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Damned Echoes 4

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The Island
Brian Moreland

The luxury yacht traversed between the Philippine islands. Derek found the perfect beach in a hidden lagoon. Tom dropped anchor. The girls, in bikinis, packed sandwiches and beer. The jungle watched as two couples disembarked and waded through crystal water to the beach. They picnicked, swam, napped in the sun. Tom and Jasmine hiked into the jungle “to be alone.” Their screams woke Derek and Amy. They searched the island for their missing friends. Found them tied to trees, skinned to red sinews. Tom’s eyes had been eaten out. Jasmine, bleeding from head to toe, begged for help. Derek tried to untie her. The vines tightened, snapped her ribcage. Green tentacles shot out, wrapped around Derek. He yelled as thorny vines peeled off his skin. Amy, crying, backed into a stone idol. Ivy snaked up her legs. After feeding, the jungle placed bloody bones at the feet of their god.


Thirty-seven Days
Joseph A. Pinto

Sunlight clings to life; a sliver across his eyes. He draws the blinds, killing it for good. Adjusts to the gloom, the shadow. It covers the room; a sheet uninterrupted in its totality. No furniture, no menial things to disrupt its reach.

Thirty-seven days; he is quite used to the black. Seen no more, still he can hear them, their ruinous limbs dragging across curbs. Teeth clack, clack, clacking inside misshapen heads. Human once, ravaged now by pestilence, disease.

Thirty-seven days since he has stepped foot outside. Nevertheless, his years of extravagant living, an overindulgent craving for the finest delicacies, has afforded him a luxury few can claim.

Thirty-seven days. He can survive thirty-seven more. Knife against his stomach, he slices flesh razor thin; he will sustain himself. Water from toilet, meat across tongue; he will sustain himself until the world turns sane once more.


A Passing Discomfort
Lee A. Forman

When two hands touch something is always felt. It might be an awkward pang, or something more uncomfortable—revulsion, a burning disgust for the feel of another human being.

Sometimes it’s more.

The heart races. Every tiny hair on my skin rises. And I know they feel the same thing.

A glance into their eyes and it’s over. The mask of terror forms, carved by my curse. I traverse an incalculable distance, one that can’t be measured in numbers; something greater than infinity but more tangible. You could hold it in your hands or it could encompass all time and space.

I know exactly when they’re going to die. And so do they, but only for that moment of discomfort when brushing against a stranger. In the blink of an eye they forget. But I remember. Even after they’re gone.


Food Chain
Veronica Magenta Nero

I used to feed on insects and vermin that I trapped in my black and blistered hands. I lived in slim alleys where brick walls caked with despair met in dead ends. Bags of garbage piled high like fat split bodies, thin skins leaking toxic waste, under the dark loom of sky scrapers. Towers so high you can’t see the top, they block the sun.

But I found the way out, took a chance when I saw it. I groomed myself in a new image. I stepped on the heads of those less hungry, less able, ripped them down as I pulled myself up, to the top of the food chain. Elite meat is sautéed in sweet tears and sweat, the luxury of human flesh free of disease, a menu of privileged taste.


Human Luxury
Craig McGray

There once was no greater luxury than being human. Unfortunately, that is rare in the days that follow the uprising. The very technology that we developed turned out to be our downfall and now there are far more of them than there are of us. Artificial intelligence suddenly became not so artificial and before we had a chance to react, they had control of everything in our world, including our population. Humans were rounded up and slaughtered in unimaginable numbers. Packed stadiums were obliterated, cities were all but wiped from the map, and countries crumbled as world leaders were targeted and disposed of. I’m not sure why, but they kept a small amount of us around and though we felt like the lucky few at the time, I don’t feel so lucky now. In fact, I’d gladly trade this luxury for the swift death that took my family from me.


Human Papers
Jon Olson

Just keep your head down, no need to draw any unnecessary attention. Two are wearing black suits. They’re Internal Registry Agents. Don’t make eye contact with them. Act normal, go about your business… shit! They’re following, asking me for them. Damn. They want to see my Human Registration Papers. Fuck. It’s almost impossible to register when you’re not of this earth. Keep walking. Head for the subway, you can lose them down there. They order me to stop and something about opening fire. Don’t stop, keep moving, you’re almost there! I hear a familiar click behind my head. Move feet, damn it, move! Just a few more-


Bloater
Nina D’Arcangela

Menthol, that’s all I smelled. The bloated mass before me waited patiently. I picked up the scalpel, the fluorescent light humming above glinted off its metallic surface. The Y incision made, I peeled back the outer layer of skin exposing globules of fatty residue and further decomposed tissue. Thick yellow fluid oozed from the gangrenous edges of the incised flesh. The second stroke sliced through muscle, invaded the stomach cavity; the gaseous release hissed in competition with the fixture overhead. The half-digested, half-rotted contents within were easily discernible. Next, I moved to the throat and began a vertical slit in the esophagus. The small, elongated objects lodged in the upper esophageal sphincter left no doubt; they were human fingers. Removing my mask, I glanced at the chart, confirmed the preliminary findings.

Cause of Death: suffocation due to blockage of the systema respiratorium.


Echoes of a Chorus
Christopher A. Liccardi

The violins started, cellos chased their pulse as the last of his heart’s blood pumped out of him, unaware the journey was one way. His life spilled over the papers that recorded his greatest masterpiece and his death song.

I waived my hands in the air, conducting as I was taught by him. The yellow afterglow of his banker’s lamp on the piano winked in time to the throb of the aural perfection he’d finished not an hour ago. People would remember him for it; and me for killing him.

The orchestration had finally taken on a life of its own; his life, in fact but that’s how it should be, right? He always spoke about dying for his art. All I did was help him with that last bit.

The blade I now used as a baton, directing invisible musicians to symphonic perfection, and it was his greatest work.


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

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Damned Words 19

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Chlorophyll
Joseph A. Pinto

Yes, your prize, your trophy, your prop for the world to behold. Framed by unflinching eyes, supported by hands unshaken. So vivid, your portrayal. Like the seasons, your dichotomy appreciated only by a clear lens and a distorted view. Yet the approaching tempest goes unnoticed; still the limbs go ravaged. Revel in the fall, revel in the winds that blow. Landscapes resculpted, reimagined by the inevitable. Yes, revel in the lie, for beneath the illusion, the splendor, remains a truth you cannot speak: you have broken the chlorophyll down. Life you present, while around you death rejoices all the while.


The Autumn Quietus
Lee A. Forman

The fresh, healthy colors turned, became the tones of decay. Dillon breathed deep the scent of rot with a complacent grin. He looked up at the trees, watched quietus sway in the cool breeze. He reveled in his hedonistic ritual; a yearly affair passed down through generations. Nothing gave him more pleasure. Harvesting the heads was a task he relished, but watching the skin turn from its once healthy pigment to greenish-blue—that gave him true joy. He sat and watched as leaves fell, waiting for the heads to follow. Human hair only held for so long after death’s claim.


These Eyes
Nina D’Arcangela

I stand in place riddled with unbridled terror; it quakes my bones as I gaze out upon this gentle glade. Think me a fool for my fear? I imagine you do. Through my shutter you are gifted a calm that races my blood, hear the soothing lap at water’s edge that I am deaf to, see beauty trapped in hues I cannot allow to blind these eyes. The serenity of yawning fall holds no sway over me, for though we view the same painted landscape, you see only what is captured, whereas I hear what rustles the brush behind me.


Long Gone
Craig McGray

It’s been so long since the rains poured down. My memory struggles to recall images from the past that are long gone from reality. The vivid bursts of color that once covered the landscape have become nothing more than bland blacks and grays. The lakes are now dried and shriveled like an old man’s face. We did this to ourselves but were too fucking stupid to do anything about it. Politicians gave us only twisted lies and half-truths and before we knew it, it was too late. May God help us all, at least the few of us that remain.


The Lake
Veronica Magenta Nero

Many have given their lives to cleanse the lake. Our children, our elderly mothers and fathers, their faces frozen with fear and sorrow, never looking back as they walk into the oil slick swamp. They waddled in knee deep, then waist deep, then they were whisked away underneath, the foul water bubbling over them. We had stripped all life from the earth and now we pay with our blood and bone. The lake turns golden, an expanse of light, the water fresh and clean, sustaining us for a while until it begins to darken and fester once more, demanding another.


Don’t You See?
Jon Olson

You must be out of your minds! We left our home because of drought. This place is no different! How do you expect us to survive? Farm it? The ground lacks nutrients, nothing grows. Eat from the trees? They are bare. Fish from the lake? It’s lifeless. Yet you want to settle here? Trying to make this work is a death sentence. No, I have not lost my senses. It’s you who are crazy for believing him! We must keep moving on… then follow him, you blind fools, follow him to your death. Don’t you see? We won’t survive here.


Autumnal Hunger
Zack Kullis

Biting wind stirred the sweet scent of autumn’s decay and ruffled its time-worn cloak. The old post creaked with his surprising heft as his black eyes, hidden underneath the straw-like hair, watched the approaching couple.

He dropped from his perch and knocked them both to the ground. The ancient being grabbed each by an ankle and started towards the hills. Their shrill cries were musical; a symphony of dread that pleased him. He would eat them both, every bit, and sleep until next autumn’s equinox brought the sound of falling leaves and bid his eternal hunger be sated yet again.


‘Squatch
Thomas Brown

This is his country: acres of primordial forest spanning the hilltops. Time has no meaning here, marked by nothing except the changing seasons and, sometimes, the intruders who cross his invisible border. It is autumn now. He smells it in the air: rich, rank. Feels it under the pads of his feet: slippery, cold. Deadwood cracks. The camp is up ahead. Mud finds the underside of his fingernails, mixes with the blood that sometimes matts his fur and clots between his teeth. He moves heavily, hunts quickly, leaves no survivors. This is his country and here his appetite is law.


The Painter
Christopher A. Liccardi

They saw the golds and reds and smelled the season in all its glory. I saw crimson and grey matter and smelled the gore; a photo negative of what everyone else witnessed.

Paint in blood; that is what I do. I painted the scene in the blood of those who came to ask me about my work. It wasn’t a needless act, no. Never think it. It was one of serenity. I took the canvas around me and colored it with the life’s blood of those who came to meet me. My next victim approached with a smile, unknowing, unsuspecting.


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.

Scattered Ramblings

The Process

Plunging the blade deep into the abdominal cavity, I drive it upward until I hit the xiphoid process. Twisting slightly to my right, I skirt the sternum and slice through the costal cartilage attaching the ribs to the breastplate. Careful not to puncture the internal organs, I stop my upward motion at the manubrium. Drawing the sharpened metal along the topside of the upper-most rib, I listen to the harsh breathing. Returning to the original point of entry, I pause, then again thrust into and through the abdominal wall, swiftly separating the flesh and muscle from the body’s left side.

Laying the knife on the tray, I reach down and peel the cavity open with a great deal of force. A slight groan escapes amongst the pops and rending sounds as the connective tissue still in place rips away to reveal the fluttering heart. A marvelous thing the human body, a machine designed by the hand of a master; a fragile balance struck with a sadistic keeper.

~ Nina D’Arcangela


An Ensemble of Worms

Barbara reveled in the music of suffering—the most classical of symphonies. The limbless, mutilated houses for the soul writhed in their own excreta as they sang agonized tunes. Such instruments, she thought, my delightful chorus of worms.

She walked through the field of screaming torsos wrapped in barbed wire. She inspected each one to see that it contributed to the melody her beautiful creatures conducted together. If they became too weak to vocalize their pain, only then would she cut the chords from their throats. Tired and dried up notes had to be snuffed out to maintain quality; anything less would be unacceptable to her listeners.

She wondered what played in their heads, if they remembered her face before the eyes were removed. She liked to think so; it spawned a warm satisfaction between her thighs to think of all those minds imagining her at once.

Innumerable red eyes blinked in the darkness of the tree line. They’re watching, she thought, bemused by her audience. They always watch.

At the edge of the field she came across a straggler who’d rolled himself away from the rest of the group. She tied a rope around his neck as he gummed her arm with a toothless mouth.

“You silly thing,” she said with a laugh. “Why do you think everyone has their teeth removed?”

She dragged the body to reunite it with the rest. After undoing the rope, she pressed her foot against his chest. Razor sharp barbs sunk deeper into his flesh and got him singing again.

Pleased with her work, she sat on the damp grass and stared into the forest. The glowing eyes blinked out one by one, her congregation of shadows lulled to sleep with the musical wailing of her ensemble of worms.

~ Lee A. Forman


Eat

Eat.  Eat.

Granny always told me to eat.

She looked after me, Granny did, the only real family I knew.  I had one, a family that was, but Poppa never paid me no heed, caught up in better things the way he always was.  And Momma, she wanted herself a pretty boy she could preen after, but I never wanted no part of that.  So Momma turned her back on me, except when it came time to bring the belt down.  She gave me the whippings cause Poppa couldn’t be bothered, so busy the way he was.  I honestly can’t remember when they disowned me, when they kicked me out.

Granny took me in.  She looked after me, became my family, my everything.  She did me right, so I made sure to do her proud.  Good woman, my Granny, doing the little things, the big things.  One thing she loved to do for me, and that was cook.

Eat.  Eat, she always told me.

So I did.

My Granny, I learned a few things from her.  Wise, wise lady, she was.  Don’t know where she got it from.  She talked to Grandpa more times than not, asking for strength.  I never did meet my Grandpa.  He came home from the great war in a box.  Pieces of him, anyhow.  Still, I guess he listened, cause she’d ask for that strength, then I’d see her, eyes wider than the muffin tops she’d bake me.  She’d move round the house fast, like she’d been plugged into an outlet.  Granny, always doing little things, the big things for me.  What else could I do but make her proud?

Granny always told me to eat.

I was a big kid.  Then I became a bigger kid.  Granny, she told me pay no mind to those jokes, those catcalls from the other kids.  They don’t know nothin from nothin, she’d say to me.  They make fun cause you big?  Pfft.  They should wait and see, wait and see.  One thing about my Granny, she taught me to take the high road.  Taught me there’s no use in messing with the low.

Something else I learned about my Granny, she had a nasty streak about her.  Never put it on me, mind you, but I could see it, right there, crossing her face like a storm in late July.  She’d get still, real still, like a stray cat when it knows you seen it walking through your yard.  She’d only get that way when I’d ask if she thought my folks were ever going to come back for me.  If Momma and Poppa were ever going to take me back home.

You are home, she’d spit from her lips, then get to her cooking, mixing and blending, talking to Grandpa all the while.

Eat.  Eat, she always told me, so I did.

I came in from school one day.  Took awhile.  Walk wasn’t far but I couldn’t move my legs all that fast.  Thunder thighs, the kids all called me, but Granny, she just said I got legs of the gods.  Came in, found Granny waiting, her face real long, those eyes of hers still wide as muffin tops but black as if they’d been baked too long.  Baked until burnt.  You hungry, boy, she said to me, you hungry, cause I know you study hard and them books you carry weigh a ton.

Granny moved to a big old pot on the stove, started stirring and stirring.  Stirring through something thick.  Real thick.  The counter, her apron, all covered in sauce.

Been thinkin on this, she said to me, been thinkin on this a lot.  Me and your Grandpa agree.  We ain’t got no right, ain’t got no right keepin you from your folks.  I ain’t gonna do that no more.  No moreYou can have your folks.

You can have your folks.

I looked at my Granny’s face.  That late July storm rolled over her, then like that it was gone.  I didn’t know what to say.

Granny motioned to that big old pot.

Eat.  Eat, she always told me.

So I did.

~ Joseph A. Pinto


Of Course I Agreed

I peeled back the nail on my thumb because he told me to. Tears streamed down my cheeks and pain like I’d never felt before coursed up my arm. I wanted to scream, but he told me I couldn’t. So I didn’t.

When the fingernail was off, I handed it to him. He licked it, then placed it in his mouth with a smile.

Next, he told me to take off my glasses and move my face closer to his. I wanted to squirm away, but couldn’t find the willpower. I removed my glasses and did as he asked. I extended my neck as far as it would go. He licked first one eye then the other.

He said he liked brown eyes.

He turned his head slightly and began sucking on my left eye. At first the pressure was slight but then it intensified and I could feel my eye starting to move in the socket. Again, ripping pain flashed through me, but all I could do was leak tears. The sucking sound from his mouth got louder, then ‘pop’.

He said he liked my heart and asked if he could have it. Of course I agreed. I couldn’t disagree if I wanted to.

The creature lifted a single clawed finger and ran it down my chest. The sensation was cold at first, then the burning started. In an instant, I thought I was on fire.

He put his hands on my chest and began to pull it apart. Anguish like nothing I’d ever felt before wracked my body. I wanted to die. He asked me if I wanted to see it, my hear that was. Of course I agreed.

Death came much slower than I hoped it would.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi


One Bullet Left

Jake’s family lay quietly in the corner of the room, piled in a heap like unfolded laundry. The house hadn’t been this quiet in years. The .45 in his trembling hand felt heavier than the guilt he knew he would carry for the rest of his life. No matter.

You can’t undo what’s been done, he thought.

With only one bullet left, his choice was clear. Raising the .45 in his right hand and the nearly empty bottle of Jack Daniels in his left, he winced and swallowed the last gulp until the burning subsided in his throat. Click.

BANG!

The gun fell to the floor, closely followed by the empty bottle which shattered when it struck the tile.

Jake stumbled his way out of the room, his bare feet crunching in the shards of glass.

“I never liked that dog.”

~ Craig McGray


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

Damned Words 15

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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.

Bait and Switch

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

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

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

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

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

“Come on, Bobby, try to keep up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are we doing here?” Bobby asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Damned Words 14

stone

Empty Stone
Jon Olson

He is weak, the large gash in his stomach slowly killing him, yet he crawls onward. Gripping dirt, the dying man pulls himself closer. His eyes rest upon the stone carvings; upon the angel. There he hopes to feel his lord’s embrace; to feel salvation. Fingertips reach out, touching it, feeling nothing. A groan escapes his lips, morphing into a scream. Pain engulfs his body, growing cold, announcing the arrival of the beast. Any hope of salvation fades as the foul one laughs. It’s just empty stone. Another false idol. Grinning, the foul one tears out the dying man’s throat.


Of god and guise
Joseph A. Pinto

What fear say you?

To which I reply possess no fear, nor cowardice, for that matter. I am of an esoteric order, keeper of the indulger of dust and decay. To my god I owe nothing but respect. I, its dutiful tasker of divine immolation.

Ssh. Agonize not. To your knees. In newfound supplication, your chin now lift. See my god. Know my god. Relish its kiss as to stone I press your cheek.

Let my god eat through grit until grit turns to bone. To flesh. And through your flesh, baptized newly my god once more.

Welcome, my master…


Medusa’s Child
Magenta Nero

With a final shriek it was expelled, I tried to kicked it away. The nurse scooped it up, oblivious to my panic. Tears streamed as I squeezed my eyes shut but I heard it’s first gurgled cry and my resolve melted. Sobbing I turned to face the babe. It was held aloft in gloved hands; a strange, blue wrinkled thing. We both fell silent as our gaze met. Then it began and I watched helplessly as it spread. Fine hairline fractures became deep cracks, it’s wriggling limbs froze. The nurse screamed as my baby crumbled and shattered in her hands.


Rules
by Tyr Kieran

They teach rules with which to govern yourself—defining factors handed down from our creator looking to reward those that act accordingly. Then there’s societal laws, rules made by man and enforced by the same. They pound them into your head from birth. But, they neglect to tell you, it’s a flawed system! Following these rules only leaves you or your loved ones vulnerable to those living of their own accord. One such “rogue” killed my son. Now, I say fuck the system! I’m making my own rules from here on out. Revenge won’t be sweet enough, but it’s mandatory!


Hallowed Be Thy Name
Thomas Brown

The past haunts us like ragged ghosts, like the remembered scent of an old flame. I prayed to Him. For three years I knelt, palm to palm, seeking forgiveness.

“Father, can you hear me?”

It was the thirteenth when He answered. Three years, of tears, upset, not knowing where I fit in. I woke, crusty-eyed, cold. 3am. Moon fat in the sky.

“Hello?”

For the longest time, silence. I was used to this. I began to drift off. Then bedsprings, sudden weight, a whisper in my ear. The Lord smelled a lot to me like wet dog.

“I hear you.”


Innocence Lost
Blaze McRob

The eyes stare out, seeing what they don’t see. He’s been here long enough to see the forest grow up around this place . . . a place meant to elicit oohs and aahs. Apparent youth beams a message of happiness and innocence. Yet not is all as it appears.

Strength lies within the arm of the child, the ruddy bas-relief almost giving it a hairy appearance. The arm of the beast. That’s what the legends say. Stay away at all costs.

Not everyone heeds the words of the wise ones. Self-sacrifice. Unwilling. Final.

The smile spreads wider. The child has been nourished.


Silent Wrath
Craig McGray

Stone statues and distant memories are all that remain of children. Gone are the days of playgrounds filled with joy and laughter, replaced instead by the tears and sorrow of those who cannot let go the thought of holding a child, their bodies unable to produce what they long for. We allowed the world around us to decay into a cesspool of man’s worst traits, ignorant to the consequences of our actions and even more damning was our inaction. Some waited for a violent apocalypse to descend from above. Instead, we received this silent wrath. Soon we’ll all be gone.


Every Other Weekend
Christopher A. Liccardi

“Why do the eyes follow us, Mommy?” The boy asked, rubbing snot from his nose with his sleeve.

“Because someone needs to watch over you. Mommy can’t always keep an eye out. “She knew their time together was short; no longer than a walk to the other end of the cemetery.

“Is this where Daddy lives now?” he asked.

“Yes, it is sweetheart.”

They reached the entrance to the lonely grey slab building. It smelled of new decay and dried flowers.

“Mommy?” he questioned in a nasely voice.

“In ya go, kiddo. Daddy’s waiting.”

She closed the door behind him.


The Forgotten
Zack Kullis

Rough, with hints of moisture from the morning dew – each sensation punctuated by the never-ending cold. Careful to touch only the surface where the memory was etched, and not the deeper rock that offers no sentiment, he outlines the gravestone with ghostly fingers.

The dead feel more than the living ever could. Cumbersome flesh is like a thick glove, hiding most sensory input. His spirit’s fine matter misses nothing. The sole visitor stopped only to admire the exquisite art, oblivious of the weeping apparition.

“If they will not visit me, then I will bring the bitterness of the afterlife to them.”


Rings of Death
Nina D’Arcangela

She comes always – even on the coldest of days. She comes and weeps fained devastation. My father watches silently; a man broken by his pain. The carriage stands vigil; the horses fuss, hair shimmering in the sunlight. The stable hands often complained of the muck after our adventures; but their silence already bought. The animals pristine by the time father broke from his study; our supposed jaunts to the park never fell suspect. Mother and I traveled to wooden houses, each bore a mark upon the door; a mark the same hue as the flowers now spilling from my pockets.

 


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.

Eternal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Elena! Please, my dear. Sing to me.”

Silence.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Damned Words 13

lone_tree

Silently, Deliberately
Jon Olson

Every day, like a moth to a flame, I revisit this spot, eager to see it again. Leaning back against the tree, I gaze out onto the horizon. My eyes scan left to right, right to left. It was here, on this small protrusion of land, I saw it hovering silently, deliberately above the Atlantic water. Mechanical, organic, frightening and alluring all rolled into one. For hours I watched with morbid fascination until it finally disappeared into the sky. Since then, my dreams, every waking moment, have been obsessing over it. So here I sit, waiting, hoping, for its return.


Burn To Your Core
Joseph A. Pinto

And still I survive here; and I am charred; and I am lifeless without ever having died. You surround me with portrait skies my limbs can never touch; only the water to nourish me, delivered by beak of bird and sob of storm. Yes, you planted me in barren ground, but I chose to take root. Strove to blossom. More than ever, I realize I cannot. How deathly I must appear against the backdrop you manufactured, an obstruction to all you’d thought perfected. An eyesore so startling I am beauty in my own right; it must burn to your core.


Rest In Peace
Thomas Brown

Last night I ate with my family for the last time. My brothers and sisters drank, danced, laughing as they have laughed for centuries while gorging themselves to sate the endless void. Let them. I can’t remember ever feeling so full, so monstrously sick of it all. Dawn approaches. Over and over the sea heaves itself against the grey shingles. I was born here; it seems right that I should end here too. Standing on the shore, I watch the waves and the ash floating over them. Birds scream. The sea sighs. I am here, now, and it is beautiful.


Black
Craig McGray

It’s been years since anything has blossomed. Sure, an overly ambitious weed may sprout from time to time, or a sporadic leaf may unfold from the tip of a naked branch, but the inky blackness from the soil strangles any attempt to splash color onto its infected landscape. Mankind and nature alike have been smothered by the rot that has stolen the color from the ground and seas. The sky remains the only hint of color in our decimated world and even that will soon be gone. Each day grows shorter, every night becomes longer. We did this to ourselves.


Duel at Dawn
Blaze McRob

A gentle breeze carries the stench of rot to this seemingly idyllic park. Voices, agitated, from both sides, toss curses at each other, bellowing out that the other will get what is coming to him. They back up to each other, take the ten obligatory paces, turn, and aim.

Lightning strikes the little piece of land jutting out into the river as it has for hundreds of years, ripping through the soil. Both men drop to the ground without a shot being fired.

There will be a duel at dawn once more. Until there is a victor, neither can rest . . .


Rise
Magenta Nero

Finally, a precious moment alone. Staring into the vast emptiness of sky her troubled thoughts churn. The afternoon sun glares in the distance. She frowns as she watches it, an uneasy feeling creeping over her. It is not the sun. It is moving, hurtling towards her quickly. It comes to a sudden halt above her, a huge and gleaming object. She clutches her ears as a deep grating hum fills her head. She thinks to run, to scream, but she can’t move. Her body begins to rise, sucked by a stream of blinding light into the belly of the craft.


Promises, Promises
Hunter Shea

She was hanging from the lone tree by the sea, the very place we first made love, our sweat crystallizing with salt, the ammonia scent of our urgency sticky between us. Her limp body presented a dark silhouette against the setting sun. I saw her clothes in a wrinkled pile beneath her feet, toes pointed to where we once lay, a jumble of limbs and satisfied orifices. The surf crashed, imperceptible flecks of foam plinking into the pores of my face.

Her body jerked.

No!

One cut. She gasped.

Into the sea, my love. I promised you a beautiful death.


Watching Clouds
Tyr Kieran

That was the day our greatest fear came true. A slow build war neither cold nor vigorous. The talking heads had spewed their hype for months, only exacerbating the arrogant, heavy-handed mistakes of the politicians. Cultures clashed causing egos to surge up and trample all over rationale. It wasn’t surprising that international spite and jealously is what pushed the button in the end. When the alert hit the airwaves and our government admitted their diplomatic errors, it was far too late–death was on the way. No sense in running. I just sat down and watched the mushroom cloud form.


Anointed
By Nina D’Arcangela

Raised are the seas that stood calm before me; quelled are those that traveled by wing to mock me; desiccated is all that once grew to surround me – I stand alone. Arms raised toward the heavens, I pulled upon God’s wrath to sear man’s attempt to staunch my avarice, my deserved ferocity. Tarred may be my flesh, but my spirit stands rooted in this land; untouchable. I thrive not for my glory, but for the one I have served eternally. Each leaf bloomed; yet another tear of poison shed. Each leaf fallen; yet another drop of the demon’s blood spread.


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.

The Itch

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is it?”

I scratch at my neck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait a minute. Hold on.”

He pauses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait a minute. What’s that?

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

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

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

 

~ Craig McGray

© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.

 

Damned Words 12

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Trail Runner
Craig McGray

Mother Nature’s realm, the one place I feel at home and alive and deadly. I lie in wait. I’m anxious yet patient because I know one will come, and when she does, the waiting will make it all the more sweet. The anticipation builds until I feel like I may burst. Ah, here comes one now. Her shoes pressing into the moist soil and the pebbles crunching beneath her feet triggers my pulse to race out of control. Mmm. I slide the blade across my palm, the pain further heightening my senses. So beautiful, so alive. She has no idea.


Hands
Magenta Nero

Unmarked is the spot but I know the way, I walk there every night in my dreams. Twigs snap under foot, the lush canopy overhead casts dappled light on stones. Nobody knows your resting place and nobody misses you it seems. I return to unearth you, piece by piece, as on my mind the memories play. Carefully I take your hand in mine again. The knotted bones of our fingers slip together and lock. Your hand so thin, white and smooth, the flesh eaten away. My hand soft, pink and lined with the dirt of words I dare not say.


Wholesome Death
Zack Kullis

He huddled between the bush and his meal and snorted his frustration. Nocturnal eyes glared as the light spread across the ground and chased his protective darkness away. Grom dropped the glob of intestines and looked around for the hole to his clan’s subterranean home.

“Piss,” he gurgled.

Grom started to claw furiously at the elk’s belly, thinking he could hide inside the bloody carcass. He pulled out a pile of guts and dove inside just as the sun rose.

His large eyes peered out from the gore, hateful of the poisonous light that bathed the clearing in wholesome death.


Berserkers
Tyr Kieran

I spotted dragons on the water and rang the alarm—hammering the bell with all my strength—but, they were too fast. They hit the shore running, swatting away our arrows like pesky flies. Their strength and size was terrible to behold. We sent a barrage of prayers, efforts in futility as even God was outnumbered by their one-eyed Odin and his troop of Gods. Few survivors were taken, loot for the barter like gold and silver. I saw it all from the tower before fleeing into the forest where I lived out my days in fear of their return.


Street Walker
Thomas Brown

The woods sing to him, and their song is the howl of wild dogs. He wakes to it in his single apartment bed, nine floors above the city, and in the artificial pallor of the subway after long days at work.

There was a time when he wondered where the sounds came from, and why. Then he realised it was him. In this cold, grey place, he bore the forest in his flesh. He is the bear, the crow, the lone wolf with ravenous appetite.

In the relative dark of moonless nights, he hunts well by the glow of streetlamps.


Can You See Me?
Jon Olson

Can you see me? Nobody has yet. Look at that scenery. Rocks spread out like a carpet; foliage draped like tapestries; and sunshine illuminating a path. It looks peaceful, beautiful, undisturbed. Families walk through, children laughing with their parents unsuspecting. Who would feel the need to keep their guard up? This is their leisure, their getaway… and my hunting ground. They are my prey, carefree and oblivious to the danger; unaware of my presence. Slipping silently through the trees, I stalk, then strike. Their fear fills my nostrils; their blood my mouth; their screams my ears. Can you see me?


Intone
Joseph A. Pinto

I will not sing; listen if you wish to, but not today. Empty promises have turned me into a joke and I have finally bought into my own foreshadowing, granted the chance to call my parting shot. I struggle to realize this paradise surrounding me, struggle to be soothed under these vigilant boughs. But you had to know this day would come eventually, did you not? Don’t act surprised when you find me melded with the pores of the earth. Sit at the bole of this tree, write the lyrics I could never mouth, intone the good life I deserved.


Festering Evil
Blaze McRob

Twisted variants of nature rest, their moment of revenge at hand. Those responsible for the ruination of what they once were will pay the ultimate price.

Sunshine rocks the ravine, giving a false sense of bliss to anyone who might wander this way. Evil lurks, festering in the trees and rocks, licking its lips in anticipation of what is to come.

Foot plants sound, steady, unaware. The fool comes closer, not able to see the creatures blending so well into the rocks and trees. In a fraction of a second, the young man drops.

The polished stones drip with blood…


Aftertaste
Hunter Shea

Under the loose stones I laid her down to sleep – my rock, my love. Down the path where we once walked, two souls at nature’s end. To the place we shared our wonder, our hopes, and on that final day, my secret.

I wonder if the worms have hatched, wriggling from her flesh. Prying a stone from the wet earth, I breathe deep, lick its soiled bottom, feel the beetles skitter along my tongue.

Ah, it’s her taste I miss the most.

Was it wrong to tell her my fantasies? My desire to one day consume her fruited body?

Perhaps.


Prize
Nina D’Arcangela

Strike, squeal, wrap – a struggle to breath; it mistakenly exhales. Tighten the coil; death comes swiftly. I feast. My stomach distends; I lie baking in warm bliss. The day’s shine scuttles away; my body cools in concert. I follow, sluggishly laden with my prize. Smooth rocks caress my underbelly; a shedding begins. I slowly work my way through the the maze: peeling, sloughing, morphing; revealing. A tremor travels through the stone bed; my senses heighten. No rustle, no sound, only deep vibration. It approaches. The trail of flesh betrays me; a single glance ends me – the Basilisk is upon me.


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.

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