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Damned Words 34

 

Taunts and Beckons
Jon Olson

The doctors said I’ve been blind all my life. If that were true I wouldn’t be lying here in restraints. No matter how many times I’ve screamed, nobody listened.  I even clawed my eyes out to erase the image but all they did was tie me down in a padded cell. And I can still see the same sinister flower in full bloom. It’s always moving and not swaying gently in a light breeze. No, the petals curl up like fingers, taunting and beckoning me to come closer. But I cannot move nor look away. My screams and prayers go unanswered as if Death itself has forgotten me. What is it that you want? It just taunts and beckons…


Some Carnivores Have Roots…
Lydia Prime

Agile movements by a tongue so sharp and sleek, blackened teeth stretch wide to distort the mighty jaw. Concealed by delicate beauty, secrets lie inside their florescent warning. A field springs up with no gardener in sight and onlookers are drawn to the mysterious plants. Mobility is unnecessary for the ravenous blossoms the Reaper keeps.

Those misguided admirers lean too near the center for a closer peek, before a second thought is had, flesh and bone are devoured while blood and soul slurp down their immaculate throats. The first crimson droplets soak the yellow petals of the rooted beasts; the golden plot now scarlet after the grotesque feast.

Gurgling sounds echo from the rows of flowery plumage while his grimness emerges from the dark. Satisfied by quick collection, the lemon color returns.


Gifts
Mercedes M. Yardley

You think each one will be memorable. You assume you’ll remember every place, every time, every circumstance. But that isn’t the case at all. After a while, all of your victims begin to blur together.

They become montages of broken smiles, smudged lipstick, and shattered fingernails. You forget which one smelled of jasmine and which one smelled like old library books.

Oh, you especially loved the one that smelled like old library books.

So you go out of your way to remember. Capture their essence. Perhaps you begin by taking pictures. Before the murder, and then after. You build up to pictures during the act, which frightens them the most.

They used to ask “Why?” but now the question is “Are you recording this?” You know what they’re really asking. “This won’t stop, will it? Will you post it on the Internet? Will my father see this? Please don’t let my father see.”

After the deed is done, you dispose of the body and secret the recording away. But you take something, like a small gold ring or the red flower from her hair, and give it to your small daughter, who watched the whole thing. Now you’ll both remember.


Corpse Flowers
Scarlett R. Algee

Two months ago they drove me out of this village, pitchforks at my back, my cottage in flames and my gardens of herbs and flowers torn to tatters, their cries of witch! and devil! and unclean! ringing in my ears.

But now I stand in the village churchyard, my hands full of promise. So hungry, these little seeds I’ve managed to save, squirming in my palms, begging to be buried. Neatly kept graves, a pretty black seed for every one, a precious red flower that will bloom from each charnel patch come daybreak. Someone’s memorial, some widow’s gift, these fools will think it, until the flowers swell under the next new moon and birth each corpse anew in viridian and crimson, in thorns and teeth and mindless ravenous hunger: hunger for bone and flesh and sinew, for heart and blood and brain, for fulfilling my will. The wretches who forced me forth with scarcely the clothes on my back will beg, then scream, then die—and I’ll watch, and I’ll laugh. A beautiful sight, the yearning of the starving dead for the living ones they so outnumber.

Let me see who calls me unclean then.


From the Ashes, Fire
A.F. Stewart

Grey light from a waning sun shed itself across the burnt wasteland that used to be a forest, weaving pale silhouettes and glimmers of faint light. A feeble ray caught the colour of a single blooming flower sprouting from the ash; a flash of garish orange petals surrounding a black center. An anomaly of life springing past the spectre of death.

In the hushed air, over the charred remains and skeletons, hung the stench of smoke and silence, yet you can hear it: the small sizzle, the crackle of simmering embers. Pop, pop, pop from the stamen, born of hellfire and blackened bone, brewing spores, waiting on the fresh wind to blow down from the mountain. Waiting to spew its seed to the breeze, to drift away to new, fertile ground.

Away to different land where more flowers will take root, burrowing malice and annihilation into the ground. Where pristine fire will erupt from the soil and burn its tendrils through all life. Where death, hell, and garish orange petals will flourish in the ashes.


The Contract
Mark Steinwachs

I gambled and lost. My fate delivered in the vibrant photograph before me. Its near perfection only makes the flower’s two off-angle anthers stand out. I knew what I signed up for, quite literally, after our third date. He told me about his others, their flaws and weaknesses. My signature on the contract, my convicted belief. A kid from a second-rate drag show, saved by a wealthy man and shown the world. We all dreamed we’d live that movie. I did—and I looked better in a tight black skirt too.

I sat in the chair he had specially made. My chair, our chair. His hands effortlessly tied the knots as he had countless times before. The moment he mentioned he had something special today, my calm anticipation became jumbled nerves. That’s when he showed me the photograph. Unrivaled beauty, but…

He released the picture, which floated morosely to the floor. I closed my eyes, wanting his voice to fill me. “You were so close, which makes your imperfection all the more glaring.”

I felt the barrel against the back of my skull. The click of the safety my last memory.


Garden of Whispers
Lee Andrew Forman

My eyes close as pedals open, releasing the scent of tender care. One deep breath fills my lungs with delicate flavor; remembrance accompanies the indulgence in flashes of silver and red, visions of eyes screaming, then closing. My hands grab at the soft dirt, fingertips dig in. Ecstasy flows in tandem. I inspect each bloom, check for flaws. They are my life and I am theirs. They whisper more, and more I bring. Ravenous things, they are. But so beautiful; I can’t help but love them. I only bring the finest ingredients to my lovely garden—fresh and still bleeding.


Looming
Nina D’Arcangela

Looming, always staring. It watches no matter where I go, following with its stamen; feeling, tasting with the ever so slight quivering of its bracts. It’s inescapable. The stench nearly as bad, it puffs spore, tiny yet distinguishable. How I loathe its presence. I remember a blue sky, one that brought light to the day before iron tinged the air. Scientist with grand ideas; the ever ravenous desire to get there first.  The human genome was never meant to be spliced with the flora found in earths deepest chasms. But here we are, living under the dome of a relentless beauty that would see us snuffed from existence as easily as a child plucks a flower. But it’s the waiting, really, the looming as it picks us off one by one — that’s the part that’ll drive me insane one of these days.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

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Know Only Too Well

The old man shifted his weight as he peered out through the tavern’s window settling on three figures standing in the street. Although obscured in shadows cast by the lone lantern, one could easily tell there were two adults and one child.

A family.

Over the years he watched many families stand outside in the street exactly where the three were standing now. Although it was a different one each time, the scene always played out the same.

One could say it was tradition.

The old man reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a silver pocket watch. He pressed the small button releasing the latch and looked at the clock’s face.

9:57.

Frowning he closed the watch and slid it back into his pocket.

“It is almost time.”

He heard someone grunt behind him and turned to the rest of the people in the tavern who came to witness. None met his gaze. He felt their hatred as easily as he could smell the odor of stale beer.

The old man turned in time to see the two adults kneeling down hugging the child. The father was the first to stand and had to pull the mother away. She began cried as her husband led her toward the bar, away from their child.

The little girl watched her parents, not entirely sure what was happening.

The tavern’s door opened and the mother’s wails filled the room.

“Let go of me,” she cried. “This is your doing!” As she began hitting his back, the old man did not take his eyes off the girl.

A faint mist swirled around her feet.

“Ellie, come on,” the husband said wrestling his wife away. “Screaming at the heartless bastard isn’t going to change anything.”

“How could you…” Ellie spat. “She’s only nine…”

The mist thickened, making everything outside appear in grey scale.

“If you only knew what it was like…”

The words stung, the old man’s throat went dry. I know only too well. He exhaled sharply keeping his attention on the girl.

She was barely visible in the impenetrable mist.

It will be over soon.

A shadow danced in the mist to the little girl’s left and vanished as she spun around to see what it was. Her head darted back and forth looking for it.

The shadow reappeared to her right, only closer. Once again the girl turned to look but the shadow disappeared. Her movements became frantic and she turned her head to toward the tavern.

It rose up through the mist like a scorpion’s tail and struck, knocking the little girl to the ground. The shadow rushed forward engulfing her in a blur of grey and black. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. Her struggling weakened and within seconds she no longer moved as the shadow devoured her.

The mist quickly dissipated revealing an empty street with no trace the girl had even been there. He checked his pocket watch again.

10:02.

The old man turned, moved away from the window. He kept his head down to avoid the icy stares and shuffled toward the door as fast as his frail frame could take him.

“Just like always, you leave without having the fucking guts to face those of us who have given so much,” the little girl’s mother said.

He slowly turned and raised his head, meeting the hateful stares head on.

“Would it make it any easier if I did?” he asked.

“At the very least you could see the pain… the anguish that this ungodly tradition causes.”

“Yes, it is an ungodly tradition.” He pointed toward the window. “That thing that takes so much from us every year is ungodly.”

“Takes so much from us?” the father asked. “What do you know of it?”

Before he could reply, the bar erupted in profanity laced rants. Globs of saliva struck his face and he dropped to one knee.

“If you would please…” he tried to say but was drowned out.

His breathing quickened as his chest tightened. His hand slid down the shaft of his cane until it reached the bottom. With a deep breath, the old man stood up and in one fluid, powerful motion smashed his cane on the floor. It splintered in the middle and the sudden show of force silenced the bar.

“You all think I haven’t felt the pain this night brings?” he yelled as his lower lip quivered. “Do you all think that I cannot relate to what you are going through?” His eyes scanned the stunned expressions. “When we settled here almost fifty years ago, I had three sons and a daughter who I loved with all my being. We thought we found paradise but little did we know what we’d have to pay for it.”

“Are… are you saying…” the mother began.

“Mine were the first to be given to the ungodly. I know all too well what you are going through. If there were some other way believe me when I say we would’ve found it.” He wiped the spit off of his face. “But there isn’t.”

He hobbled to the door and spoke over his shoulder as he opened it. “You all knew the price you might have to pay when you moved here. Don’t forget that.”

With that he stepped outside and pulled the door shut behind him.

∼ Jon Olson

© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Damned Words 32

Hope for the Chosen
Lee A. Forman

Within the ancient holder of feed, bodies writhe against one another like worms without purpose. We wait, huddled together, watching. Late deciders add to the pile, releasing their last cries before they join the rest in their naked, fleshy nest.

The earth beneath us trembles. It will soon arrive. My senses hum with anticipation. I have never missed a feeding, yet the vigor of my heart always retains its strength.

It comes on two massive legs, its full height towering above us. Cheers erupt from both the crowd and the meal. Its single eye scans the audience; it looks directly at me. I feel its power, a raw energy which blesses my existence. Its arm reaches in and brings living meat into its enormous circular mouth. Screams of joy from the lucky chosen can still be heard even after disappearing into its blood-soaked maw.

The divine being sated, it departs until next feast. I only hope I’ll be chosen.


The Collector
Mercedes M. Yardley

She had always been a collector. As a child, she had collected stickers in pretty notebooks, and cute erasers shaped like ice cream cones. Then it was stray animals she brought home to her parents. Abandoned kittens on desert roads and birds with broken wings. In high school and college she collected boyfriends, holding each one aloft and examining the shiny, beautiful parts. Even the most stony and broken among them shone like tiny suns in her careful hands.

Now she collected refuse and precious things thrown away. Abandoned dolls. Sad souls in tattered blankets. She wandered the city and found lost little girls, shattered boys, and those set aside as trash. After their eyes closed for the last time, she spirited them away to a dilapidated train car where they would be gathered together, and treasured, forever.


Markings
Lydia Prime

I was unsure of how long I’d been walking, nothing looked familiar. The trees had strange markings on them, each increasingly concerning; monstrous creatures eating each other, fighting – some even appeared to be staring. What are these? I questioned and pressed on.

Though alone, I could not escape the feeling of being watched. I quickly moved through the clearing only to happen upon tracks that sat seemingly forgotten. The entire scape was blanketed in dust, as if untouched by the elements. Peering at the rusted train cars, only then did I notice how silent the area had been. The stillness was unnerving to say the least; nevertheless, I was drawn to the enigmatic scene.

I hesitated, but my desire to know forced my feet forward. I stepped into a paint chipped car and immediately felt the gravity of my mistake. A horned creature materialized in front of me, its stench and putrid flesh were utterly repulsive. Every instinct was screaming ‘RUN’, I could not move. As it drove yellowed claws through my chest, my final thought was of the trees. A guttural voice scoffed in my mind, ‘You shouldn’t have dismissed them.’


Did I Even Hear It?
Jon Olson

Come on, hurry up.  Just grab what we need and let’s go. Our luck has held out so far, but I don’t want to push it. It’s deceptively calm up here today. Number Six isn’t the first railcar we’ve come across during our excursions but it is the first one that’s completely intact. What are they doing in there? It shouldn’t be taking this long. I feel naked and exposed out here. It’s almost enough to make one lose it completely. The radio silence makes it worse. I can’t break it but I’ll knock on the door to tell them to hurry it up. They might just be distracted. It happens sometimes. People will get lost in their own minds during these excursions imagining a life not confined to underground bunkers. The metal stairs emit an almost guttural groan. Was that even the stairs? Reaching for the door a burst of static suddenly rings throughout my gas mask. Before it is swallowed up by the white noise I think I hear a single word. Run. The silence returns but I don’t look back. Did I even hear it?


Color
Mark Steinwachs

Death in Color. My award-winning photograph. A true artist leaves his mark without fanfare, talent only recognized after he’s gone. My piece works on many levels, can be analyzed by ‘scholars’ and laypeople alike. Do the worn blue hues invoke childhood toys and the tragedy of growing up? Or maybe it’s about society abandoning the outdated. Or the stark beauty of decay. I’ve heard those theories and more. Not one got it right, though. They didn’t plumb deeper, didn’t see beyond the top layer of paint.

Someone will. I’m certain. Their fingers will touch the cold metal as mine have. They will enter the number six train and find my victims. Six people; dried blood and corroded metal commingling in a perfect color palette. When the detectives begin their search, my masterpiece will be unveiled. Rust and Blood—a series.


Underneath the Rust
A.F. Stewart

I watch the boy climb the ladder and walk inside the old circus train car. His movement stirs a faint metallic odour into the air. He scrunches his face and complains about the rusting metal. I shake my head. I know better. It isn’t rust he smells, but the lingering scent of the blood. I sigh and follow the boy.

He’s kicking debris across the floor and swearing. Shouting he wasn’t afraid of some old ghost story. So I whisper, loud enough so he can hear, “Come out, come out. Time to play.”

The boy whirls, fear in his eyes. He can’t see me, not yet, and he doesn’t see my friend, the clown, materialize at the far end of the car. He’s so sad, my clown. You can hear the misery drip from his words as he speaks.

“Please don’t make me do this again.”

The boy turns toward the sound of my clown’s voice and screams. The sight of a damned soul will do that to a human. Everyone is afraid of my clown. Too bad he’s not the true threat. It’s me the boy should fear. I laugh as I move in for the kill.


Broken and Maimed
Scarlett R. Algee

I pat the bundle tucked into my jacket for reassurance, and shoulder my way into the old train car. It’s mid-afternoon, but the interior’s still dark enough to need my flashlight. I skim my beam over glass shards, scattering cockroaches, twisted bolts from torn-out seats…and him. He’s right where I left him: waterproofing tape across his mouth keeping him quiet, fourteen feet of logging chain keeping him still, especially after I’d wound it around his neck. He squirms and muffles a curse out as I walk up beside him, but a boot to the ribs makes him moan and go breathless, eyes rolling wildly. That’s the look I saw on my sister’s face in the ER after what he’d done to her face and her teeth, but it suits him better. Makes me glad I picked this old rustbucket. Nobody’ll look for him here.

I take the bundle out of my jacket and squat. As he watches me unroll it on the floor, he whimpers. When I shove his head back and sink the first knife into the soft flesh beneath his eye, he starts to scream.


Blue Pride
Nina D’Arcangela

Number six, the envy of all. She carried only refined coke; her insides never having tasted the dust of coal. Years she served faithfully until the day she didn’t. A fluke, many said; not her fault, others blustered. But the engineer… he knew. He’d felt every tick and wheeze, heard every tale told; recognized her deliberate intent. The next cars’ worth, just as poor, and the one after. Her shine began to diminish, the bright blue pride of the forge peeled as she revealed an undercoat of rust and pock marks. A young smelter, brave but unaware of the lore, climbed her rear, leaned in to check the bricks and slipped landing inside the car. Her gaping maw slammed closed. The engineer listened as she slurped and ground bone until the boy was fully consumed. The mill owners turned a blind eye as number six began to glisten in the sun once more, her loads again of the highest quality. Every now and then, a young man failed to return home after his shift; but the coke, it was the purest, and the mills’ steel, the most sought after.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

Damned Words 31



Wishes Do Come True
A.F. Stewart

All I wanted was the shiny new tricycle with the ribbons on the handlebars. Just like the one Bobby next door had. So I wished it. At the scary place in woods where I’m not supposed to go. Where the growls and the bad words came out of the ground. Where the trees whispered about blood and mean things. I shouldn’t have done it, but I did.

I wished for that tricycle. Just like the one Bobby had. And they answered me. Said they’d get me that trike if I did something for them. So I brought them Bobby like they asked. I didn’t know what would happen. He just—just—there was a lot of blood and laughter. Then I ran.

But I swear I didn’t know.

I got my tricycle, though. Bobby’s parents gave me his, after the funeral.


A Little More Red
Jon Olson

Isn’t it magnificent? This is the tricycle I had as a child. Sadly it didn’t always look this good. Much like me it was beaten up… passed around… misused. Unlike me though, this was fixable; a chance to restore my lost childhood. Once all the dents were fixed and rust sanded down, I knew a fresh coat of red would do it wonders. But as I held the brush it didn’t feel right. I couldn’t restore innocence with paint… it needed something else… something special to bring it back. The first one was difficult, not going as smoothly as I had hoped. I was too emotional. Fear, excitement and inexperience will do that. Regardless, with the first brushstroke, the tricycle came alive like never before. The blood breathed new life into it. Too quickly though, my initial supply ran out. I went out, visiting different playgrounds, killing my catch as fast as I could. My remorse faded each time, replaced by building passion to bring back what I had lost. I mean, just look at it… isn’t it magnificent? A little more red and it’ll be done.


Joy
Nina D’Arcangela

I sit here alone waiting, luring them with the glimmer of carnelian shine and faded tassels. I was a boy once; it was a gift given to celebrate my birth – but why celebrate the unwanted Papa reminded me with strap and fist. When it spoke to me, offering escape for a mere favor, how could I resist? The last to feel my pull was a young girl; her screams still echo my mind. It drank with wanton lust, this keeper of my soul; I wept knowing my part.

A glance upward tells me the tenement is mostly asleep, but I see them, eyes that barely clear the sill as they gaze down; a man’s voice in the background slurred and harsh. I pray the child does not come, but they always do. They seek the same escape I once did; they feed the beast which masks its evil in the plaything that keeps me captive. A crescent of light seeps through the darkness as the back door cracks open. The young one stares at me, eyes full of wonder. I cringe knowing the lie I keep; the falsehood of joy I represent.


Innocence
Mark Steinwachs

I set him down, releasing his torso when he reestablishes balance in his tiny gray sneakers. He accepts the rag from me and wipes down his tricycle: seat, frame, spokes, basket, tassels, like I instructed. A boy and his tricycle, innocence personified. Smiling, I rub my eye to dam the tear threatening to form. Not long ago, he could barely pedal. Now he’s outgrown it.

Outgrown his innocence.

How cruel of us, bringing him into this world. We never meant to, of course, but we did. He’s far too aware now. Voicing questions no child should ask.

His mother hopes things will go back to how they were before The Night.

That’s impossible.

He hugs my leg and scampers toward his mother in the house. Gravel crunches under those tiny sneakers, the last time I’ll ever hear it. I can’t stop the tears now, cursing the god who allowed this. We’ve decided. He won’t live in this hell. We won’t abide it. The wind gives a final lethargic sigh. The tassels hang motionless from the handlebars, fitting for what’s coming.


Here Comes the Sun
Lydia Prime

Heavy pattering of rain against the plastic roof stopped. Emerging from her pink and yellow playhouse ready to run, her shadow hesitated but quickly raced after her. As she lurked along the edge of the verdure, gleeful squeals and light splashing caught her ear. Her shadow swiftly moved through the tall grass, leading her closer.

A small boy sat on his tiny red tricycle, his feet stomping through puddles as he giggled. Her shadow appeared in front of him, unphased, he continued. The five-year-old girl nodded and crept silently behind him. Her loose curls and pastel colored dress crusty with brown stains; her petite pale face coated in flakey red blotches. The boy shivered and looked back; a wide smile parted her lips revealing a mouth full of pointed teeth. He cried and screeched for his mother. Without missing a beat she clamped her shark-like jaws tightly around his neck while her shadow held him down. Devouring his tender meat, she left nothing but bones.

His copper infused juice swirled into murky puddles. Her shadow guided her back into the field. Before disappearing into the weedy cover she licked her lips and whispered, “More.”


Once
Mercedes M. Yardly

Jasper was allergic to peanuts and lies and cruelty. As a baby, he waved fat, starfish hands. His mom would dress him in blue and white striped overalls like a tiny conductor.

He had a teddy bear hand puppet with a fireman’s hat. I thought he loved the thing, but he would scream and shake his fists at it, yelling and biting until the fur came off and threads came loose.

“He loved it to death,” his mom exclaimed.

“Yes,” I said, but really I knew that it was the only thing he hated. Whenever I came to babysit, I tucked my long hair behind my ear and hid the puppet.

“All gone?” I’d say, and Jasper would smile.

He played on the driveway between our houses. I always made sure to walk behind my truck before pulling out, except for one time.

He lived, if you could call it that. There’s no laughter or hate or anything at all. I dance that puppet in front of his face hoping he’ll scream at it, at me, just one time, because we all know one time is all it takes.


Mine
Scarlet R. Algee

I killed my little brother when I was seven years old.
Ryan had just turned three, and had dogged my steps for days, trying to walk in my shadows, ignoring my scowls. He just loves you, Mom had said, but he’d stolen my old pink tricycle while she just smiled.
I protested. It was pink, with ribboned handlebars and jingling beaded spokes: a trike for a girl, not a boy. But Mom had just said you don’t need it now, you can share, and Ryan had declared it’s mine now and stuck out his tongue.
My throat clogged. My heart tightened. I pushed him down, pink trike and all, onto the train tracks behind our house.
He shrieked when his knees broke open on the gravel, but the long downshifting howl of the oncoming train swallowed his noise. The Norfolk Southern coal-hauler became a huge black blur, its brakes screaming far too late.
I looked away, but something thudded out of the blur and cartwheeled past my legs. The tricycle had crumpled and twisted, beads clinking as one wheel still rotated slowly.
Ryan was right: it wasn’t mine anymore.
My trike had been pink, and this one was red.

The Patient Guise
Lee A. Forman

Alone, it waited. Silent, still, it swallowed patience one lingering moment after another. With each passerby its senses hummed with anticipation—a growing hunger still unsated. Each gave a curious look, but none were tempted. Uncertainty lingered along the paths of its ancient mind as it questioned how well it understood its prey. The form it chose proved effective in the past. Eager younglings once rushed into its deceptive grasp. They’d pedal away from their elders and satisfy its appetite. But the scarcity of its preferred fare imposed a decision—its old hunting ground had to be abandoned. With a tired squeak, its wheels turned in search of a fresh source to nourish its everlasting appetite.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

The Sinister

When will it end?

Struggling to catch my breath, I stop for a moment, hands on my knees. The door to my left is shut, I haven’t been in there yet. Could that be a way out?

It always changes.

“Daadddeee…” My daughter’s voice echoes through the halls, distant and menacing. “Where are you?” She giggles, and my skin crawls. The voice is my daughter’s but the words are not her own.

They belong to the Sinister.

Bursting through the door, it quickly becomes obvious that I’ve misjudged. It’s not the exit but another classroom. Like the others I’ve seen, the desks are overturned, strewn about. The floor’s covered with debris. Even in the dark, I can see the walls are splattered and smeared with gore.

I thought I knew my way around her school after months of dropping her off every morning. For fuck’s sake, the building is essentially one giant corridor with rooms branching off it; how hard could this be?

“Daadddeee… I’m going to find you!”

She’s closer…its closer.

I thought I’d put enough distance between us to buy time. Creeping back to the door I peer out. The corridor is lit only by the flicker of flames burning sporadically within the building. Screams erupt from somewhere mixing with childish laughter.

I dash out into the corridor, avoiding a lick of the flame, continuing my search for the way out.

My daughter said… the Sinister said… there’s a way out, and if I find it, it’ll let us leave.

I slow my pace as the corridor begins to quake.

Oh god, it’s happening again.

Walls crack and splinter while steel beams groan as they rip from their foundation. The ceiling and floor shifts position, altering the layout like a Rubik’s Cube. The horror is indescribable; the confusion maddening.

The Sinister said we can leave; but I doubt it will let us.

I jog toward one of the freshly formed corners and my feet slide out from under me; I slip on the entrails of what looks like one of the school’s administrators. Hitting the floor beside the lifeless torso, I see eyes frozen open in terror, they stare blankly at the ceiling. The lower half is nowhere to be seen.

“Daadddeee… you can’t hide forever!”

Holy fuck she’s…it’s close.

Scrambling back to my feet I continue down the unfamiliar hallway. I don’t know how long it’s been since the nightmare began; the Sinister gave me a head start what seems like ages ago. Here and there I’ve seen other parents as desperate as I am to find their children and make it out.

I’ve also seen some that didn’t make it. What of their kids?

Then all other thoughts are eradicated: I see it.

Barely visible, in the orange dancing glow of the flames, is an Exit sign above a heavy door.

Oh my god, a way out. My heart races.

With a new sense of urgency, I use every ounce of strength to propel myself toward the door.

Almost there…the ceiling shatters above me.

In a deafening crack, ceiling tiles, duct work and dust rain down on me, along with my daughter. I collapse under her and the debris, hitting the floor just a few feet from the exit.

“I found you, Daddy,” she says.

Gripping me with inhuman strength, she flips me onto my back and my heart breaks.

Her arms are gone, ripped out of their sockets and replaced by greyish-pink appendages with six oversize claws protruding from stumpy, inhuman hands. She still has her own legs but has sprouted elongated talons that tear through her tiny Mary Jane’s. Her face is still that of my little girl, but her mouth is permanently etched into an unrelenting grin.

Worst of all; her eyes. Her beautiful blue eyes have been torn out leaving empty sockets.

“Baby girl,” my voice cracks with emotion. “The exit is right here.”

“You almost made it, Daddy,” she says and her voice softens. “…almost…”

“It’s right here, honey. Let’s leave… me and you…” Even I don’t believe my words.

The Sinister creeps back into her voice. “But then the fun would end. You don’t want the fun to end, do you, Daddy?”

“What the hell happened here?”

She giggles, digging her talons deep into my chest. I feel them scrape between my ribs.

“Oh, my dear Daddy,” she squats, pressing her full weight into my chest. “You just answered your own question: Hell happened here.” She twists her talons deeper, nearly piercing one of my lungs. “Besides, how can you leave something that’s already everywhere?”

Tossing her head back, she erupts into a shrieking laugh.

∼ Jon Olson

© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 30


Step Settle
Mark Steinwachs

Step. Settle. Step. Settle. The corn sways in the mid-day breeze, its subtle vibrations through the soft ground giving me cover. The hard-packed road would signal my presence and must be avoided. I close in on the barn, and much needed rest. She’s killing us off like we tried to do to her. Mother Nature’s a tough old bitch. Her method is brutal, releasing a previously unknown toxin from the ground that eats through anything. Your last few minutes spent as a writhing, chemical-burned mess, just like we’ve made her for centuries. We learned quickly. The rich live in the sky, the rest of us…. Step. Settle. Step. Settle. I get to the edge of the field, plotting my course. I should be able to make it before she realizes I’m here. Preparing to push off, my foot slips on the soft earth sending shockwaves below. I take off, sprinting toward the barn. Throwing myself toward the stairs, I thud against them. I rip off my shoes, praying I got it in time. Skin melts from my foot as blistering pain lances up my leg. I close my eyes then scream.


Murmurs of the Corn
A.F. Stewart

Angelique heard the whispering voices since childhood. When the wind rustled the corn stalks, when it blew past the woods, the faint words followed.

Tribute for the Harvest. For the Harvest.

She always shivered and then smiled. She knew. She knew she had been chosen. She knew what to do. In the woods, past the far field, there was a spot, the raised flat rock. She brought the offerings: small animals at first, squirrels, rabbits, strays. And then later, she sometimes brought the voices children from school. The neglected ones, ones people didn’t care about. She was careful though, never too many of those. She didn’t want to draw attention.

But always once a year, every harvest season, some kind of tribute. And this year would be no different.

Angelique looked down at her three-year-old son, Jacob. “Mommy wants to show you a special place. Wants you to meet her friends.”

She took him by the hand and led him into the woods.


A Growing Boy
Lee A. Forman

Hunger never left his distended paunch. No matter how much she brought, his gut could not be sated. Spindly arms pulled rotten meat into a foul orifice. Brown saliva and undigested chunks ran down his stained frontside into a puddle of filth. Familiarity still rested in his eyes. They followed her with affection, resting deep behind puss-filled lumps which grew around them. She wondered if he still had legs beneath the mass of pulsating skin at his bottom. But it wouldn’t have mattered. His proportions already filled most of the barn.

She took the sandwich bag of teeth from her pocket and remembered his smile. How sweet and simple he once was.

A low groan erupted from his belly. Tremors of a wanting stomach rumbled under her boots. The fly-infested supply of food nearly depleted, she’d have to find a way to feed her growing boy.


The Food of Screams
Jon Olson

Home, sweet home. Years back when we first moved into the barn, it didn’t have electricity. That would have made everything much easier. You see, peeling someone’s skin off is—oh no you don’t! Don’t do that again! Now where was I? Oh yes, peeling someone’s skin off in candlelight is rather hard on the eyes. You’d think evolution would give my kind better vision in the dark. But then again, evolution probably wants to forget about us monsters. There are six of us altogether before you ask. I provide for the younger ones as – hey, remember what I said about running off? The younger ones have teeth but they aren’t large enough to cut completely through human skin. That’s why I remove it first. You’ll see what I mean when I show them to – OW! Get back here you little bitch! No use hiding in the cornstalks as… there you are!  GOTCHA! For that little escapade, there will be no skinning for you! Go ahead and cry. Oh hell, scream if you’d like. The little ones just love it when their food screams.


Sowing Season
Lydia Prime

Xipe would be pleased; from blood sacrifice the harvest should be safe from seasonal plight. Three friends closely line up behind me, playing follow the leader into the field. They could never have known what I’d planned for their last night. After all this time, my needed action had become enjoyment; a fine pleasure to dismember those who’d come. My sickle, hidden by stalks of corn, caught them off guard by its reveal.

They screamed and cried—even bargained for life. Grinning while their wishes fell on deaf ears, I knew not one would leave this field breathing. Quick slashes scattered their precious pieces, now coated in metallic red. The corn glistened in the moonlight, the blood drenched crop dripped upon the ground. The roots drank ravenously, shattering the night’s silence with a deafening suck. The harvest would be promised. My eyes twinkled while I examined the torn carcasses knowing Xipe’s power was devotedly harnessed.


Whispers
Scarlet R. Algee

It’s midnight, and I can hear the corn talking.

It’s not clear right away. But when I listen like Mama taught me, the voices come out, words in the whisper of silky tassels against my bedroom windows. Words like soon and feed us and hungry, beating in the rhythm of my heart.

I heard it first when I was four, when my dog Buddy disappeared into the fields one night and Mama, urged out to look for him by my tearful pleas, came back in the house after dark and said, “Buddy’s gone, Katrina. He’s gone to help feed the corn.” I didn’t understand how a dog could help, but Mama tucked me into bed beside her that night and the tall stalks thumped the windows, and in their rhythm I thought I heard thank you.

After that, others went away. Chickens. My bunny Nico, my fatherless little brother Billy. The corn grew, flourished, murmured. By then, I understood why.

Now I watch Mama lift my son William from his crib, one more fatherless boy, and I stand ready with the knife in my hand. We need another good harvest.

Hungry, the tassels mutter.

It’s time to feed the corn.


Ribbons
Mercedes M. Yardly

She spent her life in cotton dresses with her hair pulled back by ribbons. There was an ease in her childhood that followed her when she was all knobby knees and laugher, but that ease stopped when she reached adulthood. She began to hear things in the corn, felt things in the barn. Shadows would ooze out and hiss her name, lick her ear, and pull her ribbons out with sharp teeth. She let her hair fall down her back, let her cotton dresses become old and full of holes and fragility. It was easier that way.


Dawning
Christopher A. Liccardi

The corn whispered his name. It was serene, almost fooling him into thinking he’d be okay.

Lying face to the sun, he was fighting off the urge to vomit but the pain wouldn’t take him. It wasn’t enough. The thing he uncovered was ravenous but it let him go. He was sure of that.

A flash of memory from the night before – bone blades slicing, rending flesh; the tongue that lapped at the blood burned like acid. This thing was toying with its dinner. He broke free at first light, dragging his bloody chest through the spider-like corn roots, willing himself not to die in the dooryard of this cursed shit-hole. The thing inside didn’t follow.

Was sunlight the key? Would it matter if he bled out right here in this field? Come fall, the harvester would churn his decayed corpse up and he’d be feeding cows by winter. If he could only make it to the road, maybe he’d have a chance.

A screech pierced the beautiful day, sending terror and piss down his legs. The corn drank it up greedily. He saw the thing braving the sunlight and wept.


It Comes
Nina D’Arcangela

There is an echo far distant but always too near. I look up; multiple bright hues encompass the fathoms I crawl. The between is an inky void; a darkness in which a different symphony calls to me – my blood stirs. I’ve seen others outside the colony. My time to hunt will come, it is promised me; the next cycle is mine. Mother mourns. Her rheumy eyes shift, they will not explain. I spin my vestigial hammock in the dwindling gloom. Uneasy to rest, I drift to her gentle vibrations as they shiver me to slumber under the brightening canopy.

I wake. My mind screams from the cacophony, small hairs vibrate in waves of cruel harmony. Chomping, gnashing teeth approach. They spin and whir, the screech jars me from my gummy cocoon. As I hit the mud, the creature looms over me; my siblings scatter frantically. Mother curls; her legs draw in, the teeth careen past her – she burrows. I feel the crushing blow of its maw. My body yields with a slow pop; red and yellow mar the reaper. As it strips my carcass bare, a final glance beyond shows the world in ruin.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

Damned Words 29



Worthy of Heart
Lee A. Forman

Preserve their milky flesh; make bare soft, pink innards. Harvest remains, cover them in garnish, make beauty of woeful frames. Consume the fetal home—the birthing apparatus—for it is not lasting. But the tiny, wriggling creatures, perfect for trimming. They grow with skill, become things that made them. They pose for desire, malleable to intention. To play with life and death, their brittle models, is to be a god with artful power. Divine imagination is the finest tool. To make rich and vibrant something dull, paint life onto spilled passing.

Beautiful as the collection stands, it is but practice. Want of larger work—a showpiece worthy of burning hearts—fuels stimulus with copious motivation. The hunt must seek substantial result. Perhaps, something less of nature. A fine canvas, tall and supple. The grand puppet of evolution. Two masters of the Earth, to be my servants. They’ll birth the final piece, to be emptied of mortality, and filled with tender love of my pursuit.


Tableau
A.F. Stewart

I loved my secret hobby. Some could call it macabre, this taxidermy, but I saw it as repurposing dead things by turning them into art. My latest project was my best yet:  a ferret and squirrel tea party. I had trouble getting the ferrets at first, but I worked it out. And today I’d just tightened the last screw in the glass case.
“Hey, Jay. How are those ferrets doing?”
I whirled at the voice. Dave from the pet store stood by the open garage door.
“Hey, what’s that?” Dave stepped forward and saw my new tableau. He went ballistic. “What the hell did you do to those ferrets?” He grabbed me. “You little shit! That’s animal cruelty! I’m calling the cops!”
Staring at his angry face, hearing his threats, something just snapped. Panicked, I plunged my screwdriver into Dave’s throat. He grabbed at his neck, gurgled blood and collapsed. I stood trembling, afraid, but…
I kept gawking at Dave’s pooling blood. It stirred new ideas in my brain for a spectacular scene. I glanced over at the bloody screwdriver sticking in Dave’s neck and suddenly smiled.
I just needed a few more people to make it work…

Companions
Mercedes M. Yardley

After one year of living in the box, he let her out into the cellar. After nearly two, he let her have a needle, only under his watch, of course, and she would stitch up the furry little corpses he would bring her. If you take the insides out and replace them with sawdust or small rocks, they won’t smell. It took her a long time to discover this, but after she did, her companions were more enjoyable.

“This one is Mama,” she whispered. “This is Papa. This is June.” Mama, Papa, and June were cherished. Snuggled. Held tight in the dark.

“Why don’t you name one after me?” he asked. His sweat smelled worse than the animal’s decay. His hands were heavy and did unspeakable things.

She refused to name the last toy, calling it Not-Mama or Not-Papa or Not-June. It sat alone by the bowl she used for a toilet. She made sure it was missing its eyes.


How Is the Tea
Jon Olson

Don’t you love tea parties, my dear? I do, although I didn’t like using dolls so I settled on animals. I had Mr. and Mrs. Mouse, Mr. Ferret and the sweet Miss Squirrel. They always bit me or tried to escape. I killed them. With no will of their own, Mr. and Mrs. Mouse could entertain their guests for days on end. How is the tea? Oh, just lovely! They would rot after a while, smelling awful so I’d switch them up with fresh ones. Did you know I tried people once? It was horrible. They screamed and didn’t even want to play. Imagine! Before serving a single cup, I slit their throats. Besides, I missed Mr. Mouse’s gruff laugh and Miss Squirrel’s squeaky coughs. And now they’re with me here in the hospital. I get to visit them every day. Even the lunatics swing by to see them. More tea, old chap? Why certainly, sir!


Daddy’s Little Girl
Nina D’Arcangela

“Daddy!” I turned to see my little girl, her cheeks roughed, a white rat proffered in her outstretched hands; blood dripped from its stilled nose. “Fix it, Daddy, hurry!” I took the slight offering to my workbench. She watched with rapt fascination as I opened, then gutted the animal. Once the hide was cleaned, I applied a preserving agent. Days later, we stuffed the husk; she chose the position, I sewed its remains. Poised on a miniature chair, she whisked the creature away. The following week, a squirrel accompanied the same desperate plea; again I administered, again she observed. After the fourth, she begged a box to house them for afternoon biscuits and tea. I indulged.

She became reclusive soon after, choosing to spend volumes of time in her attic playroom. Concerned, I climbed the stairs to her private sanctum one afternoon. I swung the door wide–the fetid stench nearly overwhelmed me. There, on the floor, sat my little girl amongst a menagerie of mutilated creatures, including her beloved pet cat; a bird crudely stitched into its open maw. She smiled, clapped with sticky fingers, and giggled. “Look, Daddy, I fixed them, just like you.”


Perfection
Mark Steinwachs

Every stitch. Every tuft of fur.

Every. Single. Piece.

It’s perfect. Unlike the world. My views on humanity evolved as my project progressed. My coworkers joked about what I was doing because they didn’t understand. It hurt, but I kept going. They flitted about their lives, unfocused, I continued to center myself. I started crouching over my creation night after night. Soon, all I had left was work… and this. I work so I can create. And now I am done. Alone with perfection.

Every. Single. Piece.

When you truly give all, nothing remains. This is my all. I want nothing more from this world, nothing from the lost people who drift about until they wither away. When they find my art they will understand my patience and attention to detail.

I sit at the reception desk, decisive-sounding clacks filling my ears as I tap the last few keystrokes. Only I could pull this off. Computers are wonderful, if you know how to manipulate them.

Within moments, doors lock, cell phone signals jam, and gas pours from vents. We die as we live. I smile, watching my coworkers’ panicked final seconds. Calm, I take my last breath. Perfection.


Guest or Demon
Christopher A. Liccardi

They looked like fucking rodents. They died how they lived; like a pack of biting, gnashing vermin. Each one poised and refined. But, lift the glass and you’d be gob smacked with the stench of decay and putrescence that will never leave you.

Each had done me a bad turn so they had to pay.

Revenge?

No. Not for a moment could you think this elaborate scene was crafted with such feeble petty intent. That game, I left to the jilted lovers and business partners not savvy enough to see their other half beat them to the punch. My motivation was societal, selfless. Each played a part in my loss of her. Each took something away that I was, so each had to be outsmarted, out-gunned or out maneuvered.

She is gone now and will never return, but I have these four elegant guests over for tea and I will hate them no less as the decades creep past and the lust turns bitter.

At least I have these demons for company as I slowly rot alone.


The Last Tea Party
Scarlett R. Algee

When I see my inheritance, my jaw drops. Four taxidermied animals in a glass display case: three ferrets and a squirrel. They wear scraps of velvet and silk, sitting around a table piled with miniature pastries and a tea set. One ferret wears a top hat at a jaunty angle; another mouths a doll’s pearl necklace. Nana’s sticky note, taped to the glass, reads For Rachel and her sisters, together forever. I swear under my breath. Nana had been sick, but not demented. She knew my sisters were gone, and this is what she left me?

I lift the lid, the stench of mothballs wafting up. Dizzy, fumbling with the glass case, I turn around blindly and smack the wall. My vision blanks out. When it clears, my tail is being squashed against my chairback. I don’t remember having a tail.

I recognize them, those three pointed faces. Sarah teethes her pearls. Lana grins from beneath the top hat. Reilly’s still, but beneath her feathered headband, her eyes gleam. Rachel, each says through a stiff, pointed smile, sister, you made it, you found us.

Me and my sisters, together forever. I want to scream, but I can’t open my mouth.


The Time Out Box
Lydia Prime

They were being mean and I didn’t want to listen anymore. Mommy said that if I invited them over things would change and we could be friends. Mommy’s never been seven years old, obviously. I tried to show them my real friends. The ones who were never mean to me, but those girls said I was weird. One of them even started crying! I didn’t understand! How could they not be immediately drawn in by the tea party my fuzzy little friends were having?

I cried alone for a while, my insides began to burn. I heard them whispering. They were saying awful things about me, the whispering grew louder and my head started to hurt. I just wished I could put them all in time out. Then the voices stopped. I heard four echoing thumps, and walked to my room. They laid seemingly lifeless about the floor. I looked to my fuzzy friends and saw that their eyes had changed, no longer empty. I could see the mean girls reflected back against them, my wish came true. Time out for bad girls.

I set them up exactly like my fuzzy friends, I think I like them better now.


Memorabilia
John Potts Jr

Wrapped in an old sheet was the diorama Grandma made for my graduation. Gary saw only a piece of junk and beelined for the trash but somewhere along the way he stopped, turned to me, and performed this…this un-Gary-like act of love: he asked me if I wanted to hang on to it. I smiled and nodded. He playfully teased back. I could tell that Gary was drunk. So was I. Maybe that’s why I spilled the truth.

“I told you that Grandam loved serial killers, right? Well, that’s because she was one. And she never let anyone bully me. Grandma lured my high school bullies—those fuckers—into her basement and kept them locked there, alive, for days. She tortured them hour after hour until chopping them into bits small enough for the birds to devour. Chloe really did have turquoise eyes, too. I wanted to keep her hair and her lips and her eyes—especially those eyes! Of course Grandma wouldn’t let me so she gave me this diorama instead; something special to remember her by,” I took his hands and smiled. “That’s why I can’t part with it, Gary.”


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

Damned Words 28


In the Darkness, Gently
A.F. Stewart

The snow falls silently in the night, drifting softly to the ground against the moonlight. The wind is still, the tree branches unmoving. Not even a rustling mouse or the shadow of an owl overhead to break the spell of quiet peace. I hear nothing but the hushed sound of my own breath. So I wait.

Time passes. The cold seeps in, begins to numb my fingers and toes. It does not matter. Nothing matters but my obedience, my service. They will come. They will deliver judgment. I wait on their inclination, their decision on whether I am worthy.

I glance at the snow by my feet. It has turned red from Richard’s blood. The sight is stark, beautiful, this primal colour against the white. I stare at the blood:  the patches in the snow, where it has congealed around the wound in his skull. Hitting him was easier than I thought. Dragging his unconscious body here from the house was the difficult part.

I hear the whispers now, their sweet voices. They are pleased. They will come. They will accept my sacrifice.


Opening of the Fifth
Lee A. Forman

Reborn as one, those separate in life shall be stitched in undeath. We bring them to our canvas, cold and pure. It’s there we forge reanimation to that which has gone stale. We place their bodies beside one another like angels in the snow. Two souls would be one, flesh woven together by artisan hands. The scent of pine and copper compliments our senses, a perfect blend to accompany the work. Crystal drops rest upon bleak faces with closed eyes. Soon a fifth would open, reveal to them a world of things unseen; a forsaken place where life and death strays from precepts of human understanding—an existence beyond.


The Real Me
Jon Olson

Sprinting, it begins to snow. They’re behind me somewhere, yelling and cursing. No doubt they’ll come in greater numbers. It doesn’t matter now. A few more steps and I’ll be safe. Protected by the darkness, free to change and become my true self. I can still taste the orderly’s blood with fleshy bits of his nose still stuck between my teeth. Licking my lips my stomach growls and the shape-shifting begins. Skin splits, bones pop and snap as my form rearranges. It’s over in seconds. Grinning, I gallop toward the search party. Sniffing the air, I smell their fear. They know the real me is coming and I’m ecstatic to make their acquaintance…


Deceit
Christopher A. Liccardi

Lying under this icy blanket, I smell it approach. The falling flakes mask my scent; it knows not that I wait. It pauses; I hear it feed from the dewy fern, suckling the wet from the branches. With a single thud of its hoof, I know it has begun its advance again. Snuffling the fresh bed before it, I imagine an ear twitch, an eye round further, instinct warning it to fear… Though if it lifts its snout, it will once again smell only the storm scented air, not my stench.

A tentative step, then another. Now it strides with confidence nearing the protected brush. As it ascends the hillock, I strike. Teeth gnash on thrashing limbs, I roll from my bed under the whiteness slamming the creature to its side. I roll again, this time attempting to snap its neck. The leg I’ve seized is too thin, I grasp for a meatier portion of the caribou. I release, I lunge—it lands a kick in my gut, but not before my maw closes around its throat.

Crimson taints the bleached ground; my grunts fill the air as I devour my prey.


Director’s Cut
Mark Steinwachs

I stand on the porch, watching the snow. So silent, so serene, same as it was when I took the picture for her a few days ago. It’s amazing what you can portray to the world, you force people to see what you want, hiding the rest off-screen. We’re all directors of our own movie, only most people don’t realize it, just like they don’t think about the lights and stands and cables surrounding their favorite actor inches outside the shot.

I know, I’m a director. The best. It’s simple, really. Give them what they want to see and they’ll see it. Right up until it’s too late. She loved the country, its beauty, so I showed her, and after a few dates… Well, let’s say she was born for the role. I picked out her spot before I knew who she was.

I smile as my eyes fall to the half-dug hole in front of the tree in the distance. Now to find who deserves to be my sixth. I pull my phone out, one gloveless finger scrolling through profile pictures as the snow continues to fall.


Footprints
Mercedes M. Yardly

She left bloody footprints in the snow.

First they were small droplets, like Snow White’s mother who pricked her finger over her embroidery. Red French knots on linen. Red berries on white stone.

Then they became more. The unsettling slash of lips in a pale face, the slit of split skin, a wound that won’t close.

Ribbons. Swaths. Coils of red. Each step lanced her frozen feet, the crusty ice slicing tender skin. But each step was freedom, closer toward her mother, and the broken chains clinking around her ankles sang, “Let’s go home, let’s go home, let’s go home.”


Sylph Surfer
Nina D’Arcangela

Peaceful, so it seems, a glade shrouded in haze of dusk; sitting calmly in gentle gloam, it awaits full evening’s thrust. A subtle whisper ‘twixt tree and limb, all sway to and fro; snow settles upon thinnest branch, it bends most subservient bough. My siblings and I, we glide on currents lift, licking droplets from the air. The game afoot, as it always is, when wind is true and fair. Below I spy the first; tired, wet and cold. He drags a yelping mutt behind, leaving visage now rutted bold. Fleet as the others be, I am that much quicker, I descend among the flakes, strike the boy from the side–we tumble a mad twister. The white clouds his eyes as he shakes his hooded head, by then it is too late, for I have sunk my teeth, his pet already dead.


Bundled Up
John Potts Jr

Cassie nodded to Gregor and he stood, shifting to a wide stance with his arms raised shoulder level. A sharp ripping echoed through their empty cabin and Cassie thought how much she loathed today—this very moment—as she wrapped thick tape around the wrists and ankles of Gregor’s snowsuit. She stepped back, determined to stay strong. Will my sweet come back to me? Cassie pulled Gregor’s hat over his ears. “Better,” she whispered before kissing her love goodbye. Cassie could never watch him leave; it was too hard on her frayed nerves. And she knew the expedition in the wastes would last days and Gregor always came back to her so Cassie eased herself into bed, turned down the lights, and went to bed.

But there was something Cassie couldn’t shake and when she slipped into slumber that night a horrid image flashed her mind: only one of Gregor’s boots had been tied. Gregor tripped outside the door, falling downhill into an ugly roll that sent his body into the base of a lifeless oak. Both his hat and scarf tore from his face and the falling snow dissolved his exposed flesh to the marrow.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

Damned Words 27


Lady of Sorrow
A.F. Stewart

She hides her face from me and weeps tears of stone, clutching the wreath she laid on my grave. A monument to her false grief and lingering guilt, forever enshrined in granite effigy. I stare at her from the shadows of the trees and laugh.

She thought to kill me.

Me, a thousand years her better in occult magic and deviltry. A poor attempt at murder and in the end she is the one entombed. Locked in her stone prison atop my empty grave.

She should have never come to the cemetery to gloat, to lay her wreath in two-faced mourning. But then, I have always laid the best traps. I savoured the priceless look on her face when she turned and saw me standing behind her, alive, and not a corpse mouldering in my grave.

That was the last thing she ever saw.


Feeding on Forever
Lee A. Forman

The sky joins my solemn carriage as it casts a shadowed brow and sheds tears in honor. But musing her smile dampens the storm. Alluring and scented with life, it led me to flavorful experiences. Never before had the inevitable deed ushered such hesitation. Despite any mourning that might follow, I drained her of animation and confined her soul to a lifeless body. Ages passed since her corpse was set beneath stone. Yet memories retain their piquancy. Every life a different taste, I savor hers the most—the rest I keep only to feed the void. As I leave for another year, my longing for her toothsome spirit has already begun.


Please Just Let Me…
Jon Olson

Chewing my lip draws blood as I stand before her grave. I fucked up. I brought the damn baby, killed it and sliced the belly open just as she prefers. Why didn’t I stay to ensure she got the nourishment? There’s no point in running or hiding. Better to stand up and take it like a man. If I show her I’m in this for the long haul, maybe she’ll… there’s no way. My quivering lip and churning stomach would betray me. Hell, I’m on the verge of tears. If only I could… oh god… she’s awake… please… please just let me…


They Don’t Visit
Christopher A. Liccardi
They had so many questions. It was incessant to the point of pissing me off. I put a stop to them. Each time, a new face and new questions. The same old shit, really.

Keeping them in the closest started to cause issues with the lady next door. She started asking questions. No good. I found a forgotten stone and a forgotten family that never visited their dead. Made sense, right?

Fill the dead places with the dead—the living don’t bother to visit often. I’ll need to find a new place soon. Because, people never stop asking questions and questions never stop getting on my fucking nerves.

This place is big though and there are a lot of people who never visit their dead. There are a lot of places to store all those questions.


A Mother’s Lament
Nina D’Arcangela

Look at them. They stand there, dullards staring upward, not an original thought in their skulls. They’re sheep, cattle, suckling piglets awaiting the slaughter. They’ve grown soft, ineffectual, flaccid – just as he did. Can you imagine allowing yourself to be dragged naked through the streets, strung upon wooden posts, stabbed without uttering a single plea? No wonder those who follow do so with vacant stare and limp aptitude. It sickens me to look upon them, reminds me of my own crushing disappointment – the mother of one so weak willed. Yet they erect this edifice, this monument to a girl named Mary and pray before her shroud covered head. That girl is long gone of this earth, as is her passive nature. Millennia now I have endured his shame, but no more. I shall quake the very ground they stand upon as they cry out to me, beg that I beseech my child forgive them.  My child died, do they not remember? They are the ilk that killed him long before he was crucified.


The Contest
Mark Steinwachs

All my work crescendos to this moment, this chilly morning. I snap three photos, his remorse seeping through the lens. The color of his skin and cloak blends into the stone he’s perched on. The wreath in his hand, one flower for each of his victims, matches too. His spidery fingers entice me through the lens, but even the most delicate fingers can pull a trigger. His fate sealed of his own volition, he spoke to none of us but followed every order we gave. I take one more photo. It’s the one. Because of him, we will both be immortalized. After ten years, I will win Death Day. My picture alongside past winners. I turn and walk toward the idling police van. Behind me, four gunshots ring out in quick succession.


Her Children
John Potts Jr

September 22nd, 1917.

The professor stopped again before sunrise. He beckoned that I come at once, that something was amiss by the gate. I held my lantern high above the fog and led the way as he followed with his cart in tow.

“There,” he said with a tremble, pointing to the Lady of the Cemetery. “She will not let me pass. Pray you can help, good sir. Pray you can persuade her to let me and mine pass.”

I lifted the cloth and recoiled with detest, with loathing, at what lie beneath. He paid for the dead, that was certain, but not for her children. I walked away, back to my home, and when the sun was high in the afternoon I found the Lady of the Cemetery mourning her young once more.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2018

 

Damned Words 26



An Opulent End
Lee A. Forman

The warm glow of her eyes, once so soft and bright, darkened with atrocious intent. For months, evidence of such vile nature appeared like clues to be followed, but my nose failed to pick up the scent. Like a mongrel dog, I strayed into the briar patch of her love. The end near, I thought of such things—the life that was, the human way… But her rise brought it crashing down, and on the last night of the year, in my final hours as man, I submitted to assimilation.

The ballroom adornments dripped crimson death—a result of her furious rebirth. My stomach emptied itself in revulsion until all I could do was sweat pure terror from hot flesh. Only those who willingly allowed themselves to be subjugated survived the carnage. Those few meek souls trembled in blood-soaked garments until her wrath finished grinding unwanted meat to pulp.

Black tendrils spread from her torso in all directions, injecting inky fluid into those left alive. She spared me, forced my eyes to see the change unfold. Was some part of our endearment real? Or did the evil only wish me to suffer apocalyptic sights?

Their bodies struggled at first, but soon gave in and became things not human. Those infected shed their skin and emerged in hideous forms. Deviant, sable appendages sprouted from the birthed ebon creatures. Stone-like eyes peered from soulless shells. The hellish beings gathered and left to spread her unholy replication.

She took me in her arms and we danced. Perhaps it was a final nod to humanity, acknowledgement of what would no longer be. But her cruelty swayed my faith in that notion, knowing I’d remain her sole witness.


Eight Minutes Of
Nina D’Arcangela

Eight minutes of, the gala was in full swing. Women adorned in their finest gowns, men in their spats and tails. All twirled the dance floor with inebriated glee.
Seven minutes of, the lights dimmed, the glass baubles above took on an amber glow as heads lifted in wonder and delight.
Six minutes of, the largest crystal began to gleam, none could draw their eye from it; they froze entranced.
Five minutes of, the bloom grew blinding: the skin around each reveler’s eyes began to darken and crack; to ooze brown rivulets as they gazed beyond the light. Slack of jaw, their lips began to curl exposing desiccated gums. Teeth clattered to the floor as sockets shrunk and tongues retreated to withered husks.
Four minutes of, the first horn emerged from the starburst, followed languidly by the enormous beast – it struck the marble with a resounding crack as it landed upon cloven hooves and bent claws.
Three minutes of, the aberration stalked among the paralytic ensemble. The men it had no use for – it sought only breeders.  It sniffed, it tasted; it rent the unworthy to pieces. Gold and silver damask rippled through the air as it discarded one female after another.
Two minutes of, it chose a single sheep, a prize in grand finery festooned with shimmering gems.
One minute of, the creature stepped back through the starburst having seeded its offspring. The assembly of revelers fell to the polished slab; their flesh dusted the air upon impact, what clothes remained lay poised in an eternal waltz.
At the stroke of midnight, the brilliant glimmer of the seven pointed star diminished to the chandelier’s natural glow as a single scream ushered in the new year.


Another New Year’s Eve
Jon Olson

Here we are again, dear. We’ve made it to another New Year’s Eve. How many has it been since the bombs fell? Since civilization crumbled, leaving it a dog eat dog world? I’ve lost count. It may as well be just another notch on the bomb shelter’s wall. I know someone who would’ve known. She always kept track of the date. Yes, you know who I’m talking about. Don’t you even dare try saying you can’t remember! Her name was Marie… our daughter! Or at least she was until you saw it fit to kill her… and then eat her… without even sharing! Miserable prick. You want to know something else? Killing you wasn’t nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. There’s no one to share the moment with. Shit, you don’t even taste very good. This isn’t all bad though. At least I took the time to hang up that chandelier we found in the old dance hall. Happy fucking New Year…


Resolution
Mark Steinwachs

She sits cross-legged on the floor of the vacant living room. Somber, ethereal music plays in the darkness; it’s what he likes best. She etches the N and admires the droplets of blood on her arm.

Resolution

Tonight’s the night. Millions of people will swear by this word. But he has shown her the true meaning of it.

It started years ago. His teachings. They were hard to comprehend at first, but he was relentless. She wanted to give up so many times in high school, but he wouldn’t let her. She needed to grow to truly perceive—that’s what he told her.

She began to understand in college. And then she joined the real world and saw people for what they were. He showed her. He guided her, slowly building her up.

Her left arm was scarred white from hundreds of cuts, the R being the deepest.

Resolution

She is now complete. Droplets of blood trickle down her arm, a few splattering on the floor. She rises to her feet and walks to the dimly lit bedroom, ready for her final lesson. Stripping, she kneels on the white bedspread.

He’s taught her, and because of her, he will teach the rest of the world. Wet crimson catches her eye, beautiful against the white. She presses the blade into her wrist, drawing it back toward her body.

Resolution

Her eyes get heavy. His teachings are nearly complete. Growing from her, deep red hues shift subtly as his lithe form takes shape. A beautiful terror. After all these years, her teacher is before her. She smiles at him with the little strength she has left. “Thank you,” she says, and turns her arm to look one final time.

Resolution


Indulgence
A.F. Stewart

The glow of the chandelier reflected off its own crystal embellishments, sparkling like stars over the ballroom. Below the twinkle, masked and costumed party guests mingled, sipping champagne or red wine and sampling exquisite hors d’oeuvres.

Each guest wore a grotesque mask, an expression of their darker selves, of secret sins. Demons danced with ghouls, imps socialized with succubae, and deranged killers smiled plastic grins. Apart from the crowd, their host stood watching them, a glass of wine in his hand. He wore a black suit, a hooded red cape, and the face of the devil. He cleared his throat and a hush fell over the gathering. When he spoke, his words fell like drops of honey and darkness.

“Welcome, my illustrious guests. Over the years we have been through much. I have granted favours to each of you, kept your misdeeds tucked away from prying eyes.” He chuckled and pulled back his hood. The crowd abruptly realized their host wasn’t wearing a mask.

His demonic face was real.

“Surprise. You’ve all made deals with the devil.” He smiled. “And while I have enjoyed your pleasingly wicked lives, the devil must take what he is due. I’m sorry, my friends, but your lives are over and you all belong to me!” He raised his glass of wine in a salute. “It is time to move this party to Hell!”

The twinkling lights winked out and the room went black.

Moments later, all the guests screamed.


Transiton
Joseph A. Pinto

The very door itself trembled upon its hinges, the pulse of urgency behind it echoing throughout the foyer like the grand heart of some approaching leviathan.  My eyes slipped shut, and I listened.  Boom.  Boom boom.  Something foreign crinkled my lips.  A smile.  Absently I traced it with calloused fingers, then snatched my hand away before I became too enamored with the sensation.

A long time before, all I once found joyous fled me.  Now I wished only for an abrupt and jarring end.  Tired of the guise I had been forced to wear, the need for release intoxicated what remained of my mind.

Boom boom.  Boom.

“It’s not locked.”

The thunderous resonation halted.  I opened my eyes, spotted the subtle shift of grey shadow from beneath the door.  Slowly, the brass knob twisted, and the hinges did creak.  Inch by glorious inch, death squeezed through my threshold.

Slobbering from each side of its mouth, the infant waddled across the foyer, its soft, pink toes leaving a glistening trail.  “It’s about time,” my tone much harsher than I had intended.  “Sorry.  It’s been a long year.  I’ve lost too much.  I’m just…done.”

Unapologetically, it launched itself airborne, slammed me backwards, then perched atop my chest.  Hardly a leviathan, this blushed, flaccid thing studied me, cocking its oblong head as I laughed a zealless laugh.  “Ring in the new year, baby.  It’s time to still my old, clackity bones.”

High above in the dangling chandelier prisms, my reflection turned a thousand ways to red, and finally, breath by breath, I exhaled all the pain that had clotted me.


Secret Games
Brian Moreland

Ava Thornhill sipped her tea, as servants polished the crystal chandelier until the cut glass sparkled. Ava smiled. The Rococo light fixture had been a family heirloom passed down for generations. In 1910, her great-great-great grandparents, Helena and Victor, had used the chandelier in occult ceremonies. The esoteric couple had passed rituals of black magic on to their children. As Ava went through a gray cloth book, memorizing incantations written in Victor’s handwriting, she felt eyes watching from above. The doorbell chimed. Her butler led Luther Chastain into the room, then the servants left them alone. Luther gazed at Ava with a wolfish grin. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Seeing him again made her skin prickle. She pointed to a chair across the table. “Sit.” As Luther sat down, she said angrily, “Remember what you did to me in your basement?” He cocked his head and shrugged.

“We were just playing games. Besides, that was years ago.”

She rubbed her fingers along her spell book. “Yes, but I’ve never forgotten.” Ava gazed up at the chandelier. Each teardrop crystal held the trapped soul of her family’s enemies. Bejeweled glass prisons. She looked at Luther and began to chant.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017

 

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