Tag Archive | Damned

Damned Words 39

 

Inner Matters
Lee Andrew Forman

The sounds of the world bring peace: crunching gravel, leaves dancing with nature, songs sung by the creations of life. Reality has other sides, some which only a vagabond can see along their journey. The pleasant are never left unappreciated. The darkest sit atop your shoulders, ever apparent in your sight.

A band of three delinquents emerge from the brush to intercept my path, smoke-filled ugliness trailing from their mouths. Their eyes immediately find me: the derelict, the tattered wanderer, the lonely victim. But their eyes only see what their minds can imagine. I sigh in response to their vile introductions.

Before they can hassle me further my front-side expands and splits down the middle. My innards expel themselves and splatter the deviants in carnage. Fluids dissolve their flesh; they scream a futile cry of agony no one will ever hear. Only when my would-be predators are mere remnants of ooze do my organs crawl back and nestle themselves where they belong, happy and well-fed.


Tracks
Charles Gramlich

“Shhhh, I’m here.”

The man shuddered, not quite sure yet what had happened to him. I rested his head in my lap, then pushed sweat-matted hair back from his face to see his terrified eyes.

“Help…me,” he begged.

I shook my head. “Sorry. This could have been avoided, but…” I gestured for him to look at himself.

He turned his head to gaze down his body. I let him scream at what the passing train had done. He tried to struggle, to thrash his arms and legs. He had no arms or legs. Shredded remnants of his severed limbs looked like piles of cooked raspberries strewn along the tracks. And, as I’d read would happen, the train’s weight had cinched the torn veins shut. He wasn’t bleeding out; he’d live a while yet. No one would find him here, though, where I’d tied him to the tracks.

“Please,” he begged again.

I shrugged and rose. “I warned you about those spam calls from your site.” Taking out my cell, I punched a number. The phone in the man’s pocket buzzed obnoxiously. “Press 2 to be placed on my do not call list,” I told him.


Family Honor
Mark Steinwachs

When I pulled the trigger years ago, I knew my turn would come. There is only one of us in the family at any time. My death is their first hit.

Blindfolded and with hands tied behind my back I shuffle along rocky ground. Whoever is behind me helps guide me. He nudges the back of my knee with his foot and I awkwardly let myself fall to my knees. He lays me flat, my face touching cold metal, then pulls the blindfold back enough for me to look down the long track. Not the same track I used of course, but the scene floods my memory. There is only one person who knows the story of my first hit. I never thought he would be the one.

“Thank you,” a male voice says, one I’ve known since he was born. “Your place of honor awaits.”

Those words, the exact ones I spoke when it was my turn, linger in my brain as I hear the click of the safety releasing.


Now You Stand and Wait
Scarlett R. Algee

They’d picked up her clothes along the track, almost too shredded to bother, and the whole time Shep had been grumbling you’re a damn fool, it ain’t the same no more; so when Shep squats by the rail and picks up a tuft of fluffy black fur, Ben hates him a little.

He clutches the ruined clothes, swats away Shep’s offered rifle, stares down the slope to the ground beneath the trestle bridge. Squints. Wonders. “She’s still my girl.”

Shep toes the claw marks along a rusted edge of rail. “You think that now.”

“She’s still Ellie. You just wait here.”

Alone, Ben treks down to the darkness under the bridge, stands at the bottom to a warning growl. He glimpses eyeshine in the black yards away. “Ellie, it’s Daddy.”

He steps closer. Another growl, deeper, but Ben can see the shape of her now, huge and magnificent, tail held out stiff. He clears his throat. “It’s gettin’ late. Your mama’s got supper waitin’.”

Ellie’s snarl is softer this time. Ben decides to take the chance. Sure, maybe he’s a fool, but she is still his girl.

Step by step, he walks into the darkness, toward the waiting wolf.


The Flattened Penny
A.F. Stewart

I can still smell the copper stench.

And hear the way the train’s wheels screeched as it rolled over the penny on the track, squashing it razor thin. I watched Denny pick up the flat coin, after it cooled down, and wave it around laughing.

I didn’t laugh.

Denny never heard the whistle of the other train, the death train. The one I had seen before, that should have been my ride. One penny to the conductor as payment, but that foul creature didn’t care much about who held the coin. Easy enough to cheat him.

Poor Denny.

That’s the smell of copper I remember. His blood.

But better him than me.


Taking the Ride
Nina D’Arcangela

The rumble loosens my gut; thrums through my body. My eyes quake in their jelly as teeth shiver saliva from plump, rouged lips. Searing heat washes over me as the screech assaults my core. I feel the shatter of my sinus cavities as the revolution of iron pressed upon iron crushes my head. Body thrashing in the wash, I Pollock the scree, feed the weeds; slick the rail for the next eager rider.


Definitely Not a God
Lydia Prime

Beneath the rocks and rails there lies a secret that our tiny town holds. We keep quiet and everything stays peaceful, that’s how it’s always been. Mama says it’s God under those tracks, says he protects us even in his sleep. I don’t think Mama knows what God is.

Late at night I sneak down to the tracks and kick the rocks as I walk past the iron ties. I can hear it, sometimes it sounds like snoring, but other times… If Mama could hear the noises I know she’d change her mind.

Just a ways ahead, the rocks shift and I sprint to see who’s there. The air smells of earth and death, my eyes settle on a gnarled looking creature hunching over in the moonlight. All six of its eyes blink then lock on me. I’ve never seen anything more gruesome, it grins and licks its crooked lips.

I turn to run but my foot snags the rusted rail. As I scramble to my feet, four more creatures step into sight. I was right Mama, definitely not a God.


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2019

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Damned Words 38

Below Stairs
A.F. Stewart

Upstairs the music plays, a tragic operatic aria of lament and loss. It drowns out the hiss and creak of the steam and wheels, and the crunch of bones. Oblivious laughter—from the latest guests—mingles with the song, their merry voices drifting into a preceding silence of parties long forgotten.

For the dead no longer scream.

Beneath the gaiety, the servants’ footfalls tread along the stair, from back rooms and the kitchens, down to the deepest level. There, they feed the machines stockpiled flesh. Watching the meat grind, the blood and bone pulverize into dripping globs of raw spat out into vats, waiting for dinners to come. In another corner, maids tuck away silks and jewels to sell.

Nothing to be wasted. No remains to be found.

Above it all the people circulate, eating canopies and drinking wine. The host, he smiles and makes the rounds, greeting and exchanging pleasantries. He gives them all the best of times, a fitting end before they become his next feast.


Bones
Lee Andrew Forman

Firm structure to fine dust—machines turn in unending drudge. Bleach powder, chalky, light, stirs endless with their rusted labor. Ill fated are the powers which motivate the process; knowing soon they’d become its product. Weakness feeds the goods produced, monsters purchase its favor. With delicate pouf, makeup, attire; they parade around with gratuitous chortles. Their faces worn in layers of death, they grin ever wide with flavor. For a bit of coin, their color reborn, pale as frosted glass. Those suffered the gift of an end, worth only a minute of reception, would be stripped of flesh and ground to pleasure each patron.


Every Last Damnèd Soul
Scarlett R. Algee

It’s a tricky business, distilling souls. Always have to boil the bitterness off first; it gunks up the works if you don’t, and it’s a bitch to clean out, pardon my saying. Take this lot—they’ve been stewing for three days just to get the residual resentment out. Drowners, all of them. We leave the salt water in, though; customers say it adds a little something to the finished product.

Some of the souls scream while they’re rendered. Some of them sing. I’m told it’s quite enticing. I’ve mostly learned to ignore it, myself.

Madam. Madam. What are you doing out here on the floor? No, you may not touch the machines. The experience would be damnably unpleasant for both of us, pardon my saying.

Madam, please—what’s that? Your son? You think you hear your son? You have my condolences, but that’s quite unlikely. They aren’t really identifiable now, so for your safety I must insist—madam! Madam!

Oh…not again.

Patterson? Yes, idiot, of course we stop the process! We need an extraction here! She’s the third one this month!

But save the blood. Every drop. The customers say it gives a certain ambiance. Besides, she sings prettily already, doesn’t she?


Rust
Charles Gramlich

He fled. And the wicked followed. Their boots banged like gunshots as they chased him through the abandoned factory where he’d sought refuge. Down empty corridors, they went, through shattered doors. He knew this world and lost them in a room of silent turbines. The search moved on.

The hunters hooted through the vast spaces, first in glee, then frustration. The sounds faded, but the hunters were cunning. He stepped from his hiding place only to meet a brutal blow to the back. Tricked, he went down in terror, and rolled over to find himself encircled by humans. Snarling, they hefted steel bars torn from the factory’s rusted machines.

He threw up an arm; they hammered through that defense, smashing his limbs, crushing his abdomen, sending pieces of him clanging across the floor. Within moments his body lay in a heap of torn alloy. One eye sparked and sputtered. But with his other eye and the last of his consciousness he watched as they set him afire. His vision bloomed, then blackened. A human curse was the last thing he heard.

“Robot slag! Now let’s get the rest of ‘em.”


The Machine
Mark Steinwachs

I cough as my gnarled hands run over the tarnished machine. “It’s amazing how many people don’t believe it happened. Proof that humans are fools. Wirths, Mengele, Clauberg; they would have been nothing without me. Mere footnotes.” I lead him amongst the tanks, my fingers gently caressing them. I shuffle along as best I can, years of dust getting caught in the sun coming through the windows. The tiny particles remind of …“I killed millions. Let that sink in. Millions. And here I am. I live my life hidden in plain sight, just like her.” I kiss the tank gently. “Now it’s your turn. Go back and make your country great again, and then the world. Go, my lieb enkel, my dear grandson. Finish what I started.”

“I promise,” he whispers and kisses my forehead then walks away from me.

I lay down on the cold floor. The screams of decades ago flood back. Smiling, I close my eyes for the last time. I only wish I would get to hear that sweet anguish again.


Once
Mercedes M. Yardley

He was hungry. He was always hungry, always starving, always ravenous. His face was far too sharp and his cheekbones cut against his skin in the most visceral of ways. Once he had a name and even people who called him by it, and food was a bit easier to come by. Never quite enough, surely, but not too little.

He slept in the abandoned factory, catching rats and spiders when he could. It didn’t matter if they were malformed by radiation, because so was he. He stuffed them in his mouth, piece by piece, bit by bit. If he just held on, if he just stayed alive, all of this would make sense one day. He had to believe it.


Yes, Father
Lydia Prime

After closing the door, the towheaded child turned, “Father, I’ve returned the chalice. Is there anything else you need?”

“No son. Thank you for your service today.”

As the boy turned to go, he hesitated, turned back, “Father, one of the other boys mentioned a puddle in the basement, I thought I should tell you.”

Glancing at the boy, the Father headed toward the door leading down the stairs. “Where is this puddle?” he asked, hands clasped.

“Just to the left, Father, down the hall.” The boy looked shamed, almost embarrassed as though he’d heard the rumors. Could this one be asking? It seemed unlikely, but he couldn’t help himself, he ran his tongue ever so slightly across his lips.

“The generator room?”

“Yes, Father. The generator room,” the flaccid faced boy stood still and expectant.

“After you, my child.” The youth led him into the room, the light dim as always. Confusion took hold of the robed man, there were others there…waiting. The row of young boys tensed with anticipation. “What’s going on here? Did you all find the puddle?” A nervous chuckle.

“No father, we’ve found redemption. The shame isn’t ours.” As each youth smiled, the glint of their sharpened teeth told of a different indiscretion.


Feed the Machine
Nina D’Arcangela

Bones crush; the mechanism churns, always turns. Spinning, crunching, consuming. The snap of a skull; shrapnel slices the air nicking tympanic membrane. Those that man the machine have no hearing, they are born without; the ear a remnant from long ago. Chattle of the cause, a war not ours, we breed only to feed the machine.


 

Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2019

Damned Words 37

 

Fey
Charles Gramlich

Beneath an icicle sky on a wormwood day of wither, I glimpse her winged form nested in the branches of a tree. A nimbus plays around her hollowed cheeks while the wind spiders in her hair. A saber would be jealous of those desolation eyes. I am smitten.

Day after day I return to her barren temple, to confess my holy secrets, to reveal all my sacred mysteries. No one has ever listened to me the way she does—even to the words I don’t speak. No one else understands. I am besotted.

Late one evening, in a seizure of longing, I beg her to marry me. She unfolds from the tree’s branches like animated origami. Down the trunk she slithers, until she stands before me, sky-clad, shadow-feathered. I swear to be hers forever. She smiles at me with a mouth like a scream. I don’t think she’s an angel.

But neither am I.


Blood Oak
Scarlett R. Algee

There were two humans, once.

There were more, of course. Beneath my canopy I sheltered lovers, threw shadows over children at play, spread my branches for curious climbers. But one night when there was no moon, there were these two beneath me. Male, female, I could never tell. They argued, shouted, shoved. There was a noise and one fell, not rising, and leaked.

The soil around my roots caught the liquid. In it I tasted the richness of the earth: iron, copper, salt. My branches heaved and shivered, breaking out in buds and small, new red leaves. My bark cracked around sudden growth. My creeping, ponderous thoughts grew quick, and in the darkness I felt a warmth like the sun.

I crave that liquid, but no humans have approached me since. They turn away as if my soil has been cursed, as if my leaves bear some blight.

But tonight, there are two again.

They laugh, sway, stare at each other. Anticipation stirs my sap as they sit in the spread of my roots, and my rootlets twitch, reaching up for the surface.

It has been so long, and I am so hungry.


Dead
A.F. Stewart

They buried me here, under the tree. Dug a hole and shoved my body between the roots, stuffed me down like garbage and covered me with soil. I was dead, but I watched every clump of dirt they threw on my corpse. I heard their grunts, panicked whispers and jokes. I watched three boys I had known all my life bury me and prayed it was a nightmare. It wasn’t. I knew then I would make them pay.

I started with Johnny, the ringleader. His smirk was the last thing I saw before I died. The last thing he saw was the rotary blade before it sliced into his face. All it took was a good ghostly shove.

Blake and Ronnie came next, with Blake taking a tumble down some stairs thanks to me. Broke his neck. And one night Ronnie missed Dead Man’s Curve when I yanked the steering wheel nice and hard. They found his corpse in the twisted wreckage of his car two days later.

And the best thing? Those three boys are here with me by the tree for eternity. I can hear their souls screaming from my grave.


The Hunt
Roger Ley

She tried to move quickly through the winter wood but brambles tore at her clothes and legs, her bare feet sank into the wet, black mud, branches clawed down to entangle her. The excited yelping of the hounds spurred her on but the softening ground sucked at every footstep. She fought for breath and tried to muffle the sound of her gasps. Crossing a clearing, she sank calf deep, and could run no further. Looking back, she could see the dim light from the swinging lanterns of the huntsmen, soon they would release the dogs.

She raised her arms above her head in supplication and called to the sky. There was no answer, but her arms and splayed fingers began to stretch and lengthen. Her toes grew, reached into the dark wetness, and gripped the roots and rocks they found down there. She felt her limbs and body stiffen, skin ridged and cracked, thorns sprouted. Sight fading, she heard the dogs as they panted past, their masters slogging after them. Slowly sleep enfolded her, a deep sleep that would last until the spring, and bud burst on the blackthorn she had become.


Rebirth
Mark Steinwachs

The gray sky feels oddly fitting. I try to move again, any part of my body, but I fail, not even a twitch. I’m not sure what drug he injected into my veins but I’m thankful for it now. I think I yelled and begged for release. It’s hard to get a handle on reality.

“You must die to be reborn. Like this tree is born anew each year, you will flourish again,” he says from behind me.

I sense movement and feel a slight pressure against my neck. Warm water? It’s soothing and I start to get tired. My eyes close and I drift off.


When You Are Dead
Mercedes M. Yardley

When you are dead, everything is different.

You don’t cry so much, or perhaps not at all. When you speak, your words are swallowed into the ether without making a sound. When you are dead, the wind lifts you and you billow. Your feet are always at least three feet above the earth.

When you are dead, you are equal with everyone else. All spirits are stripped to their nakedness and their skins shine like stars. You are dead, simply dead, and no death is grander than any other. It does not matter if you were murdered, or slipped in the shower, or took too many pills, or there was a power surge and the machine keeping you alive malfunctioned. Your hands are empty. You don’t keep a hold of the knife or the baby blanket or the noose that hung around your neck. You let these things go.


Stifled
Lee A. Forman

All warned against it, but I could stall curiosity no longer. When I put my palm against its dry flesh the hum of life coursed through me. The air thickened. Not a bird sang in the sky, nor would one land upon the outstretched embrace of its bony fingers. Mystery took its dark form and raced my heart. Regret soaked my clothes.

I briefed understanding—something vile thrived there.

A cream-white vine rose from the soil. The slender, pulsating serpent wrapped itself around me. It squeezed with each sickening pulse of its veiny body. A warm sensation covered my groin. It tightened its hold. Others sprouted around the first and held my limbs. They brought me to the ground, pressing my back against the dirt; the soft earth gave easily. My eyes strained to witness the overcast sky one last time before darkness stifled my existence.


Vena Cava
Nina D’Arcangela

The suck and pull from below is brutal, yet he stands majestic while enduring imminent demise. The alveoli fail to deliver, the lesser bronchioles shed into the spongy gray that surrounds. A greedy bitch, she demands more; a humble supplicant, he offers all. The pulse dwindles: slower this minute than the last, more sluggish than the beat before. She grants no quarter regardless of age or stature. She will exsanguinate until pulmonary collapse, at which point the superior will no longer sustain, taking the inferior with it as a single fused husk.


Judgement
Lydia Prime

“Don’t judge me,” I scream in my drunken stupor. “You don’t know what I’ve been through!” I reach for my bottle of bourbon and start to dig again. Each place I plunge the spade, the ground resists.

“He hurt me in ways you can never know.” I slur my words as I nearly fall, stumbling from the booze and pain. Another swig and I hurl the bottle at the tree. “I left a mark on your trunk, like the marks he left on me!”

The earth below starts to shift, the dirt softening. “Now you understand.”

I finish the plot in no time, dragging his body into the hole. I look around knowing I have to retrieve the bottle before I go – it has my fingerprints on it. I find it near the base of the tree, bending to pick it up. As I do, I notice the ground is softer here, unsteady. I’ve drunk too much and am imagining the dirt moving. Shaking my head, I turn to leave and trip over a tangle of roots. I don’t remember seeing those before… then more sprout.

As I’m dragged under, I swear the tree stands satisfied and smug.

Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2019

 

Anniversary

Stepping out of the car, I look up at Lake Euphoria Inn.

Although they’ve spruced up the three story building with a fresh coat of paint, it’s still the same place where my wife and I spent all our anniversaries.

Including our last.

Turning away from the inn, I have no intentions of reliving those memories in the honeymoon suite. Instead my eyes fall upon the path cut into the trees, which leads to Lake Euphoria itself.

It used to be a dirt path with odd roots protruding through, but now it’s a well-maintained gravel walkway.

As the gravel crunches beneath my feet it does little to ease the churning acid in my gut. Reaching to the small of my back, I make sure the gun is still tucked into the waistband of my pants. My fingers brush against the grip, reassuring me the pain is almost over.

I continue walking a few more steps, coming to the spot where my life was torn apart.

Looking around the small clearing I can still see my wife sprawled on her back, stomach ripped open, absolute terror permanently etched upon her face.

I had gone back to our room to retrieve the camera that I forgot to grab. On my way back I’d heard her screams, raw and terrified.

And then, silence.

Running as fast as possible, I came upon the thing. It stood knee-deep in the water, my wife’s entrails hanging from its mouth. Wet scales glistened on its body in the afternoon light. The amphibious abomination looked at me and smiled before disappearing under the water.

I shake my head, clearing those images from my mind.

The water laps against the large rocks surrounding Lake Euphoria. Perching myself on one of them near the spot where she died, I remove the gun from my waistband. In the weeks leading up to this day I fantasized about how it would feel. Would I be sad? Fearful? Or even relieved?

No.

Nothing.

Even with the gun in hand and the barrel in my mouth, I’m void of emotion. I’m already dead.

Pulling back on the hammer, I steal one final glance to the lake… and there it is! The fucking thing, its head sticking out of the water, watching me.

I open fire until the gun clicks empty, all my shots missing wide.

It dips below the surface.

Diving in the cold water shocks my system. Where are you goddamn it? Although the lake is murky, there is some visibility. I don’t see it right away but I know it’s there.

My lungs begin to burn.

Something glides past me.

I reach out but grab nothing.

I hear a groan muffled by the water.

My lungs scream. I need air…there it is! Only a few feet away, staring at me with golden fish-like eyes…

…I inhale foul water…

…my body thrashes…

…choking…

…but I can’t look away…

…strength fading…

…lungs full of water…

…drowning…

…it smiles…

…and swims off.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved.

Fireworks

It was a beautiful night for July Fourth fireworks. Frank Manetti drank an ice-cold Bud as he sat with his wife, Kim, on a picnic blanket in the park. All around, over a hundred people had gathered on blanket islands, waiting for the big show in the sky. Giggling kids ran with sparklers. On a stage, the high school band performed ‘Stars and Stripes’.

Frank and Kim’s three-year-old daughter, Emmy, talked to a jar of lightning bugs that Daddy had caught with her earlier. His baby girl looked adorable with face-painted flowers blooming on her cheeks. Frank wished he could bottle up Emmy’s preciousness and keep it forever. His teenage kids had grown out of that stage.

Collin, his fourteen-year-old, sat off by himself under a tree, playing a damned video game on his tablet, oblivious to the festivities. Agitation gnawing his gut, Frank searched the crowd for his sixteen-year-old. Cassandra stood near the softball field bleachers, talking with her girlfriends and some older boys.

“Cass should be with us,” Frank muttered. “I’m going over there.”

“Leave her be,” Kim said. “You’ll just embarrass her and then she’ll hate us for a month.”

It pained Frank’s heart that his kids had grown distant. Whenever his family was all together, Cass was always texting and Collin rarely looked up from a digital screen. At least I have sweet Emmy a few more years. His youngest looked up, smiled at Daddy, then went back to talking to the jar of glowing bugs.

Frank fished out two more beers from the cooler and nuzzled next to his wife, handing her a cold one. He kept one eye on Cass and the boys. He wanted very much to enjoy the school’s orchestra, but a group of sketchy teens nearby were blaring god-damn rap music. Their cigarettes lit up the gloom like fireflies.

“Hey,” Frank shouted. “You wanna turn that down? We’re trying to hear the band.”

A punk in a sleeveless T-shirt and black bandana turned his head and blew out smoke. “Got a problem, dude?”

“Yeah, I got a problem. You’re upsetting the people who came for the show.”

“Here’s your show.” Bandana gave him the finger and turned the music up louder. His friends snickered and raised their beers.

A rash of heat spread across Frank’s face. Squeezing his fist, he started to get up, but Kim grabbed his arm. “Don’t.”

Back in his marine days, Frank would have pounded the shit out of these assholes. With his wife and daughter nearby, he refrained.

The band stopped and Mayor McKee stepped onto the stage. “Is everyone ready for our big fireworks extravaganza?”

Families cheered. The softball team raised their bats and gloves.

The mayor gave the signal and the band started playing ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. The first bottle rocket launched a flare into the air with a whistle. White dots sparkled the night sky, followed by crackles. Emmy clapped and giggled. Next came starbursts of red, white, and blue. The audience gave an applause.

As bright lights lit up everyone’s faces, Frank watched Cass standing too close to some jock. The pungent smell of weed wafted across the Manetti family’s blanket. Frank’s glare shifted to Bandana and his gang of lowlifes. A big guy with a shaved head inhaled smoke from a joint.

Frank was about to confiscate the damned thing, when the gang members pointed toward the sky. Kaleidoscopes of colors flashed over the park. Then a shrieking flare shot down and exploded on the band. The music stopped as shattered instruments cut through the crowd like shrapnel. A piece of trombone speared into the mayor’s chest.

“Jesus!” Frank straightened.

“My God! What’s happening?” Kim asked.

He shook his head, stunned by the carnage of dead and wounded people. The blast had been too big for a poorly-aimed firework. More like a mortar. He’d suffered plenty of them in Iraq. His first thought was terrorist attack.

Two more flares shot from the sky and struck the blankets of the softball team. Kim threw her arms over Emmy as fiery body parts and sports gear flew through the air. A spinning aluminum bat shattered Emmy’s firefly jar.

Frank shielded Kim and Emmy with his body as more explosions erupted across the park. Screams and crying sounded all around. People trampled over one another to find cover.

A dozen flying objects emerged from the smoke. Long, sweeping red lasers burned holes through people all across the field. A man’s head glowed orange before it vaporized.

A running kid in a band uniform burst into red mist.

Kim cried, “Our kids!”

“I’ll find them,” Frank handed his toddler off to Kim and pointed to the woods that bordered the park. “You and Emmy get to safety.”

She hesitated, her eyes pleading.

He pushed Kim. “Go!”

Three small UFOs flew over and barraged the scrambling crowd. A blast hit Bandana’s gang, splattering the shaved-head kid all over the others. A singed arm with tattoos landed on Frank’s blanket.

Covered in blood, Bandana and his friends joined a panicked mob that knocked Frank to the ground. Shoes stepped on his hand and back. Emmy cried. Kim screamed.

He watched helplessly as wife and daughter were caught up in a stampede that carried them away into a cloud of smoke. Two small UFOs zipped after them.

Frank scooped up an aluminum bat and ran into the haze searching for Cass and Collin. Scorched bodies lay scattered across the grass. Dodging blasts and debris, he scoured the ground, terrified of finding his kids among the dead. Bandana reached up, begging for help. Then a laser sliced the prone punk’s skull in half.

Six more UFOs whooshed overhead, shooting at anyone who moved. Frank ducked beneath a tree as lasers torched the branches. The treetop caught fire.

He ran toward the woods, screaming his older children’s names, “Cass! Collin!”

“Dad!”

He spotted Cassandra running with a crowd through the forest. “Cass!”

“Daddy!” She made her way back and hugged her father.

“Where’s Collin?”

Cass shook her head. “Mom and Emmy?”

“In the woods. Safe, I hope.”

Still gripping the metal bat, Frank led Cass along a creek. Their feet splashed through shallow water. Dazed survivors hid behind tree trunks. Others ran and took cover under a bridge. Frank and Cass joined them in the shadows. By the grace of God, he found Kim and Emmy among the crowd. They were badly cut and bruised, but okay. The four hugged, thankful to be alive.

“Collin?” Kim asked.

Frank’s heart sank, learning that his son was still out there. “Take care of the girls. I’ll try to find him.” He stepped out from beneath the bridge.

A metallic whoosh reverberated through the air. Red lights glowed. A small object flew low along the creek. Two robotic arms stretched out of its sides and turned into spinning blades. The UFO charged straight for the survivors under the bridge. Frank stood in front, wielding his bat. Just as the craft reached him, he swung, smacked the thing, and sent it rolling through the creek. Sparks skipped across the water. The spinning blades stopped and the red lights winked out.

Frank picked up the dead machine with both hands. Weighing less than fifty pounds, it looked like some kind of alien spacecraft with multiple weapons. He turned it over. “What the fuck?” Etched into its belly were the words, ‘Made in China’.

Frank returned to the crowd beneath the bridge, more confused than ever, and determined to protect his girls. As he watched several more machines fly off over the treetops, he feared for his son.

*   *   *

A few blocks away, Collin Manetti jogged down a sidewalk through the neighborhood. He could still hear distant laser blasts and screams as people sought shelter. Several houses had caught fire. A few smoking bodies lay on the road and front lawns.

One of the flying machines careened up the street and hovered straight above Collin. He admired the technology of blinking lights and arsenal of weapons that jutted from its sides like tentacles. The ASSASSYN-X9000 was the coolest drone he’d ever seen. He gave it a salute and typed a few commands on his tablet. The drone zipped away to create havoc somewhere else.

Whistling, Collin entered his best friend’s house. Matt and Toby sat in the living room with VR goggles on their heads. Both teens cheered as they rapidly thumbed their joystick buttons.

“Dude, this new video game is kick ass,” Matt said. “I feel like I’m flying a spacecraft.”

“The screams sound so real,” Toby said.

“That’s because they are, dipshit.” Collin dropped into a beanbag chair and put on a third set of goggles. He switched the controls from his tablet to the joystick console and resumed control of a handful of machines, sending them on a search and destroy mission through the neighborhood and into the woods.

“I gotta get me one of these,” Matt said. “Where’d you get it?”

“Bought it off a gaming website from China.” Collin felt the sensation of sitting in a moving cockpit, as he dive-bombed people running along the ground.

Toby yelled “Score!” when he obliterated another target. “How many drones did you say the game comes with?”

Collin grinned. “A dozen. And the box comes with plenty of fireworks.”

∼ Brian Moreland

© Copyright Brian Moreland. All Rights Reserved.

Necropolis

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

The coffin rocked again, this time more violently.

“Fucking hell!” swore Reverend Nathaniel.

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

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

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

The crowd began to disperse, screams erupting.

***

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

The Guardian had come. The Guardian would claim everyone.

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

***

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

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

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

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

“Our Father who art in heaven…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

Nemesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Veronica Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2016 Veronica Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

New Breed

I was born twice. Once in my own world, of which I recall very little, and once again by a human vessel. My consciousness was merged with human seed and implanted in a hot womb of thriving tissue. 
Perhaps those months spent within my human host are the most enjoyable in my memory. No one could reach me there. I was happy, alone, protected and silent; safe from the Fathers and not yet privy to the horrors of this Earth. Nourishment was instant. I desired nothing, much like the state I once enjoyed in my homeland. Then came the time to be expelled and no matter how much I refused, the imperative of the human body was unstoppable. I was squeezed in the most undignified way through a narrow canal, my skull and limbs crushed by straining muscles.

Deformed and coated in human slime, I arrived on this planet. I screeched in terror, in outrage. The humans smiled, their faces glazed with ignorance. They were so proud of themselves and so smitten with me, as if I really was their very own creation.

I once met another like myself. This never occurs, it was no coincidence. It was a warning, to teach me a lesson.

He appeared to be a well dressed business man. We passed each other on the street, then we both stopped and turned back to stare at one another. He looked around anxiously. He dropped his briefcase and grabbed my arms.

“Free yourself!” he hissed. “Use the humanity to mask yourself!”

He revealed his true eyes to me, the pupils stretched to long slits, the colour of the iris drained away. I looked at him helplessly and recognised the burden cast upon us, this human suffering we are made to bear. I felt his fingers morph as they clutched me, stretching and curling into long grey digits.

There was so much I wanted to ask him but I couldn’t utter a sound and our meeting was swiftly ended. He coughed, buckled and seized, his skin began to smoke and burn, the smell of it revolting. I felt his excruciating pain and together we screamed. Still clutching me he melted like wax, his body folding upon itself, bones and organs exposed for a moment before disintegrating. I stared as his sizzling remains, my clothes stained with his dripping flesh.

I was on a busy street; humans rushed past me, unaware as usual. Blind, deaf and dumb to the reality around them. I couldn’t make sense of the emotions coursing through me. 
Is this madness? I wondered, Can I succumb to the weaknesses of the human mind?

***

I have been sent here as many before me were sent and many more will follow. We live among you while your governments shoot their toy rocket ships into space. We are here beside you as you stare into the night sky pondering extraterrestrials. You are infantile, primitive creatures. My Fathers recognise your wealth even if you do not. The rich earth you live upon and the unique consciousness and bodies you possess, there is much on your planet for them to reap and therefore they sow. Each generation is a little less human as we assimilate your genes.

Their grand design and agenda, that I can’t disclose for I don’t know myself. I serve as countless others serve. I receive my instructions one at a time and everything that occurs in this human life I inhabit is preordained, I have no free will to gamble with.

I have jumped through all the hoops; school, work, family. I have upheld an identity, a personality. All these things I have endured, as well as any real human, for the sake of the Fathers. Every day I wonder, is my service finally complete? Will I soon be able to vacate this form? Perhaps tomorrow a car will crush me or I will be shot in the street or better still, I will be given the directive to do it myself. I would gladly poison this body, laughing as it twitched and jerked to its demise. I daydream about slashing wrists and broken necks. I would revel in the torture of this soft, sensual jail. I have never become fully accustomed to it. It accomplishes things in such slow, inefficient ways, victim to the savage torment of time as it gradually breaks down like a tired machine. The chewing and digestion of food, defecating and urinating, the putrid mess of sexual intercourse; it is perverse.

***

My swelling womb stretched my stomach to obscene proportions. I was smooth, round and ripe, ready to burst; pregnant. For the first time I felt fear, what more will the Fathers demand of me?

The man who is my husband was happy in the simple manner of humans. He served me tea, stuffing more pillows around me, propping me up like the doll I am. He rattled on about possible names for the offspring and how we should decorate the nursery.

Bloated like a rotting thing, I was more disgusted by this body than ever before. A grim depression overcame me. It was then I realized there is no higher purpose for me to fulfill. I am simply here to propagate for the Fathers.

My human husband said, “Cheer up darling, everything will be fine!”

I wobbled to the window and looked up at the night sky. Beyond those faint twinkling stars, an inconceivable distance away in human time, is my home. I close my eyes and try to remember the serene cities of my planet, free of all artifice and decoration, cold, simple, perfect; the identical faces of my clan – nothing was random in my world, nothing was superfluous, life thrived in geometric precision; and I remember the wars, thousands slaughtered in one breath by intergalactic beings more powerful and merciless than us.

***

The bone stretching contractions, the violent spasms cracking this body open. A spine buckling possession. No amount of screaming alleviated the torment, it was a grueling marathon to the brink of human endurance.

“Don’t give it to me!” I shrieked when they handed me the writhing little monster.

It looked so perfectly human; its skin pink, its eyes blue. But I can feel its ancient power. It is one of my kind, much older and stronger than I have ever known.

At first I tried to kill it. Surely its fragile body would be easy to kill? I bashed its little skull on the floor. I tried to smother it, to drown it. But it survived unscathed while I was struck down with pain.

It doesn’t stop howling until I bring it to my breast. It latches on and sucks greedily, the little leech. I cry the strange salt of human tears as I realize it is not over for me, it has only just begun. I am a mother of the new breed. I will grow old and wrinkled and die a tedious human death while this hybrid creature will flourish and conquer, favored by evolution. My baby stares up at me and gurgles innocently, drooling from its perfect rosebud lips.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2015 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

 

In the Clearing

George Sutherland followed Francine McKenna farther into the forest. His interest in Sasquatch had led him to join the Nova Scotia Bigfoot Hunters Society. When he met the group’s leader Francine, however, his priority instantly became to get into her pants. When she asked him to go with her on a short overnight expedition, he saw it as good a chance as any.

Only one tent for the two of them.

“Come on,” Francine said, looking over her shoulder. “Pick up the pace back there.”

Her red hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and although her cheeks were red from the excursion through the woods, George could still see her freckles. He couldn’t help but smile.

“Easy for you to say,” George said adjusting his backpack straps. “I’m the one carrying all of the heavy shit.”

“I can give you the lighter one if that one is too heavy for you. I bet the rest of the group would love to hear about that.”

George made a face but increased his speed, trying to catch up to her.

Clouds were slowly overtaking the blue sky that had been present earlier in the morning when they parked on the side of the logging road and ventured into the woods. Some blue jays chirping in the trees suddenly darted out, catching George’s attention. He didn’t see his boot catch the exposed root and fell forward with the weight of the backpack forcing him to the ground.

Francine laughed. “Are you okay?”

“Fuck sakes,” George said, pushing himself off the ground. “Where is the rest of the team anyways?”

“Matt and Ryder had to work and Beverly’s out of town visiting family. They’re going to regret not coming out on this one.”

“So exactly why are we out here? Why this particular area?”

Francine looked at him. “You mean besides living up to the NSBHS’s name?” She took out her cellphone, opened some files and handed it to George. “An old friend of mine, Bryan who works as a harvester for Triple L Lumber, sent me these photographs.”

The first few photos George flipped through consisted of large footprints in the ground and at the end were shots of reddish-brown fur snagged on tree branches.

“Those pictures were taken by different employees all within this eighty hectare plot,” Francine said. “They all reported experiencing a strong, foul odor like a combination of a skunk and wet dog as well as hearing loud grunts and sticks banging against trees. All classic evidence of Bigfoot.”

George frowned. “I know that I’m still relatively new to the group but we get dozens of emails from people with pictures like this, claiming to have seen Bigfoot. What makes these more special or significant?”

“There’s also been some other strange things going on up here. If you scroll to the end of the photos, you’ll see one that’s not related to Sasquatch at all.”

George found the photo she was referring to and looked at it.

There were four impressions in all, with two distinct prints. The first set was the smaller of the two with what looked like three knuckles side by side. The larger ones also had three knuckles and were further out to the sides. They also had small indentations that resembled bear claws.

“It kind of looks like whatever made these was running,” George said. He handed the phone back to Francine. “The way they are laid out reminds me of the way a gorilla runs.”

“Show me.”

George undid his backpack straps and slid them off his shoulders.

“Like this.”

He squatted down and then pushed off with his knuckles, landing on his feet and repeated for a few feet so Francine could see what he meant. She looked at the pictures, then at the slight impressions George had made in the ground and back to her phone.

“I can see it,” she said. “If we can find more evidence of this we may have something new for the cryptozoology books.”

***

It was sore from the struggle its previous prey had put up.

Unable to see, it relied on its sharp sense of smell that was still filled with the skunk-like smell of its previous meal. It was about to move on when it picked up on something else.

The smell was faint but recognizable.

Humans.

***

They trudged on, venturing deeper into the forest. The air was cool, yet humid, as summer was refusing to hand its reigns over to autumn.

“I’ve always enjoyed the smells of the woods,” Francine said. “It smells alive.”

“The bugs have always kept me away from walking amongst the trees,” George said. “Fucking things.”

“They don’t seem to be too bad now.”

George realized that he hadn’t heard the high-pitched buzzing in his ear for a while. He also noticed that the birds didn’t seem to be chirping either.

“Why is it so quiet?” George asked.

Francine looked at him, listened and shrugged with little concern for the silence.

They walked on and in the pit of his stomach, George thought it felt wrong. He opened his mouth to mention it but didn’t want to ruin his chances.

The trees started to thin out, which George was thankful for as it made walking easier. Eventually, they entered a clearing and were immediately hit by a strong stink.

“Holy shit, what the hell is that…?” George said covering his nose with his hand.

Francine gagged.

“It kind of smells like a skunk,” George said.

He looked at Francine and even though the smell was bothering her, she seemed to get excited.

“Sasquatch is reported to have a skunk-like smell,” she said.

“Or it could just be a skunk.”

“No, this is different. It’s really thick and… it does seem to have a wet dog scent to it.”

Although he smelled it too, George shook his head. “To me it still smells like a skunk, possibly a dead one, but a skunk nonetheless.”

“Let’s go find the source,” Francine said.

The clearing was roughly the size of a football field. An assortment of bushes had sprung up sporadically with a few small spruce trees here and there amongst the tall grass.

George started after her and immediately felt his body break out in goose bumps. He stopped and looked around. Something about the clearing made him feel very uneasy.

“Maybe we should…”

He was cut off by Francine yelling with excitement in her voice.

“Oh my God! George, get your ass over here! Hurry!”

She was standing near the far tree line, waving her arms frantically.

“Did you find the skunk?” George asked as he got closer.

Near the edge of the clearing was a body lying on its back, its arms jutting straight out to the side. It was covered in reddish-brown fur that fluttered in a gentle breeze except for the face, which was clean shaven. The eyelids were open slightly but the eyes had rolled back into its head with a wide, flat nose sitting just below them. Its mouth was slightly agape, showing yellowed teeth.

The body of a Sasquatch.

***

It could tell it was getting closer; the human scent was everywhere.  Very faintly, it could hear their voices.

Its pace quickened.

***

“I don’t fucking believe it,” George said.

“Do you know what this means?” Francine asked. “Get the camera out.”

“I still don’t believe what I’m seeing.”

“You can don’t believe all you want later.” Francine slipped the backpack off her shoulders. “Get the camera out and start shooting!”

George’s eyes, and brain, were still trying to comprehend exactly what they had stumbled across. He removed his backpack and let it fall to the ground hard.

“Hey, come on. Pay attention to what you’re doing.” She took her cellphone out of her backpack and began dialing.

“I’m going to give the rest of the team a call.”

George squatted down and began unzipping his backpack, but didn’t take his eyes off of the body. It was well over nine feet and the beast’s frame looked powerful.

His hands found the camera and he pulled it out. He turned it on, shifted his eyes from the body to the LCD screen and began taking pictures.

“Damn it,” Francine said. “I can’t get a signal out here.”

As he walked closer to the body, George zoomed in on the Sasquatch’s arms and noticed a puncture wound on each one. The fur and skin seemed to have been pushed to the sides. A hole, roughly the diameter of a pencil, penetrated through the tissue underneath.

“I really can’t believe that this is lying right in front of us,” Francine said. She knelt down beside the Sasquatch and held her hand out, hesitating to touch it. “This is incredible.”

As he took a few more pictures, George noticed the ground around the body was beaten down. A lot of the tall grass had been broken, as if it buckled underneath something heavy. Scattered around the ground were clumps of the Sasquatch’s fur.

To him, it looked like a fight had taken place.

George lowered the camera and looked at her. “It doesn’t look like it died from natural causes.”

Francine met his gaze for a moment then looked around at the surroundings. “I think you might be right.”

“So what killed it?”

***

It could tell it was near the clearing due to the trees’ smells fading into nothing more than background scents. The other odor was still there.

There were two human scents, a male and female, both of them nearby.

Despite its previous meal not too long ago, it was ravenous.

It entered the clearing.

***

George frowned.

“Does Bigfoot have any natural predators?”

“I’m not really sure,” Francine replied. “But, if I had to give an answer, I would say no.”

“So, I’ll ask again. What killed it?”

They both thought back to the strange tracks in the picture on Francine’s phone.

“Do you think those tracks are part of it?” Francine asked.

George opened his mouth to answer but saw Francine’s eyes open wide in fear.

Something slammed into him and tackled him to the ground, landing on his stomach. George struggled to turn over but he felt a sting in his back; within seconds a toxin entered his bloodstream, paralyzing him.  Although he could not move, George’s head remained facing Francine’s direction.

The thing that tackled him was already making its way towards her. It was hairless and running just as he had acted out earlier: running on its knuckles with its fingers curled underneath, like a gorilla.

Francine screamed and ran. The creature, however, was too fast and tackled her to the ground. Two stingers shot out of its palms into her back, just beneath her shoulder blades.

When she stopped moving, it turned its head to George.

There were no eyes; only nostrils constantly flaring and a mouth running vertically up its face. A large plate-like feature jutted out along its back, protecting most of the torso.

The creature began dragging her back to where George was lying. It released her and using the claws on its hands, cut into her forearm. George watched as it dug its hook-like teeth into her flesh and then the mouth opened, tearing tissue away from the bone. A penetrating sheath shot out of its mouth into the bone and it began to ingest Francine’s marrow.

George could only watch and wait, knowing that once it finished with her it would come for him.

~ Jon Olson

© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved

Salamander

“Fulfill your divine potential. Connect with your higher self and spirit guides. Manifest the life you want,” read the brochure.

It sounded like a good idea at the time, but sitting there, in a circle of misfits, Jess regretted going along and wondered how she could politely excuse herself.

A woman with long white hair rang a little bell to announce the meditation was about to begin. People hushed their soft chatter. They nestled on their cushions, getting comfortable.

“Okay. Let’s begin. My name is Isadora. I will be leading the guided meditation with you tonight.”

Isadora glanced around the room, smiling warmly. She wore long flowing clothes in shades of pink and white. Her neck and fingers were adorned with gemstones. Jess hated her immediately.

“Let’s close our eyes. Begin by taking a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. And another deep breath in…and out. Allow all the thoughts and worries of the day to slip away. Become fully aware of your body. We’re going to count backwards from ten and you will gradually feel more and more relaxed. Ten…”

Reluctantly Jess closed her eyes. She would just have to sit through this and leave as soon as she could. She peeped through squinted eyes at the others in the room. They were a random group from all walks of life: a well groomed business man fresh out of the office, a twenty something Goth girl, a middle aged woman in gym gear, a plump woman in a brightly printed kaftan and matching head scarf.

Without dropping her smile Isadora gave Jess a stern look. Jess quickly squeezed her eyes shut.

“You are standing in a beautiful forest; a lush, green, beautiful forest. It is a warm sunny day. You are walking through the forest and soon you reach a clearing. Standing in the middle of the clearing is someone waiting for you. It is your spirit guide. Feel the rays of love coming from your guide, they are so happy to meet you.”

Jess was standing in a beautiful forest. A lush, green, beautiful forest. A short way ahead there was a clearing. She walked towards the clearing as she was instructed. There was something there. It was so bright that her eyes began to sting; she couldn’t look at it directly. Jess didn’t feel joy, she felt a heavy sinking dread – an immobilizing terror. The being was menacing. It appeared to be made of flames, flickering and lashing. Jess looked around, frightened. The lush, green, beautiful forest had become dense and dark, stretching upwards, closing in on her. She couldn’t escape this imagined landscape; there was no way back.

“When you feel ready you may approach your guide. You may hug them if you wish, do what feels right for you. Ask them if they have a name.”

Isadora’s calm steady voice continued to drone on in her head, but Jess could no longer focus on the words.

The temperature was rising quickly, the atmosphere had become a blistering haze. Jess was sweating; she felt faint. The strange being approached her. It came close, dancing and twirling in front of her. The waves of heat were scalding; she could smell her hair smouldering. Tiny shooting sparks flicked at her, each one inflicting a painful burn. Jess opened her mouth to scream and the being leapt in. It slid down her throat and zapped around furiously in her belly. Her stomach began to sizzle. The sensation of being burned from the inside out was excruciating. She dropped to the ground screaming. She rolled around clutching her stomach, but the fire was within her and she couldn’t extinguish it. The looming dark forest exploded in flames.

“…And when you are ready, open your eyes. You are now fully back in your body and safely grounded.”

Isadora’s voice cut through her vision and Jess found herself sitting on the cushion again.

Around her, the others had begun to stretch and move. A few people were shedding quiet tears of happiness and awe. The kaftan wearing woman was chanting ‘Om’. Isadora rang her tiny bell again to bring attention back to the circle.

“Okay. I hope you all enjoyed that visualization. Would anyone like to share their experience?”

“My guide was a Native American warrior,” blurted the businessman. “He gave me a large white feather.”

“A white feather!” said Isadora, impressed. “Wonderful. Very powerful.”

A lively discussion began as people exchanged details of their spirit guide experiences, comparing mysterious details and imagery.

Jess sat quietly, feeling very shaken. Her experience had seemed so real, so awful. She remembered the smell of her hair burning and the sensation of burning up inside. She hoped no one would ask her about it. She looked around the room, growing more anxious. It was starting to get so hot and stuffy. Thick smoke streamed from an incense burner, forming a mist in the room. The sweet scent was nauseating. Candles burned around the circle. Jessica watched the flames rise and flash brightly. She wriggled uncomfortably as panic began to set in. She must be imagining things, she thought, she had to get out.

“Are you okay, dear? Do you want to share your experience? Sometimes our guides challenge us because they know we are ready to grow.”

Isadora was speaking to her. She was still smiling that infuriating smile, that feigned wisdom and compassion.

The others in the circle turned to stare at Jess. Jess felt a strange force stir within her and she struggled to speak.

“My guide…my guide is…my guide is fire!”

The smile on Isadora’s face didn’t falter, she stared at Jess, not understanding.

Jess began to shake, a blind rage rose within her, building momentum. A deafening screech erupted from her as she lunged at Isadora, bowling her over. Her hands gripped her neck and squeezed. Jess watched in shock and delight as flesh melted and oozed in her hands. Muscle dripped away from jawbone, revealing rows of long teeth; the tongue was sizzling sludge. Isadora’s eyeballs blistered then popped. Foul grey smoke streamed out of ears and nostrils as her brain boiled. Soon, all that remained of Isadora’s head was a charred skull with a mocking smile.

The room had erupted into screams. Jess stood and faced the others, her eyes glowed like burning coals. Candles flashed, alighting curtains and furnishings as people tried to escape. The sacred circle was now a ring of flame.

 ~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2015 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved.

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