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Fairy

The deafening volume in the hallway was cut short by yet another scene of ruthlessness.

Terri was pulling a math book out of the bottom of his locker when something heavy crashed into him, driving his head into the corner of the metal enclosure.  The pain ringing in his ears briefly consumed him as he collapsed to the tile floor.  Not again, he pleaded inwardly as he pressed a shaky hand against his forehead to stem the flow of blood.

Regardless of the countless times something similar had happened, he was yet again flooded with humiliation, anger, and a desire to disappear; it was overwhelming.  He bowed his head and turned to the side as he bit his lip in a useless attempt to hold back tears that only served to incite his tormentor.

Nothing halted the insane volume of background noise that filled a school like the promise of violence.  But the silence never lasted, and his latest tormentor, one of his regulars, filled the empty space with ugly taunts.

“Hey Fairy,” Eric yelled. “How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my way?”

He pulled his hand away from his forehead and a stream of blood poured down his face as he glanced at the onlookers.  The sight was familiar – a hungry crowd wielding phones that recorded the show in high definition.  Undoubtedly, many were already thinking about the comments they would upload along with the footage.

Most people in his position would at least look at their attacker, but there was no need.  It wasn’t because there was only one possible aggressor; the list of bullies was long.  It was because this asshole was one of only three that called him a fairy, and Eric’s oddly high-pitched voice betrayed him immediately.

“Look at me, you sack of shit!”

Eric slammed a meaty fist into the side of Terri’s face, rocking his head side to side.  Jeers and taunts erupted from the crowd as Eric’s football buddies cried out for more.  Waves of darkness edged their way into the periphery of his vision, but he kept his eyes on the crowd.  It was easy to gauge how bad the beating was going to be by the behavior of the audience.

The crowd was quickly getting bored; it was obvious he wasn’t going to fight back and the excitement ebbed away. The other students started to wander off.  He closed his eyes, tried to stop the tears, fought the urge to pass out.  He found himself wondering for the millionth time why none of the others cared, why none of them stood up for him.  Even the local Emo kids shunned him.  What was left of his ravaged heart ached.

“You got off easy,” Eric said as he rubbed his sore fist.  “Keep quiet about this or I’ll take it to a whole other level of ugly.”  The jocks walked away with their chests puffed out, almost as far as their egos, each boasting about how much they had lifted in gym class, somehow sure this equated to dick size.

He sat for a minute and waited for the hallway to clear before he slowly picked up his backpack.  He would have given anything for a sympathetic ear, or a caring shoulder, but he knew reality was nothing like the Lifetime Channel.   It would be a mistake to think he would get support or comfort anywhere, not even at home.

His father always insisted the beatings were his own fault for being a pansy that didn’t understand how the system worked.  Dad frequently told him that his life would be punctuated by failure and misery, and the rotten bastard was right so far.

He started to walk, unsure of where he was headed, knowing it didn’t really matter.  For too many years he planted hopes, wishes, and dreams in his conscious mind like a starving farmer plants the last of his seeds.  He watered them with desperation, fertilized them with as much bullshit as he could muster, but the field of his soul was still a desolate, ugly place.  Why?  The truth was simple.  Hope was snake oil.  Wishes?  Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which fills up first.  Dreams?  Those were the equivalent of a carrot on a stick held in front of a mule headed to the glue factory.

There was no such thing as good in this world.  It was as mythological as a unicorn, just more useless.  Since there was no good, there could be no evil.  There were only varying levels of pain and anguish that were blissfully interrupted by the oblivion of sleep.  He frequently dreamt of sleeping eternally, wishing for nothingness to absorb his worthless existence.

In the end, it all came back to the same question.  Would he be perceived as selfish?  Perhaps, but nobody cared enough to notice, much less think about him if he were gone.  It was time.

He reached into his backpack and pulled out the knife. His throat felt tight, and as his resolve strengthened, tears of a different kind slipped from his eyes and mixed with the drying blood on his cheek.  He knew better than to think this was a form of happiness, that shit didn’t exist.  This was relief.  Yes, it was time indeed.

He dropped the pack and made his way to the auditorium.  The assembly was probably under way by now.  He had wanted to do this in private, but something deep inside urged him to do it in front of a crowd.

“I’ll give them something to post,” he whispered as he opened the back door to the stage.  The darkness calmed him.  He took off his shirt, then his shoes. He parted the closed curtain with the knife, and stepped into the blinding light on stage.

At first, all he heard was a booming voice echoing through the speaker system, but then came the hushed whisper from hundreds of students.  His eyes had begun to adjust to the light when he heard Eric’s telltale voice shout out.

“Look! It’s Terri the Fairy!”

Laughter filled the vast space.  One last tear fell; it went unnoticed by the crowd.  The laughter continued until a cheerleader in the front row screamed something about him having a knife.  Her scream was followed by a few more, but the hushed awe from most of the students was enough to encourage him.

Terri pressed the sharp edge of the knife deep into his left wrist and slowly drew it upward until it reached the inner part of his elbow.  Bright blood flowed from the gaping wound; his bright eyes stared out over the sea of confused faces.  He took the blade and pushed it into his shoulder until it hit bone, then cut downward through his chest until the blade was sunk deep into his abdomen.  Blood started to pool around him, its darkness reached outward.

The spectators, usually keen on gore, were at a loss for words.  Some screamed, some retched, but all remained in their place as a new reality debuted before their eyes.  Terri started to feel weak as his heart quickly pumped blood from his body, he also felt peace deep within.  Peace and something else–something less kind.

Terri sensed movement at his core.  It was growing at an incredible rate, but it felt neither foreign nor strange.  The growth pressed against organs and caused him to purge the contents of his stomach, as well as his bowels and bladder.  He dropped the knife as the change touched his consciousness.

The continued growth started to bulge against his skin, press against his extremities; it fed on him internally.  Eldritch bones and musculature sprouted painfully as Terri grew.  Tentacles dug their way out the sides of his face; they tore at his flesh to birth the otherworldly being within.

Students woke from their stupor and fled; they trampled one another in blind terror.  Terri’s conscious melded with that of the Other, and he gloried in his becoming.  He also hungered.  Nearly ten feet tall and growing quickly, he reached out for the nourishment that floundered nearby.

Clawed hands covered in a new and loathsome skin plucked the writhing teens from the floor, piled them within reach of the tentacles.  He smelled their fear and knew true ecstasy.  The tentacles grabbed the students and stuffed them into his now colossal maw; one, two, three at a time.  Their screams mixed with the sound of crunching bone. It was musical perfection.

His growth had just started, fed by dozens of the two-legged cattle he’d already consumed, but he found it difficult to move within the confines of the auditorium.  He emerged from the remains of the building as it seemingly shrunk beneath his reckless growth.

Terri gave corrupt birth to the profane, was one in heinous thought with the abyss, and demanded eternal retribution.  Words poured from his mouth with blasphemous splendor and filled the air with dread.

“Wgah’nagl fltagn.”

Arcane incantations of power echoed across the doomed city as he opened the way for many more of his kind.  Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep moved through monstrous dimensions beyond time and entered a world that would soon know despair.  Oblivion was not his to experience, but his to create.

 

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

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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

The Glory

His first cognizant thought was how oddly comfortable he felt. The old football injury didn’t ache in the background like it had for seemingly countless years. And the city was quiet…  Since when was the city quiet? Kurt’s eyes opened slowly and he found himself looking into the face of a stranger. The woman was crouched over him and appeared to be trying to talk to him, but all he heard was ringing.

Kurt realized he couldn’t move. His mind wrestled with confusion and concern as he tried to focus on what the woman was telling him. Her voice began to sift through the ringing, and he recognized some of the words her lips were forming.

accident –

don’t move –

will be okay –

Recollection hit him nearly as hard as the other vehicle did when he ran the red light. He had been typing something to post online and didn’t see the red light, nor did he see the ambulance with its emergency lights flashing as it raced towards the intersection. Fortunately for him he was unaware of being thrown through his windshield, of tumbling like a rag doll across the rough street, and of the emergency vehicle rolling over his broken body before it came to a stop on its side. But his conscious mind was catching up with horrific speed.

The fear on the woman’s face belied the calm and soothing words she tried to share with him. A squat man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker knelt beside her and spoke in frantic tones.

“The dude’s going to bleed out if we don’t do something.”

“His neck is broken so badly that one wrong move will kill him,” replied the woman, her voice betraying her nausea. “There isn’t much we can do.”

Certainty and finality calmed him. The sounds around him seemed to fade into the background. As his body started to shut down, Kurt’s mind gained an amazing amount of clarity. He had nothing to worry about, not like those hell-bound atheists and science-toting heretics he harassed whenever possible. He accepted the Lord years ago. He vaguely remembered it, but he knew he had because his pastor said so.

As fate would have it, that was precisely what he had been texting about when the accident happened. He was preaching on a local site for an agnostic group. Some would have called it trolling, but he knew he was serving a higher purpose. They were all damned. He was saved through simple belief and acceptance. Surely this accident was a reward from the Almighty. He was being called home.

A cold breeze blew and Kurt shivered. The muffled sounds around him slipped into nothing. He opened his eyes, expecting to see gates, clouds, or something similar, but all he saw was a dim view of what he had seen before.

“That’s strange,” he whispered. The sound of his own voice spooked him. Had he passed already? A foul breeze moaned around him as dark clouds quickly covered the sky. Heavy mists rolled across the street and obscured the people and buildings around him.

“What is strange?” asked something from the haze. The voice was like gravel and broken glass being ground, a bizarre combination of bass and treble that no mortal vocal chords could have produced.

Fear gripped Kurt and chased away all the positive thoughts that had been pooling in his mind. He searched for the source of the voice and found a dark shadow lurking in the depths. It grew in size and became increasingly peculiar as it approached.

“Were you expecting something pretty when your life came to an end?”

“I… I… This is wrong….” Kurt blabbered as the mist parted for a hideous and eldritch being. The thing was partially humanoid, but there were growths and extensions that defied understanding, its foot grotesque with too many crooked appendages and deformities. The wretched leg it was attached to was repulsively thin and covered by a sickly skin that didn’t hide the misaligned bones and flesh beneath.

The creature’s torso was a mottled skin of yellow and green, punctuated by tentacles and arm-like growths, each of which appeared to move on its own accord. The second leg was like a conglomerate of partially fused tentacles that oozed a fetid ichor that filled the air with a horrid stench and left a nasty trail in its wake.

It carried a long chain in a large hand that had nearly a dozen digits, each wrapped around slimy links of metal. The opposing shoulder had what appeared to be the lower half of a bark covered octopus with slow-moving growths that were covered with barbs and teeth. And the head, oh the head. There was no mouth, nor a nose, but the hapless face was besieged by numerous lidless eyes that shined with heinous intent.

Kurt’s hysterical scream was absorbed by the mist. “No!”

“You are still between worlds, Kurt. But not for long.”

A repulsive tentacle reached out for him as he tried to move.

His whole body jolted and he heard kind voices in the background. Were angels wrestling him from this demonic nightmare? Kurt’s eyes opened to see paramedics leaning over him, talking frantically to each other and to him.

“Stay with us buddy, just hold on.”

The light was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He would give anything to not go back to that nightmare. Surely that’s what it was, right? Only a dream?  He was saved after all. Kurt was so tired, and he couldn’t keep his heavy eyelids up. He was ready for the Glory.

Kurt’s eyes closed. The warmth was instantly gone, as were the careful movements and voices of the paramedics. He didn’t want to open his eyes, but had no choice. The creature from before stood over him, a comical look of twisted glee showed brightly in each of its eyes, and the skin of its face vibrated with its voice.

“Glory… What do you know of glory, Kurt?”

A few of the tentacles used their barbs and teeth to dig deep into Kurt’s flesh. There was no blood, but the pain felt unlike anything he had ever experienced. Unable to move, he was left to watch in horror as the thing continued to work.

“Your days were filled with hate, rejecting your fellow mortals for petty differences of opinion, and you expect a reward of some kind? Pearly Gates, shitty harps, and those dumbass cupids flitting around with wings?”

The creature dropped the heavy chains on his legs and gripped Kurt’s face with its multitude of fingers. “Why do you deserve something different from this?”

Kurt fought for his voice, and found it, thinking his one last chance was to claim his acceptance of the Almighty and enjoy the gifted fruit of salvation. “I accepted the holy one and by his Grace I am saved!”

He looked down and saw something ethereal being yanked from his body. It was his soul. Kurt looked to the sky, sure his last statement would redeem him.  Riotous laughter filled his ears. Kurt looked back at the demon as it continued to rip his essence from his damaged body.

“You’re certainly not the first of your flavor I’ve had the pleasure of reaping. Saved by his Grace, to hell with what your actions might have been. Is that how it goes?  What would you say if I told you that the woman in the ambulance you crashed into died a few minutes ago. She was agnostic and is getting a benevolent introduction to an afterlife you will never experience.”

“That can’t be,” cried Kurt.

The creature gripped his throat, tore what remained of his spirit free, and dragged him up into the gathering obscurity. He looked down and through the billowing mists he could just barely make out the paramedics draping a blanket over his body. Kurt’s face was yanked around and forced to look at the demon.

“She was kind, good, and all of that boring tripe. The interesting thing is that it was all of her own free will, not because she thought it would buy her entrance into the land of faeries and light. Faith is worth shit if your behavior is too.”

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. 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.

Urges

“I’ve heard it said that the first time is always the best, but that’s bullshit.  It gets better with every experience.  Pain, loathing, hatred and excitement, all rolled up into one moment of indulgence and release.  These urges are altogether unique and exquisite.

“I was about ten years old when I first tasted this fruit.  Mom babysat a noisy pack of snot-nosed shit factories that invaded my space daily.  I couldn’t help but make a few cry at least once a day.  At first I told myself it was for the attention, but I knew better.  The real answer was far more sinister – I enjoyed their pain.

“It was never quite enough, though.  I could feel the thrill build each time, but it didn’t increase, it always remained the same, until things changed. One day mom was asked to tend an infant. Go ahead, look at me with those horrified eyes, it only adds to the pleasure.

“At first I didn’t mean for anything to happen.  Babies are innocent, right?  I went into the house and saw mom holding a little girl.  I guess you would say she was cute.  I didn’t feel an urge to hurt her at first, and it filled me with hope that maybe I had some good inside me.

“I walked up to her sweet as can be and held out my hand.  She looked at me and her cherubic smile was instantly sucked up by her fat little cheeks, and the ugliest scream I’ve ever heard tumbled from her quivering lips.  Did you know that hope getting dashed to pieces has a sound?  It’s abrasive, piercing, and throttles everything.

“I didn’t have any good in me.  Rage seethed from my core and swelled like it never had before.  Nothing was exempt from my hate.

“‘Oh, cute little Erica,’ I cooed as sweetly as I could while I positioned myself behind my mother where she couldn’t see what I was doing.   I patted the babe softly on the back where my mom could see while my other hand pinched and squeezed as hard as I dared without leaving a mark.  I looked into her wide eyes, locked in terror with mine own, and brought every ounce of hate to the surface.  I pushed that torrent of violent emotions through my eyes and willed her to feel it.

“It was intoxicating, although you would never understand.  But that’s enough about my past. Unfortunately for you, I’ve found over the years that an adult’s torment and screams are infinitely more satisfying than those of a child.”

The man stood up and stretched before speaking again.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to go use the bathroom.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Eric listened as Mark’s feet padded across the cement floor.  The stairs creaked as he left the basement.  When he was sure Mark was gone, he relaxed the stranglehold he had on his emotions and sobbed.

Eric had been in the basement for a few days now, secured to a metal chair with leather straps.  He had screamed, begged, yelled and cried on his first day here, but quickly learned that any show of emotion sent his captor into a crazed fit of violence.

His heart raced wildly as the casual whistling upstairs approached the basement door again.  Anxiety fogged Eric’s mind with its chaos and kept him from thinking straight.  He hated himself for not being able to control his fear.  He did his best to quiet himself as the door opened.  By the time Eric could see Mark’s bare feet step around the corner, he had almost calmed himself completely.

Mark placed two boxes on a table and stood in front of Eric.  “Have you been crying?”

“No…”

Mark hit Eric in the face and looked down at him with a grin.  “You say you weren’t crying, but I call bullshit.  If you can make it through the next twenty minutes without crying hysterically, I’ll let you go.”

Eric knew better than to let hope sprout its worthless seeds in his heart, but desperation took over.  “Yes,” he pleaded.

Mark pulled forceps out of his back pocket and gripped the sides of Eric’s face.  “Open up buttercup,” he said.  Eric’s eyes widened with horror when he noticed the forceps ended in sharp hooks.

Mark shoved the forceps into Eric’s mouth.  Sharp pain shot through his tongue as the forceps bit into the soft tissue.  Mark yanked on his tongue and pulled it halfway out of his mouth.

“I don’t want to do anything that will stop your screaming,” Mark said as he pulled something else out of his back pocket, “but I hate all of the pleading and whining.  Besides, I have a surprise for you.”

Mark grabbed a large, sharpened tube and flashed it in front of Eric’s face.

“This needle is a 0000 gauge, which means the hole in your tongue is going to be nearly half an inch wide.  It’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Eric bucked against the chair and cried out as Mark pressed the tip of the needle against his tender flesh and pushed.  He could feel the needle as it sliced through the meat, cleaving a hole the size of the tube into his tongue.  Mark shoved a thick metal rod into the end of the needle, and retracted the tube leaving the rod in its place. Before he released the forceps, Mark screwed a nostril sized ball onto the end of the metal shaft.  The rod was long enough that he couldn’t pull his tongue back into his mouth.

“There,” Mark said.  “Now let’s get down to the fun stuff.”

Mark walked over to the boxes on the table.  He picked up the first box and brought it closer to Eric. He shook the box fiercely and caused whatever was inside to react violently.  Mark laughed as he put the box on the floor and brought the second box over and showed it to Eric.

“This box has only one opening.  The inside is lined with mirrors, and there is an LED light in there.  I’m going to put this box on your head because I want you to be able to see what’s going on.”

He placed the box in Eric’s lap and turned on the light.  Mark walked back to the other box and carried it, with its living contents, back to him.  He shook the box one more time and chuckled wickedly.

“It’s been a few days since these guys have eaten,” Mark stated as he opened the top of the second box.  “If you ask nicely, I won’t introduce you to them.”

Mark flipped the second box over so its contents fell into the mirrored box.  Eric tried to beg, but the metal rod through his tongue kept him from speaking.

“No?  Okay, here we go!”

Mark flipped the mirrored box over and placed it over Eric’s head before the things inside could jump out.  The light inside the box made everything horribly clear.  Eric was looking into the beady black eyes of several rats.

The large rodents sat in corners and looked at him with a mix of curiosity and hunger.  Eric tried to calm himself, but wasn’t able to as he watched them inch forward bit by bit, their noses sniffing madly at the air.   They smelled his blood.

One of them darted forward and bit Eric’s bloody tongue.  He screamed and tried to move, but he was secured too tightly to the chair.  When he didn’t defend himself, the other rats dove into the fray.  Raging pain tore through Eric as the rats began to take bites out of his tongue.

They quickly ate his tongue down to the rod that had forced Eric to keep his mouth open.  He pulled what was left of his ravaged organ back inside of his mouth.  One of the rats tried to follow it and stuck its head inside of Eric’s mouth to get the rest of its meal.  Eric bit down on the rat’s head until he felt a crunch and spit the dead rat out as the remaining rodents started tearing at the soft flesh of his cheeks.

Eric knew Mark wanted to hear his screams and cries.  The only thing he could think of was to rob his captor of that joy.  He steeled himself against what was going to be an awful death and opened his mouth.  One of the rats scurried around the other two and darted into his mouth.  He fought against his instincts and let the rat climb inside.  The rodent quickly cut off his breathing as it started to eat.  Eric’s body demanded air, but his mind and heart demanded a quick death.

Eric’s vision started to grow dark around the edges, a welcome thing as he continued to struggle between wanting air and wanting to end the torment.  He bit down on the tail and trapped the rat inside his mouth.  The rodent squirmed for a few seconds before finally finding the only exit; downward.  Eric’s throat bulged as the rat stuck halfway down his esophagus and started clawing to find a way out.

He couldn’t scream, even if he wanted to.  He would die quietly, and that thought filled him with comfort.  Death came slowly, but the last noise that came from Eric was muffled and haunting.  It wasn’t a death rattle, or a cry, but the laughter of the dead.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 17

broken_link

Good Grace
Nina D’Arcangela

The metamorphosis begins with the lick of first dew. As Mother’s milk rains down, do we not feel the fracture, the impending breach; do we not begin to break under her ever present gaze? To hold fast we strive, yet a fool’s errand that. Mother will have her way, with rod or lash; we will obey. Extruded beyond time, a limit reached, one gives way with a whispered screech of banshees yet unheard. For as the coil rips asunder, so does the edge tip; the ferry no longer granting safe passage, we no longer the guardians in Mother’s good grace.


And It Swings
Joseph A. Pinto

And it swings and it swings and it swings o’er your head, the links like your memory eroding with time.  And you pray for the drop, do you not?  And you pray for the final fall.  And you have never been stronger than your weakest.  And you refuse to look Death in the face.  And all that you have lost still pains you.  And all that you live is a lie.  And you wonder how the gaps became so wide now.  And you wonder who is really holding on at all.

And it swings and it swings and it swings.


Broken Link
Veronica Magenta Nero

For months he watched her. The daily pattern of her life was his obsession. He studied her like a jigsaw puzzle, carefully fitting every piece in perfect place until the picture of who she was formed clearly in his mind. The time had finally come. To make his move. When he stepped out from the shadows onto her path he couldn’t have predicted her response. His plan was flawless, meticulous, he thought to himself as he choked and clutched his wet throat. She was the broken link. More twisted than he. She smiled as she drove the knife deeper in.


Will They Follow?
Jon Olson

Crows caw as my encased body sways above the ground. Weakly, I open my eyes, greeted by a familiar and featureless landscape. For four days now, this has been my view. The rusty chain holding my support post creaks, weakening in the bleak sun, threatening to break at any moment. Around me the crows circle impatiently; their caws urging me to die. Soon, once the chain breaks, I will do as they wish. Below is the large pit, the bottom of which I cannot see; where those who came before me now lie. Will the crows follow me down there?


Eyeless
Lee A. Forman

Does it know? Can it even see?

The absence of eyes leads her to think not.

She watches as the humanoid form scuttles close to the wall, its black featureless head tilting at odd angles. Insectile clicks echo in the dank cellar as it moves fingerless hands along the wall.

It makes her think of Grandpa—and how the cancer ate him alive. He always said it was the creature that gave it to him.

She watches the broken link as it pulls the chain tight. Her hands begin to shake.

How long did he think that chain would last?


Providence
Christopher A. Liccardi

Hanging, literally by a thread, my doom awaited. It swung, like luck, over me without remorse. I smiled at it.

My existence had been this fragile before and I’d survived. Would it be so again? Would the fates conceded the point and let me live? It was nothing to dwell upon. I would either make the trip across the rusted steel or I would plummet to my well-deserved end. Either way, forward was my direction. My prize wait on the other side and all I needed to do was make it past that final rusted link, the weakest link.


A Lunch to Remember
Zack Kullis

He had endured years of brutal teasing at the construction site. His coworkers were a bunch of knuckle dragging bastards, grownup versions of the little bastards that had taunted him throughout school. He looked down at the crew eating lunch directly below him.

He stood at the edge of the I-beam, tightened the rope around his neck, and stepped off. The ground rushed up. He knew his full bowels would let loose, his speed would pop his head off, and the last thing they would get from him would be his laughter, following by his shit, blood, and eternal hatred.


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

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

Blood and Dirt

John stooped down and picked up a handful of the warm red dirt and let the fine material fall through his fingers as he hiked.  The land had always reminded him of blood.   It wasn’t the color – that would have been a cheap and easy connection.  No, it was much more profound than that.

Blood was life.  Blood also meant death.  It joined the two in an unbreakable companionship of opposites that few truly understood.  This land was the same way.  It was both life and death, and he appreciated the connection.  More importantly, he understood and contributed to that connection. 

His boots moved silently across the terrain, disturbing very little, but the damned pack animal wasn’t quite as respectful.  It scattered rocks and dirt as it plodded along behind him.  John stopped pulling the bridle and turned around.

“I don’t know why in the hell I picked you up,” he cursed as he pulled his water bottle off the pack.  “There were plenty of other animals I could have picked….  I don’t know why I bother talking to you either, you sure as shit can’t answer me.” 

John took a mouthful of sweet water and watched the flies land on the beast’s head and face.    The damn thing was worn out.  At one point in his life, before he decided to break away from the civilized world and reach back to his natural self, he would have felt sorry for the animal.  But now that he had been out here for a few years, John realized that life was no different from death, it was just a different way of being a part of the land.

He put the water bottle back in the heavy pack and coaxed the tired creature onward with a stiff pull of the rope and bridle.  They were almost back at camp.  Spastic breathing and grunts behind him caught his attention.  John turned to see his animal lose its footing in the rocks and nearly dump the heavy pack.  He dropped the rope and grabbed the bit sandwiched between the animal’s broken teeth and made sure it didn’t fall.  The thing’s eyes were wide with fear, red from exhaustion, and full of an almost human pleading.

“Fine,” he said as he grabbed the bridle and continued to hike.  “This is your last trip.  I’ll cut you loose at camp and see about getting a replacement.”

John was surprised to see the animal managed the rest of the trip without any issues.  It even seemed to hurry a bit, as if it understood what he told it.  But that was silliness.  He really needed to stop attributing human emotions and comprehension to simple creatures.

Camp was inside a cave at the end of a hidden canyon.  It offered simple relief from the heat of the day and the cool of the desert night, as well as the isolation that John wanted.  The animal stopped at its spot and let him shackle its legs in place.  Proper training and more than a few beatings had taught it to follow this routine.  He pulled the pack off the sweaty beast and placed it against the back of the cave.  John whistled a nameless tune as he poured some water into a bucket for the creature.  He untied the bit from behind the animal’s head and let the thing drink its fill.

The thirsty slurping came to a stop and the animal pulled its head out of the bucket.  Its eyes watched him with renewed energy as John started the fire.  The thing made mewling noises and groans that probably meant something, but he paid no attention.  Animals that have been properly dealt with didn’t speak.  He had made sure of that personally.

“But if you could talk, would you ask for me to let you go?” he asked as he stood up.  “Would you ask to be released into the wild?  You might, but that would be a bad idea.  Why?  Because you are tame.  The land would kill you.  That’s how you and I are different.  I’ve become an integral part of the land, and as such, I live.  You are tame, like so many of your kind, and as such, you die in this land.  It’s your natural place.  Tonight I’ll set you free, but not as you might wish.”

The groan and guttural cry from the creature was perhaps the most pathetic thing he’d ever heard.

“Uhwana neee!”

Tears welled in the things eyes and fell in heavy drops to the red dirt at its feet.  John reached behind his back and pulled out his knife.  The animal kicked and pulled against the restraints, heedless of the damage it was inflicting on itself, apparently aware of what was about to come.

“Shut up,” John growled, furious at the weakness displayed by this thing.  Why couldn’t it simply understand its place?  He swung his blade carefully and smashed the thick butt of his knife into the side of the creature’s head, sending it crashing against the rock wall of the cave.

Large drops of blood began to patter slowly to the red dirt that turned a deep crimson with the addition of the offering.  The land accepted the blood and drank it thirstily.  It was indeed time.

John knew there should be nothing to impede the flow of blood, so he grabbed the leather strap that secured the cloth to the beast.  He had found it best to keep them covered while they hauled his gear for them.  They seemed to last a little longer.

He grabbed the leather and cut through it with his knife while the animal was still dazed from the blow.  John pulled the belt through the straps, dropped it to the floor, and quickly sliced through the flimsy material.  The dirty shirt fell in a heap on the ground.  John could see the thing was starting to come to its senses so he quickly cut away the Levis.

“All right, let’s get this done,” he said and slapped it across the face.  John wanted the animal to be lucid as he offered its blood to the land.  The creature recoiled, fear shining bright in its eyes, and it tried to speak again.

“Preeeezz…  U wanna nee!”

A crucifix swung on its necklace, the tarnished metal bounced across its filthy skin.  Chest hairs shook with the silent sob that overwhelmed the creature.  Cold air whispered through the cave and caused it to shiver, accentuating the miserable thing’s shaking.  Its hands, bloodied and useless, had been handcuffed behind its back since the day John picked it up.  A pair of emaciated legs wobbled as they tried to keep from collapsing.

Maybe it had been a man at some time, John wondered, but that would have been a long time ago.  Most of what he saw walking around the rest stop near the highway didn’t qualify as human.  Sure, they had their vehicles, their fancy clothes and families, but they had stopped being human the moment their lives became measured by likes and comments, and their self-centric view of everything around them guided their narcissistic interactions.  In a few days he would hike down to the rest stop and pick up a new beast.  They were nothing short of animals. Every one of them.

He pushed its head against the cave wall and pressed until the artery in its neck was easy to find.  The creature tried talking again, this time definitely sounding like a please, but it was hard to enunciate when your tongue had been cut out.  John remembered that moment very well, not because it quieted the shouting and pleading, but because it was the last time he had eaten meat.  It had been a small meal.  That would all change in just a minute.

John placed the tip of the sharp knife against the skin that pulsated from the nearby artery and looked into its eyes one more time.  He couldn’t tell if the creature was pleading for the blade or pleading for freedom.  To John it was all the same.  To the land, it was all the same.

The blade cut deep and the warm blood sprayed.  The first slice of meat sizzled in the heat of the fire before the blood stopped flowing out of the deep wound.  John ate the meat, the land soaked up the blood, and the sweet companionship of life and death continued under the desert moon.

~ Zack Kullis

© Copyright 2016 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.

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