Damned Words 7

water_fall

Anger Falls
Zack Kullis

It trickles at first, barely perceptible, moving slowly towards an inevitable end. Heat blooms, melting what once was controlled in an icy grip. The trickles collide, begin to coalesce, mingle and fuse.

The calm silence swiftly flows towards a thundering rumble. It pushes against its boundaries with a hint of its violent potential. There is no damn to hold back the deluge.

Anger swells, mounting, growing exponentially as I yield to the unstoppable. I feel the precipice as the fury carries me over and plunges me into the tumultuous abyss of wrath. This is fury’s terminal velocity – Anger Falls.


The Pool Below
Jon Olson

My heart beats rapidly; anxious with excitement. I brought the children like it told me to do. That was so easy. The water is still, like glass, before spilling over into the pool below. Somewhere in those depths, it’s watching, waiting; and hungry. It wants them. Laughing, the little ones are unaware. The movement is ferocious, the scaled grey hand frightening, the laughter silenced; and I am alone. I pull my eyes away from the violence, back to the calm. A deep breath, an exhale and I relax. It’s over, for now, until it grows hungry again. And it will.


Amber Vision
Nina D’Arcangela

Sluicing beneath the calm amber surface, she admires her own form; long sensuous limbs encased in umber scales glinting iridescent, claws meant for rending soft flesh, eyes the barest taint of rust. She floats these waters from another time, another place – all but forgotten. Spying one wading to catch its meal, she allows the flow to carry her near, masks herself as that of something much smaller, permits her seeming capture. A smile parts her lips as her hooked fangs insure its death. She playfully rolls onto her back, the two tumbling head first into the raucous waters churning below.


Spawn
Joseph A. Pinto

This; this place where first I laid eyes on you, beckoning from atop the crest. I would rip gods from the skies just to be with you. I fight the currents. I swallow deeply our Acheron; your vile taste leaves me reborn. Thunder in my ears, cascade a veil cross my eyes. I cannot refuse you; how I relish the way you bloat my throat. Allow me rest; but for a moment, will you…the gravel bed serves me well. Speak my sacrifice at the headwaters; slice free from me my spawn. Let me swirl like detritus amidst your feet.


Keen
Tyr Kieran

In this moment, I am keen. Saturated. Aware. A dominating flourish of life swarms my senses—every detail becoming known and prominent. The breeze caresses my face. Bugs and birds chirp in merry discourse. Dazzling, the sunlight peaks through the foliage overhead and crystallizes brilliantly in the water below. The wood planked bridge behind me sways ever so slightly, subtle creaking that hums in harmony with nature. I feel alive. My heart swells, pounding faster and faster, blood surging. Then, the gurgling lullaby of the creek and everything else ends suddenly as the bristled rope around my neck snaps taught.


Unknown
Craig McGray

Even as a young boy, I’d often wondered what was beneath the roiling water of the falls. Mesmerized by the clarity, clear and untainted before cascading onto the rocks below, crashing into the time-worn rocks huddled at the bottom.

Life, like a crisp mountain stream, starts as something pure, innocent, before running its turbulent course, eventually reaching a precipice and plummeting to something else, something we can’t be positively sure of.

Over the years, I’ve tossed many screaming souls from this very spot, and I’ve yet to hear back as to what they found at the bottom of the falls.


Trespass No More
Blaze McRob

Unseen hands hold Craig’s face beneath the swirling waters below the dam, rubbing it to and fro, the jagged rocks on the river bottom cutting his face to shreds. The unseen entity lifts Craig’s face from the river and says, “You fucking anglers think you can disregard signs. Stay out means just that. You’re not special. This river is mine.”

Enraged at the blood pouring into his beloved river, he shoves Craig under once more, slamming his head repeatedly against the moss-laden saws designed by Mother Nature. His job completed, he releases Craig’s body.

“You will trespass no more, mother-fucker…”


No Swimming
Thomas Brown

From the outside it doesn’t look like much: three warehouses painted a pale cream. Sometimes there is a van or two, parked in the vacant bay beside the river. Plumes of white smoke. A sign, announcing where I am:

The Dream Factory.

Visitors report to the holding bay for guided tours.

You couldn’t pay me to cross the low wire-mesh fence. I’ve seen what leaves this place; not in the vans, but the adjacent stream: transparent fat, pinkish globules, and if you look closely, long, effervescent faces, mouths stretched, eyes wide: nightmares, skimmed from the vats into the quick current.


Kiss
Magenta Nero

The all encompassing roar of the water, a frothing primeval anger that rises from deep within the earth, takes back each useless tear as it rolls off my cheeks. I have spent a lot of time here lately. Poised on this edge. Thinking. Your body slapped against rocks, broken and swept away downstream. Like waste. From the split in your skull leak your extravagant lies. You remember this place don’t you? The place of our first tender kiss. And now our very last. Your mouth open but silent. Your eyes, wide, incredulous, staring back up at me. As you drop.


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and may not be reproduced without prior consent.
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The Wrong Guy

Jon stubbed out his cigarette and took a mint out of his pocket.  The mint might have seemed odd, given the circumstance, but it was for his enjoyment rather than consideration of the man in the chair.  He rolled the mint around his tongue for a minute before he pulled it out and placed it next to his cigarette.

It was time to get started.  The leather of his imported loafers made a gentle scuff-tap sound on the aged concrete as he walked.  Jon’s cultured voiced bounced across the large room.  ”Greg.  You’ve had enough time to think about what happened yesterday.”

The man in the chair breathed unevenly through his nose.  Jon knew Greg was exhausted. Certain steps needed to be taken before things could be corrected, but Jon was ready to be free of this problem.  “I need you to think about what happened four days ago, and I don’t want you to respond until I’m ready for your input.  Do you understand?”

Greg nodded his head.  He was broken and compliant.

“Good.  Four days ago you were driving down the turnpike shortly after 8:25.  You were in a Jeep.  You cut in front of somebody in a vintage Jaguar.”

Greg’s breathing sped up.

“The individual in the Jaguar briefly flashed his lights at you.  Do you remember what you did next?”

A drop of moisture fell from Greg’s nose as a quiet whimper sounded in his throat.  Jon felt a sudden spike of heat in his chest and head.  “Answer me,” Jon screamed.

Greg sobbed through his nose and shook his head dejectedly.  Jon backed up and cleared his throat.  “I apologize.  A refined man doesn’t need to raise his voice.  Besides, I should have remembered that you are not allowed to speak yet.”  Jon straightened his shirt and toyed with the cuffs until he was calm and collected.  He opened a box of latex gloves and began to put them on.

“Back to four days ago, Greg.  You slowed down, dangerously, and then pulled behind the Jaguar.  Then you proceeded to follow the Jaguar, flashing your lights, driving erratically, and endangering other people on the toll way.”

Jon’s voice lost its refined tone and picked up an angry edge he could no longer hold back.  His heart beat heavily as adrenaline started to flow through his system.  “You followed the Jaguar into the city, stopped in front of him at a light, jumped out of your Jeep and began to scream obscenities.  I want you to tell me the last thing you said to the driver of the Jaguar before you left.”

Cold silence filled the room.

“Don’t forget what happened yesterday when we did this,” Jon warned.  “I only want to hear one thing from you.”

He turned on the industrial lights, filling the large room with their intense glow.  There was a table covered with an array of dirty surgical instruments.  The wood of Greg’s chair was sprayed with stains, old and new, in a horrific mix of colors and odors.  Greg’s right foot sat in a dark pool of coagulated blood and gore.  His left foot, ankle, and half of his lower leg had been carelessly removed.  The frightful stump was still raw and stinking from being cauterized yesterday.  Greg’s arms were secured tightly to the chair’s arms, his thighs tied down to the seat, and thick bands kept his shoulders pulled flush against the chair’s back.

Jon’s manicured hands deftly pulled a knife out of his pocket, slipped the curved blade under the dirty material tied savagely around Greg’s head, and slashed through the gag.  Much of the material had been tied in a large knot and shoved into Greg’s mouth.  Jon yanked the material and pulled the foul-smelling knot out with a dry flop. A soft mewling tumbled incoherently out of Greg’s mouth.

“Now, Greg, tell me the last thing you said to the driver of the Jaguar.  If you don’t, I will cut both of your hands off at the wrist.  It will hurt much more than what I did yesterday.”

Greg moaned pathetically.  His words passed over his dry tongue like sand over boulders.  “I told him to watch who he flashed his lights at.  I told him that one day he was going to fuck with the wrong guy.”

There it was.  Greg had admitted it.  Jon felt the fury swell, but he did nothing to hold it back.  He no longer needed to.  The way was clear.  Greg had admitted his impropriety, had exposed himself for the ignorant wretch he was, and now it was time to excise this cancerous growth.

Jon slipped the knife behind the dirty blind fold and cut it off.  The rag fell from Greg’s head.  His eyes, hidden from light for the last three days, opened and shut sporadically as he tried to see where he was.  He finally stopped squinting and looked at his captor.  It was the guy from the Jaguar.

“Please no,” Greg wailed.

Jon smiled as he felt his anger move beyond the point of no return.  He only had a few more minutes of self-control before he lost all composure.  Jon hated people like Greg, and he had known more than a few.  He viewed this as a social service he offered to educated and polite people who had to share their oxygen with human waste like this.  His vision started to grow dark around the edges.  His time for coherency was coming to an end, so Jon decided that he had better start now while he could still remember some of the cutting.  It was his favorite part.

He picked up the medical bone saw, something he was very familiar with, and turned towards Greg.

“It was you that fucked with the wrong guy.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved

Disaster Man

Disaster Man

My mask smiles for the camera.

That’s how the world knows me—a chipper façade of dimples and overly-white teeth. Such a bright, appealing shell I wear everyday and it secretly turns my stomach. But I need this job—need the public’s endorsement. So, I wear my mask and perform like a little organ-grinder monkey before the invisible map.

It’s always the same. The same report with only petty variances: sunny and 72º, partly cloudy and 68º, slight chance of showers with a high of 51º. Pure monotony. None of it really matters. Even on the odd occasion when my report is wrong, no one cares and neither do I.

Slowly withering inside, malnourished by a bland life—a cardboard existence—I walk through the motions like a motorized mannequin. The days blur by in a rotating door of meaningless faces and inconsequential small talk. Eat, sleep, report, repeat.

Yet somehow, despite my inner turmoil, they love to watch; love to hear my reports. They trust me, and that’s why I continue to wear this persona of classic Americana: Joe Next-door, Jack Hollywood. I lure them, tugging on the heartstrings of helpless viewers everywhere by exuding handsome warmth and pouring empathy down the camera’s throat. It’s almost too easy.

Can you believe that I get asked to pose for photos and sign autographs? Me—a weatherman, a shell of a human being. What has happened to our society? Why does an ounce of visual familiarity equal respect and adoration? A painted-on smile and gossamer compassion is all that’s needed to cue the public’s allegiance? Pathetic.

Even though I utilize this to my advantage, it still disgusts me. What most call life, disgusts me. This repetitive existence, brings me to the brink of madness.

And yet, once in a long while, I get a rare chance to really live.

When thermals collide and the humidity drops off at just the right time… magic happens. Churning winds of destruction touch down upon humanity, rendering homes to rubble and tossing cars across the county like a giant’s game of back alley dice.

Disaster strikes and I awaken!

Not only with Tornados, but any natural reckoning, from hurricane winds that obliterate beachfront structures, rising waters that wash whole towns into the next state, or earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.

Mother Nature’s wrath calls to me, like an ancient language whispering to my soul and lighting the hearth to my corporeal home. I’m compelled to go, to bear witness and experience her intent first hand.

Here, I leverage my job and my “fame” to get exactly what I want.

I visit the tormented scenes all across the nation, showing footage of natural disasters. The sweet music of suffering plays and I dance for them. I report heart-wrenching tales of loss and soul-warming stories of survival. They watch, riveted by my carefully crafted compassion and display of unflappable courage.

The station sees this as devotion to my job. My viewers swoon and can’t get enough, even going as far as to dub me, Disaster Man.

How quaint?

Fools! They’re all slaves to money and fame—clueless to my true calling. But, in falling over themselves to offer me their support, they grant me the one thing I really need: an infallible alibi.

You see, nature’s wrath and I are more than colleagues; we’re kin. The same craving for carnage gnaws on our nerves. The same desire to destroy builds within until it detonates on unsuspecting humanity, without discrimination.

After my reports, when the cameras go dark, I venture out and walk amongst the wreckage again, sometimes even amid the storm’s continuing chaos and I play my part. I spread my wings. I come alive!

Following Nature’s design—blending my work seamlessly with hers—I use the array of tools she provides on those her disaster has missed, those that she left for me.

Oh, how I revel in their torment! Pain and death is a virulent tonic like no other mortal brew, and I drink my fill.

So when you watch my reports of weekly weather and you melt under the charisma of my dazzling smile, just know that I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to live again. Know that when Mother Nature decides to thin the herd that grazes in your town, I’ll be there picking off the weak and doing my real job.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Heel

Stripped bare of her clothing, wrists shackled in heavy irons, ankles and neck fettered as well, she does not bother to struggle. Staring down the length of chain leading from her throat to the beast holding her bonds, disdain bleeds from her eyes as they bore into his.

“You’ve always been an arrogant cunt, it’s time someone taught you to heel,” he slurs past the malformed lump serving as his lower lip. His jagged, cracked teeth do nothing to improve his enunciation.

With a quick, hard yank, he drags her forward a step, but only one; the crunch of bone distinctly recognizable over the sound of the rattling chains. A bare flicker of emotion registers in her expression as her left wrist falls slack. Still, she stares in defiance.

Stepping down from the dais, he paces, seething with anger. The longer he paces, the angrier he becomes. Standing on the stone floor several arm lengths away, she remains stoic. His nakedness as rigid as her obstinance, he closes the gap between them in two quick strides.

“Ragged whore, I am your keeper. Without me you are nothing, as pathetic as those loathsome sheep you seem so fond of. When I command you to heel, you will do so.” The threat issuing from his vile, twisted mouth is unmistakable. Still, she stares back as the bones of her broken wrist begin to stitch together.

Wrapping the chains around his forearm to shorten the length, he looms over her, spittle flying as he roars, “You were told not to interfere.” Ah, the crux of her punishment has come to light.

They continue to stare at one another, his breathing growing heavier by the moment. Finally she breaks the silence. “And I did not, My Lord,” the slight bow of her head clearly meant to mock him, her dismissive tone conveying her disinterest in his attempt at intimidation.

With a growl that comes from deep within his chest, fury radiating from every pore of his being, he begins to froth. Using the chains wrapped around his arm, he raises her two feet above the ground, bringing her level with his eye. With the other hand, he snaps her right wrist between his forefinger and thumb. A slight groan escapes her before she can contain it. A smile begins to spread upon his face.

Cupping her ass with his free hand, he presses her body hard against his own, his want throbbing against her. He leans forward, whispers in her ear, “So you do feel. I’ve heard an angel is an extremely… erotic creature and the darker the soul, the sweeter the nectar. Perhaps I have been going about your discipline all wrong.” He slowly licks her shoulder, her neck, the side of her face, then begins to boom with laughter – intent all too clear in his eyes.

She returns his slight smile as he runs a razor-sharp black talon over her lips, tearing them to shreds. Blood begins to trickle down her chin; he laps it clean. She unfurls an obsidian wing; he stares at it in wanton lust. With lightning speed, she uses the tip of a feather to pluck his left eyeball from its socket. There is a moment of resistance as the sinew and tendons try to cling to his skull before tearing away.

Screaming in agony, he releases her and she tumbles to the stone floor. His arm still tangled in the chains, he drags her with him as he retreats to the dais until they become unwound. Cupping his empty socket, he screams, “You whore!”

Lying on the floor, she begins laughing manically.

“You fucking whore! I’ll see you dead for this!”

Gently, she places the eyeball in her mouth, blood still running down her chin from her slashed lips. Through peals of laughter, she positions her new prize between her teeth, and as he watches in horror, she smiles brightly and begins to chew.

Darting forward once more, her wing tip slams into his other eye with an audible pop, then carves it in two with a single stroke. She leaves this one in place to heal useless and deformed; a match for his lower lip, a reminder of her for the days to come.

Rising to her feet, she walks to the dais and flippantly asks, “You wish to see me dead?” With a mirthless chuckle, she leans in and whispers, “I don’t think you’ll be seeing much of anything…”

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.

Homeless No More

It’s damned cold for late April! Torrential rains are taking a toll on Joe’s body. He’s not as spry as he once was, and his threadbare clothes don’t afford much protection from the elements. No raincoat or heavy jacket: nothing to protect and keep him dry and warm.

“Fucking weather!” he mutters.

Disabled from an old war wound inflicted in ‘Nam and homeless for ten years now, he has barely managed to stay ahead in the game of life. Some game. Death might be better than his existence, but he’s never been a quitter, even when the shit hit the fan. And it has, many times.

Up ahead looms a cemetery, the tombstones not doing much to lift his spirits. Peering at them through the veil of water falling from above distorts their image, making them appear even more ominous. It doesn’t help that the tree branches look like long fingers reaching out to grab him. The intermingling grays and blacks do nothing to lighten the ominous vista. His step quickens. He needs to leave this place, but… he sees something else though the rain.

“Holy shit,” he says. “Is that an open mausoleum?”

As scared as he might be of his surroundings, the open structure offers protection from the storm. He shoulders his pack a bit tighter, looks around to make sure no one is watching, and walks over to the building.

“This is all right! Out of the rain for me!”

Unable to see much at first, his eyes slowly begin to adjust to the darkness, nothing he observes discourages him from staying.  Yet something tears at his mind, telling him this place is not safe. The odor of the wet dirt is not all he smells, an un-Godly stench pervades the mausoleum both within and outside as well. The reek of decay and filth lies heavy in his nose and on his tongue.

The noise of crashing thunder against the crypt sends vibrations throughout his entire body. Startled, he jumps in fear.

“Damn, Joe, get your shit together! It’s just a fucking storm.”

He opens his pack and takes out his sleeping bag, what’s left of it anyway. Too many nights spent curled up in cement alley-ways has left his travel bed worn and as thin as his clothing. Worn or not, it’s the only bed he’s known since that night so long ago. Riding in the car with his wife and two young children, all of them as happy as can be until… until that fucking Dually crossed over the line and smashed into them head on. The lights of the approaching truck, the impact, and the horrible crunch of metal meeting metal reverberate nightly in his mind; his dreams have become nightmares of unending pain.

Tears form around the edges of his eyes as he shakes his head, trying to chase the memory away, but the recollection lingers.

“Jesus! At least wait ’til I’m asleep! I need some peace.”

He rummages through his pack searching for a left over chunk of Italian bread from lunch at the Salvation Army. Food might help to keep his mind occupied. Merely cursing at the stale piece of dough should distract him. It was pretty tasty before, but by now it will be a little worse for wear. Things tend to shift in his bag. With the storm raging, he doesn’t want to walk to the other side of town to get dinner at the shelter. They can only sleep a limited number of heads, but they can feed many more hungry mouths but it doesn’t look like his will be one of them tonight.

The good news is that the bread isn’t stale; the bad news is that it’s waterlogged. Kinda gives the old bread and water saying a whole new meaning. Joe stares at it sitting in his hand and laughs before he slowly starts eating. No rush. This is all he has. He might as well enjoy it.

His laughter stops when an assault of lightning and crashing thunder shake the crypt. Repeated bolts strike everywhere and the mausoleum lights up before his eyes displaying crumbling walls and a seeming shift in the way burial arrangements were originally intended. The projected ‘high-rise’ of bodies looks ready to tumble to the floor at any moment.

“Shit! I hope the storm doesn’t tear this place apart.”

He sits quietly for awhile, watching the illumination of the walls and the dancing shadows. The storm won’t be letting up any time soon, so like it or not, he’ll be staying for a while. Needing to take a leak before going to sleep, he starts outside but changes his mind. Too much rain. The last thing he needs is to get soaked before he drifts off to slumber-land. Feeling bad about doing it, he stands at the edge of the entryway and pisses out into the storm.

“Sorry if I piss on anyone,” he mumbles.

Retreating to the relative safety of his sleeping bag, he slides inside and listens to the sound of the falling rain. It actually soothes him now, and he falls asleep quickly.

The dreams will come. They always do.

***

The pouring rain washes the dirt out of his hair and he relishes the feeling. His consignment to the ground below isn’t conducive to cleanliness, but hey, he’s a Ghoul. Once he starts feeding, all pretense of neatness goes away. His food is messy. Delectable, but messy. He can wash up again after.

Hunger attacks once more. Damn, he’s always hungry. Yes, but now his food larder has been enlarged. Even if bodies stop showing up here, he will always have a fresh supply. These humans multiply like rabbits, the same as the ones he tried munching on before. They were delectable little critters, and he loved the way they wiggled and tried to bite him as he slowly devoured them, starting at the tips of their toes and working towards those cute long ears. Alas, tasty is good, but the damned things were not very filling.

Humans. Ah, tasty and filling, and they can put up a fine scrap. Nothing like a spunky dinner. Time to find one.

How lucky can I be?‘ he thinks. ‘In the graveyard . . . my supper waits for me. Oh, these foolish humans. They come right to me. I don’t even have to seek them out.

The unmistakable scent of fresh flesh pulsing with blood calls to him. He leaves the tombstone he’s sitting on and searches for the source. A beating heart whispers to him, partially drowned out by the sound of the storm, but there nonetheless. His body hair goes wild the closer he gets, zeroing in on his prey. This one is male. He would prefer a female so he can delight in other ways as well, but hunger is his main focus. Perhaps later a luscious lady will walk into his lair.

As he gets closer, he knows his dinner is inside one of the mausoleums in this section of the graveyard. Most of his prey’s kind would stay out of such a place at night for fear of the unknown, but not this one. From the way his heart is beating, the Ghoul knows his meal is asleep.

This is your last sleep as the living, my tasty critter. Don’t feel bad. By giving your flesh to me, you will be serving a greater purpose than your kind does in its short, mundane existence.

For a creature his size, the monster walks quietly and with an agility the human race could only marvel at. He is thousands of years old, having come to this land from far away seeking a new home. The ship he took unknown passage on arrived in this country with nary a living person left aboard. Bones and blood scattered about, the cargo hold looked like a war zone. It had been attacked by pirates who killed everyone on the ship. This was a sweet happening for the hairy one. He feasted well until the ship ran aground on the coast of Maine. Having slipped off still undetected, the graveyard became his home.

Old or not, the flesh of humans made him strong, and he knows the meat of live beings will make him even more powerful.

The door to the mausoleum is open a couple of feet when he arrives. Joe is still asleep and his nightmares have taken him over once again. The beast is intrigued. He senses the man’s inner torment but does not know the reason for such maddening nocturnal thoughts. As much as he would like to find out the cause of this distress, he is hungry and must eat.

***

Before the monster reaches him, Joe wakes. Unable to see well since his eyes haven’t had a chance to adjust to the dark, he senses something in the room with him. Shit! The stench! Whatever it is, it’s the same odor from earlier.

He backs up to get away from the presence but focuses on the entry. If there is need to escape, he wants to be ready.

Whatever this thing is follows him to the wall, the odor becoming unbearable. It looms over him, poised to strike. There is no question in Joe’s mind now. This entity intends him harm.

A bolt of lightning strikes revealing the monster. It is unlike anything Joe has ever laid eyes on before, and he’s seen a lot over the years; the horrors of war, the accident that killed his wife and children. What the hell is this thing?

The creature is so big that Joe knows he won’t be able to get around it. He’ll have to fight his way out. Reaching behind him, he finds a brick and readies it for the assault.

With amazing speed, the creature leaps at him and lashes out with long filth-ridden nails. It tears off chunks of his exposed face and neck, and shoves them into its mouth. Joe stumbles from the impact but retaliates with the brick, slamming it into the monster’s head repeatedly. Blood flows from both of them, but the creature’s wounds close rapidly, further befuddling Joe.

“Oh, you puny human, you are no match for me!” the demon shouts. “I cannot be killed. You can.”

“Fuck you, you bastard!” Joe hollers and renews his attack, refusing to quit.

The mismatched skirmish continues; the monster taking chunk after chunk out of Joe, relishing the battle as much as he enjoys his dinner, taking his time to prolong the encounter.

Something new begins happening to the Ghoul. With each bite, he gets a glimpse of this man’s life, his pains, his past. His head becomes filled with memories of life in the jungles of ‘Nam, being wounded, the incarceration. Placards waved by people with longer hair than him being shoved into his face as they taunt and accuse.

He wonders what’s going on. Is this because he’s eating living flesh, parts of a man still in possession of his soul? Are the two joining as one? This didn’t happen with the girl.

Then the creature realizes it’s this man’s will that is doing this. He knows he can’t win, but he refuses to quit.

The hospital stay, the pain, the mental anguish tears away at him. Still gripping the human, he slows his attack and tries to clear his head. This cannot be! He is the master. This human is puny and insignificant.

“Get out of my head!” the Ghoul hollers. “Leave me alone!”

Even though Joe is losing a lot of blood and feels his life slipping away, he rams the brick into his foe without stopping. He doesn’t understand that his life’s memories and pain are being transferred to the creature. His instinct for survival and his courage refuse to buckle to this thing.

Bright lights from the Dually blind the eyes of the beast. He stumbles around in confusion, dropping Joe, careening into the walls of the mausoleum. And then… then the truck rams into him, knocking him down. In his mind, bodies fly everywhere as the seat belts snap from the force of the collision.

The demon cowers on the floor, not knowing what to do. He is helpless. Such psychological terror is new to him. He has no understanding of it, no control over it.

Freed from the grasp of his tormentor, Joe crawls towards the crypt’s entry. His heart pounds against his chest; breathing is near impossible with his lungs slashed, and his wind-pipe torn and damaged. But he keeps moving, pulling himself along, trying to escape.

The voices and confusion within the monster’s head are too much for it to bear, it rages after Joe, biting deep into the base of his skull, killing him almost instantly, but not before the blood from the wound laps upon its tongue.

Blood, the sustainer of human life, has told the demon a story. Joe may have lost the battle, but he is in a better place, reunited with his wife and children.

He is homeless no more…

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

Phantom Pain

Every part of my body hurts.

I open my bottle of Percodan and shake three pills out.

Damn. Only three left after these. I wish this stuff would actually take the pain away.

I’ve been frequenting this bar, the Rusty Dagger Pub according to the flashing sign out front, for the last five years. I’d like to say that I don’t know why I keep coming back here. The service is lackluster, the beer is almost room temperature and even the women, although plentiful, are nothing to write home about.

No, the reason I keep coming back here is to fight. The Rusty Dagger Pub has the reputation of being one of the toughest bars in Eastern Canada. At one point during the biker gang war between the Hell Haunts and the Desecrators in the mid-nineties the bar was averaging one murder every two weeks.

I’ve been in a lot of fights and brawls and in that time I guess I’ve built up quite a reputation as someone who can take a beating and walk away from it.

I can’t be killed.

No, let me rephrase that.

The truth is I can be killed, but for some reason I keep coming back.

I’ll get to that in a bit.

I’ve been watching these two bikers for the last hour and there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re talking about me.

The heavier set one seems to be the one who’s going to lead the charge. He’s getting very animated and has that look in his eye. That dark sparkle when someone gets the idea… the urge, to kill another human being. I’ve seen it many times over the years and it has usually been directed at me.

Tonight, I know he’s going to do it.

He’s going to kill me.

***

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Michael Canning said gulping the remainder of his beer and placing the empty bottle on the sticky table. “Actually, it’s something I have to do.”

He was sitting with his friend Garrett Anderson at their usual spot inside the Rusty Dagger Pub. Michael had just finished his fourth beer of the night while Garrett was nursing his second rum and Coke.

“Do? Do what?” Garrett asked.

“You see that guy in the corner?”

Garrett turned and looked into the corner where Michael was pointing. Through the dim lighting and thick clouds of cigarette smoke, he could make out a lone figure sitting at a table in the far corner of the bar. The man had a shaved head and although he had a large frame, he didn’t seem to be anything special.

“What about him?” Garrett asked.

“His name is Erwin Sterben and he’s been coming here for the last couple of years. I was talking to one of my buddies in the Hell Haunts and apparently that guy in the corner has been on the receiving end of many ass kickings.”

“So?”

“Not just any regular beat downs,” Michael said leaning in towards Garrett. “I’m talking about four and five guys stomping his head into the pavement. He should’ve died by now yet he always seems to show up back in the bar.” Michael looked over Garrett’s shoulder at Erwin and then back to his friend. “There’s something about that guy that isn’t right.”

“So he has a reputation for being able to take an ass kicking and keep on ticking. Leave it alone, Mike, and enjoy your night.”

The two sat without speaking for a few minutes listening to heavy blues guitar riffs blaring through the bar’s old speakers. Both were dressed in typical black-leather biker attire, with Michael wearing a leather vest that one day he hoped would proudly display the Hell Haunts logo.

“The Hell Haunts want him dead,” Michael said. “And they want me to do it.”

“Why?” Garret asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. I want my patch.”

***

I’ve seen him in the bar many times and usually he’s hanging out with the Hell Haunts biker gang. He’s not a full patched member though, probably just a ‘hang around’ or a prospect. I bet he thinks killing me will elevate him in the Hell Haunts to a full patched member.

Who knows, it might.

It looks like all he needs is the opportunity to get me alone. He won’t use a gun as it will arouse too much attention. I’m guessing he’s carrying a knife of some sort.

I have to piss.

I guess there’s no time like the present to set things in motion.

Let’s see if I’m right.

I’ll walk right by his table on my way to the bathroom. I’m guessing he’ll follow and if walking by isn’t enough, I’ll eyeball him.

***

“He’s getting up,” Michael said quietly.

“Is he leaving?” Garrett asked.

Michael shook his head but remained quiet as Erwin walked up to their table. Their eyes locked briefly and Erwin brushed him off. Seething, Michael watched as he made his way to the back and into the bathroom.

“That motherfucker,” Michael said. “He has the nerve to eyeball me? Let’s go and end this fucking guy.”

“No,” Garrett said.

“What do you mean ‘no’? I need you to watch the door to make sure no one comes in. Come on, once I’m a full patched member I can put a good word in for you and get you fast tracked to your patch.”

Garrett looked at him. “You mean that?”

“Man, you know when I say something I mean it. Now get the fuck up and follow me.”

Nodding, Garrett stood up and the two men walked towards the back. When they reached the bathroom door, they both looked around the bar to see if anyone was watching.

It wasn’t a busy night with only four other patrons inside. Michael nodded to Garrett and headed inside.

As he stepped through the door, Michael’s heart raced in excitement. Inside, the bathroom was small consisting of two seldom washed urinals and two stalls, one of which was missing a door. A single sink with a rusty drain sat on the wall with a cracked mirror above it.

Michael listened and heard the sound of urine hitting water. He crouched down peering underneath the stalls and saw that Erwin was in the stall with the door still attached. Reaching into his left pant pocket, Michael pulled out a knife and stood just to the side of the stall, waiting for Erwin to come out.

Almost immediately Michael wished he had had another drink to calm his nerves as he fidgeted with the knife.

The toilet flushed and the door opened up.

Michael’s body tensed up and time seemed to slow down as he waited for Erwin to exit the stall. He saw one foot step out and as soon as he saw Erwin’s body, he lunged.

He grabbed Erwin’s face, covering his mouth and began stabbing into his side with the knife. Michael felt Erwin’s hot and panicked breath on his hand trying to yell out. With each stab of the knife, Michael felt more and more powerful.

Killing Erwin for the Hell Haunts was an honor he wanted to remember every second of. He could feel Erwin weakening in his grasp so he slipped behind him.

“Let’s see you live through this, asshole,” Michael whispered in the Erwin’s ear.

With that he tilted Erwin’s head back and cut deep into his neck.

Erwin gurgled and blood gushed out. Michael held him for a few minutes, enjoying the feeling of taking another man’s life until Erwin went limp. The gurgling slowed and then went silent.

Working quickly but carefully, Michael positioned Erwin so that he appeared to be seated on the toilet. After a final look, he closed the stall door and walked over to the sink.

Michael quickly washed his hands and then wrapped the knife in paper towel. He tossed it into the garbage and headed back into the bar to join Garrett.

***

Gasping for that initial first breath and the shock the body feels when it is revived are terrible. I suppose it could be similar to how the body reacts to a defibrillator with everything being jolted to life again.

My fingers trace where not too long ago my throat had been slit. It kind of itches but the stab wounds on my side still sting.

How long has it been since that fucker killed me?

According to my watch it’s only been ten minutes.

You see, I can be killed and believe me it sucks every time.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve died; how many times I seen the light, reached out to accept its embrace only to be pulled back into this fucking existence so that I may die again.

I have felt the pain that the body goes through as each internal organ shuts down. I have felt my heart stop more times than I want to remember. My body has been stabbed, crushed, and shot many times yet somehow it always heals itself.

Not completely though.

The pain remains.

Phantom pain I think they call it.

Reaching into my jacket pocket, I pull out a small bottle of Percodan and pop the remaining three pills into my mouth. In an effort to deal with pain I’ve tried many drugs and as a result I’ve become addicted to painkillers. The shitty part is I have yet to find one that completely dulls the pain.

A year ago I shot myself in the head and I came back.

I can’t even kill myself.

I’ve been called a freak and a vampire. Hell, there have been times I’ve even been called a zombie. The thing is though I don’t really know what I am.

One of the worst things, besides the pain and resurrection of course, is the fact that I don’t really know who I am anymore. I just can’t remember. My long term memories have faded with each death.

I don’t even remember my parents. I know I had them but that memory, that part of my life, seems to be gone.

I stand up and take a few unsteady steps towards the bathroom door. Opening it a crack, I peer out and see that those two guys are still here. The one who stabbed me seems to be celebrating.

I think I’ll go join them for a drink.

And like the many before who tried to kill me, I’ll return the favor.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 6

name

Isolation
Dan Dillard

Bars on your windows, so old and ornate.
At your driveway’s end lies a chained and locked gate.
These both in attempt to circumvent fate.

Huddled … lonely inside your own tomb.
Your domicile morphs into some sort of womb.
You peek through the blinds hoping nothing might loom.

And the world spins around you, life goes on for most.
You should celebrate each day that comes with a toast.
But instead you hide praying you don’t give up the ghost.

The joke, Dear, is that there’s no hope for the dawn.
For wherever you are, Dear, death watches on.


Wrong Turn
Leslie Moon

Darknesses hollow whispers
death’s gripping fingers splayed
mind the path twisting, turns there
don’t divert well-lit ways
*
many drops of blood’s been spilt here
dagger’s sharpened, long caressed
sightless skulls aimed and leering
the spirit must of you assess
*
bodily theyr’e rendered lifeless
gather, on moonless eve
momentarily seek some solace
wander, they eternal grieve
*
seeking, mind if they see you
your retreat may never be
run swift rusting gates through
you again will not be free
*
darknesses claiming whisper
death’s fingers greedily splayed
mind the path, aims to trip dear
don’t divert from well-lit ways


Atomic Number 26
Joseph A. Pinto

And still you’ve no understanding of my stories lost before
you, words stripped of their most basic composition and
left to crumble in a fitting tribute of oxidation.  You’ll always

view me that way, nothing more than your atomic number 26
while the greater part of me flakes bit by bit over time.  I mourn the
days when my message rung true and beauty gleamed through my

imperfection.  Now I go unnoticed, a broken tale; a gate
through which nothing can ever pass again.  Such a wasted thing; left
here, your tainted breath corrupting every last line of my expression.


Insomnia
Thomas Brown

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream. Clear skies. Cool breeze. A little sunlight on my face. I would like to walk somewhere with you, hand-in-hand, and not be alone. I choke to think of what could be: flesh and blood and bones that sing my name, my song, our song, rising into the wind. We should be so lucky.

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream of a way out, an escape, a different life to that behind this iron gate; this tarnished prison, this nightmare in which we have trapped ourselves, furry with sharp-blood-rust.


The Other Side
Jon Olson

There it is. I cannot believe it is still standing. My body goes numb as I stare at the place that for many years I called home. The same black iron fence surrounds the property like it did when I lived there. Now the paint is peeling away exposing the rust underneath; reopening old wounds. How many times did I grip the fence wishing, praying that I could someday be on the other side? And now that I am on the outside I don’t feel free. I am still trapped within its grasp behind the padlocked gate, never to reopen.


Hush
Nina D’Arcangela

Been so many years, I don’t even remember the sun no more. I hear ‘em muttering, let ‘em talk. I’ll die in this box no doubt. I even heard they sealed it with the name. Trying to shame me I s’ppose. But I have my trophy; I pick my teeth with it every day. Wearin’ it down, but then it was so small to start with. Seems people dislike what I done, but that’s only ‘cause they don’t understan’ it. See, the sweet meat – it’s like veal, you gotta eat it when it’s supple, ‘fore it grows and loses the flavor.


What Lies Within
Blaze McRob

The rusted chain and lock cannot possibly hold this unholy gate in place much longer. Do I dare attempt to break the obstacles and venture within? I must; I have to know!

A well placed kick and the fragile metal breaks. I walk down the stone reinforced tunnel and get closer to the impenetrable darkness. The scent of sweet musk tickles my nostrils, and I smile.

“Lord Azazel, what you long for resides within.”

A torch is lit and I see my prize. Upon an altar she lies, and her glories call out to me.

She screams at my touch…


His to bring…
Zack Kullis

He looked at his charred body. The thugs had chained his security gate moments before they threw the Molotov cocktail through his window.

His fingers still gripped the old iron. The flesh was black like charcoal, and flaked away like the burned paint of the gate. Lips, hair, skin, and anything identifiable had been burned away, leaving a macabre grimace. Death had taken him hours ago.

Fury and lust for revenge damned his soul to this place like the chains had damned him to the fire. He was a wraith, and he welcomed the damnation. Hell was his to bring.


Claiming the Condemned
Tyr Kieran

The end came faster than anyone anticipated and all the prophecies were wrong. It wasn’t failed science gone viral or a cleansing trial to better mankind; it was Hell claiming the condemned—every last one of us. It began with a tortuous plague the turned the sick into blood crazed cadavers. They were the lucky ones. They didn’t suffer the tenuous and futile existence that was always moments away from being torn into a million bite-sized morsels by rancid insatiable teeth. I was the last, eaten alive behind safe gates as I clung expectantly to my wife’s once still corpse.


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

Owls

It was 4:00 am when I woke from heartburn, or maybe it was back pain. There are so many things that wake a man of my age in the middle of the night. I shifted my position and then got up to relieve myself. While I was in the bathroom, I heard something odd, something I didn’t recognize—not at first, but then it came to me. Wh-h-h-who. An owl.

It called, and it was close, close enough that I heard it clearly in the bathroom. I walked back into the bedroom.

“You okay?” my wife asked sleepily.

“Yeah. Had to pee,” I said. “Did you hear that?”

“I did. I’ve been listening to it for a few minutes.”

“It’s an owl.”

“Uh huh,” she said.

I walked to the window and peered through the slats in the closed blinds. In the January darkness, I could make out the trees, void of leaves against the sky, but I saw no bird.

Wh-h-h-who.

Wh-h-who.

Was that another one? Wh-h-who-who. A third? Three distinct pitches and if I wasn’t mistaken, coming from three different directions.

“There’s more than one,” I said and turned to see my wife.

She was backed up, sitting against the headboard and holding her knees to her chest. Even in the dark room, I could see her eyes were round and full of fear.

“Honey? What is it?”

She laughed and shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Really? You don’t look like it’s nothing.”

“It’s silly, really…something my grandmother used to tell us when we were little. A poem, or a song. I don’t remember all of it.”

I peeked back out the window. A dark shape perched on one of the branches in the largest maple tree that stood between the sidewalk and the road. A car drove by. Who is out at 4:00 am?

“Well?” I said.

I heard her sigh and turned to her again.

“Something…something like this:

When the witching hour draws near its end,

hide, if you’re awake my friend.

Before the dead wake up to roam,

the owls will come to take them home.”

I waited a moment to see if she had any more to add and when she was silent, I said, “Wow.”

“Yeah, wow.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

She hugged her knees again and I sat down on the bed.

“Like I said, I don’t remember the rest, but I do recall her telling us a story about the owls. She told us they came when someone was about to die and sought that person out. The hooting brings the reaper.”

The reaper?”

“Yes.”

“Your grandmother told you that? That’s a little intense isn’t it?”

Wh-h-h-who one owl called. The other two answered. Each from a different direction and in their slightly different pitch. It occurred to me then that they were triangulating a position. A silly idea.

“It is intense. She wasn’t joking either. I can still see her face grow pale whenever we heard one of those birds hooting in the night at that old farmhouse. I thought we were far enough out of the country to avoid them.”

“You mean you believe that old tale? It’s just a poem.”

“Is it?”

I peeked out the window again, looking for the dark spot in the tree, but it was gone. When the birds hooted again, it was further away, but still close.

“Don’t,” she said.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t look.”

I stared at her and it was as if we were children and she was trying to scare me…she was believing in a nightmare and I was a few years older telling her how silly she was.

“Honey, come on.”

“Please?”

I waved her off and looked back out the window. Something fluttered and I heard the beat of large wings. A shadow covered our window for just a moment, then it was gone to my right. Then the hooting again.

“Please?” she said, clearly upset, but I ignored her.

I ignored her because there was something out there in the glow of the street lamp across the way. It shimmered and warped like a mirage. I heard the owls again. My wife protested behind me, “You aren’t supposed to look.”

I heard her, but it didn’t sink in. I was watching, engrossed in the thing that moved along the sidewalk across the street. Engrossed by the talking birds, calling and responding to each other.

A shimmer slid along the sidewalk, forming a familiar shape, then becoming abstract, then forming again. It looked like a man, thin to the point of worry, and nude. His skin was pale and just barely stretched across his bones. Behind him he dragged something. I would swear it was a scythe. Too cliché, I thought. Too much beer the night before, or too little sleep. Still it was unsettling. I opened the window without knowing why, call it a compulsion. I wanted this stalker, this skeletal being to know that I knew he was there. Perhaps I thought I might prevent him from committing some terrible act. The owls voices were much heavier, much louder through the screen. The icy air surrounded me.

“Hey!” I shouted. It was the only word that I could manage.

My wife screamed behind me and at that moment, the thing dragging its weapon along the sidewalk—the metal blade sparking on the concrete as it went—turned and looked at me. Not toward me, but at me. Its burning yellow eyes dug into my brain for just a split second. The creature’s visage was all I could see and the rest of the world was black. I could hear my wife weeping, calling to me, but I couldn’t answer her and I couldn’t move. Not dead, but paralyzed and blind having seen death before my time.

It was the next day at the hospital when we got the call that one of our elderly neighbors had passed away in the night; the owls were for her, not me. I should’ve let that personal moment alone, not interrupted. It was none of my business and now I pay for my rudeness. I will pay until the owls come back.

~ Dan Dillard

© Copyright 2014 Dan Dillard. All Rights Reserved.

Apep

Had it been the sun that peeled skin from his neck or the sheer ferocity of his nightmare?

Blistering splendor poured onto him from the unrelenting orb. Fire singed his eyes, shriveled his tongue—the blackened, useless slug lolled from his lips. His speech now eradicated, rendered to meaningless gestures from his festered hands. The sun seared his flesh, melted his legs down to dripping strands; mere bubbling pools of tissue in the ruined soles of his boots.

Every night, each dream, the heat only intensified.

He had been walking down a pebbled road, a silvery-sparkled stream beyond a thicket to his left. He could hear it—the stream, forming words that he could not, murmuring soft melodies into his steaming ears. Disgusted, he spat futilely; gory mucous dribbled down his chin. He wiped at it with a skinless forearm.

Every night, each dream, the anguish only escalated.

He had never seen a sky so blue. Cloudless and pure. He gritted his teeth. Upon the wind ancient legends croaked, low and throaty, while to his right bunnies romped through manicured fields. The sun cooked him, made his eyes bleed, and from his core ruptured an awful sort of churn. The sort he might have gotten eating roofing nails or coals from the bottom of his dead father’s grill.

In tonight’s nightmare, he stood in the midst of beauty. It utterly sickened him.

A terrible mewling. From the fields: bunnies eviscerated in pink geysers and in the middle of it all, the most splendid serpent he had ever seen.
The sun threw rage from its golden loft in the sky.

He screamed himself awake.

***

Did his flesh itch from want or the ghastliness of his nightmare?

A tap at the window. His body jerked; the steering wheel caught him in the ribs. Another tap, more forceful. A shimmering ray of light penetrated his window and diffused across his lap. For one fear slickened moment, he believed the sun had returned.

“Drop the window.”

Clumsily he swung his head, caught the glare of the flashlight. He swatted at ghost mosquitoes, then rolled the window down.

“What are you doing out here tonight?”

Instantly, he knew he had made a terrible mistake and slowly raised his hands to the steering wheel. “Resting, sir. Been on the road awhile. Needed a bit of a break.”

The flashlight glare jumped to the side. “Out of the car. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

He jiggled the door handle and stepped out, the chilled night air a balm to his flesh—yes, flesh remained; he could see that much now under the flashlight’s glow. Relieved, he pushed his hands upward to the somber stain of the sky. The scent of bunny entrails tickled his nostrils.

He heard a serpent’s hiss.

“Have you been drinking tonight, son?”

“No sir, not at all.”

He whirled expertly and with a ruthless chop to the throat crumpled the patrolman. A spinning kick to the temple knocked the man out cold—movements so heartless, so practiced, the officer never stood a chance. He seized the cop by his hair, dragged him from the shoulder of the road and down a slight ravine. Slipped the trench knife from his jeans and plunged it into the base of the cop’s skull. He felt the body shudder, finally go limp. A serpent hissed again in his head, and its tail rattled somewhere off in dreamy meadows. He withdrew his knife from the skull and rejoiced.

In due time, he would become a deity.

***

He usually lived in his car; a nomad’s life, one to which he had grown accustomed. However, tonight he chose a run-down inn with what cash he had; now he slept, tangled in stale motel sheets and food stained newspapers. The nightmares, they discovered him, slithered and stalked through his mind. Beneath the flames of his sins, he sweat.

Deep in the throes of subconsciousness, his mind again succumbed to dreamscape’s dark veil. In this dream, he rose from his cheap bed, abandoning his yellowed outline across the sheets. A pebbled road stretched below his feet; a silvery-scarred stream gurgled like the death rattle of the officer he had slain days before. A tranquil panorama of pastel greens and blues yawned above his head and higher still loomed the sun, ripping at his skin yet again.

Reject Ra.

He screamed and suddenly found himself back in bed. Across his foot lay a newspaper, the headline drenched in moonlight filtering through the window:

OFFICER MURDERED: AUTHORITIES LINK SLAYING TO SERPENT KILLER

He smiled proudly, but then something scraped against the wall.

Laughter. You fear Ra.

He scanned the room, but the voice slipped undiscovered into the gloom. “I don’t fear anyone. Don’t you know they call me Serpent Killer now?”

Rattling. From the tail of a snake. You cower beneath Ra. Yet you dare emulate me.

“I don’t—”

Sacrifice under Ra’s nose. Only then will you shed your flesh, become what you are meant to be. A threatening hiss, and then the moon retreated from the room, casting it into hellish darkness.

At last, he tore free from his latest nightmare. Flakes of skin dusted his pillow.

***

He dragged his newest kill deeper into the woods. Passed the makeshift grave he had dug for the cop. Remembrance churned through his head.

The nightmares had plagued him since childhood, severing the innocence from his heart and replacing it with a hollow angst. He knew not what to make of the visions that poisoned his reveries, only that they rendered him misplaced and abandoned. Soon, however, he came to relish the feeling.

Once just a greasy, awkward freshman, he first murdered in the bathroom of his school. It had been November; the sun long expired by late afternoon. He loitered in the library, thumbing through books about bygone legends, until his eyes finally met that of another solitary boy. Eventually, he followed the boy into the lavatory, snuck behind him while he pissed into the urinal and drove his head into the ceramic tile. There were no witnesses, and he certainly had never been suspected. The death tang still lingered upon his fingers later that evening. For a brief while, he had stemmed his anguish. But relief never lasted. So he killed again.

He snapped from his thoughts.  Cut into his kill’s clothes with his knife, stripped them off.  Then he flipped the headless body onto its back.

With each letting of blood, his nightmares had only worsened. With each letting of blood, the serpent had only spoken louder.

He plunged his knife into its breast and proceeded to engrave.

He worked his hand and wrist carefully; his art form more fluid now than in the past. Sweat dripped from his brow.

Do not fail me as others have before you. Ra’s rein must end.

The serpent, it never left him alone. When he closed his eyes, it coiled behind his lids. Secretly, he despised its embodiment of something far more unnatural than even himself. But he never lost the faith that if he could gain knowledge of the nightmares the serpent delivered, perhaps then he could pillage its power.

Claim it as his own.

We must cast this world into my glorious shadow.

He stepped back, studied his toil. Desecrated, the headless corpse lay strewn—a serpent dug into its flesh, twisting sternum to groin.

Sacrifice under Ra’s nose. Only then will you shed your flesh. The serpent’s words rattled through his skull and quite unexpectedly, he frowned.

***

He had pondered years over his dilemma: would liberation be granted under the sun, or would the moon ultimately conceal his damnation?

Under golden rays, he had feared for his safety, his very life. Yet did he not hide under the hem of night, seeking a coward’s comfort? Meticulously he had fashioned a secure existence, believing it would eventually lead to divinity. He ached to be worshiped, but how could he ever be glorified when the masses knew him only as Serpent Killer…and not the Serpent.

He had never slain in broad daylight. Only a god could be so brazen.

Tonight, he settled into the back seat of his car, behind an abandoned barn he knew to be undisturbed. By flashlight, he poured over the newspapers he had accumulated. The headlines swelled him with pride—the media’s copy dressed him as a rock star. Yes, the slayings had been linked, some twenty to thirty all told. Serpent Killer, they chanted his name. Serpent Killer.  Still, it gnawed at the root of his soul.

Never the Serpent.

He gazed through the window at a sky black as the river Styx. After so many years, he had reached a decision. When he woke in the morning, he would shed his flesh.

***

The silvery-sparkled stream spoke; at least he thought it did. It gurgled over the rocks, over fallen limbs. Around the beaver’s dam it ebbed, and he loathed its song. The sun blew an inferno across the land. The thicket smoldered. Bunnies frolicked unaware.

Naked, he lay on a pebbled road and stared at the sun. It laughed at him, hurled boisterous flames that melted his toenails off. Nubs of white bone broke through his flesh. He screamed, but no one heard.

Butterflies swirled round his head, a myriad of colors, shapes. One landed upon the tip of his nose. He swatted at it but was too slow; it flitted back into its flock of comrades, their kaleidoscope of hues acid to his eyes. He realized he despised beauty, all beauty, and the nourishment its sun provided. Now he heard the fish in the stream laugh as well as the butterflies and the birds as they nestled in their boughs. The bunnies too, something of a high-pitched chortle—and the sun, its haughty giggling more than he could bear.

The serpent’s hiss hushed the land.

He tore free from the membranes of yet another nightmare, slick with fright. Golden fingers groped through the back window, scraping angry red welts across his legs. He recoiled from the sun and nearly scrambled into the front seat.

Then he saw them.

The little boy crossed the field, headed to the trees and the stream beyond. A fishing pole bounced along his shoulder. Close behind walked the boy’s father.

Shirtless, shoeless, he slipped from his car. Trench knife in hand. He stalked across the field, the grass beneath his feet uncomfortably sharp and hot, stewing his toes. Harder he pushed, springing smoothly from the ground the moment he touched down. With each predatory step, his confidence brimmed.

The scent of the father’s aftershave tickled his nose and the boy…he could already taste the boy’s blood.

Persistent in its melody, the stream disguised his footfall. A bunny bounded across the field, stopped and wiggled its nose. A butterfly fluttered about. The sun tattooed the top of his head; something flaked from his neck and between his shoulders. It spat its fury upon him, ignited a deep ache within the marrow of his bones. He ignored it all, fueled by the unknowing chatter between the father and his boy—and the dawning realization that soon he would be a deity.

Nothing would deny him.

Ten more yards. The father would then taste his blade. His eyes sparkled as he tightened his grip upon the knife.

Sacrifice under Ra’s nose. Only then will you shed your flesh.

Five yards.

Two.

A massive shadow shifted from under the canopy of trees ahead. His mind reeled, desperate to make sense of what had emerged. His legs buckled, and he tumbled forward. He managed to snare his prey’s foot and tripped the father to the ground.

He pounced upon the man and for a moment, he glimpsed his own bewildered reflection within his prey’s frightened eyes. One slash and his blade kissed the man’s throat.

He enjoyed the ghastly wheeze from the father’s gaping wound. Then he noticed the pus-bloated sores along his own arm, and a long shriek escaped his mouth.

From under the shadow of the trees, the boy halted and spun around. Staggering from the prone body of the father, he half ran, half limped toward the boy as the flesh separated from muscle in thin sheets from his limbs. He hissed even as glints of bone popped through the exposed areas.

Nothing would deny him. Not even the sun as it stripped free tissue and tendon.

He raised the trench knife above his head but it dropped from his grasp, fingers nothing more than charred bone. A numbness spread through his mind like morphine, yet the inferno within raged molten. His arms, twisted into jagged charcoaled spindles, burst into plumes of ash that clotted the air. The ruins of his legs littered the field, and he fell once more. He came to rest at the boy’s feet, a smoldering stump.

Behind the boy slithered a staggering mass. It rose and towered above them both—he thought it had existed only in the darkest cavities of his nightmares—but now realized how terribly wrong he had been. The serpent in all its glory: an enormous thing with unblinking elliptical eyes and a horrid, triangular head. It glowered, forked tongue flicking from its jaws.

His face slid off into the grass. His torso itched unbearably as scales erupted from beneath his exposed muscle.

He glanced upward, stared into the serpent’s morphing head. For a moment, he glimpsed his own features grotesquely bubbling under the serpent’s. Then the boy’s. The ancient abomination opened its mouth.

Sacrifice under Ra’s nose. Only then will you shed your flesh, become what you are meant to be.

The boy walked away and then returned with the trench knife in his young hand.

Only then did he comprehend that the god of his nightmares commanded not him but the boy. Finally did he realize he had been mislead. Abandoned once more. “Nooooo…”

Another child would be prepared as heir to Apep’s earthly throne and in turn suffer its depraved nightmares. Perhaps it would be this boy…this boy who possessed no fear of Ra.

The dawning complete; the only sure way to slay a serpent was to sever its head.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2013 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

The Bowl

A bowl filled with liquid; it had always been so.

The bowl looked as if it was heavy needing a substantial stand and yet it was suspended just feet above the foliage that caressed its underside.

It filled from an unknown spring, but how? My deductions and observations failed me.

I watched as creatures bounded to the bowl leaving refreshed and apparently younger.

A colorless butterfly dipped and as it rose it appeared as if the sun had painted each color filled line to perfection. It dripped feathery gold drops as it fluttered away.

The bowl filled instantly again with cool refreshing water.

A sweet voice would call to  me.

“Drink”, it said. “Go ahead just one sip.”

Day after day as I took copious research notes, I heard it.

It was like a Siren beckoning me closer to the rocks of the unknown harbor.

I wore ear plugs that worked at first but slowly failed.

Loud music was drowned out by the sweet, melodic voice “DRINK.”

Then one day a promise carried over the hush.

A fawn dragged her lifeless, bloodied leg. She was almost spent. She left healed.

The flora clapped as the fawn departed.

“You will be more. Just ask one thing. It must give it to you.”

This bowl of unquenchable water was the fountain of youth, it was the healing pool of Bethesda, it dripped the gold and silver of Midas’ valued touch.

“I’m a scientist.” I growled. “I ‘m here for observation only.”

I heard a low laugh that withered with the night.

And then one day it happened, I fell. As I picked myself up, I noticed a thorn in my leg. Absentmindedly I removed the thorn. It was nothing.

Later that day, my leg began throbbing. I set down my notepad. My leg was three-times its normal size.

“Now you must use the waters.”

The once sweet voice was cruel.

“I cannot!” I struggled to project resolve.

“Then you will die.”

Stubbornly, I dragged my leg about.

I don’t know how many days I did this.

I held my head that was growing fuzzy in hands I could not feel.

I knew I would never get out alive.

“What must I do?” I wailed.

“Drink!!!”

I hobbled closer to the bowl than I had ever dared.

A hush covered the forest. It was as if nature waited.

I looked about it and then I looked in the waters.

A face stared back at me.

It was death loosely hanging over bones that once resembled a face.

“Is that me?” I trembled at the thought.

I dipped my head into the bowl.

“Heal me from this poisonous death,” I begged

I looked at the bowl as it refilled.

Moisture dripped from my face.

I put out my hand to catch the drops.

It was blood – my blood.

“I now have what I have needed for eons.”

“What?”

“Human blood – fool!”

It ran freely. I could not stop my life dripping from my pores.

“Now you see what you can do with this curse.” The once sweet voice had a different tone. Strong, more than human and then it was gone.

I felt cold and alone.

I could no longer feel my legs or my arms. I felt so heavy.

I looked up into a concave reality.

I had become the bowl.

Cursed to quench but never have my thirst quenched.

To heal and never be healed unless it was at the sake of another poor fool.

~ Leslie Moon

© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved.

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