“So, you’re saying there’s no such thing as writer’s block?”
I tamped out my pipe, refilled it with Dunhill Nightcap, touched the lit match to the aromatic leaf and took a few deep puffs. We were only fifteen minutes into the interview and my mind was already drifting to other things. Then my eyes wandered to the bottle of Macallan 25 the young man had brought, a gift from his publisher, and resigned myself to my fate. There were far worse ways to spend a cold, dreary afternoon.
“Would you like a glass?” I said.
He smiled and shook his head. “Thank you, but no. I’m more of a beer man myself.”
I poured my second shot of the amber ambrosia, savoring the aroma a moment before tilting the glass back oh-so-gently.
“I love a cold beer as well, but it’s a poor substitute for fine scotch.”
A gust of wind shook the windowpane, rain pelting it like ball bearings.
I couldn’t tell if the phone on the table between us was still recording, as the face had gone dark. The interviewer, I had forgotten his name, took no notes; his complete reliance on technology baffled me. Then again, most of the workings of today’s world left me scratching my head.
Waving a cloud of smoke away, I said, “I’m sorry, I’ve completely forgotten your question.”
He shifted forward in his seat, tapping on the stack of books, my books, that he’d brought to the interview.
“We were talking about the staggering volume of work you’ve produced in your thirty-five year career. I counted forty-three novels, seventeen novellas, two-hundred and eleven short stories and at least a hundred articles. I’m not alone in being wowed by your output. I asked if you ever had a moment when a story just wouldn’t come to you and you said there is no such thing as writer’s block. I find that intriguing because I’ve yet to find a writer who hasn’t experienced it at least once in their career.”
“You’re not talking to the right authors,” I said, grinning.
“I’ve interviewed a considerable number.”
I noticed the creeping strands of gray hair at his temples, the very beginnings of crow’s feet when he smiled. Perhaps he wasn’t as young as I’d thought.
I drew on my pipe and said, “A real writer is never blocked. He or she may be lazy, tired, scared, or in the grip of some addiction or flight of fancy, but they’re not writing because they’re unfocused, distracted, not blocked.”
The interviewer crossed his left leg over his right and rested his forearm on his knee. I wondered if it was too late to ask him his name.
“In all these years, you’ve never been too distracted to write?”
“Not once. On the day I had surgery to remove my appendix, I wrote a story on the back of my chart an hour after the anesthesia had worn off.”
“That’s incredible dedication.”
“I prefer to call it necessity.”
“To feed your compulsion?”
“Yes and no.”
“Can you remember the last time you took a day off from writing?”
It took me a moment to think. Ancient history gets harder for me to recall.
“It was the day I received my very first acceptance letter for my book, The Forbidden Forest. There was much celebration that night. A little too much.”
He settled back into his chair. “I’m going to be honest, I’m envious. I hope to be a novelist some day, but I can’t seem to get the first one across the finish line.”
I downed a third glass of scotch.
“You just don’t have the right muse,” I said.
“Maybe I can borrow yours,” he said affably, with just a hint of a nervous chuckle.
“Oh, you wouldn’t want that. I assure you.”
“If I could have one tenth of your career, I’d die a happy man.”
I set my pipe down and locked eyes with him.
“A muse isn’t just a mystical force from which ideas spring. Some muses can be strict taskmasters. Happiness has nothing to do with it.”
He looked at me with incredulity. “Wait. So you believe that a muse is a real thing?”
“I don’t believe, I know.”
Perhaps it was the scotch. No matter. I’d said it and let it hang heavily in the air between us.
Now he checked to make sure his phone was still recording, hot to have the scoop that America’s bestselling author had lost his mind.
“Do…do you see your muse? Can you talk to her? Or him?”
There was no going back now.
“Yes and yes, and my muse has no gender. At least not in the sense as we would define it.”
He ran his hands through his hair. No doubt his palms were sweaty with anticipation of how much publicity his interview was going to garner.
I drank more Macallan, enough to make me lightheaded, but not too much to hinder the work that needed to be done later. Oh no, that could not happen.
“Can I ask how often you talk to your muse?” His smile looked like a shark’s, circling for the kill.
“Your muse has given you a constant stream of ideas and inspiration since when?”
I shook my head, relighting my pipe.
“Truth be told, it’s not very big on ideas.”
This rocked him, wiping the shark grin from his face.
“Then…then what does it do?”
I leaned forward, the leather chair creaking, and touched his knobby knee.
“It makes me write.”
“It makes you write?”
“And what if you don’t?”
Now it was my turn to beam like a sly Great White.
“Terrible, terrible things happen.”
There was a ripple in the darkness behind the eager interviewer’s chair.
“You say you’re working on your own novel?” I asked.
His face blanched. “Yes, in fits and starts.”
I sucked on my teeth, releasing trapped scotch from my gums.
“That simply will not do. Not if you were to ‘borrow’ my muse.”
“I don’t understand.”
I filled the void between us with sweet, aromatic smoke.
“And you never will.”
The gray beast sprang from the ether, tearing the man’s jugular with a single swipe. I ducked to avoid the spray of blood – blood I knew my muse would slurp like a starving cat, leaving no trace of the young man behind.
I looked away, unable to watch the ravenous mastication. I grabbed the bottle of scotch and staggered to my study where my typewriter awaited.
It had been a long while since I had written a horror story.
I guess it was fair to say that today, my muse had given me inspiration. Putting a fresh sheet of paper into the Royal typewriter, I began the day’s tale.
“So, you’re saying there’s no such thing as writer’s block?”
I tamped out my pipe, refilled it with Dunhill Nightcap, touched the lit match to the aromatic leaf and took a few deep puffs.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2017 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved
One thing was for sure, they were not going to get fucked out of a proper Halloween. The night was middle-aged, but there was still time to do what was their God given right.
“Aren’t you a little too old for trick or treating?”
Mr. Benson, he of the horrid comb-over, man boobs and disturbingly bulbous earlobes, clutched his bowl of candy to his gut, refusing to dole out any of the mini chocolates. His house smelled like onions and old man farts.
“I didn’t know there was an age limit,” Jon said, holding out the plastic shopping bag.
“And where are your costumes?”
Jon and his buddies Ray and Chelsea stood on Benson’s small porch dressed in regular clothes. Chelsea was a little goth, so her thick black eyeliner, pale skin and all black outfit should have counted for something.
“We forgot them. So how about just one candy each?” Ray said, grinning like a wide-eyed lunatic.
“Grow up and get a job!” Mr. Benson shouted, slamming the door.
Jon laughed. “Well, looks like it’s all tricks for bitch tits.” He grabbed the cardboard skeleton on the door and tore it down. Chelsea stomped on it for good measure while Ray filled the mailbox with shaving cream.
The trio of sixteen-year-olds ran across the street, swallowed up by the blackness under a busted streetlight. It was the first real chilly night of the fall and the streets were emptying out of monsters and superheroes, firemen and fairies. By the light of the half moon, Jon could see the heavy vapor of their breath.
“How much you got?” Chelsea asked, ruffling the candy in her bag.
“Not much,” Ray said. “Couple of chocolates, some old lady candy and actual freaking pennies. Who the hell gives out pennies?”
Jon dumped his pennies on the sidewalk. “I think it was that old Irish lady. She mixed them up with those lemon balls. I bet she’s had those balls since the 70s.”
Ray laughed, slapping Jon’s arm. “I bet she had a lot of balls in the 70s!”
“You guys are gross,” Chelsea said, rolling her eyes. “She’s older than our grandmothers.”
“And just as cheap,” Jon added. “You guys wanna go around the block, see if anyone’s still answering?”
Ray checked his other bag. This one was filled with cans of shaving cream, a few remaining eggs and two rolls of toilet paper. “Yeah, I got enough for at least one more block.”
This was the year they swore to have their cake – or candy – and eat it, too. Tricking and treating! Next year, it would probably just be running around on mischief night. This was their last hurrah, even if they didn’t bother to dress up.
“This time, we let Chels ring the bell. They’ll think she’s like someone from the Addams Family and we’ll just sneak our bags in,” Jon said, leading them up to a lighted porch.
They’d tried the I’m just getting candy for my sick little brother act but got very little action. The adults were being awful stingy this year. Jon knew it didn’t help that he had the makings of a sweet beard and mustache and Ray was six feet tall.
“You guys are hysterical tonight,” Chelsea said, ringing the bell. “I should have gone to Trish’s party.”
Ray flicked her ears. “You know that wasn’t even a possibility. The three amigos and Halloween are like PB&J. You’d be miserable without us.”
She swatted his hand away. “Yeah, well, someone has to babysit you two.” Jon saw the flash of a smile in her reflection in the door’s windowpane.
A curtain pulled aside. A woman shook her head when she saw them, refusing to open the door.
Jon shrugged his shoulders. “Should have answered the door.”
There was a painted pumpkin on the porch railing. It had the face of a witch, warty nose and all. He tucked the pumpkin under his arm and walked to the middle of the street. “Care to do the honors?” he asked Chelsea.
“Why, thank you,” she said. Rearing her leg back, she kicked a hole in the witch’s face. Seeds and guts splattered her black leather boots. “Now that’s nasty.”
Ray and Jon played a little soccer with the wounded pumpkin before kicking it down the street where it settled over a sewer grate.
“One down, like twenty more to go,” Jon said, eyeing the long row of houses ahead of them.
They were the only ones on the block still trick or treating. Some people said they were out of candy, but most didn’t even bother answering the door. In return, Jon, Ray and Chelsea TP’d one tree, emptied three cans of shaving cream and egged two cars sitting in a driveway.
“We better move to another street,” Ray announced when all of the eggs were gone, their impact setting off a car alarm.
They jogged for two blocks, the cold night air stinging their lungs. They stopped outside a small apartment building, fishing out candy from their bags, dropping wrappers on the ground. “Think there are any razors?” Chelsea asked, munching on a peanut butter cup.
“That’s such bullshit,” Jon said. “All those stories are made up to stop little kids from eating all their candy.”
“Do you guys wanna try some more houses or call it a night?” Chelsea said. “I’m cold.”
All of the porch lights on this stretch were out. Halloween had come to an official close.
Then Jon spotted something that made the hairs on his arms and upper lip stand on end. “Check that out!”
Three houses down was a long walkway lined with carved pumpkins. There had to be at least twenty. A few still had guttering candles glowing inside. There was no way they could walk away.
“You got your shit kickers on?” he said, lips curled up in a devilish grin.
“Oh yeah!” Ray said, running to the house.
Chelsea clutched her stomach. “Oh, that doesn’t feel so good.”
“That’s what happens when you eat like ten peanut butter cups. Come on. You can squeeze them out like Willy Wonka later.”
Ray waited patiently by the first pumpkin, triangle eyes and an inverted triangular nose with a jagged, gap-toothed smile. It was a classic jack-o-lantern, just asking to be bashed.
“Time to sign off with a twenty pumpkin salute,” Jon said. They each picked a pumpkin, eyed one another, pulled their legs back and kicked as hard as they could.
Ray was the first to scream. “Ow ow ow ow! It’s got my foot!”
Jon was about to tell him to stop screaming like a girl when something clamped down like a bear trap on his ankle. He heard the bone snap, felt fire run up his leg to his balls. The pumpkin’s mouth had slammed shut on him. Its eyes narrowed as it chewed on his foot.
“Oh my God, it hurts!” Chelsea wailed. She was on the ground, a pumpkin munching on her foot, two others gnawing on her hands.
Ray lost his balance, falling beside her. Three pumpkins rolled from their perches, mouths opening wide, tearing into him. The largest of them engulfed Ray’s head, cutting his agonized lament short.
“What the hell?” Jon tried to hop away, but the pumpkin on his foot was suddenly as heavy as an anchor. His other ankle rolled. He face planted on the hard concrete. His front teeth shattered like porcelain. More and more pumpkins spun toward him, their carved teeth impossibly sharp.
The pumpkins soundlessly masticated the three amigos, gobbling them like Halloween candy.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved
Diana’s terrified lament sent sharp pricks down my spine, my stomach clenching as if I’d been punched. Leaping from the soft embrace of my easy chair, I ran for the door, spilling the can of beer I’d been holding all over the rug. A sudsy trail marked my progress to the front of the house.
My neighbor was on her porch, screaming incoherently, literally tearing tufts of her curly black hair out at the roots. Her cries had gotten everyone streaming from their houses. I was the closest, and the first to grab her by the shoulders. Her eyes were glassy, overflowing with tears. There was madness in them. Irretrievable madness.
“Diana, what’s wrong?”
Something inside me had an idea as to what had fractured this normally quiet, insular soul. I prayed I was wrong.
Her eyes met mine but there was no recognition. Elsa from across the street sprinted up the stairs. “Can you stay with her?” I said. Elsa nodded, folding Diana into her arms.
Bolting to the back of the house where the bedrooms were, I heard a child crying. Steeling myself as best I could, I stepped into Diana’s children’s room. The door was plastered with pages carefully removed from coloring books. On alternating pages were the names Ben and Cody, the way painters would add their signature to a canvas.
Cody sat up in bed, chest heaving with sobs. He looked across the room to his brother, Ben’s head hanging over the edge of his own bed. There was blood everywhere. It had soaked the mattress, dripping onto the floor with soft, steady plinks.
Everyone who knew the little hemophiliac boys worried about this happening one day. Cody and Ben, frail, tow-headed children who spent most of their days in the safe cocoon of their room, lived with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. I checked Ben’s pulse. His skin was already cold, the blood on my hand room temperature at best.
Covering Ben with the crimson sheet, I swallowed hard, finding it difficult to stand.
“I’m so sorry, Cody,” was all I could muster. I wanted to console the boy, hold him, but my hands were streaked with his twin’s blood.
“The Gray Man cut him,” the boy sputtered between sobs.
“What did you say?”
“He came in our room. I saw him!”
Now my heart thudded wildly. Was there an intruder in the house? Someone debased enough to murder a sick child?
I heard footsteps thundering in the house. More neighbors coming to see what had happened. “In here!” I shouted.
The footsteps stopped when someone else screamed outside. It wasn’t Diana. It was a man.
Phil from down the block halted in the doorway. His face went pale. “Oh my God.”
“What’s happening outside?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I think that was Martin shouting.”
Cody had gone silent, lying on his side, eyes unblinking, staring at the shrouded hump of his brother.
If it was Martin out there, he sounded even worse than Diana. “Watch Cody for me?”
Phil nodded, but I wasn’t sure he heard me. I had to squeeze past him to get out of the room.
Elsa was still with Diana, now surrounded by several women, a couple I didn’t recognize.
It had been Martin. The burly man was in the middle of the street on his knees, weeping. His eight year-old daughter, Katie, was in his arms. I would have thought she was asleep if not for the impossible angle of her head. Her neck had clearly been broken.
“Why?” he cried. “Why would someone take my Katie?”
Fiona and Arnold, my neighbors to the other side of me, let out twin peels of anguish. While people gathered around Martin, I sped toward their house. What the hell was going on?
I found them in the living room, their five-year-old son Tyler on the couch. It looked like every one of his limbs had been snapped in half.
“Call the fucking police!” Fiona wailed. I patted my pockets. My phone was back at the house.
“Did you see the Gray Man?” a small voice said beside me.
I looked down, shocked to see Cody. I didn’t think I’d ever seen him outside the perimeter of his house before. His eyes were blood red.
Arnold’s hands were balled into fists. He looked like he wanted to tear someone apart, if he didn’t fall apart first. “You saw someone come into my house?” he said to the eerily calm little boy.
Cody shook his head. “I saw him in my room. Ben and I dreamed about him and he came.”
I stepped close to Arnold, whispering so Cody couldn’t hear. “He just watched his brother bleed out. He’s in shock.”
“The Gray Man said he needed helpers,” Cody continued. Poor Fiona looked about to faint. “And one day he’d come for us. He liked Ben better than me.”
I wanted to tell the boy to shut up. It wasn’t his fault. More voices cried out. They seemed to be coming from everywhere.
I got down on a knee, locking my eyes with Cody’s. “Can you tell us what the Gray Man looks like?”
There had to be a man, or men, responsible for this. The question, beyond the why, was how did they get into all of our houses in the middle of the day?
“It doesn’t matter,” Cody said. “He’s gone now. I don’t like the Gray Man. He said he’d take me with him. He’s a liar.”
Picking Cody up, I walked out of the house. Now, amidst the heart-rending cries of parents throughout the neighborhood, came the blaring of sirens. It felt and sounded like the end of the world. Men and women carried their broken children in a daze. The sidewalks were slick with tears.
Cody struggled in my arms. “I can help, too!” he blurted as he slipped free. Running to a tree, he scraped his arm against the bark, opening an angry, suppurating wound.
I clamped my hands over the ragged gash, but the blood, thin as water, seeped through my fingers.
“I can help, too,” Cody whispered, then closed his eyes.
Police cars and ambulances swarmed the street. It would be impossible to direct them who to help first.
Cody shuddered, took one deep breath, and passed.
Maybe the Gray Man had come. I didn’t know whether to wish Cody could catch up to him and be with his brother, or flee as far as his spirit could from the monster who stole our innocents.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved
What I coughed up quivered like a wad of raspberry jelly. If I looked close enough, which I wouldn’t, I’d probably see little black specks as well, though they were far from seeds. I let my lung berry slide off my palm into the wastebasket by the daybed. My head spun for a moment and I gripped the edge of the mattress, my body tensing, waiting for another round.
It didn’t come.
Praise be. Testify and all that shit.
My lungs rattled like a broken catalytic converter, and were about as reliable as this point. I remember those damned revolting anti-smoking commercials they used to have on TV – back when there was TV. The last thing I needed was to see someone’s moldy neck hole or missing toes, yellowed stumps oozing with infection. They always played them during baseball games, when all I wanted to do was have a bite to eat and smoke my cigar in peace.
They said smoking would kill me.
Ha! Here I am, a goddamn mess but still kicking, and there they are, meat for the Pollywogs. I haven’t heard someone cry out for a while now. The Pollywogs must have gotten them all. Oh, I hear their roars all right, but I’m not afraid. I’m no use to them. Craplungs like me, we got a free pass when those black sperm beasties came charging out of cracks in the earth.
Who said lung cancer was a death sentence? Sure, it would kill me eventually, but better that than having my lungs ripped from me while I was still alive long enough to watch one of those things wolf them down like fat sardines.
There are only two of us left in the apartment building – me and Mrs. Church down in 3B. She’s pushing sixty, a lifelong asthmatic. In other words, a Craplung. We didn’t like each other before the shit hit the fan and don’t pretend to adore one another now. Sure, I bring her those puffers from ravaged drug stores every now and then, but all in all, we keep our distance.
Although there was that day I caught her bending down to pick some broken glass from the floor. Her robe opened up just enough for me to spy two smooth mounds of young looking breasts. I had to stop myself from grabbing them. It wasn’t like she could call the police.
No. Not Mrs. Church. She was only the last woman in the building, not the last woman on Earth. I wasn’t that desperate. Though I did drop a few over my knuckles that night. Too much pressure isn’t good. I think it feeds the cancer or something.
Time to get up. I see the bright pink of dusk outside my grimy window. The little bowl I used to fill with water for my cat Ted is bone dry. Ted went out for a stroll a week ago and he hasn’t been back since. I’d never seen a Pollywog rip the lungs from a cat or dog , but when things were going down, I spent a lot of time running, not observing.
For the past three nights, I’d been searching for Ted, right in the thick of Pollywog feasting time. They steered clear of me, one almost coming within ten feet before literally turning tail. It smelled like sea water, rotting vegetables and some kind of chemical. Not pleasant, but what about them was?
Opening a can of Fancy Feast – shredded chicken in sauce, Ted’s favorite – I grab a flashlight from the peg on the wall, don my fedora (yes, I was a hipster before the world ended) and walk out into bedlam.
I knock on Mrs. Church’s door. “You need anything while I’m out?”
She gives a quick reply. “Yeah, a medium steak from Morton’s.”
I walk away to her laughter. I think she’s becoming a Crazy. This whole situation can break your brain in two. She won’t be a problem. I can take her down if she goes full-on Crazy. Unless it takes her too long to turn and my cancer eats my muscles away. Don’t want that. I add ‘consider taking the old lady out’ to my to-do list. Proactive beat the hell out of reactive.
The night air makes me cough, but not enough to dredge up more lung jelly. Something darts between two cars up ahead. I don’t see it, but I know what it is.
“Here Ted.” I make little susss-susss-suusss sounds. I hear Pollywogs grunting and growling, but no meow.
“This isn’t for you, semen suckers!”
A pair of them round the corner, charging at me. They pull up short well before they get close enough for me to catch their aromatic stench.
“That’s right, Craplung on the prowl. Where the hell is my cat?”
I walk down the block, tapping the can, calling for Ted. Every now and then, I spy a Pollywog and have a little one-way conversation before it scampers away.
It’s then I realize, maybe I’m one of the Crazies. Who the fuck goes looking for a cat, blabbering to beasts from the planet’s center?
I get tired easy. I have to lean against a wire fence to catch my breath. I chuck the cat food over the fence. Maybe Ted will find it later. Maybe he’ll smell my scent and come back to where the rest of the food is.
I feel a humdinger of a coughing fit coming on, close my eyes and will it away. My lungs hitch painfully, but I don’t give in.
When I regain some equilibrium, I open my eyes.
A Pollywog, its black eyes inches from my own, stands before me. Up close, the smell is worse than ever. Its flesh looks wet, catching rainbows like spilled oil. Its tail swishes back and forth, sweeping empty cans and trash under a parked Honda.
The cough hits me like a rabbit punch. A fat gob of lung berry propels from my mouth, splattering on the Pollywog. It shrieks like a classroom of girls having a tub of tarantulas dumped on them.
As it runs away, I scream, “Chicken shit!”
Chuckling as I make my way back, I think I’ll reward my brush with the big bad Pollywog by demanding Mrs. Church shows me her tits. We may be the last of a dying race, but we’re still in charge. Might as well make the most of it.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved
“Tag, you’re it!”
“Ow, my mother said no one’s supposed to touch me there!” April rubbed her chest, frowning at Ben.
“Big deal. It’s not like you have boobs or anything.”
Before she could tell him she did so have boobs, Ben ran off, calling her ‘flatso’. He disappeared behind the Mowry’s house.
Probably hiding in their shed, April thought.
“Come on April, you have to start looking for us,” her friend Melody shouted, zipping past her, going across the street into her own backyard.
She smiled, momentarily forgetting the throbbing pain behind her left nipple. “Okay, I’m gonna count to ten!”
Her mother bought her a training bra just last night, right after dinner. It was a special mommy-daughter shopping night at Kohls. They got frozen yogurt afterwards. April wondered if the flimsy thing would have cushioned the blow. It was in her drawer now, waiting for school on Monday.
By the time she reached ten, everyone was gone. She didn’t have to find all five of them. All it took was one. There was no way she was going to make Melody it. That left Ben, Seth and Sean.
Just thirty seconds ago, they were standing around, wondering what to do. All of their parents had taken their iPods and game systems away, forcing them outside. It was a hot September Saturday, still summer according to the calendar. But, the kids all knew summer was long gone. The morning the bell rang to start the new school year, summer had been obliterated, left to memories of sleeping in, swimming and staying up late, watching TV.
Seth was suggesting they get their bikes and head over to the field to see if the Mr. Softee truck was around when Ben hit her in the chest, igniting a game of tag.
April sniffed the air. It still smelled like summer.
She thought she saw Seth’s Converse underneath Mr. Coleman’s pickup. Sean was most likely hiding behind his above ground pool. Either that or his father’s pigeon coop. The little shack stunk to high heaven. No way was she going in there looking for him.
It had to be Ben. Her dad liked to say ‘Payback’s a bitch’ a lot, especially when he watched sports. Her older cousin Tony told her what it meant last summer – that and a whole lot of other dirty phrases, most of them describing when a man put his thing down there in a woman.
“Ready or not, here I come!” April shouted. She made a beeline for the Mowry house. Mr. and Mrs. Mowry were at work now, but they never minded the kids using their yard for games. Sometimes old people could be cool. Most times, not.
The white and green aluminum shed sat in a corner of the yard, underneath a skinny elm tree. The door was partway open.
“Got you,” she whispered.
It was hot in the shed. She’d been inside it plenty of times. If you hid in there, you had to keep the door open a crack to breathe. Otherwise, you’d choke on gas and oil fumes, boiling in the tight space.
April threw the door open and lunged.
Ben was sitting on a big bag of potting soil. He squinted against the harsh shaft of light. “No fair,” he protested.
April’s teeth sunk into the flesh of his soft, exposed throat. She worked at the chewy bits of tendon while blood sluiced down her throat, spattering the pretty pink top she’d gotten at Kohls last night.
Ben’s body went into spasms. He gurgled, his arms flapping at April’s sides. She pulled away, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
While Ben struggled for breath, April pulled up her shirt, revealing two tiny mounds, no bigger than the rounded tops of cupcakes. Her chest was smeared with blood.
“I told you I have boobs now,” she said, giggling.
He slipped off the bag of soil with a wet plop.
“Ben’s it now!” April yelled.
Melody, Sean and Seth bounded into the yard, lured by her call.
“Oh man,” Sean said, pulling up short. Seth bumped into him. “Watch where you’re walking!”
“You’re in my way!” Seth blurted.
“Will you two stop it,” Melody barked.
Sean spun around, slapping Seth hard. As his friend tottered, he closed the gap between them, clamping down on his cheek and tearing his head back, spitting a chunk of flesh on the grass.
Seth covered the wound with his hand.
He dove headfirst into Sean, knocking the wind from him. They landed on the ground, a tangle of flailing limbs. Flecks of blood splattered everywhere like a sprinkler as they clawed the flesh from one another’s bones.
“Dog pile!” April screamed. She and Melody joined the melee. They were a dervish of gnashing teeth and scratching nails. Bones broke. Arteries ruptured. Seth ate Melody’s lower lip. April and Melody tore Sean’s stomach open, heads diving into his bowels like two dogs at a dish of fresh Alpo.
They felt something smash into their backs.
April yelped as Ben pulled a fistful of hair from her head. Bloody skin clung to the ragged ends.
“You’re it again!” he gurgled.
The children laughed, trailing Seth’s intestines all around the yard, wrapping it around the trunk of a cherry tree. Seth let out a series of wet guffaws, jaws snapping at their heels as they danced around him.
The Mowry’s verdant lawn soaked up the crimson manna until the sounds of urgent adult voices cut the revelry, urging the children home.
They slunk out of the yard, gathering the bits of themselves that had been scattered about.
“After dinner, you wanna come over and see my training bra?” April asked Melody, her tongue poking out of a hole in her cheek.
“Yeah,” Melody said, holding her lips in her hands. “See you later!”
“I’m sorry,” Ben said. April could see his windpipe working. “I shouldn’t have hit you in the boob.”
April rolled her remaining eye. “Whatever.”
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
“Do you want to see what I found?”
Marybeth was about to grab the laundry out of the washing machine – it had just turned off with a hard thunk – when the plumber called out to her.
No, not really, she thought, rolling her eyes and sauntering to the master bath. All I want to do is take a shower without being calf-deep in water. The skinny man was on his knees, chest pressed against the edge of the tub. She was grateful there was no sign of the infamous plumber’s crack. He smelled like grease and damp towels.
“It’s no wonder the water wouldn’t flow,” he said, turning to face her. Elvis would have been proud of the man’s mutton chops. One of his front teeth was gold, the one next to it silver. She jumped back a step when she saw the dead animal dangling from his fingers.
“Oh my God! How the hell did a rat get in the drain?” she shouted, cringing as the body spun lazily.
The plumber smiled. “That’s no rat. Nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a clump of hair and soap and shampoo. Kinda looks like a rat, though, doesn’t it? I pull them out all the time, but this one is especially big. You have daughters?”
She stared at him quizzically. “Yes, I do. How would you know?”
“House full of girls means a lot of long hair going down the drain. It builds up over time until you get something like this.” He tossed the hair-rat into the small plastic waste pail by the toilet. It made a squishing noise when it hit the bottom. Oh crap, that’s disgusting. Just keep cool. It’s not a rat. It’s just hair. Rats were high on her weakness list.
He kept on talking, oblivious to the shade of green she’d turned. “The best way to avoid this happening in the future is by using a few ounces of prevention.” He opened his massive toolbox, rooting around, making rough grunts and sighs.
“Here it is.” He held a brown bottle of liquid drain cleaner. The plumber shook it and unscrewed the cap.
“We tried that but it wouldn’t work,” Marybeth said.
“That’s because you waited too long. This stuff wasn’t going to get past that,” he said, tilting his head toward the garbage. Marybeth felt her bile start to resurface. “You gotta get to it earlier, clean it out at the source.”
Marybeth leaned against the doorframe. “Is there any brand you recommend?” Plumbers don’t come cheap. If all it takes is a few bottles of that stuff to avoid overpaying old mutton chops, she was in.
He repositioned himself so he was now sitting on the edge of the tub. The armpits of his blue shirt were dark with crescent moons of sweat. “Just make sure you get the name brand stuff. The knock-offs don’t eat the hair away near as well.”
She nodded. “Got it. Name brands. Don’t wait for the drain to get bad before I use it. You don’t need to pour that now, do you? I mean, since you just cleared everything out.”
The plumber nodded. “It’s best I show you how to use it.”
Great. I’m sure he’ll charge me ten times what that bottle is worth in the friggin’ supermarket. Does he think I’m an idiot? Open bottle, pour down drain, don’t get any on your skin. Jesus.
He waved her closer. “Come on, I don’t bite. There’s a trick to pouring so you don’t get any splashback.”
Marybeth resigned herself to his demonstration. Hemming and hawing would only keep him in her bathroom longer. She stood next to him, smelling his coffee and cigarette breath.
“Like I said, you gotta get it at the source.”
With whip-like speed, he lashed out and wrapped his fingers in her hair. “Ouch! What the hell are you doing?” Marybeth screamed.
The plumber smiled with uneven, jaundiced teeth. “Gotta burn it at the source.”
She tried to scream but he clamped a greasy hand over her mouth. With the other, he tipped the bottle over her head. At first, the gelatinous goop felt cold, like chilled pudding.
And then the fires began. Shocked with white-hot agony, she kicked him in the balls and pushed him in the chest with both hands. The man tipped over the tub, the back of his head ripping the water spout from the wall. “You goddamn bitch!” he shouted, cradling his head with his hand, his palm coming back slick and red.
Marybeth ran to the sink, spinning the cold water handle, splashing as much as she could onto her head, careful not to get any of the fluid in her eyes or face. It felt like battery acid eating away at her scalp. The stench of her disintegrating hair and scalp made her stomach lurch.
Something heavy smashed against the back of her legs, dropping her to her knees, her chin clanging on the sink’s edge. The plumber held the lid to the toilet tank. His legs were wobbly from the blow to his head.
“You fucker!” Marybeth shrieked. She grabbed her husband’s toothbrush, leaping to her feet and driving it into his eye. The man staggered against the shower wall, the wet gore of his eye leaking over the brush.
Marybeth’s cheek sizzled as the drain cleaner dripped past her hairline. The plumber fell into the tub, yowling like a deaf cat. “Is this the source?” she snarled, prying the heavy ceramic lid from his hands. He couldn’t hear a word, the pain was so excruciating.
With a mad grunt, Marybeth crashed the lid into and through the base of his nose. The plumbers extremities shuddered for a few seconds, then went still.
The lid keranged against the tile floor. Marybeth fumbled in the medicine cabinet until she found the shears. Working through searing pain, she shaved the hair from her head. When that was done, she ran water over her scalded flesh, crying. She dried her head carefully, then applied and entire tube of bacitracin to her head and face. She looked like a carnival freak. Behold, the Lizard Woman, even fire couldn’t kill her!
She looked at the plumber’s body, heard the trickle of his blood going down the now-clear drain. His hair would do.
After a quick trip to the basement for her special toolbox, she removed his scalp with practiced ease. She placed the wet flap of flesh and hair in the sealed container she used for all of her trophies.
“Have to be more proactive with the drains,” she said, staring at the plumber’s scalp. She’d leave the body for her husband when he came home. Disposal was his specialty. She was just a trophy hunter.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2014 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
“Bless me father, for I have sinned. It’s been…ah, about twenty years since my last confession.”
Father Antonio leaned forward, his face close to the screen that separated him from the man opposite him. In the darkness, he couldn’t make out the man’s features. It was better that way. There were some parishes where penitents had to face the priest head on, without the anonymity of the screen. He’d served in one for a year back when he was fresh from the seminary. He always felt that people guarded their sins more when they had to look a priest in the eye and spill their darkest secrets.
Dark secrets were made for dark places.
“We are very glad to have you back,” he said. “God’s home and heart is always open to you.”
“Thank you, father.”
A long silence followed. Father Antonio heard the whistle of the man’s breath through his nose.
He was well aware that sometimes, especially when there had been a long absence in the confessional, you had to give them space to collect their thoughts. It had been a while since he’d had a prodigal son walk through his confessional door. Most weeks, he heard the same confessions from the same blue hairs who attended mass seven days a week. He’d often been tempted to tell them to ‘go forth and seek fun’. Come back to him with some real sins to be forgiven. The thought made him suppress a chuckle.
After the silence went beyond the typical summoning of courage period, he said, “Do you have any sins you’d like to confess?”
The wood seat groaned as the man shifted his weight.
“I…I did something terrible when I was younger. I thought I could live with it. When I realized I couldn’t, I knew I had to confess but I was too afraid to speak it. I even changed religions. I was an Episcopalian for years. You see, with them, you confess your sins straight to God in your head. And I confessed, every Sunday, kneeling before the cross.”
Father Antonio said, “And did you find forgiveness?”
The man sniffled. It sounded as if he was crying. He ran a finger down the screen.
“No.” He said it with a breathless desperation.
“Have you forgiven yourself?”
Father knew the answer but sensed the man needed to give voice to his sins and perceived shortcomings in order to find the path to healing. He felt a burning tension in his own core, waiting to hear the man’s confession. What must it be like for him, to have a sin so great he’s spent years finding a way to unburden his soul?
“No. I need your help father.”
“You need to tell God your sin. You’ll be amazed how lighter you’ll feel. No sin is without forgiveness. All you need to do is ask for it.”
“Should…should I just say it, then?”
“That would be best. Look at it like jumping into a cool lake. The moment you hit the refreshing water, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t jumped in sooner.”
He listened as the man took several deep breaths, expelling them through his mouth.
“Will God forgive me for taking another life?”
Father Antonio’s heart kicked into a stuttering gallop. He’d spoken to other priests who had been on the receiving end of confessions of murder. What lay people didn’t know, and shouldn’t know, was the weight of those sins that simply shifted from sinner to confessor. Priests were still human. To know that there was potentially a murderer in his parish, to wonder who it could be, and to somehow let it go, to be the conduit of forgiveness, was far from easy.
The man continued. “I was a kid when it happened, still in college. I’d been at a party, had a little too much to drink, too much to smoke, and I’d taken a few pills. At some point, I wandered off, left the club to get some air, I think. After that, I blacked out for a while. Next thing I knew, I was ringing someone’s bell. A pretty woman answered. I asked her if I could use her phone so I could call someone to pick me up and take me to my dorm.
“I must have woken her up. She was wearing a robe and it kinda fell open at one point. I saw that she’d been sleeping nude. She was beautiful. I forgot about the phone. I couldn’t help myself. Before she could scream, I put my hand over her mouth and forced her onto a table. I…I can’t remember exactly what I did, but when it was over, she wasn’t breathing any more. I’d crushed her windpipe. Like a coward, I ran. For weeks I watched the story on the news from the safety of my dorm. The police never even thought to look into the students at my college. My prints weren’t on file. I was free.”
Father Antonio’s mouth went dry.
“But I wasn’t,” the man said. “Please, forgive me Father. I can’t go on like this.”
It was difficult for Father Antonio to speak. He didn’t hear his own words as he doled out the man’s penance. Something about saying the rosary and asking Mary for forgiveness.
The man thanked him profusely, praising him and Jesus for their kindness. As he left, Father Antonio cracked the door open just enough to see the man as he shuffled down the aisle.
It was Gene Fenton. He always sat in the center pews so he could bring up the gifts during mass.
Father Antonio fumbled within his cassock for his cell phone. He thumbed his brother-in-law’s phone number.
“I know who killed our Laurie,” he whispered.
“God brought him to me. His name is Gene Fenton. I’ll get you his address when I return to the rectory.”
“You know what this will mean, don’t you?”
It was impossible to see through his tears. “Please, don’t tell me.”
But he knew. His wife’s murder was why he became a priest, to put as much distance as possible from the man he’d been to who he was now. In both incarnations, he was wholly imperfect.
He disconnected the call.
Stumbling from the confessional, he opened an adjacent door. Father Murphy sat on the other side, unprepared for what was about to come.
“Bless me father, for I have sinned.”
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2013 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
There were so many dead, the fire pits had been decommissioned. Now they just loaded the bodies on commandeered cruise ships and dumped them in the ocean. I heard that hordes of seagulls, bloated and flying erratically from the never-ending feast, would descend on the floating corpses like flies. If you vomited on deck, they’d eat that, too.
I wasn’t sure if I preferred to be one of the living or the dead on those ships that stank like an open grave in the summer sun. On account of my asthma, it was a good bet I’d never get assigned corpse duty.
“Jeremy, where did you go to now?”
Destiny snapped her black lace-gloved fingers in my face.
“Sorry. I spaced.”
“I figured.” She smiled with purple tinted lips, the corners of her eyes crinkling. Her hot pink hair caught the last filaments of the moon before it tucked itself behind a black, roiling cloud. I remembered when the skies were black with smoke for months on end, until the government realized they had destroyed an entire growing season and had to scale back the fires.
“You want to tell me why we’re here again?” I said. I did a three-sixty scan of the graveyard. A majority of the tombstones were crooked, many of them shattered by vandals. The vegetation had been left to go feral, the grass coming up to our hips. Critters large and small skulked in the weeds.
“So I can be with you forever,” she said, pouting for added effect. I was a geek, she was the hottest girl in my school, at least back when there was a school. Who was I to say no? Plus, there were less and less fish in the sea to choose from for us both.
Well, the sea was teeming with fish because of all the human nutrients we’d been dumping in it, but you get my point.
No one, except the Crazies, ate fish anymore, by the way. The rest of us would rather starve – and many have.
I sighed, taking off my glasses to clean them with the end of my shirt. Destiny gingerly put them back on for me and lit a kiss on my thin, dry lips.
“There’s no proof that it will work,” I said. “You ever hear of an urban legend? I’m pretty sure this qualifies.”
She shook her head. “You’re wrong. I’ve been reading a lot about it. Couples in eastern Europe have been doing it and surviving.”
A blood curdling shriek echoed over the untended cemetery hills. Destiny pressed herself to my back. I could feel the heat of her breath on my neck.
“The internet is practically dead. Whatever’s on there is just Crazies talking crazy shit,” I said.
“But what if they’re right? I mean, it’s not like it can hurt.”
The shriek was met by an angry growl, this time from the other end of the cemetery. We wouldn’t be going home tonight.
“Come on, I picked out a safe one the other day.” Destiny grabbed my hand, leading me to a small, marble mausoleum. She bent by the iron and glass door, taking a pin and paperclip from her pocket. The lock clicked open and she rushed us inside.
Another cry, this one human, made my blood run cold.
There was little room to move Inside the crypt. There was a folding chair, a vase with dried flowers attached to the back wall underneath a stained glass window, and a plastic bag on the floor.
The most glaring aspect of the tiny death house was that the wall had been chipped away. Bits of grit and marble were everywhere.
“Did you do this?” I asked.
She averted her eyes, a clear admission.
Shit, she’s becoming one of the Crazies.
I clicked on my pen light, saw the coffin that had been wedged into the wall space.
“Destiny,” I sighed. “No.”
“But you have to!” she cried, balling my shirt in her fists. “It’s all easy for you because you know they’ll never touch you! Don’t you want the same for me?”
It was true, but she never understood that I wasn’t too keen on being the last of a dying race.
When the Pollywogs first started pouring out of Mt. Saint Helens, our nation’s embryonic inertia of fear was counteracted by a bloody show of extreme violence. We hit them with everything our military could stuff into a gun or rocket launcher. The Pollywogs, gray skinned creatures twice the size of a man with tapering tails and sperm-like heads with button black eyes, were faster and more resilient than anyone could predict. They were also regenerative. Blow off their legs, and they grew back within hours. Set them on fire and they would secrete a flame-dousing jelly from their pores. Hack them into pieces, and each piece is reborn into a hungry Pollywog.
You absolutely did not want to do that.
While the west coast became a food source for the beasts, the earthquake under Manhattan split the fault line wide enough for the east coast Pollywogs to run free. The hordes met in the center of the country, devouring people like they were Tic Tacs. The same scene happened in every country around the transforming world. I guess the center of the earth wanted some time in the sun.
I shouldn’t say they ate people. Actually, they only preferred their lungs. Healthy lungs. Not lungs like mine. Rapidly, mankind was being whittled down to the weak and the lame.
Destiny tugged at the coffin handle. “Help me get this down and fuck me inside.”
Her eyes were manic, desperate. I knew she didn’t want to be with me forever. She just didn’t want to die. Even now, being asked to have sex with her amidst the rot and ruin of a years old corpse, I couldn’t simply say no.
The coffin crashed onto its side, the latch springing open. The jerkeyed body smelled surprisingly like moldering apples. Shrugging out of her skirt, Destiny wedged herself inside the askew coffin, laying atop its resident. The cries of the Pollywogs were a chorus of hunger.
“Please, Jeremey, please fuck me.”
The legend had it that if you fucked a Craplung, someone like me, atop a corpse, and became impregnated, the Pollywogs would do everything in their power to avoid you. Something about the scent of death and growing a Craplung in your womb. It made no sense and I wondered what Crazy invented it.
Desperate times were fertile ground for insane conjectures.
Seeing Destiny spread her stockinged legs, revealing the brown matchstick legs of the corpse beneath her. I decided it was no use fighting.
Becoming a Crazy or having your lungs devoured by a Pollywog, they were both death in different clothes.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2013 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
“Just look at that slut. You know she slept with every boy in her class.”
“I heard she did ten guys one night at Tracy Martin’s sweet sixteen. Daewon said they pulled a train on her. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m sure it’s disgusting.”
“I mean, look at her. Girl is ratchet as hell.”
“I bet she’s a dyke, too.”
“You can’t be a dyke and screw boys.”
“Tell that to Cindy. She knows this girl’s sister who went to grammar school with her and she said that she was doing girls in like the sixth grade.”
“I told you, that girl is duuurty.”
“Hey, what are you lookin’ at, nasty?”
“Keep on walkin’, bitch.”
Andi Swan pulled her books tight to her chest. She tried to avoid eye contact, staring at a point over the heads of Jazabelle, Elise, Emily and Jade. The four girls narrowed their heavily made-up eyes and spat a slew of obscenities her way.
“You like what you see, lezzie?”
“No one even likes your lonely ass. If I was you, I’d drop out of school.”
They laughed, giving each other high fives. Andi stood her ground. When she opened her mouth to speak, Emily put up a hand and said, “Don’t even think of talking to us. Just keep stepping. You’ll be late for your next abortion.”
Andi’s hand went to her throat, to the gold St. Andrew medallion that her grandmother had given her on her first Communion.
“Bitch is stupid and a ho. You waiting for me to come over and bust your dyke nose?”
Andi swallowed and cleared her throat.
“No,” she sputtered, the words collapsing to the scuffed floor.
“Well, if you don’t walk away, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
This brought the girls nearly to tears, guffawing and stomping in circles.
“I… I just want to see,” Andi said.
They stopped their reverie. “See? See what?”
The girls clenched their fists. They had riled themselves up for a good, lopsided ass kicking.
Andi let go of the cross and pointed to the ceiling.
The girls looked up in time to take the sudden explosion of concrete directly in their faces. The ceiling came down with a thunderous crash, obliterating the four girls in the flutter of a butterfly’s wings. Andi winced at the sound of their bodies popping like water balloons under the rubble. Crimson gouts of blood spurted through the gaps in the debris.
Kids screamed. Teachers shouted. The hall filled with dust and death. Pandemonium 101 was in session.
Andi coughed. Her eyes stung and her lungs hurt from breathing in the tainted air.
Mr. Bernson, her fourth period living environment teacher, ran over to make sure she wasn’t hurt. He grasped her shoulders. His fingers were hard and bony.
“Are you all right? Did you see what happened?”
Andi slowly looked to him. “I saw the crack. I tried to tell them.”
“Tell who, Andi?”
She pointed at the widening pool of blood seeping from the wreckage. He darted to the pile of concrete, yelling for help, digging for lost treasure.
Clenching her jaw so as not to smile, Andi whispered, “Dumb bitches,” and walked out into the fresh air.
Author’s Note : St. Andrew is the patron saint of sudden death.
Karma’s a bitch, especially to bullies.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2013 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.
Heed the Tale Weaver: Celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Damned. Through May 7, 2013, upon each new post, a comment you will leave. A package of ghoulish goodies tainted with an offering from every member of the Damned awaits one fated winner – glorious books, personalized stories and eternal suffering at your feet. Now Damn yourself, make your mark below! But remember insolent ones, you must leave a comment, a “like” will not earn you a chance at our collection of depravity. Do not make the Damned hunt you down.
The striking of our grandfather clock woke me from a deep, bottomless sleep. The sky outside the lone window was still a dark gray, lightened ever-so-slightly by the threat of the dawn. I stretched my arms above my head and rolled my eyes, attempting to shake off my slumber.
My heart thudded in my chest.
I was alone, and on the opposite side of the parlor from my sister.
All of the candles were out.
How did I get here? The pile of books we had been reading lay a good seven feet from where I sat.
Jessamine was in the far corner, asleep and on her back.
I felt a tug at my ankle and stifled a yelp. I instinctively recoiled. In the dark, I couldn’t see what had gained purchase of the bottom half of my nightgown.
There followed the sounds of hurried clacking, as if a pair of rocks had skipped across the wood floor.
Despite my inability to see it, I knew it had to be in the room with us. It must have waited until Jessamine fell asleep, then separated us so it could do its dirty deed.
“Jessamine,” I hissed, wanting to wake her, yet terrified of alerting the ghoul, lest I become its latest morsel.
There was no answer.
Willing my legs to stand, I inched my way upwards, using the bookcase shelves to hoist myself up inch by inch.
I heard a tearing sound, followed by something far worse.
The smacking sounds of mastication, broken by eager, glutinous breaths, filled the parlor.
“Jesssamine!” I shouted.
Still no reply.
I needed light. It was impossible to face the ghoul in the dark. My spirit wavered between bravery and death by panic. I fumbled around the desk until I found the matches.
I struck one against the desk. It sputtered for a moment, then fizzled out.
The sounds in the corner stopped.
I could feel the ghoul’s penetrating gaze cut through the dark.
I grabbed another match, and with unsure hands, tried again.
The match stick broke in half, falling to the floor.
Clack, clack, clack, clack.
Those odd footsteps again.
Now a gurgling sound, a bubbling death rattle of a cry.
“Please, dear God, help,” I whimpered as I reached to pick out another match.
My cry was answered, as my thumbnail flicked across the match head, a brilliant flame roared to life.
And in that same instant, I wished I’d never brought light into the parlor.
My doll, my porcelain companion, stood on two small legs, leering at me. Its face had turned a mottled green, and bloody teeth sprouted from a mouth that was never designed to open. Weeping warts covered it from head to toe.
Worst of all, a strip of flesh, Jessamine’s flesh, hung loosely from its mouth.
I yelled in horror upon seeing my sister’s exposed throat. She lay, still as death, as her blood pumped onto the floor.
The demonic ghoul had truly left my poor, dear sister.
But it hadn’t gone to hell.
It had made a vile home within Lucy.
The ghoul clenched and unclenched its gnarled hands and slurped up the shredded flap of Jessamine’s throat.
I don’t know what overcame me then. I had been living for half a year under the specter of Satan and his damned minion. Fear, as much as Lucy, had been my constant companion.
There was no longer room for fear. This abomination had destroyed my family, and I knew at that moment that I would never again be the same. My heart turned cold while my temper flared like the center of a great bonfire.
Snarling like a mad person, I grabbed the candle and leapt for the ghoul. Cackling, it tried to sidestep from me, but I snared one of its slimy legs.
Warts burst open like blossoming flowers and a vile, hot fluid leaked onto my hand, burning my skin.
Still, I held on.
It shrieked. It hissed. It chomped its jaws and just missed snagging its teeth into the back of my hand.
With a flick of my wrist, I managed to get it to flop on its back.
Lucy’s blue eyes had been replaced by obsidian pools of hate. I moved my hand that held the candle onto its throat. Once I had a firm grip, I transferred the candle to my other hand.
“This time, go back to hell where you belong!” I shouted.
I brought the flames tips to its eye and heard a satisfying sizzle as the onyx orb melted. I moved the candle to its other eye and didn’t stop until both eyes were gone.
Suddenly, the ghoul’s protests and flailing stopped. Its tiny body twitched once, and was still.
Reluctantly, I let it go so I could rub the burned skin on my hand. The ghoul was dead.
Keeping a close eye on it, I walked on unsteady legs to my sister. Her face looked so peaceful, as if she had died in the midst of the most wonderful dream.
The tears came in a torrent, and I held her head in my lap, ever watchful for signs of the ghoul’s return.
I stayed there in the corner with Jessamine’s cooling body for two days.
When father returned, I was too weak to run into his arms.
His face was aghast.
“What…what…what?” he stammered.
“It was the demon in Jessamine. It became a ghoul. When it left Jessamine, it hid inside Lucy. You can see it, right there!” I screamed, pointing at its lifeless body.
But when Father picked it up, he held only my Lucy, her little head fractured but still the Lucy I’d always known. Her eyes were tiny points of ash, but Jessamine’s blood had somehow been cleansed from her porcelain face.
Despite my anguish and exhaustion and vexation, I began to laugh.
I laughed while my father pulled me away, and in his carriage, all the way into town. I laughed when he brought me to hospital, and even when they carried me to a room that smelled funny and was so bright, it felt like I had been thrown into the center of the sun.
And I still laugh now, ten years later.
They think I did it.
Esther passed on from infection.
Jessamine perished from her wound at the ghoul’s hand.
Mother never regained her sanity. In fact, she’s in a room not very far from my own. I pass her in the yard sometimes. She spits curses at me and blames me for the evil that befell our family.
Only I know it was the ghoul; the demon that slipped into our Old Manse and within my departed sister, the dearest person in my life. And when it tired of a human host, it found Lucy.
I tell everyone but no one will believe me.
Evil is real.
The ghoul was real.
And Lucy is still somewhere, outside these four walls. If you see a doll with burned eyes, run. Run and pray your soul hasn’t been tainted.
~ Hunter Shea
© Copyright 2012 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.