Swept Away

Dwindling twilight; a summer breeze. He hands her a chilled glass of wine. She smiles, thanks him, sips the dry fruity liquid and blushes. He returns the smile, sips from his own glass and looks out over the lapping water of the bay. Taking her hand, he leads her down the steps, across the patio and opens the gate leading to the surf. Slipping off her shoes, she steps through the gate and onto the cooling sand. He follows. Hand in hand they stroll to the water’s edge. Leaning down, he places a chaste kiss upon her forehead, her cheek, her moistened lips. They walk in silence, letting the water caress their ankles.

Rounding the tip of the inlet, the water is much more aggressive, the waves coming ashore with more force. The open ocean lies before them. They’ve always dreamed of sailing away together, escaping the drudgery of day to day life and living as nomads on the sea. They walk for what seems hours, both glasses long since drained, both sets of feet tiring of the sand. She smiles in the moonlight and nods the way they came, indicating they return home. Never one to deny her, he smiles his agreement. They turn, begin the trek back; the tide is coming in. She veers towards the gentler sand; he tightens his grip, holding her in place. She glances up, sure he has misread her cue. His face is shadowed, but seems harder, less indulgent. She tries to pull her hand free; he doesn’t allow it. He draws her further into the water; she tugs back, still believing he is playing. The moonlight slants across his face; she sees no mirth in his smile, but an ugliness she didn’t know existed. She begins to panic; he drags her toward the undertow. Being the stronger swimmer, he doesn’t fear the water at night; he relished the fight of the high tide. She swims only when the sea is calm, terrified of the unseen depths. Waves begin to crash over them; she sputters, he grins. Turning with an iron grip on her wrist, he drags her out into the inky blackness.

Eight days crawl by; he still clutches the swim trunks the police believe he was wearing the night he returned home, unable to find her. The detective sits on the opposing deck chair, tells him there is nothing more they can do. He begs, he weeps; he pleads for them to understand she would never enter the water at night alone. The detective understands, is sympathetic, but must still inform him they are declaring her lost at sea. The only item found thus far is her swimsuit that washed ashore. He identified it himself she reminds him. He is shattered, a broken man, the love of his life lost. The detective apologizes once more and excuses herself. The police presence withdraws from his home, his life, his world. He is the affluent one; there is no reason to suspect foul play. There wasn’t even a life insurance policy to question; she never had one. Playing the part of the grieving widower, he ceremoniously lays her to rest at sea; friends mourn his loss.

Three months later, he sails into port; she waits for him in the lavish bungalow they purchased on the French island of Réunion. They’ve had no contact in the months between. For two estranged lovers, it has been an eternity. They reunite; he pours each a glass of wine; she asks if there was suspicion. He tells her of his hysterics, burying his wife at sea, the long journey to reach the island. She asks again if he was suspected of having a hand in his wife’s death. He laughs as he answers that while he did indeed have exactly that – a hand in his wife’s death – they never suspected a thing. She asks how that could be. He smiles, places his wine on the table and cups her face while reassuring her the plan was flawless. Convincing her older sister to marry him, then gift him her wealth was a stroke of genius; it placed him above reproach and set them up to share a lifetime of extravagance. She’s the one he loves. The wedding; a ruse.

She smiles in return; she’s been swimming these waters for quite a while. She knows which underwater caves have air pockets, and which don’t.

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.

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Damned Words 20

damnedwords_20

Judgment
Nina D’Arcangela

I watched as he dragged his torso through the smoldering debris toward me, and thought, another. Unlike most, he hadn’t surrendered. I wondered if he knew where he was headed, or of the puss-ridden trail he left behind. No matter, it would soon be ended. I didn’t choose who suffered the searing heat; I only quenched the burning once they arrived. Fate appraised his soul, meted out its judgment.

“Have you your papers, then? There’s ta’be no entry without them.” I lilted. He stared back through hollowed sockets. I sighed. They all think the pearly gates so easy to attain.


The Thirty Second Burn
Lee A. Forman

The massive door opens on screeching hinges. My legs tremble, reluctant to carry me into the mouth of the iron beast. I know what waits in The Box.

Thirty seconds a day. Every day. Only the strong endure. But they are cursed to face the flame again and again.

The weak are lucky. To die is beautiful.

The guards guide me inside.

As the air itself boils, I know not pain or suffering but a great joy. I revel in the satisfaction of knowing I won’t last—I’ll expire quickly; my torment will end nearly as soon as it began…


Volatile State
Joseph A. Pinto

You call me deranged in my volatile state, yet you remain void of oxygen, void of all to sustain a fire. You know only of cleaning my ashes from the hearth, while I have schooled myself, keeper of this flame. Within my charred cage once an inferno raged; rose and fell, with hope, absolution. Dearly did I wish for us to go down in a state of combustion. Now, the landscape has changed. I am left to smolder—a cruel fate, this blessing; my curse. So perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am all you label me. Blistered. Branded. Blackened.


The Other White Meat
Hunter Shea

“It smells like barbecue.”

“You try putting sauce on that and I’ll kick your balls inside out.”

Jett turns the knob as far as it will go, the flames sharpening, going from sunburst orange to a cold, vicious blue.

“Jeez that’s gotta hurt,” Peter says, leaning closer. Jett sees the trickle of saliva at the corner of his mouth. He wants to drive his fist into his stupid, leering face.

“It would if the devil wasn’t in her.”

Clarissa’s flesh blackens and crackles. She doesn’t flinch.

Jett struggles to hold her down.

“Sometimes, you got to fight fire with fire.”


Holdout
Christopher A. Liccardi

The whomp sound of the flames dashed up from under the element. The metal box was large enough to fit inside, but no room to turn.

He woke to the stench of rotten eggs and sudden heat on naked skin.

What the…

The thought never made it through his mind. He glanced up and saw that wretch of a wife staring, upside down into his face.

She’d dared him to see who could hold out longer and he laughed in her face proclaiming he’d been waiting twelve years already.

She smiled prettily, knowing who was going to win this one.


Let It Die
Jon Olson

My god, it’s here! We never thought we’d see it again. In this cold world, this dark existence, it remains. Many years have gone by since it’s been seen. We’re all drawn to it, attracted by the warmth and hope it represents. The flames flicker and dance, a performance for the ages. We feel the cold and dark encroaching on the light. Evil is here. Around the flames I see the faces of the others. We are afraid as death awaits us, yet we’re determined. Now that it’s been found, it cannot perish. We can’t… we won’t let it die.


Exotic Cuisine
A.F. Stewart

“Roasting chestnuts by the fire.”

I sung a few bars of the song as I watched the searing flames. Beautiful blue flames bending, beckoning to my soul. Perfect for chestnuts. Maybe marinated on a skewer with some juicy fingers.

Or possibly eyeballs. I like the smell of roasting eyeballs.

I glanced at the salesman I had trussed up on the floor. I watched him squirm, trying to scream through his gag and break the zip ties.

I smiled and picked up my butcher knife.

Nope, definitely fingers. He has nice fat ones. Stew the eyeballs for dessert… with chocolate sauce.


Broken Boy Blue
Mercedes M. Yardley

The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn. While Adam was sleeping in the hay, breathing starlight and pharmaceuticals, the Catchers took his father behind the barn. They broke his teeth and fed him like livestock on gun metal and bullets. They torched the house and his withered mother was the most beautiful of candles. His sisters took longer, but even the rosiest things ignite with enough tenacity.

They overlooked Adam, but he would always see the Catchers in his technicolor dreams. They played a starring role, laughing and cheering his family on as they danced, danced, danced.


The Chant, The Charm
Veronica Magenta Nero

Born in me it was, the chant, the charm, bile sitting in the pit of my belly. Until it began to creep, the chant, the charm, to lodge in the crook of my throat, a constant niggle I couldn’t clear. Soon it was on the tip of my tongue. Like an insult or a lie. Must keep it in, keep it down. Thick stitches popped one by one, so I took the torch, searing a heavy smooth line for lips. But now from the corners of my eyes it seeps, the chant, the charm, no voice to stop the magic.


Human Coal
Brian Moreland

The Hell train’s engine runs on flames and meat. The Railwayman rides in the locomotive. Dressed in blood-stained overalls and cap, he enters the tender car to a mound of body parts. In a black cloud of flies, he shovels severed limbs, heads, and ribcages―tosses them into the firebox. The smoke smells like barbecue. The train makes its rounds along America’s tracks. Hapless passengers climb aboard. The conductor punches tickets. As the train shrieks down the railway, skull-faced cleavers roam from car to car, doing their chop work. They refill the tender. The Railwayman shovels meat, feeding the blue-flamed beast.


The Bridge
Mark Steinwachs

Black smoky tendrils snake around my body, languid movements that if made by human hands would have been sensual. I sit in the chair, unable to move. A single blue flame bridges the gap; a moment passes where my thoughts and actions are untrue to each other. The Zoroastrians say nothing, my fate sealed. I offer myself to be judged, to join them. Only the righteous become one with the perfect element, the rest are destroyed by it. The creature pierces me, my body ignites from inside. I open my mouth to scream but there is no sound, only fire


Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2017
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.

Red and Blue

I sit curled up next to the fireplace, my head resting against the surround. A goblet of heavy Merlot in my hand; heavy for its body or heavy for my longing, I cannot say. As I stare into the crackling blaze, my mind wanders. So many memories from years gone by, so much love shared here, in this very room. My soul shrieks with grief as I collapse into a ball, no longer able to hold myself upright; no longer able to stem the wracking sobs.

The fire now a blur through swollen wet eyes, my head lolls and I glance toward the tree with its twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and brightly wrapped packages tucked neatly below. You always were such a perfectionist. My eyes flutter shut as the day you dressed the tree forces itself upon my mind. You were so happy, so excited to pick the largest pine available. I recall joking that one of us would have to move out so the tree could move in. You kissed me with icy cold lips and a bright red nose. Little did I know how soon I would long to feel that frigid touch once more. Your enthusiasm knowing no bounds, you spent the entire day arranging everything just so; making sure the colorful glass baubles were placed with precision, everything to an exacting measure. I’d playfully moved a strand of tinsel while you weren’t watching, only to reenter the room moments later to find it placed back in its original position.

The gifts. Oh, how you tortured me over the gifts long before the season began. A sad smile steals across my lips as I think of the hours you spent fretting over the perfect surprise for each of our friends. As I sip from my glass, a slight chuckle escapes me only to end in a bleat of pain as I recall how you stressed over wrapping each gift in the perfect color foil. God, how you loved this day.

I think back upon the last evening I saw you. I was standing at the island between this room and the kitchen preparing dinner; you remembered one final detail you couldn’t do without. I kissed you as you bounded past me, told you not to be long and that I loved you. You grabbed your coat from the hook, turned to me with purse in hand, golden locks bouncing, and smiled before replying as you always did – not nearly the way I love you. I smiled back; you left. Two hours later, a knock sounded. I wasn’t worried, you often became infatuated with something or other and lost track of time or misplaced your keys. As I moved to open the front door, I noticed the bare flicker of red and blue light drifting in from the balcony. Seeing the officers standing at the threshold, I turned and walked to the glass, placed my forehead to it, and knew in that moment… you were gone. I woke lying upon the couch. The officers explained there’d been an accident at the corner – our corner; a young woman had been hit by a car that ran the red light. You were that young woman.

My eyes crack open seeking a red light on the tree, your tree – our tree. But instead, my sight finds the red fairy lights you used to decorate the balcony. Barely able to stand, I stumble to the sliding doors. As I fumble to open them through my tears, the Merlot in my glass pours onto the white carpet. My addled mind tells me how angry you’ll be if I don’t clean the deep burgundy spill right away; my breath hitches, another sob escapes me. Finally managing the lock, I step through onto the bitterly cold veranda. Standing at the rail, I exist in a halo of red light, my long chestnut mane whipping in the wind; the flush on my cheeks all but gone in a tinted haze. Another balcony, the one next to ours, is adorned in blue twinkling lights. I wonder why I’d not noticed it before. The blue and red lights blur together as my inebriated mind struggles to adjust. Five stories below, more lights glitter, cars rush past; the ground wears a fresh blanket of snow. I’m so tired, and the blanket seems so inviting. Please, don’t go without me – words I should have spoken that night. Letting myself lean forward, the world pitches as my mind screams for release from this sorrow, begs me to join you. I grasp the railing, sink to my knees and crawl back inside. Too much a coward to follow you; too devoted to allow your memory to die.

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2014 Nina D’Arcangela. Revised 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Human Prey

I had been single for nine years when I met Spider. The sky was overcast. I smelled fried onions, heard the sizzle of hot oil from the kebab van by the side of the road as I made my way to the park. My watch still sat on the bedside table; it could have been any time between five and seven. The last nine years could have passed between these hours; that halfway time after the evening but before nightfall, when clouds and shadow obscure the sky like muddied waters and the streetlights seem premature. As I approached the van, I found myself wondering if there was such a thing as any other time. It didn’t feel that way to me.

I visited the park often in the evenings, but rarely this van. It was the same park where I used to play with my friends as a small boy. I liked to watch for dragonflies in the spring, and pond skaters, and the fat worms that emerged from the soil when summer turned and it began to rain.

There was no rain that night. Three silhouettes huddled around the light from the counter. Stronger than the streetlights and nearer, the glow reminded me of a lamp, the people like fat moths in their vast overcoats. Two of them stood slightly apart, mouths close to their food, chewing slowly behind their collars. I can still remember the sound of their chewing, the gradual motion of their jaws, the grinding of pitta or grey doner meat between their teeth; a ceaseless mastication.

The third man stood by the serving hatch while the van’s occupants prepared his order. He didn’t turn, but stepped slightly to one side as I came up behind him. This close to the van, the aroma of vinegar, cheap aftershave, and hot Middle Eastern spices was almost overpowering. I ordered quickly, my mouth watering, eyes burning slightly from the onion and the cold.

I didn’t realise the man had spoken to me until I felt his hand on my shoulder. My flinch startled him, but his hand had startled me first. After nine years, the loneliness had become a part of me, and it wasn’t used to being touched.

“You dropped this.”

He wasn’t tall, but he had a couple of inches on me. He looked older, maybe mid-thirties to my twenty-nine. A thick crop of blonde hair gave him a youthful aspect, as did his smile, but his eyes were honest. I wondered if he was doing the same to me; reading my face, my mouth, my mother’s brown eyes. Still teary, cheeks flushed from the chill, I thought I must have looked one-hundred and nine.

“Here.”

He extended his hand again, and I realised he was holding a tenner. The note was crumpled between his finger and thumb. I took it quickly, careful not to brush his fingers with my own. Behind us, in one of the many tiny gardens squashed between the rows of terraced houses, a dog began howling.

We spoke while we waited for our food. Mostly it was he who spoke, but I replied when it was polite and, afterwards, when I wanted to. I learned he was Swedish, that he had moved here for work eight months ago and was missing his homeland dearly. The dog did not stop howling, but it was not unusual for dogs trapped in the small gardens here to sound off. I realised it was night. Even without my watch, we must have been speaking for hours. I had said very little, but the time had flown. I couldn’t have begun to imagine where it had gone.

We continued speaking at the park, and the week after in a coffee shop. One evening we visited the cinema where we caught a late showing of an indie film from his homeland. I didn’t – I don’t – understand the language. There were subtitles, but these paled in comparison to the sweeping panoramic shots of black lakes shining with starlight, and black cities lit up with little lights of their own; Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, cities and the streets that made them up shivering like bright nests in the dark. I had not lived anywhere else than home, except for three brief years at university in Nottingham, and certainly not abroad. When the film was finished, he asked me whether I had enjoyed it. I told him I didn’t know what it had meant, but it was beautiful. He smiled.

I will never forget the day he met my parents. I think they had grown lonely in their own way from lack of any significant other in my life. It is a parent’s job to worry. Then they met him, and they seemed better. Though they had met him only briefly, that made me feel better, too.

It was summer when he asked me if I would visit Malmö with him. We were drinking red wine on the stained patio that amounted for my back garden. The paving slabs were cracked and hot. Weeds tickled the soles of my feet. He had not said how much he missed home, not since the first time we had met, but I caught him looking in the mirror sometimes. His was a pale face. I recognised guilt, and an emptiness that could have been my own. My Spider. Of course I said yes.

We flew that autumn, before the trees bared their branches and cobwebs glittered with more than flies. I had never flown before, but I was not afraid. I slept most of the way; the flight passed in the blink of an eye. The last six months had been a blur. After nine years of struggling like one of those flies trapped in silk, my life was speeding around me, and I was happy.

I couldn’t wait to explore the city; from what I could see as we navigated the roads, it actually shone. The night was black, the streetlamps tall, the buildings of a different sort to any I had ever seen before. I have never given much thought to heaven, or imagined what it might look like, but after last night, I would imagine it looks like this.

It did not take long to explore his apartment. One of the rooms was locked. The other two I surveyed in minutes: a main room, and a bathroom that doubled up as a storage cupboard. The main room featured a stove and several bare shelves. Dust coated the solitary windowsill like a second layer of paint. Looking back, he had seemed anxious, although I couldn’t tell why. We shared a futon and a heavy duvet to keep the draught at bay. Spiders fought over dust balls by the skirting boards. I fell asleep in his arms.

In the morning – this morning – I woke up to find myself gagged. The pain at my wrists told me they were bound, although I couldn’t see them from where I lay. I felt for Spider; his weight, his aftershave, the tap of his boots on the floor, anything to let me know he was still here. The house made sounds of its own, but none I could attribute to him. When I realised he had gone, I thought I was going to be sick. The back of my neck prickled, and my chest closed around my lungs so that every breath was small and tight. I felt a crushing sense of hollowness, like someone had reached inside of me and scooped everything out.

Outside was still black, but brightening, growing lighter with every passing hour. I am still lying here now, my face in the futon, knees tucked under my chest. I am on my side. The door that had yesterday been locked swings slightly ajar. A mattress spring buries uncomfortably into my naked hip.

I can’t hear the tap of Spider’s boots, but I can hear other things, moving behind the unlocked door. I have been listening to them for what feels like hours, scratching in the darkness, testing the stairs. The first I see of them is a white hand, fingers curling around the doorframe. The digits are long, skeletal. I think that whoever the hand belongs to must be very Nordic, or very ill.

The figures slink cautiously into the light. From where I lie, I can count three of them; I don’t know if they are his family, but there is a likeness in their arms, their slender legs, the long curvature of their necks as they scuttle closer. They too are naked. I don’t recognise their bald heads, or their mouths, except maybe to liken them to the mouthparts of newly-hatched dragonflies.

They move cautiously but with an eagerness that bears them quickly across the floor. Behind them, on the other side of the room, I can see the apartment’s sole window. Outside, the sky is grey, muddied with swirls of darker cloud, like gutter water run through with grime. I don’t know what time it is, or where my watch is, but I know that it is sometime between five and seven. I wonder if time ever sped up, if I ever escaped the spider’s web, or if that was just another illusion; the distorted perception of a thing struggling its last, trapped for months, years, almost a decade in a life from which there is no escape.

I am not struggling now. Somewhere outside, a dog begins barking. Perhaps it senses my fear, but I don’t think so. More likely it hears the wet chewing sounds that are filling the room; sucking, crunching, the roaring of blood in my ears. I think of two men, huddled around a van, nuzzling strips of grey meat, then a city doing likewise, then the world; for one moment billions of men, women, and children bent prostrate, heads bowed, mouths quick as they devour their hands.

I am not struggling, and I am not afraid. The mattress sinks around me as they shift, biting harder, bringing me to tears. My vision blurs. I think about last night, about the city streaming past me, and my place in it, tiny and awestruck. I remember the magnitude of the blackness, and the lights below, like golden pinpricks. I think about that first conversation with Spider, and the ensuing six months; the first and only time when I have ever been happy. It seems a small price to pay. As I drift away, I remind myself I am in heaven, foodstuff for angels with black eyes and butterfly’s skin.

~ Thomas Brown

© Copyright 2015 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.

Homeless No More

It’s damned cold for late April! Torrential rains are taking a toll on Joe’s body. He’s not as spry as he once was, and his threadbare clothes don’t afford much protection from the elements. No raincoat or heavy jacket: nothing to protect and keep him dry and warm.

“Fucking weather!” he mutters.

Disabled from an old war wound inflicted in ‘Nam and homeless for ten years now, he has barely managed to stay ahead in the game of life. Some game. Death might be better than his existence, but he’s never been a quitter, even when the shit hit the fan. And it has, many times.

Up ahead looms a cemetery, the tombstones not doing much to lift his spirits. Peering at them through the veil of water falling from above distorts their image, making them appear even more ominous. It doesn’t help that the tree branches look like long fingers reaching out to grab him. The intermingling grays and blacks do nothing to lighten the ominous vista. His step quickens. He needs to leave this place, but… he sees something else though the rain.

“Holy shit,” he says. “Is that an open mausoleum?”

As scared as he might be of his surroundings, the open structure offers protection from the storm. He shoulders his pack a bit tighter, looks around to make sure no one is watching, and walks over to the building.

“This is all right! Out of the rain for me!”

Unable to see much at first, his eyes slowly begin to adjust to the darkness, nothing he observes discourages him from staying.  Yet something tears at his mind, telling him this place is not safe. The odor of the wet dirt is not all he smells, an un-Godly stench pervades the mausoleum both within and outside as well. The reek of decay and filth lies heavy in his nose and on his tongue.

The noise of crashing thunder against the crypt sends vibrations throughout his entire body. Startled, he jumps in fear.

“Damn, Joe, get your shit together! It’s just a fucking storm.”

He opens his pack and takes out his sleeping bag, what’s left of it anyway. Too many nights spent curled up in cement alley-ways has left his travel bed worn and as thin as his clothing. Worn or not, it’s the only bed he’s known since that night so long ago. Riding in the car with his wife and two young children, all of them as happy as can be until… until that fucking Dually crossed over the line and smashed into them head on. The lights of the approaching truck, the impact, and the horrible crunch of metal meeting metal reverberate nightly in his mind; his dreams have become nightmares of unending pain.

Tears form around the edges of his eyes as he shakes his head, trying to chase the memory away, but the recollection lingers.

“Jesus! At least wait ’til I’m asleep! I need some peace.”

He rummages through his pack searching for a left over chunk of Italian bread from lunch at the Salvation Army. Food might help to keep his mind occupied. Merely cursing at the stale piece of dough should distract him. It was pretty tasty before, but by now it will be a little worse for wear. Things tend to shift in his bag. With the storm raging, he doesn’t want to walk to the other side of town to get dinner at the shelter. They can only sleep a limited number of heads, but they can feed many more hungry mouths but it doesn’t look like his will be one of them tonight.

The good news is that the bread isn’t stale; the bad news is that it’s waterlogged. Kinda gives the old bread and water saying a whole new meaning. Joe stares at it sitting in his hand and laughs before he slowly starts eating. No rush. This is all he has. He might as well enjoy it.

His laughter stops when an assault of lightning and crashing thunder shake the crypt. Repeated bolts strike everywhere and the mausoleum lights up before his eyes displaying crumbling walls and a seeming shift in the way burial arrangements were originally intended. The projected ‘high-rise’ of bodies looks ready to tumble to the floor at any moment.

“Shit! I hope the storm doesn’t tear this place apart.”

He sits quietly for awhile, watching the illumination of the walls and the dancing shadows. The storm won’t be letting up any time soon, so like it or not, he’ll be staying for a while. Needing to take a leak before going to sleep, he starts outside but changes his mind. Too much rain. The last thing he needs is to get soaked before he drifts off to slumber-land. Feeling bad about doing it, he stands at the edge of the entryway and pisses out into the storm.

“Sorry if I piss on anyone,” he mumbles.

Retreating to the relative safety of his sleeping bag, he slides inside and listens to the sound of the falling rain. It actually soothes him now, and he falls asleep quickly.

The dreams will come. They always do.

***

The pouring rain washes the dirt out of his hair and he relishes the feeling. His consignment to the ground below isn’t conducive to cleanliness, but hey, he’s a Ghoul. Once he starts feeding, all pretense of neatness goes away. His food is messy. Delectable, but messy. He can wash up again after.

Hunger attacks once more. Damn, he’s always hungry. Yes, but now his food larder has been enlarged. Even if bodies stop showing up here, he will always have a fresh supply. These humans multiply like rabbits, the same as the ones he tried munching on before. They were delectable little critters, and he loved the way they wiggled and tried to bite him as he slowly devoured them, starting at the tips of their toes and working towards those cute long ears. Alas, tasty is good, but the damned things were not very filling.

Humans. Ah, tasty and filling, and they can put up a fine scrap. Nothing like a spunky dinner. Time to find one.

How lucky can I be?‘ he thinks. ‘In the graveyard . . . my supper waits for me. Oh, these foolish humans. They come right to me. I don’t even have to seek them out.

The unmistakable scent of fresh flesh pulsing with blood calls to him. He leaves the tombstone he’s sitting on and searches for the source. A beating heart whispers to him, partially drowned out by the sound of the storm, but there nonetheless. His body hair goes wild the closer he gets, zeroing in on his prey. This one is male. He would prefer a female so he can delight in other ways as well, but hunger is his main focus. Perhaps later a luscious lady will walk into his lair.

As he gets closer, he knows his dinner is inside one of the mausoleums in this section of the graveyard. Most of his prey’s kind would stay out of such a place at night for fear of the unknown, but not this one. From the way his heart is beating, the Ghoul knows his meal is asleep.

This is your last sleep as the living, my tasty critter. Don’t feel bad. By giving your flesh to me, you will be serving a greater purpose than your kind does in its short, mundane existence.

For a creature his size, the monster walks quietly and with an agility the human race could only marvel at. He is thousands of years old, having come to this land from far away seeking a new home. The ship he took unknown passage on arrived in this country with nary a living person left aboard. Bones and blood scattered about, the cargo hold looked like a war zone. It had been attacked by pirates who killed everyone on the ship. This was a sweet happening for the hairy one. He feasted well until the ship ran aground on the coast of Maine. Having slipped off still undetected, the graveyard became his home.

Old or not, the flesh of humans made him strong, and he knows the meat of live beings will make him even more powerful.

The door to the mausoleum is open a couple of feet when he arrives. Joe is still asleep and his nightmares have taken him over once again. The beast is intrigued. He senses the man’s inner torment but does not know the reason for such maddening nocturnal thoughts. As much as he would like to find out the cause of this distress, he is hungry and must eat.

***

Before the monster reaches him, Joe wakes. Unable to see well since his eyes haven’t had a chance to adjust to the dark, he senses something in the room with him. Shit! The stench! Whatever it is, it’s the same odor from earlier.

He backs up to get away from the presence but focuses on the entry. If there is need to escape, he wants to be ready.

Whatever this thing is follows him to the wall, the odor becoming unbearable. It looms over him, poised to strike. There is no question in Joe’s mind now. This entity intends him harm.

A bolt of lightning strikes revealing the monster. It is unlike anything Joe has ever laid eyes on before, and he’s seen a lot over the years; the horrors of war, the accident that killed his wife and children. What the hell is this thing?

The creature is so big that Joe knows he won’t be able to get around it. He’ll have to fight his way out. Reaching behind him, he finds a brick and readies it for the assault.

With amazing speed, the creature leaps at him and lashes out with long filth-ridden nails. It tears off chunks of his exposed face and neck, and shoves them into its mouth. Joe stumbles from the impact but retaliates with the brick, slamming it into the monster’s head repeatedly. Blood flows from both of them, but the creature’s wounds close rapidly, further befuddling Joe.

“Oh, you puny human, you are no match for me!” the demon shouts. “I cannot be killed. You can.”

“Fuck you, you bastard!” Joe hollers and renews his attack, refusing to quit.

The mismatched skirmish continues; the monster taking chunk after chunk out of Joe, relishing the battle as much as he enjoys his dinner, taking his time to prolong the encounter.

Something new begins happening to the Ghoul. With each bite, he gets a glimpse of this man’s life, his pains, his past. His head becomes filled with memories of life in the jungles of ‘Nam, being wounded, the incarceration. Placards waved by people with longer hair than him being shoved into his face as they taunt and accuse.

He wonders what’s going on. Is this because he’s eating living flesh, parts of a man still in possession of his soul? Are the two joining as one? This didn’t happen with the girl.

Then the creature realizes it’s this man’s will that is doing this. He knows he can’t win, but he refuses to quit.

The hospital stay, the pain, the mental anguish tears away at him. Still gripping the human, he slows his attack and tries to clear his head. This cannot be! He is the master. This human is puny and insignificant.

“Get out of my head!” the Ghoul hollers. “Leave me alone!”

Even though Joe is losing a lot of blood and feels his life slipping away, he rams the brick into his foe without stopping. He doesn’t understand that his life’s memories and pain are being transferred to the creature. His instinct for survival and his courage refuse to buckle to this thing.

Bright lights from the Dually blind the eyes of the beast. He stumbles around in confusion, dropping Joe, careening into the walls of the mausoleum. And then… then the truck rams into him, knocking him down. In his mind, bodies fly everywhere as the seat belts snap from the force of the collision.

The demon cowers on the floor, not knowing what to do. He is helpless. Such psychological terror is new to him. He has no understanding of it, no control over it.

Freed from the grasp of his tormentor, Joe crawls towards the crypt’s entry. His heart pounds against his chest; breathing is near impossible with his lungs slashed, and his wind-pipe torn and damaged. But he keeps moving, pulling himself along, trying to escape.

The voices and confusion within the monster’s head are too much for it to bear, it rages after Joe, biting deep into the base of his skull, killing him almost instantly, but not before the blood from the wound laps upon its tongue.

Blood, the sustainer of human life, has told the demon a story. Joe may have lost the battle, but he is in a better place, reunited with his wife and children.

He is homeless no more…

~ Blaze McRob

© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.

Your Call

Darkness surrounds me; my ever-present companion, both the bearer and child of my scorched and withered being.

Inky pools of lesser light that beckon me to breach them. A soft, subtle whisper of promised indulgence; the caress of a dank breath never to be drawn that tugs at my soul; the gentle rustlings of the unknown scuttling though my mind that speak of a dusky beauty – things that never were but should always have been.

Dare I step closer only to find myself enamored by the all consuming draw of your call? Do I finally release the pang that I have held so dear and tender to me these years gone by? Do I allow you to exist in the light or shall I surrender to the smothering depths of a mind already drowned in madness?

The pull of the shadows is such a thing of comfort as to blanket itself around me while it slowly suckles my very being into non-existence. But the exquisite embrace this lack of existence offers is such a supple and soothing one; to fade to obscurity, what a delight that would be, yet an injustice to all that you would have been. Year upon agonizing year I have listened to your call and let it go unanswered, keeping hidden the unbridled desire to glance upon the you that never was.

There may not be a path that leads back to the dimmer shadows once I allow myself this wanton freedom, though I do not believe I would seek one. My poor darling Angel who has lived in a trapped darkness for so long, will you no longer torture me if I allow this coupling its place, or will you still haunt every step I lay upon a ground you shall never touch, breathe the breadth you shall never have, feel and see the beauty that you shall never know?

~ Nina D’Arcangela

© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.


Let the Damning Begin!
Those cursed with our foul taint, heed this call, bear witness to this Damned offering. The prizes for burying yourself in our Coffin are as such:

Grand Prize:
Jaimie Engle shall swig her poison from a Pen of the Damned Flask!
(Pen of the Damned on CafePress)

flask

Pen of the Damned eBook Anthology prizes:
Yessss, the Damned have been scribbling their demented ravings and collecting the torn shreds for your bemusement. May the eyes and ears of the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse bleed upon sight and sound of our collective madness!
Lori Joyce Parker, Mari Wells, Georgina Morales, and ShadowGirl

Coffin Hop Anthology:
One final slaughter to add to the Coffin, a Death by Drive-In – no finer way to depart this existence for the next! Juan Gutierrez will be granted an eBook copy of the Coffin Hop Anthology!

Until the next utterance from the Damned, beware what scuttles in the darkened corners of your own mind…