Archive by Author | zkullis

Fairy

The deafening volume in the hallway was cut short by yet another scene of ruthlessness.

Terri was pulling a math book out of the bottom of his locker when something heavy crashed into him, driving his head into the corner of the metal enclosure.  The pain ringing in his ears briefly consumed him as he collapsed to the tile floor.  Not again, he pleaded inwardly as he pressed a shaky hand against his forehead to stem the flow of blood.

Regardless of the countless times something similar had happened, he was yet again flooded with humiliation, anger, and a desire to disappear; it was overwhelming.  He bowed his head and turned to the side as he bit his lip in a useless attempt to hold back tears that only served to incite his tormentor.

Nothing halted the insane volume of background noise that filled a school like the promise of violence.  But the silence never lasted, and his latest tormentor, one of his regulars, filled the empty space with ugly taunts.

“Hey Fairy,” Eric yelled. “How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my way?”

He pulled his hand away from his forehead and a stream of blood poured down his face as he glanced at the onlookers.  The sight was familiar – a hungry crowd wielding phones that recorded the show in high definition.  Undoubtedly, many were already thinking about the comments they would upload along with the footage.

Most people in his position would at least look at their attacker, but there was no need.  It wasn’t because there was only one possible aggressor; the list of bullies was long.  It was because this asshole was one of only three that called him a fairy, and Eric’s oddly high-pitched voice betrayed him immediately.

“Look at me, you sack of shit!”

Eric slammed a meaty fist into the side of Terri’s face, rocking his head side to side.  Jeers and taunts erupted from the crowd as Eric’s football buddies cried out for more.  Waves of darkness edged their way into the periphery of his vision, but he kept his eyes on the crowd.  It was easy to gauge how bad the beating was going to be by the behavior of the audience.

The crowd was quickly getting bored; it was obvious he wasn’t going to fight back and the excitement ebbed away. The other students started to wander off.  He closed his eyes, tried to stop the tears, fought the urge to pass out.  He found himself wondering for the millionth time why none of the others cared, why none of them stood up for him.  Even the local Emo kids shunned him.  What was left of his ravaged heart ached.

“You got off easy,” Eric said as he rubbed his sore fist.  “Keep quiet about this or I’ll take it to a whole other level of ugly.”  The jocks walked away with their chests puffed out, almost as far as their egos, each boasting about how much they had lifted in gym class, somehow sure this equated to dick size.

He sat for a minute and waited for the hallway to clear before he slowly picked up his backpack.  He would have given anything for a sympathetic ear, or a caring shoulder, but he knew reality was nothing like the Lifetime Channel.   It would be a mistake to think he would get support or comfort anywhere, not even at home.

His father always insisted the beatings were his own fault for being a pansy that didn’t understand how the system worked.  Dad frequently told him that his life would be punctuated by failure and misery, and the rotten bastard was right so far.

He started to walk, unsure of where he was headed, knowing it didn’t really matter.  For too many years he planted hopes, wishes, and dreams in his conscious mind like a starving farmer plants the last of his seeds.  He watered them with desperation, fertilized them with as much bullshit as he could muster, but the field of his soul was still a desolate, ugly place.  Why?  The truth was simple.  Hope was snake oil.  Wishes?  Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which fills up first.  Dreams?  Those were the equivalent of a carrot on a stick held in front of a mule headed to the glue factory.

There was no such thing as good in this world.  It was as mythological as a unicorn, just more useless.  Since there was no good, there could be no evil.  There were only varying levels of pain and anguish that were blissfully interrupted by the oblivion of sleep.  He frequently dreamt of sleeping eternally, wishing for nothingness to absorb his worthless existence.

In the end, it all came back to the same question.  Would he be perceived as selfish?  Perhaps, but nobody cared enough to notice, much less think about him if he were gone.  It was time.

He reached into his backpack and pulled out the knife. His throat felt tight, and as his resolve strengthened, tears of a different kind slipped from his eyes and mixed with the drying blood on his cheek.  He knew better than to think this was a form of happiness, that shit didn’t exist.  This was relief.  Yes, it was time indeed.

He dropped the pack and made his way to the auditorium.  The assembly was probably under way by now.  He had wanted to do this in private, but something deep inside urged him to do it in front of a crowd.

“I’ll give them something to post,” he whispered as he opened the back door to the stage.  The darkness calmed him.  He took off his shirt, then his shoes. He parted the closed curtain with the knife, and stepped into the blinding light on stage.

At first, all he heard was a booming voice echoing through the speaker system, but then came the hushed whisper from hundreds of students.  His eyes had begun to adjust to the light when he heard Eric’s telltale voice shout out.

“Look! It’s Terri the Fairy!”

Laughter filled the vast space.  One last tear fell; it went unnoticed by the crowd.  The laughter continued until a cheerleader in the front row screamed something about him having a knife.  Her scream was followed by a few more, but the hushed awe from most of the students was enough to encourage him.

Terri pressed the sharp edge of the knife deep into his left wrist and slowly drew it upward until it reached the inner part of his elbow.  Bright blood flowed from the gaping wound; his bright eyes stared out over the sea of confused faces.  He took the blade and pushed it into his shoulder until it hit bone, then cut downward through his chest until the blade was sunk deep into his abdomen.  Blood started to pool around him, its darkness reached outward.

The spectators, usually keen on gore, were at a loss for words.  Some screamed, some retched, but all remained in their place as a new reality debuted before their eyes.  Terri started to feel weak as his heart quickly pumped blood from his body, he also felt peace deep within.  Peace and something else–something less kind.

Terri sensed movement at his core.  It was growing at an incredible rate, but it felt neither foreign nor strange.  The growth pressed against organs and caused him to purge the contents of his stomach, as well as his bowels and bladder.  He dropped the knife as the change touched his consciousness.

The continued growth started to bulge against his skin, press against his extremities; it fed on him internally.  Eldritch bones and musculature sprouted painfully as Terri grew.  Tentacles dug their way out the sides of his face; they tore at his flesh to birth the otherworldly being within.

Students woke from their stupor and fled; they trampled one another in blind terror.  Terri’s conscious melded with that of the Other, and he gloried in his becoming.  He also hungered.  Nearly ten feet tall and growing quickly, he reached out for the nourishment that floundered nearby.

Clawed hands covered in a new and loathsome skin plucked the writhing teens from the floor, piled them within reach of the tentacles.  He smelled their fear and knew true ecstasy.  The tentacles grabbed the students and stuffed them into his now colossal maw; one, two, three at a time.  Their screams mixed with the sound of crunching bone. It was musical perfection.

His growth had just started, fed by dozens of the two-legged cattle he’d already consumed, but he found it difficult to move within the confines of the auditorium.  He emerged from the remains of the building as it seemingly shrunk beneath his reckless growth.

Terri gave corrupt birth to the profane, was one in heinous thought with the abyss, and demanded eternal retribution.  Words poured from his mouth with blasphemous splendor and filled the air with dread.

“Wgah’nagl fltagn.”

Arcane incantations of power echoed across the doomed city as he opened the way for many more of his kind.  Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep moved through monstrous dimensions beyond time and entered a world that would soon know despair.  Oblivion was not his to experience, but his to create.

 

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

The Glory

His first cognizant thought was how oddly comfortable he felt. The old football injury didn’t ache in the background like it had for seemingly countless years. And the city was quiet…  Since when was the city quiet? Kurt’s eyes opened slowly and he found himself looking into the face of a stranger. The woman was crouched over him and appeared to be trying to talk to him, but all he heard was ringing.

Kurt realized he couldn’t move. His mind wrestled with confusion and concern as he tried to focus on what the woman was telling him. Her voice began to sift through the ringing, and he recognized some of the words her lips were forming.

accident –

don’t move –

will be okay –

Recollection hit him nearly as hard as the other vehicle did when he ran the red light. He had been typing something to post online and didn’t see the red light, nor did he see the ambulance with its emergency lights flashing as it raced towards the intersection. Fortunately for him he was unaware of being thrown through his windshield, of tumbling like a rag doll across the rough street, and of the emergency vehicle rolling over his broken body before it came to a stop on its side. But his conscious mind was catching up with horrific speed.

The fear on the woman’s face belied the calm and soothing words she tried to share with him. A squat man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker knelt beside her and spoke in frantic tones.

“The dude’s going to bleed out if we don’t do something.”

“His neck is broken so badly that one wrong move will kill him,” replied the woman, her voice betraying her nausea. “There isn’t much we can do.”

Certainty and finality calmed him. The sounds around him seemed to fade into the background. As his body started to shut down, Kurt’s mind gained an amazing amount of clarity. He had nothing to worry about, not like those hell-bound atheists and science-toting heretics he harassed whenever possible. He accepted the Lord years ago. He vaguely remembered it, but he knew he had because his pastor said so.

As fate would have it, that was precisely what he had been texting about when the accident happened. He was preaching on a local site for an agnostic group. Some would have called it trolling, but he knew he was serving a higher purpose. They were all damned. He was saved through simple belief and acceptance. Surely this accident was a reward from the Almighty. He was being called home.

A cold breeze blew and Kurt shivered. The muffled sounds around him slipped into nothing. He opened his eyes, expecting to see gates, clouds, or something similar, but all he saw was a dim view of what he had seen before.

“That’s strange,” he whispered. The sound of his own voice spooked him. Had he passed already? A foul breeze moaned around him as dark clouds quickly covered the sky. Heavy mists rolled across the street and obscured the people and buildings around him.

“What is strange?” asked something from the haze. The voice was like gravel and broken glass being ground, a bizarre combination of bass and treble that no mortal vocal chords could have produced.

Fear gripped Kurt and chased away all the positive thoughts that had been pooling in his mind. He searched for the source of the voice and found a dark shadow lurking in the depths. It grew in size and became increasingly peculiar as it approached.

“Were you expecting something pretty when your life came to an end?”

“I… I… This is wrong….” Kurt blabbered as the mist parted for a hideous and eldritch being. The thing was partially humanoid, but there were growths and extensions that defied understanding, its foot grotesque with too many crooked appendages and deformities. The wretched leg it was attached to was repulsively thin and covered by a sickly skin that didn’t hide the misaligned bones and flesh beneath.

The creature’s torso was a mottled skin of yellow and green, punctuated by tentacles and arm-like growths, each of which appeared to move on its own accord. The second leg was like a conglomerate of partially fused tentacles that oozed a fetid ichor that filled the air with a horrid stench and left a nasty trail in its wake.

It carried a long chain in a large hand that had nearly a dozen digits, each wrapped around slimy links of metal. The opposing shoulder had what appeared to be the lower half of a bark covered octopus with slow-moving growths that were covered with barbs and teeth. And the head, oh the head. There was no mouth, nor a nose, but the hapless face was besieged by numerous lidless eyes that shined with heinous intent.

Kurt’s hysterical scream was absorbed by the mist. “No!”

“You are still between worlds, Kurt. But not for long.”

A repulsive tentacle reached out for him as he tried to move.

His whole body jolted and he heard kind voices in the background. Were angels wrestling him from this demonic nightmare? Kurt’s eyes opened to see paramedics leaning over him, talking frantically to each other and to him.

“Stay with us buddy, just hold on.”

The light was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He would give anything to not go back to that nightmare. Surely that’s what it was, right? Only a dream?  He was saved after all. Kurt was so tired, and he couldn’t keep his heavy eyelids up. He was ready for the Glory.

Kurt’s eyes closed. The warmth was instantly gone, as were the careful movements and voices of the paramedics. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but had no choice. The creature from before stood over him, a comical look of twisted glee showed brightly in each of its eyes, and the skin of its face vibrated with its voice.

“Glory… What do you know of glory, Kurt?”

A few of the tentacles used their barbs and teeth to dig deep into Kurt’s flesh. There was no blood, but the pain felt unlike anything he had ever experienced. Unable to move, he was left to watch in horror as the thing continued to work.

“Your days were filled with hate, rejecting your fellow mortals for petty differences of opinion, and you expect a reward of some kind? Pearly Gates, shitty harps, and those dumbass cupids flitting around with wings?”

The creature dropped the heavy chains on his legs and gripped Kurt’s face with its multitude of fingers. “Why do you deserve something different from this?”

Kurt fought for his voice, and found it, thinking his one last chance was to claim his acceptance of the Almighty and enjoy the gifted fruit of salvation. “I accepted the holy one and by his Grace I am saved!”

He looked down and saw something ethereal being yanked from his body. It was his soul. Kurt looked to the sky, sure his last statement would redeem him.  Riotous laughter filled his ears. Kurt looked back at the demon as it continued to rip his essence from his damaged body.

“You’re certainly not the first of your flavor I’ve had the pleasure of reaping. Saved by his Grace, to hell with what your actions might have been. Is that how it goes?  What would you say if I told you that the woman in the ambulance you crashed into died a few minutes ago. She was agnostic and is getting a benevolent introduction to an afterlife you will never experience.”

“That can’t be,” cried Kurt.

The creature gripped his throat, tore what remained of his spirit free, and dragged him up into the gathering obscurity. He looked down and through the billowing mists he could just barely make out the paramedics draping a blanket over his body. Kurt’s face was yanked around and forced to look at the demon.

“She was kind, good, and all of that boring tripe. The interesting thing is that it was all of her own free will, not because she thought it would buy her entrance into the land of faeries and light. Faith is worth shit if your behavior is too.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Urges

“I’ve heard it said that the first time is always the best, but that’s bullshit.  It gets better with every experience.  Pain, loathing, hatred and excitement, all rolled up into one moment of indulgence and release.  These urges are altogether unique and exquisite.

“I was about ten years old when I first tasted this fruit.  Mom babysat a noisy pack of snot-nosed shit factories that invaded my space daily.  I couldn’t help but make a few cry at least once a day.  At first I told myself it was for the attention, but I knew better.  The real answer was far more sinister – I enjoyed their pain.

“It was never quite enough, though.  I could feel the thrill build each time, but it didn’t increase, it always remained the same, until things changed. One day mom was asked to tend an infant. Go ahead, look at me with those horrified eyes, it only adds to the pleasure.

“At first I didn’t mean for anything to happen.  Babies are innocent, right?  I went into the house and saw mom holding a little girl.  I guess you would say she was cute.  I didn’t feel an urge to hurt her at first, and it filled me with hope that maybe I had some good inside me.

“I walked up to her sweet as can be and held out my hand.  She looked at me and her cherubic smile was instantly sucked up by her fat little cheeks, and the ugliest scream I’ve ever heard tumbled from her quivering lips.  Did you know that hope getting dashed to pieces has a sound?  It’s abrasive, piercing, and throttles everything.

“I didn’t have any good in me.  Rage seethed from my core and swelled like it never had before.  Nothing was exempt from my hate.

“‘Oh, cute little Erica,’ I cooed as sweetly as I could while I positioned myself behind my mother where she couldn’t see what I was doing.   I patted the babe softly on the back where my mom could see while my other hand pinched and squeezed as hard as I dared without leaving a mark.  I looked into her wide eyes, locked in terror with mine own, and brought every ounce of hate to the surface.  I pushed that torrent of violent emotions through my eyes and willed her to feel it.

“It was intoxicating, although you would never understand.  But that’s enough about my past. Unfortunately for you, I’ve found over the years that an adult’s torment and screams are infinitely more satisfying than those of a child.”

The man stood up and stretched before speaking again.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go use the bathroom.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Eric listened as Mark’s feet padded across the cement floor.  The stairs creaked as he left the basement.  When he was sure Mark was gone, he relaxed the stranglehold he had on his emotions and sobbed.

Eric had been in the basement for a few days now, secured to a metal chair with leather straps.  He had screamed, begged, yelled and cried on his first day here, but quickly learned that any show of emotion sent his captor into a crazed fit of violence.

His heart raced wildly as the casual whistling upstairs approached the basement door again.  Anxiety fogged Eric’s mind with its chaos and kept him from thinking straight.  He hated himself for not being able to control his fear.  He did his best to quiet himself as the door opened.  By the time Eric could see Mark’s bare feet step around the corner, he had almost calmed himself completely.

Mark placed two boxes on a table and stood in front of Eric.  “Have you been crying?”

“No…”

Mark hit Eric in the face and looked down at him with a grin.  “You say you weren’t crying, but I call bullshit.  If you can make it through the next twenty minutes without crying hysterically, I’ll let you go.”

Eric knew better than to let hope sprout its worthless seeds in his heart, but desperation took over.  “Yes,” he pleaded.

Mark pulled forceps out of his back pocket and gripped the sides of Eric’s face.  “Open up buttercup,” he said.  Eric’s eyes widened with horror when he noticed the forceps ended in sharp hooks.

Mark shoved the forceps into Eric’s mouth.  Sharp pain shot through his tongue as the forceps bit into the soft tissue.  Mark yanked on his tongue and pulled it halfway out of his mouth.

“I don’t want to do anything that will stop your screaming,” Mark said as he pulled something else out of his back pocket, “but I hate all of the pleading and whining.  Besides, I have a surprise for you.”

Mark grabbed a large, sharpened tube and flashed it in front of Eric’s face.

“This needle is a 0000 gauge, which means the hole in your tongue is going to be nearly half an inch wide.  It’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Eric bucked against the chair and cried out as Mark pressed the tip of the needle against his tender flesh and pushed.  He could feel the needle as it sliced through the meat, cleaving a hole the size of the tube into his tongue.  Mark shoved a thick metal rod into the end of the needle, and retracted the tube leaving the rod in its place. Before he released the forceps, Mark screwed a nostril sized ball onto the end of the metal shaft.  The rod was long enough that he couldn’t pull his tongue back into his mouth.

“There,” Mark said.  “Now let’s get down to the fun stuff.”

Mark walked over to the boxes on the table.  He picked up the first box and brought it closer to Eric. He shook the box fiercely and caused whatever was inside to react violently.  Mark laughed as he put the box on the floor and brought the second box over and showed it to Eric.

“This box has only one opening.  The inside is lined with mirrors, and there is an LED light in there.  I’m going to put this box on your head because I want you to be able to see what’s going on.”

He placed the box in Eric’s lap and turned on the light.  Mark walked back to the other box and carried it, with its living contents, back to him.  He shook the box one more time and chuckled wickedly.

“It’s been a few days since these guys have eaten,” Mark stated as he opened the top of the second box.  “If you ask nicely, I won’t introduce you to them.”

Mark flipped the second box over so its contents fell into the mirrored box.  Eric tried to beg, but the metal rod through his tongue kept him from speaking.

“No?  Okay, here we go!”

Mark flipped the mirrored box over and placed it over Eric’s head before the things inside could jump out.  The light inside the box made everything horribly clear.  Eric was looking into the beady black eyes of several rats.

The large rodents sat in corners and looked at him with a mix of curiosity and hunger.  Eric tried to calm himself, but wasn’t able to as he watched them inch forward bit by bit, their noses sniffing madly at the air.   They smelled his blood.

One of them darted forward and bit Eric’s bloody tongue.  He screamed and tried to move, but he was secured too tightly to the chair.  When he didn’t defend himself, the other rats dove into the fray.  Raging pain tore through Eric as the rats began to take bites out of his tongue.

They quickly ate his tongue down to the rod that had forced Eric to keep his mouth open.  He pulled what was left of his ravaged organ back inside of his mouth.  One of the rats tried to follow it and stuck its head inside of Eric’s mouth to get the rest of its meal.  Eric bit down on the rat’s head until he felt a crunch and spit the dead rat out as the remaining rodents started tearing at the soft flesh of his cheeks.

Eric knew Mark wanted to hear his screams and cries.  The only thing he could think of was to rob his captor of that joy.  He steeled himself against what was going to be an awful death and opened his mouth.  One of the rats scurried around the other two and darted into his mouth.  He fought against his instincts and let the rat climb inside.  The rodent quickly cut off his breathing as it started to eat.  Eric’s body demanded air, but his mind and heart demanded a quick death.

Eric’s vision started to grow dark around the edges, a welcome thing as he continued to struggle between wanting air and wanting to end the torment.  He bit down on the tail and trapped the rat inside his mouth.  The rodent squirmed for a few seconds before finally finding the only exit; downward.  Eric’s throat bulged as the rat stuck halfway down his esophagus and started clawing to find a way out.

He couldn’t scream, even if he wanted to.  He would die quietly, and that thought filled him with comfort.  Death came slowly, but the last noise that came from Eric was muffled and haunting.  It wasn’t a death rattle, or a cry, but the laughter of the dead.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Blood and Dirt

John stooped down and picked up a handful of the warm red dirt and let the fine material fall through his fingers as he hiked.  The land had always reminded him of blood.   It wasn’t the color – that would have been a cheap and easy connection.  No, it was much more profound than that.

Blood was life.  Blood also meant death.  It joined the two in an unbreakable companionship of opposites that few truly understood.  This land was the same way.  It was both life and death, and he appreciated the connection.  More importantly, he understood and contributed to that connection. 

His boots moved silently across the terrain, disturbing very little, but the damned pack animal wasn’t quite as respectful.  It scattered rocks and dirt as it plodded along behind him.  John stopped pulling the bridle and turned around.

“I don’t know why in the hell I picked you up,” he cursed as he pulled his water bottle off the pack.  “There were plenty of other animals I could have picked….  I don’t know why I bother talking to you either, you sure as shit can’t answer me.” 

John took a mouthful of sweet water and watched the flies land on the beast’s head and face.    The damn thing was worn out.  At one point in his life, before he decided to break away from the civilized world and reach back to his natural self, he would have felt sorry for the animal.  But now that he had been out here for a few years, John realized that life was no different from death, it was just a different way of being a part of the land.

He put the water bottle back in the heavy pack and coaxed the tired creature onward with a stiff pull of the rope and bridle.  They were almost back at camp.  Spastic breathing and grunts behind him caught his attention.  John turned to see his animal lose its footing in the rocks and nearly dump the heavy pack.  He dropped the rope and grabbed the bit sandwiched between the animal’s broken teeth and made sure it didn’t fall.  The thing’s eyes were wide with fear, red from exhaustion, and full of an almost human pleading.

“Fine,” he said as he grabbed the bridle and continued to hike.  “This is your last trip.  I’ll cut you loose at camp and see about getting a replacement.”

John was surprised to see the animal managed the rest of the trip without any issues.  It even seemed to hurry a bit, as if it understood what he told it.  But that was silliness.  He really needed to stop attributing human emotions and comprehension to simple creatures.

Camp was inside a cave at the end of a hidden canyon.  It offered simple relief from the heat of the day and the cool of the desert night, as well as the isolation that John wanted.  The animal stopped at its spot and let him shackle its legs in place.  Proper training and more than a few beatings had taught it to follow this routine.  He pulled the pack off the sweaty beast and placed it against the back of the cave.  John whistled a nameless tune as he poured some water into a bucket for the creature.  He untied the bit from behind the animal’s head and let the thing drink its fill.

The thirsty slurping came to a stop and the animal pulled its head out of the bucket.  Its eyes watched him with renewed energy as John started the fire.  The thing made mewling noises and groans that probably meant something, but he paid no attention.  Animals that have been properly dealt with didn’t speak.  He had made sure of that personally.

“But if you could talk, would you ask for me to let you go?” he asked as he stood up.  “Would you ask to be released into the wild?  You might, but that would be a bad idea.  Why?  Because you are tame.  The land would kill you.  That’s how you and I are different.  I’ve become an integral part of the land, and as such, I live.  You are tame, like so many of your kind, and as such, you die in this land.  It’s your natural place.  Tonight I’ll set you free, but not as you might wish.”

The groan and guttural cry from the creature was perhaps the most pathetic thing he’d ever heard.

“Uhwana neee!”

Tears welled in the things eyes and fell in heavy drops to the red dirt at its feet.  John reached behind his back and pulled out his knife.  The animal kicked and pulled against the restraints, heedless of the damage it was inflicting on itself, apparently aware of what was about to come.

“Shut up,” John growled, furious at the weakness displayed by this thing.  Why couldn’t it simply understand its place?  He swung his blade carefully and smashed the thick butt of his knife into the side of the creature’s head, sending it crashing against the rock wall of the cave.

Large drops of blood began to patter slowly to the red dirt that turned a deep crimson with the addition of the offering.  The land accepted the blood and drank it thirstily.  It was indeed time.

John knew there should be nothing to impede the flow of blood, so he grabbed the leather strap that secured the cloth to the beast.  He had found it best to keep them covered while they hauled his gear for them.  They seemed to last a little longer.

He grabbed the leather and cut through it with his knife while the animal was still dazed from the blow.  John pulled the belt through the straps, dropped it to the floor, and quickly sliced through the flimsy material.  The dirty shirt fell in a heap on the ground.  John could see the thing was starting to come to its senses so he quickly cut away the Levis.

“All right, let’s get this done,” he said and slapped it across the face.  John wanted the animal to be lucid as he offered its blood to the land.  The creature recoiled, fear shining bright in its eyes, and it tried to speak again.

“Preeeezz…  U wanna nee!”

A crucifix swung on its necklace, the tarnished metal bounced across its filthy skin.  Chest hairs shook with the silent sob that overwhelmed the creature.  Cold air whispered through the cave and caused it to shiver, accentuating the miserable thing’s shaking.  Its hands, bloodied and useless, had been handcuffed behind its back since the day John picked it up.  A pair of emaciated legs wobbled as they tried to keep from collapsing.

Maybe it had been a man at some time, John wondered, but that would have been a long time ago.  Most of what he saw walking around the rest stop near the highway didn’t qualify as human.  Sure, they had their vehicles, their fancy clothes and families, but they had stopped being human the moment their lives became measured by likes and comments, and their self-centric view of everything around them guided their narcissistic interactions.  In a few days he would hike down to the rest stop and pick up a new beast.  They were nothing short of animals. Every one of them.

He pushed its head against the cave wall and pressed until the artery in its neck was easy to find.  The creature tried talking again, this time definitely sounding like a please, but it was hard to enunciate when your tongue had been cut out.  John remembered that moment very well, not because it quieted the shouting and pleading, but because it was the last time he had eaten meat.  It had been a small meal.  That would all change in just a minute.

John placed the tip of the sharp knife against the skin that pulsated from the nearby artery and looked into its eyes one more time.  He couldn’t tell if the creature was pleading for the blade or pleading for freedom.  To John it was all the same.  To the land, it was all the same.

The blade cut deep and the warm blood sprayed.  The first slice of meat sizzled in the heat of the fire before the blood stopped flowing out of the deep wound.  John ate the meat, the land soaked up the blood, and the sweet companionship of life and death continued under the desert moon.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Of Books and Men

Her feet made no sound as they padded across the cold stone floor.  She knew he was busy, but she had waited for such a long time.  Besides, what father could resist his only daughter?  He put down the tome as she approached and turned to face her.

“Father,” she said, “it’s time for a new book.”

He turned to his daughter and smiled.  Their library was one of the biggest around, and as such, adding new material was not a simple task.  She was too young to do it properly on her own, but he did enjoy helping her with it.  Besides, it had been far too long since their last acquisition.

“Of course.  Let me finish something here and I will be there shortly.”

Leila turned and hurried out of her father’s study. She ran down the central hallway, slowing only as she approached the large doors that led to the library.  Her eyes drifted upwards to the ageless brick in the barrel-vaulted ceiling, arched in ways that seemed to defy the laws of gravity.  The walls were lined with bright sconces and perfectly carved busts of the ancient ones.

She stopped in front of the large doors and waited, letting her mind wander to the joy of what lay ahead.  Leila felt his approach long before her father spoke.

“I trust you are ready to do this,” he questioned before attempting to open the door.  “The story will not unfold the way you would like if everything has not been prepared correctly.”

Leila turned to her father and smiled lovingly.  “Yes.  Everything is ready.”

Without saying another word, Seth placed his hand on the heavy door and opened the library for his daughter.  She stepped inside and walked down the aisle, her eyes lingered hungrily on dozens upon dozens of books.  The outer edge of the library held the oldest books – ancient things that smelled of parchment, strange leather and age.

She reached her hand out and ran her fingers across the tomes as they walked through her part of the library.  Leila had devoured every book in here, many of them multiple times.  Simply touching one of these was enough to tease her mind with the emotions and characters captured within the pages. A particularly strong wave of feelings shot through her as she touched one of her favorite books.  Leila stopped and ran a finger down the spine.

Seth stopped behind her and sighed audibly, knowing exactly how she felt.

“I remember helping you with that one.  It was the first story for your portion of the library.  I don’t think my first book was nearly that good.”

Leila closed her eyes and saw everything within those pages.  The faces were crystal clear, the emotions every bit as raw and savage as they were when it was penned, if not more so, and she almost decided to stop and simply enjoy it.  Almost.

Her hand fell from the book and she turned her face to the center of the library where the books were created.  A series of shapes and patterns had been laid into the floor, each with corresponding glyphs and symbols handed down from the ancient ones.  She stepped into the center of a group of markings and turned to her father.

Seth retrieved the book she had prepared and flipped through the pages, ensuring they were empty.  He nodded his head to his daughter and recited the unholy incantation as she waved her hand over the glyphs around her and initiated the ceremony.  The floor shimmered, the room darkened, and the realm of mankind opened before them.

She spoke the ancient command and the two worlds merged.  Leila looked at the room where a lone man was bent over geometric patterns of his own and was busily drawing lines upon the ground.

“Eric,” Leila said, “I have come for you.”

The man jumped with fright, smearing the lines.  He looked down, checked to be sure he was standing within his circle, then turned to face the demon he had been summoning for months.  “How…  But I…” he stammered as he tried to comprehend what happened.  “But I didn’t summon you yet, I never game you my name!”

Seth grinned wickedly as symbols around his daughter began to glow and one-by-one drift off the floor as vapors to etch themselves onto the pages of the book he held.

“Stupid little man,” Leila smirked as she watched the mortal squirm.  “Did you really think your preparations, chalk and lines of salt, could contain me?”

Leila stepped completely into the mortal world and stood within the man’s triangle of conjuring.  The last of the glyphs from the library floor etched itself into the new book.  The remainder would have to be done from the mortal realm.

The man faltered, knocking down his altar and candles as he pulled backward.  Composure regained, Eric stood up with the ceremonial dagger in his hand and faced his demon.  “Yes, I followed all of the steps.  You are mine to command, mine to summon, and mine to banish!”

Eric moved cautiously to the edge of the triangle where Leila stood, his confidence growing with each step.  He lifted the dagger and spoke with as much authority as he could muster.

“Through Alpha and Omega, and with Michael’s gate, I cast you to darkness where eternally you will wait.”

Leila waited for Eric’s hand to cross the line and grabbed him by the throat.  She caught the dagger as it fell from his hand and took him to the floor.  Eric watched in horror as the demon sat over him and pressed his own dagger to his neck.  He started to scream but she waved a hand and his mouth clamped shut.

“I know you are confused,” Leila said as the sharp blade easily cut through the soft flesh of Eric’s throat, “so let me explain.  The rites and rituals were never yours to command.  We fed them to your kind ages ago so that we may do as we please.  The words, the symbols, the incantations… all provided by us.  The only thing humanity offered was enough self-important cockiness to think they could control something immortal.”

Blood ran freely across the floor, flowed over the symbols, and opened a portal back to the demonic realm.  The ablated symbols etched themselves into the book still held by Seth.  With each mark that was transferred to the pages, Eric’s spirit became further embedded in the book, ensuring his damned soul would be eternally bound within.

Leila laughed as Eric released his last breath.  “You never even questioned what use a dagger would have when dealing with immortal beings. Silly man,” Leila said as she patted his cooling cheeks. “The dagger was always meant for you.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

The Lie

Screeching tires broke through the tunes raging in Mark’s headphones. He lifted a middle finger before he raised his eyes to see who was honking at him.

“Get the hell out of the road asshole,” screamed the man as he drove away.

Mark pulled the headphones off as he watched the car. It belonged to a guy down the road. A reckless grin crossed Mark’s face. He would take care of that later. Mark looked at the house as he walked up to the front door.

It had never felt like his house – like a home. The immaculate lawn, trees and bushes trimmed, even the rocks looked like they had been categorized and placed carefully. If there were a 10th circle in Dante’s Inferno, Mark thought, it would have been suburbia.

***

A store-bought scent filled the air as he walked in through the front door. Today’s candle gave off the scent of baked apple pie. Mark scoffed. The oven was for display only. A noise from one of the back rooms caught Mark’s attention.

“Shit,” he mumbled as he put the headphones back on and held his backpack tighter. “They’re back early.”

Mark hurried to the stairs. The parental units made it to the bottom of the stairs just as he reached the top. He moved quickly down the hall while his hands drummed a heavy musical beat against the backpack. The music wasn’t loud enough to drown out the sound of feet stomping up the stairs. Mark knew the telltale sound of disgust and loathing in their heavy footfalls. He made it to his door before the headphones were yanked off his head from behind.

“I said turn that sorry excuse for music off when you are in this house,” said Steve. It was Dad only if there was company.

“Sorry,” Mark said through clenched teeth, “I have algebra and was getting in the mood to do pointless bullshit.”

***

Beth, Mother when occasion called, pasted a faux smile on as she stood next to Steve.

“We came home early because there is something we need to talk to you about.” Beth’s lips and eyes twitched as she exchanged one counterfeit grin for another.

Mark turned his music up as he replied. “I’ll work on my algebra for an hour and then come downstairs. Something smells great down there.”

Beth’s face scrunched with confusion. Steve looked suspicious. Mark stepped into his room as he continued. “Smells like pie or something. I love it when you bake.”

He closed the door, but Steve opened it just enough for his face to show and glared at Mark. “You have 45 minutes or we will come up here.”

***

Mark closed the door again, opened his backpack and pulled out his bong. The water sloshed against the sides as he prepared the water pipe. The meeting with the parental units just begged for a large hit. He was tired of the lies.

Once the bong was ready, he put flame to the bud. Mark sucked deep and watched as the clear chamber filled with smoke. He dropped the lighter onto his bed and was about to open the window when he decided it was time. The bed creaked as Mark sat down and removed his finger from the carb. The chamber quickly emptied of the white smoke as Mark pulled it all into his lungs. He held it in until his head started to swim.

“It’s time for the truth,” Mark said. His words were carried away on a cloud as he tried to decide what to do. Thoughts bounced around in his head like a pinball machine. Most of those thoughts shied away when he tried to reach for them. Only one remained clear. Truth.

He ground more bud and filled the bowl. Truth was bold and brutal. Mark knew brutal, now it was time for bold. He grabbed his lighter and opened the door. Steve and Beth were downstairs talking.

“… a bad kid.”

“Adoption was a stupid idea…”

“… time to get rid of him.”

He almost laughed. This was going to be great. Mark started noisily down the steps. The talking below stopped, but he’d give them something to talk about. Mark reached the bottom of the stairs and walked into the kitchen. Beth and Steve looked shocked. Mark lit the bud and inhaled a full load. Smoke erupted from his lips as he spoke.

“Now that is how you bake.”

“You sorry piece of shit,” Steve screamed.

Beth had no more bogus smiles. “We give you everything and this is how you repay us? Well, now it’s time for the truth. We adopted you when you were little, thinking we could raise you to be like us. But it wasn’t possible. You’re a bad kid.” Beth’s voice was full of relief.

Steve jammed a finger at Mark’s chest. “We were going to wait until you turned eighteen, but neither of us can stand you anymore. Get out!”

“Since it’s time for the truth,” Mark said coldly, “it’s my turn to share.”

“What more could you share? You’re just a rotten kid.”

A sinister smile crawled across Mark’s face and a shadow fell over his eyes. “That is my lie. The lie. You have no idea how bad I am. Let me show you my truth.”

Mark swung the bong and broke it against Steve’s head. Shards of glass opened his forehead with a splash of blood and gouged out one of his eyes. Mark pulled a knife out of his pocket and slashed the blade across Steve’s neck. Beth was about to scream when Mark jumped up and grabbed her throat with a crushing grip. He turned and watched Steve’s movements go from strong and spastic to weak and sporadic. It didn’t take long for the blood to stop flowing and his twitching extremities to relax.

Mark looked back at Beth, shoved her back against the fridge, and slowly stuck the blade underneath her sternum. He breathed quietly and looked deep into her eyes as she kicked and convulsed.

“Is it better to live with a lie, or die with the truth?”

Beth’s reply wouldn’t matter. Mark was free because he already knew the answer.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Sypheun

 Her feet traveled up the roughly hewn steps with quiet ease. Ageless, she moved with immortal agility and timeless grace. The ethereal shimmer of her gown accentuated her femininity as she climbed. Beautiful from before time was first counted, Sypheun was gifted beyond most. That is why she went.

The steps rose from far below and stretched into the darkness above. Occasional flashes of light touched her form with their fiery embrace. A myriad of eyes watched from the eager masses below, knowing that only she was capable of performing this rite.

Sypheun glanced over her shoulder and watched the wretched thing that followed her. A flash of anger darkened the bright color of her eyes. “Your kind is never strong enough.” She yanked on the chain with perfectly bridled strength – hard enough to cause pain to the derelict being, but not hard enough to knock it down and cause more work for herself.

She shook her head in disgust. “Worthless creature,” she hissed. Nearly silent wails and breathless moans fell from torn lips as the frail man was forced to keep pace. His almost lifeless eyes held nothing but resignation. The man was spent, aware of nothing but his own pain and anguish.

Sypheun saw the door carved out of the granite above her. “It’s almost time,” she called over her shoulder. “We are in need of another sacrifice.”

The man’s fatigued breathing and vacant stare annoyed her. She jerked the chain again. Anticipating the task at hand, she rushed up the narrowing flight of granite steps nearly dragging her victim behind her. Once at the door, Sypheun pulled a key from her bosom and unlocked it. Only she could enter that other place; do what needed to be done.

A stale gust of cold air pushed through the door as Sypheun slowly opened it. Debris moved with the old stone as she pushed it inward. The pungent aroma of decay teased her nose. “How lovely,” she whispered as she yanked the man into the small room. She loved this part of the ritual. “Do you remember this place?” His eyes began to register something beyond the nothing they had held for so long.

“Maybe once you see a little more, then you will remember. It’s been years since you’ve been here.”

With a slight smirk, she ran her fingers across a stone slab centered in the chamber they now crossed; dust stirred where her hand traced. She looked back at the man and her grin broadened. His eyes were more clear as he seemed to take in his surroundings. Sypheun laughed. “Do you remember that night, so long ago?”

She reached the outer door, unlocked it, and flung it open. The night beyond filled the room. Its dim glow nearly blinded the man who had been kept in utter darkness for so long. Sypheun stepped beyond the door and yanked the chain violently. Her captive fell through the doorway and landed on his hands and knees. He opened his eyes and began to remember.

The rush of memories induced a mental hell of unbearable depth. A full moon cast her cold light upon the miserable soul as he wept bitterly at the entrance of the tomb. Sypheun grabbed the chain and pulled him to his feet.

“Time for a new sacrifice,” she whispered. “You do remember how this works, don’t you?”

He nodded his head in horror. Once vacant eyes looked down at his withered and discolored skin. He had changed more drastically than his fragile mind was ready to accept. Nearly all of his humanity had been drained by the throngs of hungry succubi in the depths below. He was now a ghoul.

The walk through the cemetery all those years ago surfaced through the jumbled mess of memories. He had come on a cold night to find the old tomb that was the subject of so many stories. There were tales of a beautiful specter that haunted the tomb. He had found her. He had also found his damnation.

Sypheun smiled as she saw the flood of memories haunt the creature’s eyes. Her attention drawn away, she heard the sound of nervous footsteps echo across the stones around them. As always, a new fool roamed the grounds and sought to satisfy his curiosity.

The frail ghoul watched with sick aversion as a young man walked towards the tomb. He couldn’t have been much more than fifteen. The young man stopped abruptly when he saw them waiting for him.

Sypheun’s beauty held the boy captive. He didn’t even see the wretch by her side. Her sweet voice filled his ears as she sang an arcane song of blood and death. It lulled him, pulled him to within a few feet of her. Her beauty seduced him; he never saw her remove the chains from the ghoul. Enthralled, he noticed nothing beyond her allure until the strange metal clamped securely around his neck.

He woke from her spell as if seeing for the first time, noticed the ghoul, and cried out in fright. Sypheun jerked the chain and brought him to his knees. The boy fought like a savage beast, but she only smiled in response. “Such energy, such life and vitality. You will serve us well.”

“What the hell are you doing to me,” screamed the boy as he fought against the impossibly strong woman. “You can’t do this!”

Sypheun grabbed the boy’s face. He was immobilized the instant her hand touched him. Her smile broadened as she began to pull at his energy. “Let me teach you a hard lesson. You are about to realize that humanity is not at the top of the evolutionary ladder.”

She began to walk backward towards the dark recesses of the crypt as she talked, the boy helplessly in tow. “All sentient beings evolve through violent exploitation. The acts of seizing, conquering and subjugating are inextricably linked to life as a higher form. It is through sacrifice and death that all things advance and become. This is as true for your kind as it is for mine.”

Sypheun was just inside the door of the crypt when she spoke again. “Ghoul. The crypts are now your home and haunt. By day you will sleep in the rot, then rise and roam by night. Feed on the flesh of the race to which you once belonged. You have returned to this world as a spoiled sacrifice, a harvester of decay. As for you,” she said as she pulled the young man into the darkness, “it’s fitting that you leave your world through the crypt. But you shall find no death here, only the depths where we are eternally hungry.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Enough

The moonless night embraced Chris as he stood in the foothills high above the small town. He cowered underneath the empty sky and swallowed the bile that was his self-loathing.

Disgust paraded across his wounded soul like an ugly Mardi Gras procession, its movements suggestive of cutting, its rhythm a macabre lurching. Chris covered his ears in the quiet. Even when he was alone, he heard the ceaseless badgering that spewed out from the world. It berated his every move and word.

Work, school and seemingly every moment of his existence were filled with ridicule and scowls that screamed he wasn’t good enough. A few years ago he had reached out to somebody at the suicide prevention center, but the volunteer told him he was being a selfish kid that was just looking for attention. Even killing himself wasn’t enough. He screamed to the night until his throat hurt.

With the exception of his mother, he had never been good enough. She loved him and cherished him regardless of what happened, until dementia robbed her mind and callused her heart. His loneliness and aching consumed him after she was gone. It was all too much. A second guttural cry erupted from his quivering lips as Chris cursed the great emptiness above him.

He looked up at the sky, made blurry by wet eyes, and wondered why darkness couldn’t be darker, why the blade never cut deep enough. The blood was never enough to carry him away, and the darkness of the night was never enough to hide him.

“It’s never enough,” he whispered.

The words bounced around in his mind with awful familiarity until Chris saw them for what they were. It was the same shit he had heard for years, and now those hateful seeds had sprung unwanted in his mind. He couldn’t allow himself to go down that path. His mind fought feverishly to come up with an answer.

He wiped the tears off his cheeks as he realized that he had been going about this all wrong. The night had always held him close, and it had given him comfort and listened to his cries. For years, it had whispered ideas of impossible freedom in his dreams. Why had he never listened to what the voices in the darkness said? No, the darkness of the night was right. It had always been enough.

What about the blade? Wasn’t it always enough for a release? It was the only thing that married pleasure and pain into a meaningful emotion that wasn’t riddled with hate.

The epiphany was sweet and impossible to ignore. He heard those same whispers that came to him in his sleep, and he knew he could do it – should do it. His desire to become closer to the darkness quickly turned into a raw urge. Chris slid out from the jacket he wore and took off his shirt. Cool air surrounded him, hugged him, and carried away his negative emotions. The whispers became clearer.

He quickly took the rest of his clothes off and gave himself completely to the night. The wind hardened his nipples, tickled the hair of his body, and buffeted his flaccid length like an ethereal lover. This was all he needed.

The night had taken his self-loathing and carried it away on its cool breath. He had only to give himself to the darkness and it would consume the bad. Chris ran some fingers over the scars on his arms and he longed for the blade and the pleasure of the wet cutting. Part of him wondered if he would need the blade anymore, or its accompanying blood, but he also knew it was his only access to pleasure. The wind brought the night’s whispering to him clearly and he smiled.

“Yes, there’s only one way to find out.” He took the knife out of his clothes and pressed the tip into his arm as he started down the mountainside.

The black night clung tenaciously to the early morning sky as his bare feet crunched across the dry grass in the yard. Chris still wondered about what he was going to do, but the darkness couldn’t be wrong. He stopped in the middle of the yard and looked at the fresh cut on his arm. It hadn’t given him the same release that it normally did. There was still the intoxicating mix of pain and pleasure, but something had changed. He had changed. Opening himself to the darkness had fundamentally altered him.

“Ergo,” whispered Chris as he pulled the knife out of the sheath, “the release must change.”

He used the edge of the Benchmade dagger to spread his drying blood across his arm. It was as dark as the deepest night. Chris looked up into the barren sky and spoke in reverent tones. “Under your potent gaze my blood is dark, just as you’ve made me.”

He slipped the dagger back into the sheath tied around his bare thigh and walked across the rest of the yard. His dirty feet stepped onto the smooth concrete of the patio. The basement door was unlocked. Chris stepped into the warm air and the smell of a home that was foreign to him. He walked into a game room and plucked two billiard balls off the table.

The ability and freedom to control his destiny was like a drug. He knew what he was going to do, and it made him feel like a god. Once he had accepted the empowering darkness of the night, he had become something more than he had ever imagined. He was enough.

Chris rummaged through three rooms before he found what he was looking for. His new fate had blessed him with a nearly empty home. The only person in the house was a guy that he had known in school years ago. This guy hadn’t been more antagonistic than the others, although he had beaten the shit out of him a few times, but that didn’t matter. What mattered now was the release. He had cut and shed enough – now it was time for others to provide him with what he needed and deserved.

The billiard balls knocked against each other as they fell into the toes of the sock. He grabbed the sock by the end and let the balls swing slightly as he walked over to the bed. The sound of snoring masked his approach. He swung the sock over his head as he watched the sleeping form. The guy’s name came to mind just as he woke up. Jason’s eyes fluttered briefly until he noticed the movement. He jerked in his bed, his face a picture of shock and horror, and started to cry out. The billiard balls picked up speed and Chris slammed them into Jason’s jaw.

The oddly quiet crunch of the broken jaw muffled much of the scream. Chris started to reach for the dagger when he saw that Jason was completely unconscious. He looked around and found a few ties in the closet and quickly tied Jason’s wrists and ankles to the bedposts. Once that was done, he walked back around to the head of the bed and pulled one of the billiard balls out of the sock.

He looked down at the unconscious form and was in awe over how easy it was. There was no fear. There was no remorse. It was just as the night had whispered it would be. He felt calm and at ease. If this was the price to live free and finally be enough, then it was something he should have done a long time ago.

Chris reached down and pushed the mangled jaw open. Jason’s eyes shot open and a scream erupted from his swollen face. Chris quickly shoved the billiard ball into Jason’s mouth, busting many of his teeth in the process. His victim thrashed frantically on the bed until he pulled the dagger out and flashed it before Jason’s eyes.

“Stop moving or things will get ugly.”

Jason kept jerking his legs and had almost ripped himself free from the ties. Chris shrugged his shoulders and picked up the sock with the other ball still inside. He swung it over his head a few times and brought it crashing down onto Jason’s leg. He had been aiming for the knee but hit the large bone just below it, breaking it with a dull crack. Jason screamed and he started to swing the sock and ball again. He smashed one kneecap and then swung the ball even harder, pulverizing Jason’s other knee.

Chris glanced at Jason’s face and saw that he had passed out again. “That won’t work,” he said as he dropped the sock. He slapped Jason across the face as he pulled his dagger out. Jason woke with a start and looked imploringly at him. He slowly moved his head side-to-side; his eyes spelled out the pleas his mouth couldn’t form.

“Your begging and crying won’t work, Jason. I’m not here for something as petty as vengeance. This is about the release, although you probably wouldn’t understand that. A guy like you would never appreciate it.”

Chris took the tip of the dagger and pressed it lightly against the flesh of Jason’s thigh. Jason went completely still, his eyes wide with terror. He sobbed and breathed heavily through his nose. Chris smiled as he spoke. “No, Jason, this hasn’t been enough yet.”

He watched with bated breath as he put a little more pressure on the dagger. Jason’s skin dipped slightly with the point, but couldn’t resist the sharp blade. The dagger sunk a few inches into the fatty tissue of Jason’s thigh. Chris ignored the thrashing and pushed the blade deeper before he started to cut down towards the ruined knee.

The blood ran freely. It coursed down Jason’s leg and mingled with the shocking white fragments of his shattered knee. Ecstasy filled Chris as he reveled in how bright the blood and bone were. He looked down at his naked body and realized just how excited he had become. This was what he had always wanted and needed. But there was one piece that was missing.

Chris pulled the knife out and felt the sudden urge to lick the blade. Was that it? The darkness within him intensified with the anticipation. He lifted the dagger to his lips. The blood smelled like a wet penny. Chris slid his quivering tongue down the flat portion of the dagger. The salty metallic flavor was at once both sweet and familiar. It was like Sangria with salt and iron.

“Still not quite enough,” Chris sighed.

He pushed the blade into Jason’s thigh again and started to cut back and forth like his mother used to do with rolls of liverwurst. Jason bucked and shook in the bed, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head as he fought to stay conscious. Chris reached down, grabbed a warm slippery chunk of flesh and pulled. The morsel was almost free. It was hard to see where it was still connected because of the massive pool of blood, but Chris felt around inside the wound and finished cutting the pieces of muscle that were still connected. The mass of tissue felt warm in his hand.

“Will you hold this for me?” Chris asked as he held the dagger out to Jason. He drove the dagger down into Jason’s gut and then held up the bloody chunk. Chris peeled the skin away from the fatty layer and smelled it. His excitement grew exponentially; his body responded in quivers. He opened his mouth and dropped it in. It tasted like nothing he had ever tried. His excitement reached a climax and he cried out through a mouthful of thigh.

Chris swallowed the tidbit and wiped the blood on his hands across his mouth, face and chest. Relief and pleasure rolled over him in waves. He looked into Jason’s face and saw no sign of disdain, no sign of ridicule or scorn. Jason’s agony and fear had replaced the hatred and judging. Only the night could tell him if he was enough or not. Never again would it be in the hands of another person.

“I’m almost done here,” Chris said as he reached for his dagger. “There is only one more thing to do.”

He grabbed the dagger and pulled it towards him. Jason’s gut split and leaked organs like a mass of thick worms. Chris scooped his other hand into the opening, pulling out more of Jason’s entrails until the abdominal cavity served as a bowl. He cupped his hand, filling it with the smelly ichor in Jason’s open wound and smeared it all over his body.

Chris finished covering himself and glanced back at Jason’s face. He was nearly gone. He took his bloody hand and caressed Jason’s face as a mother would a child.

“Thank you,” he said as he put the dagger back in the sheath. He stood back from the bed and relished the feeling of being enough. Chris knew this satisfaction was temporary, as it had been with the self-harm. But the night would fill both him and the sky again and give him the ability to be a god. He would be ready because he was finally enough.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved

What’s Underneath

The throaty growl of the engine rumbled louder as he sped up. Wind whipped his long dark hair behind him as he gunned his motorcycle through the curve. The open road was freedom. It didn’t care who or what you were. He was a nomad, a vagabond whose passing was rarely noticed or remembered. His home had always been the desolate roads and byways where bad things happened.

Connor rode past decomposing roadkill and his stomach growled. His peculiar diet meant he didn’t need to eat often, but it had been a while so he would need to feed soon.

He followed a small group of bikers as they pulled off the highway and made their way down the exit to a small service area with less than a dozen buildings. They rode past a large café and pulled into a gas station. Fortunately for Connor, he needed gas too.

Connor’s bike roared as he pulled into the gas station and stopped across from the pump where the three bikers had started to fill up. All three turned their heads when Connor got off his bike. Connor’s jacket had symbols and patches all over it, and he could hear the other bikers whispering about what club he was with, and whether or not he should be on their turf. Territorial disputes among bikers were an issue Connor had dealt with before.

He listened to their hushed conversations as he filled up his tank. They had almost decided to leave him alone when Connor pulled the nozzle out and turned to put it away. He squeezed the handle as he turned and shot a stream of gasoline onto the bike closest to him. There was an immediate look of wanton violence on the other biker’s faces. The largest of the three walked towards Connor and growled as he spoke. “What the fuck do you think you’re doin’?”

“I thought that would have been obvious,” Connor replied as he put his gas cap back on. “I’m gassing up.”

“What in the hell did you just say? You being a smartass with me, punk?”

Conner turned his full attention to the three bikers. His dark brown eyes casually regarded the pissed off group. “I’d rather be a smartass than a dumbass, so I guess that means I’m a step ahead of you.”

The large biker reached under his jacket and started to pull something out when one of his buddies stopped him. “Take it easy, Strider, maybe this guy needs an education more than a hole in his gut.”

The second biker turned Strider around and showed Connor the back of the jacket. “See this? Do you know what this is? Do you know who we are?”

Connor stepped in front of his bike and looked at the jacket. “Well,” he sighed, “those are the brightest green letters I’ve ever seen on a jacket, and then there’s some kind of red devil or something equally idiotic.”

Strider pointed a finger at Connor, “You better get on that shitty bike and ride hard, man. We have a saying around here – ‘We give what we get.’ You’ve had your fun with us, but shit is going to get ugly if we meet up with you again.”

Connor watched the angry bikers ride off and grinned. “Maybe I’ll get something to eat after all.”

***

 “Here’s your coffee,” said the waitress. Her voice held the bored rhythm of a person that has trudged through the same routine for far too long. He thought she seemed like a caged animal pacing back and forth in her daily routine. Connor reached for the coffee and thanked her. The rumble of motorcycle engines came from down the street putting the waitress and other clients on-edge. Connor had picked up the sound of the approaching motorcycles long before and was expecting them. More than a dozen bikers pulled into the cafe’s lot and waited.

Connor stood up from the booth, put a twenty on the table, walked out the door and stood on the stoop while he slowly finished his coffee. The apparent leader of the group slid off his bike and spoke up. “I hear you’ve been giving a few of my boys a hard time.”

“Your boys,” Connor replied as he walked towards his own motorcycle, “were looking for trouble. I was just looking for fuel.”

“Bullshit,” yelled Strider as he walked towards the leader. “The sonofabitch splashed our bikes with gas and still had the balls to talk shit to us.”

The bald leader pointed at Connor. “Sounds like you are the one looking for trouble. I can see it in your eyes. You should be more careful in places like this, especially riding all alone like you are. I think me and my boys will ride out-of-town with you, you know, escort you so you don’t run into any trouble.”

Rowdy laughs came from the rest of the bikers. Connor walked over to his bike, slowly climbed on, and started it up. “Nice of you to offer, sparky, but I need something to eat more than I need an escort.”

“You have balls,” growled the leader, “but you earned an escort, so like it or not, you’re getting one.”

Connor smiled as he pulled onto the road. The gang followed close behind. The group moved slowly until they were on Route 66. Once they were all on the open road, Connor turned around and flipped them off. The gang tried to catch him, but Connor’s bike was faster and easily left them behind. A few miles later, he slowed down to take a side road, and the bikers were able to see where Connor went. He sped down various canyons and dirt roads until he came around a final bend and found himself blocked by a washed out arroyo.

Connor had just turned his bike around when the entire gang rounded the corner and blocked the road. The looks on their faces spoke volumes. Connor had no misconceptions about what was about to happen. Furious, the bikers hopped off their rides and surrounded Connor.

“Well, smartass, this is where you’re going to die. But not until after we break every bone in your body.”

Connor climbed off his bike and walked towards the leader. “I’ll let you guys go first, and then it will be my turn.”

The bikers all rushed in. A wicked first swing connected solidly with Connor’s mouth, another biker threw a fist into Connor’s kidney, and then it got ugly. The bikers took turns in groups of three, kicking and punching. Every biker had a few chances to pummel Connor until the bald leader told the guys to back up. Connor was on his knees. His face was swollen, his jaw dislocated, and even his arms and legs looked swollen and misshapen. Connor looked up, blood pouring from his mouth, nose and ears. A deep laugh erupted from his split lips. His voice sounded strange, somehow changed during the beating. “You’re going to shit bricks when you see what’s coming next.”

“Strider,” screamed the leader, “get the bat. It’s time to end this.”

Strider came over with a baseball bat and handed it over. Connor smiled as the biker swung the bat. Each swing slamming into him with a loud thump and crack. Connor was hit in the back, the arms, the legs, and then once across the head. He fell to the ground as he was beat over and over again.

The leader was breathing heavily when the bat finally broke across Connor’s back. The bikers stepped in close to inspect the damage. Connor’s only movement came from the rise and fall of his back as he breathed. His legs looked swollen with the lower halves twisted in the wrong direction. The leather jacket was in bad shape; split and torn in numerous places. It was bulging with what appeared to be a huge amount of swelling from underneath.

One of the bikers leaned over and lifted Connor’s head by his long hair. The biker gasped and jumped back. “Fucking hell,” the biker swore as he looked at the others, “you should see his face. It’s changed!”

“No shit it changed,” roared the leader. “Most of us hit him in the face, Junkyard is wearing brass knuckles, and I hit his head with the bat. His face is going to be a little jacked up. He should have died by now. Somebody cut his throat; let’s bleed him out.”

Muffled laughter came from the prostrate figure. A few of the bikers stepped back, uneasy with how things were going. Connor pushed himself to his knees. The hair on his head covered his face and hung down to his large shoulders. He slowly climbed to his feet. Just the fact that he could still move after the beating he took scared the shit out of the other bikers.

The leather jacket hung in tatters over Connor’s changed frame. His shoulders appeared to have dropped slightly, and his arms looked longer. His hands looked thicker; his fingers lengthened. Long black hair hung in a clotted mess all over his oddly shaped head. He reached up with clawed fingers and pulled the hair out of his face. Shock drove the entire group to terrified silence.

Connor’s jaw hung low and was thick with muscle, bone and hair. His mouth protruded from his face to allow for large, sharp fangs. Connor’s nose was black, had spread out, and the nostrils had widened into elongated slits. His eyes were large and bright yellow rather than the brown from before. Hard angles of bone and claw were contrasted by twitching chords of muscle. The hair from his deformed head mixed with a mane of fur that covered Connor’s wide shoulders and flowed down the middle of his back.

He reached up with one of his hands and pawed at a string of saliva that was hanging from his lupine teeth. Oddly pronounced words tumbled from a mouth designed for killing and eating, not speaking.

“Now, it’s my turn.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved

Mergers and Acquisitions

“Demosthenes, bring my drink.”

His voice was a command. His words an edict. This was how he ruled his business, and business was pretty damned good. Beleth relaxed in his large chair and held out his hand expectantly. The drink had better be in his hand before he grew tired of waiting or there would be hell to pay.

The telltale sound of his servant approaching was music to his ears. Demosthenes was exceptional and would have been hard to replace. Wiry fingers carefully placed the cup in Beleth’s hand. He took a sip of the scalding liquid. It was perfect.

Demosthenes waited for his master to savor the drink before he spoke. “Sire, your next appointment is in 30 minutes.”

Beleth relished the time he had to relax, but understood that some mergers and acquisitions required his presence. Not everybody was okay with dealing with his underlings. Some were pompous enough to demand a visit with the big dog himself. What those idiots didn’t understand was the extra cost incurred when dealing with the person at the top.

Demosthenes was nearly out of the office when he stopped abruptly. He turned apprehensively and spoke in a tone riddled with fear. “Master, your appointment has arrived early and requests your presence.”

Beleth almost spilled the rest of his drink with sudden fury. “What? Early!”

He stood quickly, his tall form moving with a predator’s agility. This new acquisition was not going to go well for somebody. Beleth strode over to Demosthenes and handed him the drink.

“I will finish this later,” Beleth growled. He started to walk towards the door when he stopped and turned. A sinister smile curled the sides of his lips. “Domesthenes, I will call for my drink in a few minutes. I will have need of you in the appointment.”

Domesthenes bowed excitedly – he knew what this meant.

A long, dark corridor lead from Beleth’s office to the place where the meetings were held. There was no light between here and there. Only darkness. It made it possible for Beleth to approach his next acquisition unnoticed and see what the man was going to try to use as leverage in the negotiation.

Beleth stood at the end of the meeting place, concealed in the thick shadows, and watched the man who was waiting. This one was perhaps forty-five. He kept himself in good shape, was obviously wealthy, and appeared to be extremely confident in himself. Beleth looked around to see what the man had brought for the negotiation and soon found what he was looking for. There were papers, offerings both symbolic and literal, but the man seemed most dependent upon what he had in his hand. This was going to be easy.

Beleth stepped out into the dim light and stood motionless in front of the surprised man. An oddly cold wind played around the above ground graves and ‘oven’ vaults, moaning as it whipped at Beleth’s pants and buffeted his silk suit jacket. The man stumbled backwards a few steps as the Louisiana night strangled the air. Beleth looked into the mind of his newest acquisition. His name was Steven.

“Steven. You look shocked. Is my appearance not what you were expecting?”

The man tried unsuccessfully to regain some composure. “Maybe this will help.” Beleth twitched his hand and the expensive suit he had been wearing drifted away like smoke. He stood before Steven with clawed hands, a large horn growing out of either side of his head, and wings folded behind his back.

“Is this what you wanted to see? I think it’s a little cliché. My form is what I want it to be and I don’t give a shit about your expectations. Let’s get to it and talk about the deal you want to make with me.”

Steven quickly shoved his left hand forward and displayed the silver ring he had purchased at great expense. He stuttered hopelessly for a few seconds before he regained enough composure to speak.

“Beleth, I have summoned you. You are compelled to make a deal.”

Beleth raised his left hand and showed an identical silver ring. “You are a fool. I was already willing to make a deal. But you insult me when you bring such feeble talismans and spells. You are treating with a prince of Hell, not a simple imp or lesser demon.”

Steven looked down at his hand and toyed with the ring that had done nothing for him. He opened his mouth to speak but only swallowed his words when Beleth approached him.

“You had the balls to start this early because you thought you held all of the cards.” Beleth stood tall over the doomed business mogul and spoke in gritty tones. “This is my business deal.”

His voice boomed and tombs shook as Beleth called over his back. “Demosthenes, bring my drink.” There was a stirring in the shadows deep within a large tomb and Demosthenes emerged from the depths of the vault. The old man carried the cup and slowly walked towards his master, but his eyes were bright with vicious hunger as they locked onto Steven.

Beleth took the cup and drank deeply. Steven’s eyes shined with horror-derived lunacy. With the cup empty, Beleth gave it back to Demosthenes and looked at Steven.

“You are wealthy and powerful, yet here you are, ready to ask for more. This is what will happen instead. You will destroy this precious life you have made for yourself. Once you are done, you will be mine.”

Steven’s face twisted with the warring emotions of fear and fury.  “Never!” he screamed.

Beleth stepped to the side as he spoke, allowing Demosthenes to get closer to Steven. “You can either die now, or you allow Demosthenes to manage this deal for me. You will answer to him. What do you say?”

The prince of Hell held out his left hand for Steven. Steven looked at it, then looked at the seemingly fragile Demosthenes. The business mogul shook the infernal hand in front of him. Beleth smiled as he pulled away, taking Steven’s ring along with him.

“Smart man,” said Beleth. The demon turned to his elderly servant. “Demosthenes, it is time for you to walk in this world again. Are you ready for the merger?”

Demosthenes chuckled with malicious delight and slowly approached Steven. “Yes,” he croaked, “I am. It has been far too long.” He stopped in front of Steven and reached for the businessman’s chest. Steven tried to knock Demosthenes to the side but was stopped with a simple command from the old man.

“Invocato potestas…”

Steven’s hand stopped. Demosthenes lifted frail fingers and slipped them inside of Steven’s hand. The business mogul shrieked like a scolded child, then howled with horror when he realized the old man was inside of him.

Demosthenes sighed and his eyes fluttered with nearly orgasmic pleasure. He hobbled to Steven’s side and slipped his entire right arm into Steven’s right arm. The hand started to jerk as if in the middle of a seizure, but soon relaxed and began to flex and turn. Steven watched his right hand in horror, his eyes wide and unblinking with the realization that he was no longer in control of that hand.

The old man began to whisper into Steven’s ear. “Your body is mine. You will sit in the back of your mind, aware of everything around you, helpless to do or say anything. I will ravage your family, your wife, and will do all of those things that hell has kept from me. I will ruin the dynasty you have so carefully built, and I will use and consume your body with unbridled passion and lust. When all is done, all is gone, and you have witnessed the shame of it all, you will die a horrible death and I will drag you down to see your master.”

Screams of profanity turned into unintelligible shouts and verbal fits that bounced off the cemetery vaults. Beleth watched with demonic glee, tasting Steven’s torment and drinking in his frenzied terror. Demosthenes slowly shuffled behind Steven and began to merge into his new body. Steven’s shouting began to diminish; the screams of dread slowly turned to moans, and then faded to pleasant laughter. It was done. Demosthenes smiled with his new lips, displayed his perfect teeth, and laughed as Steven wailed from deep within.

Beleth walked up to the businessman who calmly dusted off his clothing. “You look good, Demosthenes. Have some fun.” Beleth grinned as his new acquisition walked back towards the city.

Business was good.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2014 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved

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