are you a giant talking puppy?”
The hair along his spine bristles in protest, “No child, I am not a giant puppy. I am something entirely other. But I can pretend to be a puppy if you’d like?” Sensing the boy’s need to flee, the creature reaches out a hand and lays it heavily on his shoulder. Addressing the little girl once more, he inquires, “Would you like to ride on me the rest of the way so that your pretty shoes don’t hurt your feet? You can pretend I’m a puppy, I don’t mind.” He grins, being sure to keep his lips sealed, hiding his teeth.
The girl leaps from the ground, and after reclaiming her teddy bear, climbs upon him. Gritting his teeth at the indignity, he allows the grin to slip as he stares the boy in the eye.
“Okay puppy, let’s go,” she kicks his flanks with her wooden orthopedic shoes and clutches tiny fistfuls of his highly sensitive hair. Bearing the humiliation, he nearly drags the boy along as they proceed to the graveyard.
Reaching the field-stone wall, he bounds over with the one child holding firmly to his back while tossing the boy onto the grass. Retrieving him once more, the Ghoul asks for the name of their parents.
The little girl pipes up that her mommy’s name is Rose as she pulls and stretches his skin with tiny digging fingers. Finding his humor for this game fading fast, he draws the boy close to his face and, with much malice in his tone, asks again for their parents name. The boy replies that it is Rose – their last name is Rose. Their mother is Chistina and their father is Benjamin.
Breathing fetid breath into the boy’s face, he mocks, “I guess that makes you little Bennjie then, doesn’t it?”
“His name is Christopher… he was named after mommy. Do you want to know my name? Do ya? Do ya, puppy?” The growl that issues from his throat is not intended, but he does not bother to cut it short, either. The small girl stops laughing and becomes still. With his free hand, he reaches around and plucks her from his back. Lifting the boy with in his other hand, he begins to bound toward the portion of the cemetery where they may be interred.
Reaching the proper area, he slows and asks the boy where their marker is. There is no response. He glances down and sees the boy’s vacant stare. “Well, point then if you are too much a dullard to speak in my grasp.” The boy motions slightly with his head; the creature nods as he recalls the planting of the Roses’ and their elegant yet modest gravestone. Striding to where they rest, he tosses both children to the ground.
“Here you are children, reunited with Mommy and Daddy once again. I believe I overheard you discussing saying goodbye to them before moving on, is that correct, Bennjie?”
Rushing to her bother to clasp her arms around his neck, the little girl defiantly states, “I told you his name is not Bennjie! His name is Christopher!” Her face is red once more, in anger this time. “You’re just a big meanie – a monster that no one likes!”
A full grin splits the Ghoul’s face this time, his teeth glinting with saliva. The girl stares, not comprehending.
“I beg your pardon, my sweet one. I’ll ask again. Christopher, is this or is this not the grave of your parents?” He takes one knee before the children, placid, calm. Christopher nods once.
With lighting speed, the demon whirls and punches a fist through the packed earth, through the lid of the uppermost casket and rips dear mommy from the grave. Her putrescent corpse drips a trail of pealing tissue and carries a noxious fume as he holds it before them. Both stare in terror.
“Well go on, give mommy a kiss goodbye. That’s what you came here for, isn’t it? To say goodbye… here is your chance. You don’t want it? Don’t you think Mommy would like a hug and a kiss before you ungrateful little shits disobey her and your father’s wishes? Hmm?” He growls, “No takers,” and flashed his fangs in full display.
“Fine, I’ll just give your Mommy a goodbye kiss for you.” And with that, he turns and bites clean through the front portion of her skull, ripping the still clinging sinew and tissue away with a horrendous sucking sound amid the crunching of bone.
Turning back, he leers at both children before spitting their mother’s face onto the ground at their side.
The little girl begins to screech hysterically while clutching her brother. With a flick of his forefinger, he silences her by sending her tiny body tumbling several graves away. The boy has still not moved; he sits frozen, gaping at his decaying mother.
“Damn!” the Ghoul declares as he tosses the corpse at the boy’s feet. He stares at the small girl, hoping he hasn’t killed her. He detests eating dead flesh. After a moment or two, he sees slight movement and hears the beginnings of a groan. As the faint groan develops to a moan, adrenaline courses through him. In a leap, he is upon the child. He lifts her by her head and with two strides is back at her brother’s side.
She screams hysterically for Christopher to help her while clutching her auburn capped head. Growing tired of her ceaseless kicking and the cacophony emitting from such a small mouth, the creature starts to squeeze her cranium until she can no longer screech. The kicking – now only a spastic jerking motion. Easing his grip, her body relaxes but her feet continue their odd peddling.
Holding the child before his gruesome, viscera covered face, the Ghoul asks the little girl to tell him her name. Her blank stare gives him the answer he seeks – the child is no longer capable of comprehension, the pressure on her skull too great; it has deadened her brain. Wide eyed like a porcelain doll, she stares back at him, drool puddling in her gaping mouth, and overflowing her lower lip.
Without removing his eyes from the little girl, he asks Christopher to tell him her name. Listlessly Christopher replies, “Deborah. Her name is Deborah, but everyone calls her Orie.” The monster lets out a resounding cackle, leans forward and delicately pinches Orie’s pink tongue between his front teeth. Once he has a firm hold on it, he slowly pulls backward until it, and a portion of her esophagus, tears free from her tiny body. With a slapping sound, it strikes his chest. Slowly, sucking bite by sucking bite, he consumes the delicate morsel. The drool now runs red with blood.
Bending down in front of Christopher, the creature asks if the boy would like to say goodbye to his sister. Christopher turns his head away.
The Ghoul bites into Orie’s face as though it were a ripe tomato. Juice spurts in all directions. Holding the small body to his mouth, he sucks it dry until there is no more fluid to take. Wanting to get to the organs before they cool, he rips the stomach cavity open and begins plucking them out one by one; the smallest he grabs in handfuls like raisins. After finally sucking the bones clean of their marrow, he tosses them to the side and turns his attention back to Christopher once more.
Sounds echo in the distance, Uncle must have discovered them missing and assumed they’d run to the cemetery.
The blood smeared visage before Christopher speaks to him again. “You know your legs are useless. You know they, and your spine, were shattered on the grave markers as we traveled to this place, yet you didn’t tell your sister even when she begged you to save her. Why? Why let her die thinking you didn’t care?”
“Does it matter?”
Considering the boy, the Ghoul reaches out and rips off his left leg, then the right. He laps the blood pouring from the arteries, then just as with the girl, he slices the stomach and chest cavity open. The child’s heart beats at an alarming rate, his breath rapid and shallow, his lungs gasping for air as his mind tries to process what his body can no longer feel. Looking the demon in the eyes, he speaks his final words.
“At least I won’t go to waste, huh?”
With his hand wrapped around the boy’s heart, the beast replies, “No, you certainly will not. The trouble you children have brought me will force me back into the warrens once again. But you and your sister made for a scrumptious snack.” Leering in pleasure, he rips the heart from the boy’s chest, devours it whole, then fades back into the fog.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved
Droplets of water, impure at best, having been defiled by the pollutants above my present sanctuary, drip annoyingly around me. I bounce around like a child trying to avoid becoming ‘it’ in a game of tag. What is this annoying sport I am forced to play? Me, the Dark Angel, ruler of the sky above.
A ruler – that was yesterday, one so seemingly far back that mere remnants of recollection scratch at my mind. We live in the present, no better off for what once was. The future means naught either. The now; the manifestation of what is… that is what we are left with.
Listen to me, pandering on like a pathetic whiner instead of the glorious creature I am. Control! I need to take control of what surrounds me: seize it from the one who is depriving me of my birthright.
The ceiling of my inglorious cave refuses to cease its watery supplication to one who could be ruler of the sky above and of the land below. Yes, I could have ruled alongside him, but that would have meant a denigration of my status. I would have been a mere titular ornament.
Truth be known, I would have been nothing more than a slut at his beck and call. A woman of my superior stature, a Dark Angel born to rule, need not accept that.
Fresh air blows in through the cave opening, carrying with it the scent of love in the making, an aroma I have waited for far too long. If nothing else, I need to leave this place and get ready for my new now. I need to find this sensation for myself and carve out my kingdom.
Walking towards the opening of my cave, I find the sky to be dark when I venture outside. Ah, the perfect time of day for me. I stand bare naked. When I escaped his arms, I was left with nothing, forced to retreat with none of my former entourage either. How I long for their groveling at my feet, hoping to please me and curry my favor.
Pain strikes me as I unfold my wings. Too many years of not being used have relegated them to the arthritic state that the miscreant humans suffer as they age.
This is my time of rebirth – the pain means nothing.
One by one, my Dark feathers unfurl, telling me of their desire to fulfill their obligation to my wants and needs. Yes, individually they remember, and collectively they rejoice at my decision to take back what is mine. Like a tiger stretching in anticipation of the hunt, they become one force and ready themselves for what I expect of them.
My wings spread far as a smile crosses my face. Power… the power is being restored to me once more. My mind has wakened from its dormancy and is fully aware, and with it my body, that of a Queen preparing to ascend her throne once again. I shake off the inactivity of the past years.
Walking to the edge of the abyss wherein the valley lies before me, I jump out over the edge, feeling the rush as I fall, before allowing my wings to take flight. I soar, reveling in the slowly building majesty of the power my physicality adds to the ever-increasing strength of my mind, one that mere mortals could never hope to achieve.
I fly for hours, gaining strength and wisdom with each passing moment. The now. I exist for the moment. I have discarded the tarnished memories that would cling to me. Yesterday is slop for the sow; today is freedom.
Daybreak is approaching and with it, I will now be visible to the rabble below. It matters not to me – clothed or bare – I wish to bathe and remove the repugnant desecration coating my body.
A bubbling spring presents itself to me. Upon reaching it, I dip my right wing in and then my left, allowing the ebony appendages to warm the water to a soothing level. Ah, the majestic rising bubbles act like cleansing sponges, working their magic on every inch of my body.
Feelings and desires long forgotten rush back to me. They tug from every direction. My thighs twitch in anticipation of being satisfied by a playmate of my choice. My breasts rise to the top of the water; nipples harden and scream out in supplication. Yes, a lover is needed, one who will do as I wish by want for the sheer delight of pleasing me. A lust born of devotion; one devoid of all control.
But, there is much to do before the moment comes for me to sate my desires.
Foot falls approach as I am enjoying my prolonged bath to the fullest. Every step and pause relayed to my hyper-senses; my wing tips bristle in anticipation of what is to come. Another approaches from the opposite direction. Tsk, tsk…stupid vermin. A trick such as this will gain them nothing.
I wait until they have almost approached my position before I open my eyes. Both of them have a look of evil intent, a look not hidden from me as I see through to their souls.
“I did not invite you two to share my bath,” I say, making sure my lips are luscious and full as I leer at them mischievously.
One of them disrobes, steps into the spring. Faster than either of them can comprehend, my wing reaches him and slices his torso from the lower extremities of his body. A parody of the jester, both halves acting independently of each other, arms and legs working to achieve escape: a wish not to be granted. Before his worthless soul departs his body, I reach out as my right wing plucks out an eyeball. Popping it into my mouth, I enjoy the luscious tidbit as his other eye watches in horror.
His companion defecates his pants as he reaches the brush to add a coating of vile vomit to them.
“Would you like to join your friend?” I ask. “Or perhaps you might like to leave.”
Nodding up and down like the coward he is, he begins to run away. I land in his path and hand him the useless arm of his dead co-conspirator. He stutter-steps to a complete halt, shaking as if he were caught in a freezing blizzard.
“Don’t lose this,” I intone. “Deliver it to the one who dares usurp my power. Tell him the Dark Angel is back.”
Stepping aside, I allow him to scuttle by, relishing the lopsided motion of his movements caused by his self-defecation.
I return to the spring and stare at the remaining eye in the bobbing head. “See what my soul is like,” I say as I pluck it out and hold it before my face, then I place it in my mouth and chew it as if it were a grape.
Thirsty, I tear his head from his neck and sate my needs from the trickling blood. When I have finished, I toss the remnants of his body out of the blood bath and seek a fresh area of the spring in which to cleanse myself.
This magical valley has many springs, and it is only a matter of time before I find another one, one I remember well.
My adversary will not allow my mere return to his fiefdom. As much as he desires me for the pleasure I could reward him, my homecoming will show him I have no desire to keep the status quo as is. For all his faults, he is not stupid.
Patience, unlike before, is now a virtue of mine. I know he will come. My guess is it will not be long.
From all sides, they peasants gather. Yes, they stare, wanting to see who dares attempt to usurp the power of Kirsten. Their fear of him dictates that they come to display their support. I laugh at them, not feeling threatened in the least by the cowardly rabble. As for my nudity, what does it matter? The men and women both will lust after me once having seen me in my total splendor. I am not ashamed of who or what I am.
When a worthy garment can be sewn for me, then I will clothe myself, not before. I refuse to wear the rags of peasants.
An old woman, one whose ancestor I remember well, stands there, bearing a gold embroidered gown. She kneels and presents it to me as though it were a crown. I smile. Yes, this garment I will wear, but not before Kirsten and I settle things. I will allow no droplet of blood to taint it.
As I knew he would, he arrives in his usual grand manner. His wings, if anything, are even darker than mine, and they shine like precious stones in the light. But that smile, and his overly plump red lips give him a near feminine appearance. He circles, clad entirely in black, and any misconceptions about his sex are gone. The huge bulge in his trousers assures me of that. I provocatively move around under the water, displaying my charms to their best advantage.
He lands next to me, the audience around us waiting with bated breath. Kirsten may appear to be calm at the moment, but that could rapidly change. Many of the residents in the valley have fallen prey to his vicious mood swings. Perhaps I am not exactly a benevolent being myself, but my demands of obedience are not repaid with the sway of a child’s tantrum.
“Ah, my Dark Angel, I see you have returned,” he says. “You look the same as when you left, maybe even more of a spark in your eyes. And your charms are still lovely.”
“Not that you’ll ever get to take advantage of them, Kirsten. I pick and choose my lovers carefully. You don’t pass the test.”
One of those nasty mood swings is about to happen. My wings are like sensors, probing my surroundings at all times, warning me when I should take greater care. This is one of those times.
Or is it?
Throwing caution to the wind, my feathers reach out to him in an instant, wrapping themselves around his head and pulling him into the water. He struggles, but the advantage is mine. I tease him, allowing him to come up every now and again for a gulp of air. I want to stare into those eyes of his when he realizes what I have in store for him.
He reaches for me but is dragged backward. Confusion colors his face; chaos colors his world. Both of them evident in those black orbs as he stares at me in fright. I laugh as he is pulled around the spring; the water marks his bloodied trail. His blood…yes, the blood of a Dark Angel. We do bleed.
He returns to where I wait for him, a remnant of what he once was; pieces of jagged flesh jut down from his once haughty features. Hardly any skin is left on his desecrated body.
Ah… my lovelies. They cling to him yet, even above the surface of the water: trusted fish with teeth so sharp they could cut a metal rod in half. His shaking is not enough to disengage them. But those eyes, they must remain as I do what I need to do. My soul must be seen by my would be assailant.
Through what remains of his chest, I plunge my hand, using my nails when I must to part the sinew, and pull out his heart. I hold it high in the sky for the audience to view before I calmly take bite after bite out of it, teasing him with it; at one point even allowing the still beating life force to graze against his destroyed lips. When the last bite is taken and swallowed, what is left of him falls back into the water.
“Eat your fill,” I tell my pets, as they cleanse even the water of blood, and I wash one last time before standing up and motioning for the woman with my gown to come forward.
She smiles as she proudly carries it over to me and helps me put it on. I smile back. Not my usual style, but loyalty must be rewarded.
The rest of the onlookers watch me in fear, not knowing what to expect. They can find out another day. I need to go back to my old home. Kirsten has no use for it now.
When I arrive, the castle is ready for me. Servants are already there. And, when I walk into my bedroom, I find a young, muscular man, as well a petite woman with a sparkle in her eyes that says she will please me in whatever way I wish.
It is good to be back…
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved
Becky Dunsworth could not believe her eyes when she and her boyfriend, Thomas Woods, emerged through the thick wall of spruce trees. Just as news agencies around the world had broadcast, Becky saw for herself that the town of Hume, Nova Scotia was dead. Some buildings remained intact; some were just shells surrounded by piles of rubble, and others had been completely demolished. She looked down at her feet and saw the paved street that they now stood on was badly damaged and showed years of neglect.
“I told you it was still here,” Thomas said, smiling.
“So that means their explanation all those years ago was just…” she trailed away.
“It was just a cover story to hide the truth.”
Thomas slid his backpack down off his shoulder, unzipped it and began rummaging around until he found what he was looking for – a digital camera. He took the lens cap off and turned it on, the LCD screen illuminating his face. It was only three o’clock in the afternoon but the sky was so overcast and grey that it made it seem closer to dusk.
“This is going to be great, Becky. We can finally prove that what’s his name, that Douglas guy, wasn’t off his rockers when he submitted his manuscript about what really happened here.”
Becky grinned, feeling excitement brewing inside of her but at the same time feeling a sense of dread. It was a small feeling and she quickly put it on the backburner so they could get down to business.
They started walking down what was once the main street in Hume – Williams Avenue. Every few steps, Thomas stopped and snapped off some pictures of the buildings. There were a few burnt-out cars scattered along the street but other than that, there was nothing obstructing their path. A Canada Post mailbox lay face down on the street, its slot wide open; a few yellow and weathered envelopes stuck out.
“Thomas, do you think what Michael Douglas wrote about was true?” Becky asked.
He lowered the camera and looked at her. “What, that strange creatures came out of doorways in our so-called reality that were made by flying discs?” He raised the camera again and took a picture of her. “I can tell you that I don’t believe that this place was destroyed by a tsunami, like the official reports said.”
They continued to walking with their footsteps echoing throughout the ruins. They soon came to the only junction on Williams Avenue and knew that they had reached the center of the town. Hume only had a population of three hundred when it was suddenly wiped off the map.
Only it wasn’t wiped off, Becky thought. Something had happened that the government felt the need to cover up.
A rustling of paper caught her attention and she looked toward the origin of the noise. In another fallen mailbox to her left, an old newspaper lay inside. She walked over to it, reached inside and pulled it out.
It was an issue of the Hume Daily News, dated July 3rd, 1990. The main headline was about Hume’s mayor stepping down, but the bottom right of the paper displayed a small story about reported UFO sightings.
“Hey Thomas, check this out.” She walked over to him. “It’s a paper from the day Hume was destroyed! I can’t believe it survived over twenty years inside that mailbox.”
Excitedly, Thomas took it from her and pulled a file folder from his backpack. “We have to keep this and put it somewhere in our book exposing the cover up.”
The wind had picked up and as they were about to continue on, a loud flapping noise made them both look around.
It sounded like heavy curtains molested by a strong wind through an open window. Puzzled, they started looking around for the source of the flapping.
“Up there,” Thomas said. He pointed up a street from the junction. He could barely make out the words Ferguson Road on the street sign. “Come on, let’s go check it out.”
Becky’s feeling of dread returned, stronger than before, but she again dismissed it as the excitement in Thomas’ eyes was infectious. They started up Ferguson Road but then stopped, mouths agape.
The sound originated from the edges of a large tear flapping in the wind. A fence encircled the tear, the base of which was roughly eight feet tall and made of solid concrete. Large steel rods poked straight out, reaching the top of the tear. Chain-linked fencing, as well razor and barbed wire, were strung up from pole to pole, coming together at the very top like a roof. The fence looked well maintained, which worried Becky.
“Holy shit, can you believe it?” Thomas said. “It’s just like he said it was.” A grin was starting to poke at the corners of his mouth. “The tears were… are real.” He raised the camera and started taking pictures. “Help me find something that I can climb to actually get a look inside that hole.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Thomas,” Becky said.
“Not a good idea? Are you crazy? I need to photograph it to get the evidence we need.” He looked around and saw a bench a few yards away. “Help me move that over.”
Before she could protest, Thomas was already sprinting over to the bench. She sighed and followed. The bench, at one time, had been bolted into the sidewalk but the bolts had long since rusted out. They each grabbed an end and began to carry it towards the fence. Becky glanced down and saw the initials “I.R. + L.E” carved into one of the boards, wondering who they were and what had happened to them.
“Set it here,” Thomas said. The bench was placed against the concrete base. “Pass me the camera once I climb up there.”
Becky nodded but her eyes protested. “I don’t like this.”
“I’m just going to snap a few pictures and then we can be on our way out of here. Okay?”
She nodded again.
Thomas stood on top of the bench and with a grunt, pulled himself up onto the top of the concrete base, careful not to cut himself on the barb or razor wire. He found a section of chain-link fencing and grabbed a hold, peering through it. His face gave an expression of utter disbelief.
“What is it?” Becky asked.
“Just like he had written in the manuscript,” Thomas replied. “It’s making my fillings tingle! There’s a bluish-grey light coming through this rip. I can almost make out some features on the other side!”
“Here, just take the camera and hurry up!” Becky thrust the camera towards Thomas and he squatted down to reach it. His fingers clasped around the camera’s body and pulled it up. Using one hand to keep his balance, Thomas stood, raising the camera to his face.
He got off two pictures before it happened.
A creature jumped up through the tear onto the fence. It was the size of a large dog and had what Becky could only describe as four spidery legs. Its head was level with Thomas’ and before he could react, a stinger shot from the creature’s face, piercing his eyeball. The stinger retracted quickly and the creature jumped down.
Thomas screamed and fell back to the ground, just missing the bench.
His face already started to swell; the pressure pushed the remainder of his eye from its socket. Becky put her hands to her mouth and was about to scream when three gunshots rang out. Thomas’ body jerked three times as bullets penetrated his chest, putting him out of his misery.
Becky realized that there were masked men on either side of her.
One held a flamethrower and shot a thick stream of flame onto Thomas’ body. There was a sickening crackling, like logs burning in a campfire, as the flames engulfed his corpse. The swelling along his face burst open and smaller versions of the creature that stung Thomas’ eye came crawling out; in high-pitched squeals, they met their death within the flames.
“Holy shit that was close,” one of the soldiers said.
Becky turned to look at them, counting six soldiers in all. They were all wearing some sort of metal body armor that she had not seen before. The armor completely covered their bodies, appearing bulky yet light enough as to not impede the soldier’s speed or agility. Their helmets connected to the shoulders, the lenses covering their eyes giving off a faint green glow, and their breathing sounded like it was going through a respirator.
All were heavily armed.
Three of them, including the one with the flamethrower, moved towards Thomas’ body to dispose of it while the rest remained with her.
One moved to lift his helmet. There was a hiss of air escaping as he did so.
“Is there anyone else here besides the two of you?” he asked. He had a handsome yet hard stereotypical soldier face.
Sobbing, Becky shook her head no.
He raised a finger to his ear, activating a radio.
“General, the situation has been neutralized,” he said. “Only two of them, one casualty.”
Becky could not hear the reply but she could tell by his expression that he was being told something.
“Understood, sir.” He switched the radio off.
“My name is Corporal Bollea. We’re going to escort you to a safe location and make sure you’re alright before we get you out of here.”
He pulled the helmet back down and started walking. Two soldiers, on either side of her, gave a gentle push to encourage her to follow their presumed leader.
They didn’t walk very far before they stopped in front of one of the buildings that was still intact. A faded and partially burnt sign read Jerome’s Bakery. Corporal Bollea pushed through a boarded up door. Becky stepped through and stopped when she saw what was in front of her.
In the middle of the room was a giant pit and in the bottom were piles of bodies. There were human and animal corpses, and even some that she couldn’t identify. Horror dawned on her as she realized it was a mass grave.
She heard a click behind her as Corporal Bollea held a pistol up to the back of her head and fired a single shot. Her body fell forward and landed on top of the heap of bodies with a heavy thud.
“That’s a shame,” one of the soldiers said in a deep voice. “She was a pretty girl.”
“The general wants us to make alterations to the perimeter so that we won’t be having any more visitors,” Corporal Bollea said. “These fucking kids. Why do they think this town is a playground?”
“They don’t believe the bullshit cover story they were given so they want to find out for themselves,” another soldier said. “Hell, I didn’t believe it when they told me.”
Corporal Bollea ushered the two soldiers out of the way and stepped from the building, pulling the door closed.
“The general wants us from this moment on to neutralize any intruder the minute they step foot in Hume. Is that understood? No more sightseers.”
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved
The street is alive with festivities but my house is sombre and silent. The neighbourhood knows I am a widow in mourning, that I want to be left in peace, but that doesn’t prevent those roaming little brats from ringing my bell.
“Trick or Treat!” they shout, over and over again until I finally come to the door. In my black hooded cloak I look the part. No harm in playing along. I let out a deep evil laugh, throw handfuls of candy at them then slam the door as they plunge into a frenzy. I hope that is the last of them; it is close to midnight and I have work to do. The veil is thin.
I almost nodded off as I sat through your funeral; the monotonous voice of the priest was like a soothing lullaby. It is typical that you choose to be buried in an obscure, old cemetery on top of a hill. I’m sure you were delighted that we had to trek uphill through wet grass, as if we were on a pilgrimage to your holy grave. However, there were more important things on my mind than your egocentricities. My gaze was lowered but not with false humility. I was watching the lake. At the bottom of the hillside, the dark body of water lay silent. Surrounded by thick, long grass and shrouded in early morning mist, it was a festering pit of smoky gloom. I wrung my fingers eagerly as my plan fell into place. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty but some dirty work is below me; I would need allies.
I let you lie in peace for a while before I returned. Enough time for the worms to have feasted sufficiently, reducing you to rotting scraps. In the cold night, I stalked the bank of the lake, summoning the Fae. What kind of fairies frequent cemeteries? The ugliest kind, both in nature and appearance. They pretended they couldn’t hear me as they played in the fog. They provoked me with their foolish fire, bright sparks of blue and orange fizzed on the water’s surface. Their deceptive lights have lured many unsuspecting souls to misfortune. They are stubborn, petulant things but I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse and reluctantly they came forth. Their deformed little faces emerged from the shadows, wicked eyes glinting like polished emeralds at the promise of a feast.
I paced impatiently as they shovelled dirt with sharp little claws, grunting as they worked frantically. They squealed and scattered as I hacked open the coffin with an axe, then flocked around eagerly to see your corpse. Your suit remained immaculate, the blue satin tie and handkerchief straight and neat. You were still a little bloated, chest puffed, as indignant in death as your were in life.
I commanded the Fae to deliver me your head, which they did with glee. It made a pleasant sound as it was torn from your shoulders like the peeling of thick bark from an old tree. I held your head gently in my hands surprised by the lightness of it. Your face had sunken upon itself, black leathery flesh clinging to an empty cavity, your brains long dissolved into a festering mush. The remaining flesh was streaked with the meandering tracks of larvae; deep within the empty eye sockets tiny writhing creatures slumbered, breeding.
I wrapped your head in my cloak and left, not looking back as the orgy erupted. As promised, the Fae were free to do with your remains as they wished. Descending the hill, I noticed they were dragging you back with them, limb by limb, down into the murky depths of the lake.
Samhain. Day of the Dead. All Hallows Eve. All Souls Day. It matters not. The old ways are dead; they have merged and morphed into meaningless pageantry. People parade happily in elaborate costumes, a parody of darker times. They have not seen what I have seen. They have not survived the curse of incurable disease or the plague of devils in robes, travelling from village to village, burning, burning. They have not seen Nature stretching her jaws, unleashing her motley minions to charm and confound. Once the Fae, Pixies and Elves occupied their rightful place in the scheme of things; now they have faded from our eyes and I can hear their ghostly wails. The sacred thread of truth, carried through generations, is strained and weak but it cannot be distinguished completely. The old ways are dead. New ways will rise.
I can hear the faint rumble of music and laughter outside as I kneel within the circle. I recall the hush of the ancient forest, the collective intake of all breath, a pregnant pause. I long for an eternal night, deep, dark and silent. The pact is black. The veil is thin. I begin to draw the sigil; my own innermost blood is the medium. The blood drips and sprinkles and runs lines down the walls, glistening in dim candlelight.
Your head is where I have always wanted it, on my altar. I am not ready to let you go. An acidic hate burns within me; it spurs me on and fuels my ritual. An ancient tongue writhes in my throat and spits in a long lost language. I am shaking as the voice rises and terrified as I watch. Your dead skin changes colour, from rotting tones of black and green to fresh shades of pink. Slowly your face begins to grow plump, cheeks and chin fashioned from living clay. Glutinous grey balls form in your eye sockets, streaks of slime seep from the corners like tears of joy at your rebirth. A black sphere darkens in the centre, your iris. A thin translucent film of skin collects around the milky globes, forming eyelids. Your fresh eyes stare at me with the wild madness of a newborn.
I’m not sure if it is complete but then your eyes blink. They roll side to side like the mechanical eyes of a toy. I let out a small gasp of surprise. They say the eyes are the mirror to the soul and I have claimed yours. I have snatched it out of the ether and brought it home.
Your jaw falls open, the joint grinding loose. A black sludge is coagulating in your mouth, creating your tongue. Perhaps I will grant you a voice but for now, the thick muffled grunts that emerge from the hollow will suffice. Such a peculiar expression on your new face, much like the stiff grimace of carved pumpkins that decorate windowsills this time of year. You will be my lantern, glowing throughout the night, shadows cast by the play of light.
~ Magenta Nero
© Copyright 2014 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved
Darkness devoured every ounce of light.
Opening her eyes, Beth’s mind spun, groping for traction as to where she was and how she’d gotten there. The air, musty and thick, made breathing difficult and she wheezed with each panting breath. Her hands and feet were bound, her sense of balance distorted.
She screamed, but the words caught in her throat, trapped behind a wad of fabric shoved into her mouth. Beth scanned the void for a hint of anything that might bring details to her surroundings.
Somewhere in the distance, a door creaked open, ushering in a sliver of light, only to slam shut seconds later. Her chest heaved and rivulets of tears streamed down her cheeks when a familiar sound came to her. The clacking of boot heels on wooden floors echoed like cannons as they made their way closer.
Beth’s pulse echoed in her ears. An orange light flickered in the inky blackness and a figure approached from the other end of the space. Shadows morphed on the walls and ceiling as the naked flame danced its way closer.
She tried to push herself backwards but couldn’t; her body was useless. An ominous silhouette strode closer and the girl recognized Gloria’s sharp features – her stepmother’s features. Her mind’s eye flashed a scene of Gloria bringing her a glass of wine at the dinner party; her last memory before waking up in the void.
Beth cowered as her father’s wife leaned closer and spoke in a raspy, malevolent tone. “You’ll not speak of my secret in life nor death. Of this, I’m sure.”
Gloria rested the candle on the ground and Beth shuddered as the old witch’s bony hands came into view. In one hand, a large needle with wire tailing from the eyelet; in the other, a small vial of liquid gleaned in the glowing candlelight.
Beth strained against her bindings, but she was too weak to break free. Gloria removed the cloth from Beth’s mouth and grabbed her chin before tilting her head back, forcing the potion down her throat.
Beth’s head swum in confusion as the concoction took effect and she slipped in and out of consciousness.
Intermittent flashes of reality only offered hints as to Gloria’s purpose; the biting pain as her stepmother forced the wire through Beth’s lips made those intentions all too clear.
Darkness devoured every ounce of light.
~ Craig McGray
© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved
Jeff Montgomery wanted to go home.
His temples throbbed like a bitch, and the spreadsheets beneath his face shimmered like a watery mess. God, he hated tax time. Jeff glanced at his watch. Ten o’clock. Another half-hour, that was it. Work would still be here come dawn.
Removing his glasses, he gave his temples and brow an invigorating rub, eventually reining in his frustration with a deep breath and a sip of cool water. Jeff nearly jumped from his skin when a door slammed from across the hall.
It sounded like a cannon shot – so ferocious the pens inside the mug atop his desk rattled. “Dammit,” he hissed, rolling backward in his chair. His co-workers mentioned something like this one day over lunch. The infamous law office of Matheson and Keene. Whispered speculation persisted about the firm, for their doors were always locked and clientele were never seen; oft-hushed rumors that the partners didn’t even exist. “You actually think the firm is a front for something else?” Jeff remembered asking, face scrupulously wrinkled; he wasn’t sure if the uneasy silence that met him was because he was the new guy or for something else.
He rolled to the desk, pushed his glasses back along his nose and reached for his water. Another bang now, harder than the last. Water breached the rim of the cup, splashing across his sleeve. “Sonofabitch!” Jeff quickly dabbed at the drops atop his paperwork. A different sound filtered to his ears, very faint; barely perceptible. He held his breath, listening intently – soft knocks against the ceiling. Only the heat kicking through the HVAC he surmised, realizing the culmination of nearly fifteen hours of numbers and spreadsheets had finally worked his nerves.
There were other stories, secondhand tales Harold Rivers derived from the cleaning crew. Dark shadows shifting along walls. A palpable heaviness to the air. Sudden door slams and unseen, booted feet pacing nowhere. It all sounded like some cheesy script from a horror movie, but now he sat reminding himself it was only hearsay. A child might hide under the covers at the telling of such yarns, but he was a grown man. Jeff took pen in hand, refocused on his work. Twenty more minutes, he conceded. Twenty more minutes and I’m home.
But the blur of numbers caused his mind to race. What was it that Harold said again? The cleaning crew flat out refused to service the fourth floor at night; in fact, their contract stated that they’d only clean the fourth floor during the day. Jeff gnawed his pen cap. Come to think of it, the cleaning crew always seemed to be finishing the bathrooms when he arrived in the morning. Harold mentioned something else, too. No employee ever worked late on the fourth floor. Jeff put his pen down and slowly turned around.
He was alone in the office. The tax deadline loomed, and yet not a single soul put in extra hours; no one stayed past dusk.
A door slammed for a third time; Jeff’s teeth rattled inside his head. He sprang to his feet, grabbing his suit jacket and briefcase, cursing Harold and his goddamn ghost stories as he hurried out the door. Just great; he might as well pull the sheets over his own head once he got home.
He cursed Harold again and everyone else in the office for good measure; how could he have fallen for such shit? He’d never experienced the heebie-jeebies before, and it sure as hell wouldn’t happen now. Jeff stood clutching the doorknob in the near dark of the hall, quickly rationalizing the situation. The knocks from the ceiling were caused by heat blowing through the vents, but the door slams… cleaning crew doesn’t work the fourth floor my ass, they’re obviously up here doing something. It suddenly clicked. Not only were they here, but they were playing practical jokes just to keep those stories alive. Sonofabitches. And the moving shadows could be explained by the eyes adjusting from the harsh incandescent radiance of an office to the admittedly poorly illuminated hall. Jeff released the doorknob, squared his shoulders. He felt better already. Not only would he call out Harold on his absurdity, but he’d make him pick up the tab next time they ate Kung Po chicken, too.
Jeff thought he heard the faint scuff of feet dragging across carpet and spun around. Only the door to the law offices of Matheson and Keene loomed behind him; it seemed to emanate its own soft glow, distinguishing itself from the wall. Yet no light radiated from beneath. He warily approached the door.
It was cool to the touch, as if chilled by the night air. Jeff leaned into it, but the door didn’t budge. Then a gasp came as though someone had been standing behind the door the entire while. He turned on his heel and fled like a startled bird. This time he didn’t give a shit. Fuck tax time. He’d take his coworker’s cue; this would be the last he’d stay late at the office.
He stumbled down the hall – Christ, it’s so damn murky – using the glowing exit sign at the end as his guide. He stopped in front of the elevator, stabbing the down button with his thumb. “I want you to know I’ll be contacting the landlord in the morning. Have your fun hiding now because I’ll be having my fun tomorrow,” he addressed the invisible cleaning crew as firmly as he could, but the sound of his voice rang hollow in the hall. “Friggin’ floors are never mopped right, anyway!” He stabbed at the down button again.
A bell dinged weakly as the elevator door slid open. Light escaped, offering relief from the cloying gloom. Jeff stepped inside, placing his briefcase at his feet as he tapped another button for the first floor. Immediately, he felt better… and more than a bit foolish. He chided himself for acting like a scared child; had his father still been alive he’d have called Jeff a baby. The very thought made him cringe. Just the pressures of working at a new firm, trying to make a favorable impression, he tried to convince himself. Jeff leaned against the polished stainless steel wrapping the interior of the elevator. He eyed his distorted reflection and then loosened his tie as the doors slid shut, thinking of a quick snack at home, and his pillow.
The doors shuddered. Four spindly, pale fingers wiggled between them, pushing and squirming their way through, forefinger curling like a lead scout before the doors jerked open. A bowed man entered the elevator, head hung low as to conceal any features. He wore an impeccable suit as shadowy as the hall and his hair – compactly slicked beyond his ears and glistening like morning dew, nearly touching his slumped shoulders. Somehow, the curvature of his form made his appearance all the more daunting. Like a tendril of smoke, he eased into the corner across from Jeff. “Done burning the midnight oil?” the man inquired, voice rich in cadence.
“Umm, yes.” Jeff stood frozen. How the man had slipped so stealthily down the hall, Jeff hadn’t a clue but here he stood, spine curled and head stooped like some demented butler awaiting his next command.
The man clasped his hands, entwining his snake-like fingers in mesmerizing consideration. “Diligence. There is scarce amount left in this world. A sad thing.”
Jeff said nothing. But the man hardly seemed to notice. “It used to be commonplace for an individual to work dusk till dawn, but no more. There are other priorities, or should I say, other distractions, to misplace one from their tasks.” He shifted his head slightly, face still cast in obscurity. “Forgive my absent-mindedness. It is late, and here I stand rambling on. I am sure you long for home.” A bony finger swept across the elevator panel. “The first floor, yes?”
“Yes, thank you,” Jeff answered, hoping his relief remained hidden. As the doors hissed shut, he leaned toward his briefcase and noticed the man’s shoes. Quite unlike his faultless suit, angry scuffs marred their surface; dirt caked their soles. What an odd thing, Jeff thought, like wearing a tuxedo with a cheap pair of Converse. He lifted his briefcase, hesitant of what to say next. Jeff finally offered a frail chuckle. “Well, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t work late all the time. You do what you must during tax time.”
“Aah, you must work for them,” the man said tersely. Jeff instantly made the connection when the elevator halted with a horrible lurch. He stumbled from the jolt, throwing an arm against the wall for support. “Tsk, tsk,” the man scolded as he tapped a long finger against the elevator panel. “This old box tends to stick a bit between the third and second floor. No worries, my friend. It will free itself in a matter of minutes. I’ve unfortunately experienced this inconvenience numerous times. Still, it is maddening. I’ve phoned the landlord plenty, but as you can see, little has been done. The recurring answer is that the maintenance crew has been on it and found nothing wrong. But they’ve addressed the problem only during the day, when the annoyance hardly occurs. No one is willing to come after hours, it seems.” The man tilted his head at last, revealing slits for eyes, as if the admittance of further light would sear them for eternity. Sallow flesh hung from his bony cheekbones. He offered Jeff his hand. “Allow me to use this untimely interruption to introduce myself. Mr. Keene… and you, sir?”
“Jeff Montgomery, a pleasure to meet you,” he said, barely suppressing a smile. That stupid shit Harold. Jeff would make sure he’d be eating free Kung Po chicken for a week. “With all due respect, I’m quite relieved I’ve met you.” Mr. Keene’s uncommonly silky fingers enveloped his hand; the longer they shook, the icier they became.
“Relieved? Do tell why, Mr. Montgomery.”
“I’ve heard a lot of… things.”
Mr. Keene’s brow furrowed; it appeared the skin might slide from his skull. “Things?”
The stainless steel panel behind Mr. Keene suddenly arrested Jeff’s attention, but he quickly averted his gaze as the bowed man squeezed tight upon his hand. Impossible… only a trick of the light; only fatigue, plaguing him once more. “Understand, I’ve just been recently hired, but popular word is that neither you nor your partner even exists.”
“Such horrible rumors. And what do you think now, Mr. Montgomery?”
He glanced again over Mr. Keene’s shoulder, his stomach dropping at the vision captured within the stainless steel. “I think crunch time has gotten to me.”
Mr. Keene relinquished his grip. A smile creased his lips, now razor slashes across his face. “I would like you to join our firm, Mr. Montgomery. Money is of no consequence; name your price and it is yours. In return, I name only mine.”
Nerves frayed beyond repair, Harold shuddered as his chair popped under his weight.
Once the office had emptied at five, he’d been in and out of the men’s room four times, his hysteria pissing out in trickles. The sun hadn’t dipped pass the horizon yet and still his heart beat wildly. He slapped at the sweat dotting his brow; there wasn’t much more he could take.
He blamed his shitty luck – he did come up with the shortest straw drawn in the office, after all. But mostly Harold blamed Jeff Montgomery. Barely three weeks into the job and already he became a no-show. No call, no note, no nothing. Some in the office hadn’t batted a eyelash; Jeff was considered something of a flake. Harold knew the truth however, even if no one dared to admit it. Jeff Montgomery’s last day was the first night he worked late on the fourth floor. Case closed.
That was nearly a week ago. Now Harold sat behind his desk, spreadsheets a sweat-blotted clutter, the sun agonizingly melting into the sky. His mind raced. Sure, the tax deadline loomed and the work needed to be done, but the drawing of the straws had been a ridiculous idea. Maybe it had been the only diplomatic way to choose someone, but who in their right mind would actually be expected to work into the night. No one, that’s who. The clock struck five and the office scattered, frenzied little mice chattering out the door. Not a single person gave Harold a second look. Wait, that wasn’t entirely true. Heather Taylor did. But her eyes were so mournful Harold wished she never had.
A door slammed from down the hall, and Harold nearly crapped his pants.
He catapulted from his chair, papers a whirlwind into the air. Although he accomplished absolutely nothing, he didn’t care. Harold wanted out of the office, off the fourth floor. He wanted home.
The walls erupted with fury, as if a dozen angry fists raged against them in unison. Harold backpedaled, a whimper on his lips as he crashed into the cubicle behind him. He scrambled on the floor like a crab, finally pushing to his feet. Harold dashed from the office.
He entered a pitch-black abyss. The dark disoriented him, and quickly he panicked. He groped blindly for purchase. It seemed a step in either direction and he’d plummet over the side of a depth-less ravine.
The glowing exit sign at the end of the hall served as Harold’s only beacon; snapping his malaise, he ran on jellied legs until finally skidding to a halt before the elevator. He slammed the down button, teeth grinding furiously. Metal pulleys echoed through the elevator shaft; at last, its doors parted. Harold fell into its sweet light.
The uneasy laughing he heard was his own. When the morning came, he had quite the tale to share and only hoped no one would think he embellished it. He didn’t think so. They knew the stories; the drawing of the straws proved their conviction in them. Harold tapped the button for the first floor and leaned against the elevator wall.
A dirt smudged briefcase rested in the opposite corner.
Pale fingers shoved through the elevator doors, and Harold nearly collapsed to his knees. None other than Jeff Montgomery slowly emerged.
“Did I startle you?”
“Yeah, you fucking startled me!” The first thing Harold noticed was the hair; Montgomery never kept it slicked back like that.
“I didn’t mean to. I realized I’d forgotten my briefcase. I’ve been so hectic as of late, Harold. I think I’d forget to eat if I didn’t have food in front of me.”
The second thing Harold noticed was how gaunt Montgomery’s face had become. His cheekbones practically ripped through his flesh and his eyes were slits, empty and unblinking. “I want to apologize to you, Harold, for not saying goodbye. There was no good time to catch you, until now.”
“What the hell are you doing here, Jeff? You just up and went. Quit. Not great resume fodder.”
The elevator began its descent. “I was offered a position at Matheson and Keene, and I took it.” Harold’s jaw nearly touched the floor. “They offered me everything and anything I could desire, Harold. Money. Power. Life. There was one catch, though. I had to pay their price. And now I pass that on to others.”
The third thing Harold noticed, no matter how hard he tried to pry his horrified gaze away, was that Jeff Montgomery cast no reflection in the polished stainless steel panel behind him.
“You shouldn’t feel a thing, Harold,” Jeff said through a wide and gleaming mouth as the elevator came to a jarring halt.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2010, 2014 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
Separate, the chasm widens
where you were
you are not now
and there is none left to save you
your guts are pierced
like a bloated sow
Once you walked
on wild flower fields
pink and reds
beckoned to your touch
beauty climbed upon a vine then
the world was kind
and often just
Now your fingers
reek of sulfur
your face removed
in acid wash
your foul lips
drip lies deceitful
wicked words are stolen, lost
Once you walked
on wild flower fields
pink and reds
beckoned to your touch
beauty climbed upon a vine then
the world was kind
and often just
Mischief is now your maker
poison your new best friend
the black adder is the taker
of lust you need not pretend
crush her eggs beneath your heel
the viper rises from its nest
each work day
violence is breeding
this is evil’s ample test
Once you walked
on wild flower fields
pink and reds
beckoned to your touch
beauty climbed upon a vine then
the world was kind
and often just
Big feet outpacing, running
drunken on destruction’s feast
sanguine drips from carnage found here
ample payment for the beast
straight ways now are crooked
it now parallels the mind
what you find
where they’ve been digging
you’d best hold back
and take some time
on wild flower fields
pink and reds
beckoned to your touch
beauty climbed upon a vine then
the world was kind
and often just
Tread we over light so boldly
dried the skulls
that once knew peace
behold the dark
he holds a headless
we all join in a corporate screech
groping along the wall so blindly
those who can no longer see
what we joined with half our hearts then
this is Hell’s new jubilee
Once we walked
on wild flower fields
pink and reds
beckoned to our touch
beauty climbed upon a vine then
the world was kind
and often just
~ Leslie Moon
© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved
I smell the burning varnish used to coat the stalls long before I first notice that the stables are ablaze. My initial thought is that someone is having a bonfire. I sometimes light bonfires myself, when the pile of broken fence slats and posts behind the tack room grows too great. Those fires smell of burning varnish too. The chemical tang of solvent fills my throat.
After several minutes of the smell, I am drawn from the kitchen, where I was cooking myself dinner, to the conservatory. I cannot remember how I came to be standing in the kitchen, or what I was cooking, but that must have been what I was doing. It is then, as I move towards the glass, that I see the distant glow of flames in the darkness. My chest tightens, but I do not move. I can do nothing except stare, transfixed, at the uncertain orange in the night.
The house sits at the top of a hill, where it has a clear view of the paddocks and the surrounding countryside. Mine is the only house for miles around. I have seen many things, standing at the conservatory windows, but never this. Even as I watch, the flames scatter higher, the tips of their tongues licking the moon and the stars. Most of the stars have vanished. The same chemical that fills my nose and mouth gives off a dense black smoke, through which even starlight cannot shine. The stables were recoated recently, to protect them from the coming winter. The coat was fresh. The smoke makes monstrous clouds before the moon.
From the cool, bright confines of the conservatory, I might be watching a television screen, or peering through space into a different place where there is no glass, no pale spotlights, no lace doylies or marble Olympians; only blackness and heat and the savage light that comes when these two things collide. The paddocks that I have fenced off and knocked down and re-fenced for twenty years flicker ominously. Jumps and their poles cast long-legged silhouettes across the ground. The stable walls lose definition, sagging on their frames, slumping softly, cracking and becoming black before drifting hotly on the wind; new stars, made for a blacker, more noxious night.
I realise that I should call the fire brigade. The telephone is in the hallway, at the bottom of the stairs. It will take me moments to walk there, lift the handset, dial the number that will bring fire engines, but my legs will not move. Even before I hear the screams, I know it is already too late.
The wild sounds stir me to movement. My hand slides to the key on the coffee table. Automatically I open the door and wander outside. The wind is strong. I can feel it against my face, see it as it toys with the flames. The taste in my mouth is poisonous, the breeze cold, my cheeks wet. I realise I am crying.
I first see them as I wander down the hill. It is not a long walk from my house to the stables, but it feels like forever in the darkness. I marvel how anything can burn for so long and not be consumed. I wonder if time is passing or if I have died and am forced to endure this endless conflagration forever.
The first of the horses bursts like a fireball from the stables. A bright orange mane of another kind streams from its hair and back. It does not seem like my horse anymore; this burning mass of muscle, fat, bone and primal terror. I cannot see its eyes at this distance, but I know they are white, its mouth frothing, if the froth has not been scorched away.
A second animal tumbles madly in its wake. It emerges from the next stall but does not make it far before crumpling to the ground. The smell on my tongue accrues a meatiness that is not altogether distasteful. Licking my lips, I turn to the hedgerow and dry-heave.
Three more of the horses scatter like cinders into the night. Theirs is the screaming; fire-song composed of ash and agony. I realise that I should call the fire brigade. The telephone is in the hallway, at the bottom of the stairs. I wonder if I have died, and found my way to Hell. Over and over, the giddy screams of the horses pierce my ears.
My feet guide me to where the nearest of the horses fell. It does not look like a horse anymore; reduced to a smoking heap of charred blackness. There are glistening spots, which I assume are bone or some other internal structure made liquid and shining by the heat, and protruding sticks that might once have been its forelegs. The wood-fires behind the tack shed go much the same way, when they burn themselves out. The iron nails that once held the fences together grow black and white and twitch like slim maggots. Perhaps the horse and the nails are not so dissimilar after all. Perhaps we are none of us so different; metal, flesh, warped wood and old bone made up of the same base structures, atoms and molecules revealed now, unmasked by firelight, released by heat into the sky, stardust to stars again, like barbequed meat on my tongue!
At some point, when the fires reach their zenith and begin to quieten, I find myself walking back up the hill. In the hallway, at the bottom of the stairs, I lift the receiver and dial the fire brigade. I tell them I was sleeping, and when I woke my stables were ablaze. There is nothing else I can say.
The sight from my conservatory is much different, now. The fires have almost exhausted themselves, but there is still a bright glow, a smouldering redness in the night. I imagine it is the fire’s pulse, beating low, almost spent as it licks its lips and yawns and succumbs to death. I close the conservatory door, to keep out the cold and the smell, but the smell has already saturated the house.
Shortly, the night will fill with screams again as the fire engines carve blue flashing paths through the vast night. The darkness seems bigger now, emptier without the fire.
The smoke is thinner too, almost run out, and I can see the stars again. They wink down at me from the coldness of space, and I imagine they are my horses, some skeletal, others plump and round-bellied, running through the night, manes and tails and thundering hooves alight and glorious.
I do not think I will ever stop seeing my horses, galloping overhead. I will never forget their stench, burned into my soul and the walls of my house. And when I turn in for bed, and close my eyes, and fall asleep, I will hear their mad whinnies again; this nightmare, luminous and alive.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2014 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved
How long has it been? No way to keep track. Not in here; not in this crypt. I’m sure the humans know. Once, they were prey; I was the hunter, too powerful for defeat. How long since they dug this pit and threw me in? Imprisoning and confining me to this tomb? These stone walls: built to contain; to prevent my escape. Impenetrable; unbeatable. That’s their belief; makes them feel safe; makes them forget. Time will be their undoing. Look there! See the plants? Slowly, they’ve found a weakness; slipping in through cracks. A way in, is a way out.
The time is nigh. He feels it, smells it, tastes it. The rocks encased in the cement binding the wall together tingle with excitement. Leaves growing within the cracks between the rocks turn towards the sound of foot steps.
The fool approaches. Each step brings him ever closer to his destiny.
Anticipation hangs heavy in the air.
The young man is entranced by the wall. Stepping closer, the leaves reach out to him and force him flush against the structure. His spirit and the soul trapped within the wall exchange places.
He walks away, a devilish grin on his face.
The grating whisper of movement over rock and stone pull me from my long slumber. Sweet bipedal things, wet and soft, are often driven by curiosity into these cavernous depths.
Warm hands grip the cold rocks as they descend with their blasphemous light. Their tasty meat, covered by cloth and rope, awakens my ravenous hunger. One draws near, its eyes focused on where it climbs, unaware it just took its last breath.
No scream escapes its crushed throat. Through his terrified mind I see my eyeless face and gaping maw until his death closes the vision and my meal begins.
Etch away the soil of my heart. Let the roots and tendrils cling.
Where once blood flowed upon a course, there pulses a stony thing.
Nothing do I feel but cold. But when I lay me down…
A hatchet set to “swoosh” and “ching”; a dark and eery sound.
Young and fair my head to rest . Choice sinews for carrion to shred.
They laughed so coarsely in the crowd; fools believed I was dead.
I will get my pound of flesh when next I am set free.
Beware those who have put me here. A rock cannot hear your pleas.
Life, all life, is cannibalistic. The temperate way to say this is ‘cyclical’, but let’s be honest, the transition isn’t exactly a smooth one. Some take the phoenix perspective, where life rises in miraculous fashion from impossible means. And, I say, that is nothing but ignorance. Nature survives on destruction, it requires death. This malformed wall, for example, was built with more than stone—a mortar made of mud and human remains. The bodies of Jewish children stacked atop their brothers and mothers by “superior” humans; Aryans advancing by killing. And, from this concentrated death, green nature shamelessly grows anew.
The secrets of the cave were no secret to Ravena. She’d seen what happened to those who wandered too close, and it fascinated her: the screams as the inhabitants revealed themselves; the panic when victims realized that there was no escape; the blissful sound of ripping flesh, the tearing of sinew as the creatures devoured their meal. Even as a child, she found delight in the slaughter and dreamt of the day when she might partake in the massacre. She would wait no longer as today was her eighteenth birthday and two adventurous campers had just strayed from their group.
Your bodies slid over one another, lubricated by sweat and the warming oil from your bedside drawer. I watched for as long as I could, hypnotised by your sinuous limbs.
“I’m sorry,” you said afterwards. You said other things too; empty words as hollow as the hole in my heart. “LonelyfrustratedIdon’tlovehimyouareneverhere.”
When your speech was finished, I took the bedside lamp to your head. You died in a flash of light. I buried you in the dark, beneath the stone wall between our garden and the fields behind. Nettles grow there now. In the summer, butterflies dance over your grave.
Joseph A. Pinto
And now there is nothing, nor shall there ever be; from light I have walled myself. Immurement eternal; so shall I become one with stone. My fortress, my penitentiary – a fitting fate; obscurity wrapped as melded shawl round my shoulders. Yet still you find your way, flitting ‘tween cracks I believed mortared so long ago. Ivy seeks my companionship; so too do you seek to entwine my heart. But I have grown unjustly hardened, so wrongly decayed. Leave me, do you hear? I deserve as much. Let me solidify as I contemplate the ways I have erred, gone wrong.
From impenetrable depths I hear a single word drifting on stone-cold breath: Come. The shadows beckon me; an icy existence beyond pain calls to one of its ilk – a destroyed soul, my soul. The nether recognizes its own; the summons continues. I stumble forward, grasping desperately at sanity. Home, it murmurs seductively. I scream my need for shrouded deliverance. Reaching a desperate hand forward, I place it upon the stone, follow the path into dappled darkness, but no matter the length of my stride, sanctuary eludes me; the promise is shattered. I’ll forever chase shadows that reveal nothing but light.
Smell the rot you will soon become as your eyes close for the final time. You have always been within my grasp; you have always been mine.
Rest against my ancient skin; hard as rock, cold as stone. Flay yourself against my edge: sharp, cruel, merciless. Feel the warmth drain away, blood turns to ice in your veins. The pain of your myth subsides. Breath escapes as mist, a long held speechless gasp. Before you infinite nothingness, mocking laughter.
I will swallow you whole and fold the illusion of time. Rest against my ancient skin; you have always been mine.
Skulls. I’m surrounded by skulls.
“Wait, wait, don’t leave me here!” Sweat pumped from Jarod’s pores. Was it the pain from the compound fracture? Or was it the skulls?
“You can’t leave me here with all these dead people!”
Steve turned his headlamp into the crevasse. It couldn’t penetrate the pitch. Somewhere down there, his friend was losing it.
“We’ll be back with help. Just hang tight, Jarod!” he shouted.
“They’re only stones, buddy,” Steve added. “It’s the shock. It’ll wear off.”
Jarod stared at the wall’s rock face.
“Heh, heh,” something cackled.
The first stone shifted.
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The throaty growl of the engine rumbled louder as he sped up. Wind whipped his long dark hair behind him as he gunned his motorcycle through the curve. The open road was freedom. It didn’t care who or what you were. He was a nomad, a vagabond whose passing was rarely noticed or remembered. His home had always been the desolate roads and byways where bad things happened.
Connor rode past decomposing roadkill and his stomach growled. His peculiar diet meant he didn’t need to eat often, but it had been a while so he would need to feed soon.
He followed a small group of bikers as they pulled off the highway and made their way down the exit to a small service area with less than a dozen buildings. They rode past a large café and pulled into a gas station. Fortunately for Connor, he needed gas too.
Connor’s bike roared as he pulled into the gas station and stopped across from the pump where the three bikers had started to fill up. All three turned their heads when Connor got off his bike. Connor’s jacket had symbols and patches all over it, and he could hear the other bikers whispering about what club he was with, and whether or not he should be on their turf. Territorial disputes among bikers were an issue Connor had dealt with before.
He listened to their hushed conversations as he filled up his tank. They had almost decided to leave him alone when Connor pulled the nozzle out and turned to put it away. He squeezed the handle as he turned and shot a stream of gasoline onto the bike closest to him. There was an immediate look of wanton violence on the other biker’s faces. The largest of the three walked towards Connor and growled as he spoke. “What the fuck do you think you’re doin’?”
“I thought that would have been obvious,” Connor replied as he put his gas cap back on. “I’m gassing up.”
“What in the hell did you just say? You being a smartass with me, punk?”
Conner turned his full attention to the three bikers. His dark brown eyes casually regarded the pissed off group. “I’d rather be a smartass than a dumbass, so I guess that means I’m a step ahead of you.”
The large biker reached under his jacket and started to pull something out when one of his buddies stopped him. “Take it easy, Strider, maybe this guy needs an education more than a hole in his gut.”
The second biker turned Strider around and showed Connor the back of the jacket. “See this? Do you know what this is? Do you know who we are?”
Connor stepped in front of his bike and looked at the jacket. “Well,” he sighed, “those are the brightest green letters I’ve ever seen on a jacket, and then there’s some kind of red devil or something equally idiotic.”
Strider pointed a finger at Connor, “You better get on that shitty bike and ride hard, man. We have a saying around here – ‘We give what we get.’ You’ve had your fun with us, but shit is going to get ugly if we meet up with you again.”
Connor watched the angry bikers ride off and grinned. “Maybe I’ll get something to eat after all.”
“Here’s your coffee,” said the waitress. Her voice held the bored rhythm of a person that has trudged through the same routine for far too long. He thought she seemed like a caged animal pacing back and forth in her daily routine. Connor reached for the coffee and thanked her. The rumble of motorcycle engines came from down the street putting the waitress and other clients on-edge. Connor had picked up the sound of the approaching motorcycles long before and was expecting them. More than a dozen bikers pulled into the cafe’s lot and waited.
Connor stood up from the booth, put a twenty on the table, walked out the door and stood on the stoop while he slowly finished his coffee. The apparent leader of the group slid off his bike and spoke up. “I hear you’ve been giving a few of my boys a hard time.”
“Your boys,” Connor replied as he walked towards his own motorcycle, “were looking for trouble. I was just looking for fuel.”
“Bullshit,” yelled Strider as he walked towards the leader. “The sonofabitch splashed our bikes with gas and still had the balls to talk shit to us.”
The bald leader pointed at Connor. “Sounds like you are the one looking for trouble. I can see it in your eyes. You should be more careful in places like this, especially riding all alone like you are. I think me and my boys will ride out-of-town with you, you know, escort you so you don’t run into any trouble.”
Rowdy laughs came from the rest of the bikers. Connor walked over to his bike, slowly climbed on, and started it up. “Nice of you to offer, sparky, but I need something to eat more than I need an escort.”
“You have balls,” growled the leader, “but you earned an escort, so like it or not, you’re getting one.”
Connor smiled as he pulled onto the road. The gang followed close behind. The group moved slowly until they were on Route 66. Once they were all on the open road, Connor turned around and flipped them off. The gang tried to catch him, but Connor’s bike was faster and easily left them behind. A few miles later, he slowed down to take a side road, and the bikers were able to see where Connor went. He sped down various canyons and dirt roads until he came around a final bend and found himself blocked by a washed out arroyo.
Connor had just turned his bike around when the entire gang rounded the corner and blocked the road. The looks on their faces spoke volumes. Connor had no misconceptions about what was about to happen. Furious, the bikers hopped off their rides and surrounded Connor.
“Well, smartass, this is where you’re going to die. But not until after we break every bone in your body.”
Connor climbed off his bike and walked towards the leader. “I’ll let you guys go first, and then it will be my turn.”
The bikers all rushed in. A wicked first swing connected solidly with Connor’s mouth, another biker threw a fist into Connor’s kidney, and then it got ugly. The bikers took turns in groups of three, kicking and punching. Every biker had a few chances to pummel Connor until the bald leader told the guys to back up. Connor was on his knees. His face was swollen, his jaw dislocated, and even his arms and legs looked swollen and misshapen. Connor looked up, blood pouring from his mouth, nose and ears. A deep laugh erupted from his split lips. His voice sounded strange, somehow changed during the beating. “You’re going to shit bricks when you see what’s coming next.”
“Strider,” screamed the leader, “get the bat. It’s time to end this.”
Strider came over with a baseball bat and handed it over. Connor smiled as the biker swung the bat. Each swing slamming into him with a loud thump and crack. Connor was hit in the back, the arms, the legs, and then once across the head. He fell to the ground as he was beat over and over again.
The leader was breathing heavily when the bat finally broke across Connor’s back. The bikers stepped in close to inspect the damage. Connor’s only movement came from the rise and fall of his back as he breathed. His legs looked swollen with the lower halves twisted in the wrong direction. The leather jacket was in bad shape; split and torn in numerous places. It was bulging with what appeared to be a huge amount of swelling from underneath.
One of the bikers leaned over and lifted Connor’s head by his long hair. The biker gasped and jumped back. “Fucking hell,” the biker swore as he looked at the others, “you should see his face. It’s changed!”
“No shit it changed,” roared the leader. “Most of us hit him in the face, Junkyard is wearing brass knuckles, and I hit his head with the bat. His face is going to be a little jacked up. He should have died by now. Somebody cut his throat; let’s bleed him out.”
Muffled laughter came from the prostrate figure. A few of the bikers stepped back, uneasy with how things were going. Connor pushed himself to his knees. The hair on his head covered his face and hung down to his large shoulders. He slowly climbed to his feet. Just the fact that he could still move after the beating he took scared the shit out of the other bikers.
The leather jacket hung in tatters over Connor’s changed frame. His shoulders appeared to have dropped slightly, and his arms looked longer. His hands looked thicker; his fingers lengthened. Long black hair hung in a clotted mess all over his oddly shaped head. He reached up with clawed fingers and pulled the hair out of his face. Shock drove the entire group to terrified silence.
Connor’s jaw hung low and was thick with muscle, bone and hair. His mouth protruded from his face to allow for large, sharp fangs. Connor’s nose was black, had spread out, and the nostrils had widened into elongated slits. His eyes were large and bright yellow rather than the brown from before. Hard angles of bone and claw were contrasted by twitching chords of muscle. The hair from his deformed head mixed with a mane of fur that covered Connor’s wide shoulders and flowed down the middle of his back.
He reached up with one of his hands and pawed at a string of saliva that was hanging from his lupine teeth. Oddly pronounced words tumbled from a mouth designed for killing and eating, not speaking.
“Now, it’s my turn.”
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved