Lee A. Forman
The past withered, faded, much like the photograph Benny held. Time consumed memory, leaving only a reflection of their faces behind his eyes. He couldn’t see beyond the scowl his wife expressed. Often, he mused it was the sun in her eyes—mere speculation, as the gray expanse that once thrived with the living, now decayed with the dead. The end wiped clean all sins, but all good deeds as well; as if a switch had been flipped, those who survived born anew.
He had to relearn who he was, as did everyone else. But he never accepted the new world. The picture tethered him to what was before. It held part of him in a forgotten place of warmth and hope. But the source of those feelings remained unknown. His head ached, torn between realities, one of which he couldn’t be sure existed. For all he knew, it was a dream within a nightmare, some faculty of human survival he’d never been aware of—something to keep the soul going. He could easily have found that picture in the endless, trash-filled wasteland, and simply forgotten he never knew any of those people.
Miami Herald, July 22, 1948: BIZARRE KILLINGS IN THE EVERGLADES
Five members of a family vacationing near Palmdale, Florida were found dead yesterday at their summer cottage. “The killings were the strangest I’ve ever seen,” reported Sheriff Nash of Glades County. “We found the parents, Thomas and Linda Copper, in their bed, buried under fifty deadly snakes. We had a helluva time getting to the bodies. Eldest son, Joshua’s corpse was in the den, lying face down in two inches of swamp water. Bites riddled his body and he was missing an arm. His brother, Will, had been dragged into the glades behind the house and partially eaten by gators. We found teenage daughter, Janine, in her wheelchair, parked at the edge of the dock. Frogs covered her body and nested in her open mouth.” Shaking his head, Sheriff Nash added, “We’re still trying to figure out why so many swamp creatures had preyed upon the Copper Family.”
The only survivor was youngest daughter, Katie Copper. Sheriff Nash found the nine-year-old girl sitting on the back porch humming to herself and petting a large python in her lap. When later asked what happened to her family, Katie looked toward the saw-grass marsh and said, “My family lives in the glades.”
I Just Don’t Know…
They look so happy in the photo. Each member with different experiences, yet together they’re something more. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each member is a piece connecting to the others to create something greater than the piece itself. Is this what a family is supposed to look like? They’re with me now but no longer alive. I have them arranged in the same poses as the photo yet it is not the same. I tried to keep the cuts in their neck as small as I could. Can you call a group of corpses a family? I just don’t know…
John Potts Jr
He looked to the girl outside on the swing, and then to the one in the frame. There is just no way, he thought. A chill fell upon him when he glanced once more to the two girls, like the child who witnessed the boogeyman willingly. They both wore white and had hair the color of obsidian and even twenty feet away, he noticed an eerie resemblance.
But this is at least a century old, he thought, and returned the frame back to its spot atop the dusty television stand.
The cable technician bent, grabbed his tool belt and turned, now standing eye level with a portrait hanging on a wall adjacent to the room’s exit. This one had color, mid-seventies. A nuclear family with strawberry blonde hair sprawled across a massive redwood. The little girl was there too, off to the side and never too far away.
And again, this time at a Princess Resort. She stalked the two parents with their single child, her predator-eyes fixated on prey, not family.
I thrust the picture that I’ve been carrying for the last twenty years in front of me. “This. This is what humanity is supposed to be.” My voice catches as the two young men standing just inside the door of my cabin click the safeties off their rifles pointing them at me. “The world wasn’t always this way. You must believe me. The blinding light etched into this picture marked their arrival. I am the little girl in this. They tried to wipe us out. All but the ones too young to remember. You. They raised and trained you.” Tears stream down my face, my hand shaking. They fight for the enslavers. They are homo-sapiens but I do not call them human. I don’t know how many of us are still alive. I step toward them holding my picture like a priest holding a cross but this isn’t a demon I can banish. “Please. This picture. This. This is Earth. This is humanity.”
The flash from the gun reminds me of twenty years ago.
I remember them.
Holding the faded photo, looking at the smiling faces posing for the camera, I recalled the day. Such a close-knit family. Father and eldest son running the family business, mother and daughter running the home, the second son soon off to college.
And the little girl. Twelve, I think, in the photo. Or thirteen.
I’m not quite sure anymore.
They seem so happy, the photo makes them look happy. So ordinary.
They weren’t though. There were strange secrets. Buried secrets
Like the bodies buried under their rose garden.
The bodies of my family. Those people in the photo.
It was a late summer evening, when the Hunters came. Die witches, they yelled as they shot their guns. They screamed, foul witches, as they cut the heads off their lifeless bodies, laughed as they dragged me away shrieking. I saw, though, saw from the car where they held me, where they made me keep quiet. Saw the holes they dug and the bodies covered with dirt.
Then they took me away, tried to re-educate me.
Make me a Hunter.
They didn’t succeed.
I’m still a witch.
And I avenged my family.
Christoper A. Liccardi
Etched in eternity, the family posed in the backyard pretending nothing was wrong. With such a handsome family, what could be wrong?
Their faces belied a truth that smelled like rotting meat on a sun-beaten highway; all but one face.
The little girl sat ‘injun’ style they called it in school. All thoughts of political correctness sixty-years away.
“Wasn’t there another child, sir?” The photographer asked.
The little girl replied, choking back a smirk, “He didn’t make it.”
“Oh.” The photographer shuffled awkwardly for a moment. Death was uncommon for this city dweller.
The sitting took an hour and everyone was as still as statues the entire time, except the girl. She squirmed and fidgeted like she’d sat on an ant hill.
Afterward, she got up and walked over to the man with the fancy camera and tugged on his pant leg.
The little girl smiled up at him, sinister and dark; he was instantly terrified.
“Wanna stay for dinner?” The little girl asked, forcing a sweetness that was a pure lie on her lips.
Before the man could reply, father had driven a stake through his left eye. The little girl cheered and began to giggle.
Joseph A. Pinto
I’d heard of her talent. But I’d been a skeptic, a trait stuck like glue on me throughout life. Someone told me a long time ago, though, that even the most jaded of trees need time bearing the fruit.
She felt my presence, acknowledged it with a choked clearing of her throat. She pulled out an old camera. The bright pop of the flash bar momentarily stunned my sight.
One liver spotted hand tap-tapped the doily littered table before her. The other? It offered an instant film sheet to the ghosts in the air.
And the ghosts, they did appear.
In muted sepia outlines at first, solidifying slowly before my eyes. My mouth parted, astounded. “You killed all of them.” She did not pose it as a question.
The seer chuckled, dry as rainless dirt. “You got a helluva lot more souls in that black heart of yours.”
I admired the family trapped within the film sheet. “Yes.” I knew my own soul had been weighed heavy of late. I knew I simply needed some releasing, some clearing of space. “Take my picture again,” I instructed the seer and watched as the fruits ripened before me.
Taken in as a foster child; I knew nothing of my lineage. The family found me, told me I was one of them. When I was introduced to the way, I bucked; I didn’t want to believe. They showed me older images; the five of them in each, my mother the sixth—our resemblance undeniable. I could live as long as I had the strength to perform the act, thereby resetting the clock to the age of my inception.
They were jovial at first; each abided the stricture of the cycle. Soon enough, cracks in the veneer began to show. The men grew impatient, my aunties more so. They engaged in the suckling with a frequency that reset days not decades. An ugliness grew; a desire to perform the ritual without the gain of youth. It began in dark alleyways where illicit abortions took place. Once the clinics opened, there was no stopping them. Regeneration required one thing: consumption of a fetal sack with its embryo still intact within the host body. At the age of seventy-nine, the choice was once again mine; to feed and live despite the grotesque nature of the deed, or allow death its claim.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
Lee A. Forman
Succulent is the flesh, with the right tongue to sample its flavor. Lapping at pools of blood, my palate invokes pleasure beyond understanding. How beautiful its color…blackened under moonlight. Soon to gorge upon a fleshless back, I arch and look to the sky. Always watching, my Luna, the light by which I dine. But never judging, its face ever set in nihilistic expression. With love I feed, and regret I swallow, for I’ve broken the forever promise. But in my prime, with such tender meat, resistance would be futile.
My heartbeat quickens as life departs him. And a sad smile curves my lips. A reflective glow catches my eye, from the ring around his finger. What was once a black suit and white dress, now a skinless corpse and naked body. Bells ring in my ears and flower petals dance for dreams of the past.
Those things are gone. Things demeaning to my newfound nature. A lifetime of hunger now sated, fruitless ventures of decency vacated. I loved him, still do… But I played the part, never committing. I must move forward, despite any sorrow. And so I take him in, raw, fresh, and unhallowed.
The Night Prisoner
On Halloween, the moon watched as humans walked the earth wearing strange costumes. Children went from house to house, collecting treats. Adults gathered at parties and drank spirits. The lonely moon yearned to be a part of these rituals, but she was imprisoned in the night sky. Then, a miracle happened. A girl in a fairy costume held up a candy pumpkin into a moonbeam. “Would you like a treat, Moon?” The kind offering opened a hole in the night’s veil. Delighted, Moon appeared as a goddess beside the girl and ate the candy. The sky went black. The girl shrunk to a pixie. Giggling, she flew around Moon and landed on her shoulder. Moon walked through a neighborhood. Every disguised human became their costume. Masks molded into flesh. Plastic teeth formed into fangs. Vampires, clowns, witches, and creatures of all kinds began attacking one another. “Please stop them!” the fairy pleaded. Moon remembered why she had isolated herself high above their world. I’m too much for humans. Saddened, she thanked Fairy Girl for the candy, then Moon returned to her prison in the void. Below, the creatures turned back into humans; although too often, they still attacked one another.
It Is Finished
My eyes find the moon, glowing amidst the dissipating storm while the clouds swirl around the lunar gem for one last caress. I hear the Feasters of Death gathering in the trees, watching and waiting with ravenous anticipation for my body to exhale its final breath. Looking at the deep slash across my abdomen, they won’t have to wait long. My fingers probe the fatal wound, touching and prodding my entrails about to spill out onto the already bloodied earth. Around me are a mix of my fallen brothers and former enemies, with eyes permanently stuck open, staring lifelessly at their final battleground. Each expression a mix of death and hope; hope that they fought valiantly enough for the gods to have taken notice. My crimson stained fingers drop to the ground, finding the hilt of my sword, assuring me I have died a warrior’s death. A final chill stabs through my body as the Feasters creep out of their hiding places and I know it is finished.
Children of Frost
John Potts Jr
The woman heard a whimper. She turned and peered to her rear. Nothing, not a soul. Her pace quickened.
There it was again, only closer. This time the sound was a wail. Must be an animal, she thought, maybe a stray cat. Dense brush lined the walkway on her right and to her left, leafless oak and red maple stood guard above a sharp embankment. Her breath listed upward, fogging her glasses. She wiped the moisture off her lenses and noticed a small boy crouching near a tree ahead.
“You poor thing,” the woman gasped.
She rushed to him, knelt and took off her jacket, wrapping the boy snug. His skin was the color of bone. The boy hugged into her and the woman smelt something vile, something rotten. She hushed the boy, told him that everything would be alright and that she would take care of him.
The boy replied, “I know.” Jagged teeth ripped through the woman’s sweater, and into her stomach. She twisted away but the boy sunk his bite in deeper.
Then the children crawled from the embankment. They pounced, tearing and gnashing and feasting on her life under the moon above.
The clouds break and expose a perfect moon. I will myself to hear howls in the distance that don’t exist. It would be far too cliché to meet my maker under a full moon ripped apart by a creature of fantasy. No, my time ends at the hands of the noxious, silent death that has overrun Earth.
Leaning against a tree, my ankle throbs, purple and swollen. Why did I even run? I’m too average to be one of the survivors. Making it this far was more luck than skill, right place right time kind of thing.
The stench of death assaults me before I hear their shuffle through the leaves. My finger slides over the trigger of the pistol I learned to use not long ago.
I see one, then another, and more beyond them. They know I’m here through glazed over eyes. I point my gun at the first one and hear others close in around me. There are far too many, I put my gun down, why fight the thing I will become.
My death will be like my life, another one amongst the masses.
My fellow initiates—my sisters—smile at me, but I hear their whispers.
“The moon rising ceremony is tonight. They’ll come for her.”
They avoid looking at me, but I know the pity in their eyes. Mine reflected such emotions once. For the previous girl chosen in the sacrificial rites.
It is the risk, coming to the temple, the unspoken fear. The first night after they marked me, I wept myself into sleep. Then the Goddess came to me in my fitful dreams. She granted me strength, showed me the path. Tonight I walk it willingly.
After midnight I am escorted to the woodland dais by the priests. I am nervous, but I know my duty. As I kneel before the altar, I slip the knife from beneath my robes. For my duty is not to their God. I do the bidding of my Goddess.
They never see their deaths coming.
I look down on the last priest, bloodied knife raised. “The goddess is coming, defiler. She will no longer tolerate her daughters’ blood spilled in the name of your Death God. She is coming and you will all die.”
I bring down the knife and paint the moonlight red.
Cold, So Cold
Joseph A. Pinto
I knew what they were. Recognized them beyond all deception.
No one listened. Madman, they labeled me, and spat upon my shoes. Still, I had grown used to such treatment, outcast that I had become. Driven away from my family, my community, from the very fabric of lives I believed once to be an intricate part. Such a sad, sad unravelling of threads.
When they perished, I shed no tears. I carried no guilt upon my shoulders.
The cities have long since fallen. Crystallized, one and all; come upon by translucent mercenaries of death. Humanity had its chance. All that was required, a simple heed of my warning.
The eternal frost is here. Forever reaching with bitter fingers; the brooks, the rivers, the vast oceans, all set upon in hibernal oneness. Now the mountains, the woods. Yes, I see them for what they are. Alive in gleaming beads of ice. Maturing rapidly, these denizens of glacier delirium.
From white flakes they first fluttered, but no one believed.
Whoever remains huddled and void of warmth beneath this moon surely cannot deny it now…
Lying in the wet grass, blood sputters from my chilling lips; my left arm is without feeling. I turn my head in fevered panic looking for the creature that attacked me. I hear its harsh breathing, but can see nothing of it. My right hand scours the earth; a fistful of entrails the only reward. My eyes drift shut.
The snort of its rotting breath on my forehead jolts me awake; terror rips through my body. I know death is near, but I struggle to flee nonetheless. Its maw clamps around my skull, the moon-lit field roughs against my back as it drags me towards the tree-shadowed edge; I see my lower half lying still upon the green expanse. My mind screams, my eyes turn upward of their own volition. Above me, the naked grey abomination releases its grip on my head; a glob of putrescent gelatinous spittle rains from its cracked lip. It snorts once more before ripping my chest open with a single swipe. Delicately, with a surgeon’s precision, it sniffs and picks among my organs. As I expel a scream that sounds of a whimper, I hear it snuffling and lapping as it gorges upon my innards.
Mother Knows Best
Christopher A. Liccardi
As she drove the knife in, Stephanie thought it was enough moonlight to see by; enough for this sacrifice. She felt the resistance give way.
A dull knife is a fool’s mistake, her mother had lectured. These were her mother’s tools and she had always kept them sharpened. God, the woman never stopped talking about the craft. If it wasn’t about the tools, it was the chanting or the posture. Stephanie stopped listening long ago, but some things had stuck, like this spell.
It’s not a spell dear, it’s a ritual. How she hated to be corrected all the time.
The figure lying on the alter twitched when she opened the skull. Stephanie stopped to check the restraints. It wouldn’t do to have her flailing in the middle. Her mother would have scowled at that too.
Stephanie recalled the chant her mother taught her; the rhythm and the words came effortlessly. Stephanie plunged the knife in to each eye socket and flicked out the globes. This time, the woman did more than twitch. She guessed what ritual it was.
Soon enough I’ll be the witch, this will be my coven to rule, Stephanie thought as she kissed her mother’s forehead.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
I knelt before his body, the divine man we all once worshiped. He remained exposed; no one bothered preparing a grave in his honor. My hands tightened into fists. The rage of their vile act upon the Master seethed in my blood. How could they betray their faith?
I’d become a stray sheep among wolves.
Looking up at the night, I prayed for answers. The sky returned my grief with thundering tears. I welcomed the sorrow of rain as it drowned my lament and washed the blood from my clothes. I laid my hands upon his rotting flesh, hoping to feel some remnant of warmth. But nothing radiated from his lifeless heart. Death had exhaled its cold breath upon his soul.
I remembered the first thing he said to me. I’d asked him why God allows bad things to happen to good people—the question everyone asks.
“God gave humankind free will,” he told me. “If He intervened in our affairs, that free will would be invalid. It would cease to exist. By giving us the power of choice, He disempowered himself of meddling.”
Those words changed me, molded me into his disciple with the hands of a savant artist. Not long after, we gathered a flock the savior himself would have been proud of. Each Sunday we convened in an old barn at the edge of my property. The handmade pews would be seated by familiar faces, those of friends and family. They awaited his words with great anticipation in desperate eyes. All sought salvation, but all had turned on Master in the end.
I put my head against his chest and remembered his gospel.
“The Lord gave us the gift of suffering so we would know what it means to truly be alive, so we would know light from dark, good from evil. Joy is the antithesis of that endowment, the betrayer of clarity. So I ask you, take hold of your pain, know it, bond with it. For only that can put you in the good grace of our Lord.”
They followed his words. They mourned lost loves, loathed their own vices and those of others, reveled in the toil of daily life. But a small town, a peaceful hamlet not prone to crime or violence, has only so much to suffer.
It wasn’t enough.
“Give thy pain to thy neighbor,” he’d said. “Offer up your tribulation so that those with none can truly see what it means to believe. Allow them to feel the love of our Lord’s blessing.”
After that, the town of Angleton became something else.
Those who followed took his message and spread suffering like a plague. Violence became desired, harm welcomed. There were no victims during the time of awakening. Only loyal servants. They gave themselves to the cause, some even came begging. Master gave it willingly. The barn became a house of torment, howls of agony its chorus. They lined up waiting to feel the hand of Master scar their flesh.
They wore those marks with pride. Hung blood-stained clothes on walls, glorified shrines to Master. They honored the Lord, loved Him, more than they loved themselves. But now those offerings burned in a pile of despised memories, still glowing within the remnants of my barn, the church we all once shared. And the wounds for which they pleaded were covered by clean, fresh laundry—an affront to Master’s gifts.
I tried to make them see. But the mob came, torches aflame. I stood between them and our house of worship. The Master never left, didn’t try to run. He welcomed their blasphemous deed, laughed with arms raised as they set the fire. They stood and watched it burn, Master still inside. I wanted to dash into the blaze and die with him. But I couldn’t perish yet. I had to avenge the greatest man who ever lived. My fate was to spread the gospel of Edgar. He told me so himself.
I was then a wolf among sheep, bringer of redemption. Attempts to rekindle their faith futile, pain only closed their eyes. They could not be forgiven. They were not absolved.
∼ Lee A. Forman
© Copyright Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.
Stepping out of the car, I look up at Lake Euphoria Inn.
Although they’ve spruced up the three story building with a fresh coat of paint, it’s still the same place where my wife and I spent all our anniversaries.
Including our last.
Turning away from the inn, I have no intentions of reliving those memories in the honeymoon suite. Instead my eyes fall upon the path cut into the trees, which leads to Lake Euphoria itself.
It used to be a dirt path with odd roots protruding through, but now it’s a well-maintained gravel walkway.
As the gravel crunches beneath my feet it does little to ease the churning acid in my gut. Reaching to the small of my back, I make sure the gun is still tucked into the waistband of my pants. My fingers brush against the grip, reassuring me the pain is almost over.
I continue walking a few more steps, coming to the spot where my life was torn apart.
Looking around the small clearing I can still see my wife sprawled on her back, stomach ripped open, absolute terror permanently etched upon her face.
I had gone back to our room to retrieve the camera that I forgot to grab. On my way back I’d heard her screams, raw and terrified.
And then, silence.
Running as fast as possible, I came upon the thing. It stood knee-deep in the water, my wife’s entrails hanging from its mouth. Wet scales glistened on its body in the afternoon light. The amphibious abomination looked at me and smiled before disappearing under the water.
I shake my head, clearing those images from my mind.
The water laps against the large rocks surrounding Lake Euphoria. Perching myself on one of them near the spot where she died, I remove the gun from my waistband. In the weeks leading up to this day I fantasized about how it would feel. Would I be sad? Fearful? Or even relieved?
Even with the gun in hand and the barrel in my mouth, I’m void of emotion. I’m already dead.
Pulling back on the hammer, I steal one final glance to the lake… and there it is! The fucking thing, its head sticking out of the water, watching me.
I open fire until the gun clicks empty, all my shots missing wide.
It dips below the surface.
Diving in the cold water shocks my system. Where are you goddamn it? Although the lake is murky, there is some visibility. I don’t see it right away but I know it’s there.
My lungs begin to burn.
Something glides past me.
I reach out but grab nothing.
I hear a groan muffled by the water.
My lungs scream. I need air…there it is! Only a few feet away, staring at me with golden fish-like eyes…
…I inhale foul water…
…my body thrashes…
…but I can’t look away…
…lungs full of water…
…and swims off.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Soft granules shift with each step as I walk the sandy strip. They ease between my toes, slide over my sandaled feet; leave a rim of grit around each nail-bed. A favored place, this swing. During the day, it basks in the full cast of sun’s light; at night, it hides in the coolness of evening’s deepest shadow. A place to laugh, to steal a kiss, perhaps a first touch… Hallowed ground made sacred by whispered promises broken only by those foolish enough to make them.
I sit. The ropes stretch taut, the plank groans beneath me as the swing gently begins to sway. My mind wanders, time passes; my thoughts fill with remembrance of you. The shade of the tree swallows me as day turns to dusk and dusk quickly flees before night. The image of you with another beneath our swing flashes by; my rage no less tempered with time. I kick my sandals aside, dig my toes deep into the soft sand. I reach for you. I know you’re there, you promised you always would be, a promise I saw kept with pickax and spade. The only blight on our perfect evening… the cunt that lies dead beside you, but I can look past that and enjoy our time together, if only in my mind.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
The Beast wanted me to bring the bodies in through the front door. On a subconscious level, I always knew why, but my mind wouldn’t wrap itself around the thought. I knew my wife didn’t want to see it; she wanted nothing to do with the Beast.
“Can’t help it,” the body inside the contractor bag quivered as I dragged it across the carpet. “Just part of the gig, babe.”
Julia’s routine had become as systematic as mine: an immediate retreat to whatever room was closest while my stupid jokes fell on deaf ears. I guess I couldn’t blame her.
Over the years, the bodies thudded down into the Beast’s lair step-by-step as our marriage devolved into a nightmare. We bickered, spat at one another, even when the Beast wasn’t around.
She waited for me on the porch one night. I could tell she was pissed without even getting out of the truck.
I rolled down the passenger window, told her that I loved her and that she looked pretty in the moonlight.
She shut me right down. “Yeah, you know you messed up,” she sneered while walking to the door.
“Baby, we’ve been over this a hundred times—”
“We haven’t been over shit. Here’s the new rule, my rule: you bring them poor souls down through the bulkhead from now on or you and that Beast will have to shack up elsewhere.”
Before I could reply, she slammed the door, threw the locks, and turned out the lights.
To my left, the darkness growled.
I opened the cab door and stepped out; the Beast slunk near me, nearly on top of me.
I turned toward the Beast just as the creeping shadows enveloped me. It was a sudden weight of pure evil that suffocated my very existence. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t feel, couldn’t think. For a moment, I was nothing.
Then I was alone again, standing outside my basement, stunned by the Beast’s unimaginable power. I thought to myself, after all these years, the Beast finally offered me a glimpse of its true nature. I suppose it was good timing. The drifter—the one I picked up that night outside Pittsburgh—put up a hell of a fight and my knee was aching like all hell.
But in the end, just like the rest, he folded. Not without offering the usual pathetic promises; he swore to tell no one if I let him go, begged for safe release, chortled on about having children at home. Then he pissed himself. Now that was a surprise. That level of terror was usually reserved for the Beast.
I swung the metal doors of the bulkhead open, walked back to the truck and dragged the asshole out. That oh-so-familiar thrum buzzed deep inside me; the pain in my leg and fists dissipated. I felt strong, strong and young again when I tossed the squirming body down the concrete steps.
Sometimes they cried out for their mother or father, or even their god. Sometimes they sniveled incoherently. Other times, they just shut up and died. This one hollered like a banshee. The Beast pulsed with excitement and a brilliant fervor rushed through my body.
There’s never a sensation of pain as the Beast rips from my core. I have yet to experience any awareness of my false-skin being shredded to ribbons. That’s when I’m my true self; the one Julia calls the Beast. She’s seen it only once or twice, but has never talked about it.
I’ve tried to pry it out of her. I pushed so hard one time that she took off for her sister’s place in Maine. Before she left, she told me that if I wanted to know what the Beast looked like, I should look in the mirror.
Once I was down in the basement with my latest capture, the Beast took center stage as I watched from behind dulled curtains. Quite the performance. I only remember bits and pieces of the brutal acts. It’s the mess after the standing ovation that sticks with me.
I’m damn sure my steel-toed boots busted every inch of the man’s body. That’s how the Beast likes his meals: tenderized to a pulp.
Once the ruckus ended, Julia came down and offered to mop up; she told me to go upstairs and take a shower. I slunk past, covered in blood and guts, exhausted and naked.
“You still mad?” I muttered.
“I’ll get over it. And so will you.” She shook her head, “Almost forty years of being stuck with you and that Beast. I didn’t think it would take me this long to figure it out, but I have.”
“Figure what out?” I asked.
She glanced at me and stretched her muscles like a feral cat before nodding toward the stairs.
As I was standing in the steaming water, it dawned on me.
The Beast wanted me to bring the bodies through the front door, right through the middle of my life, not to shame me, but to show me.
I am the Beast.
And the Beast is all of us.
~ John Potts Jr
© Copyright John Potts Jr. All Rights Reserved.
he lived to see another day
that poor prick’s heart
still beating within his chest
he’d stolen it with dull blade
a disloyal hand
consumed joyously all his own.
the last remnants not
the crimson dripping from chin
as some would have you believe
but the jackhammer thud
of stolen essence
screaming bloody murder
from between his ribs.
empty, still you try
my bones gleam
my eyes ache
as your unwavering light
searches across my pores.
you curse my resolve
while you continue your
when will you learn my veins dried
a long time ago.
do you remember that day you shushed me?
silk finger on my lips stilling
clouds fell and you
caught them, dabbed
tears from my eyes, stole the
sun’s rays, stabbed them
through my heart.
mercy killing, so was whispered
i could not talk, not
with your fist down my
windpipe, sweet charm tearing
i should have thanked you, admitted
you were never
i was the quiet one
you so insane.
there’s beauty in pain
a sublime blackening
that is incomprehensible to
it enters the world
your mother warned you about me
i rode in on the same
pale horse as the reaper
cowl blown from my skull
exposing more than intentions
exposing all you’d hidden within;
exposing all you hid throughout.
i praise you
but do not wear your mark
my soul is darkened; neither of us doubt it
can you appreciate the realness of me?
no amount of supplication will spare me these deeds
and we know it;
my sins not yours to bare.
she has hollow eyes
she fills them with roses
to keep away the death
she lost her tongue
because the truth cut deep
she is suffering’s whore
but you can’t afford her
she has hollow eyes.
in a trick of light i found you
pouring venom from calloused hands
ripping faith from gibbous moon
i’ve loved you ever since.
your cruel grace matched by
even the coldest of gray Januaries and
as the sun died
you spoke 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 had no free will at all.
chant a new song of turpitude
i’ll love you ever more.
more than ever i am alone
my only companion
the moon upon my back.
i asked why he would sever his hands
one must suffer for the craft,
i left him and
the wicker basket that held
the remains of all his digits
and sliced my ears off.
at night i think of him sometimes
his missing hands
but i am in blissful silence
and i can write.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
When the front window shattered, Abby backed to the center of the den. Terror rattled her nerves. What creature was going to attack this time? A stale breath of January howled into the cabin. Her skin prickled from the frosty chill. Abby picked up the bloody axe and hugged it to her chest.
The broken window stared back at her, a black hole with jagged teeth.
“I’m not going out there!” she yelled. “You’ll have to come in and get me.”
Something ran past the window. A hairy, skeletal blur. She followed its silhouette in the windows as it rounded the cabin then disappeared behind the wall with the fireplace. Above the mantle a mounted buck head stared down at her with glassy eyes. She hated this dusty cabin. She cursed herself for coming out here. No, it’s not your fault, Abby. How could you have known what was waiting for you?
From a side window came hissing laughter. Her spine stiffened at the chinking of more glass. The beast was toying with her. It wanted her to come outside. Well, Abby wasn’t stupid like those bimbos in the movies. She knew not to reach for that rattling door, knew not to explore the woods at night to find what was howling. No. Better to stay put and wait for the monster to come to her.
From outside sounded a thunder of metal being ripped from its hinges. The cellar door. Now the thing was trying to get through the basement. It made a racket below the floor.
Abby gripped her axe and held steady. She didn’t back down from a fight. Mother had raised her to take on every challenge life threw at her. When Abby was a child, Mother had played horror movie after horror movie, teaching her the difference between strong movie heroines who survived and stupid girls who got slaughtered. Mother’s favorite movie, I Spit on Your Grave, played every Friday night in her old VHS player.
“You want make it in Hollywood, Abby? You’ve got to think like Jennifer Hills, who made those bastards pay. You’ve got to be tough like Ellen Ripley, and channel your inner Sarah Connor. No one messes my little star.” Mother had taught her how to defend herself in the cruel, cruel world.
Scraping echoed below Abby’s feet. Then electrical crackles like a pissed-off bug zapper. The lights flickered. Faded to black. Moonlight lanced gray beams through the windows.
Abby backed away from the basement door that concealed a crooked stairway. Her bare feet stepped through lukewarm puddles. Her back ankle brushed against a stiff, clawed hand. She kicked it away. Four mangled bodies lay in bloody heaps across the den floor. There was only one creature left alive. The stairs beyond the door creaked against heavy footfalls charging up the steps.
Abby tightened her grip on the axe.
A body plowed through the bolted door. Wood shards flung across the room in a splintered storm.
The thing, a black lumbering shadow in the moon’s glow, stood at the doorway, heaving. It hobbled towards her, arched like a hunchback. Its dark flesh bristled with spiky fur. Blood oozed from a gash in its thigh. Its head, with curved horns, entered a crossbeam of light, revealing a muzzle with sharp teeth. The beast stopped midway, scanning the lifeless hulks scattered about the room. “You killed my crew, you fucking bitch!”
“They got what was coming to them,” Abby said.
“Christ, we were just making a movie . . .” The creature crept closer, its brow bleeding neon-green blood. “You played along, bitch. You played along!”
“No. I wasn’t acting then. I told you all NO over and over, but you wouldn’t listen.” Her breasts still hurt from all the hands that had groped her. Her lower body ached from all the nasty, nasty things they did to her. She felt dirty inside, violated. Wielding the axe, Abby stood her ground. “Now back off, Beast! Or I’ll chop you up like the rest of ’em.”
Its face sprouted red flaming eyes. “We were only having fun with you. Then you went psycho on us. You got no clue how the movie business works.”
She spoke in her Academy Award winning voice, “I’m not like other actresses. I’ve got a brain. I’ve got talent. I told you I won’t do nasty scenes.”
The creature growled, “I’m going to kill you for this!” It shape-shifted into a six-foot-tall alien. Its skin bruised to a metallic black, sleek and silver-shiny in the nightglow. Drool dripped from four rows of teeth. It raised a long-fingered hand toward her. “I’m going to break your fucking ne―”
She swung the axe, lopped off its hand. Acid shot from its knobby wrist and melted a hole in the floor that opened into the basement. The alien hobbled back, screeching. A long spiny tail ripped out of its back, swooshed, whipping the air, knocking the mounted deer head off the wall.
Anger burning like Ellen Ripley’s in Aliens, Abby charged her assailant, axe held at twelve o’clock. The xenomorph swatted at her with its one remaining hand. Its spear-tipped tail swooped over its head, lashing at her. Air hissed past Abby’s ears as her head dodged the attacking tail. Its elongated head shook wildly, denying her the chance to strike it.
“Not me!” it shrieked. “You won’t get me.” The second set of teeth snapped outward.
Side-stepping its bite, Abby angled around its left, forcing the alien to back into the hall, where its tail had no room to whip at her. It stumbled back over a corpse that had a pumpkin-shaped head, and fell to the floor.
With a maniacal scream, Abby pounced. The axe blade bit into the alien’s chest, severing the breastbone. The creature screamed in agony as it shape-shifted into a man with bulging eyes. The movie director, Jimmy Glick.
In a flash, Abby remembered him taking her to the cabin in the woods where a film crew of four other men had been waiting. They were supposed to be filming a horror movie with her as the lead heroine among a cast of supporting actors. She had been shocked to discover that she was the only actress in the movie. They had given her a drink that made her head feel strange. Then the five men taunted her. They each put on monster masks and did horrible things to her as one man circled with a video camera. While the men tortured her for hours, Abby had closed her eyes and escaped into the movie world inside her mind, drawing strength from Jennifer Hills, Ms. 45, Laurie Strode, and all the heroines who had battled killers and monsters on the silver screen.
Jimmy Glick looked up at her helplessly. Red drool spouted from his lips.
Abby pulled the axe blade out of the bloody furrow. “Never underestimate a woman with talent.”
The director screamed as she brought down the blade again and again and again . . .
When Jimmy was nothing but severed parts, she dropped the axe, her arms shaking with adrenaline. She walked over to a mirror on the wall. Resembling the actress in the movie Carrie, Abby’s blood-soaked reflection smiled back at her and said, You’re going to be a famous movie star, Abby Albright. No matter how much people try to take advantage of you, no matter how much they put you down, YOU are a star. She began clapping and tearing up. “If only the cameras had been rolling on my best performance.”
She hummed as she lined the mantle above the fireplace with severed hands, feet, and various limbs that stood propped up like anatomical sculptures.
Abby stepped back and admired her trophies. “They aren’t Oscars yet, but they’re a start.”
∼ Brian Moreland
© Copyright Brian Moreland. All Rights Reserved.
Ghosts of Judgement Bridge
Every October we relive the nightmare. The townsfolk march my three sisters and I to Judgment Bridge. Our hands bound behind our backs, we stand facing the fates of sinners. The angry mob chants, “Suffer the wicked!” Jabbing pitchforks force us to climb onto the rusted railing. Looking down, my sisters and I teeter over roaring river rapids. The hangman places nooses around our necks. Before he reaches Charlotte, she jumps and plunges into the rushing waters. Beside me, Gwen and Sylvie cry. We hold hands as we leap. The ropes snap our necks. We hang forever beside our parents.
Lee A. Forman
Legends spoken in elder tongues told of the barrier. The forbidden land existed beyond. Kell desired secrets, discoveries, things unknown. To touch, feel, see…he’d return a hero. They’d sing of his journey for ages. Knowledge of the world gone would be his to tell. Whatever horrors lied ahead, he’d conquer. He inched with fear over rushing water. But his legs weakened as he reached the midpoint; body thinned, skin withered. The air smelled of death. He tried to withdraw but the barrier obstructed return. A throaty howl escaped unheard, as ravenous beasts of ebon flesh appeared from behind the trees…
I place my hands on the bridge and lay down, nestling my head into the rounded gap of steel.
There’s only one of us in the family each generation and as is tradition, I don’t know who follows me. My time is over and only they choose whether to reveal themselves. I will be their first hit as my uncle was mine.
“Thank you,” says a sweet female voice, one I’ve known since she was born. “Your place of honor awaits.”
In the silent morning the click of the safety sounds as loud as the gunshot that will soon follow.
Christopher A. Liccardi
Rusted girders ached under her weight. Centuries passed since anyone ventured out on that bridge. The deepest spot was nearly the length across to the other side; the free side.
She struggled, just a few hundred feet from where she could be safe from all the torment and ridicule. It wouldn’t be long before she could get away from the prying eyes always staring, the disdain she’d had to endure for years.
As she reached that spot, the one you couldn’t see from the deck, she dropped his mostly dead body in without so much as a single glance down.
Veronica Magenta Nero
Each time I cross cold shivers overcome me. Here you leapt into the brown waters below, your body never found. With toes curling the edge I imagine the impact, the smack against the rippling surface, hard and sharp like plunging into glass. Water is a cruel and hungry force, capable of painfully wringing the very last gasp of air from tired lungs. I strain my ears against the rush and gurgle of the river, listening, waiting, sometimes your voice rises like a dark bubble from the muddy depths. It breaks before I can make out what you want to say.
Where will you go, Josie May?
John Potts Jr
Back in ’63 the widow Josie May lost her two boys to napalm. Her grief was persistent, heavy. One evening Josie plunged head-first to the shallow creek below Mason Bridge. She suffered a death worse than her sons and the locals coined that spot Widow’s Sorrow ever since.
Those who shared Josie’s pain found a similar fate; some took the dive, some didn’t. But the town never mentioned that when they shut the bridge down for good. Old Josie though, she’s clinging on, and the kids nowadays say Widow’s Sorrow isn’t half as scary as it was made to be.
Just Cut Deep
You’re holding that razor, comforting and warm. Everything will be better on the other side. Trust me. The pain and anguish you feel now will be but a memory. Don’t you see? Your life’s journey has brought you here. All that is left now is to cross over, the final hurdle represented by this bridge. There is but a simple toll. Just cut deep. That’s all you have to do. Don’t be alarmed by what’s on the other side. It will look bleak only if you want it to. There’s much more so embrace the razor’s cold bite and cross…
Joseph A. Pinto
From beneath the bridge, I hear the breaths; a horrid rasping, laden with congestion and rage. Warned I was not to cross this way for what awaits, the rumors told, was of no natural origin. The sun slowly withdraws from the land as the breaths rise and fall, everywhere and nowhere at once.
Turtle-like, my head withdraws deep into the hollow of my overcoat, bones rattling within my shell. I should have taken heed, but like all else in my life, it is too late.
Yes, I hear the breaths from a beast awakened, rising and falling with my own.
The deputy stared at the human-shaped soot stain indelibly smeared into the surface of the rusted bridge. Nearby lay a ratty wallet. “Another one, Clem?”
The sheriff snorted. “Of course, Willie. Full moon last night. Another fool got an eternal ticket on our Ghost Train. It’s a spectral menace. Even ripping up the tracks in ’56 didn’t help.” He bent and examined the wallet. “Shit. It’s Darren’s. You’d think he’d know better.”
“Poor Darren.” Willie shook his head, but inwardly smiled.
He got what he deserved. Best sound in the world listening to him scream over that phantom train whistle.
Mother’s milk spills upon all. The transformation– beautiful; horrifically brutal. As she nourishes, she destroys. Silvering, drying, cupping with the wick of her dew. Molecular bonds shift as she bathes all with rage and gentle tears from above. She corrodes, taints; amends. The surface awash in pained agony transforms to a visage her eye finds most appealing. Underneath, sweet symphony of destruction plays to a finely tuned ear. Warping, twisting, undulating; becoming. Corrosion, chaos, lack of conformity brings justice to the wracked and malformed. Her torrent soothes the hardest with passage of time; her gentle stroke cripples that unnaturally wrought.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.
The abomination stirred in its crypt as Mortimer chanted the words he’d learned as a child. It was the only thing his mother had given him before she died. She had a son through some form of sorcery or witchcraft. Mortimer had no father because of it. He hated her for that.
The beast lumbered forward on stalks nearly twenty feet high. Its knuckles were jointed backward and it moved like a bat. The body of his new servant was as short as a halfling dangling like a teat between its legs.
“You serve the one with the chain, do you not?” Mortimer asked quietly. He was terrified of what he’d just awoken and tried to keep it from his voice. The magic was never his focus, never his passion. That was what his mother loved more than anything else in the world.
“FFEEARR!” it shrieked. The sound echoed off the vaulted ceilings.
“You serve the one with the chain, do you not?” He boomed back at the beast. His fingers lay around his mother’s gold chain about his neck. It was hers before she died and it brought this thing to life. He was ready to rip it off and kill this creature if it tried to kill him.
“I ssserveee,” it chittered back.
The thing walked into the light coming from the demon hole in the ceiling. It wanted to be seen, to be felt. It craved the pale glow from above.
Mortimer hadn’t seen it fully until now. The body resembled something almost human with its deformed legs and two muscled little arms. The left limb rotted off over time; shreds of sinew and bone stuck out like a decayed corpse. The right was whole and the little hand gripped a knife made of bone and rotted flesh. Mortimer couldn’t see the face. He thanked the devil himself for at least that small mercy.
“I bid you kill those who oppose me,” Mortimer commanded the creature. The words hung there for a long moment, unanswered. He was about to ask again when the thing lowered itself to the floor. Its legs folded at the knuckles and the little body came to rest on its stunted legs. It began to waddle toward him.
Mortimer’s grip on the chain tightened the slightest bit and the demon stopped.
“Kiiiillllll,” it hissed.
Mortimer could see the melted flesh on its face and body. It was an ancient horror. Its one eye socket was filled with a stinking putrescence of fetid liquid that dripped to the stone floor.
Mortimer watched the hand that held a knife, waiting to see if the demon would attack him. He was scared, but not enough.
The demon’s stench made him gag and he stepped back, trying to find some cleaner air. “Feeedddd!” the thing said in a winging insectile voice and Mortimer stepped back again.
The demon thing waddled closer to him, slowly. Its head lowered. Mortimer knew the terror it inflicted on the living and he smiled at the thought of his victim’s impending demise.
“I have marked those who need to be killed. You can find them if you look. Do you understand?” he asked. The demon lifted its head and stared directly at him.
“Feeeddd,” it said again. It opened its maw revealing three fangs inside a rotting skull. Mortimer could smell its breath and the urge to vomit grew. His gorge climbed in his throat, but he forced himself to choke it back. He would not add to the reek of this place.
“You will feed, demon. You will hunt,” Mortimer said. The demon looked about, swiveling its head from side to side, scenting the air around it. How could it find prey with its own rotting flesh smell pervading everything around it?
“Go and hunt for those who stand in my way and return once you’ve had your fill,” he said. He wanted to turn and walk away but he didn’t think it wise to give this monstrosity such an easy target to start with.
“Dieeeee…” the demon hissed back.
The thing lifted itself back to its full height and waited for a moment, scenting the air again. Mortimer’s hand relaxed from the chain just a bit. He stepped back again, giving the demon space enough to leap away and begin its hunt. He wanted to see it fly off, to be rid of this thing. He had already picked the window he would look out from and listen to the sounds of the creature feeding on its victims.
The beast let out a shriek and began to amble toward him. It lurched forward, leaning its little body into the stride. Mortimer clasped his hands over his ears at the sound, releasing his mother’s chain.
It sprung, landing directly over top of him, and the knife slashed outward in a fury. The first cut took the top of Mortimer’s head off at the scalp, leaving his skull exposed to the moonlight. He began to scream, tasting the blood flowing down his face. The beast returned his scream with another shriek and knocked him onto his back.
The stalk-like legs twisted and its talons drove through his shoulders, pinning him in place. The creature lowered itself once again to the ground and stood on top of Mortimer’s heaving chest. Gouts of blood poured from his skull as the beast settled.
The demon raised the knife again and slashed Mortimer’s throat. It opened veins on both sides of his neck and the screaming stopped. The demon let its rotten tongue lap at the blood welling up in the slit it made. Mortimer’s revulsion hit him again in a wave as he watched the demon lift the knife again and slide the blade under the chain. He tried to move his arms but nothing happened.
The creature lowered itself to a kneeling position, its face dangling inches above Mortimer’s.
“Miineeeee…” it said softly and slashed Mortimer’s head from his body. The gold chain slid down the stump of neck into the pool of blood. The beast dropped the knife and let its little fingers caress the fine gold chain before picking it up.
The demon released Mortimer’s arms, kicking itself free. His body twitched a few times and then stopped. The last of his blood pumped onto the moonlit circle as the creature walked back to the crypt it came from. Tracks of red traced its path back across the cold stone as it righted itself into its resting place and turned to face the light. The mouth in the center of the wrecked face opened and it swallowed the chain. It stuck on one jagged bone tooth for a second, then slipped into the demon’s gut.
“Peaaceee…” it whispered into the tomb.
∼ Christopher A. Liccardi