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Scampi

“Is this love real?” she asks.

Sitting on a bench near the other end of the room, her words are unmistakable, magnified by the reverence and strange acoustics of the museum. He turns from the glass case filled with the desiccated husks of seahorses to look at her. Her hair is down, her glasses bright. She’s wearing the coat he bought her last winter. It’s not quite winter yet but the evenings are getting cooler. It is evening now. At least, it must be. They’ve been in here for a hundred years already, it seems.

“Obviously,” he replies. “Duh. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”

At the sound of his voice, she looks up. “Not you, silly.” She raises the paper cup to her mouth and sips. “Arabica. Instant pick-me-up.”

“I’m an instant pick-you-up.”

“You’re fast, I’ll give you that.”

“Hey.”

With a lingering glance at the contents of the cabinet, he walks the short distance to where she’s sitting. She pretends not to watch him as he approaches but he sees her peek sideways. She taps the cup as he takes a seat next to her, her short nails making a hollow sound against the cheap Styrofoam.

“I’ve missed you,” he says.

“From the other side of the room?”

“If you’d just think about moving in…”

She taps faster, then stops altogether. The silence is sudden and alarming. He hadn’t realised how big the room was, how empty. They haven’t seen anyone else in probably ten minutes. He wonders how much longer they have to spend here.

“What were you looking at over there,” she asks, “in the cabinet?”

He catches her peering his way again, decides to play her at her own game. The rows of cases in front of them are too far away and the objects inside too small for him to make them out. He finds himself studying the ceiling. “Why do you ask, when you already know?”

“You were looking at the seahorses,” she tells him.

“Yes.”

“How did they look?”

“Like they’d crumble to dust if you touched them.”

“Don’t touch them. Anything else?”

From where he is sitting the exhibits are tiny flecks, almost invisible on the glass shelf. He recalls them, their withered tails, needlepoint snouts, eyes like used cigarette cherries, ashen and black. Beside him, she shifts, her hand finding one of his knees; he realises she’s watching him.

“Thirsty,” he says.

She stares at him a second longer, then laughs. He loves her smile and her face when she laughs. There isn’t much poetic going on his head but he knows what he loves and that is it. Smiling back at her, he buries his head into her shoulder.

“You’re an idiot,” she says.

“Can we go soon?” Muffled by her coat, his voice is small and thick.

“Had enough of me already?”

He wraps his arms around her but does not remove his face from her neck. She smells of perfume – he couldn’t say which – and still a little salty, from the beach yesterday. He loves the beach, almost as much as he loves her. Yesterday had been a good day.

“This place creeps me out.”

“I think it’s romantic.”

“What’s romantic about shrivelled-up fish? I swear I feel like I’m hanging out inside a shipwreck.”

“Come on, seriously?”

He shakes his head, some of her hair falling across the back of his neck.

“The memories,” she says. “The feeling attached to the objects. The objects themselves, so small, so fragile. Your delicate seahorses. The secrets. The stories.”

“Which stories?”

He feels her set the paper cup down before she moves, her weight shifting underneath him. She leans carefully to one side and stands, lifting him with her. She is not strong enough to carry him and yet she moves him with the lightest suggestion.

Taking his hand, she leads him to one of the cabinets. Like the others, it is made of glass. Like the others, a spotlight shines down over it. It is a bright, impersonal space, considering the nature of the objects housed within. He almost thinks he understands what she means.

“Is this love real?” she breathes. He follows her pointed finger to a small item just below head-height. It is a ring. At least, it used to be. The years do not appear to have been kind to it, battering the metal, creating pocks and eroding away much of what might once have been a design. It is crusty and matte and covered in tiny discs, almost like it has been carved out of rock.

“Why does it look like that?”

“It’s a tentacle. Crafted in the likeness of one, anyway. No one knows where it’s from. There was a theory, but that’s just another name for a story, and there are already lots of those.”

He is watching the ring and the reflection of her face around it. She is still smiling, her glasses bright. The eyes behind them brighter. He doesn’t know what she is talking about but he loves that smile. He gives her hand a squeeze; she squeezes back.

“Where did they find it?”

“Washed up, technically, 1973. Inside a shark’s guts. The gulls were pulling ropes for their morning feast and some children spotted it, still red, still wet, sticking out the sand.”

She looks as beautiful with her glasses on as she does without. When she leans forwards, like she does now, her hair falls around her face. It is shoulder-length hair, dark but with red undertones, caught in the right light. With her free hand, she tucks a stray strand quickly behind one ear.

“Some say it was made by primitive island people. This story goes, they worshipped the sea, and the things that lived in it, so they carved jewellery that resembled them. Seeing the ring now, I can believe that. I can see the waves in its grooves, the strength in its shape, the beauty in its suckered likeness. I can see something divine in the brine and the blood and the cut of coral.”

“You really love this stuff, don’t you?”

She leans in closer and he moves with her. His face inches towards the glass, the coarse sea smell filling his nose again, and for a moment he too finds himself staring at the ring. He slides deeper, its grasp tightening, feels a hand through his hair, the suggestion of darkness filled with pale shapes and submarine depths. He realises he is breathing heavily.

“What happened to the island people?”

“No one knows, but I have a theory, professor.” She winks at him, and he feels himself stirring. Here, of all places, in this wreck of a museum! “I think they died. Thousands of years ago, swept away by a storm. The sea they worshipped gave them life, then just as quickly it took it away. Now that’s love.”

He stands there for several minutes while she admires the exhibit. His breathing steadies. His arm finds her waist and she stirs slightly, but no more. He wishes she looked at him the same way she does those antiques. He knows she’s interested. No, it’s more than that. She loves him. He’s certain. She just won’t admit it. He doesn’t know what that means.

“Come on, it’s getting cold and the table’s booked for eight.”

“It is getting cold, isn’t it? Did you see that?”

He looks over her shoulder as he helps her to button up. Sometime between sitting at the bench and checking out the display, the lights in the hallway have gone out. He hopes they haven’t been locked in. He hasn’t seen any staff but assumes they’d check every room first.

“Almost done. See what?”

“There.” She squints behind her glasses, then stiffens. He feels her tense bodily in his hands. “There.”

This time he sees it. A single light, hovering about head-height in the dark. It flickers intermittently, soft, dull pulses that fill him with a sense of contentment. It has to be a torch.

“Hello? Is someone there?”

The hallway swallows his words. He stares harder, wishes his eyes would adjust faster, but the flashes are playing games with his sight.

“Stop.”

He hears her behind him, throws an arm out protectively. “Stay back.”

The light is weak but there is something satisfying about its rhythm and the vague illumination it casts.

“I said stop!”

Gradually the light grows fiercer. Shadows squirm across the boards and up the walls. He smells the sea, gently at first, then the sudden rush of damp and decay. It had not smelled so strongly at the beach yesterday, amid the rock pools with the crabs. Already that seems like a lifetime ago.

It occurs to him that he is standing in the hallway. Her hand finds his, and he realises she is by his side. The light is right in front of them. It is not a torch; the thought is laughable now. It hangs in the air, swaying slightly, dimming, then glowing brightly. This close, he sees himself in its gelatinous mass, distorted but hand-in-hand with her. It has always been her. It is everything he could have wanted to see.

The light flickers, fading before their eyes. The darkness rushes in, then wavers again. His stomach turns at the smell, his trainer slipping on something wet. He could reach out and touch the light, if he wanted. It would be the easiest thing.

The orb begins to glow again, brightening, filling his eyes, and for the first time he sees behind it into the rubbery lips, the rows of teeth, the vast mouth that contains them.

As the light dulls, the mouth gapes open, wider, wider than he could have ever imagined.

Still smiling, he extends his hand into the darkness.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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.

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

Iron Trappings

As tempestuous as the seas and equally unpredictable, Wrath sweeps through the skies, her shouts of hatred falling like shards of ice on those far below. Riding the storms and accompanied by a flurry of shrieking Sins, her Court watches with hawk-like eyes those passing beneath them. Sparkling spear in one hand, her other a clenched fist, Wrath leads her troupe in dizzying descents. They hurl insults, abuse, and hateful jibes even as they beset those unfortunate enough to be caught abroad, tearing them apart limb from limb in a bloody shower of malignant spite. Her goal is to ascend to the rank of Queen of all Sin, when she can rule with iron fist and steely gaze, and she is not afraid to destroy any who prevent her from achieving this.

From The Book of Sin

Screams of undiluted hatred did sing over the cliff tops.

22. Curses as ancient as the world itself were spoken, and they did corrupt the fair blue sky with their poisonous presence. Bound and chained in iron trappings, like some beast of the earth, a figure did scream. Her horrific voice did scold the air with its violence.
23. And like a plague of locusts the mortals did surround her, jeering and jabbing with gleaming swords and sharpened spears.
24. Cold iron clasps did restrain the captive, searing her skin and burning her to her very bones, and WRATH did writhe in vain.
25. The men did cry to stab the beast, and burn it, and behead it, such was their vehement hate at the creature bound in their midst.
26. The calls for vengeance rose viciously over the crowd; the assembled men shouting out for the death of the monster amongst them. For too long it had plagued their cities, dealt devastation to their caravans, wrought death as though it was a blacksmith at an anvil, and murder was its trade.
27. Now they did rejoice, for they had it at their mercy, but there was sorrow in their hearts too, and their eyes were alight with righteous vengeance.
28. The SIN gazed through slits of fury at those who did dare to approach too near, and her awe was such that all fell back before her.
29. Lean arms strained at their shackles as this goddess of death did strive to break free from the ensorcelled iron that imprisoned her. The chorus of cries only served to infuriate her further. They screamed for the beast to be doused in fire and showered with flames. They begged that its wings be torn from its back and the monster thus disgraced.
30. They raged that it should be cast, flightless, from the towering cliff, a final, fatal fall from grace.
31. Then the SIN did speak, and her voice was as a scythe through the cries of the crowd, and she did say I will flay your flesh from your hide and your pain will be so great that never before has one experienced such agony, and such was her fury that those who had been edging closer leapt suddenly back, their eyes wide, their skin pale.
32. Still she did scream, her tongue a flurry of fierce words and threats, and such was her undeniable temper that the maddened mob did believe every word she spoke, and they were mortally afraid at what they heard.
33. And the air was rank with their fear.
34. And into the madness atop the cliff a figure did stumble. Her dress was befouled with dirt and earth and sweat, but the daughter of Eve seemed not to care.
35. A single thought did flicker in her eyes, like a furnace, waiting to be unleashed.
36. Words ripped from her throat, hoarse though it was from her unyielding cries. She screamed bloody murder, crying SIN did slay my husband, It did murder his brothers and ruin their farmstead and now It shall pay the price for Its crimes.
37. Accusations flew fast from her lips, even as some relative, or piteous bystander, did try to restrain her. She flung him aside.
38. Grief did envelop the woman completely, as though she were in a valley and it lay a shadow across her.
39. Unashamed tears did stream down her fair cheek, and spying a sharp rock on the ground, she grasped hold of it. Before another word was spoken, she did hurl the heavy lump of hatred at the SIN.
40. With divine retribution it did fly where she cast it.
41. The rock struck hard the cheek of WRATH, and the wound did sting her, and it was the sting of shame.
42. The furnace of her heart now a conflagration, the woman did parade herself before the crowd. The SIN did see the fires burning in her eyes. She did recognise the pain that did gnaw at the woman’s insides. She did feel the hatred as it spilled out of the inconsolable woman.
43. The presence of so much anger did fill WRATH with vigour. It inspired her limbs. It flooded her veins, and it did nurture her own fury a thousand-fold.
44. An angel of unadulterated anger, the SIN’s own hellish hatred did cause her iron trappings to scream.
45. They did scream and scream and scream and with a clap like thunder break from around her limbs.
46. And silence did envelop the cliff top.
47. The men did run. The crowd parted like the sea before WRATH’s vengeance, but lo it was too late for those who had gathered to bear witness to the SIN’s demise.
48. With godly grace the SIN did swoop amongst the men and women and children. Her spear was lost, but she was not hindered by this, and her claws did exact a rich and bloody toll on the lives of those around her.
49. And she did wrench the still warm souls of those who had dared to trespass against her, and then discard them, and in doing so left lifeless husks to cover the earth.
50. And her anger was so absolute that none could flee her. Heads did roll, blood spilled like wine, and the air was alive with the chorus of screams.
51. And all the while WRATH did laugh at the slaughter she dealt, for she was above these lowly mortals, she was all-powerful and she was free.
52. And then her thoughts, though clouded by fury and fueled by ferocity, did turn to one thing and she did utter it aloud so that all did hear her, Who had gifted the men of the earth with such ensorcelled iron that could bind her?
55. She did scream to be told, but even as she did so, she knew already, for she also knew it beyond the craft of mortals to make such artifacts of power.
56. Even before the whispers of SIN did evaporate like water from the lake of death below, she knew that one of her siblings had betrayed her in this act and passed the iron over to the mortals. Another SIN had provided the means of her imprisonment. One of her own treacherous siblings.
57. And she knew wrath like never before.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 18

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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.

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?

DE_Cloud_02


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…


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.

The Abbey

1

It was a dark night, full of clouds and shadows. Whispers carried on the wind, racing through the forest and brushing the trees. The monotonous chanting of a hundred voices lingered on the air.

A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. . .

A figure hurried along the winding forest path. Overhead, the clouds shifted so that the moon emerged just as the figure did from the tree line. The forest was illuminated, a picture of viridian mist and boughs. Even the lake glittered under its glare.

A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. . .

The figure ran on, its hands slipping from beneath its sleeves and revealed for a moment in the moonlight. They were slick with wetness and black as the figure’s habit, which fluttered furiously as it ran.

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. . .

A long shadow stretched across the lake. Offset by the moon, an abbey rose into the night, its bell-tower cutting into the sky.

“I must not tell lies,” muttered the figure. Reaching the lakeside, he started across a walkway.

“I must not tell lies.” The raps of the knocker, when he reached the doors, rang leaden into the night. It was several minutes before they opened a crack, the wind rushing instantly inside.

“Yes?”

“Please, let me in.”

“We do not take to strangers in these parts.”

“Please, some charity.” The words seemed to have a strange effect on the doorman, the sliver of his face illuminated in a flash of lightning. “I am a man of God, like you.”

“There are no men of God. Not here, not anywhere.”

The door widened nevertheless and the tiny figure slipped inside.

 

2

 

The dining hall was empty. An air of reverence hung about the room, thick like incense or a guilty conscience. Dust coated the armaments and windows, visible as tiny motes in the flashes of lightning. Sin burst into unholy life with every jagged crack, their monstrous forms depicted in the stained glass of the windows

“I was caught unawares, travelling from Glastonbury. The weather fell foul, but we thought we could endure it. We took shelter, set up camp. . . We were wrong.”

“You were caught abroad?”

“By more than God’s rain. It was no ordinary storm but a Sin, come to claim us. Wrath, in all her vitriolic glory. We died. I ran. And now I am here.”

A startled gasp. “They chase your heels? You brought them here?”

“I lost them. I fled into the woods while they stayed to tear at the corpses. . .” The monk began to shake again, his hands rattling against the sturdy wooden table top. Cutlery clattered, the quiet sound reverberating within the heights of the dining hall. “My God, I still have their blood under my nails. . .”

“Your name?”

“Robin,” said the newcomer. “Brother Robin.”

“You will be safe here, Brother. I am Brother William and, for tonight, all that we have is yours.”

The room might have been magnificent, once. Figures decorated the ceiling with beautiful intricacy; depictions from The Book of Sin brought to life in vivid brush-stroke. Above the flickering candlelight, the painting seemed almost to move, a trick of light and Robin’s own heightened imagination, as if the Sins were in the very act of being banished from the world by God and His children. Except, of course, no such thing had ever happened, nor ever would, not so long as men were men.

Both men tucked into their food. Robin ate voraciously, as though afraid his plate might be taken unfinished from before him. The chanting continued; a hallowed, reverential hymn hanging like the dust in the air, and something else. The patter of claws, or tiny feet, skittering through the walls.

“Rats,” muttered William.

“You said earlier that there are no men of God? These do not sound like the words of a man in His service.” Robin peered across at the monk, who twitched but made no move to reply, raising instead a skewered sliver of meat to his mouth. It glistened, pink and bloody, reminding Robin of his own hands. He lowered them self-consciously beneath the table.

“Come,” said William suddenly. Spittle and ham flew from his lips.

“Where are we going?”

“You may be alone, but here we’re many. You must meet the others, before you retire. The Abbot is leading them in prayer.”

 

3

 

The two figures slipped noiselessly through the passages of the abbey. All about them, the hymn hung heavy on the air. They passed through great halls, their footsteps echoing on the cracked flagstone floors. Archways towered over them, engraved with signs of the cross, and every corridor was dimly lit with tiny candles. They wavered and danced, like the dying light in a man’s eyes, as the two monks ghosted past.

“I’ve never seen such architecture. I must admit, I’m somewhat in awe.” The two passed a statue, the edifice staring down at them righteously from its pedestal. An engraving beneath said St. George, who Robin remembered well as being the military saint responsible for casting back one of the Seven.

Outside, black clouds amassed in the night sky. Robin could see them as William and he strode through the cloisters towards the church, the monastic heart of the abbey. The church reared up before them. Windows watched them, more Sins staring monstrously at their approach. Then they were passing through the church’s doors and into the building proper.

Reverent song prickled at the back of Robin’s neck. It was holy, sanctimonious, resonating within his bones as if he’d been struck by one of the very bolts that danced through the night sky. Goosebumps ran the length of his robed arms.

“The hymn. . .”

From beside him, William nodded. “I know. I know.”

The church was humbler than the rest of the abbey but no less beautiful. Rows of benches led up to a dais at the front, atop which three small altars could be found. The place was old, as old as anything of the abbey Robin had already seen, but lacked the dust and decay that he had so far grown accustomed to. The church looked attended to. Cared for. Perfect, in every way.

At each row of benches stood a dozen monks, their backs turned, hoods covering their heads so that only their voices could be heard. More stood at the front on the raised platform, and at the pulpit a lonely figure: the Abbot himself, leading his congregation in solemn song.

“I recognise the hymn,” whispered Robin.

“They sing for God and to ward off evil. To ward off the Sins, in all their guises.”

“Such a thing is not possible, you realise.”

“We do our best, given the times.”

Robin’s eyes flashed with the lightning. ‘There are no men of God. Not here, not anywhere.”

William hung his head. He looked tired, suddenly. A hundred years old. “Perhaps I spoke rashly, before. Certainly I regret those sentiments. There are many on God’s earth who would. . . well, who would kill to be so close to Him, if you will excuse the expression.”

“You’d say they envy you?”

“I would.”

“And in doing so, they would sin.”

William glanced back at Robin, a stranger, at the heart of their abbey. His hair was still drenched, although it had been well over an hour since he’d been admitted past their walls. The blood of his comrades was no less slick about his hands. Surely it should have dried by now? Surely he should have wanted to wash?

“Forgive me, Brother, I forget; to which order did you say you belonged?”

“I did not, merely that I was travelling from Glastonbury.”

“Ah, I assumed. . .”

“Indeed. You know, it really is an abbey above all others that you have here. Beautiful. God would be proud.”

“Pride, Brother, is a sin like all others.”

“Envious of you, then, to live in such luxury.”

Something was happening to Robin. His waterlogged hair was lengthening before William’s eyes. A pallor overcame his flesh, such that he looked more like a statue or – God forbid – a corpse, than a living, breathing man. The blood began running like dirty water from his hands, two puddles growing around the monk’s habit .

“What’s happening? What trickery is this?”

“I have enjoyed your company, Brother, so much so in fact that I’ve decided I would quite like to be you.”

Time slowed, everything illuminated in a single flash of lightning. Robin span on his heel, habit fluttering like the wings of a bat as he descended on William. Hands closed around the monk’s neck, even as William plunged a knife into Robin’s shoulder. The iron blade slid smoothly and without resistance into skin and bone alike, and Robin shrieked obscenely. Bladeless, his weapon buried to the hilt, William dropped to the floor. Bloody handprints circled his bruised throat.

“Sin!” he screamed. “Brothers, Sin! See how the iron burns its flesh!”

The assembled monks did not rise to his aid. They did not fly in defence of their abbey. They did not move but continued to sing, their monotonous moans carrying far into the night.

“It is always dark, where I come from. There is no light. No warmth. We have no birdsong, save the screams of the crows. The screaming. They do not stop screaming.”

Scrabbling away, William backed against a statue. He felt alone. Trapped. But the statue brought him comfort. It was another of St. George; tall, defiant, clutching an ancient sword in its hands.

“You will always find screaming. This abbey is no different. Can you not hear the wind, Beast, as it races through the woods? It screams to feel, to touch. The dying, they scream as their lives are extinguished. The living scream when theirs are not. God’s earth is a chorus of cries.”

“Poetic,” hissed Robin, haggard, the knife still steaming in his shoulder. “I like you even more.”

William wrenched the sword from the statue. It came free with a lurch, sent him spinning, the blade careering towards Robin’s twisted face. He swung it with all his might, a prayer to the Lord on his lips.

A stony hand grabbed his chest from behind. It held him still even as another punched into his back. His vision failing, William had just enough time to look down, to see his bloody heart in its fingers, before he slumped to the church floor.

Giggling obscenely, St. George sprang into the air. Two glassy wings burst from its back as it took flight, twitching and euphoric into the rafters. Its skin rippled like liquid shadow.

Robin watched his child as it flew. “Silly monk,” he shrieked, casting off his own glamour. Slick hair cascaded from her head, clinging to the infantile body beneath. Pale flesh glinted wetly in the candlelight and two shards of broken emerald shone where there should have been eyes.

Envy plucked the steaming dagger from her shoulder. Black blood spat from the wound, not unlike that of the congregation’s, murdered earlier by her hands. Not that it had stopped them singing, of course. She did so enjoy their singing.

“Silly, silly monk.”

Movement, in the shadows. Shapes ghosted in and out of the darkness, flitting between this world and another. Faint shrieks and triumphant barks joined the unending hymn. Envy watched the unholy procession with a wicked grin; the flutter of crow wings, the clicking of bones, screams of malediction and joy alike filling the despoiled church. Scuttling down the aisle like a spidery spinster, she sprang atop the central altar.

“And now, Lesson One,” she crooned, her voice cracked, sing-song. “Lesson One. Lesson One. . . We must not tell lies.”

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Echoes

Ahhh Damnlings, into our realm of darkness you have wandered once more. A realm where words twist on the wind, and morals gain no purchase…

In the collection of prose set forth before you, you will find each of the authors has been constrained to a measure of one hundred to 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 to sacrifice for a story worthy of the ink that drips from the Pen of the Damned?

Why a sacrifice? You will never hear them Echoed again!

 

DE01_Cloud

 


My Mind Screams
Jon Olson

My old fishing boat, the Extant, rocks unsteady beneath my feet. I struggle to catch my breath — difficult after stealing something else’s last. Blood runs down the wrench in my hand, dropping off onto the floor already wet from the carcass curled against the wall. Even in the dim cabin light, I am repulsed by this abomination of nature; the unnatural pulled up from the depths in my fishing net. Its skin glistens, almost amphibious, but completely alien. Somewhere in the mass of flesh, bone and gore are its eyes; black, unemotional and lifeless. My mind screams, unable to comprehend the events that transpired. Grabbing a spare gas can, I douse the body. With a flick of my lighter, the ungodly is engulfed – burning its existence from my mind.


Fetid Hunger
Lee A. Forman

Bound to a chair in the center of a dark room I sit. Countless eyes stare, their yellow glow peering through thin slits in the ebony veil which encircles me. Hope of escape—fleeting, lost; I try to focus on the steady drip of rainwater from the ceiling, the only thing keeping me extant.

They blink in the hushed air, each subtle movement accompanied by a soft squish—a sound not human. I don’t know what beasts hide in the shadowy corners of this strange and unfamiliar chamber. I have yet to see them. Even their shape is a mystery.

Only thing I am aware of is their hunger. They reek of it. I don’t know how long it will be until they tear into me and begin to feast. But from the stench of their breath, I know it will be soon.


Pandemic
Zack Kullis

“….. no interim procedure for eradicating ……”

Dr. Livingston’s eyes glided numbly over the words. She liked simplicity, and this pretentious document could have been reduced to a few sentences. The cell-repairing microbes they created to combat the aging process mutated shortly after they were introduced to the general population. The Guardian Strain became a pandemic.

She looked at her bloody hands. As with millions of other infected, the cellular walls of her organs bloated with the infection, swelling with puss and blood before splitting open like roadkill in the heat.

Dr. Livingston touched the package her colleague sent, her sausage-like fingers leaving a trail of smelly ichor across the box. The blood-stained note was written in shaky handwriting.

“Cure”

Her trembling hand reached up and placed the only cure into her mouth. Ironically, the treatment did in fact come from a shot, she thought as she squeezed the trigger.


The Price
Joseph Pinto

“There.  You see it, now?  You see?”

Indeed, I did.  One of only two extant copies known to man.  There it lay beneath the glass.  “How did you gain such a—”

He waved me off.  “Does it matter?” sucking on his Gurkha Black Dragon, appreciating the white tendrils curling round the cigar’s tip.  “What matters is that I have it.  What matters is that it can be yours…if you’ve acquired its cost.”

“I have.”  I knew my associate’s fondness for cigars.  I knew his affinity for a virgin’s eyes even more.  I handed over my satchel, his fee exquisitely stored inside.  He parted his mouth; the peppery finish of his cigar wafted, tickling my nose.  Then he pitched forward, the strain I had swabbed along his cigar’s head seizing his heart.

I took my priceless manuscript.  I took back the sightless eyes.

I left him to his cigar.


The Wailing
Magenta Nero

I noticed the church while driving through drab countryside. I pulled over to look around. I was surprised by the age of the building, the yellow sandstone was coated with moss, crumbling grey headstones littered the churchyard. The wooden doors were locked but I managed to wrench them open. Dim light shone through the small stained glass windows, the air was thick with dust. Slowly I walked the aisle, glancing around as my eyes adjusted. I froze suddenly, spotting the draped figure that stood before the altar. It wore a long dress with a tattered train of ghostly lace. I heard the sound of faint sobbing. It turned towards me. With hands of blackened skin it lifted its veil and fixed me with a rotten stare. The wailing began and I fell to my knees, struck by the bitter heartbreak only the dead can know.


Mistaken
Tyr Kieran

I tried to tell him. My words started in a hasty shout, the syllables tripping over themselves as I shoved them past my chapped lips. It sounded all wrong. I couldn’t even recognize the words myself. Lack of water in these scorched days has left my mouth and throat so damned dry. With precious little time at hand, I strain, trying again, forcing my tacky tongue to dislodge and shape the sounds, yet it only rolls and twitches like a dying slug. The cold lightening of panic surges through me, lifting my heavy eyelids, raising my outstretched hands, but nothing can stop the downward arc of his weapon. The massive wrench is the last thing I see—stealing my sight on the first catastrophic blow. Warm blood wets my throat just enough for my plea to gain sound as everything fades to eternal darkness, “Not a Zombie”.


Judgement Day
Thomas Brown

On the last day of summer, the dead rose from their rest in the earth. He watched from his treehouse while they emerged. Thin bone. Domed skulls. Clenched hands unfurling like flowers in the morning.

There was nothing hurried about their efforts. They staggered to their feet, stretched, shed old skin and loose soil. When his Action Man fell to the floorboards, he imagined he could hear the creak of their necks as they stared skyward.

It took them hours to climb the tree. Fingers without tips wrenched slugs of grey bark. He watched them until he couldn’t bear to watch them anymore then dragged himself and a blanket into the corner.

It was dark when they finally reached him. She had on a veil; black, backlit with luminescent eyes. Even as she crawled closer, he wondered where his parents were, and when they were going to rescue him.


Perfect
Christopher A. Liccardi

In its extant, this was nothing new. It was strong though. It hadn’t been seen in ages not because it was weak, but because it was fast. This strain moved quicker than anything else they had ever seen.

“What are we going to do, Doctor Lee?”

Lee, an experienced viral biologist crushed what would probably be his final cigarette and stared though the haze of blue smoke. A pause…

“First, we die Janine. Then, we come back.”

“I don’t want to come back.”

“Actually, it’s as perfect as you could ever be. Complete harmony between the living and the dead. You’d be not alive, and yet mortally perfect. Besides, you don’t have much of a choice.”

“Do we have to drop it on the city?” Her voice quavered the slightest bit.

“We do but it won’t matter where you are in a few hours.”


Revelation
Nina D’Arcangela

Like the maelstrom that swept in her tide, she swirled with a tempest of fate. Those before her attempted to flee; begged forgiveness for their evils. Misunderstood lives, unappreciated deeds, this lot unaware the veil had thinned solely to allow their pardon. Gleaming ebony skin that smoldered of embers left to flame, she bore down upon them with brutality unknown to these worthy heathens. Necks twisted most unnatural, bodies rent of their companion cog and spokes, these children of misdirection now granted reward for actions unprovoked yet savored by that which waits. As claws struck and teeth ripped, screams wailed the song of souls unburdened. Mother to the immoral, sister of the dishonest, beacon for the misguided, she stilled as the slop of her task struck a final note. More would come, born of those who kneel in perverse fealty. In the interim, the void of silence stirred her home.


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

Jerusalem

Lambing season arrives with fine rain and the moan of distressed ewes. John has just sat down to dinner when he hears them, the sheep’s cries mingling with the whistle of the kettle. He hasn’t been through the door for an hour and his feet ache. Evening sun catches the dust and makes silhouettes of the shattered window pane. He eats alone with his thoughts and his chipped mug and the scratching of mice in the walls.

When his plate is cleared, he takes it to the sink and runs it under the tap. Brown water catches the worst of the stains. Outside, a crow laughs. Looking up from the sink, he stares out across the back garden to the bird and the plot where his father is buried. It isn’t much, but it means something to him, and it is ritual; the first day of every March he books time off from work, packs an overnight bag, and makes the long drive into the hills to visit his dad.

A wooden cross marks the spot, and another, and another; generations of Shepherds, laid to rest in the earth. Retrieving a dishcloth and an old knife, he wanders outside, crouches by the crosses, and scrapes the worst of the moss from the wood. Cobwebs cling to the crossbars; he brushes them away. He smokes while he works, lips sucking and twitching around his cigarettes when his hands are busy. Across the hills, the ewes continue to bleat.

When the worst of the nettles are stripped back and he runs out of cigarettes, he retires indoors. Lying on the single bed in the room where he grew up as a child, he listens to the house, the groan of the floorboards, the tapping of the rain on the windows, and he waits.

At some point the sun sags, wavers, dips below the rolling mounds. The rain hammers down, then peters out. Eventually he hears the bleating of lambs. The sound draws him from the bedroom, across the dark hills. One a.m. nips at his fingers and the tip of his nose, turning his breath white on the air, and as he leaves the yard he almost slips on the dark stone of the step.

“Jesus!”

He does not have to walk far before he sees them. Moonlight illuminates the parade as it winds its way through the trees. Where the branches allow it, the light makes silver outlines of pale limbs, bare footprints pressed into the mulch and, held by thin hands, clutched close to sunken breasts, severed heads; the old dead nurturing the new with ageless love and sour milk.

The stiff-legged procession stretches both ways into the trees. They might always have walked here; an endless wake marching solemnly beneath their cowls. He moves silently closer, his approach masked beneath the clicking of bone and wet sucking sounds, which he hopes is feet sunk into mud and not cold mouths hungry at stiff teats. He does not speak, but in his head repeats an old hymn, hoping it might help him, ground him, keep him sane and safe from demons and the dark.

It is many years since any sheep have grazed here. Not since his father passed have livestock of any sort dotted these hills. Idly, he wonders what he is doing here. Not just tonight, but last year, and the year before that, and the one before that. He thinks about his guilt at having abandoned the farm, and his love for his father, and his shame at the generations of slaughter committed in the family name. He can never shrug that shame, but he can pay his respects to the dead. For one night a year, he can manage that.

He is still standing, watching the march, when a piece of deadwood snaps underfoot. The branch is small, the sound weak, but it still cracks like a gunshot in the dark. For the most part, the procession continues heedless, all except one of their number. Closest, it stops in its tracks. The mud at its feet is a mess of cloven tracks. With the inexorable slowness of the ages, it turns its face towards him. A scream fills his mouth.

Night has sapped the colour from the world but he can still make out spring: ghostly lilac blossom, branches heavy with shoots, fat roots, and the bleating of lambs, long since taken to market but revived on this night when life courses renewed through the wet, blood-soaked loam.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2016 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 16

DamnedWords_16

Fading
Christopher Liccardi

Mitchell sits on its broken foam seat, feeling the pain diminish. Blood loss pulls him from his cares and worries. He can feel his hands slipping from the sides of the chair. His choice was made by another, but not the one holding the blade. It was the demon in the chair that made the choice. It spoke to him and told him what it needed; more blood. He closed his eyes and the voice faded until it was a whisper. The last thought on Mitchell’s mind wasn’t death, but the chair. Who would feed it once he was gone?


Barbaric Elegance
Jon Olson

Nothing like this had ever been found before; the diggers unsure of their discovery. What is it? Excitement, confusion and terror glisten in their eyes. Months spent sifting through rubble, burrowing into the past with little to show for it; very few indications or evidence to reward our labor. Today, we find this: elegance crafted by the barbaric. Its craftsmen, the humans, all but erased from history; consumed by extinction. Is it safe? There’s nothing to fear, yet reassurance is met with hesitation. Like the others, it will be cataloged and destroyed; recorded and wiped from existence like its makers.


Metamorphosis
Zack Kullis

There was nothing quite as perfect as the spoiled beauty of the fetid and rancid.  Everything his eyes touched was painted with the distinct colors of decomposition’s palette.  It took him years to fill his sub-basement with thoughtfully selected detritus that would breed the corruption and blight he so loved.

Nearly a decade of carefully chosen carcasses littered the floor, blessing this place with their funk and ghastly splendor.  It was perfect but for one thing – himself.  He clamped his eyes open and shackled his hands to the chair.  Death would not keep him from watching his own loathsome metamorphosis.


Throne
Magenta Nero

Death has long since swallowed him whole but he believes himself to be living. His face is shrunken, folded upon itself, closed like a flower at dusk. His eyes are ringed with grey. Pain wrestles with his body as he lies in bed. Each morning he rises, dragging his disease ridden leg behind him.

Born of clay, with the pride of kings, he judges all and pardons nothing. He survives alone. One by one he has severed all ties with the living, unable to forgive or forget. All that remains is the vision of a throne, righteous amongst the clouds.


No Work, All Play
Joseph A. Pinto

Interment had delayed my work.

Comprised only of broken rock and lost time, my resting place had been disturbed in dubious fashion. Ignorant thrill seekers they were, tipping bottles to mouth. One stumbled callously into my chair.

Stepping from decades of grit, my straight razor I drew. I had forgotten the power of my blade. But it had not forgotten the power mine.

Throat utilized as strop to steel, his blood made me whole to the world again. Within the deep gloss finish of the blade, I admired my reflection.

“Handsome devil,” I crooned and busied myself in his lather.


Delusion of Freewill
Nina D’Arcangela

This is the place I was born. Not brought into the world, but given life; purpose. Society could no longer sustain the delusion of freewill. It had become a blight; a poison that corroded the beast from within. No, this world was not intended for choice, it needed structure, guidance; a singular hand to rein it. I succumbed to that hand. Strapped to the chair, current charred my flesh, molded my mind until I became a drone; re-purposed for the greater good.

Born again as a bone man I had but one task – pick amongst the piles of the dead.


Under The Knife
Thomas Brown

He came here last year for Botox. Funny how they find their way back. Rotten cats, retracing old steps. Stumbling onto the chair, she flails, snatching a scalpel from the steel tray.

Decay has done terrible things to the man’s features but she remembers him. His Tie Dye shirt, green Crocks, the way he’d smiled when she’d fixed his forehead.

He is still smiling now. A shovel has seen to that; his lips red and wet. They all look happy, dead and indifferent. He looms over her, hands outstretched. Smiling back at him, she takes the scalpel to her throat.


Home, Sweet Broken Home
Tyr Kieran

I smile at the chair, despite its imperfections—rusted metal, cracked leather, speckles of dried blood—it’s the only thing that feels like home. Sitting on its cool leather so many years ago, I had my first conflicted taste of solid food. From diapers to teenage acne, this chair held me for many forced meals and brutal punishments. I only tasted freedom for a few moments annually, on my birthday—the only gift my mother ever granted. Eventually, I outgrew the chair and captivity. Now, to help celebrate my birthday, Mother is the one temporarily freed of the chair’s confines.


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.

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