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Damned Words 22

The Forever Burden
Lee A. Forman

Only at night could the tower be seen—a spectral fortress alive in darkness. Under the sun the site was an open field, but when the moon rose from its resting place, the stone went up as far as any lantern could illuminate. It seemed to touch the stars. They gathered there each midnight to offer their sorrows to the Lord. He who would cast vengeful death upon them from above. One living soul for one living day. The bargain had been set for as long as any could remember. An unending deal with an unseen God. Their forever burden…


Torches
Veronica Magenta Nero

I silence my jagged breath and press myself flat against the cold stones. They chant my name as they jostle flaming torches in the night, boots stomping, their malicious song churns in my stomach. When I close my eyes I see your throat, split open and seeping black red, your fingers trembling at the wound as your life leaked away and soaked into the earth.

They are close, they will soon capture me, a mad woman unwed, a murderous whore. I will gladly confess my crime, without guilt or regret, and for that they will torture me all the more.


A Letter from Captain William Brumley, 47th Border Guard
Brian Moreland

General McHenry,

A new enemy has invaded our territory. Each night campfires appear outside our post. Growls echo from the woods. Twelve of my recon soldiers failed to return. During the day, all we’ve found is an abandoned camp with bloody bones, skulls on pikes. Last night, I ventured close enough to see our tormentors are feral savages cloaked in fur. Formidable beasts with snouts and tusks, archaic weapons. They greatly outnumber us. We are down to four men. We fear for our lives. Please send an army to Fort Danebury, before the Boar People eat the rest of us.


Awoken Me
Jon Olson

Something has changed. It is not time. My metamorphosis is not yet complete. So what has awoken me? My dark world is no longer silent or still. Echoes bounce off the ancient walls as the sounds of the living harass the dead. My joints are stiff as I emerge from my cocoon, creeping along brick foundations built by those from long ago. Up ahead I see a tiny flicker of flame dancing seductively within the confines of a lantern. Pausing, I lick the air and immediately become ravenous for the sweet yet bitter taste of humans. Let the feast begin…


The Mob Laments
John Potts Jr

“What have we done?”

The farmer collapsed. His splintered pitchfork drops and he whimpered a dull, throaty wallop. The priest lowered with lantern and blood-stained cross. “It needed to be done, for it was the will of the—”

“Damn you,” a gargantuan sort of man reached down and snatched the priest off the ground with ease. “No God would demand the death of children.”

A wiry woman pressed forward. Her eyes burned like the woeful flames set before.

“The only monster here is you,” she spat.

Her dagger glistened by moonlight above and the mob circled, still hungry for more.


Penance
Mark Steinwachs

Chained against the wall, the moonlight bathed me. I watched them set up camp then closed my eyes. There was nothing I could have done for my son. His neck was ripped open before I could knock the beast from him. My silver combat knife sunk in, but its teeth and claws inflicted irreversible damage to me. We all knew my final outcome. My eyes popped open and I cried out. It had begun. Vomit spewed from me as I watched my body begin to change. They’re going to sacrifice me for my meat and fur. Penance for my failure.


Offerings in the Dark
A.F. Stewart

A scattering of flower petals covered the ground outside the entrance and etched symbols of protection decorated its stone archway. The people of the town considered the edifice a shrine.
A place of the dead.
Others considered it a pilgrimage.
A few steps inside, tucked in an alcove, the lanterns burned, their flickering light a monument. The faithful came each year; the fortunate said prayers and left. The rest, well…
A few more feet into the shadows and you’d find their bones. The strewn remnants of pilgrims sacrificed to the dark.
You’d also find the creature that ate those fools.


Vivisepulture
Joseph A. Pinto

Spade kisses earth; it begins.

No rites, no rituals. That privilege is lost, stripped like the clothes from your back. No box, no shroud. Nothing but a crude, dank hole.

The melody of cloven earth lulls you; your muscles grow slack against your binds. The chasm claims you; dirt now cast, one with your skin. No use in struggling, you retreat within your mind; you are a master at escape. Ignorant, they are, to the knowledge you have buried yourself within yourself so many, many times before.

How little they know you were born only to die, to rise again.


Cortege
Hunter Shea

I stood beside the crypt, quivering. The crisp autumn air numbed my toes.
“See, I told you,” Rebecca hissed.
I clamped a hand over her mouth.
The procession of glowing orbs marched in front of us, making nary a sound. These were not fairies. Fairies didn’t smell of fruiting bodies. Pain and rancor emanated from the flickering lights, not magic and wonder.
I wanted to run home, but I daren’t alert them to our presence.
The burning dead went on and on, seemingly without end.
Rebecca sniffled heavily against my wet palm.
The cortege stopped.
Turned our way.
God, no!


Twelve Chalices
Nina D’Arcangela

Light flickers in darkest woods, twelve flames do bob and weave. Silent as bare breath trees stand, necropolis whispers her fury. Hidden thou must remain, dangers warned ye did not heed. Voices lift on autumn breeze, and to vain ears do carry. They sing of love, they sing of life, they croon of lust and need. A rustle sounds behind squirreled niche, flesh quivers with fear profound. Claws rasp along age’ed stone, all stills on stroke of three. Ritual fulfilled as hot blood flows, twelve chalices drench in greed. Of this night I do profess, birthed to no other deed.


Custom
Christopher A. Liccardi

The merlin radiated the heat with spite. It was this place, these people it resented. The land passed that hatred on to the stone. It wanted nothing more than to drink, soak up the liquid that would flow like wine.

The revelers were dancing around the fire, as was their custom. The guests were tied to the ground by the necks, as was theirs. The axes sharpened with the bones of the previous gathering.

It was time to do what they came here for. Feed the land on the blood of the unwilling, unwitting and refresh the spirit once again.


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.

Double Feature

The moment he stepped through the door, Diana’s guts went sub-zero. His hair was matted down and wet and he smelled like pencil lead laced with a badly wiped ass.

Today he wore his stupidest grin, the one where he looked mentally challenged (though Diana knew full well he wasn’t), along with dirty jeans that could probably stand up on their own and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre T-shirt.

“Big night tonight,” he said, breathing heavily. Something was wrong with his lungs. He always sounded as if he’d run a mile, even if he’d just been sitting around for hours staring at the TV. She kept hoping it was something fatal, yet here he still was, labored breath expelling tuna and gingivitis in her face.

Diana eyed him coolly.

He lifted a plastic yellow shopping bag.

“It’s double feature night,” he said, chest puffing up.

God, he loved double feature nights.

“I even got popcorn and Mild Duds.”

Diana stared hard into his stupid, anxious face, wishing she could be like one of those people in that movie he loved. She thought it was called Scanners. The one where they could blow your fucking head up with just a thought. Now that was a super power she’d give both legs for. She might even thrown in one of her arms just to know she could splatter his greasy, bowling ball head all over the wall.

His shoulders sagged, the bag dropping onto the coffee table that had more rings than twenty Saturns.

“Don’t you even want to know what they are?”

Diana took a deep breath. “Not particularly.”

“Come on, take a guess.”

“Is it Howard the Cum Stain Kills Himself?”

The smile faltered and his right hand balled into a fist. He hated when she said his name. That she called him a cum stain, not so much. She guessed he was pretty comfortable with his pathetic station in life.

He rushed her, ripping off her panties. She tried to squirm away when he stuck his rough finger inside her, but the duct tape held her down like Satan’s flypaper.

First, he brought his finger close to his eyes, and then he sniffed it, finally popping it in his mouth.

“No, you’re not getting a visit from Aunt Flow,” he said. “So why are you so mean today?”

“Go to hell…Howard.”

Spinning on his heels, he walked to the steel plated door and smashed it with his fists, the new dents pounding over the old. Grunting with each punch, he wore himself out after a spell, collapsing on the ratty couch.

“Milk Duds are your favorite,” he said, huffing and puffing, his face red as a monkey’s ass.

“My favorite is not being tied to this chair and being forced to watch sick movies with you.”

He reached into the bag, took out the box of Milk Duds and tossed them on her lap. His knuckles were bloody and swollen.

“I can’t help that we were made for each other,” he said, looking down at the floor. “I…I found you for a reason.”

Found was stretching things. It was more like stalked and kidnapped. Diana was in no mood to resurrect that argument.

“And since you grew up in the ’80s, I ordered these movies just for you. They came in the mail today.”

Recovering from his anger, Howard took the movies out to show her. They were battered VHS copies of Pieces and The Funhouse.

Diana shivered.

Not Pieces. No, of all the goddamn movies.

“I even got a kind of waterbed,” he said, running outside like a kid heading under the Christmas tree.

He came back with a red kiddie pool, cute animals shapes plastered all over it.

“I’ll just fill it with some water and throw some plastic bags over it. I know it’s not a real waterbed, but it’ll do just fine.”

Diana was too sick, too tired to speak.

Pieces was the first movie Howard had made her watch. She didn’t know how truly sick his needs were then. They’d only gotten worse over the year she’d been held captive.

He loved the scene with the waterbed.

Diana stared at the pool, barely registering Howard bringing in jugs of water. He’d donned a black trench coat, leather gloves and a fedora.

Howard didn’t just like to watch horror movies.

No, for Howard, they weren’t complete unless he could act out his favorite parts.

Act them out on her.

She’d given up willing herself to die. Her body was in perpetual pain thanks to Howard’s ministrations. All she was to him was a meat puppet, a means to exorcising the twisted compulsions that overtook him when he watched horror movies.

We were made for each other.

If that were true, Diana wanted to meet the bastard that had made her and show him or her a thing or two she learned from Howard and his movies.

He popped the movie into the VCR, the auto tracker working hard against the static image. The tape was in real bad shape. She hoped it was too bad for Howard to see. If he couldn’t see it, he couldn’t replicate it.

“I paid thirty dollars for this piece of shit,” he said, more to himself. The music warbled and the horrible dialogue was hard to make out. Howard got on his knees before the TV and fiddled with the tracking buttons. Unfortunately, he managed to get things better.

“There,” he said, proud of himself. “Milk Dud?”

When she didn’t reply, he popped one in his mouth, along with a heaping handful of popcorn. He chewed with his mouth open, dripping chocolate and popcorn shards on his lap and floor.

“Did you see this in the theater when it came out?” he asked, eyes never leaving the screen. He practically bounced in his chair as the gory movie played on.

She knew what was coming. The cells in her body cried out, a billion tears of anguish.

And there was nothing she could do about it.

The waterbed scene. It was coming.

Her heart raced. It was so hard to swallow. Her vision wavered.

“Almost time,” Howard said.

He grabbed her roughly, cutting the duct tape from around her wrists and ankles. It would be the perfect moment to escape or hit him with something heavy, but her feet and hands were completely numb. He had to hold her up before securing her face down onto the makeshift waterbed.

“You don’t have to do this,” she whispered, mad at herself for letting him see fear.

He patted the back of her head. “You know I do.”

She watched in horror as the woman on the screen was chased by a man wielding a butcher knife. He threw her onto a waterbed and began stabbing. Howard straddled her. She could smell the funk coming off him, hear his wheezing breaths.

The knife felt hot as a poker as it slid into her back.

Diana snapped her jaw shut, refusing to show pain. The scream boiled in her throat.

She braced herself, because she knew what was about to happen.

Howard silently grabbed her hair and jammed the knife in the back of her skull. Diana’s world went white, her ears buzzing as if filled with a thousand bees.

The sharp blade pushed through her mouth, bisecting her tongue, scraping her teeth as it exited her mouth.

Howard grunted and groaned, his hardness grinding against her back. Her blood spilled into the crimson pool. Her mouth was jammed wide open as she choked on the blade.

Die, you bitch, die!

Her body was just like Howard the cum stain. It never listened to her.

“Oh, sorry,” Howard said.

She heard as much as felt the knife slide out of her mouth, squishing as it exited her skull.

Her body went limp, her skewered brain seeking retreat.

So much blood.

The pain was excruciating.

Still, she hadn’t made a sound.

She’d tell him to fuck himself if her mouth hadn’t been split in half. The hinges of her jaw had splintered. She saw chips of her teeth in the pool’s soupy mess.

Diana’s view shifted as Harold lifted her back into the chair and taped her back down.

“You’ll like The Funhouse,” he said, balling the bloody trench coat. “The monster looks really cool. You ever go to a funhouse? I did, once, with my friend Kal. It was kind of corny.”

He blathered on and on until Pieces ended. Twenty minutes into The Funhouse, he fell asleep, snoring loud enough to rattle her bones.

Diana wept only when she knew he couldn’t see her tears.

She could already feel her tongue stitching itself back together. Her head throbbed, tickling as bone started to grow back.

By the morning, she’d be as good as new, only the pain never quite went away. It was just another layer of torment.

Howard would leave her alone for a week. This ‘kill’ always wore him out.

But he’d be back. Maybe with a knife. Or a chainsaw. Or a branding iron. Or just plain gas and fire.

Whatever death scene thrilled him the most, he’d bring it to her.

Diana would suffer it, and be there for the next time.

Because they were made for each other.

~ Hunter Shea

© Copyright 2017 Hunter Shea. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 21

Three
Hunter Shea

An unfettered caress. A sigh against your breast. I burn inside when I’m in your presence, the flame of my lust pressed against your cold indifference. Does it bother you when I touch you there? Oh no, you always liked that. Ah, but the sweet, supple beauty entangled in your arms, that is where our joined path diverged.

I still hear your pained refusals, wild jealousy and bleating about love lost. You never understood my love had grown twofold. If only you had said yes, you would feel my hardness. Now who is harder? Are you quivering in your encasement?


Wrath
Brian Moreland

For thousands of years, the lovers had stood frozen in their last embrace. A resting post for countless birds. An enigma to Greeks and tourists who passed through Athens’s ruins. When the Gorgon’s curse finally lifted, the statues’ stone flesh cracked and crumbled, freeing the punished immortals. Euryale and Belen hugged tighter and kissed. The longing in their hearts burned hotter, turned to fury. Euryale’s head erupted into a mane of writhing snakes. Belen’s eyes filled with fire. Seeking vengeance, the Gorgon and demon left the ruins in search of Euryale’s sister, Stheno. The bitch would suffer for cursing them.


Marble
Joseph A. Pinto

Lover yearns, yet the passion remains frozen. Lover craves, yet the need goes unfulfilled. Blind for so long, lover ignores the fragments of self left abandoned atop the floor. It serves lover right.

Now lover searches for truth where all flows smooth and cold. And the eyes that hold lover gaze like still, distant moons. How slick the irony under lover’s needy fingers. For all lover has sought now captured by the deft hand of another. An ache left to harden as lover grows old with time. A masterpiece by love’s standard, yet for all appearances left to stand unwhole.


A Work of Endearment
Lee A. Forman

Her beauty embellishes all my eyes can witness; the world glimmers even in the dark of a moonless night. With a voice that put songbirds to shame, she’d captivated me with only words. I could never let her go. Not in life—or death. As I stare into her eyes, layer after layer crafts the perfection we’ll share once we depart. A tear rolls down her cheek and rests where the white plaster has already dried. Soon the artist I hired will finish his work, encasing us in eternity. We’ll be cast together, molded into forever, never to be apart.


A Toast to Finality
John Potts Jr.

“My sweet,” Elizabeth gazed to Lawrence, swooning with eyes pitted in aged decay. “This starry night witnessed our enemies anguish; to bathe in those screams fluttered my undead heart like our love’s first kiss so long, long ago. Blood rained from our horde, soaking earth with entrails so crimson that the Sun itself will only find jealousy on the coming morn. And the fires! We danced as one, consuming with restless hunger that rose to the hymn of our retribution.”

Life embraced death and chalice drained to the backdrop of scorched lands, warming from afar the finality of reaped vindication.


Eternal
A.F. Stewart

Without end, I gaze upon the face of my death. That perfect face of alabaster marble. How did she taint the spell? How did she curse me? It should have worked, I should have won my immortality. She tricked me. Locked us forever in this embrace of stone.

I tried to warn him. Tried to take back what he stole. The urn was never to be opened, never to leave the temple. Why did he betray me? Why? He destroyed everything. Now I must spend eternity staring at the man who condemned our world to the Fate of Living Stone.


Human
Jon Olson

What is this thing? This monstrosity latching onto my arm and shoulder. It is so vile, wretched, and pathetic. Eyes embedded in a completely formed face stare at me; full of life and emotion. The warm flesh against my skin makes me shudder. Whoever would have expected to come across such a creature? Surely not me or my forebears. Although, I recall something mentioned by the Old Ones. Once there was a creation… no, an abomination. Left to their own free will, they destroyed themselves. This thing gazing at me cannot be one of them. It cannot be a human…


Fire Stone
Nina D’Arcangela

In your eyes, I watch a universe ignite, I see the molten glow; I feel its blaze encompass all. I watch the birth of a new awareness, the awakening of cruel indulgence; one in which brutality, suffering, and eventual indifference will serve far better than kind gentility. Your veneer smooth, your tone unblemished; your surface nearly opalescent, yet I know the fierceness that rages below rends innumerable fractures that will reveal fissures of choice not circumstance. A tragedy that will split the world in two.

Guttering now, the light surrenders. I stare into a vast emptiness as your eyes cool.


Immortal Love
Mark Steinwachs

They wanted to be together, their love for the ages. Athanasios promised he could help. By the time the couple realized what was going on, it was too late. The elixir to help them relax rendered their limbs useless, allowing the artist to move them into position. “Gaze upon each other, this pose is for eternity,” Athanasios said as he painted them with his unique blend of alabaster, making sure to cover every inch of them.

***

“This statue is called Immortal Love, by master Greek sculptor Athanasios,” the museum guide said. “He is well known for his incredibly life-like carvings.”


Pact
Veronica Magenta Nero

She placed the intricate glass bottle in my hands, her cool fingers curling over my own. Her head tipped back, offering a mouth to kiss, seducing me into complacency. A kiss to seal the deal. That’s when I poured it in. The elixir slipped down her pearly throat, poisoning her with her own magic.

We had made a pact but I backed out. I never wanted to be like her – perfect in every visible way, of timeless beauty, immortal. I want to age and die. Each hard earned wrinkle building in number and depth, until my body resembles a nest.


A Whole New Meaning
Christopher A. Liccardi

The rule was simple; unbreakable. These two, the latest two, had broken that rule. Something else was simple, the punishment. Here, stoning had a whole new meaning. The couple was washed, cleaned of all their sins. They were posed for the village to see and they were cast in stone; alive. The offending parts were snapped or chiseled off, mechanical castration for both parties. Then, the crowd watched until the moaning stopped. Sometimes, that took days. Most of them thought death was caused by starvation. I know better; I swung the hammer.

They have one rule here and its unbreakable…


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.

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

damnedwords_20

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

Damned_Words_18

Ravenous Eyes
Jon Olson

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


Washed Ashore
Joseph A. Pinto

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

Yes, you have found much use.

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


Deep Sleep
Zack Kullis

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

“God bids thee sleep.”


My Gift
Hunter Shea

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


Treasure Hunter
Tyr Kieran

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


Dissolution
Lee A. Forman

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

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

Life feeds. Life dies.

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


Idyllic
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

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

The birds don’t seem to mind, though.


Icarus
Veronica Magenta Nero

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


Driftwood
Thomas Brown

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

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

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


Fowl Deeds
Nina D’Arcangela

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

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


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

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

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