Am I mad? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. I should write that down. In crayon? Felt tip marker? A quill pen? No, not a quill pen. I’ll use the pen in my hand. There’s a clean spot on the wall over there.
I scribble my thoughts on the white painted wall, next to yesterday’s thoughts. I step back and smile. I like the pretty squiggles, all blue and curly. I wonder what they mean? I think what I write is language. I know it comes from inside my head. From the voices. It pours out, sometimes English, sometimes other languages, sometimes a strange script I’ve never seen before. No one has seen that writing in a long, long time. I’m not sure how I know that, but I do. My scribbles are all over the house now. On the walls, the floor, the furniture. I even managed to get some on the ceiling in the upstairs bathroom. I don’t remember that, but it is there. Everything has been redecorated in ink: black, blue, green… red.
No, don’t think about the red. Don’t ever think about the red. You might go mad if you think about the red. Must remember. Keep the door closed. Always keep the door closed.
I shut my eyes. When I open them I’m in the hall outside the door. The smell is worse today, but I’m getting used to it. It doesn’t make me gag anymore. My hand trembles. I know what’s going to happen. I start writing on the door. Again.
But it’s not red. The red is on the inside. Always on the inside. I scribble, though, in blue. Blue, blue. Blue like the sky. I haven’t seen the sky in a long time. Is it still blue? Or did it die, like… No, stay away from bad thoughts. Scribble, must scribble. What is it today? Runes I think. Warnings. That’s good. Must never open the door.
I lower the pen. I can hear the scraping now. And the angry whispers. The voices want out. I don’t think they like what I wrote. Too bad. They’re grounded. Locked in the room. While I write. Write everywhere. Wards. Runes. Spells. To keep them here. To keep them with me. Forever. They tried to get in my head. But it didn’t work. I got into theirs instead. I saw. Yes, I did. Now they’re mine.
To replace the red. Or make them pay. I don’t know. Maybe both. I want them back… No, don’t go there. Don’t go into the red. Shells, they’re just shells of what they were. The voices are inside them now.
I stare at the door. At the tattered teddy bear decal on the wood. I remember who used to live there, for a moment. Their little faces, their smiles, their laughs. Before the voices… before the red.
No, no, don’t go into the red. The voices will get out. Mustn’t let them out. Can’t give in. Always keep the door closed. Keep writing, keep warding. Remember, the voices want out. They must, never, ever get out.
~ A. F. Stewart
© Copyright 2018 A. F. Stewart. 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
Joseph A. Pinto
Yes, your prize, your trophy, your prop for the world to behold. Framed by unflinching eyes, supported by hands unshaken. So vivid, your portrayal. Like the seasons, your dichotomy appreciated only by a clear lens and a distorted view. Yet the approaching tempest goes unnoticed; still the limbs go ravaged. Revel in the fall, revel in the winds that blow. Landscapes resculpted, reimagined by the inevitable. Yes, revel in the lie, for beneath the illusion, the splendor, remains a truth you cannot speak: you have broken the chlorophyll down. Life you present, while around you death rejoices all the while.
The Autumn Quietus
Lee A. Forman
The fresh, healthy colors turned, became the tones of decay. Dillon breathed deep the scent of rot with a complacent grin. He looked up at the trees, watched quietus sway in the cool breeze. He reveled in his hedonistic ritual; a yearly affair passed down through generations. Nothing gave him more pleasure. Harvesting the heads was a task he relished, but watching the skin turn from its once healthy pigment to greenish-blue—that gave him true joy. He sat and watched as leaves fell, waiting for the heads to follow. Human hair only held for so long after death’s claim.
I stand in place riddled with unbridled terror; it quakes my bones as I gaze out upon this gentle glade. Think me a fool for my fear? I imagine you do. Through my shutter you are gifted a calm that races my blood, hear the soothing lap at water’s edge that I am deaf to, see beauty trapped in hues I cannot allow to blind these eyes. The serenity of yawning fall holds no sway over me, for though we view the same painted landscape, you see only what is captured, whereas I hear what rustles the brush behind me.
It’s been so long since the rains poured down. My memory struggles to recall images from the past that are long gone from reality. The vivid bursts of color that once covered the landscape have become nothing more than bland blacks and grays. The lakes are now dried and shriveled like an old man’s face. We did this to ourselves but were too fucking stupid to do anything about it. Politicians gave us only twisted lies and half-truths and before we knew it, it was too late. May God help us all, at least the few of us that remain.
Veronica Magenta Nero
Many have given their lives to cleanse the lake. Our children, our elderly mothers and fathers, their faces frozen with fear and sorrow, never looking back as they walk into the oil slick swamp. They waddled in knee deep, then waist deep, then they were whisked away underneath, the foul water bubbling over them. We had stripped all life from the earth and now we pay with our blood and bone. The lake turns golden, an expanse of light, the water fresh and clean, sustaining us for a while until it begins to darken and fester once more, demanding another.
Don’t You See?
You must be out of your minds! We left our home because of drought. This place is no different! How do you expect us to survive? Farm it? The ground lacks nutrients, nothing grows. Eat from the trees? They are bare. Fish from the lake? It’s lifeless. Yet you want to settle here? Trying to make this work is a death sentence. No, I have not lost my senses. It’s you who are crazy for believing him! We must keep moving on… then follow him, you blind fools, follow him to your death. Don’t you see? We won’t survive here.
Biting wind stirred the sweet scent of autumn’s decay and ruffled its time-worn cloak. The old post creaked with his surprising heft as his black eyes, hidden underneath the straw-like hair, watched the approaching couple.
He dropped from his perch and knocked them both to the ground. The ancient being grabbed each by an ankle and started towards the hills. Their shrill cries were musical; a symphony of dread that pleased him. He would eat them both, every bit, and sleep until next autumn’s equinox brought the sound of falling leaves and bid his eternal hunger be sated yet again.
This is his country: acres of primordial forest spanning the hilltops. Time has no meaning here, marked by nothing except the changing seasons and, sometimes, the intruders who cross his invisible border. It is autumn now. He smells it in the air: rich, rank. Feels it under the pads of his feet: slippery, cold. Deadwood cracks. The camp is up ahead. Mud finds the underside of his fingernails, mixes with the blood that sometimes matts his fur and clots between his teeth. He moves heavily, hunts quickly, leaves no survivors. This is his country and here his appetite is law.
Christopher A. Liccardi
They saw the golds and reds and smelled the season in all its glory. I saw crimson and grey matter and smelled the gore; a photo negative of what everyone else witnessed.
Paint in blood; that is what I do. I painted the scene in the blood of those who came to ask me about my work. It wasn’t a needless act, no. Never think it. It was one of serenity. I took the canvas around me and colored it with the life’s blood of those who came to meet me. My next victim approached with a smile, unknowing, unsuspecting.
Each piece of fiction is the copyright of its respective author
and may not be reproduced without prior consent. © Copyright 2016
Image © Copyright Dark Angel Photography. All Rights Reserved.
Brutality is the form of nature, raw and unrefined, terrible in its awesome power—and these creatures full of it, pecked at her face with ferocious vigor. Alvin watched from behind a tree as splashes of red covered their bony heads. The human bodies that carried them, dressed in black suits and ties, added a surreal quality to the gruesome scene he could scarcely believe.
The five creatures kept at it until the screaming turned to muffled gurgles belching from the twitching body of Alvin’s wife.
Tears streamed from his eyes. Elaine…
A crow squawked atop the limb above, the sound deafening in the quiet woods. He looked up, tried to wish it away, but it screeched again and again as if calling to its brethren, alerting them to his presence.
His lungs halted and he held them as long as possible. He strained against their natural urge to suck air, pursed his lips, and pinned his nose shut with two fingers. For the inevitable, he waited. The group of strange beings would surely converge on him and rip him to shreds as they had poor Ellie.
In a way, he hoped they would. If Heaven existed he’d see her there and they would be together again.
Curiosity forced him to peek around the trunk. They continued to stab her body with knife-like beaks. The whole of their skulls had reddened and dripped with fresh blood. He glimpsed the dark annular sockets where eyes should have been, but no organic matter existed within, only voids which could be seen—but not see.
The crow took flight and passed over the five beasts finishing their meal. It cawed once as it went by.
They all stood at once, rigid and perfectly upright. Rivulets of red ran down their beaks and steadily dripped to the earth at their feet. They raised their arms as if to fly but only stood still. Their beaks opened to expose pointed teeth, and together they lunged downward and finished their feast. A crimson geyser rained down and soaked their pristine suits.
Alvin’s jaw tightened as he stifled cries of guilt. I should have helped her. I should have at least tried.
The orchestra of gorging flesh stopped. The forest went silent, not even nocturnal insects sang. Alvin heard terror pumping though every vein. It pressed at his temples, the pressure building like a vice about to crush his skull.
The pain of brutal death instilled deep terror, willed his survival instinct to preserve his life. If not for that most primal part of mind, he would have walked out from his place of hiding and went willingly into the circle of chimeric beings.
Instead he turned and ran through the brush, forcing his way through bushes of thorns, jumping over fallen branches, dodging trees left and right. He carried himself as he never had before. His shoes grew feathers and the wind whisked his feet forward with every desperate step. Hope rose inside. Hope that he might get away, that the death behind would not catch up, and he’d see the sun again.
A blinding, amber light burst into the sky ahead, but not the sun he’d hoped for. It rained like fire on the forest floor as he covered his eyes against the pain. With it came a terrible heat that threatened to singe the hair from his forearms. He crouched and tried to shield himself.
Footsteps halted inches away from his fetal position. Death had arrived. He looked up to see the uncanny bird-men ablaze in the torrid light. The blood that covered them burned like fire. They’d become as the phoenix, all fury and power.
The brightness blinked out, casting the forest back into the shadow empty space brings to the night. All went quiet except for the breath of the creatures standing over him.
They stabbed repeatedly as he writhed on the ground. His view of the white moon turned to blood and the night darkened. Time slowed, and as his consciousness faded, he saw inside the empty, non-existent eyes of his tormentors. Inside he saw her, curled into a mangled ball that was once her beautiful form. All around her were strangers in similar position.
Elaine… Forgive me. I’ll see you soon.
∼Lee A. Forman
© Copyright 2016 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.
The sound of the tape slides soothingly into Nicholas’ ears. Not the music itself, although that is certainly pleasant, but the mechanical whir of the reels as the tape’s innards wind through the machine. He doubts if he could write so well without the quiet whirring. He doubts if he could write at all with the noise of the world at his window and under the soles of his feet.
The pub beneath his bedsit is busy tonight. Voices slice through the floorboards as though the wooden planks do not exist. He might be sitting at the bar himself, submerged in the chorus of cries and thoughtless laughter: the White Ship on stormy, booze-wracked seas. Pouring a glass of wine he sits back in his chair and drinks.
Sometimes he can make out word-for-word the different conversations at the bar. Drunkenness seems only to increase people’s volume, as though for a few hours the fugue imparts a sixth-sense: a glimpse of more than just the pub, the street, the city, the entire world as it really is. So the patrons below shout and scream, laughing madly into their drinks, looking anywhere but the frightened whites of their friends’ eyes, the hollow blackness of their mouths; the window panes, dewy with the cold empty night.
The unmistakable pop of breaking glass shatters his reverie, followed by a collective cheer. A bottle or a pint glass, perhaps, caught by an elbow or dropped from careless fingers. Putting his feet up on the desk, he breathes in deeply through his nose. Air inflates his lungs, his chest, the narrow curves of his ribs, forcing everything else out of him and away, except for the pinkish blur behind his lowered eyelids and the gentle flutter of the cassette in the player. Exhaling, he concentrates on the sound.
It was a week after he’d moved in before he discovered the tapes, in a locked drawer under the desk. There was no key that he could find but the wood gave easily enough when forced. The drawer has not been the same since.
He found other things in the drawer, besides the tapes: yellowing sheet music scratched with skeletal notes, a ragged doll with faded red hair, a desert of seashells still coated with grit. When he had finished inspecting these things, he let the drawer keep them. As much as he loves music, he cannot read it. If he was in the doll’s place, he would not like to be brought from out of the shadows looking so sad. The shells are sharp, and he finds them repellent in the way all things decayed seem to repulse. Mostly, the drawer tells a story, and he respects that. A hundred possibilities might have led to these cast-offs finding their way into the locked confines of the desk. Who is he to disturb their tale, their private narrative?
Finishing his glass, he pours a second. The wine is cheap but not altogether unpleasant. Downstairs, the party continues to bloom.
When the noise reached new heights one evening last year, he left his room to complain to the owner. Screams echoed up the stairs and down the hallway. Shrieks ricocheted from the walls, laughter bouncing into his ears, over and over. As he moved down the corridor, he heard chanting and a count-down; a human rite reaching completion, a spell to keep another day at bay, or to guide it in, like a pale boat coming to moor. The owner – his landlord – had laughed in his face. He can still remember the bite of the sound in his chest, the cold spittle as it sprayed his cheeks. The argument had been short and one-sided. As ever, Nicholas had not won.
“Why take a room above a pub if you don’t like noise, or a drink now and then?”
“I like a drink,” he had replied. “I drink often. But there’s no excusing the disturbance tonight.”
“It’s a pub,” repeated the landlord, “and it’s New Year’s Eve, for Christ’s sake. This is where people come to make noise. If you don’t like it, you can bloody well leave.”
It is true that he likes a drink while he writes. Sometimes he celebrates a moment’s peace with a finger or two of single malt. On the nights when he cannot hope to hear himself think, let alone lift pen to paper, he knocks back whole bottles of wine; crisp, heady reds that stain his lips and dazzle his tongue before soaring to his stomach and his head. Sometimes, when he is two bottles down, he returns to the broken drawer. He imagines that he can read the music sheets, and that they are the same dulcet sounds drifting from the cassette player. If he is especially drunk, he imagines their script tells of a different sound; the last, sonorous cry of a world beset, heard by some lonely composer, a man not unlike himself, and recorded here in ink where those who chance across it might read of its agony; its submarine moans.
He did not leave, that night on New Year’s Eve, because there was nowhere else for him to go. There is nowhere else when he hears every ragged wheeze, wherever he is; the shuddering breaths of a world on the brink of expiration. As best he can remember he has always heard these sounds. He did not always know what they were, or what it meant to hear the death-rattle of the stones and the trees and the earth, but he felt them all the same, and stood slightly apart from everyone else because of this, while the others ran laughing after one another, or played hopscotch, or made daisy-chains in the grass, oblivious.
A rare few people are not quite so blind. He read about them in newspapers and on the internet, when he still wasted his time with such trivial things. These men and women scrabble through the soil, digging the earth, scattering seeds, which they hope might germinate, take root, become trees and so heal the world that other men and women have made sick. Give a dying man a cushion, feed him painkillers, sit at his bedside and pray for his soul – he will die all the same, trembling alone as the last of his sorry life departs from his veins.
Sometime after midnight the pub falls quiet enough that he can hear his tapes and write. There will always be noise, but at times like this he is not really aware of it; lost in the depths of his literature. Some men and women write to create. Others write from personal angst, or to entertain a crowd, or perhaps to remember who they are, or were at another time. Nicholas does not know much about these things except that he writes to feel.
On paper, darkness shines. Words convey savagery with the finesse of bright bouquets. Language illuminates the broken back of the world, its atrophied limbs, its eyeless face: a rotten leviathan floating in space, quivering with parasites while it sings its last whale-song through an ocean of distant stars, almost inscrutable except by those who dare to pause in their furious lives and, for a moment, listen.
The tapes whir, his pencil scratches, and something not quite happiness but more like contentment simmers in his chest, until he can write no more and, with a slight smile on his wine-stained lips, he climbs into bed, and dreams of sweet oblivion.
~ Thomas Brown
© Copyright 2014 Thomas Brown. 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.
Sit before the Tale Weaver.
You are now in the presence of the Damned. Within these pages, an eclectic gathering of dark writers and poets. Each a distinct voice. Each a bent mind. Each a tortured soul. Here, the fabric of reality twirls round our malevolent fingers. Here, light comes to die.
Our world is beautifully charred compared to your own. Beneath your polish lies our rust. Beneath your glory exists our taint.
We hide not behind masks. We cringe not from the raw. The Damned speak truths you dare not utter. The Damned expose all you shamefully hide.
Indulge upon our sanguine prose. Bloat with our anguished muse. Exalt in our blatant gluttony. You deserve it all. For the Damned are merely reflections of yourself, and portraits do not lie.
No longer are these your safe surroundings. Eternally damned you shall now be.
Until we choose to summon you again…be gone.
So the Tale Weaver speaks.
~ Joseph A. Pinto as the Tale Weaver
© Copyright 2012 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
Sit before the Tale Weaver.
Heed me now. ‘Tis not a chronicle I do recount, nor a fable spun beyond your wildest imagination. Aye, I impart onto you a warning, and if wise, measure my every word you will. Beware the beast that drinks not of blood but feasts upon the essence of your very being.
‘Tis the psychic vampire I speak.
Once entry is gained into your mind, there is no stopping these fiends. For that is where they dwell…and breed. Spawning their miasmal infection deep, deep into the root of your brain. Imbedded, only the hourglass marks the moment your soul succumbs to their detestable will.
Scoff you do? Hold your tongue, lest I cast you from this blog and into the feculent depths from which these creatures emanate. More powerful than their undead brethren, they stride unhindered beneath sun and moon. Obscurity they prefer; yet unabashed they roam. Aberrations of ourselves, yet so closely tethered by common threads. You know who they are, yet their guise renders them unknown.
You fidget within your chair. Look not queerly upon me then, for the chill snaking along your spine betrays you. It is them. Even now, they reach with inconspicuous, needy fingers. Groping for you. How the virulent taunt.
Appetites unsatiated, they hunger your vibrance. Listen now and understand their ploy…they wish you not dead, but rather live not alive.
Do you not recognize the abhorrent ghouls now? Then introduce you I shall to these miscreations! Look and forever shall you know – friends and family and strangers their masquerade! And the cruelest of truths have I saved for last. There. There. Your eyes do not deceive you. My mirror doth not lie. Aye, the most wicked of abominations stares you back.
The torturer within.
Until next I summon you, be gone.
So the Tale Weaver speaks.
~ Joseph A. Pinto as the Tale Weaver
© Copyright 2012 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
Steady hand. Fluid wrist.
He commences, conducting an orchestra of pain across flesh. Razor twinkles. Nary a wince.
Slash Slash Slash
Torrid water singes skin. Crimson rivulets streak throat. Razor kisses flesh again; long unhurried strokes abuse corporeal canvas. Pauses. Countenance he measures within warped polished metal anchored into wall. Glimpses little. Save distorted haze of ruined reflection. He smiles.
Slash Slash Slash
Water murky within stainless steel sink. Chunky with gore. He has no business dipping fingers into scorching bath. No business doing anything at all. Beyond unforgiving bars of his cell swells heinous cacophony. Thunder low and throaty upon hollows of the valley. But this is not thunder. This is anguish. This is hopelessness. So delectable.
This is hell.
Swirls razor into steaming mess. Watches idly frothy, bloody rings cling to sides. Ruined tissue. Barely audible, a squeak from behind. “Are you afraid?” he deadpans. Interest seized by serumy whirlpool churning within sink’s bowel.
Scampering. Feet seeking purchase. Harried breaths.
“You shouldn’t be afraid.” Razor to flesh. Skin yields in neat flaps. Fine meat under honed slicing blade. “Not yet, anyway. Didn’t I tell you this would happen? I did tell you, didn’t I?”
Outside the bars, wails. Chaos. Lunacy. Choked voices plead mercy. Invoke God.
“Yes, I’m pretty sure I told you.” Air trembles. Ripples with disorder. Sniffs air, he does. As canine, no. No. Inhales as predator. Bite of sulfur. Copper. Sickly sweet in throat. Delicious these nuances of suffering. “Yes, thinking about it now, I’m absolutely positive that I told you.”
Pops from beyond. Another, deafening, just down the hall. Again, a whimper from behind. “It’s rare when one holds steadfast about something. Very rare. Take personal belief, for example.” Razor to jaw. So steady, hand. So fluid, wrist.
Plop. Plop. Plop. Chunks plummet to sink.
Slash Slash Slash
“I believed this day would come for a long, long time. I’d have bet my life on it.” Long strokes. Graceful. Measured mutilation. Rinse goes the razor. Plunk goes the flesh. “No, no. I stand corrected. Can I do that? Can I correct something already said? Why, I suppose so, if I’m the one doing the saying. So no, I would not have bet my life on it. But I would have bet my soul.” Chuckles. “Can I share something with you? You won’t judge me, will you?”
Gunshots once more. Outside bars. Just down the hall. From here. From there. From here and there. Each extracts a strangled sob. Behind him. Closer to the floor. “I don’t like to be judged. Really, who does? Did you enjoy it when you were? In the literal sense of the word, you were judged. You received, what, nine years? Already had a few strikes against you, a few prior convictions. What did you expect? I’ll tell you what you expected—you expected not to be judged. Your life was hard. No proper upbringing. You expected them to understand. You expected someone to give a damn. But instead, you were damned.”
Outside bars, screams for a child. A boy. His name rips from father’s mouth. Wishes to hear it, perhaps, before he dies.
“Yes, I’ve been judged as well. A long, long time ago.” Blade to forehead, above brow. Steady hand. Fluid wrist. Left to right. Left to right.
Slash Slash Slash
Splashes scalding water into eyes. Rinses free the gore.
“I didn’t like being judged then. All because I simply saw things…differently. All because I held firm, positive in my sentiment.” Teeth clinch. Snare vicious drawl. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Outside bars, prayer in wild howls. Fades. Cloth tears. Rending fills the void. Then an awful sound. Pigs to trough. Jackal to meat. Wet. Slobbery.
“So, yes, I did tell you this day would come. Yes. I’m positive now.” Din deafens. Maelstrom of degeneration. Yet one voice heard above all. “I’ve enjoyed talking to you, by the way. Enjoyed your company these past few years. You’ve been a good egg.”
Body slams into bars. Mangled. Glistening. Chewed.
He stares into distorted mirror. Hand hovers inches from face. An artist, he applies the finishing touches. Long, fluid strokes. Graceful, sweeping curves. Not much longer. Not much longer at all.
“Listen, you’ve got nothing to worry from me. Not a thing. I will not hurt you. It’s those animals. Out there.” Jerks head in direction of bars. Ploop ploop ploop the crimson splatters shoulder. Prison garment soaks. “Those things, they’re you. What you see is only yourself. So look, this will go in one of two ways. Release your inner self, become them and serve. Or simply become part of them. I’ll give you a minute to decide.”
Putrid decay seeps into cowering shadows. Madness reverberates against walls. Tang of suffering clots the air.
“Time is up. Sorry, but I haven’t all day. Places to go, people to see. Lots planned. Bet no one thought the end would ever start here. I mean, it is a penitentiary, after all. The monsters are supposed to be on the inside. But not anymore.”
Razor drops into sink. “I blame all this on your judge. He thought he had all the answers. Problem was that he never asked the questions. Now it’s too late for that.”
He pirouettes. “He tried to make you into his image. Aren’t you tired of wearing his mask? I certainly am.”
And last of face oozes down chest.
“So what’s it going to be, hmm? A brand new world awaits.”
~ Joseph A. Pinto
© Copyright 2011 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.
especially : to condemn to hell
fancied fault or defect
<I’ll be damned>
© Copyright 2012 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.