Archive | May 2013

FILTHY

Randy was a portrait of self-control. He typed furiously to keep his mind off of his bursting bladder. His left leg quaked and sweat beaded on his brow. He brushed a damp clump of hair back into place and looked nervously out of his cubicle. He typed some more.

It wasn’t a deadline he feared. It wasn’t a tyrannical boss with plans to keep him late or work him over the weekend. It wasn’t even a woman he’d slept with from another department, one who might swing by to make his life miserable. He swabbed the counter with a wet wipe and tossed it in the trash.

“You okay, buddy?”

It was a co-worker. Randy looked into a joke rear-view mirror that was taped to the top of his monitor to see to who it was. People in the mirror may be more annoying than they seem, was printed along the bottom. He recognized the face as Sam. They’d worked together for several years.

“Fine, just busy.”

“You sure? You’re sweating, dude.”

Randy checked his face in the little mirror and wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. The pain in his full bladder twinged again.

“Fine. Lots to do is all.”

Sam shrugged and left him there. He said, “Lunch at twelve, don’t be late,” as he walked away. “Yeah,” Randy muttered under his breath.

He looked at the clock to see lunch was still two hours away. Then he looked at his coffee mug and regretted the second cup. He couldn’t stand it anymore. His chair rocked up on two wheels, almost falling over as he shot from his cube. Stray papers slid off the desk and floated, like autumn leaves, to the floor.

Randy cringed, focusing all of his energy on the ice pick in his crotch. He felt the moisture on his temples start to drip down the sides of his face. The noise of the office, droning on as usual with phone calls and clacking keys and Xerox machines, seemed to grow in volume.

“Morning, Randy,” a chipper voice said.

He didn’t compute who it belonged to, but nodded. He could feel the eyes on his back, the concerned looks on the faces as he passed by, sweating, walking in a stilted, gotta-go manner. Then he reached the break room, feeling like he might explode, wetting himself in a moment of embarrassment he would never live down. His feet drug the carpeted floor with a scrubbing sound, and then he stamped them as if they were asleep. It helped briefly with the pressure before making it worse.

“Shit, shit, shit,” he whispered with each subsequent step until he reached the bathroom door. His hand wouldn’t reach for the handle. He stood staring at it, biting his lower lip and without realizing grabbing his penis with his other hand. The flow had released from his bladder and was only damned up by a finger-and-thumb tourniquet.

His eyes lingered on that brass knob, sparkling in the fluorescent light. He gritted his teeth. The knob pulsed along with the capillaries in his eyes. He could see things swimming on the handle, tiny things with legs. Globular things with cilia or flagella that slid across the metal as if they were taunting him. Randy increased the grip on himself. His stomach turned at the thought of touching the handle, boiling bile at the top of his esophagus. He was going to vomit or he was going to piss himself.

Voices from around the corner distracted him from the handle. They were walking toward him; they would see him holding himself and perspiring like some schoolyard pervert. The footsteps tapped on the linoleum of the break room floor. In a moment, they would hit the carpet and it would be too late. Randy grabbed the handle with a grunt, bursting into the bathroom and rushing to one of the three stalls. The door swung mostly shut behind him.

“Thank God,” he whispered.

The bathroom was empty, but he didn’t notice. He was busy unzipping his fly around his gripping fingers, rolling his boxers down to reveal himself to the porcelain receptacle.

“Thank God,” he repeated.

Then he let loose, spraying urine on the wall and the toilet seat before gaining control and letting the painful relief consume him. His sweat-covered body shuddered in the air conditioning. When he was finished, finally empty, he leaned against the wall of the stall, from one cubicle to another, and closed his eyes.

Someone else came in. The creak of the self-closing arm on the door caught Randy’s ear. There were two voices, some he didn’t recognize.

“Catch the game?” one said.

Randy relaxed at the dull banter. They weren’t checking on him and that was all that mattered. He would be able to plan his exit. How not to touch anything before getting back. His mind cranked out ideas, but all of them stopped at the bathroom door. He could get out of the stall and wash his hands in the sink, even leave the water running, but then what? He had to touch the door handle. It was crawling with bugs… just like everything else.

He could wait until one of the others—the bacteria infested—came in and the door would be open long enough to escape.

He waited for the other two men to leave. They laughed and washed their hands without a care, but Randy knew better. When the door closer creaked again, he let the stall open, and pulled the door in with his shoe.

He scanned the room, even bent down to look under the other two stalls. They were empty, but his face was only a foot from the floor and he caught a whiff of stale urine. He straightened slowly, watching the floor crawl with life. Cold shot up his spine causing goose bumps on his arms. Randy rushed to the sink, seeing the same things swirling and rolling across the hot and cold handles. He scowled at the soapy fingerprints on the mirror, the mysterious, brownish drip marks in the sink, the wadded up paper towels on the counter and on the floor. He twisted the handle for the hot water and waited to put his hands underneath it.

The water wasn’t pure. Randy could sense it. The soap dispenser had a button to push, but it was caked with liquid soap, crawling with life—demonic, microscopic death that was just waiting to engulf him and eat him molecule by molecule. Waiting to get inside his body and rot him from the inside.

He detected a hint of color to the water and his paranoid eyes grew wider as he stooped for a closer look. They were there, little monsters, swimming in the stream amongst the aerated bubbles. Then Randy lost his balance.

His shoe slid, just a bit, on the wet ceramic tile and a purely involuntary action sent him into fits. His hand touched the floor to keep him from falling. He mouthed a scream, but nothing came out. His body jerked to stand, rigid as a piece of dehydrated spaghetti. Holding his hand up in dramatic fashion, he stared in horror. Millions of crushed organisms coated the skin of his palm; millions of others swarmed the tiny carcasses and began to devour them. It was only a matter of time before they would multiply and start eating him.

He looked at the water. Swimming. The soap, completely engulfed. The mirror, covered in spatters of miscellaneous liquid and fingerprints of the uneducated. Back to his hand. Had they doubled already?

Tripled?

He backed into the corner praying the door would open. He could rush to his desk and sanitize his hands, then go home to his pristine shower. No one came in.

The creatures ate, growing larger, then dividing. So many he could feel them dancing across his skin, moving up his wrist to the flesh of his forearm, headed for center mass.

“No,” Randy whispered.

He started to shake, rubbing one hand over the other in an attempt to slough them off like an old skin. They just grabbed his other hand, splitting and multiplying, covering both hands.

“No,” he said, his voice wavering like a goat.

He dug his fingernails into his palms, trying to scrape them off. Then into his forearms, digging curls of skin loose. The scratch marks filled slowly with blood, then dripped onto the floor. He watched the floor bubble with microbial excitement, closing in on the red drops. Then, like tiny vampiric ants, the mass crawled toward him, covering his shoes, then up under his pant legs to his socks and onto the skin of his shins and calves. Randy screamed.

“Get them off of me!”

He clawed at the flesh of his arms, then his legs, pulling his pant legs up and scraping meat loose from his lower legs. He shrieked with fear, oblivious to the damage he had caused to his own body, blind to the blood and chunks of himself that he held in his own hands. He pulled at his cheeks, clawing at his eyeballs and penetrating one. One fingernail came off in a vicious yank. Terror was his anesthetic.

Sam entered the room in a rush just as Randy’s shrieks were dying down. His skin was pale, bluish. He glared at Sam with the eye that still worked.

“Jesus, Randy, what happened? What’s going on?”

Randy continued to dig hunks from his body.

“Don’t touch me,” he said, croaking the words out like a bullfrog. “They’ll get on you. Don’t touch me.”

Sam shouted for help, bringing others to the office restroom. He dialed his phone, calling for help.

“Don’t touch me,” Randy said again. “Filthy.”

He kept repeating the word, filthy, as the blood drained.

~ Dan Dillard

© Copyright 2013 Dan Dillard. All Rights Reserved.

Sweet Nothings

Little bitch.  Thought I’d never find out.  I found out all right. Oh yeah, I found out.  Knew it from day one.  Just kept my mouth shut.  Knew it all along.  Six months and counting now.  Kept my trap shut about it.  Sealed my lips.  Think I’m crazy, don’t you?  Think I’m pretty sad for sticking around.  Keeping her.  Hey, I know what I’m doing, man.  Been waiting it out.  That’s right.  Patience is the best revenge.  Fucking hard to do, man.  But I been waiting it out.  My girl’s been playing a game.

Too bad by my rules.

You know the best part?  My girl’s been coming home late at night.  Shit, the wee hours of the morn.  Me all in bed like I’m sleeping when I’m not.  Watching her in the dark, eyes squinty and all.  Watching her peel her clothes off.  Feeling those titties I’ve had in my mouth a thousand times brush against my arm as she gets into bed.  I make believe like I’m waking up and all.  Run my hands over her tight little body even though I know she been worked over by other hands not too long before.  Course, she’s gotta lay there and take it.  Then my prick gets hard and we fuck.  I fuck her hard too, cause she can’t deny me.  Can’t make me suspicious.  I fuck her hard.  There’s a nasty grin on my face.  It’s too dark in the room for her to see it, and I laugh to myself when I whisper all sweet shit into her ear.

Little bitch.

I know what her guy looks like.  Passed him a few times out on the street.  Once in a bar.  He don’t know who I am.  Don’t know me from Adam.  Besides, I blend with the crowd.  That’s my way.  None too special on the outside.  Just special on the inside.  That’s what momma always told me.  I was special on the inside.  Nobody else quite like me.  Took me awhile, but momma set me right.  Told the truth.  If she was still around, she’d be proud.

I know where my girl’s guy calls home.  Some apartment.  East side of town.  Where trouble lives, at least that’s what they say.  Gotta laugh when I hear that.  See, I was born on the west side and made trouble too shit scared to stick around.  That’s the only reason trouble lives there nowadays.  On account of me.

I told you, patience is the best revenge.  Been biding my time like a big old dog slobbering over a bone.  Never get too tired of gnawing on it.  Oh no.  Not at all.  Tastes sweeter the longer you work it over.  Understand what I’m getting at now?

Paid her guy a visit today.  Don’t look at me like that.  I had to do it. Only so long you carry a charade.  Look at me, using big words now and all.  Yeah, momma would be proud.  All grown up and I finally know what I want to be.

A better man.

Yeah, had a nice face to face with her guy and all.  Told him the way I see things.  Good thing to talk your grief out with another man.  Real good being social.  Separates us from the animals.  Told him I didn’t appreciate him fucking my girl.  He understood.  Told him I didn’t appreciate him getting my girl home late at night.  Not safe.  Plus it ruins my night’s sleep, especially when I get up early and all to open the machine shop.  Boss depends on me.  Got to give a good example.  Can’t do that with eyes half shut.  He understood that, too.  Real good being social, I told him.  We’re getting somewhere.

Then I slugged him with the claw hammer I had under my coat.

Gonna leave a nasty mark.  But you never know.  He’s got long hair and all.  Might just cover up the dent.  I apologized to him.  I have a conscious, you know.  Yeah, I apologized.  Except he couldn’t hear cause I knocked him cold.  Hey, I tried.  Counts for something, doesn’t it?

Dragged him into his bedroom.  Spread him on the floor at the foot of his bed.  Yeah, the same bed he been fucking my girl on.  Gotta make that right somehow.  Gotta balance things out.  So I strip the pillowcase off a pillow.  Maybe the same pillow my girl’s head been on?  Maybe.  Probably.  Don’t matter anymore.  Drop the pillowcase at my feet.  Close my eyes and jerk off across it.  Think of my girl as I do it.  Feel closer to her somehow.  Like we just had…what do you call it… a menash ah trah, or something like that.  A three-way, for Christ sakes, is what I’m saying.  When I’m all done, I shove the pillowcase into his mouth and gag him.

He’s stirring a bit.  Coming around.  See, I didn’t hurt him all that bad.  I slam the claw hammer across his knee.  Just to make sure he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.  Eyes damn near pop from his head.  I grab his throat good and tight.  Just getting his attention.  I think I got it.  Tell him if he wants to walk again, he best stop flapping his arms and leg around.  He listens.  Good.  I pull pliers from my back pocket.  A box cutter from inside my boot.  Then give him his choice.  Your fucking fingernails come off one by one.  Or I cut your dick off and shove it through your fucking eye socket.

***

I find a Heineken inside his fridge.  Import shit.  But it’s beer.  And it’s cold.  Bites the back of my throat a bit, and that’s all I want.  I scrub my hands real good.  Pulp going down the drain makes me laugh.  That poor fucker never had no choices.

It’s gonna be a long night.  But I can’t wait to see my girl later.  Gonna fuck her.  Kiss her hard.  Look into her eyes.  Tell her I love her.  I really, really love her.

There’ll be a nasty grin on my face.  It’s always too dark in the room for her to see it, and I’ll laugh to myself when I whisper all sweet shit into her ear.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2013 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.


Heed the Tale Weaver: A year of decrepitude we have suffered at the clawing hands of our Damnlings; now the punishment is upon us. Come forth from the shadows, “WANDERER”, and claim from us our Damned souls as your prize!

Visit this wicked, wandering one at secondstaronther.wordpress.com


Beast Below

The beast he calls to me. Gnawing about far below.

It spells voracious hunger. Of defense I little know.

Scraping out of need; I struggle to resist.

“I am too young you fiend,”

          “…but this you shouldn’t miss.”

Vile whisper through the crack manipulates my head,

“I’d like to taste the young…. sweet, succulently fed.

Your peaches and cream skin. A place lips and teeth can run”

A growl from his throat slips.

I scowl, “This for you so characteristically fun.”

“What give you to me in exchange?”

I reply a restraining of my voice.

A strength I do not know.

I’ve changed with little choice.

“I can the rest set free. Upon my word, I’ll leave.

When I am happy, well, and sated. I promise I will flee.”

My family at liberty from this nightly terror. What I could not think.

What happens had I made an error?

For who would trust a beast who feasts on others’ fears?

But bravely I trod on, thinking not of memories dear.

        “You will wait then beast. While I do prepare. For my final hour, I’ll dress in finest  fare. 

The  gown in which I’m dressed. Of beauty I’ll be proud. When you take my life, wrap me in crimson’s shroud.”

Joan of Arc awakened as a dream. She a flaming star.

To death’s halls marching as one it seemed. Taking from life’s chalice, one courage filled draught.

So easily it slips. A golden fragrant  drop which hangs upon my lips.

He snarled. I grabbed his snout,

“This will be civilized.”

Pleasure struck a laugh that I could only but despise.

“for me this sense it is quite new.” He said between his teeth.

The  smile that it drew he’d wish that he could keep.

I licked gold from her lips. She bit into my neck.

I tore her fragrant arm. Never renting crimson, lest I forget.

She ripped open my belly, spat out balls of flesh and fur.

I realized before her gold and velvet, I was a miserable cur.

“I will this not to end,” of course he’d want his way.

“Were we to  continue a price you’d have to pay.”

He snarled of foulish pleasure.

“and your promise beast will it ensue?”

“I’ve never kept a promise. I assure you that is true.”

“Then I will finish what you started. Your promise will be won.

Here’s a revelation I’m no longer a mere woman.”

Fire leaped into her eyes, swords unveiled and forged of steel.

I’d failed to see her disguise. She brandished some foul light.

I should have known somehow, as she carved me with delight.

The floorboards gave a howl. They folded pulled me down.

Into my lake as ghoul, I’d forever, never drown.

What happened on that night. I never will forget.

A turning tide when crimson replaced the soul I’d let.

~ Leslie Moon

© Copyright 2013 Leslie Moon. All Rights Reserved.


Heed the Tale Weaver: The one-year anniversary of the Damned draws to a close…but the celebration of the Damned shall never end. The winner of our comment contest shall be named May 21; your package of ghoulish goodies awaits. In the meantime, revel weekly in our angst and taint. We thank you, Damned Nation, for together we shall redefine horror. Now, go Damn yourself…


The Library

cross_blue_darker

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture.
Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury

The sexton of Barnestone Cemetery hears the hum of nearby street lamps before he sees them, lighting up the road like an airport runway. Their activation might be a nod to the whole city, which seems to shine brighter, bearing down on him and the shadows in which he stands. The darkness scatters from around him. Alone, he drowns in light.

Windows illuminate even the tallest buildings against the backdrop of night, interposed with glowing billboards, bearing pixelated faces with wide, white grins and hair the colour of gold. Skyscrapers scratch the clouds. The roads beneath are no better; red rivers of brake-lights stopping-starting by the bright glow of the street lamps, which shine harsher than any lamp should, flashing, always flashing, burning spots into his eyes, his soul, like a strip of old film reel, grown hot and ashen–

He turns sharply from the city, his hand shaking where it grips the metal gate. Flakes of black paint rub from the railings, floating slowly to the ground, as anger wells inside him. He can only imagine the sight he must make; a solitary figure, small, barely a speck on a patch of grass against the enormity of the city around him. And yet it is the little things that he misses; the stars in the sky, bedtime stories, the owls, which he had once used to watch for through the window with his father and a pair of black binoculars. Stars and stories mean different things now; glossy magazine spreads, lurid as the lights around him. The owls mean nothing at all. There are pictures online, if anyone knows to search for them, and footage from old documentaries. He even found bird bones once, inside an old oak tree. He buried them where Rowling rests, in a grave by the north gate. That which he once thought fitting now brings a lump to his tight throat.

He focuses on the flakes of paint and their delicate descent, his anger slowly settling with them. His grip on the railings relaxes. So much is dead. So much is gone. The world, the word, everything that mattered now mad, or meaningless. The old ways are almost forgotten. But he remembers. He remembers the rituals, the rites, in this place where they might still be found, if one only knows where to look.

Returning to his work, he secures the cast-iron gates with lock and key. Chains snake through the bars, which he shakes, to make sure they are secure. Moving along the railings, he repeats this at the north and south entrances. He has worked in the cemetery his whole life, as his father did before him, and is intimately familiar with the grounds. When he reaches the east gate, he does not lock it but stands and stares a little longer through the bars. The city blurs, light running down his cheeks, and it is several minutes before he comes to himself again.

With the gate ajar, he turns from the railings and walks slowly back through the headstones. Sirens scream in his ears, traffic roars, and above that the digitized voices of a hundred adverts, proclaiming their products to passers-by. He laps the graveyard twice, depositing flowers at certain graves – roses for Hawthorne, lilies for Stoker, a basket of poppies for Faulks – before turning back toward the mausoleums.

The squat, grey buildings mark the hallowed heart of the cemetery. Approaching the closest, he climbs cracked steps to the entrance. The weather has done terrible things to the architecture, which has suffered – bled marble blood – beneath electric storms and acid rain. It is still more beautiful than anything in the surrounding city. He supposes he has always seen beauty in dead, ruined things. Now he appreciates them because he must. Because there is nobody else. Because otherwise they mean nothing, and the sad, sorry world has won.

Unlocking the rusted gate, he slips inside. Strangely, it is not the cold that he first notices, or the dark, but the silence. Only his boots continue to make sound, where they scrape against smooth stone. For a minute he descends through total darkness, feeling his way along the walls. He moves slowly, so as not to slip. Fingers find grooves they have found many times before, then he sees faint light ahead; the fire from the brazier he keeps lit here. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he steps into a small chamber. Words drift through his mind: sanctum, sepulcher, tomb. The fire paints shadow shapes across the walls.

He approaches the sarcophagus, which dominates the center of the shallow room. The cold, or perhaps the silence, prickles his skin, but he is not uncomfortable. Quite the opposite, he stares down at the lid and the human shape engraved there. It is a knightly figure; proud, learned, like no man or woman he would encounter now. People no longer talk to each other but at each other. They curse and croon; incoherent sounds for an incoherent age. Fuck flows like poetry from furious lips, except they do not know the meaning of poetry, have never heard it, never read it, can barely speak let alone read. Language is lost, buried beneath a weight of blasphemies, generations buried with it, bones broken beneath text speech, abbreviated brutality, bound conscious to the internet, the Ethernet, the Ethernot, no sense, no individuality, no life at all beyond the small black mirrors in their palms, the bright, gaudy billboards outside their apartment windows–

Movement at the bottom of the stairs makes him turn. A man is standing by the brazier. He is followed by an old woman, and moments later two more. Gradually the room begins to fill, until a dozen people stand around him. There is no need yet for conversation. He thinks they look sad, and excited, and tired, although he could just be seeing himself in their faces.

When the chamber is full and everyone still, he removes the lid from the sarcophagus. The lid is made from marble, and it takes six of them to slide it from its place. Once, he thinks, as he applies himself to the task, it was a sin to disrupt the dead. Now it is required; a necessary necromancy, such that the written word might live again, that they might read, as writing was intended to be read. Together they lower the lid through the silence, resting it carefully against the ground. Reaching through the grave dust, he places his hand in the sarcophagus. When he lifts it up, he is holding a book.

There is no speech, no revolutionary jargon or ancient incantation. It is enough that those assembled can see the book, with its worn spine, faded font and tired, tattered pages. It has been a month since they last met; a month trapped in their wayward, prostituted world, and the sight of the volume is a visible weight from their shoulders.

As he opens the book to the first pages, some people sink cross-legged to the floor. Others perch on short statues, or lean against the walls. Firelight captures attentive faces, and in that moment, seeing their eyes shining back at him, he feels one thing, so powerful it is almost overwhelming; the rare, quiet rush of relief. They are a group; his group, the last literary coven. If it is necromancy to commune with the dead, to raise written spirits from their tomes, then they are necromancers; not death-dealers or charlatans but people, just people, who would read together and remember in this graveyard, this forgotten place, this library for the dead.

“We read,” he says quietly, remembering an old quote from a book buried now beneath a grave marked Lewis, “to know we are not alone.” Then he opens his mouth, draws breath, begins reading from the pages in his hands, and twelve people listen patiently, and for a chapter or two in a cold, dark tomb know peace.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2013 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.


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