Lee A. Forman
Succulent is the flesh, with the right tongue to sample its flavor. Lapping at pools of blood, my palate invokes pleasure beyond understanding. How beautiful its color…blackened under moonlight. Soon to gorge upon a fleshless back, I arch and look to the sky. Always watching, my Luna, the light by which I dine. But never judging, its face ever set in nihilistic expression. With love I feed, and regret I swallow, for I’ve broken the forever promise. But in my prime, with such tender meat, resistance would be futile.
My heartbeat quickens as life departs him. And a sad smile curves my lips. A reflective glow catches my eye, from the ring around his finger. What was once a black suit and white dress, now a skinless corpse and naked body. Bells ring in my ears and flower petals dance for dreams of the past.
Those things are gone. Things demeaning to my newfound nature. A lifetime of hunger now sated, fruitless ventures of decency vacated. I loved him, still do… But I played the part, never committing. I must move forward, despite any sorrow. And so I take him in, raw, fresh, and unhallowed.
The Night Prisoner
On Halloween, the moon watched as humans walked the earth wearing strange costumes. Children went from house to house, collecting treats. Adults gathered at parties and drank spirits. The lonely moon yearned to be a part of these rituals, but she was imprisoned in the night sky. Then, a miracle happened. A girl in a fairy costume held up a candy pumpkin into a moonbeam. “Would you like a treat, Moon?” The kind offering opened a hole in the night’s veil. Delighted, Moon appeared as a goddess beside the girl and ate the candy. The sky went black. The girl shrunk to a pixie. Giggling, she flew around Moon and landed on her shoulder. Moon walked through a neighborhood. Every disguised human became their costume. Masks molded into flesh. Plastic teeth formed into fangs. Vampires, clowns, witches, and creatures of all kinds began attacking one another. “Please stop them!” the fairy pleaded. Moon remembered why she had isolated herself high above their world. I’m too much for humans. Saddened, she thanked Fairy Girl for the candy, then Moon returned to her prison in the void. Below, the creatures turned back into humans; although too often, they still attacked one another.
It Is Finished
My eyes find the moon, glowing amidst the dissipating storm while the clouds swirl around the lunar gem for one last caress. I hear the Feasters of Death gathering in the trees, watching and waiting with ravenous anticipation for my body to exhale its final breath. Looking at the deep slash across my abdomen, they won’t have to wait long. My fingers probe the fatal wound, touching and prodding my entrails about to spill out onto the already bloodied earth. Around me are a mix of my fallen brothers and former enemies, with eyes permanently stuck open, staring lifelessly at their final battleground. Each expression a mix of death and hope; hope that they fought valiantly enough for the gods to have taken notice. My crimson stained fingers drop to the ground, finding the hilt of my sword, assuring me I have died a warrior’s death. A final chill stabs through my body as the Feasters creep out of their hiding places and I know it is finished.
Children of Frost
John Potts Jr
The woman heard a whimper. She turned and peered to her rear. Nothing, not a soul. Her pace quickened.
There it was again, only closer. This time the sound was a wail. Must be an animal, she thought, maybe a stray cat. Dense brush lined the walkway on her right and to her left, leafless oak and red maple stood guard above a sharp embankment. Her breath listed upward, fogging her glasses. She wiped the moisture off her lenses and noticed a small boy crouching near a tree ahead.
“You poor thing,” the woman gasped.
She rushed to him, knelt and took off her jacket, wrapping the boy snug. His skin was the color of bone. The boy hugged into her and the woman smelt something vile, something rotten. She hushed the boy, told him that everything would be alright and that she would take care of him.
The boy replied, “I know.” Jagged teeth ripped through the woman’s sweater, and into her stomach. She twisted away but the boy sunk his bite in deeper.
Then the children crawled from the embankment. They pounced, tearing and gnashing and feasting on her life under the moon above.
The clouds break and expose a perfect moon. I will myself to hear howls in the distance that don’t exist. It would be far too cliché to meet my maker under a full moon ripped apart by a creature of fantasy. No, my time ends at the hands of the noxious, silent death that has overrun Earth.
Leaning against a tree, my ankle throbs, purple and swollen. Why did I even run? I’m too average to be one of the survivors. Making it this far was more luck than skill, right place right time kind of thing.
The stench of death assaults me before I hear their shuffle through the leaves. My finger slides over the trigger of the pistol I learned to use not long ago.
I see one, then another, and more beyond them. They know I’m here through glazed over eyes. I point my gun at the first one and hear others close in around me. There are far too many, I put my gun down, why fight the thing I will become.
My death will be like my life, another one amongst the masses.
My fellow initiates—my sisters—smile at me, but I hear their whispers.
“The moon rising ceremony is tonight. They’ll come for her.”
They avoid looking at me, but I know the pity in their eyes. Mine reflected such emotions once. For the previous girl chosen in the sacrificial rites.
It is the risk, coming to the temple, the unspoken fear. The first night after they marked me, I wept myself into sleep. Then the Goddess came to me in my fitful dreams. She granted me strength, showed me the path. Tonight I walk it willingly.
After midnight I am escorted to the woodland dais by the priests. I am nervous, but I know my duty. As I kneel before the altar, I slip the knife from beneath my robes. For my duty is not to their God. I do the bidding of my Goddess.
They never see their deaths coming.
I look down on the last priest, bloodied knife raised. “The goddess is coming, defiler. She will no longer tolerate her daughters’ blood spilled in the name of your Death God. She is coming and you will all die.”
I bring down the knife and paint the moonlight red.
Cold, So Cold
Joseph A. Pinto
I knew what they were. Recognized them beyond all deception.
No one listened. Madman, they labeled me, and spat upon my shoes. Still, I had grown used to such treatment, outcast that I had become. Driven away from my family, my community, from the very fabric of lives I believed once to be an intricate part. Such a sad, sad unravelling of threads.
When they perished, I shed no tears. I carried no guilt upon my shoulders.
The cities have long since fallen. Crystallized, one and all; come upon by translucent mercenaries of death. Humanity had its chance. All that was required, a simple heed of my warning.
The eternal frost is here. Forever reaching with bitter fingers; the brooks, the rivers, the vast oceans, all set upon in hibernal oneness. Now the mountains, the woods. Yes, I see them for what they are. Alive in gleaming beads of ice. Maturing rapidly, these denizens of glacier delirium.
From white flakes they first fluttered, but no one believed.
Whoever remains huddled and void of warmth beneath this moon surely cannot deny it now…
Lying in the wet grass, blood sputters from my chilling lips; my left arm is without feeling. I turn my head in fevered panic looking for the creature that attacked me. I hear its harsh breathing, but can see nothing of it. My right hand scours the earth; a fistful of entrails the only reward. My eyes drift shut.
The snort of its rotting breath on my forehead jolts me awake; terror rips through my body. I know death is near, but I struggle to flee nonetheless. Its maw clamps around my skull, the moon-lit field roughs against my back as it drags me towards the tree-shadowed edge; I see my lower half lying still upon the green expanse. My mind screams, my eyes turn upward of their own volition. Above me, the naked grey abomination releases its grip on my head; a glob of putrescent gelatinous spittle rains from its cracked lip. It snorts once more before ripping my chest open with a single swipe. Delicately, with a surgeon’s precision, it sniffs and picks among my organs. As I expel a scream that sounds of a whimper, I hear it snuffling and lapping as it gorges upon my innards.
Mother Knows Best
Christopher A. Liccardi
As she drove the knife in, Stephanie thought it was enough moonlight to see by; enough for this sacrifice. She felt the resistance give way.
A dull knife is a fool’s mistake, her mother had lectured. These were her mother’s tools and she had always kept them sharpened. God, the woman never stopped talking about the craft. If it wasn’t about the tools, it was the chanting or the posture. Stephanie stopped listening long ago, but some things had stuck, like this spell.
It’s not a spell dear, it’s a ritual. How she hated to be corrected all the time.
The figure lying on the alter twitched when she opened the skull. Stephanie stopped to check the restraints. It wouldn’t do to have her flailing in the middle. Her mother would have scowled at that too.
Stephanie recalled the chant her mother taught her; the rhythm and the words came effortlessly. Stephanie plunged the knife in to each eye socket and flicked out the globes. This time, the woman did more than twitch. She guessed what ritual it was.
Soon enough I’ll be the witch, this will be my coven to rule, Stephanie thought as she kissed her mother’s forehead.
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and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
I knelt before his body, the divine man we all once worshiped. He remained exposed; no one bothered preparing a grave in his honor. My hands tightened into fists. The rage of their vile act upon the Master seethed in my blood. How could they betray their faith?
I’d become a stray sheep among wolves.
Looking up at the night, I prayed for answers. The sky returned my grief with thundering tears. I welcomed the sorrow of rain as it drowned my lament and washed the blood from my clothes. I laid my hands upon his rotting flesh, hoping to feel some remnant of warmth. But nothing radiated from his lifeless heart. Death had exhaled its cold breath upon his soul.
I remembered the first thing he said to me. I’d asked him why God allows bad things to happen to good people—the question everyone asks.
“God gave humankind free will,” he told me. “If He intervened in our affairs, that free will would be invalid. It would cease to exist. By giving us the power of choice, He disempowered himself of meddling.”
Those words changed me, molded me into his disciple with the hands of a savant artist. Not long after, we gathered a flock the savior himself would have been proud of. Each Sunday we convened in an old barn at the edge of my property. The handmade pews would be seated by familiar faces, those of friends and family. They awaited his words with great anticipation in desperate eyes. All sought salvation, but all had turned on Master in the end.
I put my head against his chest and remembered his gospel.
“The Lord gave us the gift of suffering so we would know what it means to truly be alive, so we would know light from dark, good from evil. Joy is the antithesis of that endowment, the betrayer of clarity. So I ask you, take hold of your pain, know it, bond with it. For only that can put you in the good grace of our Lord.”
They followed his words, mourned lost loves, loathed their own vices and those of others, reveled in the toil of daily life. But a small town, a peaceful hamlet not prone to crime or violence, has only so much to suffer.
It wasn’t enough.
“Give thy pain to thy neighbor,” he’d said. “Offer up your tribulation so that those with none can truly see what it means to believe. Allow them to feel the love of our Lord’s blessing.”
After that, the town of Angleton became something else.
Those who followed took his message and spread suffering like a plague. Violence became desired, harm welcomed. There were no victims during the time of awakening. Only loyal servants. They gave themselves to the cause, some even came begging. Master gave it willingly. The barn became a house of torment, howls of agony its chorus. They lined up waiting to feel the hand of Master scar their flesh.
They wore those marks with pride. Hung blood-stained clothes on walls, glorified shrines to Master. They honored the Lord, loved Him, more than they loved themselves. But now those offerings burned in a pile of despised memories, still glowing within the remnants of my barn, the church we all once shared. And the wounds for which they pleaded were covered by clean, fresh laundry—an affront to Master’s gifts.
I tried to make them see. But the mob came, torches aflame. I stood between them and our house of worship. The Master never left, didn’t try to run. He welcomed their blasphemous deed, laughed with arms raised as they set the fire. They stood and watched it burn, Master still inside. I wanted to dash into the blaze and die with him. But I couldn’t perish yet. I had to avenge the greatest man who ever lived. My fate was to spread the gospel of Edgar. He told me so himself.
I was then a wolf among sheep, bringer of redemption. Attempts to rekindle their faith futile, pain only closed their eyes. They could not be forgiven. They were not absolved.
∼ Lee A. Forman
© Copyright Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.
Stepping out of the car, I look up at Lake Euphoria Inn.
Although they’ve spruced up the three story building with a fresh coat of paint, it’s still the same place where my wife and I spent all our anniversaries.
Including our last.
Turning away from the inn, I have no intentions of reliving those memories in the honeymoon suite. Instead my eyes fall upon the path cut into the trees, which leads to Lake Euphoria itself.
It used to be a dirt path with odd roots protruding through, but now it’s a well-maintained gravel walkway.
As the gravel crunches beneath my feet it does little to ease the churning acid in my gut. Reaching to the small of my back, I make sure the gun is still tucked into the waistband of my pants. My fingers brush against the grip, reassuring me the pain is almost over.
I continue walking a few more steps, coming to the spot where my life was torn apart.
Looking around the small clearing I can still see my wife sprawled on her back, stomach ripped open, absolute terror permanently etched upon her face.
I had gone back to our room to retrieve the camera that I forgot to grab. On my way back I’d heard her screams, raw and terrified.
And then, silence.
Running as fast as possible, I came upon the thing. It stood knee-deep in the water, my wife’s entrails hanging from its mouth. Wet scales glistened on its body in the afternoon light. The amphibious abomination looked at me and smiled before disappearing under the water.
I shake my head, clearing those images from my mind.
The water laps against the large rocks surrounding Lake Euphoria. Perching myself on one of them near the spot where she died, I remove the gun from my waistband. In the weeks leading up to this day I fantasized about how it would feel. Would I be sad? Fearful? Or even relieved?
Even with the gun in hand and the barrel in my mouth, I’m void of emotion. I’m already dead.
Pulling back on the hammer, I steal one final glance to the lake… and there it is! The fucking thing, its head sticking out of the water, watching me.
I open fire until the gun clicks empty, all my shots missing wide.
It dips below the surface.
Diving in the cold water shocks my system. Where are you goddamn it? Although the lake is murky, there is some visibility. I don’t see it right away but I know it’s there.
My lungs begin to burn.
Something glides past me.
I reach out but grab nothing.
I hear a groan muffled by the water.
My lungs scream. I need air…there it is! Only a few feet away, staring at me with golden fish-like eyes…
…I inhale foul water…
…my body thrashes…
…but I can’t look away…
…lungs full of water…
…and swims off.
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Soft granules shift with each step as I walk the sandy strip. They ease between my toes, slide over my sandaled feet; leave a rim of grit around each nail-bed. A favored place, this swing. During the day, it basks in the full cast of sun’s light; at night, it hides in the coolness of evening’s deepest shadow. A place to laugh, to steal a kiss, perhaps a first touch… Hallowed ground made sacred by whispered promises broken only by those foolish enough to make them.
I sit. The ropes stretch taut, the plank groans beneath me as the swing gently begins to sway. My mind wanders, time passes; my thoughts fill with remembrance of you. The shade of the tree swallows me as day turns to dusk and dusk quickly flees before night. The image of you with another beneath our swing flashes by; my rage no less tempered with time. I kick my sandals aside, dig my toes deep into the soft sand. I reach for you. I know you’re there, you promised you always would be, a promise I saw kept with pickax and spade. The only blight on our perfect evening… the cunt that lies dead beside you, but I can look past that and enjoy our time together, if only in my mind.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
The Beast wanted me to bring the bodies in through the front door. On a subconscious level, I always knew why, but my mind wouldn’t wrap itself around the thought. I knew my wife didn’t want to see it; she wanted nothing to do with the Beast.
“Can’t help it,” the body inside the contractor bag quivered as I dragged it across the carpet. “Just part of the gig, babe.”
Julia’s routine had become as systematic as mine: an immediate retreat to whatever room was closest while my stupid jokes fell on deaf ears. I guess I couldn’t blame her.
Over the years, the bodies thudded down into the Beast’s lair step-by-step as our marriage devolved into a nightmare. We bickered, spat at one another, even when the Beast wasn’t around.
She waited for me on the porch one night. I could tell she was pissed without even getting out of the truck.
I rolled down the passenger window, told her that I loved her and that she looked pretty in the moonlight.
She shut me right down. “Yeah, you know you messed up,” she sneered while walking to the door.
“Baby, we’ve been over this a hundred times—”
“We haven’t been over shit. Here’s the new rule, my rule: you bring them poor souls down through the bulkhead from now on or you and that Beast will have to shack up elsewhere.”
Before I could reply, she slammed the door, threw the locks, and turned out the lights.
To my left, the darkness growled.
I opened the cab door and stepped out; the Beast slunk near me, nearly on top of me.
I turned toward the Beast just as the creeping shadows enveloped me. It was a sudden weight of pure evil that suffocated my very existence. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t feel, couldn’t think. For a moment, I was nothing.
Then I was alone again, standing outside my basement, stunned by the Beast’s unimaginable power. I thought to myself, after all these years, the Beast finally offered me a glimpse of its true nature. I suppose it was good timing. The drifter—the one I picked up that night outside Pittsburgh—put up a hell of a fight and my knee was aching like all hell.
But in the end, just like the rest, he folded. Not without offering the usual pathetic promises; he swore to tell no one if I let him go, begged for safe release, chortled on about having children at home. Then he pissed himself. Now that was a surprise. That level of terror was usually reserved for the Beast.
I swung the metal doors of the bulkhead open, walked back to the truck and dragged the asshole out. That oh-so-familiar thrum buzzed deep inside me; the pain in my leg and fists dissipated. I felt strong, strong and young again when I tossed the squirming body down the concrete steps.
Sometimes they cried out for their mother or father, or even their god. Sometimes they sniveled incoherently. Other times, they just shut up and died. This one hollered like a banshee. The Beast pulsed with excitement and a brilliant fervor rushed through my body.
There’s never a sensation of pain as the Beast rips from my core. I have yet to experience any awareness of my false-skin being shredded to ribbons. That’s when I’m my true self; the one Julia calls the Beast. She’s seen it only once or twice, but has never talked about it.
I’ve tried to pry it out of her. I pushed so hard one time that she took off for her sister’s place in Maine. Before she left, she told me that if I wanted to know what the Beast looked like, I should look in the mirror.
Once I was down in the basement with my latest capture, the Beast took center stage as I watched from behind dulled curtains. Quite the performance. I only remember bits and pieces of the brutal acts. It’s the mess after the standing ovation that sticks with me.
I’m damn sure my steel-toed boots busted every inch of the man’s body. That’s how the Beast likes his meals: tenderized to a pulp.
Once the ruckus ended, Julia came down and offered to mop up; she told me to go upstairs and take a shower. I slunk past, covered in blood and guts, exhausted and naked.
“You still mad?” I muttered.
“I’ll get over it. And so will you.” She shook her head, “Almost forty years of being stuck with you and that Beast. I didn’t think it would take me this long to figure it out, but I have.”
“Figure what out?” I asked.
She glanced at me and stretched her muscles like a feral cat before nodding toward the stairs.
As I was standing in the steaming water, it dawned on me.
The Beast wanted me to bring the bodies through the front door, right through the middle of my life, not to shame me, but to show me.
I am the Beast.
And the Beast is all of us.
~ John Potts Jr
© Copyright John Potts Jr. All Rights Reserved.