The flames swayed in the light breeze of the ceiling fan. Still, they burned strong and bright. To Dustin they were scorching eyes glaring at him straight out of Hell, all ten of them. Beads of red wax rolled down the candles and pooled like blood on the iced surface below.

He wanted nothing more than to forget his birthday altogether.

His family would have obliged him, but not this year. It was an even numbered year—a check year. The celebration was more for them than for him.

Dustin was the youngest of three boys in a family bonded tight to their kin. The problem was Dustin wasn’t kin. He was adopted. Orphaned as an infant, he never knew his parents. Supposedly, they were killed in a botched break in, but the details, as told to Dustin, were always watered down or vague.

The Thompsons, neighbors to his parents at the time, offered to take him in. The justice system granted their request since no other relatives were known and there was an existing connection between the families. The court also awarded the Thompsons’ rights to Dustin’s inheritance, doled out in biennial support checks; the same frequency with which they chose to celebrate his birthday.

“Better get them all, Dusty.” Tucker said and punched Dustin in the ribs. Tucker was the younger of his two foster brothers, but still five years his senior. The brothers both displayed the Ginger linage that dominated the Thompson bloodline—fiery red hair, freckles, pale skin, and a lean but strong frame that matched well with their innate aggression.

The unexpected blow sent a dull burning pain through Dustin’s chest, shortening his breath. He winced as much from the nickname as the punch. He hated that name. The foster brothers dubbed him Dusty because his bedroom was nothing more than a mattress tossed in the middle of the dirt floor basement. At least he didn’t have to sleep down there tonight. Every two years, after his birthday dinner, Dustin was allowed to spend the night in his ‘for-show’ bedroom. It was a small room with minimalistic décor for guests, unless Child Services stopped by to check on Dustin, then a few posters, books, and toys were sprinkled around.

“Yeah,” Barney added, giving Dustin a punch of his own. “Blow hard or take the curse.”

Dustin tried to ignore their taunts like usual, but this time their jibes hit a weak spot. He’d been dreading this moment ever since they told him about the curse on Tucker’s birthday.


— Four Months Earlier (Tucker’s Birthday) —

“What are you waiting for, Tuck? Worried you’ll miss a few?” Barney said, laughing.

“Shut up, asshole. I’m just thinking of what to wish for, is all.”

A moment later, Tucker sucked down a deep breath and exhaled across the cake. The candles went out one by one. The teen’s lungs hit empty as the 15th flame flickered. In that moment, with the lone candle still fighting to stay aflame, his eyes widened. Everyone stared, motionless and silent. It fluttered, clinging to life, but ultimately extinguished in a puff of smoke.

Tucker finally drew a new breath.

“Ha! Nice one.” Barney congratulated his brother with a slap on the back.

Dustin looked at them, his brow creased by confusion, “Why were you so worried about that last candle?”

“I wasn’t worried, you moron.” Tucker shouted.

“What?” Barney turned his attention to Dustin. “You don’t know about the Anti-Wish?”

Mr. Thompson shook his head and smiled as he went about cutting the cake.

Tucker hopped off the chair to join in the fun.

“When the Birthday boy or girl doesn’t blow out all the candles in one breath, they get the Candle-Curse.”

“And the remaining flames act as a doorway from Hell where demons escape to exact their dark deeds upon the failed candle blower,” Barney explained, speaking in a campfire spook-story voice.

“Demons?” Dustin asked incredulously.

“The demons take the wish, twist it into a curse, and make it come true.”

Dustin watched the brothers for a moment, looking for a tell, a punch line.

“Yeah right, whatever.”

Barney lowered his gaze. “We’re serious. What do you think caused Jonnie Schnelling to get hit by a school bus last year? And, what about Mr. Beakman’s science class explosion that melted off half his face? That had to be the Anti-Wish.”

“Jacqueline next door, she blew out her knee just walking down the street.” Tucker added. “I saw her miss some candles at her birthday party the week before. Everyone knows she wished for faster legs. She was tired of losing track trophies to her sister, Tonya.”

“I don’t blame her for being jealous; Tonya’s hot—ripe for the picking. I’d love to have a shot at her cherry. I bet she’s dying to get dirty.” Barney sucked his teeth as he groped himself.

Mrs. Thompson shook her head. “Alright, settle down boys.”

“Don’t talk about her like that.” Dustin said, scowling.

Tucker laughed. “Awe, Dusty’s got a hard-on for her.”

“Shut up!” Dustin shouted back.

Their mother stood up. “Dustin, stop fighting with your brothers. I’m tired of hearing you talk to your older brothers that way.” She handed a piece of cake to everyone but Dustin and made a show of dropping his slice in the trash. “Now wash your mouth out with soap and go to bed.”

Dustin bit his lip and left the table.

“Your birthday’s coming up soon,” Barney called after him. “Better practice blowing out candles or you might get cursed.”


— The Present (Dustin’s Birthday) —

Dustin watched the flames dance. In the darkness of the dining room, the candles cast a horrid glow on the faces of his foster family, exaggerating their expressions into psychotic masks. They were all grinning as they watched him, but not all for the same reasons. The boys were clearly excited at the chance to see him get the curse, and Dustin knew the mother and father were happy that his birthday meant the arrival of another check.

But as Dustin hesitated in front of the lit cake, some of the smirks fell to impatience and annoyance.

Mr. Thompson sighed and leaned on his elbows.

“Get on with it, will you?” Mrs. Thompson said, rolling her eyes.

Barney tossed his hands over his head. “Geez, just pick something already. Here, let me help you… How about you wish for a pair of balls?”

Everyone laughed.

Dustin closed his eyes and tried to calm the jackhammer in his chest.

“Poor Dusty’s scared.” Tucker hugged him in mock concern.

Dustin ignored him, but he couldn’t push the Candle-Curse lore from his mind. He fought for rational thoughts, to think of a worthwhile wish, but superstition conjured visions of demons and fire.

Tucker slapped Dustin on the neck. “Do it!”

Pushing his fears aside long enough, Dustin chose a wish. I wish I could live in peace.

Then, he opened his eyes and took a deep breath.

Ten. It’s only ten candles. I’ll go from left to right at a steady pace, he thought.

Hands gripping the table, Dustin leaned in and blew hard.

The flames writhed and fluttered until succumbing to the force of his breath sweeping across the field of candles, leaving smoking, lifeless towers in his wake.

Almost there, he thought. Just one more.

With the last candle sputtering under Dustin’s exhalation, Tucker jumped up and shouldered him off the chair. The impact with the floor stole what little oxygen he had left.

All eyes were fixated on the candle that refused to die. It burned bright, flame straightening as if proud of its resilience.

The brothers yelled and laughed, jumping around the room like crazed chimpanzees.

“Curse!” Barney shouted, starting a chant. “Curse, curse.”

Tucker joined him. “Curse, curse, curse.”

Mr. and Mrs. Thompson made a meek attempt at stifling their laughter.

Dustin regained his breath and climbed to his knees.

“No – I can’t be cursed!” He said. “You pushed me!”

“One’s still lit… you lose.” Tucker pointed at the candles.

“That’s not fair!” Dustin yelled. His eyes blurred behind a swell of tears. He balled his hands into fists and started swinging, landing cross-blows to Tucker’s chin and left eye before Barney decked him.

Dustin lay sprawled on the floor; seething and bleeding.

“That’s enough.” Mr. Thompson stood up fast, knocking his chair backward. “Get out of my sight,” he ordered and pulled Dustin by his shirt toward the basement door.

“But, I didn’t get any cake.” Dustin pleaded, the fight sucked out of him.

“You’re done. Go to bed, now.”

Tears spilled down his face. “Can I please still spend the night in my show bedroom?”

“Not anymore. Get your ass in the basement before I throw you down the steps.” Mr. Thompson shoved him at the open doorway.

Sniffling back tears as he went, Dustin didn’t look at the brothers. He knew they were smiling and seeing that would make his punishment all the more difficult to bear.

Tucker yelled after him. “You’re mine tomorrow Dusty. Payback’s coming.”

Dustin shambled down the rickety steps to the dirt floor below. Door locks clicked home as he descended. His limbs felt as heavy as his deprived heart.

He padded over to his unframed mattress, flopped down, and cried.

Tears trailed across his arm and dripped to the ground in little muddy splashes. He wept for hours. Muffled sounds of merriment sifted down from above like dust between the floorboards. Eventually, exhaustion took over and he slept.

Dustin dreamt of fire.

A hot and hungry blaze tore through the house. He was upstairs at the table, watching. He stood motionless, petrified by the sight of demons leaping into his world through the flames. His spine froze and he shivered despite the rising heat around him.

The demons had massive, backward-arching horns and slotted yellow eyes. They danced around the house leaving charred hoof prints along the carpets, furniture, and walls. They ripped the place apart, scorching everything in their path. Nothing was left untouched by their long reptilian fingers as they pranced through the rooms in morbid glee.

Dustin heard cries and pleading from down the hall. The creatures’ hooves clunked loudly as they leapt around, tormenting the family. A man’s voice yelled out unintelligible things, his voice high and frantic from agony. Then, the smell hit Dustin like summer grilling on an August breeze—the father was burning. His foster brothers were screaming and their mother wept. In reply, the demons only snorted and continued their twisted game.

The woman’s unanswered pleas turned to shouts of rage. Dustin heard a flurry of activity and the hysterics stopped abruptly.

Dustin’s pounding heart pulsed in his throat. He stood bolted to the spot, waiting for something to change, something to make sense. Then, a soft voice exhaled the words peace now against his ear. He whirled in both mind and body.

Dustin woke.

He found himself in bed, slick with sweat. The musty smell of the dirt basement wafted over him. Dense curtains of darkness hung close. He must have had a nightmare—that horrible dream of fire and demons, of violence and death. He could still sense an echo of the screams in his waking mind. Drawing in a long breath, he sighed. He nearly smiled. It was strange how cold he felt now after the imaginary flames were gone.


Something landed in the dirt. Dustin jerked his head toward the sound and peered into the inky shadows. Too dark, he couldn’t see more than a few inches beyond his mattress.


He strained and squinted. Something moved. It was coming closer.


His body tingled in anticipation. Fear oozed from his pores as his cold sweat returned.


Dustin watched it emerge from the gloom, but wished he hadn’t.

A large figure strode toward his bed. It was similar to the demons of his dream, but this one was bigger. Its legs began as cloven hoofs, stretching and bending upward, changing from oily fur to wet scales. Its torso bulged with muscle and the tumorous anatomy of an unknown creature. Slotted goat eyes glowed yellow from a face riddled with nodes of protruding cartilage. The horns terrified him—long, backward-curving growths, like reverse tusks with deep ridges.

Dustin lost control of his bladder but couldn’t look away.

Bedside, the creature leaned down and smiled in an unnatural display of needled teeth. It reached out a hand, stopping the upturned fist inches from Dustin’s face. Slowly unraveling its fingers, the demon revealed a single candle, standing straight in the palm of its hand.

The grinning creature cocked its head and, with a snap of its fingers, brought the candle to life. “You missed one, Dusty,” it said in a voice dank and rich like crude oil. Then, the demon blew out the flame and cast them in total darkness.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 8


Nothing Lives
Jon Olson

Reflections in windows tease and haunt, showing what was, and what is no longer. Do not look at the glass! Damn, too late. Reflected before me is a tree. Its trunk, branches, and leaves, all on display. I want it to be real. I roam these empty streets. Searching, hoping, and praying to find someone; something; anything. People, animals, and plants are all gone. Concrete, steel and glass remain. I call out and listen, but only my echo replies. This city is dead; nothing lives. The sky is grey; no sun or clouds. Life has abandoned this place; abandoned me.

In Everything
Zack Kullis

They watch and wait in everything. I can feel their hungry eyes and thrusting glares, pulling for the acknowledgement that would seal my fate. Stupid therapist called it Pareidolia.

Demons, creatures, faces and things of terror live in almost everything. Seeing them draws them into your head where they eat your soul. I avoided them until today, overcome by a single glance at a building, a window holding the tree and cloudy sky – all of them full. I heard them coming. Two ice picks saved me, one for each eye. With the windows to my soul ruined, I was free.

Magenta Nero

It reflects her suffering, an enticing apparition. “Ease the regret, press your fingertips to mine. I can take from you the memories, I can turn back time.” Its huge empty eyes drip in black streaks, it twists and sighs evocatively. She reaches for its ghostly hand but she pauses, her fingertips tremble, hovering just above the glass. The apparition buckles with rage, the glass rattles as it slams against the surface, begging for release.

“Not yet.” she says and turns away. She wraps on her coat and scarf and heads quickly out the door; she is late for work again.

The Hill
Craig McGray

Neighborhood kids told stories about The Hill, regurgitating false truths that their parents told them. Tall tales about what really went on behind the mirrored glass and towering brick walls, but I learned early on that most parents were full of shit, mine included.

My father told me they did ‘things’ to bad people on The Hill and I should stay away from there. My dad was an asshole, but he wasn’t full of shit.

He should have taken his own advice because they, I mean WE, really did some horrific things to him when he came to The Hill.

The Mill
Nina D’Arcangela

I look out upon all that is left. Sunlight scorches this land; with morning comes heat, an assault upon existence. With evening, a frigid wind; though still a brief respite. I squint as I glare down among those who wallow at my feet. My stone begins its grind, my furnace stokes; a rival to the blistering rays without, but only barely. Their faces turn up, beseeching. I watch as they enter my opening maw; again as they depart in concert with the tenors screech from my bowels. Stragglers dally, grubbing for scraps. Something needs fill the stone on the ‘morrow.

Looking Out
Leslie Moon

curtains brown, tattered and torn

reflections were once welcome

swatting away evening’s flies

light, life, color, have been exiled

I wonder to where they have fled


Dark shadows of night interpose

greedily they suck the last drop of day

beating away the memories of her, of us

“futile” I murmur

there is nothing left to hold dear


In response the fluttering starts to sneer

night’s sinister incessant chuckle

It loves to remind me

there may still be bloodied remnants

in swiss dotted fabric that the flies have missed

white now turned rusty

I tell myself “better not to remember”

Joseph A. Pinto

Nothing will stand between us; nothing will keep me away. The cruelty, locked in your silent world. All you hear is nothing, even as I shout your name. What see of you beyond the reflection of spirit-churned skies? What know of you within that haunted heart? I shall shatter your glass; recover your incarcerated soul. The cruelty, shackled in your listless words. All you think is nothing, even as I cry your name. What suffer of you behind bricked walls? You wait eternally; I say wait no more. Nothing will deny sky from its horizon. Angels of their fall. Nothing.

The Conductor
Thomas Brown

Fingers clutch at the crumbling windowsill. Outside, light spills across the apartment blocks and the gardens beneath.

He calls it a garden but it is little more than paving slabs on which she reclines and smokes and dies a little death each night. She loves cigars. Fat, Cuban things in her slim hands. The whole of her is slim. When she stretches out he imagines taking a stick to her ribs, beating them, making music with her bones. It is not enough, just to see. Beneath his practised hands, her bones could sing. A symphony of human sound, in harmony!

Glass Portrait
Blaze McRob

A picture forms in the panes of glass as it does every day before dusk becomes night. Clouds and trees tonight. Maybe an impending storm. Yes, that’s what I need. Evil must be displayed!

Even now the clouds twist and turn as they darken, and the trees are blown away from the glass portrait. The tranquil scene changes before me. An evil face forms in the glass, hideous in its deformity, mocking the world with its visual display of arrogant intent.

I walk inside and look in the vestibule mirror. “Dorian Gray, you look as young as ever,” I say.

Tainted View
Tyr Kieran

I used to love the view. I’d sit by the sill, mindlessly picking at the cracked paint and I’d watch life happening on the street below; the hasty flow of businessmen scattering off to hard-earned paychecks, health nuts jogging in tight clothes with their leashed, oversized dogs, even the filthy down-trodden vagabonds that stumble from meter to meter—all symptoms of life’s intricate dance; of life’s beauty. Oh, how wrong I was! Now, I see the gritty reality. Ever since my wife hung herself in that goddamn tree, I’ve realized that the window shows the truth. It only shows pain.

A Trip to the Old Country
Hunter Shea

“That’s it right there,” Donal said, pointing at a four-paned window on the second floor. It was one of the few that still had glass in the barren building. The clouds had begun to darken and the air smelled like spring rain.

Finoula pressed her hand against his cheek. “If it’s too hard, we can go back.”

“No, I’m fine.” He kissed her palm. “Professors aren’t supposed to diddle their students, but some do anyway.”

“Bastard,” Finoula said, her gaze locked on the cloud-swept window.

Donal grinned. “You’re standing on him right now.”

He gave the soft earth a stomp.

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

New Love

new-love“That was a crazy night, huh?”

Arthur spoke the words over his shoulder as he groped around the table for his glasses. They were hard to miss with their stereotypical thick black frames and even thicker lenses. Cold against his skin, he shivered while fitting them into place. With the heat of his passion fully dissipated, he was quickly reminded of how cold his room could get.

Now able to see, Arthur spotted his clothes strewn on the floor. He threw on the shirt and started working at the buttons. “I hope you had as much fun as I did, wow. That was incredible.”

He was a man of small stature with a voice that followed suit, high and light. The excitement behind his molar-bearing grin nearly pushed that voice to the cracking point.

The young woman lying behind him with frazzled blonde hair, conversely, remained silent.

“I don’t want you thinking this is a normal practice for me. I’m not a serial one-night stand kinda guy. I just felt a connection between us, you know—a genuine spark that demanded exploration.”

He chuckled and turned to face her. “Usually, I try to get to know a woman before, I uh… Well, usually, that doesn’t work either, especially with a beautiful woman like you… and, never as strangers upon the first meeting, like this.”

A near imperceptible sigh escaped her lips.

“Th-that might have come out wrong, what I mean is, now we can take some time to learn more about each other. Would you like that?”

The woman stared blankly at the ceiling, seemingly unconcerned that the sheet was askew, leaving her breast exposed.

Arthur’s smile faltered. He finished dressing—buckling his belt and lacing his shoes—with full attention on her.

“I want to know more about you. I want to learn about the life choices that brought us together. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always believed in natural forces like destiny.”


“Alright. Alright, for example,” he continued, “I couldn’t help but notice the bruises. You’ve clearly had a hard time recently and I really want to know what happened to you that inevitably drove you here, to me.”

More silence.

The smile, the fuzzy remnants of passion, the patience, all were gone now. Arthur jumped up, bumping into the table as he shouted, “I’m not the one who hurt you, okay? I’m only trying to help you!”

The woman’s head turned away from him.

“Fine, I’ll do this without you.”

He whirled around and grabbed a clipboard off the table behind him. Paging through the information, he read for a few moments, his frustrated breaths the only sounds in the cold room.

“I knew it. An abusive boyfriend did a number on you and left you, hurt and alone.”

Double doors slammed open behind him. Arthur was so startled he nearly dropped the clipboard.

An older man backed into the room pulling a gurney with him.

“You talking to the dead bodies again, Arthur?” He asked, smiling.

“Wha—uh, no. Well, yes. It’s my job to figure out what happened to them, isn’t it?”

“I hate to break it to you, man, but they don’t respond very well.”

“Fuck off, Allan.”

“My pleasure.” He said, laughing as he pushed through the double doors. They swayed in his wake, like half-doors to an old saloon, creating a sound akin to a faint, fading heartbeat.

Arthur pulled the sheet over the blonde’s face and spun around to check out the new arrival. It was a young brunette, with big brown eyes and full lips. He stared for a moment before fishing out her wrist from under the coversheet.

“Well, hello,” he said, kissing the back of her hand. “My name’s Arthur and I couldn’t help but notice a spark between us just now.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 7


Anger Falls
Zack Kullis

It trickles at first, barely perceptible, moving slowly towards an inevitable end. Heat blooms, melting what once was controlled in an icy grip. The trickles collide, begin to coalesce, mingle and fuse.

The calm silence swiftly flows towards a thundering rumble. It pushes against its boundaries with a hint of its violent potential. There is no damn to hold back the deluge.

Anger swells, mounting, growing exponentially as I yield to the unstoppable. I feel the precipice as the fury carries me over and plunges me into the tumultuous abyss of wrath. This is fury’s terminal velocity – Anger Falls.

The Pool Below
Jon Olson

My heart beats rapidly; anxious with excitement. I brought the children like it told me to do. That was so easy. The water is still, like glass, before spilling over into the pool below. Somewhere in those depths, it’s watching, waiting; and hungry. It wants them. Laughing, the little ones are unaware. The movement is ferocious, the scaled grey hand frightening, the laughter silenced; and I am alone. I pull my eyes away from the violence, back to the calm. A deep breath, an exhale and I relax. It’s over, for now, until it grows hungry again. And it will.

Amber Vision
Nina D’Arcangela

Sluicing beneath the calm amber surface, she admires her own form; long sensuous limbs encased in umber scales glinting iridescent, claws meant for rending soft flesh, eyes the barest taint of rust. She floats these waters from another time, another place – all but forgotten. Spying one wading to catch its meal, she allows the flow to carry her near, masks herself as that of something much smaller, permits her seeming capture. A smile parts her lips as her hooked fangs insure its death. She playfully rolls onto her back, the two tumbling head first into the raucous waters churning below.

Joseph A. Pinto

This; this place where first I laid eyes on you, beckoning from atop the crest. I would rip gods from the skies just to be with you. I fight the currents. I swallow deeply our Acheron; your vile taste leaves me reborn. Thunder in my ears, cascade a veil cross my eyes. I cannot refuse you; how I relish the way you bloat my throat. Allow me rest; but for a moment, will you…the gravel bed serves me well. Speak my sacrifice at the headwaters; slice free from me my spawn. Let me swirl like detritus amidst your feet.

Tyr Kieran

In this moment, I am keen. Saturated. Aware. A dominating flourish of life swarms my senses—every detail becoming known and prominent. The breeze caresses my face. Bugs and birds chirp in merry discourse. Dazzling, the sunlight peaks through the foliage overhead and crystallizes brilliantly in the water below. The wood planked bridge behind me sways ever so slightly, subtle creaking that hums in harmony with nature. I feel alive. My heart swells, pounding faster and faster, blood surging. Then, the gurgling lullaby of the creek and everything else ends suddenly as the bristled rope around my neck snaps taught.

Craig McGray

Even as a young boy, I’d often wondered what was beneath the roiling water of the falls. Mesmerized by the clarity, clear and untainted before cascading onto the rocks below, crashing into the time-worn rocks huddled at the bottom.

Life, like a crisp mountain stream, starts as something pure, innocent, before running its turbulent course, eventually reaching a precipice and plummeting to something else, something we can’t be positively sure of.

Over the years, I’ve tossed many screaming souls from this very spot, and I’ve yet to hear back as to what they found at the bottom of the falls.

Trespass No More
Blaze McRob

Unseen hands hold Craig’s face beneath the swirling waters below the dam, rubbing it to and fro, the jagged rocks on the river bottom cutting his face to shreds. The unseen entity lifts Craig’s face from the river and says, “You fucking anglers think you can disregard signs. Stay out means just that. You’re not special. This river is mine.”

Enraged at the blood pouring into his beloved river, he shoves Craig under once more, slamming his head repeatedly against the moss-laden saws designed by Mother Nature. His job completed, he releases Craig’s body.

“You will trespass no more, mother-fucker…”

No Swimming
Thomas Brown

From the outside it doesn’t look like much: three warehouses painted a pale cream. Sometimes there is a van or two, parked in the vacant bay beside the river. Plumes of white smoke. A sign, announcing where I am:

The Dream Factory.

Visitors report to the holding bay for guided tours.

You couldn’t pay me to cross the low wire-mesh fence. I’ve seen what leaves this place; not in the vans, but the adjacent stream: transparent fat, pinkish globules, and if you look closely, long, effervescent faces, mouths stretched, eyes wide: nightmares, skimmed from the vats into the quick current.

Magenta Nero

The all encompassing roar of the water, a frothing primeval anger that rises from deep within the earth, takes back each useless tear as it rolls off my cheeks. I have spent a lot of time here lately. Poised on this edge. Thinking. Your body slapped against rocks, broken and swept away downstream. Like waste. From the split in your skull leak your extravagant lies. You remember this place don’t you? The place of our first tender kiss. And now our very last. Your mouth open but silent. Your eyes, wide, incredulous, staring back up at me. As you drop.

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

Disaster Man

Disaster Man

My mask smiles for the camera.

That’s how the world knows me—a chipper façade of dimples and overly-white teeth. Such a bright, appealing shell I wear everyday and it secretly turns my stomach. But I need this job—need the public’s endorsement. So, I wear my mask and perform like a little organ-grinder monkey before the invisible map.

It’s always the same. The same report with only petty variances: sunny and 72º, partly cloudy and 68º, slight chance of showers with a high of 51º. Pure monotony. None of it really matters. Even on the odd occasion when my report is wrong, no one cares and neither do I.

Slowly withering inside, malnourished by a bland life—a cardboard existence—I walk through the motions like a motorized mannequin. The days blur by in a rotating door of meaningless faces and inconsequential small talk. Eat, sleep, report, repeat.

Yet somehow, despite my inner turmoil, they love to watch; love to hear my reports. They trust me, and that’s why I continue to wear this persona of classic Americana: Joe Next-door, Jack Hollywood. I lure them, tugging on the heartstrings of helpless viewers everywhere by exuding handsome warmth and pouring empathy down the camera’s throat. It’s almost too easy.

Can you believe that I get asked to pose for photos and sign autographs? Me—a weatherman, a shell of a human being. What has happened to our society? Why does an ounce of visual familiarity equal respect and adoration? A painted-on smile and gossamer compassion is all that’s needed to cue the public’s allegiance? Pathetic.

Even though I utilize this to my advantage, it still disgusts me. What most call life, disgusts me. This repetitive existence, brings me to the brink of madness.

And yet, once in a long while, I get a rare chance to really live.

When thermals collide and the humidity drops off at just the right time… magic happens. Churning winds of destruction touch down upon humanity, rendering homes to rubble and tossing cars across the county like a giant’s game of back alley dice.

Disaster strikes and I awaken!

Not only with Tornados, but any natural reckoning, from hurricane winds that obliterate beachfront structures, rising waters that wash whole towns into the next state, or earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.

Mother Nature’s wrath calls to me, like an ancient language whispering to my soul and lighting the hearth to my corporeal home. I’m compelled to go, to bear witness and experience her intent first hand.

Here, I leverage my job and my “fame” to get exactly what I want.

I visit the tormented scenes all across the nation, showing footage of natural disasters. The sweet music of suffering plays and I dance for them. I report heart-wrenching tales of loss and soul-warming stories of survival. They watch, riveted by my carefully crafted compassion and display of unflappable courage.

The station sees this as devotion to my job. My viewers swoon and can’t get enough, even going as far as to dub me, Disaster Man.

How quaint?

Fools! They’re all slaves to money and fame—clueless to my true calling. But, in falling over themselves to offer me their support, they grant me the one thing I really need: an infallible alibi.

You see, nature’s wrath and I are more than colleagues; we’re kin. The same craving for carnage gnaws on our nerves. The same desire to destroy builds within until it detonates on unsuspecting humanity, without discrimination.

After my reports, when the cameras go dark, I venture out and walk amongst the wreckage again, sometimes even amid the storm’s continuing chaos and I play my part. I spread my wings. I come alive!

Following Nature’s design—blending my work seamlessly with hers—I use the array of tools she provides on those her disaster has missed, those that she left for me.

Oh, how I revel in their torment! Pain and death is a virulent tonic like no other mortal brew, and I drink my fill.

So when you watch my reports of weekly weather and you melt under the charisma of my dazzling smile, just know that I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to live again. Know that when Mother Nature decides to thin the herd that grazes in your town, I’ll be there picking off the weak and doing my real job.

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 6


Dan Dillard

Bars on your windows, so old and ornate.
At your driveway’s end lies a chained and locked gate.
These both in attempt to circumvent fate.

Huddled … lonely inside your own tomb.
Your domicile morphs into some sort of womb.
You peek through the blinds hoping nothing might loom.

And the world spins around you, life goes on for most.
You should celebrate each day that comes with a toast.
But instead you hide praying you don’t give up the ghost.

The joke, Dear, is that there’s no hope for the dawn.
For wherever you are, Dear, death watches on.

Wrong Turn
Leslie Moon

Darknesses hollow whispers
death’s gripping fingers splayed
mind the path twisting, turns there
don’t divert well-lit ways
many drops of blood’s been spilt here
dagger’s sharpened, long caressed
sightless skulls aimed and leering
the spirit must of you assess
bodily theyr’e rendered lifeless
gather, on moonless eve
momentarily seek some solace
wander, they eternal grieve
seeking, mind if they see you
your retreat may never be
run swift rusting gates through
you again will not be free
darknesses claiming whisper
death’s fingers greedily splayed
mind the path, aims to trip dear
don’t divert from well-lit ways

Atomic Number 26
Joseph A. Pinto

And still you’ve no understanding of my stories lost before
you, words stripped of their most basic composition and
left to crumble in a fitting tribute of oxidation.  You’ll always

view me that way, nothing more than your atomic number 26
while the greater part of me flakes bit by bit over time.  I mourn the
days when my message rung true and beauty gleamed through my

imperfection.  Now I go unnoticed, a broken tale; a gate
through which nothing can ever pass again.  Such a wasted thing; left
here, your tainted breath corrupting every last line of my expression.

Thomas Brown

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream. Clear skies. Cool breeze. A little sunlight on my face. I would like to walk somewhere with you, hand-in-hand, and not be alone. I choke to think of what could be: flesh and blood and bones that sing my name, my song, our song, rising into the wind. We should be so lucky.

They say dreaming is dead, but I still dream of a way out, an escape, a different life to that behind this iron gate; this tarnished prison, this nightmare in which we have trapped ourselves, furry with sharp-blood-rust.

The Other Side
Jon Olson

There it is. I cannot believe it is still standing. My body goes numb as I stare at the place that for many years I called home. The same black iron fence surrounds the property like it did when I lived there. Now the paint is peeling away exposing the rust underneath; reopening old wounds. How many times did I grip the fence wishing, praying that I could someday be on the other side? And now that I am on the outside I don’t feel free. I am still trapped within its grasp behind the padlocked gate, never to reopen.

Nina D’Arcangela

Been so many years, I don’t even remember the sun no more. I hear ‘em muttering, let ‘em talk. I’ll die in this box no doubt. I even heard they sealed it with the name. Trying to shame me I s’ppose. But I have my trophy; I pick my teeth with it every day. Wearin’ it down, but then it was so small to start with. Seems people dislike what I done, but that’s only ‘cause they don’t understan’ it. See, the sweet meat – it’s like veal, you gotta eat it when it’s supple, ‘fore it grows and loses the flavor.

What Lies Within
Blaze McRob

The rusted chain and lock cannot possibly hold this unholy gate in place much longer. Do I dare attempt to break the obstacles and venture within? I must; I have to know!

A well placed kick and the fragile metal breaks. I walk down the stone reinforced tunnel and get closer to the impenetrable darkness. The scent of sweet musk tickles my nostrils, and I smile.

“Lord Azazel, what you long for resides within.”

A torch is lit and I see my prize. Upon an altar she lies, and her glories call out to me.

She screams at my touch…

His to bring…
Zack Kullis

He looked at his charred body. The thugs had chained his security gate moments before they threw the Molotov cocktail through his window.

His fingers still gripped the old iron. The flesh was black like charcoal, and flaked away like the burned paint of the gate. Lips, hair, skin, and anything identifiable had been burned away, leaving a macabre grimace. Death had taken him hours ago.

Fury and lust for revenge damned his soul to this place like the chains had damned him to the fire. He was a wraith, and he welcomed the damnation. Hell was his to bring.

Claiming the Condemned
Tyr Kieran

The end came faster than anyone anticipated and all the prophecies were wrong. It wasn’t failed science gone viral or a cleansing trial to better mankind; it was Hell claiming the condemned—every last one of us. It began with a tortuous plague the turned the sick into blood crazed cadavers. They were the lucky ones. They didn’t suffer the tenuous and futile existence that was always moments away from being torn into a million bite-sized morsels by rancid insatiable teeth. I was the last, eaten alive behind safe gates as I clung expectantly to my wife’s once still corpse.

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

Truth’s Quicksand

Truth’s Quicksand

The musty basement hummed with the soft crackle of static. A police band radio purred from a small shelf above the heavily used utility sink. It cast an orange glow across the floor, highlighting an array of long forgotten paint cans and chemical jugs under the rickety wooden stairs.

A middle-aged man, sturdy but pudgy around the middle, stood at the sink listening with a cocked head.

“Quiet day on the scanner, a rare one indeed.”

He tossed a dirty screwdriver into the sink and walked the length of the room. The radio’s orange glow succumbed to darkness as he went, but he didn’t slow or stumble. He knew this room well. Much of his time over the last few years was spent in this basement working the labors of his passion, like he was right now. He approached the edge of the harsh white light pouring down from the fluorescent bulb affixed over his work area. Pausing there, on the fringe—the muddled line between light and dark—he continued speaking.

“Of course,” he said, “It’s probably just the calm before the storm—robberies being planned, atrocities like murder and rape taking place with their victims yet unable to call for help, or witnesses still on their way to their horrific discovery.”

He stepped into the light and over to his tool bench along the wall. With slow, deliberate movements he picked up a pair of slip-joint pliers. He admired them in the glow—their metal edges glinting as they turned between his fingers.

“And that means… no one is coming to save you for quite some time.”

A man bound to a chair before him started to scream again. Like before, the gag and the thick plaster walls absorbed the noise. The captive struggled against his layered binding of duct tape and zip ties, but to no avail. Sweat and blood sprayed out from his flaring nostrils with the hastened rhythm of his breaths.

“Come on now, Robinson. You know that’s a useless waste of energy.”

The captor stepped toward his victim and tapped the man’s metal badge with the pliers. “Speaking of cops wasting energy, shall we discuss what brought us here?”

Officer Robinson ceased fighting and listened.

“Your career was a waste. How many people did you save? How many did you condemn? The scales are tipped too far to the latter, aren’t they? Is that what you call justice?”

No reply came except for the sharp hiss of Robinson’s inhalations.

The man slapped his victim and ripped out the gag. “You might want to join the conversation—you’re on trial here.”

Robinson coughed and filled his lungs. His chest shuttered, his words stumbling free between gasps. “I don’t make the laws. Justice is not always black and white. You know that.”

“Yes. Yes I do. But please, elaborate. Are you claiming that your unjust actions were out of your control?”

“Look, if you let me go now, we’ll work out a deal—forget the whole thing.”

His expression soured from light amusement to rage and he slugged the officer in the jaw. “You didn’t let them go. Those women didn’t get a deal.”

Robinson spat blood and tooth fragments onto the floor. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Did you think I wouldn’t know about them… that I was ignorant? Or, did you just assume I was paid to look the other way like everyone else?”

The cop’s eyes widened. “H-how did you find out?”

He punched Robinson again.

“Lest you forget, I was a cop longer than you. It wasn’t too difficult to follow the fragmented facts of your cover up.”

“Andy. Andy, listen. I was forced to ride along, to help—” Officer Robinson stopped rambling when he noticed his captor moving in with the pliers.

After a few minutes of work, relishing the man’s screams in his ear, William Andrews stepped back and eyed the teeth in his hand. “You really need to brush better… well, at least with the few you’ve got left. And, don’t call me Andy, I hate that.”

Blood dripped from Robinson’s ruined mouth, his chin resting on his chest as he whimpered. While Andrews waited for his captive to regain a talking mood, he walked back to the sink, tossed in the pliers, and washed his hands.

Drying off with a small towel, he leaned against the utility sink.

“Those women didn’t have a choice in what was done to them. You had a choice. More than that, you had a responsibility to serve and protect.”

“They were victims of circumstance,” Robinson said, mumbling, slurring from too much exposed gum and not enough teeth. “Witnesses that had to be silenced.”

“Corruption begets corruption.” Andrews shook his head. “I get it, you guys are the victims, right? You were working within the confines of a corrupt system, trying to build cases, but the money and power decided all. Clean cases got tossed because bribes came down from on high and the political red tape handcuffed you at every turn. You joined the force to make a difference, to help people, but the truth of life was suffocating… the truth that money is power and a great amount of money corrupts greatly. It weighed you down, sucked you in. And, just like quicksand, the more you struggled the deeper you sunk. I get it. I do. It’s exactly why I retired early.”

Robinson lifted his head. Peering through the darkness, he watched his ex-partner with raised brows of hope. They were on common ground—maybe an understanding could be reached.

“But, don’t delude yourself,” Andrews continued. “You always have a choice. I made a choice. I chose to leave the corruption behind and work in my own system. You and your conspirators chose to conform, to alter your sense of morality to fit your environment. You chose to sink.”

The radio’s static hum broke into a flurry of voices trading information.

11-99, Code 3, Citizen reporting officer down at rear of 4217 Oak Valley Road in Glennville.

62 in route, five minutes south.

Severe injuries, no pulse. No witnesses known, body might have been dumped. Medical in route.

Andrews smiled. “Sounds like they just found one of your conspirators. After losing a few teeth himself, Detective Sloan talked quite a bit about you and your adventures together.”

Turning to head back to his project, Andrews noticed something in the orange glow. He walked over to the stairs and picked up a can of Turpentine. Inspecting it, he muttered to himself, “Looks like it was meant to be.”

As Andrews reentered the work area, the tin in his hand flashed under the harsh light. Recognition hit the captive cop as if Andrews slugged him again. He jerked in the chair with wild eyes leaping back and forth between the can and the man holding it.

“Whoa, hang on a minute. Just hear me out, please.”

Andrews gestured with an upturned hand. “Continue.”

“You—You were right.” Robinson said, speaking too fast, his words bumping into each other. “I’m a product of my environment, but I made mistake after mistake, bad choices. But, it began with blackmail. The only choice I had was to play along or lose my job and serve jail time. After the first few incidents, I got numb to right and wrong. Then, taking and covering up became habit. I was wrong. I’m sorry!”

Andrews put down the can. “It takes a real man to admit he’s wrong. I think you’ve made some progress here today.”

In a great shuddering exhale, Robinson sighed.

“But,” Andrews continued. “There’s something you said that’s been bugging me.”

The chair creaked as the bound cop tensed.

“Just a few minutes ago you said those women were simply witnesses that had to be silenced. If that’s true, then why did the real autopsy report show that they were raped and tortured before a sloppy attempt was made to hide their identities through pulling out all their teeth and burning them alive?”

“I, uh—”

“That’s above and beyond brutality, sadism, a psychopathic lack of compassion. Those are traits bonded to the soul not born of your environment. Of course, there are rare exceptions, such as a crime of passion where emotional trauma trumps morality.”

Andrews produced a utility knife from his pocket and stepped closer to Robinson.

“Here’s a bit of suffocating truth for you: those witnesses you silenced two years ago were my sisters and you’re about to suffer a fate far worse than theirs.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2014 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Damned Words 5


His Release
Zack Kullis

The plume of his breath in the January air lied to him, but he knew the truth.

His heart pushed the searing heat through his body.  He was burning from the inside.  “Release the heat,” his fever screamed.

He could see the fiery blue of the offending veins.  They were the traitorous vehicles for the blood which burned him.

Steel, blessedly cold, cut easily.  He peeled away the skin on his arm with a pleasurable frenzy.

Vein-like branches quickly gave up their sanguine heat.  Blue soon gave way to grey.

Frozen veins, branching across his opened flesh, burned him nevermore.

Dan Dillard

It hunted me.

And for the better part of the chase, I was enthralled. Adrenaline pumped through my veins, keeping them hot. My muscles seared as I darted this way and that, ducking, leaping and rolling into the next place where I would wait. Wait for a breath, the crack of twigs underfoot, the flutter of a flock of birds frightened by my suitor, or a scent detected from upwind. They gave it away.

For a time it was quiet and no direction looked safe. I hesitated.

I felt its moist, warm breath on my neck and my veins froze.

Nina D’Arcangela

Icy tendrils; you’d think they’d chill me, but no – they warm my very soul. The children of my children’s children, the progeny that will carry forth my breath cocooned in an impenetrable translucent sleeve. When this world thaws, my branches will spring free. They will bloom, spreading their lethal spore among others of my kind, killing their offspring, weakening each host. As they fail to mend, the frost will come again, and I will wait for the next thaw. When that day comes, I will stand alone, proud, the only of my kind – as it was always meant to be.

What the Frost Brings
Tyr Kieran

I am the cold—not the winter’s chill, but the dark, seeping cold that settles within the bones of the living. As they shiver and doubt and fear, I grow stronger, burning their patience away to ash. When hardship gets harder, the flames go out and their food stores diminish, I take over, filling the void where hope once bloomed. I force their despair into violence until nothing stirs but my sweet mistress: Death. Oh, how divine her touch! I’ve laid waste to entire civilizations just to feel her embrace. So, heed the frost’s warning—Death is not far behind.

Silent Planet
Thomas Brown

I travelled the world in search of you. They said that you were gone but I knew there were still places where we might talk; where for a few minutes at midnight I might look into your eyes, and smile.

Austria, Germany, the vast trackless forests of Norway. Five times I found you, hiding in the dark, bound to the old locales dotted around the world: cosmic pockets where the dead still dance.

It was a dream come true to watch you waltz under the stars. Then dawn broke, the dream ended and I died inside to be so alone.

Joseph A. Pinto

I have no magic left to revive you; you have gone cold at my feet.  A time existed when I held you aloft, serenaded by the sun.  We both know that day is no more.  So into your wonderland, I follow one last time; your brittle boughs snap between my callous fingers.  I find your pain an absent, infinite thing.  Can you hear the ice crack; yes, I can hear your heart crack.  Come spring, when the ground softens, I’ll dig you free again.  For now, whisper to me your lost, blue-lipped solace.  You have gone cold at my feet.

Deck The Lawn
Blaze McRob

They’re going to put the fucking lights and other shit on me again. I won’t allow it to happen. This ice is even too much weight for my branches to support.

It is dark when they come. Good for me, not for them. Before they have a chance to assault me, my icy branches take them down and apply a frosty guillotine to their necks.  Their red blood gives the lawn a festive look, and the shock, still in their eyes, is better than any dangling orbs hanging on a tree.

Old fat Santa couldn’t have done a better job.

Cold Hearts
L. Moon

“Hard hearts in the making”
soft wintry voices say
innocence is for the taking
fiendish finger play
small bodies fearful, shiver
carrion blocks the light
black wings swoop and quiver
will spend life this night
“quickly now and hide your young ones”
dark howls fill night’s space
crystal snow a place to burrow
by dawn there’s little trace
scheming branches interlocking
cries both far and wide
the rumors say “death is walking”
beckoning from the other side
“Hard hearts foul in the making”
ice cold voices say
innocence is for the taking
while fiendish fingers play

Hunter Shea

Veins, veins. Ice in my veins.

Snowflakes flitting on my window, tapping, melting. So cold.

Ice in my veins.

My hands are numb. How fast will it travel, this ice flow, broken free from some frozen cellular hinterland?

Frozen fingers, numb nose, pressed against the glass. Waiting for my heart to glaciate. Warm heart, cold hands. Dead hands, deader heart.

“Stop looking out there. That is not you,” I mumble. The man next to me snorts, claws at his hair.

“That is outside. I am inside.”

Spider veins, glistening, luminescent. Blue veins, silver. Cadaverous flesh.

“Make me warm!”

Needle prick.

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

Beyond Trapped

Beyond Trapped

I blink my eyes, but nothing changes.

A complete, debilitating darkness veils my vision. For several moments, I wait, hoping that my eyes simply need to adjust, but no details emerge from the ink-black void.

I turn, looking for something, anything, and the hair on the back of my head crackles, like coarse sandpaper in motion. Then, my ear makes contact with a cold, hard surface and I realize I’m lying on my back.

Where am I? Is this a dream?

I experience nothing but total darkness in either direction.

Maybe I fell and cracked my skull. That might explain the memory loss and malfunctioning vision.

Though I can feel—feel my chest rise and fall, my eyelids moving, my tongue sticking to the roof of my pasty mouth—I sense no pain; in fact, my entire body tingles as if I’m floating atop ocean waves.

In the process of raising my arm to grope for head wounds, my hand smacks into resistance. I search that surface instead, finding it to be cold and smooth, just like the floor. The overhead barrier resides a mere four or five inches away. I can feel the faint rebound of my rapid breaths, tickling my pores and eyelashes—the exhalations smelling sweet, like fruit, but also a bit stale and skunked.

How long have I been here?

I slide my hands along the overhead plane and it doesn’t take long to reach corners—side walls. I’m enclosed. Trapped. Contained in a box.

Oh, fuck! Is it a coffin?

Maybe I’m dead and this is my purgatory—confined in a world of my own making, crafted by a life riddled with bad choices and ruled by lazy indecision.

I frantically feel for the game-over tattoo, the topographical Y carved into a cadaver’s chest during an autopsy. Yanking up my shirt, I pull through the levels of resistance as buttons pop off. The revealed skin is smooth, uncut.

I’m not dead, but the sigh of relief never comes as my thoughts quickly turn to the next possible explanation:

Oh God, I’m buried alive!

My lungs seize and I can’t breathe, the air suddenly locked away.

The momentary break in exhalation allows a different odor to permeate my senses. It overpowers my olfactory system with the rank properties of sour milk, raw hamburger, and fecal matter drizzled with corn syrup. It’s an unmistakable aroma; one that even an inexperienced person like me can instantly identify… death.

Hot bile surges up my throat and is only held at bay by my desperate need to breathe. In a convulsion, I cough out the old and choke down the new. Gasping, sweating, and on the verge of tears, my frantic hands stumble onto something other than the walls or myself.

The object isn’t exactly solid… or dry. My fingers explore the round surface sitting to my left: brittle fibers, sticky fluid, and a spongy covering that slid around under my inquiring touch.

This time the rising bile is unhindered and I vomit. The warm acidic chow flows over my shoulder—most likely splattering the rotting corpse next to me. The putrid odors swirling around my nose threaten to keep my stomach in a perpetual state of upheaval, a tailspin of sorts in which I’m the pilot watching helplessly as death grows nearer with every rotation. Thankfully, my stomach hits Empty after two retched sessions.

My thoughts begin to swirl again as I battle a few lingering dry heaves. Even the most moronic funeral homes in the country, the ones that mislabel mausoleums or bury coffins before their viewings, couldn’t mistakenly shove two bodies into one casket, especially when one has been dead for quite some time. No, someone put me here… intentional entombment, but, why?

Panic strikes. Casting aside all previous hindrances—the thick stench, a convulsing stomach, seized lungs in terror—my breaths pull hard and fast, surpassing the pace of my lurching heartbeat.

Why would someone do this to me?

“I’m a nobody,” I sob, moaning the words to myself in the dark. “I don’t know anything! Why am I here? WHY?!”

The plea echoed painfully around my head like a vehement swarm of wasps. When the ache subsided with the last reverberations, cold silence poured in, bringing attention to sounds I hadn’t noticed before. I held still, listening.

I could decipher a faint mechanical whirring, a droning that ebbed and flowed in quiet waves. And, there’s another sound, too. It’s intermittent… a faint, single bell like the victory chime of a distant carnival game.

If I can hear these things, whatever they are, then maybe I’m not buried deep.

A surge of confidence urges me to action. I feel the surfaces of my confines again, but this time searching with greater care and determination. If there’s a way in, there’ll be a way out.

Eventually, I have a discovery. The sensitive pads of my fingertips detect a line. Directly above my face, there’s a tight seam in the otherwise smooth metal. I don’t know what type of coffin would feature a center seam running the length of the vessel, but I can’t think of one that would have a flat metal lid, either, and there’s no time to contemplate the limits of my knowledge base.

I finger the center line, trying to find a grip on the edge, but it’s too fine, too smooth. Fumbling and growing frantic, I keep at it. Sweat beads on my face, I can feel the prickling heat tickling my pores. At last, I gain purchase; a sliver of fingernail jammed into the seam. Surprised at the sudden change, I pause, forcing my heavy breathing down to an inadequate hiss like that of an officer disarming a bomb. Slowly, I wedge more fingernails into the tiny crack—eight in all. Then I start to pull.

At first, there was mounting pressure, but that quickly escalated into sharp pain. The resistance is too much. I stop to think, to rest.

Could I do this? Could I pull it open enough to get fingertips in there before…

Something stirred in the darkness.

Ice crystals bloom inside my skull and my eyes bulge, still seeing nothing. My ears twitch and tingle in wait of a sound. Then a sound came.

A muffled string of words calling from the void, too distorted to comprehend despite their utterance so close to my ear. My entire body jerks. Startled and instantly terrified, I start screaming. My shrieks, too loud in the confined space, shoot spikes through my eardrums, but that pain is overshadowed by the agony coming from my fingers as I pull at the seam. I feel my nails tear free as a paper-thin beam of light slices into my eyes.

The gap widens, bathing me in blinding light.

I feel myself shaking.

Something has my shoulders, gripping me.

A sharp slap across my cheek.

My eyes adjust and two elderly faces gaze back at me.


“What the Hell’s a matter with you?” The gruff voice came from a burly old man.

“I, uh—”

“Yeah, look at his eyes,” the woman mumbled. “They’re dilated.”

“Hey,” the old man said, shaking me again. “You’ve been freaking out in the elevator. Poor Charlene, here, nearly had a heart attack when you started screaming in her face on the way up.”

I look around, blinking hard, and finally begin to comprehend the situation. Mr. Koplouski, my landlord, stood in the hall with 83 year-old Charlene Eldelman at his side. At the end of the hall, behind them, the Sunday morning sun blazed in through the window. Glancing down I see my favorite clubbing clothes, a blue patterned button-down shirt and black leather pants. I also see my undamaged hands, fingernails and all.

That’s the last time I partake in the free sugar-cube handouts.

“Sorry, Sir. It, uh, won’t happen again.”

“It better not, or I’ll rent your apartment to someone else! Now, go home and lay off the goddamn drugs, will ya.”

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Koplouski. Sorry.”

I shuffle past them and down the hall toward my apartment. The floor rippling beneath me with each step and every door started oozing blood from the blinking peep-holes.

Fuck, I gotta get to bed!

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2013 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

Snapping Point


Trent closed the door and set his brief case down on the console table. He tossed his keys at the wooden bowl like always, but this time they hit the rim and tumbled to the floor, taking the artisan bowl with them. The Aboriginal keepsake from his honeymoon in Australia cracked against the entryway’s stone flooring.

“God Damnit.” He said, cursing, fanning the fires of his already considerable frustration.

Poor Beth’ll be so disappointed! And, wait until she hears that I have to cancel our family backyard camp out. Worst week ever, he thought, grinding his teeth.

For the last five days, Trent’s boss had chastised him in front of his peers over the most menial issues. Issues that were recently considered required procedures. To make matters worse, deadlines were rapidly approaching and his clients weren’t cooperating—another working weekend away from his kids.

As he bent down to pick up the fallen items, his throbbing headache plumed into a full-blown migraine. With flashing light spotting his vision, he staggered and, losing balance, missed the key ring on his first attempt. He paused on one knee, the pain stabbing through his temples cutting deeper, burning hotter. Trent gritted his teeth and weathered the storm. After the intensity spiked, the pain dropped away just as fast.

He paused, processing a few deep breaths—one of them a big sigh of relief—before moving on. He picked up the bowl and keys and climbed to his feet.

A shriek shattered the air.

Arctic spiders of fear crawled up his spine and nested at the base of his skull. His body moved fluid and fast. He dropped the items onto the table as his legs propelled him down the hall.

Trent burst into the room. He found his wife, Beth, kneeling at the edge of the tub, tears rolling down her flushed cheeks, while their two-year-old daughter floated, pale and lifeless in the bath.

“Ahh—” Trent uttered and lunged forward to pull their girl from the water. He wrapped a hand around the toddler’s neck, checking for a pulse.


“Put her down,” his wife moaned, holding out a trembling hand. Crying had made her look like a tragic clown with smeared mascara lines. Her lips quivered. She opened her mouth to speak again, but the thick emotion bubbling in her throat cut it short, “I—”

Zack, their four-year-old, sat at the other end of the bathtub, wailing. His plump face turning more red with each outcry.

“What happened?” Trent asked. He stared at Beth through a haze of forming tears, his mouth hanging open.

She didn’t respond.

“Beth, what happened?!”

“I… I couldn’t stop myself,” she said, mumbling as if trying to explain it to herself.

“Wha— You did this?” Trent squinted at her. He couldn’t have heard her correctly! No, it had to be an accident.

He looked down at the little girl in his arms, cold, limp, peaceful. The sweet, clean smell of baby shampoo still strong on her wet hair. Anguish swelled in Trent’s sinuses, spreading—gaining ground with hot needled claws—and threatening to burst out of him. He bit hard on his trembling lower lip and managed to keep it all contained, for now.

Gently placing the little corpse on the floor, he swaddled the girl in a towel and kissed her forehead. Then in a green blur, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.

“I had to do it,” Beth said with a voice made eerie by its sudden serenity.

Trent, already providing details to the operator, turned to look at his wife.

His body went numb and the phone slid from his fingers, hitting the hard tile in a tiny explosion of plastic and glass. It was more the expression on her upturned face than her words that stalled his brain.

Beth was smiling at him. Smiling!

Through her lunatic grin, a litany of prayers spewed forth in an impossible array of voices. Their harsh consonants ricocheted off the walls, adding sharp edges to the bombardment on Trent’s sanity.

His legs buckled and he dropped to his knees.

Eye to eye with his troubled wife, he watched in disbelief as her grin contorted with the rest of her face into a mask of pure rage. Her skin seemed to prune and wither before him, and her eyes clouded over like a steamed mirror. She spat and cursed at him.

“Your blood is cursed,” she shouted. “Your spawn must die!”


“Die! Die! Die!”

“Beth.” Trent, gently holding her head, pleaded with her. “Honey, come back to me. You’re sick, having a…a spell or something. We’ll get you some help.”

The woman’s virulent expression fell away at once, leaving a pale, terrified shell in its place. “I don’t know what’s happening. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t in control.”

“We’ll find the problem and get it treated.”

“Oh, God!” she sobbed. “My little girl is dead. Our baby’s gone!”

“Let’s just take care of Zack, and wait for—”

Beth shrieked and bent over, clutching at her head as if something was gnawing on her brain. She shifted back to the venomous woman ruined by hate-etched lines and the milky eyes of morgue residents.

“Beth!” Trent shouted, shaking her by the shoulders.

She blinked and the demonic change left as quickly as it came.

“Trent, it’s going to happen again,” she said, her posture slumping between his grip. She sat for a moment, victimized and deflated before a realization took over. She jolted forward, clutched at his work shirt.

“You have to stop me!”

“What?” He said, startled. “Help is on the way.”

“No, stop me before I do it again. You’re not safe, Zack’s not safe.”

“The police will—”

Beth twitched, corroding again into an evil form. She jerked away from Trent, grabbed the boy, both of them screaming—one in terror, the other in hate—and forced the child under water.

“No!” Trent cried out. He clutched at her, but an unexpected strength pulsed through her sylphlike body as if she was cemented in place. He pulled and pleaded, but she continued to drown their son.

“Stop! Please!” he begged, tugging feebly at her arms as tears dripped from his stubbled chin.

She laughed—cackling like a fairytale witch.

Unable to pull his child to safety or break his wife’s hold, Trent did the only thing he could. He locked his arms around her neck and started to squeeze.

“Don’t make me do this!” he said, sobbing in her ear.

The monster controlling his true love, his soul mate, only laughed again.

“Beth. You have to stop. You’re killing him!” Trent shouted amid the frothy sounds of thrashing water.

Her expression changed enough for Trent to sense his wife in there. Despite the continued physical struggle, Beth’s voice rang out. “Do it. Stop me. Save our child.”

“I… I…”

“Do it!” she screamed in a banshee’s wail that echoed painfully in the small room.

With one quick jerk, he pivoted and snapped her neck. She collapsed to the cold tile floor. Trent moved fast, pulling the boy out of the tub and laying him out on the mat.

Sirens howled in the distance.

The boy wasn’t breathing. There was no heartbeat.

Trent began CPR.

A moment later the Police rushed in the front door and down the hall toward them, guns drawn.

“Back away from the child, now!” The lead officer yelled.

Without stopping, Trent responded. “He’s dying, I’m trying to—”

The gunshot was deafening.

Trent was thrown backward, his head slamming against the hard porcelain tub as he fell. The hole in his shoulder burned with an intense fire that sent rivulets of electric pain throughout his chest.

The cops rushed in and forced his wrists into handcuffs. Trent lifted his head to plead for help in resuscitating his son but paused, noticing Zack was conscious, coughing and crying as an EMT tended to him.

His boy was going to be okay.

A sigh of relief filled his lungs but died there—it clung, burning, unreleased, as the sights Trent now witnessed struck a chord of confusion and utter disruption within.

His son was clothed and dry. How could that be? Was this an illusion? Were his eyes betraying him?

It all seeming like a bad dream, but the pain was real. The cold steel of the handcuffs was real. The carpet, not title, beneath him felt real. Things were suddenly different from what he previously knew. His reality had shifted. Maybe the pain had cleared his head, sharpening his attention like a splash of ice water to the face.

His son was not a child pulled from bath water, dripping and cold. The boy looked flushed in the face and was still wearing his school clothes. And yet, Trent could distinctly remember the feel of his child’s clammy skin when he began CPR.

What’s going on? Trent wondered amid the torrent of confusion. His mind whirled and he struggled against the urge to vomit. Two conflicting streams of memories battled for dominance. As each quivering breath cycled through him, his mind stabilized with one set of memories taking hold as the vivid truth. Trent relived the moments, seeing them for the first time, as they cycled past his mind’s eye.

He hadn’t been working at chest compressions to save Zack’s life a moment ago. He’d worked to take the boy’s life—squeezing it out of him with an unforgiving grip around his little neck. But, why? He couldn’t believe it, but he saw that it happened. He could recall the way his son’s little hands feebly gripped at his as he clenched harder and harder. And the haunting sight of Zack’s bulging eyes looking back at him in terror and confusion and pain. How are these memories possible?

Why would he try to kill his only remaining son after his wife had… Beth! Her body lay on the floor at a distinctly different angle than her head—the bulging skin of her neck already blooming with blotches of purple.

Trent searched for the memory of breaking her neck to save one child after she’d already drowned the other, but the vision that surfaced told a different tale. There was no splashing of bath water. No smells of baby soap and laundered towels. He watched as his wife pleaded with him, begging for him to stop, that they’ll get help, and to please put their daughter down. Trent searched the room with wide, frantic eyes until he found the little bundle on the floor.

The toddler was not swaddled in a towel as he expected. She was fully dressed and completely dry like her brother. Her face flushed in a familiar shade of purple. She lay motionless on the sky blue carpet of the nursery, not the white shag rug of their bathroom.

Realization ripped through him without mercy.

“Oh, God.” Trent mumbled and turned his head. The room spun beneath him. The heavy oak crib loomed over him and his dead family like a massive tombstone. The pain of Trent’s injuries were made imperceptible by his emotional agony.

“Beth wasn’t… it was me. I killed—” Trent’s lamentation was cut off by a violent stomach upheaval as nausea overwhelmed him.

An officer bent down next to Trent and picked up an object encased in pink plastic. He held the undamaged cell phone to his ear. His voice was flat and somber when he spoke. “This is Officer James. The situation is now under control.”

He paused, listening to a voice on the other end. Then, “No, Ma’am. We were too late for the others.”

The policeman looked down at Trent. The cuffed man was now slamming his head on the floor and chanting, “Sick in the head. Sick in the head. Sick in the head.”

Frowning, the officer added, “Looks like he snapped.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2013 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.