Smelling salts woke her. Despite the thick fabric covering her head, the ammonia burned strong in her sinuses. It was a smell she knew well; she used it on a regular basis. Her first attempts to move failed. She was bound with her wrists restrained behind her. An overhead light provided little more than a shadowy figure through the hood.
“Welcome back, Ms. Kline.” The voice of a long-time smoker rasped.
The woman struggled against her bonds, nearly capsizing the chair.
“I suggest you settle down a bit,” he said. “Otherwise, I may be forced to do something I wasn’t planning on.”
“What is this?” she shouted back. “Let me go!”
She watched as a thick hand reached out to her and ripped the pillowcase from her head. She winced and turned away from the brighter light. After a moment of blinking, she whirled back around, flinging a verbal assault as she turned, “Fuck you, you so—”
She fell silent.
The sight of him caught her off guard. A middle-aged, obese man stood before her wearing nothing but off-white briefs and rubber boots. The random patchwork of hair on his body and chin glistened with sweat. His mouth rested in a subtle smile, but his eyes glared at her with a palpable intensity.
When she tore her eyes away, she realized she was without clothes as well. Naked and bound, she was sitting in a small space with masonry walls that reminded her of the little coal closet in her grandfather’s basement. This one, however, was lined by a collage of pornography clippings.
“Can you feel how special this place is?” he asked.
She stared at him in silence.
“Here, I can make people see me. Out there, you looked right through me as if I were a ghost. But here, in here, I get all the attention.”
The man stepped closer and caressed her cheek. He let his chubby fingers slide along her skin, all the way down her torso as he watched her. She gave no response, only continued her emotionless stare.
“You know, most women I bring here weep incessantly or pull away from my touch.” He stepped back and gestured to a small table against the wall. Its surface held an array of grimy tools. “That is, until I break them.”
Still no reaction came from the bound woman.
His arrogant smile faded. With all playfulness gone, he snatched up a paring knife and stepped toward her again, this time leaning close; face to face.
“This is the only place on Earth where Heaven and Hell coexists. Your body and your pain will bring me rapture, while no amount of pleading or bargaining will exclude you from this Hell!”
He pressed the blade against her shoulder until it broke the skin with a subtle pop. Blood beaded on the surface. Still, she gave no reaction.
He brought the knife between them, showing it to her, shaking it in front of her face. “Tonight we will share lots of pain. You will not hold silent for long!”
In a swift motion that he only saw as a blur in his periphery, the woman brought her arms around and shoved his knife wielding hand upward. The blade pierced the underside of his chin and he tumbled back against the wall. Before his body settled to the floor she ripped the knife out of him and cut her ankle bonds.
She stood over him, untangling the remaining rope from her wrists while watching him try to figure out what just took place.
“You know, you had me going at first.” She said in a calm tone. “I thought the cops finally caught up to me.”
“How?” he asked with blood gurgling in his throat.
“Learn your knots better… and use thinner rope.” She said, tossing the scraps at him. “As much as it pains me to say this, we’re a lot alike, you and me. Except, I like to play the victim until all the dark desires come out. It’s so much fun to use their interests against them.”
“W-well,” the fat man gurgled, “maybe we could—”
“No, no,” she said laughing. “No amount of pleading or bargaining will get you out of this. Heaven and Hell will still happen, just not the way you had planned.”
She picked up the tiny packet of smelling salts and inhaled deeply.
“Goddamn, that gets me fired up! I’ll save the rest for you, though; you’re going to need it.”
With a smile, she grabbed the utility saw off of the table and went to work.
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.
Oh, what a lovely selection this year! Such cute little bunnies. Each with a cherubic face: round rosy cheeks, tiny pink lips, glistening wide eyes. I don’t know where to begin… I suppose I’ll just pluck one at random – what fun this will be.
They seem to grow uncomfortable when I try to coax the first one toward me. I don’t want to frighten them; don’t they know how I love my precious bunnies? I suppose the fidgeting and jostling should be expected as my impatience drives me to grab the first boy and drag him forward. Calming myself, I reach back in time and recall my grandmother’s instructions from when I myself was a youth.
“Everyone knows you start with the eyes. Nibbling them off the face is the first step. Then the ears. Yes, the ears. You begin on the right, taking small bites until you reach the crown – but don’t crack it! Breaching the skull at this point would be unforgivable!” She would say with mock exaggeration. Giggling, we would begin peeling back the foil wrapper together. “Next, it’s the legs. Nibble, nibble, nibble! Once you reach the torso, it’s time for a final sugary treat – the bow tie. When I was a girl, I ate all the parts off my bunnies first, and then I would line up their leftover bodies to be devoured later!” She would always tickle me when she reached this part of the story.
The din of screaming children is a faint echo compared to the bliss of such a treasured memory. As my eyes open, I see the other bunnies gathered in the corner, scrambling and clawing at one another to climb out of their pen. Silly bunnies! You can’t get out… the wall is much too high, I chortle to myself. Then I notice the change – tears streak their once placid faces; their formerly rosy cheeks are now blotchy and rouged an ugly red. Both saddened and angered, I turn my attention back to the one I’m holding. I realize he’s squirming and shoving against my hand to be set free. My previous jubilant mood is beginning to sour. Why are they ruining this for me? Selfish little bunnies!
In my anger, I must have shaken him too hard – the little bunny is no longer struggling; blood is trickling from his open mouth; his body dangles slack in my grip. Another special day ruined. How I miss my gram and the delicious bunnies she would bring me; now I’m forced to collect my own. Glancing toward the corner, I see a few have given up and are sitting on the floor sobbing. The cacophony of terrified wails from the others has grown in volume and pitch. I wonder if gram was wrong. I wonder if I should set these bunnies free; they really are adorable, after all. Then I look down at the one dangling from my hand. A small smile begins to creep its way across my face. I’m a good boy; I deserve these bunnies.
Everyone knows you start with the eyes…
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
The alley is dark, but if I want to get back to the hotel before the heavy rains come, this is the fastest route to take. My shadow is joined by a second shadow, and I instinctively turn around to see who is following me. There is no one there. Shit! I’m doing one of those double shadow things where I cast a shadow in front of me, and a second shadow forms behind me.
I laugh as the crazy antics play out before my eyes. The shadow in the rear looks like it’s trying to catch the one in front. The dark heads bob and weave, one going to the front while the other one goes to the rear. Run and chase, the one in the rear never standing a chance of catching the other one, no matter how the light filtering through the alley catches my body and casts my double entendre.
Complete darkness occurs as street light after street light pops ahead of and behind me, the stench of the burned sodium vapor tearing at my throat, and making my eyes tear up. Damn! What caused this?
No light anywhere. The city is black.
My gut instinct says to run, but how can I run if I can’t see? It was bad enough in here before with just a little light. My only course of action is to slow things down so I don’t trip and break my skull open. If it rains, it rains. Too bad for me.
I’m not alone. Scurrying sounds are everywhere, small animals most likely. Probably rats; I can hear their claws traipsing across the blacktop.
Just what I need! I hate rats. I’ve never been bitten by one, but I’ve had them crawl on me, so close their whiskers cut a swath of uncertainty deep into my gut, and me not knowing if I would become a tasty snack for their voracious appetites or if I would luck out.
I am a Pied Piper once more, the darkness drawing them out, and the sound of my rapidly beating heart acting as a pipe to attract them to me. The farther I go, the more of the bastards join in, the sound of their approach driving me crazy! Are they really there? Am I imagining the whole thing? Maybe there are only a few; maybe none at all.
The darkness! Yes, that’s what’s causing the paranoia in my mind. Once I’m out of this alley, everything will be just fine. No more rats; no more scurrying sounds.
But… but how do I leave? I have no way to get my bearings. There is no light anywhere. Disorientation rears its ugly head as I bump into trash dumpsters scattered about, slip on loose gravel spread around, and attempt to control the anxiety attack swelling up inside me.
“Breathe, damn it! If you collapse, you’re fucking gone. The rats will get you for sure then.”
Air! I can’t get enough of it. My head spins from a lack of oxygen; my feet refuse to follow any patterns of sensibility. They flail about in bewilderment, forgetting that they have a function and they know what it is.
The walls of the buildings move in on me, shrinking the space I have to move about in, narrowing the distance the rats have to go to get to me. Visions of rats and me being crushed together, our bodily fluids joining and becoming one, the common pool of blood between us forming a river, running through the slanted alley road towards the sewers, creates a panorama of horror which causes me to shake, the rattling so bad the trash dumpsters I grab on to for support move about on their grease laden wheels.
Escape! I need to escape! Everything is after me!
There are no city noises to guide me to a place of safety. Nothing. Absolute silence. Where is everybody? The lights just went out. This isn’t an apocalyptic event. Where are the fucking cars? They don’t need electricity to run.
Reaching what I believe to be a main road, I wander aimlessly about, attempting to find some way out of where I am and toward my hotel where, dark or not, I will be able to escape the rats and the walls closing in on me.
Ahah! I cross the road, sure I’m on the way to my hotel, when I’m funneled back into the alley. The walls close in on me, slamming shut from where I just came, forcing me to move ahead. There are no other choices.
What’s forcing me to go through this alley? Is there purpose behind it all? Can’t be. A dream of some sorts. Yes, that’s it. Just a bad dream.
But wait! Pain is coursing through my body from jockeying into walls and trash dumpsters. I shouldn’t feel pain if I’m asleep, should I?
Again, the rats! Only now they seem bigger, their footfalls slamming into the warn pavement as if they’re the size of dogs, big dogs, the size of German Shepherds. Get a grip! There are no rats that size. It’s impossible.
Shoved to the ground by the force of these things, I repeatedly get up, only to be slapped down again, not once, but many times. And the whiskers rub up against me, taunting me, telling me there’s nothing I can do about it. Damn! They are as large as they sounded.
They herd me down the alley, not stopping in their assaults, even giving me a bite here and there to tell me what will happen if I don’t go along with their wishes. The nervous sweat pouring down my body flows into all the wounds I’ve received, creating not-so-sweet burning sensations that add to my anxiety.
Once more the walls close in on me, pushing my fear of being trapped in the dark alley higher and higher. My vertigo completely gone, my dizziness makes me lurch about like a drunk, and I no longer need the assistance of the rats to knock me to the ground. Sand and gravel join the salt as they are shoved into my cuts from the impact as I roll around in my confused stupor.
Huge, black shapes loom up ahead of me, two of them, so dark that they make the light-less alley seem like a well-lit thoroughfare of neon. Not a sound is uttered by them. They merely stand ahead of me, waiting ever so patiently for me to reach them. As much as I am terrified by the rats, these new entities have a much more powerful presence, and I seek to retreat from where I came from.
Yes, I’ll just force my way through these rats, find some kind of strength, and get out of this alley.
Shit! I can’t! My retreat is blocked off again: a wall has formed behind me. My only escape lies on the other side of these monstrosities of the dark.
The black entities advance towards me; the rear wall pushes in my direction as well. There is no escape. I am doomed.
They hover over me and force their way into my body. The pain is excruciating as they take control of what I once was, but never will be again. My strength is sapped, but I must hearken to their commands.
We walk out of the dark alley and into a world of semi light as the power slowly returns to the grid. My shadows have now combined into one Dark Being. And me? I have split in half, my head bobbing one way and the other, my rear self, trying to catch up to my front self.
My shadow self smiles…
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2015 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.
Ed Rutledge hugged his rifle under his right arm as he adjusted his toque with his left. The early morning hours were always cold this time of year and the fact that it was the Annual Hunt just made it that much worse.
He was glad that he wasn’t facing the task alone, though. John Glasgow and Christian Stevenson were on either side of him as they made their way through the empty streets of Emmettsville.
“What time is it?”
John looked at his watch. “It’s almost four. We still have three and a half hours to go before dawn.”
“Good,” Christian said. “Three and a half hours to kill this fucker.”
It was his eighth time participating in the hunt and the forty-nine year old welder had become something of a legend around Emmettsville when just five years earlier he had successfully killed the first werewolf, Terry Indigo. He should’ve felt proud of the accomplishment, but he knew the feeling would be short lived as there would be a new werewolf to hunt the following year.
“There’s something that never ceases to amaze me,” Ed said. “Even though everyone in town is told to go to the church hall to wait out the hunt, the werewolf always manages to kill a few every year.”
“I wish a lot more people would leave their lights on,” John said. “These old street lamps create more shadows than they cut through.”
“There are two things I hate about the hunt,” Christian said. “The fact we’re not allowed to shoot the werewolf in human form or while it’s changing and that the werewolf has to bite someone every year.”
“The bite guarantees that there will be a hunt the following year if the hunters are successful,” Ed said. “Plus you never know what can happen between hunts. You two are aware that Brendon Jenkins has been the wolf for the last five years, correct?”
Both men nodded.
“Shortly after the hunt last year, Brendon got diagnosed with cancer and they only gave him six to eight months to live. He’s lasted twelve. I would say either way that this will be his last hunt.”
“Who was it last year?” John asked. “I mean, who got bit?”
“Carly Fortner,” Ed replied. “She was only fourteen.”
Christian shook his head in disgust. “I can’t believe he chose to bite a fourteen year old girl.”
The three hunters walked in silence as they remembered how Carly had been found crying with a large bite in her shoulder, knowing her fate had been sealed.
“That doesn’t mean that she’ll be the next one though,” John said. “Remember, Todd Charleston had been bitten in the second year of the hunt. He still hasn’t assumed his role. Strange how the disease or whatever it is only allows one person to change in a given area at one time. Why do you think that is?”
Christian shrugged and was about to say something when Ed held his arms out, stopping them. All three immediately brought their rifles up to the shoulders and looked about.
“What is it?” John whispered.
“There’s blood on the road.”
Ed walked up to the small accumulation of blood, knelt down and stuck two fingers into it. As he turned his hand over to look at his fingertips, he cringed. Even though he had seen his fair share of bodies over the years during the hunt, feeling someone else’s blood on his skin never got easy.
“It’s still warm,” he said, wiping his fingers on his pants.
“Is it a trail?” John asked.
“No. It’s a small pool but, it was left here deliberately. He’s close so keep your eyes open.”
Christian let his rifle drift down from his shoulder a bit as he looked at Ed. “Did you say it was deliberate?”
“Why would it…”
The attack happened incredibly fast. It leapt out of the shadows with a snarl and tackled Christian onto the pavement. Even in the shitty streetlight, the werewolf was an impressive and horrifying sight. Underneath the dark brown coat of fur was a six and a half foot muscular frame built to hunt man.
It easily bit through Christian’s shirt into his flesh.
John fired off a shot but not surprisingly missed. The werewolf howled as it sprung off Christian and disappeared into the shadows on the other side of the street. Within seconds, they heard it crash through branches into the woods.
Christian screamed, clutching his torn shoulder. “It fucking bit me!”
Ed and John both knelt down beside their injured friend but he turned away their assistance.
“I know how to take care of myself. Go kill that fucking thing!”
Without hesitating, Ed was on his feet and running. On the way by, he grabbed John by the back of his shirt, yanking him along towards the dark tree line.
Somewhere in the distance, the werewolf howled.
It felt like they had been going in circles for a couple of hours. John was breathing heavy and Ed knew that his friend was tired. The adrenalin from the attack had worn off long ago, and now they were barely able to keep on the werewolf’s trail.
“Ed,” John said between breaths. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said earlier… about Brendon being sick.”
“What about it?”
“Well, what do you think a disease such as that would do to a werewolf?”
Another howl pierced the night.
“Have you been listening to the howls?” John asked, looking around. “They don’t sound as strong or vocal as they did earlier in the night.” The werewolf cried out again. “Ed, to me the howls sound weak… almost as if the werewolf is sick.”
Ed thought for a moment. What his friend was saying sounded plausible – if the cancer did transfer over, how would it affect it?
“You might be on to something. What do you say we end this one?”
John sighed, nodded and pushed off from the tree.
They pressed on but had only walked another twenty minutes when they heard another howl that was quickly cut off by a high-pitched whine intertwined with pain.
The sounds were close by.
John looked over at Ed, clearly unnerved.
“What the hell is that?” John asked.
“I don’t know,” Ed replied.
The whining continued as they moved forward with their rifles repositioned for firing at a moment’s notice. Within a few minutes, the trees thinned out as they approached the area where the sound originated. They stepped into a small clearing and stopped with their mouths agape.
It was lying on its side.
The beast was convulsing as if it were suffering a seizure, it wasn’t completely transformed. Its lower extremities resembled a wolf’s hind haunches but the fur on its torso had started to rip, human skin pushing its way through. Partially formed hands twitched uncontrollably at the end of human arms.
“Oh my god, look at its face,” John managed to say before he threw up.
The head was a misshapen mess that reminded Ed of the bizarre animal fetuses he had seen in the freak show of last summer’s carnival – half Brendon, half wolf. Inside its malformed mouth, a tongue rolled and lapped up against its snout.
He cautiously approached and the beast tried to squirm away, but the tremors had eliminated any ability to control its movement. One golden wolf eye, along with Brendon’s own blue eye, stared back as he tried to come to grips with what he was looking at.
With a deep breath, Ed raised his rifle and fired twice into its head. Within seconds, the body lay still.
“Ed, what happened to it?” John asked. He stared long and hard at the misshapen corpse.
“It couldn’t change.”
John looked up to the sky and then at his watch. “It’s still not sunrise, so why would it be changing?”
Ed took his hat off and ran his hand over his balding head. “Maybe it was sick like you said.”
“Do you really think the cancer could interfere with a werewolf changing?”
Ed shrugged. “It’s possible.”
“This is fucked up,” John bent at the waist and placed his hands on his knees preparing for another round of vomiting. “Did you see its eyes?”
“Yes I did.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget those.”
“Neither will I,” Ed said as he watched John look over at the body and then back at him. “The wolf eye wanted me dead but its human eye…” Ed swallowed. “Brendon’s eye was pleading… pleading for me to kill him.”
“Oh my god…” John trailed off.
“You know, when I shot and killed the werewolf a few years ago, I had killed in the course of the hunt. I felt justified and like a hero.” Ed placed his hat back on his head and looked at the body. “This time, I feel like a murderer.”
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved