Damned Words 20

damnedwords_20

Judgment
Nina D’Arcangela

I watched as he dragged his torso through the smoldering debris toward me, and thought, another. Unlike most, he hadn’t surrendered. I wondered if he knew where he was headed, or of the puss-ridden trail he left behind. No matter, it would soon be ended. I didn’t choose who suffered the searing heat; I only quenched the burning once they arrived. Fate appraised his soul, meted out its judgment.

“Have you your papers, then? There’s ta’be no entry without them.” I lilted. He stared back through hollowed sockets. I sighed. They all think the pearly gates so easy to attain.


The Thirty Second Burn
Lee A. Forman

The massive door opens on screeching hinges. My legs tremble, reluctant to carry me into the mouth of the iron beast. I know what waits in The Box.

Thirty seconds a day. Every day. Only the strong endure. But they are cursed to face the flame again and again.

The weak are lucky. To die is beautiful.

The guards guide me inside.

As the air itself boils, I know not pain or suffering but a great joy. I revel in the satisfaction of knowing I won’t last—I’ll expire quickly; my torment will end nearly as soon as it began…


Volatile State
Joseph A. Pinto

You call me deranged in my volatile state, yet you remain void of oxygen, void of all to sustain a fire. You know only of cleaning my ashes from the hearth, while I have schooled myself, keeper of this flame. Within my charred cage once an inferno raged; rose and fell, with hope, absolution. Dearly did I wish for us to go down in a state of combustion. Now, the landscape has changed. I am left to smolder—a cruel fate, this blessing; my curse. So perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am all you label me. Blistered. Branded. Blackened.


The Other White Meat
Hunter Shea

“It smells like barbecue.”

“You try putting sauce on that and I’ll kick your balls inside out.”

Jett turns the knob as far as it will go, the flames sharpening, going from sunburst orange to a cold, vicious blue.

“Jeez that’s gotta hurt,” Peter says, leaning closer. Jett sees the trickle of saliva at the corner of his mouth. He wants to drive his fist into his stupid, leering face.

“It would if the devil wasn’t in her.”

Clarissa’s flesh blackens and crackles. She doesn’t flinch.

Jett struggles to hold her down.

“Sometimes, you got to fight fire with fire.”


Holdout
Christopher A. Liccardi

The whomp sound of the flames dashed up from under the element. The metal box was large enough to fit inside, but no room to turn.

He woke to the stench of rotten eggs and sudden heat on naked skin.

What the…

The thought never made it through his mind. He glanced up and saw that wretch of a wife staring, upside down into his face.

She’d dared him to see who could hold out longer and he laughed in her face proclaiming he’d been waiting twelve years already.

She smiled prettily, knowing who was going to win this one.


Let It Die
Jon Olson

My god, it’s here! We never thought we’d see it again. In this cold world, this dark existence, it remains. Many years have gone by since it’s been seen. We’re all drawn to it, attracted by the warmth and hope it represents. The flames flicker and dance, a performance for the ages. We feel the cold and dark encroaching on the light. Evil is here. Around the flames I see the faces of the others. We are afraid as death awaits us, yet we’re determined. Now that it’s been found, it cannot perish. We can’t… we won’t let it die.


Exotic Cuisine
A.F. Stewart

“Roasting chestnuts by the fire.”

I sung a few bars of the song as I watched the searing flames. Beautiful blue flames bending, beckoning to my soul. Perfect for chestnuts. Maybe marinated on a skewer with some juicy fingers.

Or possibly eyeballs. I like the smell of roasting eyeballs.

I glanced at the salesman I had trussed up on the floor. I watched him squirm, trying to scream through his gag and break the zip ties.

I smiled and picked up my butcher knife.

Nope, definitely fingers. He has nice fat ones. Stew the eyeballs for dessert… with chocolate sauce.


Broken Boy Blue
Mercedes M. Yardley

The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn. While Adam was sleeping in the hay, breathing starlight and pharmaceuticals, the Catchers took his father behind the barn. They broke his teeth and fed him like livestock on gun metal and bullets. They torched the house and his withered mother was the most beautiful of candles. His sisters took longer, but even the rosiest things ignite with enough tenacity.

They overlooked Adam, but he would always see the Catchers in his technicolor dreams. They played a starring role, laughing and cheering his family on as they danced, danced, danced.


The Chant, The Charm
Veronica Magenta Nero

Born in me it was, the chant, the charm, bile sitting in the pit of my belly. Until it began to creep, the chant, the charm, to lodge in the crook of my throat, a constant niggle I couldn’t clear. Soon it was on the tip of my tongue. Like an insult or a lie. Must keep it in, keep it down. Thick stitches popped one by one, so I took the torch, searing a heavy smooth line for lips. But now from the corners of my eyes it seeps, the chant, the charm, no voice to stop the magic.


Human Coal
Brian Moreland

The Hell train’s engine runs on flames and meat. The Railwayman rides in the locomotive. Dressed in blood-stained overalls and cap, he enters the tender car to a mound of body parts. In a black cloud of flies, he shovels severed limbs, heads, and ribcages―tosses them into the firebox. The smoke smells like barbecue. The train makes its rounds along America’s tracks. Hapless passengers climb aboard. The conductor punches tickets. As the train shrieks down the railway, skull-faced cleavers roam from car to car, doing their chop work. They refill the tender. The Railwayman shovels meat, feeding the blue-flamed beast.


The Bridge
Mark Steinwachs

Black smoky tendrils snake around my body, languid movements that if made by human hands would have been sensual. I sit in the chair, unable to move. A single blue flame bridges the gap; a moment passes where my thoughts and actions are untrue to each other. The Zoroastrians say nothing, my fate sealed. I offer myself to be judged, to join them. Only the righteous become one with the perfect element, the rest are destroyed by it. The creature pierces me, my body ignites from inside. I open my mouth to scream but there is no sound, only fire


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and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Playmate

Oh little playmate, you would not play with me…

The discordant jangle of this long ago childhood nursery rhyme echoed under the bed where he hid. Some things never forgotten, he heard the sound of all that screaming like some fucked up sing-song that gets stuck in your head and never goes away. What did they call it, an ear-mite? He didn’t care. The rhythm soothed him while he waited for her to come home.

I’ll take your life, you see…

Those weren’t the words precisely. He giggled in time with the ringing in his ears.

Eddie, lying on his back, sharpened the knife, not minding the flakes of metal dust that landed in his eyes. He was singing and crying and none of the other shit mattered anymore. She wouldn’t play with him; she didn’t want to climb through his cellar door, as the song went. She would be sorry.

“I asked you to play with me, Kate. I told you I wanted to play…” The voice trailed off, but the song kept right on playing, if only in his head. He worried at the edge of the knife while he waited. He tested the blade, touched the razor-sharp edge to his tongue, tasted blood instantly.

Not sharp enough.

Eddie had been killing his way across the mid-west looking for someone to play with him, anyone. But, each time he showed up in someone’s house or their office late at night, all they did was scream.

Not very friendly, were they?

Not a bit.

Eddie giggled again. The sounds of those desperate cries and shrieks were the things he collected. He could listen to them when riding a bus, say, or walking through a crowded city park. They were his friends and he loved each of them, remembered each of them, knew where each came from.

He spent years of his life terrified of everything before he had taken his first friend. After that, he wasn’t afraid anymore.

A sudden jolt of adrenaline ran through him and the blade of his kitchen knife halted an inch from his right eye. This was the same knife that had taken the head off an old man in Meriville, Tennessee and the arms and legs of a woman in Columbia, South Carolina. The knife he’d driven into the skull of a guy who tried to rough him up outside a bar in Fairfield, Virginia. This friend didn’t run and it didn’t scream.

Had he left the bodies of this woman’s family where she would see them? That was the panic that had stopped his hand, and that nursery rhyme mid-jingle. Where had he stashed Kate’s mother and father?

Kitchen, silly!

A piercing rip of laughter peeled away from under the bed. He didn’t know if she was coming home today or tomorrow, but it didn’t matter. Once Eddie made you his friend it was only a matter of time before you’d try to scream.

Once he picked you as his friend, he didn’t change his mind.

One time he waited outside a trailer house door for four days; waited and listened. Apparently the occupants did nothing more than screw and do drugs. When they ran out, the man of the house, on wheels like a toy car, left to find more narcotics.

He never made it as far as the car, did he? No, ahhh.

That screech of laughter again and the rhyme came back.

Eddie had spotted Kate at a local coffee stop. Luck had brought them together. He had been tossed out of the fast food joint down the street. The kid behind the register called the cops, said he looked suspicious. The cops apparently didn’t think so and he was walking down the street five minutes later.

Kate, he got her name from the coffee cup she had picked up at the counter. She bumped into him and Eddie knew at once she was going to be his next friend. He even thought he might love her. She was pretty and tall, like his mother, and she smiled so big and bright when he stepped in front of her. She recoiled a little when he smiled back, but that was alright. Not many people liked his smile.

Let’s be jolly friends, Kate.

That’s what he said to her, or wanted to say as she stepped back from him uttering something mostly polite. He decided she was the one for him, the next one anyway, and followed her down the street to her office.

Kate hadn’t noticed him, but then again, they never did.

Maybe Kate won’t notice I’m here under the bed until later.

His mind ran wild with thoughts of how he’d pop out from under the bed and scare the hell out of her, or maybe he’d drag her momma in here and drop her on the bed next to Kate after she slept?

So many options for my new playmate, so many choices…

He was getting excited.

It was dark now. Eddie thought about trying to stay awake and sharpen his knife more, but one look at the pointed edge and he could tell it was good. More than good. He closed his eyes, dreaming of all the things he and Kate would talk about and all the screaming she would do. He’d never used anyone’s parents as toys before and he was excited.

She will scream the loudest of any of them.

Sleep took him. It was the sleep of the mentally young and the criminally insane. Eddie chased his playmates through a park in his dream, waving the knife at some and running others down in a car he stole. Somewhere in the distance he heard a new scream, a new playmate was coming.

He opened his eyes to a flood of light pouring in from the hallway. Kate had made it home and wandered into the kitchen while he was asleep. She found her parents at the table where Eddie had found them. Well, he had found two people sitting having lunch but now there were enough pieces to fill every chair.

It’s rude not to fill up the empty seats.

Kate screamed and screamed like nothing he’d heard before. It was marvelous. He cried a little at the thought of all those screams to take with him when he moved on.

Like the scream lottery…

Eddie wriggled himself out from under her bed, his knife in hand and a smile on his face. He started to hum silently trying to find the tune he’d been humming for nearly a year now. The words would come, or most of them.

He started to sing aloud, rough at first but by the time Kate heard him, it was steady, if not out of tune. The words comfortably familiar.

“…come out and play with me, I have this knife you’ll see…”

Eddie walked around the corner into the kitchen. Kate stopped screaming for just a moment and listened. She registered the song and then the face. She hadn’t seen the knife until the very end.

Eddie sang and Kate screamed, and he smiled at her all the while.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2017 Christpher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved

Rebirth

Evening raindrops clung to a broken spider web, and fallen leaves held water like tiny crumbling cups. Silence draped across the forest; the animals fled at sunset when the sky shed its first tear. Even the carrion birds flew away, and the rodents scampered deep down into their holes.

The animals knew.

Like a drumbeat, the chill rain pummeled the forest earth, slapping a copper stench into the wind. The air glided with the taste of elder blood, careening, coating the tumbling raindrops as they soaked back within the dirt. The greedy soil drank of the tainted water, as it once drank the soup of decaying flesh, and the trees rattled as bones.

Somewhere, came a moan.

Beyond the eventual and gentle hush, the rain ceased, but the sky stayed black. No moon graced the shrouded firmament, and no starry luminosity scattered the inky air swallowing the trees. A fog crept like silky spiders, thick and velvet over the ground, obscuring earth and flora. Grey met black and swirled, mingling, melding in a darkling kiss.

And the night waited.

It waited in stillness, the breath of air grave and expectant with longing. It waited cold and cavernous, as if time gave this occasion pause. And then… past the midnight hour it stirred. A faint noise from beneath the onyx soil. Scrabbling, scratching, a shiver sound of creatures crawling, of fingernails groping through the dirt.

Digging upward.

The ground trembled, softly, gently, as if a lover’s touch caressed it. The wind sighed, dancing among the trees and twirling with the hoary mist. Slowly, slowly, the earth gave way, in splinters and snaps and clefts of soft loam. The soil parted, cracked, and a bony hand burrowed out from beneath the world. A sallow, deformed hand smeared in grime and filth, its reaching skeletal fingers smelling of long rotted meat and crumbled skin. Strange grunts followed, and a heaving of dirt as a shoulder bone, and then a skull, pushed from under the tomb of earth into the interim of night. It crawled forward on jointed bones, hollow eyes somehow seeing, a throat void of words somehow screaming. It dragged and squirmed and writhed, this awakened remnant of what once was human, fumbling out of the dirt and standing upright. One step, then two, a stumbling walk through the woods, towing leaf and bark along its path until it escaped the confines of the forest.

There it stopped. There it shrieked.

Loud and strident, an articulation grotesque, yet wrenching in its suffering. A ballyhoo of noise to clatter the trees and jangle the ground. To echo past all the desolate unholy, far into the dark depths of the forest and beyond.

It gave voice to its eternal pain.

A single, howling voice, offered to the night…

To be answered by a thousand snarling cries.

By a thousand sounds of scrabbling and scratching.

By a thousand things digging upward.

~ A. F. Stewart

© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.

Red and Blue

I sit curled up next to the fireplace, my head resting against the surround. A goblet of heavy Merlot in my hand; heavy for its body or heavy for my longing, I cannot say. As I stare into the crackling blaze, my mind wanders. So many memories from years gone by, so much love shared here, in this very room. My soul shrieks with grief as I collapse into a ball, no longer able to hold myself upright; no longer able to stem the wracking sobs.

The fire now a blur through swollen wet eyes, my head lolls and I glance toward the tree with its twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and brightly wrapped packages tucked neatly below. You always were such a perfectionist. My eyes flutter shut as the day you dressed the tree forces itself upon my mind. You were so happy, so excited to pick the largest pine available. I recall joking that one of us would have to move out so the tree could move in. You kissed me with icy cold lips and a bright red nose. Little did I know how soon I would long to feel that frigid touch once more. Your enthusiasm knowing no bounds, you spent the entire day arranging everything just so; making sure the colorful glass baubles were placed with precision, everything to an exacting measure. I’d playfully moved a strand of tinsel while you weren’t watching, only to reenter the room moments later to find it placed back in its original position.

The gifts. Oh, how you tortured me over the gifts long before the season began. A sad smile steals across my lips as I think of the hours you spent fretting over the perfect surprise for each of our friends. As I sip from my glass, a slight chuckle escapes me only to end in a bleat of pain as I recall how you stressed over wrapping each gift in the perfect color foil. God, how you loved this day.

I think back upon the last evening I saw you. I was standing at the island between this room and the kitchen preparing dinner; you remembered one final detail you couldn’t do without. I kissed you as you bounded past me, told you not to be long and that I loved you. You grabbed your coat from the hook, turned to me with purse in hand, golden locks bouncing, and smiled before replying as you always did – not nearly the way I love you. I smiled back; you left. Two hours later, a knock sounded. I wasn’t worried, you often became infatuated with something or other and lost track of time or misplaced your keys. As I moved to open the front door, I noticed the bare flicker of red and blue light drifting in from the balcony. Seeing the officers standing at the threshold, I turned and walked to the glass, placed my forehead to it, and knew in that moment… you were gone. I woke lying upon the couch. The officers explained there’d been an accident at the corner – our corner; a young woman had been hit by a car that ran the red light. You were that young woman.

My eyes crack open seeking a red light on the tree, your tree – our tree. But instead, my sight finds the red fairy lights you used to decorate the balcony. Barely able to stand, I stumble to the sliding doors. As I fumble to open them through my tears, the Merlot in my glass pours onto the white carpet. My addled mind tells me how angry you’ll be if I don’t clean the deep burgundy spill right away; my breath hitches, another sob escapes me. Finally managing the lock, I step through onto the bitterly cold veranda. Standing at the rail, I exist in a halo of red light, my long chestnut mane whipping in the wind; the flush on my cheeks all but gone in a tinted haze. Another balcony, the one next to ours, is adorned in blue twinkling lights. I wonder why I’d not noticed it before. The blue and red lights blur together as my inebriated mind struggles to adjust. Five stories below, more lights glitter, cars rush past; the ground wears a fresh blanket of snow. I’m so tired, and the blanket seems so inviting. Please, don’t go without me – words I should have spoken that night. Letting myself lean forward, the world pitches as my mind screams for release from this sorrow, begs me to join you. I grasp the railing, sink to my knees and crawl back inside. Too much a coward to follow you; too devoted to allow your memory to die.

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. Revised 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The Record of Harold Snyde

The black disk spun as the music enthralled its listeners. It spoke a language more beautiful than any human tongue. It sang in sweet tones of joy and cried in wails of sorrow as the symphony progressed. Like a puppet master deftly maneuvering strings, it directed bodies as they danced with grace, ever mindful of the next movement, the next step.

Only when the needle was lifted did they stop. The Victrola was the instrument, Mr. Harold Snyde, the conductor.

His guests had been invited to his home under false pretense of a dinner party; one which could be described as nothing short of an unmitigated success.

After dessert, he invited those gathered into the parlor for a musical interlude. When he placed the recording onto the spinning table and set the needle into the disc’s carved groove, they all began to dance. He knew they would. He’d tested it on his late wife prior to her passing of heart failure. An unfortunate occurrence, for her. But not for Mr. Snyde. He inherited her vast fortune, and the aforementioned record player.

When Mrs. Snyde had still been among the living, he’d found it buried deep in the attic behind old crates and piles of books no one would ever read again. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs.

“What are you doing with that old thing?” she’d questioned with disdain.

“What do you mean, dear? I’m setting it up so I can listen to my records.”

“Why don’t you just buy a new one? We hardly need to reuse junk from the attic,” she’d clucked, barely disguising her distaste.

He didn’t reply. Instead, he placed a record on the player and turned it on. She began to dance, and dance, and dance; a strange expression painted on her face, as if fear struck her ill.

“I thought you hated my choice of music?” he asked her prancing form.

She didn’t reply.

“Lynn, what has gotten into you?”

Still her mouth uttered no words.

He crossed his arms and watched her sway and whirl around the room without stopping. He let it go on for some time before raising the arm off the record.

She stopped dancing and blinked a few times. “What… What just happened?”

“You were dancing! It was wonderful!”

“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to dance. I don’t understand.”

“Let’s try it again, shall we?” Harold said, and turned the music back on.

She’d begun to raise a palm, to tell him to wait, but the music took over and sent her twirling about like a ballerina. He sat and watched in fascination from his favorite reading chair, smiling at her frame as it seemed to glide about the room as if weightless.

As she went on and on without end, he wondered how long the player would have an effect. He soon had his answer; she danced until she died several hours later.

Before the police and ambulance arrived, he dredged up old memories to proffer genuine tears. He didn’t want to appear apathetic or distracted. Tissue in hand, he wiped his eyes while the paramedics took her body away and the officers questioned him. It worked perfectly. There was no need for them to know those tears weren’t for his deceased wife, but for his beloved dog, Ralph, who’d passed when he was a boy.

Now, no one suspected a thing; not the police, nor his current guests. He presumed they all believed him in need of company. He was, after all, alone in such a large house, with a wife so recently in the ground and no children to share his grief. It had only been a week since the death of Mrs. Snyde, yet the vultures gathered had jumped at the opportunity to console the wealthy widower; the same gaggle who wouldn’t have bothered to utter his name prior to his wife’s passing.

He reveled in watching the contorted faces of his guests as they moved around the room with more grace than they ever would on their own. He wondered how long they’d last. Would they drop one by one? Would they all die around the same time? He wished he could bet on who would be the first to go, but there wasn’t anyone to take up the offer. It mattered little; he was having the time of his life. Watching those rich bitch-hogs dance uncontrollably gave him pleasure, and watching their lives give out would give him even more. They’d done him wrong and in return, he was going to do them right.

He watched Gerald, his legs bending and swaying, hips moving in sync with Barbara. The two socialite bastards had always talked behind his back. He’d seen them laughing with eyes pointed in his direction at the company Christmas party the previous year. Lynn had stood with them, probably telling them how he’d pissed his money away with a bladder full of drink.

There will be fewer attendees at the party this year, he thought with maniacal glee.

Henna and Charles, the investment dynamic-duo, or so they claimed. They looked to be the first to go. He saw their eyes droop, watched as their mouths hung open, a stream of unbecoming drool leaked freely onto each of their chins. Their arms swung loosely at their sides, propelled only by the movement of their hips, which no longer held any rhythm.

When he looked at their unsteady feet he laughed; the carpet had worn flat from the constant shuffling of their shoes. It had been Lynn’s favorite rug, worth quite a bit of money. I’d trade that floor rag for a bucket of dirt any day, he groused in his mind.

The soon to be deceased couple had lost him money time and again in fruitless endeavors. No more. That rug will be the last of your expenses.

Max still moved at a steady, upbeat pace. Mr. Snyde figured he’d be the last to drop. Max hadn’t done anything in particular to deserve such a merciless fate, he just didn’t like the mook bastard.

He poured himself a glass of whiskey and raised it to his guests. “Thank you all for coming! I’m having a wonderful time!” He laughed and sipped his drink.

By the time he’d gone through five or six pours—he couldn’t remember how many—Max was the only one left standing. The clock read quarter of five. “Damn sun will be rising soon. We’d better call this party quits. Show yourselves out. Oh, wait… That’s right, you can’t!” He chuckled and spilled whiskey with a wavering hand. “Hurry up and die, won’t you, Max. I need rid myself of the lot of you. Can’t have you stinking up the place.”

Max’s eyes pleaded with him. Their sorrowful look begged to be released, ached to be set free.

“Can’t go back now, buddy. Sorry.”

He reached for an iron rod from the fireplace, swung it hard. Max went down like the market crash of ’29.

He lifted the needle from the record for some peace and quiet while he piled the bodies together on the rug. When he attempted to pick Max up, he heard soft grumbles emanating from the man’s throat. The blow to the back of his head hadn’t killed him. “What’s that you say? Speak up, boy!”

Mr. Snyde thought he heard a profane remark as he hoisted Max up by putting his arms under his shoulders, but the young man’s speech was still unintelligible. “What’s that now?”

“Fuck you!”

Max’s hand reached out just far enough to push the needle back onto the vinyl disc and the music started to play.

Releasing his hold on Max, Mr. Harold Snyde began to dance…

~ Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved

Pigs

Jenkins sat in his reclining chair, extended the footrest and closed his eyes.

Sleep was something he found hard to come by. Just up the road from his trailer was Old Man Fredericks’s farm. The smells from that place were bad enough; damp hay and tons of shit lingering in the air.

Most of all, it was the noises that drove Jenkins bat shit.

Those fucking pigs were constantly grunting and squealing.

Not anymore.

His clothes, skin and hair still smelled of smoke, reminding him of camping trips to the beach with Beth when they still dated.

He grinned, replaying the image of the barn going up, the flames dancing over it, consuming the structure and its occupants.

Jenkins opened his eyes and flicked at his jeans, noting the dry blood soaked into the denim.

It had only taken one swing with the first piglet to kill, smashing it on the asphalt. The second piglet, however, was tougher. After three hard whacks against the road it still squealed, despite blood pouring from its split skull.

When he set the damn thing on the ground to finish off, the piglet tried to dart off. Jenkins snapped all four of its limbs to keep it from running away then stomped the piglets head until it caved in, leaving a mix of skin, bone, brain and snout.

It had been great.

Sleep quickly crept up on him.

My god it’s quiet.

***

Jenkins couldn’t remember a sleep as relaxing as the one he just had. Stretching, he released a big yawn. His body was relaxed, rejuvenated and-

He was in a bed.

Looking around, he quickly realized that he was no longer in his living room. Where the fuck was he? He threw the covers back and climbed out.

The king size bed dominated most of the bedroom. A white dresser stood against the wall to his right while a simple desk with a lamp on it was the left.

Jenkins headed towards the slightly ajar door, noting the light spilling in through the gap. Pulling it open he could see a spiral staircase in a dark room but at the bottom was another open door which was the source of the light.

Jenkins made his way down the staircase but when he reached the bottom step, he stopped.

There was a sound.

A familiar sound.

A pig was grunting in the next room.

Jenkins stepped off the staircase through the doorway.

He was on a balcony where an adult pig was on all fours, sniffing around the railings. Just to his right was a glass case that said Break In Case Of Fire containing a hose along with an axe.

Beyond the balcony railing was complete darkness.

The pig stopped sniffing when it noticed him and met his gaze.

If Jenkins thought the grunting and squealing was bad, what he heard next was almost too much to bear.

“Hello there,” the pig said.

Even though it spoke words, it was a poor attempt at mimicking a human, as the sound was still pig. Its voice was grotesque and terrifying.

Jenkins could not speak.

“Oh come on now, don’t be shy. Why, we’ve been neighbors for so long we’re practically best friends. My name is Howard.” The sound of the pig’s tongue rolling over its teeth as it pronounced each word made Jenkins cringe. “I’ll save you the trouble of asking. Yes, you are dreaming.”

Jenkins turned to leave but the doorway was gone, replaced by a brick wall. He reached out and tried to push the wall out of the way to no avail.

“It won’t budge,” Howard said. The voice changed, darkening. “You’re in here with us.”

Looking around frantically, Jenkins remembered the glass case. Without hesitating, he punched through the glass, grabbing the axe.

“Oh, come on now, buddy. What are you doing with that?”

Jenkins swung the axe as hard as he could, bringing the blade down on Howard’s head. The blade punched through skin and bone, before coming to a stop in the brain.

Howard screamed.

It was an awful sound, much worse than the spoken words, resembling a human wail penetrated by pig vocals. Jenkins released his grip on the axe, covering his ears.

Within seconds the screaming stopped, replaced by laughter. Howard stood up on his hind hooves and clutched his belly, gasping for breath as he laughed.

“Oh Jenkins,” Howard exclaimed as blood ran down his face. “Do you really think you can hurt us here in our own domain?”

“It’s just a dream,” Jenkins muttered. “It’s just a fucking dream.”

“Just keep telling yourself that, buddy. We all love a good laugh.” He gestured beyond the balcony railing as light slowly dawned in the darkness like the opening of a Broadway show.

There was movement but as the light grew brighter he saw them.

Pigs.

They were scurrying around back and forth on a carpeted floor that was enclosed by old wood paneled walls. Covering his nose, the air quickly became thick with the smell of pig shit and something else.

It was familiar yet he could not put his finger on it.

“What do you think?” Howard asked, the axe still embedded in his head.

Jenkins clutched his temples and shook his head. “It’s time to wake up. Wake up, Jenkins.”

“Sorry, buddy…”

“One two three WAKE UP!”

Howard’s voice darkened even more. “You’re here for the whole show.” And he laughed.

Reaching up with its hoof, Howard dislodged the axe and tossed it off of the balcony.

Jenkins realized the pigs on the floor were no longer scurrying around. Their movements were more deliberate and less animalistic and then they stopped altogether.

The room went silent.

One by one, the pigs looked up; each of them staring directly into Jenkins’ eyes. The shit smell was dissipating and the other aroma cut through, becoming more distinct. With every set of eyes on him, Jenkins recognized the smell.

Burning flesh.

All at once, the pigs began screaming.

It was deafening and even more horrific than the lone scream when he had buried the axe in Howard’s head. As he watched, the pigs’ skin began to sizzle and bubble up into blisters, roasted by invisible flames.

Their skin then began to fuse together, absorbing one another.

“Wake up… wake up…” Jenkins cried.

Howard laughed even more and flipped himself over the balcony railing. He landed on the floor below where he began to merge with the other pigs.

“What do you think, Jenkins?” Howard asked, growing in size as he assimilated the others.

Intermixed with the screaming was a wet sucking sound.  Although the bodies were absorbing one another, all the pigs’ heads remained.

It was massive.

Standing before him was an ungodly being comprised of burnt and charred pigs. It stood on two legs with Howard acting as the head.

The abomination was tall enough that Howard was at Jenkins’ eye level.

“There is no waking up from this, my friend,” he roared. “You see, we’re Tormentors. We feed on the enjoyment people get out of heinous and cruel acts. By taking the forms of the tortured, we invade the dreams of the torturers exacting revenge. It’s why we exist. Or looking at it another way, it’s how we get our kicks.”

The mass raised its arms.

On the end of each one was a piglet. The one on the left had a split skull while on the right, the piglet had no head; just a gory pulp of pig flesh.

They were the ones he killed on the road.

Jenkins turned away, screaming, looking for a way out.

The mass reached over the balcony, grabbing him by the legs. It yanked hard, tripping Jenkins onto the balcony floor, then lifting him into the air upside down where it held him for a second.

“Ready?” Howard sneered.

Without waiting, the mass whipped Jenkins into the air then swung down as hard as it could.

Jenkins smacked the carpeted floor with a muffled thud. The blow knocked him senseless.

“How about another try?”

Again, Jenkins was raised into the air and struck hard against the floor. This time, pain exploded through his body as he felt his right shoulder and rib cage shatter upon impact.

He cried out, gasping for air, blood filling his mouth.

All of the pigs began to squeal with delight. The mass lifted his broken body up again but this time held him close.

“It’s been a slice, buddy, but we’ve worked up a bit of an appetite.”

The mass pressed Jenkins against its body as the many pig mouths began tearing into his flesh, ripping chunks away.

***

Jenkins opened his eyes.

He was sitting in his reclining chair in the living room of his trailer.

Just a dream.

Sighing a breath of relief, pain exploded through his body.

The entire right side screamed in agony. He could taste iron as blood filled his mouth. Looking down, his chest and stomach were torn open with his entrails slipping out onto the floor.

As he raised his head, he looked out the living room window to a face looking in at him.

It was Howard.

Grinning, Howard licked his lips and said, “Oh we’re not done yet, buddy boy. We’re called Tormentors for a reason. You don’t get to wake up from this one.”

The squeals of many pigs filled the room as one of the mass’s arms smashed through the front door, reaching toward Jenkins.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2016 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

Necropolis

MacPhersonville cemetery surrounded the town and was populated by the bones of early settlers. No one wanted to be buried there anymore, the modern crematorium had become the trend, but it was Frank Charles MacPherson the Third’s wish that he be buried alongside his ancestors. The MacPherson line had founded MacPhersonville; they were practically royalty.

Rumours that the cemetery was unhallowed ground were common. Many strange incidents had taken place there.

“Nonsense!” snapped Mrs. Emma Anne MacPherson, the matriarch, when family members whispered in her ear that the cemetery was cursed.

“My dear old Frank wants to be buried there and I shan’t hear another word to the contrary.”

On the morning of the service guests deliberated whether or not they should attend. They fingered neckties, fiddled with black veils, they smoothed creases on black trousers and skirts, but they knew they had to put in an appearance. It wasn’t any old corpse being laid to rest, it was the corpse of MacPherson the Third. Nobody wanted to be ostracised by the MacPhersons.

***

The large ornate gates of the cemetery creaked shut and slammed as the catch fell into place. Two ironwork angels faced each other, their trumpets held high. They were rusted orange, the white paint long gone. Mrs Barbara De Laverio, the town baker and the last of the funeral party to shuffle in, shivered as the gates shut behind her. She stared at the angels suspiciously, but she took a deep breath and held her tongue.

The coffin was covered by an arrangement of lilies and white roses, proud courtesy of Mrs. Edith Birkingham, the town florist. It was carried slowly by the bearers; followed by the Reverend James Peter, Reverend Jacob and Reverend Nathaniel. The small town had a high number of clergy posted there. No one wanted to ask why all three priests were present that day. They led the procession, their hands clasped within bell sleeves.

Sigmund, the groundskeeper, lurked out of view as the funeral party entered. He realised in despair that the entire town had shown up for the service.

Sigmund squeezed his eyes shut. It had been a long time since he had received an order to dig. The previous night, it had come again, accompanied by the heaviness on his chest, skin burning, ringing in his ears.

“Wake up boy and get to work! It’s time to dig!” roared the voice.

It rattled inside his head, a delighted cackle. There was nothing Sigmund could do to resist. He had been bound to the Guardian of the cemetery many years ago and was not able to venture beyond the gates. He had watched everyone he knew meet their inevitable end. Camped in squalor in the tiny caretaker’s cottage, he was the only living thing that wandered the rows of crumbling headstones. The other occupants of the cemetery were the souls of the dead.

***

The funeral party made their way along the gravel road, up the hill to the open plot. The congregation gathered around quietly. Reverend James Peter began the sermon.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to lay to rest a great man, great great grandson of our founding father, Frank Charles MacPherson. He was the pinnacle of our good community, a respected businessman, a loving father and husband….”

As the Reverend spoke the coffin began to tremble. From within came a long muffled groan. Mrs. Emma Anne Macpherson sat stunned in the front row, an embroidered handkerchief pressed to her nose.

Reverend James Peter paused and the three priests exchanged anxious looks. The young Reverend Nathaniel took a few steps back, frightened already. Reverend Jacob nodded seriously to Reverend James Peter. Best to cut the babble and get to the important stuff. Reverend James Peter began making the sign of the cross over the coffin and continued.

“Rest in peace Frank Charles Macpherson the Third, in the name of the Father and of the…”

The coffin rocked again, this time more violently.

“Fucking hell!” swore Reverend Nathaniel.

The coffin exploded with a loud crack. Sharp chunks of wood flew at the priests, red blotches quickly staining their white robes.

Old man MacPherson sat upright on his cushioned satin, staring ahead with milky eyes. His mouth dropped open as if in surprise, then he turned to face his family.

Mrs. MacPherson broke into hysterical squeals and the man who was once her husband chuckled.

The crowd began to disperse, screams erupting.

***

Sigmund had crept closer to watch, peering from behind a tree.

The Guardian had come. The Guardian would claim everyone.

“You can’t run, you can’t run.” He muttered, a yellow puddle growing at his feet.

***

The sun eclipsed; the sky darkened. People were lifted into the air as they fled, they spun slowly like flies caught in a web.

Frank Charles Macpherson the Third climbed out; he dusted off his grey suit and straightened his blue silk tie.

“What a special day!” he said “All of us together again!”

His wife sobbed into her handkerchief; the MacPherson clan cowered around her.

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

Reverend Jacob rambled as he sprinkled holy water, shards of wood embedded in his chest and thigh.

“Shut up, fool!” roared Frank and sent the priest flying with a wave of his arm. “Neither God nor the Devil himself cares about this hole of a town! I am Guardian and Reaper, the only afterlife that awaits you is within my gates!”

The MacPhersons screamed and huddled closer. They watched in terror as Frank Charles MacPherson the Third was torn apart from the inside. His arms popped out of their sockets. His torso split, rib cage stretching, stomach bursting, entrails gushing. The old man’s face cracked in half, blood seeping before his skull exploded. The jelly of dead brains wobbled through the air. The demon emerged from the carnage, a huge reptilian creature with moist black wings.

“The city of the damned comes alive once more! Come forth my minions! Feast! Frolic!”  He stretched his wings to their full length and rose to the darkened heavens.

A cacophony of groans began as souls rose from their graves. They could be seen in the eerie unnatural light, grey wraiths that reeled through the air. Ancient skeletons began to push and crawl their way out of the earth. They dangled and swayed, dressed in dirty tatters.

The bodies pinned in the air rained from the sky and plummeted to the ground. The wraiths howled in excitement as they flew towards them, diving and taking possession. The mangled bodies rose, arms and legs twisted, necks broken.

The dead feasted on the living and the living began to feast on each other. Latent passions were sparked and grudges were fuelled. The butcher’s wife turned on her husband’s mistress, wrestling her to the ground, grinning as she strangled and pounded her head to pulp. The postman and the librarian tumbled onto the nearest slab of marble. Foaming at the mouth, they tore at more than clothes, ripping chunks of hair, gouging eyes.

The demon streaked through the blackened sky, his laughter a deep rumble that rattled the earth.

***

The skeletons of Frank Charles MacPherson the First and Second lurched towards the MacPhersons who remained huddled together by the desecrated grave. They pointed at them, growing agitated, their jawless skulls bobbing wordlessly. They would not be able to protect their family from the horde that was advancing.

A macabre flock of bedevilled bodies stumbled up the hill towards them. They fell upon the screaming MacPhersons, gnawing at flesh and drinking the bloodline of their founding fathers. The most perverse of hatred was reserved for the dying bodies of the priests.

Night clung to the cemetery; it became a timeless realm. The possessed tormented and molested each other, revelling in arousal and repulsion. Sigmund watched in fascination, and soon abandoned himself to the frenzy of sex and violence.

Freshly murdered souls drifted earthbound, gazing upon their own slaughtered remains. Their agony echoed on the wind, drifting through the empty town and across the mountains.

Eventually stillness fell, the dark skies cleared and a weak sun emerged, shining dimly upon the cemetery.

***

“Keep digging my boy!” laughed the demon as he whipped Sigmund with his tail. Sigmund was beyond all inkling of humanity by then, grunting and drooling in the mud as he dug furiously with both hands, naked but for the dry blood that coated his body. It was the biggest pit he ever had to dig, a massive open grave into which he dragged the mutilated corpses that lay scattered about.

***

MacPhersonville still stands today, a derelict town in the middle of nowhere, subject of many a ghost story.

No one is certain how the town people all strangely vanished. Their homes and stores were found abandoned yet orderly. A long trail of cars remains parked outside the cemetery, an empty funeral hearse at the front. It appears as if the whole town entered the cemetery and disappeared. It is said that if you visit MacPhersonville Cemetery at certain times of year, at the equinoxes or a rare blue moon, it becomes a buzzing necropolis, alive with the debauchery of the dead, but none who dare venture beyond the gates ever return to tell their tale.

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes 4

de_cloud_04

The Island
Brian Moreland

The luxury yacht traversed between the Philippine islands. Derek found the perfect beach in a hidden lagoon. Tom dropped anchor. The girls, in bikinis, packed sandwiches and beer. The jungle watched as two couples disembarked and waded through crystal water to the beach. They picnicked, swam, napped in the sun. Tom and Jasmine hiked into the jungle “to be alone.” Their screams woke Derek and Amy. They searched the island for their missing friends. Found them tied to trees, skinned to red sinews. Tom’s eyes had been eaten out. Jasmine, bleeding from head to toe, begged for help. Derek tried to untie her. The vines tightened, snapped her ribcage. Green tentacles shot out, wrapped around Derek. He yelled as thorny vines peeled off his skin. Amy, crying, backed into a stone idol. Ivy snaked up her legs. After feeding, the jungle placed bloody bones at the feet of their god.


Thirty-seven Days
Joseph A. Pinto

Sunlight clings to life; a sliver across his eyes. He draws the blinds, killing it for good. Adjusts to the gloom, the shadow. It covers the room; a sheet uninterrupted in its totality. No furniture, no menial things to disrupt its reach.

Thirty-seven days; he is quite used to the black. Seen no more, still he can hear them, their ruinous limbs dragging across curbs. Teeth clack, clack, clacking inside misshapen heads. Human once, ravaged now by pestilence, disease.

Thirty-seven days since he has stepped foot outside. Nevertheless, his years of extravagant living, an overindulgent craving for the finest delicacies, has afforded him a luxury few can claim.

Thirty-seven days. He can survive thirty-seven more. Knife against his stomach, he slices flesh razor thin; he will sustain himself. Water from toilet, meat across tongue; he will sustain himself until the world turns sane once more.


A Passing Discomfort
Lee A. Forman

When two hands touch something is always felt. It might be an awkward pang, or something more uncomfortable—revulsion, a burning disgust for the feel of another human being.

Sometimes it’s more.

The heart races. Every tiny hair on my skin rises. And I know they feel the same thing.

A glance into their eyes and it’s over. The mask of terror forms, carved by my curse. I traverse an incalculable distance, one that can’t be measured in numbers; something greater than infinity but more tangible. You could hold it in your hands or it could encompass all time and space.

I know exactly when they’re going to die. And so do they, but only for that moment of discomfort when brushing against a stranger. In the blink of an eye they forget. But I remember. Even after they’re gone.


Food Chain
Veronica Magenta Nero

I used to feed on insects and vermin that I trapped in my black and blistered hands. I lived in slim alleys where brick walls caked with despair met in dead ends. Bags of garbage piled high like fat split bodies, thin skins leaking toxic waste, under the dark loom of sky scrapers. Towers so high you can’t see the top, they block the sun.

But I found the way out, took a chance when I saw it. I groomed myself in a new image. I stepped on the heads of those less hungry, less able, ripped them down as I pulled myself up, to the top of the food chain. Elite meat is sautéed in sweet tears and sweat, the luxury of human flesh free of disease, a menu of privileged taste.


Human Luxury
Craig McGray

There once was no greater luxury than being human. Unfortunately, that is rare in the days that follow the uprising. The very technology that we developed turned out to be our downfall and now there are far more of them than there are of us. Artificial intelligence suddenly became not so artificial and before we had a chance to react, they had control of everything in our world, including our population. Humans were rounded up and slaughtered in unimaginable numbers. Packed stadiums were obliterated, cities were all but wiped from the map, and countries crumbled as world leaders were targeted and disposed of. I’m not sure why, but they kept a small amount of us around and though we felt like the lucky few at the time, I don’t feel so lucky now. In fact, I’d gladly trade this luxury for the swift death that took my family from me.


Human Papers
Jon Olson

Just keep your head down, no need to draw any unnecessary attention. Two are wearing black suits. They’re Internal Registry Agents. Don’t make eye contact with them. Act normal, go about your business… shit! They’re following, asking me for them. Damn. They want to see my Human Registration Papers. Fuck. It’s almost impossible to register when you’re not of this earth. Keep walking. Head for the subway, you can lose them down there. They order me to stop and something about opening fire. Don’t stop, keep moving, you’re almost there! I hear a familiar click behind my head. Move feet, damn it, move! Just a few more-


Bloater
Nina D’Arcangela

Menthol, that’s all I smelled. The bloated mass before me waited patiently. I picked up the scalpel, the fluorescent light humming above glinted off its metallic surface. The Y incision made, I peeled back the outer layer of skin exposing globules of fatty residue and further decomposed tissue. Thick yellow fluid oozed from the gangrenous edges of the incised flesh. The second stroke sliced through muscle, invaded the stomach cavity; the gaseous release hissed in competition with the fixture overhead. The half-digested, half-rotted contents within were easily discernible. Next, I moved to the throat and began a vertical slit in the esophagus. The small, elongated objects lodged in the upper esophageal sphincter left no doubt; they were human fingers. Removing my mask, I glanced at the chart, confirmed the preliminary findings.

Cause of Death: suffocation due to blockage of the systema respiratorium.


Echoes of a Chorus
Christopher A. Liccardi

The violins started, cellos chased their pulse as the last of his heart’s blood pumped out of him, unaware the journey was one way. His life spilled over the papers that recorded his greatest masterpiece and his death song.

I waived my hands in the air, conducting as I was taught by him. The yellow afterglow of his banker’s lamp on the piano winked in time to the throb of the aural perfection he’d finished not an hour ago. People would remember him for it; and me for killing him.

The orchestration had finally taken on a life of its own; his life, in fact but that’s how it should be, right? He always spoke about dying for his art. All I did was help him with that last bit.

The blade I now used as a baton, directing invisible musicians to symphonic perfection, and it was his greatest work.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016

The Life

I led the life once.

Once.

“Excuse me.  I was hoping we could talk a minute.  Something about what your daughter said to mine.”

It felt another lifetime ago.  For all intents and purposes, it was.

“You know how kids can be.  So I was hoping you could find out what was said?”

I was born into the life.  Into the family.  And when you’re born into the family, you’re expected to act a certain way.  There’s a creed that’s followed, one that’s not ever questioned.  Not ever.

“See, my little girl came home yesterday.  She told me your daughter told her that she can’t be on safety patrol.”

You lead two lives.  The person you are, and the person the family needs you to be.  You’re molded without ever feeling the hands.  It starts early, when you’re still too young to understand.  But you’re molded.  You’re taught there’s only one way, the family way.  No right, no wrong.

“She told me that your daughter told her that she’s too awkward to be on safety patrol.  That she’s not normal.  That she’s got issues.  My little girl cried all night.  It tore me up inside, you know?”

But times change.  Families change.  Values, the way of going about yourself.  Conducting business.  This new age took over and old school thinking got pushed further and further from the mind.  It went the way of the dinosaurs.  Extinct.

“Children shouldn’t have to deal with hurtful words, not at this age.  So I was hoping you could find out.  And if it’s true what she said, then maybe you could…you know…just talk to your daughter.”

Some things don’t ever die out, though.  Some things adapt, learn to survive.  Respect is one them.  It’s all in the way the family molds you.  My pop, for instance.  He did his thing, day in, day out, setting an example.  Simply by emulating him, I earned his respect.  Day in, day out.  The family way.  The only way he knew.

“There’s nothing got to be talked about.”  This father I had never met before, this father who I wanted to believe was as protective of his own daughter as I was of mine, waved his hand in front of my face.  I took note of his rail thin arms, his mismatched tattoos.  He leaned close to my face; a little too close.  “My woman raised our kid right, so your girl, she’s lying.  My kid ain’t done nothing wrong.”

“How can you say that if you haven’t even asked—”

There was this one time my pop and I sat eating lunch.  Respect, he blurted while we both chewed my Nonna’s tripe, is the most important thing in this world.  More important than money.  It shows up on the job long before you do.  You don’t have respect, you got nothingNothing.  He chewed and chewed on that tripe and then smiled, a rubbery piece of cow intestines caught in his teeth.  But sometimes, you need to teach it.

“Ain’t nothing got to be talked about!  Your girl is lying and that’s that.”  This father I never met before, this father who I still wanted to believe was as protective of his own daughter as I was of mine, still leaned close to my face; a little too close.  “Maybe there’s a reason your girl can’t make safety patrol.  Maybe you and your girl should figure it out yourselves.”

Sometimes you need to send them a message.

The father I had never met before smirked and stepped away. A young woman in skin-tight jeggings wearing a PINK hoodie two sizes too small sashayed over to him.  She stared, cracked her gum as he whispered in her ear, then they laughed. Laughed, all shits and giggles; the barbell through her tongue shiny under the sun.  They shared a sloppy kiss.

Stunods, real stunods, both of them.  The school doors opened, and again, for another day, my little girl was mine.

***

I led the life once.

Once.

But the life can’t always be what it was.  It can’t be.  Upbringings change, morals change.  The hands that once molded you disappear.  Disappear, and eventually you realize your own hands are meant to mold a new life.

I lay beside my daughter reading her a bedtime story.  Lightly, she touched my arm.  “Daddy, will I ever be on safety patrol?”

I closed the book.

“Daddy, I don’t want to be not normal.”

I listened.

“It’s okay though, Daddy, because I don’t need a lot of friends.  But I really want to be on safety patrol.  I can be really good at it, Daddy.”  Her hands flapped in front of her, limbs so rigid in her excitement.  “I can be really good.  Really good.”

Silently I seethed, cursing the unfairness of my daughter’s disabilities and for the first time in my life, I suddenly felt those hands upon me, the ones that had molded the life I once knew.  The life I thought was done.

Sometimes you need to teach it.  Sometimes you need to send them a message.

I took my little girl and hugged her, hugged and kissed her, reassuring her that all her life was going to be really good, really, really good.  I sang her a song about sunshine until she slipped into dreamland’s arms.  Then I locked myself in my room and wept before making the decision to step back into the life again.

***

It took a few days to learn his pattern.  It wasn’t hard.

I found him alone on a Tuesday night, the bar a quiet place right on the fringe of town.  I knew the bartender there.  Quite well.

A tiny bell sounded above the door as I stepped inside, but the father I had never met before didn’t turn around.  The bartender nodded toward me, then offered his only customer a shot that was greedily knocked back by a wobbly hand.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

He didn’t acknowledge me, not at first, his eyes bleary with liquor.  I took the stool beside him.  “See, I said I was hoping you could find out if it’s true, what your daughter said to mine, but you never bothered.  You never took the time.  You never took the effort.”

Recognition finally creased the face of the father I had never met before.  Before he could get in a slurred word, I leaned close to his face.  A little too close.  “Respect, my friend, is the most important thing in this world.  But you, you showed me none.”

He listened hard, my words whispered between my lips the way they were.  “You don’t have someone’s respect, then you have nothing.  You said your woman raised your kid right.  Your woman…”

His eyes followed the small box I placed between us atop the bar.  “I’m going to teach you something now.”  My fingers lingered, then drew from the box.  I patted his shoulder.  Hard.  I put my lips to his ear.  “Respect starts at home,” then I turned and left.

I was in no hurry.  My daughter would be home, sound asleep.  Tomorrow, I’d help her with her homework as I always did, then we’d talk about her joining safety patrol.  Tomorrow, I’d go back to being her dad.

But not tonight.

I rolled down the truck window and waited, waited until I heard the screams from the father I had never met before penetrate the bar walls.  Waited until I knew he had opened the box and found his woman’s pierced tongue inside.

Finally, I started my truck and headed home.  I had an irresistible urge to teach my wife Nonna’s old recipe for tripe once I got there.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2016 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

wolf_rule_full_sat

Fairy

The deafening volume in the hallway was cut short by yet another scene of ruthlessness.

Terri was pulling a math book out of the bottom of his locker when something heavy crashed into him, driving his head into the corner of the metal enclosure.  The pain ringing in his ears briefly consumed him as he collapsed to the tile floor.  Not again, he pleaded inwardly as he pressed a shaky hand against his forehead to stem the flow of blood.

Regardless of the countless times something similar had happened, he was yet again flooded with humiliation, anger, and a desire to disappear; it was overwhelming.  He bowed his head and turned to the side as he bit his lip in a useless attempt to hold back tears that only served to incite his tormentor.

Nothing halted the insane volume of background noise that filled a school like the promise of violence.  But the silence never lasted, and his latest tormentor, one of his regulars, filled the empty space with ugly taunts.

“Hey Fairy,” Eric yelled. “How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my way?”

He pulled his hand away from his forehead and a stream of blood poured down his face as he glanced at the onlookers.  The sight was familiar – a hungry crowd wielding phones that recorded the show in high definition.  Undoubtedly, many were already thinking about the comments they would upload along with the footage.

Most people in his position would at least look at their attacker, but there was no need.  It wasn’t because there was only one possible aggressor; the list of bullies was long.  It was because this asshole was one of only three that called him a fairy, and Eric’s oddly high-pitched voice betrayed him immediately.

“Look at me, you sack of shit!”

Eric slammed a meaty fist into the side of Terri’s face, rocking his head side to side.  Jeers and taunts erupted from the crowd as Eric’s football buddies cried out for more.  Waves of darkness edged their way into the periphery of his vision, but he kept his eyes on the crowd.  It was easy to gauge how bad the beating was going to be by the behavior of the audience.

The crowd was quickly getting bored; it was obvious he wasn’t going to fight back and the excitement ebbed away. The other students started to wander off.  He closed his eyes, tried to stop the tears, fought the urge to pass out.  He found himself wondering for the millionth time why none of the others cared, why none of them stood up for him.  Even the local Emo kids shunned him.  What was left of his ravaged heart ached.

“You got off easy,” Eric said as he rubbed his sore fist.  “Keep quiet about this or I’ll take it to a whole other level of ugly.”  The jocks walked away with their chests puffed out, almost as far as their egos, each boasting about how much they had lifted in gym class, somehow sure this equated to dick size.

He sat for a minute and waited for the hallway to clear before he slowly picked up his backpack.  He would have given anything for a sympathetic ear, or a caring shoulder, but he knew reality was nothing like the Lifetime Channel.   It would be a mistake to think he would get support or comfort anywhere, not even at home.

His father always insisted the beatings were his own fault for being a pansy that didn’t understand how the system worked.  Dad frequently told him that his life would be punctuated by failure and misery, and the rotten bastard was right so far.

He started to walk, unsure of where he was headed, knowing it didn’t really matter.  For too many years he planted hopes, wishes, and dreams in his conscious mind like a starving farmer plants the last of his seeds.  He watered them with desperation, fertilized them with as much bullshit as he could muster, but the field of his soul was still a desolate, ugly place.  Why?  The truth was simple.  Hope was snake oil.  Wishes?  Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which fills up first.  Dreams?  Those were the equivalent of a carrot on a stick held in front of a mule headed to the glue factory.

There was no such thing as good in this world.  It was as mythological as a unicorn, just more useless.  Since there was no good, there could be no evil.  There were only varying levels of pain and anguish that were blissfully interrupted by the oblivion of sleep.  He frequently dreamt of sleeping eternally, wishing for nothingness to absorb his worthless existence.

In the end, it all came back to the same question.  Would he be perceived as selfish?  Perhaps, but nobody cared enough to notice, much less think about him if he were gone.  It was time.

He reached into his backpack and pulled out the knife. His throat felt tight, and as his resolve strengthened, tears of a different kind slipped from his eyes and mixed with the drying blood on his cheek.  He knew better than to think this was a form of happiness, that shit didn’t exist.  This was relief.  Yes, it was time indeed.

He dropped the pack and made his way to the auditorium.  The assembly was probably under way by now.  He had wanted to do this in private, but something deep inside urged him to do it in front of a crowd.

“I’ll give them something to post,” he whispered as he opened the back door to the stage.  The darkness calmed him.  He took off his shirt, then his shoes. He parted the closed curtain with the knife, and stepped into the blinding light on stage.

At first, all he heard was a booming voice echoing through the speaker system, but then came the hushed whisper from hundreds of students.  His eyes had begun to adjust to the light when he heard Eric’s telltale voice shout out.

“Look! It’s Terri the Fairy!”

Laughter filled the vast space.  One last tear fell; it went unnoticed by the crowd.  The laughter continued until a cheerleader in the front row screamed something about him having a knife.  Her scream was followed by a few more, but the hushed awe from most of the students was enough to encourage him.

Terri pressed the sharp edge of the knife deep into his left wrist and slowly drew it upward until it reached the inner part of his elbow.  Bright blood flowed from the gaping wound; his bright eyes stared out over the sea of confused faces.  He took the blade and pushed it into his shoulder until it hit bone, then cut downward through his chest until the blade was sunk deep into his abdomen.  Blood started to pool around him, its darkness reached outward.

The spectators, usually keen on gore, were at a loss for words.  Some screamed, some retched, but all remained in their place as a new reality debuted before their eyes.  Terri started to feel weak as his heart quickly pumped blood from his body, he also felt peace deep within.  Peace and something else–something less kind.

Terri sensed movement at his core.  It was growing at an incredible rate, but it felt neither foreign nor strange.  The growth pressed against organs and caused him to purge the contents of his stomach, as well as his bowels and bladder.  He dropped the knife as the change touched his consciousness.

The continued growth started to bulge against his skin, press against his extremities; it fed on him internally.  Eldritch bones and musculature sprouted painfully as Terri grew.  Tentacles dug their way out the sides of his face; they tore at his flesh to birth the otherworldly being within.

Students woke from their stupor and fled; they trampled one another in blind terror.  Terri’s conscious melded with that of the Other, and he gloried in his becoming.  He also hungered.  Nearly ten feet tall and growing quickly, he reached out for the nourishment that floundered nearby.

Clawed hands covered in a new and loathsome skin plucked the writhing teens from the floor, piled them within reach of the tentacles.  He smelled their fear and knew true ecstasy.  The tentacles grabbed the students and stuffed them into his now colossal maw; one, two, three at a time.  Their screams mixed with the sound of crunching bone. It was musical perfection.

His growth had just started, fed by dozens of the two-legged cattle he’d already consumed, but he found it difficult to move within the confines of the auditorium.  He emerged from the remains of the building as it seemingly shrunk beneath his reckless growth.

Terri gave corrupt birth to the profane, was one in heinous thought with the abyss, and demanded eternal retribution.  Words poured from his mouth with blasphemous splendor and filled the air with dread.

“Wgah’nagl fltagn.”

Arcane incantations of power echoed across the doomed city as he opened the way for many more of his kind.  Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep moved through monstrous dimensions beyond time and entered a world that would soon know despair.  Oblivion was not his to experience, but his to create.

 

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

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