Bait and Switch

Come on, Bobby, quit being such a mamma’s boy,” Darryl said as he held the front of the rowboat steady.

Bobby sat wringing his hands, contemplating whether he would get out of the boat and join Darryl on the rocky shoreline, or just like every other time Darryl got a wild hair up his ass, he’d stay behind and listen to Darryl’s embellishments from the adventure on his own.

Against his better judgment, Bobby stood and swallowed his nerves along with any common sense and stumbled toward the front of the boat, reaching for Darryl’s outstretched hand.

Darryl pulled Bobby onto shore and they tied the boat off to a piece of rebar protruding from one of the hunks of concrete making up the shore. “Well, well. Look who’s not being a pussy for once in his life,” Darryl said before delivering a benign punch to Bobby’s shoulder.

Darryl scurried his way up the bank of the island and after a deep breath, Bobby followed. Once on flat ground, the eeriness of Hart Island really settled in. Only a few dilapidated structures remained and the full moon only provided filtered light through the clouds. A stiff breeze blew across the island, carrying a unique and pungent odor with it.

“Come on, Bobby, try to keep up.”

Though Darryl was only 13 months older than Bobby, he had seen things that were well beyond his years. With a single mom at home who didn’t give a shit what her son was up to, Darryl was mostly on his own. Bobby’s mother had tried to be there for Darryl if he needed anything, but that wasn’t enough to keep Darryl out of trouble.

Bobby was a good kid and even though his father split when he was 7, his mom always maintained a solid relationship with him. Bobby knew at some point, he and Darryl would need to go their separate ways in life or they’d both end up either dead or in prison, but since it was Darryl’s fifteenth birthday, he figured he’d go along with him on this little adventure.

Darryl had a creepy obsession with death. Bobby’s mom said it was because he was the one who found his alcoholic, asshole of a dad dead in the basement. He’d gone down there to get hammered after losing another job and passed out on the couch. At some point during the night, he threw up and choked to death on his own vomit. Bobby had heard Darryl’s mom say it was a fitting end and he deserved to go like that. Bobby never understood why, but Darryl really missed his dad. Even though Darryl used to constantly have new bruises from his father, he continually talked about the good times they had, choosing to forget the shitty ones.

Bobby’s dad never put a finger on him that he could remember, but he hated his dad. Hated him for leaving his mom and leaving Bobby to grow up with no father.

“I can’t believe you went through with it, Bobby. I thought for sure you’d chicken shit out on me like usual.”

“Not this time, man,” Bobby said with the crackly voice of a boy just hitting his stride with puberty. “Where’re we going anyway?”

“Just over there,” he said, pointing toward a small clump of trees.

A few minutes later, the teenagers were standing under a group of overgrown trees looking out at a fog-covered field that disappeared into the darkness.

“What are we doing here?” Bobby asked.

Darryl largely ignored the question as he swung his backpack around and set it down at his feet. He unzipped and rifled through the bag before pulling a handful of supplies out and laying them on the ground. Darryl sat and began unraveling a spool of fishing line. “You know what this place is, Bobby?”

Bobby looked around before sitting next to Darryl. “Not really.” Bobby continued looking into the dark when a gust of wind marched through, clearing away a thin layer of fog. As far as Bobby could see, small tombstones jutted from the ground. “A cemetery?”

“Pretty good,” Darryl said. He grabbed a large set of scissors and pointed them at Bobby. “It is a cemetery. The largest burial ground in the world, in fact.” He snipped off a long piece of fishing line. “And do you know what else is here?” he said again, pointing the scissors toward Bobby.  His voice had an edge to it that Bobby had never heard before. The tone sent a shiver rippling down his spine.

Bobby squirmed in the dirt before shaking his head and swallowing the lump in his throat.

“I’m gonna show you.” Darryl then pulled a large hunting knife out of his bag.

Bobby jumped to his feet. “Holy shit, Darryl. What’s that for?”

“I’ll show you that too,” Darryl said, grabbing Bobby’s ankle and pulling his foot from under him, causing him to slam back down to the ground. “Just relax, Bobby ol’ pal. This isn’t for you,” he said pointing the knife at him.

Bobby’s pulse hammered in his ears and he froze with fear. Darryl let go of Bobby’s ankle and pulled the front of his shirt up to reveal several old scars and a few fresh wounds. Bobby tried to scramble away but Darryl grabbed his ankle again. “Hang on. You can’t go anywhere yet.”

Bobby kicked and screamed, trying to shake Darryl’s grip but the other boy was much stronger and Bobby couldn’t get loose. “Don’t hurt me, man!”

Darryl stabbed the knife into the ground next to Bobby’s leg. “Hurt you? You’re my friend, I wouldn’t hurt you. I just want to show you something. Me and my dad used to do this all the time. It just stings for a minute.”

Bobby stopped struggling and Darryl released his leg before snatching the knife out of the ground. He again lifted his shirt and pressed the blade to his skin. He pinched a fold of skin, pulling it up before slicing off the fatty chunk. Darryl held up the hunk of flesh before reaching into his backpack again. Bobby’s stomach turned on itself and he thought he was going to heave, but he swallowed it down as Darryl shoved a fishing hook through the piece of meat. Darryl then tied one end of the line to the hook and got to his feet.

He gathered the rest of the line, leaving the hook dangling several inches from his hand, and swung the baited hook in circles before releasing it out into the graveyard. A grin crept onto his face and Bobby squeezed his eyes tight, hoping when he opened them, he’d be in his bed and this had all been some crazy dream. When he opened them though, not only was it not a dream, but someone else was standing next to Darryl.

Darryl and a shadowy figure focused intently on the darkness, the fishing line held in Darryl’s fingertips while the ominous stranger held still at his side. “I think we got one, Dad.” Darryl said.

A moment later, Darryl yanked his hand back and a gust of foul wind stormed through the area. Bobby got to his feet and turned to run but something grabbed him by the arm. Bobby tried to shake free but was unable to get out of the invisible grip. Whatever it was that had him, was dragging him back to where Darryl was trying to drag the line in.

“We got one, Bobby. Wait ’til you see this!”

Bobby continued struggling to break free but couldn’t. He was held in place while Darryl hooted and hollered, fighting something that was struggling at the end of the line. Shrieking came from the darkness followed by what sounded like a screaming woman. Bobby was released but found himself captivated by what was happening.

“Almost got it, man. Check it out. Get over here!”

Darryl’s focus was entirely on whatever he was dragging to them. Another gust of wind blew through and Bobby’s brain couldn’t comprehend what his eyes were seeing. At the end of the line, flopping like a fish that had just been pulled from the water and dropped onto the ground, was a horribly decomposed woman’s body.

“Woohoo! Look at this one, Dad!” Darryl yelled as the thing screeched and tried to crawl back into the darkness.

The silhouette next to Darryl floated erratically in the space around Darryl, floating in the sky like a kite in the wind.

Bobby looked back to the thing at the end of the line. Its flesh was mostly gone, and what remained was tattered and torn. Sinew and bone glistened in the sporadic moonlight as clouds drifted overhead, intermittently drowning the full moon’s light.

Once the thing had been brought close enough, Darryl grabbed the hunting knife from its sheath at his waistband and plunged it into what remained of the woman’s skull. Its struggle ended instantly and the figure that Darryl had called Dad settled down next to him, one of its wispy arms settling onto Darryl’s shoulder.

Darryl turned to Bobby with a look of complete satisfaction and elation. “Did you see that? She was a whopper wasn’t she, Bobby?”

Bobby hesitated for a second, studying Darryl’s look of complete joy and for the first time, he saw the face of the figure. He’d only seen Darryl’s dad a few times, but the face was unmistakable. It was twisted into a malevolent yet proud smile. Something inside Bobby made him forget the hideousness of what he just witnessed. The sense of accomplishment on Darryl’s face, the look of pride in Darryl’s dad’s decayed face, it brought something out inside of Bobby that he hadn’t felt since his dad left.

“Whaddya think, man? You wanna give it a try?” Darryl said, wiping the gore from the knife and holding it out to Bobby.

Bobby missed his dad but never realized how much until he saw the happiness at that moment between Darryl and his dead father.

A tear escaped down Bobby’s cheek as he reached out to take the blade from Darryl. An owl hooted in the distance as Darryl’s dad danced around the two boys, filling both boys with a sense of pride.

“Go on, Bobby. Do it,” Darryl said before socking Bobby in the arm again. “Don’t be a pussy.”

Bobby grinned, lifted his shirt, and tucked it under his chin before pinching a good hunk of meat between his fingers.  “Screw you, Darryl. You’re the only pussy around here,” he said before slicing off the bit of flesh.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Advertisements

Eternal

Nat Tyler sobbed over the grave of Elena Hainsley as he had every night for the nine months since her passing. Though he was 30 years her elder, his devotion to her was undying. From the moment he’d seen her across the hospital hallway, he dedicated every waking breath to trying to ease her pain and suffering, often stealing from the dispensary in order to give her the treatment her family was too poor to afford.

Nat had been employed as a nursing assistant at the institution for only a short time before Elena was admitted there for a rare form of cancer. Though he had no formal medical training, he was highly intelligent, and often snickered at the med students when they tried to make a diagnosis only to fail miserably. He watched how the treatments were given and was soon diverting medication from one patient to another, delivering his own concoction of meds as he fudged the charts so no one would suspect any wrongdoing.

Once Elena had been admitted, all of his focus and attention was on her. He knew the times her family members would visit, and he knew her complete treatment schedule. Though there was only small-talk between Nat and Elena for now, he was certain they would be together once she got better. And she would get better, he knew she would because he would see to it.

Elena began to make progress and the doctors seemed baffled because nothing they’d tried previously had slowed the cancer that was ravaging her body. Nat wasn’t surprised though, he had adjusted her chemotherapy and knew he was the reason for her ‘miraculous’ progress. With Elena’s new prognosis, he knew they would soon be together, so he began to converse more and more with her and her family.

After a couple weeks of improvement though, things took a turn for the worse. Elena inexplicably slipped into a coma; the doctors had no answers. Nat was at a loss, he stayed up night after night researching, scouring medical journals for a cause and cure to Elena’s sudden change in condition.

On October 25th, at 11:43 p.m., Elena succumbed to her battle and passed while Nat was away from the hospital. He’d gone into work late that evening with what he thought would be the answer only to find her room empty. Her family was with the case worker. Nat stood outside in the hallway and eavesdropped, sobbing silently along with the others. As he heard her family readying to leave, he turned and walked away.

That afternoon, he went into his supervisor’s office and quit. He knew he would be unable to return to the place where Elena had died. Though he remained at a distance, he followed Elena’s parents and brother around town as they made the funeral arrangements.

When the day of the funeral came, Nat could hardly bring himself to get out of bed, but he did. Though Elena hardly knew him, he knew she would want him there; they were soulmates whether she’d realized it or not.

The turnout for the funeral was small, maybe fifteen people huddled under umbrellas around the freshly dug grave. Nat remained several yards away from the family. Though they had met at the hospital, they wouldn’t understand the connection he had to Elena or his presence at the solemn occasion.

Once the service was over and the small gathering had left, Nat remained behind until a cemetery worker told him that he’d need to leave, but could come back in the morning. He acted like he was leaving and drove around the block, soon to return a short time later. He jumped the back wall and returned to Elena’s grave. A full moon rose in the sky as Nat lay on the moist ground, naked and sobbing. Exhausted, he fell asleep only to wake to a strange, yet alluring sound. He glanced at his watch as chills ran down his spine – 11:43 p.m. – the exact time Elena had died. A voice unlike any he’d ever heard was singing the most beautiful song. He’d never heard the song or the voice before, but he knew it was Elena. For the first time since her death, Nat felt at peace. The song eventually subsided and Nat left feeling more peaceful than he had in days. He returned every night after to greet the voice that also returned at precisely 11:43 p.m.,  for the next nine months.

One particularly warm night the following July, there was no voice. Nat glanced at his watch, 12:17 p.m., yet there was no serenade from Elena. He rested his ear to the earth atop her grave but still nothing; he became agitated.

“Elena! Please, my dear. Sing to me.”

Silence.

He beat on the ground with his fists until they bled but the sweet sound of her voice never came. Sorrow turned to confusion as unfamiliar words floated through the humid night air.

“Take me home, my dear. Please free me from this grave.”

Nat cried uncontrollably as the voice repeated the words over and over. Nat gathered himself and left in a rush only to return an hour later.

Jumping over the wall this time proved to be slightly more difficult than normal. First, he lifted the wagon and dropped it onto the other side before tossing the shovel and tarps over, then joined his collected items. Once in the cemetery again, Nat placed the shovel and tarps into the wagon and made his way toward Elena’s grave.

***

Nat gently rested Elena’s body in the wagon and placed a kiss on her lips before he wrapped the rest of the tarp over her decaying form. After he returned the grave site to nearly the exact condition in which he’d found it, Nat carted Elena’s withered remains through the still night air; all the while the wheels of the wagon squished into the moist earth.

With modern medicine failing to save Elena’s life, Nat took it upon himself to ensure that she would remain with him forever. He brought Elena to his home and carried her over the threshold as he’d imagined so many times.

“Mr. and Mrs. Nat Tyler,” he announced as he carried her into the living room of his modest beach cottage.

He brought Elena to his workshop at the rear of the house and rested her on a bed in the center of the room. He then spent every day working to preserve his beautiful Elena. Her body had decayed to a point where her bones no longer held together at the joints, so he created a framework with coat hangers and wire to keep them in place. Her eyes were gone, those he replaced with large marbles that resembled her natural eye color. Her skin had sloughed away, to replenish her precious flesh, he used silk cloth and a patchwork of plaster where necessary. What remained of her liquefied organs he removed and replaced with rags and large bundles of fabric to give her body the shapely form she once had. During her stay in the hospital, he’d secretly collected large samples of her hair, now he used it to construct a wig that he placed atop her skull. He adorned her with jewelry, and changed her clothes daily.

The pungent scent of decay was a constant reminder of long ago death, but Nat camouflaged it with bottles of expensive perfume. He even used formaldehyde to slow the process as much as he could. Each night, Nat lay next to his beautiful Elena, and whispered promises he intended to keep.

The relationship lasted for years until one night, while lying naked in bed next to his bride, he woke unable to breathe. He bolted upright and grabbed for his throat, trying to relieve the pressure but an invisible hand gripped tighter, further constricting his windpipe. Nat flailed and fell to the floor, his eyes wild and confused, he searched the room for any hint as to what was happening but to no avail. Bright white spots burst into his vision as the room began to close in around him and an unfamiliar noxious stench filled the air.

An ominous silhouette appeared and stood over Nat as he struggled to remain conscious. He squinted trying to identify the towering form in front of him, the lack of oxygen made it impossible to think and he surrendered to the darkness, but not before the towering figure spoke in a booming, malevolent tone.

“You stole what was not yours to take. She is tainted now; she will remain yours forever as you so greedily desired.”

***

Police responded to reports of a foul smell coming from the residence of Nat Tyler. When they arrived, they found Nat, naked and decayed, his body entwined on the floor with the macabre corpse of Elena Hainsley. Though the scene was gruesome, authorities were intrigued and stunned to find Elena’s corpse in such a well-preserved state. Her body was examined by authorities before being returned to an unmarked grave where she was finally allowed to rest in peace.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Itch

Have you ever tried to get dried blood out from under your fingernails? Not just a little, but a good soaking of it. It’s a real bitch, trust me. No matter how many times I find myself standing over the sink scraping the dried up flecks from my nail beds, it never gets any easier, but the itching just won’t stop.

At some point, you just scrape too much until fresh blood starts to mix in with the old shit and it becomes even more of a mess. At least I know I’m still alive, because I bleed. If it weren’t for that, I’m not sure I would know if I was alive, dead, or something in between. Even with the bleeding, I guess I’m still not totally sure what the hell I am. I haven’t felt pain, love, happiness or sadness since the day that bitch Liza took everything from me.

She knew what she was doing the whole time. She had me doing shit I’d never thought I’d be into. I should have known something was wrong with the whole situation. No woman that hot had ever given me the time of the day, and here comes this exotic beauty that gives me the best sex of my life after an hour of bullshit conversation; no strings attached. Though, if I’m to be honest, I never was good with the ladies and I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of sexual experience to compare it to. In fact, aside from the awkward hand job from Becky under the bleachers during the homecoming pep rally senior year of high school, and the drunken, pity lay from Mary-Sue when I was a freshman in law school, I had never been with anyone but…well, myself. Geez, I’m pretty fucking pathetic.

Look at me. I’m a goddamn train wreck. I can barely look at myself in the mirror. How’d I let myself get like this? I went from a high-profile attorney to living in this pay-by-the-hour motel on meth row, waiting for my next government check. Each time I black out, it’s the same ol’ shit. I wake up in this shit-hole room with blood caked under my nails and the worst fucking headache of my life.

A knock at the door causes an odd churning in the pit of my stomach. I walk over to the door and catch a fish-eye view of a stranger on the other side of the peephole, their features hidden beneath a black hoodie.

“Who is it?”

I scratch at my neck.

The person says nothing and raises their head, leaning closer to the door.

“You’ve got the wrong room, junkie. Get outta here.”

A bit hypocritical of me to call someone a junkie but I can stop whenever I want. Those pathetic losers are hooked. Goddamn, why does my skin itch so bad?

After another look, the person remains outside and slowly removes the hood; I take a step back and nearly fall backward. The face isn’t that of a stranger. No, it’s familiar, too familiar. I run over to the nightstand and grab a switchblade I found in a dumpster a few nights ago. Crouching beside the bed, my pulse hammers in my ears. My forearms continue to itch and I fight the urge to dig into them with the knife. A pounding on the door drags my attention from my arms. I stare at the door.

The banging intensifies and I try to cover my ears, rocking back and forth on the floor like a mental patient. Closing my eyes, I wish myself away to anyplace else. Though I’m not sure what’s going on, something tells me it’s not going to be pleasant.

The door explodes from its hinges, but I refuse to look up. If I don’t see him, he won’t see me. Well, I tell myself that at least. I’m sure he can see me, because I can see him with my eyes closed. I’ve seen him too often lately, and so have others. The blow to my head comes just as I’d expected. Unfortunately, I know the routine all too well. I’ve delivered several ass-kickings the last few months and a good punch to the temple is always an attention grabber. After I shake the cobwebs from my mind, I open my eyes and see him standing in front of me, a malevolent smile etched onto his face; my face.

The room swirls around me and I feel as though I’m on one of those tiny boats circling the bathtub drain that I played with as a kid. My mind spins, looking for traction, trying to make sense of the situation. I begin to piece things together when I see a boot flying toward my face. Brilliant flashes of white light explode in my vision, blinding me. Pain blossoms at the base of my skull.

When my eyes open again, I find myself on the floor in the corner, my angry self standing over me wearing a disgusted snarl. I sit up and push back against the wall. How can it be? How can I be cowering on the floor and towering over myself at the same time. Fuck! My arms itch so bad. My hand finds the handle of the knife and I tuck it behind my back. I hold one arm in front of me and attempt to stand while still gripping the concealed knife. He steps toward me.

“Wait a minute. Hold on.”

He pauses.

“What’s going on? Who are you? I mean, you’re me, but that can’t be.”

I take a couple of steps forward, holding the empty hand up like I’m surrendering. He smiles at me; my teeth are rotted to hell from sucking on the glass meth pipe the last few years. Once he gets close enough, I lunge forward with the blade, sinking it in the soft fleshy part of his belly. It’s warm, kind of sticky as he bleeds and I withdraw the blade. He continues to smile and I stick him again. And again. And again. In fact, I’ve stuck him so many times that my arm is getting tired, yet he continues to stand, mocking me with his repulsive smile.

My arm feels like its made of concrete and I hear myself breathing heavily, nearly panting as I continue to strike my attacker. Jesus Christ it’s cold in here. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to focus, but when I open them, I’m alone lying on the bathroom floor. The room is quiet; still freezing. I try to sit up, but pain rips at my abdomen. I reach for my stomach and pause when I feel something unusual. Looking down, my heart races. I see the handle of the knife jutting out from my blood soaked shirt. I put my hand on the floor to try and sit up again, but my hand slips in a puddle of congealed liquid and I land on my ass.

Panic stricken, I search the room for something to help slow the flow of blood, but find nothing except remnants of last night’s party. Party is a bit of an overstatement since the ‘party’ consisted only of me, day-old Taco Bell, and the little bit of crystal I could bum from one of my junkie buddies.

My vision fades in and out until I eventually lay back on the floor and concede my fate. It’s a bit surreal. I’m dying yet thoughts continue to race around my mind. I’ve thought about death quite a few times, even tried to bring it about myself, unsuccessfully of course. The itching continues and I labor to bring my arm up to scratch the side of my neck. I dig at the skin there, but nothing relieves the sensation.

My body goes slack. I wait for death to come. I never pictured it like this, it’s quite peaceful actually. Well, at least I’m not suffering like that one guy I saw OD in the alley a few weeks back. That poor bastard seized up in front of all of us, shaking and shitting all over himself. We all just bolted and left him there on the ground, after we went through his pockets, of course.

I close my eyes and realize that it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. I’ll just lie here until it’s all over. My skin stopped itching. This dying shit isn’t so bad after all.

I feel light, almost like I’m floating with no pain or burden. And, dare I say, I feel happy.

Wait a minute. What’s that?

I force my eyes open to find tiny shadows surrounding the room. Whispers drift around me, coming from nowhere in particular, but everywhere at the same time. My skin crawls and an itch with an intensity like I’ve never felt before bites at my neck. I try to move, but it’s no use.

The shadow things scamper around, moving closer to me. My body won’t move no matter how hard I try. One of the things hops onto my chest and leans in close, its ebony eyes overflowing with malicious intent. Before I can react, it slashes a miniscule hand at my neck. It burns with white-hot intensity. I scream, but nothing comes out and the others work into frenzy, howling and jumping around the room, crawling on the walls and ceiling. My skin itches more than it ever has before.

Another strike from the creature brings an even more brutal pain, this time across the side of my face. The other creatures move in and join the one atop my paralyzed body, each in turn swiping their razor-sharp paws across my flesh, every wound more intense than the others. I’m helpless. I can only hope that it’s over soon, because the pain is unbearable. I force a look at my arms and notice that each time the flesh is torn open, it heals only to be ripped open again by the savage little beasts. Continuing to scream within my own mind, realization settles in that this isn’t going to be peaceful, nor will it be quick. The itch will never go away, and neither will these rotten little bastards that are enjoying ripping me to shreds.

 

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Chance

Carrie Ann woke when Chance’s wet nose nudged her shoulder.

“Go away, Chance.”

Chance nudged her again, harder this time.

“Go lay down!” Carrie Ann snatched the blanket up over her face.

Chance wasn’t taking no for an answer and hopped up onto the bed, rooting his face in the covers.

“Okay, alright. Let’s go, but don’t take forever.”

Chance hopped off the bed, bolting down the hallway and onto the porch. Carrie Ann followed and when she reached the door, Chance was walking in tight circles, panting in anticipation.

She unlocked the deadbolt, barely opening the door before Chance raced into the backyard, disappearing into the woods surrounding the mountainside home. Crisp winter air bit at her skin and she pulled the door closed. She grabbed a blanket from the basket alongside the tattered couch that was left by the back door for Chance. Carrie Ann bundled up and waited for Chance to come back to the door.

The full moon illuminated the backyard, long shadows from the towering pines stretching through the open spaces while Carrie Ann stared through the window watching for Chance’s return. After twenty minutes, Carrie Ann resigned herself to the fact that Chance must have caught scent of something in the woods, and he wasn’t returning any time soon.

Carrie Ann went back to her bedroom and climbed into bed. She fell asleep within minutes and settled into an unnerving dream. She dreamt that she’d went down to the river with Chance and while they were there, it started raining. Not just an ordinary rain, but the type of intense summer rain that rumbled through the south most afternoons. They tried to run home but the river swelled quickly, washing out the trail. Carrie Ann climbed into a tree and as she climbed, she realized that Chance had been swept away in the torrent. She called his name over and over with no answer; he never came into sight.

A whimpering sound pulled her from the nightmare and she sat up, flinching when a bang came from the window in her room, followed by a scratching on the screen. She cleared the sleep from her eyes with the palms of her hands and went to the back door, grabbing the flashlight she kept on the window ledge of the porch. The moon had slipped from the sky leaving the backyard eerily quiet, masked in inky darkness.

Carrie Ann opened the door and stepped onto the patio, the cold concrete sending shivers twisting up her spine. “Chance!”

The flashlight’s beam swept across the backyard while a brisk wind raked through the naked trees. Goosebumps blossomed on her skin when the light reflected off a pair of eyes at the far end of the house. She swallowed hard, her eyes focusing on what she hoped was Chance.

“Chance? Come on, it’s okay.”

Chance stepped into the light, squinting in the harshness of it, his head hung low. As he got closer, Carrie Ann noticed a glistening wetness around his mouth. Chance reluctantly made his way even closer and lowered his shameful gaze to the ground.

A rustling came from the darkness and Carrie Ann swung the beam of light towards the corner of the patio before looking back to Chance.

“Chance? Did you find something out there?”

Chance looked up to Carrie Ann’s disappointed face, a smirk sneaking through his sheepish expression.

“Oh no. Not again.” She took a deep breath and knew she would spend the rest of the night cleaning up whatever mess Chance had gotten into. “Come on. Let’s go see what you got.”

Chance followed Carrie Ann to the corner of the house, she gagged when her light revealed a bloodied mess lying in the dirt. Carrie Ann swallowed the bile rising in the back of her throat and leaned closer, her eyes squinting trying to determine what exactly she was seeing.

The mangled mess writhed on the ground and Carrie Ann stepped back. Chance became excited, dancing around, screeching and squealing like a banshee before Carrie Ann smacked him on the head. Chance cowered and backed away.

“Where’d you find her, Chance?”

Chance looked up and pointed to the lights twinkling in the valley below.

The naked woman coughed and sputtered on the ground, a feeble arm reaching out toward Carrie Ann’s leg. Carrie Ann snatched her foot away and walked toward the shed not far from the back of the house while Chance remained hovering over his prize, wringing his bloodied hands in his Batman shirt.

A few minutes later, Carrie Ann returned with a wheelbarrow full of supplies: a shovel, an axe, and a large roll of trash bags. She rested the tools next to where the girl continued to struggle for her last remaining breath.

Grabbing the shovel, she turned and stood over Chance’s latest kill and fixed her gaze on the confused eyes of her older brother. Though he was nearly ten years older than her, his mind had never developed much more than that of an eight year old. She’d learned that scolding him did no good; he had no concept of right or wrong and her energy would be wasted, energy she’d need to dispose of this body like she’d done with the others.

A forced, sloppy cough escaped the girl’s twisted mouth as Carrie Ann raised the shovel over her head. She hesitated for a moment; the woman’s face somewhat reminded her of her mother’s before Carrie Ann had to put her and her father out of their misery after one of Chance’s episodes. Carrie Ann shook the vision of her mother from her mind and smiled before smashing the shovel into the center of the girl’s forehead, gore splattering onto the ground and spraying up into Carrie Ann’s face. Chance, unable to contain himself, erupted in a series of high-pitched shrieks and howls, dancing around the area.

Carrie Ann smashed the shovel into the girl’s head over and over until it had nearly flattened out. She rested the shovel against the side of the house, swiped the back of her hand across her face and stood watching her brother dance around the yard. Chance was a fucking mess, no doubt, but he was her mess and she loved him no matter what.

Carrie Ann couldn’t let Chance celebrate alone so she joined her brother, dancing hand in hand under a moonless winter sky.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

Inner Workings

This was the fourth one this week and James could easily do four more. Truth was, there could never be too many.

He pushed the door open and a wicked grin crossed his lips while the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes etched deeper into place. James was an addict and this was his drug. The arousal that built inside of him as he entered his ‘studio’ could never be matched by any other drug or the touch of a woman. His skin flushed with heat; his body knew what joy his actions would soon provide.

He entered the room to find the unconscious woman on the table in the center of the space, her arms and ankles bound to the cold steel table. The familiar scent caused butterflies to take flight in his belly as if it was his first time. His hand trembled as he stood over the assortment of scalpels and retractors spread out in front of him. Though adrenaline forced his unsteady nerves, the smooth, rigid instrument in his hand always steadied him. He was born for this.

Holding the scalpel in one hand, he drew in a cleansing breath, holding it momentarily before exhaling. With his empty hand, he pulled back on the tender flesh of the woman’s belly before placing the blade to the taut skin. James drew the blade in a meticulous manner, splitting the pale skin to reveal the glistening thin layer of yellow fat just beneath the surface.

His racing pulse slowed to a rhythmic thumping in his ears as it always did when he was focused. He watched the rise and fall of her chest, in awe of the fact that she was alive though did not feel or react to the incision. As he worked his way deeper into the site, he became fully aroused when his hands pressed deeper inside her abdomen. The warmth, the wetness, all of it inebriating. Modern medicine was a spectacular thing; so easy to render someone unconscious, too easy.

He continued to work his way through her layers until a curious smile etched its way onto his face. James worked quickly and soon held the treasure of his search in the palms of his hands. He removed the contents and time seemed to stop. His pulse hammered as the silence grew deafening. The others in the room moved to his side, each one gazing at the prize he held at arm’s length in front of them.

James passed the bloody mess to their groping hands and they scurried around the room in controlled frenzy, each taking turns poking and prodding, pulling and stretching. He looked into the face of the unconscious woman and tears pooled in his eyes. She’d sacrificed so much and would continue to do so for many years to come.

Nearly thirty minutes later, James’ work was complete and he rested his hand on the forehead of the woman who was now semi-conscious, her glassy-eyed gaze a clear indication that she was not fully aware.

He simply smiled and took one last look at the group huddled in the corner before walking to the door. Just as he reached for the handle, it swung open and a woman stood in front of him.

“Oh, excuse me,” she said.

James smiled and stepped aside, gesturing the woman inside. “That’s quite alright.”

The woman returned a coy glance and stepped into the room. “You too, Dr. Green.”

James removed his surgical cap and left the room, leaving the doting parents to tend to their filthy, screaming newborn. James never did care for children, though the insides of a pregnant woman were especially intoxicating to him.

James learned early on that he had a craving for exploring the inner workings of living things. His obsession started with small things; lizards, frogs and such. Soon though, they didn’t satisfy his morbid curiosity and neighborhood cats began to disappear.

After much counseling and failing to assure his parents and therapists that he wasn’t a vicious person, he learned to hide his obsession. After watching a documentary on surgeons as a teen, he decided to create the perfect persona that would allow him to indulge his macabre fascination. He’d become a surgeon. Not only would he be allowed to feed his odd hobby, but society would pay him handsomely for it.

Dr. James Green, renowned surgeon to the stars, was indeed the perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

Kept Secrets

Darkness devoured every ounce of light.

Opening her eyes, Beth’s mind spun, groping for traction as to where she was and how she’d gotten there. The air, musty and thick, made breathing difficult and she wheezed with each panting breath. Her hands and feet were bound, her sense of balance distorted.

She screamed, but the words caught in her throat, trapped behind a wad of fabric shoved into her mouth. Beth scanned the void for a hint of anything that might bring details to her surroundings.

Somewhere in the distance, a door creaked open, ushering in a sliver of light, only to slam shut seconds later. Her chest heaved and rivulets of tears streamed down her cheeks when a familiar sound came to her. The clacking of boot heels on wooden floors echoed like cannons as they made their way closer.

Beth’s pulse echoed in her ears. An orange light flickered in the inky blackness and a figure approached from the other end of the space. Shadows morphed on the walls and ceiling as the naked flame danced its way closer.

She tried to push herself backwards but couldn’t; her body was useless. An ominous silhouette strode closer and the girl recognized Gloria’s sharp features – her stepmother’s features. Her mind’s eye flashed a scene of Gloria bringing her a glass of wine at the dinner party; her last memory before waking up in the void.

Beth cowered as her father’s wife leaned closer and spoke in a raspy, malevolent tone. “You’ll not speak of my secret in life nor death. Of this, I’m sure.”

Gloria rested the candle on the ground and Beth shuddered as the old witch’s bony hands came into view. In one hand, a large needle with wire tailing from the eyelet; in the other, a small vial of liquid gleaned in the glowing candlelight.

Beth strained against her bindings, but she was too weak to break free. Gloria removed the cloth from Beth’s mouth and grabbed her chin before tilting her head back, forcing the potion down her throat.

Beth’s head swum in confusion as the concoction took effect and she slipped in and out of consciousness.

Intermittent flashes of reality only offered hints as to Gloria’s purpose; the biting pain as her stepmother forced the wire through Beth’s lips made those intentions all too clear.

Darkness devoured every ounce of light.

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. 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

Pure

Screams filled the tiny cabin as winter’s first snow blanketed the surrounding forest.

The contractions were coming on top of each other now, each wave stronger than the last, as Meredith struggled to keep Agatha calm.

An almost inhuman cry escaped Agatha’s throat as she writhed on the bed, pain biting at her abdomen.

Wiping the young woman’s brow with a damp cloth, Meredith spoke in the low, hushed tone of a midwife. “Dr. Thompson will be here soon, Agatha.”

Meredith placed her experienced hands on Agatha’s swollen belly, feeling the child roll beneath the relentless waves of uterine contractions. “Your baby’s breech. You must wait until the doctor arrives before pushing.”

The request fell upon deaf ears as searing pain radiated through the young girl’s malnourished body and she shivered on the bed, her fever raging out of control.

The door blew open and frigid winter air ransacked the space, extinguishing all but one of the flickering candles and knocking tiny heirlooms from their perches. A strange man shoved the door closed with his shoulder, set his bag on the floor and removed his coat as Agatha screamed out with an intensity that shocked both the midwife and the stranger before succumbing to unconsciousness.

“Who are you?” Meredith asked.

“Dr. Brennan.”

Confusion swept over Meredith. “But where’s Dr. Thompson?”

Dr. Brennan only rolled up his sleeves, ignoring the inquiry. “How long has she been in labor?”

Though he had not answered her question, the urgency of the situation gave Meredith no time to gauge the stranger’s true intentions. “At least four hours. I came to check on her and it had already started.”

He placed his hands on the girl’s abdomen and glanced at Meredith. “The baby’s breech and post-term. Where’s the husband?”

Meredith simply shook her head.

“The father then, where is he?”

“She does not know the name of the father.”

Meredith dabbed the young girl’s forehead as the doctor lowered accusing eyes to Agatha.

“And her parents?”

“They died two years ago, when she was sixteen. She’s been alone since.”

“Obviously not completely alone, my dear.” He motioned toward Agatha as she lay on her back, her knees bent and legs splayed open.

Meredith sensed a sharp edge to his tone, which made her uneasy. “I’ll ask you again, where is Dr. Thompson?”

The doctor looked up, his eyes narrowed atop a hooked nose. “He’s unavailable this evening. He sent me in his place.”

Dr. Brennan was a slight man, yet his demeanor was anything but. With his coat removed and sleeves rolled up, his gangly frame became quite apparent. Meredith’s eyes studied his skin, fair and paper thin, bluish-green veins mapping his forehead.

The door had been closed for several minutes, plenty of time for the fire in the corner of the room to bring the temperature of the small room up again, yet it somehow seemed to have grown colder.

Suddenly, Agatha became coherent again, just in time for another crack of pain. The baby’s appendages pressed against her abdomen, causing her taut skin to ripple. More primal screams forced Meredith to cover her ears and the doctor to pause.

Brennan placed his medical bag at the foot of the bed, shouting over Agatha’s cries. “The baby’s in danger, we have to take it through cesarean. Boil as much water as you can.”

Meredith hesitated for a moment. She’d never assisted with the surgical procedure, but Agatha’s screams, still echoing in the small cabin, were enough to command her obedience and she rushed to the stove.

Brennan reached into his bag, removed a thick roll of material and placed it on the bed. The instruments clanged as he unrolled the fabric, revealing an archaic assortment of surgical instruments, many of them scarred with badges of rust. Agatha remained still, though her breaths were short and ragged, while the doctor pulled back the blanket that had covered her from the waist down. Dr. Brennan donned a pair of gloves and proceeded to examine the girl.

Meredith returned to the room with a pot of boiling water and nearly dropped it when she saw Brennan. Surely he would discover Agatha’s secret. She cleared her throat, hoping to draw his attention away. He looked up, yet continued his work, a malevolent grin etched into his features.

Meredith’s skin crawled at the sight of Brennan as he probed the young girl. The look on his face was not one of a physician examining a patient; it was the expression of someone enjoying something he clearly should not.

After a few prolonged seconds, he removed the gloves, stood up from between the girl’s legs and motioned to the nightstand beside the bed. “Set the water there.”

Grabbing several straps from his bag, he proceeded to secure the girl’s wrists and ankles to the bedposts. Meredith stood near the head of the bed, again tending to the girl’s sweat-laden brow with a moist rag.

Meredith hadn’t noticed before, but a persistent, uncomfortable scent now hung in the air, a putrid combination of mildew and scorched hair.

Writhing in agony, Agatha thrashed against the bindings as Meredith watched the doctor prepare his instruments. Using a colander-like apparatus, he lowered a handful of instruments into the water. “Boil this for 5 minutes,” he said, handing the pot to Meredith.

Meredith scurried to the stove with the heavy load.

Brennan lowered his gaze to the wailing girl sprawled out before him. The blanket had fallen to the floor, leaving Agatha naked and exposed. Each new contraction brought her pain to a crescendo, the thick veins of her neck bulging like ropes buried beneath her skin as she cried out.

The doctor prepared a cleansing solution and applied it to Agatha’s abdomen, covering the stretched skin of her belly. The fire still burned in the corner of the room, yet the temperature in the cabin continued to drop.

Meredith returned with the instruments to find Dr. Brennan feeling Agatha’s abdomen, calculating his plan for the procedure.

“Put them there.” He motioned to the bedside table.

Brennan held up a syringe in the candlelight and applied pressure on the plunger to clear the air from the contents. A drop of medicine escaped the tip and traced its way toward the hub.

The doctor plunged the needle into the girl’s thigh and within seconds, the writhing ceased and Agatha lay still, vacant eyes fixed on the orange light as it danced across the ceiling.

“How long will she be out?” Meredith asked.

“Long enough for me to remove the baby. Now, gather all the towels and blankets we have.”

Meredith left the bedside, returning seconds later with several blankets and towels.

Brennan readied the scalpel and pressed it to Agatha’s flesh, her fair skin splitting to reveal a thin layer of glistening, yellow fat. Blood pooled in the wound before running in streams down the girl’s sides, pitter-pattering to the floor. Meredith’s knees nearly unhinged but she managed to lock them tight. Bile rose in her gullet and she swallowed it, droplets of sweat sprouting on her brow. She’d never seen so much blood. She moved to Agatha’s head, focusing on the dilated pupils of the mother-to-be, dabbing sweat as it beaded on her skin.

Brennan worked fastidiously to expose the girl’s uterus, stuffing towels into the wound as he progressed, attempting to ebb the flow of crimson fluid as it seeped from the girl’s sedate body.

“Who else knows of the girl’s pregnancy?” Brennan broke the palpable tension as plumes of his breath escaped into the ever-colder room.

Caught off guard by the question, Meredith hesitated before answering. “No one. She has no family and very few friends, none of whom have seen her since she began to show.”

“Very good.” He brought another blanket onto the bed next to where he was working. “You’ve examined her, have you not?”

“Of course.” Meredith turned to face the doctor.

“Then you and I both know this is a rather unusual pregnancy.”

Meredith’s mind whirled, searching for a response. “I’m not sure I…”

“Don’t lie to me. You know as well as I, this girl has never been with a man. She’s as pure as the newly fallen snow.” Brennan waved a bloodied hand towards the window.

Brennan peered up from the task at hand, snaring Meredith’s gaze with his own. The doctor raised a blood soaked finger to the tip of his tongue. His eyes closed and he exhaled a devious breath, sending Meredith’s pulse pounding. Brennan’s mouth twisted into a wicked smile, as if it had been etched into his skin with a knife, and he opened his eyes, now inky black pools of malicious intent. “There’s nothing so sweet as the blood of a virgin.”

Meredith sprang to her feet and grabbed one of the sharp implements from the bed. “Who are you?”

Brennan set his instrument down and cocked his head to one side. Agatha continued to bleed as the doctor ceased his efforts to stem the copious amounts of blood from hitting the floor, shimmering silhouettes of spilled life pooled on the wood.

“I am a friend of the baby’s father.” He stood and drew a finger through Agatha’s blood covered abdomen leaving an S-like pattern in its wake. “He has sent me here to deliver his son.”

Meredith backed away, keeping the instrument between Brennan and herself. “He? What are you doing here?” Her body trembled from the cold and adrenaline coursing through her veins.

Agatha convulsed on the bed, thrashing in the bindings, blood more free flowing than ever.

“Help her! She’s going to die!”

Brennan looked over his shoulder. “Oh yes, she is going to die. It’s too late to help her even if I wanted to. And besides, that was never the plan.”

In the corner of the room, the fire matured, heat finally radiating through the space, as the stench settled into the room, even more rancid than before.

On the bed, Agatha ripped an arm free from the bindings and clawed at her protruding womb. Amniotic fluid gushed from her abdomen as her other hand broke free and dug at the gaping wound.

Meredith screamed and darted for the door but Brennan lurched at her and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her to him while her hands whirled in the air. His other arm wrapped around her chest and squeezed until she struggled to breathe. Brennan nuzzled his nose behind her ear and inhaled, holding it for a few seconds before releasing it in a deep, noxious breath.

The front door burst open and a silhouette loomed in the opening. “Enough, Abaddon,” a calm, yet booming voice spoke from the doorway. “Let me see her face.”

Abaddon or Brennan, whoever he was, obeyed as Meredith’s legs nearly gave out at the sight of the ominous figure that whirled into view, her head swimming in confusion.

Stepping into the light, revealing his true self, the towering intruder strode towards the bed, cloven hooves pressing into the age-marred floors. Agatha, reeling in shock, looked into the malevolent face of the father of her child. Reaching his massive hands into the yawning belly of the young girl, he tore into the exposed womb and retrieved his son, hoisting the newborn into the air, admiring him from all angles. “You are your father’s son, seedling, and you shall carry out my every desire as your own.”

With those words, the devil left the cabin with his son and vanished into the surrounding snow-covered woods, leaving Abaddon alone with the women.

Screams filled the tiny cabin.

~ Craig McGray 

© Copyright 2014 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.