Plunging the blade deep into the abdominal cavity, I drive it upward until I hit the xiphoid process. Twisting slightly to my right, I skirt the sternum and slice through the costal cartilage attaching the ribs to the breastplate. Careful not to puncture the internal organs, I stop my upward motion at the manubrium. Drawing the sharpened metal along the topside of the upper-most rib, I listen to the harsh breathing. Returning to the original point of entry, I pause, then again thrust into and through the abdominal wall, swiftly separating the flesh and muscle from the body’s left side.
Laying the knife on the tray, I reach down and peel the cavity open with a great deal of force. A slight groan escapes amongst the pops and rending sounds as the connective tissue still in place rips away to reveal the fluttering heart. A marvelous thing the human body, a machine designed by the hand of a master; a fragile balance struck with a sadistic keeper.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
An Ensemble of Worms
Barbara reveled in the music of suffering—the most classical of symphonies. The limbless, mutilated houses for the soul writhed in their own excreta as they sang agonized tunes. Such instruments, she thought, my delightful chorus of worms.
She walked through the field of screaming torsos wrapped in barbed wire. She inspected each one to see that it contributed to the melody her beautiful creatures conducted together. If they became too weak to vocalize their pain, only then would she cut the chords from their throats. Tired and dried up notes had to be snuffed out to maintain quality; anything less would be unacceptable to her listeners.
She wondered what played in their heads, if they remembered her face before the eyes were removed. She liked to think so; it spawned a warm satisfaction between her thighs to think of all those minds imagining her at once.
Innumerable red eyes blinked in the darkness of the tree line. They’re watching, she thought, bemused by her audience. They always watch.
At the edge of the field she came across a straggler who’d rolled himself away from the rest of the group. She tied a rope around his neck as he gummed her arm with a toothless mouth.
“You silly thing,” she said with a laugh. “Why do you think everyone has their teeth removed?”
She dragged the body to reunite it with the rest. After undoing the rope, she pressed her foot against his chest. Razor sharp barbs sunk deeper into his flesh and got him singing again.
Pleased with her work, she sat on the damp grass and stared into the forest. The glowing eyes blinked out one by one, her congregation of shadows lulled to sleep with the musical wailing of her ensemble of worms.
~ Lee A. Forman
Granny always told me to eat.
She looked after me, Granny did, the only real family I knew. I had one, a family that was, but Poppa never paid me no heed, caught up in better things the way he always was. And Momma, she wanted herself a pretty boy she could preen after, but I never wanted no part of that. So Momma turned her back on me, except when it came time to bring the belt down. She gave me the whippings cause Poppa couldn’t be bothered, so busy the way he was. I honestly can’t remember when they disowned me, when they kicked me out.
Granny took me in. She looked after me, became my family, my everything. She did me right, so I made sure to do her proud. Good woman, my Granny, doing the little things, the big things. One thing she loved to do for me, and that was cook.
Eat. Eat, she always told me.
So I did.
My Granny, I learned a few things from her. Wise, wise lady, she was. Don’t know where she got it from. She talked to Grandpa more times than not, asking for strength. I never did meet my Grandpa. He came home from the great war in a box. Pieces of him, anyhow. Still, I guess he listened, cause she’d ask for that strength, then I’d see her, eyes wider than the muffin tops she’d bake me. She’d move round the house fast, like she’d been plugged into an outlet. Granny, always doing little things, the big things for me. What else could I do but make her proud?
Granny always told me to eat.
I was a big kid. Then I became a bigger kid. Granny, she told me pay no mind to those jokes, those catcalls from the other kids. They don’t know nothin from nothin, she’d say to me. They make fun cause you big? Pfft. They should wait and see, wait and see. One thing about my Granny, she taught me to take the high road. Taught me there’s no use in messing with the low.
Something else I learned about my Granny, she had a nasty streak about her. Never put it on me, mind you, but I could see it, right there, crossing her face like a storm in late July. She’d get still, real still, like a stray cat when it knows you seen it walking through your yard. She’d only get that way when I’d ask if she thought my folks were ever going to come back for me. If Momma and Poppa were ever going to take me back home.
You are home, she’d spit from her lips, then get to her cooking, mixing and blending, talking to Grandpa all the while.
Eat. Eat, she always told me, so I did.
I came in from school one day. Took awhile. Walk wasn’t far but I couldn’t move my legs all that fast. Thunder thighs, the kids all called me, but Granny, she just said I got legs of the gods. Came in, found Granny waiting, her face real long, those eyes of hers still wide as muffin tops but black as if they’d been baked too long. Baked until burnt. You hungry, boy, she said to me, you hungry, cause I know you study hard and them books you carry weigh a ton.
Granny moved to a big old pot on the stove, started stirring and stirring. Stirring through something thick. Real thick. The counter, her apron, all covered in sauce.
Been thinkin on this, she said to me, been thinkin on this a lot. Me and your Grandpa agree. We ain’t got no right, ain’t got no right keepin you from your folks. I ain’t gonna do that no more. No more. You can have your folks.
You can have your folks.
I looked at my Granny’s face. That late July storm rolled over her, then like that it was gone. I didn’t know what to say.
Granny motioned to that big old pot.
Eat. Eat, she always told me.
So I did.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
Of Course I Agreed
I peeled back the nail on my thumb because he told me to. Tears streamed down my cheeks and pain like I’d never felt before coursed up my arm. I wanted to scream, but he told me I couldn’t. So I didn’t.
When the fingernail was off, I handed it to him. He licked it, then placed it in his mouth with a smile.
Next, he told me to take off my glasses and move my face closer to his. I wanted to squirm away, but couldn’t find the willpower. I removed my glasses and did as he asked. I extended my neck as far as it would go. He licked first one eye then the other.
He said he liked brown eyes.
He turned his head slightly and began sucking on my left eye. At first the pressure was slight but then it intensified and I could feel my eye starting to move in the socket. Again, ripping pain flashed through me, but all I could do was leak tears. The sucking sound from his mouth got louder, then ‘pop’.
He said he liked my heart and asked if he could have it. Of course I agreed. I couldn’t disagree if I wanted to.
The creature lifted a single clawed finger and ran it down my chest. The sensation was cold at first, then the burning started. In an instant, I thought I was on fire.
He put his hands on my chest and began to pull it apart. Anguish like nothing I’d ever felt before wracked my body. I wanted to die. He asked me if I wanted to see it, my hear that was. Of course I agreed.
Death came much slower than I hoped it would.
~ Christopher A. Liccardi
One Bullet Left
Jake’s family lay quietly in the corner of the room, piled in a heap like unfolded laundry. The house hadn’t been this quiet in years. The .45 in his trembling hand felt heavier than the guilt he knew he would carry for the rest of his life. No matter.
You can’t undo what’s been done, he thought.
With only one bullet left, his choice was clear. Raising the .45 in his right hand and the nearly empty bottle of Jack Daniels in his left, he winced and swallowed the last gulp until the burning subsided in his throat. Click.
The gun fell to the floor, closely followed by the empty bottle which shattered when it struck the tile.
Jake stumbled his way out of the room, his bare feet crunching in the shards of glass.
“I never liked that dog.”
~ Craig McGray
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