He supposed that some would consider him a saint. An intelligent, good-looking man, collecting the lonely and tossed and scavenged girls he found on the side of the road. He wore them on a chain around his neck. A chain of conquests. A chain of romances. A chain of broken loves and broken dreams and horrifically broken people.
It isn’t difficult for a lonely girl to love a tender man. He says, “I understand” and her eyes grow starry. Dewy. They light up from the inside like embers. He says, “Why has nobody appreciated you?” and she swoons. He tells her, “Nobody will ever love you like I love you. I belong to you like no man has ever belonged to a woman,” and she will give him everything.
There is so very much a lonely girl can give.
The first girl became his wife. She lasted longer than she should have, perhaps, but not as long as he originally expected. She became tired and tattered, and her eyes lost their shine. The next was a friend who became something more, until she abruptly became something less. The third was a broken little thing, all hair and eyes and fairly begging to be cherished. The fourth was a woman older than time, and perhaps a villain in this life or the next.
The others weren’t even memorable. But their finger joints and molars and locks of hair were treasures. Shiny, golden treasures. He held them, wept into them. Wrapped them in pieces of fabric torn from their dresses and work uniforms and kitchen aprons. He stuffed the fabric into a box and kept it at the foot of his bed.
One of his lonely girls eventually turned these scraps of fabric into a warm quilt. She had bent over her sewing machine, running the scraps under the needle with a tenderness that bound, bound, bound. He wrapped this blanket of trophies around himself at night. He thanked his girl with his mouth and his tongue and his blade. She had been useful and thoughtful until the end, and then she just became used.
He ate them. He ate their souls. He devoured their desires and dreams. He held their wants and their screams and trust in his mouth, in his lungs, and when he breathed out, he breathed out their sorrow. But he wanted more. More and more and more. Hungry boys love lonely girls. Love them to pieces. Love them to bits, and bits, and even smaller bits.
∼ Mercedes M. Yardley
© Copyright Mercedes M. Yardley. All Rights Reserved.
For the first time in weeks, I’m alone in the house. Gran’s out talking over the garden wall with one of the neighbors; Mam’s hanging out the wash. Me, I’m sitting on my bed with our best kitchen knife, running the edge over the hard points sticking out beneath my fingernails. It should hurt, but it doesn’t; the skin parts just a bit, bloodlessly, and there’s the grating sound of metal scraping bone.
I press harder.
It started six weeks ago last Sunday, the day after I turned fifteen. When I went to bed that night, it was insidious, a little niggling almost-itch behind my kneecaps and in my wrists. But my knees swelled under my skirt when I trudged dutifully to school the next morning, and writing notes in my lectures just made fire blaze down my right hand in waves. The next day, it was both hands. Within a week, I was sneaking aspirin from the kitchen cabinet in handfuls, stuffing them in my skirt pockets, biting down on the bitter discs so I wouldn’t sob from the searing ache twisting me inside out. I did that at home, at night, into my pillow.
It took Mam a full ten days to notice: “Ellie, you’ve shot up like a poplar.”
She didn’t smile. She grimaced instead, and backed me up against the edge of the half-wall between the kitchen and dining room, plopping the family Bible against the top of my head and marking the paint with a pencil before fetching the measuring tape. “Five feet and eight,” she pronounced, wide-eyed, when she pulled the tape away. “Are you taller than me?” Mam demanded, and crowded so close my nose touched between her eyes. “Jesus, you’re taller than me. And since the first of the month, too.” She turned to look over her shoulder at Gran. “Is this normal?”
Gran shrugged, mouth tight around her cigarette. “Some girls get their height early, all at once. I did.” She stood five foot four in bare feet.
It was Gran who sat at my bedside that night, patting my aching hands and balancing ice packs on my oversized knees. “Growing pains,” she said, though her gaze narrowed as she eyed the length of my legs. “Best to get it out of the way now. Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.”
But in the night I woke screaming, my nightgown spotted with blood. My ribs had expanded and grown sharp-edged, tearing my skin from the inside. Mam yanked the fabric up and stared at me while Gran sponged me off with stinging alcohol, and this time there wasn’t puzzlement in my mother’s eyes. There was fear.
The doctor they took me to the next morning glanced at my knees and hands and ribs, took some measurements and jotted notes, muttered to himself and gave Mam a prescription for something with codeine in it. He never said a word directly to me. Growth spurt, he called it, and mumbled something about long bones and inflammation of the growth plates. It would pass, he said. That was the end of it.
That afternoon the pain in my knees came back, jabbing and twisting so bad I could almost see my shins bowing inward. So I begged Mam for one of the pills, but she only said, “Not yet. Let’s see how you are after school tomorrow.”
I woke up next morning with my mouth throbbing. My cheekbones strained the contours of my face; I could see fissures forming in the skin. My teeth had become longer; my lips stretched when I formed a bite. Mam measured me again. I was another three inches taller. Gran looked up at me and whispered, “Swear to God, her bones are growing out of her.”
I could barely get out of bed that day, despite hanging over it. There was no school. There was no school ever again.
The next week kept me changing, growing. My neck stretched with crackling noises. My jaw and elbows locked and loosened at odd times. Going through the doorways in the house meant bending nearly double, sleeping on my bed took folding myself in half, and the biggest shoes Mam could buy only fit on my feet a few hours. Gran crossed herself and swore and fed me aspirin, codeine, whiskey. None of it touched the pain. I lay on the floor and howled till the neighbors’ dogs barked.
This morning, Mam needed a stepladder to measure me, and her tape wouldn’t reach in one stretch. Six feet. Seven inches. I watched tears roll down her face as I tried to steady my too-long, agonized legs, and felt the ceiling against the top of my head.
Now I sit on the end of my bed, legs mostly on the floor, and I draw the knife over my fingertips again. They split entirely, and it’s relief enough to make my eyes water. Tentatively I press the knife point into my thigh, where the outline of my femur is broad and plain, and push in. My skin rips with a noise like tearing tape, and there’s no pain, no blood, only a release of pressure that makes me stuff my bulging knuckles into my too-wide mouth. Only a great glistening white expanse beneath the stretched crepe of my skin.
Gran was right. My bones are growing out of me. I take a few breaths and stick the knife in again.
If they want to escape, I’m setting them free.
~ Scarlett R. Algee
© Copyright Scarlett R. Algee. All Rights Reserved.
Daddy, Daddy! Look! It’s snowing. Can we go out and play?”
Ophelia giggled and pressed her face close to the windowpane, staring at the flakes descending from the sky. She traced her chubby finger along the frost touched glass, waiting for an answer.
It never came.
Her silent father only sat in his high-backed chair and gulped another mouthful of Scotch. He stared into the flames crackling in the fireplace, ignoring anything else. When he drained the glass, he poured himself another drink.
Impatient, Ophelia sighed and climbed down from her window ledge perch. She glided out of the room in search of her mother. She found her in the kitchen washing dishes.
“It’s snowing, Mummy. Can we go play in the snow?”
Her mother never looked at her, simply kept at her task, and Ophelia sighed again. “No one pays attention to me anymore.” She tried stamping her foot. It did no good. She pouted and yelled at the top of her lungs, “I want to play in the snow!”
Still no response. Her mother stood at the sink, washing a teacup, oblivious to her daughter’s tantrum. Dejected, Ophelia gave up and wandered upstairs to her room. She didn’t like going there anymore, but it had the best view of the back yard.
Entering, she gave a little sighing whisper. “It’s so empty now. I wish Mummy hadn’t taken all my things away.”
Then she smiled. At least her own small chair still stood by the window. Ophelia walked past the crisply made bed and curled up in its seat. She laid her hand on the frosty glass and watched the snow fall. She loved the soft quiet of it, its gentle flutter as it blanketed the ground; remembered the crisp, cold touch of it on her tongue.
She gazed at the snow until the edges of night crept past the sun.
Voices from downstairs finally pulled her attention away. Her parents were arguing. Again. She slipped from the chair and ventured to the top of the stairs. Below her, in the hallway, the pair were screaming at each other.
“God, you’re drunk again! That’s all you ever do now! Sit in that damn room and drink! You smell like a goddamn distillery! What happened to you?”
“You know what happened! I’m sorry I didn’t handle it as well as you! Prancing about, like our fucking life didn’t fall apart! I’m not as cold-hearted as you I guess!”
“At least I’m not running away and jumping head first into a bottle!”
“Stop it!” An anguished cry rose from Ophelia’s throat. “Why are you always fighting? Why can’t it be like before?” She practically flew down the stairs and sped past her parents into her father’s sanctuary. She curled into a ball in the corner and waited until the angry voices stopped.
She looked up as her father entered and flopped in his chair. He poured himself a drink, as her mother trailed him to the doorway, hesitating to come all the way in.
“Another drink? Predictable.” The mother’s face scrunched into a look of contempt. “I don’t understand, when did you turn into such a coward? What do you get out of it? Why do you sit here, night after night, drinking yourself into oblivion? It isn’t healthy.” She took a step closer, her voice softening. “She’s gone. Ophelia’s gone. You need to face it.”
From across the room, Ophelia gasped, her little form shaking. “Shush, Mummy, shush! Don’t say such things!”
The man in the chair looked up, and stared. His grip on the glass of Scotch tightened.
Ophelia’s mother continued, “Wake up! Our daughter’s been dead a year, and brooding here won’t bring her back.”
Ophelia whined, her face suddenly pale, and translucent. She whispered. “No. No! I’m not, Mummy, I’m not! I’m right here.”
Her father turned his head slightly, looking away from Ophelia’s mother.
That enraged the woman and she screamed, “Did you hear me? I said wake up! Our daughter’s dead! Time to face it!”
For a moment the air in the room seemed to slow, and every breath sounded large and lingering. Then Ophelia screeched, “I won’t listen anymore! I’m not dead!” The child rushed to her father’s side. “You’re upsetting Daddy!”
Her father’s face seemed to pale at her words, and Ophelia rested her head against his chair, so close she could smell the whiskey. “Don’t listen to her, Daddy. I’m here. I’ll always be here. I promised.”
Her father took a gulp of liquor and stared at Ophelia’s mother. She stared back, words tumbling from her mouth, “Why? Why are you torturing yourself? I don’t think I can take this much longer.”
“I don’t know why.” His voice barely sounded above a murmur. “I understand she’s dead. I was there in the hospital same as you. It’s just… sometimes I can feel her. Feel her in this room with me, like she’s talking to me.”
Ophelia laid her little hand on his arm. Her father shivered. “It’s all right, Daddy. I’m still here. I didn’t go. Don’t listen to Mummy. I promised I’d stay. You remember, that night in the hospital. I promised not to go. And I didn’t. I’ll stay with you forever and ever. Right here with you. For always.”
Her father took another drink, and closed his eyes. “I think I’m losing my mind. I swear sometimes I can hear her voice calling to me. Calling to her Daddy.”
Ophelia smiled, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Forever and always, Daddy.”
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2017 A. F. Stewart. All Rights Reserved.
Her eyes speak volumes, assuring him it will be as it was; it will be alright. He knows it won’t be—it can’t be.
Nothing escapes the scrutiny of the incandescent lighting above their heads. No dark space exists for him in which to hide. He scrubs the stubble along his chin. “It’s coming out amazing, honey.”
He watches the artist deliver life to his daughter with thoughtful strokes, imbuing pallid skin with a fresh blush. He pushes a smile to his lips, watching his little girl watch him. She knows his nuances; the flutter of his lashes gives him away every time. She is his blood, after all.
Statuesque, she sits quietly for her portrait. It crushes his heart. Her beautiful lips, once so full like those of her mother, stretch like crinkled strips of weathered jerky now, the music silenced from her dancing eyes. She is tired, so tired, draining slowly from the inside. He scrubs his chin, weary as well, weary and broken witnessing the erosion of his child.
The artist half speaks, half clears this throat. “Sir… Sir?”
“Yes, I’m sorry,” he croaks.
The artist nods politely, aware he has trespassed across guarded domain. Brush hovering atop the canvas, he motions to a specific area of the portrait, then repositions himself atop his stool, respectfully waiting.
“What is it, Daddy?” his little girl inquires; the harsh lighting does nothing to conceal the flutter of his lashes. Quickly, realization dawns; she is his blood, after all. “Daddy, he can paint me as I was that day, it’s okay.”
The artist reaches forward, pats her knee, resumes painting once again. Before long, the canvas depicts wavy locks where no hair has existed for some time. It flows in luxurious strokes; the toe of the artist’s brush a mere whisper in the sea of her chestnut mane. At long last, the final touch—soft pinpricks of white to lend the gleam back into her eyes. The artist lowers his arm. “I believe I am done, sir.”
His vision blurs; he cannot quite make out the deft details of the artist’s conception, not yet. He wipes at his tears. “Baby, you look…”
He wishes to say beautiful, but the word fails to find his lips. Instead, her portrait seizes his attention, unwelcome details pulling his eye. Flustered, he swings his gaze toward the artist.
The man has already packed his tools, cleaned his brush. With a dispassionate tone, the artist states, “The devil is in the details, sir.”
Open mouthed he stares, beyond the depiction of her soft countenance, beyond the eternal capture of her cherubic innocence, he gapes at the jarring angle of her neck; the angry bruises that ring it, marring what should be a masterpiece. “She was terminal,” he barely mutters. “The disease, it was taking her.”
The painter turns to him. “Yes it was, and had you left well enough alone, I would have no need to take you, too.”
His hands flutter about his neck. The incandescent lighting above reveals long slits along his forearms; nothing escapes its scrutiny. “This isn’t… It was a mercy, she was suffering,” he pleads.
“Daddy, no one understands it was an act of love,” her gentle, childish voice intones. By the time he faces her, she is gone. A ghost of her ghost.
He lunges for the painting, but the artist seizes him by the neck. “Take a long, last look at her. She finds her peace in the form I have painted. As for you, peace will be but a memory where we are going.”
Slowly, the painter drags him away, until the incandescent glow no longer reveals a thing, and the pitch is all he will ever know.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2017 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
It drives me mad.
That wet smack.
It is all I ever hear.
I watch them in my shower. Wispy bodies through beaded glass.
He is a strong man. Muscle fibers twitch, bounce within his thighs. The fog does not hide everything; not yet.
I see his face, his head thrown back, eyes clenched as if he is in pain. But I know he is not in pain.
That wet smack drives me mad.
It used to be me in the shower. My wife clings to him now. Legs wrapped around his hips, her perfect feet locked together. Locking her; locking them. He holds her, supports her effortlessly the way I once did; the way I want to.
That wet smack intensifies. His urgent groans fill the stall; my wife remains silent. Fog steals them from me. I am allowed the occasional glimpse of her breast pressed against his chest, the way she used to press against mine.
I am not jealous. I cannot be. This is our lifestyle. We share then come back to one another. But I can no longer come back. I cannot have my wife anymore. Not that way, no longer.
I watch them. Wispy bodies within the billowy fog; within the concealing vapor.
That wet smack.
That wet smack.
Then a thud.
The shower stall erupts in a geyser of red. The glass trickles red; all is red. Now that wet smack turns into a moist suckling.
I turn away.
The doorbell rings.
I am prepared; I am always prepared.
I greet him, make eye contact as always. It excites them. The eye contact. Knowing you offer your wife so willingly; knowing you offer your wife with such confidence. I lead him upstairs. I lead him to the shower. I watch him undress; he knows the rules. They all know the rules. I watch—I must always watch.
She waits for him in the shower. Perfect body glistening, hair dripping along her back; expectant Goddess. How I once loved to pull that hair; how I once loved to ball it within my fist.
She cracks the stall door open for him, beckoning. Her knowing smile arouses him; her knowing smile cuts me at the knees. He steps inside. The fog claims him; claims them. Water splattering the door as I watch. Beaded bodies through beaded glass. That smack.
That wet smack.
The man is anxious, too anxious. My wife is not pleased.
She ends him.
It has been months since my wife has been mine.
I have lost much sleep wondering how; I have lost much sleep wondering why.
I hear her, the same way I hear her every night; night after night. Her voice echoing down the hall; her voice echoing down my spine. Sweet as ever; suggestive as ever. She does not come out of the shower anymore.
Tonight as she turns the water on, I imagine her perfect body moving through it. I imagine the water sluicing over her skin. She likes the water hot; she always did. Hot water; hot flesh. It disguises the cold, clammy death she has become.
I hear her calling.
But she is not my wife. Not anymore.
I pull the covers over my head; she croons to me.
I no longer trust who she is; I no longer trust what she has become. I know that if I enter the shower, I am lost.
I will get through this night, somehow. I will get through.
When the doorbell rings tomorrow, I will feed her again.
Even as that wet smack drives me mad.
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2016 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
“You have been dogged in your pursuit for an exclusive, so here it is—contrary to popular belief, I owe my new-found stardom to her. She, my biggest fan. But before all that, there are facts you need to understand about me, as well my recent rise to fame.
“I had to adapt a different persona, you see, one that would allow me reintegration back into society. I had grown stale, my message old, ineffective. I had lost my edge, and I admit now, for all your viewers, that I was too proud to see it. As an artist, I committed a grave mistake—I failed miserably in keeping with the changing times.
“So I went back underground. I played the small circuits and as I did so, I painstakingly recast myself. Gone was the haughtiness that once defined me. A humble thing, I developed a greater sense of self. Who I was. Who I was supposed to be. Slowly, dependent only upon word of mouth, I attracted a new following. One by one, they came to me. They came to see my performance.
“Excuse me, water? Ah, thank you. I was quite parched. Where was I? Yes. My performance…
“My act had grown dull, my song repetitious and as such, people had become blind and deaf to me. I realized I needed to restore their senses. So I worked diligently in those early days of my rebranding. How was my experience? Well, I very much cherished playing to the midnight crowds of those speakeasies in New York and LA and all their sordid elements. The sharpness of booze in the air, the apparitions the haze of nicotine induced, and the scores the martini shakers orchestrated in the background. It became a breeding ground for inspiration.
“I began gaining notice then, as you know. I became the new thing. I emerged from the underground. Reinvigorated. Restored. The decision was made for me to tour.
“Do I remember the first time I saw her? How could I not? New Zealand. The very first night of my tour, my very first tour. There she swayed…first row…the crush of a thousand bodies at her back. I found her easily. Her eyes spoke to me. Those wayward eyes, longing to be saved. She attended every show, I later discovered; all of them, worldwide. Wait, please, I will stop you right there—she was not among my groupies. That was beneath her.
“As time progressed, and my prominence flourished once more, her affinity for me became very public knowledge. Yes, yes, of course she cultivated it. She grew it into an unabashed thing, so much so that even I read about it in the tabloids long before we met. It was only a matter of time. Much like everything else about her, she hardly kept it secret. The money she had spent following me became a media sensation, partly due to individuals such as yourself who payed heed and partially embellished the reports to enliven them a bit, eh? Perhaps she had been irresponsibly flippant, the way she spent her inheritance, but mind you, she chose her cards from the deck, no one else. A socialite, a celebrity, she wanted for nothing. Nothing, save for what she craved. And what she craved was…well, that is where my story leads, does it not?
“I sought the grandeur of celebrity status too, don’t misunderstand me; coveted it actually. But after time, I realized it was not enough on its own. I required an additional outlet. A vessel. And so it happened that she became the one. My verse then was one of twisted tongues. I was still feeling my way through the obscurity, struggling in my acclimation as I climbed up fame’s ladder, and yet, she understood me, my language. She clung to my every word. Through my notes, I gave her meaning but through her, I found reason. Together, we adopted a purpose.
“As a result, I manipulated the lottery to choose a deserving fan. You seem so surprised, but what else was I to do? The time had come to expand my reach. The time had come to mainstream my call. She presented my quickest avenue, and she knew it as well. Rest assured, my management team frowned upon this exploit. ‘Twas bad enough I plucked followers from the crowd, they reasoned, but this? I took it all under consideration. I did my due diligence. Earlier in my existence, I had been too proud, but I learned my lesson well. This was a necessary thing.
“She knew the contest was hers alone to win, and she rejoiced. Soon after the formalities of the announcement, the photo opps were arranged, the talk show circuits scheduled. She was always one for smooth talking. In fact, I fondly recall her first press conference. Silently, I stood in the shadows at the back of the room, my disguise a masterful getup. And I admired her, the way she commanded the attention of all, the perfect tilt of her chin, the exquisite swivel of her hips. I admired her for all her casual simplicities, a facade so carefully constructed. One society had lionized. My decision had been the right one, I realized at that moment. I had played my cards equally as well, and my time of canonization had come.
“Pardon me? You mention it seeming far too orchestrated on my part? Please, allow me to clear up an inaccuracy — I may have skewed the winning result, I may have bankrolled the cable networks to further promotion, but it was she who picked the moment, the venue. It all came together, a perfect storm of elements. Timing is everything in show business, is it not? Sequenced and sparkling, she took her hometown stage to thunderous applause. The house lights dimmed. The stage lights rose, and she shone. For a fleeting moment, I must admit, a pang of jealousy struck my bones. Indeed, she commanded their attention.
“But I commandeered their souls.
“Even you must remember how I emerged to the hush of that crowd…I certainly do. The air carried a charge, crackling and alive. It reminded me of the days I honed my skills in the many speakeasies; those dark basement bars where the patrons employed fake names and no one would be missed. I looked out over the rows, those endless, churning rows. I raised my hand. I have come for you, I said. Then dropped it to a roar. I never lost the knack to work my flock over. I always worked them to a froth.
“She turned to me, lips moving, but from which came no sound. I love you. In all honesty, I loved her as well. But she was never to know that. She had become my vessel, nothing more. Yes, some still accuse me of seducing her. To that, I respond she had merely succumbed of her own accord.
“She nodded toward the paparazzi, cognizant of her perfect, final pose. Those eyes…those crypt-pallid eyes…they fluttered. And as the flashbulbs burst, I drew my forefinger across her throat and listened as she sang the most rapturous of songs.
“So my stardom I indeed owe to her. She has allowed me to take residence in every home in America, across the world. My popularity has soared. I have never been more in vogue. Revered, as it were. Death, a rock star at last.
“Oh, you are quite welcome. No, this has not been a bother in the least. I do not often grant interviews, but you have been quite diligent in securing time with me. Strange, how much of her I glimpse in you. Are we still live? Good. Good.
“I would greatly love to hear your song.”
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2016 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
Her feet made no sound as they padded across the cold stone floor. She knew he was busy, but she had waited for such a long time. Besides, what father could resist his only daughter? He put down the tome as she approached and turned to face her.
“Father,” she said, “it’s time for a new book.”
He turned to his daughter and smiled. Their library was one of the biggest around, and as such, adding new material was not a simple task. She was too young to do it properly on her own, but he did enjoy helping her with it. Besides, it had been far too long since their last acquisition.
“Of course. Let me finish something here and I will be there shortly.”
Leila turned and hurried out of her father’s study. She ran down the central hallway, slowing only as she approached the large doors that led to the library. Her eyes drifted upwards to the ageless brick in the barrel-vaulted ceiling, arched in ways that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. The walls were lined with bright sconces and perfectly carved busts of the ancient ones.
She stopped in front of the large doors and waited, letting her mind wander to the joy of what lay ahead. Leila felt his approach long before her father spoke.
“I trust you are ready to do this,” he questioned before attempting to open the door. “The story will not unfold the way you would like if everything has not been prepared correctly.”
Leila turned to her father and smiled lovingly. “Yes. Everything is ready.”
Without saying another word, Seth placed his hand on the heavy door and opened the library for his daughter. She stepped inside and walked down the aisle, her eyes lingered hungrily on dozens upon dozens of books. The outer edge of the library held the oldest books – ancient things that smelled of parchment, strange leather and age.
She reached her hand out and ran her fingers across the tomes as they walked through her part of the library. Leila had devoured every book in here, many of them multiple times. Simply touching one of these was enough to tease her mind with the emotions and characters captured within the pages. A particularly strong wave of feelings shot through her as she touched one of her favorite books. Leila stopped and ran a finger down the spine.
Seth stopped behind her and sighed audibly, knowing exactly how she felt.
“I remember helping you with that one. It was the first story for your portion of the library. I don’t think my first book was nearly that good.”
Leila closed her eyes and saw everything within those pages. The faces were crystal clear, the emotions every bit as raw and savage as they were when it was penned, if not more so, and she almost decided to stop and simply enjoy it. Almost.
Her hand fell from the book and she turned her face to the center of the library where the books were created. A series of shapes and patterns had been laid into the floor, each with corresponding glyphs and symbols handed down from the ancient ones. She stepped into the center of a group of markings and turned to her father.
Seth retrieved the book she had prepared and flipped through the pages, ensuring they were empty. He nodded his head to his daughter and recited the unholy incantation as she waved her hand over the glyphs around her and initiated the ceremony. The floor shimmered, the room darkened, and the realm of mankind opened before them.
She spoke the ancient command and the two worlds merged. Leila looked at the room where a lone man was bent over geometric patterns of his own and was busily drawing lines upon the ground.
“Eric,” Leila said, “I have come for you.”
The man jumped with fright, smearing the lines. He looked down, checked to be sure he was standing within his circle, then turned to face the demon he had been summoning for months. “How… But I…” he stammered as he tried to comprehend what happened. “But I didn’t summon you yet, I never game you my name!”
Seth grinned wickedly as symbols around his daughter began to glow and one-by-one drift off the floor as vapors to etch themselves onto the pages of the book he held.
“Stupid little man,” Leila smirked as she watched the mortal squirm. “Did you really think your preparations, chalk and lines of salt, could contain me?”
Leila stepped completely into the mortal world and stood within the man’s triangle of conjuring. The last of the glyphs from the library floor etched itself into the new book. The remainder would have to be done from the mortal realm.
The man faltered, knocking down his altar and candles as he pulled backward. Composure regained, Eric stood up with the ceremonial dagger in his hand and faced his demon. “Yes, I followed all of the steps. You are mine to command, mine to summon, and mine to banish!”
Eric moved cautiously to the edge of the triangle where Leila stood, his confidence growing with each step. He lifted the dagger and spoke with as much authority as he could muster.
“Through Alpha and Omega, and with Michael’s gate, I cast you to darkness where eternally you will wait.”
Leila waited for Eric’s hand to cross the line and grabbed him by the throat. She caught the dagger as it fell from his hand and took him to the floor. Eric watched in horror as the demon sat over him and pressed his own dagger to his neck. He started to scream but she waved a hand and his mouth clamped shut.
“I know you are confused,” Leila said as the sharp blade easily cut through the soft flesh of Eric’s throat, “so let me explain. The rites and rituals were never yours to command. We fed them to your kind ages ago so that we may do as we please. The words, the symbols, the incantations… all provided by us. The only thing humanity offered was enough self-important cockiness to think they could control something immortal.”
Blood ran freely across the floor, flowed over the symbols, and opened a portal back to the demonic realm. The ablated symbols etched themselves into the book still held by Seth. With each mark that was transferred to the pages, Eric’s spirit became further embedded in the book, ensuring his damned soul would be eternally bound within.
Leila laughed as Eric released his last breath. “You never even questioned what use a dagger would have when dealing with immortal beings. Silly man,” Leila said as she patted his cooling cheeks. “The dagger was always meant for you.”
~ Zack Kullis
© Copyright 2015 Zack Kullis. All Rights Reserved.
The afterbirth sits still in the bottom of the coffin, a mixture of bone and stale blood. Bolt after bolt of lightning rip through the evening sky, illuminating the scene, and casting an eerie pall upon the torn asunder remnants of what had, only moments before, been a resting place for a vile woman. Rats, drawn to the scene by the musty pungency of decayed clothing and fresh bones to gnaw on, frolic around, their whiskers twitching in delight. Not even the deafening roar of the thunder scares them off.
Mists weave through the graveyard and play their games of here one second, gone the next. They are on a search . . . a search of seeming randomness. Random to them perhaps, but there is cause and effect at work here.
At the edge of the cemetery, the house waits in eager anticipation of welcoming its new owner. Perhaps new is not the best choice of wordage. Five years is a long time. A lot can happen; a lot has happened. Renewal is approaching.
The old timbers sing a song of allegiance to the one who was the mistress of everything surrounding her, their oak cacophony of weathered groans added to the still settling of the house within the confines of the foundation, twisted and bent from many years of use.
Dust lingers everywhere in the basement, some entrapped within the spider webs dwelling in every corner and extending well out into the room, the masters of the web feeling safe when the son of the mistress was in residence here. He never ventured down to the dark, dank places where his mother had held court. Always . . . always, there was the fear of what was down there in his mind.
Screams implanted in the basement walls tell a story more vividly than any book possibly could. The still bloodied torture devices share the dried crimson with the rest of the room, the light produced from the storm above penetrating through the dingy windows and forcing a tapestry of visual elements, seamlessly interwoven in a constant state of flux. Creeping shadows waltz between the walls and the room proper, visiting everything, pulled along by memories of what transpired here. Only when the sky is dark and the lights are off do they jostle for some substance against the realities of what once were in this debased cavern of Satanic jurisdiction.
Blood pours from the gash giving life to her son many years ago, and her reincarnation of moments before, sliding down her legs and, hastened by the pouring rain, mixes with the wet soil, the mud becoming a churning mix of red and dark loam, the stench of copper pushing away the odor of ozone from the maelstrom of fury launched from the skies. Night crawlers slip through the mess in vain, either killed by the toxic mixture they wiggle through or by the crushing death delivered by the feet of the woman above them as she stumbles towards the house ahead of her.
“Every step is closer to my healing,” she thinks. “I can rest when I return home. I must. There is much to be done when the Master returns.”
There is electricity in the air, but it is not merely from the storm. Power surrounds everything for miles. Once again, the possession of control over all that dwells within this backwoods bastion of separation from the rest of the world is due to shift.
Foot falls plant themselves on the dark steps – something of substance, but bereft of visual acuity – and trudge upstairs. A heavy door is opened, leading to a place well implanted in the conscious awareness of the house.
A fireplace springs to life on its own, like an entity of flame bearing reason and purpose, and spreads its light throughout the vast living room, one large enough to have held large gatherings of believers from the old days. Soon . . . soon, it will again.
Books are ripped from the shelves of the book cases in the study and tossed into the corner. Invisible hands replace them with new books, those with strange symbols on their old leather covers and covered with inscriptions like none of the books removed. The light from the fireplace in the other room finds its way through the open door and causes the casting of dancing shadows on the walls and ceilings.
The door slams shut and heavy feet walk across the rough-hewn wood floor. The cushions of the recliner sitting directly opposite the roaring fire take on a sunken appearance as the chair groans under a heavy weight. Still, nothing or no one can be seen in the room. Slowly, the chair reclines and a contented cackle emanates from the fabric covering of the worn recliner.
Spirals of flame dance about, high one second and lower the next. Orange and yellows intermix with the occasional red – his favorite. Always, the flames ignite thought in his mind, those not welcomed by the common rabble, those not part of the new path.
He sits and waits . . . waits for the next piece of his intricate plan to fall into place. Patience is his.
With each step taken, she gains strength, knowing deep within her dark soul that the last five years will not have been in vain. A test. To get stronger, one must suffer. She has done that, and more.
Dying vegetation spreads out from the path she takes towards the house. She is the center of a circle with an ever enlarging diameter, one of death and decay. Grass withers and dies, in spite of the nourishing rain beating down. Trees raise their branches in homage to a God above who is deaf to their supplications. Their leaves shrink and fall as the limbs look like skeletons picked apart by voracious bugs intent on consuming every tasty morsel available to them.
Silence from the animal life occurs as a migration of survival sets in, much like rats scurrying down a rope from a ship tied to a dock, knowing ahead of time that the vessel is doomed and will float no longer. If only humans had the good sense that these creatures have. But they don’t, do they?
At long last, she sees light coming from her house. Her son must have left the lights on for her. “How considerate,” she thinks.
Reaching the porch, she drags her naked body up the railing and is two steps from the top when all light vanishes from the house. Wicked laughter calls out to her . . .
The door is unlocked, and she pushes gently against it, hoping for the best but not knowing what’s going on. Not only is the interior of the house dark, but there is no light outside, as well. It is beyond dark: there are no shades of gray coming from the corners where the black resides; there are no shades of black even; there is only the darkest black.
Trying to recall where everything is arranged in the house, she hugs the wall when she gets inside and slowly navigates around the perimeter of the living room. Still not completely in charge of all her senses, her balance is off – enough to cause her to bump into things . . . things that are not placed where she remembers them to have been. Damn kid anyway!
Of course, what should she expect by now? He wouldn’t have left the house exactly the way it was. The way he felt about her, he certainly would not have wanted a shrine left in her house. Why had he stayed, anyway? He should have left, if not only for his sake.
The light switch she comes to just before the door to the study does nothing when she flicks it. Damn! The power went out. Now what? She can’t see a thing. Does she find a chair and wait it out? No, no! A bed would be better.
It’s not her bed she finds when she gets to the bedroom. Bob moved hers out when she died. Probably all her furniture too. She’ll find out once she wakes. Hopefully there will be some light by then.
Her son’s bed is king sized. The fucking weasel was never a king in her mind. He was always lacking: he never had the spunk to do what was expected of him. It matters not now; it never mattered. As in the predestination beliefs of Calvin and his followers, so did it apply to her son. Certainly not from any Christian viewpoint, but from that of the Master.
Bob’s life, and death , as well as hers, went according to plans. And now, everything will evolve to the next level.
She slides beneath the blankets, dragging the mud, raindrops still plastering her body, and the blood still pouring from her vagina, along with her. Cold . . . the cold from being buried for five years in the damp, chilling confines of her coffin, not even the waterproof wadding able to make things any more hospitable for her, is still deeply rooted within her bones. Every worm working through her body, tearing flesh away from bone, is felt as she tries to find a place of comfort. The blood and flesh of her son rejuvenated her, but the bones are still hers. And the bones are cold.
Shadows move about her, not visible within the dark, but they are there none-the-less. Pressure pushes out from the walls, the ceiling, and the floor. Especially the floor. The damned beings remaindered to their next incarnate still roam there, their souls refusing to leave.
And their souls are hungry . . . hungry for revenge.
Damn! If only I had the strength to repel these bastards. Force them down to the basement where they belong, she thinks.
But her strength is not what she needs to send them back. Soon enough. For now, she needs to rest.
Light floods her room, courtesy of the open door of the bedroom, coming from the living room. She slips her weary body from the bed to see what’s going on. She had heard nothing to indicate that anyone had entered the house. What . . . what is happening?
The flames in the fireplace dance about eerily, telling her a story, one without words. Shadows cavort around freely, their multi shades of blacks and grays, crawling throughout the entire room. Heavy pressure surrounds her, getting close then retreating, only to get closer and closer, the game not wanting to find closure.
Demonic laughter surrounds her from every corner, from behind every piece of furniture, causing her to drop to her knees from the pain coursing through her brain.
“Come on, Dottie. What’s wrong?” a voice shouts out. “You’ve been waiting five years for this moment to come. Surely a little mixture of dark and light can’t stay you from your zeal.”
“Master! Master! You have returned to me. I am ready to serve you.”
“Yes, Dottie, but what about that ingrate son of yours? His body, consumed by your soul and bones, has given you life eternal, but his soul. What about his soul?”
She stares at the Master and shakes in fear. Damn! His soul . . . his soul is still wandering. Even now, I can feel him.
“Yes, Dottie, his soul is still loose. It never entered my kingdom, and I know he wasn’t pure enough to walk through any Pearly Gates.”
He grabs her hand and drags her out the door, out once more into the pouring rain. The intensity of the lightning increases the closer they get to the cemetery.
“You will help me find his soul, Dottie. Then you can take your place at my side. Not a moment before. Call to him! Call to him now.”
Evil pleadings are carried through the moisture laden air, but nothing happens. There are no returned calls of longing or even acknowledgement. All that can be heard are the sounds of the storm all around her.
Bob relives the moment again; his mother drawing him back into her dead body; the incredible pain as his entire frame was forced through her vagina; the tearing apart of flesh and organs, everything going to supply new life for his mother at the same time his was forced out of him. The agony and pain remain within his soul, the torture embedded in his mind.
His mother and Satan get ever closer to where he sits on his mother’s tombstone. He raises his hands up to the sky and feels the power surrounding him.
“Payback’s a bitch!” he shouts . . .
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2015 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.
“Come on, Bobby, quit being such a mamma’s boy,” Darryl said as he held the front of the rowboat steady.
Bobby sat wringing his hands, contemplating whether he would get out of the boat and join Darryl on the rocky shoreline, or just like every other time Darryl got a wild hair up his ass, he’d stay behind and listen to Darryl’s embellishments from the adventure on his own.
Against his better judgment, Bobby stood and swallowed his nerves along with any common sense and stumbled toward the front of the boat, reaching for Darryl’s outstretched hand.
Darryl pulled Bobby onto shore and they tied the boat off to a piece of rebar protruding from one of the hunks of concrete making up the shore. “Well, well. Look who’s not being a pussy for once in his life,” Darryl said before delivering a benign punch to Bobby’s shoulder.
Darryl scurried his way up the bank of the island and after a deep breath, Bobby followed. Once on flat ground, the eeriness of Hart Island really settled in. Only a few dilapidated structures remained and the full moon only provided filtered light through the clouds. A stiff breeze blew across the island, carrying a unique and pungent odor with it.
“Come on, Bobby, try to keep up.”
Though Darryl was only 13 months older than Bobby, he had seen things that were well beyond his years. With a single mom at home who didn’t give a shit what her son was up to, Darryl was mostly on his own. Bobby’s mother had tried to be there for Darryl if he needed anything, but that wasn’t enough to keep Darryl out of trouble.
Bobby was a good kid and even though his father split when he was 7, his mom always maintained a solid relationship with him. Bobby knew at some point, he and Darryl would need to go their separate ways in life or they’d both end up either dead or in prison, but since it was Darryl’s fifteenth birthday, he figured he’d go along with him on this little adventure.
Darryl had a creepy obsession with death. Bobby’s mom said it was because he was the one who found his alcoholic, asshole of a dad dead in the basement. He’d gone down there to get hammered after losing another job and passed out on the couch. At some point during the night, he threw up and choked to death on his own vomit. Bobby had heard Darryl’s mom say it was a fitting end and he deserved to go like that. Bobby never understood why, but Darryl really missed his dad. Even though Darryl used to constantly have new bruises from his father, he continually talked about the good times they had, choosing to forget the shitty ones.
Bobby’s dad never put a finger on him that he could remember, but he hated his dad. Hated him for leaving his mom and leaving Bobby to grow up with no father.
“I can’t believe you went through with it, Bobby. I thought for sure you’d chicken shit out on me like usual.”
“Not this time, man,” Bobby said with the crackly voice of a boy just hitting his stride with puberty. “Where’re we going anyway?”
“Just over there,” he said, pointing toward a small clump of trees.
A few minutes later, the teenagers were standing under a group of overgrown trees looking out at a fog-covered field that disappeared into the darkness.
“What are we doing here?” Bobby asked.
Darryl largely ignored the question as he swung his backpack around and set it down at his feet. He unzipped and rifled through the bag before pulling a handful of supplies out and laying them on the ground. Darryl sat and began unraveling a spool of fishing line. “You know what this place is, Bobby?”
Bobby looked around before sitting next to Darryl. “Not really.” Bobby continued looking into the dark when a gust of wind marched through, clearing away a thin layer of fog. As far as Bobby could see, small tombstones jutted from the ground. “A cemetery?”
“Pretty good,” Darryl said. He grabbed a large set of scissors and pointed them at Bobby. “It is a cemetery. The largest burial ground in the world, in fact.” He snipped off a long piece of fishing line. “And do you know what else is here?” he said again, pointing the scissors toward Bobby. His voice had an edge to it that Bobby had never heard before. The tone sent a shiver rippling down his spine.
Bobby squirmed in the dirt before shaking his head and swallowing the lump in his throat.
“I’m gonna show you.” Darryl then pulled a large hunting knife out of his bag.
Bobby jumped to his feet. “Holy shit, Darryl. What’s that for?”
“I’ll show you that too,” Darryl said, grabbing Bobby’s ankle and pulling his foot from under him, causing him to slam back down to the ground. “Just relax, Bobby ol’ pal. This isn’t for you,” he said pointing the knife at him.
Bobby’s pulse hammered in his ears and he froze with fear. Darryl let go of Bobby’s ankle and pulled the front of his shirt up to reveal several old scars and a few fresh wounds. Bobby tried to scramble away but Darryl grabbed his ankle again. “Hang on. You can’t go anywhere yet.”
Bobby kicked and screamed, trying to shake Darryl’s grip but the other boy was much stronger and Bobby couldn’t get loose. “Don’t hurt me, man!”
Darryl stabbed the knife into the ground next to Bobby’s leg. “Hurt you? You’re my friend, I wouldn’t hurt you. I just want to show you something. Me and my dad used to do this all the time. It just stings for a minute.”
Bobby stopped struggling and Darryl released his leg before snatching the knife out of the ground. He again lifted his shirt and pressed the blade to his skin. He pinched a fold of skin, pulling it up before slicing off the fatty chunk. Darryl held up the hunk of flesh before reaching into his backpack again. Bobby’s stomach turned on itself and he thought he was going to heave, but he swallowed it down as Darryl shoved a fishing hook through the piece of meat. Darryl then tied one end of the line to the hook and got to his feet.
He gathered the rest of the line, leaving the hook dangling several inches from his hand, and swung the baited hook in circles before releasing it out into the graveyard. A grin crept onto his face and Bobby squeezed his eyes tight, hoping when he opened them, he’d be in his bed and this had all been some crazy dream. When he opened them though, not only was it not a dream, but someone else was standing next to Darryl.
Darryl and a shadowy figure focused intently on the darkness, the fishing line held in Darryl’s fingertips while the ominous stranger held still at his side. “I think we got one, Dad.” Darryl said.
A moment later, Darryl yanked his hand back and a gust of foul wind stormed through the area. Bobby got to his feet and turned to run but something grabbed him by the arm. Bobby tried to shake free but was unable to get out of the invisible grip. Whatever it was that had him, was dragging him back to where Darryl was trying to drag the line in.
“We got one, Bobby. Wait ’til you see this!”
Bobby continued struggling to break free but couldn’t. He was held in place while Darryl hooted and hollered, fighting something that was struggling at the end of the line. Shrieking came from the darkness followed by what sounded like a screaming woman. Bobby was released but found himself captivated by what was happening.
“Almost got it, man. Check it out. Get over here!”
Darryl’s focus was entirely on whatever he was dragging to them. Another gust of wind blew through and Bobby’s brain couldn’t comprehend what his eyes were seeing. At the end of the line, flopping like a fish that had just been pulled from the water and dropped onto the ground, was a horribly decomposed woman’s body.
“Woohoo! Look at this one, Dad!” Darryl yelled as the thing screeched and tried to crawl back into the darkness.
The silhouette next to Darryl floated erratically in the space around Darryl, floating in the sky like a kite in the wind.
Bobby looked back to the thing at the end of the line. Its flesh was mostly gone, and what remained was tattered and torn. Sinew and bone glistened in the sporadic moonlight as clouds drifted overhead, intermittently drowning the full moon’s light.
Once the thing had been brought close enough, Darryl grabbed the hunting knife from its sheath at his waistband and plunged it into what remained of the woman’s skull. Its struggle ended instantly and the figure that Darryl had called Dad settled down next to him, one of its wispy arms settling onto Darryl’s shoulder.
Darryl turned to Bobby with a look of complete satisfaction and elation. “Did you see that? She was a whopper wasn’t she, Bobby?”
Bobby hesitated for a second, studying Darryl’s look of complete joy and for the first time, he saw the face of the figure. He’d only seen Darryl’s dad a few times, but the face was unmistakable. It was twisted into a malevolent yet proud smile. Something inside Bobby made him forget the hideousness of what he just witnessed. The sense of accomplishment on Darryl’s face, the look of pride in Darryl’s dad’s decayed face, it brought something out inside of Bobby that he hadn’t felt since his dad left.
“Whaddya think, man? You wanna give it a try?” Darryl said, wiping the gore from the knife and holding it out to Bobby.
Bobby missed his dad but never realized how much until he saw the happiness at that moment between Darryl and his dead father.
A tear escaped down Bobby’s cheek as he reached out to take the blade from Darryl. An owl hooted in the distance as Darryl’s dad danced around the two boys, filling both boys with a sense of pride.
“Go on, Bobby. Do it,” Darryl said before socking Bobby in the arm again. “Don’t be a pussy.”
Bobby grinned, lifted his shirt, and tucked it under his chin before pinching a good hunk of meat between his fingers. “Screw you, Darryl. You’re the only pussy around here,” he said before slicing off the bit of flesh.
~ Craig McGray
© Copyright 2015 Craig McGray. All Rights Reserved.
As Mathew entered the storefront, he hung its key from the tooth of a snarling dog. The statue of the hound had been on that table since his childhood and time had seen fit to leave it. His hate for the place flared in each muscle the second he entered the building, but it was a strangely enticing feeling. The old room looked deliberately ramshackle, intended to add to the mystique, no doubt. ‘Shabby chic’ people called it; rundown he called it, but it was his business now.
He knew his father had been into some really terrible things, but he never stuck around long enough to take part in the ‘family business’. He’d left home at eighteen and never looked back. He’d tried to forget all of it and had managed to succeed until a letter arrived by courier last month; it was addressed to the proprietor of The Old West Wax Works. The woman who delivered it was attractive and left not only her number, but the lingering scent of her perfume on the delivery receipt along with his father’s will. They’d begun seeing each other almost every night since. She’d asked about The Old West Wax Works a few weeks into the new romance, but he never explained and she never pushed.
When he told her he needed to take care of family business down south, she hadn’t asked to be included which was a good thing; maybe she was ‘the one’ and his impending bad mood would seem unattractive. They talked about weekend plans and she mentioned heading down the shore to surprise him for a visit, but he barely listened; he’d been preoccupied with his father’s will. The tasks he needed to complete weren’t complicated, but they were going to be messy and time consuming.
Mathew spent that first day cleaning counters and getting rid of the old dust cloths and boxes, and something shifted.
The place didn’t need to be spotless, but it did need to be presentable when his first guest arrived. He felt the cold fingers of anxiety grab hold of him and fought them off. This place was in his blood and always had been. He saw that now and felt – proud.
He thought about the delivery woman, Claire, as he toiled about the place, and wondered if she would like it here. He genuinely liked her and hoped she would. He looked forward to seeing her again as soon as he could.
The bell over the door jangled its discordant tune.
“C’mon in, we’re open for business.” Mathew said.
Mathew caught the scent of a woman’s perfume; it was familiar to him by now. He hesitated, fought the urge to be like them, to turn into the monsters his predecessors had been. He smiled when he saw her, all doubt faded, then he stepped on the button that opened the trap door. The fight was over.
The sound of the heavy door slamming shut cut off the screams from below. He knew she had broken both legs and cracked several ribs when she fell, but that was all fixable. His father’s tools were already sharpened, ready for use after so many years of neglect in the storage boxes.
He liked the delivery woman, Claire. He hoped she liked it here, too.
~ Christopher A. Liccardi
© Copyright 2015 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.