The Record of Harold Snyde

The black disk spun as the music enthralled its listeners. It spoke a language more beautiful than any human tongue. It sang in sweet tones of joy and cried in wails of sorrow as the symphony progressed. Like a puppet master deftly maneuvering strings, it directed bodies as they danced with grace, ever mindful of the next movement, the next step.

Only when the needle was lifted did they stop. The Victrola was the instrument, Mr. Harold Snyde, the conductor.

His guests had been invited to his home under false pretense of a dinner party; one which could be described as nothing short of an unmitigated success.

After dessert, he invited those gathered into the parlor for a musical interlude. When he placed the recording onto the spinning table and set the needle into the disc’s carved groove, they all began to dance. He knew they would. He’d tested it on his late wife prior to her passing of heart failure. An unfortunate occurrence, for her. But not for Mr. Snyde. He inherited her vast fortune, and the aforementioned record player.

When Mrs. Snyde had still been among the living, he’d found it buried deep in the attic behind old crates and piles of books no one would ever read again. He pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs.

“What are you doing with that old thing?” she’d questioned with disdain.

“What do you mean, dear? I’m setting it up so I can listen to my records.”

“Why don’t you just buy a new one? We hardly need to reuse junk from the attic,” she’d clucked, barely disguising her distaste.

He didn’t reply. Instead, he placed a record on the player and turned it on. She began to dance, and dance, and dance; a strange expression painted on her face, as if fear struck her ill.

“I thought you hated my choice of music?” he asked her prancing form.

She didn’t reply.

“Lynn, what has gotten into you?”

Still her mouth uttered no words.

He crossed his arms and watched her sway and whirl around the room without stopping. He let it go on for some time before raising the arm off the record.

She stopped dancing and blinked a few times. “What… What just happened?”

“You were dancing! It was wonderful!”

“I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to dance. I don’t understand.”

“Let’s try it again, shall we?” Harold said, and turned the music back on.

She’d begun to raise a palm, to tell him to wait, but the music took over and sent her twirling about like a ballerina. He sat and watched in fascination from his favorite reading chair, smiling at her frame as it seemed to glide about the room as if weightless.

As she went on and on without end, he wondered how long the player would have an effect. He soon had his answer; she danced until she died several hours later.

Before the police and ambulance arrived, he dredged up old memories to proffer genuine tears. He didn’t want to appear apathetic or distracted. Tissue in hand, he wiped his eyes while the paramedics took her body away and the officers questioned him. It worked perfectly. There was no need for them to know those tears weren’t for his deceased wife, but for his beloved dog, Ralph, who’d passed when he was a boy.

Now, no one suspected a thing; not the police, nor his current guests. He presumed they all believed him in need of company. He was, after all, alone in such a large house, with a wife so recently in the ground and no children to share his grief. It had only been a week since the death of Mrs. Snyde, yet the vultures gathered had jumped at the opportunity to console the wealthy widower; the same gaggle who wouldn’t have bothered to utter his name prior to his wife’s passing.

He reveled in watching the contorted faces of his guests as they moved around the room with more grace than they ever would on their own. He wondered how long they’d last. Would they drop one by one? Would they all die around the same time? He wished he could bet on who would be the first to go, but there wasn’t anyone to take up the offer. It mattered little; he was having the time of his life. Watching those rich bitch-hogs dance uncontrollably gave him pleasure, and watching their lives give out would give him even more. They’d done him wrong and in return, he was going to do them right.

He watched Gerald, his legs bending and swaying, hips moving in sync with Barbara. The two socialite bastards had always talked behind his back. He’d seen them laughing with eyes pointed in his direction at the company Christmas party the previous year. Lynn had stood with them, probably telling them how he’d pissed his money away with a bladder full of drink.

There will be fewer attendees at the party this year, he thought with maniacal glee.

Henna and Charles, the investment dynamic-duo, or so they claimed. They looked to be the first to go. He saw their eyes droop, watched as their mouths hung open, a stream of unbecoming drool leaked freely onto each of their chins. Their arms swung loosely at their sides, propelled only by the movement of their hips, which no longer held any rhythm.

When he looked at their unsteady feet he laughed; the carpet had worn flat from the constant shuffling of their shoes. It had been Lynn’s favorite rug, worth quite a bit of money. I’d trade that floor rag for a bucket of dirt any day, he groused in his mind.

The soon to be deceased couple had lost him money time and again in fruitless endeavors. No more. That rug will be the last of your expenses.

Max still moved at a steady, upbeat pace. Mr. Snyde figured he’d be the last to drop. Max hadn’t done anything in particular to deserve such a merciless fate, he just didn’t like the mook bastard.

He poured himself a glass of whiskey and raised it to his guests. “Thank you all for coming! I’m having a wonderful time!” He laughed and sipped his drink.

By the time he’d gone through five or six pours—he couldn’t remember how many—Max was the only one left standing. The clock read quarter of five. “Damn sun will be rising soon. We’d better call this party quits. Show yourselves out. Oh, wait… That’s right, you can’t!” He chuckled and spilled whiskey with a wavering hand. “Hurry up and die, won’t you, Max. I need rid myself of the lot of you. Can’t have you stinking up the place.”

Max’s eyes pleaded with him. Their sorrowful look begged to be released, ached to be set free.

“Can’t go back now, buddy. Sorry.”

He reached for an iron rod from the fireplace, swung it hard. Max went down like the market crash of ’29.

He lifted the needle from the record for some peace and quiet while he piled the bodies together on the rug. When he attempted to pick Max up, he heard soft grumbles emanating from the man’s throat. The blow to the back of his head hadn’t killed him. “What’s that you say? Speak up, boy!”

Mr. Snyde thought he heard a profane remark as he hoisted Max up by putting his arms under his shoulders, but the young man’s speech was still unintelligible. “What’s that now?”

“Fuck you!”

Max’s hand reached out just far enough to push the needle back onto the vinyl disc and the music started to play.

Releasing his hold on Max, Mr. Harold Snyde began to dance…

~ Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved

Avemwood

Brutality is the form of nature, raw and unrefined, terrible in its awesome power—and these creatures full of it, pecked at her face with ferocious vigor. Alvin watched from behind a tree as splashes of red covered their bony heads. The human bodies that carried them, dressed in black suits and ties, added a surreal quality to the gruesome scene he could scarcely believe.

The five creatures kept at it until the screaming turned to muffled gurgles belching from the twitching body of Alvin’s wife.

Tears streamed from his eyes. Elaine…

A crow squawked atop the limb above, the sound deafening in the quiet woods. He looked up, tried to wish it away, but it screeched again and again as if calling to its brethren, alerting them to his presence.

His lungs halted and he held them as long as possible. He strained against their natural urge to suck air, pursed his lips, and pinned his nose shut with two fingers. For the inevitable, he waited. The group of strange beings would surely converge on him and rip him to shreds as they had poor Ellie.

In a way, he hoped they would. If Heaven existed he’d see her there and they would be together again.

Curiosity forced him to peek around the trunk. They continued to stab her body with knife-like beaks. The whole of their skulls had reddened and dripped with fresh blood. He glimpsed the dark annular sockets where eyes should have been, but no organic matter existed within, only voids which could be seen—but not see.

The crow took flight and passed over the five beasts finishing their meal. It cawed once as it went by.

They all stood at once, rigid and perfectly upright. Rivulets of red ran down their beaks and steadily dripped to the earth at their feet. They raised their arms as if to fly but only stood still. Their beaks opened to expose pointed teeth, and together they lunged downward and finished their feast. A crimson geyser rained down and soaked their pristine suits.

Alvin’s jaw tightened as he stifled cries of guilt. I should have helped her. I should have at least tried.

The orchestra of gorging flesh stopped. The forest went silent, not even nocturnal insects sang. Alvin heard terror pumping though every vein. It pressed at his temples, the pressure building like a vice about to crush his skull.

The pain of brutal death instilled deep terror, willed his survival instinct to preserve his life. If not for that most primal part of mind, he would have walked out from his place of hiding and went willingly into the circle of chimeric beings.

Instead he turned and ran through the brush, forcing his way through bushes of thorns, jumping over fallen branches, dodging trees left and right. He carried himself as he never had before. His shoes grew feathers and the wind whisked his feet forward with every desperate step. Hope rose inside. Hope that he might get away, that the death behind would not catch up, and he’d see the sun again.

A blinding, amber light burst into the sky ahead, but not the sun he’d hoped for. It rained like fire on the forest floor as he covered his eyes against the pain. With it came a terrible heat that threatened to singe the hair from his forearms. He crouched and tried to shield himself.

Footsteps halted inches away from his fetal position. Death had arrived. He looked up to see the uncanny bird-men ablaze in the torrid light. The blood that covered them burned like fire. They’d become as the phoenix, all fury and power.

The brightness blinked out, casting the forest back into the shadow empty space brings to the night. All went quiet except for the breath of the creatures standing over him.

They stabbed repeatedly as he writhed on the ground. His view of the white moon turned to blood and the night darkened. Time slowed, and as his consciousness faded, he saw inside the empty, non-existent eyes of his tormentors. Inside he saw her, curled into a mangled ball that was once her beautiful form. All around her were strangers in similar position.

Elaine… Forgive me. I’ll see you soon.

∼Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.

 

Damned Echoes

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

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

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

 

DE01_Cloud

 


My Mind Screams
Jon Olson

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


Fetid Hunger
Lee A. Forman

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

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

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


Pandemic
Zack Kullis

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

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

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

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

“Cure”

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


The Price
Joseph Pinto

“There.  You see it, now?  You see?”

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

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

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

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

I left him to his cigar.


The Wailing
Magenta Nero

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


Mistaken
Tyr Kieran

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


Judgement Day
Thomas Brown

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

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

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

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


Perfect
Christopher A. Liccardi

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

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

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

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

“I don’t want to come back.”

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

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

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


Revelation
Nina D’Arcangela

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


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