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The Final Arrow

Park benches are the domain of lovers. They sit cuddled together, giggling as they etch their names in the wood, their pride palpable as if no one else has ever vandalised public property before. I’ve lost count of the number of times a park bench has been the site for my aim. It is apt that I found him there, a new kind of saviour for these loveless days.

I had one arrow left.

I clutched it with both hands and pointed it at my own chest. The shaft was dull and rusted but the tip was razor sharp, imbued with magic, ready to transform the flesh it pierces.

It is not that I longed for love, not that I wanted to be blinded to the reality around me by romance. Rather, I hoped the arrow would kill me and put an end to this game I have been sentenced to play since time immemorial.

I realised I had done this world a great disservice, leading them astray into the folds of daydreams. If they had gained any wisdom it was not because of my arrows but through the pain of surviving them. My arrows had not been able to hold at bay the rising deluge of suffering in this world.

By a large fountain in the remains of a city park, I readied myself for the plunge of the arrow’s tip. The early morning was clear and quiet. A cool stinging mist from the splashing water was in the air, like blessings from heaven. But the blessings were bitter and twisted, the water green and acidic.

I glanced around, hoping I would soon be free of this wretched place. That’s when I spotted the man, through dead tree trunks, asleep on a park bench, swathed in grimy rags, his bare feet blue and swollen with cold.

An idea occurred to me, a better idea. The arrow lowered, my grasp softened. I would not use it on myself.

Once more I resolved do what was expected of me, one final arrow fired to spark and flame hope.

It has been said that love conquers all and indeed over millennia there has been nothing I could not infiltrate, no darkness or terror that could stop my arrow. When Vesuvius erupted I was there, piercing the hearts of those destined to fall in love even as they tried to outrun rivers of lava, huddling together in dark corners, their eyes meeting in sudden realisation, my arrow melting their hearts as liquid fire melted their flesh. Amidst the blistered pus of the sick and the rotting corpses abandoned by the Plague, my arrows did not hesitate on their course, bringing lovers together despite poverty and disease. During world wars and terrorist bombings, in small overflowing boats of refugees that rocked and sank on high seas, through chemical spills that wiped out species of birds and fish, I was there, eternal and invincible in the face of life’s horrors. Giving them hope, giving them joy, always driving them forward, with the focus and strength of Love’s arrow.

I have kept the final arrow for months, uncertain of how or when to use it. They stopped appearing in my quiver a long while ago. They replenished themselves in the past; my holder was always full with golden arrows, clean and freshly forged. My prayers and pleas to the gods for guidance went unanswered, smothered and silenced by the grey layer of pollution and debris that now surrounds this world. I have not had any contact with the other immortals for years, I don’t know if they have perished or escaped.

Left to my own devices I may have become a little too careless in the last few years. I was shooting arrows like an addict, without any dignity at all.

Love has always been reckless and impulsive, the oddest of couples have been drawn together by my work. Divorced from divine inspiration I lost focus and direction. Perhaps that is why the arrows dried up. But I am simply a messenger, delivering Love where it wishes to go. Love, it seemed, was almost completely extinct in this world, like so many other living things.

So I was down to one. One single arrow. One last shot. The weight of my task seemed unbearable. I wondered who would be worthy of this final arrow. I had to find a heart noble and righteous enough to receive it, to do it justice. It would be a final strike of life in a dying world, a catalyst for revival and change.

I roamed the rubble of cities around the globe searching for such a heart. I searched everywhere from shifting plains of ice to encroaching deserts to tumbledown ghetto towns. Nothing but terrified hearts bolted shut against any more intrusion and burden; not one single heart emitted a tiny spark, necessary to deserve the arrow.

When I saw the man on the bench I realised a different kind of Love was needed in this world. The Earth is blistered, once great cities are piles of smoking black rocks, the oceans are oily sludge. The Love that thrived before has no place here anymore. This final arrow would need a new magic. So I dipped the arrow in lakes of toxic waste, I sharpened it on bones in mass open graves, I rolled it in the shit and vomit of flooding gutters, I laced it with the culture of super viruses bred in clandestine labs, I bathed it in pools of blood from human abattoirs.

I returned to the park after many days and nights preparing my arrow and found the man was still there, sitting in his disease, a large empty paper cup in his hand.

I cradled the cursed arrow; it throbbed with a deadly romance.

I could hear his weak beating heart from across the park, slow and sluggish, weary and broken. He was nothing special, no great man. He was a human shell, already emptied out, a perfect receptacle for a new strain of love.

He raised his blackened eyes to me, glaring, unflinching, as I approached him. His face was coated with grey dust, his mouth a dry purple line.

I aimed the arrow at him, he gave no response. I didn’t hesitate, as is my way, I didn’t think twice. I drove it through his frail chest, deep into the cavity, and the tip touched the beating organ. Still his expression didn’t change, he felt nothing.

I drove it deeper, sliding it through until the tip popped out the other side, his heart pierced and committed. I saw it flash in his eyes, the recognition and desire. Was it love at first sight? No. It was something else. The beast within awakened and it wanted to survive.

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2017 Veronica Magenta Nero. 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.

Necropolis

MacPhersonville cemetery surrounded the town and was populated by the bones of early settlers. No one wanted to be buried there anymore, the modern crematorium had become the trend, but it was Frank Charles MacPherson the Third’s wish that he be buried alongside his ancestors. The MacPherson line had founded MacPhersonville; they were practically royalty.

Rumours that the cemetery was unhallowed ground were common. Many strange incidents had taken place there.

“Nonsense!” snapped Mrs. Emma Anne MacPherson, the matriarch, when family members whispered in her ear that the cemetery was cursed.

“My dear old Frank wants to be buried there and I shan’t hear another word to the contrary.”

On the morning of the service guests deliberated whether or not they should attend. They fingered neckties, fiddled with black veils, they smoothed creases on black trousers and skirts, but they knew they had to put in an appearance. It wasn’t any old corpse being laid to rest, it was the corpse of MacPherson the Third. Nobody wanted to be ostracised by the MacPhersons.

***

The large ornate gates of the cemetery creaked shut and slammed as the catch fell into place. Two ironwork angels faced each other, their trumpets held high. They were rusted orange, the white paint long gone. Mrs Barbara De Laverio, the town baker and the last of the funeral party to shuffle in, shivered as the gates shut behind her. She stared at the angels suspiciously, but she took a deep breath and held her tongue.

The coffin was covered by an arrangement of lilies and white roses, proud courtesy of Mrs. Edith Birkingham, the town florist. It was carried slowly by the bearers; followed by the Reverend James Peter, Reverend Jacob and Reverend Nathaniel. The small town had a high number of clergy posted there. No one wanted to ask why all three priests were present that day. They led the procession, their hands clasped within bell sleeves.

Sigmund, the groundskeeper, lurked out of view as the funeral party entered. He realised in despair that the entire town had shown up for the service.

Sigmund squeezed his eyes shut. It had been a long time since he had received an order to dig. The previous night, it had come again, accompanied by the heaviness on his chest, skin burning, ringing in his ears.

“Wake up boy and get to work! It’s time to dig!” roared the voice.

It rattled inside his head, a delighted cackle. There was nothing Sigmund could do to resist. He had been bound to the Guardian of the cemetery many years ago and was not able to venture beyond the gates. He had watched everyone he knew meet their inevitable end. Camped in squalor in the tiny caretaker’s cottage, he was the only living thing that wandered the rows of crumbling headstones. The other occupants of the cemetery were the souls of the dead.

***

The funeral party made their way along the gravel road, up the hill to the open plot. The congregation gathered around quietly. Reverend James Peter began the sermon.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to lay to rest a great man, great great grandson of our founding father, Frank Charles MacPherson. He was the pinnacle of our good community, a respected businessman, a loving father and husband….”

As the Reverend spoke the coffin began to tremble. From within came a long muffled groan. Mrs. Emma Anne Macpherson sat stunned in the front row, an embroidered handkerchief pressed to her nose.

Reverend James Peter paused and the three priests exchanged anxious looks. The young Reverend Nathaniel took a few steps back, frightened already. Reverend Jacob nodded seriously to Reverend James Peter. Best to cut the babble and get to the important stuff. Reverend James Peter began making the sign of the cross over the coffin and continued.

“Rest in peace Frank Charles Macpherson the Third, in the name of the Father and of the…”

The coffin rocked again, this time more violently.

“Fucking hell!” swore Reverend Nathaniel.

The coffin exploded with a loud crack. Sharp chunks of wood flew at the priests, red blotches quickly staining their white robes.

Old man MacPherson sat upright on his cushioned satin, staring ahead with milky eyes. His mouth dropped open as if in surprise, then he turned to face his family.

Mrs. MacPherson broke into hysterical squeals and the man who was once her husband chuckled.

The crowd began to disperse, screams erupting.

***

Sigmund had crept closer to watch, peering from behind a tree.

The Guardian had come. The Guardian would claim everyone.

“You can’t run, you can’t run.” He muttered, a yellow puddle growing at his feet.

***

The sun eclipsed; the sky darkened. People were lifted into the air as they fled, they spun slowly like flies caught in a web.

Frank Charles Macpherson the Third climbed out; he dusted off his grey suit and straightened his blue silk tie.

“What a special day!” he said “All of us together again!”

His wife sobbed into her handkerchief; the MacPherson clan cowered around her.

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

Reverend Jacob rambled as he sprinkled holy water, shards of wood embedded in his chest and thigh.

“Shut up, fool!” roared Frank and sent the priest flying with a wave of his arm. “Neither God nor the Devil himself cares about this hole of a town! I am Guardian and Reaper, the only afterlife that awaits you is within my gates!”

The MacPhersons screamed and huddled closer. They watched in terror as Frank Charles MacPherson the Third was torn apart from the inside. His arms popped out of their sockets. His torso split, rib cage stretching, stomach bursting, entrails gushing. The old man’s face cracked in half, blood seeping before his skull exploded. The jelly of dead brains wobbled through the air. The demon emerged from the carnage, a huge reptilian creature with moist black wings.

“The city of the damned comes alive once more! Come forth my minions! Feast! Frolic!”  He stretched his wings to their full length and rose to the darkened heavens.

A cacophony of groans began as souls rose from their graves. They could be seen in the eerie unnatural light, grey wraiths that reeled through the air. Ancient skeletons began to push and crawl their way out of the earth. They dangled and swayed, dressed in dirty tatters.

The bodies pinned in the air rained from the sky and plummeted to the ground. The wraiths howled in excitement as they flew towards them, diving and taking possession. The mangled bodies rose, arms and legs twisted, necks broken.

The dead feasted on the living and the living began to feast on each other. Latent passions were sparked and grudges were fuelled. The butcher’s wife turned on her husband’s mistress, wrestling her to the ground, grinning as she strangled and pounded her head to pulp. The postman and the librarian tumbled onto the nearest slab of marble. Foaming at the mouth, they tore at more than clothes, ripping chunks of hair, gouging eyes.

The demon streaked through the blackened sky, his laughter a deep rumble that rattled the earth.

***

The skeletons of Frank Charles MacPherson the First and Second lurched towards the MacPhersons who remained huddled together by the desecrated grave. They pointed at them, growing agitated, their jawless skulls bobbing wordlessly. They would not be able to protect their family from the horde that was advancing.

A macabre flock of bedevilled bodies stumbled up the hill towards them. They fell upon the screaming MacPhersons, gnawing at flesh and drinking the bloodline of their founding fathers. The most perverse of hatred was reserved for the dying bodies of the priests.

Night clung to the cemetery; it became a timeless realm. The possessed tormented and molested each other, revelling in arousal and repulsion. Sigmund watched in fascination, and soon abandoned himself to the frenzy of sex and violence.

Freshly murdered souls drifted earthbound, gazing upon their own slaughtered remains. Their agony echoed on the wind, drifting through the empty town and across the mountains.

Eventually stillness fell, the dark skies cleared and a weak sun emerged, shining dimly upon the cemetery.

***

“Keep digging my boy!” laughed the demon as he whipped Sigmund with his tail. Sigmund was beyond all inkling of humanity by then, grunting and drooling in the mud as he dug furiously with both hands, naked but for the dry blood that coated his body. It was the biggest pit he ever had to dig, a massive open grave into which he dragged the mutilated corpses that lay scattered about.

***

MacPhersonville still stands today, a derelict town in the middle of nowhere, subject of many a ghost story.

No one is certain how the town people all strangely vanished. Their homes and stores were found abandoned yet orderly. A long trail of cars remains parked outside the cemetery, an empty funeral hearse at the front. It appears as if the whole town entered the cemetery and disappeared. It is said that if you visit MacPhersonville Cemetery at certain times of year, at the equinoxes or a rare blue moon, it becomes a buzzing necropolis, alive with the debauchery of the dead, but none who dare venture beyond the gates ever return to tell their tale.

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. 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.

Bird Song

There was a scratching on the glass that roused her from light sleep. At this stage she was so uncomfortable and so preoccupied with thoughts of the birth that she rarely got much real sleep at all. It was her first baby.

Again there came a peculiar scratching noise. Sam sighed and slowly rolled herself into a sitting position. Her extended belly, taught and round, nestled between her thighs. She looked around the dim room, disorientated for a moment. It was late at night and she could hear the rumble of the television downstairs, her husband was probably watching a movie. She rubbed her temples; she had a headache.

There was another sound at the window. This time it was a soft tap, tap, tap. She frowned. Pushing herself up carefully, she waddled to the window and pulled the curtain back, peering into the quiet suburban night. At first all seemed perfectly normal but then she noticed it, nestled amongst the bare branches of a nearby tree, a bird. A monstrously huge bird. She stared at it confused, her mind was heavy and foggy. The bird turned to face her, large yellow eyes stared back. It had a long beak and large wings folded around its body. The bird unfurled its wings, stretching them wide. The sound of their flapping was a dense vibration in the night. The creature had the body of a woman, with small pointed breasts and long pale legs, large clawed feet curled the thick branch.

Sam watched the strange bird woman for a while, emotionless, wondering if she was actually dreaming, until a sudden stabbing pain in her lower belly made her groan and clutch herself in fear. When she looked up the bird woman had disappeared but the sharp pangs continued. She began shouting her husband’s name.

***

Nothing was left to chance, they had planned everything to the last detail. The best doctor, the best hospital, but chance was not the only force at play.

Sam squeezed and pushed and panted, her face swollen red.

The nurse patted her arm, her husband talked into her ear.

“‘You’re doing really well!” he said cheerfully.

In between contractions that blinded and winded her, Sam fell back onto the pillows gasping. She heard that sound again, tap tap tap on glass. Hovering close, outside at the large window, a dark form, wide yellow eyes pinned on her. Sam watched as the creature stretched her black wings and paced, she seemed excited or perhaps anxious. Nobody else seemed to notice. Sam tried to say something about the birdwoman but then she launched into another contraction.

The birth went without complications. After a few days she returned home, her tiny joy bundled in white. It was a little girl, they named her Amy. The memory of the birdwoman and her piercing gaze haunted her, but Sam was relieved the birth was over with and just wanted to get some sleep.

Her daughter had different ideas. She refused to be put down. The moment she was laid in her plush pink and white crib she began to wail and no amount of rocking or cooing would make her stop until she was picked up again. For a week Sam’s husband and mother were around to help and tend to Amy while Sam got some rest. Then they both had to return to work and Sam spent the days alone, jiggling and patting and pacing with her baby attached. She slumped in the armchair in front of the television, with Amy on her chest, still suckling. Sometimes she managed to put Amy down for a brief moment and make a cup of tea or have a shower before the baby began to cry again. She loaded the pram with all the essentials and went for walks around the neighbourhood. Amy seemed to like the pram on some days. Other days she didn’t like the pram at all and Sam pushed her along as she cried, pausing now and then to plug her mouth with a dummy. Sam avoided stopping for small talk with neighbours who lost all composure at the sight of her newborn baby. They gushed and swooned and giggled. It made her feel guilty. Sam always politely excused herself and hurried off, anxious. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with her. She was not a good mother.

The birdwoman was always there. And every night, while her husband patiently tried to put Amy to sleep, Sam sat in bed with the covers tucked under her chin, listening for sounds of her. She always came at the same hour, scratching against glass, tap tap tap. It was a little frightening but Sam was certain she couldn’t enter the house and in the morning she would be gone. Maybe the birdwoman was there to help her, or to give her a message, she wondered, and then she was surprised by such odd thoughts. Sometimes she spied through the lace curtains, trying to stand out of view, and watched the birdwoman perched in the large tree outside. The birdwoman sat silently, her head tucked under one of her wings, her feathers ruffled against the cold night air. But when she turned to stare at Sam, her yellow eyes like mirrors in the night, Sam’s heart would begin to pound. She would pull the curtains closed and rush away into bed. She looked over at her husband, snoring lightly beside her, and wondered if she should tell him about the birdwoman. He looked so pale and exhausted himself, with dark circles around his eyes and rough stubble on his face. Sam felt anger bubble inside her and she glared at the crib, which for a short while remained silent.


***

The truth is Sam had known something was wrong on the way home from the hospital. Why wasn’t she overjoyed, beaming with happiness and pride over her perfect newborn daughter? Why did she look at her baby and feel only that sinking dread, a dread that seemed to fall deeper and deeper into nothingness as the days passed? Those tiny little curled fists, ten miniature toes, the soft creases of delicate eyelids, the dusty creaminess of newborn skin; these things should make her giddy with wonder and joy but they evoked nothing in her.

She remembered how happy she and her husband were when she was first pregnant, but soon after a coldness had settled over her. It was a thick sheet that muted the world, only the vague suggestion of things remained. The coldness had taken root, just like the foetus in her womb, growing day by day. Maybe they were one and the same, she didn’t know, she couldn’t tell. She carried life and death at the same time. She struggled through the pregnancy. When she mentioned her doubts and fears people nodded sympathetically. It’s all very normal, they said, with all those hormones going up and down.

After the birth the coldness was not purged as she hoped it would be. Amy was born in gushes of hot blood and mucous but the coldness remained embedded inside. The birdwoman knew, and she understood. Whenever Sam was caught in her gaze she felt ashamed. The birdwoman could read her most private, unspeakable thoughts.

***

One night, when Amy was less than a month old, Sam woke to find herself sprawled on the couch. She didn’t remember falling asleep. The television was on, with the volume turned down. The house was very quiet, a heavy and peculiar silence. Sam remembered that she was home alone as her husband was working out of town for a few days. She hurried upstairs to check on Amy.

At the bedroom door she froze, startled by what she saw. The birdwoman was standing by the crib, singing softly to Amy. She sang in the language of birds, her voice rising and falling. Amy was awake, both her little hands reached up for the strange woman. Tiny pink fingers curled around old withered skin tipped with long talons.

Sam stepped into the room, not frightened anymore but excited to be so close to this creature. She was very tall. Her powerful wings were folded behind her and swept the floor.

Sam tried to speak but when the birdwoman turned, those yellow eyes gleaming, her sharp beak poised open, all words dropped away.

A choir of bird song erupted in the room.

“It is time. I have come for her. She is mine.”

Sam walked over to the crib and looked down at her daughter. The baby gazed up at them both, content and peaceful.

Sam picked up her baby and began rocking her slowly in her arms, for the first time she genuinely smiled at her. At last she realized the intimate and profound bond she shared with her child.

Huge black wings, of coarse and ancient feathers, opened and stretched across her vision, filling the room, wrapping Sam and her daughter in a shroud of darkness. For a moment they were hidden from all the worlds as the pact was made.

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes 3

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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.

Nemesis

I have been known by many names, I prefer Nemesis. Like all deities, my origin and true purpose have been forgotten, denied and sanctified by folklore. I was the dispenser of Justice before justice became a blindfolded woman in the courts of men. I see into the hidden depths of your soul and make manifest your most despised fears, I deliver what you truly deserve. It is not karma, it is not an eye for an eye, it is pure punishment. I will take both eyes and every other organ as well.

I take pride in my work; the dead squabble at the gates of my kingdom as if vying for entrance to an exclusive club. Only the very top skimming of filth, those responsible for the most extraordinary cruelty may proceed. 
There are many realms of Hell. The common evil doers toss and tumble in pits of flame for eternity, a monotonous suffering fit for the feeble minded. Liars, thieves, adulterers, blasphemers, you will wish you had the balls to really follow your dark urges when you are sentenced to those seething pits of tedious torment. Those pathetic souls are not fit to be in Hell but, of course, the gatekeepers of Heaven will not take them so here they remain: moaning, bitching, squirming; just as they did in life.

Every moment fresh hoards are ushered through the screaming fields where they first witness the horrors they will be subjected to. Row upon row, as far as can be seen, the damned are staked and raked, enduring visions of torture I project upon them.

Among my elite charge are infamous mass murderers, pedophiles, tyrants and politicians, and my favorites, men of the cloth. I have them to thank for the more creative implements of torture at my disposal. I don’t often get my own hands dirty, I have gimps to perform the menial tasks, but sometimes a particular soul will beg for my personal attention.

I have created my world to beautiful perfection. The Infernal Lord respects my artistry and allows me to proceed as I wish. I stroll through the black smoking fields, the rolling hills of ash and debris, piled high with torn limbs, rotting organs, shattered bones. My vulturous familiars flock and feed on the remains, their red eyes glistening like jewels in the fog. The shrieks of the damned are a blissful, primeval hum; the stench of decay is always flourishing. I walk along the rivers of semen and bile that trickle into a thick sea of blood, and I find peace in my work. For a thousand years I have been content in my kingdom. And then you, my beloved, appeared at my gates.

I, of all beings, should appreciate the irony of Universal Law, but I was stunned, you took my breath away. Never did it occur to me that I would see you again, how could I have been so naive? One of my favorite tasks is to torture soul mates, making one watch the other suffer, squeezing them empty of the precious love they believed so rare. And then you, my beloved, were delivered to me.

I was working in the fields happily, the spread-eagled sod before me began a pleasant, pathetic wail at the mere sight of the rake I held. I raised the tool to begin but suddenly paused, shocked to feel your presence. The distinctive energy of you was close. A flock of dead, shrouded in black clouds of hate, were being ushered through the gates and you were amongst them, shuffling along, your head hung low.

Your body bore the marks and lashes of other kingdoms, you had been in Hell a long time but it was apparent you were not yet truly broken. In sheer audacity you clung to the shreds of your royal attire, wrapping them around yourself as if still a noble man. I stared as you walked past, then I returned to my work. Distracted, I tore the fellow before me into thin strips with one quick movement.

***

I left you strung up for days in the fields, uncertain of how I was going to approach you. Never before had I experienced this doubt in my own realm. Was this a test? Was I, Nemesis, being ridiculed? It baffled and insulted me. My prayers to the Infernal Lord were met with silence.

My gimps became nervous as they watched me grow withdrawn and silent.
“What task today Mistress? What wonders may we do today Mistress?” they sniffled and groveled at my feet and I kicked them away, impatient and angry.

“Hang them by their balls! Hook them up by their holes,” I shouted and paced. “Dip them in boiling fat then set them on fire! I don’t care, think of something! Do as you please and leave me alone!”

Brooding, I locked myself away, turning my back on my exquisite realm, until I could avoid you no longer.

***

I lifted your head with the tip of my pitchfork. My great and powerful king, slayer of children, defiler of men, strung up like a corpse waiting to be gutted. I can still see that steady look on your face as you swung your jeweled sword and sliced off my head. You didn’t pause, you didn’t hesitate. Do you see me now? I have evolved; I have become something other, something more, while you have remained a wretch, stubbornly clinging to ideas that no longer serve you. Your royal birth, your blood line, is of no significance here.

Your eyes were glazed and gray, your once handsome face nothing but stretched skin over bone. In your mad delirium you mumbled the ancient hymns of your powerless pagan god. I stuck the spears of the pitchfork deep into your throat to get your attention. You lifted your eyes to meet my own. What traveled between us, in our gaze, horrified me and I let the pitchfork fall. A black putrid liquid seeped from the holes in your neck and trickled, streaking you with slime. 
We stared at each other. I thought it impossible, but it was there, tangible, the remnants of our love.

You recognized me and the mask of your face changed. Something in my long dead and hardened chest began to swell. Your eyes watered. Your tears were of black slime too and the thick drops sat on your cheeks like little bugs. A sound gurgled in your throat as you struggled for a voice. I heard you whisper my name, the name I had in life, and your whisper rattled my kingdom.

“My darling, my darling, is it really you?” you croaked. “Save me.”

A feeble plea dripping with sweet humiliation. Yet my sight blurred, a strange haze surrounded me. My rotten, phantom heart beat louder. Tears, my own tears, that I thought I would never need cry again, began rolling down my cheeks. I cried the blood of devils. I dropped to my knees and wept.

The ravaged earth below me laughed. It was the cruel laughter of the Infernal Lord, pleased to see me, the great Demoness Nemesis, broken. And then I looked up to see you too were chuckling, spluttering your black venom.

My tears stopped. A rage infused me, more glorious than I’ve ever felt before and I shrieked triumphantly at the pleasure of it. Without another moment’s hesitation I stood and rammed the pitchfork through your chest, then jacked it open. Your withered heart was a stone. I yanked it out and swallowed it.

Then I set to work, with renewed delight and focus.
 
Once we reigned as king and queen in a fertile and noble land. Now I reign alone over my own dominion. Your rule was cruel and villainous but my reign is without limitation.

I administered the tortures that you had enjoyed watching as king. I cut your tongue into thin slices, a slice for every lie and bribe you had spoken. A long stake through your anus and out your mouth, for the rapes of young men, women and children. I lost myself in a frenzy of dismemberment, plucking your ribs and vertebrae, savoring each diseased organ, weaving a lace of bondage with your own intestines.

My Lord appeared to me, breaking my reverie, so pleased was He with my work. I prostrated in obedience and we fornicated on your remains. Your gouged eyeballs watched, hanging out of the sockets of your severed head. Your twisted and scalded penis twitched, aroused. Your hands crawled away like bleeding spiders. My gimps came to scrape you up and put you back together again. Your torment will never end; it is a nightmare you will dream for eternity.

I will always be your Nemesis and you will be mine.

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes 2

Damnlings, welcome yet again to our lair of insanity where our depraved souls leak their nectar for your consumption…

In the collection of prose set forth before you, you will find each of the authors has been constrained to a measure between one hundred and one hundred fifty words; two of which must be borrowed from the nether’s uttering. But fear not, for the Damned wear our shackles well and true – we shrink from no challenge. Sit, read, perhaps ponder… which two of the five words on offer would you chose for a story worthy of the ink that drips from the Pen of the Damned?

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Not His Own
Jon Olson

The Dark One will be happy with this offering. It lies at my feet, struggling for breath – this man of valor. Sadly for him, no one will remember his name; only his actions. His hands, which under my power killed so many, now claw uselessly at the blood soaked earth. Staring into the sky, his eyes begin to glaze over. It is always closest to death that I can be seen. There is a hint of fear in his dulling orbs as he spots me, then a dawning realization that his actions were not wholly his own. In one quick swoop, I reach into his chest, tear out his soul. This will do nicely. Moving on, I look around the battlefield for the next of His children to inhabit.


Amshu and Nerezza
Lee A. Forman

“Why don’t you leave?”

“Why should I?”

“To inhabit a body for too long is dangerous.”

“Don’t you think I’m aware of that?”

“So why do you stay?”

“Why do you?”

Silence grew, both between life and something that wasn’t quite death—an eternal state of non-corporeal existence.

Nerezza grunted and folded both arms across a bare chest. “I came here first.”

“So shouldn’t you be the first to leave?” Amshu raised an eyebrow.

A smile split the coal expression on Nerezza’s face. “No.”

“Why is that?”

“Darkness is absolute. Light fades.”

“So stay here forever.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Quiet! The child awakens!”

With a groan it rubbed its eyes and sat up. It turned its head left and right, looking for the things born in its nightmares.

“Shall we flip a coin?”

“Don’t we always?” Amshu lowered both eyelids with boredom.

“Heads he lives, tails he dies.”


Allies
Joseph A. Pinto

They dug in, their bones, their charred, brittle bones, hacking the dirt with their spades.

Private McDermott watched as the cadaver platoon fortified their position within the trench.  His Sergeant had notified him help would be arriving, but this…?  A shell exploded nearby, and his sense of valor nearly fled.  He buckled his helmet beneath his chin and dropped into the ditch.

The cadavers worked without sound, just earth and burnt stone grinding within their joints.  Flesh, like tattered curtains, hung from their frames.  Foul, heinous things, McDermott had to remind himself these devil-spawns fought on their side now.

A cadaver leered, each socket a hellish foxhole in its own right.  McDermott recognized its prominent jaw line—Jimmy James.  Together they had seen basic training through.

Now McDermott wondered what was worse—the screaming Nazi mortars or the chattering of hungry teeth inside those damned Allied skulls?


Tomb
Veronica Magenta Nero

The air that seeps in from outside is foul, it is tainted with hope, with sentiments of love. Outside there is a world of false promises and pretty lies. The truth is here, in this dark tomb we inhabit. We were sealed in here long ago. The passing of time has become meaningless, I don’t know how old I am anymore. I remember my mothers’ screams as she punched and clawed at the heavy doors. Those sobs and screams, they still echo within these walls. Perhaps my mother is dead but yet she moves. She passes through the walls at night and she returns to feed me in the morning. Warm blood pours from her mouth into mine. Her eyes glitter, they are the only light I ever see. Soon, her eyes seem to say, soon it will be time to leave.


RMS Valor
Thomas Brown

A ripe smell washed over the docks; the sickly aroma of decay. For two hours Mark patrolled the boards, the scattered stores, the shipyard and the steel skeleton of RMS Bravery, chained to the ceilings and the walls. The smell was stronger here; he ducked beneath vast iron ribs, inspected rows of sheet metal, kicked at the crabs who had come to inhabit the dank spaces between these things: nothing.

It was almost midnight when the ship parted the mists. She moved silently, her savage plow cutting clean through the waves. She brought with her the smell. Sitting at his desk, Mark gagged, dropped his pen, did a double-take when her name slid into view: RMS Valor, one year lost to the ocean bed, still wreathed in slime, deck crawling with the lobster-limbs of her new monster crew.


Too late
Zack Kullis

Dust motes floated through the stale air like pallid balloons on a lifeless breeze. Everything had been undisturbed for far too long. How could one such as he, born of noble blood and ancient valor, stoop to inhabit such a foul and loathsome place? Dmitri bowed his head and pressed forward. His father should have reposed in the Vvedenskoye crypt in Moscow with the rest of his kin.

Dmitri passed through the room without disturbing the dust-covered floors. The cement lid to the tomb lie broken on the floor. He was too late. He smelled the wood of the steak before he saw it. The undead wither and become undone rather than die, and what had been his father lie within the tomb. Dmitri picked up the steak, smelled it, and knew where to take his revenge.


Those That Make The Rules
Tyr Kieran

Surrounded by blood and spoiled dreams, I surveyed the land. The ground squirmed with the dying youth—drafted teenagers ripped apart by merciless gears of the war machine. I watched as they clutched at their gore and twitched in agony. The world’s future facing a painful lack thereof simply because they were told to by those that make the rules. What a fucking joke! Foul logic cooked up and served in heaping mouthfuls to kids too blinded by their own testosterone and sense of rebellion to see the truth of it all. Their blood dripped from my fingers. Their last cries echoed in my ears. I survived. I killed under orders in what they deemed efforts of valor. Slaughter, something that would be utterly horrific at home on the suburban cul-de-sacs, was called valiant. Now, I see the cogs in the machine and I will kill for them no more.


Dying Breath
Christopher A. Liccardi

“Valor above all else,” he repeated to himself. The knife plunged deep into his gut was unnoticed. Those who inhabit the dark places often find comfort in such noble monikers but this one was different. He perverted the valorous, the brave, with his hate. The last hero lay at his feet, panting as much from fear as exhaustion. He wore the triumphant grin of those who think that killing a single person can thwart evil.

“That blade was dipped in poison, you bastard,” the hero panted. Blood and spittle flew from the corners of his mouth. “Tonight, you die with us.”

Named after his father for more than his looks, Samael’s grin widened as he collapsed to the ground knowing two more would take his place. Two more would pick up where he left off and valor would die along with the last hero.


A Few Steps
Nina D’Arcangela

The ripe stench sickens; the fetid odor enough to raise the bile of the staunchest bastard, yet here is the place I was born – brought into this world of evils and misdeeds. This cracked, filthy slab of concrete served as both my crib and cradle. Did I ask for this life? No. But granted to me, or shall I say more accurately, thrust upon me, it certainly was. I’ve not shied from the mantle presented; I’ve embraced it and its repugnance with the whole of my being. The squalor within which I exist, the distance from this darkened stoop to the brilliance just beyond has never been a burden for my soul to bear. Though when the gates swing wide, and the light blinds these most dim of eyes, I cannot but wonder if another destiny may have awaited me had she held her birthing fluids a few steps farther…


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