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Anniversary

Stepping out of the car, I look up at Lake Euphoria Inn.

Although they’ve spruced up the three story building with a fresh coat of paint, it’s still the same place where my wife and I spent all our anniversaries.

Including our last.

Turning away from the inn, I have no intentions of reliving those memories in the honeymoon suite. Instead my eyes fall upon the path cut into the trees, which leads to Lake Euphoria itself.

It used to be a dirt path with odd roots protruding through, but now it’s a well-maintained gravel walkway.

As the gravel crunches beneath my feet it does little to ease the churning acid in my gut. Reaching to the small of my back, I make sure the gun is still tucked into the waistband of my pants. My fingers brush against the grip, reassuring me the pain is almost over.

I continue walking a few more steps, coming to the spot where my life was torn apart.

Looking around the small clearing I can still see my wife sprawled on her back, stomach ripped open, absolute terror permanently etched upon her face.

I had gone back to our room to retrieve the camera that I forgot to grab. On my way back I’d heard her screams, raw and terrified.

And then, silence.

Running as fast as possible, I came upon the thing. It stood knee-deep in the water, my wife’s entrails hanging from its mouth. Wet scales glistened on its body in the afternoon light. The amphibious abomination looked at me and smiled before disappearing under the water.

I shake my head, clearing those images from my mind.

The water laps against the large rocks surrounding Lake Euphoria. Perching myself on one of them near the spot where she died, I remove the gun from my waistband. In the weeks leading up to this day I fantasized about how it would feel. Would I be sad? Fearful? Or even relieved?

No.

Nothing.

Even with the gun in hand and the barrel in my mouth, I’m void of emotion. I’m already dead.

Pulling back on the hammer, I steal one final glance to the lake… and there it is! The fucking thing, its head sticking out of the water, watching me.

I open fire until the gun clicks empty, all my shots missing wide.

It dips below the surface.

Diving in the cold water shocks my system. Where are you goddamn it? Although the lake is murky, there is some visibility. I don’t see it right away but I know it’s there.

My lungs begin to burn.

Something glides past me.

I reach out but grab nothing.

I hear a groan muffled by the water.

My lungs scream. I need air…there it is! Only a few feet away, staring at me with golden fish-like eyes…

…I inhale foul water…

…my body thrashes…

…choking…

…but I can’t look away…

…strength fading…

…lungs full of water…

…drowning…

…it smiles…

…and swims off.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

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Damned Words 23

Ghosts of Judgement Bridge
Brian Moreland

Every October we relive the nightmare. The townsfolk march my three sisters and I to Judgment Bridge. Our hands bound behind our backs, we stand facing the fates of sinners. The angry mob chants, “Suffer the wicked!” Jabbing pitchforks force us to climb onto the rusted railing. Looking down, my sisters and I teeter over roaring river rapids. The hangman places nooses around our necks. Before he reaches Charlotte, she jumps and plunges into the rushing waters. Beside me, Gwen and Sylvie cry. We hold hands as we leap. The ropes snap our necks. We hang forever beside our parents.


Departing Obstruction
Lee A. Forman

Legends spoken in elder tongues told of the barrier. The forbidden land existed beyond. Kell desired secrets, discoveries, things unknown. To touch, feel, see…he’d return a hero. They’d sing of his journey for ages. Knowledge of the world gone would be his to tell. Whatever horrors lied ahead, he’d conquer. He inched with fear over rushing water. But his legs weakened as he reached the midpoint; body thinned, skin withered. The air smelled of death. He tried to withdraw but the barrier obstructed return. A throaty howl escaped unheard, as ravenous beasts of ebon flesh appeared from behind the trees…


Honor
Mark Steinwachs

I place my hands on the bridge and lay down, nestling my head into the rounded gap of steel.

There’s only one of us in the family each generation and as is tradition, I don’t know who follows me. My time is over and only they choose whether to reveal themselves. I will be their first hit as my uncle was mine.

“Thank you,” says a sweet female voice, one I’ve known since she was born. “Your place of honor awaits.”

In the silent morning the click of the safety sounds as loud as the gunshot that will soon follow.


Safe
Christopher A. Liccardi

Rusted girders ached under her weight. Centuries passed since anyone ventured out on that bridge. The deepest spot was nearly the length across to the other side; the free side.

She struggled, just a few hundred feet from where she could be safe from all the torment and ridicule. It wouldn’t be long before she could get away from the prying eyes always staring, the disdain she’d had to endure for years.

As she reached that spot, the one you couldn’t see from the deck, she dropped his mostly dead body in without so much as a single glance down.


Crossing
Veronica Magenta Nero

Each time I cross cold shivers overcome me. Here you leapt into the brown waters below, your body never found. With toes curling the edge I imagine the impact, the smack against the rippling surface, hard and sharp like plunging into glass. Water is a cruel and hungry force, capable of painfully wringing the very last gasp of air from tired lungs. I strain my ears against the rush and gurgle of the river, listening, waiting, sometimes your voice rises like a dark bubble from the muddy depths. It breaks before I can make out what you want to say.


Where will you go, Josie May?
John Potts Jr

Back in ’63 the widow Josie May lost her two boys to napalm. Her grief was persistent, heavy. One evening Josie plunged head-first to the shallow creek below Mason Bridge. She suffered a death worse than her sons and the locals coined that spot Widow’s Sorrow ever since.

Those who shared Josie’s pain found a similar fate; some took the dive, some didn’t. But the town never mentioned that when they shut the bridge down for good. Old Josie though, she’s clinging on, and the kids nowadays say Widow’s Sorrow isn’t half as scary as it was made to be.


Just Cut Deep
Jon Olson

You’re holding that razor, comforting and warm. Everything will be better on the other side. Trust me. The pain and anguish you feel now will be but a memory. Don’t you see? Your life’s journey has brought you here. All that is left now is to cross over, the final hurdle represented by this bridge. There is but a simple toll. Just cut deep. That’s all you have to do. Don’t be alarmed by what’s on the other side. It will look bleak only if you want it to. There’s much more so embrace the razor’s cold bite and cross…


Awakened
Joseph A. Pinto

From beneath the bridge, I hear the breaths; a horrid rasping, laden with congestion and rage. Warned I was not to cross this way for what awaits, the rumors told, was of no natural origin.  The sun slowly withdraws from the land as the breaths rise and fall, everywhere and nowhere at once.

Turtle-like, my head withdraws deep into the hollow of my overcoat, bones rattling within my shell.  I should have taken heed, but like all else in my life, it is too late.

Yes, I hear the breaths from a beast awakened, rising and falling with my own.


Ghost Train
A.F. Stewart

The deputy stared at the human-shaped soot stain indelibly smeared into the surface of the rusted bridge. Nearby lay a ratty wallet. “Another one, Clem?”

The sheriff snorted. “Of course, Willie. Full moon last night. Another fool got an eternal ticket on our Ghost Train. It’s a spectral menace. Even ripping up the tracks in ’56 didn’t help.” He bent and examined the wallet. “Shit. It’s Darren’s. You’d think he’d know better.”

“Poor Darren.” Willie shook his head, but inwardly smiled.

He got what he deserved. Best sound in the world listening to him scream over that phantom train whistle.


Mother’s Rage
Nina D’Arcangela

Mother’s milk spills upon all. The transformation– beautiful; horrifically brutal. As she nourishes, she destroys. Silvering, drying, cupping with the wick of her dew.  Molecular bonds shift as she bathes all with rage and gentle tears from above. She corrodes, taints; amends. The surface awash in pained agony transforms to a visage her eye finds most appealing. Underneath, sweet symphony of destruction plays to a finely tuned ear. Warping, twisting, undulating; becoming. Corrosion, chaos, lack of conformity brings justice to the wracked and malformed. Her torrent soothes the hardest with passage of time; her gentle stroke cripples that unnaturally wrought.


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.

Like A Puppet

Earl was two hours into his shift and already pissed off.

It was bad enough that management stuck him out at the East Gate Security Checkpoint but they also put him with the new guy, Geoff. Not only that but his guts rumbled too, threatening to spill out his hind quarters at any moment.

No one really used the East Gate anymore as it had been turned into an exit-only checkpoint. The road was poorly maintained with crumbling asphalt and the gate itself was rusted chain link. Their guard shack was roughly the size of a large recreational vehicle and sat just off the road surrounded by weeds.

Inside was a large desk with two computer monitors, each of them linked to a CCTV camera. Fluorescent lights hummed above, giving the trailer a slight hint of green making Earl think of a hospital. There was a single phone hooked to the wall and even it had seen better days. In Earl’s view, the only good thing about the shack was the air conditioning.

“I’m going to have a smoke,” Earl grunted.

He stepped outside and a lit a cigarette.

It was a humid evening, evident from the sweat already running down his back. The sky was streaked with crimson as the sun slowly dropped toward the horizon. He glanced up at the lone street light standing next to the shack and watched as the moths were drawn to its glow.

A mosquito buzzed by Earl’s ear and he swatted aimlessly at it. Nearing fifty with a gut starting to hang over his belt, Earl had been with Dragon Security for almost fifteen of those years.

Despite that experience, they decide to screw me and stuck me the East Gate.

“No,” Earl said, sighing heavily. “You got yourself stuck here.”

The door opened behind him.

“Did you say something, Earl?” Geoff asked.

Earl shook his head and waved the new guy away.

He didn’t dislike Geoff as a person, but rather disliked him for reminding Earl of what he once was: young, in shape and working the job solely to pay his way through school.

Not earning a living off a security guard’s shitty wages.

The air conditioning felt great, although it also gave him the chills thanks to his sweat. He sat down on one of the hard plastic chairs and looked at the grainy black and white images on the monitors.

“What do you think they do up there?” Geoff asked, sitting down next to him.

“Up where?” Earl asked.

“At the Institute.”

Earl glared at him and said, “It doesn’t fucking matter what they do up there. The less you ask, the better.”

Geoff blinked, not expecting Earl to snap.

Earl sighed. “Look, I’m not trying to be a dick. I made the mistake of asking a similar question and now I’m getting punished.”

Geoff opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it and turned back to the monitors.

About a week ago when Earl was still in Dragon Security’s good graces, he was working at the Main Entrance. He had gotten to know some of the people who actually worked inside the McFarlane Institute, one of whom was Dr. Richards. They shot the shit daily until Earl made the mistake of asking what they were doing up there.

A harmless question.

Dr. Richards didn’t speak to him after that and shortly thereafter he got assigned to the East Gate. It still pissed him off thinking back to it.

The ground shuddered, followed immediately by a deep, heart pounding thud.

The lights flickered twice before going out, along with the monitors and air conditioner.

They had lost power.

“What the hell was that?” Geoff asked as he jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over in the process.

“Relax,” Earl replied. “Just give it a sec. Sometimes there are power bumps.”

While it was true, Earl had never experienced a power bump like that before. He looked out the window toward the institute and saw that the lights were still on.

Why hadn’t they gone out?

The power returned and everything went back to normal.

“You see,” Earl said, rubbing at his stomach. “There’s nothing to it. If you’re here long enough you’ll get used to them.”

“I won’t lie,” Geoff said picking his chair off of the floor. “It gave me a start.”

Earl’s guts rumbled again and he knew better than to tempt fate.

“I’m going to take a shit,” Earl said making his way toward the bathroom. “Are you okay out here?”

“I should be,” Geoff nodded.

“You remember what to do if a car comes?”

“Check their documents of entitlement and identification. If everything looks good let them out.”

As he reached the bathroom, Earl turned around and said, “If you have any issues let me know.”

Earl shut the door, dropped his pants and closed his eyes as he sat down on the toilet, enjoying the relief it brought. For some reason, the trailer’s designer felt it necessary to put in a small window in the bathroom. It was the size of the Kleenex box and up high so they left it alone, usually leaving it open to air out the shitter.

As much as he wanted to believe that it had just been a power bump, Earl couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something else. Every other power bump had knocked out the exterior lights to the McFarlane Institute.

This time it hadn’t.

“Hey Earl,” Geoff called through the door. “There’s a car coming.”

“So handle it!” Earl yelled back.

He heard Geoff open the shack door and step outside. As Earl went ahead with his business, he listened as Geoff’s voice carried in through the open window.

“Good evening,” Geoff said.

There was a pause and then a voice said, “Good… evening… it… is…” Earl recognized the voice as Dr. Richards’. Why did he sound weird?

“I need to see your ID and document of entitlement.” There was the sound of movement, then shuffling of paper. “It’ll just be a quick second while I validate these.”

“Going… home… for… night…”

“What was that?” Geoff asked.

“Going… home… for… night…”

“Quitting time is always a good feeling.”

The phone began ringing out by the desk.

“Fuck sakes,” Earl muttered.

After a quick wipe he walked toward the desk, stealing a glance outside at Dr. Richards’ car. Geoff was handing his paperwork back through the passenger side window. Earl saw the good doctor and stopped, as there was something off about him.

His motions were jerky and delayed as if he were reacting. It reminded Earl of the old ventriloquist puppets when their heads would turn followed by their eyes. That combined with his bizarre speech pattern rubbed Earl the wrong way but he couldn’t figure out why.

The phone continued to ring.

Earl heard the familiar buzzing indicating that the gate was opening and saw Geoff with his hand on the control switch. The gate was almost completely open when Earl picked up the receiver.

“East Gate, Earl speaking.”

The gate creaked to a stop.

This is McNeil!

Geoff waved Dr. Richards’s car through.

“How’s it—?”

Don’t let anyone through the gate! We’ve had a breach! I repeat, we’ve had a breach!

Earl dropped the receiver and bolted outside just as Geoff hit the switch to close the gate. Dr. Richards’ car was already outside the gate, a few meters beyond the fence where it had stopped.

“That guy sure seemed fucked up,” Geoff said, then looked at Earl. “Hey, who was that on the phone?”

Dr. Richards began convulsing uncontrollably.

“It was McNeil from the institute,” Earl began. “He said there’d been a breach.” His voice trailed off.

Dr. Richards rose from his seat and hung out the passenger side window by what looked like a cross between a snake and tentacle.

“Uh… Earl,” Geoff whispered. “What the hell is that?”

Earl said nothing as a larger shape materialized from the backseat and slithered through the window.

The creature had what looked like five appendages, including the one holding the good doctor. Its moist body glistened in the light of the street lamp now that the sun dropped completely below the horizon. It emitted a sound similar to that of someone smacking their tongue against their lips.

Dropping Dr. Richards’ body onto the ground, it disappeared into the encroaching darkness.

“My God…” Geoff muttered. “Earl… did it… did it use his body like… like…”

“Like a puppet,” Earl managed to say.

 

© Copyright 2017 John Olson. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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.

Crying

The house was silent.

James’ wife Kate was in bed, no longer nagging him while his son slept quietly in his room. His cries had a way of penetrating deep into James’ head.

Sitting on the shitty brown couch his in-laws had given them as a wedding present, James enjoyed the silence.

Then his father spoke.

“Is that kid of yours going to cry tonight?”

James talked to his father every night, whether he wanted to or not; he always told James how to live his life.

The old man was more overbearing now than when he was alive.

“No, he’s not,” James replied.

“Yes, he will.”

Ignoring his father, he tried to find something decent to watch until Kate called from their bedroom.

“Honey, the air conditioner cut out again! Can you come take a look at it?”

“Tell her to suck it up,” the old man spat. His lifeless eyes blinked at his son as his crooked lips spread into a grin. “Or are you going to give in to her again?”

“Butt out,” James muttered. “She knows better now.”

He pushed off the couch, and made his way down the hallway. As James passed his son’s bedroom, he made sure to tread lightly so he wouldn’t wake the baby.

James did not want to go into that room again.

His own bedroom was dark when he stuck his head in. The air conditioner had indeed shut off and James could see his wife lying in their bed. To him, the temperature wasn’t too bad.

“You’ll just have to make do,” James whispered. “And keep your damn voice down so Garrett won’t wake up.”

James shut the door as he turned back to the living room. He veered off to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Squinting in the fridge’s light, he took a bottle of beer from the top shelf.

“He’s going to cry.”

James twisted the cap off of his beer, took a gulp and then said, “Don’t go there.” He bumped the fridge door closed with his hip.

“Don’t go where? I never tolerated you or your sister crying for no damn reason so you shouldn’t either.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to butt the fuck out?” James spun around to face him but the living room was empty.

He sighed, letting his shoulders slump, and took another drink.

That was always the problem. His father would show up every night, spit out his nonsense and then scram before James could argue back.

James walked back into the living room.  Just as he sat down on the couch, a high-pitched wail erupted from Garrett’s room.

“See? I told you he would.”

“Kate!” James yelled down the hallway. “See to the baby, will you?”

He grabbed the remote and thumbed through the channels.

Garrett continued to cry.

James found a football game on and took another drink.

“Did you not listen to me last night?” his father asked, sitting at the other end of the couch.

“Shut up,” James replied.

“I told you how to deal with it.”

“And I did as you said.”

“Doesn’t sound like it.”

The quarterback dropped back into the pocket and threw a completion to his receiver in double coverage. It was an amazing play that warranted replays in slow motion.

Garrett’s crying intensified, sounding raspy.

“You have much to learn.”

“Fuck off you dead prick,” James said, grimacing. He leaned over the armrest of the couch and yelled, “Kate, for fuck sakes, the game is on! Go check on Garrett!”

James tried to enjoy the replays but the announcers were overpowered by Garrett’s seemingly endless wails.

“I may be dead but at least I knew how to run my family.”

“Goddamn it!” James threw the bottle toward his father but the old man was no longer there. The bottle bounced off of the cushion, spilling beer as it fell onto the carpeted floor.

He jumped off the couch and stormed down the hallway. Slamming his bedroom door open, he could see Kate still lying where she was earlier.

“Are you fucking kidding me? You’re still in bed?”

His father laughed from the hallway and added, “Great wife you got there.”

“Get the fuck up!” James screamed, grabbing Kate by her arm. “Now!”

He hauled her out of their bed and into the hallway. James kicked his son’s door open and dragged Kate inside.

Releasing his grip on her arm, James grabbed a handful of her wet and sticky hair, holding her face toward the crib.

“I’m at my wit’s end, Kate!” James cried. “I tried feeding him, rocking him and even singing to him. Despite all of that, he cries! Hell, I even shook him!” He let go of her hair and she dropped to the floor. “When none of that worked, I did what my old man told me to do. I caved his head in with my hammer!”

The one good eye Kate had left that hadn’t been mangled by James’ hammer stared lifeless at the crib.

There wasn’t much left of Garrett’s pulverized head. Blood, skull fragments and brain matter were splattered on the wall and ceiling. His blue Superman jumpsuit was now purple, having soaked up the blood.

James backed against the wall and slowly slid down.

Resting his face in his blood caked hands, he sobbed.

James felt his father’s hand rest on his shoulder.

“He wouldn’t stop crying…”

“You did alright, Son. How do you think I got your sister to stop?”

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2017 Jon Olson. 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.

Unfortunate Legacy

The demon stood in the snow.

Fergus saw it standing in the knee-deep powder through the small window of his front door.

“Don’t try to do too much out there,” his wife Nancy called from the kitchen. “Just take your time.”

“I won’t, don’t worry,” he answered distractedly.

“Amber might join you out there in a little bit if that’s okay.”

Fergus could hear his daughter playing upstairs and nodded.

With his winter jacket, boots and gloves already on, Fergus pulled his toque down over his ears and with a deep breath opened the front door.

It wasn’t very cold although the wind packed a sharp bite as Fergus grabbed the shovel leaning against the house. Ignoring the demon, he began tossing snow from the driveway onto his lawn.

Not much time had elapsed when a burning sensation erupted in his chest.  Damn acid reflux.

The demon spoke. “It hurts, doesn’t it?”

“What hurts?” Fergus asked, keeping his back to it as he dug into the snow.

“Your heart.”

Fergus paused, acknowledging the comment.  “It’s acid reflux,” he muttered. “That’s all it is.  Acid reflux…”

After a few more minutes of shoveling, the pain grew worse. Grimacing, Fergus stopped and rubbed at his chest.  “Is this your doing?”

The demon seemed closer yet remained motionless.  Only its mouth moved. “Maybe.  You don’t see surprised to see me.”

Shaking his head, Fergus said, “No. Somehow I knew you’d be back.”

“Back?”

“I saw you that day,” Fergus said.

“When?”

“The day my father died.”

The demon’s mouth twitched ever-so-slightly, staring hard at Fergus with its emotionless, black eyes.  “What did you see?”

“I was only five but remember watching from the living room window,” Fergus began. “It was similar to today. A storm had just dumped over a foot of snow on us and Dad went out to clear the driveway.”

Fergus dug the shovel into the snow and heaved the pile aside.

“You didn’t look real, almost like a reflection off the snow.” Fergus glanced at the demon who appeared even closer. “I remember him looking at you, like he was listening and then nodding. You reached out, touched his chest for a moment and he collapsed. The doctors said his heart gave out.”

The demon nodded. “They always do.”

Fergus rubbed his own chest again, “I had nightmares about you.”

“Worried that I would come for you?”

Fergus shook his head. “No, what scared me was wondering what you said to him.” He took a step toward the demon. “What did you say?” He glared into the demon’s eyes, noticing that they rippled in the wind.

“I explained your family’s unfortunate legacy. Would you like to hear it?” Not waiting for an answer, the demon continued. “Basically, thanks to a distant and sadistic ancestor of yours who made a deal with my master, your family has to forfeit a male soul to us every generation. We leave it up to you to determine whose soul we take.” In the blink of an eye the demon was face to face with Fergus. “Your father gave us his.”

The front door opened and Amber bounded from the house into the snow, drawing her father’s attention.  “Hi Daddy,” she called out playfully.

“Hey there, sweetie,” Fergus replied. Turning his attention back to the demon, he asked, “So why go through all of this? Why not come and take the one you want?”

“As I said, you or a male from your family has to make the decision. That was the deal. Sadly, since you have no brothers, it will end up being you.”

“What if I say no?”

“Don’t.”

“If I’m the only male and I say no, then are you shit out of luck?”

The demon’s brow creased and its eyes narrowed. “Don’t.”

“Or else what?”

The demon blinked and time stopped, frozen in place. Snowflakes hung motionless in midair.  All went deathly still. Fergus found he could turn his head but quickly grew concerned when he realized the demon was no longer in front of him. It was kneeling in front of Amber. Her eyes were wide, full of fear; her mouth open forming an ‘O’ shape. She’d never looked so fragile or terrified.

The demon had the tips of its fingers inside of her chest.

“Get the hell away from my daughter!” Fergus screamed trying to run but his feet would not move.

“This is your only warning,” the demon hissed. “You may hold the initial choice of whose soul we get but when complications arise, the rules change and the choice becomes ours. We can take any soul we want at that point. It would still be better if you made the decision to honor the original deal, but either way, a soul will be coming back with me.”

It twisted its hand slightly deeper into Amber’s chest.

Tears streamed down Fergus’s face. “Get the fuck away from her!”

“Then make the choice.”

Fergus screamed, “Take mine, damn you!”

In a flash the demon was back in front of him. “You made the right call,” the demon grinned.

Time resumed as Amber shook her head, slightly dazed. She looked at her dad and smiled as the demon plunged its hand into Fergus’s chest. The cold, demonic fingers wrapped around his heart, slowly constricting it.

With his legs growing weak, Fergus sat back in the snow. A tingling spread through his body but after a few seconds it began to subside. Fergus then felt nothing as the demon pulled its hand out.

“Are you okay, Daddy?” Amber asked.

The demon disappeared and Fergus’s world went dark as he replied, “I’m fine… sweetie…”

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2017 Jon Olson. 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.

Pigs

Jenkins sat in his reclining chair, extended the footrest and closed his eyes.

Sleep was something he found hard to come by. Just up the road from his trailer was Old Man Fredericks’s farm. The smells from that place were bad enough; damp hay and tons of shit lingering in the air.

Most of all, it was the noises that drove Jenkins bat shit.

Those fucking pigs were constantly grunting and squealing.

Not anymore.

His clothes, skin and hair still smelled of smoke, reminding him of camping trips to the beach with Beth when they still dated.

He grinned, replaying the image of the barn going up, the flames dancing over it, consuming the structure and its occupants.

Jenkins opened his eyes and flicked at his jeans, noting the dry blood soaked into the denim.

It had only taken one swing with the first piglet to kill, smashing it on the asphalt. The second piglet, however, was tougher. After three hard whacks against the road it still squealed, despite blood pouring from its split skull.

When he set the damn thing on the ground to finish off, the piglet tried to dart off. Jenkins snapped all four of its limbs to keep it from running away then stomped the piglets head until it caved in, leaving a mix of skin, bone, brain and snout.

It had been great.

Sleep quickly crept up on him.

My god it’s quiet.

***

Jenkins couldn’t remember a sleep as relaxing as the one he just had. Stretching, he released a big yawn. His body was relaxed, rejuvenated and-

He was in a bed.

Looking around, he quickly realized that he was no longer in his living room. Where the fuck was he? He threw the covers back and climbed out.

The king size bed dominated most of the bedroom. A white dresser stood against the wall to his right while a simple desk with a lamp on it was the left.

Jenkins headed towards the slightly ajar door, noting the light spilling in through the gap. Pulling it open he could see a spiral staircase in a dark room but at the bottom was another open door which was the source of the light.

Jenkins made his way down the staircase but when he reached the bottom step, he stopped.

There was a sound.

A familiar sound.

A pig was grunting in the next room.

Jenkins stepped off the staircase through the doorway.

He was on a balcony where an adult pig was on all fours, sniffing around the railings. Just to his right was a glass case that said Break In Case Of Fire containing a hose along with an axe.

Beyond the balcony railing was complete darkness.

The pig stopped sniffing when it noticed him and met his gaze.

If Jenkins thought the grunting and squealing was bad, what he heard next was almost too much to bear.

“Hello there,” the pig said.

Even though it spoke words, it was a poor attempt at mimicking a human, as the sound was still pig. Its voice was grotesque and terrifying.

Jenkins could not speak.

“Oh come on now, don’t be shy. Why, we’ve been neighbors for so long we’re practically best friends. My name is Howard.” The sound of the pig’s tongue rolling over its teeth as it pronounced each word made Jenkins cringe. “I’ll save you the trouble of asking. Yes, you are dreaming.”

Jenkins turned to leave but the doorway was gone, replaced by a brick wall. He reached out and tried to push the wall out of the way to no avail.

“It won’t budge,” Howard said. The voice changed, darkening. “You’re in here with us.”

Looking around frantically, Jenkins remembered the glass case. Without hesitating, he punched through the glass, grabbing the axe.

“Oh, come on now, buddy. What are you doing with that?”

Jenkins swung the axe as hard as he could, bringing the blade down on Howard’s head. The blade punched through skin and bone, before coming to a stop in the brain.

Howard screamed.

It was an awful sound, much worse than the spoken words, resembling a human wail penetrated by pig vocals. Jenkins released his grip on the axe, covering his ears.

Within seconds the screaming stopped, replaced by laughter. Howard stood up on his hind hooves and clutched his belly, gasping for breath as he laughed.

“Oh Jenkins,” Howard exclaimed as blood ran down his face. “Do you really think you can hurt us here in our own domain?”

“It’s just a dream,” Jenkins muttered. “It’s just a fucking dream.”

“Just keep telling yourself that, buddy. We all love a good laugh.” He gestured beyond the balcony railing as light slowly dawned in the darkness like the opening of a Broadway show.

There was movement but as the light grew brighter he saw them.

Pigs.

They were scurrying around back and forth on a carpeted floor that was enclosed by old wood paneled walls. Covering his nose, the air quickly became thick with the smell of pig shit and something else.

It was familiar yet he could not put his finger on it.

“What do you think?” Howard asked, the axe still embedded in his head.

Jenkins clutched his temples and shook his head. “It’s time to wake up. Wake up, Jenkins.”

“Sorry, buddy…”

“One two three WAKE UP!”

Howard’s voice darkened even more. “You’re here for the whole show.” And he laughed.

Reaching up with its hoof, Howard dislodged the axe and tossed it off of the balcony.

Jenkins realized the pigs on the floor were no longer scurrying around. Their movements were more deliberate and less animalistic and then they stopped altogether.

The room went silent.

One by one, the pigs looked up; each of them staring directly into Jenkins’ eyes. The shit smell was dissipating and the other aroma cut through, becoming more distinct. With every set of eyes on him, Jenkins recognized the smell.

Burning flesh.

All at once, the pigs began screaming.

It was deafening and even more horrific than the lone scream when he had buried the axe in Howard’s head. As he watched, the pigs’ skin began to sizzle and bubble up into blisters, roasted by invisible flames.

Their skin then began to fuse together, absorbing one another.

“Wake up… wake up…” Jenkins cried.

Howard laughed even more and flipped himself over the balcony railing. He landed on the floor below where he began to merge with the other pigs.

“What do you think, Jenkins?” Howard asked, growing in size as he assimilated the others.

Intermixed with the screaming was a wet sucking sound.  Although the bodies were absorbing one another, all the pigs’ heads remained.

It was massive.

Standing before him was an ungodly being comprised of burnt and charred pigs. It stood on two legs with Howard acting as the head.

The abomination was tall enough that Howard was at Jenkins’ eye level.

“There is no waking up from this, my friend,” he roared. “You see, we’re Tormentors. We feed on the enjoyment people get out of heinous and cruel acts. By taking the forms of the tortured, we invade the dreams of the torturers exacting revenge. It’s why we exist. Or looking at it another way, it’s how we get our kicks.”

The mass raised its arms.

On the end of each one was a piglet. The one on the left had a split skull while on the right, the piglet had no head; just a gory pulp of pig flesh.

They were the ones he killed on the road.

Jenkins turned away, screaming, looking for a way out.

The mass reached over the balcony, grabbing him by the legs. It yanked hard, tripping Jenkins onto the balcony floor, then lifting him into the air upside down where it held him for a second.

“Ready?” Howard sneered.

Without waiting, the mass whipped Jenkins into the air then swung down as hard as it could.

Jenkins smacked the carpeted floor with a muffled thud. The blow knocked him senseless.

“How about another try?”

Again, Jenkins was raised into the air and struck hard against the floor. This time, pain exploded through his body as he felt his right shoulder and rib cage shatter upon impact.

He cried out, gasping for air, blood filling his mouth.

All of the pigs began to squeal with delight. The mass lifted his broken body up again but this time held him close.

“It’s been a slice, buddy, but we’ve worked up a bit of an appetite.”

The mass pressed Jenkins against its body as the many pig mouths began tearing into his flesh, ripping chunks away.

***

Jenkins opened his eyes.

He was sitting in his reclining chair in the living room of his trailer.

Just a dream.

Sighing a breath of relief, pain exploded through his body.

The entire right side screamed in agony. He could taste iron as blood filled his mouth. Looking down, his chest and stomach were torn open with his entrails slipping out onto the floor.

As he raised his head, he looked out the living room window to a face looking in at him.

It was Howard.

Grinning, Howard licked his lips and said, “Oh we’re not done yet, buddy boy. We’re called Tormentors for a reason. You don’t get to wake up from this one.”

The squeals of many pigs filled the room as one of the mass’s arms smashed through the front door, reaching toward Jenkins.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2016 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

Damned Echoes 4

de_cloud_04

The Island
Brian Moreland

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


Thirty-seven Days
Joseph A. Pinto

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

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

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

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


A Passing Discomfort
Lee A. Forman

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

Sometimes it’s more.

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

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

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


Food Chain
Veronica Magenta Nero

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

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


Human Luxury
Craig McGray

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


Human Papers
Jon Olson

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


Bloater
Nina D’Arcangela

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

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


Echoes of a Chorus
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

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

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


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

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