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Block

“So, you’re saying there’s no such thing as writer’s block?”

I tamped out my pipe, refilled it with Dunhill Nightcap, touched the lit match to the aromatic leaf and took a few deep puffs. We were only fifteen minutes into the interview and my mind was already drifting to other things. Then my eyes wandered to the bottle of Macallan 25 the young man had brought, a gift from his publisher, and resigned myself to my fate. There were far worse ways to spend a cold, dreary afternoon.

“Would you like a glass?” I said.

He smiled and shook his head. “Thank you, but no. I’m more of a beer man myself.”

I poured my second shot of the amber ambrosia, savoring the aroma a moment before tilting the glass back oh-so-gently.

“I love a cold beer as well, but it’s a poor substitute for fine scotch.”

A gust of wind shook the windowpane, rain pelting it like ball bearings.

I couldn’t tell if the phone on the table between us was still recording, as the face had gone dark. The interviewer, I had forgotten his name, took no notes; his complete reliance on technology baffled me. Then again, most of the workings of today’s world left me scratching my head.

Waving a cloud of smoke away, I said, “I’m sorry, I’ve completely forgotten your question.”

He shifted forward in his seat, tapping on the stack of books, my books, that he’d brought to the interview.

“We were talking about the staggering volume of work you’ve produced in your thirty-five year career. I counted forty-three novels, seventeen novellas, two-hundred and eleven short stories and at least a hundred articles. I’m not alone in being wowed by your output. I asked if you ever had a moment when a story just wouldn’t come to you and you said there is no such thing as writer’s block. I find that intriguing because I’ve yet to find a writer who hasn’t experienced it at least once in their career.”

“You’re not talking to the right authors,” I said, grinning.

“I’ve interviewed a considerable number.”

I noticed the creeping strands of gray hair at his temples, the very beginnings of crow’s feet when he smiled. Perhaps he wasn’t as young as I’d thought.

I drew on my pipe and said, “A real writer is never blocked. He or she may be lazy, tired, scared, or in the grip of some addiction or flight of fancy, but they’re not writing because they’re unfocused, distracted, not blocked.”

The interviewer crossed his left leg over his right and rested his forearm on his knee. I wondered if it was too late to ask him his name.

“In all these years, you’ve never been too distracted to write?”

“Not once. On the day I had surgery to remove my appendix, I wrote a story on the back of my chart an hour after the anesthesia had worn off.”

“That’s incredible dedication.”

“I prefer to call it necessity.”

“To feed your compulsion?”

“Yes and no.”

“Can you remember the last time you took a day off from writing?”

It took me a moment to think. Ancient history gets harder for me to recall.

“It was the day I received my very first acceptance letter for my book, The Forbidden Forest. There was much celebration that night. A little too much.”

He settled back into his chair. “I’m going to be honest, I’m envious. I hope to be a novelist some day, but I can’t seem to get the first one across the finish line.”

I downed a third glass of scotch.

“You just don’t have the right muse,” I said.

“Maybe I can borrow yours,” he said affably, with just a hint of a nervous chuckle.

“Oh, you wouldn’t want that. I assure you.”

“If I could have one tenth of your career, I’d die a happy man.”

I set my pipe down and locked eyes with him.

“A muse isn’t just a mystical force from which ideas spring. Some muses can be strict taskmasters. Happiness has nothing to do with it.”

He looked at me with incredulity. “Wait. So you believe that a muse is a real thing?”

“I don’t believe, I know.”

Perhaps it was the scotch. No matter. I’d said it and let it hang heavily in the air between us.

Now he checked to make sure his phone was still recording, hot to have the scoop that America’s bestselling author had lost his mind.

“Do…do you see your muse? Can you talk to her? Or him?”

There was no going back now.

“Yes and yes, and my muse has no gender. At least not in the sense as we would define it.”

He ran his hands through his hair. No doubt his palms were sweaty with anticipation of how much publicity his interview was going to garner.

I drank more Macallan, enough to make me lightheaded, but not too much to hinder the work that needed to be done later. Oh no, that could not happen.

“Can I ask how often you talk to your muse?” His smile looked like a shark’s, circling for the kill.

“Every day.”

“Your muse has given you a constant stream of ideas and inspiration since when?”

I shook my head, relighting my pipe.

“Truth be told, it’s not very big on ideas.”

This rocked him, wiping the shark grin from his face.

“Then…then what does it do?”

I leaned forward, the leather chair creaking, and touched his knobby knee.

“It makes me write.”

“It makes you write?”

“Yes. Every…day.”

“And what if you don’t?”

Now it was my turn to beam like a sly Great White.

“Terrible, terrible things happen.”

There was a ripple in the darkness behind the eager interviewer’s chair.

“You say you’re working on your own novel?” I asked.

His face blanched. “Yes, in fits and starts.”

I sucked on my teeth, releasing trapped scotch from my gums.

“That simply will not do. Not if you were to ‘borrow’ my muse.”

“I don’t understand.”

I filled the void between us with sweet, aromatic smoke.

“And you never will.”

The gray beast sprang from the ether, tearing the man’s jugular with a single swipe. I ducked to avoid the spray of blood – blood I knew my muse would slurp like a starving cat, leaving no trace of the young man behind.

I looked away, unable to watch the ravenous mastication. I grabbed the bottle of scotch and staggered to my study where my typewriter awaited.

It had been a long while since I had written a horror story.

I guess it was fair to say that today, my muse had given me inspiration. Putting a fresh sheet of paper into the Royal typewriter, I began the day’s tale.

“So, you’re saying there’s no such thing as writer’s block?”

I tamped out my pipe, refilled it with Dunhill Nightcap, touched the lit match to the aromatic leaf and took a few deep puffs.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2017 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved

Damned Words 20

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Judgment
Nina D’Arcangela

I watched as he dragged his torso through the smoldering debris toward me, and thought, another. Unlike most, he hadn’t surrendered. I wondered if he knew where he was headed, or of the puss-ridden trail he left behind. No matter, it would soon be ended. I didn’t choose who suffered the searing heat; I only quenched the burning once they arrived. Fate appraised his soul, meted out its judgment.

“Have you your papers, then? There’s ta’be no entry without them.” I lilted. He stared back through hollowed sockets. I sighed. They all think the pearly gates so easy to attain.


The Thirty Second Burn
Lee A. Forman

The massive door opens on screeching hinges. My legs tremble, reluctant to carry me into the mouth of the iron beast. I know what waits in The Box.

Thirty seconds a day. Every day. Only the strong endure. But they are cursed to face the flame again and again.

The weak are lucky. To die is beautiful.

The guards guide me inside.

As the air itself boils, I know not pain or suffering but a great joy. I revel in the satisfaction of knowing I won’t last—I’ll expire quickly; my torment will end nearly as soon as it began…


Volatile State
Joseph A. Pinto

You call me deranged in my volatile state, yet you remain void of oxygen, void of all to sustain a fire. You know only of cleaning my ashes from the hearth, while I have schooled myself, keeper of this flame. Within my charred cage once an inferno raged; rose and fell, with hope, absolution. Dearly did I wish for us to go down in a state of combustion. Now, the landscape has changed. I am left to smolder—a cruel fate, this blessing; my curse. So perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am all you label me. Blistered. Branded. Blackened.


The Other White Meat
Hunter Shea

“It smells like barbecue.”

“You try putting sauce on that and I’ll kick your balls inside out.”

Jett turns the knob as far as it will go, the flames sharpening, going from sunburst orange to a cold, vicious blue.

“Jeez that’s gotta hurt,” Peter says, leaning closer. Jett sees the trickle of saliva at the corner of his mouth. He wants to drive his fist into his stupid, leering face.

“It would if the devil wasn’t in her.”

Clarissa’s flesh blackens and crackles. She doesn’t flinch.

Jett struggles to hold her down.

“Sometimes, you got to fight fire with fire.”


Holdout
Christopher A. Liccardi

The whomp sound of the flames dashed up from under the element. The metal box was large enough to fit inside, but no room to turn.

He woke to the stench of rotten eggs and sudden heat on naked skin.

What the…

The thought never made it through his mind. He glanced up and saw that wretch of a wife staring, upside down into his face.

She’d dared him to see who could hold out longer and he laughed in her face proclaiming he’d been waiting twelve years already.

She smiled prettily, knowing who was going to win this one.


Let It Die
Jon Olson

My god, it’s here! We never thought we’d see it again. In this cold world, this dark existence, it remains. Many years have gone by since it’s been seen. We’re all drawn to it, attracted by the warmth and hope it represents. The flames flicker and dance, a performance for the ages. We feel the cold and dark encroaching on the light. Evil is here. Around the flames I see the faces of the others. We are afraid as death awaits us, yet we’re determined. Now that it’s been found, it cannot perish. We can’t… we won’t let it die.


Exotic Cuisine
A.F. Stewart

“Roasting chestnuts by the fire.”

I sung a few bars of the song as I watched the searing flames. Beautiful blue flames bending, beckoning to my soul. Perfect for chestnuts. Maybe marinated on a skewer with some juicy fingers.

Or possibly eyeballs. I like the smell of roasting eyeballs.

I glanced at the salesman I had trussed up on the floor. I watched him squirm, trying to scream through his gag and break the zip ties.

I smiled and picked up my butcher knife.

Nope, definitely fingers. He has nice fat ones. Stew the eyeballs for dessert… with chocolate sauce.


Broken Boy Blue
Mercedes M. Yardley

The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn. While Adam was sleeping in the hay, breathing starlight and pharmaceuticals, the Catchers took his father behind the barn. They broke his teeth and fed him like livestock on gun metal and bullets. They torched the house and his withered mother was the most beautiful of candles. His sisters took longer, but even the rosiest things ignite with enough tenacity.

They overlooked Adam, but he would always see the Catchers in his technicolor dreams. They played a starring role, laughing and cheering his family on as they danced, danced, danced.


The Chant, The Charm
Veronica Magenta Nero

Born in me it was, the chant, the charm, bile sitting in the pit of my belly. Until it began to creep, the chant, the charm, to lodge in the crook of my throat, a constant niggle I couldn’t clear. Soon it was on the tip of my tongue. Like an insult or a lie. Must keep it in, keep it down. Thick stitches popped one by one, so I took the torch, searing a heavy smooth line for lips. But now from the corners of my eyes it seeps, the chant, the charm, no voice to stop the magic.


Human Coal
Brian Moreland

The Hell train’s engine runs on flames and meat. The Railwayman rides in the locomotive. Dressed in blood-stained overalls and cap, he enters the tender car to a mound of body parts. In a black cloud of flies, he shovels severed limbs, heads, and ribcages―tosses them into the firebox. The smoke smells like barbecue. The train makes its rounds along America’s tracks. Hapless passengers climb aboard. The conductor punches tickets. As the train shrieks down the railway, skull-faced cleavers roam from car to car, doing their chop work. They refill the tender. The Railwayman shovels meat, feeding the blue-flamed beast.


The Bridge
Mark Steinwachs

Black smoky tendrils snake around my body, languid movements that if made by human hands would have been sensual. I sit in the chair, unable to move. A single blue flame bridges the gap; a moment passes where my thoughts and actions are untrue to each other. The Zoroastrians say nothing, my fate sealed. I offer myself to be judged, to join them. Only the righteous become one with the perfect element, the rest are destroyed by it. The creature pierces me, my body ignites from inside. I open my mouth to scream but there is no sound, only fire


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 18

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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.

Too Old For Treats

One thing was for sure, they were not going to get fucked out of a proper Halloween. The night was middle-aged, but there was still time to do what was their God given right.

“Aren’t you a little too old for trick or treating?”

Mr. Benson, he of the horrid comb-over, man boobs and disturbingly bulbous earlobes, clutched his bowl of candy to his gut, refusing to dole out any of the mini chocolates. His house smelled like onions and old man farts.

“I didn’t know there was an age limit,” Jon said, holding out the plastic shopping bag.

“And where are your costumes?”

Jon and his buddies Ray and Chelsea stood on Benson’s small porch dressed in regular clothes. Chelsea was a little goth, so her thick black eyeliner, pale skin and all black outfit should have counted for something.

“We forgot them. So how about just one candy each?” Ray said, grinning like a wide-eyed lunatic.

“Grow up and get a job!” Mr. Benson shouted, slamming the door.

Jon laughed. “Well, looks like it’s all tricks for bitch tits.” He grabbed the cardboard skeleton on the door and tore it down. Chelsea stomped on it for good measure while Ray filled the mailbox with shaving cream.

The trio of sixteen-year-olds ran across the street, swallowed up by the blackness under a busted streetlight. It was the first real chilly night of the fall and the streets were emptying out of monsters and superheroes, firemen and fairies. By the light of the half moon, Jon could see the heavy vapor of their breath.

“How much you got?” Chelsea asked, ruffling the candy in her bag.

“Not much,” Ray said. “Couple of chocolates, some old lady candy and actual freaking pennies. Who the hell gives out pennies?”

Jon dumped his pennies on the sidewalk. “I think it was that old Irish lady. She mixed them up with those lemon balls. I bet she’s had those balls since the 70s.”

Ray laughed, slapping Jon’s arm. “I bet she had a lot of balls in the 70s!”

“You guys are gross,” Chelsea said, rolling her eyes. “She’s older than our grandmothers.”

“And just as cheap,” Jon added. “You guys wanna go around the block, see if anyone’s still answering?”

Ray checked his other bag. This one was filled with cans of shaving cream, a few remaining eggs and two rolls of toilet paper. “Yeah, I got enough for at least one more block.”

This was the year they swore to have their cake – or candy – and eat it, too. Tricking and treating!  Next year, it would probably just be running around on mischief night. This was their last hurrah, even if they didn’t bother to dress up.

“This time, we let Chels ring the bell. They’ll think she’s like someone from the Addams Family and we’ll just sneak our bags in,” Jon said, leading them up to a lighted porch.

They’d tried the I’m just getting candy for my sick little brother act but got very little action. The adults were being awful stingy this year. Jon knew it didn’t help that he had the makings of a sweet beard and mustache and Ray was six feet tall.

“You guys are hysterical tonight,” Chelsea said, ringing the bell. “I should have gone to Trish’s party.”

Ray flicked her ears. “You know that wasn’t even a possibility. The three amigos and Halloween are like PB&J. You’d be miserable without us.”

She swatted his hand away. “Yeah, well, someone has to babysit you two.” Jon saw the flash of a smile in her reflection in the door’s windowpane.

A curtain pulled aside. A woman shook her head when she saw them, refusing to open the door.

Jon shrugged his shoulders. “Should have answered the door.”

There was a painted pumpkin on the porch railing. It had the face of a witch, warty nose and all. He tucked the pumpkin under his arm and walked to the middle of the street. “Care to do the honors?” he asked Chelsea.

“Why, thank you,” she said. Rearing her leg back, she kicked a hole in the witch’s face. Seeds and guts splattered her black leather boots. “Now that’s nasty.”

Ray and Jon played a little soccer with the wounded pumpkin before kicking it down the street where it settled over a sewer grate.

“One down, like twenty more to go,” Jon said, eyeing the long row of houses ahead of them.

They were the only ones on the block still trick or treating. Some people said they were out of candy, but most didn’t even bother answering the door. In return, Jon, Ray and Chelsea TP’d one tree, emptied three cans of shaving cream and egged two cars sitting in a driveway.

“We better move to another street,” Ray announced when all of the eggs were gone, their impact setting off a car alarm.

They jogged for two blocks, the cold night air stinging their lungs. They stopped outside a small apartment building, fishing out candy from their bags, dropping wrappers on the ground. “Think there are any razors?” Chelsea asked, munching on a peanut butter cup.

“That’s such bullshit,” Jon said. “All those stories are made up to stop little kids from eating all their candy.”

“Do you guys wanna try some more houses or call it a night?” Chelsea said. “I’m cold.”

All of the porch lights on this stretch were out. Halloween had come to an official close.

Then Jon spotted something that made the hairs on his arms and upper lip stand on end. “Check that out!”

Three houses down was a long walkway lined with carved pumpkins. There had to be at least twenty. A few still had guttering candles glowing inside. There was no way they could walk away.

“You got your shit kickers on?” he said, lips curled up in a devilish grin.

“Oh yeah!” Ray said, running to the house.

Chelsea clutched her stomach. “Oh, that doesn’t feel so good.”

“That’s what happens when you eat like ten peanut butter cups. Come on. You can squeeze them out like Willy Wonka later.”

Ray waited patiently by the first pumpkin, triangle eyes and an inverted triangular nose with a jagged, gap-toothed smile. It was a classic jack-o-lantern, just asking to be bashed.

“Time to sign off with a twenty pumpkin salute,” Jon said. They each picked a pumpkin, eyed one another, pulled their legs back and kicked as hard as they could.

Ray was the first to scream. “Ow ow ow ow! It’s got my foot!”

Jon was about to tell him to stop screaming like a girl when something clamped down like a bear trap on his ankle. He heard the bone snap, felt fire run up his leg to his balls. The pumpkin’s mouth had slammed shut on him. Its eyes narrowed as it chewed on his foot.

“Oh my God, it hurts!” Chelsea wailed. She was on the ground, a pumpkin munching on her foot, two others gnawing on her hands.

Ray lost his balance, falling beside her. Three pumpkins rolled from their perches, mouths opening wide, tearing into him. The largest of them engulfed Ray’s head, cutting his agonized lament short.

“What the hell?” Jon tried to hop away, but the pumpkin on his foot was suddenly as heavy as an anchor. His other ankle rolled. He face planted on the hard concrete. His front teeth shattered like porcelain. More and more pumpkins spun toward him, their carved teeth impossibly sharp.

The pumpkins soundlessly masticated the three amigos, gobbling them like Halloween candy.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved

All the Children, Gone

Diana’s terrified lament sent sharp pricks down my spine, my stomach clenching as if I’d been punched. Leaping from the soft embrace of my easy chair, I ran for the door, spilling the can of beer I’d been holding all over the rug. A sudsy trail marked my progress to the front of the house.

My neighbor was on her porch, screaming incoherently, literally tearing tufts of her curly black hair out at the roots. Her cries had gotten everyone streaming from their houses. I was the closest, and the first to grab her by the shoulders. Her eyes were glassy, overflowing with tears. There was madness in them. Irretrievable madness.

“Diana, what’s wrong?”

Something inside me had an idea as to what had fractured this normally quiet, insular soul. I prayed I was wrong.

Her eyes met mine but there was no recognition. Elsa from across the street sprinted up the stairs. “Can you stay with her?” I said. Elsa nodded, folding Diana into her arms.

Bolting to the back of the house where the bedrooms were, I heard a child crying. Steeling myself as best I could, I stepped into Diana’s children’s room. The door was plastered with pages carefully removed from coloring books. On alternating pages were the names Ben and Cody, the way painters would add their signature to a canvas.

Cody sat up in bed, chest heaving with sobs. He looked across the room to his brother, Ben’s head hanging over the edge of his own bed. There was blood everywhere. It had soaked the mattress, dripping onto the floor with soft, steady plinks.

Everyone who knew the little hemophiliac boys worried about this happening one day. Cody and Ben, frail, tow-headed children who spent most of their days in the safe cocoon of their room, lived with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. I checked Ben’s pulse. His skin was already cold, the blood on my hand room temperature at best.

Covering Ben with the crimson sheet, I swallowed hard, finding it difficult to stand.

“I’m so sorry, Cody,” was all I could muster. I wanted to console the boy, hold him, but my hands were streaked with his twin’s blood.

“The Gray Man cut him,” the boy sputtered between sobs.

“What did you say?”

“He came in our room. I saw him!”

Now my heart thudded wildly. Was there an intruder in the house? Someone debased enough to murder a sick child?

I heard footsteps thundering in the house. More neighbors coming to see what had happened. “In here!” I shouted.

The footsteps stopped when someone else screamed outside. It wasn’t Diana. It was a man.

Phil from down the block halted in the doorway. His face went pale. “Oh my God.”

“What’s happening outside?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I think that was Martin shouting.”

Cody had gone silent, lying on his side, eyes unblinking, staring at the shrouded hump of his brother.

If it was Martin out there, he sounded even worse than Diana. “Watch Cody for me?”

Phil nodded, but I wasn’t sure he heard me. I had to squeeze past him to get out of the room.

Elsa was still with Diana, now surrounded by several women, a couple I didn’t recognize.

It had been Martin. The burly man was in the middle of the street on his knees, weeping. His eight year-old daughter, Katie, was in his arms. I would have thought she was asleep if not for the impossible angle of her head. Her neck had clearly been broken.

“Why?” he cried. “Why would someone take my Katie?”

Fiona and Arnold, my neighbors to the other side of me, let out twin peels of anguish. While people gathered around Martin, I sped toward their house. What the hell was going on?

I found them in the living room, their five-year-old son Tyler on the couch. It looked like every one of his limbs had been snapped in half.

“Call the fucking police!” Fiona wailed. I patted my pockets. My phone was back at the house.

“Did you see the Gray Man?” a small voice said beside me.

I looked down, shocked to see Cody. I didn’t think I’d ever seen him outside the perimeter of his house before. His eyes were blood red.

Arnold’s hands were balled into fists. He looked like he wanted to tear someone apart, if he didn’t fall apart first. “You saw someone come into my house?” he said to the eerily calm little boy.

Cody shook his head. “I saw him in my room. Ben and I dreamed about him and he came.”

“What?”

I stepped close to Arnold, whispering so Cody couldn’t hear. “He just watched his brother bleed out. He’s in shock.”

“The Gray Man said he needed helpers,” Cody continued. Poor Fiona looked about to faint. “And one day he’d come for us. He liked Ben better than me.”

I wanted to tell the boy to shut up. It wasn’t his fault. More voices cried out. They seemed to be coming from everywhere.

I got down on a knee, locking my eyes with Cody’s. “Can you tell us what the Gray Man looks like?”

There had to be a man, or men, responsible for this. The question, beyond the why, was how did they get into all of our houses in the middle of the day?

“It doesn’t matter,” Cody said. “He’s gone now. I don’t like the Gray Man. He said he’d take me with him. He’s a liar.”

Picking Cody up, I walked out of the house. Now, amidst the heart-rending cries of parents throughout the neighborhood, came the blaring of sirens. It felt and sounded like the end of the world. Men and women carried their broken children in a daze. The sidewalks were slick with tears.

Cody struggled in my arms. “I can help, too!” he blurted as he slipped free. Running to a tree, he scraped his arm against the bark, opening an angry, suppurating wound.

“No!”

I clamped my hands over the ragged gash, but the blood, thin as water, seeped through my fingers.

“I can help, too,” Cody whispered, then closed his eyes.

Police cars and ambulances swarmed the street. It would be impossible to direct them who to help first.

Cody shuddered, took one deep breath, and passed.

Maybe the Gray Man had come. I didn’t know whether to wish Cody could catch up to him and be with his brother, or flee as far as his spirit could from the monster who stole our innocents.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved

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.

Lung Berry

What I coughed up quivered like a wad of raspberry jelly. If I looked close enough, which I wouldn’t, I’d probably see little black specks as well, though they were far from seeds. I let my lung berry slide off my palm into the wastebasket by the daybed. My head spun for a moment and I gripped the edge of the mattress, my body tensing, waiting for another round.

It didn’t come.

Praise be. Testify and all that shit.

My lungs rattled like a broken catalytic converter, and were about as reliable as this point. I remember those damned revolting anti-smoking commercials they used to have on TV – back when there was TV. The last thing I needed was to see someone’s moldy neck hole or missing toes, yellowed stumps oozing with infection. They always played them during baseball games, when all I wanted to do was have a bite to eat and smoke my cigar in peace.

They said smoking would kill me.

Ha! Here I am, a goddamn mess but still kicking, and there they are, meat for the Pollywogs. I haven’t heard someone cry out for a while now. The Pollywogs must have gotten them all. Oh, I hear their roars all right, but I’m not afraid. I’m no use to them. Craplungs like me, we got a free pass when those black sperm beasties came charging out of cracks in the earth.

Who said lung cancer was a death sentence? Sure, it would kill me eventually, but better that than having my lungs ripped from me while I was still alive long enough to watch one of those things wolf them down like fat sardines.

There are only two of us left in the apartment building – me and Mrs. Church down in 3B. She’s pushing sixty, a lifelong asthmatic. In other words, a Craplung. We didn’t like each other before the shit hit the fan and don’t pretend to adore one another now. Sure, I bring her those puffers from ravaged drug stores every now and then, but all in all, we keep our distance.

Although there was that day I caught her bending down to pick some broken glass from the floor. Her robe opened up just enough for me to spy two smooth mounds of young looking breasts. I had to stop myself from grabbing them. It wasn’t like she could call the police.

No. Not Mrs. Church. She was only the last woman in the building, not the last woman on Earth. I wasn’t that desperate. Though I did drop a few over my knuckles that night. Too much pressure isn’t good. I think it feeds the cancer or something.

Time to get up. I see the bright pink of dusk outside my grimy window. The little bowl I used to fill with water for my cat Ted is bone dry. Ted went out for a stroll a week ago and he hasn’t been back since. I’d never seen a Pollywog rip the lungs from a cat or dog , but when things were going down, I spent a lot of time running, not observing.

For the past three nights, I’d been searching for Ted, right in the thick of Pollywog feasting time. They steered clear of me, one almost coming within ten feet before literally turning tail. It smelled like sea water, rotting vegetables and some kind of chemical. Not pleasant, but what about them was?

Opening a can of Fancy Feast – shredded chicken in sauce, Ted’s favorite – I grab a flashlight from the peg on the wall, don my fedora (yes, I was a hipster before the world ended) and walk out into bedlam.

I knock on Mrs. Church’s door. “You need anything while I’m out?”

She gives a quick reply. “Yeah, a medium steak from Morton’s.”

I walk away to her laughter. I think she’s becoming a Crazy. This whole situation can break your brain in two. She won’t be a problem. I can take her down if she goes full-on Crazy. Unless it takes her too long to turn and my cancer eats my muscles away. Don’t want that. I add ‘consider taking the old lady out’ to my to-do list. Proactive beat the hell out of reactive.

The night air makes me cough, but not enough to dredge up more lung jelly. Something darts between two cars up ahead. I don’t see it, but I know what it is.

“Here Ted.” I make little susss-susss-suusss sounds. I hear Pollywogs grunting and growling, but no meow.

“This isn’t for you, semen suckers!”

A pair of them round the corner, charging at me. They pull up short well before they get close enough for me to catch their aromatic stench.

“That’s right, Craplung on the prowl. Where the hell is my cat?”

I walk down the block, tapping the can, calling for Ted. Every now and then, I spy a Pollywog and have a little one-way conversation before it scampers away.

It’s then I realize, maybe I’m one of the Crazies. Who the fuck goes looking for a cat, blabbering to beasts from the planet’s center?

I get tired easy. I have to lean against a wire fence to catch my breath. I chuck the cat food over the fence. Maybe Ted will find it later. Maybe he’ll smell my scent and come back to where the rest of the food is.

I feel a humdinger of a coughing fit coming on, close my eyes and will it away. My lungs hitch painfully, but I don’t give in.

When I regain some equilibrium, I open my eyes.

A Pollywog, its black eyes inches from my own, stands before me. Up close, the smell is worse than ever. Its flesh looks wet, catching rainbows like spilled oil. Its tail swishes back and forth, sweeping empty cans and trash under a parked Honda.

The cough hits me like a rabbit punch. A fat gob of lung berry propels from my mouth, splattering on the Pollywog. It shrieks like a classroom of girls having a tub of tarantulas dumped on them.

As it runs away, I scream, “Chicken shit!”

Chuckling as I make my way back, I think I’ll reward my brush with the big bad Pollywog by demanding Mrs. Church shows me her tits. We may be the last of a dying race, but we’re still in charge. Might as well make the most of it.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved

Damned Words 12

ground_copyright
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.

Not Quite Indian Summer

Tag, you’re it!”

“Ow, my mother said no one’s supposed to touch me there!” April rubbed her chest, frowning at Ben.

“Big deal. It’s not like you have boobs or anything.”

Before she could tell him she did so have boobs, Ben ran off, calling her ‘flatso’. He disappeared behind the Mowry’s house.

Probably hiding in their shed, April thought.

“Come on April, you have to start looking for us,” her friend Melody shouted, zipping past her, going across the street into her own backyard.

She smiled, momentarily forgetting the throbbing pain behind her left nipple. “Okay, I’m gonna count to ten!”

Her mother bought her a training bra just last night, right after dinner. It was a special mommy-daughter shopping night at Kohls. They got frozen yogurt afterwards. April wondered if the flimsy thing would have cushioned the blow. It was in her drawer now, waiting for school on Monday.

By the time she reached ten, everyone was gone. She didn’t have to find all five of them. All it took was one. There was no way she was going to make Melody it. That left Ben, Seth and Sean.

Just thirty seconds ago, they were standing around, wondering what to do. All of their parents had taken their iPods and game systems away, forcing them outside. It was a hot September Saturday, still summer according to the calendar. But, the kids all knew summer was long gone. The morning the bell rang to start the new school year, summer had been obliterated, left to memories of sleeping in, swimming and staying up late, watching TV.

Seth was suggesting they get their bikes and head over to the field to see if the Mr. Softee truck was around when Ben hit her in the chest, igniting a game of tag.

April sniffed the air. It still smelled like summer.

She thought she saw Seth’s Converse underneath Mr. Coleman’s pickup. Sean was most likely hiding behind his above ground pool. Either that or his father’s pigeon coop. The little shack stunk to high heaven. No way was she going in there looking for him.

It had to be Ben. Her dad liked to say ‘Payback’s a bitch’ a lot, especially when he watched sports. Her older cousin Tony told her what it meant last summer – that and a whole lot of other dirty phrases, most of them describing when a man put his thing down there in a woman.

“Ready or not, here I come!” April shouted. She made a beeline for the Mowry house. Mr. and Mrs. Mowry were at work now, but they never minded the kids using their yard for games. Sometimes old people could be cool. Most times, not.

The white and green aluminum shed sat in a corner of the yard, underneath a skinny elm tree. The door was partway open.

“Got you,” she whispered.

It was hot in the shed. She’d been inside it plenty of times. If you hid in there, you had to keep the door open a crack to breathe. Otherwise, you’d choke on gas and oil fumes, boiling in the tight space.

April threw the door open and lunged.

Ben was sitting on a big bag of potting soil. He squinted against the harsh shaft of light. “No fair,” he protested.

April’s teeth sunk into the flesh of his soft, exposed throat. She worked at the chewy bits of tendon while blood sluiced down her throat, spattering the pretty pink top she’d gotten at Kohls last night.

Ben’s body went into spasms. He gurgled, his arms flapping at April’s sides. She pulled away, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

While Ben struggled for breath, April pulled up her shirt, revealing two tiny mounds, no bigger than the rounded tops of cupcakes. Her chest was smeared with blood.

“I told you I have boobs now,” she said, giggling.

He slipped off the bag of soil with a wet plop.

“Ben’s it now!” April yelled.

Melody, Sean and Seth bounded into the yard, lured by her call.

“Oh man,” Sean said, pulling up short. Seth bumped into him. “Watch where you’re walking!”

“You’re in my way!” Seth blurted.

“Will you two stop it,” Melody barked.

Sean spun around, slapping Seth hard. As his friend tottered, he closed the gap between them, clamping down on his cheek and tearing his head back, spitting a chunk of flesh on the grass.

Seth covered the wound with his hand.

“You asstard!”

He dove headfirst into Sean, knocking the wind from him. They landed on the ground, a tangle of flailing limbs. Flecks of blood splattered everywhere like a sprinkler as they clawed the flesh from one another’s bones.

“Dog pile!” April screamed. She and Melody joined the melee. They were a dervish of gnashing teeth and scratching nails. Bones broke. Arteries ruptured. Seth ate Melody’s lower lip. April and Melody tore Sean’s stomach open, heads diving into his bowels like two dogs at a dish of fresh Alpo.

They felt something smash into their backs.

April yelped as Ben pulled a fistful of hair from her head. Bloody skin clung to the ragged ends.

“You’re it again!” he gurgled.

The children laughed, trailing Seth’s intestines all around the yard, wrapping it around the trunk of a cherry tree. Seth let out a series of wet guffaws, jaws snapping at their heels as they danced around him.

The Mowry’s verdant lawn soaked up the crimson manna until the sounds of urgent adult voices cut the revelry, urging the children home.

They slunk out of the yard, gathering the bits of themselves that had been scattered about.

“After dinner, you wanna come over and see my training bra?” April asked Melody, her tongue poking out of a hole in her cheek.

“Yeah,” Melody said, holding her lips in her hands. “See you later!”

“I’m sorry,” Ben said. April could see his windpipe working. “I shouldn’t have hit you in the boob.”

April rolled her remaining eye. “Whatever.”

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2015 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 11

lantern

A Reason
Joseph A. Pinto

I found a reason to walk tween the folds of winter’s shawl, so hand in hand go we along Perdition’s Road. Shall we burn, we burn as one; shall we suffer, then know love cores the depths of our wounds. Lace your trembling fingers round my neck and your burdens I shall carry. I’ve no need to burn this lantern’s oils for our demons come well-known. Let them swirl in the dark, guttering til gone. Death is tenant of our path, yet tonight she’ll know no coin. My life I mortgage for yours; take flight now against my sky.


Nightfall
Nina D’Arcangela

Torn and bloodied, she huddles against the lantern’s pedestal fighting for a life already lost. Broken in spirit, broken in heart, she watches as they circle, awaiting night’s fall. Not taken on the last, she knows this eve she’ll not be so lucky. Day is already beginning to dim; the heavens darken. Having sought solace in the flicker of a dying flame, the whispers in her mind reassure no salvation will be granted. Darker than the deepening hue of the foreboding sky, they watch. The lantern struggles to glow, then gutters out. Her hope vanquished, they descend. The feast begins.


Monarch-Man
Thomas Brown

It had gone midnight when I crossed the park but he was quite visible by the street lamp. Stick limbs. Wild hair. The sickly-sweet scent of honey. He was filthy and beautiful.

Upturned, his pale face bathed in the orange glow. I saw his tight lips, his dusty skin. His eyes were like two orbs of polished stone. I saw myself in them a thousand times over, growing larger as I approached.

He smiled as I swarmed in his eyes, this Monarch-Man, my Emperor. I smiled back. Together we danced around the street lamp, and the night whispered with wing-beats.


Welcome to New Orleans
Zack Kullis

James glanced at the last gas lantern as they followed the old Haitian woman. Its light seemed to warn of coming darkness, fluttering and pointing away from the famed priestess. They had asked her for a taste of local voodoo, thinking it was bullshit until the old woman turned in the darkness of an alley and blew powder into their faces.

“Coupe poudre,” she whispered with a grin.

He pawed at his face until his legs buckled. Unable to move, James gazed with unblinking eyes as the voodoo priestess stooped close to his face.

“Welcome to New Orleans, my pet.”


Color Me Gray
Blaze McRob

It’s another gray winter evening, bereft of color, even the moonlight not distinct. And the light at the end of the old rock wall? Colorless. The sky blind to its presence.

The leaf-less trees pass his word through their twitching branches. He is pissed. Revenge is on his mind. Those who would destroy what he created must pay the price.

A giant pallet, held between his enormous hands, continues to draw all colors other than gray to it.

Armageddon will be much easier now. The lack of color already depresses them.

Great moans come from everywhere as the beasts attack.


High Society
Hunter Shea

“It’s the one right there”
“Where? I can barely see.”
“The one with the old gas lamp.”
The crowbar made quick work of the rusty mausoleum door. Bitter fall wind knifed through the opening.
“Help me with this.”
They chipped away at the cement covering, dumping the coffin on the floor.
“Shhh, you’ll wake the dead!”
They both tittered.
The coffin lid opened with an eerie squeal. The corpse looked like jerky, smelled rancid.
“You first.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
He lowered his open maw on the corpse’s face.
Eaters of the Dead Society was not for the squeamish.


Flicker
Jon Olson

This city stands tall, desolate, and lifeless like the trees against the sunless sky. More empty concrete; more of the same. Nothing. Perched atop the corner on a forgotten wall, a lamp. Encased and protected by a small cage. The glass bulb intact, untouched by history. I imagine it glowing; a beacon of hope in dark and despair. Wait! What was that? Did it just… my God, it did! The filament lit up! I swear it flickered. Do it again! The bulb had blinked once… teasing me. Flicker again! Please do it again! Damn it, I need this. God, please…


The Game
Craig McGray

Once a beacon of hope, the lanterns go unlit now. In a new world, where few things are guaranteed and only death is certain, he scours what remains of the charred earth for the precious few that have somehow survived the scorching heat, famine, and disease that has spread across the globe. They think they’re surviving, fools every one of them, but he’ll track them down; the ultimate hunter. When the demon and his ebony stallion finds them, they’ll wish they’d perished like the others. For the game has only one survivor and he rides atop a fleshless black beast.


Raven
Magenta Nero

I pace in the street light, my heels click a numbing tune. Many drive past, slowing down, hungry eyes gawking, but it’s just not their time.

The chosen one rolls up, engine humming. I get a blank stare when I smile and say “My service is free.”

His face drains of colour as it dawns. The irrevocable darkness is a rising tide within, a slow choking. I shriek excitedly as he passes over. My wings burst open, eager to deliver him. The judgement is always a feast of pain. Few are redeemed. Snatching his soul in my beak, I soar.


Ne’er To Be Seen Again
Tyr Kieran

Under this post, he lay slumped against the cold stone wall; bleeding, appropriately ripped open. I watch the pain swell in his eyes and it widens my smile. I had not reason to smile in weeks—not since the woman I loved had been murdered in a savage manner. Despite her being of ill repute, I planned to marry. But on a night like tonight, with ring waiting in my pocket, I happened upon her torn body in the street. He took her from me. And now, I’ve taken him away from Whitechapel, ne’er to be seen in London again.


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

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