Archive | August 2014

Fishing, Ghoul Style

“Just one more and I’ll have my limit,” old Herb chuckles.

The large pond sitting in the northwest corner of the cemetery is off-limits for fishing. To everyone except Fred that is. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word. The spring-fed pond is there, loaded with tasty Largemouth Bass waiting to jump on the surface plug he works through the shallows. Night: the best time to catch them because they hit with abandon, and no one can see him as well.

“If God didn’t want people catching these tasty critters, why did he have someone stock them here?” Fred muttered. “The dead can’t fish, but I certainly can.”

The Ghoul watches with amusement. To him, this man is playing with his food. A cat and mouse kind of game.

He smiles. ‘I suppose that’s what I do now that I eat the flesh of the living,’ he thinks. ‘They suffer; I back off a little; this gives them hope, but as soon as they try to escape their fate, I start slowly feeding on them again, enjoying their pain. I’m a real bastard. Oh, that I am.’

Remorse. He should have some; he has a soul, twisted perhaps, but he has one. Yet all the years of being relegated to the status of a scavenger and bone picker, has made him bitter. God created him as well as these humans but gave them an elevated position.

Many years ago, in what is now Germany, he was doing what was commanded of him when a few grave-robbers happened upon him in the act. He scared the shit out of them, but they returned with a mob, carrying torches, axes, and pitchforks. Yes, he was immortal, but it would still cause him a great deal of pain if they were able to whack off a few body parts. Damn! He didn’t know if he could regenerate new ones. What good was being immortal if he was in pieces? The worst kind of living Hell!

So he vanished off into the night and found a new home, one safe from rabble-rousing villagers bent on his destruction. Now, a few homes later, he finds himself in this decrepit but homey cemetery. As long as he’s careful, no one should be any the wiser to his existence.

This so-called high-tech era doesn’t believe in the actuality of his kind. Monsters. Yeah, merely myths. Nobody in their right mind would accept that gibberish. No pitchforks in this day and age. Nowadays, the one who cried ‘wolf’ would be escorted to the closest looney bin.

A huge splash shatters the quiet and Fred rears back, setting the hooks into a real lunker.

“Hot damn!” he shouts out. “This is a monster!”

The battle between man and fish goes on for quite a while, the Ghoul enjoying the show happening before his eyes almost as much as Fred is in seventh heaven pitting his skills against the great fish. Twice Fred stumbles in the brush bordering this section of the pond, but in the end, he slides his thumb and forefinger into the mouth of the huge Bass and lifts him from the water, getting away from the edge of the water as fast as he can so his prize will not escape him.

“Wow! This is my biggest Bass ever! He must be at least eight pounds. What a night!”

Fred’s exuberance is cut a little short by a horrendous odor drifting down from the cemetery’s edge, causing him to gag, the taste refusing to leave his tongue. He retches on the grass, not at all in control of his faculties. Never before has anything this vile attacked his senses. From sheer euphoria one moment to abject disgust and intestinal pain the next.

“Not a pleasant sight, you rolling around on the grass barfing your guts out.”

Fred looks around him, trying to put person and voice together, but his vision’s blurred and he is having difficulty focusing on much of anything. Something big is here. That and the fact it has an un-Godly stench is foremost in his mind. The big Bass plops around and smashes into his head; he barely takes notice.

“I don’t take too kindly to you reacting to my presence like that,” the Ghoul says. “In fact, you are pissing me off!”

The beast walks down-wind and allows fresh air to move in so Fred can breathe easier. His vision slowly returns and he sees the monster for what it truly is. The long hair over his naked frame makes him appear to be some sort of a huge erect wolf at first, but little by little the creature takes on the form of a man-like entity.

What in the name of all that’s holy is this thing?

“These fish. Are you going to eat them?” the monster asks. “You were going through a lot of work to get them out of the water, but you seemed to be having fun.”

Fred is in too much shock to utter a word. He stares at the demon, wondering what it’s up to, afraid to move. Whatever it is, it can talk.

“I can tell you’re not going to answer me, so I will tell you what I think. You enjoy capturing these fish, even though the poor things must be in pain. To you, it is sport, a game. You inflict pain and eat your prize catch.”

Fred can merely nod his head and watches in disbelief and horror as this monstrosity reaches down and picks up the fish. Holding it by its eyes, he slowly tears the meat off it, leaving only the tail and head. Then, with a huge guffaw, it snaps the head from the backbone and devours that as well.

“Is this the way you do it, or do you apply heat to it like your kind does and cook it? Yes, that’s what you do. A real man would eat these things the way I do. But you’re not a real man, are you? You grovel at my feet, too scared to say a word, your clothes soiled by the release of your excrement. Poor baby. Did the big bad Ghoul scare you?”

Reaching down to check, Fred discovers the demon is right. He is covered in shit and piss. Of what matter is that now, though? He has to get the hell out of here, away from this beast; he must warn the townspeople. Yet, will they believe him? Will they come back and destroy this thing?

“Oh, you are not thinking good thoughts, are you, Fred? Yes, I know your name. What you view as unkempt body hair are actually sensors… receptors that touch your mind, relaying your thoughts to me. And your impractical decision to flee is not going to work. See, if you escape, more of your kind will come to try to kill me. I wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“I won’t tell anyone anything!” Fred is finally able to say. “I promise.”

Laughing, the Ghoul says, “Sorry, Fred, I do not trust you. And besides, just as the fish were to be your meal, you are to be mine. Ah, you think it incomprehensible that I would devour you, but you took no pity on the fish. Why should I take pity on you?”

Fred pleads with his eyes, but the monster picks him up and carries him to the edge of the pond. Staring at him as he does it, the Ghoul takes the plug on the end of the line, jams it into Fred’s mouth, and rears back to set the hooks.

A wail of pain escapes his lips as blood pours out of his mouth and down his cheeks. The delighted fiend laps it up before tossing Fred into the pond.

The beast picks up the pole and hollers to Fred, “I’m giving you the same chance you gave those fish. Fight for your life, damn it!”

He reaches to his mouth to get the hooks out but only manages to get his hands caught on them as well, the Ghoul jerking back on the rod just as Fred has hold of the plug. Secured the way he is now, it is impossible for him to put up much resistance and the heavy line he has on his reel is sufficient to hold him.

The demon reels him up to shore and kicks him back again. “C’mon! That fish put up a better fight than you. This is your last chance.”

Once more, Fred is easily brought to shore. The monster tears the plug out of Fred’s mouth, leaving chunks of flesh on the hooks, and throws him onto the grass, quickly lapping up the poor fisherman’s blood and feasting on the rest of his face.

In unbelievable pain, Fred is powerless to resist and has no will to do so, almost asking for the end to come, but his demise will not be quick. The Ghoul removes his clothing as he feeds, eating those areas which will not cause him to die first, enjoying the struggle, albeit a feeble one from this weakling.

The point is reached where not enough blood is left in Fred’s body to keep him alive, and the demon tears his heart out from his chest and swallows it whole. Feasting on his warm dinner with calm deliberation, the Ghoul soon leaves nothing but bone.

Once the skeletal remains are buried in the fresh dirt of a recently dug grave, he returns to the pond and eats the other fish.

“These really are good. Not as tasty as humans, but they make a fine dessert.”

He looks at the fishing rod and picks it up.

“If Fred could catch these fish, simpleton that he was, I can do it.”

On his third cast a Bass hits, and the Ghoul brings him into shore. No catch and release for the big guy. He eats it while the plug is still in its mouth. This is almost too easy. Though these fellas are good eating, Fred was the catch of the day.

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved

Leeds

Feet pounding as fast as they can, I tear across the hard-packed ground. Tree branches slap my arms, scrape my face, tangle in my hair; I don’t think I’m gonna make it. I hear it chasing me, not quite on my heels yet, but close enough to make my skin want to crawl clean off my bones. At any moment, I expect to be snatched from the trail by god-knows-what kind of clawed hand. The thing is so near I can smell its stench. It’s enough to make me gag: make my eyes water and my nostrils burn. I set out to find it, to track it – to prove its existence. What a fool. I was never tracking it; it was tracking me the entire time.

If I can make it to the water, everything will be all right – that’s what all the stories say. Make it to that deep blue pool buried in the Pines and for some reason, the creature won’t come any closer.

I can’t be too far from the lake. Christ – I must have trekked thirty miles into the dense Barrens since leaving the road. It’s got to be around here somewhere; I’m right where the locals said the water would be. But there was something not quite right about the way those ‘Pineys’ were smiling…

My foot tangles in an exposed root where the dirt loosens and turns to a softer, sandier mixture. In near panic, I almost go down but somehow manage to keep my feet beneath me. The forest is thinning out quickly; I can see a much brighter patch ahead.

A guttural roar sounds from behind; it’s nearly on top of me. I can feel the air shift to the side as my eye catches sight of something black whipping by just off to the right. I scream – no sound comes out – but I don’t stop moving. Before I know it, the trees clear and I stumble onto a small beach.

I can see the water and whisper a silent prayer of thanks to those hicks who somehow managed to get me here. Flinging myself down at the water’s edge, I finally dare to look behind me. I can’t see it clearly, but I can feel it standing just under the dense canopy of the trees – hiding in the darkness.

Dunking my head into the cool water, I laugh when I realize what I’m holding. The entire time I was running, I was clutching my cell phone, but lost everything else. Can you hear me now? No! More hysterical laughter; the sound desperate even to my own ears. There’s no cell service out here. I can’t believe that in my panic the only thing I managed to save is this useless piece of crap. One last look at it and I hurl it as far as I can across the lake.

Leaning down again, I taste the water. At first barely a sip to make sure it’s safe, then small handfuls to quench my thirst. Making myself stop, I roll over and stare at the sun like it’s my newfound savior. The Pines are so dense; this small clearing is a godsend. I can still hear the thing rustling in the trees, but for now, next to the water, I’m safe.

I must have drifted off from exhaustion, maybe simple relief, I don’t know. When I wake, the sun is low and dim shadows have crept half-way across the small beach. I can hear it breathing and pacing in the brush. A spike of adrenaline slashes through me and I dive for the only hope I see; one long bow from a white cedar growing out over the lake. Scrambling to it, I climb as far out as I can, shimmying backward the whole while. From what I know of the Blue Hole, the water is deep as hell. Drowning is no better an option than feeding myself to Mother Leeds’ thirteenth son, and I would prefer to do neither.

As full night falls, I can see its red eyes glaring at me, along with the shadowy impression of a dark, winged figure. Its tail flicking from side to side accompanies the sound of tree branches being torn apart. Bellying down further onto the limb, I try for a little more distance. I know my chances of surviving the night are slim… Still, if I can keep my balance and stay awake, I might just make it until morning.

I hear a faint splash, and a responding roar from the woods – almost a challenge. Terrified to take my eyes off the beast before me, but more afraid of what lurks below, I chance a glance downward. Elongated, translucent hands reaching from the depths are all I see before I’m yanked from my perch, screaming for help that’s never going to come.

***

“Howdy there, Bob, Tomas,” the deputy says as he steps from his vehicle to greet the two men sitting outside the small shack that serves as a convenience store in this area of the Pine Barrens.

“Mornin’ officer,” they reply in kind. “What can we do you for?”

“Well, seems we found a car, one of those German import types, parked a ways down the road in one of the pull-offs. Little yellow thing called a Jetta. You boys know anything about that?”

Looking at each other, Tomas spits and says, “Might be we do. Some young girl in a yeller car stopped in here yesterday asking for directions to the hole. Could be it’s the same car.”

“Tell me you didn’t give them to her, did you?” exasperation plain in the officer’s voice.

“Might be we did. Don’t see why we wouldn’t if she asked,” Bob answers rolling a toothpick between his teeth.

The deputy reaches into his vehicle and grabs the radio handset. “Dispatch, we’re gonna need a tow out on Rt. 532. It’s a yellow Jetta – can’t miss it. Hang on just a sec.” He releases the com button. “Boys, she have anyone else with her?”

“Nope, but she had a crap load ‘a gear in the back seat of that foreign auto-mobile of hers.”

Clicking the mic back on, the deputy relays, “Dispatch, I’m gonna need a team on the ground looking for a backpack, tent, cell phone – any personal items they can find heading from that location toward the hole. Better make it a wide sweep, call all the guys in on this.”

“Copy that, Tim. Do we need a rescue team down there too?” the dispatcher asks with hope and concern in her voice.

Looking over the roof of his car at Bob and Tomas, seeing the grin on both of their faces, he answers, “Negative on the rescue team, just the cleanup crew and the tow.” Getting back in the car and replacing the now silent handset, the deputy tips his hat to the men on the bench as they nod in return. He puts the car in drive, and mutters to himself “Fucking city folk,” as he drives off.

~ Nina D’Arcangela

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

Sinus Infection

Ray Rasmussen woke with a start.

He dreamt that he had been having sex with an alien. The act was not sexy but more mechanical, like they were performing the act for procreation. It was pure, unemotional sex.

There was some pressure in his sinuses, but his mind was still focused on his dream.

The dream bothered him.

Did he initiate the interaction? Or did the alien?

Ray frowned.

Why was I fucking an alien in the first place?

The alien could only be remembered in fragmented blurs. It was off-white and humanoid based on the flashes of arms and legs that blinked through his mind. Ray clearly remembered the expressionless face with black reflective eyes and a small mouth.

He couldn’t remember if the alien had any distinctive sex organs.

It must’ve had them… I was fucking it.

Ray looked over at the alarm clock sitting on top of his bedside table: 12:51pm.

He yawned, slowly sitting up.

The pressure in his sinuses had increased and was starting to feel congested.

Don’t tell me I’m getting a cold.

He pulled the blanket back and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. When he stood up, he arched his back and stretched. His ears were plugged, making him feel off-balance and he staggered into the bathroom.

His hands took a hold of the sink and he regained his balance. In the mirror, he saw his brown hair was messy from a rough night of sleeping while his eyes were droopy and bloodshot. The skin around his nose and eyes appeared puffy and red, almost swollen.

In other words, he looked like shit.

Ray turned the cold water on and splashed a few handfuls onto his face. While the temperature was cool and refreshing, his sinuses throbbed in pain as the chilly water hit them. It felt like brain freeze and he clutched his sinuses with his thumb and forefinger, trying to massage the pain away.

Cursing, he left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen.

Ray walked to the fridge and yanked it open, causing all of the bottles on the door to shift violently in their place.

For some reason the fridge smelled like furnace oil to Ray. It was beginning to make him nauseous on top of his already painful sinuses, which were now completely plugged. He realized that he was breathing through his mouth. Before closing the door, he grabbed the only appealing item off the top shelf: a can of Red Bull.

Reaching his finger underneath it, Ray pulled back on the can’s tab, releasing a small fine mist along with the familiar audible hiss. He raised the can to his mouth and gulped it down. With his sinuses so plugged, there was almost no taste but at the same time, he found it to be refreshing.

An image of a warm bath suddenly flashed in Ray’s mind.

Soaking in the tub for a bit sounded good and he went back into the bathroom, grimacing as the pain in his sinuses grew worse.

Kneeling down beside the bathtub, he stuck the rubber plug into the drain and turned the water on. The sound of water splashing against the tub was uncomfortable but Ray tolerated it knowing he would soon be relaxing. Once the water was deep enough, he turned the taps off and slipped out of his jogging pants.

He slowly sat down in the water, allowing himself to become submerged up to his chin and was soon deep in thought thinking about the alien.

Once again, the blurred, fragmented images of intercourse flooded his mind and Ray was surprised to see that he was sporting an erection.

Blood began to trickle out of his nostrils. It was thin, at first, and Ray wiped it away with the back of his hand.

Then something moved.

Something was stirring inside his sinuses.

Ray grabbed at his nose, petrified that he could feel something moving underneath his fingertips.

The pain was excruciating.

Whatever was in there was turning itself around. Blood was now running from both nostrils into the water, clouding it crimson.

Breathing quickly became difficult as blood poured down the back of his throat, choking out his attempts to scream.

His back arched and contorted in pain as whatever was inside his sinuses began to slide down.

It reached the opening of his nostril and dangled for a second before it fell into the water.

After it splashed in the water, Ray looked down and saw that the thing looked like the alien he saw in his dream, only smaller. It was no bigger than a hotdog with a distinctive head, arms and legs.

It looked up at Ray.

Blood continued to pour down from Ray’s nose and he felt weak. His body grew numb and his head slid below the water.

Choking as he inhaled the bloody bath water, he managed to open his eyes one final time.

The little creature smiled at him before it leapt over the edge of the tub.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2014 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

Hybrid

Scampering on all fours, the deformed arch of his spine protrudes through his flesh, the flex and buckle of his bones twisting him painfully. Night has fallen but he can’t sleep or stop for long. They are hunting him, getting closer, the more they track him the more they learn about him. He keeps his mutating body shrouded, only in the most quiet and private moments can he bare to look at himself. He scuttles under his damp blanket through the dense shrub of the city foothills.

The worst thing is the hunger. A perpetual, insatiable hunger that festers within his empty gut and grates against his bones. A hunger he has only begun to understand. The last time he was inside a supermarket his desire for human food had almost diminished completely. He roamed the aisles, restless, agitated, trying to find something that looked appetizing. He dragged dirty fingertips along rows of tins and jars, everything was pickled in salt and sugar. He stared blankly at cuts of flesh packaged neatly in little trays. He stuck his nose into piles of fruit and vegetables, sniffing deeply, fascinated by the smell of pesticide and wax. Everything on display was rotten; toxic. How can people eat this shit? he thought to himself but he must have spoken out loud, a woman standing nearby gave him a sharp stare and stormed off. He scuttled over to the bakery section where he fondled the bread. He crushed a loaf in his hands, his fingers easily popping the crust and sinking into soft, white pulp. He longed to crush something alive, something with a still beating heart.
The store security guard appeared, strolling up to him casually. Crossing his arms over his bulging chest, the guard said, “I’ll have to ask you to leave now, sir.”

What is his name, what did they used to call him? He lifts his sleeve. The scar says ‘BEN’. He cut it into his flesh himself, clumsily, with a razor blade. They have taken away almost everything but he won’t let them take his name.

“Ben,” he mumbles to himself “Ben, Ben, Ben…”

It becomes a dangerous chant and he covers his mouth to make it stop. He must not let them hear him. 
He stops under low-lying branches, his stomach in painful spasms; he’s shivering. It has begun to rain softly. He picks up the waft of a familiar smell and he freezes, perfectly still, as the scent invades his flaring nostrils. Something to eat, something delicious, but he is too tired to move, to hunt, he needs rest. His eyes are so heavy, burning with exhaustion. Sleep circles him.

Rarely does he sleep, he knows better by now. When he does nod off, even for a few moments, the dream comes and it is always the same.

They are sitting side by side on the roof of a high-rise, their feet dangling over the edge. He is clean-shaven and dressed in a suit; his polished black shoes gleam. 
“Remember the lights in the sky?” asks the little boy next to him. 
He turns to glance at the boy but never sees his face, he is startled by the sound of smashing glass. He looks down to see the windows below him shatter one by one. Huge jagged shards begin sailing down to earth. Then the windows blow out in the surrounding buildings. He is watching a sea of falling splinters, glittering in the sunlight. The buildings begin to crumble, folding in on themselves and rushing toward the ground. Far below the people look like insects, disturbed from their ordered paths, they scatter chaotically. The little boy is laughing hysterically. The building they are sitting on begins to tremble.

He wakes sweating and dizzy with nausea; he vomits. He checks his scar to make sure he is really awake, ‘BEN’. The scar is the only thing he can be certain of, the only thing he can trust.

He was already a wasted man when the change began; who would listen to him, who would help him? Just another homeless drunk sleeping under the bridge, paranoid and hallucinating. That’s why they chose him. A flourish between his toes, skin dying and turning white, flaking off in patches. He didn’t pay it much attention at first, his body bore many scabs and wounds from living on the street. It spread quickly, crawling up his leg. It sprouted between his fingers, flowered along his arms. He scratched and clawed at the infuriating itch. A new skin was revealing itself as the old was shed. A smooth, slippery skin of tightly laced brown scales. Terrifying to look at and even more terrifying was the thought, the distinct feeling, that what was emerging was his true self; his real body. There is constant pain in his joints as his bones squeeze and knit themselves into new shapes, his feet and hands are now mangled claws.

Maybe it began long before these physical changes. He has vague recollections of his past, not that he can rely on the past, anyway. His drinking habit got worse; he began stumbling into work until they told him not to come back. His marriage collapsed; he didn’t fare well in the divorce. He ended up homeless with a box of useless stuff his wife left him: a hair dryer, a blender, a crystal vase, a few books. He pawned it all, enough for a room for a few nights and a bottle of bourbon.

There are a couple of earlier memories he toys with for comfort: looking up from his book in maths class, a girl across the room turns to him and smiles shyly, her blonde hair shining; playing football with his brother in the park, the ball sailing fast and hard into his face;  tucking a comic book into his jacket and making a swift exit, the bell ringing as he slips out the door. Through out it all, they were always there, sinister figures looming at the foot of his bed. He caught glimpses of them in those moments between sleep and waking. He remembers only what they want him to remember, he is aware of that, and it may not be the truth. Does he even have a brother? 
Stop thinking, he commands himself, keep moving. He stares at the name carved into his skin.

The delicious smell is coming closer. A dog wanders past, sniffing the ground. It spots him and lowers its head, growling. Without hesitation, he leaps the distance between them with ease and pins it to the ground. The dog lashes and snarls as it snaps at him; the battle is exhilarating. They toss in the rain, two desperate beasts. The dog lunges, sinking its teeth into his thigh. He pulls its jaw free then snaps its neck with a dull click. He is too hungry to waste any more time.

He bites at the dog’s stomach, spitting out mouthfuls of coarse fur. When finally he breaks the skin, he tears the body open with his hands. He scoops up the entrails, eating madly. He cracks the ribcage, chews on rubbery lungs, sucks the small heart still hot with life. Finally his hunger begins to subside. Panting, he crouches over the gutted dog; his face dripping gore. The dog’s blood is sweet and thick and he begins to fantasize about the taste of human blood. He clasps his claws to his face, revolted. He may be capable of anything, he doesn’t know what he will be compelled to do next.

As if to salvage some inkling of humanity, he decides he must bury the dog’s body and he begins to dig frantically in the mud. He manages a shallow pit and pushes the carcass into it. Something on the ground shines and flickers in the dim light, catching his eye. He stares at it suspiciously before he decides to pick it up. It is a round, smooth metal blank; cold between his fingertips as he wipes it clean. The tag from the dog’s collar. There is something etched on it and his heart begins to race as he holds it up. He knows what it will say. There in fine, elegant letters ‘BEN’. He wants to laugh, he wants to shriek. He emits nothing but a dry, lifeless chuckle. Clutching the tag with both hands and curling beside the remains of the dog, he begins to cry softly.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2014 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved

Hunting Season

Janet Boxley nudged the SUV deeper into the desolate backwoods, peering through the passenger’s side window, searching for her pups’ eyes.

Once she’d made it back to camp, she slammed the truck into park and grabbed her flashlight from the glove box before stepping out; her breath pluming the crisp air.

Her sandals sank into the moist ground and mud squished between her toes. “Dammit!”

She waddled her way to the back of the rusted out Ford Explorer and lifted the hatch. Inside were supplies for the upcoming hunting season which started in the morning: gallon-sized jugs of water, some large plastic water bowls, and several bags of food which she’d either been given by local restaurants or stolen from their dumpsters.

She hated the trips she was forced to make into town, but they were a necessity. The small town was none too kind to her. She was ‘different’ and most made it clear she wasn’t welcome. Even the small shops on the main street would lock their doors as she walked by. The kids, cruel little bastards, would poke at her, call her names before running away laughing. None of that mattered, she was back where she belonged now.

Making an odd clicking noise with her tongue, she pointed the flashlight toward the dense cover of leaves guarding the edge of the woods. The beam of light zigzagged along the trees, slashing through the moonless nighttime air but finding nothing.

“C’mon now. I know you’re in there!”

Massive cramping stabbed at her gut and she paused, inhaling deeply before releasing it in a long sigh.

Janet turned back toward the cargo area and stuck the flashlight under her fleshy arm before grabbing a gallon jug, several bowls, and one of the bags of food.

Moisture had wicked its way onto the bottom of her ‘housecoat’ as she called it, though in all reality it was just a floral dress large women wear in order to cover their ample mass from the judgmental eyes of society.

Still making the clicking sound with her tongue, Janet walked toward the trees. The sharp snapping of twigs and ruffling of leaves in the distance brought a smile to her face.

She rested the supplies on the ground and swept the flashlight over the small clearing. Several sets of reflective eyes peered out from between the branches.

“There you are,” she said as she stepped through the veil of leaves.

High-pitched whines and cries filled the air as the pups greeted her.

Many years ago, she’d made a covered area that was sufficient enough to give her a place to rest and also keep the little ones dry when it rained during the wet season. She left enough slack in their leashes so they could get out of the rain but not too much that they might choke themselves on nearby trees. The shelter was spacious enough for her, several days worth of supplies and her ‘babies’ to gather around. She used the term babies but they hadn’t been small for quite a number of years now, and in fact, most were full-grown.

She used to have at least ten at any given time, but in the last few years, the litters were smaller and smaller. She figured after generations of inbreeding amongst the pack, Mother Nature kind of figured enough was enough and put a stop to it. Probably a good thing too, because the youngest ones were born with severe deformities. Several of them had extra toes, others had missing appendages, and the last ones were born with wide-set bulbous eyes, like googly-eyed goldfish.

Janet’s abdomen continued cramping while she poured water into the bowls and unleashed the younger pups. Twigs snapped, and leaves crunched as the older siblings emerged from the dense forest behind her. Chance, the oldest of the group, was always the first to greet her. He was the friendliest of the pack, and the obvious alpha male often setting the over-zealous younger ones straight whenever they got out of line.

Janet reached over and scratched him between the ears. “How’s my Chance doing?”

Chance sat on his haunches at her feet while the others filtered into the space, each in turn rubbing against her before taking their place at Chance’s side.

It was a gruesome sight, hybrid creatures who bore only a slight resemblance to anything human, yet they didn’t look much like their canine ancestors either. Mutants resulting from many generations of genetic cloning and its failures; just like their mother.

They waited patiently, though some of them whined while others seemed focused on nothing in particular. Janet set the bag of day-old bread and pastries next to her make shift bed on the ground; several old bean bags and tattered sheets had been arranged in the corner, giving her a soft place to rest while they fed. After maneuvering herself on top of the mound, she turned to the group, their anxious eyes devouring her. Janet’s body shuddered when another contraction speared through her belly.

Janet sat up and worked the fabric from the lower part of her muumuu up to her waist, exposing her corpulent thighs. When sitting, her legs oozed onto each other, creating the illusion of one giant mass with the consistency of raw turkey skin and the pallid shade of a corpse.

She continued to peel away her clothing. Raising her arms overhead, she removed the sweaty article of clothing altogether revealing not only innumerable folds and crevices of skin and overfed flesh, but at least six pendulous and malformed breasts aligned in staggered pairs down the center of her torso. Her arms were too small for the size of her body, like short paddles, they protruded from her sides. She leaned over to grab the bag of food she’d placed next to her makeshift bed.

Their craving eyes sent adrenaline coursing through her veins. She began to gorge herself on the contents of the bag while her ‘babies’ crept closer, licking their dried lips and stretching their mouths into wide O’s, preparing for their meal. She would need the energy from the food to sustain herself over the next few arduous days.

Janet reclined back, her head lolling to one side, and closed her eyes. She spread her massive legs and endured the pain as waves of contractions rolled through her body and the first of her pups spilled onto the ground; a malnourished still-born.

The feral children moved in, some on all fours like animals, others stood on spindly legs with crooked spines. The last few dragged their useless lower limbs behind them as their arms pulled them closer to feast on the lifeless body of the runt. Several more lifeless clumps thudded onto the ground before three healthy males emerged and took their first breaths.

Chance scooped up his newest siblings, moved past the insatiable frenzy, and laid next to his mother. He placed each of the pups on her generous belly and helped each latch onto a teat. Chance then nuzzled in close, finding the fullest of her flaccid breasts for himself. Janet placed her free arm under his head and patted his back as he drained nourishment from her bosom.

Janet, exhausted from the effort, allowed the voracious sounds of feeding to lull her into deep, tranquil slumber. Janet dreamed while her young fed. She dreamed of the hunt that would begin once their bellies were full and of the abundance of flesh that would wander into their woods when hunting season opened in the morning.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved

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