“Just one more and I’ll have my limit,” old Herb chuckles.
The large pond sitting in the northwest corner of the cemetery is off-limits for fishing. To everyone except Fred that is. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word. The spring-fed pond is there, loaded with tasty Largemouth Bass waiting to jump on the surface plug he works through the shallows. Night: the best time to catch them because they hit with abandon, and no one can see him as well.
“If God didn’t want people catching these tasty critters, why did he have someone stock them here?” Fred muttered. “The dead can’t fish, but I certainly can.”
The Ghoul watches with amusement. To him, this man is playing with his food. A cat and mouse kind of game.
He smiles. ‘I suppose that’s what I do now that I eat the flesh of the living,’ he thinks. ‘They suffer; I back off a little; this gives them hope, but as soon as they try to escape their fate, I start slowly feeding on them again, enjoying their pain. I’m a real bastard. Oh, that I am.’
Remorse. He should have some; he has a soul, twisted perhaps, but he has one. Yet all the years of being relegated to the status of a scavenger and bone picker, has made him bitter. God created him as well as these humans but gave them an elevated position.
Many years ago, in what is now Germany, he was doing what was commanded of him when a few grave-robbers happened upon him in the act. He scared the shit out of them, but they returned with a mob, carrying torches, axes, and pitchforks. Yes, he was immortal, but it would still cause him a great deal of pain if they were able to whack off a few body parts. Damn! He didn’t know if he could regenerate new ones. What good was being immortal if he was in pieces? The worst kind of living Hell!
So he vanished off into the night and found a new home, one safe from rabble-rousing villagers bent on his destruction. Now, a few homes later, he finds himself in this decrepit but homey cemetery. As long as he’s careful, no one should be any the wiser to his existence.
This so-called high-tech era doesn’t believe in the actuality of his kind. Monsters. Yeah, merely myths. Nobody in their right mind would accept that gibberish. No pitchforks in this day and age. Nowadays, the one who cried ‘wolf’ would be escorted to the closest looney bin.
A huge splash shatters the quiet and Fred rears back, setting the hooks into a real lunker.
“Hot damn!” he shouts out. “This is a monster!”
The battle between man and fish goes on for quite a while, the Ghoul enjoying the show happening before his eyes almost as much as Fred is in seventh heaven pitting his skills against the great fish. Twice Fred stumbles in the brush bordering this section of the pond, but in the end, he slides his thumb and forefinger into the mouth of the huge Bass and lifts him from the water, getting away from the edge of the water as fast as he can so his prize will not escape him.
“Wow! This is my biggest Bass ever! He must be at least eight pounds. What a night!”
Fred’s exuberance is cut a little short by a horrendous odor drifting down from the cemetery’s edge, causing him to gag, the taste refusing to leave his tongue. He retches on the grass, not at all in control of his faculties. Never before has anything this vile attacked his senses. From sheer euphoria one moment to abject disgust and intestinal pain the next.
“Not a pleasant sight, you rolling around on the grass barfing your guts out.”
Fred looks around him, trying to put person and voice together, but his vision’s blurred and he is having difficulty focusing on much of anything. Something big is here. That and the fact it has an un-Godly stench is foremost in his mind. The big Bass plops around and smashes into his head; he barely takes notice.
“I don’t take too kindly to you reacting to my presence like that,” the Ghoul says. “In fact, you are pissing me off!”
The beast walks down-wind and allows fresh air to move in so Fred can breathe easier. His vision slowly returns and he sees the monster for what it truly is. The long hair over his naked frame makes him appear to be some sort of a huge erect wolf at first, but little by little the creature takes on the form of a man-like entity.
What in the name of all that’s holy is this thing?
“These fish. Are you going to eat them?” the monster asks. “You were going through a lot of work to get them out of the water, but you seemed to be having fun.”
Fred is in too much shock to utter a word. He stares at the demon, wondering what it’s up to, afraid to move. Whatever it is, it can talk.
“I can tell you’re not going to answer me, so I will tell you what I think. You enjoy capturing these fish, even though the poor things must be in pain. To you, it is sport, a game. You inflict pain and eat your prize catch.”
Fred can merely nod his head and watches in disbelief and horror as this monstrosity reaches down and picks up the fish. Holding it by its eyes, he slowly tears the meat off it, leaving only the tail and head. Then, with a huge guffaw, it snaps the head from the backbone and devours that as well.
“Is this the way you do it, or do you apply heat to it like your kind does and cook it? Yes, that’s what you do. A real man would eat these things the way I do. But you’re not a real man, are you? You grovel at my feet, too scared to say a word, your clothes soiled by the release of your excrement. Poor baby. Did the big bad Ghoul scare you?”
Reaching down to check, Fred discovers the demon is right. He is covered in shit and piss. Of what matter is that now, though? He has to get the hell out of here, away from this beast; he must warn the townspeople. Yet, will they believe him? Will they come back and destroy this thing?
“Oh, you are not thinking good thoughts, are you, Fred? Yes, I know your name. What you view as unkempt body hair are actually sensors… receptors that touch your mind, relaying your thoughts to me. And your impractical decision to flee is not going to work. See, if you escape, more of your kind will come to try to kill me. I wouldn’t appreciate that.”
“I won’t tell anyone anything!” Fred is finally able to say. “I promise.”
Laughing, the Ghoul says, “Sorry, Fred, I do not trust you. And besides, just as the fish were to be your meal, you are to be mine. Ah, you think it incomprehensible that I would devour you, but you took no pity on the fish. Why should I take pity on you?”
Fred pleads with his eyes, but the monster picks him up and carries him to the edge of the pond. Staring at him as he does it, the Ghoul takes the plug on the end of the line, jams it into Fred’s mouth, and rears back to set the hooks.
A wail of pain escapes his lips as blood pours out of his mouth and down his cheeks. The delighted fiend laps it up before tossing Fred into the pond.
The beast picks up the pole and hollers to Fred, “I’m giving you the same chance you gave those fish. Fight for your life, damn it!”
He reaches to his mouth to get the hooks out but only manages to get his hands caught on them as well, the Ghoul jerking back on the rod just as Fred has hold of the plug. Secured the way he is now, it is impossible for him to put up much resistance and the heavy line he has on his reel is sufficient to hold him.
The demon reels him up to shore and kicks him back again. “C’mon! That fish put up a better fight than you. This is your last chance.”
Once more, Fred is easily brought to shore. The monster tears the plug out of Fred’s mouth, leaving chunks of flesh on the hooks, and throws him onto the grass, quickly lapping up the poor fisherman’s blood and feasting on the rest of his face.
In unbelievable pain, Fred is powerless to resist and has no will to do so, almost asking for the end to come, but his demise will not be quick. The Ghoul removes his clothing as he feeds, eating those areas which will not cause him to die first, enjoying the struggle, albeit a feeble one from this weakling.
The point is reached where not enough blood is left in Fred’s body to keep him alive, and the demon tears his heart out from his chest and swallows it whole. Feasting on his warm dinner with calm deliberation, the Ghoul soon leaves nothing but bone.
Once the skeletal remains are buried in the fresh dirt of a recently dug grave, he returns to the pond and eats the other fish.
“These really are good. Not as tasty as humans, but they make a fine dessert.”
He looks at the fishing rod and picks it up.
“If Fred could catch these fish, simpleton that he was, I can do it.”
On his third cast a Bass hits, and the Ghoul brings him into shore. No catch and release for the big guy. He eats it while the plug is still in its mouth. This is almost too easy. Though these fellas are good eating, Fred was the catch of the day.
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved
Feet pounding as fast as they can, I tear across the hard-packed ground. Tree branches slap my arms, scrape my face, tangle in my hair; I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I hear it chasing me, not quite on my heels yet, but close enough to make my skin want to crawl clean off my bones. At any moment, I expect to be snatched from the trail by god-knows-what kind of clawed hand. The thing is so near I can smell its stench. It’s enough to make me gag: make my eyes water and my nostrils burn. I set out to find it, to track it – to prove its existence. What a fool. I was never tracking it; it was tracking me the entire time.
If I can make it to the water, everything will be all right – that’s what all the stories say. Make it to that deep blue pool buried in the Pines and for some reason, the creature won’t come any closer.
I can’t be too far from the lake. Christ – I must have trekked thirty miles into the dense Barrens since leaving the road. It’s got to be around here somewhere; I’m right where the locals said the water would be. But there was something not quite right about the way those ‘Pineys’ were smiling…
My foot tangles in an exposed root where the dirt loosens and turns to a softer, sandier mixture. In near panic, I almost go down but somehow manage to keep my feet beneath me. The forest is thinning out quickly; I can see a much brighter patch ahead.
A guttural roar sounds from behind; it’s nearly on top of me. I can feel the air shift to the side as my eye catches sight of something black whipping by just off to the right. I scream – no sound comes out – but I don’t stop moving. Before I know it, the trees clear and I stumble onto a small beach.
I can see the water and whisper a silent prayer of thanks to those hicks who somehow managed to get me here. Flinging myself down at the water’s edge, I finally dare to look behind me. I can’t see it clearly, but I can feel it standing just under the dense canopy of the trees – hiding in the darkness.
Dunking my head into the cool water, I laugh when I realize what I’m holding. The entire time I was running, I was clutching my cell phone, but lost everything else. Can you hear me now? No! More hysterical laughter; the sound desperate even to my own ears. There’s no cell service out here. I can’t believe that in my panic the only thing I managed to save is this useless piece of crap. One last look at it and I hurl it as far as I can across the lake.
Leaning down again, I taste the water. At first barely a sip to make sure it’s safe, then small handfuls to quench my thirst. Making myself stop, I roll over and stare at the sun like it’s my newfound savior. The Pines are so dense; this small clearing is a godsend. I can still hear the thing rustling in the trees, but for now, next to the water, I’m safe.
I must have drifted off from exhaustion, maybe simple relief, I don’t know. When I wake, the sun is low and dim shadows have crept half-way across the small beach. I can hear it breathing and pacing in the brush. A spike of adrenaline slashes through me and I dive for the only hope I see; one long bow from a white cedar growing out over the lake. Scrambling to it, I climb as far out as I can, shimmying backward the whole while. From what I know of the Blue Hole, the water is deep as hell. Drowning is no better an option than feeding myself to Mother Leeds’ thirteenth son, and I would prefer to do neither.
As full night falls, I can see its red eyes glaring at me, along with the shadowy impression of a dark, winged figure. Its tail flicking from side to side accompanies the sound of tree branches being torn apart. Bellying down further onto the limb, I try for a little more distance. I know my chances of surviving the night are slim… Still, if I can keep my balance and stay awake, I might just make it until morning.
I hear a faint splash, and a responding roar from the woods – almost a challenge. Terrified to take my eyes off the beast before me, but more afraid of what lurks below, I chance a glance downward. Elongated, translucent hands reaching from the depths are all I see before I’m yanked from my perch, screaming for help that’s never going to come.
“Howdy there, Bob, Tomas,” the deputy says as he steps from his vehicle to greet the two men sitting outside the small shack that serves as a convenience store in this area of the Pine Barrens.
“Mornin’ officer,” they reply in kind. “What can we do you for?”
“Well, seems we found a car, one of those German import types, parked a ways down the road in one of the pull-offs. Little yellow thing called a Jetta. You boys know anything about that?”
Looking at each other, Tomas spits and says, “Might be we do. Some young girl in a yeller car stopped in here yesterday asking for directions to the hole. Could be it’s the same car.”
“Tell me you didn’t give them to her, did you?” exasperation plain in the officer’s voice.
“Might be we did. Don’t see why we wouldn’t if she asked,” Bob answers rolling a toothpick between his teeth.
The deputy reaches into his vehicle and grabs the radio handset. “Dispatch, we’re gonna need a tow out on Rt. 532. It’s a yellow Jetta – can’t miss it. Hang on just a sec.” He releases the com button. “Boys, she have anyone else with her?”
“Nope, but she had a crap load ‘a gear in the back seat of that foreign auto-mobile of hers.”
Clicking the mic back on, the deputy relays, “Dispatch, I’m gonna need a team on the ground looking for a backpack, tent, cell phone – any personal items they can find heading from that location toward the hole. Better make it a wide sweep, call all the guys in on this.”
“Copy that, Tim. Do we need a rescue team down there too?” the dispatcher asks with hope and concern in her voice.
Looking over the roof of his car at Bob and Tomas, seeing the grin on both of their faces, he answers, “Negative on the rescue team, just the cleanup crew and the tow.” Getting back in the car and replacing the now silent handset, the deputy tips his hat to the men on the bench as they nod in return. He puts the car in drive, and mutters to himself “Fucking city folk,” as he drives off.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Ray Rasmussen woke with a start.
He dreamt that he had been having sex with an alien. The act was not sexy but more mechanical, like they were performing the act for procreation. It was pure, unemotional sex.
There was some pressure in his sinuses, but his mind was still focused on his dream.
The dream bothered him.
Did he initiate the interaction? Or did the alien?
Why was I fucking an alien in the first place?
The alien could only be remembered in fragmented blurs. It was off-white and humanoid based on the flashes of arms and legs that blinked through his mind. Ray clearly remembered the expressionless face with black reflective eyes and a small mouth.
He couldn’t remember if the alien had any distinctive sex organs.
It must’ve had them… I was fucking it.
Ray looked over at the alarm clock sitting on top of his bedside table: 12:51pm.
He yawned, slowly sitting up.
The pressure in his sinuses had increased and was starting to feel congested.
Don’t tell me I’m getting a cold.
He pulled the blanket back and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. When he stood up, he arched his back and stretched. His ears were plugged, making him feel off-balance and he staggered into the bathroom.
His hands took a hold of the sink and he regained his balance. In the mirror, he saw his brown hair was messy from a rough night of sleeping while his eyes were droopy and bloodshot. The skin around his nose and eyes appeared puffy and red, almost swollen.
In other words, he looked like shit.
Ray turned the cold water on and splashed a few handfuls onto his face. While the temperature was cool and refreshing, his sinuses throbbed in pain as the chilly water hit them. It felt like brain freeze and he clutched his sinuses with his thumb and forefinger, trying to massage the pain away.
Cursing, he left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen.
Ray walked to the fridge and yanked it open, causing all of the bottles on the door to shift violently in their place.
For some reason the fridge smelled like furnace oil to Ray. It was beginning to make him nauseous on top of his already painful sinuses, which were now completely plugged. He realized that he was breathing through his mouth. Before closing the door, he grabbed the only appealing item off the top shelf: a can of Red Bull.
Reaching his finger underneath it, Ray pulled back on the can’s tab, releasing a small fine mist along with the familiar audible hiss. He raised the can to his mouth and gulped it down. With his sinuses so plugged, there was almost no taste but at the same time, he found it to be refreshing.
An image of a warm bath suddenly flashed in Ray’s mind.
Soaking in the tub for a bit sounded good and he went back into the bathroom, grimacing as the pain in his sinuses grew worse.
Kneeling down beside the bathtub, he stuck the rubber plug into the drain and turned the water on. The sound of water splashing against the tub was uncomfortable but Ray tolerated it knowing he would soon be relaxing. Once the water was deep enough, he turned the taps off and slipped out of his jogging pants.
He slowly sat down in the water, allowing himself to become submerged up to his chin and was soon deep in thought thinking about the alien.
Once again, the blurred, fragmented images of intercourse flooded his mind and Ray was surprised to see that he was sporting an erection.
Blood began to trickle out of his nostrils. It was thin, at first, and Ray wiped it away with the back of his hand.
Then something moved.
Something was stirring inside his sinuses.
Ray grabbed at his nose, petrified that he could feel something moving underneath his fingertips.
The pain was excruciating.
Whatever was in there was turning itself around. Blood was now running from both nostrils into the water, clouding it crimson.
Breathing quickly became difficult as blood poured down the back of his throat, choking out his attempts to scream.
His back arched and contorted in pain as whatever was inside his sinuses began to slide down.
It reached the opening of his nostril and dangled for a second before it fell into the water.
After it splashed in the water, Ray looked down and saw that the thing looked like the alien he saw in his dream, only smaller. It was no bigger than a hotdog with a distinctive head, arms and legs.
It looked up at Ray.
Blood continued to pour down from Ray’s nose and he felt weak. His body grew numb and his head slid below the water.
Choking as he inhaled the bloody bath water, he managed to open his eyes one final time.
The little creature smiled at him before it leapt over the edge of the tub.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved
Scampering on all fours, the deformed arch of his spine protrudes through his flesh, the flex and buckle of his bones twisting him painfully. Night has fallen but he can’t sleep or stop for long. They are hunting him, getting closer, the more they track him the more they learn about him. He keeps his mutating body shrouded, only in the most quiet and private moments can he bare to look at himself. He scuttles under his damp blanket through the dense shrub of the city foothills.
The worst thing is the hunger. A perpetual, insatiable hunger that festers within his empty gut and grates against his bones. A hunger he has only begun to understand. The last time he was inside a supermarket his desire for human food had almost diminished completely. He roamed the aisles, restless, agitated, trying to find something that looked appetizing. He dragged dirty fingertips along rows of tins and jars, everything was pickled in salt and sugar. He stared blankly at cuts of flesh packaged neatly in little trays. He stuck his nose into piles of fruit and vegetables, sniffing deeply, fascinated by the smell of pesticide and wax. Everything on display was rotten; toxic. How can people eat this shit? he thought to himself but he must have spoken out loud, a woman standing nearby gave him a sharp stare and stormed off. He scuttled over to the bakery section where he fondled the bread. He crushed a loaf in his hands, his fingers easily popping the crust and sinking into soft, white pulp. He longed to crush something alive, something with a still beating heart. The store security guard appeared, strolling up to him casually. Crossing his arms over his bulging chest, the guard said, “I’ll have to ask you to leave now, sir.”
What is his name, what did they used to call him? He lifts his sleeve. The scar says ‘BEN’. He cut it into his flesh himself, clumsily, with a razor blade. They have taken away almost everything but he won’t let them take his name.
“Ben,” he mumbles to himself “Ben, Ben, Ben…”
It becomes a dangerous chant and he covers his mouth to make it stop. He must not let them hear him. He stops under low-lying branches, his stomach in painful spasms; he’s shivering. It has begun to rain softly. He picks up the waft of a familiar smell and he freezes, perfectly still, as the scent invades his flaring nostrils. Something to eat, something delicious, but he is too tired to move, to hunt, he needs rest. His eyes are so heavy, burning with exhaustion. Sleep circles him.
Rarely does he sleep, he knows better by now. When he does nod off, even for a few moments, the dream comes and it is always the same.
They are sitting side by side on the roof of a high-rise, their feet dangling over the edge. He is clean-shaven and dressed in a suit; his polished black shoes gleam. “Remember the lights in the sky?” asks the little boy next to him. He turns to glance at the boy but never sees his face, he is startled by the sound of smashing glass. He looks down to see the windows below him shatter one by one. Huge jagged shards begin sailing down to earth. Then the windows blow out in the surrounding buildings. He is watching a sea of falling splinters, glittering in the sunlight. The buildings begin to crumble, folding in on themselves and rushing toward the ground. Far below the people look like insects, disturbed from their ordered paths, they scatter chaotically. The little boy is laughing hysterically. The building they are sitting on begins to tremble.
He wakes sweating and dizzy with nausea; he vomits. He checks his scar to make sure he is really awake, ‘BEN’. The scar is the only thing he can be certain of, the only thing he can trust.
He was already a wasted man when the change began; who would listen to him, who would help him? Just another homeless drunk sleeping under the bridge, paranoid and hallucinating. That’s why they chose him. A flourish between his toes, skin dying and turning white, flaking off in patches. He didn’t pay it much attention at first, his body bore many scabs and wounds from living on the street. It spread quickly, crawling up his leg. It sprouted between his fingers, flowered along his arms. He scratched and clawed at the infuriating itch. A new skin was revealing itself as the old was shed. A smooth, slippery skin of tightly laced brown scales. Terrifying to look at and even more terrifying was the thought, the distinct feeling, that what was emerging was his true self; his real body. There is constant pain in his joints as his bones squeeze and knit themselves into new shapes, his feet and hands are now mangled claws.
Maybe it began long before these physical changes. He has vague recollections of his past, not that he can rely on the past, anyway. His drinking habit got worse; he began stumbling into work until they told him not to come back. His marriage collapsed; he didn’t fare well in the divorce. He ended up homeless with a box of useless stuff his wife left him: a hair dryer, a blender, a crystal vase, a few books. He pawned it all, enough for a room for a few nights and a bottle of bourbon.
There are a couple of earlier memories he toys with for comfort: looking up from his book in maths class, a girl across the room turns to him and smiles shyly, her blonde hair shining; playing football with his brother in the park, the ball sailing fast and hard into his face; tucking a comic book into his jacket and making a swift exit, the bell ringing as he slips out the door. Through out it all, they were always there, sinister figures looming at the foot of his bed. He caught glimpses of them in those moments between sleep and waking. He remembers only what they want him to remember, he is aware of that, and it may not be the truth. Does he even have a brother? Stop thinking, he commands himself, keep moving. He stares at the name carved into his skin.
The delicious smell is coming closer. A dog wanders past, sniffing the ground. It spots him and lowers its head, growling. Without hesitation, he leaps the distance between them with ease and pins it to the ground. The dog lashes and snarls as it snaps at him; the battle is exhilarating. They toss in the rain, two desperate beasts. The dog lunges, sinking its teeth into his thigh. He pulls its jaw free then snaps its neck with a dull click. He is too hungry to waste any more time.
He bites at the dog’s stomach, spitting out mouthfuls of coarse fur. When finally he breaks the skin, he tears the body open with his hands. He scoops up the entrails, eating madly. He cracks the ribcage, chews on rubbery lungs, sucks the small heart still hot with life. Finally his hunger begins to subside. Panting, he crouches over the gutted dog; his face dripping gore. The dog’s blood is sweet and thick and he begins to fantasize about the taste of human blood. He clasps his claws to his face, revolted. He may be capable of anything, he doesn’t know what he will be compelled to do next.
As if to salvage some inkling of humanity, he decides he must bury the dog’s body and he begins to dig frantically in the mud. He manages a shallow pit and pushes the carcass into it. Something on the ground shines and flickers in the dim light, catching his eye. He stares at it suspiciously before he decides to pick it up. It is a round, smooth metal blank; cold between his fingertips as he wipes it clean. The tag from the dog’s collar. There is something etched on it and his heart begins to race as he holds it up. He knows what it will say. There in fine, elegant letters ‘BEN’. He wants to laugh, he wants to shriek. He emits nothing but a dry, lifeless chuckle. Clutching the tag with both hands and curling beside the remains of the dog, he begins to cry softly.
~ Magenta Nero
© Copyright 2014 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved
Janet Boxley nudged the SUV deeper into the desolate backwoods, peering through the passenger’s side window, searching for her pups’ eyes.
Once she’d made it back to camp, she slammed the truck into park and grabbed her flashlight from the glove box before stepping out; her breath pluming the crisp air.
Her sandals sank into the moist ground and mud squished between her toes. “Dammit!”
She waddled her way to the back of the rusted out Ford Explorer and lifted the hatch. Inside were supplies for the upcoming hunting season which started in the morning: gallon-sized jugs of water, some large plastic water bowls, and several bags of food which she’d either been given by local restaurants or stolen from their dumpsters.
She hated the trips she was forced to make into town, but they were a necessity. The small town was none too kind to her. She was ‘different’ and most made it clear she wasn’t welcome. Even the small shops on the main street would lock their doors as she walked by. The kids, cruel little bastards, would poke at her, call her names before running away laughing. None of that mattered, she was back where she belonged now.
Making an odd clicking noise with her tongue, she pointed the flashlight toward the dense cover of leaves guarding the edge of the woods. The beam of light zigzagged along the trees, slashing through the moonless nighttime air but finding nothing.
“C’mon now. I know you’re in there!”
Massive cramping stabbed at her gut and she paused, inhaling deeply before releasing it in a long sigh.
Janet turned back toward the cargo area and stuck the flashlight under her fleshy arm before grabbing a gallon jug, several bowls, and one of the bags of food.
Moisture had wicked its way onto the bottom of her ‘housecoat’ as she called it, though in all reality it was just a floral dress large women wear in order to cover their ample mass from the judgmental eyes of society.
Still making the clicking sound with her tongue, Janet walked toward the trees. The sharp snapping of twigs and ruffling of leaves in the distance brought a smile to her face.
She rested the supplies on the ground and swept the flashlight over the small clearing. Several sets of reflective eyes peered out from between the branches.
“There you are,” she said as she stepped through the veil of leaves.
High-pitched whines and cries filled the air as the pups greeted her.
Many years ago, she’d made a covered area that was sufficient enough to give her a place to rest and also keep the little ones dry when it rained during the wet season. She left enough slack in their leashes so they could get out of the rain but not too much that they might choke themselves on nearby trees. The shelter was spacious enough for her, several days worth of supplies and her ‘babies’ to gather around. She used the term babies but they hadn’t been small for quite a number of years now, and in fact, most were full-grown.
She used to have at least ten at any given time, but in the last few years, the litters were smaller and smaller. She figured after generations of inbreeding amongst the pack, Mother Nature kind of figured enough was enough and put a stop to it. Probably a good thing too, because the youngest ones were born with severe deformities. Several of them had extra toes, others had missing appendages, and the last ones were born with wide-set bulbous eyes, like googly-eyed goldfish.
Janet’s abdomen continued cramping while she poured water into the bowls and unleashed the younger pups. Twigs snapped, and leaves crunched as the older siblings emerged from the dense forest behind her. Chance, the oldest of the group, was always the first to greet her. He was the friendliest of the pack, and the obvious alpha male often setting the over-zealous younger ones straight whenever they got out of line.
Janet reached over and scratched him between the ears. “How’s my Chance doing?”
Chance sat on his haunches at her feet while the others filtered into the space, each in turn rubbing against her before taking their place at Chance’s side.
It was a gruesome sight, hybrid creatures who bore only a slight resemblance to anything human, yet they didn’t look much like their canine ancestors either. Mutants resulting from many generations of genetic cloning and its failures; just like their mother.
They waited patiently, though some of them whined while others seemed focused on nothing in particular. Janet set the bag of day-old bread and pastries next to her make shift bed on the ground; several old bean bags and tattered sheets had been arranged in the corner, giving her a soft place to rest while they fed. After maneuvering herself on top of the mound, she turned to the group, their anxious eyes devouring her. Janet’s body shuddered when another contraction speared through her belly.
Janet sat up and worked the fabric from the lower part of her muumuu up to her waist, exposing her corpulent thighs. When sitting, her legs oozed onto each other, creating the illusion of one giant mass with the consistency of raw turkey skin and the pallid shade of a corpse.
She continued to peel away her clothing. Raising her arms overhead, she removed the sweaty article of clothing altogether revealing not only innumerable folds and crevices of skin and overfed flesh, but at least six pendulous and malformed breasts aligned in staggered pairs down the center of her torso. Her arms were too small for the size of her body, like short paddles, they protruded from her sides. She leaned over to grab the bag of food she’d placed next to her makeshift bed.
Their craving eyes sent adrenaline coursing through her veins. She began to gorge herself on the contents of the bag while her ‘babies’ crept closer, licking their dried lips and stretching their mouths into wide O’s, preparing for their meal. She would need the energy from the food to sustain herself over the next few arduous days.
Janet reclined back, her head lolling to one side, and closed her eyes. She spread her massive legs and endured the pain as waves of contractions rolled through her body and the first of her pups spilled onto the ground; a malnourished still-born.
The feral children moved in, some on all fours like animals, others stood on spindly legs with crooked spines. The last few dragged their useless lower limbs behind them as their arms pulled them closer to feast on the lifeless body of the runt. Several more lifeless clumps thudded onto the ground before three healthy males emerged and took their first breaths.
Chance scooped up his newest siblings, moved past the insatiable frenzy, and laid next to his mother. He placed each of the pups on her generous belly and helped each latch onto a teat. Chance then nuzzled in close, finding the fullest of her flaccid breasts for himself. Janet placed her free arm under his head and patted his back as he drained nourishment from her bosom.
Janet, exhausted from the effort, allowed the voracious sounds of feeding to lull her into deep, tranquil slumber. Janet dreamed while her young fed. She dreamed of the hunt that would begin once their bellies were full and of the abundance of flesh that would wander into their woods when hunting season opened in the morning.
~ Craig McGray
© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved
Your frown seems longer in the shadows
and your eyes flutter like the autumn leaves
that seek solace at my feet
between us the empty shell of something once we’d born
my fingers so clumsy
trying to glue it back.
Laughter fades in the rearview
a ghost of broken promise all that remains in the street
seemingly typical when you wish to be lost in a crowd
and closed signs stop you at doors.
It’s okay, we’ll talk, won’t we?
Of times when the air rushed through our hair
the open road a cherished child.
We played favorites, didn’t we?
Always the same marker until we reached a place our own
but today your eyes signal a storm on the horizon
and your lips flutter like the autumn leaves
that seek compassion at my feet.
We held that empty shell of something once, didn’t we?
My fingers ever so clumsy
trying to glue it back.
I‘m appreciative of your compassion;
ice cube cold but not quite as clean as
the Scotch waiting before me
which, incidentally, will serve to warm my
belly just fine—thanks for nothing, though
that is hard for you to understand
a concept foreign to you. Not the understanding
part, mind you, but the simple thanks. Perhaps
you should resort to drinking the hard stuff.
It will make you say things I’m sure you would never mean.
To Take What You Don’t Want To Own
This box no longer yours
becomes a useful place
for all the things
that once remained of me
stripped clean to bone
now just memory
upon another’s exhale.
The compartments you govern
belong in potter’s field
frivolous as the things
that still burden you with need.
If only my soul a warehouse
you could store
all your needless needless boxes
and rid yourself of its waste.
If only I could free you
of your needless needless boxes
make them mine
this box no longer yours.
Still waiting on that sign
You got shit on instead
Still can’t ruin that sweet music in your head
No one told you, baby, that vinyl is long dead
You remain sheltered, surrounded by your flock
Ignoring this stray vulture dishing you advice
You never turn your back on me though
My deception the sugar you crave
Think you’re so squeaky clean
Darling, the shit dried on me long ago
And you’re not so used to that new smell
You…still waiting on your sign
What could be worse anyway?
Taint I peddle you
Or the lies in my veins?
And your mouth
still rends a hole
I can drown in.
Like these words I write
I go unseen
Strained imploring from my lips equally ignored
You’ve flattened me
Compressed me enough to fit into your one-dimensional world
Not even worthy of your rose-colored glasses
The grey wash you’ve stained me slowly fading
A hurricane once could not stir me
Now the slightest breeze leads me astray
You still haven’t the sense to figure
The smile taped to my face this morning
Is the crumpled one from yesterday
Staring into this candle, I wish you knew
I dream of flickering. If only to flicker.
My flame long dead.
What I Should Not Know
Don’t be so coy
You know you’ve been blowing him out in the parking lot
Leaving your half eaten panini beside me
Leaving me sick in the mouth
How he stroked that fleshy thigh of yours
It’s none of my business, of course
But you’ve intruded all the same
With that yuppie glass of Pinot Grigio of yours
Beside my sterile snifter of Scotch
Don’t be so shy
Did you let him cum in your mouth the first time out?
The residue of days old coleslaw beside me
Leaving me sick on the tongue
He’ll only admire another next week
Muck like the half eaten panini beside me
You’ll grow cold and forgotten.
Just Not Here
On this darkened night I hold you
Arms empty. Your memory my solitary light
Wind raps at the pane, sneaks under door
The only thing ever to cross this threshold again
Sandwich on the counter grows old with mold
Milk sour. Spoiled.
None of it matters; this candle flickers
And ghosts, they creep along the floor
Sounding so much the way your footfalls once did
When you’d kiss my cheek standing in the hall.
I’d walk somewhere if it wasn’t raining so hard
These clothes already stuck to my skin
The weight of everything
The wait for anything…
I’ll sit here then
Because somewhere, you are there
Somewhere. Just not here.
On this darkened night I hold you
Somewhere. Just not here.
You’re back in black
And isn’t it fitting that we sit here again
Conversation smooth as ever
A welcome reprieve.
The longer we sit
The more I’ll indulge
You never judge
You never turn away
As I share silent heartbreak
But you won’t stray far
Will you, dear Johnnie?
For you bring calm to the storm
Still the fire in my veins
Until these burdens
Fade into blurry edges
The pain a bit dulled
A welcome reprieve.
Thank you, Johnnie
Together we are back in black
A Final Toast With Death
I await you
My bravado more resolute than ever
This snifter in my hand unwavering
These drops of Scotch delivered faithfully to my lips.
So come to me, Sir Reaper
You whose work never done
You’ve stolen a good man from this world
Left behind his only son.
I have no fear of you this day
Not while my veins run hot
A good man seeks retribution
His weapon his only son.
I await you
Be a gentleman and share this final Scotch
Drink with me, Sir Reaper
I have work not nearly done.
Skin and Bones
And all this time I thought I’d hidden the cancer from my skin
Never realizing it had eaten me throughout
But you noticed I was much emptier than I’d ever been
And still you loved me in my metastasized state.
The shepherd of the Damned
I’ll lead you astray
I’ll lead you to ruin
Be sure to praise me
Even as I taint you.
You have no direction
I’ll lead you astray
I’ll lead you to ruin
Be sure to curse me
Even as I raise you.
Without me you are free
Without me you are bound
An endless contradiction
A meaningless benediction
You’ve never been so alive
With me pulling your strings
That subtle jerk of thread
That soft imploring in your ear.
The shepherd of the Lost
I’ll lead you astray
I’ll lead you to ruin.
don your spider silk trousseau, indulge me
funeral hymn and devil’s perfume—
Blackened, our matrimony
Miasma, our vows
Ever faithful I’ll be to
while you cherish my slack penis
against your thigh.
In honey light our shadows creep
as we fuck in this church van
spawn a slit-eyed bastard
meant to rule gravy train slugs
Leave it steaming—
glistening under dashboard’s light—
saw-toothed smile crooked and pure
And murder cherubs with our rubber gloves on.
I wish I’d warn you that the Reaper rode in
but the cowl blew from my head
exposing more than just my intent
and all the evil things your momma warned you of
and all the things that scratched beneath your bed
were merely me on a better day
warning you that soon an ill wind shall blow
exposing all you hoped to hide from
exposing all you hid throughout.
You believed me gone, did you not?
Relic; forlorn by Lords of Depravity
Keepsake plucked from dregs of gutter whores and
Raped; whisper of promise
Possession, tarnished and forgotten atop
I have bred within you all the while
Gratifying your need
sucking you dry
You sang of me maggot’s lament
begged of me torturer’s divine
So I tell you now
I am your Molester of Truths
Your Addict of Lies
In a trick of light I found you
pouring venom from callous hands
ripping faith from gibbous moon
I loved you ever since.
Your cruel grace dampens
even the coldest of grey Januaries and
even as the sun goes to die
you speak to me the foulest nothings
whispered from your alligator snout.
You poured acid in my ears to
quell my methods of thinking when
you knew full well
I hardly think at all.
Oh, chant me a new birth song of
I loved you ever since.
Pseudo Cerulean Queen
Pseudo Cerulean Queen, I can see the storm come loping across your eyes,
your darkness a dead giveaway that the only thing blue about you is your soul.
Drench me in sorrow;
open the deluge of your being.
I wish to reach out, cup your pain,
feel it dribble from between my fingers.
As the puddle at my feet grows,
I’ll watch your reflection shimmer,
the lightning above dividing us always.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
“9-1-1? I am calling about three, maybe four people who have been abducted. I can tell you where they are.”
“Let me get your name, number you are calling from and location.”
“Oh okay.” I tried to take large gulps of air to still the panic. “It’s my daughter. They…he took her. One of them had a gun at my head.” I trembled as I remembered cold metal pressed against my temple.
“Ma’am calmly give me your name, your number, the closest address.” I could sense rising impatience in the operator.
“Address? I dont’ know. I’m in the part of the psychiatric facility that’s under renovation. Does the address matter? Some of the buildings are unstable. That bastard is putting my child in harm’s way. I’m her mom. She would be a famous actress if he would let her live. There’s no number on this plastic hull of a land line. I killed him, I think. The man who held a gun to my head. I always carry a knife…I work night shift. I’m not sure if the blood is mine or his. Get a damned squad car here now!” I threw the receiver; it ricocheted off the wall.
Great, now they will wonder who the psycho is, I chastised myself.
“No!” I heard her familiar scream. But this was no stage scream; there was too much blood curdling. Running in the direction of her voice, I gave up any hope that the police or paramedics could make it in time.
I saw his face. He was so placid and had such a kind smile when we had him on psychotropics. I told my colleague that it was too bad he couldn’t stay in a permanent, happy drugged state. “That could adversely affect recovery,” came his reply.
“Who is being adversely affected now?” I shook my fist at a blank hollow window.
I heard vibrations, then the recognizable sound of shattering glass.
“The building is going to cave in before help arrives.” I looked toward the empty shadows behind which were the monsters of my past and present. Focus, they can’t hurt you unless you allow them access. FOCUS!
Taking assessment of my situation, I knew that time was against me. What resources do I have that this madman does not?
Drugs. I had lots of drugs in the double locked cabinet just outside my office. “There’s no one to help me check them out on the RAND.” My medical bearing was trying to take hold. “Screw regulations. This guy is going to kill people.”
I hurled myself loudly up the stairs, never thinking about stealth.
I had to fiddle with the combination three times before I was steady enough to catch the combination; I pulled the key from around my neck.
There was the man with the kind smile. With him was my estranged husband, my ‘almost famous’ daughter, and her friend (my husband’s current lover.)
“We pulled off quite the performance. Ehm mother? Too bad you’ll never see me on Broadway!”
I felt a painful jab in my arm. “Don’t worry darling, this will calm you down.” Even though I had been married to him, I had never liked his smile.
Lost, liquidy blue eyes looked at the attending doctor who had once been her (my) colleague.
“Why did you go killing that innocent man, locking your family and friends up, and misleading the authorities? They are only waylaying the electric chair because I have them convinced that you are crazy and have been going crazy for some time. I had to add stuff into your personnel files. Think of all the trouble I could get into.” A smile rose in his eyes.
“Thank you” spilled over lips as drool pooled about her (my) chin.
“It would have been enough to buy the role I needed to set my fame in stone.”
“It should have paid off my debts and given me a comfy retirement.”
“I’m just a blood-sucking bimbo with nothing more than I started with.” The girl pouted and shrugged her shoulders.
“She should have gotten the chair,” the man smiled broadly. “Who could have predicted a psychiatric break? Well I’ll have to do without my cut of the inheritance. Too bad for all of you. You have less now than when you were skimming a sizable lot off her salary. She really does have beautiful eyes.”
He shook the paper to dry (my signature was still fresh) before he slid his release from the facility into his medical records.
I smiled knowing he had my key; it’s the least I could do. I realized some monsters should be allowed to roam free.
~ Leslie Moon
© Copyright 2014 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved
The sound of the tape slides soothingly into Nicholas’ ears. Not the music itself, although that is certainly pleasant, but the mechanical whir of the reels as the tape’s innards wind through the machine. He doubts if he could write so well without the quiet whirring. He doubts if he could write at all with the noise of the world at his window and under the soles of his feet.
The pub beneath his bedsit is busy tonight. Voices slice through the floorboards as though the wooden planks do not exist. He might be sitting at the bar himself, submerged in the chorus of cries and thoughtless laughter: the White Ship on stormy, booze-wracked seas. Pouring a glass of wine he sits back in his chair and drinks.
Sometimes he can make out word-for-word the different conversations at the bar. Drunkenness seems only to increase people’s volume, as though for a few hours the fugue imparts a sixth-sense: a glimpse of more than just the pub, the street, the city, the entire world as it really is. So the patrons below shout and scream, laughing madly into their drinks, looking anywhere but the frightened whites of their friends’ eyes, the hollow blackness of their mouths; the window panes, dewy with the cold empty night.
The unmistakable pop of breaking glass shatters his reverie, followed by a collective cheer. A bottle or a pint glass, perhaps, caught by an elbow or dropped from careless fingers. Putting his feet up on the desk, he breathes in deeply through his nose. Air inflates his lungs, his chest, the narrow curves of his ribs, forcing everything else out of him and away, except for the pinkish blur behind his lowered eyelids and the gentle flutter of the cassette in the player. Exhaling, he concentrates on the sound.
It was a week after he’d moved in before he discovered the tapes, in a locked drawer under the desk. There was no key that he could find but the wood gave easily enough when forced. The drawer has not been the same since.
He found other things in the drawer, besides the tapes: yellowing sheet music scratched with skeletal notes, a ragged doll with faded red hair, a desert of seashells still coated with grit. When he had finished inspecting these things, he let the drawer keep them. As much as he loves music, he cannot read it. If he was in the doll’s place, he would not like to be brought from out of the shadows looking so sad. The shells are sharp, and he finds them repellent in the way all things decayed seem to repulse. Mostly, the drawer tells a story, and he respects that. A hundred possibilities might have led to these cast-offs finding their way into the locked confines of the desk. Who is he to disturb their tale, their private narrative?
Finishing his glass, he pours a second. The wine is cheap but not altogether unpleasant. Downstairs, the party continues to bloom.
When the noise reached new heights one evening last year, he left his room to complain to the owner. Screams echoed up the stairs and down the hallway. Shrieks ricocheted from the walls, laughter bouncing into his ears, over and over. As he moved down the corridor, he heard chanting and a count-down; a human rite reaching completion, a spell to keep another day at bay, or to guide it in, like a pale boat coming to moor. The owner – his landlord – had laughed in his face. He can still remember the bite of the sound in his chest, the cold spittle as it sprayed his cheeks. The argument had been short and one-sided. As ever, Nicholas had not won.
“Why take a room above a pub if you don’t like noise, or a drink now and then?”
“I like a drink,” he had replied. “I drink often. But there’s no excusing the disturbance tonight.”
“It’s a pub,” repeated the landlord, “and it’s New Year’s Eve, for Christ’s sake. This is where people come to make noise. If you don’t like it, you can bloody well leave.”
It is true that he likes a drink while he writes. Sometimes he celebrates a moment’s peace with a finger or two of single malt. On the nights when he cannot hope to hear himself think, let alone lift pen to paper, he knocks back whole bottles of wine; crisp, heady reds that stain his lips and dazzle his tongue before soaring to his stomach and his head. Sometimes, when he is two bottles down, he returns to the broken drawer. He imagines that he can read the music sheets, and that they are the same dulcet sounds drifting from the cassette player. If he is especially drunk, he imagines their script tells of a different sound; the last, sonorous cry of a world beset, heard by some lonely composer, a man not unlike himself, and recorded here in ink where those who chance across it might read of its agony; its submarine moans.
He did not leave, that night on New Year’s Eve, because there was nowhere else for him to go. There is nowhere else when he hears every ragged wheeze, wherever he is; the shuddering breaths of a world on the brink of expiration. As best he can remember he has always heard these sounds. He did not always know what they were, or what it meant to hear the death-rattle of the stones and the trees and the earth, but he felt them all the same, and stood slightly apart from everyone else because of this, while the others ran laughing after one another, or played hopscotch, or made daisy-chains in the grass, oblivious.
A rare few people are not quite so blind. He read about them in newspapers and on the internet, when he still wasted his time with such trivial things. These men and women scrabble through the soil, digging the earth, scattering seeds, which they hope might germinate, take root, become trees and so heal the world that other men and women have made sick. Give a dying man a cushion, feed him painkillers, sit at his bedside and pray for his soul – he will die all the same, trembling alone as the last of his sorry life departs from his veins.
Sometime after midnight the pub falls quiet enough that he can hear his tapes and write. There will always be noise, but at times like this he is not really aware of it; lost in the depths of his literature. Some men and women write to create. Others write from personal angst, or to entertain a crowd, or perhaps to remember who they are, or were at another time. Nicholas does not know much about these things except that he writes to feel.
On paper, darkness shines. Words convey savagery with the finesse of bright bouquets. Language illuminates the broken back of the world, its atrophied limbs, its eyeless face: a rotten leviathan floating in space, quivering with parasites while it sings its last whale-song through an ocean of distant stars, almost inscrutable except by those who dare to pause in their furious lives and, for a moment, listen.
The tapes whir, his pencil scratches, and something not quite happiness but more like contentment simmers in his chest, until he can write no more and, with a slight smile on his wine-stained lips, he climbs into bed, and dreams of sweet oblivion.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2014 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved
Reflections in windows tease and haunt, showing what was, and what is no longer. Do not look at the glass! Damn, too late. Reflected before me is a tree. Its trunk, branches, and leaves, all on display. I want it to be real. I roam these empty streets. Searching, hoping, and praying to find someone; something; anything. People, animals, and plants are all gone. Concrete, steel and glass remain. I call out and listen, but only my echo replies. This city is dead; nothing lives. The sky is grey; no sun or clouds. Life has abandoned this place; abandoned me.
They watch and wait in everything. I can feel their hungry eyes and thrusting glares, pulling for the acknowledgement that would seal my fate. Stupid therapist called it Pareidolia.
Demons, creatures, faces and things of terror live in almost everything. Seeing them draws them into your head where they eat your soul. I avoided them until today, overcome by a single glance at a building, a window holding the tree and cloudy sky – all of them full. I heard them coming. Two ice picks saved me, one for each eye. With the windows to my soul ruined, I was free.
It reflects her suffering, an enticing apparition. “Ease the regret, press your fingertips to mine. I can take from you the memories, I can turn back time.” Its huge empty eyes drip in black streaks, it twists and sighs evocatively. She reaches for its ghostly hand but she pauses, her fingertips tremble, hovering just above the glass. The apparition buckles with rage, the glass rattles as it slams against the surface, begging for release.
“Not yet.” she says and turns away. She wraps on her coat and scarf and heads quickly out the door; she is late for work again.
Neighborhood kids told stories about The Hill, regurgitating false truths that their parents told them. Tall tales about what really went on behind the mirrored glass and towering brick walls, but I learned early on that most parents were full of shit, mine included.
My father told me they did ‘things’ to bad people on The Hill and I should stay away from there. My dad was an asshole, but he wasn’t full of shit.
He should have taken his own advice because they, I mean WE, really did some horrific things to him when he came to The Hill.
I look out upon all that is left. Sunlight scorches this land; with morning comes heat, an assault upon existence. With evening, a frigid wind; though still a brief respite. I squint as I glare down among those who wallow at my feet. My stone begins its grind, my furnace stokes; a rival to the blistering rays without, but only barely. Their faces turn up, beseeching. I watch as they enter my opening maw; again as they depart in concert with the tenors screech from my bowels. Stragglers dally, grubbing for scraps. Something needs fill the stone on the ‘morrow.
curtains brown, tattered and torn
reflections were once welcome
swatting away evening’s flies
light, life, color, have been exiled
I wonder to where they have fled
Dark shadows of night interpose
greedily they suck the last drop of day
beating away the memories of her, of us
“futile” I murmur
there is nothing left to hold dear
In response the fluttering starts to sneer
night’s sinister incessant chuckle
It loves to remind me
there may still be bloodied remnants
in swiss dotted fabric that the flies have missed
white now turned rusty
I tell myself “better not to remember”
Joseph A. Pinto
Nothing will stand between us; nothing will keep me away. The cruelty, locked in your silent world. All you hear is nothing, even as I shout your name. What see of you beyond the reflection of spirit-churned skies? What know of you within that haunted heart? I shall shatter your glass; recover your incarcerated soul. The cruelty, shackled in your listless words. All you think is nothing, even as I cry your name. What suffer of you behind bricked walls? You wait eternally; I say wait no more. Nothing will deny sky from its horizon. Angels of their fall. Nothing.
Fingers clutch at the crumbling windowsill. Outside, light spills across the apartment blocks and the gardens beneath.
He calls it a garden but it is little more than paving slabs on which she reclines and smokes and dies a little death each night. She loves cigars. Fat, Cuban things in her slim hands. The whole of her is slim. When she stretches out he imagines taking a stick to her ribs, beating them, making music with her bones. It is not enough, just to see. Beneath his practised hands, her bones could sing. A symphony of human sound, in harmony!
A picture forms in the panes of glass as it does every day before dusk becomes night. Clouds and trees tonight. Maybe an impending storm. Yes, that’s what I need. Evil must be displayed!
Even now the clouds twist and turn as they darken, and the trees are blown away from the glass portrait. The tranquil scene changes before me. An evil face forms in the glass, hideous in its deformity, mocking the world with its visual display of arrogant intent.
I walk inside and look in the vestibule mirror. “Dorian Gray, you look as young as ever,” I say.
I used to love the view. I’d sit by the sill, mindlessly picking at the cracked paint and I’d watch life happening on the street below; the hasty flow of businessmen scattering off to hard-earned paychecks, health nuts jogging in tight clothes with their leashed, oversized dogs, even the filthy down-trodden vagabonds that stumble from meter to meter—all symptoms of life’s intricate dance; of life’s beauty. Oh, how wrong I was! Now, I see the gritty reality. Ever since my wife hung herself in that goddamn tree, I’ve realized that the window shows the truth. It only shows pain.
A Trip to the Old Country
“That’s it right there,” Donal said, pointing at a four-paned window on the second floor. It was one of the few that still had glass in the barren building. The clouds had begun to darken and the air smelled like spring rain.
Finoula pressed her hand against his cheek. “If it’s too hard, we can go back.”
“No, I’m fine.” He kissed her palm. “Professors aren’t supposed to diddle their students, but some do anyway.”
“Bastard,” Finoula said, her gaze locked on the cloud-swept window.
Donal grinned. “You’re standing on him right now.”
He gave the soft earth a stomp.
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.
“Demosthenes, bring my drink.”
His voice was a command. His words an edict. This was how he ruled his business, and business was pretty damned good. Beleth relaxed in his large chair and held out his hand expectantly. The drink had better be in his hand before he grew tired of waiting or there would be hell to pay.
The telltale sound of his servant approaching was music to his ears. Demosthenes was exceptional and would have been hard to replace. Wiry fingers carefully placed the cup in Beleth’s hand. He took a sip of the scalding liquid. It was perfect.
Demosthenes waited for his master to savor the drink before he spoke. “Sire, your next appointment is in 30 minutes.”
Beleth relished the time he had to relax, but understood that some mergers and acquisitions required his presence. Not everybody was okay with dealing with his underlings. Some were pompous enough to demand a visit with the big dog himself. What those idiots didn’t understand was the extra cost incurred when dealing with the person at the top.
Demosthenes was nearly out of the office when he stopped abruptly. He turned apprehensively and spoke in a tone riddled with fear. “Master, your appointment has arrived early and requests your presence.”
Beleth almost spilled the rest of his drink with sudden fury. “What? Early!”
He stood quickly, his tall form moving with a predator’s agility. This new acquisition was not going to go well for somebody. Beleth strode over to Demosthenes and handed him the drink.
“I will finish this later,” Beleth growled. He started to walk towards the door when he stopped and turned. A sinister smile curled the sides of his lips. “Domesthenes, I will call for my drink in a few minutes. I will have need of you in the appointment.”
Domesthenes bowed excitedly – he knew what this meant.
A long, dark corridor lead from Beleth’s office to the place where the meetings were held. There was no light between here and there. Only darkness. It made it possible for Beleth to approach his next acquisition unnoticed and see what the man was going to try to use as leverage in the negotiation.
Beleth stood at the end of the meeting place, concealed in the thick shadows, and watched the man who was waiting. This one was perhaps forty-five. He kept himself in good shape, was obviously wealthy, and appeared to be extremely confident in himself. Beleth looked around to see what the man had brought for the negotiation and soon found what he was looking for. There were papers, offerings both symbolic and literal, but the man seemed most dependent upon what he had in his hand. This was going to be easy.
Beleth stepped out into the dim light and stood motionless in front of the surprised man. An oddly cold wind played around the above ground graves and ‘oven’ vaults, moaning as it whipped at Beleth’s pants and buffeted his silk suit jacket. The man stumbled backwards a few steps as the Louisiana night strangled the air. Beleth looked into the mind of his newest acquisition. His name was Steven.
“Steven. You look shocked. Is my appearance not what you were expecting?”
The man tried unsuccessfully to regain some composure. “Maybe this will help.” Beleth twitched his hand and the expensive suit he had been wearing drifted away like smoke. He stood before Steven with clawed hands, a large horn growing out of either side of his head, and wings folded behind his back.
“Is this what you wanted to see? I think it’s a little cliché. My form is what I want it to be and I don’t give a shit about your expectations. Let’s get to it and talk about the deal you want to make with me.”
Steven quickly shoved his left hand forward and displayed the silver ring he had purchased at great expense. He stuttered hopelessly for a few seconds before he regained enough composure to speak.
“Beleth, I have summoned you. You are compelled to make a deal.”
Beleth raised his left hand and showed an identical silver ring. “You are a fool. I was already willing to make a deal. But you insult me when you bring such feeble talismans and spells. You are treating with a prince of Hell, not a simple imp or lesser demon.”
Steven looked down at his hand and toyed with the ring that had done nothing for him. He opened his mouth to speak but only swallowed his words when Beleth approached him.
“You had the balls to start this early because you thought you held all of the cards.” Beleth stood tall over the doomed business mogul and spoke in gritty tones. “This is my business deal.”
His voice boomed and tombs shook as Beleth called over his back. “Demosthenes, bring my drink.” There was a stirring in the shadows deep within a large tomb and Demosthenes emerged from the depths of the vault. The old man carried the cup and slowly walked towards his master, but his eyes were bright with vicious hunger as they locked onto Steven.
Beleth took the cup and drank deeply. Steven’s eyes shined with horror-derived lunacy. With the cup empty, Beleth gave it back to Demosthenes and looked at Steven.
“You are wealthy and powerful, yet here you are, ready to ask for more. This is what will happen instead. You will destroy this precious life you have made for yourself. Once you are done, you will be mine.”
Steven’s face twisted with the warring emotions of fear and fury. “Never!” he screamed.
Beleth stepped to the side as he spoke, allowing Demosthenes to get closer to Steven. “You can either die now, or you allow Demosthenes to manage this deal for me. You will answer to him. What do you say?”
The prince of Hell held out his left hand for Steven. Steven looked at it, then looked at the seemingly fragile Demosthenes. The business mogul shook the infernal hand in front of him. Beleth smiled as he pulled away, taking Steven’s ring along with him.
“Smart man,” said Beleth. The demon turned to his elderly servant. “Demosthenes, it is time for you to walk in this world again. Are you ready for the merger?”
Demosthenes chuckled with malicious delight and slowly approached Steven. “Yes,” he croaked, “I am. It has been far too long.” He stopped in front of Steven and reached for the businessman’s chest. Steven tried to knock Demosthenes to the side but was stopped with a simple command from the old man.
Steven’s hand stopped. Demosthenes lifted frail fingers and slipped them inside of Steven’s hand. The business mogul shrieked like a scolded child, then howled with horror when he realized the old man was inside of him.
Demosthenes sighed and his eyes fluttered with nearly orgasmic pleasure. He hobbled to Steven’s side and slipped his entire right arm into Steven’s right arm. The hand started to jerk as if in the middle of a seizure, but soon relaxed and began to flex and turn. Steven watched his right hand in horror, his eyes wide and unblinking with the realization that he was no longer in control of that hand.
The old man began to whisper into Steven’s ear. “Your body is mine. You will sit in the back of your mind, aware of everything around you, helpless to do or say anything. I will ravage your family, your wife, and will do all of those things that hell has kept from me. I will ruin the dynasty you have so carefully built, and I will use and consume your body with unbridled passion and lust. When all is done, all is gone, and you have witnessed the shame of it all, you will die a horrible death and I will drag you down to see your master.”
Screams of profanity turned into unintelligible shouts and verbal fits that bounced off the cemetery vaults. Beleth watched with demonic glee, tasting Steven’s torment and drinking in his frenzied terror. Demosthenes slowly shuffled behind Steven and began to merge into his new body. Steven’s shouting began to diminish; the screams of dread slowly turned to moans, and then faded to pleasant laughter. It was done. Demosthenes smiled with his new lips, displayed his perfect teeth, and laughed as Steven wailed from deep within.
Beleth walked up to the businessman who calmly dusted off his clothing. “You look good, Demosthenes. Have some fun.” Beleth grinned as his new acquisition walked back towards the city.
Business was good.
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved