Damned Words 11

lantern

A Reason
Joseph A. Pinto

I found a reason to walk tween the folds of winter’s shawl, so hand in hand go we along Perdition’s Road. Shall we burn, we burn as one; shall we suffer, then know love cores the depths of our wounds. Lace your trembling fingers round my neck and your burdens I shall carry. I’ve no need to burn this lantern’s oils for our demons come well-known. Let them swirl in the dark, guttering til gone. Death is tenant of our path, yet tonight she’ll know no coin. My life I mortgage for yours; take flight now against my sky.


Nightfall
Nina D’Arcangela

Torn and bloodied, she huddles against the lantern’s pedestal fighting for a life already lost. Broken in spirit, broken in heart, she watches as they circle, awaiting night’s fall. Not taken on the last, she knows this eve she’ll not be so lucky. Day is already beginning to dim; the heavens darken. Having sought solace in the flicker of a dying flame, the whispers in her mind reassure no salvation will be granted. Darker than the deepening hue of the foreboding sky, they watch. The lantern struggles to glow, then gutters out. Her hope vanquished, they descend. The feast begins.


Monarch-Man
Thomas Brown

It had gone midnight when I crossed the park but he was quite visible by the street lamp. Stick limbs. Wild hair. The sickly-sweet scent of honey. He was filthy and beautiful.

Upturned, his pale face bathed in the orange glow. I saw his tight lips, his dusty skin. His eyes were like two orbs of polished stone. I saw myself in them a thousand times over, growing larger as I approached.

He smiled as I swarmed in his eyes, this Monarch-Man, my Emperor. I smiled back. Together we danced around the street lamp, and the night whispered with wing-beats.


Welcome to New Orleans
Zack Kullis

James glanced at the last gas lantern as they followed the old Haitian woman. Its light seemed to warn of coming darkness, fluttering and pointing away from the famed priestess. They had asked her for a taste of local voodoo, thinking it was bullshit until the old woman turned in the darkness of an alley and blew powder into their faces.

“Coupe poudre,” she whispered with a grin.

He pawed at his face until his legs buckled. Unable to move, James gazed with unblinking eyes as the voodoo priestess stooped close to his face.

“Welcome to New Orleans, my pet.”


Color Me Gray
Blaze McRob

It’s another gray winter evening, bereft of color, even the moonlight not distinct. And the light at the end of the old rock wall? Colorless. The sky blind to its presence.

The leaf-less trees pass his word through their twitching branches. He is pissed. Revenge is on his mind. Those who would destroy what he created must pay the price.

A giant pallet, held between his enormous hands, continues to draw all colors other than gray to it.

Armageddon will be much easier now. The lack of color already depresses them.

Great moans come from everywhere as the beasts attack.


High Society
Hunter Shea

“It’s the one right there”
“Where? I can barely see.”
“The one with the old gas lamp.”
The crowbar made quick work of the rusty mausoleum door. Bitter fall wind knifed through the opening.
“Help me with this.”
They chipped away at the cement covering, dumping the coffin on the floor.
“Shhh, you’ll wake the dead!”
They both tittered.
The coffin lid opened with an eerie squeal. The corpse looked like jerky, smelled rancid.
“You first.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
He lowered his open maw on the corpse’s face.
Eaters of the Dead Society was not for the squeamish.


Flicker
Jon Olson

This city stands tall, desolate, and lifeless like the trees against the sunless sky. More empty concrete; more of the same. Nothing. Perched atop the corner on a forgotten wall, a lamp. Encased and protected by a small cage. The glass bulb intact, untouched by history. I imagine it glowing; a beacon of hope in dark and despair. Wait! What was that? Did it just… my God, it did! The filament lit up! I swear it flickered. Do it again! The bulb had blinked once… teasing me. Flicker again! Please do it again! Damn it, I need this. God, please…


The Game
Craig McGray

Once a beacon of hope, the lanterns go unlit now. In a new world, where few things are guaranteed and only death is certain, he scours what remains of the charred earth for the precious few that have somehow survived the scorching heat, famine, and disease that has spread across the globe. They think they’re surviving, fools every one of them, but he’ll track them down; the ultimate hunter. When the demon and his ebony stallion finds them, they’ll wish they’d perished like the others. For the game has only one survivor and he rides atop a fleshless black beast.


Raven
Magenta Nero

I pace in the street light, my heels click a numbing tune. Many drive past, slowing down, hungry eyes gawking, but it’s just not their time.

The chosen one rolls up, engine humming. I get a blank stare when I smile and say “My service is free.”

His face drains of colour as it dawns. The irrevocable darkness is a rising tide within, a slow choking. I shriek excitedly as he passes over. My wings burst open, eager to deliver him. The judgement is always a feast of pain. Few are redeemed. Snatching his soul in my beak, I soar.


Ne’er To Be Seen Again
Tyr Kieran

Under this post, he lay slumped against the cold stone wall; bleeding, appropriately ripped open. I watch the pain swell in his eyes and it widens my smile. I had not reason to smile in weeks—not since the woman I loved had been murdered in a savage manner. Despite her being of ill repute, I planned to marry. But on a night like tonight, with ring waiting in my pocket, I happened upon her torn body in the street. He took her from me. And now, I’ve taken him away from Whitechapel, ne’er to be seen in London again.


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.

Sypheun

 Her feet traveled up the roughly hewn steps with quiet ease. Ageless, she moved with immortal agility and timeless grace. The ethereal shimmer of her gown accentuated her femininity as she climbed. Beautiful from before time was first counted, Sypheun was gifted beyond most. That is why she went.

The steps rose from far below and stretched into the darkness above. Occasional flashes of light touched her form with their fiery embrace. A myriad of eyes watched from the eager masses below, knowing that only she was capable of performing this rite.

Sypheun glanced over her shoulder and watched the wretched thing that followed her. A flash of anger darkened the bright color of her eyes. “Your kind is never strong enough.” She yanked on the chain with perfectly bridled strength – hard enough to cause pain to the derelict being, but not hard enough to knock it down and cause more work for herself.

She shook her head in disgust. “Worthless creature,” she hissed. Nearly silent wails and breathless moans fell from torn lips as the frail man was forced to keep pace. His almost lifeless eyes held nothing but resignation. The man was spent, aware of nothing but his own pain and anguish.

Sypheun saw the door carved out of the granite above her. “It’s almost time,” she called over her shoulder. “We are in need of another sacrifice.”

The man’s fatigued breathing and vacant stare annoyed her. She jerked the chain again. Anticipating the task at hand, she rushed up the narrowing flight of granite steps nearly dragging her victim behind her. Once at the door, Sypheun pulled a key from her bosom and unlocked it. Only she could enter that other place; do what needed to be done.

A stale gust of cold air pushed through the door as Sypheun slowly opened it. Debris moved with the old stone as she pushed it inward. The pungent aroma of decay teased her nose. “How lovely,” she whispered as she yanked the man into the small room. She loved this part of the ritual. “Do you remember this place?” His eyes began to register something beyond the nothing they had held for so long.

“Maybe once you see a little more, then you will remember. It’s been years since you’ve been here.”

With a slight smirk, she ran her fingers across a stone slab centered in the chamber they now crossed; dust stirred where her hand traced. She looked back at the man and her grin broadened. His eyes were more clear as he seemed to take in his surroundings. Sypheun laughed. “Do you remember that night, so long ago?”

She reached the outer door, unlocked it, and flung it open. The night beyond filled the room. Its dim glow nearly blinded the man who had been kept in utter darkness for so long. Sypheun stepped beyond the door and yanked the chain violently. Her captive fell through the doorway and landed on his hands and knees. He opened his eyes and began to remember.

The rush of memories induced a mental hell of unbearable depth. A full moon cast her cold light upon the miserable soul as he wept bitterly at the entrance of the tomb. Sypheun grabbed the chain and pulled him to his feet.

“Time for a new sacrifice,” she whispered. “You do remember how this works, don’t you?”

He nodded his head in horror. Once vacant eyes looked down at his withered and discolored skin. He had changed more drastically than his fragile mind was ready to accept. Nearly all of his humanity had been drained by the throngs of hungry succubi in the depths below. He was now a ghoul.

The walk through the cemetery all those years ago surfaced through the jumbled mess of memories. He had come on a cold night to find the old tomb that was the subject of so many stories. There were tales of a beautiful specter that haunted the tomb. He had found her. He had also found his damnation.

Sypheun smiled as she saw the flood of memories haunt the creature’s eyes. Her attention drawn away, she heard the sound of nervous footsteps echo across the stones around them. As always, a new fool roamed the grounds and sought to satisfy his curiosity.

The frail ghoul watched with sick aversion as a young man walked towards the tomb. He couldn’t have been much more than fifteen. The young man stopped abruptly when he saw them waiting for him.

Sypheun’s beauty held the boy captive. He didn’t even see the wretch by her side. Her sweet voice filled his ears as she sang an arcane song of blood and death. It lulled him, pulled him to within a few feet of her. Her beauty seduced him; he never saw her remove the chains from the ghoul. Enthralled, he noticed nothing beyond her allure until the strange metal clamped securely around his neck.

He woke from her spell as if seeing for the first time, noticed the ghoul, and cried out in fright. Sypheun jerked the chain and brought him to his knees. The boy fought like a savage beast, but she only smiled in response. “Such energy, such life and vitality. You will serve us well.”

“What the hell are you doing to me,” screamed the boy as he fought against the impossibly strong woman. “You can’t do this!”

Sypheun grabbed the boy’s face. He was immobilized the instant her hand touched him. Her smile broadened as she began to pull at his energy. “Let me teach you a hard lesson. You are about to realize that humanity is not at the top of the evolutionary ladder.”

She began to walk backward towards the dark recesses of the crypt as she talked, the boy helplessly in tow. “All sentient beings evolve through violent exploitation. The acts of seizing, conquering and subjugating are inextricably linked to life as a higher form. It is through sacrifice and death that all things advance and become. This is as true for your kind as it is for mine.”

Sypheun was just inside the door of the crypt when she spoke again. “Ghoul. The crypts are now your home and haunt. By day you will sleep in the rot, then rise and roam by night. Feed on the flesh of the race to which you once belonged. You have returned to this world as a spoiled sacrifice, a harvester of decay. As for you,” she said as she pulled the young man into the darkness, “it’s fitting that you leave your world through the crypt. But you shall find no death here, only the depths where we are eternally hungry.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Snipe Hunt

Austin gave a nervous chuckle as he looked back and forth between his fellow Scouts’ faces, searching for a sign that this was just a stupid joke. The two older kids held his stare, unblinking.

“You’re kidding, right?” Austin finally said.

“No way. They’re real,” Eddy replied. “Nasty little things too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You never heard the tale about the slaughtered troop in these very woods, thirty years ago? A kid by the name of George or Gerald was the only survivor. They found him covered in blood and ranting about wild animals. His hand was ripped off. They chalked it all up to wolves, but we know better.”

“So… if they’re dangerous, why are we going to hunt for one?”

“It’s a test of courage that all Newbies have to take,” Eddy answered.

Austin’s stomach fluttered. Again, he waited for a punch line.

Eddy shook his head. “The Newbie’s too scared.”

Things haven’t been easy for Austin. His poor eyesight forced him into a comically large set of glasses since the start of grade school. Friends were hard to come by and becoming a welcomed member of any group was a pipe-dream. But here, with the Boy Scouts, he might have a chance. Eddy and Kyle were the alphas of the troop and if he could gain their acceptance, he’d be in. Austin ignored the usual warning signs that flashed in his brain, come on nerd, man up for once.

“No way,” he said firmly. “Count me in.”

“Good.” Eddy’s smile widened to Grinch-like proportions, and then he laid out the plan. “Alright, grab your flashlight and your tent bag. We’re going to head out past the latrine and away from the main trail. Kyle will take lead and I’ll watch our backs. You be ready with the bag. Got it?”

“We’re going to follow the tracks. If we find a Snipe, be quick and quiet. Sneak up behind it and get the bag over ‘em fast.”

Austin nodded, leaning harder on his false front of courage.

“So,” he asked in an overly casual tone. “What are we looking for exactly?”

“Um, they’re… small, up to your waist, maybe.” Kyle said.

“But, if they see you, they turn strong and angry. Watch out for their claws.” Eddy said. “If you see a pair of glowing eyes in the dark, it’s already too late. Got it?”

Austin nodded, worried his voice would betray his fading confidence.

“Good. Go get your gear and meet us behind the shitter.”

***

The forest floor lay hidden beneath three-inches of snowfall. The wet, dense snow made for prime animal tracking conditions, recording any goings-on with the sensitivity of a Richter scale. Solid cloud cover, however—a residual of the morning’s storm—offered little light for searching. Visibility was restricted to the sweep of their Walmart issue flashlights.

They walked for nearly half an hour before Kyle pointed out the first set of prints. He whispered back to the other boys to come look. Austin knelt down, pulled off his mittens, and inspected the imprint, following the shallow indents with his fingers. It was almost avian in shape with two toes and an elongated heel.

They’re real! The alarms blared against his senses again, too loud to ignore this time.

Austin looked over his shoulder, hoping he’d see fear in their faces as well, but Eddy just gave a calm nod. “Keep moving.”

They followed the prints, marching through the forest, weaving around barren trees. The distance between the three boys grew. Austin’s heart pounded; he could feel the thumping in his throat. Each print they passed heightened his desperation; he couldn’t think of a way to end this without seeming like a coward.

Austin clumped along, with no other sound but the soft crunching of snow under their feet. This is stupid! Why did I let them talk me into this?

An unexpected object entered his vision. Austin stared down at a glove resting on the snow. He crouched to pick it up but stopped when he noticed the dark circles. Despite the haze of his weak flashlight, Austin was convinced it was blood.

He jolted to his feet and whipped his light around, searching for the other two Scouts. He saw nothing but the cold skeletal remains of a once lush forest. Listening, he only heard his own panicked breathing.

“Guys?” Austin called out. “Kyle? Eddy?”

No answer.

Fear took over. He jerked the light erratically, searching the surrounding trees for a blood-thirsty creature. He felt eyes on him, watching his every move.

He looked down at the tracks and started to run. His feet churned, cold air burned in his lungs and the cloud of his exhalation puffed in his face. He didn’t get far before something caught his foot and he hit the ground hard.

Austin flailed in the snow, turned quickly expecting to see a Snipe leaping toward his face, but he was alone. A tree root poked up out of the snow near his boot, offering a brief moment of relief, but his sense of danger still urged him onward. He turned back, preparing to push himself up into a run when he noticed a reflection in his periphery. Terrified it was the eyes of a beast, he jerked the flashlight back. The beam illuminated a small pile of torn ketchup packets partially uncovered by his scrambling movements in the snow.

It took a few seconds for Austin to comprehend what they were and only a few seconds more to figure out their significance. His fear burned away to nothing in the growing blaze of his anger.

Austin jumped to his feet, shouting, “It’s not funny, you… you… Assholes! Get out here. Eddy! Kyle!”

The two scouts stepped out from behind their trees, laughing. Kyle held out a gloveless hand with three fingers extended to show how the animal prints were made. “Oh, man, we got you good!”

“You turned whiter than the snow when you saw that glove,” Eddy added.

“I bet you pissed in your tighty-whities, huh?”

The hot pressure of anger and embarrassment exploded from Austin in a loud battle cry. He used the only weapon he had, packed snow. Austin launched snowballs at them as hard and as fast as he could. Eddy and Kyle ducked out of harm’s way, still chuckling.

After several attempts, Austin stopped to catch his breath. All projectiles had sailed uselessly to the ground except for one close call that struck the tree behind Kyle’s head. The boys laughed, pointing at the snowballs in the frost behind them, and slapping the tree where the lone hit still powdered the bark. They reenacted all the missed throws in a dancing mimicry that heightened their humor and sent them gasping for air.

Austin seethed as they made a fool of him. He clenched his fists and shifted his weight to take a run at them, but the sudden appearance of two lights stole his motivation.

They flickered into being like a dying lamp but in reverse. Then Austin realized the lights were too high off the ground and too steady for approaching flashlights in the hands of other Scouts. Austin glanced at Eddy and Kyle to see if this was somehow part of their plan, but the boys were still calming down from their hysterics, completely self-absorbed.

The lights began to move and blink in unison. Austin wanted to run, to choose flight over fight, but fear rooted him to the spot. The glowing orbs moved down the tree like neon sap while the surrounding bark unfurled into wiry limbs. A high-pitched whine, like tree tops rubbing in the breeze, finally caught the older boys’ attention. They turned around, eyes wide, as the creature landed in a puff of snow behind them.

Its back was dark, covered in coarse bark-like skin. The two lights Austin had seen were a pair of glowing eyes set into the shoulder blades of its lissome form. White crystals from the snowball still glistened between those glaring eyes. Four clawed hands flexed as the creature turned to face its attackers.

It stood on two feet that matched their pretend pattern in the snow. The front flesh of the skeletal creature was smooth and stark white, like the scales of an albino snake, but the boys couldn’t see anything beyond the gnarled head. Four more glowing eyes stared up at them from a heavy brow, and below that, a snarling mouth of jagged teeth waited impatiently for something or someone to gnaw. The noise it produced—a growl that clicked more than it rumbled—broke the silence of their held breaths.

Austin’s hands trembled violently, and despite the strobe effect this had on the scene’s illumination, he could see the snow beneath his fellow scouts steam and melt. The creature looked to be sniffing the air with the pink fleshy appendages ringing its snout—quivering, identifying.

The odor of human urine hit the animal’s senses and it reeled back, shaking its head, swatting at the offensive pheromones.

Eddy, trying to make sense of the nightmare he saw before him, could only manage a single, stuttered word. “Sn-sn-ssniiipe.”

With a roar, the creature pounced on him. Kyle, close to the action, fell backward into the snow. He crab crawled a few feet away from the feeding frenzy, before he scrambled to his feet and took off through the woods.

Austin watched in horror as the creature tore his fellow scout apart. Blood, gore, and down feathers splattered the pristine snow like a grotesque angel. Austin’s mind screamed for his body to flee but he couldn’t. The flashlight felt heavy and his hands had gone numb. He thought about what might happen if he let it fall – then he noticed the other lights.

All the surrounding trees were now adorned with their own set of white-glowing eyes. The tree bark all around them began to crawl. The forest came alive with slithering Snipes and clicking growls. Austin squeezed his eyes shut as dozens of creatures sped past him in pursuit of the escaping prey.

Moments passed and distant screams told of more victims. Austin knew they had found the campsite. There were too many screams followed by too much silence. He wondered if he was the only one left.

With no recent sign or sound of them, Austin decided to find a way out. Pivoting on his heel, he turned slowly—his held breath burning cold in his chest and his eyes darting around for movement in the trees.

A soft clicking noise in his ear seized everything. He couldn’t stop trembling. He couldn’t blink. With a blast of warm breath on his neck, the creature exhaled and stepped around him, all the while sniffing the air as it moved into view.

Austin stood face to face with the Snipe. It tilted its head as the star-shaped nose worked to confirm what its ineffective eyes could not comprehend. Then, more appeared—wandering in for a closer view. The first one spoke to the others in a series of shrills and clicks.

It was clear what Austin had to do.

He remembered the story his Uncle Gerard told the kids several years back after too many drinks on Halloween. He claimed his mutilated hand was the only reason he was still alive. He said it was a message. He also rattled on about little demons, and how he was the last one, but it never made sense until now. Uncle Gerard was the messenger and his left hand was the warning. The Snipes had ripped off the index finger and pinky, leaving behind their virtual footprint as a symbol of territory—a warning for others to see and fear.

Austin removed his mittens and held out his left hand.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

A Foul Day

It moved! I swear on my mother’s grave I saw it move! Glancing up, I scan the faces surrounding the table trying to determine if anyone else saw the jerking motion. No one seems to have noticed; they’re all laughing and drinking, chattering away happily while waiting to be fed.

I blink a few times to clear my eyes. I’ve been working too hard lately, putting in too many hours, that’s all. I raise the carving knife and fork once more, preparing to plunge them into the bird trussed before me. It fucking moves again! This time with an accompanying slopping sound. A bead of sweat breaks out on my upper lip; my wife is staring at me hesitantly. With both hands now resting on either side of the beast, I take a few slow, deep breaths to calm my overwrought nerves. A slight nudge comes from my right. It’s my wife, a strained smile on her face; she nods toward the foul creature. I nod back.

Bringing the arm with the fork up, I dab at the dew above my lip and make an off-hand comment about it being roasting in here. Everyone laughs. A small shake of my head, I exhale and raise the knife once again to begin slicing the meat. As the gleaming instruments near the platter, I hear a voice in my head. ‘Go on ya piss-ant piece of shit – cut me open. Show everyone what a big man you are and gut me. Gut me like you gutted your wife when the doctor told her there was no physical reason you couldn’t get it up. Ya don’t have the balls to stick it to her, and you don’t have the balls to stick it to me either!

What the fuck? My knees nearly buckle and my wife reaches out to steady me. I jerk my arm away. The room grows quiet, the tension nearly palpable. I toss out another remark meant as a joke; the responding chortle is terse, fraught with unease. My wife is no longer smiling; she looks worried. I try to reassure her with a smile of my own, but a bare shake of her head lets me know she’s not buying it. ‘Ya know, she doesn’t have any faith in you anymore, right? She was expecting to marry a man, and look what she got – you! She knows about Terry, too.’ I almost utter a response but choke on my own spittle instead. ‘Yeah, that’s right. She knows you’re sticking it to that bitch from work. She knows you been doin’ it for the past month when all you’re bringin’ home is that limp fish in your pants, she just doesn’t wanna ruin this family get-together-thing. Your ass is outta here as soon as their gone, buddy!

Sure that I’m pale as a ghost, I lean on the table for support once more. My head hanging, limbs trembling; the nervous tick of the fork tapping against a glass the only sound in the nearly silent room. My wife reaches over again and lays a hand on my forearm. I lash out to shove her away, forgetting that I’m holding the carving knife. We stare at one another in shock for a heartbeat before her body crashes forward into the china, her throat sliced ever so neatly from side to side. As the crimson of her blood mixes with the pumpkin colored hue of her favorite tablecloth, a slight gurgling is all that resounds. I look on in horrified disbelief, then one of the children lets out an ear-piercing screech. The demon starts again, ‘Ha! Look what you…

I begin stabbing it with the fork, maniacally chopping it to bits while screaming incoherently. Everyone in the room is staring at me like I’ve gone insane. I try to explain about the turkey… about not realizing I was still holding the knife… about the pressure I’ve been under… but there isn’t a sympathetic eye to be found. ‘You know what you have to do, don’t ya? If you don’t, they’ll lock you up in the loony bin again.’ An icy cold sheet of acceptance washes over me as I move to the doorway, blocking my teenage brother-in-law from escaping.

I was really hoping this family would be different, not like the last…

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2014/2015 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.

Nine Lives

The edges of the jungle dance to the tune played by the vibrant colors of the burning village, twisting, cavorting shadows interspersed with the unknown entities hiding beyond where no light will go.

I know what lurks within the boundaries of the dense undergrowth. Most of what resides there is not good. Death lives and thrives at its core and spreads out to capture ever more territory when the veil of darkness works in its favor.

For now, at least, the fire is saving those of us still alive from being entombed within the snare of annihilation. I wonder if that’s a good thing, though. Sure, we’re saved for now, but at what cost? Capture later on? Torture?

Some fucking life! Yet, some of us can’t condone rolling over and accepting a fate of doom. Better to resist and fight ’til the end than to subjugate yourself to the wishes of the tormentors.

Fuck! I don’t make the rules. This is war. One side wins; one side loses. It’s as simple as that.

Most of the villagers waste no time in leaving their former homes. No sense in staying now. All that remains is burned rubble and ash. We help those who will accept it to get on their way. Their stares tell me what I already know without a word having been spoken: the burning of their village, the forced evacuation from their meager existence, it’s our fault. Yeah, in their minds, the ‘Cong were after us and they are paying the penalty for this retaliatory strike.

How the hell are we supposed to fight and win a war where no one respects us or what we are trying to do for them? They would rather roll over and capitulate to the commie bastards than fight on their own behalves. Not all of them; but a great many feel that way.

It appears that twenty or so of us grunts are left. No sense in leaving now. As long as the fires are raging, we’re safer where we’re at. We better dig in, though. Once the air around us loses the brilliance of the fires and the all-encompassing darkness takes over, we’re sitting ducks.

“C’mon guys!” I holler out. “You know what we have to do. Let’s do it.”

“But, Sarge . . .”

“No buts, soldier! Just do. That’s an order!”

The Captain and Lieutenant both were killed in the battle. Lucky me. I’m in charge now. These guys are my responsibility until I get them back to the base.

My eyes scan the horizon looking for signs of the enemy when it comes into view, rushing around in some sort of haphazard circle, completely on fire, howling in pain, the stench of its burning fur filling the air. I run out from my point of shelter behind a mixture of unburned wood planks and a few sand bags with a blanket and a couple of canteens in my hands. Reaching the distraught animal, I can now see it’s a cat: a rather large, strangely shaped animal perhaps, but a black cat none-the-less. I douse it with the contents of the canteens, and as gently as I can, smother the rest of the fire out while cradling it in my arms. There is no resistance from the animal, almost as if it is entrusting me with its care.

“Geez, Sarge, what are we going to do with that critter? It’s just going to die anyway.”

Staring into its eyes, I see a sign of intelligence I wouldn’t expect from a mere cat, but I see more as well. I see an animal on the mend, rapidly morphing back into what it was before the fire tried to consume it. I’m puzzled. How can this be? It should be merely existing at best, not thriving as it appears to be doing.

“Doesn’t look like it’s dying to me, Corporal,” I say.

He takes another look, stares back at me, and shakes his head. “You know, Sarge, this ain’t normal. It ain’t right.”

Sweat pours from my brow, a mixture of confusion, anxious bewilderment, and just plain heat. “Maybe so, but it’s not bad anyway.”

The big tom cat purrs in my arms, getting stronger by the moment – and seemingly larger. Even after this short amount of time, I feel as if I can barely hold it any longer.

Shit… shit, things start spinning around me, standing no longer an option. The big cat jumps out of my arms as I slide down onto the ground, using a tree to slow my descent.

“Oh, my God! You’ve been hit, Sarge! There’s blood all over the back of your shirt,” one of the men says.

That explains the sudden weakness; I’m coming down from my endorphin rush. The battle is over for the moment. My body is returning to normal. But in this case, normal isn’t good. The bleeding; I have to stop it now before I bleed out or go in to shock.

The sight of my blood creates panic in my men. They don’t know what to do. They’re inexperienced as it is, let alone with this sort of thing.

“You have to cut my shirt off and press down around the wound. Once I’m stabilized, you’ll have to remove the bullet; maybe more than one – I don’t know.”

“But… but how will we know when it’s okay?”

“I’ll tell you, that’s how. If I pass out, you’re on your own.”

Trembling more than I am, even with shock already starting to move in on me, the Corporal slices my shirt open with his knife and calls a couple of the others over to help him. They gently remove the worst of the blood with what’s left of my shirt and apply pressure to the multiple wounds.

I feel myself slipping away, the pain not even able to keep me awake any longer, but if I drift off and don’t fight it, I’m done for.

A hiss cuts through the air and all the hands are gone from my back. Instead, I feel the moistness of a rough tongue licking away at the torn skin, saliva digging in to the cuts, stinging horribly at first before a sort of calming comes over me, and I fall off to sleep.

The fire is no longer burning when I come to. Everything around me is calm: too calm. I feel the presence of something, something close, but there is no noise, no movement, no odors, and nothing to be seen.

Yet, it’s out there. Something. More than one; yes, they are patient, waiting for the perfect time to attack. But when, I don’t know.

My men have laid me in a secure, partially dug out area. If something comes up, I’m in as protected a place as there is. But, my strength is returning fast. As with everything else that’s happened since the arrival of my burning black friend, this makes no sense. I’m recovering as fast as the cat did. It’s almost as if he gave me some sort of life transference. The nine lives are growing.

They’re growing fast.

My furry friend is next to me, purring contentedly, my arms around him. I notice that no sentries have been posted; not the wisest of moves, but I’m not concerned. Somehow, I know I’ll be ready when the time for action comes.

I drift off to sleep again, but it’s not a deep sleep; it’s refreshing rest, but I’m still alert, aware of everything around me, my senses super sharp.

My friend wakes and stares at me, his yellow eyes telling me we can no longer stay where we are. The time has come.

“Corporal!” I say, shaking him, waking him from his sleep. “The ‘Cong are coming. Let’s get ready for them. I’ll go out and flush them in to you from behind.”

He wipes the sleep from his eyes and gives me an incredulous stare. “Don’t worry,” I say. “I know what I’m doing.”

I grab my M-16 and swing to the left, somehow knowing where I’m going, what I’m doing. My vision is sharp, even though the night is dark as coal. I mow the enemy down and push the others towards my compadres.

My ammo runs out! However, the enemy is still here. There are many of them and only one of me. But wait. The cat, my ebony pal is here, and he has grown in size. He is about the size of a small tiger, showing his long teeth to the ‘Cong, spittle dripping down from the edges of his mouth, and his eyes… his yellow eyes are seemingly the size of saucers, and they exude not only ferocity, but cunning as well.

All eyes are off me for now and on the cat. Surely there is plenty of firepower for all of them to dispatch this unexpected nemesis easily enough. But wherever they shoot, the agile animal is one step ahead of them, appearing to know exactly where the bullets will land. Closer and closer he gets to them, his claws no longer retracted, ready for action.

Deep inside me, gut feelings talk to my soul, tell me what to do, alert me of what I can do. My friend needs help; he gave me this power I now possess; the least I can do is help him out.

So fast I don’t believe it myself, my body grows thick, black fur everywhere. The pain in my mouth is excruciating as huge canines form, dropping down into sight before my mouth has completely adjusted to the new me, tearing through my human jaw, blood pouring everywhere. My screams travel on the moist, still air, and cause terror in the eyes of the ‘Cong; they can’t believe the change coming over me.

What’s left of my clothing tears apart from my huge change in size, and I bat the useless garments away with my fully-formed front legs; my razor-sharp claws finish the destruction of the fabric.

My friend advances from one side, and I do the same from the other. I still retain my human brain and reasoning, but my senses are super enhanced inside my cat persona. From the instant of my reformation, I was able to dodge the bullets and perform other miracles of agility totally hidden from me until now.

My friend’s saliva! It saved my life once before, and it is doing so again. I sense we are the same now. We are brothers.

We slash and tear without abandon, bringing our antagonists to their knees, and then their deaths. Once we are sure there are no more of them left to usher into the next world, he changes his size down to a large tabby, and my body morphs back to human form. Yet, my soul, my brain, my senses, belong to both parts of me.

I bask in the glory of what I have become and the powers I possess. But with these powers come responsibility. I must use my strengths wisely.

We return to my men, still waiting for the enemy to be flushed out to them. They can’t help but notice the blood on my jaw, and the fact that I’m stark naked is causing them to wonder what happened.

“Don’t ask,” I say, waving my hand to the side. “The battle was short but brutal. The enemy are all dead.”

The corporal looks at me and shakes his head. “Looks like you and that cat friend of yours are a lot alike. You both have nine lives.”

I laugh. “We have less than that right now.”

The Corporal is right in one respect: he has no idea how much alike we really are.

My yellow eyes capture everything around me. They always will…

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2015 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Lurkers

Martin Maddox wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand and resumed hacking away at a particularly thick tree branch with his hatchet. He was halfway up his ladder preparing the large black spruce tree in front of his one level home on Lake McCready for the coming storm. There had been a few branches touching the side and roof of his house in need of trimming so they wouldn’t cause any damage during the high winds and rain of the impending hurricane. With a final swing, the hatchet powered through and the branch toppled to the ground.

“Just a few more,” he said. He climbed up two more rungs and began hacking away at another branch.

Hurricane Hazel had stormed its way up the eastern seaboard and was barreling toward Nova Scotia. It was expected to make landfall later that evening as a Category Two hurricane near the town of Westwood, only ten kilometers south of Lake McCready. Unless it made a sudden and drastic turn, Martin knew that he would be hit straight on.

When he finished chopping the last branch, he climbed down and started to pull the ladder away when something caught his eye. The tree’s roots were breaking through the soil. He applied a little pressure to the ladder and the root rose a bit, splitting more ground. Trimming the branches wouldn’t do any good if the root system was weak. The strong winds and rain would no doubt pull them free, causing the tree to fall wherever the elements desired.

He looked at his watch and it seemed time was against him, too. It was nearly five-thirty and he still had to board up the windows. He would have to roll the dice and hope that the roots held. Shaking his head, he placed the ladder aside, grabbed the branches from the ground and tossed them beside his small shed near the edge of the lake.

Martin took out large planks of wood he had purchased earlier in the year and carried them up the slight slope of the backyard to the house. Setting them down, he turned to retrieve his hammer and nails when he found himself staring at the edge of the lake. The calm before the storm triggered a memory he had buried since he was six years old. The threat of the hurricane had him dreaming snippets of it recently, but now it came back in full, leaving him just as terrified as he had been so many years ago.

***

He was in the same house, although it was a cottage back then. From the living room window, he watched the lake’s surface turn violent in the strong winds of Hurricane Gladys, the only other hurricane he had ever experienced. Over the wind and rain he heard barking and saw the neighbor’s German Sheppard, Hank, at the edge of the lake. Martin wondered why the dog had been left outside during the storm, but before he could think of a possible answer, six little creatures emerged from the water.

Initially, Martin thought they were fish until noticing their large hind legs and smaller front arms, all clawed, with mouths salivating at the prospective meal before them. Hank tried to jump away but they were on him quick. High pitched barks and squeals of pain pierced through the thunder and heavy rain – sounds Martin would always remember and never stop trying to forget. Hardly blinking, he watched as the dog was torn apart in mere seconds.

Stumbling from the window in absolute shock, he looked outside but the creatures were gone. The rain already washed away the blood that remained on the ground, leaving nothing to corroborate his story except a silly rhyme the other kids had taught him.

“The creatures lurk beneath the lake,
Leaving carnage in their wake.
Swimming hard and baring teeth,
Ravenous for a piece of meat.
Onto land they stalk their prey,
With deadly precision they strike and slay.
The feeding frenzy is a terrible sight,
No one can escape with all of their might.
It is a nightmare from which one cannot wake,
From those creatures that lurk beneath the lake.”

Not wanting to be accused of making up stories, he chose never to tell a soul.

***

Martin shook his head, pushing the memory back. He was losing precious time and moved quickly to retrieve the hammer and nails from the shed. The job went relatively quick compared to the trimming of the tree.

He looked up and saw that the sky was already overcast. Stealing a quick glance out to the lake, the water turned choppy as the wind picked up. Martin returned his hammer and nails to the shed and secured the door with a large lock. He made his way towards the house and realized that he had left the hatchet out front. Cursing, he went around and picked it up. He didn’t have the key to the lock on him, so he took the hatchet into the house.

Martin entered through the front screen door that slammed shut on its spring, then closed and locked the solid oak inner door in the kitchen. The house had been built with an open concept, with no real division between the kitchen and living room. Beige and green tiles covered the floor of both rooms. Two couches were set up to face the unplugged television sitting on the floor. On the walls hung a couple of paintings. One depicted fishing boats tied to a dock; the other, a lonely lighthouse standing guard over an unknown coast.

A table was set up between the couches and Martin placed the hatchet atop it. It also held essentials for the storm: three four liter jugs of water, some cold cut sandwiches he had made up earlier in the day, a first aid kit, a Coleman lantern and a single speaker battery-powered radio.

He could hear the wind gusting outside. The house seemed to shiver as he sat down at the table and turned the radio on. He adjusted the tuner with his thumb until he found the local station WOSK.

“… Hurricane Hazel has made landfall three kilometers outside of Westwood. No reports of extensive damage have been made but emergency crews are standing by and preparing for the worst. The Westwood Police Department, as well as the RCMP, have asked that people remain in their homes and stay off of the roads as well as…”

A loud burst of static cut through just as the power flickered and went out. Martin attempted to find another station but only found more static and white noise.

As night began to fall outside, he could see lightning flash between the boards on the windows, followed by booming claps of thunder. The rain pounded against the siding and roof like golf balls. Martin turned the Coleman lantern on and bit into his sandwich.

He gasped when he heard a high-pitched shriek within the wind. He waited, but didn’t hear it again. He returned to his meal.

After another crash of thunder, Martin started hearing scratching noises. They were quiet at first, and he initially thought they were tree branches scraping against the house. The scratching, however, echoed from different parts of the house and sounded deliberate.

“What the hell is…” he began but stopped when a wet thump sounded at the door.

He stood and took a step when another thump came from one of the windows.

And another.

Then another.

They almost seemed to drown out the symphony of the storm. Martin couldn’t help but think that the carnivorous little bodies were slamming into the house, trying to find a way in.

A shriek from outside the door pumped his heart faster – even more so when it was answered from the back of the house.

There were more shrieks and more thumping knocks. He could almost see their little teeth trying to chew through the wood when a strong gust of wind shook the house violently; he heard a tired moan coming from outside. The knocks and shrieks stopped suddenly.

Oh shit! The tree!

A heavy thud hit the roof, shaking the house and causing Martin to squat lower to the ground. The ceiling gave way; the black spruce crashed through amidst a blizzard of debris.

Martin dove but a branch struck him in the head, knocking him to the floor, severely dazed. The tree landed just a few feet away, crashing through the table and scattering all of the emergency supplies. Rain flooded his house as he stared up through the large hole in his roof. A flash of lightning illuminated not only thick storm clouds but also seven little bodies clambering over the jagged edges and into his house.

Stunned yet nonetheless coherent, Martin rolled between one of his couches and the wall.

No more the size of a small dog, the creatures’ bodies were covered with grey and green scales. They resembled raptors with larger, powerful hind legs; four clawed toes and six clawed fingers on smaller arms. Each had a tail akin to a tadpole and longer than their bodies. Their faces were flat, large mouths full of teeth. They had large black eyes yet all sniffed out his sandwiches, rummaging through what remained.

Martin saw the hatchet laying just a few feet away and stretched out to grasp it. Something warm ran down the side of his face; blood dripped onto the floor. He grabbed the hatchet and pulled it towards him just as one of the creatures began sniffing the air.

It let out a short but deliberate snort. Now all their heads turned toward him and Martin began crawling backwards, trying to put as much distance as possible between him and them.

Suddenly, they shrieked simultaneously. Martin struggled to his feet, keeping the hatchet at a defensive position. His mind replayed the image of Hank getting torn apart as the seven creatures cautiously approached him with mouths agape, white foam collecting at the corners.

One edged closer, braver than the others. Martin focused on that creature; if he could kill it decisively, it just might intimidate the others into backing away. His idea clashed with the images of Hank’s last few seconds when the creature lunged.

Martin let out a loud cry and swung the hatchet as hard and precisely as possible. The blade struck the creature’s ribs and forced its way through its body, severing its spine. It let out a choked cry as it flew and splattered against the wall. Crippled, its mouth snapped at the air. Martin brought the flat edge of the hatchet down, crushing its skull. He quickly turned his attention to its mates.

Maybe it worked. Maybe they -

The remaining creatures leapt into the air. Martin swung the hatchet wildly, connecting once but inflicting no real damage. He felt teeth and claws tear into his skin. Blood rushed out, washed away by the rain as Martin felt his strength fading fast.

One of the creatures bit through his Achilles tendon, sprawling Martin onto the floor. With their prey down, the creatures went berserk and ferociously ripped into his flesh…

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

LaLupa

It’s that time of month again and rent is due. Evening is falling fast, drowning the city in dark hues of purple. I’m starting to get a little edgy, a little nervous, as I walk to work. Every night is my first night, every night is my last night.

From outside it looks like any other exclusive strip club. Black painted walls and door, no signs, no neon. I’ve certainly done a lot worse. At least there are no homeless junkies sleeping out front.

The guy at the door gives me the once over and a nod of approval.

“Have a good night sweetheart,” he says politely as he opens the door for me. He has a neck like a tree trunk, a black tee shirt clings to pumped up muscle.

***

Inside it’s tasteful enough. The furnishings are plush red and black. Not too big a space, which is good. I like an intimate audience.

A cute blonde girl is stocking the bar. She smiles and waves at me cheerfully.

“The dressing room is through there,” she shouts.

In the dressing room, which is in fact a storeroom crammed with furniture and boxes of stuff, I meet Candy and Amber. There is always a Candy and Amber in every club. I put my bag down on a brightly lit table, glance at myself in the large mirror and sigh. I begin to unpack some things when Candy comes over for the standard welcome.

“Hi, I’m Candy,” she tells me. Her icy blue eyes sparkle. She stands too close to me, one hand on her hip. Her nails are long oval points, painted white. She is wearing a tiny silver dress; her fake breasts look painful and her skin is a baked orange colour. I stare back at her, bored. It’s that time of month. I’m cranky and hungry. I’ve skipped a few meals lately.

“This is my table. You can use one of those over there.” She points to the cluttered corner.

I get a flash of her gutted from neck to belly and I can’t stop my eyes from twitching. She says something else but I don’t catch the words; I have to concentrate, slow down my breathing. Amber comes over to mediate.

“Don’t worry about Candy, she’s just very territorial.”

Amber smiles warmly at me and gives Candy a nudge, unsettling her on her platform stilettos.

“I’m Lalupa,” I say.

“La what? Is that, like, a Mexican name?” Candy chuckles to herself and wanders over to a clothes rack to flick through costumes and lingerie.

“Have you met Andy yet,” asks Amber.

I shake my head no.

“Well you should get dressed and go meet him. If he doesn’t like your look he won’t let you work tonight.”

I nod and start getting changed.

Amber sits down at a table nearby and begins to style her long red hair. Soon a few other girls arrive. Chatter and laughter fills the dressing room.

I keep to myself, hoping not to get drawn into conversation. I don’t want to make friends and I’m eager for the night to get underway. I hate hearing the same old stories. I don’t care that you are stripping to pay for your law degree or that you have a happy husband and two kids waiting for you at home. I’m here because I like the thrill and the cash. A girl’s got to eat.

***

A wave of nausea rolls through me; my skin prickles with heat. There’s a stabbing pain building in my head. I take a few more deep breaths.

I prefer to wear a vintage style. Black lace corset, fine seamed stockings, shiny black patent heels – I hate those horrendous stripper platforms. My glossy black curls bounce around my pale face as I inspect myself in the mirror. Candy glances at me then mutters to her pals and a round of giggles erupts. Let them laugh. While they can.

***

I find my way to the manager’s office. He’s chatting with a guy sitting by his desk. I stand in the room, still and silent like an ornament, waiting for him to acknowledge me.

They’re both wearing tailored grey suits. Merino wool, I can smell it. Silk ties and crisp fine cotton. Their short haircuts are gelled carefully to appear casually tousled. Thick designer cologne cloaks their skin. A fresh ocean scent with base notes of vanilla and spice. Beneath the cologne is the distinct stench of their sweat. Lean, firm flesh, rippled with fine streaks of fat. My mouth begins to water again.

Finally he looks over at me.

“Nice outfit honey,” he says, “but I hope it comes off pretty quick, this is not a burlesque club!”

He laughs a dry, cruel chuckle and the other guy chimes in. Flesh taut with obsessive exercise and a diet of fine food, tears off the bone in thin strips.

“House takes fifteen percent?”

“Straight down to business. I like it. That’s right honey, House takes fifteen percent, the rest is yours. Pretty generous for a classy place like this. Tonight’s a trial shift. If I like your routine and you’re hot on the floor you can come back tomorrow night.”

“I’m always a crowd pleaser.”

“Are you now? Well, good for you! You’re on after Candy. She’s a hard act to follow.”

Now it’s my turn to laugh, which confuses them for a moment.

“What’s your name again, honey?”

“Lalupa.”

“Lupa? Okay, have a good night honey, milk ‘em dry.” They both chuckle as I turn to leave.

***

Things start to heat up as the night rolls out. I stand at the bar, trying not to shake or twitch, and watch the patrons come in, waiting for a likely hit. I watch the other girls too, as they saunter, smiling, chatting. They look delectable.

I set my sights on Mr. Average White Collar and strut over casually. He is self-conscious and uncomfortable and will easily blow all his cash on me.

I give him a sweet girl next door stripper smile and ask if he wants a dance. He nods and throws back his Scotch as I step in close and begin to sway and swish, swivel and shake. He pays generously but I decide to keep moving; his anxiety is irritating. I circle the floor, bidding time, choosing the men I want to dance for and chat to. I ignore the ones who are too obnoxious or rude. Andy is poised at the bar, watching me and frowning.

Candy comes on stage to cheers and whistles. With a beaming white smile she waves at the audience, blowing kisses, striking provocative poses. Obviously the darling of the club but I’ll soon change that. I head to the dressing room to freshen up.

***

The moon is full and high in the sky. I can feel it, gleaming, beckoning. It’s making me tremble.

Finally the DJ cues my music and I take the stage, happy to be in the limelight.

I love working the pole; I have a real talent for it. My unnatural dexterity gives my routine a flowing ease. I radiate confidence and power. Men sense it, they sit up in their seats, intrigued. Soon all eyes in the room are on me. The men are under my captivating spell – the women glare at me jealously. I’ll be cleaning up tonight. I’m going to empty their pockets. As I dance I’m checking the exits, scanning the room with all my senses. There are never too many for me to handle.

I can feel it coming as I spin and twirl, bubbling under my skin, beginning to shiver through me, a blissful terror. I get so excited I grit my teeth to hold it back. I like to hold out as long as possible, give them a bit of a show first. After all, I’m a really hot dancer. I stretch my fine limbs, shimmy and slither. With legs wrapped around the pole I use my free hand to unhook the corset and flick it off. Men cheer. I flex and hang upside down, spinning slowly. I close my eyes and enjoy the rush. It’s that time of month and I can’t resist it anymore. The moon is singing to my soul and I need to respond. A growl builds in my throat as I embrace it. It is so close to the surface now, about to burst out of me.

***

The men in the front row see it first. Something strange is beginning to happen.

Hair sprouts, thin and fine, along my forearms and thighs, on my chest. It spreads slowly until a dense fur covers me.

A few men chuckle thinking it is part of the routine. I can see Andy, still standing at the bar, looking really pissed off. I can make out the confused faces of the women, frozen in mid lap dance, staring at me.
My body buckles and shakes, I can no longer hold it back or slow it down. I love this part, morphing from an object of desire into an object of terror. I love seeing their faces change, from lust to disgust. I drop from the pole to the floor as the bestial force surges. I begin to convulse. Nobody comes to my aid. Everybody watches. I can feel their bubbling fear, their fascination and perverse satisfaction.

My knuckles bust through skin; tendons bulge. A wail of pain escapes me as I paw at my face with bloody hands. My head is down and they can’t see my jaw stretching, sharp fangs painfully pushing out of tender gums. Thick whiskers sprout on my cheeks and chin. My black curls stream down my back in a heavy mass. The crack of joints and stretching bones, each vertebra popping, the wet sticky sound of elongating sinews and muscles, resounds in my ears.

Finally it is complete and I crouch, heaving from the exertion. My breath begins to slow down as I settle into my new form.

There is complete silence in the club. The DJ has stopped the music, the patrons and staff stare at the creature on stage.

I lift my head and they see me for what I am. I watch them with eyes glowing yellow. I raise my snout and sniff deeply; terror, glorious, delicious terror. And a comforting, familiar smell; my pack. They are here. They have entered the club and are manning the exits.

I stretch, throw back my head and howl –  a maniacal call. Screaming begins and in that fantastic moment, as hysteria breaks out, I plunge.

I take out the line of guys down front, one after another, with fast swipes. Shredding them easily, ripping chunks out of their chests and thighs as I take their wallets. Green bills flutter and float, drifting down into growing pools of blood.

There is no way out; my pack closes in. They are crouched, snarling, snatching the runners and pinning them down. The thick smell of slaughter erupting is intoxicating.

I leap from the stage and land on the bar. I can hear the bar girl, curled underneath the bar, sobbing. I glare at Andy as I crawl towards him slowly. He doesn’t move as I sniff his chest. I can hear the frantic beat of his heart. His eyes are wide with shock. I bite off one of his arms. He begins to emit a high whine, not quite a scream, a peculiar dying noise. I take a chomp out of his chest, snatching out his heart, and gulp it down greedily. He drops to the floor and I on top of him.

I leave my pack to finish off the crowd. I am drawn by another exhilarating smell. Several dancers have locked themselves in the dressing room. I can hear their hysterical, muffled tears.

***

I tear the door off its hinges and they burst into screams, scampering into the corner. They dare not glance at me. My beauty is of another realm. Covered in coarse hair, mangled claws for hands and feet, sharp-pointed ears and snout, breasts hanging long and loose. I roar at them and they shriek, huddling closer like mice.

I can no longer make out individual faces. I scoop up one of the girls, collecting her by the scalp. I lick her skin. She is coated in so many strange flavours; sweat, tears, alcohol, makeup, deodorant, talcum powder.

I bite into her neck and shake her vigorously. Each taste makes me more ravenous. I eat quickly, snapping spines, crushing skulls, crunching bones, guzzling organs. A decadent blood drenched mess surrounds me.

***

It’s that time of month. I am not quite myself. I am more than myself. The full moon is glowing as bright as the sun; it makes me ache with rage. I howl a blissful song but my hunger is far from satiated. I leap at the small window in the room, tearing away the bars and bricks. I bound out into the warm night; the city is a feast waiting to happen.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2015 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved

Inner Workings

This was the fourth one this week and James could easily do four more. Truth was, there could never be too many.

He pushed the door open and a wicked grin crossed his lips while the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes etched deeper into place. James was an addict and this was his drug. The arousal that built inside of him as he entered his ‘studio’ could never be matched by any other drug or the touch of a woman. His skin flushed with heat; his body knew what joy his actions would soon provide.

He entered the room to find the unconscious woman on the table in the center of the space, her arms and ankles bound to the cold steel table. The familiar scent caused butterflies to take flight in his belly as if it was his first time. His hand trembled as he stood over the assortment of scalpels and retractors spread out in front of him. Though adrenaline forced his unsteady nerves, the smooth, rigid instrument in his hand always steadied him. He was born for this.

Holding the scalpel in one hand, he drew in a cleansing breath, holding it momentarily before exhaling. With his empty hand, he pulled back on the tender flesh of the woman’s belly before placing the blade to the taut skin. James drew the blade in a meticulous manner, splitting the pale skin to reveal the glistening thin layer of yellow fat just beneath the surface.

His racing pulse slowed to a rhythmic thumping in his ears as it always did when he was focused. He watched the rise and fall of her chest, in awe of the fact that she was alive though did not feel or react to the incision. As he worked his way deeper into the site, he became fully aroused when his hands pressed deeper inside her abdomen. The warmth, the wetness, all of it inebriating. Modern medicine was a spectacular thing; so easy to render someone unconscious, too easy.

He continued to work his way through her layers until a curious smile etched its way onto his face. James worked quickly and soon held the treasure of his search in the palms of his hands. He removed the contents and time seemed to stop. His pulse hammered as the silence grew deafening. The others in the room moved to his side, each one gazing at the prize he held at arm’s length in front of them.

James passed the bloody mess to their groping hands and they scurried around the room in controlled frenzy, each taking turns poking and prodding, pulling and stretching. He looked into the face of the unconscious woman and tears pooled in his eyes. She’d sacrificed so much and would continue to do so for many years to come.

Nearly thirty minutes later, James’ work was complete and he rested his hand on the forehead of the woman who was now semi-conscious, her glassy-eyed gaze a clear indication that she was not fully aware.

He simply smiled and took one last look at the group huddled in the corner before walking to the door. Just as he reached for the handle, it swung open and a woman stood in front of him.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said.

James smiled and stepped aside, gesturing the woman inside. “That’s quite alright.”

The woman returned a coy glance and stepped into the room. “You too, Dr. Green.”

James removed his surgical cap and left the room, leaving the doting parents to tend to their filthy, screaming newborn. James never did care for children, though the insides of a pregnant woman were especially intoxicating to him.

James learned early on that he had a craving for exploring the inner workings of living things. His obsession started with small things; lizards, frogs and such. Soon though, they didn’t satisfy his morbid curiosity and neighborhood cats began to disappear.

After much counseling and failing to assure his parents and therapists that he wasn’t a vicious person, he learned to hide his obsession. After watching a documentary on surgeons as a teen, he decided to create the perfect persona that would allow him to indulge his macabre fascination. He’d become a surgeon. Not only would he be allowed to feed his odd hobby, but society would pay him handsomely for it.

Dr. James Green, renowned surgeon to the stars, was indeed the perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

Ward

Worse still than the muffled oppression of the hallway was the medicinal bouquet that squeezed her throat. If she walked much further, she feared she might not draw a breath at all.

The clamminess of their grasp grew uncomfortable. Glancing downward, she caught the shimmer in her daughter’s wide eyes. “It’s okay. I brought you here so you can get better.”

Around them, activity bustled. Behind closed doors nurses vanished, while doctors, studious fresh faces half concealed by clipboards, sauntered by. A shriek sang out – then snipped – suppressed from somewhere down the never-ending hallway. Her eyes darted downward again, but if her daughter had heard, she never let on. The child stared quietly ahead. “Sometimes people here hurt.” Lying would accomplish nothing at this junction. People here did hurt. “But only for a little.”

The hallway widened, allowing for the girth of a large, horseshoe shaped desk. Hand raised high, a guard approached. “What do we have here?”

“A walk-in”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.” She felt the squeeze of small fingers. “We’re hoping.”

Behind the desk, a rosy-cheeked nurse lifted her head. She scrutinized them, then nodded toward the guard. “I’ll call ahead,” she said.

“Okay,” the guard nodded in turn, attention now seized by his crooked badge. Fingers fiddled across his chest. “Walk to the end. Double doors on the right.”

They continued along. Her throat began to burn, and it became quite hard to breathe; the air spiced with blooms of Lysol, the ghosts of cleaning agents. She prayed she would forget that scent once they arrived back home. Home – what remained of it, anyway. Fresh baked brownies once served as a shawl there; cut flowers from the garden once enveloped them both. “We’ll be done and home before you know it.”

Another cry resonated; soon it died. Cut off. No doubt, her daughter had heard it this time; no doubt, it came from beyond the double doors. Sweat pooled between their palms but neither mother nor daughter released their grasp. “Sometimes people here hurt,” she reminded.

They walked until they could walk no longer. She glanced backward. Endlessly, the hallway stretched behind. The guard watched them, fingers still dabbling with his badge. Defiantly, she flipped strands of hair from her face, then followed her daughter into the ward.

Immediately silence consumed them, betrayed only by their hastened breaths. Partitions lined the walls. She lingered before one, sweeping aside the fabric drape liner that sealed its interior from view. An empty medical bed, sheets crisp and stark; a stainless steel table. Various monitoring equipment; a Dinamap loitering in the far corner. It all appeared so cold, so impersonal. Any trace of caring had long since been sterilized. The drape liner fell back. “Come.”

Mother and daughter moved along. They moved from the partitions and entered the main hub of the ward. At last, someone sauntered to their assistance – a nurse, frayed pigtails protruding from either side of her head. “Sorry, busy, busy. Now, what’s our emergency?”

She pressed hard against the small fingers. “Verbal abuse.”

“Eighth one today. Are we fixing this for good?”

Her fingers squirmed, intensifying the heat between them. “Yes.”

“I hope so for your sake. We have your consent, then?”

She broke free from their clasp.

“Your consent?” the nurse demanded, pigtails spinning in clumsy circles.

A pained expression corkscrewed her face as small fingers gripped her wrist. “Yes.”

The nurse snatched her away. It happened with frightening speed; how could such a small thing move so quickly? She struggled, grasped at empty air, but the rope binding her hands restricted her movement and the nurse – the nurse well practiced at preventing one’s escape. She twisted her head; behind her, small fingers fluttered.

Waving goodbye.

Dragged along her heels, doors sprung open to either side. The commotion assaulted her ears; the shouts, the commands for preparation. Hands, soft yet so strong in their urgency, held her down atop a gurney. She saw them all then, scurrying about – the children, the damned children of a world turned upside down, doling out their judicial punishments as they saw fit. A freckled face boy of ten stood over her, scalpel in one hand, forceps in the other. “Your tongue, please,” he smiled and tore at the duct tape, freeing the lips her daughter had sealed. She screamed, but the doors slipped shut, her cries taken prisoner within the ward.

Then she understood why people here hurt.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

The Other Side of Bethlehem

Soft caressing satin sheets the finest weave
laid out awaiting our grey mistress
today the surroundings a lowly cave
but tomorrow she says ” it will be a palace”
for she is deserved of the world’s best

*

We shudder as she draws near
her greatness is in contrast to our lowliness
I behold her and see earth’s riches clear
etched in her skin, reflected off her eyes, in her touch
my mate is poised to rearrange all and such

*

Fearing that the perfumes and oils
do not emulate her beauteous perfection
we like dogs in our groveling toil
have no ability to bark
we whimper at her approach in the dark

*

She kicks my mate across the rocky ground
“FOOLS don’t you know what is occurring
can’t you hear the angels’ grating sound?”
we had been too busy to listen to music
so heavenly, it would make a person sick

*

My eye twinkled if just a speck
it was but for an instant
she laid her iron clad foot on my neck
“if you smile (even inside)
you’ll hear the crack of your demise”

*

I lay in submission complete
I was feigning it (a little)
heavy golden foot slight release
I relieved to set candlelight free
not too much, only enough to see

*

“The light I so detest
had to come inside to get away”
I shook my head in unknowingness
it’s night, the darkest part of the year
light can’t from darkness just appear

*

“I’m weary and must go to my chamber
You – lay offerings at the idols’ feet
I need peace from the racket – Out There”
see pointed with icy white fingers
little of life in her form still lingered

*

Her heart didn’t beat for it was stone
her evil was forged and elemental
“Give them extra measure, from your supplies atone”
I tried to shrug off the hunger, tho not slight
I extinguished the small amount of frigid light

*

Shivering my mate small and forlorn
we survived because we had each other
we, like two sides of a penny worn
I warmed her with my body, licked her face
unusual trembling, her heart seemed to race

*

Her head faced the night so clear
“Let’s go see”
she whispered silently in my ear
“Do we dare?” my collar seemed to tighten
“I must gaze on the place that it brightens”

*

She stood up courageously on two legs
the cave entrance bathed in golden light
I crawled behind her so afraid
echo of heavenly host in notes so high
we saw what should have been an ink dark sky

*

Silver musicians I couldn’t count
filled midnight expanse
beyond calculations, a large amount
“Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace
among those with whom He is well pleased”

*

The music echoed off the earth it seemed
and somehow I knew the star
its chorus about the universe beamed
“There…” my love pointed to a distant cave
“We cannot, we are but unworthy slaves”

*

“Who cares about that when there is this…”
she ran flinging her hands out like a bird (or an angel)
her radiance I longed to kiss
I stood bathed in the light
wishing to cling to my miserable plight

*

Afraid of the consequence
I pondered the words “Glory…”
heard screams from my mistress incensed
“I must have peace no matter the price
feed the idols more grain, the amount twice”

*

(it was my hands she forced to feed)
My mate was gone from sight
I heard her voice on a gentle breeze
it caressed my cheek
“Join us in the light,” I heard her speak

*

“I cannot my mistress will destroy me.”
“No, you will finally be free!”
The breeze turned into a stiff wind
I cowered and clung to the rock
I felt sharp tendrils bite into my skin

*

With authority a breath spoke, “be gone”
reaching, passing through my soul
it had wrapped itself about the idols
flung against rocks on the hill
my mistress flew in storm’s fiery will

*

Unclothed she looked weak, undone
bone stacked upon brittle bone
white rage sprang like an afterthought
she ran toward the dust
lifeless she sifted through the miry plot

*

Her mouth foamed with impotent waves
“we will forge anew”
her promise to save
“we will gather strength and overpower this…”
weak was her fury filled hiss

*

Caring little I slunk away
wishing I had run down the hill
like a curious lamb with my mate
instead I crawled and under my breath
“grant me a swift wintry death”

*

I heard the night sky
continue to sing
“I will find peace…” my mistress’ cry
with one final energized shout
clumps of dirt hanging from her mouth

*

She strove to ingest her god’s earthen morsel
“There is no peace for the wicked”
I heard a sylvan voice chortle
light like a broad sword struck the plot
she deserved what she got

*

my fingers clung to the foul ground
hoping by day, I would never be found.

 

~ Leslie Moon

© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved

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