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A Slithering Offer

My body and soul—the feast on which it would satisfy its cold, unbiased nature. It would make me a brittle husk in no less than six months. I contemplated the Kevorkian way, but could never garnish the result with enough good reason to commit suicide. Besides, I didn’t want to die.

I received the news only three weeks ago. Considering the good doctor’s estimate, it was a significant portion of my remaining life. But not enough time to come to terms. Fantasies of futures never to come, crushed repeatedly by the forceful hammer of reality. The dreamer could dream, but ultimately his awakening was inevitable.

I wondered how I’d face the reaper alone. Would I possess the courage? Without Eileen’s warm touch, without her kind words, I was devoid of human nourishment. My inner-self was bad company.

Our marriage had once been a vibrant green leaf on a tree, swaying gently in the breeze, taking in the sun’s light. I played the parts of autumn and winter; the leaf fell, all color disappeared, and its surface became pockmarked with decay.

I was left with a shameful legacy—a divorcee with five hundred bucks in the bank, no offspring, no siblings, and my parents’ ashes on a shelf in my closet. I’d be mourned only for the loss of tips I gave Old Johnny at my preferred watering hole.

I had to get out of my apartment. Out of my head. Just out.

The quiet streets tamed the circling vultures of self-awareness. The city streets can be peaceful if you know when to go for a walk. Summer nights—always the best.

“Hey guy.”

The voice came from an alley.

Shit. Why did I stop? I should have fucking kept going.

“Listen here,” the raspy voice spoke with a lisp. “I can help you out.”

“Sorry man, not looking to cop anything.” I figured he was trying to sell me drugs.

“I’m not selling anything, you fool. I’m making an offer. For trade, I can cure your cancer.”

I stepped back, took my hands out of my pockets. “What?”

“You don’t have to die.”

I squinted, tried to see the man, but darkness hid him well.

My heart told me to run, to hightail it out of there—make myself a ghost. But curiosity, no matter how many animals it killed, kept me standing at the mouth of that dark recess between the two buildings.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I like to make deals, and I have a lot to offer.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Do you want your cancer cured or not?”

The voice wrenched my guts with instinctual warning. But the hook had been set. What did I have to lose? I was going to die anyway.

“Who the fuck wouldn’t? But there is no cure for cancer.”

“That’s what they want you to think.”

“What are you, a conspiracy nut?”

Mock laughter emanated from the inky tunnel. It had the tone of a man, but what disturbed me was that it was trying to sound human. “No. I really can stop your cancer. I know how.”

“How, then?”

“I’m not just going to tell you. How do I know you’ll keep your part of the bargain?”

The bargain. I didn’t even think to ask what this mysterious voice wanted in return for the miracle it offered.

“What is it you want? I’m not rich or anything…”

“I don’t want money.”

My legs wanted to run. But the possibility of a cure enticed me to stay. “What is it you want?”

A heavy breath wafted from the shadows—musty, it reminded me of the damp cellar I’d claimed as my playroom in childhood. “I just need a favor.”

“How do I know you’re not some nutcase?”

“How did I know you had cancer, Marcus? And how do I know your name?”

“Well, Christ, that’s a good one…”

“So what’s your answer? You want the cure or not?”

Now he sounded like a drug dealer.

“Fuck it. Got nothing to lose. You gonna come outta that alley or what? Because I’m not going in there.”

“Don’t worry about that, Marcus. All you have to do is say the word and the contract is, how you say, signed.”

I questioned the choice. I never believed in God, but it sounded like striking a deal with the Devil. The thought of Hell seemed much worse than dying of cancer. I was never a church-goer but I’d read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Another laugh echoed in the alley. No attempt to sound human was made; it came out coarse, like sandpaper against concrete.

“Your peers have misled you,” the voice said. “There is no Heaven. No Hell. Things are as they are. There is nothing more. Only things you don’t know.”

“What things?”

“Never mind, boy. Just perform the task I require, and you shall have your cure.”

“What do I have to do?”

“There’s a guy. I want you to deliver this package to him.”

A box wrapped in brown paper skidded from the shadows and stopped at my feet. A name and address were crudely scrawled on the top in black marker.

“You want me to deliver a package? That’s it? This is bullshit.”

“I promise you it’s not. Oh, there’s one more thing. There’s another guy. He hangs out in front of the building you’ll be delivering that to. Bump into him on your way in.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean what I said. Just bump into him. Like it was an accident.”

“I don’t get it. What for?”

“I don’t like him.”

“Whatever, man.”

Walking nine blocks to reach my destination didn’t feel like a chore, more a respite from the horrors of my diagnosis. A brief lull from the routine of life and the slope of oncoming oblivion, just beyond which lies a bottomless pit. With the hope of a cure, I had to avoid falling in.

I came to the address, and there he was, ‘the guy.’ He stood outside the door, leaning against the railing of the staircase, taking long drags from his cigarette. I watched him from the corner of my eye as I neared. He didn’t pay me any heed. At the last step, I pretended to trip—my shoulder brushed against his arm.

“Sorry, man. Missed that last step there.”

He didn’t say a word. Only took another puff and blew smoke in my face.

As I opened the door and entered the filthy apartment building something tugged at my memory. Synapses fired, but shot blanks. Something irked me about bumping into the guy on the stairs. Something familiar.

I went to the third floor, found the apartment, and knocked.

A muffled voice answered. “Who is it?”

“Package delivery.”

Footsteps came to the door and stopped. Self-conscious discomfort traveled along the back of my neck knowing he could see me through the peephole. The lock clicked and the door opened.

The look on his face told me he wasn’t expecting a delivery.

“What is it?” he asked.

“How the hell should I know? I just deliver them.”

He took the box, looked it over, and slammed the door.

Mission complete. What came next, I was unsure. My throat tightened as I neared the exit, wondering if the smoking man was still outside. Be pretty fucking awkward running into him again. But he wasn’t there.

Relieved, I headed back to the alley where the stranger offered a cure. It was only during my walk back that I questioned the situation. What the hell was I doing? Was some fucking guy in an alley going to cure my cancer? When I thought about it, I couldn’t understand why I went with it in the first place. What compelled me? Was it hope? Desperation? Either way, I was already into it, might as well see it through.

When I got to the alley a hissing came from the darkness. “I see you’ve completed your task.”

“Yeah. Bumped into that guy and everything. Who was he, anyway?”

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

The slithering monstrosity reached out and wrapped its snake-like tentacles around my body. It drew me toward its gaping, ebon maw filled with rows of fleshy suction cups. The orifice closed behind me as foul smelling enzymes coated my body. As my flesh dissolved, my consciousness drifted from my mind. The creature assimilated my being; I became part of it, and it part of me. All of us. Together. As one.

And soon, I’d get to know the guy I bumped into very well. He would also develop terminal cancer. No doubt he’d take the deal, just as I had, same as the man who bumped into me…

~ Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2017 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved

Damned Words 20

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Judgment
Nina D’Arcangela

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

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


The Thirty Second Burn
Lee A. Forman

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

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

The weak are lucky. To die is beautiful.

The guards guide me inside.

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


Volatile State
Joseph A. Pinto

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


The Other White Meat
Hunter Shea

“It smells like barbecue.”

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

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

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

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

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

Jett struggles to hold her down.

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


Holdout
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

What the…

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

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

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


Let It Die
Jon Olson

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


Exotic Cuisine
A.F. Stewart

“Roasting chestnuts by the fire.”

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

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

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

I smiled and picked up my butcher knife.

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


Broken Boy Blue
Mercedes M. Yardley

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

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


The Chant, The Charm
Veronica Magenta Nero

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


Human Coal
Brian Moreland

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


The Bridge
Mark Steinwachs

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


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

The Record of Harold Snyde

The black disk spun as the music enthralled its listeners. It spoke a language more beautiful than any human tongue. It sang in sweet tones of joy and cried in wails of sorrow as the symphony progressed. Like a puppet master deftly maneuvering strings, it directed bodies as they danced with grace, ever mindful of the next movement, the next step.

Only when the needle was lifted did they stop. The Victrola was the instrument, Mr. Harold Snyde, the conductor.

His guests had been invited to his home under false pretense of a dinner party; one which could be described as nothing short of an unmitigated success.

After dessert, he invited those gathered into the parlor for a musical interlude. When he placed the recording onto the spinning table and set the needle into the disc’s carved groove, they all began to dance. He knew they would. He’d tested it on his late wife prior to her passing of heart failure. An unfortunate occurrence, for her. But not for Mr. Snyde. He inherited her vast fortune, and the aforementioned record player.

When Mrs. Snyde had still been among the living, he’d found it buried deep in the attic behind old crates and piles of books no one would ever read again. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs.

“What are you doing with that old thing?” she’d questioned with disdain.

“What do you mean, dear? I’m setting it up so I can listen to my records.”

“Why don’t you just buy a new one? We hardly need to reuse junk from the attic,” she’d clucked, barely disguising her distaste.

He didn’t reply. Instead, he placed a record on the player and turned it on. She began to dance, and dance, and dance; a strange expression painted on her face, as if fear struck her ill.

“I thought you hated my choice of music?” he asked her prancing form.

She didn’t reply.

“Lynn, what has gotten into you?”

Still her mouth uttered no words.

He crossed his arms and watched her sway and whirl around the room without stopping. He let it go on for some time before raising the arm off the record.

She stopped dancing and blinked a few times. “What… What just happened?”

“You were dancing! It was wonderful!”

“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to dance. I don’t understand.”

“Let’s try it again, shall we?” Harold said, and turned the music back on.

She’d begun to raise a palm, to tell him to wait, but the music took over and sent her twirling about like a ballerina. He sat and watched in fascination from his favorite reading chair, smiling at her frame as it seemed to glide about the room as if weightless.

As she went on and on without end, he wondered how long the player would have an effect. He soon had his answer; she danced until she died several hours later.

Before the police and ambulance arrived, he dredged up old memories to proffer genuine tears. He didn’t want to appear apathetic or distracted. Tissue in hand, he wiped his eyes while the paramedics took her body away and the officers questioned him. It worked perfectly. There was no need for them to know those tears weren’t for his deceased wife, but for his beloved dog, Ralph, who’d passed when he was a boy.

Now, no one suspected a thing; not the police, nor his current guests. He presumed they all believed him in need of company. He was, after all, alone in such a large house, with a wife so recently in the ground and no children to share his grief. It had only been a week since the death of Mrs. Snyde, yet the vultures gathered had jumped at the opportunity to console the wealthy widower; the same gaggle who wouldn’t have bothered to utter his name prior to his wife’s passing.

He reveled in watching the contorted faces of his guests as they moved around the room with more grace than they ever would on their own. He wondered how long they’d last. Would they drop one by one? Would they all die around the same time? He wished he could bet on who would be the first to go, but there wasn’t anyone to take up the offer. It mattered little; he was having the time of his life. Watching those rich bitch-hogs dance uncontrollably gave him pleasure, and watching their lives give out would give him even more. They’d done him wrong and in return, he was going to do them right.

He watched Gerald, his legs bending and swaying, hips moving in sync with Barbara. The two socialite bastards had always talked behind his back. He’d seen them laughing with eyes pointed in his direction at the company Christmas party the previous year. Lynn had stood with them, probably telling them how he’d pissed his money away with a bladder full of drink.

There will be fewer attendees at the party this year, he thought with maniacal glee.

Henna and Charles, the investment dynamic-duo, or so they claimed. They looked to be the first to go. He saw their eyes droop, watched as their mouths hung open, a stream of unbecoming drool leaked freely onto each of their chins. Their arms swung loosely at their sides, propelled only by the movement of their hips, which no longer held any rhythm.

When he looked at their unsteady feet he laughed; the carpet had worn flat from the constant shuffling of their shoes. It had been Lynn’s favorite rug, worth quite a bit of money. I’d trade that floor rag for a bucket of dirt any day, he groused in his mind.

The soon to be deceased couple had lost him money time and again in fruitless endeavors. No more. That rug will be the last of your expenses.

Max still moved at a steady, upbeat pace. Mr. Snyde figured he’d be the last to drop. Max hadn’t done anything in particular to deserve such a merciless fate, he just didn’t like the mook bastard.

He poured himself a glass of whiskey and raised it to his guests. “Thank you all for coming! I’m having a wonderful time!” He laughed and sipped his drink.

By the time he’d gone through five or six pours—he couldn’t remember how many—Max was the only one left standing. The clock read quarter of five. “Damn sun will be rising soon. We’d better call this party quits. Show yourselves out. Oh, wait… That’s right, you can’t!” He chuckled and spilled whiskey with a wavering hand. “Hurry up and die, won’t you, Max. I need rid myself of the lot of you. Can’t have you stinking up the place.”

Max’s eyes pleaded with him. Their sorrowful look begged to be released, ached to be set free.

“Can’t go back now, buddy. Sorry.”

He reached for an iron rod from the fireplace, swung it hard. Max went down like the market crash of ’29.

He lifted the needle from the record for some peace and quiet while he piled the bodies together on the rug. When he attempted to pick Max up, he heard soft grumbles emanating from the man’s throat. The blow to the back of his head hadn’t killed him. “What’s that you say? Speak up, boy!”

Mr. Snyde thought he heard a profane remark as he hoisted Max up by putting his arms under his shoulders, but the young man’s speech was still unintelligible. “What’s that now?”

“Fuck you!”

Max’s hand reached out just far enough to push the needle back onto the vinyl disc and the music started to play.

Releasing his hold on Max, Mr. Harold Snyde began to dance…

~ Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved

Damned Echoes 4

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The Island
Brian Moreland

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


Thirty-seven Days
Joseph A. Pinto

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

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

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

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


A Passing Discomfort
Lee A. Forman

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

Sometimes it’s more.

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

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

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


Food Chain
Veronica Magenta Nero

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

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


Human Luxury
Craig McGray

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


Human Papers
Jon Olson

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


Bloater
Nina D’Arcangela

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

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


Echoes of a Chorus
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

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

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


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

Damned Words 19

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Chlorophyll
Joseph A. Pinto

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


The Autumn Quietus
Lee A. Forman

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


These Eyes
Nina D’Arcangela

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


Long Gone
Craig McGray

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


The Lake
Veronica Magenta Nero

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


Don’t You See?
Jon Olson

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


Autumnal Hunger
Zack Kullis

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

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


‘Squatch
Thomas Brown

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


The Painter
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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


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

Scattered Ramblings

The Process

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

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

~ Nina D’Arcangela


An Ensemble of Worms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Lee A. Forman


Eat

Eat.  Eat.

Granny always told me to eat.

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

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

Eat.  Eat, she always told me.

So I did.

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

Granny always told me to eat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can have your folks.

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

Granny motioned to that big old pot.

Eat.  Eat, she always told me.

So I did.

~ Joseph A. Pinto


Of Course I Agreed

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

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

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

He said he liked brown eyes.

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

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

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

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

Death came much slower than I hoped it would.

~ Christopher A. Liccardi


One Bullet Left

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

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

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

BANG!

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

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

“I never liked that dog.”

~ Craig McGray


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

Maxwell’s Cellar

“Brett, wake up.”

His voice echoed, came to my ears from great distance.

“Wake up, you worthless slag.”

Cracks of light burned my eyes. Slowly they grew until I saw the familiar boots of Sam Brooks. Those stupid fucking skull buckles… Peculiar how my first thought lent itself to something so unimportant.

He grabbed my collar and pulled me from the floor. “Come on, you shit, we’re going to see the boss.”

My attempts at a response led to no success. Throat dry, lips cracked, desperate for water—I couldn’t even croak. Not that I knew what the fuck I would say. I had no idea where I was and little memory of how I got there. Something about a bar and a yellow neon light; I’m pretty sure it was shaped in the name of some cheap beer.

Sam dragged me down the hall, jeans riding along the splintered wood floor. The dark stains didn’t instill comfort about where I was headed. They spoke of bad things, blood spilled.

His fist against the door thundered in my ears. Three hard knocks and the door opened. Sam dragged me in and dropped me on the floor at the foot of an old metal desk.

“So here he is,” Maxwell said. “Where ya’ been? You know I hate when I have to look for someone. It just gets to me.”

Sam kicked me with his stupid fucking boot. “I found him at the bar on East Main,” he said.

Maxwell laughed. “Figures.”

“He was all liquored up and ready for the taking.”

“So you didn’t give Sam here much trouble then, did ya’ little fella.”

“No, Boss,” Sam said. “No trouble at all.”

“That’s good. That’s very good.” Maxwell shook his head, took a half-smoked cigar from his ash tray, and lit it.

With great effort I managed to cough out a few words. “What am I doing here?”

They laughed at my question.

“I think he’s a bit confused,” Sam said, still chuckling.

“Won’t be for long.” Maxwell pulled deep on his cigar and blew a cloud of smoke in my face. “You took my money from Bobbi. Now why would you go and do something like that?”

I tried to focus, tried to remember who the hell he was talking about. I repeated the name in my head until it lost meaning.

“Come on, Brett,” Sam said. “Just admit what you done.”

“Bobbi?” I asked. “She’s the one with the scar on her cheek, isn’t she?”

“Well look at that. His memory is starting to come back.” Maxwell sat up from his chair and walked around the desk. He grabbed my hair and lifted my head, looked me in the eyes. “Why’d you take my money?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t take any money.” I couldn’t remember whether I did or not, but it didn’t seem like something I would do.

“Oh, you took it, alright,” Maxwell said. “Bobbi wouldn’t lie to me. Isn’t that right, Sam?”

“Damn right, Boss.”

“Now you gotta pay for what you done. And a few black and blue marks aren’t going to cut it. Are they, Sam?”

“No, sir. Not even close.”

I knew I was a scumbag. Who didn’t? But I was pretty sure I didn’t take any money, not from Maxwell.

“Take him to the cellar,” Maxwell said.

“Jesus, Boss. Isn’t that a little harsh?”

The uncertain tone in Sam’s voice spoke of something more horrible than I could imagine. He had an iron stomach and no conscience. The wavering of his words told me it was something even he wasn’t going to enjoy. And that terrified me.

Sam tied my hands behind my back and lifted me off the floor. He dragged me back through the hallway and outside into the alley. Normally that would be where it ended, with a bullet to the head. But I knew they had something more sinister in mind.

He opened the back door of his old Chevy and threw me in. I heard the engine roar to life and he drove with a heavy foot. I watched familiar streets go by until we ended up in an unfamiliar place. We must have traveled a few miles without seeing a single house.

The car stopped and the engine went silent.

“I’m sorry,” Sam said.

It was that moment reality became apparent. Sam probably never apologized to anyone his entire life, especially not to someone like me. But he did, and by the sound of his voice he meant it. The sadistic bastard was actually sorry for what he was about to do.

I thought back on my life; years flashed by in moments. I saw things I’d done and it put a sour taste in my mouth. I’d been a good for nothing piece of shit since I was able to raise my middle finger. But if Sam felt sorry for me I didn’t deserve what was coming.

He dragged me out of the car and walked me toward an old wood shack surrounded by dark forest. Few stars shined through the canopy above. My guts felt like they were about to come out of my ass.

Sam stopped at the door and stood motionless. He took keys from his pocket and looked at them for a while before undoing the padlock and pulling me inside. We descended stairs that went down into the pit of the Earth. At the bottom a pale yellow light glowed.

I heard something move and Sam jumped. It was then I realized why Sam had an issue with what Maxwell ordered—even he was afraid.

“What’s down there?” I asked, my voice barely able to formulate the words. “What the fuck is it? Just tell me!”

Sam ignored my pleas and took a deep breath as we got to the bottom of the stairs. A wood bar stool sat in the center of the cellar. The yellow light came from a neon sign just like the one at the bar, with that same logo for cheap beer, the one I sat next to most nights of my shitty adult life.

Sam pushed me toward the stool. He kept me at arm’s length, keeping his hand on my back. He forced me to sit and tied my hands and feet to the wooden legs.

Black, stringy appendages shot out from a dark corner of the room and latched onto my skin. Dozens of them stuck all over my body. It was as if they each contained thousands of tiny teeth that chewed through my clothes and bit down on every nerve receptor within their vicinity. Intense pain flooded through me like electricity. Whatever it was could not be seen. It was blacker than the emptiness of space, something that didn’t just absorb light, but pulled it completely out of existence.

A foul looking tube crawled along the floor like a serpent. Its slime-covered surface glistened in the yellow light. It worked its way up my leg, pulsating and releasing a nauseating odor. The intestine-like appendage entered my mouth and forced a slick mucus down my throat. I gagged against it but it flowed like a fucking river. I felt my own vomit forced back into my gut. It was feeding me, feeding me so it could keep me alive for who knows how long while it suckled on my flesh.

“I just wanna let you know something,” Sam said as he backed away toward the stairs.

My eyes rolled in his direction.

“It was me. I took the money.”

∼Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.

 

Damned Echoes 3

de_cloud_03

Priorities

Joseph A. Pinto

An impressive room, had it not been for the blood splattering the wall.

Usually Callie spoke nothing but shit, but this time she told no lies—the casino had hooked her up with a suite straight from Roman times; marbled floors and columns kissing the vaulted ceiling.  Several baths bigger than her apartment at home.

Lee arrived in Vegas soon after her poker tourney had ended; just before the dead had claimed the strip. He found Callie sitting on the couch, cork opener dripping in her hand.

Fuck. He hadn’t even unpacked yet.

“Took a couple of tries,” she said, “till I drove it through his head.”

Lee looked over the remains of the bellman.

“At least I got the wine,” Callie exhaled. “2004 Ghost Horse Cabernet Fantome.”

“You’re doing well for yourself.”

Callie shrugged. “I get by. Drink now. Kill later.”

He could never argue with her logic.


Lyla
Lee A. Forman

Ebony clouds accumulated over his sweet Lyla. With a flash of lightning her face illuminated with life, if only for a moment. Thunder and rain followed and washed the blood from her flesh. Nature cleansed his bride no longer to be. Eugene ground his hands in the wet soil and let his body fall against her green dress.

I saw the darkness in her, he thought. Those soulful orbs had to be removed; I had no choice. I had to release the nefarious glow peering behind her once beautiful eyes.

As Lyla’s body sank into the soft earth Eugene stared into her orbital cavities one last time. He then took his blade in hand and gouged out his own gelatinous keepers of evil.


Rich Stain
Nina D’Arcangela

Emitting a huff more feral than the land had ever known, the beast took to the field with vigorous delight; the cover of forest fell quickly behind. A pack no fewer than twenty stood stunned at its approach. The signal given a heartbeat too late, they turned as one to flee, but their fate was sealed – the unholy creature was upon them. Teeth shone with a flash as claws raked delicate nubile flesh. The air stank of sweat and fear. Shrieks of terror ripped through the calm of the clearing; the once green meadow now bubbled with iron rich stain.


Why Did I Wait So Long To Leave?
Jon Olson

Goddamn curiosity got the better of me. The images I saw flash on my television didn’t do it justice. I had to see it for myself. As I crossed the street to reach the beach, people were already fleeing. The cars packed with families and personal belongings. If I had been smart I would’ve been one of them. I stood in the sand, gazing out at the ocean. Initially there was nothing, only rolling waves. Then I saw it. The peak of its head broke through the surface. Green and grey scales covered the massive cranium; two yellow eyes stared back at me. A low, guttural growl erupted from its belly, spilled out of its mouth; the sound loud, deafening and horrifying. As the beast rose out of the water, the thought of running quickly dissipated. Why did I wait so long to leave?


Pink Orchid
Thomas Brown

She goes by many names – Ghost Jessie, Indian Stick… her favourite? Pink Orchid: rare, a stunning beauty, suggestive of the way she unfurls for the right price, under the right touch.

She works everywhere. Tonight they are meeting at her’s. This one found her on a website, The Elitist Suite; “Had to call, had to meet Pink Orchid in the flesh.” They are all the same.

He arrives on the dot. Sometimes she sees them waiting outside, smoking in their cars, drumming fingers across the dash. She knows the feeling. Come in, get it over with, please.

They do not fuck for long. He comes quickly, and she is ravenous. He is still thrusting when she starts to change; she watches him through myriad eyes as ecstasy turns into terror. He screams but she has him pinned. Soft, weak, this sorry man, this meat. Pink Orchid always starts head-first.


The Inquisitor
Veronica Magenta Nero

The Inquisitor places the goblet under dangling feet, it collects the steady drip as blood streams down the taught torso and limbs.

“It is not your confession I want.” says the Inquisitor calmly. The Inquisitor is a black cloaked figure in a cold stone room of darker shadows. The hood comes down low over the face, only lips are visible. Full red lips that turn slightly up at the corners at the trembling suffering on display, the man is suspended from a thick wooden beam in the ceiling.

The Inquisitor bends down to collect the cup. It is overflowing. Her hood falls back revealing emerald green eyes, an ungodly light shines in them.

“For my sisters, I present the wine of the persecutors.”

She toasts the priest then she drinks deeply.


Top Dog
Zack Kullis

Rhett stepped soundlessly into the penthouse. The fact that he was the second best contract killer on the east coast guaranteed this would be an easy kill. But he wanted to be the top dog.

He slipped through the immaculate residence like a ghost and stopped by a wine cellar. Rhett turned up his hearing enhancer to make sure the target was still sleeping, and then turned to the wine. He wasn’t an elitist like his mark, but he loved the expensive stuff.

Rhett stopped to caress the Musigny Grand Cru. How long had the snoring stopped? He had been careless. There was a little noise, but it was too cautious. It wasn’t the stumbling of the half-asleep…

The arm slipped around his neck as the blade opened his neck like a Pez dispenser. Rhett heard his target’s voice behind him as his blood sprayed.

“I’m still the best.”


Guilty Pleasures
Christopher A. Liccardi

The blood was like wine, mixing with the light pouring in the windows. The drapes moved in huge arcing waves, carrying with it the smells of ocean and decay.

He moaned; he was so close that she could have reached out and finished him off, but she wouldn’t lower herself to that. She was after all, an elitist. Such creatures as these were beneath her. No, she would leave him for the crows and the wolves to finish. They were not picky when it came to their next meal.

She rose up, nearly seven feet tall and glided to the window to look out. She wouldn’t allow herself this guilty pleasure; this tasty morsel. She would abstain, just this once.

The chime rang for the front door. She turned and her eyes flashed an electric blue. She could smell her food… and the take-out Chinese she ordered with it.


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

Damned Words 18

Damned_Words_18

Ravenous Eyes
Jon Olson

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


Washed Ashore
Joseph A. Pinto

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

Yes, you have found much use.

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


Deep Sleep
Zack Kullis

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

“God bids thee sleep.”


My Gift
Hunter Shea

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


Treasure Hunter
Tyr Kieran

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


Dissolution
Lee A. Forman

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

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

Life feeds. Life dies.

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


Idyllic
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

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

The birds don’t seem to mind, though.


Icarus
Veronica Magenta Nero

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


Driftwood
Thomas Brown

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

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

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


Fowl Deeds
Nina D’Arcangela

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

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


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

Consigned to Oblivion

The catacomb swallowed him like the throat of a great beast. With kerosene lantern in hand, he crept down long spiral staircases which led deep into the subterranean bowels beneath Hillside Cemetery. Cobwebs clung to his neck and tangled in his hair. He swiped at them with his free hand and shuddered when his fingers brushed against a hairy body. Tiny legs scrambled to escape but it couldn’t move fast enough; he flung the arachnid against the wall. At the bottom of the stairwell, uncovered remnants of the once living slept eternal in their wall crypts. He eyed them as he walked by and wondered how old they might be.

Vastly ancient, he thought. Beyond compare…

A set of piercing eyes appeared in the dark. The lantern revealed a large rat, its fur soaked in filth. It squeaked as it fled his presence and crawled into a crack in the wall.

This place must be crawling with them. I’m probably surrounded. An involuntary shiver shook his body.

The hall led straight as far as the lantern allowed him sight, both walls lined with those laid to rest innumerous centuries ago. He followed its dark stretch with haste, wanting desperately to find the ossuary he’d obsessed over for so long.

He remembered the last thing Horace said before he left. I’m telling you, don’t go down there. That place was forgotten for a reason.

Booker disregarded the warning; it only made his fevered passion burn brighter.

A cold breath of air blew by, ruffling his shirt and swinging his lantern on its handle. He spun on his heels and scanned the dark, heart rattling against his ribs. He took labored breaths and put his hand to his chest.

“Holy shit.” His voice came out weak, stifled, toned down in the ancient stone chamber.

He turned and quickened his steps. The gust of air made him uneasy; he couldn’t fathom where it might have originated and how it reached the depths of isolation he traveled. But he had to continue. So close after years of research, nothing could dissuade him.

He wondered how long it had been since a living being last tread the ground he paced. Difficult to imagine a pre-historic civilization, uncharted and known only to a select few who had extreme enthusiasm about such things. Surprising how they remained absent from art and literature, unclaimed by the scholars of history. But he, Booker Thorn, walked the sacred ground of their forgotten corpses.

An arch stood at the end of the tunnel, behind it, the ossuary he hoped to find.

“I finally found it. It’s real. And here it is right in front of me.”

He made hesitant steps when he heard the scrape of metal against the floor. With no foreknowledge of what the chamber contained, the possibilities both allured and terrified his curious mind. He certainly hadn’t expected movement. But the inconsistent sound of metal dragged against stone told not of treasure and artifacts, but of something possibly much more interesting and rare. Movement indicated life, as impossible as it seemed in the house of death.

He stretched his arm to extend the light by which he could see. It revealed a chain on the floor, but not what it connected to. His eyes followed the links into the ebony shadow that filled the room. The chain moved again, pulled further into the void by an unknown force. The lantern rattled in his hand and he steadied it with effort.

Breath heaved in and out through a raspy throat. Booker listened intently, silencing himself to hear.

Whatever’s in there is alive. But how could that be? How could something live down here for millennia? Did someone beat me to this place?

The breathing quieted and Booker sat still. He waited for the unknown to make a move; he didn’t want to go first.

The chain flew across the chamber with force, scraping the stone blocks on which it rested. The sudden movement sent Booker reeling back. He dropped the lantern and the glass shattered. The light flickered and went out.

Breathing intensified as darkness consumed him. He retrieved a book of matches from his pocket, tore one from the pack and struck it; fire exploded into existence at the tip, lending poor light to the situation. He swallowed hard and crawled along the floor, bringing the flame closer to the coveted chamber.

The chain moved, ran its cold metal over his fingers. He barred his teeth and stifled a cry.

Hot breath descended on his neck, followed by a snort which shot a foul cloud of decay around his head. The contents of his stomach spilled with brutal force.

A strong hand gripped his thigh and lifted him from the floor. He dropped the match, allowing darkness its return. He dangled in the air, trachea closed, unable to scream. No intelligible thought could formulate in his mind—terror decimated reason and ripped primal fear from deep within the psyche.

The unseen hand that held him tightened fingers until bone snapped. Shock spread like fire as he gasped for air involuntarily.

A flare of agony came with a stabbing sensation and ended with the flesh of his leg torn open. Liquid caressed his side, dripped from his head to the floor. The cut ran deep, sliced through fat and muscle, and scraped the broken bone inside.

He heard a crack when the femur was wrenched from his thigh, followed by the wet slap of boneless skin falling against his torso. Eyes opened wide and waves of visceral imagery crashed against his screaming brain.

His twitching body dropped to the floor. He sensed his arm pop from its socket, the flesh torn away, but it felt distant, the pain only a dull throb. His chest hitched in feeble attempts to get air as his ribs snapped one after another.

A sliver of light appeared above, shining down from an opening at the peak of the vaulted chamber.

Light… There’s light…

Skeletal frame extracted, his body sagged into a muddle of human pulp. All thought coalesced. A crunch echoed, crisp and clear. Eyes lolled toward the sound and a glimpse of what occupied the room burned into his final memory.

Long teeth chewed blood soaked bone, shoved into its mouth with thin, curved fingers. Its leathery brown skin pulsed with thick veins and creased in endless folds and wrinkles. Two black discs stared from a misshapen head.

The light dimmed and went out as the opening in the ceiling closed, the underworld of forgotten things again consigned to oblivion.

∼Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.

 

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