“Hello there,” a man’s voice says.
I open my eyes and realize I’m standing on a pier. Snow lies in small, shoveled heaps along the edges and the sky is a cloudless grey. It’s cold yet I feel nothing.
“I bet you’re wondering why you’re naked?”
Looking down I see that the voice is right but feel no need to cover myself up. Turning to my right, I see him.
He’s an older man with thin, white hair combed to the side. Thick rimmed glasses rest upon his nose magnifying his green eyes.
“My name’s Horton,” he says extending his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Herman Trotter.”
“How do you know who I am?”
“There’s no easy way to say it so I’ll just come out with it. You’re dead.”
I blink twice. “Dead?”
“Unfortunately. What’s the last thing you remember?”
Thinking back, I easily find the memory. “I was filling my truck up with gas.”
Horton nods and says, “While you were filling your truck, two rival gangs got into a shootout. A bullet ricocheted off the pavement and penetrated your skull just behind your right ear. You were dead before you hit the ground.”
I take the information in stride, knowing that it’s true. Looking at the pier, snow and the sky, nothing here seems alive, myself included.
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked yet,” Horton says.
“If you’re in Heaven or Hell.”
“I’m an… was an atheist. I’d never given much thought to where I would end up.”
Horton laughs and says, “Some atheists are like that. You may not believe in a god but you still have a soul and when your physical body expires, your soul has to go somewhere.”
“Where exactly is that?”
He places his hand on my back between my shoulder blades and gently ushers me down the pier. “To the Blue.”
For the first time since I arrived, I look out beyond the end of the pier.
Upon first glance it looks like the ocean with waves rolling about, gently lapping against rocks along the shore. I then notice it’s navy blue in color with streaks of aqua green and black cutting through the jelly-like texture at various intervals. Beneath the surface, flashes of white flicker like lightning.
“What is it?” My voice is barely a whisper.
“That, my friend, is the resting place for mankind’s atheist souls. Good or bad, they all come here in the end.”
I have a strong urge to leap off the pier into it.
“What’s your role in this?” I ask.
“I’m the administrator. It’s my job to keep track of who goes into the Blue.”
“How do you do that?”
Horton reaches into his inner coat pocket, pulling out a folded paper and gold pen. “Whenever someone new arrives, they must sign this registration before they go into the Blue.”
Although I don’t want to, I pull my eyes away from the Blue and look at him. “Is that it?”
Horton nods and says, “Alexander the Great asked me the same question before he went in and yes, that’s it.”
My eyes find their way back to the Blue while I reach out for the pen. Gripping it in my hand I barely manage to scribble my name along the dotted line.
“Very good,” Horton says. He folds the paper up and slides it back inside his coat. “Whenever you’re ready, you may jump.”
I’m already in the air falling towards the Blue before he gets the words out.
There is no splash.
The sensation of falling is instantly replaced by bliss. My eyes are open and while I don’t see anyone, I connect with them; with everyone in the Blue. Time stands still as I fully accept the Blue’s embrace.
Below me is a flash.
I don’t think much of it until the searing pain hits me.
We all cry out without making a sound.
Another flash flickers below, but closer.
And I see it.
Swimming amidst the Blue is a translucent eel-like shape with a large mouth. It emits a flash each time its mouth opens, exposing row upon row of teeth.
It’s taking bites out of the Blue.
I begin swimming… struggling towards the surface. When I finally break through, I cry out, “Horton!”
The old man is still standing on the pier and he looks down at me, puzzled.
“Why Mister Trotter,” he says. “Whatever is the matter?”
“What the hell is in here with us?”
I briefly slip below the surface but rise up again.
“We call them the Translucies.”
“They’re eating us!”
Horton laughs and says, “Well of course they are. How else do you expect us to maintain the maximum number of souls allowed in the Blue at one time?”
He begins saying something else, words I don’t hear as I slip below the surface; down into the Blue.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2016 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved
There was a scratching on the glass that roused her from light sleep. At this stage she was so uncomfortable and so preoccupied with thoughts of the birth that she rarely got much real sleep at all. It was her first baby.
Again there came a peculiar scratching noise. Sam sighed and slowly rolled herself into a sitting position. Her extended belly, taught and round, nestled between her thighs. She looked around the dim room, disorientated for a moment. It was late at night and she could hear the rumble of the television downstairs, her husband was probably watching a movie. She rubbed her temples; she had a headache.
There was another sound at the window. This time it was a soft tap, tap, tap. She frowned. Pushing herself up carefully, she waddled to the window and pulled the curtain back, peering into the quiet suburban night. At first all seemed perfectly normal but then she noticed it, nestled amongst the bare branches of a nearby tree, a bird. A monstrously huge bird. She stared at it confused, her mind was heavy and foggy. The bird turned to face her, large yellow eyes stared back. It had a long beak and large wings folded around its body. The bird unfurled its wings, stretching them wide. The sound of their flapping was a dense vibration in the night. The creature had the body of a woman, with small pointed breasts and long pale legs, large clawed feet curled the thick branch.
Sam watched the strange bird woman for a while, emotionless, wondering if she was actually dreaming, until a sudden stabbing pain in her lower belly made her groan and clutch herself in fear. When she looked up the bird woman had disappeared but the sharp pangs continued. She began shouting her husband’s name.
Nothing was left to chance, they had planned everything to the last detail. The best doctor, the best hospital, but chance was not the only force at play.
Sam squeezed and pushed and panted, her face swollen red.
The nurse patted her arm, her husband talked into her ear.
“‘You’re doing really well!” he said cheerfully.
In between contractions that blinded and winded her, Sam fell back onto the pillows gasping. She heard that sound again, tap tap tap on glass. Hovering close, outside at the large window, a dark form, wide yellow eyes pinned on her. Sam watched as the creature stretched her black wings and paced, she seemed excited or perhaps anxious. Nobody else seemed to notice. Sam tried to say something about the birdwoman but then she launched into another contraction.
The birth went without complications. After a few days she returned home, her tiny joy bundled in white. It was a little girl, they named her Amy. The memory of the birdwoman and her piercing gaze haunted her, but Sam was relieved the birth was over with and just wanted to get some sleep.
Her daughter had different ideas. She refused to be put down. The moment she was laid in her plush pink and white crib she began to wail and no amount of rocking or cooing would make her stop until she was picked up again. For a week Sam’s husband and mother were around to help and tend to Amy while Sam got some rest. Then they both had to return to work and Sam spent the days alone, jiggling and patting and pacing with her baby attached. She slumped in the armchair in front of the television, with Amy on her chest, still suckling. Sometimes she managed to put Amy down for a brief moment and make a cup of tea or have a shower before the baby began to cry again. She loaded the pram with all the essentials and went for walks around the neighbourhood. Amy seemed to like the pram on some days. Other days she didn’t like the pram at all and Sam pushed her along as she cried, pausing now and then to plug her mouth with a dummy. Sam avoided stopping for small talk with neighbours who lost all composure at the sight of her newborn baby. They gushed and swooned and giggled. It made her feel guilty. Sam always politely excused herself and hurried off, anxious. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with her. She was not a good mother.
The birdwoman was always there. And every night, while her husband patiently tried to put Amy to sleep, Sam sat in bed with the covers tucked under her chin, listening for sounds of her. She always came at the same hour, scratching against glass, tap tap tap. It was a little frightening but Sam was certain she couldn’t enter the house and in the morning she would be gone. Maybe the birdwoman was there to help her, or to give her a message, she wondered, and then she was surprised by such odd thoughts. Sometimes she spied through the lace curtains, trying to stand out of view, and watched the birdwoman perched in the large tree outside. The birdwoman sat silently, her head tucked under one of her wings, her feathers ruffled against the cold night air. But when she turned to stare at Sam, her yellow eyes like mirrors in the night, Sam’s heart would begin to pound. She would pull the curtains closed and rush away into bed. She looked over at her husband, snoring lightly beside her, and wondered if she should tell him about the birdwoman. He looked so pale and exhausted himself, with dark circles around his eyes and rough stubble on his face. Sam felt anger bubble inside her and she glared at the crib, which for a short while remained silent.
The truth is Sam had known something was wrong on the way home from the hospital. Why wasn’t she overjoyed, beaming with happiness and pride over her perfect newborn daughter? Why did she look at her baby and feel only that sinking dread, a dread that seemed to fall deeper and deeper into nothingness as the days passed? Those tiny little curled fists, ten miniature toes, the soft creases of delicate eyelids, the dusty creaminess of newborn skin; these things should make her giddy with wonder and joy but they evoked nothing in her.
She remembered how happy she and her husband were when she was first pregnant, but soon after a coldness had settled over her. It was a thick sheet that muted the world, only the vague suggestion of things remained. The coldness had taken root, just like the foetus in her womb, growing day by day. Maybe they were one and the same, she didn’t know, she couldn’t tell. She carried life and death at the same time. She struggled through the pregnancy. When she mentioned her doubts and fears people nodded sympathetically. It’s all very normal, they said, with all those hormones going up and down.
After the birth the coldness was not purged as she hoped it would be. Amy was born in gushes of hot blood and mucous but the coldness remained embedded inside. The birdwoman knew, and she understood. Whenever Sam was caught in her gaze she felt ashamed. The birdwoman could read her most private, unspeakable thoughts.
One night, when Amy was less than a month old, Sam woke to find herself sprawled on the couch. She didn’t remember falling asleep. The television was on, with the volume turned down. The house was very quiet, a heavy and peculiar silence. Sam remembered that she was home alone as her husband was working out of town for a few days. She hurried upstairs to check on Amy.
At the bedroom door she froze, startled by what she saw. The birdwoman was standing by the crib, singing softly to Amy. She sang in the language of birds, her voice rising and falling. Amy was awake, both her little hands reached up for the strange woman. Tiny pink fingers curled around old withered skin tipped with long talons.
Sam stepped into the room, not frightened anymore but excited to be so close to this creature. She was very tall. Her powerful wings were folded behind her and swept the floor.
Sam tried to speak but when the birdwoman turned, those yellow eyes gleaming, her sharp beak poised open, all words dropped away.
A choir of bird song erupted in the room.
“It is time. I have come for her. She is mine.”
Sam walked over to the crib and looked down at her daughter. The baby gazed up at them both, content and peaceful.
Sam picked up her baby and began rocking her slowly in her arms, for the first time she genuinely smiled at her. At last she realized the intimate and profound bond she shared with her child.
Huge black wings, of coarse and ancient feathers, opened and stretched across her vision, filling the room, wrapping Sam and her daughter in a shroud of darkness. For a moment they were hidden from all the worlds as the pact was made.
~ Veronica Magenta Nero
© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.
Joseph A. Pinto
An impressive room, had it not been for the blood splattering the wall.
Usually Callie spoke nothing but shit, but this time she told no lies—the casino had hooked her up with a suite straight from Roman times; marbled floors and columns kissing the vaulted ceiling. Several baths bigger than her apartment at home.
Lee arrived in Vegas soon after her poker tourney had ended; just before the dead had claimed the strip. He found Callie sitting on the couch, cork opener dripping in her hand.
Fuck. He hadn’t even unpacked yet.
“Took a couple of tries,” she said, “till I drove it through his head.”
Lee looked over the remains of the bellman.
“At least I got the wine,” Callie exhaled. “2004 Ghost Horse Cabernet Fantome.”
“You’re doing well for yourself.”
Callie shrugged. “I get by. Drink now. Kill later.”
He could never argue with her logic.
Lee A. Forman
Ebony clouds accumulated over his sweet Lyla. With a flash of lightning her face illuminated with life, if only for a moment. Thunder and rain followed and washed the blood from her flesh. Nature cleansed his bride no longer to be. Eugene ground his hands in the wet soil and let his body fall against her green dress.
I saw the darkness in her, he thought. Those soulful orbs had to be removed; I had no choice. I had to release the nefarious glow peering behind her once beautiful eyes.
As Lyla’s body sank into the soft earth Eugene stared into her orbital cavities one last time. He then took his blade in hand and gouged out his own gelatinous keepers of evil.
Emitting a huff more feral than the land had ever known, the beast took to the field with vigorous delight; the cover of forest fell quickly behind. A pack no fewer than twenty stood stunned at its approach. The signal given a heartbeat too late, they turned as one to flee, but their fate was sealed – the unholy creature was upon them. Teeth shone with a flash as claws raked delicate nubile flesh. The air stank of sweat and fear. Shrieks of terror ripped through the calm of the clearing; the once green meadow now bubbled with iron rich stain.
Why Did I Wait So Long To Leave?
Goddamn curiosity got the better of me. The images I saw flash on my television didn’t do it justice. I had to see it for myself. As I crossed the street to reach the beach, people were already fleeing. The cars packed with families and personal belongings. If I had been smart I would’ve been one of them. I stood in the sand, gazing out at the ocean. Initially there was nothing, only rolling waves. Then I saw it. The peak of its head broke through the surface. Green and grey scales covered the massive cranium; two yellow eyes stared back at me. A low, guttural growl erupted from its belly, spilled out of its mouth; the sound loud, deafening and horrifying. As the beast rose out of the water, the thought of running quickly dissipated. Why did I wait so long to leave?
She goes by many names – Ghost Jessie, Indian Stick… her favourite? Pink Orchid: rare, a stunning beauty, suggestive of the way she unfurls for the right price, under the right touch.
She works everywhere. Tonight they are meeting at her’s. This one found her on a website, The Elitist Suite; “Had to call, had to meet Pink Orchid in the flesh.” They are all the same.
He arrives on the dot. Sometimes she sees them waiting outside, smoking in their cars, drumming fingers across the dash. She knows the feeling. Come in, get it over with, please.
They do not fuck for long. He comes quickly, and she is ravenous. He is still thrusting when she starts to change; she watches him through myriad eyes as ecstasy turns into terror. He screams but she has him pinned. Soft, weak, this sorry man, this meat. Pink Orchid always starts head-first.
Veronica Magenta Nero
The Inquisitor places the goblet under dangling feet, it collects the steady drip as blood streams down the taught torso and limbs.
“It is not your confession I want.” says the Inquisitor calmly. The Inquisitor is a black cloaked figure in a cold stone room of darker shadows. The hood comes down low over the face, only lips are visible. Full red lips that turn slightly up at the corners at the trembling suffering on display, the man is suspended from a thick wooden beam in the ceiling.
The Inquisitor bends down to collect the cup. It is overflowing. Her hood falls back revealing emerald green eyes, an ungodly light shines in them.
“For my sisters, I present the wine of the persecutors.”
She toasts the priest then she drinks deeply.
Rhett stepped soundlessly into the penthouse. The fact that he was the second best contract killer on the east coast guaranteed this would be an easy kill. But he wanted to be the top dog.
He slipped through the immaculate residence like a ghost and stopped by a wine cellar. Rhett turned up his hearing enhancer to make sure the target was still sleeping, and then turned to the wine. He wasn’t an elitist like his mark, but he loved the expensive stuff.
Rhett stopped to caress the Musigny Grand Cru. How long had the snoring stopped? He had been careless. There was a little noise, but it was too cautious. It wasn’t the stumbling of the half-asleep…
The arm slipped around his neck as the blade opened his neck like a Pez dispenser. Rhett heard his target’s voice behind him as his blood sprayed.
“I’m still the best.”
Christopher A. Liccardi
The blood was like wine, mixing with the light pouring in the windows. The drapes moved in huge arcing waves, carrying with it the smells of ocean and decay.
He moaned; he was so close that she could have reached out and finished him off, but she wouldn’t lower herself to that. She was after all, an elitist. Such creatures as these were beneath her. No, she would leave him for the crows and the wolves to finish. They were not picky when it came to their next meal.
She rose up, nearly seven feet tall and glided to the window to look out. She wouldn’t allow herself this guilty pleasure; this tasty morsel. She would abstain, just this once.
The chime rang for the front door. She turned and her eyes flashed an electric blue. She could smell her food… and the take-out Chinese she ordered with it.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
They unfurled from the sky, glistening against the hatching sun, glistening with their own secretions; glistening with newly absorbed blood.
At first, Boston thought them to be a series of banners trailing behind prop planes high above the city’s stretching fingers, marketing genius promoting a new brand. Down, down, curling down in slow motion, cleaving with surgical precision the clouds. Boston sipped his bitter coffee, wincing as it singed his tongue, noting how odd the greenish-gray hue of those tentacles appeared towering over his head.
He spit caffeine from his mouth.
Gathering beneath the common din of the city, the marching feet, the impatient idling of cars, Boston heard it at last. Suction, similar to that from a vacuum; felt it, the popping inside his ears.
A final tentacle unfurled.
The woman ahead of Boston seized his attention. Slowly, her long, ebony hair lifted until taut at the roots. Beginning at the hem, her sundress flipped upside down, rising up, up, exposing an hourglass figure, thong, strapless bra. Rising up, up as her arms jut crooked over her head, mere tree branches; rising up, up, tearing free from her body, along with her hair.
With morbid curiosity, Boston stared at the bloody scalp, drifting skyward, a lost balloon.
A man clutched Boston’s forearm. Boston met his panicked eyes, two bloodshot orbs overcome with stress, a long night of gin. Like grapes, they popped from the man’s skull, claimed by the mounting suction. Sightless, the man staggered; his arms as well snapped above his head, the sky snatching his suit clean; his jacket, the pants. His tie a noose around his throat, the man gasped until his head parted from his shoulders.
Boston walked into the scalpless woman, outstretched hands sticky against her tissue exposed back. Yelping, he pulled away, pulled away from the muscle parting her bones.
High, high above, the tentacles undulated; the blood, the gristle rose.
The city reacted the way a city would react; a breakdown of cohesion; a canyon of screams. People scrambled; people shoved. Boston shoved with them, elbowing his way without direction, pumping his limbs without momentum. The morning crashed, an ocean rippled by pulpy waves of red.
A bus jumped the curb, slamming into a newspaper stand. Headlines fluttered, black and white confetti telling of a world gone mad. Frantic hands beat upon glass; Boston watched skin flutter from open windows of the bus like toilet paper spun from its reel. He looked away.
From baby strollers burst small fountains of pink spray.
Lower, lower the tentacles rolled, revealing serrated suckers, awful, greedy mouths absorbing human existence, its inherent disease. Boston struggled against the tide of commuters; the surge swept him away. Ahead, he spied a bodega.
Feverishly, Boston pushed against fleshless mannequins, shoving aside bones. Seconds thundered in his ears. He battled across the street until breathlessly grabbing the door; a pair of liver spotted hands resisted opposite the glass. Boston tugged, felt the tug matched in turn. “Open the door,” Boston hissed, wrenching the handle from the hands. The old man jerked forward; utilizing the momentum against him, Boston flung him into the frenzy of the crowd. Boston slammed the door shut as the suction teased the top of his head.
“Poppa,” the choked voice of a clerk from behind the register. Boston ignored her. Death, dust; Boston inhaled it all. His eyes darted about the store, spying shelves pockmarked with emptiness, crumbling walls.
Crumbling walls. Boston exhaled; he would survive this. “Lock the door.”
“Mi esposo se ha ido!”
“Lady, lock the door.”
“Mi esposo, mi esposo!”
Chaos splattered the windows; the glass blew inward. Boston fell, toppling a display case of Goya beans. He kicked them from beneath his feet, propelling his body forward toward the crumbling walls. Boston sunk his hands into a hole of deteriorating drywall, yanking frantically. Dust caught in his throat; he kept pulling, widening the hole, exposing the crumbling lath behind the wall, the electrical wires running along a wooden stud. Just enough space existed between the lath, the drywall, for him to squeeze between.
The clerk’s hysterical shouts for her husband transformed into something far worse. Boston refused to turn; he heard the tear of fabric, the wet pluck of teeth from the jaw. He tore free another section of drywall then hauled himself face first inside the space. Boston whimpered as a nail dug into his back. Inch by inch, he wiggled deeper along the interior of the wall, nose scraping the lath.
Boston held his breath a long, long time.
He held his breath even as his flesh slathered the lath. Craning his skinless neck, Boston glimpsed a tentacular club molesting the wall studs. His eyes ruptured; the world turned dark save the sound, the sound of vacuumed suckling, a newborn at the breast.
The sloppy sound of marrow drawn straight from Boston’s bones.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2016 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.