The moon stares down at my brittle frame with judgement. A curse suckles upon my flesh, a reflection of the mirrored world I was cast into by no choice of my own. I only follow the deeds of my other half—a witness, a bystander. The exhibitionist shows me her will while forcing my eyes to see. I am no more than myself, and that which binds my flesh together. It isn’t a madness. Else I’d writhe in bed, the horrors in my mind to torture me at their discretion. I’m but a shell, the exosuit of the power which earns the rewards of my actions.
She speaks my name, which is her own. The condescending nature of her tone forbids argument. I’m but a slave with no outer master—the plaything of my own wicked mind.
Grace… Walk dutifully into the night and the blood will flow…
My legs carry an unwilling frame. Decision has never been an option—free will, only a dream which never comes true.
“Why, Grace? Why?” I ask.
Just do as I say. You know there isn’t any other way.
My lips curl into a frown of disdain.
Don’t be so spiteful. If it weren’t for me, you’d be nothing.
“I’d be me.”
You’re already you. But you’re also me.
That’s the problem, always has been. Ever since Mother and Father took their place in eternity, I’ve been nothing more than the hand of another entity. I’ve imagined ways to purge its vile existence, but none that wouldn’t take me with it.
You shouldn’t think such thoughts, Grace. Remember what happened last time?
“How could I forget?” I look down at the scars on my wrists.
I’m glad we have an understanding.
“I wouldn’t call it an understanding. More of a forced arrangement.”
Just keep walking.
She says it as if I have a choice.
“You’re going to hurt him, aren’t you?”
What do you think?
“I don’t know why I bother asking.”
I stare forward, eyes blank and disconnected from reality. The man I plan to meet, so nice, so innocent, undeserving of what awaits him. I don’t want to take his life—nothing disgusts me more. But it’s out of my control. His blood will be spilled and consumed, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
I see him on the corner down the street, both hands in his pockets, foot tapping the sidewalk. His stance gives away his anxiety, his shy nature. I pity his innocence while simultaneously adoring it.
“Always praying on the weak, Grace.”
Their blood tastes better.
“Can’t we just leave him be? Can’t we just find someone else?”
No. I’m starving.
I sigh as his eyes light up and an awkward smile brightens his face. Such a handsome man…
“Hi Grace,” he says. “Nice to meet you again. I know it’s only our second date but I got you these.” He reaches behind his jacket and brings out a bouquet of carnations.
If I could cry, tears would fall from my eyes. But the Grace inside me dried up any show of emotion long ago. “Thank you. They’re wonderful.”
“So what would you like to do?” he asks. “Dinner? A movie?”
“I thought we’d take a walk in the park.”
“After dark? Isn’t that a bit risky?”
“No, it’ll be okay. I do it all the time.”
His face reddens and he scratches the back of his neck. “Okay, let’s go.”
As we walk down a lonely path he reaches out to hold my hand. I allow him. Might as well enjoy the brief moments my dreams speak of each night, if only to experience a few seconds of intimate joy I’ll never fully know.
I look into his eyes, see a warm glow. There’s a connection, a communication without words, a palpable tether which might have bound us as one… But I am not whole.
My head splits down the middle with a crack of bone and tearing of flesh. Tentacles of bloody carnage stretch and reach out from the opening, forming bone-like blades at their ends. A multitude of eyes open on each tendril of the beast within my head; they stare at the man’s petrified expression with nihilistic calm. The sharp ends slice through his flesh and I watch, unable to control them, forced to witness the terrible feeding of my other half. Once his head falls to the ground, they drive into the stump of his neck and gorge on his blood.
Once Grace has her fill, she returns to her inner-sanctum, the place where my mind once rested in solitude. But ever since she took Mother and Father, and burrowed deep inside me, I’ve never been alone…
∼Lee A. Forman
© Copyright 2017 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.
Earl was two hours into his shift and already pissed off.
It was bad enough that management stuck him out at the East Gate Security Checkpoint but they also put him with the new guy, Geoff. Not only that but his guts rumbled too, threatening to spill out his hind quarters at any moment.
No one really used the East Gate anymore as it had been turned into an exit-only checkpoint. The road was poorly maintained with crumbling asphalt and the gate itself was rusted chain link. Their guard shack was roughly the size of a large recreational vehicle and sat just off the road surrounded by weeds.
Inside was a large desk with two computer monitors, each of them linked to a CCTV camera. Fluorescent lights hummed above, giving the trailer a slight hint of green making Earl think of a hospital. There was a single phone hooked to the wall and even it had seen better days. In Earl’s view, the only good thing about the shack was the air conditioning.
“I’m going to have a smoke,” Earl grunted.
He stepped outside and a lit a cigarette.
It was a humid evening, evident from the sweat already running down his back. The sky was streaked with crimson as the sun slowly dropped toward the horizon. He glanced up at the lone street light standing next to the shack and watched as the moths were drawn to its glow.
A mosquito buzzed by Earl’s ear and he swatted aimlessly at it. Nearing fifty with a gut starting to hang over his belt, Earl had been with Dragon Security for almost fifteen of those years.
Despite that experience, they decide to screw me and stuck me the East Gate.
“No,” Earl said, sighing heavily. “You got yourself stuck here.”
The door opened behind him.
“Did you say something, Earl?” Geoff asked.
Earl shook his head and waved the new guy away.
He didn’t dislike Geoff as a person, but rather disliked him for reminding Earl of what he once was: young, in shape and working the job solely to pay his way through school.
Not earning a living off a security guard’s shitty wages.
The air conditioning felt great, although it also gave him the chills thanks to his sweat. He sat down on one of the hard plastic chairs and looked at the grainy black and white images on the monitors.
“What do you think they do up there?” Geoff asked, sitting down next to him.
“Up where?” Earl asked.
“At the Institute.”
Earl glared at him and said, “It doesn’t fucking matter what they do up there. The less you ask, the better.”
Geoff blinked, not expecting Earl to snap.
Earl sighed. “Look, I’m not trying to be a dick. I made the mistake of asking a similar question and now I’m getting punished.”
Geoff opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it and turned back to the monitors.
About a week ago when Earl was still in Dragon Security’s good graces, he was working at the Main Entrance. He had gotten to know some of the people who actually worked inside the McFarlane Institute, one of whom was Dr. Richards. They shot the shit daily until Earl made the mistake of asking what they were doing up there.
A harmless question.
Dr. Richards didn’t speak to him after that and shortly thereafter he got assigned to the East Gate. It still pissed him off thinking back to it.
The ground shuddered, followed immediately by a deep, heart pounding thud.
The lights flickered twice before going out, along with the monitors and air conditioner.
They had lost power.
“What the hell was that?” Geoff asked as he jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over in the process.
“Relax,” Earl replied. “Just give it a sec. Sometimes there are power bumps.”
While it was true, Earl had never experienced a power bump like that before. He looked out the window toward the institute and saw that the lights were still on.
Why hadn’t they gone out?
The power returned and everything went back to normal.
“You see,” Earl said, rubbing at his stomach. “There’s nothing to it. If you’re here long enough you’ll get used to them.”
“I won’t lie,” Geoff said picking his chair off of the floor. “It gave me a start.”
Earl’s guts rumbled again and he knew better than to tempt fate.
“I’m going to take a shit,” Earl said making his way toward the bathroom. “Are you okay out here?”
“I should be,” Geoff nodded.
“You remember what to do if a car comes?”
“Check their documents of entitlement and identification. If everything looks good let them out.”
As he reached the bathroom, Earl turned around and said, “If you have any issues let me know.”
Earl shut the door, dropped his pants and closed his eyes as he sat down on the toilet, enjoying the relief it brought. For some reason, the trailer’s designer felt it necessary to put in a small window in the bathroom. It was the size of the Kleenex box and up high so they left it alone, usually leaving it open to air out the shitter.
As much as he wanted to believe that it had just been a power bump, Earl couldn’t shake the feeling that it was something else. Every other power bump had knocked out the exterior lights to the McFarlane Institute.
This time it hadn’t.
“Hey Earl,” Geoff called through the door. “There’s a car coming.”
“So handle it!” Earl yelled back.
He heard Geoff open the shack door and step outside. As Earl went ahead with his business, he listened as Geoff’s voice carried in through the open window.
“Good evening,” Geoff said.
There was a pause and then a voice said, “Good… evening… it… is…” Earl recognized the voice as Dr. Richards’. Why did he sound weird?
“I need to see your ID and document of entitlement.” There was the sound of movement, then shuffling of paper. “It’ll just be a quick second while I validate these.”
“Going… home… for… night…”
“What was that?” Geoff asked.
“Going… home… for… night…”
“Quitting time is always a good feeling.”
The phone began ringing out by the desk.
“Fuck sakes,” Earl muttered.
After a quick wipe he walked toward the desk, stealing a glance outside at Dr. Richards’ car. Geoff was handing his paperwork back through the passenger side window. Earl saw the good doctor and stopped, as there was something off about him.
His motions were jerky and delayed as if he were reacting. It reminded Earl of the old ventriloquist puppets when their heads would turn followed by their eyes. That combined with his bizarre speech pattern rubbed Earl the wrong way but he couldn’t figure out why.
The phone continued to ring.
Earl heard the familiar buzzing indicating that the gate was opening and saw Geoff with his hand on the control switch. The gate was almost completely open when Earl picked up the receiver.
“East Gate, Earl speaking.”
The gate creaked to a stop.
“This is McNeil!”
Geoff waved Dr. Richards’s car through.
“Don’t let anyone through the gate! We’ve had a breach! I repeat, we’ve had a breach!”
Earl dropped the receiver and bolted outside just as Geoff hit the switch to close the gate. Dr. Richards’ car was already outside the gate, a few meters beyond the fence where it had stopped.
“That guy sure seemed fucked up,” Geoff said, then looked at Earl. “Hey, who was that on the phone?”
Dr. Richards began convulsing uncontrollably.
“It was McNeil from the institute,” Earl began. “He said there’d been a breach.” His voice trailed off.
Dr. Richards rose from his seat and hung out the passenger side window by what looked like a cross between a snake and tentacle.
“Uh… Earl,” Geoff whispered. “What the hell is that?”
Earl said nothing as a larger shape materialized from the backseat and slithered through the window.
The creature had what looked like five appendages, including the one holding the good doctor. Its moist body glistened in the light of the street lamp now that the sun dropped completely below the horizon. It emitted a sound similar to that of someone smacking their tongue against their lips.
Dropping Dr. Richards’ body onto the ground, it disappeared into the encroaching darkness.
“My God…” Geoff muttered. “Earl… did it… did it use his body like… like…”
“Like a puppet,” Earl managed to say.
© Copyright 2017 John Olson. All Rights Reserved.
Rebecca’s toes curled in her boots when her feet touched the unholy earth. Ancient trees populated the forest ahead, pale fog twisting between their trunks with serpentine grace. Gnarled limbs formed an impenetrable canopy above, coloring all with a nocturnal hue. Tendrils of mist slithered around her legs, and her knees ached to buckle, but she forced herself on; she knew fear would bring demise.
She thought of Oliver. His shining face cast iron rods into her bones. It kept her from succumbing to the black moss which grabbed at her feet. His smile, the way he always wanted his sandwiches without the crust, his unending questions—memories that powered her will.
Movement in the brush clenched her jaw. But her eyes never averted the path; they stared forward, glazed with determination, intent only on reaching the end. After that it wouldn’t matter.
A clearing opened ahead. Rebecca stopped and stood tall.
A breath of evil wind sung the tune of damned souls; agonized wails filled the air. Her ears begged silence, pained by the despair in each note. But those countless voices didn’t cause her to stray. Ollie meant everything. She’d sacrifice all for him to live again.
“You’ve braved the darkness.” The words came from all directions, faint whispers carried by a quiet breeze. “But you aren’t without fear. How much can you endure?”
Visions of unspeakable torment invaded her mind—mutilated bodies writhing in ebon mud, eyes removed, mouths contorted by ineffable suffering; they sang together like Hell’s choir. She saw their lifeforce seep into the ground, feeding the roots of the forest as they sprouted and entwined themselves within the bare husks left behind. Worms crawled through the ground on which they decomposed; they fed in the tainted soil.
“You’re quite strong. Few have remained on their feet up to this point.”
A slight pride swelled in her gut but she immediately subdued it. She didn’t want them to see. But the quiver in her bowels alluded that it was already too late.
Malicious laughter echoed—the amusement of a thousand vicious creatures, their attention focused on her vulnerable position. Her shoulders twitched, tried to fold inward.
“You really are brave,” the voice said. “We could tear you apart. And keep you alive to endure it. This frightens you. But I see something which frightens you more. What do you desire?”
She wondered if it was a rhetorical question. They just want me to say it, she thought. “My son… I want Ollie back.”
Another laugh came from the woods. But unlike before, it was from a singular entity—a lone bellow among the din of ridicule previously voiced. She balled her fists with moistened palms.
“Don’t be angry. I can offer what you seek. But you must offer something in return.”
An enormous albino worm slithered toward her from the thick layer of mist. It raised its head and weaved in a hypnotic motion. Its repulsive, blank surface was nothing more than pulsating flesh with no discernable features. A suffocating odor wafted from the creature. Its very sight defiled her thoughts. Rebecca stared back at the ghastly being, unaware what resided inside. Its unearthly form negated reason; some things that shouldn’t exist do.
“What do you want?” she asked.
Purple veins bulged from the white worm’s glossy flesh. They pulsed in a sickening rhythm. Countless red eyes flickered in the darkness behind it, like demon stars in a vast and wicked universe.
A boy’s head burst through the soil next to the worm, followed by its limp corpse.
Vines lifted her son’s body from the ground. Her eyes bled salty grief.
“You want him to live?”
“Then he will.”
Her Ollie’s pallid face lightened, eyes twitched. The vines withdrew and he stood on his own, staring with a disquiet gaze.
“He’s alive! Oliver, you’re here!”
The boy stood silent.
The veins on the worm’s body pulsated with vigor. “Now, come to me.”
She stepped forward, tremors shaking every muscle. Hot sweat leaked from her skin, soaked her clothes. She clenched her hands and breathed deep.
The holders of the crimson eyes came out from the shadows, sharp toothed grins spreading below. Remnants of humanity were carved into their knotty faces, eroded by the nefarious mist. Thin bodies crowded around her, skin like the bark of trees. Their clawed hands embraced her, took her into their communion of evil. She knew not what they were, only that she’d wither and become one of them.
As they carried her away, she watched Oliver. And although his stare held a ghostly atmosphere, he was alive.
~ Lee A. Forman
© Copyright 2017 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.
My body and soul—the feast on which it would satisfy its cold, unbiased nature. It would make me a brittle husk in no less than six months. I contemplated the Kevorkian way, but could never garnish the result with enough good reason to commit suicide. Besides, I didn’t want to die.
I received the news only three weeks ago. Considering the good doctor’s estimate, it was a significant portion of my remaining life. But not enough time to come to terms. Fantasies of futures never to come, crushed repeatedly by the forceful hammer of reality. The dreamer could dream, but ultimately his awakening was inevitable.
I wondered how I’d face the reaper alone. Would I possess the courage? Without Eileen’s warm touch, without her kind words, I was devoid of human nourishment. My inner-self was bad company.
Our marriage had once been a vibrant green leaf on a tree, swaying gently in the breeze, taking in the sun’s light. I played the parts of autumn and winter; the leaf fell, all color disappeared, and its surface became pockmarked with decay.
I was left with a shameful legacy—a divorcee with five hundred bucks in the bank, no offspring, no siblings, and my parents’ ashes on a shelf in my closet. I’d be mourned only for the loss of tips I gave Old Johnny at my preferred watering hole.
I had to get out of my apartment. Out of my head. Just out.
The quiet streets tamed the circling vultures of self-awareness. The city streets can be peaceful if you know when to go for a walk. Summer nights—always the best.
The voice came from an alley.
Shit. Why did I stop? I should have fucking kept going.
“Listen here,” the raspy voice spoke with a lisp. “I can help you out.”
“Sorry man, not looking to cop anything.” I figured he was trying to sell me drugs.
“I’m not selling anything, you fool. I’m making an offer. For trade, I can cure your cancer.”
I stepped back, took my hands out of my pockets. “What?”
“You don’t have to die.”
I squinted, tried to see the man, but darkness hid him well.
My heart told me to run, to hightail it out of there—make myself a ghost. But curiosity, no matter how many animals it killed, kept me standing at the mouth of that dark recess between the two buildings.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I like to make deals, and I have a lot to offer.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Do you want your cancer cured or not?”
The voice wrenched my guts with instinctual warning. But the hook had been set. What did I have to lose? I was going to die anyway.
“Who the fuck wouldn’t? But there is no cure for cancer.”
“That’s what they want you to think.”
“What are you, a conspiracy nut?”
Mock laughter emanated from the inky tunnel. It had the tone of a man, but what disturbed me was that it was trying to sound human. “No. I really can stop your cancer. I know how.”
“I’m not just going to tell you. How do I know you’ll keep your part of the bargain?”
The bargain. I didn’t even think to ask what this mysterious voice wanted in return for the miracle it offered.
“What is it you want? I’m not rich or anything…”
“I don’t want money.”
My legs wanted to run. But the possibility of a cure enticed me to stay. “What is it you want?”
A heavy breath wafted from the shadows—musty, it reminded me of the damp cellar I’d claimed as my playroom in childhood. “I just need a favor.”
“How do I know you’re not some nutcase?”
“How did I know you had cancer, Marcus? And how do I know your name?”
“Well, Christ, that’s a good one…”
“So what’s your answer? You want the cure or not?”
Now he sounded like a drug dealer.
“Fuck it. Got nothing to lose. You gonna come outta that alley or what? Because I’m not going in there.”
“Don’t worry about that, Marcus. All you have to do is say the word and the contract is, how you say, signed.”
I questioned the choice. I never believed in God, but it sounded like striking a deal with the Devil. The thought of Hell seemed much worse than dying of cancer. I was never a church-goer but I’d read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Another laugh echoed in the alley. No attempt to sound human was made; it came out coarse, like sandpaper against concrete.
“Your peers have misled you,” the voice said. “There is no Heaven. No Hell. Things are as they are. There is nothing more. Only things you don’t know.”
“Never mind, boy. Just perform the task I require, and you shall have your cure.”
“What do I have to do?”
“There’s a guy. I want you to deliver this package to him.”
A box wrapped in brown paper skidded from the shadows and stopped at my feet. A name and address were crudely scrawled on the top in black marker.
“You want me to deliver a package? That’s it? This is bullshit.”
“I promise you it’s not. Oh, there’s one more thing. There’s another guy. He hangs out in front of the building you’ll be delivering that to. Bump into him on your way in.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean what I said. Just bump into him. Like it was an accident.”
“I don’t get it. What for?”
“I don’t like him.”
Walking nine blocks to reach my destination didn’t feel like a chore, more a respite from the horrors of my diagnosis. A brief lull from the routine of life and the slope of oncoming oblivion, just beyond which lies a bottomless pit. With the hope of a cure, I had to avoid falling in.
I came to the address, and there he was, ‘the guy.’ He stood outside the door, leaning against the railing of the staircase, taking long drags from his cigarette. I watched him from the corner of my eye as I neared. He didn’t pay me any heed. At the last step, I pretended to trip—my shoulder brushed against his arm.
“Sorry, man. Missed that last step there.”
He didn’t say a word. Only took another puff and blew smoke in my face.
As I opened the door and entered the filthy apartment building something tugged at my memory. Synapses fired, but shot blanks. Something irked me about bumping into the guy on the stairs. Something familiar.
I went to the third floor, found the apartment, and knocked.
A muffled voice answered. “Who is it?”
Footsteps came to the door and stopped. Self-conscious discomfort traveled along the back of my neck knowing he could see me through the peephole. The lock clicked and the door opened.
The look on his face told me he wasn’t expecting a delivery.
“What is it?” he asked.
“How the hell should I know? I just deliver them.”
He took the box, looked it over, and slammed the door.
Mission complete. What came next, I was unsure. My throat tightened as I neared the exit, wondering if the smoking man was still outside. Be pretty fucking awkward running into him again. But he wasn’t there.
Relieved, I headed back to the alley where the stranger offered a cure. It was only during my walk back that I questioned the situation. What the hell was I doing? Was some fucking guy in an alley going to cure my cancer? When I thought about it, I couldn’t understand why I went with it in the first place. What compelled me? Was it hope? Desperation? Either way, I was already into it, might as well see it through.
When I got to the alley a hissing came from the darkness. “I see you’ve completed your task.”
“Yeah. Bumped into that guy and everything. Who was he, anyway?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
The slithering monstrosity reached out and wrapped its snake-like tentacles around my body. It drew me toward its gaping, ebon maw filled with rows of fleshy suction cups. The orifice closed behind me as foul smelling enzymes coated my body. As my flesh dissolved, my consciousness drifted from my mind. The creature assimilated my being; I became part of it, and it part of me. All of us. Together. As one.
And soon, I’d get to know the guy I bumped into very well. He would also develop terminal cancer. No doubt he’d take the deal, just as I had, same as the man who bumped into me…
~ Lee A. Forman
© Copyright 2017 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved
Martin Maddox wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand and resumed hacking away at a particularly thick tree branch with his hatchet. He was halfway up his ladder preparing the large black spruce tree in front of his one level home on Lake McCready for the coming storm. There had been a few branches touching the side and roof of his house in need of trimming so they wouldn’t cause any damage during the high winds and rain of the impending hurricane. With a final swing, the hatchet powered through and the branch toppled to the ground.
“Just a few more,” he said. He climbed up two more rungs and began hacking away at another branch.
Hurricane Hazel had stormed its way up the eastern seaboard and was barreling toward Nova Scotia. It was expected to make landfall later that evening as a Category Two hurricane near the town of Westwood, only ten kilometers south of Lake McCready. Unless it made a sudden and drastic turn, Martin knew that he would be hit straight on.
When he finished chopping the last branch, he climbed down and started to pull the ladder away when something caught his eye. The tree’s roots were breaking through the soil. He applied a little pressure to the ladder and the root rose a bit, splitting more ground. Trimming the branches wouldn’t do any good if the root system was weak. The strong winds and rain would no doubt pull them free, causing the tree to fall wherever the elements desired.
He looked at his watch and it seemed time was against him, too. It was nearly five-thirty and he still had to board up the windows. He would have to roll the dice and hope that the roots held. Shaking his head, he placed the ladder aside, grabbed the branches from the ground and tossed them beside his small shed near the edge of the lake.
Martin took out large planks of wood he had purchased earlier in the year and carried them up the slight slope of the backyard to the house. Setting them down, he turned to retrieve his hammer and nails when he found himself staring at the edge of the lake. The calm before the storm triggered a memory he had buried since he was six years old. The threat of the hurricane had him dreaming snippets of it recently, but now it came back in full, leaving him just as terrified as he had been so many years ago.
He was in the same house, although it was a cottage back then. From the living room window, he watched the lake’s surface turn violent in the strong winds of Hurricane Gladys, the only other hurricane he had ever experienced. Over the wind and rain he heard barking and saw the neighbor’s German Sheppard, Hank, at the edge of the lake. Martin wondered why the dog had been left outside during the storm, but before he could think of a possible answer, six little creatures emerged from the water.
Initially, Martin thought they were fish until noticing their large hind legs and smaller front arms, all clawed, with mouths salivating at the prospective meal before them. Hank tried to jump away but they were on him quick. High pitched barks and squeals of pain pierced through the thunder and heavy rain – sounds Martin would always remember and never stop trying to forget. Hardly blinking, he watched as the dog was torn apart in mere seconds.
Stumbling from the window in absolute shock, he looked outside but the creatures were gone. The rain already washed away the blood that remained on the ground, leaving nothing to corroborate his story except a silly rhyme the other kids had taught him.
“The creatures lurk beneath the lake,
Leaving carnage in their wake.
Swimming hard and baring teeth,
Ravenous for a piece of meat.
Onto land they stalk their prey,
With deadly precision they strike and slay.
The feeding frenzy is a terrible sight,
No one can escape with all of their might.
It is a nightmare from which one cannot wake,
From those creatures that lurk beneath the lake.”
Not wanting to be accused of making up stories, he chose never to tell a soul.
Martin shook his head, pushing the memory back. He was losing precious time and moved quickly to retrieve the hammer and nails from the shed. The job went relatively quick compared to the trimming of the tree.
He looked up and saw that the sky was already overcast. Stealing a quick glance out to the lake, the water turned choppy as the wind picked up. Martin returned his hammer and nails to the shed and secured the door with a large lock. He made his way towards the house and realized that he had left the hatchet out front. Cursing, he went around and picked it up. He didn’t have the key to the lock on him, so he took the hatchet into the house.
Martin entered through the front screen door that slammed shut on its spring, then closed and locked the solid oak inner door in the kitchen. The house had been built with an open concept, with no real division between the kitchen and living room. Beige and green tiles covered the floor of both rooms. Two couches were set up to face the unplugged television sitting on the floor. On the walls hung a couple of paintings. One depicted fishing boats tied to a dock; the other, a lonely lighthouse standing guard over an unknown coast.
A table was set up between the couches and Martin placed the hatchet atop it. It also held essentials for the storm: three four liter jugs of water, some cold cut sandwiches he had made up earlier in the day, a first aid kit, a Coleman lantern and a single speaker battery-powered radio.
He could hear the wind gusting outside. The house seemed to shiver as he sat down at the table and turned the radio on. He adjusted the tuner with his thumb until he found the local station WOSK.
“… Hurricane Hazel has made landfall three kilometers outside of Westwood. No reports of extensive damage have been made but emergency crews are standing by and preparing for the worst. The Westwood Police Department, as well as the RCMP, have asked that people remain in their homes and stay off of the roads as well as…”
A loud burst of static cut through just as the power flickered and went out. Martin attempted to find another station but only found more static and white noise.
As night began to fall outside, he could see lightning flash between the boards on the windows, followed by booming claps of thunder. The rain pounded against the siding and roof like golf balls. Martin turned the Coleman lantern on and bit into his sandwich.
He gasped when he heard a high-pitched shriek within the wind. He waited, but didn’t hear it again. He returned to his meal.
After another crash of thunder, Martin started hearing scratching noises. They were quiet at first, and he initially thought they were tree branches scraping against the house. The scratching, however, echoed from different parts of the house and sounded deliberate.
“What the hell is…” he began but stopped when a wet thump sounded at the door.
He stood and took a step when another thump came from one of the windows.
They almost seemed to drown out the symphony of the storm. Martin couldn’t help but think that the carnivorous little bodies were slamming into the house, trying to find a way in.
A shriek from outside the door pumped his heart faster – even more so when it was answered from the back of the house.
There were more shrieks and more thumping knocks. He could almost see their little teeth trying to chew through the wood when a strong gust of wind shook the house violently; he heard a tired moan coming from outside. The knocks and shrieks stopped suddenly.
Oh shit! The tree!
A heavy thud hit the roof, shaking the house and causing Martin to squat lower to the ground. The ceiling gave way; the black spruce crashed through amidst a blizzard of debris.
Martin dove but a branch struck him in the head, knocking him to the floor, severely dazed. The tree landed just a few feet away, crashing through the table and scattering all of the emergency supplies. Rain flooded his house as he stared up through the large hole in his roof. A flash of lightning illuminated not only thick storm clouds but also seven little bodies clambering over the jagged edges and into his house.
Stunned yet nonetheless coherent, Martin rolled between one of his couches and the wall.
No more the size of a small dog, the creatures’ bodies were covered with grey and green scales. They resembled raptors with larger, powerful hind legs; four clawed toes and six clawed fingers on smaller arms. Each had a tail akin to a tadpole and longer than their bodies. Their faces were flat, large mouths full of teeth. They had large black eyes yet all sniffed out his sandwiches, rummaging through what remained.
Martin saw the hatchet laying just a few feet away and stretched out to grasp it. Something warm ran down the side of his face; blood dripped onto the floor. He grabbed the hatchet and pulled it towards him just as one of the creatures began sniffing the air.
It let out a short but deliberate snort. Now all their heads turned toward him and Martin began crawling backwards, trying to put as much distance as possible between him and them.
Suddenly, they shrieked simultaneously. Martin struggled to his feet, keeping the hatchet at a defensive position. His mind replayed the image of Hank getting torn apart as the seven creatures cautiously approached him with mouths agape, white foam collecting at the corners.
One edged closer, braver than the others. Martin focused on that creature; if he could kill it decisively, it just might intimidate the others into backing away. His idea clashed with the images of Hank’s last few seconds when the creature lunged.
Martin let out a loud cry and swung the hatchet as hard and precisely as possible. The blade struck the creature’s ribs and forced its way through its body, severing its spine. It let out a choked cry as it flew and splattered against the wall. Crippled, its mouth snapped at the air. Martin brought the flat edge of the hatchet down, crushing its skull. He quickly turned his attention to its mates.
Maybe it worked. Maybe they –
The remaining creatures leapt into the air. Martin swung the hatchet wildly, connecting once but inflicting no real damage. He felt teeth and claws tear into his skin. Blood rushed out, washed away by the rain as Martin felt his strength fading fast.
One of the creatures bit through his Achilles tendon, sprawling Martin onto the floor. With their prey down, the creatures went berserk and ferociously ripped into his flesh…
~ Jon Olson
© Copyright 2015 Jon Olson. All Rights Reserved
“Just one more and I’ll have my limit,” old Herb chuckles.
The large pond sitting in the northwest corner of the cemetery is off-limits for fishing. To everyone except Fred that is. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word. The spring-fed pond is there, loaded with tasty Largemouth Bass waiting to jump on the surface plug he works through the shallows. Night: the best time to catch them because they hit with abandon, and no one can see him as well.
“If God didn’t want people catching these tasty critters, why did he have someone stock them here?” Fred muttered. “The dead can’t fish, but I certainly can.”
The Ghoul watches with amusement. To him, this man is playing with his food. A cat and mouse kind of game.
He smiles. ‘I suppose that’s what I do now that I eat the flesh of the living,’ he thinks. ‘They suffer; I back off a little; this gives them hope, but as soon as they try to escape their fate, I start slowly feeding on them again, enjoying their pain. I’m a real bastard. Oh, that I am.’
Remorse. He should have some; he has a soul, twisted perhaps, but he has one. Yet all the years of being relegated to the status of a scavenger and bone picker, has made him bitter. God created him as well as these humans but gave them an elevated position.
Many years ago, in what is now Germany, he was doing what was commanded of him when a few grave-robbers happened upon him in the act. He scared the shit out of them, but they returned with a mob, carrying torches, axes, and pitchforks. Yes, he was immortal, but it would still cause him a great deal of pain if they were able to whack off a few body parts. Damn! He didn’t know if he could regenerate new ones. What good was being immortal if he was in pieces? The worst kind of living Hell!
So he vanished off into the night and found a new home, one safe from rabble-rousing villagers bent on his destruction. Now, a few homes later, he finds himself in this decrepit but homey cemetery. As long as he’s careful, no one should be any the wiser to his existence.
This so-called high-tech era doesn’t believe in the actuality of his kind. Monsters. Yeah, merely myths. Nobody in their right mind would accept that gibberish. No pitchforks in this day and age. Nowadays, the one who cried ‘wolf’ would be escorted to the closest looney bin.
A huge splash shatters the quiet and Fred rears back, setting the hooks into a real lunker.
“Hot damn!” he shouts out. “This is a monster!”
The battle between man and fish goes on for quite a while, the Ghoul enjoying the show happening before his eyes almost as much as Fred is in seventh heaven pitting his skills against the great fish. Twice Fred stumbles in the brush bordering this section of the pond, but in the end, he slides his thumb and forefinger into the mouth of the huge Bass and lifts him from the water, getting away from the edge of the water as fast as he can so his prize will not escape him.
“Wow! This is my biggest Bass ever! He must be at least eight pounds. What a night!”
Fred’s exuberance is cut a little short by a horrendous odor drifting down from the cemetery’s edge, causing him to gag, the taste refusing to leave his tongue. He retches on the grass, not at all in control of his faculties. Never before has anything this vile attacked his senses. From sheer euphoria one moment to abject disgust and intestinal pain the next.
“Not a pleasant sight, you rolling around on the grass barfing your guts out.”
Fred looks around him, trying to put person and voice together, but his vision’s blurred and he is having difficulty focusing on much of anything. Something big is here. That and the fact it has an un-Godly stench is foremost in his mind. The big Bass plops around and smashes into his head; he barely takes notice.
“I don’t take too kindly to you reacting to my presence like that,” the Ghoul says. “In fact, you are pissing me off!”
The beast walks down-wind and allows fresh air to move in so Fred can breathe easier. His vision slowly returns and he sees the monster for what it truly is. The long hair over his naked frame makes him appear to be some sort of a huge erect wolf at first, but little by little the creature takes on the form of a man-like entity.
What in the name of all that’s holy is this thing?
“These fish. Are you going to eat them?” the monster asks. “You were going through a lot of work to get them out of the water, but you seemed to be having fun.”
Fred is in too much shock to utter a word. He stares at the demon, wondering what it’s up to, afraid to move. Whatever it is, it can talk.
“I can tell you’re not going to answer me, so I will tell you what I think. You enjoy capturing these fish, even though the poor things must be in pain. To you, it is sport, a game. You inflict pain and eat your prize catch.”
Fred can merely nod his head and watches in disbelief and horror as this monstrosity reaches down and picks up the fish. Holding it by its eyes, he slowly tears the meat off it, leaving only the tail and head. Then, with a huge guffaw, it snaps the head from the backbone and devours that as well.
“Is this the way you do it, or do you apply heat to it like your kind does and cook it? Yes, that’s what you do. A real man would eat these things the way I do. But you’re not a real man, are you? You grovel at my feet, too scared to say a word, your clothes soiled by the release of your excrement. Poor baby. Did the big bad Ghoul scare you?”
Reaching down to check, Fred discovers the demon is right. He is covered in shit and piss. Of what matter is that now, though? He has to get the hell out of here, away from this beast; he must warn the townspeople. Yet, will they believe him? Will they come back and destroy this thing?
“Oh, you are not thinking good thoughts, are you, Fred? Yes, I know your name. What you view as unkempt body hair are actually sensors… receptors that touch your mind, relaying your thoughts to me. And your impractical decision to flee is not going to work. See, if you escape, more of your kind will come to try to kill me. I wouldn’t appreciate that.”
“I won’t tell anyone anything!” Fred is finally able to say. “I promise.”
Laughing, the Ghoul says, “Sorry, Fred, I do not trust you. And besides, just as the fish were to be your meal, you are to be mine. Ah, you think it incomprehensible that I would devour you, but you took no pity on the fish. Why should I take pity on you?”
Fred pleads with his eyes, but the monster picks him up and carries him to the edge of the pond. Staring at him as he does it, the Ghoul takes the plug on the end of the line, jams it into Fred’s mouth, and rears back to set the hooks.
A wail of pain escapes his lips as blood pours out of his mouth and down his cheeks. The delighted fiend laps it up before tossing Fred into the pond.
The beast picks up the pole and hollers to Fred, “I’m giving you the same chance you gave those fish. Fight for your life, damn it!”
He reaches to his mouth to get the hooks out but only manages to get his hands caught on them as well, the Ghoul jerking back on the rod just as Fred has hold of the plug. Secured the way he is now, it is impossible for him to put up much resistance and the heavy line he has on his reel is sufficient to hold him.
The demon reels him up to shore and kicks him back again. “C’mon! That fish put up a better fight than you. This is your last chance.”
Once more, Fred is easily brought to shore. The monster tears the plug out of Fred’s mouth, leaving chunks of flesh on the hooks, and throws him onto the grass, quickly lapping up the poor fisherman’s blood and feasting on the rest of his face.
In unbelievable pain, Fred is powerless to resist and has no will to do so, almost asking for the end to come, but his demise will not be quick. The Ghoul removes his clothing as he feeds, eating those areas which will not cause him to die first, enjoying the struggle, albeit a feeble one from this weakling.
The point is reached where not enough blood is left in Fred’s body to keep him alive, and the demon tears his heart out from his chest and swallows it whole. Feasting on his warm dinner with calm deliberation, the Ghoul soon leaves nothing but bone.
Once the skeletal remains are buried in the fresh dirt of a recently dug grave, he returns to the pond and eats the other fish.
“These really are good. Not as tasty as humans, but they make a fine dessert.”
He looks at the fishing rod and picks it up.
“If Fred could catch these fish, simpleton that he was, I can do it.”
On his third cast a Bass hits, and the Ghoul brings him into shore. No catch and release for the big guy. He eats it while the plug is still in its mouth. This is almost too easy. Though these fellas are good eating, Fred was the catch of the day.
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2014 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved
The darkness is still and hot as it hangs in the plains air. On a night that could use the purification of a breeze to rejuvenate what the heat has removed, there is none. Stagnation is everywhere.
It’s almost closing time at the liquor store that sits just outside the reservation’s boundary. No one has been in for the last thirty minutes now, and the greedy purveyor of hootch is hoping to grab at least a few more sales tonight. Surely someone wants cold beer? On a night like this, a cold one feels so good going down the throat, sliding to the stomach and settling comfortably there. The pleasant buzz to the head makes you forget the cares of the day, of the world; so good.
It doesn’t matter to the greedy fucker that the residents of the reservation can’t really afford to buy what’s for sale in the store. Does he care that by spending money here, a father might be depriving his family of food? Nope. The bottom line, the almighty dollar, that’s what matters. Yes. Squeezing every last dollar out of the Red Man, that’s what’s important. It’s not his fault if someone can’t resist the pull of booze. White people can’t resist it either. Money – its green, doesn’t give a shit what color your skin is.
Fourteen people live in the town on the reservation, and one store serves it. The only business here is booze. There’s nothing to eat, no public rest rooms, nothing other than the liquor. Buy it and be on your way.
Zack can’t take it anymore, he needs a beer. Even though his air conditioner is running, it’s still hot as balls in here. According to the law, he’s not supposed to open the hootch inside the store, but who’s going to catch him? This shit hole is the only place for miles. Cops? There hasn’t been one of those around here for weeks.
He grabs a long-neck out of the cooler, pops the top, and steps outside with it hoping for some sort of a breeze. The change in scenery will do him some good too.
“Damn,” he says, once out the door. “It’s still like a furnace out here.”
Something grabs at his attention, but he doesn’t want to go back inside just yet. He can’t get a handle on it; it’s more of a feeling than anything else. Things aren’t right.
No answer. Maybe it’s all in his head.
A rustling in the prairie grass tells him otherwise. Someone is out there; or something.
“State your business! I’m only warning you once!”
The rustling comes closer, becoming much louder. There is no attempt to muffle the sound. Whatever it is is coming at him fast; much faster than it should be.
Zack drops his beer and races towards the store in fear, intent on grabbing the thirty-eight he left under the counter.
A huge roar rips though the night just as he reaches for the handle. He turns and stares into the face of a hideous wolf-like creature with red eyes, and saliva dripping from a mouth filled with ferocious, bared teeth. It stands upright on its rear legs, towering over him, completely covered in long, reddish fur. It reaches its arms toward him with grotesque claws quivering in anticipation of tearing him apart. Moistness envelops Zack’s pants as he confronts this monster, fear pulsing in every molecule of his being, his heart pounding so hard it might explode from the ferocity of its beating.
The creature lifts Zack into the air above its head, the claws digging deep into his body. He hollers out in pain, cry after cry until no more sound comes from his lips. With sudden swiftness, the wolf-beast brings him down to eye-level. While watching the horrified look on Zack’s face, it engulfs the man’s head in its mouth then tears it from his body. Spitting the head out of its mouth onto the ground, it tosses the still-quivering body on top of it and roars again.
The others come running, some firing their weapons at the monster. It does no good. Within minutes, the town of fourteen is now a town of zero.
~ Blaze McRob
© Copyright 2013 Blaze McRob. All Rights Reserved.
Long weeks working. Rain still falling. Heavy droplets, water crawling down bus shelter, dark skies bawling. Another day is done.
Through the grey a bus approaches, teeming inside, full of roaches, human insects, tired voices, “Ticket please,” one grunts. Franz knows the feeling; hating, hurting. Sick of service, new-world weary. Inside bright. The windows dirty.
Loose change. Find a seat.
Near the front, two ladies talking, behind them, a young boy squawking, rows of faces, soulless, gawking. What’s the world become? Tongues are wagging, swear words snagging, at the back three young men bragging. Stealing-shouting-almost shagging. How drunk they were last night.
Starting, stopping, people walking. Motion sickness, long face balking in the window, movement rocking: Bus Route UB1.
Through the city, every evening. Sniffing noses, heavy breathing. Bus vibrating, stomach heaving. Heart hammering against his ribs; an ancient, tribal drum.
All around him, buildings sliding, melting in the rain, subsiding, streaks of grey, rainfall hiding the city’s sobbing face. Lived for ten years. Worked for thirty. Bones are tired, his body hurting. To cut his wrists, his hot blood spurting: a man can dream. He can.
At the back, the young men shouting louder, voices starting harder, jostling they assess their larder. Bus filled with easy prey. He knows the sort; no school, no teaching, fathers gone, their mothers breaching as they spawn more screaming offspring, red between the legs. The bus route is their hunting ground, their web where helpless victims found, like flies stuck to the city, bound to the monsters this world breeds.
Outside the road runs black with water. Under doorways, people loiter, waiting out the never-ending rain that will not stop. Clouds were black at six this morning. Raining since the day was dawning. Since he stepped, pale-faced and yawning, into another day.
Before his eyes, the young men changing. Altogether, outlines blurring. Faceless shapes, new limbs emerging. Monsters in men’s skin. Arms are growing, bodies breaking. Snap like pencils. Sounds like choking. Sucking. Slurping. No one worried, not awoken, dead to this, their world.
From the back it slowly reaches, twelve long legs, thick, dark like leeches bloated on a diet of human peaches; female fruit. Franz watches as the creature prowls, he listens to its high-pitch howls. Once-hoodies, now great fleshy cowls, beneath them glittering eyes.
The monster of Route UB1 drags its large bulk, must weigh a ton, between the seats, no need to run, it knows it has already won, its prey with their returns –
– day-passes, singles to the city, hopeless, tired of living, life is gritty, pointless, shitty, he asks himself, what is there to be done?
What can be done against this beast, which on soft female flesh it feasts, and when encounters men, at least will beat them black and blue? This creature has not always been, not always was, not always seen, but in this time, grown dark and mean, has found a place to
– and breed, a human brood lusting for food and heat and life and dark corners to do dark things, now brave and bold, the human beast of Bus Route UB1.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2013 Thomas Brown. All Rights Reserved.
Beautiful creature of destruction; you are the embodiment of majesty and grandeur darting through the air; humming past in the blink of an eye, stunning your prey into a shock of paralytic fear; engaged always in aerial combat with the currents that fight your forward progress; rising, dropping, jerking, zipping.
What is it you seek on those elegant gossamer wings? Perhaps the next meal that awaits you… What else would a voracious thing such as yourself desire? You, with your crushing mandibles and gnashing teeth, so willing to consume all that cross your path and thereafter, your gullet. A beast of miniscule proportion whose lust to sate itself knows no bounds – respects no boundaries.
The patter of rain does not deter you from the hunt – your need for nourishment is all consuming; it’s all your disjointed body knows. The repeated pumping of your clasping organ seeking purchase as it curves downward to secure a hold in this new and foreign terrain. Your legs spread so delicately, laid wide ever so gently, in this most opportunistic of places. Large bead like eyes of gleaming blackness adapted for spotting the smallest of morsels passing by whilst you suckle on nature’s other offerings.
You have at last found a worthy feeding ground amongst the thin grasses of this murky bank. This piece of drift offers a perch from which you may indulge your glutinous greed. You seek a place to hide, a place of recess from which you may ambush unsuspecting prey.
Cloaked by stealth and the hush of your own inner stillness, you await what tasty treat flicks past seeking a safety all its own whilst knowing not that you are now the monstrous dark occupant which all others must fear in this previously safe harbor.
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2012 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Tearing free of the straps binding it to the table, it slams its muscular body against the one-way mirror and snarls, “What have you done to me?” Its hideously deformed jaw and engorged tongue make the words nearly indecipherable. Saliva drips down the glass, its claws scratch angrily at the slick surface; the creature fights in vain to smash its way through three feet of impenetrable barrier.
From the other side of the glass, the doctor stands dead still, staring at the monstrosity thrashing against the window mere feet away. After an elongated pause, he orders, “Open Room Two.”
Without hesitation the operator does so.
As the door slides smoothly upwards into the wall, the staff can see a young woman crouching in the corner shielding two small children. Filth and vomit stain her T-shirt and jeans; their terror is palpable.
The monstrosity slowly swivels its head toward the open doorway leaving clumps of gelatinous flesh sticking to the glass; lips peel from its gums, a chunk of cheek clings to the surface, one eyelid ripped cleanly from its face. Sniffing the air, it abandons its attack on the window and drops to all fours, senses focusing on the three new beings invading its territory. After judging them no threat, it rises slowly to its full grotesque height.
“Excellent instinctual response. Specimen eighty-seven has locked onto the victims without provocation,” the doctor recites into the digital recorder he is holding. Folding his arms across his chest, he waits with the others in the control room – watching silently.
Still a good ten feet from the open doorway, the young woman clutches the children as she tries to push further back into the wall. Shaking uncontrollably, she can do nothing but shield the children’s eyes and wait.
The creature in the main chamber strides menacingly toward them. One clawed talon on the doorway, it ducks beneath the opening to Room Two.
“Switch to video feed.” Monitors in the control room light up and display varying angles from within the multiple small chambers.
Pausing just inside the doorway, it sniffs again, fuller, stronger this time. Its vicious watery gaze assesses the three huddled forms before it. A slight distraction – pounding on the wall to the right. The young woman glances; the goliath never wavers in its stare. The pounding is frantic; another woman’s voice howling in desperation from what must be a room next door. ‘God, is there another of these things?’ The thought flicks through the young woman’s mind.
Encouraged by her fear, it moves forward quickly, plucking a screeching child from her grasp. The woman in the other room seems to go mad; scratching, shrieking, thrashing beyond the wall.
Dangling the boy before it, the thing draws a long breath from the child’s mouth. It smells the boy’s blood, his vomit; it smells his fear. With one hand still holding the head, the other clawed fist shreds the boy’s body from its neck.
Snorting at the young woman clutching the girl, the monstrosity dangles the boy’s head above its mouth. Still looking her in the eye, it pops the child’s head like an overripe melon with its clenching maw. It chews; it swallows. It then consumes the remainder of the head.
Lowering its own head in challenge, it flicks out a claw and rips the young woman’s T-shirt, sniffing at the putrescence staining it. Frozen in shock and fear, she does nothing. It grins. Reaching down slowly, almost gently, it lifts the remaining child from her numb limbs. The little girl struggles and begs; she tries to grab onto her would-be protector. There is nothing the young woman can do. She watches as it sinks its teeth into the squirming child’s midsection, splattering offal across the entire chamber, covering her in the little girl’s drippings. Chewing with slow delight, it continues to stare at the young woman cowering against the wall. It smells her rank terror; it sees her eyes dim as her mind slips to a distant place. It watches as her body goes limp then spasms uncontrollably.
All the while, the wailing from the room next door grows more incessant.
Awareness dawning, it recognizes the ability to reason, not simply act on impulse. It likes this feeling. Malformed knees bent backwards, it leans down and flicks the young woman’s head to the side.
It has a thought: useless.
It has a feeling: mild agitation.
It hears a sound.
Turning its head, it recognizes the scent that accompanies the untamed agony coming from the other room. Smiling, it abandons the useless mass of jittering flesh on the floor, and draws a gore smeared talon across the wall. The sound calms for a moment… only a moment… before the maniacal pounding and ear-splitting shrieks begin again.
It leaves Room Two, returns to the table in the center of the main chamber and stares with smug satisfaction at the one-way mirror. It believes it has won.
“Seal the chamber. Gas it.” The doctor orders. He then speaks into his digital recorder.
“Eighty-seven has shown marked improvement with cognitive awareness, careless brutality, and its ability to identify its own DNA. But it still does not choose to kill the stranger. Is it showing a degree of compassion?” He clicks off the recorder, tapping it against his chin while glancing up at the monitor showing him a single view of Room One.
Flicking the recorder on once more, he continues, “The reason for the test subject’s failure is still unknown. She should have been able to breach containment by now, saving her offspring. End session eighty-seven.”
Rubbing his exhausted eyes, the doctor turns to the others in the control room. “Let’s clean this up, and get her sedated as quickly as possible. She’s already gestating two new fetuses from number eighty-eight. We don’t want to endanger them anymore than we have to.”
~ Nina D’Arcangela
© Copyright 2013 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.