Damned Words 18

Damned_Words_18

Ravenous Eyes
Jon Olson

The carcass had washed up during the night, not far from the tourist hot spots. It was massive, stunk of rot, possibly a whale. We planned to investigate; maybe even identify it, once morning came. They beat us to it. Damn seagulls. Within a few short hours, they picked it clean. There wasn’t even a speck of flesh left. While a couple of them still peck absently at it, the majority flap their wings; jostling for position on the bone. They don’t seem satisfied. Their ravenous eyes look beyond us, just offshore at the children splashing a few meters out…


Washed Ashore
Joseph A. Pinto

Once, I provided you shelter. Once, I held your world aloft. I am but part of the tidewrack now, splintered from my whole. You have found use for me; I am thankful for that much. A waystation for others to defecate upon.

Yes, you have found much use.

Leave me to the elements, to the rising chorus of jeers. I recognize I am your running joke. One day, perhaps, the beauty will be found within me. Until then, I await the rising tide. To be drawn away with the rest of the rubbish; to deeper seas; to grander isles.


Deep Sleep
Zack Kullis

He was God on his Virginia class submarine. Sailors frequently joked about the captain’s eccentricities, strange books, and old spear gun. Once out to sea, the poison killed them all quickly. 133 sailors sprawled across their watery tomb, the smell of wretch filled the tight quarters. He entered the command center shirtless, the Albatross tattoo breathing as evenly as he did, and pointed the spear gun at a temporary survivor. The sailor choked on frothy bile as he fumbled for the radio, but the spear gun spoke quickly. His blood flowed brightly as his eyes dimmed.

“God bids thee sleep.”


My Gift
Hunter Shea

He’s not where he’s supposed to be.
Salt air crusts my hair. The sun so bright, it hurts my skin.
How long have I been wandering here?
No, not wandering. Searching. I know where I am. I know why I’m here. I have a purpose.
To find him.
He came to me upon a wave, a swollen offering from the churning brown sea. A secret I could share with no one.
For the merman was mine. Dazed, I hid my gift from prying eyes.
Gulls shriek. Gathering. Feeding. Fighting over…
My merman!
His eyes, his lips, his gills. All gone.


Treasure Hunter
Tyr Kieran

I wandered the beach often, waiving my metal detector from side to side, desperate to find something that could change my painfully dull existence. One fall morning, it happened. I found some valuables buried two feet down. They were still around the fingers of a murdered woman. The maw of her slit throat was packed with pinkish sand and tiny burrowing crabs. Yet, it didn’t disturb or discourage me. The sight of her fascinated me more than any girl before. I visited her often, digging each time with anticipation. She’s taught me a valuable lesson: don’t bury them, sink them.


Dissolution
Lee A. Forman

Will sits on the driftwood watching creatures take flight, wishing he could join. I’m a man condemned to nothingness, he thinks. Death is fickle; too much time to suffer, not enough time to live.

As he runs his hand along the log’s surface sludge coats his palm. The viscous liquid moves of its own volition, traveling up his arm. Nerves alight as the slime penetrates his being, driving itself deep inside.

Life feeds. Life dies.

The ooze coalesces with Will’s skin; his body loses cohesion. The remaining gelatinous flesh seeps into the ancient wood, sustenance for the primordial hunger within.


Idyllic
Christopher A. Liccardi

Idyllic – it’s what people used to call this place. Now, the only thing to wash up on these black sand beaches are the dead; most parts of the dead anyway. The birds pick and choose the choicest morsels to feed on, leaving whats left to bloat and stink.

If only they would stay dead! Why do they have to get up and shamble across the beach anyway? Fucking rotting tourists is what they are.

The gulls cry out in shrill exuberance with each new visitor. Nobody living visits this beach any longer.

The birds don’t seem to mind, though.


Icarus
Veronica Magenta Nero

The rise was good but the plummet was better. So close, almost close enough to spit in the white hot face of god, before radiating light seared my feathers, sending me spiraling downwards. The impact on water shattered every bone, my patchwork wings were torn. Blood seeped like a twisting lie, staining the ocean red. On the rocking waves I waited patiently for death to free me and lead me through the veil, far away from the cruel touch of the sun. On the shore they flutter and squawk, pleased and satisfied to watch me fall. Little do they know.


Driftwood
Thomas Brown

He stands alone on the beach, waiting for dusk. Behind him, St. Bees is quiet. The shrieks of the gulls fill his head, brush his skin, vibrate the jelly in his bones. Smiling, he cocks his head.

The dunes are empty but soon things will be better. Soon he will fly with the gulls. The rebirth is beginning. Already he feels the first feathers, prickling the underside of his skin.

They find him at dawn, washed up five miles down the coast. Cause of death: drowning. It takes three men to scatter the birds scavenging the flesh from his face.


Fowl Deeds
Nina D’Arcangela

The attack was imminent – we knew it would come from above, though many were lost to the beasts that swim the depths below. We fought with a ferocity that cannot be expressed in words; with the veracity of those who know the fate of an ecosphere rests upon their deeds. Man, ever ignorant of our struggle, watched feebly as destruction swiftly approached on wings far less pallid than our own. Our crusade failed.

Most are gone now. Those who can, rally to take flight one final time. We hold no hope of triumph; only a seething fury for unbridled vengeance.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

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Therapy

It is the judgement of this court that Franklin King be taken to Steadwell’s Home for the Insane and placed in their custody where he will undergo therapy until such time as a doctor shall declare him cured.

That was ten years ago. A lot had changed in ten years. Those who had condemned him had changed. He was only sorry his mother wasn’t here with them.  Franklin was slow, Franklin was mean, but Franklin was not insane; not then anyway. The court had made his mother put him in that home when he was eleven. They tortured him, called it “therapy” for the first eight years of his extended stay. He was slow, but he learned that fighting to prove he was not insane just made the therapy worse. He learned and he plotted and he grew.

He stood overtop the bodies of the staff at Steadwell’s and smiled. His face was covered in blood but he didn’t mind. He had toyed with them for the last year, making them think he had been ‘cured’ of whatever illness he’d been sent to them with. He hadn’t been sick when he got there. He was now. Now it wasn’t just one voice Franklin heard, but two. That second voice always knew what to do.

One of the orderlies, a particularly vicious bastard named Ron, moaned and started to move.

Not good, Franklin. Not good at all. You can’t let him live. He would have killed you some time ago if he could have.

That voice was always with him now. It kept him company all these years at Steadwell’s. He had come to think of that voice as himself only smarter, more cunning. He welcomed that voice when it showed up.

Franklin fished Ron’s broken body out of the pile and lifted him as if he weighed nothing. Ron screamed wordlessly in his face, pitching spittle and nonsense at him. Franklin had removed Ron’s tongue with a serrated knife he’d found in the maintenance shed out back when he’d started because the voice told him to. It told him Ron would wake the others and then they would stop him from administering ‘therapy’. Franklin always listened to that voice.

“You had a chance to be nice, Ron. You blew it,” Franklin said and jammed his thumbs into Ron’s eyes. Ron screamed again fighting to get free but Franklin was far bigger than Ron was. He placed Ron’s head between his slab-like arms and began to squeeze as hard as he could. Ron’s skull cracked under the pressure, his movements slowing to nothing more than twitches. Franklin tossed his dead body onto the others unceremoniously and wiped his hands on his shirt.

***

The judge passed down his sentence without remorse. He hated that boy and he hated his mother. The boy might have been his, probably was his, and he was a mistake. Franklin’s mother was a mistake too, but she joined the church after Franklin was taken away. The judge couldn’t mess with a woman of the church. Some things were just not acceptable.  The only way to deal with this problem was to make it go away. In the twenty years the judge had been sending people there, Steadwell’s never cured anyone.

***

Franklin walked down the whitewashed hallway trying not to rage against the ghost of all the horrors he’d endured. Each room he passed held someone who used to be alive until Franklin had changed that.

The ones that hadn’t been mean to him were killed outright. Most of them died in their sleep, but those who took joy in administering Franklin’s ‘therapy’, they were handled differently. Franklin had taken great care to ensure they had all the attention they deserved.

The voice wasn’t with him, but it had given him instructions on how to proceed and where to find the red metal can in the maintenance shed.

***

It had been thirty hours and two hundred miles since Ron and the rest of the staffers at Steadwell’s had their own private therapy sessions. Franklin thought he would have found peace in that, but the voice told him he wasn’t done. There was still work to do.

The job is almost done, Franklin. You have a few more hours of work left and then you can rest. We see this through all the way to the end.

All the way to the end, yes,” Franklin said to his audience.

He began to assemble them when he arrived back in town. None of them remembered him at first but recognition returned quickly when they heard his voice.

Franklin stood on the back steps of the house of his final victim. Franklin wanted to come here first, but the voice insisted. It had to be the judge because the voice told him it was to be the judge. He didn’t argue with the voice.

“Good evening, Judge. I was wondering if you remember me, because I remember you.” He trailed off when the dawning horror crept across the old man’s haggard face. Franklin could smell stale beer and old sex on him as he tried to back away from the door.

“You do remember me. The voice in my head said you would.” Franklin laughed, but it wasn’t a good sound. He removed a large hunting knife from his belt and held it up in front of his face. The greasy lights from inside the broken down old house reflected in the steel; the judge saw blood and hair caked on the hilt. He turned to run, but Franklin was too fast.

Cut him deep, Franklin, but don’t cut the bones. You need the bones. Your work here is nearly done.

Franklin did as the voice insisted.

***

Franklin sat on his newly constructed throne, naked to the waist and reeking of gore. The bones that supported his frame bent under the weight of his muscle. He hadn’t needed the voice to tell him what to do with all those people who had sent him for treatment. He knew what to do with them. Each of them had played a part in sending him away; taking his home and his mother away. Now, they were all part of his world and he was their king. But, now he was too tired to move.

Franklin slept in the sticky mess that he’d made when he cut out the bones and muscle. He didn’t bother to clean any of it up, but the voice told him the smell would bring the neighbors to the church where his mother had been buried. The voice hadn’t told him it was a bad idea either. In fact, Franklin, rousing from the deepest sleep he’d had in nearly ten years, hadn’t heard the voice since the killing had stopped.

He listened, but the only sound was the sound of the flies lighting on and off the food he’d provided them.

“Are you there?” Franklin asked. He waited for a long time before deciding that the voice had gone maybe for good. He closed his eyes and felt peace for the first time. He dozed off again.

The sound of the flies grew louder as the day’s heat began to seep into the fabric of the old church; so did the sound of the siren headed his direction. Franklin knew that only one officer ever drove the town police car, and that was the sheriff. He hadn’t been home when Franklin stopped by to visit.

He’s the last one, Franklin. You know what to do.

Franklin stood, stretched his aching muscles and picked up an axe that had been in the shed out behind Steadwell’s. He liked the weight of it in his hands so he’d kept it, and as a car door opened and slammed shut in the old church yard, the voice told him he’d only need to swing it one more time.

Franklin smiled, knowing the voice was right. It was always right.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes 2

Damnlings, welcome yet again to our lair of insanity where our depraved souls leak their nectar for your consumption…

In the collection of prose set forth before you, you will find each of the authors has been constrained to a measure between one hundred and one hundred fifty words; two of which must be borrowed from the nether’s uttering. But fear not, for the Damned wear our shackles well and true – we shrink from no challenge. Sit, read, perhaps ponder… which two of the five words on offer would you chose for a story worthy of the ink that drips from the Pen of the Damned?

DE_Cloud_02


Not His Own
Jon Olson

The Dark One will be happy with this offering. It lies at my feet, struggling for breath – this man of valor. Sadly for him, no one will remember his name; only his actions. His hands, which under my power killed so many, now claw uselessly at the blood soaked earth. Staring into the sky, his eyes begin to glaze over. It is always closest to death that I can be seen. There is a hint of fear in his dulling orbs as he spots me, then a dawning realization that his actions were not wholly his own. In one quick swoop, I reach into his chest, tear out his soul. This will do nicely. Moving on, I look around the battlefield for the next of His children to inhabit.


Amshu and Nerezza
Lee A. Forman

“Why don’t you leave?”

“Why should I?”

“To inhabit a body for too long is dangerous.”

“Don’t you think I’m aware of that?”

“So why do you stay?”

“Why do you?”

Silence grew, both between life and something that wasn’t quite death—an eternal state of non-corporeal existence.

Nerezza grunted and folded both arms across a bare chest. “I came here first.”

“So shouldn’t you be the first to leave?” Amshu raised an eyebrow.

A smile split the coal expression on Nerezza’s face. “No.”

“Why is that?”

“Darkness is absolute. Light fades.”

“So stay here forever.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Quiet! The child awakens!”

With a groan it rubbed its eyes and sat up. It turned its head left and right, looking for the things born in its nightmares.

“Shall we flip a coin?”

“Don’t we always?” Amshu lowered both eyelids with boredom.

“Heads he lives, tails he dies.”


Allies
Joseph A. Pinto

They dug in, their bones, their charred, brittle bones, hacking the dirt with their spades.

Private McDermott watched as the cadaver platoon fortified their position within the trench.  His Sergeant had notified him help would be arriving, but this…?  A shell exploded nearby, and his sense of valor nearly fled.  He buckled his helmet beneath his chin and dropped into the ditch.

The cadavers worked without sound, just earth and burnt stone grinding within their joints.  Flesh, like tattered curtains, hung from their frames.  Foul, heinous things, McDermott had to remind himself these devil-spawns fought on their side now.

A cadaver leered, each socket a hellish foxhole in its own right.  McDermott recognized its prominent jaw line—Jimmy James.  Together they had seen basic training through.

Now McDermott wondered what was worse—the screaming Nazi mortars or the chattering of hungry teeth inside those damned Allied skulls?


Tomb
Veronica Magenta Nero

The air that seeps in from outside is foul, it is tainted with hope, with sentiments of love. Outside there is a world of false promises and pretty lies. The truth is here, in this dark tomb we inhabit. We were sealed in here long ago. The passing of time has become meaningless, I don’t know how old I am anymore. I remember my mothers’ screams as she punched and clawed at the heavy doors. Those sobs and screams, they still echo within these walls. Perhaps my mother is dead but yet she moves. She passes through the walls at night and she returns to feed me in the morning. Warm blood pours from her mouth into mine. Her eyes glitter, they are the only light I ever see. Soon, her eyes seem to say, soon it will be time to leave.


RMS Valor
Thomas Brown

A ripe smell washed over the docks; the sickly aroma of decay. For two hours Mark patrolled the boards, the scattered stores, the shipyard and the steel skeleton of RMS Bravery, chained to the ceilings and the walls. The smell was stronger here; he ducked beneath vast iron ribs, inspected rows of sheet metal, kicked at the crabs who had come to inhabit the dank spaces between these things: nothing.

It was almost midnight when the ship parted the mists. She moved silently, her savage plow cutting clean through the waves. She brought with her the smell. Sitting at his desk, Mark gagged, dropped his pen, did a double-take when her name slid into view: RMS Valor, one year lost to the ocean bed, still wreathed in slime, deck crawling with the lobster-limbs of her new monster crew.


Too late
Zack Kullis

Dust motes floated through the stale air like pallid balloons on a lifeless breeze. Everything had been undisturbed for far too long. How could one such as he, born of noble blood and ancient valor, stoop to inhabit such a foul and loathsome place? Dmitri bowed his head and pressed forward. His father should have reposed in the Vvedenskoye crypt in Moscow with the rest of his kin.

Dmitri passed through the room without disturbing the dust-covered floors. The cement lid to the tomb lie broken on the floor. He was too late. He smelled the wood of the steak before he saw it. The undead wither and become undone rather than die, and what had been his father lie within the tomb. Dmitri picked up the steak, smelled it, and knew where to take his revenge.


Those That Make The Rules
Tyr Kieran

Surrounded by blood and spoiled dreams, I surveyed the land. The ground squirmed with the dying youth—drafted teenagers ripped apart by merciless gears of the war machine. I watched as they clutched at their gore and twitched in agony. The world’s future facing a painful lack thereof simply because they were told to by those that make the rules. What a fucking joke! Foul logic cooked up and served in heaping mouthfuls to kids too blinded by their own testosterone and sense of rebellion to see the truth of it all. Their blood dripped from my fingers. Their last cries echoed in my ears. I survived. I killed under orders in what they deemed efforts of valor. Slaughter, something that would be utterly horrific at home on the suburban cul-de-sacs, was called valiant. Now, I see the cogs in the machine and I will kill for them no more.


Dying Breath
Christopher A. Liccardi

“Valor above all else,” he repeated to himself. The knife plunged deep into his gut was unnoticed. Those who inhabit the dark places often find comfort in such noble monikers but this one was different. He perverted the valorous, the brave, with his hate. The last hero lay at his feet, panting as much from fear as exhaustion. He wore the triumphant grin of those who think that killing a single person can thwart evil.

“That blade was dipped in poison, you bastard,” the hero panted. Blood and spittle flew from the corners of his mouth. “Tonight, you die with us.”

Named after his father for more than his looks, Samael’s grin widened as he collapsed to the ground knowing two more would take his place. Two more would pick up where he left off and valor would die along with the last hero.


A Few Steps
Nina D’Arcangela

The ripe stench sickens; the fetid odor enough to raise the bile of the staunchest bastard, yet here is the place I was born – brought into this world of evils and misdeeds. This cracked, filthy slab of concrete served as both my crib and cradle. Did I ask for this life? No. But granted to me, or shall I say more accurately, thrust upon me, it certainly was. I’ve not shied from the mantle presented; I’ve embraced it and its repugnance with the whole of my being. The squalor within which I exist, the distance from this darkened stoop to the brilliance just beyond has never been a burden for my soul to bear. Though when the gates swing wide, and the light blinds these most dim of eyes, I cannot but wonder if another destiny may have awaited me had she held her birthing fluids a few steps farther…


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 17

broken_link

Good Grace
Nina D’Arcangela

The metamorphosis begins with the lick of first dew. As Mother’s milk rains down, do we not feel the fracture, the impending breach; do we not begin to break under her ever present gaze? To hold fast we strive, yet a fool’s errand that. Mother will have her way, with rod or lash; we will obey. Extruded beyond time, a limit reached, one gives way with a whispered screech of banshees yet unheard. For as the coil rips asunder, so does the edge tip; the ferry no longer granting safe passage, we no longer the guardians in Mother’s good grace.


And It Swings
Joseph A. Pinto

And it swings and it swings and it swings o’er your head, the links like your memory eroding with time.  And you pray for the drop, do you not?  And you pray for the final fall.  And you have never been stronger than your weakest.  And you refuse to look Death in the face.  And all that you have lost still pains you.  And all that you live is a lie.  And you wonder how the gaps became so wide now.  And you wonder who is really holding on at all.

And it swings and it swings and it swings.


Broken Link
Veronica Magenta Nero

For months he watched her. The daily pattern of her life was his obsession. He studied her like a jigsaw puzzle, carefully fitting every piece in perfect place until the picture of who she was formed clearly in his mind. The time had finally come. To make his move. When he stepped out from the shadows onto her path he couldn’t have predicted her response. His plan was flawless, meticulous, he thought to himself as he choked and clutched his wet throat. She was the broken link. More twisted than he. She smiled as she drove the knife deeper in.


Will They Follow?
Jon Olson

Crows caw as my encased body sways above the ground. Weakly, I open my eyes, greeted by a familiar and featureless landscape. For four days now, this has been my view. The rusty chain holding my support post creaks, weakening in the bleak sun, threatening to break at any moment. Around me the crows circle impatiently; their caws urging me to die. Soon, once the chain breaks, I will do as they wish. Below is the large pit, the bottom of which I cannot see; where those who came before me now lie. Will the crows follow me down there?


Eyeless
Lee A. Forman

Does it know? Can it even see?

The absence of eyes leads her to think not.

She watches as the humanoid form scuttles close to the wall, its black featureless head tilting at odd angles. Insectile clicks echo in the dank cellar as it moves fingerless hands along the wall.

It makes her think of Grandpa—and how the cancer ate him alive. He always said it was the creature that gave it to him.

She watches the broken link as it pulls the chain tight. Her hands begin to shake.

How long did he think that chain would last?


Providence
Christopher A. Liccardi

Hanging, literally by a thread, my doom awaited. It swung, like luck, over me without remorse. I smiled at it.

My existence had been this fragile before and I’d survived. Would it be so again? Would the fates conceded the point and let me live? It was nothing to dwell upon. I would either make the trip across the rusted steel or I would plummet to my well-deserved end. Either way, forward was my direction. My prize wait on the other side and all I needed to do was make it past that final rusted link, the weakest link.


A Lunch to Remember
Zack Kullis

He had endured years of brutal teasing at the construction site. His coworkers were a bunch of knuckle dragging bastards, grownup versions of the little bastards that had taunted him throughout school. He looked down at the crew eating lunch directly below him.

He stood at the edge of the I-beam, tightened the rope around his neck, and stepped off. The ground rushed up. He knew his full bowels would let loose, his speed would pop his head off, and the last thing they would get from him would be his laughter, following by his shit, blood, and eternal hatred.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Cera

Rush stood, paralyzed.

All the muscles in his body had gone slack. His gun was drawn, but it was so much useless metal in his hand.

The flashlight had fallen when the old man touched him; it rolled along the floor at his feet in a lazy arcing motion that mocked the fear he was now feeling. The light reflected jaunty shadows in front of his eyes and he wanted to scream, but could not.

“I’ve been waiting for you Detective. I thought you would come back, that you would come to see the exhibit,” the old man said. His accent was heavier now than it had been. “Why are you really here? I have a guess but then again, you don’t get to be my age without learning a thing or two about the predictability of humans.”

Rush tried to remember his training, to remember the things they taught at the academy. All his cop bravado left him. He was at the mercy of the old man lurking in the shadows.

“I could let you talk, but I don’t know how much it would change things. You have questions young man. I can see them on your lips, but the answers don’t matter, not really.” he said.

Rush could hear the gloating satisfaction in his voice. It was the same sardonic sound he heard in court months ago. Rush had wanted to hit him then, too. He tried to tighten the finger that lay on the trigger of his gun, but nothing happened.

“Let me guess a few, shall I? After all, we’re in no great hurry here. Your department doesn’t even know you’ve returned, do they?” he asked. “You want the truth, am I right? You want to know the how and the why.” The old man was moving around behind him; Rush could hear him but still couldn’t see anything more than a shadow.

“Possibly you wanted to come return all the property you took during the trial? You came here to give back my things, my tools, and you happened to wander in to the workshop because you couldn’t find me upstairs with the rest of the old relics.

“I don’t see any of my things here, Detective so you must be here for answers.”

The old man shuffled into the light. He walked the distance between them with the same hunched-over waddle he had before. He stepped in front of Rush and straightened with an effort.

“I am going to let you speak, for now,” the old man said and touched Rush’s throat.

“What the hell did you do to me, old man?” Rush belched out in a roar; every other muscle in his body useless.

The old man tottered a bit, then crumpled back into his hunched posture and stepped back from the detective. He looked frail, battered and too old to be a murderer.

“My family has been doing this for a very long time, Detective, and we’ve gotten exceedingly good at it. In fact, you are the first person to come so close to guessing the truth about what we do in over a century.”

This man was a direct descendant of the exhibits creator, Marie, but to Rush, he looked like any other murderer.

The old man looked up at Rush and smiled.

“What have you done to me, scumbag?” Rush bellowed again. He could think of nothing else to say. All the questions about the victims and the wax statues were gone.

“Come now, Detective! Let’s not resort to the vulgar just yet. I have so much to show you.” He smiled again and Rush tried to cringe back. The old man seemed to have too many teeth.

“What did you do to me?” Rush demanded. He was scared now on some deep and childish level that he didn’t understand.

The man stepped a bit closer and took the gun from his hand. He placed it on a table near the two of them and turned back.

“You can have it back when I am finished. I’m afraid the bullets wouldn’t agree with me,” he said.

“Don’t touch me!” Rush spat out.

“I’d like to say that everything will work out for you when I am done, but that isn’t likely. I doubt anyone will fuss over a police officer gone missing after such an embarrassing moment in the spotlight.” The old man took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves.

Rush watched as the man reached up again. He paused, his finger looming an inch from Rush’s face. He looked like a man contemplating some monumental decision.

He touched Rush on the cheek under his left eye and the color began to drain from his vision. His left eye dimmed and then was gone. He didn’t feel anything but picked up the slow movement on his cheek where the man had touched him. Something dribbled down his face. The old man reached up and plucked it off his cheek.

Rush began to scream when he realized it was his eyeball.

The old man touched his right cheek and laughed as the screaming doubled then morphed into the choking sound of hyperventilation.

“You see, Detective…” he started and then shook his head. “Actually, you can’t see so I’ll describe it to you. I’ve gotten rid of your eyes because we won’t need them. I shall give you new ones when I am done.” The old man stepped up to Rush and plucked the right eye off as it rolled down his stubble covered face, then tossed both orbs onto the floor.

“It’s customary to remove the eyes from the exhibits as the trauma of watching your own death can cause… unexpected changes in skin tone and hair. You still have your ears so you can listen. I think it’s a fair trade for the tools and time you took from me during the investigation and trial,” the old man said, still polite, still smiling.

He reached up to Rush’s mouth and stuck his finger in.

Rush wanted to gag, but couldn’t move more than his throat. His tongue flopped out of his mouth mid scream. Blood and saliva spilled down the front of him.

“Detective Rush, I will be doing something that you may consider rather gruesome, but I assure you it’s necessary. When it begins, you are going to feel nothing, but I promise it won’t end that way. Sometimes I can still hear them screaming a day or two after but not every time,” the man said.

Rush fought his paralysis as hard as he could, forcing his will against every nerve and muscle but his body would not respond. He could smell his own fear now.

“The last thing we need to do before we can continue, Detective, is to remove your clothing and have everything cleaned and pressed. Undoubtedly you will spoil yourself and that won’t do. I assure you though, you will look as professional and well dressed as any officer of the law in this fine city,” the man said with an air of perfectionist pride.

The fear finally shattered his resolve. Rush felt his bladder let go. Bile crept in to his mouth and he vomited. He was going to die at the hands of this monster.

“We’ve come so far since you kicked in the door of my home and the museum. Your meddling almost cost me everything, Detective, and I think it’s only fair to tell you the entire truth as we proceed,” he said.

Rush could hear the sound of something on wheels being moved across the room. It mocked the same waddling gait the old man had when he walked.

“You were so much closer to the truth than you ever realized.” The sound of metal on metal filtered in through Rush’s panic. He could hear things that sounded sharp and painful.

“I used to embalm my exhibits after ending their lives, but I’ve found a way to do it while the subject is still breathing. It’s a bit more painful but in the end, it gives each of you a more life-like feel. Now, I am going to place a needle in your arm. You won’t feel the pinch but the rest, well, you’ll see.”

Rush felt something in his arm where the old man had touched him. It was pressure at first, but the pain that followed was immediate. Rush began to scream again as the old man touched his throat, the scream cut off; Rush passed out.

***

“…and this is our newest and most popular exhibit. The curator calls this ‘New York’s Finest‘ and will feature the men and women in uniform from all over The Big Apple.”

Rush heard the pleasant female voice pass and the sound of feet on a wooden floor. The realization of what happened hit him and he tried to scream and thrash about. Nothing came out of his mouth; he couldn’t move.

The voices faded, as did the footsteps.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes

Ahhh Damnlings, into our realm of darkness you have wandered once more. A realm where words twist on the wind, and morals gain no purchase…

In the collection of prose set forth before you, you will find each of the authors has been constrained to a measure of one hundred to one hundred fifty words; two of which must be borrowed from the nether’s uttering. But fear not, for the Damned wear our shackles well and true – we shrink from no challenge. Sit, read, perhaps ponder… which two of the five words on offer would you chose to sacrifice for a story worthy of the ink that drips from the Pen of the Damned?

Why a sacrifice? You will never hear them Echoed again!

 

DE01_Cloud

 


My Mind Screams
Jon Olson

My old fishing boat, the Extant, rocks unsteady beneath my feet. I struggle to catch my breath — difficult after stealing something else’s last. Blood runs down the wrench in my hand, dropping off onto the floor already wet from the carcass curled against the wall. Even in the dim cabin light, I am repulsed by this abomination of nature; the unnatural pulled up from the depths in my fishing net. Its skin glistens, almost amphibious, but completely alien. Somewhere in the mass of flesh, bone and gore are its eyes; black, unemotional and lifeless. My mind screams, unable to comprehend the events that transpired. Grabbing a spare gas can, I douse the body. With a flick of my lighter, the ungodly is engulfed – burning its existence from my mind.


Fetid Hunger
Lee A. Forman

Bound to a chair in the center of a dark room I sit. Countless eyes stare, their yellow glow peering through thin slits in the ebony veil which encircles me. Hope of escape—fleeting, lost; I try to focus on the steady drip of rainwater from the ceiling, the only thing keeping me extant.

They blink in the hushed air, each subtle movement accompanied by a soft squish—a sound not human. I don’t know what beasts hide in the shadowy corners of this strange and unfamiliar chamber. I have yet to see them. Even their shape is a mystery.

Only thing I am aware of is their hunger. They reek of it. I don’t know how long it will be until they tear into me and begin to feast. But from the stench of their breath, I know it will be soon.


Pandemic
Zack Kullis

“….. no interim procedure for eradicating ……”

Dr. Livingston’s eyes glided numbly over the words. She liked simplicity, and this pretentious document could have been reduced to a few sentences. The cell-repairing microbes they created to combat the aging process mutated shortly after they were introduced to the general population. The Guardian Strain became a pandemic.

She looked at her bloody hands. As with millions of other infected, the cellular walls of her organs bloated with the infection, swelling with puss and blood before splitting open like roadkill in the heat.

Dr. Livingston touched the package her colleague sent, her sausage-like fingers leaving a trail of smelly ichor across the box. The blood-stained note was written in shaky handwriting.

“Cure”

Her trembling hand reached up and placed the only cure into her mouth. Ironically, the treatment did in fact come from a shot, she thought as she squeezed the trigger.


The Price
Joseph Pinto

“There.  You see it, now?  You see?”

Indeed, I did.  One of only two extant copies known to man.  There it lay beneath the glass.  “How did you gain such a—”

He waved me off.  “Does it matter?” sucking on his Gurkha Black Dragon, appreciating the white tendrils curling round the cigar’s tip.  “What matters is that I have it.  What matters is that it can be yours…if you’ve acquired its cost.”

“I have.”  I knew my associate’s fondness for cigars.  I knew his affinity for a virgin’s eyes even more.  I handed over my satchel, his fee exquisitely stored inside.  He parted his mouth; the peppery finish of his cigar wafted, tickling my nose.  Then he pitched forward, the strain I had swabbed along his cigar’s head seizing his heart.

I took my priceless manuscript.  I took back the sightless eyes.

I left him to his cigar.


The Wailing
Magenta Nero

I noticed the church while driving through drab countryside. I pulled over to look around. I was surprised by the age of the building, the yellow sandstone was coated with moss, crumbling grey headstones littered the churchyard. The wooden doors were locked but I managed to wrench them open. Dim light shone through the small stained glass windows, the air was thick with dust. Slowly I walked the aisle, glancing around as my eyes adjusted. I froze suddenly, spotting the draped figure that stood before the altar. It wore a long dress with a tattered train of ghostly lace. I heard the sound of faint sobbing. It turned towards me. With hands of blackened skin it lifted its veil and fixed me with a rotten stare. The wailing began and I fell to my knees, struck by the bitter heartbreak only the dead can know.


Mistaken
Tyr Kieran

I tried to tell him. My words started in a hasty shout, the syllables tripping over themselves as I shoved them past my chapped lips. It sounded all wrong. I couldn’t even recognize the words myself. Lack of water in these scorched days has left my mouth and throat so damned dry. With precious little time at hand, I strain, trying again, forcing my tacky tongue to dislodge and shape the sounds, yet it only rolls and twitches like a dying slug. The cold lightening of panic surges through me, lifting my heavy eyelids, raising my outstretched hands, but nothing can stop the downward arc of his weapon. The massive wrench is the last thing I see—stealing my sight on the first catastrophic blow. Warm blood wets my throat just enough for my plea to gain sound as everything fades to eternal darkness, “Not a Zombie”.


Judgement Day
Thomas Brown

On the last day of summer, the dead rose from their rest in the earth. He watched from his treehouse while they emerged. Thin bone. Domed skulls. Clenched hands unfurling like flowers in the morning.

There was nothing hurried about their efforts. They staggered to their feet, stretched, shed old skin and loose soil. When his Action Man fell to the floorboards, he imagined he could hear the creak of their necks as they stared skyward.

It took them hours to climb the tree. Fingers without tips wrenched slugs of grey bark. He watched them until he couldn’t bear to watch them anymore then dragged himself and a blanket into the corner.

It was dark when they finally reached him. She had on a veil; black, backlit with luminescent eyes. Even as she crawled closer, he wondered where his parents were, and when they were going to rescue him.


Perfect
Christopher A. Liccardi

In its extant, this was nothing new. It was strong though. It hadn’t been seen in ages not because it was weak, but because it was fast. This strain moved quicker than anything else they had ever seen.

“What are we going to do, Doctor Lee?”

Lee, an experienced viral biologist crushed what would probably be his final cigarette and stared though the haze of blue smoke. A pause…

“First, we die Janine. Then, we come back.”

“I don’t want to come back.”

“Actually, it’s as perfect as you could ever be. Complete harmony between the living and the dead. You’d be not alive, and yet mortally perfect. Besides, you don’t have much of a choice.”

“Do we have to drop it on the city?” Her voice quavered the slightest bit.

“We do but it won’t matter where you are in a few hours.”


Revelation
Nina D’Arcangela

Like the maelstrom that swept in her tide, she swirled with a tempest of fate. Those before her attempted to flee; begged forgiveness for their evils. Misunderstood lives, unappreciated deeds, this lot unaware the veil had thinned solely to allow their pardon. Gleaming ebony skin that smoldered of embers left to flame, she bore down upon them with brutality unknown to these worthy heathens. Necks twisted most unnatural, bodies rent of their companion cog and spokes, these children of misdirection now granted reward for actions unprovoked yet savored by that which waits. As claws struck and teeth ripped, screams wailed the song of souls unburdened. Mother to the immoral, sister of the dishonest, beacon for the misguided, she stilled as the slop of her task struck a final note. More would come, born of those who kneel in perverse fealty. In the interim, the void of silence stirred her home.


Each piece of fiction is the sole copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016

Damned Words 16

DamnedWords_16

Fading
Christopher Liccardi

Mitchell sits on its broken foam seat, feeling the pain diminish. Blood loss pulls him from his cares and worries. He can feel his hands slipping from the sides of the chair. His choice was made by another, but not the one holding the blade. It was the demon in the chair that made the choice. It spoke to him and told him what it needed; more blood. He closed his eyes and the voice faded until it was a whisper. The last thought on Mitchell’s mind wasn’t death, but the chair. Who would feed it once he was gone?


Barbaric Elegance
Jon Olson

Nothing like this had ever been found before; the diggers unsure of their discovery. What is it? Excitement, confusion and terror glisten in their eyes. Months spent sifting through rubble, burrowing into the past with little to show for it; very few indications or evidence to reward our labor. Today, we find this: elegance crafted by the barbaric. Its craftsmen, the humans, all but erased from history; consumed by extinction. Is it safe? There’s nothing to fear, yet reassurance is met with hesitation. Like the others, it will be cataloged and destroyed; recorded and wiped from existence like its makers.


Metamorphosis
Zack Kullis

There was nothing quite as perfect as the spoiled beauty of the fetid and rancid.  Everything his eyes touched was painted with the distinct colors of decomposition’s palette.  It took him years to fill his sub-basement with thoughtfully selected detritus that would breed the corruption and blight he so loved.

Nearly a decade of carefully chosen carcasses littered the floor, blessing this place with their funk and ghastly splendor.  It was perfect but for one thing – himself.  He clamped his eyes open and shackled his hands to the chair.  Death would not keep him from watching his own loathsome metamorphosis.


Throne
Magenta Nero

Death has long since swallowed him whole but he believes himself to be living. His face is shrunken, folded upon itself, closed like a flower at dusk. His eyes are ringed with grey. Pain wrestles with his body as he lies in bed. Each morning he rises, dragging his disease ridden leg behind him.

Born of clay, with the pride of kings, he judges all and pardons nothing. He survives alone. One by one he has severed all ties with the living, unable to forgive or forget. All that remains is the vision of a throne, righteous amongst the clouds.


No Work, All Play
Joseph A. Pinto

Interment had delayed my work.

Comprised only of broken rock and lost time, my resting place had been disturbed in dubious fashion. Ignorant thrill seekers they were, tipping bottles to mouth. One stumbled callously into my chair.

Stepping from decades of grit, my straight razor I drew. I had forgotten the power of my blade. But it had not forgotten the power mine.

Throat utilized as strop to steel, his blood made me whole to the world again. Within the deep gloss finish of the blade, I admired my reflection.

“Handsome devil,” I crooned and busied myself in his lather.


Delusion of Freewill
Nina D’Arcangela

This is the place I was born. Not brought into the world, but given life; purpose. Society could no longer sustain the delusion of freewill. It had become a blight; a poison that corroded the beast from within. No, this world was not intended for choice, it needed structure, guidance; a singular hand to rein it. I succumbed to that hand. Strapped to the chair, current charred my flesh, molded my mind until I became a drone; re-purposed for the greater good.

Born again as a bone man I had but one task – pick amongst the piles of the dead.


Under The Knife
Thomas Brown

He came here last year for Botox. Funny how they find their way back. Rotten cats, retracing old steps. Stumbling onto the chair, she flails, snatching a scalpel from the steel tray.

Decay has done terrible things to the man’s features but she remembers him. His Tie Dye shirt, green Crocks, the way he’d smiled when she’d fixed his forehead.

He is still smiling now. A shovel has seen to that; his lips red and wet. They all look happy, dead and indifferent. He looms over her, hands outstretched. Smiling back at him, she takes the scalpel to her throat.


Home, Sweet Broken Home
Tyr Kieran

I smile at the chair, despite its imperfections—rusted metal, cracked leather, speckles of dried blood—it’s the only thing that feels like home. Sitting on its cool leather so many years ago, I had my first conflicted taste of solid food. From diapers to teenage acne, this chair held me for many forced meals and brutal punishments. I only tasted freedom for a few moments annually, on my birthday—the only gift my mother ever granted. Eventually, I outgrew the chair and captivity. Now, to help celebrate my birthday, Mother is the one temporarily freed of the chair’s confines.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

4320 and the Hard 6

As soon as he landed at McCarran, the heat-baked shimmer of city life was visible, vibrant. He stopped on the jetway to peer through the sooty glass. The reflection was breathtaking even from three miles away. This place really was a treasure trove waiting to be taken by someone brave enough to grab it.

He pushed up the ramp toward his new home and caught the smell of decay as he passed into the open-air walkway. Something must have died on the tarmac; it was faint but undeniable. For an entrepreneur about to open his first hotel in sin city, this might have seemed a bad omen, but not to him; he didn’t believe in that shit.

Two hundred hours: The casino business had been good. His first ten days were coming to a close and he didn’t see anything but the glitter and sex. Fuck if he could remember the names of all the girls he’d screwed or places he’d been.

That smell of decay came and went. He couldn’t quite understand why a city that spent billions on water couldn’t keep the scent of road kill away from the tourists. There were moments he noticed those around him seemed older, more aged and tired, but they were fleeting thoughts drowned by his own youth and vitality.

He sat in a lobby bar some place on the strip and sipped his Old Fashioned. It tasted off, but he was distracted. The waitress who had been serving him, Lina, came over and sat next to him on the leather sofa. She touched his shoulder, asked if he wanted another drink. He didn’t answer until the fingers sliding up the inseam of his expensive slacks reached their intended goal. He winked at her as she stood and walked away. She looked back over the crowded bar with a very suggestive grin.

Five hundred hours: Getting money from this place was easier than getting laid, but that damn smell was everywhere now. He couldn’t go more than a few hours without noticing it. Something was really wrong around here. Nobody else seemed to notice though. He called the city but they found nothing.

He saw Lina last night; the waitress with the suggestive grin and the wandering fingers. It was a good visit. They had camped on the floor of what would be the Casino Manager’s office. Lina had done all kinds of things to him. She seemed tired though. Maybe all the late nights were getting to her. He liked Lina. He promised to take her away once the project was over.

Twelve hundred ninety hours: His vision was coming together. The installation of the new statue of Seduction made it all seem real. The thing was nearly forty feet tall and sat hunched on all fours. It looked like a cross between a gazelle and a unicorn.

The entire thing was cast in gold, which was typical for Vegas. The creature seemed to have flowing hair, like it was caught in a strong breeze. The new hotel manager had called it a Kirin or something. Damn thing looked like it was watching you all the time.

The legend was that the beast brought prosperity and luck, or some shit like that. So far, it seemed to be working. Even the smell of decay had left for a time.

As the staff walked past, they would touch the damn thing whenever they came and went from the project site, but he refused. At first, it was mostly the Asian staffers and construction people, but eventually, everyone was doing it. They joked with him about not offending one of the gods, but he didn’t believe in that shit. He had plenty of women, money and luck.

A few days later, the smell was back and he noticed the statue started to take on a tarnished look.

Lina took him out to dinner that night. She looked older, but said she was fine. Fine enough to make him dessert from under the table in between courses. Certainly finer than the food he sent back. It was rancid. The waiter smiled a tired look and made no complaint.

He looked around the restaurant and it dawned on him that the entire place was filled with older couples trying to look young. Strange thing was, he never noticed it before.

Twenty-one hundred eighty four hours: Just over three months and the new construction was nearly done. The place should’ve looked great, but didn’t.

Everything started to take on the worn-out look. Even the women around him no longer looked appealing.

He had gone out to the Neon museum a few times when he first arrived. The desert had stripped all the luster off those signs at the old bone yard where everything went to die in this town. That’s how this place was starting to feel. What the hell was going on around here?

That night, the statue looked worse than ever. God, were these people pissing all over it? How does gold lose its shine?

He found a security guard in the cash office playing some game on his cell phone. He told him to get off his fat ass and cover that fucking statue before he had to pick his teeth up off the floor; he wasn’t paying him to goof off. He also wasn’t paying someone to come out and buff that statue again.

As the guard waddled away, he remembered the young man who sat here not three weeks ago. This guy couldn’t be him. That kid was young, vibrant; alive.

He needed a drink and to check in on Lina. She hadn’t been feeling well all week and had stayed home from work. Maybe they could spend a little time rolling around on the pile of cash he kept in the apartment.

Three thousand ninety hours: The project was done in record time. He wanted to celebrate by getting royally fucked-up with Lina. Maybe a threesome and some really high-end shit would put things right.

The contractors all looked like they could use twenty years back on their lives instead of the bonus they got.

When he went to see Lina, she wasn’t doing any better. She had invited a few friends over that they had partied with not long after he arrived. After putting away an eighth of an ounce of blow on his own he could hardly remember much, but they had done some pretty kinky shit. He woke up with blood all over the sheets, and what should have been two very pretty ladies playing with each other. But these ladies weren’t the beauties they seemed the night before; they almost had to hold each other up. Everything on them was saggy, tired. The changes around him were so drastic, but had been so subtle in coming. Maybe all the nose candy was getting to him. He didn’t know, but he would worry about it another time.

Forty-two hundred hours: He was just about ready to call it quits. The place smelled of death and old rot. All of Vegas had changed somehow. It seemed to be everywhere.

Lina hadn’t even come over last night.

The grand opening was in five days; one hundred twenty hours and he didn’t think he was going to make it. This place was driving him crazy. Time had sucked the life out of everything here; everything, except him.

What the fuck was going on around him?

Forty Three hundred hours: He woke up that morning with no memory of the last few days. The first thing he needed to do was take a piss. The second thing was a shower; he stunk to high heaven. The smell of decay was now everywhere. It permeated his clothes and his hair.

As he showered, he noticed the water had a bad odor, too. He would need to call the system guys and find out if there was something wrong inside the hotel. No room for screw-ups on opening day.

He went to the entrance of his suite to get his breakfast. It was delivered every morning so he didn’t have to waste time looking for a place to eat. He opened the door and the cart was covered in flies. What the fuck? He lifted the silver plate cover and nearly vomited all over himself. The food had been there for days.

He ran back to the bathroom, trying to contain the bile he was retching, and almost made it.

Once he got himself under control, he picked up the phone in the living room and dialed housekeeping; five rings, no answer. He stormed out of the room. If this staff had gone on strike already, somebody was going to pay. The hotel wasn’t even open yet and already things were falling apart.

He ran through the hotel and found everyone was in their appointed places. They had died there; been mummified in their uniforms and with their assorted props and tools. As soon as he realized he was the last person left alive, he noticed the smell had finally gone. All he inhaled now was dry age and old, worn-out life. That’s when he finally snapped.

He left the Seduction one final time, 180 days after he first arrived. He ran off into the desert and only the Kirin was left to see him off.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2016 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 15

DamnedWords_15

Rusted Relics
Jon Olson

Are they gone? The Creepers I mean? Fuck that was close. Too close. Shit, they almost got me. Cold-blooded bastards. They’re most active in the sun, yet you ventured out in daylight. We can’t take any more chances; there are so few of us left now. At one time, we were many; powerful and dominant. Then the Creepers came. Their war with us was quick; brutal; unrelenting; genocidal. These old war machines, these rusted relics, once a source of pride in our dominance, now gravestones of a dying civilization. Grim reminders of what we were and of what we’ve become.


Delirium
Zack Kullis

Delirium from the dehydration twisted his worst memory to the sweetest- the blood.  The fall into the abandoned coal pulverizer broke his back and legs, but the compound fracture in his left leg covered his face with blood.  Warm, wet blood.  What had once been nausea was now thirst and desperation.

Upside down, he raised the jagged piece of iron with his last bit of strength and plunged it into his gut, and salvation flowed with damnation.  He gulped savagely until something plugged the wound.  His fury turned to gluttony, for he had found something meaty to eat as well.


Footsteps
Magenta Nero

I hear footsteps approaching with a dull, heavy thud. Always the same footsteps. Big boots with steel capped heels. I squeeze further back into the black corner. I shun the light that streaks through the bars in a fan of gleaming dust. The footsteps stop. There’s a rustle of paper. He hurls it into my cell; a sandwich.  Always the same; a thin slice of processed meat between heavily buttered white bread. It lands in a puddle of dirty water. I never touch them but the rats do. They will come during the night, squeaking as they crawl through the bars.


Laughter
Christopher A. Liccardi

The smelling salts brought him back to his situation and the clarity of the thing in front of him. His hands ached; pinned overhead with the dagger. His thick calf muscle screamed.  He was with the other woman, then…

“Rumor has it, you like to fuck. Me too.” His wife’s voice tittered as she stepped into the light. The thing’s steel finger bore down, tearing flesh from bone. Pain exploded in to him. He could see her in the gloom, licking her lips and laughing.

In the end, it wasn’t the agony, but her laughter escorting him to his death.


God-Given Seed
Thomas Brown

We tried everything but they kept coming. Nothing would drive them off except when Pa took to the fields. “Don’t play in the corn,” he’d say. We’d watch from the first-floor window, scythe bobbing, glinting in the light, scattering the birds like dark clouds into the sky.

When Pa died, there was no stopping them. We went hungry that year. The one afterwards we brought him back. Sticks and straw, all trussed up high, old scythe stitched to his paw. Now the birds are the least of our worries. “Don’t play in the corn,” he’d say. We keep well clear.


Of A New Age
Joseph A. Pinto

We are all as one, she said, and the great wheelwork spun behind her eyes.  It bore into me, that horrible flaking of rust, the anguished drumming of the mechanism she was, and still, I would have followed her anywhere.  Into the mouth of the machine, she said.  Yes, into the mouth of madness.  I cuffed my sleeves and exhaled, watching her shudder like an awakening beast as she gathered steam.  She was right.  We are all as one.  I closed my eyes and finally, surrendered.  Extending my hand, she took me, and shorn me as she had been shorn.


Sufferance
Nina D’Arcangela

It churned along, belching foul, oily smoke into the already smothered atmosphere. Where it roamed, nothing was left; not animal, nor tree, or blade of grass – it consumed all. Nothing could withstand the creature’s path. Many generations had passed since we’d lived without fear of this demon; it was a constant in our world. We’d heard rumor of its approach, rumors we’d heard before; this one proved itself true. Crouched in our burrow, we watched in terror as the gnashing iron teeth approached. Just a few feet more – the end so very near. Call me coward, but I welcomed it.


Chomp
Blaze McRob

Metal scrapes against metal, hastening the demise of the already deteriorating structure. From inside the darkened crevices they wake, ready to finish their job. Rust calls to them, sounding a dinner gong. Already, the transformation is happening. Not much of the infrastructure built by humans remains; not many of them remain. Chomp, chomp, chomp. Those who have eaten more than their share are now becoming the eaten. There is no place left for them to hide.

An unlucky one walks beneath the girder at the wrong time. The rust eaters have done their job. The flesh eaters now do theirs.


The Pit
Craig McGray

They’d done it for decades, maybe even centuries. Each full moon, the elders gathered the chosen and brought them to the pit. Eager and naïve, the chosen were led into the forest with hopes of a promising future, dreams of becoming one of the guardians to protect the clan from evil intruders who would dare take them from their home and destroy their way of life. However, true evil comes from within and the elders were pure evil, through and through. Once inside the pit, true intentions were revealed and the elders feasted on the pure innocence of the weak.


Relics of the Old World
Tyr Kieran

Massive machines moored in ancient soil, now unearthed to behold—such barbaric contraptions of whirring gears, sharp slicing appendages, and explosive, rotating turrets. Their victims’ screams and spilled blood now nothing more than faded memories and miniscule footnotes in historical annuals. Moving metal warriors left to rust. Their purpose of aligning world views and beliefs through slaughter, has been long forgotten. But, such effective devices they were! Nothing unifies like fear and power. These sleeping giants, abandoned in their finest hours, have endured. They lie silent… simply waiting for new marching orders. Well, I say, “Rise, and unify us again!”


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2015
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

What’s Inside

“Did you do it, did you open that thing?” William asked. Shelly was sitting on a splintered tree that had fallen during the storm. She didn’t take her eyes off the box. She’d been holding on to it since the storm.

“Not yet, but I want to open it. Don’t you think I should? I want to see what’s inside,” she whimpered.

Shelly found the black box, with its weird writing and odd symbols while they were digging through the debris. What they found was this ancient relic Shelly had inherited from her mother.

From the second she touched the box, she’d been unable to do more than sit, cradling it like an injured child. She hadn’t eaten or slept much in days and wouldn’t leave it long enough to go with William to the shelter.

“Honey, you need to put that damn thing down and get some food. You’re gonna get sick. I can watch it for you so nothing happens to it.” William pleaded with her. He didn’t want to take it away, but he was getting nervous.

After the storm, the plan was to find a shelter that would take them in until they could move what little there was to his sister’s place. Then Shelly found the box and didn’t want to leave.

“I’m not very hungry. You can go without me, Will. I’ll be fine sitting here,” she said, her voice hollow and distant.

William felt the wind pick up but the moving air was no comfort. The temperature had gone up ten degrees and he feared another storm was on its way.

“Shelly, we should get inside somewhere before the weather kicks up again. Look at the clouds. What if we take it with us?”

Shelly answered, but not in words. She began cooing at the box and caressing it. She had her back turned and he couldn’t see the look on her face. William walked around to the front of the tree where she was sitting.  “I want to stay here, Willie. It wants me to stay here,” she finally moaned in an odd, baby doll voice.

Her eyes had a sunken-in look and her skin was gaunt on her diminished frame. Had it only been a few days since she’d eaten?  “Shelly?” He touched her arm, but she was a statue.

The wind picked up and it began to rain. William knew staying any longer was a bad idea. It might already be too late to get far enough away but he hadn’t heard the air raid siren go yet. Maybe the storm would be fast and blow itself out, but they wouldn’t survive without some cover. The debris from the last storm whirled, leaving cuts all over his exposed skin. He barely noticed.

“Baby, we need to get out of here, now!” he shouted. It had grown so dark that even the short space between them was like looking through black ink.

“I can’t leave yet. It’s about to open and show me what it’s been hiding,” she said, in that spooky baby doll voice again.  “You’re going to want to see this, Will.”

Her fingers stopped caressing the lid and began to lift one corner.  The light escaping the box was dim as Shelly wormed her finger deeper, making the space between the lid and the box bigger.

The light brightened and William realized that as the light intensified, so did the storm. Dawning recognition hit him. The storm hadn’t come from the plains; it was that damned box. Shelly was letting it out of the box.

“Shelly, no!” William shouted as he leapt forward. He was going to slam the lid back down on that thing before it killed them both. She might lose a finger, but…

He reached for her, grabbing for the box and trying to push the lid back in place. Shelly turned slightly at the sound of his voice and the box slipped from her lap. She began to shriek.

William tried to ignore the pain he heard and made for the box as it hit the ground. It skidded away in the mud. The lid popped up for a moment and the wind matched her screams. Then, it closed and the storm puffed out instantly.

He looked at Shelly to see if she was alright but she was sliding limply from her seat on to her knees.

“Shelly, are you okay? Oh my god, Shelly,” William cried out, trying to catch her. He didn’t want her to smash her head on any of the fallen debris. Everywhere he looked, he saw sharp gouging death winking up at him.

Shelly crumpled into a ball and collapsed before he could reach her. He screamed at the sound of her head and face slapping the wet earth. She twitched once, violently, then was still.

William lurched forward onto his knees, heedless of the glass cutting in to him. He reached under her wet hair, wanting to see if she was alive, but something bit into his hand.

William pulled his hand away, screaming and holding it to his chest. He had squeezed it shut instinctively, and now he could see blood pooling in the spaces where his last two fingers should have been.

Shelly lay forgotten for a moment as he held his hand to his face. The missing digits hadn’t registered just yet. It felt like hot iron was being poured over the place where his fingers had been. He clapped his other hand over the stumps and searing pain bolted down his arm. He thought he was going to vomit right there, watching the blood rush through his fingers.

When he realized she could have fallen on whatever just cut him, he snapped.

“Shelly!” he yelled. Was something gnawing at his wife while he knelt there nursing his own horrible injury? The shock of being bitten was almost too much.

He pulled his shirt over his head to wrap around his hand. When he looked down, she was no longer lying on the wet ground. It took him a moment to realize that she had moved a few feet away. He shook his head, trying to clear his vision.

She was sitting with the box in her lap again, caressing the lid. Her face had a twisted, horrified look that he had never seen on any human before.

“Shelly,” he asked, trying to keep his feet.

“You shouldn’t have taken it from me, Will. It doesn’t want you to touch it.” She looked up at William with a demented, hateful grin. William’s heart skipped a beat.

“What are you doing Shelly,” William asked.  He moved in closer to her.

“I can’t stop myself, Willie,” she said. He could see the outright terror on her face. The look stopped him in his tracks.

“Baby?”

For a long moment, Shelly sat, staring blankly back at her husband. Her fingers had stopped on one corner of the lid.

Finally, she smiled again. It was part Shelly and part whatever evil had taken hold of her in the last six days.

“I can’t, William…” She trailed off. William relaxed a bit. Then he watched in horror as she ripped the lid off the box all at once.

“SHELLY…” his voice ending in a blood-curdling scream.

Shelly laughed, in that spooky baby doll voice. She stood and stepped blindly into that darkness.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi

© Copyright 2015 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.