Long weeks working. Rain still falling. Heavy droplets, water crawling down bus shelter, dark skies bawling. Another day is done.
Through the grey a bus approaches, teeming inside, full of roaches, human insects, tired voices, “Ticket please,” one grunts. Franz knows the feeling; hating, hurting. Sick of service, new-world weary. Inside bright. The windows dirty.
Loose change. Find a seat.
Near the front, two ladies talking, behind them, a young boy squawking, rows of faces, soulless, gawking. What’s the world become? Tongues are wagging, swear words snagging, at the back three young men bragging. Stealing-shouting-almost shagging. How drunk they were last night.
Starting, stopping, people walking. Motion sickness, long face balking in the window, movement rocking: Bus Route UB1.
Through the city, every evening. Sniffing noses, heavy breathing. Bus vibrating, stomach heaving. Heart hammering against his ribs; an ancient, tribal drum.
All around him, buildings sliding, melting in the rain, subsiding, streaks of grey, rainfall hiding the city’s sobbing face. Lived for ten years. Worked for thirty. Bones are tired, his body hurting. To cut his wrists, his hot blood spurting: a man can dream. He can.
At the back, the young men shouting louder, voices starting harder, jostling they assess their larder. Bus filled with easy prey. He knows the sort; no school, no teaching, fathers gone, their mothers breaching as they spawn more screaming offspring, red between the legs. The bus route is their hunting ground, their web where helpless victims found, like flies stuck to the city, bound to the monsters this world breeds.
Outside the road runs black with water. Under doorways, people loiter, waiting out the never-ending rain that will not stop. Clouds were black at six this morning. Raining since the day was dawning. Since he stepped, pale-faced and yawning, into another day.
Before his eyes, the young men changing. Altogether, outlines blurring. Faceless shapes, new limbs emerging. Monsters in men’s skin. Arms are growing, bodies breaking. Snap like pencils. Sounds like choking. Sucking. Slurping. No one worried, not awoken, dead to this, their world.
From the back it slowly reaches, twelve long legs, thick, dark like leeches bloated on a diet of human peaches; female fruit. Franz watches as the creature prowls, he listens to its high-pitch howls. Once-hoodies, now great fleshy cowls, beneath them glittering eyes.
The monster of Route UB1 drags its large bulk, must weigh a ton, between the seats, no need to run, it knows it has already won, its prey with their returns –
– day-passes, singles to the city, hopeless, tired of living, life is gritty, pointless, shitty, he asks himself, what is there to be done?
What can be done against this beast, which on soft female flesh it feasts, and when encounters men, at least will beat them black and blue? This creature has not always been, not always was, not always seen, but in this time, grown dark and mean, has found a place to
– and breed, a human brood lusting for food and heat and life and dark corners to do dark things, now brave and bold, the human beast of Bus Route UB1.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2013 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful creature of destruction; you are the embodiment of majesty and grandeur darting through the air; humming past in the blink of an eye, stunning your prey into a shock of paralytic fear; engaged always in aerial combat with the currents that fight your forward progress; rising, dropping, jerking, zipping.
What is it you seek on those elegant gossamer wings? Perhaps the next meal that awaits you… What else would a voracious thing such as yourself desire? You, with your crushing mandibles and gnashing teeth, so willing to consume all that cross your path and thereafter, your gullet. A beast of miniscule proportion whose lust to sate itself knows no bounds – respects no boundaries.
The patter of rain does not deter you from the hunt – your need for nourishment is all consuming; it’s all your disjointed body knows. The repeated pumping of your clasping organ seeking purchase as it curves downward to secure a hold in this new and foreign terrain. Your legs spread so delicately, laid wide ever so gently, in this most opportunistic of places. Large bead like eyes of gleaming blackness adapted for spotting the smallest of morsels passing by whilst you suckle on nature’s other offerings.
You have at last found a worthy feeding ground amongst the thin grasses of this murky bank. This piece of drift offers a perch from which you may indulge your glutinous greed. You seek a place to hide, a place of recess from which you may ambush unsuspecting prey.
Cloaked by stealth and the hush of your own inner stillness, you await what tasty treat flicks past seeking a safety all its own whilst knowing not that you are now the monstrous dark occupant which all others must fear in this previously safe harbor.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Tearing free of the straps binding it to the table, it slams its muscular body against the one-way mirror and snarls, “What have you done to me?” Its hideously deformed jaw and engorged tongue make the words nearly indecipherable. Saliva drips down the glass, its claws scratch angrily at the slick surface; the creature fights in vain to smash its way through three feet of impenetrable barrier.
From the other side of the glass, the doctor stands dead still, staring at the monstrosity thrashing against the window mere feet away. After an elongated pause, he orders, “Open Room Two.”
Without hesitation the operator does so.
As the door slides smoothly upwards into the wall, the staff can see a young woman crouching in the corner shielding two small children. Filth and vomit stain her T-shirt and jeans; their terror is palpable.
The monstrosity slowly swivels its head toward the open doorway leaving clumps of gelatinous flesh sticking to the glass; lips peel from its gums, a chunk of cheek clings to the surface, one eyelid ripped cleanly from its face. Sniffing the air, it abandons its attack on the window and drops to all fours, senses focusing on the three new beings invading its territory. After judging them no threat, it rises slowly to its full grotesque height.
“Excellent instinctual response. Specimen eighty-seven has locked onto the victims without provocation,” the doctor recites into the digital recorder he is holding. Folding his arms across his chest, he waits with the others in the control room – watching silently.
Still a good ten feet from the open doorway, the young woman clutches the children as she tries to push further back into the wall. Shaking uncontrollably, she can do nothing but shield the children’s eyes and wait.
The creature in the main chamber strides menacingly toward them. One clawed talon on the doorway, it ducks beneath the opening to Room Two.
“Switch to video feed.” Monitors in the control room light up and display varying angles from within the multiple small chambers.
Pausing just inside the doorway, it sniffs again, fuller, stronger this time. Its vicious watery gaze assesses the three huddled forms before it. A slight distraction – pounding on the wall to the right. The young woman glances; the goliath never wavers in its stare. The pounding is frantic; another woman’s voice howling in desperation from what must be a room next door. ‘God, is there another of these things?’ The thought flicks through the young woman’s mind.
Encouraged by her fear, it moves forward quickly, plucking a screeching child from her grasp. The woman in the other room seems to go mad; scratching, shrieking, thrashing beyond the wall.
Dangling the boy before it, the thing draws a long breath from the child’s mouth. It smells the boy’s blood, his vomit; it smells his fear. With one hand still holding the head, the other clawed fist shreds the boy’s body from its neck.
Snorting at the young woman clutching the girl, the monstrosity dangles the boy’s head above its mouth. Still looking her in the eye, it pops the child’s head like an overripe melon with its clenching maw. It chews; it swallows. It then consumes the remainder of the head.
Lowering its own head in challenge, it flicks out a claw and rips the young woman’s T-shirt, sniffing at the putrescence staining it. Frozen in shock and fear, she does nothing. It grins. Reaching down slowly, almost gently, it lifts the remaining child from her numb limbs. The little girl struggles and begs; she tries to grab onto her would-be protector. There is nothing the young woman can do. She watches as it sinks its teeth into the squirming child’s midsection, splattering offal across the entire chamber, covering her in the little girl’s drippings. Chewing with slow delight, it continues to stare at the young woman cowering against the wall. It smells her rank terror; it sees her eyes dim as her mind slips to a distant place. It watches as her body goes limp then spasms uncontrollably.
All the while, the wailing from the room next door grows more incessant.
Awareness dawning, it recognizes the ability to reason, not simply act on impulse. It likes this feeling. Malformed knees bent backwards, it leans down and flicks the young woman’s head to the side.
It has a thought: useless.
It has a feeling: mild agitation.
It hears a sound.
Turning its head, it recognizes the scent that accompanies the untamed agony coming from the other room. Smiling, it abandons the useless mass of jittering flesh on the floor, and draws a gore smeared talon across the wall. The sound calms for a moment… only a moment… before the maniacal pounding and ear-splitting shrieks begin again.
It leaves Room Two, returns to the table in the center of the main chamber and stares with smug satisfaction at the one-way mirror. It believes it has won.
“Seal the chamber. Gas it.” The doctor orders. He then speaks into his digital recorder.
“Eighty-seven has shown marked improvement with cognitive awareness, careless brutality, and its ability to identify its own DNA. But it still does not choose to kill the stranger. Is it showing a degree of compassion?” He clicks off the recorder, tapping it against his chin while glancing up at the monitor showing him a single view of Room One.
Flicking the recorder on once more, he continues, “The reason for the test subject’s failure is still unknown. She should have been able to breach containment by now, saving her offspring. End session eighty-seven.”
Rubbing his exhausted eyes, the doctor turns to the others in the control room. “Let’s clean this up, and get her sedated as quickly as possible. She’s already gestating two new fetuses from number eighty-eight. We don’t want to endanger them anymore than we have to.”
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2013 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Projected light flickered through the dark; each burst momentarily painting the shadowed surfaces with brilliant light as if a welder was hard at work in the corner. A muscular but overweight man lounged in a reclining chair at the center of the small living room. His callused hands held the remote control and a cold drink with equal care. He had cast aside his dusty work boots and was watching the flat screen between his grimy sock-covered feet.
After taking another swig of beer, he smiled and repeated a line in sync with the movie, copying the actor’s sing-song sarcasm, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
Jeremy Kolski was happy with his life. It was simple, but that’s the way he wanted it—steady contractor’s job, detached house, beautiful wife and daughter, and big ass TV. He’d worked hard to put all the pieces in place, and he believed a strict routine would keep the status-quo-machine running. Facing the unexpected at work was inevitable but at home, things were always in order. He even ate the same meals everyday: medium-rare steak and eggs in the morning, brown-bagged sandwich for lunch, and thick oatmeal with a side of bacon for dinner. His wife Mora had it all down to a science, like that baby bear’s porridge—just right.
A harsh light flooded Mora’s face. She stared blindly into the glow, momentarily unaware of the blood-red mask it gave her, like some masquerade villain from the mind of Edgar Allen Poe. She stared out the port-hole window above the sink, pausing with pan and soap sponge dripping in her hands. In the small, dimly lit kitchen her vibrant sundress looked drab and unflattering despite the youthfulness of her petite frame. Even the golden tresses of her wavy hair seemed flat and frayed, but a quaint smile played at the edges of her lips, defying the depressive scene the room’s lighting had imbued.
The pulsing red beams faded as a police cruiser rolled past their house in the pursuit of evildoers elsewhere. Mora returned to washing the dishes and a thought—appropriate to the moment—found its way to her lips. She recited the line to herself, “For the uninvited, there is much to fear.”
Her life was forged in routine. Her father and his military background made an impression on her family, and living with her husband was much the same. She always found comfort in knowing what needed to be done and what each day would bring. She spent her time tending to Jeremy, raising little Samantha, and keeping up with the household chores. Change used to frighten Mora, but over the last few days the thought of it had begun to look different to her. In small doses, change could be manageable, and over time, big strides could be made through cumulative steps. With that in mind tonight, she didn’t rush to clean up the dinner table.
Jeremy was entranced by the screen. He only tore his eyes away long enough to pour another shot of the amber liquid and toss it back. This time, however, he was forced to look down as sharp pain stabbed through his abdomen causing him to flinch and dribble whiskey onto his twill work shirt.
A few months ago when the discomfort started, Jeremy increased his drinking from occasional to maintenance. Concerned coworkers had asked him about the pain and he’d always replied, “It might be stomach ulcers or goddam colon cancer, who knows.” When he told this to a buddy of his with such indifference, the man’s lunch nearly fell out of his mouth. The inquiry always ended with Jeremy adding, “Na, I ain’t going to see a Doctor. I don’t trust them. They ask too many damn questions and then diagnose you with what’s best to fatten their own wallets. In my house, we’re better off taking the pain and fixing our own problems.”
“Goddamnit,” Jeremy cursed, wiping at the drops that seeped down into the material. Then, setting his eyes back on the TV, he shouted sidelong toward the kitchen. “Mora, get your wide ass moving and bring me a wet rag… and another beer from the garage, but make it quick, he’s about to walk barefoot across the broken glass.” Jeremy poured another shot as he mumbled to himself, “best part of the movie if you ask me.”
The man’s chair was flanked by tray tables burdened with empty cans of Yuengling and a half drunk fifth of Johnnie Walker. He sucked the alcohol from his fingers, unconcerned with the dust caked to his cuticles and knuckle creases. It was a common residual from his job, either by hanging drywall or mixing concrete for sidewalks or patios.
Jeremy cleared his throat and poured another shot.
A diminutive woman entered the room with the requested items. Keeping her head down, she placed them carefully on the nearest tray table, scooped up the empty beer cans and backed away. Passing under the lights in the dining room, Jeremy caught sight of the shine under her eyes. A purple butterfly bruise had spread its wings across the bridge of her newly curved nose. He nodded, agreeing with his punishment for her recent change in the routine. But he stopped abruptly after noticing a dirty bowl still sitting on the supper table.
“Hey, Woman! Better finish cleaning up supper before the movie’s over.”
Mora tossed the empty cans into a recycling bin that sat in the garage amid all his tools and leftover work supplies. She stood there for a moment, calming herself and pulling in deep breaths with her sore eyes closed. Tears squeezed free and trailed down her cheeks, their wet tracks leaving a brighter sheen on her bruise that was looking more and more like some kind of hero mask.
She didn’t feel very super right now. In fact, she hadn’t been in this much pain since falling out of a tree at the age of seven. Her father was helping her learn how to climb. Eventually, he gave up trying to mold her into the son he never received, but not before she broke both wrists when an upper bough gave way. The fractures healed, but the pain from his disappointment would not.
Now, trying to center herself in the garage, she was suffering from not only a bruised face and a broken nose, but also the mental anguish of waking up to a six-year nightmare.
She was locked into a routine, again—chained down by psychological assaults and kept productive with physical punishment. How could she have been blind to it for all these years? ‘Because Jeremy wasn’t always like this, it… progressed,’ she realized. Any change, no matter how appalling, if introduced gradually enough, could be accepted with unanimous approval—just ask Austria.
It took undying love and a cold knuckle connection to her nose for Mora to see the change. Jeremy raised his hand to their daughter for the first time and Mora’s intervention—her deviation from the routine—cost her a fractured face.
His wife wasn’t doing her job. It’s been ten minutes and she still didn’t come back to clean up that bowl. It was his oatmeal dish from dinner and the longer it sits the harder that shit gets.
Jeremy grunted and cursed as another slash of pain dug into his guts, “Ah, fuck!” Hunched over, he clutched at his stomach and waited for the agony to back off. It was getting worse by the hour, now. The wave passed, but the constant ache went up another notch.
He stood up, kicked over one of the tray tables, and sucked down another shot or two straight out of the bottle. It was time his woman learned that she needed to finish her chores and follow the rules.
Mora, bolstered by the need to protect her daughter, was fed up with the routine. Change was inevitable and she welcomed it.
Beads of sweat formed on Jeremy’s forehead as he moved toward the dinning room. His legs felt weak. Each footstep was torture, as if they were pulling the ignition lever on a blowtorch inside his gullet—frying his organs and searing nerves. After four paces, breathing heavy and grinding his teeth, Jeremy reached the table. He picked up the bowl and even that felt heavy. Staggering another few steps, Jeremy crossed into the kitchen and fell to his knees. The bowl slipped from his fingers and hit the floor with a loud thunk.
A pair of white sneakers stepped into Jeremy’s view. His eyes labored their way up Mora’s body to meet her glare.
She stood over her husband, pouring hatred down upon him. “You don’t look so good, dear. You sure I shouldn’t call a doctor?”
Tears welled in his eyes and he grunted out the word, “Call!”
“But you told me not to, they ask too many questions and I better not go against your will, right?” She waited for a reply but he was busy moaning. Then she noticed the bowl next to him on the floor.
“Oh, look at that. I must’ve left a dirty dish on the table.” Mora picked it up and knocked it against the floor. It made a solid cluck.
“You do love your oatmeal thick, huh? I’ve added a new ingredient to make it extra thick for you. The cement dust from the garage takes a while to harden, but I usually get all the dishes cleaned up by then. I only used a little at first, but the last couple nights have called for a hefty helping.”
A siren screamed past the kitchen window, bathing Mora in vibrant red light.
Jeremy managed to rasp two more words before passing out. “You… bitch!”
Mora smiled. “Yes, payback usually is. But I took the pain and now, I fixed the problem.”
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2013 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.