Shadow’s Love Chapter 6 : Torment 2

She winked at him and kissed him on the cheek, swinging her leg across to straddle him, tightening her legs against his body. She rubbed her cheek against his, whispering in his ear, “Did you miss me, honey? Did you think about me often?”

Aaron swallowed, aroused in spite of himself. “Y-yes, of course…”

She straightened up. “Liar!” She slapped him across the face again, her nails leaving welts on his cheek. Immediately she looked abashed. “Now see what you made me do…” she purred, kissing each of the welts separately, pressing her body back against his. “I’m not mad,” she whispered, chewing on his earlobe. “But I was curious…who was the girl I saw you with the day before you dumped me?”

His mind raced through story after story. “Audrey, please, let me go, I’m not worth this.” he whimpered. “She started it.”

The vampire snorted. “Such chivalry.”

Audrey giggled girlishly. “You’re ly-ing,” she sang and sank a fang into his earlobe. He squealed and jerked his head away from her, tearing the flesh around his ear, tears springing to his eyes.

“Her name is Katherine…” he whimpered. “I didn’t have the heart to break up with you until recently. It was a stupid decision, I’m so sorry.”

“Aww, how sweet. You were trying to protect me?” She caressed his face lovingly, rubbing her body against him. “But you see, I don’t need protection, Aaron…” She could feel him rising and giggled again, grinding herself on him heartlessly. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” she whispered in his ear and kissed him deeply, passionately, rubbing herself harder against him. His breathing quickened and he raised his head to hers, trying to kiss her harder. She could feel his tongue ring and began toying with it, nipping his tongue with her fangs as she felt it slide deeper into her mouth. She latched onto the tongue ring and jerked her head sideways, ripping it out of his mouth. Blood streamed down his face as he screamed and thrashed about, frantically trying to raise his hands to his mouth. 

She leaned over and whispered in his ear, “If you don’t stop screaming, I’m going to bite your tongue out of your mouth, and I’m going to make you eat it.” Instantly his mouth snapped closed. She could feel his whole body shaking beneath her as he fought to keep from screaming, his eyes leaking silent tears. Audrey sat up with a satisfied look on her face, and laughed. 

“I bet you wish you hadn’t left me now,” she cooed and spat his tongue ring back in his face, “but I’m glad.”

She rose from the bed and ran her hand across Aaron’s bloody face, bringing it to the vampire’s mouth. “How does he taste, lover?” she asked. 

The vampire caressed her fingers with his tongue and smiled.

“Weak.”

With a wicked look in her crimson eyes, Audrey pulled the neck of her robe apart further and using her elongated nails, cut a cross in the skin over her heart. She took his hand and brought it to the blood dripping down her porcelain skin and asked, looking into his eyes, “How do I taste?”

The vampire licked his own fingers, savoring the taste of her blood. “Vibrant.” He bent his head and ran his tongue up the blood trickling dripping from the wound, drawing the blood directly from her. Audrey purred and buried her fingers in his long dark hair, pulling his head closer. 

Afterward, as the tide ebbed and reality returned, they were reminded there was another person on the bed. Audrey noted, without needing to probe Aaron’s psyche, that their display of passionate eroticism would require a lifetime and a fortune in therapy bills to deal with. It would be far more merciful to kill him. Upon probing deeper, she found jealousy, regret, helpless rage and buried deep beneath all of them…pure terror. Fear of what these sadistic creatures were going to do to him. This pleased her as much as the sex and she rose from the bed, re-wrapping the robe about herself. Lastor remained lazily reclined on the bed, watching as she went to Aaron’s side. 

“I bet you really wish you hadn’t left me now,” she said teasingly and kissed him on the cheek. “Your tongue, or what’s left, really hurts doesn’t it?”

Aaron made a muffled noise and nodded, his eyes still leaking bitter tears. Audrey nodded understandingly. “Of course it does.” She brought her mouth close to his ear and whispered, “But I am not sorry. No, I am not sorry. This is what you deserve.” Without saying anything more and without warning, she plunged her fangs into his neck, turning a deaf ear on his inarticulate cries of pain and drained his veins until there was nothing left. Once she could get no more out of him and he had stopped jerking and crying, she withdrew from him and went to the bathroom to freshen herself up a bit. She felt liberated and cheerful, and hummed a little to herself as she splashed water on the bloodstains covering her and combed her hair.

Upon returning to the bedroom, she found Lastor dressed and untying Aaron’s corpse from the bed. She blew him a kiss which he returned and went the wardrobe, dressing herself in the clothes she had picked out what seemed like hours ago. After admiring her reflection in the handsome mirror set on the inside of the wardrobe door, she went to help Lastor dispose of Aaron’s corpse. 

They dragged the body to the backyard of the mansion and built a roaring fire from the large stack of firewood outside. As the flames reached ten feet tall, Audrey, only a little surprised at her sudden strength, picked up what remained of Aaron and bodily heaved it into the fire. As she watched it burn, she felt happier now than she ever had in her entire life. 

 

Book Review: Happiness and Other Diseases by Sumiko Saulson

Content Warnings: Explicit sexual content, dubious consent, gore, death, suicidal ideation, self-harm, torture, mental illness

Come fall into this twisted romantic tragedy’s world of dreams and nightmares. Happiness and Other Diseases is a novel by Sumiko Saulson, published by Mocha Memoirs Press.

Flynn has had a rough run of it. His life was never great, but lately, his nightmares have been so bad that he’s on the brink of collapse. With few options, he checks into a psychiatric hospital. There he meets Charlotte who tells him that his dreams are oh so very real… and she wants to be a part of them.

Charlotte is a somnali… well, technically, a demi-somnali. She can traverse the dreamworld and mold the dreams of mortals. Her father—a godlike being named Brash—wants her to give him a grandchild, which would allow him and the other somnali to cross into the world of the living. To do that, she needs Flynn.

Together they explore their fantasies, cope with reality, juggle friends and otherworldly relatives, and find what it means to be happy—even if it’s not what people consider “normal”.

Saulson weaves a deep and fascinating world, blending Greek mythology into the modern Bay area. The complicated history of the somnali is made accessible to the average reader. Her characters are multifaceted. No one is entirely good or evil, or even stable. This realism in Saulson’s writing was appreciated, especially with regard to her treatment of mental health.

While the story showcases healthy communication—both in relationships and in BDSM—sometimes these interactions seem stilted. The story features some seriously disturbing scenes (things I’m not even sure how to tag), but if you go in with an open mind, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how touching this tale of doomed love really is.

If you’re interested in Greek mythology, dreams, BDSM, or just the crazy ups and downs of new love, Happiness, and Other Diseases is a good pick for you.

Shadow’s Love : Chapter 5 – Torment

Waking the next night, Audrey’s eyes opened slowly, adjusting to the gloom much more than usual. As she took in the satin sheets and the dried blood caked on her body, her mind flashed back to memories of the night before. Memories of Joe, tearing her classmate’s throat out, and her first taste of blood. She sat up, running her tongue over her teeth to reaffirm the veracity of present circumstances. The sharp sting as her tongue found her fangs told her that she was wide awake. This had really happened. She smiled a demon’s smile.

The vampire [Audrey marveled that she still did not know his name] was no longer lying beside her. She sent her mind out, searching for him, focusing on his dark red glow almost instantly. Reassured that she had not been abandoned, she turned her attentions to an ornate wardrobe in the corner. Her clothes from the night no longer suited her.

Upon opening it, she received a shock. It was filled with gorgeous clothing forgotten by modern fashion from some lost era. There were corsets, dresses, skirts, gowns, gauntlets, assorted jewelry, and accessories. After an agony of choice, she settled on a leather corset, a mid-length skirt with artful tears up and down it, skin-tight black gauntlets, fishnet stockings, and tall black leather boots. She spent a while admiring the collection of jewelry before picking out a silver ring with a modest bloodred stone set into it that reminded her of the vampire’s aura. She selected a plain leather choker, and set it out along with her other clothes on the hangers set into the doors of the wardrobe, grabbing a black silk robe for modesty’s sake in her quest for the bathroom and closed the wardrobe door. 

Finding an amazing black marble bathroom just down the hall from the master bedroom, she slipped off her robe and climbed into the cavernous bathtub, turning the chrome fists to make hot and cold water pour from a demon’s mouth. As the tub filled, she lay back against a black pillow opposite the faucet, closing her eyes and breathing deeply as the warm water climbed up her body, submerging her slowly. As it neared the top of the tub, she raised a foot and curled it around each fist in turn, shutting the water off. Silence filled the marble bathroom, broken only by the sound of water lapping against the sides of the tub and sporadic dripping, echoing off the smooth marble and lulling her into a dreamlike state. 

She lay there, floating between awake and asleep for a while, before rousing from her stupor and pushing herself from the tub, the water running down her body. Watching the water drain, she saw it was tinged red from the blood on her body. Smiling a little to herself, she searched for a towel, finding a stack of thick black linens in a cupboard. Selecting one, she toweled herself dry and wrapped the robe about herself again, loosely knotting the cord before padding down the hallway and returning to the master bedroom. When she opened the door, she received a shock.

Tied to the bed wearing nothing but his boxers was her ex-boyfriend Aaron, gagged and blindfolded, his shaking visible from the doorway. The vampire was leaning over the binding holding Aaron’s left foot, securing him solidly to the bed frame. At the sound of her opening the door, he turned, a devilish look on his face. “Surprise, darling,” he said, gesturing dramatically towards her prostrate ex.

Audrey feigned a look of girlish excitement. “My slimy worthless two-faced ex-boyfriend? You shouldn’t have!” She skipped across and kissed him hard on the mouth. 

At the sound of Audrey’s voice, Aaron started, jerking against his bonds, yelling through his gag. The vampire reached over and hit Aaron across the face. “Shut up.” Aaron went silent, shaking uncontrollably.

“No, no… let’s hear what he has to say,” Audrey said wickedly, kneeling on the bed beside Aaron’s head and pulling the gag from his mouth, untying the blindfold as well. 

Aaron blinked hard as the blindfold came away, shaking his head and pulling at his hands in an effort to rub his eyes. “Audrey!” he gasped as she came into focus. “Jesus, Audrey get me out of here! What are you doing here? If he hurt you, I’ll-“

She slapped him hard and leaning in close to her ex’s red sweaty face, she purred in his ear, “You’ll what, darling? What will you do to him? Are you gonna “kick his ass” for me?” The vampire snickered. Audrey smiled at him before caressing Aaron’s ear with her tongue and nipping. “I would love to see you try.”

She stood back up and put an arm around the vampire’s waist, leaning up against him and looking at Aaron thoughtfully. “What are your plans for this worm?”

The vampire put an arm around her, feeling no clothing under her silk robe. “I have none. He’s your surprise, you can play with him or dispose of him. Whatever you wish.”

Ignoring Aaron’s muffled squeak of protest, Audrey looked up at the vampire questioningly. “How did you know?”

“Your mind is an open book to me. Last night while you slept, I read. I can only imagine the rage you feel when faced with someone like this. Someone who does not treat you with any respect and takes you for granted. I thought you deserved to treat him for a change.” He smiled. “To… reciprocate.”

Audrey pulled away from him and went to sit on the bed beside her hapless ex, stroking his cheek with the back of a hand, smiling placidly at him. “Aaron, Aaron…I never thought I would ever see you again. I must confess, the thought wasn’t all bad. But I’m glad we have this time together now.”

Logbook of Terror : “What’s in the Fog, Rory?”

Rory bit his bottom lip and pulled his eyebrows close together while his pen darted across the paper. He spoke the line aloud. “The dense fog rolled in from the East.”

   Ah, what a fun first line; very atmospheric! Rory thought with a smile. I’m finally doing it, I’m becoming a horror writer just like I always dreamed!  

  “Ah, the glorious first line, where every writer’s journey begins.” 

  Rory glanced to his left. A middle-aged man wearing a navy blue mechanic’s jumpsuit and three days of gray beard stubble sat bare-foot and cross-legged on the bed. He sighed heavily and lit a cigarette. Rory handed the man an ashtray that was perched on the corner of his desk, half overflowing. . 

   “I didn’t expect to see you so soon,” Rory said. 

   The man shrugged. “You called so here I am. Now, let’s hear that first line again.” He took a long drag from the cigarette and exhaled. 

   Rory repeated, “The dense fog rolled in from the East,” then added, “Articulating the mounting dread of the deepening gloom…” 

   The man on the bed sputtered and stifled a laugh. 

   “What?” Rory asked sheepishly. 

   “Kid, you’re not Edgar Allan Lovecraft,” the man said. 

   “I’m not trying to be…besides, you’re mixing up their names.” Rory gripped his favorite pen tight and cleared his throat. “If you’re not going to         help, please be quiet.” 

   “Sure thing. Sorry, kid,” the man said. 

   Rory rolled his shoulders and adjusted in his creaky, antique wooden chair. “And please don’t call me kid, I’m forty-seven years old.” 

   “Hey, it’s never too late, right?” The man said with a laugh. 

   “That is right.” 

   Rory turned back to his paper and began again, reading to himself as he plunged into the story. “…A veil of impenetrable darkness fell over the land and beckoned the pale shroud of mist toward the coastal New England village…” 

   “Oh my God, I love it! I’m so excited!” The man hollered, bouncing on Rory’s bed, then yelling, “Rory smiled wide and continued to write!”

   Rory stopped smiling and glared at the man. “Why did you say that?”

   “What?”

   “You don’t get to tell me what to do.” 

   “That’s why you hired me, kid.” 

   “No,” Rory said flatly. “I hired you to provide inspiration, not stage direction.” 

  The man held up his palms. “Hey, just trying to help.” 

   Rory let out a deep breath. “Okay. Well, please, just…be patient with me and I’ll let you know when I need you.” 

   “Alright then,” the man said. He lit another cigarette and asked, “But, before you get back to it, answer me this: What’s in the fog, Rory?” 

   Rory tapped his pen on the desk. “Um, I don’t know. It’s just creepy fog, that’s all.” 

  “Just good old, creepy fog?”

  “Uh-hu,” Rory replied, nodding. 

   “Like that creepy fog,” the man said, pointing to the bedroom window with his cigarette holding hand.

   Rory looked. A thick haze of pale fog pushed against the window like a stranger pleading to be sheltered from the terror of the night. His eyes widened in wonder. His pen trembled against the page. 

   “You should let it in, Rory,” the man said. 

   “Why?” Rory asked in a near whisper, still gazing into the swirling fog.

   “It’ll be good for the story. You want to do what’s best for the story, don’t you  Rory?” 

   The fledgling writer nodded. “Yes, of course I do.” 

   “Then open the window.” 

   “For the story…” Rory whispered as he went to the window, turned the latch, and raised the glass.  

   Thick, ghostly tendrils weaved their way into Rory’s room. The fog glided across every surface, filling the space and obscuring every object. Rory stumbled toward his desk. 

   “I can’t see!” Rory screamed.

   “Follow my voice,” said the man, his words bouncing and echoing in thin, distant reverberations. 

   “Why are you so far away?” Rory shouted. 

   “I’m right over here!” The man called back. “Just a little further.”

   Swinging his arms in wide half-circles, Rory lurched forward, crying out against the blinding mist. 

   A neighbor overheard Rory screaming while another saw him pitch forward out of the bedroom window of his sixth floor studio apartment and plunge headlong into the bricks of the courtyard floor. 

   The would-be horror writer’s death was ruled an accident. The police only found two helpful clues. On Rory’s desk sat a tattered paperback titled Summoning the Muse, and a piece of notebook paper, torn away from the pad under it, with the question, “What’s in the fog?” scrawled beneath what appeared to be the beginning of a story. 

Book Review: The Man in the Field

The Man in the Field by James Cooper, pub. Cemetery Dance Publications 10.6.2022 is available on amazon.

Synopsis:

The village: a remote, God-fearing place, governed by ancient rituals that provide eternal balance to the land. Here, people have faith in working the soil, the good Lord above, and their own peaceful community. This is how they have lived for centuries, the Council providing spiritual oversight and the charismatic Father Lynch lighting the way.

As he does every year, according to an age-old custom, the man in the field arrives amid much rejoicing and apprehension. To sanctify the newly planted crops and ensure a productive harvest, the village must make a personal sacrifice in his name. This is the tradition that must be honored. For every blessing, there is a debt to be paid . . .

Mother Tanner, an older member of the village, has seen all this before. She has been born and raised in the shadow of these harsh solemnities and feels increasingly disturbed by them. Celebrating the Turning of the Wheel and exalting in God’s bounty is only half the story; there is much here that she is starting to distrust. Not least of which is Father Lynch himself and his beloved Council. And the enigmatic man in the field, who gazes not at the village, but at the distant horizon, thinking only of the overdue debt and the stroke of midnight when it will be time to collect . .

Review:

The Man in the Field by James Cooper drew me to it with its promise of rural isolation and strange doings. With its ritual nature, it sounded very much like a folk horror, which is a genre I love. It sort of is, but with a layer of dystopia washing over it.

My first impression, as the villagers respond to the sudden—although expected—appearance of the man in the field, is of an isolated community set some time in the past. It reminded me of the setup of the film The Village, being similarly bordered by forbidden woods. As these villagers respond to the man’s presence—the precursor to horrific events portrayed as a ‘blessing’ by the males of the community and by the council in particular—little bits of modern living are dropped in: the references to the city, the discovery of someone watching a video on their mobile phone, the journey taken at the end away from the village. All of this is neatly done, adding to the sense of dislocation and difference of the village and its inhabitants.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Mother Tanner and Father Lynch. The latter is effectively the leader of the council, whilst the former is someone Lynch considers a challenge to himself, disrupting his authority within the community. When Mother Tanner discovers some of his secrets following the awful outcome of The Offering, she comes under increasingly close scrutiny and is in a position of some danger—from the men, from some of the women, and from some of the strangers in the woods. I still can’t quite believe that the women allow the offering to go ahead if they are the subjugated, but there is little they can do.

The sinister presence of the man in the field is something I would like to have known more about. With his sudden appearance and his continual unmoving position, with his back to the people of the village so they never see his face, he gives an almost supernatural feel to the tale. Apart from his presence denoting the start of the sacrificial ritual and the resultant offering, nothing more is explained.

Throughout the pages, the events are a backdrop to this ongoing ‘duel’ between Mother Tanner and Father Lynch, told with an excellent building of tension and pace. If this is a standalone novella, then I would say that the ending is somewhat unsatisfying. If there is to be a sequel, then it is the perfect place to stop. I also have the suspicion that any follow-up will play more to the dystopian nature of the story than the folk aspect, but that is my own opinion! Regardless of this, I would still highly recommend this atmospheric and weird little tale.

THE BIGFOOT FILES/Chapter Forty-One: Bigfoot 

In 2005, publisher IDW released a comic book series of adult creature horror titled Bigfoot. With art by the late Richard Corben, Bigfoot was written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and Rob Zombie (Halloween), rounding out a major trio of talent for the brief four-part series.

Issue #1 opens in Blackwood National Park in 1973 with Bigfoot displaying his hunting prowess against a deer. The scene then cuts to a happy family of three accompanied by the ominous words: “Nobody should have to live through what I lived through in the summer of 1973.” 

The couple with their 10-year-old son Billy and dog Gomer is driving to a cabin at the ironically named Happy Trails Campground. The writers infuse the 1970s vibe with references to The Partridge Family and Doctor Midnight. Once at the cabin, there’s a sweet family moment featuring a Bambi story, and then it’s off to bed for Billy and time to play for the adults. 

It’s also time for Bigfoot to make a grand entrance. And does it ever, exploding into the cabin like a tank and interrupting Billy’s parents. Billy hears the commotion and peeks into his parents’ room to investigate. What he sees is a full-page shot of a bloodied Bigfoot in King Kong attack mode.

The authorities soon arrive and interview a shell-shocked Billy who can only mumble the word “monster.” The media call it a “bear massacre,” but the sheriff finds Bigfoot prints and covers them up. Issue #1 ends with Billy waking up from a creepy nightmare, setting the table for vengeance down the road. 

Bigfoot #1 is available for free on Amazon’s Kindle and ComiXology digital platforms, and the actual 2005 comic book is for sale through Amazon, starting at $69.83. The first issue received more than 150 Amazon reviews, averaging 4.1 stars out of 5. The other three issues are $1.99 each on Amazon Kindle. The comic books are short — between 22 and 25 pages — but the story oozes elements of old-school horror.

Overall, the plot of Bigfoot #1 is formulaic, but I like the formula. I love creature features and revenge tales, and it doubles my reading pleasure when they’re mixed together. Corben’s artwork captures the brutality of the Bigfoot attack, and the writing is straightforward. Plus, I just enjoy seeing Sasquatch in a comic book, which is as rare as a bona fide Bigfoot sighting nowadays.

NEXT UP: Chapter Forty-Two: Return to Dyatlov Pass. I review the 2018 novel by J.H. Moncrief.


RELATED LINK

The Bigfoot Files

Shadow’s Love – Chapter 4 – Second Blood

“Very good. But when killing in society, you must not leave it this way, with two such telling marks on her neck. In a world filled with skepticism, it is not a great danger, but all it takes is one person to see them for what they are to bring us to an end. Dracula had the same problem.”

Audrey giggled. “What do I do?”

Amy had raised herself up on one elbow, stretching her other hand up to press it against her neck in a pathetic effort to stop what blood remained from flowing onto the carpet. “H..help…” she choked out.

The taller figure turned to her and his face twisted into a nightmarish smile. “You must tear out the throat.”

Amy felt adrenaline shoot through her and began trying to scrabble away from them, her mind, under duress as it was, understandably forgetting they were on the third floor and there was nowhere to go. The figure that was Audrey knelt beside her and she once again felt Audrey’s fangs pierce her throat. As Audrey jerked her head to the side, tearing Amy’s throat out, her neck exploded in a fiery pain that quickly ebbed as the dark circles claimed her, and she slipped into death. 

When news of her demise was reported, many of the teachers in the betting pool who had put money on Amy sat with their newspaper open, holding their coffee, re-reading it first with the secondary interest you feel when your scanning eyes recognize a name. Then as coffee cups dropped their eyes raked the paragraph, finally taking in the details.

Audrey stood and wiped her hand across her mouth licking at the blood covering her fingers. She felt sated, satisfied, but most of all she felt alive. Ironic; now that she was the furthest from life she had ever been she finally felt alive. She looked at the vampire and saw a look of satisfaction on his face. 

“Did you know her?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Did I know her name, had I ever seen her before? Yes. But I didn’t know her. I never wanted to. She was a sad girl whose life was empty but for academic achievements. She thought that because she could pass a class that she was better than everybody else.” Audrey started laughing. “But this isn’t about her.” Audrey smiled, her mind reaching back over her high school career over the many educators she had endured. The teacher’s pool was no secret, and their favorite was likewise well known to the student body. Audrey knew there was more than one educator who would be in serious financial trouble from what she had done, and the ability to matter was physically exhilarating. 

The vampire said nothing but looked at her. She could feel him looking not at her, but inside her, through her, at her soul. 

“Anything interesting?” she inquired sardonically.

He stepped toward her. “Very,” he said and kissed her. His passion ignited hers and she kissed him back fiercely, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him close, her tongue rubbing against his canines as his hands buried themselves in her hair. He broke the kiss and pulled her head to the side, exposing her neck to his hunger. He sank his fangs into her, sucking Amy’s blood from Audrey’s veins. She moaned and tilted her head even further around until she found his neck right in front of her. Acting on a whim, she bit. Her fangs drove into his neck, sucking his blood as he drew hers. She could taste her own blood in his, she could taste Amy’s, and a fiery taste she recalled as his own blood. This only inflamed her desire for him and she bit harder, sinking her fangs in deeper. 

Suddenly they heard a scream. Breaking off their lustful embrace, their heads whipped around to see Amy’s mother standing at the door, her hands over her face, pure terror in her eyes. The phone she had been holding with white knuckles was on the floor where she had apparently dropped it after peering around the corner and seeing the two creatures feeding off each other over her daughter’s torn and bloody body. 

Audrey was frozen, but the vampire uttered an oath. Disengaging himself from Audrey, he threw himself at the petrified mother, plunging his fangs into her throat and drinking from her only briefly before tearing out her throat and dropping her to the ground to bleed out all over the carpet. On the phone, the voice was assuring her that units had begun to roll. He wiped his mouth and looked at Audrey.

“It is time to be gone before those idiotic policemen show up to make things difficult. Come.” He sprang to the window and before Audrey could utter a word of protest, had fallen from sight. She rushed to the sill, looking down, and saw him settling lightly to the ground. 

Audrey leapt to the windowsill. Her stomach churned at the sight of the drop. The vampire had so far been right about everything else, so closing her eyes and hoping with every fiber that she would know what to do, she pushed herself from the window. Instead of the rushing sound accompanied by the sensation usually associated with falling, she felt a gentle descending movement and felt herself touch down softly on the ground. She looked with wonder at the vampire, who gestured and set off at a lope through the alleys behind Amy’s house as the screaming sirens grew louder.

Back at the mansion, Audrey understood to be the vampire’s home, wrapped in his embrace, she could see that her life had finally taken a turn for the better. No longer was she just weird little Audrey Spencer. She was someone to be respected now.

Logbook of Terror: Midnight at the Old Concord Covered Bridge

Whispering a prayer, Jeannie clutched the ornamental cross that hung around her neck while the quiet laughter of children echoed through the darkness of the old covered bridge. She blinked and peered into the gloom, trying to locate the source of the sound. Even with the aid of the sparse light of broken moonbeams, Jeannie saw nothing. 

   “The laughter…i-it sounds like it’s coming from all around us,” Nat whispered, her voice shuddering. “I thought you said they weren’t real.” 

  A loud thud shot through the dark, followed by more hideous laughter. 

   Jeannie and Nat gripped their seats. 

  “I didn’t think they were. I just wanted to creep you out with the story,” Jeannie said. “I’m so sorry.” 

   “You succeeded; I’m terrified so let’s go!”

  “We can’t.”

  “What? Why the hell not?”

   “Because, if you don’t let them get the candy off the roof, they’ll come after you and take something else…something besides candy.” 

   Nat hissed, “I would ask what that might be but I’m pretty sure I don’t wanna know. And I don’t care either. Let’s go!” 

Jeannie hesitated. 

Nat’s emerald eyes, so dark and deep in the gloom, pleaded with her lover to get them out and away, far, far away from the nightmare they’d driven into. 

The pitter-patter of small feet sounded from behind the car, followed closely by evil giggles. And then, grimy hands slapping the car’s trunk.

Without a thought, Jeannie turned the key and fired the car to life. She threw it in gear and peeled out across the old, oak boards, leaving children’s shrieks in her wake. 

As the car barrelled over the boards, the bridge stretched out before them, going on and on, the other side suddenly swallowed into the black and disappearing completely. 

Unable to accept or comprehend what she was seeing, Jeannie floored the gas. 

The engine screamed. The rows of beams above dissolved into the darkness. The walls and floor of the bridge became shifting particles. 

Jeannie and Nat shrieked. The car flew into a void of the purest, most absolute darkness. 

And then, metal and glass grinding and shattering and Jeannie and Nat crashing into each other and bouncing and smashing into the windshield and the front console, their bodies twisting and contorting and breaking under gravity’s strain. Flesh tearing. Bones cracking. Blood spurting and spilling.

A moment later, quiet, soft giggles and bare footsteps approached the heap and mess of smashed metal and flesh. 

The two mutant children leaped into the wreckage. They pulled vital organs from the two dead women and smiled at one another as they ate their morbid meal. 

Licking his lips, one of the children muttered, “Mmmm…candy.” 

The second child grinned. Blood dripped from rows of dagger-pointed teeth. “Sweets for the babies,” he said in a watery voice, before tearing off another piece of raw flesh. 

***

Detective Lumley gingerly plucked the bloody candy bar wrapper off the boards of the covered bridge and dropped it into a plastic evidence bag. 

   “Damn kids!” He huffed. “They never listen.” 

Shafts of early morning light eked into the bridge through the two small side windows. Lumley’s partner, Detective Schow, approached. In the background, a photographer captured grisly images while other officers milled around. 

  “It’s just like last time,” Schow said. 

  “Every generation, they all do this, and no one listens, no one really believes. You can’t try fate; it always ends badly. Damn this waterhead baby legend!”

  Schow patted his partner on his shoulder. “Every town’s got their monsters.” He stepped away and began to walk out of the bridge, calling back, “I’ll get us some more coffee.”

Lumley eyed the candy bar wrapper, honing in on the small fingerprints that he knew he’d never find a match to. “Every town…” he whispered under his breath, let out a heavy sigh, then turned and walked away.

Logbook of Terror : Midnight at the Old Concord Covered Bridge

Whispering a prayer, Jeannie clutched the ornamental cross that hung around her neck while the quiet laughter of children echoed through the darkness of the old covered bridge. She blinked and peered into the gloom, trying to locate the source of the sound. Even with the aid of the sparse light of broken moonbeams, Jeannie saw nothing. 

   “The laughter…i-it sounds like it’s coming from all around us,” Nat whispered, her voice shuddering. “I thought you said they weren’t real.” 

  A loud thud shot through the dark, followed by more hideous laughter. 

   Jeannie and Nat gripped their seats. 

  “I didn’t think they were. I just wanted to creep you out with the story,” Jeannie said. “I’m so sorry.” 

   “You succeeded; I’m terrified so let’s go!”

  “We can’t.”

  “What? Why the hell not?”

   “Because, if you don’t let them get the candy off the roof, they’ll come after you and take something else…something besides candy.” 

   Nat hissed, “I would ask what that might be but I’m pretty sure I don’t wanna know. And I don’t care either. Let’s go!” 

Jeannie hesitated. 

Nat’s emerald eyes, so dark and deep in the gloom, pleaded with her lover to get them out and away, far, far away from the nightmare they’d driven into. 

The pitter-patter of small feet sounded from behind the car, followed closely by evil giggles. And then, grimy hands slapping the car’s trunk.

Without a thought, Jeannie turned the key and fired the car to life. She threw it in gear and peeled out across the old, oak boards, leaving children’s shrieks in her wake. 

As the car barrelled over the boards, the bridge stretched out before them, going on and on, the other side suddenly swallowed into the black and disappearing completely. 

Unable to accept or comprehend what she was seeing, Jeannie floored the gas. 

The engine screamed. The rows of beams above dissolved into the darkness. The walls and floor of the bridge became shifting particles. 

Jeannie and Nat shrieked. The car flew into a void of the purest, most absolute darkness. 

And then, metal and glass grinding and shattering and Jeannie and Nat crashing into each other and bouncing and smashing into the windshield and the front console, their bodies twisting and contorting and breaking under gravity’s strain. Flesh tearing. Bones cracking. Blood spurting and spilling.

A moment later, quiet, soft giggles, and bare footsteps approached the heap and mess of smashed metal and flesh. 

The two mutant children leaped into the wreckage. They pulled vital organs from the two dead women and smiled at one another as they ate their morbid meal. 

   Licking his lips, one of the children muttered, “Mmmm…candy.” 

The second child grinned. Blood dripped from rows of dagger-pointed teeth. “Sweets for the babies,” he said in a watery voice, before tearing off another piece of raw flesh. 

***

Detective Lumley gingerly plucked the bloody candy bar wrapper off the boards of the covered bridge and dropped it into a plastic evidence bag. 

   “Damn kids!” He huffed. “They never listen.” 

Shafts of early morning light eked into the bridge through the two small side windows. Lumley’s partner, Detective Schow, approached. In the background, a photographer captured grisly images while other officers milled around. 

  “It’s just like last time,” Schow said. 

  “Every generation, they all do this, and no one listens, no one really believes. You can’t try fate; it always ends badly. Damn this waterhead baby legend!”

  Schow patted his partner on his shoulder. “Every town’s got their monsters.” He stepped away and began to walk out of the bridge, calling back, “I’ll get us some more coffee.”

Lumley eyed the candy bar wrapper, honing in on the small fingerprints that he knew he’d never find a match to. “Every town…” he whispered under his breath, let out a heavy sigh, then turned and walked away. 

 

Serialized Fiction: Shadow’s Love – Chapter 3 – Dominate

Amy Sinclair was at home, counting the words in her economics paper. The teacher had set a minimum of five hundred words, but Amy was already up to eight hundred and still counting. Five hundred words was only average, for average losers who were satisfied with average grades, an average college, an average job, and an average life. Amy was considered precocious as a child and was in all the honors classes, most nights studying past twelve. The teacher’s pool had her as valedictorian by a long shot. 

“833, 834, 835, 836!” She finished triumphantly. Her jubilation was somewhat dampened by her inability to secure a round thousand. Maybe she could beef up the part on how the oil situations in the Middle East were affecting economics in the United States. That should secure her an A-plus and the usual fawning the teacher heaped on her. It should also secure another day’s worth of righteous superiority over her brain-dead classmates. 

Satisfied with her plan, she scrolled through the pages she had already written to find the offending paragraph. The Middle East was definitely deserving of more than three measly lines. Something would have to be done. 

A knock at her door interrupted her brain’s processing.

“It’s mom, sweetie. Can I come in?”

Swallowing her impatience to finish her paper, Amy replied, “Yes, it’s open.” Maybe this wouldn’t take long. 

The doorknob turned, and her mother, the adult version of Amy with short brown hair framing her round face, and slight body, poked her head around the corner. “What are you up to, hon?”

“Finishing up an economics paper,” Amy said, idly clicking keys with the air of someone arrested in the middle of their work.

“Oh…well I’m going to bed, I just wanted to tell you goodnight.” Her mother came in and kissed the top of Amy’s head. “Don’t stay up too late, bookworm.”

“I won’t, this should only take another ten minutes or so. Good night, mom,” Amy said, patting her mother’s arm and turning back to the computer. Her mother left, closing the door carefully behind her, and padded down the hall to the room that had been hers alone since Amy’s father Charles had been claimed in a car accident the previous year. 

Amy heard her mother’s footsteps receding down the hall and began typing. “In…addition…to…the…previous…facts…” Amy stopped and tapped her fingernails on her teeth. In addition, she had no idea what. 

Another knock at the door. She sighed. Her mother had become so clingy and needy since Amy’s father died. It was painful, yes, but it was over a year ago. She was interfering with her daughter’s work, breaking her train of concentration and how would Amy ever get to college with interruptions like that constantly? 

“Come in!” she said, a note of exasperation finding its way into her voice. Not taking her eyes from the computer screen, she typed gibberish to give the impression she was still hard at work. She heard the door open, and then close. “What now, mom? I’m trying to work on my economics report,” she whined. “If I get a thousand words-“

“Then your life will be complete?”

Amy gave a little scream and spun around in her chair, her heart racing. Audrey Spencer was standing in her room, leaning on the wall by the window as though she had every right to be there. 

Amy did not know Audrey very well. She had been in a few of Amy’s classes and on the few occasions they had been put together for a group project, Audrey had doodled vacantly most of the time, obviously not paying attention while Amy was outlining what they should do on the project and had produced, in Amy’s opinion, mediocre products of a morbid nature. Most of them were so macabre that Amy simply threw them out and redid them herself. Amy wasn’t afraid of Audrey, but Audrey was weird, always sitting in corners, drawing, listening to her iPod. Until one day she had up and vanished from campus. Amy hardly noticed – she wouldn’t have if they hadn’t been in a group project that had been due the day she vanished.

“What are you doing here? It’s almost midnight, what do you want?”

Audrey did not answer. She just continued staring at Amy. Amy’s constitution began to waver under Audrey’s unflinching gaze but was unwilling to blink first. There was something in Audrey’s eyes, a look she had never seen before, and there was also that – Audrey was looking at her. Audrey never looked at anyone, she was always shrouded in a hoodie sweatshirt and kept her eyes downcast. But now she was staring right back at Amy, for what seemed like the first time, looking as though she would like nothing more than to do something very unpleasant to her. For the first time, Amy felt a stab of fear. 

Audrey smiled, exposing her fangs. 

Amy’s eyes widened and she took a breath to scream but before she could make a sound, Audrey was suddenly at her side. While Amy’s mind struggled to process this, she felt the fangs pierce her neck and now she could scream, but it was a soft sound, more like a squeak. She slapped weakly at Audrey, trying to push her away, but all it did was make Audrey pull Amy closer to her, sinking her fangs in deeper.

There were dark circles dancing in Amy’s vision, slowly getting larger as they did, until finally her body went limp and she stopped struggling. Her mind felt padded with cotton. She could hardly see, she couldn’t think. All she could feel was her blood flowing into Audrey’s mouth. She couldn’t do anything more than let Audrey drain her life out until suddenly, the feeling ended. Amy fell to the floor, what was left of her vision registering another figure in the room, and heard muffled voices.

The Last Stop – by CM Lucas

Dust devils encircle a dingy blue Pontiac Sun fire as the summer sun’s rays reflect off the few exposed areas of clean finish. The looming shadow of The Last Stop diner begins to overtake the Pontiac. The antiquated eatery bakes in the scorching New Mexico heat, while inside hungry patrons fair no better.

The buzzing of a single osculating fan blows hot, dry air in customers’ faces; perspiration dripping from every inch of exposed skin, relief from the heat only coming from tepid ice tea and warm root beer.

Swaying back and forth on his stool sits a man fidgeting with his paper napkin. Sitting at the center of the counter, the man periodically peers up from his napkin, glancing at the various customers, peering over at the entrance and back to his napkin. The man wipes the excessive perspiration from his brow and runs his trembling hand along the scruff that adorns his scarred chin.

“You ready, darlin’?” asks the waitress with a large, comforting smile.

“Uh, y-yea, Um… I-I’ll have the s-strawberry sundae,” says the man, briefly making eye contact before returning his gaze to his crumpled napkin.

“Ran out about two hours ago. Ice cream’s a hot commodity in heat like this, darlin’. Anything else?” asks the waitress as she fans her freckled skin with a menu. The man shrugs his shoulders and continues to fiddle with his napkin.

“You ok, darlin’? You seem a little nervous,” asks the waitress, flashing her comforting smile the man’s way. The man rises from his stand, reaching into his pants to retrieve a large pistol.

“Everybody, get the fuck down. Now!” yells the man, waving his pistol wildly in every direction. The customers begin to scream with fear. An elderly couple freezes in place, the businessman within the far corner drops to the floor, and the newly-wed couple close to the window embraces as the man jerks violently within the diner.

“You. G-get your hand up w-where I can see them,” says the man; his hands trembling. pointing at the register, the man aims his pistol at the cowering waitress.

“Start emptying t-the register,” demands the man. The waitress, wide-eyed and frozen in place, struggles to respond.

“Do it! Now!” yells the man as his pistol gets closer to her face. Tears begin to stream down the waitress’ face as she empties the contents of the register into a plastic bag. The man twists around to survey the diner. Spotting the businessman with a cell phone in his hand, The man rushes over; his pistol now directly in the businessman’s face.

“Put that fucking thing down!” screams the man. The businessman drops his phone and begins to cower in his chair. The man turns his attention to the newly-wed couple as the young bride begins to wince in pain. the man moves toward the woman with a furrowed brow. The young bride drops to the floor, revealing her enlarged stomach. She clenches her stomach as her husband rushes over to his bride.

“Hey, hey, hey! Get back to your-” the husband throws his arms in the air.

“Please, My wife’s pregnant,” says the husband, cradling his wife’s head as she moves to her back, panting and moaning.

“Oh, God. I think she’s going into labour!” Yells the waitress.

“E-everybody, shut up,” says the man, moving around frantically.

“You have to do something,” says the waitress. The man continues to tremble.

“W-what?” asks the man.

“To help her. You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The diner’s begin to panic as the young bride’s contractions being to worsen.

“Shut up! Everybody, s-shut up!” shouts the man as he makes his way over to the pregnant bride. As the man’s heart pounds within his chest, he glaces down at the bride, moaning in pain. The man kneels to the floor.

“What d-do I have to d-do. I’m not a fucking doctor. You do something,” says the man, pointing at the husband. The husband begins to move toward his bride’s legs, but his wife firmly grasps his arms.

“No, John! Stay… Ah! Stay h… Ah,” says the bride as her contractions worsen.

“You have to help her,” screams the waitress. The man wipes the sweat from his brow and moves toward the bride’s legs.

“W-what do I do?” asks the man as he trembles in place.

“Talk to her. Make sure the baby doesn’t fall to the floor,” says the businessman.

“… You’re going to b-be ok. Y-you’re doing good,” says the man softly. The bride begins to wince and gyrate; his screams echo through the diner as the man positions his hand beneath the bride’s legs. The young bride continues to moan as the contraction worsens.

“T-that’s It. Y-you’re ok,” asserts the man; his hands trembling. The bride gives a final push as the newborn’s head emerges. The rest of the body begins to show with the final push until the newborn is within the man’s shaky arms. The bride begins to sob with joy, as does her husband. A collective sigh of relief washes over the diner as they temporarily forget the situation they are in.

The man hands the newborn baby over to its parents. He rises to his feet and begins to weep uncontrollably. Suddenly, the police burst into the diner. With their weapons drawn, The man puts up no resistance, placing his hands behind his back as the police place him in handcuffs. The man is placed in the back of the squad car. As the squad car begins to pull away, the man glances at the diner. Paramedics being to arrive at the scene, escorting the newlyweds out of the diner.

The bride glances at the man in the back of the squad car. She smiles and mouths ‘thank you’ at the man before the police car pulls away. The man begins to well up before he smiles back and nods.

No. Don’t you do it, you fuck. You can resist, the man thinks to himself as his pulse begins to race. Suddenly, the man begins to sweat profusely, his heart smashes against his chest. The man closes his eyes tightly as he struggles to conceal his pronounced canine teeth. A deluge of perspiration pours down his forehead as the narrow slits that are his pupils dilate as the man focuses on the diner. The man breaks free of his restraints, reaching through the cage that separates him from the officers in the front of the police car. The flesh on the man’s arms rips and tear as his talon-like fingernails plunge into the neck of the officer driving the police car. Blood sprays across the windshield as the police car collides with a telephone pole. The fire from the exploding squad car gains the attention of the patrons within the diner.

The new mother grips her child as she rushes toward the diner’s window. Her eyes well up as she glances into the vertical pupil eyes and panting tongue of the man who minutes ago helped bring her newborn baby into the world.

End

Odds and Dead Ends : The Best of The Bard: Why ‘Macbeth’ should be considered Horror

Anyone who says that Shakespeare is classy, refined, and ‘proper’, has clearly never read him. Sure he had his moments of genius, but then he also wrote Titus Andronicus, which contains tricking someone into eating their sons, and ends its three hours with fourteen people dead. Romeo & Juliet has a higher human body count than Halloween (Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Juliet, Romeo, and Lady Montague makes six for The Bard, and Judith, the truck driver, Annie, Paul, and Linda make five for John Carpenter). Yet of all his works, Macbeth might be the most mad, terrifying, and downright horrific story he told, and I firmly believe it deserves a higher place in horror fans’ hearts.

            Firstly, a recap for those who don’t know your classics. Macbeth, a general in King Duncan’s army, is told by three witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and eventually King. When Macbeth is granted the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’, he plots with his wife to kill Duncan, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. In panic, believing his deed to have been discovered, he sends an assassin to kill his friend Banquo, who might suspect him, after which he hallucinates and is driven into madness during his rule. Meanwhile, a rebel army from England led by Macduff rises up against him, whom he initially does not fear as the witches tell Macbeth that he can’t die ‘“until/ Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill/ Shall come against him.”’ (an impossibility, for trees, can’t walk), and that he can’t die from someone born from a woman. The final scenes see Lady Macbeth driven mad by guilt, and Macduff’s army chop down branches from Birnham wood and carry them in front of them as protection and camouflage. At a final confrontation, Macduff, who was born by C-section, kills Macbeth, and brings peace to the land, and fulfills all the prophecies.

            There are so many points in Macbeth which appear in horror/sci-fi vocabulary and iconography. The three witches are the most obvious, and their lines have filtered into the common tongue without us being aware of it. ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes’ of course gives us Ray Bradbury’s title to his famous novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes and combines with their ‘Double, double toil and trouble,’ speech to make the song sung upon entering Hogwarts in The Prisoner of Azkaban film.

            Let us not forget, however, that their prophecies also bring up that age-old question of free will vs. determinism. Would Macbeth have still become king, been killed by Macduff, etc, had the witches not given him their prophecy? Was their act of prophesying itself fate, or could it have been averted? Therefore, is there something even more malevolent behind the witches, conspiratorially so, which encouraged them to speak to Macbeth and Banquo, and therefore set events in motion? So many stories extend off this question, asking if a foretold fate can be actively avoided, from cheap thrillers like 2019’s Countdown, to the vase scene in The Matrix, to Scrooge’s pleading with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come at his gravestone, ‘“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they the shadows of the things that May be, only?”’ Philip K. Dick’s novella The Minority Report is based around a man running a company which predicts crime being told he himself will kill someone.

            Then there’s the urban legend that the play itself is cursed. Shakespeare apparently based some of the lines for the witches off actual witches who lived nearby, and in retaliation, they cursed the play, so that it became unlucky to refer to it as ‘Macbeth’, and has become known in acting circles as ‘The Scottish Play’ instead. Exorcising demons as a result of saying the name is still done by superstitious performers, and not doing so will cause bad luck to fall on the production. Blackadder The Third has great fun at this expense in a memorable skit.

            And let’s ignore for brevity’s sake the appearance of Hecate, Greek Goddess of witchcraft and magic and the moon, etc, to the three witches in Act IV. Because that’s just going overboard, and we all know how horror movies love to use Greek myths and legends (see Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse, and The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth for more information).

            The play is so dark and gloomy, filled with paranoia and murder, that to ignore how it set the stage for horror stories to come would be remiss. With eight dead by the end (not counting off-screen deaths), the play has a high enough body count to keep any horror fan happy. Conspiring in dark castle hallways to commit regicide by the dead of night is straight gothic, and let us not forget that murder in castles is pretty much where the whole thing started, as Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, the original gothic novel, has this in spades.

            And finally, at a feast in Act III Scene IV, Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo, his friend whom he has had assassinated. At first, accusing others of setting it up as a prank, he is led away, raving and cursing, Lady Macbeth feigning the excuse that he has been prone to fits of madness since childhood. We’re never told whether this ghost is really a phantom or a figment of Macbeth’s overworked imagination, but considering he’s already hallucinated a dagger in Act II Scene I (“Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand?”) it is likely. Yet Shakespeare’s already used one of the most famous ghosts in literature, that of Hamlet’s father on the battlements, years before, so his use of supernatural elements isn’t unknown. And we’ve all seen and read films and stories which hinge on our interpretation as to whether the ghosts are real or not (Jacob’s Ladder, It Follows, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Turn of the Screw; you can come up with your own thousands more examples), which is further proof how the tradition follows on into our modern genre.

            Macbeth has all the violence, superstition, curses, hallucinations, omens, atmosphere, and madness to last a horror addict for a lifetime. It is filled with those little moments that, over the years, millions have been inspired by, creating the network of iconography which helped the gothic stories of the 18th century, the penny dreadfuls of the 19th century, and the cinematic explosion of the genre of the 20th. Film critic Mark Kermode quotes The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty as saying that the play is about ‘the numbing of the moral senses’, and if there’s ever a phrase which applies to horror, I don’t know of it. Macbeth is not just for the classroom; it’s for a horror addict’s life.

Article by Kieran Judge

Twitter/Instagram: kjudgemental

Shadow’s Love : Chapter 2 – Safe in the Darkness

She awoke hours later to silence. Not even distant sirens penetrated the quiet. She tried to sit up and found her arms had been tied over her head, to what felt like a bedpost. Her heart sank. She tried to blink and found she could not. The room was not completely dark, her eyes had been obscured by a blindfold. She began struggling, pulling at the bindings holding her arms above her head in a frantic effort to escape.

“Stop.”

She froze. The voice had come from beside the bed. It was not Joe’s voice though, from which she drew small comfort. “Wh-what are you going to do to me? Please don’t hurt me…”

He laughed, a sound less like mirth than she had ever heard. “How much you hurt depends entirely upon you. If I take this blindfold off, are you going to be good?”

Audrey nodded. She couldn’t think of a time she had wanted to be well more than now. She heard him lean forward and felt the blindfold slip off. Opening her eyes, she saw she was in a room with a four-poster bed and no windows, lit only by two black candles at the head of the bed. She squinted at the shape standing beside her, straining to make him out from the gloom. As her eyes adjusted, she saw the face from earlier, the pale face with sunken eyes, high cheekbones, and the same crimson light shining in the eyes. 

He seated himself beside her and she smelled something like earth, but a coppery metallic smell too. It ignited a spark in her brain that she couldn’t place exactly. 

“I want your blood,” he intoned, and her eyes snapped open. “One way or another, I’m going to get it. You can fight and have it hurt worse than you can imagine, and you will die. Or…” His hand slid down her cheek and caressed her neck. “…you can enjoy it.” He brought his mouth to her neck, scraping long canines against the soft white skin of her throat. She gasped a little and flinched, her autonomic nervous system reflexively trying to pull away. Like a snake, he struck, burying his fangs deep into her neck. She screamed, softly; it was as if her voice had been cut in half by his fangs. She thrashed instinctively about, whatever reservations she had giving full voice to their objections. As the sound of her scream died away, her eyes caught his, and calm struck her – this was not an out-of-control monster. The eyes she looked into were as placid and devoid of evil as she had ever seen. 

She tilted her head, exposing more to him, her lips parted and eyes shut in an expression of ecstasy as the pain completely vanished.  She could feel the blood rushing through her body toward the gash in her neck and trickling out of her. She smelled copper again, but stronger, and she knew it was her own blood. It excited her to no end and she moaned, vibrating his fangs in her neck.

He withdrew them from her, catching a drop of the blood trickling from the wound with a long finger, and brought it to her mouth. Her red tongue flicked out and licked it off his finger. Her eyes opened weakly, devoid of the white spark characteristic of a living person’s eyes. They rolled back and her eyelids fluttered closed. She was dead, but not yet. 

Audrey felt so weak and dizzy, and couldn’t stand to keep her eyes open. She knew if she slept now, she would never awaken, but honestly didn’t care. If she died now, at least she would die happy. She heard the vampire hiss and she felt something warm dripping on her lips. Audrey stuck out her tongue and for the first time, tasted the copper taste of blood, blood that had not come from her father striking her or a pulled tooth. Blood not her own. Her eyes crawled minutely open. He was holding his slit wrist to her mouth, inviting her to drink his blood. 

Upon seeing it there, so close, she felt as though an inner demon had possessed her. The ties holding her wrists to the bed were shredded as she grabbed his arm and pulled it to her mouth, fastening it around the dripping gash in his wrist and sucking the blood from it as if her life depended on it. She could feel her body gaining strength, but not the way it used to feel. She was feeling…invincible. Like she could go anywhere, do anything, and nobody could stop her. But she needed more. She kept feeding, ravenously sucking the blood from his arm until he pulled it away from her, breathing heavily, nursing his wrist.

“That’s enough for now, young one,” he said and licked his wrist.

Audrey was not listening. She was staring, transfixed at herself in a mirror on the wall. Her eyes had lost their dull flatness and now had a crimson shine in their depths when the light reflected just right. Also, she was noticing differences in the way things looked, and sounded, and…she could smell. It was as if all her five senses had been enhanced, and she seemed to have gained more. 

His eyes were on her, and she knew he was sizing her up. “How do you feel, Audrey?”

She ran her tongue across her lips, letting out a little gasp as her new fangs nipped her tongue. Tentatively she reached a finger into her mouth and ran it along her elongated canines. A wicked look came into her eyes and she looked at the vampire. “I want more.”

Logbook of Terror: “Look Inside” by Russell Holbrook

“Look Inside”

Shanna wove her fork into the spaghetti noodles. The pasta wound like worms as the utensil slid through it. 

Shanna’s roommate, Babs, scowled and muttered, “You’re trying to do that trick again, huh?”

   “It’s not a trick; it’s magic.”

   Babs narrowed her eyes and loudly slurped a noodle into her mouth. “It’s the reason we’ve been eating pasta every night for the past week.” 

   “You could cook something,” Shanna replied quietly without taking her gaze from her plate. 

   Babs grumbled, “You know I don’t cook.” She scooped up another fork-full and added, “You just wanna be like the guy in that Naching Kassa story. That was cool but this is just lame.” 

   “Please stop talking,” Shanna said through tight lips. 

   “Spoiler alert: that guy used intestines; you’re just playing with your food,” Babs continued. 

   Shanna clenched her teeth.

   Babs chewed loudly with her mouth open. She yelled, “Spaghetti divination!”  and burst into laughter. 

   Shanna slammed a fist down, leapt across the short table, and plunged her fork into Babs’s left eye. 

   A scream lodged in Babs’s throat as she choked on the food, her hands frantically moving from the fork in her eye to her neck and back again. Her right eye pleaded with Shanna for help. 

Shanna left the table and returned with a carving knife. She pulled Babs away from the table and threw her onto the floor. 

Babs kicked and writhed on the linoleum. Blood and tears oozed from her punctured eye. Shanna reached down and twisted the fork a half-turn. A choked and garbled cry scratched its way out of Babs’ throat. Shanna grinned, yanked up Babs’s shirt, and thrust the knife into her roommate’s belly. 

  The knife moved smoothly through the skin, opening Babs up. Once Shanna had Babs’s midsection spread wide, she twirled her fingers in the dead woman’s intestines, looking for clues and insights into the future. 

Shanna’s brow furrowed. Her lips drew into a thin line. Her eyes narrowed. She held her breath. And she saw nothing. She punched the floor in frustration and then returned to her spaghetti, swirling it back and forth across her plate. She focused more intently and, to her delight, images formed in the red sauce and noodles. 

Shanna saw an ancient tree. Chunks of meat became rocks. Shanna’s eyes widened with excitement, and then bulged in shock as a wet noose squeezed tight around her throat, cutting off her air supply. She slapped at the reanimated hands tightening the intestinal rope that Babs had wrapped around Shanna’s neck.

   “I always knew you’d do something like this,” Babs mumbled, “So I had to have a protective spell of my own.” 

Babs yanked Shanna out of the chair. She peered over and saw the vision in the spaghetti. “Yeah, that looks about right.” She grabbed the carving knife and pulled Shanna out of the kitchen. 

   Shanna kicked and clawed as Babs dragged her from the apartment, using the length of her long intestine that Babs had also used to strangle Shanna. 

   When they were out at the old tree in the woods behind the apartment building, it didn’t take long for Babs to cut Shanna open and string her up by a length of Shanna’s own slimy innards. Once her work was done, the spell ended and Babs collapsed against the tree with her roommate’s corpse swaying in the breeze above her and a heap of Shanna’s intestines coiled on the ground beside her.

   The police never made sense of the crime, although the lead detective swore that he saw something in the pile of intestines strewn over the ground. It was an image that he couldn’t let go of, one that drove him to need to discover more, and set him on the path of holy divination, a path that would make detective Kyle Loring a ghoul of the night, gaining insight from the insides of each of his victims, but with each clue, each divine insight only leaving him wanting and needing more, forever searching, forever hunting, forever seeing, never stopping. And but of all the seeking and questioning, he knows that one thing is for certain: all the answers are on the inside. 

 

Book Review: There is No Death, There are No Dead

Edited by Aaron J. French and Jess Landry

Published by Crystal Lake Publishing

The spirits of the dead exist and they want to communicate.

Spiritualism—the belief that the soul continues on after death and that those souls try to communicate with the living—originated in the 1800s. It reached a fever pitch with mediums traveling all over the world, practicing their craft.

There is No Death, There are No Dead is an anthology of horror stories focused on spiritualism. Whether telling the story of a spirit, a medium, a haunting, or a hoax, communication with the dead takes center stage in each of these tales.

The stories are diverse and unique, but with a carefully crafted thread that connects them into a cohesive collection. The author might explore the origins of spiritualism in the foggy streets of Victorian London or a modern-day medium wrestling with hauntings that are all too human.

I want to highlight one story that stood above the others: “The Shape of Her Soul” by Michele Belanger. This story about a woman who can communicate with spirits explores what it means to be your true self, even if you must wait until death to do so. The writing is engaging and the themes of found family and the desire to be authentic are heartfelt. Belanger brought life (and poignant after-life) to her characters.

There is No Death, There are No Dead was nominated for a 2022 Bram Stoker award. If you are a fan of well-written, thoughtful, and entertaining stories, you’ll enjoy this anthology.

Shadow’s Love : Chapter One ~ Jesse Orr

He tilted his head back and tasted the air. Long used to the stench of the city, he no longer gagged at the various assaults on his senses but was able to distinguish just what he wanted. He had found fear to taste almost as sweet as guilt, and when combined with the innocence he craved tonight, it was almost irresistible. Pulling his trench coat tighter about himself, he set off in the direction of the new blood, tasting the air occasionally, always staying in the shadows.

Audrey was only 20, but she had seen her share of pain. She was now wandering around aimlessly downtown late at night and had already escaped from several would-be johns and was seriously considering going back home to tolerate her parents. She wished someone somewhere would take a chance on one of her hundreds of job applications and hire her, enabling her to perhaps escape her parents’ oppressive rule once and for all. But her poverty continued, the world indifferent to her plight.

She tentatively approached a figure standing alone against a building, sizing him up, ready to run if he made any sudden moves. But he hardly seemed to notice her. His eyes momentarily flicked towards her, but if not for that she would have thought he was oblivious to her existence. He was tall and handsome and looked as though he could work in a bank as easily as lean against a shadowy building. She decided to chance it.

     “Excuse me?”

His eyes returned to her and an eyebrow raised questioningly.

     “Er…I was wondering if you could tell me…where the nearest bus stop is?”

He closed his eyes for a second as if he was thinking. Then he smiled apologetically. “Sorry, I’m hell with directions. I could take you?”

He stepped toward her and she flinched, instinctively stepping back. His face showed understanding. “You don’t trust me. If you like, you can follow me so you can run if I prove untrustworthy.” He grinned ruefully.

She considered his offer torn; he would be hard pressed to grab her if she was following behind him, as quick as she was.

     “All right,” she said. “But don’t try anything funny or I’ll scream,” she warned. 

He nodded and set off, calling over his shoulder, “I’m Joe, what’s your name?”

     “Audrey,” she said, letting him get a good lead before falling in behind him. 

     “It’s nice to meet you, Audrey,” Joe said. “What’s a pretty girl like you doing here at this time of night?”

     “I had a fight with…my boyfriend,” she said with a flash of inspiration. Maybe if he thought people were waiting for her, he wouldn’t try            anything.  “I ran off, but he’ll be worried if I don’t come back.”

They continued like this for a while. Joe led, asking questions and turning appropriate corners. Audrey answered his questions gratefully, pouring out her heart, glad to find someone willing to listen to her problems. 

     “So what did you get into a fight with your boyfriend about?”

     “Oh…um…we…I…he said…” she scrabbled for an answer, not noticing the left they took. “He wanted me to sleep with him!” she blurted,                grabbing a cliché from sex ed. “But when I was running away, he said he was kidding…” her voice trailed off. “Where are we?” They had taken several more turns and ended up in front of a dingy warehouse at the end of a cul-de-sac and she honestly had no idea how they had gotten there. Fear grabbed at her. 

     “He wanted you to sleep with him? You should have realized,” Joe turned around, an ugly leer etched on his once handsome features, “boys            only want one thing.”  

     “What are we doing here?” Audrey asked, her mouth dry. Joe began walking toward her. She retreated until she found she had been strategically positioned against a wall and had nowhere to go. 

     “I have a business opportunity for you, young lady.” He reached up and stroked her cheek. She slapped his hand away and his other came up, pinning her against the wall by her throat. “In that warehouse is several thousand dollars worth of video cameras, lighting, and several of my friends who have been dying for a little beauty like you to test them on.” His grin grew uglier. “Get the picture?”

     She struggled against his hand, trying to scream with what little air she could draw into her lungs.

     “No!”

     “I bet you wish you’d fucked your boyfriend now, don’t you?” he said and tried to kiss her but her boot connected with his shin and he released her with a grunt of pain. With a furious look on his face, he bashed her head into the wall, stunning her. As sparkles overwhelmed her vision, she dimly made out his face coming through the darkness to kiss her again.

Before she could summon the strength to fight, his eyes bulged in surprise as fingers curled around the back of his neck. Another hand snaked around the front, setting its nails into Joe’s throat and tightening. The sharp nails stabbed into his flesh as he screamed, a gurgling wail as his throat was torn out and dropped to the ground. Audrey’s heart sank as the shapeless mass behind Joe dropped the lifeless pornographer’s body to the ground and looked up and directly into her eyes.

He was very tall, his face was as pale as a sheet of paper. Long dark hair framed his high cheekbones and sunken eyes in shadow. Almost before this all registered, he was standing in front of her, nearly close enough to share her breath, staring deep into her eyes. She cowered against the dirty wall, trying to make herself as small as possible.

     “What is your name?” said his voice as if from a distance as Audrey’s world grew darker.

     “A..Audrey…” she whispered. Then the light vanished as the world completely faded away and the darkness claimed her.

 

Free Fiction : Seeing Out the Monkey by Ann Folks

Alice showed me into the Medical Sciences Research Institute. The pouring rain outside ran in sheets down the floor-to-ceiling windows. Lightning flashed far away in the dark sky.

She handed me a key card and we walked to the elevator that went down to my janitor’s closet in the subbasement. Taped on the back of the door was a calendar and newspaper clipping about the previous janitor that just retired on his 67th birthday, October 1, 2021.   “No more crazy monkeys!” was scrawled across the calendar.  

     Upstairs, Alice explained, “You are almost the only one in the building, the other cleaner quit already.  Phillip works on the animal cages on the       top 3 floors. Your card won’t work on those, put his phone number into your phone. When you need to clean those floors, call him and he’ll               unlock the doors. So just pull the trash, push in the chairs, questions?”

     “Do the keypads on the swipe boxes have codes?”

     “Only for an emergency. Do the month and year, so this being October, the code would be 1021. Again, the top three floors have a different,              longer code. Only Phillip knows it, don’t try to guess, three wrong tries, and you’re locked out or in, depending on where you are. “

     “Leaving…”.  And she was gone. 

Pushing in the chairs was easy, pulling the trash, was somewhat difficult. Some of the trash cans were overflowing. These labs hadn’t been cleaned for days. The lights flickered; beeping came from some of the equipment. On the 7th floor, scurrying footsteps of animals upstairs rattled.  The storm grew closer, the lightning lit up the lab.  I called Phillip. He answered panting.

     “Yeah?” 

     “Hi, I’m the new cleaner and …”

     “On my way down”. He hung up. 

A thirty-something man, of large build, with a limp, walked out of the elevator. He was sweating.

     “Look, I have a situation with Nero. Here’s my card. Just open the doors as you need them.  But do NOT come up to 10.  Nero always acts                freaky during storms, but this one is the worst.  They adjusted his meds and he’s almost uncontrollable.  I’ll find you when I get him back into        his cage.”

He turned around and got back on the elevator. 

     “Remember. Stay off 10”.  The doors closed.

***

On 8, the lights were out. I turned on my phone flashlight. Cockroaches and mice scurried into dark corners.   Puppies and kittens with electrodes attached to their heads whimpered and mewed.  Water was dripping somewhere. Lightning illuminated the lab. I screamed when suddenly something jumped on me, and claws dug into my back. It was just a cat, as scared as I was. It jumped off. I ran out of the lab.

On 9, still dark. Lights flickered on and off.  Open cages were perched on stainless-steel tables, but no animals.   

I was happy to be finished.  I turned to leave the room when I heard Phillip scream from above on 10, the forbidden floor. Another scream emanated from upstairs, furniture was being overturned and something crashed to the ground.  In the elevator, I pushed 10. I had to see if I could help Phillip.

When the elevator doors opened, it took a minute for my eyes to focus. Blood was everywhere. Bleeding from a large wound on his thigh, Phillip sat propped by a desk.  A monkey with a prosthetic leg and one real and one fake eyeball was staring, grinning wickedly, blood dripping from his mouth. I saw a cabinet with glass doors and fruit inside. I threw some grapes at Nero. He ate the grapes, staring back and forth at us. 

     Phillip said, “he’s going to kill us.”

I tiptoed towards Phillip, past Nero. He kept staring at us, back and forth.

I used rags from my cart to try to stop the bleeding. We struggled into an office and locked it. 

     “I’ll call the police and wait with you”. 

      Phillip whispered. “No, you have to let them in. No access.”

      I asked, “Why is Nero so crazy?”

      Whispering again, “Afraid of lightning. The code, it’s his ‘rith day”

He passed out.

I dialed 911.

***

Outside of the office, I blocked the door with a desk.

Lighting flashed again, the room went dark, and uneven footsteps and screeches followed me. 

 I screamed when Nero suddenly jumped on my back. His hand reached around and yanked at the key card from behind. The lanyard started to cut off my air. Searing pain shot through my shoulder as his teeth sunk into my collarbone.  Still screeching, he bit the lanyard and it snapped off my neck, letting me take a deep breath. His jaw moved down to my forearm and spinning around I slammed him against the block wall. He fell down.

I ran to the stairwell and found the code box. I had three tries. I tried today’s date, nothing. The newspaper clipping said he retired on 10/01/2021. Nothing. He was 67. 10/01/1954. It clicked and flashed green, and the door to the stairwell unlocked.  

A searing pain shot through my other shoulder. He was on my back and wouldn’t let go. I ran down the stairwell, slamming him into the walls, the railings, even the steps when I fell. He still wouldn’t let go. Finally, I saw his head leaning way over my shoulder as if he was trying to see where he was going. I ran towards the wall at the 4th floor landing and cracked his head as hard as I could into the block wall. He went limp and fell from my body. I picked him up and threw him down the rectangular hole the banister made down the levels. He landed with a metallic thud on the concrete below. 

I limped as best as I could to the front doors and let waiting police in. They found Phillip, they loaded us in the ambulance. 

It’s the last time I’ll work in the same building as a monkey. 


 

Ann Folks is a beginning writer and so far has only entered her stories into writing contests. I really liked this one and it’s been entered into a contest but it didn’t place. I got some decent reviews on it so I tweaked it and I’m submitting it here to see if I get some good input. All comments are welcome.

Free Fiction: Long Time No See by James Peace

It had been at least three years since I had last seen John. I wondered if “best friend” was still applicable, given the circumstances. Somehow semantics were the last thing on my mind. Who left a voicemail in this day and age, anyway? Only John. His social and emotional ineptitude let him feel, think and act with not a single care for what others found acceptable or “in”. I admired that in him. He was the opposite of me, as I was confident and outgoing. I went to the parties, did the drugs, drank the shots. I had my own place way before he even considered leaving his parents’ home. Yet still, in a way, he had always been far more “free” than me.

Of course, that was back when we were in college. After we parted ways, the journey of life took…different routes for each of us. I ended up enlisting and following a boot’s lifestyle for a few years. John collected degrees like stamps and hopped between part-time jobs. We tried to meet up and connect for cultural events or each other’s birthdays. Life inevitably takes its course, though. Over time our get-togethers dwindled from once a month to once a year. For a long while, not even that. By the time I was 26, I hadn’t spoken with the man I loved as a brother in two years. We met at his family’s summer house by the northern coast for a pair of days. Bars, a casino, the beach, and a penthouse all to ourselves. Still, it hadn’t ended on the best of terms.

Three whole years had passed since then and here I was, tripping over every piece of furniture in my house. I dodged the third lego piece behind the corner of the stairwell, saving myself quite a bit of grief, and went down into the basement to get my duffle bag. At times, I had to question whether my son left these out of negligence or if he was trying to show his old man that he could hunt “big animals” too. Adorable little runt.

Throwing the duffle bag over my shoulder, I dialed my wife’s number into my phone. Life in the army, both during and after Bootcamp tended to prepare one for pretty much anything. The habits of getting up early, making one’s bed, and keeping a bag ready for sudden departures hadn’t been lost on me. With the house locked, the dog fed and the woman of my life appeased with promises of a weekend getaway, I threw the bag onto the backseat and left. Unlike my 99 Astra, life sure had a way of coming at you fast. Much like said Astra, though, I took pride in being a tough bone to chew on. After the dishonorable discharge, bouncing back wasn’t the easiest thing in the world yet I did it nonetheless. I took a couple of swigs from my pocket flask to steel myself against the cold and carried on.

On the way, I lost myself to the roads of memory. The teenage years spent with John, playing video games and geeking out with the other nerds in our group of friends. The wild nights of college when I ran out his patience with the latest of my dramas and mischiefs. I remembered the nights I spent having dinner at his place, his parents still sent me a gift when my birthday came along every year. Great people, all of them odd in their own harmless way. These had been some of the best times of my life. Sure, there were mistakes made along the way, but I for one never liked to dwell on the past.

I found the town by sundown and the coastline was deserted as I’d expected. With the rain and the cold, nobody stepped foot in it. His house was pretty isolated, a couple of miles away from the center. It was very characteristic of his family to keep a comfortable distance. As I slowly rolled into his driveway, I could see the lights were already on. I parked the car and took in a deep breath.  I forced down over half of the contents of my flask, replacing the sobering chill with a vigorous burn.

I stepped outside the car, shaking off the tension in my legs and back, and looked over to his porch. There he was, waving down at me with a big grin on his face. His hair was oily and black, his features rough and germanic. You could see a hint of eastern in his eyes. He wore the same black button-up shirt and brown chinos he’d worn three years before when we “made it big”. I missed him with all of my heart. I didn’t bother waving back as I opened the backseat door. Reaching my duffle bag, I grasped around for a small box and cold steel. As I pulled the Winchester M21 out and closed the door, I slid the two slugs into their respective barrels, glancing at the corner of the yard. The small dirt mound was still where I left it. Where I’d left him. I was holding in my right hand the same gun that had blown a hole through John so cleanly that a dessert plate could have easily fit through. Right through his trusting heart. Right through the shirt that thing, whatever it was, was wearing. I’ve never considered myself a man of prejudice, but dead things should stay dead and certainly not leave voicemails to their former friends.

Turning my attention back to “John”, I could see he was no longer waving at me. In fact, he was no longer smiling, either. Swallowing my fear, I took aim.


 

A young author from Western Europe, 24 years old, fascinated by all things horror and interested in publishing his own horror novel. Currently in the military, pursuing future involvement in Special Forces. Loves people, dogs, and the three F’s of life.

Free Fiction : Come Dine With Me by Pete Kijek

I never imagined in a million years that when I submitted the advert in the local paper asking to have someone for dinner, that someone would actually respond!

The advertisement was only short, necessity and a price per word dictated that. ‘Lonely 41-year-old male seeks like-minded individual for evening meal. Non-smoker, pref. non-drinker, must enjoy secluded weekends away and keeping fit.’ I must confess to being somewhat hesitant to submit, yet submit I did and paid for a four-week run. 

Towards the end of the third week, I received a response. A woman from Tettenhall had written back, saying that she wanted to meet! I read through her profile. She was thirty-five, single, no children, and had recently moved to the Midlands from Durham as a mature student. She sounded ideal! 

I wrote back, asking if she wanted to meet for coffee first, as I understood that simply going for dinner with someone could be a bit daunting for a single woman these days. She replied saying that she would be up for coffee, and we arranged to meet the following Saturday in Coffee Moments in the Wulfrun Centre.

I will confess right now, I have never felt so anxious as I did that Saturday sitting at the shopping centre waiting for her to turn up. I had lost count of the number of times I had re-positioned the little Chicaboo monkey on the table in front of me, propped up on the sugar dispenser.

I knew it was her the instant she stopped outside the shop. Light brown hair tied in a loose ponytail, stonewash blue jeggings and a camel-coloured turtle neck jumper, and a purple cross-body tote bag. She wasn’t fat, but not entirely slim either – I guess the politically correct way of putting it was that she had curves, the classic hourglass figure. In short, she was gorgeous! Far too good for the likes of me.

She grabbed herself a cappuccino and came and sat down at my table. Her name was Lauren, and we sat for hours just talking to each other. I had never known anyone to be so attentive in their listening, so engaging in their conversation. I honestly believe that right there and then was the moment I fell in love with her.

We arranged to have dinner the following weekend, at my place. Now, I must confess, I have never hosted anything like a dinner date before. I mean, I’ve seen stuff on TV, but this was the first time I had ever tried something like this myself. Our first meal together had to be something truly special and unforgettable. I even managed to coax the twins from Number 16 down the road to be a part of it, and when they turned up that afternoon, already dressed in smart, waiter/waitress-y clothing, I could not have been more excited!

The doorbell rang just after 7pm, and I went to get the door. Lauren was there in the most stunning little red number, and I ushered her through to the lounge whilst I ran her coat upstairs quickly.

Coming back down, I entered through the dining room, bringing two flutes and a bottle of prosecco with me, the cork already popped. Lauren took a glass, and I poured the fizzing liquid, eliciting a small giggle as I accidentally spilled some on my hand. 

Holding my eye contact, she softly took hold of my hand, bringing it to her lips and lightly licking the prosecco from my skin. To say the evening was already perfect would be an understatement. I had never known a woman like her. She was entirely bewitching, and I was held entranced by her spell.

I beckoned to her to enter the dining room, where I placed the bottle and my glass down on the table before seating her as every gentleman should.

Disappearing briefly into the kitchen, I returned with a small bowl of tomato soup in each hand. I placed Lauren’s bowl before her, then sat down to mine. 

The conversation was magical. I can honestly say I have never laughed so much – we just clicked, if that makes sense? It was like we had known each other for years, for centuries. 

With the soup course over, I stood placing my napkin carefully on the table and suggested she come with me into the kitchen, as I had a surprise for her. This main course would be to die for! Everything had happened so perfectly, running smoothly and according to plan.

Lauren stood and took my hand, as I led her into the kitchen. 

Taking care to walk over the plastic sheeting that covered the floor and every work surface, I led her to the chest freezer on the far side of the kitchen, being careful not to knock the bags containing the somewhat sanguinary corpses of the house’s previous occupants.

Opening the freezer, Lauren’s eyes widened with anticipation as the chilled but very much alive twin children looked up at both of us, abject horror and despair displayed on both their faces. 

Lauren indicated the boy, which was ideal as I had already provisionally hoped to have the girl. Taking them from the chiller, we led them to the huge island table in the centre of the kitchen, laying them down side by side, and taking hold of the knives with which we would prepare our feast.

“You’ve really outdone yourself this time, Claudio,” said Lauren, as she pierced the flesh of the boy, his screams muffled by the tape around his mouth.

I simply looked at her, lovingly, the charade of being strangers evaporating as I opened the girl from collarbone to navel and started peeling the skin back to reveal the tender morsels within.

“Well,” I replied, “I’ve got another hundred and fifty years to think up the next dinner.”


 

 

Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2021, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea to write about, which I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops

Free Fiction: This Year’s Costume by Peter Kijek

 

     “Alice! Where’s my costume?” Danny shouted to his sister from upstairs in his room, “I can’t find it?”

     “Down here, on the sofa, where you left it,” she yelled back as she gathered the suit hanger from the back of the dining room chair. “Come down and get it yourself!”

Danny raced down the staircase and into the lounge with all the haste a nine-year-old boy could muster.

     “This was such a great idea Mum had for Halloween this year!!”

Alice had to admit, this idea did go one better than last year’s costume, where they pretended to be mini demons whilst Dad sat in the car, and they beat the roof with his ‘severed head’. They loved to go all out to provide a real scare for the neighbourhood, and last year’s was horrific but immense fun. They’d moved to a new area shortly after, just before Christmas, and this Halloween was a great chance to not only top last year, but to show the new neighbourhood kids what Halloween was all about.

Upstairs in her room, a typical bedroom for a twelve-year-old girl, she unzipped the case and carefully took out the hanger that held her costume in place. It was perfect, absolutely historically accurate to the turn of the century period. It was a replica of the clothes worn by Susan Buckley who, along with her brother John, was reportedly photographed outside their house with their mother sat between them, axe in Susan’s hand, their mother’s head in John’s. The photograph had since been debunked, with experts claiming to know how the original portrait had been doctored to make it look like the kids had decapitated their poor mother. Whether it was real or not didn’t matter, it was a great urban legend and a great idea for a Halloween costume!

With the dress on, Alice pulled on the boots that came with it and dusted herself down in front of the mirror to flatten out any last-minute creases. Her hair was already tied up in an untidy bun. Brilliant, she thought, I look just like Susan Buckley! She grabbed the small axe from her bed, already stained with blood for that authentic look, and stepped out onto the landing. 

     “Are you ready yet?” she called to Danny, knocking on his bedroom door.  The door opened, and he stepped out, pulling at the collar with one finger to loosen it from chafing him. 

     “This shirt itches,” he complained.

     “That’s the starch,” explained Alice, “It helps with the authenticity.”

The children made their way downstairs, excited at the prospect of their costumes this year. Such a shame that their father wouldn’t be there to see the fruits of their labour, but that was okay, they understood the time of year and that he’d no doubt be buried in something keeping him extremely occupied. 

     “Is Mother ready?” asked Danny as he grabbed the shopping bag from the table.

     “She’s outside, sat on her chair,” replied Alice as she moved towards the front door, “She’s waiting for us. Now, come on! Some of the local kids are coming, I can see the lights from their mobiles.” Opening the door, she ushered Danny outside to the chair on the front lawn where their mother sat.

     “Here they come,” she whispered to her brother, “Get ready! As soon as they see us, they’ll want to take photos, just like the Buckley children!”

Standing on the opposite side of his mother to where Alice was, Danny reached into the shopping bag and pulled out his mother’s head, blood still dripping from the ragged flesh where Alice had hacked it off earlier that afternoon. 

Alice quietly moved her head to one side, to whisper to Danny. “I don’t know how we’re going to top this next year? Here’s hoping Uncle Mark has some good ideas….. ?”

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Once, many moons and 1 failed marriage ago, I started writing a high fantasy novel, on the urging of my now ex-wife. I really enjoyed what I was writing, and probably would’ve carried on had things not gone awry at home. It is now 2022, I have a new wife, and a new novel idea I am currently writing. I have also found a penchant for writing horror. I live with my family, emotional support hound, Fallon, and am addicted to Coco Pops and Hula Hoops. Find Peter on Facebook.

Free Fiction: A Handful Of Bones by Anita Dénes

Bird bones, bird bones, rattling in my hand. Small and brittle. I listen to the soft clicking sounds they make as I shake them, cast them like dice on the worn carpet to tell me answers.

They’re not really the bones of a bird, though, they belong to a child or used to. A child with black curls and a quick smile. I’m holding her finger bones, or maybe a part of her foot.

Does that frighten you? Then you’re in the wrong place, love. And anyway, I lied. They’re squirrel bones, you can see a rib, can’t you, and children don’t have ribs that small.

Well, not once they’re born, anyway. Maybe these are child bones, after all, dug up from a worse place than the wet earth.

You decide what they are and what I am, if what I tell you is a lie or a truth. They called me Lügner, back in the old days – it means ‘liar’. Amazing how much a truth can sound like a filthy lie if you decide you don’t like what you’re hearing.

So what do you want to know? Your future? Someone else’s? Do you want to hear how to stop a treacherous heart without being discovered, or give life to a dry womb?

No. You wouldn’t have journeyed this far for that. Mother Lügner’s home is hidden in the whistling reeds, the capricious swamp, and it takes a brave one or a fool to find it. Or someone who has burned every single bridge, even the one she’s walking on.

Tell me, love, or I can’t help you.

You’re so young and lovely like I never was even when my hair was still dark and I had all my teeth. I should hate you for that. But how could I hate you when you sit there crying?

Don’t waste water like that. We don’t have much of it. Wipe your eyes, now, quiet down, and tell me what you want.

The creatures from the mountains, yes, of course, I know them. If you want to know how to avoid them, you need more than my words, I have no power over something that is not human anymore.

You… want to become one?

Oh, I haven’t had a laugh like that since the ash began falling from the sky. Tell me what you really want, and I will grant it to you just for cheering me like that.

Oh.

You were not joking.

You want to cast away your humanity, all you have left in these black days. You want to become mindless, a slave to hunger and cold and nothing else. A beast preying on the few of us that are left, your own family, maybe. You are running from something, but why do you want to run that far?

What have you done?

Ah. So that is why you went so pale when I said I was holding a child’s bones. Hard times beget harder measures, and hunger is the lord of us all.

Did you hold your brother’s bones when your stomach was full?

Don’t run away, love. You will drown in the swamp if you stumble around sobbing like that. I couldn’t care less about what happens to you, but I don’t want the carrion birds near my house. Or your… friends.

Yes, I will help you, if only just to get you out of here. Let us hear what the bones have to say.

Click-click-click, the sound of your future. A handful of bones finding you the road to damnation.

What is that little smile I see on your lips? Are you that eager to throw away all that you are, just to forget?

I cast the bones from my hand. Let us see.

That rib pointing at your foot, that is the direction you will have to go in once you leave my house. Through swamp and wood and snow, follow the line even if the path curves away from under you. Don’t lose it! Straight on until you run into this little vertebra, see? That will be a hill.

You will need to go into that hill, down in its hollowed-out stomach. Just follow the staircase, long ago laid bare by storms more vicious than you have lived to see. You will find a doorway at the bottom of the stairs, the door ripped off its hinges before you were born.

That is where those things came from. The first they feasted on were the people who made them.

You will find the cache in the secret room, untouched inside the hill. Untouched because no one in their right mind would open one of those crates, but you are not in your right mind anymore, are you, love?

They will look like little bottles of clean, cool water, but make no mistake. They are what you need. Open one and drink from it.

It will hurt.

Five of those bottles emptied into a city’s water tank were enough to wipe out thousands of men, women, and children. Drink only enough to moisten your mouth. Even I don’t know what will happen if you drink more.

No one can tell what you will look like once the agony passes. Eight limbs, maybe, eyes all over your skin, or a snout to crush a skull with. All of those at once, even. The tumors will kill you in a few years, of course, but for those few years, you will be free to roam and forget.

You are smiling once again. You disturb me, love, and few things disturb Mother Lügner these days.

You have not told me everything.

Oh. Oh.

That taste of flesh… You cried because you hated it.

And you smile now because you crave it.

Get out.

Get out!

My old heart races so. She will go where I said, no doubt, and destroy herself.

Man on the cross, forgive me. I should have lied to her.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Anita Dénes grew up in Transylvania as an avid reader, and later writer of strange stories, both in English and Hungarian. She published her first short story in a Hungarian magazine at the age of 20. Now, at 23, she is an aspiring author dreaming of publishing a full-length book one day and working on mysterious and macabre tales in the meantime.

Book Review: Love and Zombies by Eric Shapiro 

Review by Hailey Knoblock

Content Warning: Brief Mentions of Rape 

Imagine going on an adventure to Las Vegas in the midst of the zombie apocalypse on the hunt to find a girl that was just recently bitten by a zombie so that she can be used in an upcoming porn film?  

Love and Zombies by Eric Shapiro is a humorous, gory, and quick read. Henry, a filmmaker, gets a call one day from his friend Sam Kranson. Sam has a mission for Henry and himself to go out to Las Vegas to find a girl who has been recently bitten by a zombie and to bring her back to a man named Anthony Christopher, the son of the sharks’ casino owner in Vegas. However, Anthony Christopher and the rest of the casino’s intent is to use the girl that is slowly turning into a zombie to be used in a porn film. As well as the mission, Henry also has an addiction to going to strip clubs, so his girlfriend Teresa, is quite anxious for him to be going on a trip alone to Las Vegas. Sam and Henry will be compensated though, if they complete the mission

I really liked how the main character, Henry, kept having flashbacks the whole time of his girlfriend, Teresa, who he had to leave behind to go on the mission with Sam to Las Vegas. The whole time, while the zombie apocalypse is happening, Henry has this internal struggle of thinking about if Teresa still likes him, or if she has left him for someone else. I like how this deep internal struggle that Henry has contrasts with the humor of Sam and Henry’s relationship and the funny situations that Henry gets himself stuck in throughout the novel. 

Another aspect that I really liked about this book was all of the gore that was involved and the violence. The best part is that Eric Shapiro would take a scene full of gore and violence but also make the situation absolutely hilarious.

There is a brief mention of rape in the novel that I would like to point out, but it is only mentioned for a moment in the story. 

The book was enjoyable and hilarious except for the mention of rape. It was fast, fun, and full of gore and violence. The writing was simple and effective and also easy to understand. The storyline was interesting and after the first page, I was hooked. 

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes gore, violence, a little bit of romance, and humor. 

Review Written By: Hailey Knoblock 

Free Fiction: Pockets of Posies by Nexie Maryln

Remember that one nursery rhyme Ring Around the Rosie? Well in this case two kids were in the woods when they heard the nursery rhyme through the wisping fall wind. Here is their story.

One day in October near Halloween, Lyla and Kyla were walking in the woods as the wind picked up putting an utter chill in the fall air when the twins heard a faint sound of a music box and as they neared the end of the woods the sound grew louder and louder so before the twins left the woods, they went exploring and found an old plantation style house was the source of the music. They ventured into the gate with a loud creak. The music stopped and they saw a little girl emerge from the broken door. She couldn’t have been any older than 4 or 5 years old. She looked very scared and was in ripped clothes.

     “Maybe she is homeless?” Lyla asked Kyla.  

Unbeknownst to the girls, the little girl Rosiee was the victim of a game of ouija board Ring Around the Rosie, where they summoned a demon who wanted to “play” with the little girl and her family. As they followed her in, they felt this unfamiliar feeling that made them uneasy. They ventured further into the home not trusting their gut to leave immediately.  Once they caught up to the little girl, they looked at the room and realized that they had fallen into a trap of the demon that possessed Rosiee. With her head cocked to one side, Rosieeand giggled as her eyes turned black and her face slowly began to slide off as her body grew two feet taller. By the time the girls turned to run Rosiee took the form of the demon that possessed her.

As soon as the girls got to the door it slammed shut, trapping the girls who were now cowering in fear. The demon rushed over to the girls and consumed them just like she had the family. 

So if you see three girls beckoning for you to come in. Run for your life before it is too late and you fall victim to the demons of Ring Around the Rosie. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Nexie Maryln is a short story author that wants to do this full time.

Free Fiction: He is Coming by S.Tierney

Under bough and moonlight, we bide, the twilight breeze fluttering the hems of our white cotton gowns. Behind us, staving the chill while preventing retreat, a semicircle of elders support burning torches, their grimaces of paternal anticipation veiled behind a portrait mask. 

Before us, awaiting us, beckoning us: a fruitless and endless and altogether lifeless density of brambles, an entwined jungle of octopus tentacle with talon-like thorns for suckers. The wind causes the vines to grind together, sounding a scratching akin to a butcher’s tools being sharpened – yet shortly we must attempt to achieve what the moonlight cannot. Upon the dimming of the moon behind a cloud we must penetrate this barbed mass, run headlong into its jagged crush without a moment’s hesitation, all in an attempt to reach the other side. 

This is the way of it–

And so we are away. Gowns flapping. Faces preemptively scrunched. The initial thorns cut the deepest, fangs puncturing, biting our momentum. Immediately we are lodged, imprisoned within nature’s chains. In animal reflex one cannot help but raise their hands to their face, fearing scars and lacerations and the likely loss of an eye. But this is a mistake. Although we are all virgins to this ceremony and therefore inexperienced, the best of us know instinctively that one’s hands are better put to use not in preservation but in parting. Reach for those brambles! Tear them from their roots! Yes, just as our cheeks, our palms will soon be glossy with blood, that loose skin between the fingers spliced from so much snagging; yet these torments must be ignored. We must hasten. Endure. Suffer. Clench. Scream if you must, cry out! But whatever you do, do not hesitate, not even for a moment.

For He is coming.

He moves faster than us, compelled by a purpose comparable with a predator’s lust. He carves through the brambles with all the impulsion of a stag trampling roses, following those paths of least resistance which we have so courteously made ready. Yes, we benefit from a head start, that interval between the thinning of the clouds and the returning of the moon; but He has strength on His side, power, size, and a rampant desire to capture those laggers who have fallen behind. 

Dare you look over your calloused shoulders you would see that His lumbering structure is barnacled with faces. Masks, to be exact, sunken wicker skulls with only a lacquer of meat depicted across the bone. Not only is His face concealed as per the elders; He is draped in masks as though a stone clustered with oysters, His ribs and shins and forearms and spine consumed beneath armor-like myiasis of haunted expressions, each more pained and repentant than the next. This spore of woven faces seems to cry out as He thrusts them through the brambles, the wailing mill of thorn against willow akin to teeth down a blackboard – not that He fosters any heed. The thorns are nothing to Him. He feels no pain. He only wills the chase. His chase. Our chase. With each stride, He surges faster, grows more determined–

Should you maintain the inclination to escape, you must do the same.

It is impossible to know how deep you are into the brambles – it is all one endless, seizing tract. You may have grappled through an acre or an inch of it, for an hour or a lifetime; and all you have to show is a gown torn to ribbons. Your flesh fares little better, gashed raw that it is. At least be thankful that you are still moving, still breathing, even writhing – which is more than can be said for your fellows…

Having previously been cocooned within a company as numerous as a flock of doves, now the flock is dissipating, His ravenous hawk bringing down you fledglings beak by beak. A begging squawk is stifled within the brambles, snuffed out like a candle. Moments later and out goes another. Then another. Between the vines, you catch a flash of cotton as it is snatched away, pale and bloodied. You feel yourself alone, isolated; you fear you too will soon be snatched, for you are freezing and fretting and all-but naked and exhausted to your soul – yet you must endure, just a little further. Another inch. Another lifetime. Look, the brambles are thinning. The light beyond them swells! Of this, you convince yourself if only to drown out the howling reality that He is almost upon you. Within the reflective beads of blood and sweat and dew and tears which cling to the vines ahead, you see His charging form glinting in the moonlight, unblinking eyes staring hungrily, bared teeth snapping like those of a pack of hounds. As though an extension of his wicker the brambles seem to harden, converge, wrap around you. The light…it is so close now. One final push. One final tolerance of laceration and suffering and-

You collapse to a bed of wild and welcoming grass, the brambles renounced behind your swollen ankles. Your breath is hurried, moist exhalations swirling around the smoke from the semicircle of torches which stand over you. An elder in a red gown lifts your head and presses a chalice to your lips. You swallow as best you can – the tart fluid bubbles over your chin. A mask, a robe, and a torch are awarded – and a second sip.

Thankful, you roll over and glance behind you; each indistinguishable from the other, His wicker masks peer out from the brambles, more innumerous than before. 

And then, in accordance with the moon, they recede.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

S. Tierney is an author of novels, comics, and several acclaimed short stories – which have been translated into audiobooks – and the novella ‘Kin’. Find more of his work on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scott-Tierney/e/B00J21D0O6?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1641651813&sr=8-1

 

Free Fiction: It’ Hard Out There For A Cryptid by Andy Martin

Devil let Dogman push his advantage, his strength, his reach, but Dogman’s big haymakers were too wild to really connect, claws too short and too dog to do much damage, and when Devil felt Dogman’s whole weight shift forward for the kill Devil dropped back on his wings like he was done for but then kicked out with both hooves, catching the mutt high on the chest. Dogman hit the sand like there wasn’t a bone left in his body.

Devil followed through and landed more or less upright on his hooves, that spot on his back, right above his tail, absolutely screaming. He’d feel that one in the morning.

     “Welcome to New Jersey kid,” he said, wisps of smoke and sulfur for punctuation.  

Dogman’s eyes were rolled over white but he was whimpering so he’d live. 

     “Don’t feel bad. I’ve been pulling that move since the 18th century. One time I turned a grass ape’s head completely around like that, so count       yourself lucky.” He grabbed a handful of Dogman’s pelt and dragged him toward the creek. “Let’s get some water in you.”

***

     “Anything?” Buddy said, his phone on selfie mode as checked his headlamp.

     “I’ve barely got any bars, no, wait, wait, I got it. You’re good,” Steve said, turning his phone with the aftermarket lighting and stabilization rig             toward Buddy. He got Buddy framed up, the pine trunks behind him looking like rotted teeth in the glare of the big light. “Rolling.”

     “What’s up Youwatch, this is Cryptid Buddy coming from deep in the Jersey Pines, but tonight we’re not talking about Jersey Devil, tonight             we’re talking about-”

***

Dogman was on the shore, shaking cedar water from his fur and spitting blood. Devil hopped off a stump and stretched hard, maybe too hard, because Dogman flinched and whined.

     “Relax pal. We’re good.” Except for my back, which is not good, Devil thought. “Friends?” Devil said and offered a claw. Dogman shrunk and           Devil turned his claw palm down, let him come in for a sniff.

     “Good boy. See? We’re fine. Look kid, I was young once too, I get it. 1909? I was all the rage. People were so scared of me, they couldn’t keep       my name out of their mouths. I was chasing trollies and closing schools. I mean, it wasn’t quite the 18th, when I was eating babies and                  burning churches, but I loved it…until some kid in California willed me into existence and a Bigfoot kicked my ass.”

***

“Dogmen. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Devil of Ben Franklin’s day is no match for these carnivorous Cano-sapiens, and I have exclusive information that animal mutilations are on the rise in the Pine Barrens and there have been numerous sightings of large humanoids-”

Steve was fighting to keep up with Buddy in the soft sand, the pines crowding the road and throwing menacing shadows in the camera light-

***

Dogman stopped licking his paw and made a little whine.

     “Look, I get it. You’re holed up somewhere, sleeping that deep sleep, and you feel it, or smell it, or whatever. That scared, eager mind. That            delicious belief. But kid, we’ve all got our patches. I still feel that pull from all over the country, not like ’09, but it’s there. Maybe it’s because          everyone, everywhere, is from New Jersey, but either way, lots of people, all over the place, they step in the woods at night, they think of me.”

Dogman whined again and looked anywhere but at Devil.

     “But you know what? Colorado ain’t my patch. Florida ain’t my patch. Bodwin Moor ain’t my patch. Jersey is my patch, and I still get plenty of         Boy Scout trips out here to keep me going strong. I need a pick me up, I just land close to one of those little circles of tents and scream like         hell, plant that seed of terror that those kids will carry for the rest of their lives and years from now, they’ll be around a campfire and telling             their own kids about what they heard one night, and that’s me, going strong for another few years. You try to be everywhere where someone         thinks they see a Dogman and you’ll burn out. Or some old-timer like me or the Opogo is gonna clean your clock-”

Devil snapped a claw at Dogman.

     “Hey! There’s places you’re meant to be and places you ain’t. The Pines are mine. I’m not pissing on hydrants in Michigan, so do me the                 same      courtesy, you get me?”

Dogman nodded, his eyes still anywhere but on the Devil and skulked into the night.

***

      “What was that?!”

Steve did like he was supposed to and whipped his phone back and forth across the logging road, the sand wetter now, like maybe this was a bad idea and they were walking into a bog.

      “I heard it too!” Steve hissed, but it wasn’t only a stage whisper. Somewhere way out in the night, he’d heard some sort of low moan, half-animal, half-human but all hurt. It left his balls crawling. 

     “There! There!” Buddy shouted and backed up, squelching in the wet sand, banging full on into Steve, the camera spinning, Steve sick to his         stomach and cold all over at the same time. 

Steve heard wings beating, big ones.

     “Buddy, we gotta go,” he said. 

     “What is it?” Buddy asked, more a moan than words, all the bravado gone and then the moon winked out and winked back on, something                huge and black flying over the road, the shadow bending off to the right like it was circling back-

The scream hit them, and Steve pissed Mountain Dew in his pants and they were both running, no thoughts of Dogmen anymore because only one monster rules the night in New Jersey.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————-

 

 

 

Andy Martin is an archaeologist and musician living in South Philly with his girlfriend and cat. He sings songs about shipwrecks and survival cannibalism for the band Clamfight. His fiction has appeared at Cultured Vultures and Necrology Shorts, and he’s authored or coauthored archaeology articles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Free Fiction: Wolf by JS O’Connor

You embrace me like two long-lost lovers meeting once again. But as I embrace you, I can feel you change. I release you but your arms are strong and I am trapped. 

“Please,” I beg. But you tighten your grip.

Your hands grab my arms. Your nails are daggers. I begin to cry. But I can’t look away as you show me your face. Gone are the beautiful green eyes. Gone is your handsome and soft face. Gone is your short blonde hair. Gone is the man I fell in love with. Gone is the man I married. Red eyes look at me now. A face like a dog, or coyote, or maybe a wolf look at me now.

Tears roll down my cheeks. I know what’s about to happen. “I love you,” I whisper. “I will always love you.” But you are silent.

Soon I feel your teeth enter my flesh. Blood runs down my chest. I look to a photo hanging on the wall. A happier time. A time you no longer remember. I try to speak your name, but I can’t. I struggle to breathe. The light begins to fade and soon all is dark. 

_______________________________________________________________________

 

 

J.S. O’Connor is a staff writer for HorrorAddicts.net who currently lives in Bettendorf, Iowa. He lives with his wife, three cats, and one dog. He writes during his free time.  you will also enjoy reading his “Spooky Locations” Features here on our blog.

Free Fiction: The Mighty One by P. M. Thomas

My mind is like a record, left on playback, constantly looping, never stopping, always repeating the same notes, over and over and over. Ad nauseam.

I’m amazed I’ve lasted as long as I have. Most men would have lost it in less than a year. But not me. For over two decades, I have been hearing the same record play the same tune. From the tender age of a boy, it began – a small note, something others would have ignored, but not I.

I listened to the melody, got caught in its vicious trap, its intrusive cycle. Sealed in the routine of the song, the melody grew stronger every day and thereon, it took total control, dominated my mind, controlled my life.

It almost destroyed me on several occasions. Luckily, I managed to survive; luckily, I managed to hold on to the slither of strength I had left.

I suppose you’re wondering, why don’t I just switch off the record and stop listening to it? I have tried, believe me, dear reader, I have tried.
Every time I attempt to block out the endless loop, it always comes back, louder and louder.
What does my mind play, I hear you ask?

Words. Words of great disturbance, words of darkness, words that must be purified. Cleansed of their evil. Decontaminated with the light of goodness.

Now, I hear you say, they are only words … Can words cause harm?

Oh, dear reader, I shall shed light on why these dark words must be purged of their vileness in order to prevent any harm that their wretchedness could bring.

It’s because of the Mighty One.

Who is that? I hear you wonder. Allow me to explain. The Mighty One is a being of omnipotent power, a being that processes my thoughts in a heartbeat and can make them happen.

The Mighty One resides in the far reaches of my consciousness. We are linked – we are one, it and I. We both determine the fate of the world.

I did not ask for such a heavy responsibility, the Mighty One chose me and made me the guardian of all life. You can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is having to hold all our lives in my mind.

My mind. The battlefield. Where every minute of every hour of every day is spent battling the dark words with the words of salvation.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m crazy.

You could be right. Of course, you could be wrong.

Who’s to say that my mind doesn’t have the power to cause pain and misery if the dark words were ever processed by the Mighty One?

The world is a mystery; who knows what incredible things lurk behind the veil of reality, the mask of sanity, the logic of reason?

There is a good chance it all could be in my head. Maybe I have a disturbed mind that needs to make an average guy like me seem important to the world. Or could there be a phenomenon that this mind of mine contains? My mind … the key to the destruction of someone, of everyone and – worst case scenario – of the whole wide world.

Not to mention, the key to destroying my very self if the words wished to.

Might I be a man with an overactive imagination sparked into overdrive, no longer able to tell reality and fantasy apart? Or might I be a guardian, keeping the world and all lives within the world existing every single day, non-stop?

Whatever I am, I stand on the fine line between life and death, good and evil, light and darkness, purity and corruption, peace and mayhem, hope and doom, existence and oblivion.

I suppose you are wondering by now… what are the dark words that may or may not cause catastrophic effects?

You’re not going to like the answer but I can not tell you what the words are. To even speak of them or write them could cause the catalyst. The dark words must remain sealed in my head.

You may not care about risking the possible end of your life, another life, my life or all life in the world, but I do.

I’m afraid I can not take such a risk to indulge your curiosity.

Fret not, dear reader, for while I am unable to give you the apocalyptic words, I can give you the words of salvation that were given to me by the Mighty One.

And when you read these words, think of the difficult struggle that I, your sole protector, must do to keep you going to bed, safe and sound, every night.

There is no rest for me, there is no peace for me. I have a duty that I must uphold till the day I die.

And to you sceptics out there, those who do not believe me, those who feel I am mad or making this up: continue to live your life as you wish, in bliss.

Whether I am a guardian or not, these are the words I must repeat endlessly to keep you all alive and well as I sit here on my own, day in, day out, locked in my little white room.

 

Oh Mighty One, protect the world.

Oh Mighty One, protect all life.

Oh Mighty One, protect me.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake the world.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake all life.

Oh Mighty One, do not unmake me.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake the world.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake all life.

Oh Mighty One, never forsake me.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on all life.

Oh Mighty One, have mercy on me.

Oh Mighty One, give all life strength.

Oh Mighty One, give me strength.

Please, Mighty One, please.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

P.M. Thomas is an author from Birmingham, UK. He has always had a love and passion for the art of storytelling, especially when it’s associated with horror.   Find more of his work at: https://philipbrocklehurst3.wixsite.com/p-m-thomas

Free Fiction: Seconds Left For Tomorrow Melissa R. Mendelson

The clock hands rested across the nine and the eleven. The red second line convulsed, struggling to break in-between. It pushed forward, then fell back. It refused to give up, shaking so hard that it might just snap, but it slipped forward. An inch forward. It was stuck again.

I closed my eyes. The hum of the lights overhead did not help. The breakdown of the seconds did not help. The shouting outside did not help. If only the world could just stop. Stop for one damn minute.  Let me concentrate, and I closed my eyes, drawing in a breath. Come on. Focus. You can do it. Just focus.

“Damn it! Will you all outside shut the fuck up?” I stared at the thin walls, knowing that they heard me. “Thank you. I need to concentrate.” I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes. “Someone turn off the fucking lights,” and the hum died.

I could see it now. The black, square object spinning wildly. Its hum was silent but deafening. It could not leave its orbit. It was stuck like that red second line, convulsing, threatening to break. I slipped forward, pushed back by its electric field. Never had I dealt with such resistance. I reached for it. My hand touched it. I was thrown against the wall, and the wall cracked.

“What is the obstacle here?” the suit asked.

“The obstacle?” I laughed, wiping the blood from my nose. “It won’t let me near it.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Are you deaf, man? It won’t let me near it.”

“Don’t you control that thing?”

“There is no control,” I said. “We have a mutual relationship. At least, we did.” I looked down at the blood on my hand. “Something’s wrong,” I said.

“No shit, buddy. We’re on the brink of war, and we’re barely surviving the viral outbreak. You were our last resort.”

“I’m sorry.” I waited for the suit to help me up. Instead, he sat in my chair. “Sure. Just leave me on the floor,” I said. “I’m fine here.”

“None of us are fine, if we can’t see tomorrow. We need to… I need to know. You’re the man that can see the future, and you need to see if there is a tomorrow.”

“I’m trying! I never had this obstacle before. I could always see tomorrow and the tomorrows after that. Too much is happening right now.”

“There is always something happening in the world,” the suit said.

“No. Not like this. It’s like the floodgates were thrown open, and there are too many variables in play. There might be a tomorrow, but what kind of tomorrow? There might not be a tomorrow, but then what did we do wrong today? What did we do yesterday that set off the end of the world? Let’s face it. We are at the end.”

“Try again. Take a moment, and try again.”

“I’ve been at this all day. I just have this really bad feeling.”

“That it’s over?”

“No. There will be a tomorrow, but not our tomorrow.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means buckle up. Whatever is coming our way, there is no stopping it.”

“So, you’re giving up?”

I didn’t answer him. I knew what I had to do. Something bad was coming. Something really bad, and I didn’t want to see it. There was only one thing left then to escape that fate. I found the black, square object spinning wildly in its orbit. I grabbed hold with both hands this time, and I didn’t let go. The electric field pierced through the fabric of my being. My mind split apart. Before I snapped into oblivion, I caught a glimpse. I saw the world from yesterday, and it was burning in orange flames.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Melissa R. Mendelson is a horror, dystopian and science-fiction author,                                                                        whose short stories have been published in Sirens Call Publications,                                                                                        Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.

You may find her work at: http://www.melissamendelson.com

Free Fiction : The Glubb by Brittanty Erickson

The Glubb

There once was a lady with no hair. She smoked 5 packs a day in front of endless Golden Girl marathons. She ashed on the couch, ashed on her carpet, her sink, her cats, the parrot ate butts as a snack. She loved to ash in her tub while she sat on the loo. She never used the tub, but once in a while, she’d pour the rest of her Old Milwaukee down the drain, which was clogged with food and ash. The smell was more than rancid. She would often see a mass move in the corner of her eye but always disregarded it as her own mind playing tricks.

She had no kids. Her parents had passed. But, this was more than depression and misery. A spiral of emptiness, a void. She began to think, “Why would anything be real?” 

With her cat snuggling her, fur matted with ash, she stroked his tail. She was laying on the couch, waiting for ‘The Price is Right’ to end. Then she heard a slurping sound. She ignored it as the building’s pipes were in bad shape.

In the bathroom, the mass began to grow. The parrot had disappeared the day before. She figured, “He must have flown away when I chucked out the cans.” She went to have another loo. Walking down the ash-ridden hallway, cancerous dust puffed from her feet. She angled her arm around the corner to turn on the light. It was covered in a moist, unfamiliar material. She reached for her smartphone and clicked the power to light the screen. She heard a loud POP and saw ash fall from the walls. 

“Grhhh-ggh,” came from the tub. She found herself unable to move when she noticed feathers plastered to the walls.

The mass continued down through her tub, into the lower pipes. A man was bathing below, getting ready for work. When he raised his razor to his cheeks, he felt a tickle on his foot. He jerked, cutting his cheek down to his chin. 

“Dammit!” He screamed. The bath began to fill with a black substance. Touching his cheek, he saw red, not black. The water became a dark grey and began to gurgle. It slipped into his pelvis and used his gut to travel through to his wound. The man felt dry, too dry to move. His skin began to shrivel, his hair fell out. The cut on his cheek began to ooze black.

The mass traveled back down the drain, searching for an exit. The pipes of this complex led to the sewer. Soon the city was to become monotone.

Frightened by the explosive amount of ash, the lady was in disbelief. “It’s not real, it’s not real,” she said to the ash. 

The lady laid back down on her couch. She stayed inside her home until she needed groceries 2 weeks later. She never ran the water, and lived strictly on diet-soda. She grabbed her one key and began her walk out of the door. No point in locking it, nothing to steal. 

As she walked, ash flew from her toes. It was such a normal, homely feeling.

It was unusually quiet inside the building, but outside was unusually loud. A gurgling, burping could be heard from the sewer grate under her apartment. She trembled and hugged her flannel jacket closer to her skin.  

She lived only 2 blocks away from her grocery stop. Instantly, she noticed the market had no employees. The food was starting to rot. There was a rancid smell coming from the shop doors. She grabbed a bag and started stealing cans and boxes of non-perishables. On her way back home, no one passed her, no one was walking across the street. She could only hear the “grubble-glubb,” from the sewer beneath.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Brittany Erickson is a 30-year-old mom who enjoys writing stories and poems. She lives in rural Iowa, USA, always has.

Free Fiction: The Buck by Sam Clattenburg

The Buck

When Amanda awoke all she could think of were those sharp hooves breaking through her windshield. Lying next to her in her overturned pickup truck was a bloody mess of hair, glass, and blood. So much blood- everywhere. She felt a prick in her arm. Antlers. Attached to those antlers was a set of stone-cold dead eyes. Life completely drained; pupils mid-dilated. For a very brief moment, she felt compassion because this wasn’t in her plan. As she admired those eyes and lifted a hand to stroke its face, an unexpected kick of the beast in her car knocked her out once again.

This time when she woke, the buck had disappeared. Like it had never been there in the first place. Broken glass shards remained but no blood. Had she dreamt it all? Didn’t she just hit a deer?

She unbuckled her seatbelt brushing off bits of glass shards, all the while looking around to get a sense of her surroundings. But there was nothing particular that stood out as familiar to her. In fact, when she looked one way it was just a  crumbled up unkempt dried out old paved road lined with a multitude of trees with multicolored leaves all in varying stages of decay. A glance in the other direction offered the same exact view. Same cracks in the same dried-up old pavement. Same trees. Then she saw it. Standing across the road with not a scratch was the buck. Easily a ten-pointer. She knew because her Daddy hunted her whole young life and the ten-pointer was the coveted prize of hunters.

How can that be? Must be a different deer. She looked over to where her car lay crumpled up in the ditch. Damn Japanese cars ain’t worth a shit, she heard her father’s voice in her head. He had died three years prior from lung cancer. Then she saw it. She saw herself lying on that seat, face pushed up against the driver’s side window. She was still in that car. 

Amanda looked herself in the eyes. One had started to turn black and bloody- clotted with blood. Lying next to her was the eviscerated buck. She turned quickly to where she had just seen the buck only seconds before. It was gone. 

She heard what sounded like hooves clacking on that crooked busted up road. She turned around slowly in fear of what she may see…

Expecting to see the deer she had seen only moments before, instead stood before her some kind of blasphemous beast. Something straight out of the Old Testament. It… He must have been at least eight feet tall. From the waist down it was almost humanoid, only more grotesque. Transparent skin revealed giant green and blue pulsating veins in those muscular legs housing hooves at the ends instead of feet. The top half could only be described as a wolf/man, easily five-six hundred pounds of pure powerful, frightening muscle.  On top of its head were those giant horns, the ones that belonged on that buck.  A long dog-like snout drew her eyes up to meet its own yellow shining eyes.

The smell hit her in the face like a pound of sulfur, wet dog fur, and feces. It leapt forward stopping inches from her face where it let out a terrifying howl. Emitting the foulest smelling breath you could imagine. Like hot garbage, complete with fish rotting out in the desert sun. It took Amanda’s own breath away as she coughed, gagged, and screamed. 

Out of instinct, she turned to run. She would run into the woods amongst the trees for safety. Before she got six inches away she felt the hairy, inhumanly strong arms of that beast pull her back. Back… back… It was now running with her; her face being gashed open by branches and foliage. She had no idea where she was going… But she knew she wasn’t going to be coming back. She knew she only had herself to blame. She had been killing since she was a teen. Her Daddy showed her how to hunt and gut.  Hunting became her obsession. It began small with neighborhood cats, dogs, then finally and inevitably that escalated to some children going missing in her small town.  No one will ever find them.  That was her plan. Her plan was to leave before she was caught. People were talking and in small towns…  Rumors hold weight.

In the end even, when her Daddy was sick, she felt the most compassionate thing to do would be to slit his throat and end his suffering quickly. She knew he appreciated it even though he seemed unprepared, maybe even a little shocked. But she knew.. He knew. He always knew. 

This was her fate.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Sam writes mainly short fiction and horror reviews. I’ve been previously published in the 2013 Anthology by HorrorAddicts.net titled, “A Horror Addict’s Guide to Life”. I can be found posting movie review reels on IG lesgeek or on TikTok or blog  shereallyneedsapriest

Free Fiction : Susurration by Jarred Allen Schulte

             Awake. 

             Cold. 

             Numb. 

Rolling to his side and scrambling to his feet he took in his surroundings. 

A dark and terrible thing had taken place here. Black and red candles, burned to their nubs, were strewn all around. The charred and broken remains of disfigured beings, their sizes and shapes leading him to believe they had once been children, were arranged at each point of a strange and mesmerizing pattern that had been drawn upon the floor. 

At the center of the cryptic symbol lay a makeshift altar of wood and stones, upon which sat what remained of a skull. The face bloated and sloughing off, the lips peeling back in a permanent grimace, neck ragged and torn. 

Aghast at the scene, he stumbled from the temple to find the surrounding town in ruins. The light was beginning to drain from a sickly sunset. Dusky yellows and oranges painted the surrounding miasma casting a dull glow all around. 

The ground surrounding the temple and spreading in every direction as far as the eye could see appeared foul and blighted, the houses and shops in a state of extreme disrepair, as if left to rot for ages. Possessions inside homes seemingly left where they were last used, pots on stoves with molding meals, brackish water pooling in bathtubs half drained through evaporation.

No other remains could be found, human or otherwise, no one squatted in the rotted-out hamlet. He came to realize something even more disturbing… no animals wandered the streets, rats didn’t skitter between cupboards, no crows lined the rooftops. There was nothing making even the slightest of sounds beyond the rotting leaves blowing through the ruined dirt paths. No grass had grown up, and vines did not choke the lattices. The town was not just abandoned, it was utterly, and completely devoid of life. 

As night gripped the hamlet tighter, he continued his desperate search. 

Wandering the streets and peering into the blackness of doorways whose doors had fallen from their hinges he caught the glint of a torch. 

Or so he thought. 

Darting across the street to where he had seen the fleeting glow in the window of a home whose glass still remained, he rushed inside only to find no traces of passage in the layer of filth and dust that caked the floors. But in the dark closeness of the small entryway, he could see the glow again. 

The wind blew a shrill whistle through the home’s jagged wooden teeth. Upon the left wall was cast a faint and putrid glow, dim at first but growing brighter as he moved closer to inspect the source. 

Only, there was no visible source. The glow seemed to move as he moved, growing dimmer and vanishing as he moved further from the wall and into the house. Moving across the room and toward the window, he saw the glint once again, this time with a clarity that made his chest catch. 

Reflected in the window was the form of a man, his clothes in tatters, a sleeve missing to reveal a sickly and pale arm, grizzly carnage appeared to have dried over his chest and shoulders. What had caused the man’s shock was not the state of the other man’s dress, but rather the head that crowned the gore coated shoulders. 

The swirling mass that sat atop the ragged neck could best be likened to thick steam the color of spoilt custard. Putrid, shifting tones of yellow, brown, and green coalesced into a vaguely head-like form. Opalescent shapes shone in the dark recesses where eyes belonged, the creature seemed to grin as it was noticed by the man. 

It was horrific, but mesmerizing at the same time. 

The man attempted to take a step back to put more distance between the creature and himself when his heel caught on the remains of a woolen rug causing him to tumble backward. The shape in the window lurched out of sight and the man searched the floor for a makeshift weapon in anticipation of the creature’s attack. The sleeve of his torn shirt catching on the splintering edge of a brittle but serviceable table leg, he clambered to his feet brandishing his makeshift club at the doorway.

No creature bounded through the darkness; no fiend fell upon him. He was alone and frightened. 

And yet…

His pulse did not quicken, no adrenaline raced through his veins, he didn’t even draw the gasping breaths of a terrified man. His body was still, completely. 

Chancing a glance at the window again he could just make out the shape of the creature, fainter with distance but still there. It seemed to be waiting for him to come charging through the doorway to attack it. 

Then it dawned upon the frightened man… the creature held in its hands a length of what seemed to be rotting wood. Rotting wood that could very well have once been the leg of a table. 

The man turned fully to see the creature. The creature turned with him. It lowered its club as the man lowered his. 

Moving nearer the filth-coated window, the creature followed suit. Leaning in closer to each other, the light becoming brighter as the face of the creature neared the glass. 

He raised his left arm; it raised the right. Both arms wore a sleeve of torn cloth hanging by shreds to the shoulder and the wrist. The man’s pale hand went to his mouth to stifle his own scream, finding only empty space. All the while his horrid reflection seemed to be stifling a maniacal burst of laughter. All the while he had no throat from with which to let loose his anguished cry of horror. 

All that could be heard throughout the town was the rustling of leaves scratching and scrabbling across the empty streets. A dry and raspy screed, as though the town itself were issuing a cry of anguish from its own ragged and dusty throat.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jarred Schulte, while new to the world of fiction, is not new to the written word. Having spent the last four years using his skills with the written language to help others find love in the high-pressure Online Dating industry, this Kansas native turned Floridian, is finally getting to flex his muscles in a more creative manner. Growing up on a steady diet of thriller, fantasy, and horror novels, Jarred credits his stylistic tendencies to the likes of King, Koontz, Jordan, Lovecraft, Goodman, and Hill.

To find more of Jared’s work: https://medium.com/@jarreds1 

Free Fiction: The Bunny Man by BrandonTanczak

The bunny man in the ice cream truck gives girls & boys a cool treat.

But one wrong quip and the bunny man

will take you off your feet! Stowed in the cold turning to ice 

A small debt to pay for not being so nice 

The children dream of aiding the bunny man 

Scooping ice cream according to plan 

No at all being the wiser 

Of the fudge dipped Billy Kaiser. 

The bunny man is not mean or scary 

Just don’t bring up what he did to Terry. 

With his big eyes and long ears floppy 

Crooked bucktooth smile, a hare a tad bit choppy 

The music chimes and the children run 

The bunny man says ‘here comes another, oh what fun’ They rush with glee into the summer heat 

For their frozen mystery treat. 

Billy, Tommy, Ryan, and Jill 

Line up to get their fill 

Vanilla swirl, chocolate sprinkle, and mint chocolate Chip With joy coming from the bunny man’s furry grip 

Poor little Tommy is ready to cry 

He wanted a cone but was short a dime. 

‘How badly do you want it?’ The bunny man replied. Tommy pouts ‘so badly that I could just DIE’ 

The bunny man smirks with a devilish grin 

‘Well, you’re in luck, my friend. Go around back and hop on in’ Tommy runs to back, his eyes wide with wonder 

Not fully understanding of the spell he was under 

The doors kick open and the dry ice mists 

The bunny man’s smile suddenly twists 

Snatching Tommy up rather quick 

The truck speeds off, disappearing like a magic trick 

The next day the bunny man comes back 

Showing the kids his brand new snack 

The children ranted and raved over the new flavor 

Double scoops of Tutti Tommy Craver.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Brandon Tanczak is a filmmaker and writer from Philadelphia PA.

He and his wife Jill run Jerks Productions, an art collective, and horror film production

team. Jerks specialize in an art-house style of horror focusing more on psychological

and emotionally driven characters and situations rather than blood and gore.

Free Fiction: Cherry Hill By CM Lucas

One last beam of sunlight peeks out from the horizon and reflects off the curves of a spotless Dodge Ram as it hurdles along a dusty service road.                                                                                        

“Where the hell is… Ah! There she is,” says the man as he scratches his salt & pepper beard and attempts to steer while adjusting the collar of his security uniform. His name is Clive Queenan, and he’s running a bit late. Hunching over the steering wheel while adjusting his legs, Clive squint’s as he reaches his destination atop Cherry Hill.

As Clive pulls into the parking lot, he exits his truck, stretches out, and glances at Cherry Hill Psychiatric Hospital. An imposing structure; its cracked bricks glow red in the setting sunlight; its glass-less windows creak while dangling shingles bob in the breeze. Long, slender branches from maple trees surround the building like elongated fingers.

“Christ, this place looks like it went to hell and back,” Clive says, glancing up as his hand rests atop his brow, blocking out the setting sun. 

Clive makes his way to the front door. Flaking paint floats to the ground as he grips the doorknob and enters the dilapidated building.

“Hello?” Clive says, pulling out his cell to check for any missed calls.

“Service sucks out here,” Clive says.

“Hm. Where is this dude?” Clive asks, looking about the foyer. The missing floor tiles and cobweb-draped ceiling are accompanied by an undisturbed layer of dust. 

This place is a tomb… A goddamn creepy tomb, Clive thinks, leaving a trail of footprints in the floor dust.

“Quite the shit pit, am I right?” the booming voice echoes through the foyer and bounces in Clive’s ears as he twists around and peers up at the man standing atop the staircase. The man smiles as he limps down the stairs. The smallest beam of light from the retreating sun peeks through the glass-less windows and reflects off the man’s hairless head. 

“Shit!” Clive says, clutching his chest.

“I scare ya there, buddy?” asks the man as he adjusts his glasses.

“I’m good. You must be, Darren. Sorry I’m late,” Clive says. The man reaches the foyer and hobbles over to Clive with a smirk on his crimson mustached face.

“What the hell’d you do to wind up watchin’ this toilet bowl?” asks the man as he peers up and extends his hand toward Clive for a handshake.

“I volunteered. Double time and a half to watch this place,” Clive says, glancing down, shaking the man’s hand vigorously.

“Skip. Everybody calls me Skip… no clue why, but It seems to suit me,” Skip says.

“Gotta love nicknames, huh? I’m Clive,” Clive says, looking about the area. Skip furrows his brow.

“Clive? You don’t run into too many Clives in Cherry Hill,” Skip says with a smirk on his face.

“No doubt. My mother’s from England. Every time I got my ass kicked in school because of my name, I always remembered to thank her,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive follows Skip as the duo walk through the foyer.

“So, what’d they tell ya about this place?” asks Skip, adjusting his glasses.

“Not much. Just that this place gets ransacked almost nightly,” Clive says, fiddling with his belt.  “Kids trying to hot wire the bulldozers and excavators. All that good stuff.” Clive continues, “not sure why they need two guards for this type of thing, but hey, double-time and a half, who cares,” Clive says as the duo enter a lengthy corridor. Clive glances at the hallway’s calcium and lime-covered concrete walls. The sun-bleached doors and glass-less windows seemingly stretch to infinity.

“When’s this place set to be torn down?” asks Clive as the pair head down the corridor. Skip snickers.

“What? What’s so funny?” asks Clive.

“They tell ya anything else?” asks Skip. Clive furrows his brow.

“No. Like what?” asks Clive.

“Place is supposed to be haunted,” Skip says. Clive stops. Skip twists around to face Clive.

“What do you mean? We’re talking little spooky friends, here?” Clive asks, flashing a smirk.

“Hey, that’s what they say,” Skip says, glancing up at Clive. Skip continues, “Look, I don’t believe in all that ghost tripe. I only believe what I see with these peepers of mine, ya know?” 

“I hear ya. I read about the shit that went on here before it closed down. Way scarier than poltergeists and all that, huh?” Clive says as the pair exit the corridor and enter the basement. Skip hits the light switch and the duo make their way down the creaking stairs.

“Alright, you’re down here. Other than those lil’ bastards tryin’ to take joyrides in the bulldozers, we also find these shits down here screwin’ and smokin’ up,” Skip says.

“I’m watching out for that? Sweet,” Clive says sarcastically.

“The perks, right?” Skip says. “I’ll be up on block A watchin’ paint crack. Have fun,” Skip says, heading upstairs.

“Hey, Skip! Around what time should I-” Clive is interrupted by the slamming of the basement door. 

“Alright, then,” Clive says, sitting down on a small stool. As Clive plays around with his cell, he hears a shuffling in the darkness. Peering up, Clive pays it no mind. The shuffling returns with increased volume. 

“What the hell is that?” Clive asks. Pointing his cell toward the darkness.

“Don’t be that guy, Queenan. Get your shit together,” Clive says. The shuffling, now sounding like erratic footsteps, draws closer. The sound of metal dragging along the ground now accompanying the shuffling.

“Skip?” Clive says softly. A loud crash brings Clive to his feet.

“You’re a funny lil’ bastard, Skippy,” Clive says. Venturing up the stairs, Clive attempts to open the door, only to find it locked. 

“Hey, Ha-ha! Joke’s over. Come on, open the-” the shuffling gets louder. Clive begins to pound on the door.

“Skip… Skip! Open the goddamn door!” Clive says as the noises get louder. 

“Skip!” Clive yells, pounding on the door. He begins to slam into the door as the noises get closer. Clive presses up against the door; he fumbles for his cell and points it down the staircase. The light from the cell illuminates a rat scurrying up the stairs grasping a soup can in its mouth.

“… Fuck me,” Clive says, chuckling. Clive wipes away perspiration from his brow and sinks to the top step as the door opens.

“Fucking hell, Skip. Sorry about that. Wait till I-” Clive stops as he peers up to face Skip.

“… Who are you?” asks Clive.

“I’m Darren. Sorry, I’m so late. I tried to call you, but the reception up here is the shits,” Darren continues, “are you alright? You sounded like you were freaking out down here. What happened?” asks Darren. Clive furrows his brow while staring at Darren.

“Darren? You’re Darren? … Where’s Skip? And why-” Clive asks before Darren interrupts.

“Skip? Who the hell’s Skip?” asks Darren.

“I…,” Clive pauses. 

“Look, man, I get it. No need to be embarrassed or whatever,  the place is fucking spooky. It’s supposedly haunted too,” Darren says,  “Oooo!… Sorry, man. I, uh, I’m not much of a believer in that silly shit, you know?” 

End.

Free Fiction: Itsy Bitsy by Brandon Tanczak

The itsy bitsy spider went down the water spout, which is my shower head. I was going through my normal shower ritual; use the toilet first then shave. I like to shave before I bathe myself to wash off any hairs that would stick. The water runs warming up, steam starts to rise. I grab my toothbrush and paste, I’m a multi-tasker. Before running the shower I went to adjust the shower head and there it was. 

The itsy bitsy spider was hanging out above the shower head basking in the steam, maybe this was part of its shower ritual? I jump and drop my toothbrush and paste it into the tub. I caught my breath, why was I scared? Sure, it has more legs than me and pointy teeth that may or may not contain a venom that will paralyze me giving it the opportune time to lay its eggs inside my eyes! 

But I am ten times larger and the bigger we are the harder we fall. I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran and grabbed a shoe! After wrapping a towel around myself, of course, I am not letting myself be THAT exposed. Having eggs laid in your eyes is bad enough but even worse while being naked. 

I grab both shoes, you know just to be safe. I make a loud CLAP, spider sandwich hold the mayo. The crushed corpse falls into the tub, no egg-laying today! I run the water to let the corpse wash down the drain and proceed to shower. I bathe just like you one body part at a time. I lather my hair with my two-in-one conditioner/shampoo, I am a multitasker remember? I let it sit while I wash the rest of my skeleton sack I call a body, then move on to my teeth. Brush, rise, spit. 

Now, the final task of rinsing the two in one out of my hair. I turn the heat down and let the water cool. GLUG GLUG comes from the drain, I pay it no mind. I close my eyes and dunk my head under the cold water. GLUG GLUG grows louder, faintly heard over the rushing water. I keep my eyes closed and bask in the water and let myself melt. 

POP! The drain opens up and a flood of water comes through rushing over my feet. My eyes open and I see the water, must just be building up because I’ve been in here for a while now. I turn the heat back up, turn away from the drain and close my eyes again. I let the steam rise again. GLUG GLUG! Two very large, long, hairy, brown appendages come up from the drain and fight their way out. They extend and something comes through the drain and rises in the steam behind me. 

All of a sudden the water has stopped hitting me. I open my eyes and the room has now gotten darker. I didn’t hear the light bulb blow out, weird. Confused, I turn around, and standing over me I see is a ginormous, brown, hairy, wet spider. The bitsy spider is no longer itsy and now I have a reason to be scared. Not only does it have more legs than me I am one hundred percent sure those pointy teeth are venomous and now it’s ten times larger than me. 

The last thing I remember is its large brown legs wrapping around me. I woke up on the bathroom floor, the shower water is still running and the room is filled with steam. I have this irritating throbbing pain in my left eye and everything is blurry. Must have landed on my face.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Brandon Tanczak is a filmmaker and writer from Philadelphia PA.

He and his wife Jill run Jerks Productions, an art collective, and horror film production

team. Jerks specialize in an art-house style of horror focusing more on psychological

and emotionally driven characters and situations rather than blood and gore.

Free Fiction: Bliss by Webster Grubbs

A man walks silently down an abandoned dusty road. Along the path are vast oceans of waving grass. He paces slowly in silence, focusing on the road in the distance, watching it curve over the horizon. The sun above him crossed over and soon set, drenching the man in blinding shadows. He continues, wading through the drowning darkness. A shimmer of light dances across the field, cast by the full rising moon. 

Over the horizon comes a pair of bright lights, undoubtedly headlights of an approaching vehicle. The man walks on, taking note of the lights as they approached. Soon it was within sight and he stepped to the side of the road, stopping and watching. Upon seeing him, the dusty truck pulls to the side of the road. A lone man exits the vehicle, approaching the stranger slowly.

“Hey, you alright? It’s awful late to be wandering around the back roads.” He says, receiving no response. 

“You deaf or somethin’? It’s dangerous out here. You wouldn’t be the first to get lost out here.” Again, he receives no answer. He approaches the stranger, looking at his face.

“Or maybe you know that. Have I seen you before?”

The stranger turns back to the road and resumes walking. He speaks finally as he leaves. “Maybe so. Been around here for a while; Lotta people seen me here or there.” 

A sheet of rain settles over a small town, filling the air with sounds of water on rusting sheet metal roofs. A hooded man follows the road into the street. He finds his way into the local pub, taking refuge from the rain at a small back table. The locals take note of his presence but ignore him. The few visitors look over their shoulders, curious of the man. No one in the room speaks to him, and they only speak of him in hushed whispers between fleeting glances. 

The man sits, silent and unblinking, staring at the wooden corner wall. He remains deathly still as he waits. An elderly lady gathers her meal and slowly makes her way to the man’s table. She sits across from him and smiles warmly.

“Hope you don’t mind me takin’ a spot here with ya. You seemed kind of lonely. I know people don’t typically prefer to be alone. Tell me, how are ya doin’ ?” She asked, looking up to the man’s young, bearded face. 

He remained silent but did glance at her as she sat.

“Not much of a talker? That’s fine. Some people go on blabbering for too long anyways. Get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes you just gotta know when to hush up.”

The man nodded slowly, looking back up to the corner of the room. 

“I guess you’re waiting on the rain to stop, yeah? I’ll let you be then.” The lady said, turning to stand.

The man shook his head, looking back to her. “Before you go…would you like to hear an old song? It’s from my childhood, and I quite like it.” He spoke in a half-whisper.

The woman turned back to him and listened as he began softly humming an ancient tune. The old woman found herself enchanted by the song, getting enveloped by the notes of the man’s humming. Moments later the siren’s call was over, and the lady snapped from her trance. 

“Oh, that was pretty.” She exclaimed, looking across to the man. Across from her, however, was an empty seat. Shocked, she looked across the bar, finding it desolate. She looked out the door and saw but a muddy road leading to the building surrounded by carpets of shining broken glass. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

I’m a small-time horror author, writing when I have free time from a busy life.

Free Fiction: Manny and the Machines by Marc Dickerson 

The father rapped his knuckles lightly on the door. 

     “Manny?” 

Waited a moment before turning the knob and stepping inside. 

Manny lay in bed, blanket pulled up to his chin, staring at the ceiling. The father could  see that he was shivering beneath the covers. 

     “It’s okay, son. It’s just me.” 

     “Dad. I can’t sleep.” 

The father nodded, moved to sit gently on the end of the bed. 

     “Why is that, son? Is something wrong?” 

     “Of course.”

     “Of course?” 

     “Yeah.” 

     “Son, I—” 

     “It’s the machines.” 

The father sat for a moment, looking first at the shadows on the curtains, then at the child. As softly as he could, he said,       “We’re not supposed to talk about them, son.” 

The son stirred a bit, looking uncomfortable. Quietly he uttered, “I know…” Then he lay still again. 

     “They keep us safe. You know that.”  

Manny sat up, loosening his grip on the blanket a bit. “But they’re so loud, dad. Why are  they so loud?” 

They had always been there. For most of his life, for all of his son’s life, their presence was a constant. Always felt. But always tolerated, never questioned. Though now he could hardly remember how it’d gotten this way, how life had become like this. 

This is the way it is, his own father had once told him when he was a boy. 

Since then, it had become second nature to block them out, to ignore them. He didn’t  even notice the sound anymore. 

But now, in the stillness of the bedroom, the father leaned forward, listened, tried to do this with his son’s ears, tried to remember being young and confused, afraid. Staring at the long creeping shadows on the curtains, listening. 

There it was. Faint at first, then fading up like some mysterious hand slowly turning a  dial. A continuous squeal, low and distant. Metallic, cold. Screeching and grinding. Horrible noises, he knew. He remembered. The spectral shriek of steel along the rails, slow and threatening, around the perimeter of the town. Motorized guards patrolling. Watching. Then the dial was adjusted again, the sound fading back into the stillness of the room. 

The father turned to his son. “Now, Manny…it’s only at night. We have the entire rest of the day. Remember what I told you last time?” 

     “I know. Pretend they’re trains.” 

     “That’s right. Trains help people. Just like them. They help us. Keep us safe.” “You always say that. Safe from what.”  

The father pressed the palms of his hands into his knees, gazing down at the floor.  Finally, he rose from the bed to look down at his son. Manny seemed so much older than even this morning. Yet he knew the boy still had much to understand, much to learn about the way things worked. 

     “I’ve forgotten, son. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. See. They make it so we never have to find that out. Which is       why we should be grateful. Why we don’t mind the noise. Talk  about the noise.”   

He looked over toward the window again. Stared at the curtains. The sound came back, echoing in his head. The grating of gears, the harsh mechanical wail echoing around the town.  Steel ghosts. Watching, circling. He pictured them, tried to picture them (it’d been so long since he acknowledged their existence, let alone dare gaze upon them). What he could remember was only a gray blur of machinery. The frightening deliberate speed of efficiency. And above it, a coughing cloud of steam rising into the night sky, obscuring everything, every star. Dark.  Endless, suffocating. He couldn’t even remember what the moon looked like. Had forgotten the moon. 

The father looked back at his son. Felt his composure, his sanity return. The rational  constitution of adulthood. He felt himself ease back into it. He was a parent. And Manny was a  good boy. Curious, like all boys.  

     “Have I answered all your questions?” 

      “I guess…” 

      “Good.” The father rustled the son’s hair. “That’s what I’m here for.” 

Manny stared up at him like he wanted to say something. Then it was gone, the look, the thought. Vanished, like most irrational young childhood thoughts. The father smiled. 

     “Goodnight.” 

He moved across the room, quietly closing the door behind him.  

The father got into bed. Heard his wife’s voice, raspy with sleep. 

     “Is Manny okay?”

The father smoothed out his pillow, settling under the covers. 

     “He’s okay. He’s going to do just fine.” 

In the dark, he could make out the faint image of the mother’s face smiling. “I don’t want him to be afraid,” she said. “He’s such a good boy. Just scared.” 

     “Like all kids.” 

     “Yes. But I worry sometimes. They don’t tolerate it well. Fear.” 

     “No,” the father said, reaching for the lamp on the nightstand. “No they don’t.” The father turned off the light. “But he is      a good boy. Manny is a good boy.” 

     “Yes. He’ll be okay.” The mother lay still for a moment before leaning in, kissing him on the cheek. Then she turned on her side, away from him. He turned away from her, facing the window. The curtains were drawn. Only shadows. 

Shadows and something else. 

The noise. He could hear it. Far off in the night. 

He shifted to lie on his back. Stared up at the ceiling and listened and did not close his eyes. 

Dark, covering everything. 

The father stayed up all night listening to the sound.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Marc Dickerson is a writer and filmmaker from Philadelphia, PA. He has written short stories, graphic novels, screenplays, and now his first novel, ART FARM. Marc also hosts a podcast about cult/b/underground films called Cult Movie Cult. His work has appeared online and in publications such as Culture Cult Magazine and Burial Day. He currently lives in Bucks County, PA with his wife and daughter.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21183349.Marc_Dickerson

Free Fiction : Queen of the Flies by Timothy Purvis

TINY LITTLE LEGS flitted across her flesh. She brought her hand down hard. Her teeth gritted as she sat up and turned on the lamp beside her bed. Looking down, the corpse of a tiny gnat lay flattened against the fine blonde hairs covering her forearm. She grimaced.

Addy looked up at the ceiling.

“Son of a—!”

The veins in her head pulsed as she came to her feet and kept her eyes fixated on the swirly patterned white ceiling. A color that allowed her to clearly see the dozens of black dots merely sitting there, staring at her as if they owned the entire apartment.

“You little black bastards,” she growled. “Why won’t you die already?”

Addy looked at her phone. The time said 06:50. Saturday morning. And the job she’d thought she’d finished the night before, all of her efforts, had obviously gone unheeded by the pests. A grimace crossed her face as she entered her walk-in closet and grabbed a shirt. The grimace grew deeper as she shook all of the little gnats loose and threw it on over her shoulders. She put on a pair of jeans, shaking her legs, and buttoning them around her waist. Then headed towards her dresser to grab some socks.

All the while, tiny flies continued to fly around. Taunting her with their audacity to even exist.

You have no idea how much I despise you, little bastards, do you? I do all the dishes, clean all the counters, clean out all the sinks, take out the trash, douse the toilet, do all the laundry, check every, single place that is dank and moist, treat them with spray, and what do I get for it? An apartment full of you cocks! I’m done with it! Time for desperate measures!

She finished dressing, stood up off the side of her bed, and made her way down the hall of her apartment. Little tiny bodies surrounded her as she reached the end of the hall and flipped on the kitchen light. They were everywhere. Covering the walls, the ceiling, even the floor.

Her body shuddered. However, the flushing of her face and the heated hate building in her skull caused her grimace to turn into a snarl.

“Don’t go away, you little turds! I’ll be right back to finish the job!”

Addy turned away from the pulsating layer of insects and cut through her living room. They were there too, of course. Why wouldn’t they be? she figured. She grabbed her keys by the door and exited her apartment.

IT WAS AMAZING how many different varieties of insect repellents and poisons there were. Addy chose some general foggers that included every sort of insect that was likely to be hiding in her apartment. True, there were probably spiders there. And she liked spiders well enough. However, they were obviously not doing their jobs in eliminating the rest of her fly problem.

Let’s see how you manage after a little chemical warfare… She smiled at the thought and went up front to the checkout counters.

“Whoa, that’s a lot of foggers,” the clerk said.

“I have a lot of pests.”

He nodded with a smile, checked her out, and off she went back home. To deal with the menaces who’d taken over her residence. They were pests that needed to be expunged.

Permanently.

***

ADDY RETURNED HOME. She went to work setting up the foggers. Placing one in her bedroom, one in the spare bedroom, one in the bathroom, one in the kitchen, one in the utility room, and one in the living room. The flies seemed to have multiplied exponentially in the time she’d been away. Some were flying. Some were just sitting on the surface of whatever thing they’d found themselves upon. She knew she should cover up her appliances and computer. Her TVs and other sensitive equipment. However, she was exhausted and just wanted them gone. She went through, set all of the bombs off. Left the apartment.

***

SIX HOURS LATER, she returned. They were all dead.

“Finally. I can replace everything else, I’m just glad you’re gone. You little bastards.”

The tang of chemical chaos clung to the air as she went about cleaning up the bodies of the insects and fixing dinner. Remarkably, the TVs still worked and the computer was fine. Nothing a little cleaner couldn’t fix.

At half-past nine, she closed the curtains to the deck doors and prepared for bed. That was when the buzzing began.

Addy looked around, eyes wide, mouth agape.

“What… what’s going on?”

From every vent, every hole in the wall, every nook, cranny, and hold came hundreds of gnats. They swarmed her, covered her body.

“Get off me! Get off me!”

She swatted at them, rubbed her hands across her skin as they covered every each of her existence. They dug into her pores. Her hands slapped down roughly, her skin welting under her own attacks. The scream she gave off was piercing, even to her own ears. She felt them digging into her flesh. Crawling under her skin, an almost ticklish sensation as they made their way up and under her flesh.

“No! No! Noooo!”

Addy fell to the floor clawing at her own skin. Before long the world went black, her mind blank.

***

HOURS LATER, ADDY emerged from her skin that had become a sort of shell. Her mind was singularly focused: Mate. Keep the brood alive. Stop those who would seek her extermination. After all, hadn’t that been the task all along? Finding the right body to bring the brood back to life?

Yes, that was the purpose. That was the need.

She wiped one hairy leg across the myriad of eyes of her bulbous head. The brood was tiny in form, at first. But they grew. They grew and they extinguished the minds meaning to harm them.

After all, they were all pests, weren’t they? And they deserved to be expunged.

Permanently.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tim Purvis is a writer of many genres. From Science-fiction to romance to fantasy and horror there is nothing he won’t write. He has struggled to get his work noticed, published only once in a Turkish magazine thanks to a pen pal. Yet, he continues to write hoping one day his works will reach a broader audience and he can make a living doing what he loves: spinning the tall tale.

http://cosmicfantasies.com

Free Fiction : In the Space of Insanity by Helen Mihajlovic (Continued)

The Countess was up at dawn as a golden hue enveloped the sky. She had picked out her best clothes, a skirt decorated with silver lace and her petticoat trimmed with silver-gilt stitches. While she was putting on her pearl necklace, there was a knock on her bedchamber door. 

Frederick stood outside her room solemnly holding a letter. 

“Lieutenant Alexandra left at dawn,” said Frederick.

He extended his arm, but the Countess insisted he read the letter to her. 

Frederick read aloud: 

        Dear Countess,

      I must leave for Vienna. I have immensely enjoyed my stay at Castle Adnarim. Our time together has been memorable. 

            Sincerely Lieutenant Christoff Alexandra.  

 

Anger pierced her heart. “He hasn’t mentioned when he will return.” 

Frederick frowned. 

She knew he wouldn’t return, just like all the others. She walked away in a huff.

***

The Countess opened the front door to two new parcels. She helped Frederick carry them inside, fumigating their contents before touching them.  

She spent the entire morning marveling at the emerald lantern clock with a brass dial, large bell and decorative fretwork. But she was most impressed with the archery set, the new bow that she had custom made with a burnished deep red Rosewood, and the arrow’s head and nock were made of gold.   

The Countess spent the remainder of the day with her wooden archery set. She gripped the arrow, extended the bow and regularly hit the target. She fell into a reverie imagining it was Christoff that stood in the place of the target and she aggressively aimed the arrow at him, penetrating his heart, piercing him to his death. Her mouth curled up with delight. 

***

As darkness descended, the Countess listened to the savage wind while she lay in bed; the shutters rattled and the chamber was filled with a chill. She fell into a fearful slumber. 

She stood on a busy road, watching people walking by her; they were gaunt, pale, and with thin sickly frames. They trembled with a burning fever as they drew nearer to her; she felt surrounded by their fits of coughing. She looked with horror onto their swollen heads as they grabbed her hair and poked her limbs. She heard their discordant tongues, their pangs of fury and anguished pleas.   

The Countess woke drenched in perspiration and her limbs trembled.

***

The Countess had instructed Frederick to prepare her bath at dawn, but Frederick had fallen ill again and therefore the Countess had to prepare her own bath. She shut all the curtains; the light would aggravate the throbbing migraine that always ensued her nightmares.  

The darkened room was filled with perfumes: bowls with grains of musk and jasmine flowers. She removed her silk bathrobe and climbed into the tub; the warmth of the water enveloped her skin. For a moment she felt peace. 

But as she glanced down at the rim of the bath, her breath grew erratic. Tiny creatures crawled on the edge of her bathtub. She reached for a brush and squashed them, but one of the creatures fell into the water, frantically moving its long legs. She poked at it, trying to pull it out with the brush. But when she reached for the candle by the tub to better see where the creature had crawled to, the water was clear and there was no sign of the squashed arachnids. It had been the shadows of her imagination. 

It was not until the late afternoon that the Countess’ migraine had gone. She’d heard someone knocking on the door in the morning with a delivery but had felt too unwell to answer. She opened the front door to a bright afternoon sunlight. Squinting, she brought the parcel inside, fumigated it thoroughly. The parcel contained a fencing foil with an intricately etched handle. It was made in Spain. 

She held the fencing foil up and stood with one foot forward and the other back on the damp grass. Frederick was feeling better and obeyed the Countess’ instruction to join her. His hand wobbled as he held the foil.  

“En garde,” said the Countess. She advanced towards Frederick, who retreated with anxiety. 

The dark night descended; the Countess’ blade shone in the moonlight. 

At dinnertime, Frederick vanished, she suspected he’d returned to the castle to prepare the meal. 

The Countess roamed amongst the barren trees, the decaying leaves at her feet, and an odor of dampness filled the garden. She stopped at a tall oak tree with its twisted branches; the cool breeze stroked her skin. 

But when she heard footsteps behind her, she quickly turned and was surrounded by three people whose shadows took unusual shapes. A man stood before her with a long-nose mask, dressed in white; he jumped around like a fool. The man on her left wore a bright-colored, tattered uniform and his face was concealed with a flesh-colored mask, he stood with his chest out, picking up his knees high as he walked around her. A short, scrawny man stood on her right with red and black attire, a flowing cape, and a black mask with a hooked beak. 

“Frederick!” she called. 

Frederick quickly appeared. “They’re the performers from the Commedia dell’arte,” he said. 

 “Get me away from people!” the Countess cried. 

The Countess began to perspire, grew dizzy and fell to the ground.  

***

The Countess woke with a feeling of melancholy and angst and did so for the many mornings that followed. And as the year passed, silver hair had encroached upon her temples and creases had appeared on her forehead. One day as she sat at her desk in the tower, hand resting on her poems, peering at the dark clouds as they shifted in the sky, she grew nervous. A cloud appeared in the shape of a demon, with two hollow eyes and its mouth full of jagged teeth. 

“Frederick!” she called. When there was no answer, she began to worry.

But as she looked down at the pile of poems that she had written, she knew that Frederick, William, the two thieves, Christoff and the performers from the Commedia dell’arte were all imagined: they were the trickery of her senses, imagined through shadows and shapes she had seen, muses for her poetry. 

She grimaced as she thought of what she had really endured. Frederick had died a year before the plague, but she never trusted anyone to replace him. Christoff had been a young man that hadn’t loved her, and she had seen many performances of the Commedia dell’arte, their sinister masks always leaving her terrified. The Countess had missed her brother William and often imagined his ghost. 

Outside the castle a horse whinnied loudly, rousing her from her thoughts. She descended the stairs, peering through the casement. The man on the horse rang a loud bell. 

“The plague has come to an end,” he said and rode into the distance. 

A sudden sense of joy emerged in her. But as she thought deeply of the people who had hurt her, all the death and the love she had longed for that was unrequited; she frowned. 

“Is the world worthy of going back to?” She mumbled to herself. 

She looked at the emptiness of the vast land and the two owls in the oak tree that fought in the harsh cold wind; one owl’s cry resounding sadness as it bled with defeat. It reminded the Countess of the cruelness everywhere.  

“No!” she shouted. “The world is vulgar!”

With trembling hands, she bolted the door shut. 

Dedicated to my beloved Brother Bill. 

© 2021 Helen Mihajlovic  

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Helen Mihajlovic is a published author. Her short story ‘A Dark Love story’ is in the book ‘100 Doors to Madness’ available at Dymocks online bookstore. Other published stories include ‘A Sinister Nature’ and ‘The Temptation of Eve’. All stories are dedicated to her mother and brother.

Free Fiction : In the Space of Insanity by Helen Mihajlovic


The Countess Pamela Bohrer had ridden the carriage for miles as she headed towards the isolated land where the medieval Castle Adnarim rested on a hill. The castle had been passed down through generations of the Bohrer family and the Countess had become the sole heir.  

The castle loomed ahead with its high stone walls and six ominous towers that penetrated the night sky. It had one hundred rooms, seventy fireplaces, lengthy hallways and the rows of heavily barred windows gave the impression that the outside world was forbidden entry.

When the Countess arrived, she entered the dark castle, shivering inside its cold rooms. A damp odor filled the air. The moonlight streaming from the pointed windows faintly lit the vaulted ceilings, the dirty ground, the cracks in the walls, and the decaying marble on the fireplace.

“Frederick!” she yelled. 

The silhouette of her servant appeared in a dim doorway. He was a tall man with hollow cheeks and silver hair, who had served her family for two generations. 

“Welcome back to Adnarim Castle Countess Bohrer,” he said. “How was your trip into town?”

“The plague has spread to Vienna,” she said. Her voice quivered. “Everyone must remain in their houses.” 

Frederick’s hands shook as he attempted to lift her bag; the Countess insisted she would carry the bag herself. 

“I would like dinner served in an hour,” she ordered. 

He gave a nod before she ascended the stairs to her bedchamber. 

In the center of the chamber was an ornamented bed made of dark wood. Around it, rich embroideries hung on the walls and the family coat of arms hung by the door: a silhouette of a chiropteran with crooked wings. 

The Countess jolted when she heard a sudden bang. She lit a candle, looking nervously around the bedchamber. She searched under the bed and behind the purple curtains in case of an intruder.  A moonbeam revealed a moving shadow on the wall. Her heartbeat grew erratic. But when she approached the shadow, it disappeared. 

The Countess grew fearful that her anxious temperament would develop to the neurosis that had frequently tormented her for years; whereby she would see shadows and shapes of all sizes that would take the form of threatening creatures, that were a trickery of her senses. 

She was relieved to find that the open shutters flapping in the wind had caused the shadow. She closed the shutters. But upon hearing a loud groan in the hallway, her blood pulsed. She slowly walked to the chamber door and opened it. 

The hallway floorboards creaked beneath her feet as she headed towards the solemn groaning. It grew louder. As she turned the corner, there stood a pale young man, with large somber eyes and black attire, whose form was transparent; she could see the wall through him. 

For a moment happiness rose in her heart; it was her beloved brother William. But when she remembered more than a decade had passed since his death, her face grew whiter than the ghost.

“William,” she said. 

“I am here to warn you,” he said. 

His grim tone frightened her.  

 “Warn me!” her voice faltered. 

“Two men are coming to Adnarim Castle.”

“Who are they?”

“They are dangerous men who mean you harm.”

“I’ve done no wrong to have an enemy.” 

“They are violent scoundrels.” 

“I have nothing of great value to steal. I have sold most of the jewelry for the maintenance of my properties.” But trepidation overtook her as she remembered the several parcels recently bought from various shops in town that were to be delivered to the castle upon her return.

“They’ll steal any of your possessions they can barter.”

Her bottom lip quivered. “I’m afraid they’ll bring the plague.” 

“You must bolt all the doors and stay inside.”

“I’m all alone,” she said. “There’s no one to protect me.”  She looked to the kindness on his face. He had been the only man who had loved her. 

“I miss you, William.”

“Hold onto calm, dearest sister,” he said. “With shrewd thinking, you will prevail.”

He vanished. 

She ran to every door in the castle and bolted it shut. 

***

The Countess sat at the head of a long rectangular table covered in a rich fabric, on a high chair decorated with whimsical carvings. She glanced at her reflection on the chalice, her dark curls with a few strands of silver hung on her shoulders, her large black eyes had dark circles and she wore a flowing red velvet looped up skirt adorned with red ribbon. 

A momentary sadness crossed the Countess’ face as she looked at the empty seats. Memories of childhood tormented her; she often sat alone in the gardens as a young girl, surrounded by the laughter of children running around the large oak trees. Throughout her life, she had grown accustomed to being alone.

When Frederick’s old limbs hadn’t brought her meal to the table an hour later, she charged into the kitchen and came back with a gold dish weighted with salmon and placed a pitcher filled with mead by its side.  

A loud crack of thunder penetrated the night sky as the Countess ate. She turned towards the opened arched window and a look of fright crossed her eyes. She imagined a bolt of lightning striking her balcony and sparking a wildfire burning Castle Adnarim to ashes. She shut the window, grimacing at the dark clouds as the sudden rain thrashed the pane.  

As she stepped back, a drop of liquid fell on her cheek from a hole in the ceiling. The Countess wondered if the liquid held a perilous nature: a dangerous acid that she imagined scalding her skin, eating away each layer of the flesh and leaving her skull protruding. Her fingers anxiously rose to her cheek, reassured that it was merely a drop of harmless rainwater. She exhaled with relief. 

***

After dinner, the Countess headed to the pointed tower of Adnarim Castle containing the musty smell of the thousands of books lining mahogany circular shelves. A few words were engraved on the wall: Everything is too complicated for human beings to understand.   

The Countess sat behind a wooden desk with a quill pen, ink bottle and parchment. She had often come to the tower to divert her attention from anxious thoughts and would spend hours writing her poetry. 

Her mind was haunted by the vision of her brother’s ghost. 

What if William’s warning were to come true? 

She picked up the quill pen longing for a moment of peace while finishing her poem about a brave soldier and the Zanni trickster as he leapt and tumbled. A hint of a smile emerged on her lips as she lingered in her imagination. 

But a sudden bang outside the castle roused the Countess from her fancies; her quill pen fell to the ground. She peered out the casement onto the moonlit courtyard where strange shadows of two figures advanced. She remembered her brother’s warning; her breath grew louder. 

The Countess descended the stairs. She grasped her head at the loud banging on the doors as the thieves endeavored to break into the castle. 

“Frederick,” she called. 

But there was no answer; Frederick had been ill after dinner and had gone to bed early. She grimaced at the shatter of glass; a rock had found its way between the bars on a window.      

The Countess gasped. Many thoughts racing through her mind, she ran to get her bow and quiver of arrows and then rushed to the balcony. She peered over the ledge and saw the silhouettes of two men: one scrawny and the other portly, both continuing to beat on the doors. 

She watched the silhouettes steal her parcel by the door. She thought of what her brother William had told her. “Hold onto calm, dearest sister. With shrewd thinking, you will prevail.” 

Strangely a moment of calm came over her. She aimed an arrow at the thief with the portly form and kept shooting till he fell dead. She aimed another arrow at the scrawny thief, who, having seen his accomplice fall down dead, began to run. The Countess clenched her teeth as her arrow missed him. She pulled out another arrow from the quiver and took her aim. A wicked gleam crossed her eyes as she struck his head and he fell to the ground in a pool of blood. 

***

For several days afterward, the Countess stood guard on the balcony till a late hour. She peered through a handheld telescope, allowing her to see the far ends of the vast land that surrounded the castle. She regretted not having repaired the drawbridge since her last stay here. 

One night, as she marched up and down the balcony, watching for intruders, she saw a figure on horseback riding towards the castle. She shook with fear. 

“Frederick,” she yelled. 

The shape of a man drew nearer. She quickly ran into the house. There was a loud knock on the door. 

Frederick walked wearily to the door but did not open it. 

“The castle holds arms!” said Frederick.

“Who are you?” asked the Countess, from behind the closed door. 

“I am Lieutenant Christoff Alexandra,” he said. 

“We’re not accepting visitors during the plague,” said the Countess. 

“I am from the far east, there is no plague on that side of the river.”

The Countess and Frederick exchanged a contemplative stare. The Countess hesitantly opened the door. 

The man was masked by the night and she caught shades of a navy-blue uniform. 

“May I speak to the owner of the castle?” he said, removing his hat. 

“I am Countess Pamela Bohrer, the owner of Adnarim Castle,” she said. “You may come inside.”

“Countess Bohrer, I am looking for a place to stay for the night.” He said as he entered. His dark brown eyes held a mischievous stare and ebony curls lined his hat. A hint of a smile crossed the Countess’ lips.

 “I must leave for Vienna in the morning.”

“Frederick, show Lieutenant Alexandra to a bedchamber upstairs.” 

The Lieutenant gave the Countess a lascivious look over his shoulder as he followed Frederick up to his chamber. 

***

The next few days brought forth a settled wind; the Countess was pleased that the Lieutenant had extended his stay at the castle. They roamed the gardens as the swallow sang a pleasing melody, spending afternoons under the Magnolia tree.  

“I am the greatest swordsman in the whole of Austria,” boasted the Lieutenant. He drew out his sword and thrashed the air. “I have fought many battles.”

The Countess’ brows rose, mesmerized by his shiny sword. 

When the Lieutenant finally put away his sword, he took out a book from his coat pocket. It was a collection of poetry by Robert Herrick. He read with a soft voice that the Countess found hard to hear.  

How Love came in, I do not know,

Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came,
At first, infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere.

The Countess’ smile broadened.

When night fell, they both kept warm by the fireplace after a scrumptious dinner. The Lieutenant reached for the Countess’ hand. He moved closer to her and their figures almost touched.

“Do you like to dance?” he asked. 

“But there’s no music, Christoff,” she said. “I will ask Frederick to play the harpsichord.”

Frederick was seated at the harpsichord in moments. 

Christoff spun her around the room, with his light touch. The Countess lifted her head to the heavenly twangs of the music and they both laughed. 

As they grew weary at the end of the night, the Lieutenant gave her a lustful stare and his lips met hers with fervor. A glimmer of hope emerged in the Countess’ eyes, that she had found love. 

To Be Continued Tomorrow…

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Helen Mihajlovic is a published author. Her short story ‘A Dark Love story’ is in the book ‘100 Doors to Madness’ available at Dymocks online bookstore. Other published stories include ‘A Sinister Nature’ and ‘The Temptation of Eve’. All stories are dedicated to her mother and brother.

Free Fiction: The Amulet By Michael L. McKuin


It was a dark stormy night as the man rummaged the shadow filled rooms. He searched in a panic for an item of desire. The lights went out in the neighborhood, leaving all the surrounding houses without power, including his own. That did not distract the man however from his quest for this unknown relic. His hands searched blindly through dressers, closets, desk drawers, and cabinets.

“You will never find it,” a voice whispered in his ear.

Startled, he fell back against the wall knocking down a picture frame that shattered on impact.

“Get away from me!” he shouted.

The man wiped away the sweat from his brow while he straightened himself, deciding to search another room. The door creaked open when he placed his hand against it and gave the door a push.

“It has to be here,” the man muttered.

“You will never find it,” the voice cackled.

The man placed his hands over his ears in a feeble attempt to block out the disembodied voice.

“Get out of my head!” he screamed.

Laughter could be heard echoing throughout the room, a cacophony of a deranged orchestra. The man cursed at himself for ever buying that damned amulet.

After going to a yard sale a few weeks ago he thought it was a great deal. He remembered that he felt a strange pull towards a table placed on an unkempt lawn. A simple old black box with bizarre writing inscribed on a bone inlay across the surface, he could not take his eyes off of the strange box.

He asked the seller what does it translate to and she replied with a shrug that gave way to her knowledge of the artifact, which was none.

Thinking back on it she seemed delighted that he had shown such great interest. The man lifted the lid to have it rest on the hinges. His interest peaked when he saw what seemed to be writing on the lid’s inside that faced him.

‘Chaos is a friend of mine,’ appeared to be engraved by fingernails. 

An old wrapped-up piece of cloth lay before him. He grabbed a corner of the cloth gently and unfolded it to see the prize underneath. His eyes lit up with wonder at a black stone amulet.

“How much?” he asked hypnotically.

“Five dollars and you can have it,” she said.

The man didn’t even hesitate. Before he knew it he had his wallet out and presented the woman with a five dollar bill. She gladly accepted it and relief spread across her face.

He went to take just the amulet, but the woman stopped him.

“No, you must take the box with it.”

The man stared a moment then shrugged. He closed the lid and took the box home with him.

The first few days were fine until he recalled the box he had bought. He couldn’t understand how he had simply forgotten about it, but paid hardly any attention to the thought. 

He glanced at the box and twirled it in his hands. He opened it and took the amulet out while the box found its way to the trash. He then tried on the amulet and kept it on for a few days.

Within those few days, weird things started to happen. It began with disturbing nightmares and things turning up missing. It had progressed as he started to hear footsteps and thuds all over the house. He had thought someone had broken into his home and was playing a deranged sick game with him. Eventually, the footsteps turned into whispers in the dark and the feeling of being watched. He awoke in the middle of the night having his sheets thrown off the bed and claw marks on his body. He was being haunted by an unforeseen presence, tormented by something evil and beyond this world.

He realized it all started when he took the amulet out of the box. The man went back to the seller’s home and she did not answer the door at first but eventually caved in, and once she had he inquired about the boxed item.

She broke down to tears from the guilt of selling a haunted item to him but was relieved from no longer possessing the box and amulet.

“How do I get it to stop? How do I get rid of the evil?” He pleaded.

She nodded her head. “There is only one way. You must give it to someone else before it drives you mad or kills you.”

The man seemed relieved. “So I’ll give it to someone else! As long as it stops, I don’t care! I will give the amulet to someone.”

The woman shook her head. “Not just the amulet. You must give the box as well.”

The man stood silent. “I threw away the box.”

The woman’s eyes became sad. “Then you cannot get it to stop. Even if you give the amulet away, without the box, the evil will still stay with you.”

Now, later that night, the man searched throughout his dark home in search of the amulet. He put it on the bathroom counter when he took a shower, but afterward, it was gone.

“It was just here!” He shouted. Anxiety slithered its way through his bones whilst he frantically searched the house.

He stopped and roared with frustration. “Where are you?!”

“You will never find it.” The voice laughed menacingly.

He felt a cold hand touch his shoulder. The man spun around to the abysmal void.

“Stop it!”

The laughing shrilled in his ears. He was then pushed down to the floor.

“No! Stop it!” He cried.

The laugh abruptly stopped and he heard a low growl as he felt pulled, dragging him across the hardwood floor and into another dark room. The door slammed shut on its own as his screams filled the night until he was heard from no more.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael L. McKuin is a horror addict in the worst way. He loves cheesy ‘80’s horror movies and even recent ones. He loves horror novels and real-life haunted places. He finds comfort and escape writing his horror novels and short stories. It’s a way of life for him. A dedicated father of three and his kids are everything to him. Michael spends his day haunted and keeps the ghost and demons that plague him close and can’t let them go.  Stay spooky and keep it weird!

Free Fiction : Sticky Hands by Kenedy Blake

“I hate buying groceries,” I mumble, slamming the car door shut with my foot.

Juggling two large bags full of fruits and vegetables, I suddenly realize I forgot my keys and will have to use the spare. I reach under the mat and feel around until I locate the key.

The key slips into the lock with an audible click and I step inside the cabin.

My Maltipoo, Jasmine, comes running down the hallway, barking viciously at my feet. 

“Hey girl, calm down. It’s just me,” I tell her, rolling my eyes. She continues barking.

Still muttering to myself, I enter the kitchen, set the bags on the kitchen counter, and head to the refrigerator. I twist the cap off a soda and take a long drink.

That’s when I see it.

An open bottle of wine, sitting on the kitchen table.

Now, I may be a bit of an oddball, but I’m not crazy. I did not open a bottle of wine today. In fact, I’m actually trying to cut back a bit. So this makes absolutely no sense at all. 

I continue to stare at the bottle of wine, unsure of what to do next. I’m not going to lie, I feel a little freaked out right now. Mind you, I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There isn’t anyone around for miles. My eyes dart around the room, searching for anything else out of place.

I don’t see anything unusual, but to be safe I grab a butcher knife from the drawer and quietly make my way to the second floor, checking out each room with caution.

No one in the closets, the bedrooms, or the bathroom. I begin to relax a little bit and go back downstairs to check out the rest of the cabin. The library, living room and laundry room are empty. I head back towards the kitchen and check the hall bathroom on my way. It is clear as well.

Scratching my head, I re-enter the kitchen and put the knife down.

Suddenly my cell phone rings, and I nearly jump out of my skin.

“Hello?” I say.

No reply.

“Hello?” I say again.

No answer.

Shaking my head, I press the end call button and set the phone down next to a pile of mail.

I freeze.

My name, Alistair Hendricks, is completely marked out on every piece of mail. A black, uncapped sharpie lay next to the pile. Fear begins to creep into the pit of my stomach.

Someone or something is screwing with me.

Suddenly I hear a loud thump come from somewhere in the house. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my suspicions are confirmed. 

There is either an intruder in my house, or I’m being haunted by a ghost who knows how to open a bottle of Chardonnay. 

I almost stop and laugh at the absurdity of the idea of a ghost, but instead, quickly grab the butcher knife and make my way down the hall towards the library. Peeking around the doorway, I am startled to find a strange man holding a glass of wine, browsing my collection of books.

The man doesn’t look threatening; he actually looks quite at home.

A board under my foot creaks.

Before I can duck out of sight, the man whirls around to face me, sloshing the wine over the top of his glass.

“Who are you?” The man demands. “What are you doing here? This is my house!”

My heart is thumping wildly in my chest, but I try to stay calm.

“Sir” I tell the man, “ I’m going to have to ask you to leave. This is my house. Please leave, or a I will be forced to call the police.”

The man chuckles and sets down his glass of wine. “Are you nuts? What the hell are you talking about? This is my house.” He then sees the knife as in my hand, and in one swift motion pulls a gun out from behind his back.

. “Get out.” He cocks the gun. “Now.” 

I open my mouth to reply, but suddenly everything starts to spin, and I collapse onto the floor

 ***

When I wake up, it is dark outside and it takes me a minute to remember where I am and what happened. 

Then I realize that I can’t remember what happened. And why am I on the floor? My hands feel sticky and gross, and there is a strange smell permeating the air. I then hear a bump near the doorway. I scramble to my feet and flick the light switch.

No one’s there.

It is then I notice the red streaks covering the floor. What is that?

My hands still feel sticky…

Why are my hands sticky? 

Something wet trickles down the side of my face. I stumble into the hall bathroom and gaze into the mirror. A gash the size of a golf ball is on my right temple. I grab a towel, wet it, and dab at the wound. Then I realize the shower is running. I take a deep breath, throw aside the shower curtain expecting to see someone in there, but there is only an empty bucket and mop. I shut the water off. I hear a creaking of floorboards but turn around to find no one. My head feels foggy, and I fight to remember the past how-ever-many hours I was passed out. There are more streaks in the hallway, leading towards the kitchen.

My hands are still sticky…

I stumble along the hallway, following the red streaks like the trail of breadcrumbs from that childhood fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. 

I enter the kitchen and find that the red streaks end at the back door. Taking another step, I nearly trip over a box of trash bags sitting on the floor.  

I glance to my left and see that the open bottle of Chardonnay is still there. Grabbing it by the neck, I carry it over to the sink, pour the still half-full bottle down the drain, and chuck the bottle in the trash bin.

There.

Now to clean up these red streaks. 

My hands are still sticky…

  ***

I twist the cap open on the bottle of ammonia and pour it into a bucket half full of steaming water. I then lug the bucket out of the bathroom and into the library and begin to mop up these terribly messy red streaks. I wish I knew what they were and where they came from.

***

I finish mopping and the floors are now spotless, so I decide to take a break and watch some tv. I end up falling asleep on the couch and I am startled awake hours later by the chiming of the grandfather clock. Six chimes, so it’s 6:00 am. 

I enter the kitchen and begin to make coffee, still desperately trying to remember the strange events of yesterday afternoon. I pour myself a cup of coffee and walk over to the window.  I see my reflection in the windowpane and reach up to touch the wound on my forehead.

What happened yesterday?

  ***

Three weeks later

“Stupid dog,” I mutter, gripping the wooden handle of the shovel tighter. “ Why did I ever get a dog?” I trudge into the woods, my steps slow as not to dump any of the dog crap on my new pajamas. “She makes too much of a mess. I’m going to have to find her another home,” I say to myself as I toss the crap into the woods. It lands on top of a large mound of dirt that curiously resembles a shallow grave. 

That’s absurd, I tell myself, shaking my head. I’m the only one around here. Besides,I’d know if there was a random stranger roaming the woods.

Chuckling to myself, I make my way to the shed and prop the shovel up inside the door.

***

I can’t stop thinking about that mound of dirt. It seems oddly familiar. Like I’ve seen it before, but can’t quite remember why it’s there, or how it got there.

I have to investigate it.

I head to the backyard and once again grab the shovel from the shed. When I reach the mound of dirt just past the tree line, I begin to dig. Fear begins to worm its way into my stomach, as I’m scared as to what I might uncover. 

Suddenly my shovel scrapes against something, 

I stop digging, and as I stare at the strangely familiar pile of dirt, it all comes flooding back to me.

The open bottle of Chardonnay. Marking out my name with a sharpie. The strange man. The flash of a knife. Someone screams.

Suddenly I’m dragging something heavy. Red streaks across the floor. A bottle of ammonia.

My hands become sticky… with something.

Am I crazy?

Following the red streaks…

No, it couldn’t be. I couldn’t possibly have…

Did I kill someone?

A car door slams, shaking me out of my unpleasant reverie. “James?” I hear a woman’s voice call out. “James dear, I’m home.” Then I hear a knock. “Open the door, darling. It’s Lydia. I forgot my house key, and I can’t seem to find the spare…”

Ignoring the woman, I drop to my knees and furiously begin to dig with my hands. No, I couldn’t have killed someone…

The woman continues to call out that man’s name.

Digging, digging…

I am covered in muck and grime but I continue clawing at the dirt like a madman. All of a sudden I feel something that feels like fabric… no, not fabric. I wipe away the last bit of dirt to uncover a large lump of black plastic, accompanied by a horrific smell. 

After gagging a few times, I tear open the trash bag and find…

A body. 

I scrambled backward away from the rotting corpse. Did I kill someone without knowing? Surely not.

I look toward the cabin to see the woman where the woman is. She now has her cell phone out and is dialing a number. Then I faintly hear a phone begin to ring on her end.

Then suddenly, there’s ringing in my pocket. 

I quickly reach for the phone inside my trousers and pull it out to silence it, but then I fumble like an idiot and drop it on the ground. It continues to ring.

I grab the phone, push the end call button, and peer through the tree line at the woman, who seems to stare right at me.

“Hello,?” she calls out putting the phone in her pocket. “James dear? Is that you?”

I crouch down, hoping that she doesn’t see me.

The woman starts walking towards the woods, and in a moment appears through the tree line.

“James?” She looks left and right.

I’m now flat on my stomach behind a large log, and I can only hope that she doesn’t notice the shallow grave I uncovered. How would I ever explain that?

I shift my position and leaves rustle underneath me.

“Hello? Is someone there?” She calls out, trying to see through the thick pines and brush. The woman takes out her cell phone again and begins to dial a number.

The phone in my pocket starts ringing

Crap.

I slowly crawl out from behind the log. There’s no point in hiding now. 

***

“Who are you?!” The woman yells. “Why are you here?”

I am standing before the nameless woman, who looks extremely nervous. She shakily holds a can of pepper spray in her left hand.

“Calm down, ma’am,” I tell her, keeping my eyes on the can of pepper spray. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Alistair Hendricks, and I live here.”

“You live where?” the woman asks, still firmly grasping the pepper spray.  

I gestured towards the cabin. “I live in that cabin. That’s my home”.

The woman gives me a strange look. “What are you talking about? My name is Lydia Dosher, and I live in that cabin, along with my husband, James.” She looks around frantically. “Have you seen him?”

Before I can answer, Lydia turns her head to the right and sees the trash bag I’ve uncovered and the corpse that lies within it.

She turns back to face me. “What is that?” Lydia whispers. 

“Ummm….” I stammer, unsure of how to answer her. “I was out here and uncovered it. I’m not sure how it got there…” my voice pitifully trails off.

The woman looks at me with uncertainty, then approaches the grave and kneels down beside it. She keeps staring at the body. Just staring.

Suddenly she scrambles backward and lets out a strangled sob. 

“What? What’s wrong?” I ask.

Lydia turns to me, her eyes wide, face as pale as a ghost. “Th-that’s my husband!” She screeches.  “Someone murdered him and buried his body here!” She begins to wail uncontrollably.

I’m just standing here, unsure of what to do. When Lydia finally stops wailing, she gets to her feet and wipes her eyes, smearing mascara across her left cheek.

“I-I need to call the police,” she sniffs. “They can help figure out who did this.”

Her back is now turned to me as she punches numbers on her cell phone.

I don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this. 

But I have no choice.

I pick up the shovel and swing it. The hard metal slams against Lydia’s head with a sickening crack, and the woman slumps to the ground

***

“I’m so terribly sorry that I had to do this,” I tell the dead woman, dropping the shovel. “You seemed so nice. It’s a shame you had to go.”

I stand there in the silence for a good moment, then realize what I have to do.

No one can know about this.

So I grab Lydia by the arms and begin to drag her across the ground towards the grave.

Then I roll her into the shallow hole. She lands on top of James with a thud.

There.

Now to cover them with dirt. 

***

It’s been two days since my experience with the grave and now, no matter where I go, she follows me. 

She simply won’t leave me alone. Even as I sit here on a bench outside The Deli, which is a good 45 minute drive from the cabin.

I turn my head slightly to the left, trying not to make direct eye contact with her. She’s just standing there, staring at me.

I shake my head, turn my gaze away for a moment, then look back.

She’s still there.

But, perhaps she’s not real. Perhaps she is just a hallucination, a fictional product of my stressed and troubled mind. That’s what landed me in the psychiatric facility, after all. Seeing things that aren’t there. I was lucky to escape and find that beautiful cabin I live in. Yes, just a hallucination. 

So I decide to ignore her and take a bite of my sandwich. But all of a sudden the air turns cool around me, and my skin starts to crawl.

I realize, with impending dread, that she is right next to me, and she’s not a hallucination. 

She’s real.

Suddenly, Lydia reaches out and places her cold, dead hand on my shoulder, her long dirty nails digging into my skin. She leans close, her icy breath sending shivers down my spine.  A manic  grin spreads across her dirty, blood-streaked face

“ You’ll never escape me, Alistair,” she says, her voice raspy and cold.  “I’ll always be here. I  will torment you until the day you die, then I’ll torment you some more. You picked the wrong couple to murder, Mr. Hendricks.”

My hands are still sticky

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

Kennedy Blake is an author and mother of three. She enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family. Kennedy has been writing since she was nine years old, and has several published works.

Free Fiction : The Photo by CM Lucas

As snow began to fall on that frigid winter morning, Miles Beringer made his way up the rickety staircase into the attic. Every snowfall, he found himself retreating into the dusty, insulation-filled space.

Jam-packed with items collected over the years, Miles would wade through the vast assortment of antiquated nostalgia, sometimes tidying up along the way, but often watching the snow collect on the roof. Miles had come to find that on a winter’s day, nothing was quite like his attic.

“Wow. It’s like somebody comes up here after I clean and ransacks the place,” said Miles as he glanced about the attic.

“Maybe it’s the ghosts,” said Miles, “Nothing better to do!?”

Miles snatched a basketball from a dusty box and began to dribble.

“Beringer makes his way down the court. He fakes right; he shoots… Nothing but net, ladies and gentlemen,” shouted Miles with his arms raised. Miles glanced at a box tucked in a far corner.

Hm. And what secrets might you be hiding within your shadowy, cavernous walls? Glad I don’t talk like that out loud.

Miles made his way over to the old cardboard box. He opened it and began to rummage through its contents.

“I can’t believe it,” said Miles, pulling out an old photo album. Miles opened the old album.

This is crazy. How the hell did I end up with it? Miles thought, peeling back the first page.

Polaroids! Man, I miss them. Damn, I was chunky.‘Just a little baby fat,’ sure, Dad. Oh, no. Shirley, what were you thinking with that hair? Eighties or not, that was just bad.

Miles turned the pages, reliving treasured memories. He comes to the final page and smiles.

“Good times,” said Miles, rising to his feet. A Polaroid falls from the back of the album, landing on the floor. Miles reaches down to retrieve the old photo. As he flipped the picture around, Miles furrowed his brow. Glaring at the Polaroid, he noticed himself in the picture, at his current age.

What the hell is this? I don’t remember this. Of course, I don’t. It’s a frigging Polaroid, genius. They don’t even make those anymore, do they? Where did this come from? This is recent. How? And why would it be up-

A knock at the door forced Miles out of his pondering. He makes his way downstairs and opens the door, revealing a familiar face.

“Hey, Shirl,” said Miles as his dejected expression concerned his guest.

“Hey, Miley… I come at a bad time, or what?” asked Shirley, breathing into her hands and rubbing them vigorously. Shirley makes her way inside. Flipping off her snow-covered boots as she heads into the living room.

“You rearranged the living room. Looks nice. Roomier,” said Shirley, looking about the room. Shirley then returns her gaze to Miles.

“Uh, hello, Little bro! What’s with you?” she asked. Miles peers over at his older sister. Holding up the Polaroid, he hands it to Shirley.

“Do you remember when this was taken?” he asked. Shirley furrows her brow. She then raises her eyebrow and smirks.

“Nice. The Polaroid thing’s a bit much, but it’s nice work. Where’d you get this done?” asked Shirley.

“That’s the thing. I didn’t get it done. I found it up in my attic. It was with one of our old family albums. It was lodged in the back,” he said. Miles pauses, then peers at his older sister.

“Wait, I’m an idiot,” said Miles.

“That’s not breaking news, Miley,” Shirley said with a grin.

“New Year’s Eve. You and Jack were up in the attic. You had this done and put it up there!” said Miles. Shirley glared at Miles, “Ya, Miley. I spend my time having fake pics done up and then plant them in people’s attics during parties.”

“Ok, then what the hell were you two doing up there?” he asked. Shirley continues to view the picture.

“We were…,” Shirley paused. Miles glared at his sister.

“Really? How old are you two?” he said with disgust in his voice.

Shirley remained quiet, squinting as she looked at the Polaroid.

“… Ok, seriously, what is this? Is this one of those holograms that change in the light or whatever?” Miles peered up at Shirley, perplexed. He made his way over as she held the picture up.

“… What the hell? You weren’t in this earlier,” said Miles, his eyes wide.

“What am I doing?” asked Shirley as she continued to squint.

“You look terrified. I-it looks like we’re in the kitchen in this thing,” he said as the pair huddled together.

“This is like one of those ARG deals. And it has Jack written all over it. He loves this shit,” said Shirley, scratching her chin.

“Ok, your husband’s home invasion and privacy issues aside, what do we do?” asked Miles.

“Well, when we did one of these before, we just followed any clues we could find,” Shirley continued, “let’s move into the kitchen.” Miles and Shirley made their way into the kitchen. Miles glances at the photo.

“Look, it changed again. Wait, Why am I?…” Miles paused. Shirley glanced at the Polaroid.

“Is that blood? Looks like you’re being shot or… Shit, Jack! Getting a bit-” Shirley, suddenly startled by the ruckus within the kitchen, peers into the kitchen.

“Ok, get behind me, Shirl. Watch this,” said Miles, grabbing a large glass and filling it with water.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“It’s Jack. He’s in the basement,” said Miles, making his way toward the basement door. Miles pulls open the door.

“Ah-ha! Game’s ov-” a shotgun blast rings in Shirley’s ears as she falls to the ground. A second blast rips through the siblings as a masked man exits the house.

Ten minutes pass as knocks on the door go unanswered. The door opens as a man enters the house.

“Hey, Miles, Shirley! It’s Jack! You guys here? It’s really coming down out there. Jack glances down at the old photo at his feet. The Polaroid reveals a shocked Jack as he beholds his wife and brother-in-law slain on the kitchen floor.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

CM “Spookas” Lucas is a is an aspiring Horror/Science Fiction writer, a free lance writer of articles and reviews. He has recently joined the HorrorAddicts.net staff of writers. Check out his recent article

Free Fiction : Midwinter Terror – by Leonardo J. Espinal 


And as the crescent moon reigned over the starry night, offering a post-impressionistic painting of midwinter gloom chaperoned by the phantasmagoric wind, I direly realized that the grotesque silhouette in the corner of my bedroom, which at first sight seemed to merely be my coat hanger, indeed was that of a malignant creature. Excruciating in the eyes as it was rife with all things ill and heinous while wearing the darkness as an extension of its skin. This dweller of nightmares, bearer of a set of dimly lit, red eyes that lusted for no blood other than mine, slowly made its way towards my impotent body from the most treacherous depths of my psyche.

In the midst of it all, the wind bashed my window relentlessly, akin to a distress call from Mother Nature herself. And to make matters worse, even at the sight of such an abomination, my muscles remained unbothered, for the horror was of mental nature alone.

Thankfully, the illusory Frankenstein, the torrid sweating, my drowning chest, my obstructed breathing, the torture of being unable to move anything but my desperate eyes, and the subsequent agony that the former causes were but a devil I knew like the palm of my hand. Therefore, the following routine was deeply engraved both in my brain and muscle memory: 

  •   Keep my eyes wide open and fixated on the approaching demon, for closing my eyes or in other words, relaxation      only serves to prolong the sleep paralysis. 
  •   Try my hardest to take exhaustively quick breaths in order to elevate my heart rate.
  •   Once my heart rate is adequately elevated, some parts of my body will start to react.
  • That’s when I proceed to wake my body up by focusing all my sheer energy on moving either my toes or pinky       fingers; one of the two because my capabilities while in sleep paralysis often vary.
  •  Hope that my body wakes up from its deep slumber before that monstrosity gets too close. I had always been  f  fortunate enough to wake up before its elongated, sharp fingers reached for me.

A familiar hell indeed, but hell all the same because no joyous dream is too long and no nightmare is short enough. Thus, an extra set of claustrophobic seconds went by in a manner that felt like manually counting each falling grain in an hourglass. Nonetheless, I was able to move my pinky fingers, although moving them while in that state always felt like it required all of my tangible focus and then some.

All while my eyes were laser-focused on the bogeyman whose truculent face had now partially abandoned the darkness and was instead dimly lit by the moonlight cascading through the window. But not to worry, even though my heart may have very well been on the verge of collapsing every time that devil took another step forward, there was light at the end of the tunnel since everything was going down as usual. I could feel my body steadily recovering the most precious scantlings of consciousness, which meant that I was at the cusp of finalizing this ever distressful process. A few moments later, I exhaled the densest petrification of agony one could ever withhold, followed by a cathartic inhale while I closed my irritated eyes in an apotheosis of relief.

At long last, I managed to recover my indispensable consciousness, thus bringing the nightmare to a prosaic end, or so I thought. Just as if Poe himself had delivered the pen and ink of my terror, I reopened my eyes to a vivid Beksinski painting that maimed the latent heart of my senses in a fleeting blink of an eye. Both escaping and screaming proved to be futile, for the certainty of my Kafkaesque demise had rendered my body soulless and my screeches were turned hollow by the wolflike winds of that most wretched midwinter night. This last time around, my ocean of nightmares had spilled over into reality.

_____________________________________________________________

Leonardo J. Espinal is a twenty-one-year-old Honduran, bilingual writer who is currently undergoing his bachelor studies in Argentina. As of today, he possess ten literary publications (articles, essays, and short stories) in American, Spanish, and Argentine magazines. To find more of his work please see: https://www.flowcode.com/page/leonardoespinal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=12vo_cARkcmlbeKerhGTJjRXX6d19KOI0

 

Gypsy Mob : Episode 2 / Don Giletti

Don Giletti stood at the window behind his desk, staring at the darkness outside his mansion. Behind him, the hulking figure of a man stood in one corner of the room, his features obscured. He may have been looking at the third man in the room, the one cowering before Don Giletti’s desk, cradling his right hand. The fingers of this hand were bent at odd angles and the middle finger looked to be pulled from its socket. The man’s breathing was harsh, the only sound in the room. 

“You ‘ave made me displeased wit’ you,” Giletti said, his voice regretful. “De only question left is whether or not to let you walk from here, boasting of your incompetence and lack of consequences.”

“Don Giletti,” the man whispered, straining to speak through a throat swollen by two enormous handprints. “I crave…I beg your pardon. Had I but known the territory was yours, I never—”

“It is ALL my territory!” Giletti thundered, turning from the window to fix the man with a cold stare. “De very ground you walk on is under our control for hundreds of miles in all directions. Yet you see fit to set up shop in what amounts to my front yard.”

“Yes, of course,” the man panted, his eyes straying to the silent figure in the corner. “Please, Don Giletti, let me prove to you my loyalty. Allow me the chance to do this, killing me will do no—”

“You are correct, death would hinder your chance at redemption. I only question whether or not your redemption is worth it,” Giletti said. He folded his hands before him, staring the man down. 

“Don Giletti, sir, I will be your most loyal, most trustworthy—”

“Tony,” Giletti said, interrupting the stammered protests of devotion. He had heard them all before. “Mr Sanders has pleaded his life, but cannot be allowed to walk free. Please give him a lasting reminder of our feelings for interlopers, that his loyalties never waver again.”

The man’s eyes grew huge and shot to the hulking figure which had come to life. Stepping out of the shadows was a huge man, easily over seven feet tall, in an immaculate black tuxedo. His head was bald as a cue ball, his hands the size of dinner plates. His face was an expressionless blank as he advanced on Sanders, the smaller man squealing with fear, his feet scrabbling for purchase on the slick tile floor. 

“Nonono Don Giletti no you don’t have to do that please no—” 

His words degenerated into gibberish as the giant man knelt beside the chair, seizing Sanders’ calf in one giant hand, his foot with the other. Tendons stood out on Tony’s massive hands as he twisted. 

Sanders screamed, an inarticulate sound of agony and horror as the bones in his ankle cracked in with a sickening wet pop. Tony twisted in the other direction, bringing more popping and screaming sounds from the man as his bones were neatly sheared from each other. Setting his grip, Tony pulled. The muscles under his tuxedo arms bulged and with a sickening sound of tearing meat, the foot of Albert Sanders was torn off in his hand. The wretched man’s screams pleased Don Giletti as he trimmed the end of a large cigar. 

“Thank you, Tony. Now please escort Mr Sanders to the door before he bleeds all over my floor.”

The big man lifted one of Sanders’ arms, placing it around his own massive shoulders and hiking Sanders to his foot. Dragging the sobbing man to the door of the study, Tony booted it open and dropped Sanders in a pile over its threshold. 

“You’ll see yourself out, Mr Sanders?” Giletti asked, lighting his cigar with a silver lighter. “Do try and make it outside before expiring. Good night.”

Tony shut the door, blotting out the man’s suffering. Going to a cupboard in the corner, he pulled out a mop, bucket, and bleach. Going to the French doors on one side of the room, he slid one open, taking the bucket outside to the expansive grounds, and hose outlet. 

Giletti surveyed the blood around the chair Sanders had occupied. A few buckets of bleach water and it would be as though it had never happened. Picking up the phone on his desk, he pressed a button to connect him to the local police station. The other end rang twice before it was picked up. 

“Giletti?” The voice was low and gravelly, hesitant and slightly fearful. 

“Yes, Chief Murphy, and if anybody else ever calls you from this number, I want to know about it,” said Giletti, blowing a perfect smoke ring at the ceiling. “I wanted to thank you personally for your information regarding the late Albert Sanders, it was most entertaining to speak wid him.”

“Of course, sir, you know anything I can do—”

“I do know, and I appreciate you doing it. Tomorrow there will be two tickets to the opera on your desk, along with your favorite whiskey. Don Giletti always rewards loyalty.” A second smoke ring joined the first. Behind him, Tony re-entered from the grounds, the bucket full of water. He closed the French door silently and set the bucket down beside the puddle of blood. Splashing a healthy portion of bleach into it, the huge man set to with the mop. 

“Thank you very much, sir, please don’t hesitate—”

Don Giletti hung up the phone, puffing on his cigar as he watched Tony mopping. 

“Once you are done wid de stain, find Mr Sanders and dispatch him cleanly, will you, Tony? His life no longer seems worth living.”

The man nodded once, never looking up from his work. 

Two raps came at Giletti’s door, light and reluctant. 

“Enter,” said Giletti, sucking on his cigar. 

Matteo entered, his eyes on the trail of blood. Behind him, Giletti could see the pile that was Albert Sanders laying in the hallway, having drug himself only a few feet before passing out. 

“Tony, dis blood puddle can wait. Please tend to what’s left of Mr Sanders before de stain in de hallway becomes permanent.” Giletti gestured with his cigar.

Obediently, Tony stood, leaving the mop in the bucket. Stepping carefully over the puddles, he walked around Matteo, who flinched noticeably as he neared. The big man turned, shutting the double doors softly behind him. 

“Matteo!” Don Giletti said expansively, leaning back in his seat with the cigar in his mouth. “How did my little girl enjoy de carnival?”

“Don Giletti…” Matteo said before trailing off, his mouth dryer than he could ever remember. The whole way back from the Gypsy encampment, he had been rehearsing what to tell his prospective father-in-law and had gotten no further than those two words. “Don Giletti…” he said again, once again coming up short. 

Giletti took the cigar from his mouth and frowned. “Where is Bianca, Matteo?”

“G-gone,” Matteo squeaked, his eyes falling again and again on the puddle of blood and bucket before him. 

Giletti stared at him wordlessly, the cigar describing lazy curls of smoke up to the ceiling. Matteo felt two inches tall. 

“Sir, she went to the fortune teller’s tent. I went…somewhere else, and when I came back to the fortune tent, they told me she had left. I could not find her anywhere and her phone goes to voice mail. I thought I should come back and tell you, sir, before much more time had passed.”

Giletti continued to stare, eyes boring holes into Matteo. 

“Sir, I’m sorry,” Matteo gabbled, now talking faster as though to buy himself time. “If you want me to sir I’ll go back and find her I know I can, maybe I just didn’t check closely enough because I thought maybe she could have—”

“Where did you go, Matteo, dat you left my daughter alone wid de Gypsies?”

Giletti’s voice was very quiet but it cut through Matteo’s babble, shutting the young man up with a snap as his heart sank. Very few had successfully lied to Giletti. 

“I—uh, that is to say, I went—”

“You have one chance to tell me de truth, young man. I would advise you to take it.”

The stories of Giletti’s responses to deceit came back to Matteo, that coupled with the blood on the floor compelled him to the truth, come what may. 

“I went to the Pleasure Tent, sir,” Matteo said in a rush, as though hoping hearing it quickly would be easier for the patriarch. 

“De Pleasure Tent,” repeated Giletti, still staring.

“Yes sir.”

“Am I correct in assuming dat is what it sounds like?”

Matteo’s eyes dropped. “Yes, sir,” he mumbled. 

“You mean to sit dere and tell me dat while on a date wid my daughter, you ditched her to go to bed wid a Gypsy prostitute and now have no idea where she is?”

Matteo was sure he was sealing his fate as he whispered, “Yes, sir.”

The Don’s face was a mask of cold fury as he stubbed the cigar out in a gold ashtray. “De only ting keeping you alive is de fact dat you did not try to conceal dis from me. I will consider de matter closed if you can produce her, tonight. If you cannot, Tony will have to get involved. You don’t want Tony to get involved.”

“No, sir,” squeaked Matteo, hardly daring to believe his reprieve. 

“Get out of my sight, Matteo,” Giletti’s voice was laden with disgust. “If I see you again widout my daughter—”

But he was talking to an empty room; Matteo had already wrenched the door open and fled. 

 

Free Fiction : In the Winter Forest by John Drury

In the Winter Forest by John Drury

Before the man stood a large monolithic slate constructed with a dark abyss-like cosmic sludge, ever moving and crawling like one thousand termites upon the carcass of a long-deceased animal.  Each character shifted and writhed through the sludge, eternally fighting for release from the confines of the monolith but forever holding their distinct and awe-inspiring shape with both grandeur and solidity. The alien etchings presented themselves to the world like the proclamation of some unholy deity, warning those of the unspeakable sufferings that laid in wait for any who dared step foot upon this god-forsaken land.

All around D’Hiver, a cold winter wind blew, the screams of the wind creating a cacophony that was further amplified by the large monolithic structure that laid bare before him. He awoke sprawled before the structure on his hands and knees in a position of prostration with no remembrance of his past or identity. Only a brief recollection of a life previously lived presided within his now deteriorated mind. Within that memory, a single visage presided but had now been smeared away from his mind like the smudged face of an ancient painting that has long been lost to the sands of time.

Visions of preconceived understandings and depictions of Purgatory and Hell raced through his mind in a desperate effort to attribute their characteristics with those of the world that now laid claim to his soul. All around snow-covered plains laid barren before the man, and far in the distance, a ring of monstrously large tree-like structures surrounded the plains, almost like the gates into a more hellish landscape. No sign of life was evident, both on the plains and through the trees far in the distance. Outside of the harrowing screams of the bone-chilling wind, there existed only silence which echoed through his mind almost as loud as the hallow wind itself.

One last look upon the monolith filled the man with an existential dread of the future that invariably waited for him—still, all the while providing no understanding of who could have potentially created such a horrific structure.

The reverberating black energy of the monolith drove D’Hiver forward, pushing him towards the ring of trees. With no apparent motive or direction, the man went onwards for what he believed to be hours or potentially even days, as there were no stars in the sky, no sun or moon to guide his path or provide any structure to the time spent pushing forever onwards. The only light apparent on this world was an unearthly white glow that cast itself from high above onto the snow below, calling him forward and forever guiding his path.

With each step, the journey away from the monolith became increasingly more difficult, the physical and psychological pain pushing D’hiver far beyond his breaking point. The man’s hunger and need for rest had been exonerated, replaced with a pang of gnawing unfound existential torment and guilt that tore away at his heart perpetually. With each step forward, the more the jagged ice ripped the skin from his bare feet, leaving a trail of blood upon the plains. When inspected, his feet showed no sign of trauma or deterioration; only when set upon the earth, did they begin to bleed and toil away upon the endless void of snow once again. Visions of the wasted body of Prometheus chained to the rocks of Caucasus raced through D’Hivers mind as the man began to feel as if he had been sentenced to a fate similar to that of the bringer of fire.

He stood before the immense trees that seemed to move and sway in a way similar to that of the wordings etched into the monolith. Once the man mustered the strength to pass through the gates, he found that the ground below the trees was barren, inexplicably protected by the vastness of the sprawling canopy of pine-like branches miles above the surface. Once his feet left the snow, the pain immediately subsided, and instantly the air had become completely silent; the halls of the forest seemed to eliminate the horrific screams and bellows of the plains that now lay a mere foot behind D’hiver. Just as the cries of the plains had echoed through his skull like the strokes of a bell, the silence seemed to permeate through the entirety of his body, slowly filling every crevice and niche until his entire being had become a well of pressure ready to burst at the seams. Unsure of which pain he found worse, he continued onwards, blocking the new sensations that at first felt like a relief but now felt like a fire from which the frying pan had directly delivered him. 

The sensations of hunger still seemed to escape him, but the starvation of days without rest seemed to catch up with D’hiver finally. Immediately he fell to the forest floor, cushioned by a bed of ancient pine needles, which ushered him into a deep, dreamless sleep.

For years the man slept, always without movement or breathing; he laid there, becoming endlessly covered by the falling pine needles which stabbed into his body relentlessly until there was no skin left to puncture. A deep guttural calling finally awoke D’hiver from deep within the forest itself, which harked him onwards in the same ancient language that briefly graced the foggy mind of the wayward traveler from long ago when he traveled the plains of the ancient monolith.

And once more, his journey continued. 

Scorched by the fires of some unholy force, the building lay before D’hiver, small in size when compared to the vastness of the trees, which D’hiver had called his own for what had become years now. The building, constructed in the same material as the monolith, and shaped like that of a church, presented the man with a single doorway, for which he slowly approached. With each step, the calling grew more vigorous, D’hiver felt as if his journey had finally reached its conclusion.

The inside of the building was black as night. Every particle of light was absorbed and crushed under the enormous weight of the darkness. From deep within the shadows, a figure walked forward towards D’hiver. With hands outstretched and body prostrated towards the unholy figure, D’hiver presented his unwavering love and commitment the same way he had towards the monolith all those years ago when he had first awoken. 

With each step the figure took, the pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s soul continued to grow, and the guttural voice’s call grew louder and louder. At last, before the figure was just about to present itself, D’hiver realized that the call was never a call; it was, in fact, a cry, a cry of warning, the same cry of warning that the monolith had attempted to communicate to him all those years ago. He should have never come here; his lack of purpose and direction mixed with the years of physical and psychological torment blinded him to the truth. The enticing possibility of some form of reward or fulfillment laying in wait at the end of the trail kept D’hiver moving.

However, he was wrong, and it was too late to go back now.

The creature took its last steps, and once D’hiver’s eyes bore witness to the abomination that had laid claim to his soul, the well of pressure lodged deep within D’hiver’s body finally gave way. In that very instant, all of the unholy white light absorbed by the pitch-black walls that surrounded the two figures finally collapsed upon the body of D’hiver.

Thousands of miles away, far beyond the towering trees and into the unholy snowcovered fields the man awakes, once again, before the great monolith.


John Drury is a High School student with a soft spot for horror and writing that’s just trying to get his voice out there. . “Over the past couple of years, I have been invested in listening to experimental music and watching older horror movies, which have played a vital role in the desire to focus my time on the creative process. I am only a student right now, but I hope to get my voice heard while developing my ability to create exciting stories. In the future, I would like to publish an anthology or potentially even a full-length story. Unfortunately, I only have one piece of writing under my belt, so my main focus will be on developing my craft and finding new and exciting stories to share.” If you enjoyed this story, watch for more from John and follow him at https://linktr.ee/JohnDru

Free Fiction:Broken Marble Cherry Bowl by Dan A. Cardoza

Broken Marble Cherry Bowl By Dan A. Cardoza

Grande Nonno died making a living, like Papa. He was born with his blue denim sleeves rolled up. 

He and Grande Nonna are buried just a few miles south of the Apuan Mountains on the Alps’ Italian side. They’ve been rotting away in a small village cemetery near the town of Caravaggio. Caravaggio, Italy, is in the province of Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy, 40 kilometers northeast of Milan’s municipality. 

Carrara is in central Italy. Carrara is in the provinces of Massa and Carrara. The region is famous for the white and blue-grey marble quarried there. The brilliant, almost translucent blue and grey exist as arteries and veins, frozen in memoriam. The Carrione River gushes in the winter through the canyons of the region. Flash floods in the spring have been known to cleanse citizens clear out into the Ligurian Sea. 

At first glance, the Apuan Alps of northwest Tuscany’s Carrara region are pure white. You can imagine snow being born in the high castle crags. 

Early train travelers through the regional mountains had been cautioned of the risk of blindness due to marble dust and glare from all the whiteness. The talc of powder is said to be under the control of no other than the wind, a stiff wind that wants nothing to do with humankind.

Most travel guides, even today, will tell you the Carrara region is famous for three things: marble, anarchy, and pig fat. This unlikely trio is intertwined as deeply as the mineral veins striating the marbled mountains. 

Since ancient Roman times, Carrara’s Apuan Alps have supplied marble for some of the world’s most prized sculptures. Carrara is the marble of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Jean-Antoin Houdin’s George Washington, and New Delhi’s vast Akshardham Temple. The stone is blessed with luminosity, its networks of blue arteries and veins, nature’s psychological Rorschach test ranges from grayish to purple. In monolithic form, it can support the sky, like Half-Dome in Yosemite, California. It has been winnowed down into the translucence of light itself in thin slabs, a fitting lid on an iridescent coffin. 

My name is David. I’m a little softer than marble but much colder. It’s taken a while to get here, but that’s what you get when you grow up in the middle of a nightmare.

This story isn’t so much about me. It’s mostly about us. Yes, dear reader, you and me, us humans, with all our ugliness, beauty, and pain. It’s about the idiosyncrasies and occasional flaws of raising children, children whose only intent is to live, once born. There’s not one baby book available online or in a storefront about how to raise a monster. I can assure you, the parents that know how-to, don’t need any damned instructions.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a wonderful life, especially now that I’ve lived alone for just over a decade. Papa and Mamma are back in Northern Italy, going on eleven years now. They will be back, not to worry. In most ways, they’ve never really left. They are like shadows that remain hidden, but for midnight. 

When I say that they are not really being gone, by that, I mean there are very few places in this run-down house where they don’t exist. And, outside, they are out there too. 

Papa is in the drippy faucet, the one he couldn’t fix. And so I put up with it, and wait. It’s just off their bedroom, on the second floor. Now that they’re gone, I sleep in their queen. Papa is in the crazy garden. Jesus, it’s insanely productive. Most of us Italian’s are birthed with green thumbs. He’s no exception. Hell, he’s placed enough bullshit in the dirt to turn the backyard into a greenhouse. The soil can’t help itself. It’s rich and loamy. 

He’s in the tomato stakes, the ones he used his machete to ax into six-foot lengths. The stakes are round and made out of two-inch dried bamboo. He uses four to stand up the cages, cages meant to confine the beautiful green and red of the plants. Papa makes the wire cages too. It seems he makes everything except the water. In July, once the plants have taken hold, he uses the iron enclosures to jail all the tomatoes with cheap labor until they are forced to ripen. 

The rake, he’s damned well in it. Papa’s in the sweaty oil on the tacky handle. He’s also in the missing hickory slivers that have ended up in his callused palms. I can even feel him in the shovel, the square, and the round one. Papa’s strong hands are there, the ones that he’d forced around my throat. 

The rounded shovel has a grave digger’s blade, having killed a rat or two. It acts as guillotines and can be used to take out Napoleon’s armies of screaming tomato worms, as well as any meandering garden snake.  

Father is in the pantry, more stubborn than any simile. I swear to it. He’s in the ugly green wooden cabinet, the cabinet built onto one of the garage walls. He had inherited from the previous homeowners. Papa was there when he smashed the planked wooden door on my curious fingers after he’d carelessly left it unlocked. He was as quiet as a panther in the single-car parking space. 

He’d reinforced the shelves, “extra support never hurt nuthin’, he’d said. If I catch you climbing up them again, I’ll crack your eardrums open like a walnut shell.” 

Brandied cherries, thorny blackberries, and drunken raisins, a container of bay leaves, dried leaves broad enough to cover your crotch, they’re all in there, his damned pantry, canned jars of minestrones soups, pickled venison with bone broth, broth he’d used to boil meat off a cats ribs. 

I love Papa. I can’t get enough of him, even though he’d never taught me a damned thing or showed an ounce of affection. He’d beaten me so hard once. He used a messy summer fly-swatter. The kids at school teased me for more than a week. They’d called me porch-face because of the clumsy screen door in the back of the house. I wouldn’t dare tell them the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love him, Papa, way over in Italy, but if not for the distance, I’d kill him.

Trouble in Italy

It’s like when ivory Domino’s fall, Italy. 

One after the other, first cousin Adrianna broke her back. She’d been living taking care of Nonno and Nonna in their two bedroom inherited cottage. Winter had been a bastarda that year. Those cloudy Cumuli scoundrels just wouldn’t let up or leave. 

The storms had come over the ice-box Apuan Mountains like some uninvited frost-bitten diesel train. They huffed and puffed their swollen blue faces, clean out of Switzerland and Austria. The back stoop and steps had frozen. 

In the last atmospheric disturbance, Adrianna had forgotten all their scratchy linens she’d hung out on the clothesline in the AM. When she’d clipped on the wooden clothespins, there had been sunshine, clawing itself over the horizon. The landscape was frozen, but the fragile sunrays had been as dry as a church mouse fart.

She’d seen them as flags, all the sheets, and towels. They’d flapped parallel in the same direction of the sleet. If the sky hadn’t been so windy, they might have frozen all their stiffness in place. 

Both feet had come out from underneath her hefty girth. She attempted to scoot across the stoop and down a short run of stairs. Adrianna’s heard the crunch before, the time she’d chopped fresh kindling for the cottage’s cast iron stove. She’d cracked her cervical spine in three places.

The medicohe had ordered rest and that she lay as stiff as a corpse for at least two months. I don’t know what in the hell they call them in Italy, but the doctor had also thrown a shitload of Benzodiazepines at her to “uplift her mood,” he’d said. 

Adrianna had sounded as if she was a happy zombie. She’d begun to slur her words. So, she used the neighbor on the other end of the phone. This neighbor lady, Arelia, was one of a few in the village who knew broken English. Adrianna had stirred up the whole neighborhood with her high maintenance and melodramatics, most likely from her being high. 

In short order, Arelia, the helpful neighbor, quit. She’d had enough of nursing Arianna, as well as cooking and feeding Nonno and Nonna. She’d shouted in Italian when she’d left the cottage for the last time, “I’m not going to be used as some kind of crazy finger puppet.” That’s when mother and father’s trip was a done deal.

Hearing all this, mother and father had jumped on the first international flight out of San Francisco to Milan. Apparently, Caravaggio, Italy is another Hotel California, like the Eagles’ hit song, once you arrive, you can never leave. 

By god, nothing was going to happen to Nonno and Nonna. My parents had too much invested, not the least the thirty-odd dollars they’d sent to Italy every month.  

I’m sure their leaving had nothing to do with any future inheritance. 

Back at the House

Although Mamma is in Italy, she’s never really left the house. 

She’s in the pasta sauce she taught me to make: Butt loads of fresh garlic, a pinch of brown sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, fresh basil, Papa’s rusty tomatoes, and her secret weapon, Italian ground sausage with fennel. There are enough jars of Mamma’s pasta sauce in the green pantry to fill up a Venetian Gondola. I almost forgot, add about ½ cup of tawny port wine, not the cooking kind. In Northern Italy, that’s how we roll.

She’d used her intoxicating pasta sauce and pasta to keep papa fat and uncomfortable, too uncomfortable for kinky sex. 

Mamma had been the Comet shine in the scratched porcelain sink. I’m messy. She cleaned the kitchen floor good enough to eat off, vacuumed the rug in front of the big screen TV, left wheel marks resembling perfectly furrowed OCD rows of corn, truer than any in Kansas. I have stacks of dirty dishes on the coffee table. The washer broke, and now I’m using the dishwasher to clean all my clothes.  

I almost forgot, Mamma is down the drain in the bathtub and out the sewer pipes, swimming toward the mainline. Everything she ever did is out there. I hope the witch stays in Italy, never comes home.

Mamma’s into saving. She’s a penny-pincher. 

She’d hoarded change, mainly the spare dimes she could fit into Papa’s discarded whiskey and cognac, Toro Gordo see-through tubes. The nasty cigars never left his mouth. Each tube was gifted at storing their designated dimes, each dime held snugly in its place. Dimes were tight, seemingly pinching themselves into place, each dime a fool, should they even think of leaving the nested affection.  

I’ve spent every one of those Mercury-headed sons-a-bitches, those President Franklin D. Roosevelt, In God We Trust counterfeit dimes. Money is evil. It needed to be punished. I gave them all away at the Thunder Valley Casino, just north of Sacramento. It had taken a lot of liquor, anger, and time to spend the forty-eight tubes of stolen dimes. Losing had never felt so good. Returning at 3:00 AM Saturday morning, I’d slept most of the weekend away, having gorged on an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Canning

With COVID and all, and since Mamma’s cooking is in Italy, I’ve taken up canning. 

Canning has become extremely popular with my generation. I am a millennial. It’s a safe, effective, and simple process, and it’s crazy inexpensive. Mother made me inexpensive, cheap enough to toss away if she could have gotten away with it. She gave me to Papa, expecting he’d use me up. I hate her as much as sin, with her all her paternal conspiracies. 

People can take advantage of canning to preserve just about anything: fruits, peaches, plums, thorny and bloody blackberries picked in the boiling sun, along the Yuba River, vegetables, soups, sauces, and meats, damned right, all kinds of proteins.

In the late 1700s, that crazy war genius, Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned a regional search for a better method to preserve food. He believed that “An army travels on its stomach.” 

He was looking for a less expensive and more efficient way to feed his armies. He intended to make food last longer and give his armies nutritional food, meat to build up their strength. Their heritage of strength is what allowed the troops to perform more of their carnage in all the battles. And so Napoleon proposed a hefty bounty to anyone who could come up with a better method of preserving food in quantity, with a long shelf life, even though most of Napoleon’s soldiers had a limited expiration date. 

A genius named Nicholas Appert had claimed the prize, though it took until 1810 for him to perfect his discovery. But like most time-proven inventions used for the military, it would take about fifty years before the methodology and know-how would trickle down to the average family. Think of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars. 

By 1858, this brilliant, cylindrically shaped man, John Mason, had invented the iconic, reusable “Mason Jar.” The Mason jar is the gold standard of canning, even today.

The best thing momma taught me before she left was how to can. I do thank her for that if nothing else, and I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life.

The Supplies:

  1. Boiling water bath canner or a large, deep sauce pot with a lid and a rack
  2. Glass preserving jars, lids, and bands (always start with new lids)
  3. Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle, and paring knife
  4. Quality ingredients (fresh fruits and vegetables)
  5. Jar lifter
  6. Home canning funnel
  7. Bubble freer and headspace tool

I admit it’s become an obsession, canning. It’s been more than a hot minute, well, over ten years now, since Papa and Mamma left for Italy. I might have to whisper, but I think I’m a better canner than my missing Mamma. You heard me right. Mamma went missing while in Italy. She’s still missing. 

If I sound a little matter of fact, well, for Christ-sakes, I am. I don’t miss her a bit. Hell, she’s everywhere I turn in this two-story falling apart clapboard house.

Let’s get back to canning. I don’t have time for terribly long stories. 

Bitches, I am the RuPaul Andre Charles of canning. I’ve got canning game. Over the years, I have mastered the art. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s an art: Squatty Stainless steel jar lids, lids that stack in gorgeous, shiny rows in Papa’s garage pantry. Tall, long Masson jars, the glass of stars, full of peaches, their skin’s sloughing off. Don’t you just love the word slough? I eat the juicy peaches, skin first. I’ve preserved Kidney beans and canned eggplant, the kind that resembles the Emoji penis. I’ve canned olives, as dark as jackal eyes, red pimento’s for pupils. Green-fingered asparagus, some as thick as longshoremen’s thumbs, the rest, as long as your middle finger, I’ve stored them all. 

I figure all the canned goods in Papa’s green cupboard should last at least five freaking years. Think about it, not having to shop for food, all the plague masks, all the germs, the disguising people?  

I Quit my Job

I worked for the State of California in IT. My employer was the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It was a nice fit for the longest time, the past twenty years. But, with all the write-ups, suspensions, and disciplinary action, I told the governor of the golden state of California to shove his state job up his Department of Controller’s ass. I’d had it. 

The talking behind my back and taunting had gone on for months. I was accused of sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, and for keeping less than standard hygienic practices. 

It was never written up formally, by my immediate supervisor had also accused me of excessive flatulence. He’d said, “I’ll save you all the embarrassment by not having it on the record.” 

They assumed father had simply disappeared in the woods. He’d been hiking a lot after Mamma’s disappearance. Well, he’d disappeared too. It was in early February. Ah, em, it had been snowing a lot. The Apaun forests were deep and dark, all that bullshit. 

Think of me as the red stapler man in the hit movie Office Space. I’d been placed in a corner, next to a dingy wall, at the end of a long row of cubicles. I’d been made fun of for the longest time. There had been food on my shirt that I’d made sure to wash at least once a month, the broken clip on my suspenders, my olive oiled hair, a litany of complaints. 

They’d said, “He’s a pig, eats most of his food out of jars, he farts like a bull in a software China shop. He scrambles and breaks every damned software application and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet account that he touches. His math is sloppy. He doesn’t add up.”

“Fuck you,” I shouted when Kevin won the yearly IT award. I wouldn’t have been so bad, but I used the third floors intercom. 

This girl named Nancy had turned me in for wearing real pig’s ears for Halloween. I thought It was appropriate. I used elastic and Velcro and had dried them out. “Fuck you,” I’d shouted when they’d told me who it was that complained. “Fuck all of you, Nancy,” I’d said. “You bitches are going to end up in a Masson’s canning jar.” I was fired the very next day. They walked me clear down the block to the bus stop. 

Ok, I get this feeling that you are making fun of me too. This is so personal, and I have been sharing so much of myself. I know you think I’m crazy, reader. You can’t fool me. Don’t flatter yourself, smarty-pants. You think I killed my mother and father and jarred them. No, and No, and hell no!

I’m in Papa’s garage. He won’t mind. I’m using his workbench vice. Grande Nonno had a workbench, too, over there in Italy. He’d used it to sharpen all his slaughtering tools and wheat scythe. Grande Nonno and I had always gotten along. I loved him. He’s the one that taught me why the sheep in the foothills of the Alps have two downhill legs shorter than the other, walking the hills and all, in one direction. 

Papa did everything big, including installing a commercial-sized workbench vice. His vice is industrial red and shiny as glass. I tighten it, tighter and tighter. Nothing ever escaped father. He held me down, two knees on my back, both hands in my long pissy hair, I’d wet the bed again. 

As I grew older, he’d do this, but for other reasons. 

I turn the handle. I have the vices dog fixed in place. I watch as the moving jaw moves in the direction of the stationary jaw. The main screws seem to elongate as the vice grips tighter, one of life’s paradoxes. I crank and crank until Papa’s double-barreled shotgun is fixed in place.

I saw and saw, using the hacksaw. 

As the storm shakes the rafters, I play Papa’s favorite CD using his cheap flea-market vintage player. How he loved him some Brahm, especially the classic-haunted lullabies, steeped in all the Mephistophelian memories they evoked. He loved the anxious melody, all the nervous piano keys, the white noise that kept my–his demons at bay. 

Piano Concerto Number Two was his favorite, with its assemblage of Stradivarius violins fluttering their hyaline wings off. How it reminds me of the times, I’d torn the wings off the butterfly’s whenever the pain ferreted itself into the light, sniffing for vengeance.

Most of the cold steel barrel falls to the floor. I sand and sand what’s left of the barrel until it’s smooth to the touch. It never heats up. It remains cold. 

I snap on the TV in the family room. It takes a while to find the channel with only white noise. Next to me, on the make-shift end table is a mason jar. It’s filled to the brim with pickled pig’s feet broth, mostly bitter vinegar. I grasp the jar in my sweaty palm. I swish the dog’s eyes in a clockwise direction. I place the vacuum-packed jar back on the card table next to the couch. 

The age-darkened sheep’s eyes spin and whirl in a circular motion of sight, no longer tethered to their brains by any pesky optic nerves or even semblance of reality. 

I pick up the jar again. I stare back and spin the wolf’s eyes in a counter-clockwise direction. I smile. I place the cyclone of deception and conspiracy back on the table.

Now I can use my index finger on the trigger. The shotgun barrel is so much shorter now. Using my toes was unrealistic since I’ve gained so much weight after being terminated. Terminated, what a harsh word, isn’t it? Because of all the nutritious canned protein, I’ve become a little cherub. There’s no way my chubby two toes were going to blast me over the moon. 

Dear reader, if you’ve gotten this far, I’m truly sorry. You will have to sit on the couch now, directly across from me, and watch.

You’ll have company. They are watching me too. The feral eyes are strobe lights, a horrific merry-go-round of sight, the son’s-a-bitch, around and around they go. The room fades to black, the TV splatters.

You know most of the rooms in the house by now. After you puke your guts out, you run toward the leaky shower in the master bath. The blistering hot water can’t rub your bloody skin off fast enough, “Fuck the crime scene,” you shout at the top of your lungs, into the ceiling. You contemplate how your pretty world has just shit its pants.

You exit the shower. The room has turned into a psyche ward spa. Everything is a vapor. You splash ice water on your face over the sink in front of the massive mirror. You rub and rub at the steam on the glass.  

Directly behind you, in the mirror, is your new reality. You can see it clearly now. It stands bleeding, broad-shouldered. Somehow the brawny shoulders are holding up a broken marble bowl of cherries. The bloody cherries are globing over the rim of the bowl. 

After you’ve determined the broken bowl is what’s left of my skull, I make you feel the icy barrel against your flesh, directly behind your pounding heart. 

Now, Son’s-a-bitch, the lights really do go out. 

The End


Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Across the Margins, Bull, Cleaver, Close to the Bone, Coffin Bell, Dark City Books/Magazine, Door=Jar, Dream Noir, Entropy, Flash Bang Mystery, Gravel, Literary Heist, Mystery Tribune, O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Overstock, Spelk, Variant, Visitant, Your Impossible Voice, The 5-2. Dan has also been nominated by Coffin Bell for the Best of the Net Anthology, 2021, and best micro-fiction by Tiny Molecules.

You can read more of Dan’s work at https://www.dan-a-cardoza-literature.com,

Twitter: @Cardozabig 

https://www.facebook.com/ 

 

Gypsy Mob : Episode One / The Pleasure Tent

The Ferris wheel whirled as the midway lights flickered, lit by the secondary generator also powering the staticky sound system piping carnival music through the meager lane of tents pitched along a lane that may have constituted a midway. A few dogs begged at the hands of the well-dressed patrons lined up at the booths, but for the most part, the only scavengers were the Gypsy carnies. 

“Step righ’ up, hit the tits off da bull wid a dart, and win a stuffed monkey!”

“Ladies and gents, if’n youse can fill this balloon wid a water gun, you get a ticket for our private show featuring the stunning Ms. Gingerette!”

“Guess da number o’ clams inside th’ bucket o’ sand and you wins a million dolla! Okay, not a million, but ONE HUND’RD DOLLARS! Ladies and gents, how ‘bout dat! For th’ price of a pounda clams…”

Bianca’s eyes shined as the Ferris wheel’s cars swooped past her, the lights of the cars reflected in her eyes. “Matty, this is so much fun! I haven’t been to a carnival in… ever!”

“Don’t get carried away, Bi,” Matteo said, his hand tightening on hers involuntarily as a carny whirled by in a fiery cartwheel, somehow juggling the Earth and two flaming torches. “This isn’t a carnival, just a campground of Gypsies with a few rusty rides.” As he spoke, the Ferris wheel whirled behind him, neglected joints letting out a squeak with every car. 

“Spoilsport,” Bianca shot back, dropping his hand and flouncing ahead. Matteo cursed and followed her, shouldering his way through the people crowding the midway. He was amazed at the number of people in the Gypsy encampment. Didn’t these people realize that Gypsies were scum and would only bring them heartache? Grinding his teeth, he followed Bianca’s short-skirted ass as it weaved through the crowd. 

“Ooh, fortunes!” Bianca squealed, coming to a halt at a black-bordered booth studded with blue stars. A banner proclaimed “Your fortune for only $5.00.” Beneath it, a scrawny dark-skinned man with greasy hair and a scraggly mustache grinned, holding out his hand. Matteo groaned, coming to a stop behind her and catching her arm, bringing her to a stop. 

“Bi, maybe we should go find somewhere else to spend our money,” Matteo said, neglecting to mention that the last time she laid down any money for their extracurricular activities was the last time they had bought coke(months ago) and hoping that she would move on rather than costing him another ten dollars for unmitigated Gypsy bullshit. 

“Maybe you want to go on and spend your own money,” Bianca said, her voice clearly inviting him to go fuck himself. 

Matteo sighed, glancing around them for a diversion. His eyes fell upon a tent much larger than the others, a banner over its entrance reading “Pleasure Tent.”  His eyes widened as, with a yank, Bianca pulled her arm free from his gripping hand. With a vindictive look at Matteo, Bianca dropped a five-dollar bill and a single into the bowl before the booth. 

“Look, Bi, if you want your fortune so bad, go and get it,” Matteo said, thrusting his hands into his pockets. “I’ll wait here.”

Bianca rolled her eyes before turning her million-dollar smile towards the carny. The greasy man smiled, vanishing her bills as though he had a conduit to another world. Turning to the side, he barked a word. Behind him, a wall of curtains they had not noticed parted and an old woman appeared, shrouded in ragged robes. Frizzy white hair surrounded her face as she beckoned Bianca forward. With a last vicious look at Matteo, Bianca disappeared behind the curtain. 

Matteo watched Bianca disappear into the fortune tent and rolled his eyes. It would be a long drive back to the Don’s mansion with her in that mood. With a sigh, he set his sights on the Pleasure Tent, the entrance attended by a Gypsy girl behind a wooden booth. She wore a long swishy skirt with the barest of tops covering her ample breasts. The fabric was translucent, making it abundantly clear that she wore nothing beneath it. Matteo felt himself stiffening as he walked towards her. The girl noticed him and smiled slyly as he approached. 

“Bitta pleasure?” she asked as he halted in front of her. 

“How much?” Matteo asked, glancing around and seeing no one to notice him patronizing the tent. 

“$100, you choose girl.”

Matteo put on his boyish charming face. “How about you?”

The girl laughed, the barest hint of disdain in it. “I not work inside. $100 and you make choice here.”

Fumbling, Matteo pulled his wallet from his pocket and extracted a bill. The girl made it disappear with the alacrity of the fortune teller before pulling a battered three-ring binder from beneath the booth. Opening it to the first page, she tapped the glossy color photograph of a pretty brunette. “She new. Just start tonight.”

“Do you have any blondes?” Matteo asked, glancing around again. 

“Accourse,” the girl said, selecting a bookmark and opening the binder to the section marked BLONDE. “Nonna them are…fresh as new girl.”

Matteo paged through the section, evaluating each prospect until one caught his eye. She had long blonde hair, down past her shoulders, full pouting lips and a haughty expression that made his groin twinge. He pointed. “How is she?”

“Well, I donno mysel’,” the girl said with a laugh. “But no complains. She very popular.”

Popular. Matteo knew what that meant. “Which is the newest blonde you have?” 

Leafing back several pages, the Gypsy pointed one out. “This one our newest blonde.”

Matteo gazed at the girl. Her face was lovely enough but the expression on it was vacant, the eyes a thousand miles away. “Is she… popular?” 

“Not as much, but you no sorry,” she said with a wink. 

Matteo moistened his lips. “I’ll take her,” he said, his voice husky. 

“You no sorry,” repeated the girl, coming around the booth and taking his arm. “Follow.” 

Matteo felt one full breast pressing against his arm and felt another twinge in his groin. “Are you sure you couldn’t work inside, just this once?”

The girl laughed as they entered the tent. “Sorry. But you be very pleased with Dora.”

As Matteo’s eyes adjusted to the gloom in the tent, he could see it was separated into sections by thick curtains. He could hear various liquid sounds, male groans and the slap of flesh on flesh. The scent of rut filled the air, swelling his member further. 

Leading Matteo down an aisle, the Gypsy girl stopped at one of the sections. Releasing his arm, she pulled the curtain back and gestured for him to enter. Peering past the curtain, Matteo saw the blonde girl reclining on a bed, nude, her eyes on him. With no expression, she gestured him forward. Glancing at the Gypsy girl, Matteo stepped forward, feeling the curtain fall into place behind him. 

Throughout their session, the girl’s blank face did not change, even when she took him in her mouth. Matteo was disconcerted but found that by taking her from behind, it rendered her expression immaterial. As he came, she let out a sigh, her only vocalization. 

Pulling out of her, Matteo spotted a roll of paper towels on a table beside the bed. Wiping himself, he buckled his pants, noting with unease that the girl had not moved, laying on her stomach with only her breath to show she still lived. 

“Well…thanks…” Matteo said, unsure of what to do or say. None of the other working women he had patronized had been so…lifeless. She continued saying nothing, so with a shrug, he pushed back the curtain and left the tent. 

The Gypsy girl was showing the book to another prospective client, her untethered breasts jiggling as she laughed at something the man had said. Her eyes met his, and she grinned. “Please come again, we have new girls very soon!”

“Right,” Matteo said uneasily. He escaped into the crowd, feeling dirty. Sniffing himself, he did not detect any smells that would arouse Bianca’s suspicions. 

Making his way back to the fortune tent, he was surprised not to see Bianca there. Walking up to the scrawny Gypsy at the entrance, he asked, “Is my girlfriend still in there?”

“No, sirrah. She gone.”

“Without me?” Matteo swore, not really surprised. 

“She very beautiful,” the man said, and grinned. “You lucky man.”

“Thanks,” Matteo mumbled, pulling his phone from his pocket as he walked away. Dialing Bianca’s number, a crease appeared on his forehead as it went directly to voice mail. Bianca NEVER had her phone off. 

“Hey Bi, where are you? Call me.”

Inside the fortune tent, the old woman ushered Bianca to a seat on one side of a crystal ball. Swirling her rags around her, she seated herself at the single stool opposite Bianca and steepled her fingers before her face. 

“Fortune a mysterious thing,” she said, her voice dry and thin. “It come with fame, herald it, be preserved within cookie, but nobody know where it comes from.” She tapped the crystal ball twice and its clear surface filled with gray clouds. “We may read it…here.”

Bianca leaned forward, entranced. 

With a wave of her hand, the woman plunged the room into darkness and leaned forward over the crystal ball, from which emanated a soft white glow. The shadows it cast over the woman’s face made her skull stand out, sinking her eyes into her head. For a moment, it looked as though across from her sat a grinning, skeletal ghost. Bianca let out a little squeak. The woman did not notice, leaning over the crystal ball as though she were reading a fascinating novel. 

“Ahhh young lady, you will go on to marry good, prosperous man. Your life will be everything you wished it could be…”

She trailed off. Bianca leaned forward, riveted. “Yes? What else?”

“I see you very beautiful,” the woman nearly shouted, and Bianca recoiled. “Yes, you be fine mother for your children and good wife to your husband.”

“Children?” Bianca said, her voice unnerved. “But I don’t want–”

“Ball has spoken!” the woman barked. “But I see you are very beautiful.” She nearly shouted this last phrase and turned her rotten smile upon Bianca. “Fates never lie.”

Bianca stood, her slightly shaky legs betraying her outward calm. “I will never breed,” she said, her voice haughty. “You have misread me, foolish woman.”

“Ah, p’rhaps,” the Gypsy said and leered. “If you wish, you go now.”

Without a word, Bianca turned toward the door to the tent through which she had entered. 

“Ah, miss, this way,” said the woman, gesturing to an arch in the cloth behind her Bianca had not noticed. “We must keep d’traffic flowing, yes?” She cackled. 

  Without saying anything more, Bianca pushed past the table and out the archway. She stood for a moment in the fresh air, savoring her relief from the heavily perfumed atmosphere of the fortune-teller’s tent. 

As she stood there, breathing, an enormous Gypsy man approached her. He grinned, showing teeth as rotten and black as the fortune-teller’s. 

“Miss, you very beautiful? Is what Madam told you?”

“Yes, and I don’t think it was worth what I paid her. I know I’m beautiful, I don’t need her to–”

Without warning, Bianca was hit from behind by a massive weight, sending her crashing to the dirt as a spray of red formed before her eyes. “Oh no, that’s blood,” she thought, as the ground rushed up to meet her and the world turned black. 

“You right,” said the huge Gypsy man. “She very beautiful.”

“She be perfect,” Madam Zara said, dropping the rock back inside the tent. “Now get her out of here.”

 

Free Fiction: The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

The White Wood by Carlos Ruiz Santiago

Corpses make an odd sound when you step on them. Wet, crunchy. Funny, if you are really twisted. Not the case of Ronel, of course; for him, corpses weren’t more interesting than a piece of dogshit. He knew how that sounded but he didn’t care about it either.

Truths are something twisted themselves, they emphasize pragmatic facts that could crash against feelings. That was why soldiers like him needed to be practical. If your country needed or wanted, something, you bought it. And, if the inhabitants didn’t want to sell, you killed them. As simple as that, anything more complex is philosophical gibberish that makes you miss the opportunity of getting things.

He looked at the horizon, appreciating the orangish sun falling in the cloak of dead savages and their saurian mounts. That nameless island in the middle of the nameless ocean was full of them, like sewer rats, like infection in a wound and prejudices in women. He tidied up his bushy mustache. Yes, like a woman, he giggled. The inhabitants were a tribe of warrior women and emasculated men. Pretty pathetic if you asked Ronel. In the deep soggy jungle, they hid, fought and died. When you fight with bone swords and axes against muskets and blunderbusses it’s what tends to happen. They charged, and men shot and the beasts screamed and men shot again and they howled in terror, mount indistinguishable from rider. A beautiful symphony, monsters dying by the power of the civilization.

Later, men had raided their tribe. Just small children, cowardly males, crowns of fruit, rock and wooden temples full of plants, weird and smelly shit you could expect from savages. If Ronel didn’t burn them it was just because of fear that fire will eat the whole island before they got their reward. Maybe before leaving.

A savage made a hiss from the ground. She had a long scarlet wound all over her side, getting dirty her dark-green skin, almost amphibian. Her eyes were deep orange, shining, and certainly beautiful. Her legs were trapped by the head of an enormous bipedal feathery monster, with the sharp-teeth mouth wide open and the eyes looking at the rotting sky. The lips of the warrior were thin, almost nonexistent. She whispered words in a forgotten language. A soldier sunk his bayonet in her chest, ending her life.

They had killed them all. That was pretty impressive, especially considering women. They didn’t capture anyone, all dead, fighting until their black rotten souls fell to the hells. Just monsters, bloody stinky monsters all of them, but pretty tough ones. Ronel looked for his pipe. Just slimy irrational savages in a forgotten place. There were also dead from his side. Ronel was equidistant: he didn’t care about them either. Why should he? Soldiers die, that’s part of their job. Axes had removed parts of their skulls, impaled by spears of long reptilian bones, the guts out by an irregular cut. A bloody sacrifice. However, it had its rewards, he though, looking in front of him.

The white wood.

There was an immense tree over there, really tall and, especially, wide. The branches were like a hundred hands imploring the demons in the sky, the roots like a thousand tentacles of gods- who knew what kind of pelagic deity. Quite impressive. The amphibian whores adored it like a god. In front of him, all of them had died. A pretty worthless god, if you asked Ronel. They had been looking for that wood for ages, only sparse remains until now. That was, apparently, the only living one. A good reward for the blood spilled. The white wood was harsh to burn, both hard and flexible. His king will have the best warships in the world. And all thanks to him, to people like him. That’s how progress is achieved because blood is the favourite drink of the welfare god.

Then, someone interrupted his peace, smoking from his pipe after the glorious battle. A young one, surprisingly alive, claiming that the tree was hollow. Ronel raised an eyebrow. Nevertheless, and despite the desire of some public punishment to relax the troops after a won battle, the soldier was right. An enormous crack in the tree and, inside of it, only roots and blank spaces, like maggots in a corpse.

Ronel entered the first one through that natural tunnel, two soldiers behind him. It was a straight path, not too regular or wide, but a path nonetheless. Soon, gloom was around them. The walls felt like they were made of insects, of moving and mushy parts, things that crawled through you. Things that fed on your corpse. Or maybe they were too impatient for that. Maybe they could begin now and he will become a corpse, eventually.

Or maybe not, maybe that’s the destiny that Ronel couldn’t stop thinking of now. Dying without dying. Eternal life of the soul, jail of flesh and bone, eternal suffering. Like going through a hole in a tree, not alive or dead. It was the throat of a monster, something wet and hellish, warm and hungry.

They ended up in a wider space. Ronel did all he could to normalize his breath, so no one noticed his rising dread. In the center of the structure there was an irregular rock where the roots came from. He got closer.

Impossible. Senseless. Demented.

Then, from one of the many cracks, an eye looked back at him. Like a cosmic sentence from a monstrous trial. Like the end. Inhuman, immortal, unbearable eyes. Fathomless abyss from the stars.

Not a tree, just like a tree. A parasite. A monster. Something worse. A herald. A newborn god. He tried to shout, to warn that the savages weren’t praising him, but guarding it, that they shouldn’t touch it, shouldn’t move it.

His words were nothing more than the growling of a frothy mouth of a crazy man in the ground, killed for the respect of his figure.


Carlos Ruiz Santiago is a Spanish fantasy and horror writer with two published novels ( Salvación condenada and Peregrinos de Kataik) and a participation in the anthologies Dentro de un agujero de gusano, Mitos y Leyendas and Devoradoras. He is an editor of the website Dentro del Monolito. He has written for magazines, such as Morningside and Exocerebros. He also has content around cinema, with the podcast Pistoleros de Gilead and the blog La Horroteca de Darko. He also organize talks and workshops around cinema and literature in various libraries.

https://darkosaurvlogs.wixsite.com/carlosruizescritor

Free Fiction Friday: They Wound Like Worms in full

The audiodrama “They Wound Like Worms” by Naching T. Kassa from last season is now available in full! You can listen either in audio (see below) or on YouTube (see further below). Relive the story all in one sitting.

“They Wound Like Worms” by Naching T. Kassa

voiced by Cedar George

theme music by Valentine Wolfe


“They Wound Like Worms” by Naching T. Kassa is from the anthology, Dark Divinations edited by Naching T. Kassa

It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The seance has begun.

Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown.

Choose your fate.

Choose your DARK DIVINATION.

With stories by: Stephanie Ellis, Hannah Hulbert, Daphne Strasert, Ash Hartwell, R.L. Merrill, Alan Fisher, Michael Fassbender, Joe L. Murr, Naching T. Kassa, Emerian Rich, Jon O’Bergh, Rie Sheridan Rose, Jeremy Megarge, and HRR Gorman

Order now at: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Divinations-Naching-Kassa-ebook/dp/B086YD6DR9

Free Fiction Friday: Thirsty by Alan Moskowitz

THIRSTY

Written By Alan Moskowitz

           Alyssa loaded the revolver with one bullet.  She spun the cylinder, covering it with her hand making sure that neither she nor David could see in which of the six chambers the fatal bullet waited.  She put the gun down between them, the cylinder facing away from them.  She picked up the coin, held it out.  “Heads or tails?”

David’s mouth went dry, “Come on Alyssa, we don’t have to do this.  We can just keep sharing, the way we have been.”

           Alyssa shook her head.  “Rescue’s at least two weeks away, we both can’t last that long.  At least this way one of us will survive.  “Call it.”  She flipped the coin, David watched it spin up and then drop to the metal table with a clink.  She put her hand over it, “call it, honey.”  David remained silent.

Alyssa studied his once handsome face, remembering, the monumental exploration they’d launched themselves on, their falling in love, sharing everything equally. And now they’re stranded on this godforsaken waterless planet, and forced into a horrible decision.  “It’s only fair.” 

David swallowed hard, “Heads.”  Alyssa lifted her hand revealing “tails, you first.”

She slid the pistol over to David.  He took it in his hand, studied it for a moment.  “We’ll each drink less, a lot less, share fifty-fifty.” Alyssa sighed with resolution, “Then we’re both dead.”  A tear formed in David’s eye.  Alyssa watched it trickle down his emaciated cheek followed by a second drop.  He put the gun to his head.  His finger gripped the trigger, his hand shaking.  He looked into Alyssa’s calm and resolute eyes, and lowered the gun.  “I can’t.”

Alyssa understood. “I can.”  She took the gun from his shaking hand, checked the cylinder, turned it a few notches until the fatal bullet was next up.  She raised the gun to her head. 

“I love you!” David cried.

“I love you too,” Alyssa answered, and then shot David in the head.  She leaned over and wiped the telltale tear streaks from his face.  “There wasn’t enough for both of us David because you didn’t play fair.”  She sat back and studied his corpse, oddly feeling very little about killing her one time lover.  She considered putting on her suit and dragging him out into the red dust but didn’t have the strength.   She clutched the last bottle of water, opened it, took a small cautious sip and sat back to await the rescue craft.

__________________________________________________________________________________-

 

 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screenwriter staying sane in Colorado during the pandemic writing genre fiction.  He can be reached at mosko13@aol.com.