Gypsy Mob : Episode 7/ The Amputation

The sun had been up for some time when Zara rose. Catering to the nighttime crowd meant the Gypsy camp went to bed late and was rarely stirring before noon. Which meant by the time she found the body, it could have been there for hours.

The camp was roused by a piercing scream, sending everybody scrambling for the nearest weapon. It was a scream some had never heard in their lives, a scream which some had hoped never to hear again. It spoke of loss, horror, and death.

First responders would never be able to forget the sight of Zara, eldest daughter of Ladez, cradling what at first appeared to be a mangled mannequin with no head, just a mass of hamburger. As they grew nearer and their minds were able to process what they were seeing, they realized it was the naked body of their patriarch, the tattoos covering his chest and arms unmistakable. If not for that, the shredded remains of his face and head would have left them completely at a loss.

Zara was holding the shattered body close to her, rocking back and forth and caressing where the forehead had been, her fingers growing red as she howled her anguish to the sky. One by one, her brethren sank to their knees, unable to continue standing or tear their eyes away from what had once been their leader.

When her throat had grown raw and a red mist was coming from her mouth, Zara was the first to rise. Standing, she dropped the body as though she had no more use for it. Her voice was hoarse but still carried. Every Gypsy present heard her, and no one doubted.

I am the leader now. You will all follow me. If you challenge me, you will end up worse than my poor father. This I say! She screamed the last, her voice hoarsening further as the wind carried specks of blood to coat the faces of those nearest.

Now! she shrieked. Kill the Italian bitch and her boyfriend! Cut them into pieces and send each of them to her family! One by one, so they get a new one every day!

Her wildly rolling eyes caught movement. A wizened old woman several yards into what had become a crowd was moving forward, breaking through the tightly packed ranks. Standing before Zara, the old woman bent to her knee, casting her eyes downward.

Maam, though I do not challenge thee, I must mention; the fresh Italian girl is now our top earner. Do not cut off thy nose to spite thy face.

Zara stared at the woman, her face working. Finally, she arrived at a decision.

As you say then. We will take the bitchs hand and do as I have said with her boyfriend. Then, if need be, we can continue amputating the unnecessary bits from her until her daddy sees reason. Zara looked to the mangled corpse of her father and tears sprung to her eyes which she brushed angrily away. They will pay for what they have done to us.

What was once Bianca stared at the ceiling. It never changed. Sometimes she stared at the ceiling, sometimes at the ground, or to the left or right, depending on what her current client wanted. She was never required to be on top. She lay there, mechanically rising from her cot to swab her nether regions before returning to her supine position. Sometimes she was required to take someone into her mouth, but for the most part, whomever entered her enclosure was content to take his will and be gone.

When the flap which served as her door pushed aside, she barely noticed. Her lizard brain associated the sound with imminent sexual penetration and wearily began sending lubricative signals to what controlled her sexual organs. She heard murmuring of at least two voices and began to relax her nether regions, as she had been conditioned to do upon hearing more than one voice. But these voices were choked neither with rut nor excitement, as she had grown used to. These voices were businesslike as she lay on the cot, her legs spread. Unbidden, her mind regressed to her earliest gynecology appointments, and she felt a twinge of nervousness, as she had always felt before having her private areas examined. At the same time, her lizard brain insisted that she was about to play host to multiple uncaring men and responded enthusiastically by sending hormones to her brain, allowing her body to compensate for it.

She opened her eyes, hoping there was some redemptive feature for her eyes to comprehend. Movement at her feet registered first as she saw one Gypsy wrap a length of chain around both her ankles and before she could think to move, her wrists were seized by two incredibly strong hands and yanked above her head, stretching her body to the limit. She screamed in fear and pain as her muscles were stretched far beyond their normal breaking points. She felt something tear in her right shoulder where she had strained it years ago throwing the javelin in track. She screamed again, helpless in her bonds. Vaguely, she felt a strong pressure around her right wrist. She looked and saw a length of wire wrapped around her forearm just above her wrist.

Zara walked forward, a wide smile across her face as her tongue continually moistened her lips. A small black plastic object stuck out of her tightly clenched fist. As she grinned, her thumb moved and a small narrow silver sliver shot out of its end. It retracted into the black plastic handle then shot out again as Zara advanced, her thumb playing with the release switch of the box cutter, sending its five-inch blade in and out.

Dont worry, bitch, Zara rasped in her new voice, halting the blades action as she drew near, raising the box cutter to level at Biancas face. The blade shot out another several inches. Youll live.

Striding forward, Zara knelt on Biancas hand and began sawing at her wrist, below the wire. Screaming, Bianca fought to free her hand but Zaras weight was relentless and Biancas hand did not move as Zara expertly cut between the radius and ulna, and the scaphoid and lunate bones of Biancas arm and hand, neatly severing her right hand.

Bianca screamed as blood spurted but tapered off quickly, the wire tourniquet doing its job. She bucked and thrashed but the chain remained around her legs and her arms remained securely over her head. As she flailed about, she caught glimpses of the figures holding her arms steady. She spat at them, cursing and swearing between sobs as she berated them, everything, anything, for the pain that she felt, before falling silent at the horrible new voice of Zara, grating in her face:

IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE.

Bianca shut up, screams fighting to escape from her mouth as she whimpered, tears rolling down her face as her phantom hand flexed back and forth in agony. Zara picked up the severed hand, waved it at Bianca and raised its middle finger.

Free Fiction Week: The Invitation by Alice Paige

The Invitation by Alice Paige

The dinner table is set. The two face each other, both smiling sharp smiles highlighted in red lipstick. A smile is a weapon. Both women knew this from childhood. It’s a kind of truth men aren’t aware of. They see the smile, but not the tongue curtained behind the teeth. 

The two women, both with too pale skin, lean forward in their wicker chairs. The blood-red dresses they wear shine and shimmer in the candlelight cast from a ring of quickly melting candles rimming the room. No light shines from the table. There is no room on the table for light as this is where the corpse lies flat on its back, dressed in a black see-through shroud. The corpse’s face is gaunt and grey, desiccated. The old corpse is set out, as if for a funeral viewing. What is a viewing if not invitation to grieve? 

“But this is no funeral,” one of the women says, or perhaps, both the women say at once. They glance towards the single curtained window in the room. 

Outside, the snow falls. It is not a kind snow; it is a hungry snow that drinks sound from the air. The abandoned London streets are swallowed in a blanket of white. This snow mutes sound and is an offering of violence. A silencing. The streets are abandoned, a feat in the heart of London with its sickly, sprawling populace. 

The two women smirk as they stand from the table. Slowly, they walk across the room, bare feet slapping against the dark, wooden floor, the candlelight flickering between their toes. Quickly they move from candle to candle burning clippings of the corpse’s hair. 

“In case you are wondering,” one of the women begins, “this is for you. A welcoming,” the other woman finishes. Each candle flairs as hair burns and smokes. The room is a mix of sick sweetness. There is the potent stench of corpse flesh and burnt hair, but the candles provide a stark, contrasting smell of sweet honey. 

The room fills with a startling sound like rubber bands snapping. The corpse on the table spasms again and again under its shroud as the final clippings of curled, grey hair burn. The legs of the table hop and scrape against the floor.

The two women hurriedly walk to the curtained window together and throw the curtains back. Sickly, grey light spills into the room. The window faces out upon a small, abandoned city square. Both women grab the base of the large window and lift. Painfully chilled air rushes into the room. The sound outside is still muted but, just on the edge of audible perception, there is a labored breathing that seems to invade the room as the window opens. 

The two women walk back over to the table and place their hands atop the corpse. Their fingers slowly intertwine atop the soft, black fabric and their hands rise and fall with the corpse’s chest. The women’s skin goosebumps. They look at one another with cautioned excitement.

 “Are you ready?” they ask the empty room. It is unclear who or what they are speaking to. They wait a moment, and, despite the lack of answer, they seem satisfied. Slowly each woman leans backwards, fingers still locked, and they begin to chant. The two chant in unison at an alarming pace, their bright red lips quickly enunciate each word with a labored intensity. 

“It juts its fingers into the dirt, finds the face beneath, the orbital, the mandible, 

cracks the ossuary, slithers into this shattered church, makes a blasphemous home 

of once  priest, rips the faith root and stem, hungrily gorges on intently scarified 

meaning, is pulled, is plucked, is jutted like sharpened weapon, we call, we demand, 

we twinned sisters, given twinned names, we control the star pointed razor, 

the space beyond space, we space behind face, we who have pulled host from holy grave to give you shape once again demand you take shape once again.”

The twin voices drone on together, echoing off the bare, wooden walls and spill into the town square. 

And that’s when I feel it. A tug in my guts. Not that I have guts. 

It’s a strange sensation, to not have a sense of self until I suddenly have a sense of self. To be thrust into “I” once more. It’s as if I have been here the entire time, watching, but have only now just arrived. The two women fall into silence. I recognize them. We were friends once. Before. Before what? My mind feels like a waterfall climbing to be a river. Entropy turned on itself. A collecting.

My vision shifts as the room rotates, turning on its head. I feel my chest heave and my ribs crack. I cough because I can cough. 

“You’re here,” Emily says. She is the woman to the left of me. Her voice is slightly softer than her sister, Emilia. I could always tell the difference. 

I try to speak but my throat refuses to move. I am on my back. How did I get on my back? I was watching the room from above.

“You need to give it a moment. The body will be able to speak soon,” Emilia says. 

 I glance down to see the shroud covering the corpse’s body. No, not the corpse’s. Mine. My body. I inhabit the corpse. I can feel it around me like swimming in muck. Its skin is so tight. I try to move the tongue in its mouth and the tongue shifts slightly. Suddenly, I can taste. Its mouth, my mouth, tastes like ash and copper. Emily places a hand on my forehead. Her skin is so soft. So alive. 

“We told you nothing would keep us apart Dahlia,” Emily and Emilia say together. 

I scream in this body that is not mine. The corpse’s vocal cords hiss.


Alice Paige is a trans woman, poet, and essayist living in St. Paul, Mn. Her writing largely focuses on topics like mythology and queer love. Her work can be found at FreezeRay Poetry, Crabfat Magazine, Coffin Bell, VASTARIEN, Button Poetry, Luna Station Quarterly and Take A Stand, Art Against Hate: A Raven Chronicles Anthology. She is also a co-host for Outspoken, a Queer Open Mic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/alicegpaige/

Free Fiction Week: The Get Together by Prapti Gupta

THE GET TOGETHER by Praptui Gupta

“Mom are you ready?” I asked.

“Yes dear, let’s go” she replied.

Today my mom and I are very excited. Today we are going to meet with our father after a long time. I can’t really explain how happy and excited I am. After a lot of struggle and patience, we are getting to meet him. But the sad part is the meeting period is very short, just 10 minutes.

On our way, I was thinking what questions I will be asking him. There are so many but I can’t ask all of them. We reached the place after some time. Mr. Morgan was waiting for us. He was the medium through which we are going to talk with him. 

 He was seeing us in a very strange manner as if he hasn’t seen people like us before. Yes, I admit we are different because we are new to this place but yet we look like human beings. 

“Good morning Mrs. Evans, I was just waiting for you and your son,” he said to us.

“Is everything ready? We can’t wait to meet him; hope you can understand” my mom said to him.

“Yes. The whole process is to be of 20 minutes and you can talk to him for about 10 minutes, not more than that, otherwise, it can be risky for me” he said.

Though we were disappointed upon hearing the time limit, we nodded.

Then he took us inside a room. It was a dark room, in fact very dark.

Okay, let me clear the fact. We are going to do planchette. This is the only method and medium of our contact with him.

My mom and I haven’t talked with him since the day we two died in a road accident a year ago but my father survived!!!!

It’s really a special day for both of us. 

THE END


Prapti Gupta is an 18 year old writer from India.

 

To read more of her work: Wattpad

Free Fiction Week: Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

Once Bitten Twice Shy by Dan A. Cardoza

If you have been diagnosed as having Zika, a strain of the Bubonic Plague, like the one they’d discovered at Kiva Beach in Lake Tahoe, or a malady analogous to Lyme disease, chances are you’ve been bitten by a mosquito, a flea, or a tic. 

Once bitten, twice shy. But at least the odds of recovery favor you. 

A bite, a nip, or an insecticide-resistant tooth is not required for a few idiosyncratic diseases. Unfortunately, Reno won’t give you any odds on your survival.

Melvin Beckham had something worse than cabin fever. He could have died had he not bailed out of his companies Zoom meeting hell. He’d scheduled a short holiday. Hiding from COVID in his house had brought him within an eyelash width of insanity. 

He’d planned the short trip months ago, booking the lakeside view through his timeshare. It wasn’t Europe or Tahiti, but it was something, the twelfth-story view facing the gorgeous Lake Tahoe on the Nevada side. There had been a lot of vacancies. He’d assumed folks were still scared of catching death from traveling. 

Beckham paid big money for his illegal injection, though he hadn’t been a Vaxhole about it. He’d refrained from bragging to his colleagues and the one or two friends he didn’t have. There had been none of his usual insecure boastings after he’d received the two Pfizer doses. He’d kept how much he’d paid a colossal secret in a small black hole in his mind. It wasn’t easy. Beckham was a narcissist. 

Beckham reasoned he was relatively young, thirty-two, and had suffered enough confinement. After all, his dating app had lapsed, and he’d dumped a shitload of Canadian blue pills down the toilet bowl. Enough Viagra, he mused about his giving each fall salmon in the American River a tiny hard-on. 

Cash talks, M.D.’s listen, R.N.’s understand. They all have families to feed. After all, money, not love, is the universal language of record he was certain. 

He’d arrived at the condo complex, with its columns of balcony patios, late Monday. 

The first few nights, Beckham felt warm, slept naked. He’d kept the patio door open. Who or what was about to complain, he’d convinced himself? 

Fish a mile deep in the lake, he giggled? Beckham determined that the Lake’s Coho Salmon were welcome to stare at his blurry, pale sexy ass all week if they had a mind to. 

Wednesday had been sailing into the stiff winds of his first week. It was early evening. Beckham had felt a little uncomfortable. His appetite had been waning. Uber Eats had delivered supper again via Robbie, the lobby clerk. Robbie was the best. He was new at the timeshare, a 49’er gold nugget that had dropped out of somewhere above. Beckham thought him a saint. 

Earlier in the day, Raleys, the local supermarket chain, had delivered Beckham’s subsistence balance for the entire week. Jesus, he’d stuffed the jowls of the fridge. 

Beckham’s judgment had been a little clouded. He’d binge purchased. Inside the fridge, he’d prepared for fall’s hibernation, tee-bones, celery, a couple of six-packs of silly water, butter lettuce, a bag of bagels, and some top roman, mainly for quick lunches, and carrots, bags of carrots, and a large beet. 

Several cans of mixed soup rounded out his impulsive hoard in the cupboard above the dishwasher. The dishwasher had been the machine that washed his dirty laundry the night before. It was a simple mistake, he’d thought.

Beckham couldn’t make himself sleep Thursday night. He’d gotten hot and sweaty again, become a little depressed watching the local news go on and on about the summer’s algae bloom and COVID. He’d retired early. Too many invasive species, viruses, and germs these days, he’d concluded. 

Beckham had woken around at 3:30 A.M. It was early Friday morning, according to his digital bedside clock on the nightstand at home. The old-school hands were running backward. He’d gotten disoriented.

Friday night’s insomnia punished him like a seasoned dominatrix, slapped his cheeks so red they burned. Beckham couldn’t keep his left eye from twitching. He’d taken a long hot shower. After, he soaked in a warm bath, passed out. After a couple of hours, he’d woken from a sound sleep. He’d pruned himself up pretty good, but all that wrinkly water had damned sure cured his crazy belly scratching. 

After, he nibbled carrots and watched a few Oprah Winfrey reruns. Beckham needed all the carrots he could ingest. His sight was dimming, and the world around him too. Soon, he wouldn’t be able to keep anything inside to save his life.

By the following Monday evening, Beckham had nearly lost his voice. He’d been out on the balcony, doing jumping jack calisthenics. All he could recall was that he’d given the neighboring balcony guests the finger as they shouted for him to put his clothes on. He’d cussed them back. Beckham didn’t have any clothing. He’d thrown all the linen, his shorts, and three Hawaiian shirts, as well as his new sandals, over the railing. 

Later, after the beautiful western sunset had darkened the sky, and long after the other guests had stopped complaining, Beckham fell into a deep sleep on the patio lounge.

As Beckham dreamed, his dreams grew wrestles, European electro tech. His delusions had begun as a backdrop of warehouse music. He would truly miss his music one day soon.

The vocals were from an old playlist, his favorite, Sad Transmission. The song was by one of his favorite Indie Bands, the Raveonettes. The Danish duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo had been thrumming over his body’s entire electromagnetic nervous system. Slowly, the beautiful sound, effortlessly, had taken over his being. Beckham gladly let go. 

Beckham’s mind had been turned into a radioactive Chernobyl Meltdown Farris Wheel, whirling away with his ability to reason in minuscule megabits. He’d felt as if he were his timeshares antenna. Beckham had slept until around seven AM the next morning.

Ding-dong–Beckham stumbled toward the bell at the room’s door. First, he’d covered himself with a nautical motif shower curtain. 

The peep-hole said It was the new lobby clerk, Robbie. He was acting as a special delivery courier. Beckham unlocked the door and let Robbie in.

“Robbie, right, that’s what your name tag read in the lobby when I arrived? Thanks for shooting up here in the elevator so quickly, by the way.” 

“Yes sir, Robert, ah, Sherman at your service, sir.”

Beckham wasn’t thinking. He’d grabbed Robbie’s clammy right hand and shook it. It flopped around in his palm, a damp fish dying on land. Robbie had placed his left hand deep in the mucky bottom of his left pocket.

“What say we book another week, Robbie Sherman? Howza bout it?”

“Sir, kind sir, terrific, I’ll make another bundle of invoices and text you a copy.” Robbie noticed that Mr. Beckham was drooling if only a little. 

“You can do that?” Beckham asked. He sort of knew he could. 

Robbie moved his thumb slowly, deliberately. He looked down on what Beckham had assumed was a nervous thumb on an iPhone keyboard. 

Beckham’s cell phone tinged against his loin. It felt like Phantom Limb Syndrome. When he’d arrived, Robbie had agreed to lock it in the lobby’s safe.

Beckham had said, “Let’s bury the fucking thing in the safe so deep I’ll be forced to get some real rest and be able to entertain myself!”

Robbie had agreed with a grin, “Good choice, sir, we’ve done that before.”

Beckham had winked.

There appeared a flashing yellow light on the room’s landline telephone messaging button. 

“Sir?” Robbie asked permission. Beckham nodded yes. Robbie held the phone next to Beckham’s blooming cauliflower ear. Beckham hadn’t wanted to let on that everything he lifted weighed as much as a rusty, sunken ship anchor. 

It was Robbie or someone who sounded a lot like Robbie. It was a message from the lobby, “Kind sir, as requested, I have sent you and an updated invoice straight to your iPhone for good keeping.”

“Ah, Robbie, I thought you were quick, but Jesus Kee-Kee-Christ?”

“Fast?” puzzled Robbie. Robbie bobbled his head, “Not really sir, is there anything else we can do to make you comfortable, bottled water, sir?”

Beckham wagged his head yes, but lied. He’d gotten so used to taking in his life. “Wait,” he’d said. Beckham struggled to the fridge. He snatched the bottle. And then Beckham slowly returned to engage Robbie at the other end of the room. 

Robbie observed Beckham’s shuffling as slow as blackstrap molasses off the side of a yam. 

“Robbie, take this complimentary bottled water. It’s making me hydrophobic just to look at it?”

Robbie cracked up. He moved his thumb over his iPhone again, texting the lower lobby, “Hold the complimentary water; please, Mr. Beckham is no longer thirsty, LMAO!”

Beckham had thought Robbie brilliant, his thumb an electronic bow over a Silicon Valley violin. 

“Will there be anything else, kind sir?” Robbie had politely inquired.

“No, hell and no,” Beckham slurred. “Oh, just the timeshare password. I intend to do some righteous online gaming.”

Robbie removed a pen from his pressed pant’s back pocket. He imagined himself a New York City Bell-Hop in the age of the Roaring Twenties. Everything had felt similar. He was in room twelve hundred at the Algonquin Hotel. Somehow, he watched himself from above as he scribbled the note. After, he’d placed the note on the room’s desktop. The message was intended for his famous guest, Ms. Greta Garbo. 

“There, sir,” Robbie said. Beckham thanked him for the code he’d placed on the desk. 

“How about we stop slipping the complimentary U.S. Today papers under the door each early morning, sir? It looks as though the newspapers are piling up?”

“Robbie, no, no, I may be vacationing…” Beckham paused, rubbed his lower lip. It had been bleeding again. He continued, “I may be vacationing, but just having them thatched there, in that damned pile makes me feel that I’m still tethered to reality if just a little.”

“I see Mr. Beckham, sir. We shall continue then.”

“Robbie?” asked Beckham, “aren’t you going to do your movie magic over the phone again?”

For the first time, Robbie looked dead serious. “Sir, kind sir, there are some things around here we do the old school way. Like you, kind sir, we need to hook ourselves to some sort of reality, even if it’s as simplistic as attaching a monofilament trout fishing line to a rusty hook.”

Beckham guffawed so violently, he gassed himself, blew a snot-bubble. He would have maintained his usual grin, except the left side of his face had been sagging. 

Robbie watched over Beckham. Robbie’s anatomy was as still as onyx marble. He perused over Beckham as David might have watched over Michelangelo.

Beckham composed himself and dragged his right foot along as he let Robbie out. He thanked Robbie kindly. With great effort, he poked a five-dollar bill in Robbie’s shirt pocket. Beckham had thought his effort worth a million bucks. 

Beckham chained the deadbolt shut, but methodically, so Robbie could sense how much he trusted him. Robbie walked casually down the long dark corridor and disappeared into the vault of an elevator. 

Another knock, the hallway had been emptied, the lights had dimmed.

As the sun heated the living room, Beckham found himself in the Mojave Desert. He’d thought it the holy land, not a river, a creek, or a dribble for the rest of his life.

Beckham searched his way into the bathroom. He opened the stainless steel medicine cabinet. His ham sandwich and a Fuji apple were missing. He slammed the cabinet doors. He hadn’t been hungry anyway.

Later that evening, the T.V. remote had broken. The God-damned garage door wouldn’t open. “Hell, it’s only three years old. I just changed the batteries two weeks ago, maybe three,” Beckham yelled at the big screen T.V. as if it had mule ears. 

It had to be three weeks. That’s when he and his neighbor Harry couldn’t turn on Dancing with the Stars for the longest time. 

Harry had gotten under his skin that night. Beckham having enough of his neighbor’s antics, had escorted the twentieth-century charmer to the front door. It was about 10:23 P.M.

Beckham was a flexible man and a chill sort of guy, but not after all that shadow dancing shit by Harry. And after, Harry had commenced calling himself Fred Astaire and meant it. 

Harry Clingman had been sent to the hospital shortly after Beckham had left for Lake Tahoe. Beckham had lied to his friend Harry that night. He’d said he was heading south, maybe L.A. By the time they’d attempted to reach Beckham, Beckham was an afterthought. But really, it hadn’t mattered. Beckham’s phone had been placed in solitary confinement in Robbie’s lobby iron vault. 

Sometime during the second week of Beckham’s short stay, he’d morphed into a newt. You know the slimy lizard types that live in creeks, behind rocks, and under the mosey bottom of lakes and rivers?

Thankfully there wasn’t much carpeting in Beckham’s unit. It made for easier wriggling. 

Beckham had seen and heard the coolest hallucinations. He’d turned paranoid as the result of the high fever. Those damned fish had been stocking him. 

His brand new manic reality had cost him most of his 401-K on South Lake Tahoe’s virtual slots and craps tables. Beckham’s laptop gaming appl had asked him for everything “Just pick a pretty color and turn, turn, turn that damned Russian Roulette Machine, Mr. Beckham?” 

On the last day of his intended short stay, Beckham’s strength had failed him. 

A final invoice had been slipped under the room’s door, along with another copy of USA Today. The newspaper pile had become a thatch of pitchforked paper alfalfa.

His painful progress was serpentine and exhausting as he wrangled toward the door. That day he used his belly ribs to crawl. He crawled to the horizontal crack of light under the door that had shown into his darkened room. To Beckham, the light represented life itself.

Beckham’s breathing had grown deep and laborious. His crape paper lungs had withered into an accordion that wheezed a dry melody. He listed, rolled on his back as if he were a shipwreck. He struggled to wrap his upper torso in newsprint to absorb his lake of sweat. 

Beckham’s paralysis had taken over after only a few wraps of newspaper. 

It had come toward him swiftly, his complete paralysis, as if a fast-moving locomotive off the slopes of the Heavenly Valley Ski Run, now a dry strip of broken granite. He’d been tied to the tracks. Whatever he’d caught, it was intent on running over his humanity. 

Buried deep in the mesh of his newspaper was an important article. The article was dark print, over a yellowing recycled paper backdrop, a story in itself.

USA Today–Sacramento Area Man Dies from inhaling rabies virus–Mr. Harry M. Clingman, a long-time resident of Placer County, has died from the rabies virus. Rabies lyssavirus, formerly Rabies virus (RABV), is a neurotropic virus that causes certain death if untreated. 

Placer County health authorities have asked anyone who has been in contact with Mr. Clingman to call (530) 889-7274 immediately. Several friends and family members exposed to Mr.Clingman have been given the first dose of the four required injections. 

A forensic autopsy has concluded that Mr. Clingman hadn’t been bit by any animal. However, of the six bat boxes removed from the family’s two-story cedar-shingled home. Two of the bats tested positive for the rabies virus and had to be destroyed. 

Years earlier, a Wyoming resident had awoken during the night, with a fluttering feeling on her neck. She flicked off the annoyance and discovered it was a bat. In horror, she elbowed her husband, who woke, captured the bat, and set it free outdoors. Three weeks later, the woman died. A pathologist could not find any bites or scratch marks during the autopsy has concluded that it is scientifically possible to contract rabies without a skin abrasion–The Centers for Disease and Control.

Beckham lay motionless. Fear and anxiety had nearly completed their running of all the red lights in the corrosive intersections of his synapse. He’d become a hebephrenic blob stuck in a block of concrete. His mind had been tortured into a Vitamix blender, unwittingly pureeing his thoughts into some sort of cilantro salad dressing.

Beckham suffered horrifically, the balance of the day and evening. He died the following early morning, about the time bats return to caves. 

           In the Lobby, Robbie listened to Beckham’s phone as it rattled and buzzed in the safe. To him, it was the phantom limb syndrome that Beckham’s ghost had been feeling.

           Robbie spoke kindly across the lobby’s white marbled counter, “Hello Ms. Harris, I’m Robbie. I intend to make your short visit a most wonderful stay.”

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dan’s most recent fiction has been published in the 45th Parallel, Allegory, honorable mention, Aphelion, BlazeVOX, Black Petals, 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.

To find more about Dan’s work @cardozabig

Free Fiction Week: July 11 to 17, 2021

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present for your reading pleasure, an entire week of Free Fiction!

Enjoy seven different authors as they bring you tales of tomb raiders, dark assailants,  environmental carnage, strange visitors, rising from the dead, bloody war, and disease.

And be sure to encourage the writers by following links to their work and by leaving encouraging comments! And remember~ Stay Spooky!

 

 

HorrorAddicts.net 197, ON TIME Transmundane Press

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Horror Addicts Episode# 197
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


197 | #TransmundanePress #OnTime #BlackAngel #TalesfromtheDarkside #TimeTravel

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

113 days till Halloween

Music: “Kiss of Death” by #BlackAngel

Merrill’s Musical Musings: #RLMerrill #BlackAngel

Catchup: #Melting #HorrorMovieWatching #PODs

Theme: #TimeTravel #EvilDead #BillandTeds #BacktotheFuture #Triangle #Terminator

Frightening Flix: #Kbatz #TalesfromtheDarksideS4

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #TheGiant

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert #AsianDrama #StreamingHorror

Dead Mail: 

Write in! HorrorAddicts@gmail.com

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr #EarlyHorrorCinema #GeorgeMéliès #SFX

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen #TheKiamichiBeastExpedition #Tubi

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by em markoff, james seo.

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #DrWho #WeepingAngels

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #LadyinWhite

NEWS: 

#MidnightSyndicate www.MidnightSyndicate.com

#HauntsandHellions #gothicromance #Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Haunts-Hellions-Gothic-Romance-Anthology-ebook/dp/B097HZRR9J

 #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFictition 

#FreeFiction #AlanMoskowitz

Book Review: #ArielDaWintre #Smithy #AmandaDesiree

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #AlishaCostanzo #AnthonySBuoni

Author Audio: On Time authors read excerpts from the book

#EmerianRich #PODs

#BenjaminBlake #SomethingintheWay

#JCRaye #EarlyDayswithFletcher

#VictorRodriguez #ADiscourseBetweenaManandaNuke

#MelissaRMendelson #TheTicking

#ScottHarper #Witwenmacher

#PhillipTStephens #CoincidenceandCorrespondance

————————————-

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

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h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f  p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

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Free Fiction : RELEASING ANGER by Alan Moskowitz

RELEASING ANGER~Written by Alan Moskowitz

Willem looked up with trepidation as the Father swept into the ornate office and took his place behind the worn oak desk, a tight smile on his weathered face.  Willem forced his body to remain still and upright in spite of the nervous energy flowing through him, urging him to leave, to run away.  To make matters worse the Elder ignored Willem as he fussed with the papers, notes and unopened envelopes strewn across the desk.  A bead of sweat rolled down Willem’s face, but he dared not raise his hand to it.

 “Wipe it,” the old man’s voice cracked.  Willem quickly brushed the offending drops away.  The Elder’s mouth twisted into what passed for a smile. “No call for nervousness Son, that is unless you’re not ready for this final meeting.”

Willem remained silent.  Father snapped, “You may talk.”

“I have studied the Book, Father.  I have prayed with the Flock.  I have fasted for a month.  I have stood vigils in the freezing cold, seeking donations, and I have raised many funds for the Holy See.”

“Yes, yes, I know all that. You would not be here otherwise.  Willem, are you still angry?  Do you still hate?  Is there still, after all your training and sacrifice, is there a part of you that hurts that drives you to self-harm?  Think on these things, use what you have learned from the teachings of our Lord, and answer me truly. ” He picked up an ornate letter opener and slit open one of the envelopes on his desk.  He unfolded the paper within and set to reading it, ignoring Willem in the process.

Willem’s lips moved in prayer as he sought that place inside of himself that knows his true self.   He had hated his parents.  Does he still?  They did their best, they said, in spite of his issues.  Their best consisted of locking him in a closet for behaving like a “demon child” as his mother put it; getting “the belt” across his back for a variety of transgressions from breaking a dish to wetting the bed to being a coward, a loser, and “a no-good waste of sperm.” His so-called normal siblings hopped on that bandwagon and teased and tortured him unmercifully until at sixteen, he ran away.  No one searched for him.

Pain, massive pain, mental and physical traveled with him into the streets, where his life only became worse.  He sought refuge in the alleyways and fetid tents of the homeless and useless, an outcast and a pariah.  First, he blamed himself.  But the continued abuse turned that self-loathing into seething anger, a burning hatred for his family and for all those who still spit on him, kicked him and laughed.  It was only a matter of time before he exploded. 

And one night a young woman walked slowly by his filthy hovel and glanced in at him; one more so-called human being dismissing him.  Not this time, he murmured.  He crept after her, bent on doing her harm, making her pay for his lifetime of hurt.  He came up behind her, hands reaching out to strangle her when she suddenly turned and met his red-rimmed gaze.   Her eyes told him that she knew his pain.  And then she smiled at him, pulled him to her, and told him he was wanted and loved.   

She brought him to the Flock and the Father.  He was nurtured with kindness and love and shown that he didn’t need to carry all that pain, hate, and misery.  That The Lord of us all would show him The Way to a better life, through kindness, forgiveness, and passing the word to others. And it was so.  After a year of study, love, and sacrifice and he was complete.

  The Father’s voice broke through his reverie, “Well, my son, as our Lord has said, ‘now or never.’ He chuckled, a thick deep raspy noise, with not a hint of humor.

Willem’s eyes opened wide and bright, the excitement of knowing he would be granted his place in Flock.   “I am ready to forgive all who have harmed me, Father.  I will do our Master’s work for the rest of my life and pray He will welcome me into his arms.” 

The old man stood, that crooked smile curling his lips as he held out his hand to the boy.  “Welcome Son, I see great deeds are to be done.” 

 Willem stood and gripped the Father’s leathery hand in his. “Thank you, Father.”

‘Now go, begin the work, we are eager for you to do the Flock proud.”  Willem bowed once, turned, and left the sacred office.

Willem stood for almost a minute just staring at the familiar door before he pressed the bell.  He twitched at hearing the familiar ring.   Part of him wished no one would answer, but he quashed that idea and stood fast, his duty clear.

The door opened and his mother stood before him, her mouth opened in shock, “Willem?  What is this?  What are you doing here?” 

“I forgive you, Mother.”

She scowled, “for what?”

“The Lord of us all forgives you too.”

“You went and joined a cult?  My God, you’re still an idiot.”

“Not your God, My Lord.  He has cleansed me, taken my pain, so I can forgive you.” 

“Isn’t that nice; tell your Lord I said thanks for nothing,” she muttered, the familiar sarcasm dripping from her mouth.

Willem brought the razor-sharp letter opener out from behind his back and drove it between the two upper left ribs as taught, twisting it as it reached into his mother’s heart.  His mother’s shocked look, fade with her life force as she dropped to the floor.   Willem pulled the opener free, stared down at his mother’s face contorted with pain and confusion.  “Our Lord forgives too, but He does not forget.”

He stepped over her body and went inside, wondering who else was home.


 

Alan Moskowitz is a retired screen and TV writer living in Colorado enjoying creating genre fiction.

 

To find more of his work see: mosko13@aol.com

Gypsy Mob : Episode 6 / Negotiation

Giletti sat in his study, his latest cigar smoldering in the ashtray. He watched the ribbons of smoke curling up to the ceiling, grinding his teeth in frustration. He was not accustomed to his directives meeting with resistance. Reaching for the cigar, he clamped his teeth around it, drawing smoke into his lungs and holding it there until little sparks burst in his vision and he let out the air in a puff of smoke. 

The door to his study swung open and his wife Lucia entered, bringing with her the scent of flowers. “Are they coming?”

“They better,” Giletti said, stubbing the cigar out and immediately lighting another. “If they don’ return wid de Gypsy leader, more heads will roll.”

At the other end of the mansion, brakes squeaked as the Giletti car pulled to a stop. Rocco and Brando got out of the front seats, opening the rear door for Ladez. Tony shoved him out, knocking him to the ground before hiking him to his feet. 

“Right dis way, gramps,” said Rocco, gesturing to the door with a bow. “The boss can’t wait to make your acquaintance.” 

Looking up into Tony’s blank and menacing face, Ladez swallowed the retort rising to his lips, looking at the silent infant still cradled in one of Tony’s huge hands. Since its skull had been compressed, the child had made no sound and scarcely moved. Fearful of provoking the giant further, Ladez said nothing and made for the mansion. Silently, Brando, Rocco and Tony fell into step on either side, flanking him. 

Ladez was furious and afraid but could not help admiring the opulence of the mansion as he was escorted through it. The wide-open spaces were filled with silence, broken only by the clacking of shoes and rustle of fabric as they made their way to Giletti’s study. The wall was heavy with paintings in ornate frames, sculptures stood on plinths in various corners and the soft light seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. At the end of a long hallway, a tall door stood open. Reaching it, Rocco rapped twice on it and pushed it open. 

The man sitting behind the giant desk was exactly what Ladez would expect a mob boss to look like. He was balding, heavy, immaculately dressed in a gray suit that would have bought an entire Ferris wheel. A fat cigar jutted from his stubby fingers, filling the room with a sweet-smelling smoke. The woman standing beside the man was tall and willowy, her dress hugging her curves just enough to accentuate them without showing them off. Her long dark hair fell below her shoulders and her eyes dripped disdain and hatred as they met his. The Don’s eyes were blank, but Ladez could see the wheels turning behind them. 

“I am Don Giletti,” the seated man said. “What do they call you, Gypsy?”

“Ladez Hammalka. I dere leader.” Ladez gestured to the infant in Tony’s arms. “That my youngest son.”

“How unfortunate for him,” Lucia sneered. Giletti gave her an amused glance. Ladez felt his face grow hot. 

“Why I here? Why you harm a child to get me here?”

“Because, you too have an innocent child ‘eld prisoner. Dis is to give you an idea of how it feels.” Giletti sucked on his cigar, blowing a large cloud of smoke in Ladez’s direction. “Return her to me and cease your trafficking operation. Dis is our territory.”

“Never,” snapped Ladez. “I not born with silver spoon in mouth; de girls will never go out of style and my family must eat.”

“Your family, yes,” Giletti said. “Quite a number to provide for. Nearly one hundred wretched souls, if what I hear is correct.” He looked at Lucia, who was drumming her nails on the desk. “In de interests of moving on wid our lives, I am prepared to offer you a generous sum in exchange for your cessation and departure.”

Lucia walked forward, pulling a check from her cleavage and forcing it into Ladez’s hand. He looked at it, registering the number of zeros before his pride crumpled it up and tossed it in her face. 

“You no buy us off like so many others,” Ladez said. “Our way is our way and has always been. We rely on our own since I led them, and we will always.”

Lucia gave him a look of contempt before returning to the desk. Giletti looked tired. “Dis is your final word?”

“Ya,” said Ladez, drawing himself up to his full height. 

Sighing, Giletti gestured. Tony stepped in front of Ladez and wrapped a hand around the child’s skull once again. Ladez started forward before being hit in the legs by what felt like an iron pipe. Falling to the ground, he looked up in time to see Tony’s long nails stab through the infant’s soft skull, drops of dark red blood dripping down the tiny body and pooling on the floor. The child made a soft sound, twitching its little arms, before lapsing back into stillness. .

Ladez felt hot tears dripping down his face as he watched, unable to move, unable to tear his gaze away. Lucia was breathing hard, licking her lips as Rocco and Brando laughed. Giletti was expressionless, watching Ladez’s face. 

“Is dis what you wanted? Do you feel you are doing right by your people by resisting me?”

Ladez struggled to speak as he watched his son’s life blood pooling on the tile. Finally, he managed to choke out, “You win. We go.”

Giletti’s face broke into a wide grin. “It’s too late for that, Gypsy.” He motioned to Rocco. Ladez was about to speak when the iron pipe smashed into his skull, sending him to the floor as darkness exploded over him. 

Lucia seized the pipe from Rocco and, raising it high, brought it down on Ladez’s skull again, and again. And again. Shrieking incoherently with laughter, she continued until the man’s head no longer resembled anything living. Coming back to herself, she dropped the pipe on his body, breathing heavily. 

“Get dis mess out of here before it stains de tile,” Giletti said, lighting a fresh cigar. “Oh, and Tony, get rid of dat fucking thing.” 

Nodding, the giant took what was once the youngest member of an ancient Gypsy bloodline into the grounds behind the mansion, where they kept the incinerator. 

Book Review: Smithy by Amanda Desiree

Reviewed by Ariel DaWintre

Genre: Horror-paranormal

The story of Smithy is centered in an old mansion called Trevor Hall with a past in a wealthy old town. It begins with a group of college students and a chimpanzee called Smithy. The story is told through the characters’ letters, journals, and diaries. The story starts out very academic. The students and scientists are conducting an experiment with a young chimpanzee which is very smart. They are teaching him to use sign language to communicate but he starts signing things that don’t make sense and acting oddly in the mansion. Strange things start happening at the mansion and the students can’t explain. 

I liked the characters Ruby, Gail, Tammy, Jeff, Eric, and their very different personalities. The main character is the chimpanzee Smithy, whose formal name is Webster. And is about his interactions with everyone and his surroundings. The main person running the experiment and head of the program is Dr. Piers Preis-Herald along with his assistant Wanda. The students are at different levels of academics and have their own ideas of how things should be run, setting up issues, friction, and confusion between the team members. 

The story took a bit to get started for the horror part but it was a good story. I was engaged and with the group wanted answers. I don’t know if I got all the answers to what was happening. I know at the end I was looking back in the story for answers. You did get an ending and it was kind of a sad ending and but the house did win after all. I did have lots of questions and wondered if there will be a part two or a new story and see if it was based on a true story.

HorrorAddicts.net 196, Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts

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Horror Addicts Episode# 196
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


196 | #LeeMurray #DanRabarts  #NewZealand  #RiotLegion #TheDeadLands

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

127 days till Halloween

Music: “Liberation” by #RiotLegion

Merrill’s Musical Musings: #RLMerrill #RiotLegion

Catchup: #MasksOff #TooTiredToVacay #LostTime #PublicPhobic #HippyNoBraNoMaskNoCare

#NakedMaskFace

Theme: #NewZealand

#WhatWeDointheShadows #BrainDead #BadTaste #Black Sheep #NightoftheHellHampsters #ISurviviedaZombieHolocaust #Frighteners #Perfect Creature #TheScarecrow #TheIrrefutableTruthAboutDemons #TheFerryman #Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws #MicheleRoger #NZHubby #WaitomoHotel

Movie Review: #Nox #TheDeadLands

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #Gaia #NEONFilms

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert #10DrinkstoPairwithMovies #MovieDrinkRecipes

Dead Mail: 

Billy:  #BadLivingSituations #BadApartments #CrazyNeighbors #Crazies #MonsterAnts

Jeff: #podcastsuggestions #OldGodsoffAppalachia #13DaysofHalloween

Eddie: #RealLifeHorror #carjack #CarSafety

https://news.yahoo.com/cctv-horror-movie-stranger-sneaks-into-car-154241096.html

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr #MeaCulpa #StephenKingHouse #Architecture

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen #BigfootintheBronx

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff, music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by emerian rich, em markoff, james seo.

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #BrainDead

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #TheRake

NEWS: #CreatureFeature https://tinyurl.com/ek98a35e

#HauntsandHellions #gothicromance #Kindle

https://www.amazon.com/Haunts-Hellions-Gothic-Romance-Anthology-ebook/dp/B097HZRR9J

 #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFictition 

#StudentBody #Cannes #TheCaseStudyofVanitas #Unearth #FrackingHorror

Book Review: #DJPitsiladis #MadeInLA

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #Lee Murray #DanRabarts

Author Audio: 

#LeeMurray #DanRabarts #FromBloodoftheSun

Voiced by: #EmerianRich #PeteLutz

————————————-

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

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h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f  p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

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Haunts and Hellions now in eBook!

Now in eBook format!
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Haunts & Hellions edited by Emerian Rich

HHBanner

13 stories of horror, romance, and that perfect moment when the two worlds collide. Vengeful spirits attacking the living, undead lovers revealing their true nature, and supernatural monsters seeking love, await you. Pull the blinds closed, light your candle, and cuddle up in your reading nook for some chilling—and romantic—tales.

With stories by: Emily Blue, Lucy Blue, Kevin Ground, Rowan Hill, Naching T. Kassa, Emmy Z. Madrigal, R.L. Merrill, N.C. Northcott, Emerian Rich, Daniel R. Robichaud, Daphne Strasert, Tara Vanflower, and B.F. Vega.

To read, go to: Amazon.com

Gypsy Mob Episode 5 – Childhood

 

In the days Ladez Hammalka was a young boy in an ancient roving Gypsy clan, he remembered hard times, tight belts and empty bellies. He remembered going with his mother to beg on a street corner when he was too young to be on his own. When he reached nine years old, he was sent to find his own street corner along with his brothers and sisters. His mother sometimes went with his father, sometimes on her own, for the more members of their family were out there, the more they would come home with. Living on the public’s kindness, some nights everybody went to bed hungry. 

The Gypsies had no communal property, everything belonged solely to their respective families. There was a code the Gypsies lived by; while they were not above swindling and conning their respective marks, thievery from another within the clan was not tolerated. Ladez Hammalka remembered the screams of those who had found out the hard way as their thieving fingers were severed, before being turned out of the clan for good. But mostly Ladez Hammalka remembered the nights he could not sleep, staring at the ceiling of their tent, hunger growling inside him like a wolf, rocks beneath his back getting larger by each hungry hour. Sometimes he fainted. 

The man who called himself the leader of the clan was a weak individual named Hurfong Sammenz who had been in the position for as long as Ladez had been alive. The rest of the clan possessed no individuals who wanted the responsibility and so they blindly followed Sammenz. They wandered aimlessly across the country, crisscrossing it at random, sometimes buried in snow in the mountains or dehydrating in the desert in August. The older and weaker members of the clan had started expiring before mutterings of removing their leader reached his ears. Rather than take a chance on a violent coup, Sammenz vanished in the night, taking with him as many valuables as he could easily lay his hands on. 

Without a leader, the clan began loosely drifting apart, finally going their own separate ways. The Hammalka family, crammed into two large vans along with everything they owned, never stayed in one place for more than a week before they were told to “move along.” Sometimes these warnings came through official channels; sometimes one of Ladez’s brothers came back to their camp with a broken arm or one of his sisters returned home with a black eye and a split lip, refusing to make eye contact. Then it was time to cram all eight children and all of everyone’s possessions into the two vans again. Over the years as the family grew and the children did likewise, their food situation became more and more dire. More often, all the food went to Mother, who was expecting their next sibling and was eating for two. 

One night, Ladez heard Mother and Father talking outside the tents at night, when they thought the children were all asleep. 

“…can’t go on much longer…”

“…horrible…”

“….no choice.”

“But which?!”

“Shh!”

The voices dropped lower than he could hear, and he fell asleep before he heard another word. 

The next day, the family stopped at a gas station. His parents seemed anxious, glancing at him frequently as the rest of the kids hopped out of the vans, stretching their legs. Elbowing his siblings out of the way, Ladez ran for the store, his stomach churning. Last night, they had eaten from the dumpster of a deli that threw out all its unsold perishable food at closing time. Something had upset his stomach and he was not even sure he could get into the bathroom before everything unloaded in his pants. Bursting through the door, he looked around wildly. 

“Bathroom?” 

The clerk looked up from the register. “Paying customers only.” 

“I’ll buy somethin’, PLEASE…” Ladez said as his stomach gave another almighty creak and groan. 

Another eternal moment as the clerk considered, then nodded towards the back door. “Out the door and to the left.”

Ladez sprinted out the back door and turned left, sobbing with relief as he saw the bathroom door, unoccupied and open. 

When he was certain he was finished, he walked gingerly around the back of the building, picking his way through the overgrowth to make sure the clerk wouldn’t catch sight of him. He was so focused on avoiding the clerk that when he saw his family’s vans pulling out of the station and back onto the main road, it didn’t register until he saw the empty spaces at the pump where the vans had sat. He forgot the burning of his sphincter as he sprinted after the vans on legs that were still weak, yelling hoarsely as they pulled further and further away. Coming to a halt, chest heaving, he watched them drive off down the road, out of his life forever. 

Of course, Ladez didn’t know that yet. Returning to the gas station, he found a spot to wait where he could easily see them returning to pick him up, apologizing profusely for having left him in the commotion of getting everyone back in the car. He would be merciful, he decided, give them some hurt looks and maybe a tear. But he would not rake them over the coals. He loved his family too much for that. 

***

The adult Ladez sat in his motorhome which still reeked of burned flesh. His hand throbbed where he had pierced it, and he flexed it, feeling the torn edges of the puncture knitting together slowly. In a few hours, it would be smooth and unmarked again. 

A rapping at the door of the cruiser opened his eyes. His eldest daughter Zara peered in, her dark eyes wide. “Father?”

“Come, Zara. What have you?”

The girl entered the motorhome, shifting nervously from foot to foot. “There are more men here to see you.”

Ladez raised one bushy eyebrow. “Back for more?”

“They will not enter,” she said, glancing at the door as though to verify it. “They want you to come out and speak to them.”

Something in her tone awoke an uneasy feeling in Ladez, one he had not experienced often. “There is more. Tell me.”

“One of them is darkness,” she said, forking the sign of the Evil Eye at the door. “You should be careful of him.”

Zara had too often been proven correct in her analysis of strangers. This disquiet in her deepened the unease Ladez felt. He stood without speaking, opening the door and stepping out into the night. 

There was a campfire burning outside the camper, casting yellow flickers of light on the faces of the two smaller men standing beside it. Their faces were blank and hard, their arms crossed over expensive suits. The third man towered behind them, a bulky shadow cloaked in darkness, exuding darkness. Ladez, who was nowhere near as sensitive to the auras of others as his daughter Zara, could feel the menace from the tall figure. Unbidden, a chill ran down his spine. 

“What do ye want from me?” he asked, crushing his fear of the tall man down deep where they could not see it. “Do ye come to experience the burning, like yer friends?” He grinned, a smile so fake that the two men could easily tell. 

“We have come to deliver you your last invitation,” Rocco said, his voice flat. “Return wid us to speak wid the Don, or Tony will ‘ave no choice but to make you.” 

The towering figure shifted slightly. Ladez peered into the shadows but could make out nothing but a silhouette. He could smell the menace baking off the man, and tried to keep control of the conversation. 

“And if I don’? You have no power here,” Ladez said dismissively. “I could turn ye to charcoal with a whisper of my will, all t’ree of you.”

Brando laughed and spat into the fire. “Try it.”

Piercing his palm again, Ladez flicked his hand at them and cried “Bur–!” 

Before the word had left his lips, the silhouette had stepped forward, the fire casting light over his chest while leaving his face shrouded in black. Ladez let the word die unfinished as he saw his youngest son, three months old, dangling from the man’s enormous hand by his head. The man held the infant up, his arm straight out. Tendons in his hand stood out as his hand tightened on the child’s skull. Ladez could hear a sickening pop from inside the man’s hand. 

“Now ‘e’s got brain damage,” Rocco said, flicking his cigarette into the fire. “Keep playing wid us and Tony will crush ‘is skull into pulp. Come wid us now, and your boy will just be a little slow in de head. Up to you, Pops.”

Rage and terror fought a bitter battle in Ladez, his child dangling from one enormous hand as the two men in the firelight smirked at him. Behind him, he could hear Zara weeping quietly. 

“I come wi’ you, I have word dat dere be no damage to my family?” Ladez asked, fighting to keep the tremor from his voice. 

“One t’ing at a time, gran’pa,” Brando said. “Let’s go talk to de Don an’ you can hear what he has t’say. Otherwise, Tony’s just getting started.”

Ladez looked over his shoulder at Zara, looking at him with red-rimmed streaming eyes. “Go, papa,” she moaned. “Or they kill us all.”

Turning back, Ladez nodded. “Release me son and I go wi’ you.”

“No, ‘e’ll be coming wid us, in case you get any ideas.” Brando grinned as Tony tucked the little body inside his jacket, where it made only the smallest of bulges. 

Ladez ground his teeth together in impotent fury.

“After you, gramps,” Rocco said, stepping aside and gesturing magnanimously.

Book Review — “Made in L.A. Vol. 1: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels”

Hello Addicts,

This month’s book review takes us to Los Angeles, CA. The anthology Made in L.A. Vol. 1: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels contains stories written by Los Angeles based authors which take place in or around the Los Angeles area. The tales range from funny to spooky and many genres in between.

The first in the anthology, “Between Broken Pieces,” is about an actress trying to be what everyone expects her to be, no matter how self-destructive it is. The story, shared from the points of view of the four women most directly tied to her life and career, is the kind of tragic story that can carry the tagline, “ripped from the headlines.”

The second standout for me takes place in the Cecil Hotel, “No Vacancy.” A man travels to the famed haunted hotel with a psychic to help him solve a mystery involving his sister that led to her death.

Another that caught my imagination was “Unquiet Baggage.” The story is told from the perspective of a murdered man as he follows the suitcase carrying his remains wherever his husband goes with them. It very much has a “The Lovely Bones” feel about it.

In truth, any of the ten stories included in the anthology is well worth the read. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good rainy day read.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J.

HorrorAddicts.net 195, Eugen Bacon

HASeason16culhorrorshort2

Horror Addicts Episode# 195
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


195 | #EugenBacon | #AfricanHorror |  #Vexillary | #HisHouse |

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

141 days till Halloween

Music: “Maritime Panic” by Vexillary

Merrill’s Musical Musings: #RLMerrill #Vexillary

Catchup: #SpilledMilk #TheShiningwithMilk #GothGirlFail #Vaccination #TummyCamera #AftermathofPinkyToeCutOff #ElderGoth #MentalVacay

Theme: #AfricanHorror 

#NuzoOnoh #AboutAfricanHorror
https://www.lounge-books.com/award-winners-we-lov/horror-lounge-blog-nuzo-onoh

HELP! We need more to add to our list.
#AfricanHorrorMovieList
#TheTokoloshe #Heks #TheUnforgiving #LastOneOut #TheBoneSnatcher #Eternity #FriedBarry #Hellgate #TheSoulCollector8  #Missing Angel

Filmed in Africa?

#House on Willow Street #Lost Boys: The Thirst #The Mangler #Dracula3000 

#Surviving Evil

Frightening Flix: #Kbatz #HisHouse

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #TheBinding #Held

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert #

#TheHellboundHeart #CliveBarker
#WhoGoesThere # JohnWCampbell

#TheForbidden #CliveBarker

#IKnowWhatYouDidLastSummer #LoisDuncan

#Psycho #RobertBloch

#Jaws #PeterBenchley

Dead Mail: 

Billy: #ApartmentHorror #SubwayApartment #FarmChickenPoopHouse #BlackMold #Cockroaches

Martin: #IEatBoys #ChloeMoriondo

Sherry: #VTMBloodRivals #BloodandAlchemy

https://www.ccdiscovery.com/vampire-the-masquerade-rivals-card-game

Write in Dead Mail! horroraddicts@gmail.com

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr #ComingAttractions #HorrorMovies #HorrorStudios

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen  #Hulu #Sasquatch

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff, music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by rish outfield, emerian rich, em markoff, dj pitsiladis, philip ginn, james seo.

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #Tokoloshe

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #WhiteBluffScreamer

NEWS: 

#HauntsandHellions #gothicromance #chilingchat #InspirationStories

 #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFictition #GravestonePress #AHS #FXonHulu #WhatWeDointheShadows

Book Review: #DaphneStrasert #UnkowingISink #TimothyGHugenin

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #EugenBacon

Author Audio: 

#UnlimitedData

Read by author Eugen Bacon

————————————-

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

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h o s t e s s

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h e a d  o f  p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

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Gypsy Mob : Episode Four / Burn

The dark was sticky and warm and the air was so thick it felt as though he could swim through it. He tried but could not move. His head could, but nothing else. Pulling at his hands and legs only caused what felt like razor wire to cut deeper into his wrists and ankles. Trying to open his eyes, he found they were behind a cloth tightly bound around his head. When he tried to take a deep breath, his airway was blocked by a smooth rubber ball gag. From what seemed to be very far away, he could hear the sounds of the Gypsy carnival. Wherever he was had no noise. 

Except…

As he became more alert, he could hear the sound of breathing from behind him. His heart raced and he tried to speak around the ball gag. 

“Hoh, oh eeh–”

It was hopeless. Ball gags were well designed. But without warning, the breathing gave way to footsteps, which approached his chair from behind. There was the sound of fabric stretching and a metallic flexing sound. Then the fabric was ripped from his head, freeing his eyes. The tent he was in had a bed, dresser, mirror and a little fan rotating as it buzzed. All this was lost upon him though. 

The girl from the front of the Pleasure Tent stood before him, nude, one hand on one slender hip, the other hand balancing a metal pie dish on her fingertips as though she were a waitress. His heart leapt into his mouth and despite his predicament, he could feel the beginnings of an erection. 

This was not lost on her, since he was nude, he could now see, spread-eagled on the chair with one leg wrapped to each chair leg with razor wire. She smirked at his member’s pathetic show of force and lowered the pie tin to his eyes. He gazed back at himself from the pool of his own blood, reflected in billions and billions of microscopic cells. 

Rom mikiah wheli fursna,” she hissed at him, dipping a finger in the blood and licking it off sensually. “I enjoy watching you die, white man. Bit by bit.”

He tried to speak but could not even attempt it. He was mesmerized, watching as she dipped her palm into the pool of his blood and reached for him. Stroking him in earnest, it didn’t take long for him to reach his full potential. She straddled him and his vision grew darker and darker as she shouted the words into his face and they both realized culmination. 

Catching her breath, the girl stood and hopped off Matteo, taking no notice of his vacant expression. She filled a pie dish with his fluids.

A Gypsy with long braided hair entered and looked her straight in the eye, paying no mind to her exposed body. One eye was a bright, piercing blue. The other, a bleached white sightless orb. 

“Dai, shivisna ecrusi taruma,” she said, gesturing at Matteo and reaching for a robe. “He is ready.” 

The man nodded, crossing the room to Matteo and lifting both him and the chair to which he was bound. He carried Matteo out of the tent without a sound. The girl picked up the pie dish of Matteo’s fluids, carrying them from the tent, careful not to spill a drop. 

A long black car pulled into the carnival’s parking area and stopped with a crunch of gravel and swirl of dirt. Four men got out, dressed in fine suits with matching fedoras. The bulge under each of their arms and at their waist made it clear these men expected trouble.

Giletti’s goons, Marco, Branden, Lou and Carter, were on high alert, not because of the Gypsies but because Giletti had been apoplectic with rage and let it be known that negative results would not be well received. As they entered the midway, they spread out, heads on swivels, walking with purpose. The public parted before them uneasily, sensing trouble. 

Zara spotted an anomaly in the movement of the crowd. She had been working here her whole life and could easily pick out the signs of anything but the general public plodding through the ritual of a carnival. The four well-dressed men were coming her way with a purpose, looking far too bulky to be carrying anything less than an Uzi each beneath their jackets. 

Carter was in the lead and was not the type of man to be coy. He walked up to Zara and showed her the butt of his gun. “Word is you got someone for sale who ain’t yours, lady,” he said, his voice casual enough that none of the public nearby looked around. “The boss sez you’re to let her go wid us, now, and your boss is s’posed to come back to meet wid our boss also. Now,” Carter gestured at the other three unsmiling men surrounding the entrance. “We can do dis de easy way or de hard way.”

Ladez Hammalka had been leading his clan of approximately one hundred souls for many years. It had started many years ago with two families, roaming the country in their RVs. Over time, marriages and unions had strengthened the bonds of family and increased their numbers. One year, Ladez chanced upon an old carnival ride at an auction. It needed only minor repairs, and nobody else wanted it. For a song, Ladez got them to throw in the trailer that housed the track and cars. In little hamlets they frequented, the locals were thrilled by any entertainment and the ride gave them another reason to visit the Gypsy midway, which was little more than booths selling hand-made items. They flocked to the carnival atmosphere, a fact not lost on Ladez, who began expanding on it, buying rides that needed fixing and having the mechanically gifted members of the family bringing them back to life. 

With their income once again secure, Ladez began seeking not only security but luxury. One of his wives put to him the suggestion of a body shop. Through her connections, she knew no shortage of orphaned or runaway girls that would be happy to lay with a man in exchange for food and shelter. Ladez agreed. 

Now, decades later, as he sat in his Empire Liner motorcoach, looking at the four men who had entered by holding an automatic weapon to his only daughter’s stomach, he felt a cold rage burning within him. Come to take what is ours again, he thought. 

“Release her.” Ladez said.

“I think we’ll just hold on to her while we chat, just for safekeeping, Pops,” Branden, the tallest of the four, was holding Zara around the throat with his Uzi to her head. “Don’t get any funny ideas wid the elbows, honey.”

Carter chuckled, holding his gun lazily on Ladez. “Yeah, I’d hate to have to shoot dis old guy just because you decided to be a hero. We just want Bianca Giletti, and for the old man to come meet our boss.”

Ladez felt the cold rage turn hot. Without looking at his hand, he pierced his palm with a sharpened ring he always wore and hissed, “Calidi.”

The men looked confused and raised their guns sharply as Ladez’s hand rose from behind his back, blood running down his withered arm. He raised his hand high and said it again, just as a drop of blood fell and hit the floor of the RV. 

Calidi!

The two men holding their weapons screamed and dropped them as the metal began to glow a dark red. Blisters shot up on the hands which had been holding their guns. Marco and Lou, their weapons still in their holsters, began to yell and clawed their jackets open, yanking the hot metal from their armpits and dropping them to the floor. Zara elbowed Branden in the stomach and slipped from his grasp, running over to Ladez. Branden doubled over, unable to howl in pain over his burned hand. Carter was squeezing his hand between his legs as tears rolled down his face. His eyes, wide and streaming, stared at Ladez. 

“What—how did you—”

“SILENCE!” thundered Ladez and all four men cringed back, nursing their various hurts. 

“You t’ink you come in here and start giving orders? After years of living off yer filth and offal, we finally able to ‘ave a portion of luxury you ‘ave lived all your life, an’ you come in ‘ere to take from us.” The old man’s voice did not get louder, but it seemed to fill the entire room. The four men cowered as he went on. “You will walk from ‘ere an’ tell your boss of what occurred. Tell him, we not like what he used to, and will not roll over like good dogs.”

Relief washed over the faces of the men as Ladez finished speaking. “We will, sir,” Carter spoke up. “We appreciate you letting us go wid just the warning, we’ll make sure—”

Ladez held up a hand. “Well…not all you,” he said with a leer. Carter’s eyes traveled to the bloody hand, a drop poised to fall. His eyes went back to Ladez’s. There was no mercy there. 

Burn,” Ladez hissed as the drop fell. 

Immediately, Branden and Carter began to scream as a fire as they had never known erupted within them, as though their very souls were being incinerated. Steam poured out of their orifices as they thrashed around, clawing at themselves, unable to quench the internal flames. Lou and Marco flattened themselves against the wall, horrified, unable to look away. Carter’s eyes melted out of his sockets and down his face as his tongue, blackened, flopped uselessly inside his charcoal mouth. Branden had fallen to his knees and was trying to scream, but all that came out was black dust. When they finally toppled over, dead burned husks, they left a charcoal smear on the motorcoach’s carpet. 

Lou and Marco had at some point clutched each other for support as they witnessed the men being burned alive. Huddled together in a wet spot of shared urine, they stared wide-eyed at Ladez. 

The old man took a deep breath and let it out, closing his eyes for a moment. Opening them, he gestured, a sweep of the hand toward the RV’s door. It was with the non-bloody hand, but Lou and Marco still flinched. 

“Now, go from ‘ere.” Ladez clasped his hands before him, the bloody one holding the clean one. “Tell your Don what you ‘ave seen, with my regards. And express my condolences to the families of dese two foolish men.” He nodded at the charcoal husks. 

Marco nodded, his eyes unfocused. Lou croaked something that may have been an affirmative. Neither moved. 

“GO!” screamed Zara. Immediately both men stampeded for the door, nearly tearing it off the frame before realizing it opened outward. With a bang, they fled into the night. 

Don Giletti was just lighting his fourth cigar when Lou and Marco burst into his study, panting heavily, having run the whole way, since the car keys were in Carter’s pocket. Giletti looked at their faces and his heart sank. 

“Where are Carter and Branden?” 

“Charcoal!” screamed Lou, quite hysterical. “He done something, black magic, witchcraft, voodoo, I dunno but he burnt em both, pore ol’ Carter an’ Branden burnt to a crisp from the inside out, on me life sir, they got me too, me and pore Marco, lookit—” 

Dragging Marco(who seemed to be in a daze) forward to the Don’s desk, he pulled Marco’s coat and shirt open. He yanked the undershirt to the side so Giletti could see a blister in the shape of a gun seared into Marco’s chest just beneath the armpit. “I got one too, but we was lucky compare’t to Branden and Carter, poor fellers just burnt up…”

Turning away from the blubbering Lou, Giletti looked at his brother Brando with smoldering eyes. “Get Tony and you go down dere to talk to dat old man. Or rather, let Tony do de talking, as loud as he pleases, as long as de old man is able to answer questions when he gets here.”

Brando smirked. “Tony don’t usually have to speak too loudly before they gets the point.”

Giletti stared at his cigar, smoldering gently away in his hand. “Indeed.”

HorrorAddicts.net 194, Haunts and Hellions

HASeason16culhorrorshort2

Horror Addicts Episode# 194
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


194 | #gothicromance | #HauntsandHellions | #Dissonance | #KindredtheEmbraced

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

162 days till Halloween

Music: “Precipice” by Dissonance

Merrill’s Musical Musings: #RLMerrill #Dissonance

Catchup: #ZombiesAteMyNeighbors #LucasFilmGames #GiantBaby #GhoulPatrol #ApartmentHorrorStories 

Gothic Romance: #HauntsandHellions 

Buy the book now:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09429HWLJ

Party at our FB group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499

Frightening Flix: #Kbatz #KindredtheEmbraced

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #Koko-di Koko-da

Top Five TV Series: #Kindred #RedDwarf #DeadLikeMe #Buffy #BloodTies #PushingDaises #Moonlight

Write in your top 5 TV series! horroraddicts@gmail.com

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert #InsectHorror #LaurelAnneHill #WWWChallenge #RhondaCarpenter

Dead Mail: 

Sage: #HotGoss #VampireGame #ArkaneAustin #OmenVampires
Martin: #GrimReaper #LocktheDoor 

Drayton: #HorrorHistoricals #BookRiot #TheGreyWoman #NorthangerAbbey  #MysteriesofUdolfo #TheCastle of Ontronto #TheVampyre  #Frankenstien #Dracula #DrJandMrH 

Write inDead Mail! horroraddicts@gmail.com

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr #SavannahGA #HauntedHouses #AddamsFamily #BeAfraid #Rats #VincentPrice #OldRadioShow

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen  #Hulu #Sasquatch

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff, music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by rish outfield, emerian rich, em markoff.

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #AnneRadcliffe #TheItalian

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #LovelandFrogmen

NEWS: #WalpurgisNight #TheSixthChamber 

LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN-EjPcky1Y

 #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFictition #TheLetter #JSOcconor #Undone #PJCurtis #HistoryoftheOccult #argentinehorror #variety #FilmSharks #AnimeNewsNetwork #VampireComedyManga #

Book Review: #MattMorovich #AliesterBlake #ValentinaCano #HorrorRomance

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #EmerianRich

Author Audio: #gothicromance #hauntsandhellions

“Lighthouse Legend” by Emerian Rich

“Maudaleen” Kevin Ground

“She Woke At Midnight” Naching T. Kassa

“TheHouse Must Fall” R.L. Merrill

“” Daniel R. Robichaud

“Companions” Daphne Strasert

“Love Never Dies” Rowan Hill

————————————-

Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

Also, send show theme ideas!

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f  p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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Free Fiction : The Letter by J.S. Occonor

The Letter

I sit here at my desk writing my final words for I fear that I shall not live to see the sunrise. The evil that has lurked in my home has become increasingly bold and the scratching on my bedroom door just last night tells me that it is my time.

 But before I get ahead of myself, a brief introduction should be in order as to how this all may have happened. I am Emmitt Newgate, a professor at the local university – a professor of anthropology and archeology, which fate would have it, would be my own downfall. As is one of the boons of my chosen field, I had taken a trip six months ago during the summer for academic fieldwork. Myself, a few colleges in the department, and three of our most successful students found ourselves granted an opportunity to travel to South America to study a number of ancient ruins. 

The trip itself was not unique, and I have been to places far more dangerous and more exotic. But this location was unique in that in my long history of study, there have been none that we brought more from. The number of relics and artifacts that were discovered exceeded all expectations. The last number that was reported to me was one hundred thirty-three thousand forty-two. A number that has no doubt continued to rise and bring about the undoing and death of all who were and still are involved. How unfortunate that a once-in-a-lifetime discovery would result in the death of so many.

The first death was two weeks after we had returned from our trip. The victim was another professor by the name of Edgar Washington. He was an elderly man but despite his age, he was healthy and fit. Edgar was found in his home, laying in his bedroom his face frozen in agony. And as I write, his cause of death yet remains unknown. The second death worth mentioning was Sidney Davis, the only female student who we brought along with us. She too was found in her bedroom with a similar agonizing look on her face and once again, her cause of death is unknown. Over the next six months, the remaining members of the expedition would die, all in a similar fashion, leaving just myself remaining.

The most recent death happened twenty-seven days ago. Why I know this is because it was a favorite student of mine, Michael Seymore, and his death may have revealed a clue. Or rather what he wrote. Michael Seymore was found in his bedroom in the same fashion as the others that I have mentioned, but he was clutching a journal to his chest. A journal that has come into my possession by means which are not entirely legal, I admit. And while I wish for my reputation to remain as unsullied as possible after the discovery of this letter, I needed to know what Michael had written. It concerns my own death, you see, and a man should know what fate awaits him. The first third of the journal was what you would expect of a man with a sound mind. However, as I turned the pages the words of Michael Seymore become less and less coherent until there was nothing but the ramblings of a lone mad man. The last third of the journal was nothing more than a single phrase written over and over again: “It comes from the darkness, look to the shadows.” A phrase in which the meaning remains lost to me and the limited amount of time I have remaining means that I shall never discover its true meaning. And an unknown fate still awaits me.

After the death of Michael Seymore, the evil turned its attention to me, the last member of our expedition. I had been aware of the deaths since the death of Edgar Washington. However, I did not notice the similarities until the death of Joseph Linkletter, who was the third to die. Had I discovered the link earlier, I might have been able to alter the course or to keep the deaths from happening. When I knew it was my turn, I immediately noticed it following me, but any and all research led me to dead ends.

The first time I saw it was late at night, three days after the death of Michael Seymore. From the corner of my eye, I saw a shadowy shape standing across the street from my residence. It would remain there every night for the next two weeks. Was it watching me? I believe it was. 

The first night it entered my house was a week ago, and I have not left my room since, with the exception of a daily visit to my kitchen, as the activity is minimal during the day. Maybe it does not like light. I have fired the house staff, in hopes to keep them safe, and I have formally resigned from the university to distance myself from everyone. It is my hope that I will be the last to suffer such a fate, but if I am not the last, I hope that this letter may help the next person who is being stalked by this evil being. I know nothing of this being – if it was released from our expedition, then I do not know-how. It may be tied to one of the relics that we returned with but again I cannot be certain. Along with this letter are our expedition notes, books on ancient civilizations, as well as books on evil, books that make mention of dark figures, and the last piece that I leave is the journal of Michael Seymore. I leave these things behind for the next person.

Soon the sun will perish and my candle will burn out leaving me in darkness. I have failed in this life and if I am responsible for this evil, then know that I am truly sorry for what we have unleashed. I will know my fate soon enough. 

My final words,

Emmitt Newgate    


 

J.S. O’Connor currently lives in Bettendorf Iowa where he writes in his free time.

 

 

 

Gypsy Mob : Episode 3 / Gypsy Traffic

Peter Giletti had just pulled his Ferrari into the Giletti mansion when Matteo came bursting from the front door, his face a mask of terror so stark it made Peter’s balls creep. Putting the sports car in park and setting the emergency brake, he hopped out and waved. 

“Matteo! What the fuck is up?”

Wild-eyed, Matteo looked around. When he spotted Peter, he rushed over, seizing Peter by the shoulders. “Pete! You gotta help me! I lost her and your uncle—”

“Whoa whoa whoa, first things first, drop the Armani,” Peter said, pushing Matteo’s hands away from his tailored jacket. “I just got this. Now what about my uncle?”

“He’s gonna kill me if I don’t find Bianca!” Matteo said, wringing his hands. 

“Wait a minute, where’s Bianca? What happened?”

Matteo blurted out the night’s events, circling back to the salient point. “He’s going to kill me if I can’t find Bianca! Peter, you gotta help me!”

“You really ditched Bianca to go fuck a whore? That’s pretty—”

“Yes, I know what it is, but it is what it is and if I don’t find her, I’ll never fuck anything again! Now will you help me or not?” Matteo waited, shoulders heaving. 

“Yeah, yeah, sure thing,” Peter said, opening the door to his Ferrari and sliding back inside. “Come on.”

They made good time back to the carnival, Peter pushing the little car up to nearly 130mph on the straight stretches. The police in the area knew the Giletti family cars on sight and knew better than to interfere with them. Peter concentrated on his driving, Matteo sat rigid in his seat, savoring each breath he took, wondering if they would be among his last. 

Before long, the lights glowing in the night became brighter and they were pulling into the parking lot of the Gyspy camp. Matteo reached beneath his shirt and pulled out a Glock .9mm. Racking the slide, he ensured a round was in the chamber and stowed the gun away again. Peter watched, an eyebrow raised. 

“Guns blazing?”

Matteo shook his head, scrabbling at the car door handle. “Just a little protection. It’s up to them.” 

Shrugging, Peter chambered a round into his own Glock and tucked it back into his shoulder holster. 

Passing under the gate to the scruffy midway, Peter popped a cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a practiced motion as he surveyed the meager crowd while following Matteo. “Pretty weak carnival. Everything is rusted. You couldn’t pay me to ride one of these fucking things.” He took a drag as his eyes swiveled to follow a blonde girl with a painted face and jeans which looked to be painted on as well. “Rides are for kids anyway.”

“There,” Matteo said, pointing as he quickened his pace. “That’s the tent.”

Peter looked from the sign proclaiming Your Fortune for $5 to the scrawny man beneath it. The man grinned invitingly, gesturing to the door. Rolling his eyes, Peter caught sight of something far more akin to his tastes. 

“You go ahead,” he said to Matteo, who was fumbling in his pocket for a five-dollar bill. Beating him to the draw, Peter pulled out a five and gave it to the skinny man who made it disappear. “My treat. I’ll wait out here, I want to finish this.” He waved the cigarette. 

“Okay. I’ll yell if I need backup.” 

Peter saluted with the cigarette as Matteo disappeared into the tent. He took another drag and dropped it to the ground in front of the Gypsy, grinding it out and turning without a word toward the Pleasure Tent. 

“Hiya,” said the girl attending its entrance, flashing a dazzling white smile over the barest of tops. “Looking for pleasure?”

“Yes, and I’m in a bit of a hurry,” Peter said, glancing over at the fortune tent. 

The girl smiled. “Take our newest girl. Tonight her first night.”

“I’ll take her. How much?”

“$200,” the girl said, holding out a hand. 

Peter’s fingers nimbly extracted two Benjamins from his wallet and slapped them into the girl’s palm. She tucked it down her skirt and beckoned him to follow as she slipped into the tent. Peter followed her through the labyrinth of cloth stalls, adjusting himself as the sounds of sex further stimulated his growing member. The girl stopped at one of the curtains and gestured. 

“She new. Start tonight. No worry ‘bout that. She ready.” With that and a smirk that gave Peter’s peter a twinge, she retreated into the dim of the tent. 

Peter licked his lips and pulled the curtain back. A girl lay on the cot, staring at the ceiling. The shadows hid her face, framed by her long dark hair. She was nude, her arms over her head and legs slightly apart. At the sound of his zipper, her eyes flickered towards him, then back to the ceiling. Unbuckling his pants and pulling down his underwear, he mounted her and slid himself inside. The girl at the front had been right, this girl was prepared. It didn’t take him long and the whole time, her expression never changed. 

Panting, Peter slid out of her and wiped himself on the cot before standing and refastening his pants. “Good for you, honey?”

“Yes.”

Peter’s hands froze in the act of buckling his belt. It was not the word itself, nor its delivery, flat, dead, devoid of any emotion. The voice he had heard at the Giletti mansion more times than he could count. It was Bianca’s voice. 

“…Bi?” Peter croaked. 

She looked at him blankly. With shaking hands, he pulled his lighter from his pocket. Flicking it open, he cast a soft glow over the room, illuminating the face of his cousin, Bianca Giletti.

“Bianca! What the fuck are you doing here!”

She said nothing, just continued staring at him. If not for her breathing, she could have been dead. 

“I’ve got to get you out of here. Can you walk?” Peter reached for her, weak-kneed at the thought of touching her again after what he had just done. “Bi, I’m sorr—”

A harsh whisper of canvas behind Peter made him spin. An enormous man covered in tattoos and body hair had torn the curtain back and was reaching for him. Peter’s heart leaped into his mouth as he staggered backward. 

“Where you tink you goin’ wit our girl, eh?” the man growled, stepping forward. 

Peter’s reflexes, honed by years of the family business, came to his rescue, drawing his Glock from the shoulder holster and pointing it squarely between the man’s eyes. The big man halted, the gun’s barrel an inch from his forehead. 

“Go ‘head, city boy,” he sneered. “If you got da guts—”

The Gypsy’s hand moved, amazingly fast for his size. Unfortunately, his aim was not good; as he attempted to grab the gun from Peter, one sausage-sized finger slid into the trigger guard of the gun, its girth inexorably pressing Peter’s more modest digit into the trigger. There was a shot. The giant man’s ugly sneer turned into a look of shock as the back of his skull and brains splattered across the tent wall. 

Peter was still trying to process what had happened when the screams began, galvanizing him into action. Pulling the gun from the finger of the dead giant, he looked around wildly. Bianca lay on the cot, splattered with bits of bone and brain, her expression as vacant as ever. There were yells from within the tent as interrupted men and women expressed their fear and concern. There was no choice. 

“I’ll get you out of here, Bi, I promise,” he whispered to her, unsure if she would hear him or if it would even register. Slipping out of the stall’s entrance over the dead giant, he fled down one of the corridors between the stalls, heading for the exit. The girl who had admitted him was standing in it, a machete in her hand. She had dispensed with the knowing smirk and her face was a mask of rage. 

“You murder a Rom, white man,” she hissed, raising the machete. “You will pay.”

Peter raised the gun, pointing it at her chest. “Step aside, lady, or those pretty tits of yours will be the next thing to get splattered.” 

Curling her lip, the girl stood aside, still holding the machete. Peter eased around her, trying to keep an eye on the machete and the rest of her at the same time. As he passed her, she spat at him. 

“I’ll remember that, babe. You’ll be hearing from me again real soon,” he snarled, slipping into the crowd of oblivious carnival patrons outside the tent who had somehow not heard the gunshot. 

Elbowing his way through the throng, Peter halted, panting, before the fortunes tent, his gun beneath his bloody Armani coat. The scrawny Gypsy eyed his hectic expression with what appeared to be a look of amusement. 

“Where’s my friend?” Peter demanded, looking over his shoulder toward the Pleasure Tent, sure the girl would be coming after him with the machete. 

“You friend ‘as gone,” the Gypsy said, spreading his fingers. “He say, he see you later.”

Peter pulled the gun from beneath his coat, keeping it low. “He wouldn’t do that, don’t take me for a moron. Now you tell me where he is, or—”

Behind the scrawny man, another mammoth Gypsy appeared out of the darkness of the fortunes tent. “Or what, slicker?”

Peter heard shouts from the direction of the Pleasure Tent and, performing an analysis of his odds, holstered his weapon and took off, shouldering his way through the crowd of increasingly agitated carnival-goers. He did not stop until he was in his Ferrari pushing sixty mph on his way out of the parking lot.

***

Matteo pushed into the dimly lit interior of the fortunes tent to see a thin old woman wrapped in shawls seated before a dark glass orb. She raised her eyes to his, and a smile crept across her mouth. “So, you come for your fortune?”

“I come for my girlfriend, Bianca,” Matteo said. He pulled his phone from his pocket and showed the woman his phone’s wallpaper. From the screen, Bianca was blowing a kiss with a bottle of tequila in her other hand. “She got her fortune read earlier tonight and now she’s missing.”

“I donno whatcha talkin ‘bout,” the woman said. Her smile widened. “If I read ya fortune, maybe we find hers?”

“Sure, fine, whatever, only her dad has told me he’ll cut off my nuts if I can’t find her so I really need—”

The woman threw up her hand, freezing Matteo in mid-sentence as the crystal ball’s surface flared bright blue. “Silence!”

She moved her long fingers over the ball, peering deep into its depths. Matteo waited impatiently, hopping from one foot to the other. Waste of time, this, he thought furiously as the woman whispered gibberish to the ball. Bianca’s father is going to have me castrated and I’m sitting here watching this old bat poke a piece of glass.

“Well?” he demanded when he could stand it no longer. 

The woman looked a moment longer and then raised her eyes to meet his. “Well what?”

“Where is Bianca?” Matteo’s voice was becoming shrill. 

“Ah,” the woman said, and shook her head. “I can no tell you dat. But I tell you, you be reunited wid her soon. You VERY HANDSOME!” she shouted this last, causing Matteo to recoil. 

“What the—”

“You VERY. HANDSOME.” She repeated, if anything, louder. 

“Listen,” Matteo said, his voice cracking as he pulled the Glock from his waistband. “If you don’t tell me where Bianca is—”

There was a rustling noise behind him. He half-turned in time to see an enormous man swinging a baseball bat at his head before the world exploded into blackness. 

“I tell you, Matteo,” Madam Zara stood, looking down at the prostrate form of Matteo. “You be seeing her soon.” 

The giant snickered.

“Good swing, Grog,” she said with a smile. “Take him to tent.”

***

The sound of a Ferrari caught Don Giletti’s ear and he turned, frowning, to glance out the window behind the desk in his study. Not just because he and his wife Lucia had bought it for their son Peter not six months ago, but because he had made the modifications to that engine himself, and he couldn’t mistake the sound of its tachometer reaching the red line. 

He turned back to face the room. His brother Rocco stood by the tray of amber-filled decanters, pouring himself a snifter of cognac. Giletti’s wife Lucia leaned against the front of his desk, her cosmetically perfect ass seated a few feet from Giletti. “I’m sorry, my dear, what were you saying?”

Lucia rolled her eyes. A few years Giletti’s senior, she sometimes felt as though she were a mother chiding her son. Turning to face him, she leaned against the desk, palms down. “The body trade is down all of a sudden, and you know that is one trade that is recession-proof. Something has changed, Lorenzo, and we need to figure out what it is. I have girls sitting idle at night.”

“My supplier is getting ratty as well,” Rocco said, coming back from the bar with a drink and lit cigarette in the other hand. “I told him I only needed half a container this week and he warned me not to let it become a habit, then hung up.”

Giletti snorted. “I try not to lose sleep over it.”

With a sudden bang, the doors to the study flew open, making them all jump. The men had their guns half drawn before their brains registered that their brother, Brando, towed his son Peter by the arm. The latter’s eyes were giant saucers, staring around though not seeing. Coming to a halt, Brando dropped Peter’s arm and slammed the doors shut, locking them. He strode forward and prodded Peter in the back, pushing him forward. 

“Go on, tell them!” he barked. “Spit it out, boy!” His face was red and his hair looked as though he had been pulling chunks of it out. Giletti had never seen his brother looking quite so deranged and felt a hint of an unusual emotion he was able to identify as fear. What the hell had happened?

“I—they—there’s a car—carnival, up the road,” Peter gabbled, still staring around as though he had never seen the place before. “They had—girls. Bianca. They—I—” Peter shivered mightily and wrapped his arms around himself as though he were freezing. 

“What de absolute fuck are you gabbling about?” Giletti roared, on his feet, fingernails unconsciously digging into the desk. 

“You’ve been wondering why the girl trade is down,” Brando said, striding forward and shoving Peter out of the way, who took no notice. “I think you’ll find it’s been down the exact length of time as a certain Gypsy carnival has been set up in the area. As near as I can tell, Peter, saw a tent set up as a brothel, and when he went in to, um, investigate, the girl they gave him…was Bianca, Lorenzo. They’ve got your little girl, brother,” Brando said, tears of rage standing in his eyes.

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Insect Horror Novels

I don’t like bugs. Cockroaches, spiders, centipedes… if it’s creepy or crawly, I’m sure to stay far away. But a Horror Addict asked me to create a list of good horror books involving insects. So, from spine-tingling terror to science fiction frights to the absolutely bonkers, here are my top five suggestions for horror that will make you bug out.

Eight by W.W. Mortensen

When entomologist Rebecca Riley receives stunning photographs of a new discovery, she finds herself on the next flight to Brazil, heading down to join the team of scientists assembling there.

What she uncovers is beyond imagination: strange statues in the jungle… a ruined city built by the refugees of a lost Pacific continent… and a terrifying new species. It is an ancient enemy, one whose very existence has implications for all of humankind… and the planet itself.

Prey by Michael Crichton

In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.

It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.

And we are the prey.

Slither by Edward Lee

When Nora and her research team arrived on the deserted tropical island, she was expecting a routine zoological expedition, but it didn’t take long to realize they’re not alone. Now members of her own team are disappearing, and when they return, they’ve changed.

Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon

Six high school students have survived nuclear war in a high-tech bomb shelter, but they are not alone. Mutated insects are hungry and the human survivors are the only prey.

Texas Chainsaw Mantis by Kevin Strange

After wiping out humanity years ago, Praying Mantises have evolved into the dominant species on Earth, taking over our buildings, our jobs, and our lives.

Matthew is a high school history teacher. He does his best to educate the young mantises and tame the savage side of their nature, until the day he comes home to find his wife ready to mate. Anyone who knows anything about Mantises knows that mating is a death sentence for males of the species. But when Matthew’s wife partially decapitates him during sex, he crawls out to the woodshed to die, only to find an old haunted chainsaw, possessed by the spirit of his home’s dead human owner, who just happens to be an occult sorcerer and serial killer known as The Growler’s Phantom. Now resurrected, Matthew vows revenge on his murderous wife, and her new husband Nicko as well as anyone else who gets in his path.

There you have it! Five books to make your skin crawl. Do you know any horror books that feature insects? Want to see another list of recommendations? Leave a comment!

Free Fiction: Undone by P J Curtis

Undone by P.J. Curtis

I lost something in the woods. It hurts my head every time I try to remember what exactly I lost, but there’s an emptiness that must be filled before it’s too late. I am not getting any younger and these trees are only growing taller. 

I would’ve driven through these woods considering how wide the path was, but at its entrance, I decided to leave my car. I wouldn’t be needing it any longer. I don’t need any protection for what I’m doing today. However, when I exited my car, I looked at the sky and noticed how dark it had gotten despite it being early in the day. The once welcoming pink sky has transformed into a coal-stained canvas, just ready to be presented by its maker. At first, it alarmed me how sudden the change was, but I didn’t think too much about it since I needed to find what I lost. 

As I walked down the dirt path filled with moss-ridden stones and rotten bark, my legs began to tremble. It felt like hours since I started my journey to find what I’ve lost but something in my chest was pulling me forward. I figured it was strong conviction but another, deeper part of me, felt as if something was truly pulling me. 

The path seemed endless and less of the already dying light from the sky was sinking through the trees. In fact, I could hardly see the sky. I couldn’t stop and fully take in what had become of my surroundings but it felt as if the trees were closing in on me. Almost as if they were forming a tunnel, the trees began to bend like fingers trying to touch the palm of a hand. There was barely any light but no matter how dark the tunnel of trees made my venture, I knew I would find what I needed.

I kept trudging along the dark path with a shortness of breath. I desired to keep going but my lungs were burning so hot, I thought they would burst from my chest. Even my legs had given up and my knees finally buckled. I figured I would collapse completely but as I fell, I realized my chest hadn’t hit the path. Almost as if I were begging, only my knees kissed the ground. My upper body was completely erect and my chest began to protrude outwards. The pulling sensation had only grown stronger as I was dragged along the path with no visible force tugging at my chest. 

I was dragged for hours. The knee part of my pants has disintegrated and had been matted with blood and mud. I felt weaker the farther I went down the tunnel. I could barely keep my eyes open but an unusual clutter of small voices prevented me from going completely adrift. The deeper I delved into the dark path, the clearer the voices sounded. I could make out what they were saying and frankly, it was nothing special. All I heard were average conversations layered on yet more average conversations. It was incessant but comforting. 

Eventually, the speed at which I was being dragged had come to a halt as I entered a different part of the woods. The tunnel had opened in a circular fashion above me as if the trees morphed into a colosseum. With this newfound exposure to the sky, the moon shone light on something I had never seen before. 

Before my eyes, I saw an old woman in worn rags sewing herself what appeared to be a red scarf. The old woman looked grotesquely thin and feeble yet she used her needle as if it were a mighty sword when she struck the yarn. It was a beautiful stitch, a work of art to say the least. I began to wonder why she wore such hideous and worn rags but I was interrupted by her gruesome gaze. 

She did not say a single word. The old woman stopped sewing for a moment as she brushed her matted wisps of hair over her shoulder. She then pointed at my chest and that’s when I saw it. A long strand of red yarn had come out of my chest and had been linked to her soon-to-be scarf. My eyes widened as she fiddled with the string with her long nail as if it were a banjo. Before I could process what was happening, her eyes rolled back into her skull and her twisted smile grew as she continued sewing. With every passing stroke of her needle, I began to unravel. Her scarf grew longer as my body began to diminish into nothingness. I couldn’t tell if I made a single noise because the conversations only grew louder as I became more scarf than human. 

The process was extremely painful, as my skin was being ripped off but I have to say…it was worth it. I feel warmed not only by the fabric I’ve become but also by the voices I am surrounded by. I can now intermingle with whomever I’m woven with. 

I finally found what I have lost. 


Author Bio: 

P.J. Curtis is a fan of fiction that disturbs readers to the core. Whether he is reading or writing it, Curtis believes we all should take a moment to appreciate what lurks in the shadows. Being primarily inspired by the works of Junji Ito and Franz Kafka, Curtis delves deep into the brink of human absurdity through the exploration of the unexplainable. Right now, Curtis is studying at Montclair State University to become a high school English teacher, but that has never stopped him from exploring what makes us scream.

 

HorrorAddicts.net 193, Angela Yuriko Smith

HASeason16culhorrorshort2

Horror Addicts Episode# 193
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


193 | #okinawanhorror | #AngelaYurikoSmith | #StaticX | #BlackButler

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

176 days till Halloween

Music: “Worth Dying For” by Static X

Merrill’s Musical Musings: #RLMerrill #StaticX

Catchup: #HauntsandHellions #CrappyMovies #Underwater #Underwear #TheBeguiled #ShadowandBone #Netflix #RichardArmitage #VampireSeries
HorrorAddicts.net YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4E9vnOzVkdRNLnL2QWVk3w

Japanese Horror: #SlitMouthWoman  #Hikiko-San #Hanako-San #HellToilet #TekeTeke
https://jw-webmagazine.com/4-scariest-japanese-urban-legends/

Featured Movie: #EmerianRich #BlackButler #LiveAction #OneHellofaButler

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #InTheEarth #NeonFilms

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert Kevin wrote in asking…  #nongoreyhorror #PG13Horror #HerDarkInheritance 

Dead Mail:
Jeff, horror addicts better at coping during #pandemic
Leslie, non-Japanese asian movies: #TheEye #Dumpling #TheChildsEye #RigorMortis #UndertheShadow #Macabre #23:59 #Alone #ComingSoon #Shutter #Alive
#JapaneseHorror movies: #Ju-on #Ringu #BattleRoyale #SuicideClub #OneCutoftheDead #OneMissedCall #Pulse #Audition #Confessions #Kwaidan #ItComes #DakrWater #ForestofLove #IAmaHero #Rinne #AsTheGodsWill #DeathNote #YoYoGirlCop

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen  #Hulu #Sasquatch

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff, music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by james seo, rish outfield, phillip ginn, gabriel markoff, em markoff.

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr OMG! Emz forgot! Bad Emz! We’ll have 2 next episode! (Sorry Mark x.x)

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #Audition

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #OliviaMabel

NEWS: #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFiction #JohnDrury #GothicRomance on Insta @HorrorAddicts.netPress #Sanrio #HelloKittyHorror  

Book Review: #ClockworkWonderland  reviewed by Ariel DaWintre #AliceinWonderland

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #AngelaYurikoSmith

Author Audio: Angela Yuriko Smith “Nothing to Give” voiced by Ryan Aussie Smith

————————————-

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p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

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b l o g  e d i t o r

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s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

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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. 

 

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: 5 Horror Novels Without All the Gore

We received a special request here at HorrorAddicts.net. A listener asked for suggestions for “PG-13 Horror Novels”. Specifically, they wanted books that don’t feature a lot of gore. There’s nothing wrong with liking gore, but you don’t need it to make a horror novel worth reading. Since it’s not fun to sift through reviews to find the right book, I’ve done it for you!

Her Dark Inheritance by Meg Hafdahl

Do I take every opportunity to recommend Her Dark Inheritance? Yes, yes, I do. Why? Because it’s still one of the best horror books I’ve ever read.

On the day her mother died, Daphne Forrest learned the devastating truth. She’d never really known the woman who raised her, not even her real name. Fueled to unravel the tragic mystery behind her mother’s secrets, Daphne abandons all she knows, traveling to the bucolic yet sinister town of Willoughby, Minnesota.

Navigating through the memories of her own bloody legacy, Daphne throws herself into the insular and haunting small town of her ancestors. She investigates the murder that led to her mother’s shame, with the help of charming, yet tortured, local Edwin Monroe. Edwin has a unique understanding of the darkness in Willoughby, and how the town holds a lurking threat more foreboding than any unsolved murder.

As Daphne gets closer to the truth, Willoughby itself rebels against her. She bears witness to terrifying scenes from the past. Is her mother a murderer? Is this Daphne’s dark inheritance? Is she strong enough to battle an evil more frightening than her own past?

Aleister Blake by Valentina Cano

Nora Smith may be the best rat-catcher, pickpocket, and liar in gas-lit London, but her skills can’t help save her brother when he is killed in a fight. That’s when Aleister Blake appears, a man who offers to reclaim her sibling from death. For a price.

At Aleister’s bidding, Nora leaves her life in the streets and moves into his house, one brimming with secrets. There are servants she only sees from the corner of her eyes and an entire second story she can’t access. When Aleister challenges her to help him find what he values most in the world in exchange for keeping her brother alive, she must use all of her talents to follow the only hint he has given her: the ship christened Pandemonium. With the enigmatic Aleister at her heels, Nora chases Pandemonium’s trail right into London’s underbelly, where blackmailers and smugglers thrive. Right to the truth that will force her to finally confront who she is and what it really means to make bargains with the Devil.

A House by the Sea by Ambrose Ibsen

Something has always lived in Winthrop House…

After his book becomes a best-seller, novelist Jack Ripley moves into a house on the edge of Cutler Harbor with his wife and two daughters. Nearly a century old, Winthrop House is newly-restored and boasts a gorgeous oceanfront view.

But everything is not what it seems.

Though picturesque, Jack learns that the house has been shunned for decades by the locals, owing to a number of mysterious disappearances and inexplicable deaths on the grounds.

The Ripleys begin to grapple with the property’s vile reputation, learning more about its sordid history and experiencing strange things within its walls. What was once a dream home quickly becomes a nightmare for the family as they encounter the terrifying presence that has existed there since times immemorial.

The Occultists by Polly Schattel

Sssshhhhhhhh… For Edwardian-era spiritualists and illusionists, silence is more than a strategy; it’s a way of life. And when Max Grahame, a bullied small-town teen, discovers a secretive world of occultism and séances right under his nose, he can hardly contain his excitement.

But as Max begins his conjurer’s lessons in earnest, his newfound knowledge exposes the group’s dark and deeply sinister designs, leading to a game of supernatural cat and mouse that takes him from the ancient hills of rural Georgia and the mystic plains of the Midwest to fin-de-siècle Manhattan… and beyond.

The Shining by Stephen King

Okay, I feel like I have to put a Stephen King novel on this list. I mean, it’s the touchstone for horror fans, right? But where do you start when some of King’s books (looking at you The Stand) are very, very gory. Not this one! The Shining is an absolute classic and if you’ve only ever seen the movie, you are missing out. Very few books give me chills, but this one did.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Do you have requests for lists you’d like to see in the future? Let us know at horroraddicts@gmail.com or on Twitter @horroraddicts13.

Book Review : Clockwork Wonderland

Clockwork Wonderland Review by Ariel Da Wintre

I really enjoyed this Anthology. The book consisted of 14 stories and a poem. It has something
for everyone; scary, intriguing and creative. All the stories have the theme of clocks and Alice in
Wonderland characters. The writers added new characters, taking the classic story and
giving it a horror element. I think this works really well as parts of the original story could be
considered scary all on their own. I found the stories very original and some I didn’t
want to end.

The book starts with a poem by Emerian Rich, “Hatter’s Warning”, and it reminded me of the poems in the original Alice in Wonderland.

The first story is, “Jabberclocky”, by Jonathan Fortin. This story is about a boy named Henry and his unexpected visitor,  the Hatter. I really liked this and I was completely drawn into Henry’s story and the scary Jabberclocky. I loved the end but I didn’t want it to end.

I am still tripped out by the very scary, “Hands of Time” by Stephanie Ellis. It is about an apprentice named Rab who meets an executioner and the timekeeper. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like a bloody good time this is the story for you.

Next, “Clockwork Justice”, by Trinity Adler, is another thrilling story. Alice finds herself in Wonderland and accused of murder. Who did she murder? I won’t say but will she keep her head? Will she solve the crime? All my favorite characters are part of the story Mad Hatter, Cheshire cat and more.

The story, “My Clockwork Valentine”, by Sumiko Saulson is about a girl named Blanche and what happens to her. I loved the imagery in this story and the concept of time. You will get swept away by the story and hope our heroine survives.

“Blood Will Have Blood” by James Pyne, starts with the main character, Alicia, getting pulled into Wonderland and being told she is the new Alice. I think you can see where this is going. I found this story creative and different and it is about a blood clock. It is pretty scary I don’t want to be part of that Wonderland.

I loved “Midnight Dance” by Emerian Rich. This story follows the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It has a very different twist but with characters we all know and love from the book and Zombies!

The next story, “A Room for Alice” by Ezra Barany, is a scary story that follows Alice as she wakes up in a scary place and meets Tweedle D. I enjoyed this story it had lots of plots and twists and left me thinking for some time afterward. It had a lot of creepy elements and I found it very descriptive.

“Frayed Ears” by H.E. Roulo is a story I loved. It has a Rabbit going through many childhood fairy tales. I couldn’t wait to see who would show up next to help the White Rabbit and will he make it on time and who is causing this to happen.

The next story is “King of Hearts,” by Dustin Coffman. This story had a great twist, a guy goes down the rabbit hole instead of Alice. Lenny is checking the closet for his daughter who hears a strange noise and finds himself in Wonderland. He meets the White Rabbit and other characters. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!

“Riddle”, by N. McGuire, is about a young lady named Alice. She follows the white rabbit on a train and she is drawn into a very strange situation with different Wonderland characters.  Will she solve the riddle?

The next story is, “Tick Tock”, by Jaap Boekestein. This story has all the characters you love but they are not the way you remember them. Wonderland is at war and you don’t know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. This story will keep you intrigued.

The story, “Gone A’ Hunting,” by Laurel Anne Hill, follows a young lady named Alease who is chasing the White Rabbit for dinner. She gets more than she’s bargaining for and needs to escape. Will the White Rabbit help her after she was just trying to kill him? Great story, scary to the end.

I really liked “The Note”, by Jeremy Megargee. It had a great concept. Wonderland is not the same and the character telling the story seems so lost and sad. The story has a lot of suspense. I enjoyed the whole vision of this scary wonderland.

The next story is “Half Past”, by K.L. Wallis. This story follows a girl named Alyssa. She is bumped into by someone who drops their pocket watch. She tries to return it and finds herself traveling on a train to Wonderland with Albert Hare. Alyssa ends up going with the hare to his sister Hatty’s home where everyone keeps calling her Alice. There are great twists and turns in this story. The Queen of Hearts in this story which keeps you wondering until the end; will Alyssa/Alice survive.

The final story is, “Ticking Heart”,  by Michele Roger. The story is about a friend of Alice’s coming to visit her in Wonderland and something is very wrong. The Queen of Spades wants to take over and it’s going to be bloody. Will the good guys save Alice and Wonderland?

I enjoyed this collection of short stories thoroughly. I also found myself looking at the cover thinking it really fits this book. I could read these stories over and over again. I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

HorrorAddicts.net 192, SLAY #MochaMemoirs

HASeason16culhorrorshort2

Horror Addicts Episode# 192
SEASON 16 Cultural Horror
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


192 – #SLAY | #valentinewolfe | #vampiresvsbronx | #blackvampires

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

 190 days till Halloween

Music: “I Felt a Funeral” by Valentine Wolfe

Ro’s Recs: #RLMerrill #VisionVideo

Catchup: 2021, better year? pandemic no fun, taxes, no zombies, still have to go to work

Audiodrama: #TheDeadbringer #emmarkoff, music: “Huitzillin” by Sarah Monroy Solis #sarisolis voices by james seo, dave strom, kadirah wade

Daphne’s Den of Darkness: #daphnestarsert #vampires

Frightening Flix: #Kbatz #KristinBatestella Vampires Vs. Bronx

Live Action Reviews: #CrystalConnor #Kindred

Dead Mail: martin: smoking comic, kate: horror movies help you burn calories lovefilm.com, #TheShining

Bigfoot Files: #LionelRayGreen “The Mystery of Bigfoot” #HistoryChannel #AmericasBookofSecrets #WeJustNeedaBody

Historian of Horror: #MarkOrr in memoriam

Odds and Dead Ends: #KieranJudge #Blade #WesleySnipes

Nightmare Fuel: #DJPitsiladis #CongelierHouse 

NEWS: #GabrielandtheApocalypse, #JesseOrr #GypsyMob #FreeFiction, guest blogs: #LMarieWood #ShakespeareanHorror  #religioushorror #monstermadness #freefiction #DanACardoza #DayShift #SnoopDog

Book Review: #EmerianRich #Deadcades #StephanieEllis #ChristopherLong 

Chilling Chat: #NachingTKassa #NicoleKurtz #SLAY

Author Audio: SLAY from #MochaMemoirs

L. Marie Wood “The Dance” #LMarieWood

Penelope Flynn “Unfleamed” #PenelopeFlynn

Alicia McCalla “The Last Vampire Huntress” #AliciaMcCalla

Valjeanne Jeffers “Beautiful Monsters” #ValjeanneJeffers

Michele Tracy Berger “Blood Saviors” #MicheleTracyBerger

Samantha Bryant “His Destroyer” #SamanthaBryant

————————————-

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Also, send show theme ideas!

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h o s t e s s

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h e a d  o f  p u b l i s h i n g

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p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

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b l o g  e d i t o r

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s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Lionel Green, Kieran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, R.L. Merrill, Mark Orr, DJ Pitsiladis, Christopher Fink, Mimielle, Courtney Mroch

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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.”

 

Monster Madness From The Vault: Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

Reblogged from 2/22/2015

Monster Erotica, Really? – It’s a Thing

by Dee Blake

tlflatearthWhile some people don’t like to admit it, many have read some form of erotica in their lifetime.  Sometimes it’s racy modern BSDM, other times it’s historical bodice-rippers, or maybe even madame ” tell-alls”.  But you’ll also find cross-genre offerings of this type as well: fantasy, paranormal or horror erotica in a variety of themes and formats.  Erotica is for everyone who happens to be interested – including those who prefer speculative fiction.

Amongst novels and anthologies of this nature, there’s a niche sub-genre that appeals to those who like their sexy scary and scaly or hairy, an interesting domain known as cryptozoological or monster erotica.  What exactly is this and where might you find it?  Read on and I’ll elaborate.

We’ve all heard legends of vampires, demons or certain fairy creatures getting down and dirty with the common man or woman.  They are the seducers of lore, luring potential prey in with their magical charms, bewitching their victims with their sexy wiles.  That’s the traditional monster erotica fare that you’d expect to find in trendy paranormal romance.   But monster erotica also involves something of the unexpected as well.

My first introduction to this type of erotica was via the tamer folk tales of fairy intruders making nightly visits to human lovers and the dark fantasy of Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth Series which delves into the realm of demon lovers.  It does have glimpses of demon passion, but the story is more fantasy than erotica (recommended reading).

I also encountered the occasional monster tale in the Hot Blood horror erotica anthology series, but the stories in those books are not exclusively monster-themed.  They are, however, a lot of fun.

Beyond that, I discovered the monster-exclusive erotica books out there, dedicated to naughty close encounters of a different kind – and apparently, they sell like hotcakes (see the i09 article and Goodreads has a list dedicated to it) And writers don’t stick to the traditional legendary seducers either.  You’ll find a diverse offering of creatures, from well-endowed yeti to shape-shifting dragons, from melancholy mermen to monsters under the bed (I mean, if they’re hanging out there, why not invite them up? Right?)

Despite its apparent popularity, the sub-genre has not been without its controversy.  There are those out there who see it as odd, disturbing or questionable to some degree, and Amazon has played hardball with authors, questioning whether or not their content was in violation of Amazon content guidelines.  That may have slowed production down somewhat, but it certainly hasn’t stopped it.  It’s a matter of demand and supply, after all.

Obstacles aside, I believe monster erotica is here to stay.  Silly or serious, it offers a novel form of escapism that is both titillating and a little terrifying. As long as readers keep asking for it, I think writers will be willing to provide.

I mean, if you’re going to fantasize, why not go all the way?

*****************

DBDee Blake is an emerging erotica writer whose work has been published on breatlessnights.com and in Apokrupha’s Fur and Fang anthology. She aspires to be the next Anais Nin.

Book Birthday : #NGHW Editor’s Pick: New Publication and Blog Tour

 

The following is an Anniversary re-post of an article presented on March 2018

HorrorAddicts.net continues our Horror Bites series with a bundle of new fiction by our Next Great Horror Writer Contestants.

Featuring work by:

Jonathan Fortin
Naching T. Kassa
Daphne Strasert
Jess Landry
Harry Husbands
Sumiko Saulson
Adele Marie Park
Feind Gottes
JC Martínez
Cat Voleur
Abi Kirk-Thomas
Timothy G. Huguenin
Riley Pierce
Quentin Norris

With an introduction by Emerian Rich.

 

HorrorAddicts.net is proud to present our top 14 contestants in the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. The included stories, scripts, and poems are the result of the hard work and dedication these fine writers put forth to win a book contract. Some learned they loved writing and want to pursue it as a career for the rest of their lives. Some discovered they should change careers either to a different genre of writing or to a new career entirely. Whatever lessons came along the way, they each learned something about themselves and grew as writers. We hope you enjoy the writing as much as we did.

Just 99 cents at Amazon.com

 HorrorAddicts.net

for Horror Addicts, by Horror Addicts

Listen to the HorrorAddicts.net podcast for the latest in horror news, reviews, music, and fiction.

HorrorAddicts.net Press

www.horroraddicts.net

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.

 

 

HorrorAddicts.net Press Presents: Two Book Birthdays Today/Horrible Disasters and Plague Master Sanctuary Dome

Horrible Disasters

hahdfront-coverA Horror Disaster Anthology
Available now on Amazon.com

HorrorAddicts.net proudly presents Horrible Disasters. Thirteen authors from around the globe share their visions of terror set during real natural disasters throughout history. Travel back in time to earth shattering events like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and the Winter of Terror avalanches, 1950. What supernatural events went unnoticed? What creatures caused such destruction without remorse? Stock your emergency kit, hunker in your bunker, and prepare for… Horrible Disasters.

Cover Art by: Thierry Pouzergues

Edited by: Larraine Barnard

authors:
Emerian Rich
H. E. Roulo
Dan Shaurette
Steve Merrifield
Mark Eller
Laurel Anne Hill
Timothy Reynolds
Ed Pope
Jennifer Rahn
Chris Ringler
Philip Carroll
Mike McGee
Garth von Buchholz

Proceeds to benefit Disaster Relief by way of the non-profit agency, Rescue Task Force.

Women in Horror Month: Always the Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

Always The Fool by Melissa R. Mendelson

I was meant to be home today, but they called me in, ignoring the pass day. The operator was vague. Some kind of babble about someone calling out sick, but we were all assigned to certain days. If something came up, if someone was sick, the deliveries would be held until the next day, but if I dared question the system, the fine would be heavy. I was already broke.

I reported to the dock at nine a.m. My pay was docked one hour. The system did not care for traffic or construction or any other kind of delay. Work started at eight a.m., and my locker was stuck. It took forever to jar the door open, throw my stuff inside, and slip into that uncomfortable, gray plastic suit. The gloves were even more uncomfortable, and I couldn’t find my face mask. But they didn’t punish me for that.

“One delivery,” the guard said to me as the door opened. “Take it down to the inferno.”

“One delivery? I was called in on my pass day for one delivery?”

“You got a problem with the system?” The guard watched me shake my head. “Good, and where’s your damn face mask? Those fumes will kill you.”

“I don’t know. I think someone was in my locker.”

“Well, you got one delivery, and then you’ll be sent on your way. Just hold your breath.” He signed the clipboard that he held, making a strange, red mark by my name. “Cart’s waiting.” He raised his eyebrows up at me, and I slowly moved away. “What a waste,” he muttered.

I steadied my hands along the cart. Sometimes, they were so heavy to push, but this one was light. The grab slab on the flatbed was the same size, width and height, but it weighed nothing. I was tempted to open it, but I never wanted to look inside those things. I never wanted to know what it was that I was pushing into the inferno. I would not question the system. One delivery, and then I would be on my way like the guard said.

I stepped into the warehouse. I pretended that the cart was heavy, taking my time to the inferno. I could smell it already, an ugly, burnt smell. Where the hell did my face mask go, and who would have taken it? I glanced up at the corridors along the warehouse, spotting others pushing their gray slabs to the inferno, some returning this way with empty carts to reload. One delivery. What a joke.

“Put a face mask on,” a youth remarked as he skid by. This did not bother him. Instead, if he racked up enough deliveries, he could leave early and game all night. That’s what he lived for, but those older knew better. There was no escape from the system.

“Delivery.” I finally made it to the steel doors. Maybe, I should have quickened in pace. I wanted to go home not to game but to sleep. My dreams were pleasant, unlike this harsh reality. I swiped my badge over the panel, but it did not turn yellow. “What the hell? It worked yesterday,” and I swiped again.

“Supervisor notified.” The operator’s voice boomed overhead. She was always cold, indifferent, hardly human, but that’s how she survived. “Please, wait,” she said.

My stomach flipped. I had the rationed meal. One bowl of oatmeal and a glass of milk with a few lumps. I was not privileged for more better quality food or drink. Sometimes, after a successful week, I would be rewarded with a chicken or fish dinner and not that gray stuff that they called meat. I haven’t had that kind of dinner in a long time.

“Collar?” The supervisor appeared on the scene. He stood six feet back. “Collar,” he repeated.

“6543219,” I said.

“Right. Pass day?”

“Today,” I answered, and he caught the annoyed tone. “Called in,” I said. “One delivery.” I hid my tone that time. “Here to deliver.”

“Come inside.” The supervisor swiped his badge, and the steel doors opened. “No face mask?”

“No,” I answered.

“Try not to breathe.” He smiled as he said that, and I did not like that smile. He followed me inside. “You were here for the visit last week?”

I pushed the cart into the dim room, pretending it was still heavy. I felt the fires from the inferno, an ugly machinery with various doors for various floors, all leading to the same end result. Burned. “Yes, I was here,” I said, trying to hold my breath, but I could already taste that smell.

“And you saw him?”

“What?” I realized that the supervisor was close, and I cringed. “Saw who? The Auditor?”

“No. Not the Auditor. Him.”

I knew who he was talking about. I passed by the dining room and saw all that food stretched out on the decorated conference table. I was so hungry, but I did not dare to venture inside, even for a bite. That’s when I realized that he was there at the head of the table, eating like a pig.

“You saw him.” That was not a question. “You watched him eat.”

“Okay. Yeah. I saw him, and I watched him eat. Can I throw the delivery in now?”

“He didn’t like that. You watching him eat.” The supervisor walked away from me. He approached the gray slab on the flatbed. “He reported you, and that’s why you are here.”

“That’s why I was called in on my pass day for one delivery? Because of that? Watching him eat?”

“Yes.” The supervisor did not look at me. He stared at the gray slab. “Do you ever question what it is that you are always burning?” He watched me shake my head. “These gray slabs are large, large enough for a human body.”

I paled at his words. “Excuse me,” I said.

“They are large enough for human bodies,” and he threw open the gray slab, revealing nothing inside. “Get inside,” he said.

“What? Wait. We’re burning people? Alive?”

“Get inside.” I noticed the gun in his hand. “Your choice. Alive or Dead.”

“For what? Watching him eat his fucking food?”

The supervisor’s finger wrapped around the trigger. “You offended him, and this is your punishment. Get inside the gray slab.”

“There has to be another way. Please,” I begged, and the gun went off. The bullet pierced my leg. The next hit my shoulder. I realized that he did not want to kill me. He wanted to burn me alive. I burned so many people alive, and I never realized it. But my supervisor knew, and he knew exactly what he was doing now. And for what? The system? “Please,” I screamed as he lifted me up and threw me into the gray slab.

“Save it,” and he slammed the gray slab shut.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Melissa R. Mendelson is a Horror and Science-Fiction Author.  She has been published by Sirens Call Publications, Dark Helix Press and Transmundane Press.  Her short stories have also been featured on Tall Tale TV.  She is currently working on completing her Horror novel, Ghost in the Porcelain, which surrounds an evil, porcelain doll.

Women i n Horror: Infection by E. A. Black

Hello, Horror Addicts! I write horror as E. A. Black. I’m on social media as Elizabeth Black. I live in Lovecraft country on the northeast coast of Massachusetts. If Innsmouth were a real town, it would be a ten minute drive from my home.

My story, “Infection”, which appears below, originally appeared in the anthology “Teeming Terrors”. Here’s the blurb for the book:

Nature. Filled with wonder, beauty, majesty and mystery. Also filled with things that want to kill us. Normal things, little ordinary things. Things that creep and crawl. Things that fly, swim, scuttle and slither. Things that you might expect and be rightfully phobic about … as well as things you may have never imagined as a threat. Individually, maybe they wouldn’t be. But that’s just it. They aren’t coming for you individually. They’re coming for you in swarms, in flocks and hordes, in masses and multitudes. They’re coming for you by the thousands. They are … TEEMING TERRORS.

“Infection” is one of my favorite stories that I have written, and I’m happy to share it with Horror Addicts for Women in Horror Month. Enjoy!

Infection

By E. A. Black

April Jones was cursed with a stubborn husband. John Jones had been weeding the garden and mowing the lawn this hot July 1st when he ran over strange circles in the grass. Fearing a wasp infestation, he dug into the grass around the circles and poured bug killer into them, despite Mrs. Jones telling him she thought that was a very bad idea. As usual, he wouldn’t listen to her. At least a swarm of nasties didn’t emerge from the grass and sting him.

Oh, no, it was worse than that.

The wound on his calf started as a rash accompanied by fever and chills. A day later, the flu symptoms had passed but his lower leg swelled up, and it was painful to put any weight on it. Tiny pustules erupted where she presumed the bite originated, but there was no bull’s eye so it wasn’t a brown recluse bite. Maybe there were wasps in the grass and one of them stung him, but she had never seen a wasp sting as angry as this. She begged him to go to the doctor but he refused, having the temperament of a mule.

By dusk on July 4th, the pain was excruciating and she finally succeeded in talking him to going to the emergency room. The wound nurse took one look and immediately ordered him to a room overnight for observation. She feared MRSA. Being ordered to stay in the hospital terrified Mrs. Jones. She wasn’t used to being on her own, and who knew how long her husband would be hospitalized? This wound could have been more serious than she and Mr. Jones had originally had thought, and MRSA was nothing to sneeze at. The nurse also ordered a CAT scan since she suspected he had an abscess. Mr. and Mrs. Jones waited in his room for the CAT scan results when he began to squirm with an uncomfortable look on his face.

“April, something’s very wrong. It feels like something’s moving in there.”

“What do you mean, moving? Why didn’t you tell the nurse?”

“I was too scared. It’s probably just my imagination. And the rash is warm to the touch. Are rashes normally like that?”

“None that I’ve seen. I told you to not dig up the lawn. You never listen to me.”

“Don’t nag me now.”

“Something stung you?”

“What else could it be?” He doubled over, gripping his belly in his arms. Mrs. Jones placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him, but in her fear she really had no idea what to do to help him. She had never before felt so useless. “Oh, God, I’m gonna be sick. Something’s wrong. It’s bad. I don’t like this.”

Blood erupted from the center of the boil to trickle in a thin line down his leg. Pus oozed from the small opening. The tissue around the wound had darkened, turning nearly black. In a panic, since she knew enough about wounds to know black tissue meant dead tissue, Mrs. Jones rushed into the hallway to see if the doctor was on his way. She overheard the nurse said something to the doctor about necrosis, and her stomach seized in fear. The doctor turned her way and caught her eye. She saw alarm and concern on his face as she waved him down.

He quickly made his way to Mr. Jones’s room with the wound nurse on his heels. Mr. Jones had turned on his side on the bed, clutching his stomach. All the color had drained from his face, and Mrs. Jones knew the color had drained from her own as well.

“I think I’m going to throw up. It’s open and I’m bleeding. The pain is terrible. Can’t you give me something?” Mr. Jones wailed.

“I’m Doctor Frisorra, Mr. Jones. I’m going to open it up and scoop out the infection.” The doctor said. He was a surly sort but his caustic demeanor didn’t hide the alarm in his eyes. “The CAT scan revealed an abscess about the size of a baseball, but your entire lower leg has swelled up. I don’t know why you feel sick. You shouldn’t, but once the infection is gone I’m sure you’ll feel better. We’ll put you on an i.v. of antibiotics and keep you here overnight for observation. Let me get it out of you first and then we’ll give you some painkillers.”

“Something’s moving in there. I feel it crawling around, lots of things, tiny things. Oh, God, it hurts.” Mr. Jones buried his face in his pillow. “Please, get it out of me. Now!”

“Okay, Mr. Jones, I need you to calm down. I can’t open your leg with you thrashing about. Lie on your back and I’ll get started.” The doctor said.

“John, lie back.” Mrs. Jones said. “You’re going to be alright but you have to do what the doctor says.”

He turned onto his back and shoved a fist in his mouth, squinting his eyes in pain. The doctor turned to the wound nurse.

“Gauze and alcohol.” He said.

She handed him both. He poured alcohol onto the gauze and then swabbed the wound and the rash around it. Then, he tossed the waste into a trash can with a red bag inside with biohazard symbols on the plastic.

“I’m going to inject a numbing agent into your wound, Mr. Jones. This will help you with the pain. It’s a topical painkiller.”

The wound nurse prepared the injection and handed the syringe over to the doctor, who injected close to the wound’s opening. A high-pitched but faint buzzing droned around Mrs. Jones, as if it came directly from the wound but much like a cricket’s chirping it was hard to tell exactly where it came from. It sounded similar to air being let out of a balloon. The noise was shrill and angry, but so faint she thought she imagined it. Maybe it was an I.V. alarm going off down the hall. The nurses let those things beep forever, but somehow, Mrs. Jones doubted that was the case. That noise came from her husband’s wound, and it scared her.

“Did you hear that?” Mrs. Jones whispered.

The doctor looked up. “I’m not sure what that was. Let’s get the wound opened and cleaned out. Scalpel.” He said.

The nurse opened a small package to reveal a sterile scalpel, which she handed to the doctor. Mrs. Jones held her breath as the doctor’s steady hand approached the wound, which by now had turned a deep shade of rose with black edges and yellow pustules erupting on the surface. Mr. Jones gripped his t-shirt in his fists so hard his knuckles had blanched. Terror etched across his face. What the hell was wrong with his leg? Was it a brown recluse bite after all?

The doctor leaned over his leg and cut down the center of the boil. Blood gushed out, running down his leg and staining the bed linens. Creamy yellow pus filled the wound. As the doctor picked up the instrument to scrape out the infection, that shrill keening sounded again, coming directly from the opening he had cut.

Mrs. Jones backed away, closer to the bathroom.

The doctor inserted the instrument into the wound, and Mrs. Jones was shocked to see it disappear nearly an inch into his calf. When he scraped along the inside, Mr. Jones cried out in agony, but Mrs. Jones barely heard him. Hundreds if not thousands of tiny mites flew from the wound’s opening, covering the doctor’s white jacket so thickly it appeared to be crawling. They flew onto the nurse, who swatted at them, screaming and howling with surprise and terror. Mr. Jones screamed and crept up the bed towards the wall, but the mites surrounded him, flying in his face and against his arms and legs until they held fast.

Then they began to bite.

A cloud of the creatures attacked Mrs. Jones, but she managed to swat them off as she ran to the bathroom and shut the door. They nipped at her arms and face, biting her with their sharp, tiny teeth. They tore into her skin, drawing blood and stinging her as if she were dying by a thousand paper cuts. She slapped at them, pulled them from her hair, stomped them onto the floor. 

As she wrestled with the creatures, the screaming started outside the bathroom door. She recognized her husband’s shrieking and feared opening the door to rush out to help him. What were those things doing to him? Getting a closer look at the ones she had swatted, she leaned over a dead one on the sink.

The creature was about an inch long and dark green. It had two legs instead of the usual six or eight she expected from an insect or arachnid. It also had two tiny arms with fists it held into balls. She pried one fist open with a fingernail to reveal talon-like claws, sharp as needles. What was left of its head sported blonde hair and a strangely humanoid face. Gossamer thin crepe wings folded along the back.

What kind of insect was this? Was it an immature locust? These creatures moved in swarms, just the way locusts did. The problem was she’d never seen a locust that looked like this. She’d never seen a live locust period, but she had seen pictures of them. This was no locust.

She thought back to the rings her husband found in the grass as he mowed the lawn, and how he dug into a few of them to see the damage they did to the soil. She wracked her brain until she remembered where she had read about rings in the grass.

Fairy rings. Her husband had disturbed a nest of fairies. She stared at the creature as if she viewed a particularly noxious bug. These were not the sweet little Tinkerbelles of Disney movies. These fairies were the vicious and malevolent beings from folklore – and they took up residence in her lawn and in her husband’s leg.

And now they were loose in the hospital.

Screaming in the room and down the hall intensified until it reached a crescendo. Heart racing with dread, she leaned against the door, holding it shut as tiny bodies slammed into the opposite side. Scraping sounds like needles being dragged along the door grated from the other side as if they tried to claw their way in. She stared at the tiny being on the sink, wondering how something so small could cause so much damage.

It twitched.

She wailed.

It shrieked a sound like a tea kettle boiling. As it reared up it split open down the back. Another larger creature emerged from the shell. Now, it was nearly three inches long. Mrs. Jones wondered how many others had molted. She recoiled from it, fearing to even approach it, but as it cried in outrage she gathered her resolve and picked it up between thumb and forefinger by the hair. It writhed in her grip, wings flapping, jaws snapping, trying to claw her with those talons. Glaring at her, it hissed the word “die” over and over again. She started at the sound of its high-pitched voice hissing in English. She nearly dropped it, but she held fast.

Her fingers felt sticky, as if they were covered in slime. The same sticky substance smeared on her arms, legs, and face. She used her free hand to wipe it off her cheek only to streak it further along. It smelled of violets. In fact, the fairies themselves smelled of wildflowers. Mrs. Jones wore a perfume similar to the scent. Could the stickiness have come from their bodies as they rubbed up against her? 

The screaming from the other side of the door had stopped. Fearing what lay behind the door but knowing she had no choice but to free herself, she opened the door. As she took her first two tentative steps out of the bathroom, the fairy in her hand ceased struggling and became quiet. When Mrs. Jones looked into the room, her heart nearly stopped in shock.

The stench of gore and feces slammed Mrs. Jones in the face amid that strange scent of wildflowers. Doctor Frisorra lay on his side, hands clawed in front of his mangled face. His white lab coat was covered with so much blood and tissue it had turned crimson. Heart racing with dread, she looked to the hospital bed where her husband lay. His mouth was open in a scream cut off by violence. Lips and nose decimated and eyelids gnawed away, his face forever would hold a surprised and outraged expression. The skin had been clawed and eaten away from his forehead, cheeks, and chin, leaving muscle and tendons exposed. His hands could not protect his face from the onslaught, since his fingers had been gnawed down to the bone. Blood covered the bedsheets. Mrs. Jones clamped a hand over her mouth, trying to hold back a wail of grief and horror. In her fear, she let go of the fairy in her other hand, and it flew out of the room and down the hall. 

Following the creature, she walked into the hall to be greeted by carnage. Moans of pain and wails of terror echoed along the blood-smeared walls. Nurses crawled along the floor, many with their eyes gouged and eaten out, groping about blind. Stunned, Mrs. Jones made her way down the hallway dodging bodies and slipping in blood. She never before felt so alone. Normally her husband took charge, but now she had to fend for herself. She didn’t think she’d last long, not in her frazzled and frightened condition. She paused by every open door, expecting a wall of the detestable vermin to attack her. She sped down the hallway until she reached the Emergency Room exit. 

The creatures were gone but they couldn’t be far. Where did they go?

An ambulance idled in the entryway. Two EMTs sprawled on the ground at the back of the vehicle. The sky was strangely dark. When she took a closer look upward, panic took over and she urgently sought a place to hide. The creatures filled the sky, blocking the setting sun. They swarmed like insects, attaching themselves to the hospital buildings and rapping their soft bodies against glass. Several grasped rocks and slammed them into windows, attempting entry. Red brick teemed black with the creatures. 

She froze in place, fearing if they noticed her they’d attack. Where had they all come from? They certainly couldn’t all have come from her husband’s wound. She didn’t have time to ponder. What to do, what to do? Her car was in the parking lot across the street. If she walked slowly they might not pay her mind. It was only 50 feet away. If she could make it inside her car and drive away – maybe home – she’d be safe.

Maybe. It all depended on how widespread their reach was.

She held her arms against her body and cradled her head close to her chest, trying to make herself look as small and as unassuming as possible. The creatures flew above her, making a high-pitched humming sound presumably from the flapping of their wings. A few zoomed in front of her as she walked, and she gasped at the sight of them, but they ignored her. She wasn’t sure why, but they had sniffed at her and then went their merry way. Maybe her violet perfume and the residue they left on her skin sent them away? Could they have mistaken her for one of their own?

They flitted about in a hurky-jerky motion like hummingbirds, but not nearly as endearing. Several of them dive-bombed her, nearly getting caught in her hair. It took all her resolve to resist swatting them away. One stopped long enough to give her a quizzical look. It hissed at her, tossed a pebble at her face, but then it flew away, paying her no more attention. 

That one was much larger than the one she held at in the hospital bathroom. It was at least four inches long and a vivid blue. Most of the ones flying about her were the size of the palm of her hand. She passed a tree and saw bodies clinging to it, but upon a closer look she realized she gazed at empty shells – molted skin left behind as the creatures grew.

Finally reaching the road, she was about to take a step into it when a Toyota roared past, wavering all over the asphalt and even jumping onto the sidewalk. Mrs. Jones leaped out of the way before the car could hit her. As it sped by, she saw the driver inside fighting a cloud of creatures so thick the inside of the car had darkened to pitch black. The car zoomed past only to crash into a utility pole and burst into flames. The explosion hurled Mrs. Jones backwards onto the grass. Human screaming amid the shrill cries of the fairies assaulted her ears, and she clamped her hands over them so she would not hear the terror in that person’s voice. The clouds of creatures overhead flew to the wreckage, giving Mrs. Jones time to race to her car without being noticed.

She fumbled with her keys, her fingers not working well enough to grip them. She dropped them as she watched the creatures wailing around their fallen comrades. Stooping over to pick up her keys, her trembling fingers dropped them again. Damn it, woman, get your act together! One last time, she gripped the entire keychain in her hand and shoved the car key near the lock but missed, scraping the blue paint on the door. Finally, she aimed the key at the lock and nailed her goal. Turning the lock, the audible click attracted the attention of the creatures. 

She tore open the door and hauled herself inside just as a swarm of bodies reached the door. Three of them were caught on the door, hissing, spitting and cursing her. When she slammed the door shut, they sliced in half. Their bodies fell to the car’s floor, convulsing in their death throes. The rest slammed against the door and window, howling their outrage at her getting away from them. A cloud descended upon her car, slapping the glass and banging their fists against the sides and roof. Thankfully, they had grown so much they were too large to fit into her ventilation system so they didn’t get into the car through the air conditioning and heating vents. She put her key in the ignition, turned over the engine, and high-tailed it out of the parking lot. 

She needed to get home. Alone, she cried as she drove, not sure what to do to get herself out of this miserable situation. If only Mr. Jones were with her. He’d know what to do.

With a start, she remembered her 24 year old son Paul was home. She grabbed her phone and dialed his number but he didn’t pick up.

Oh, God, I hope he’s alright. 

It was hard to see the road through the bodies but she drove in as straight a line as she could. Turning on the windshield wipers, she shoved fairies aside until she could see her way in front of her. Fireworks celebrating Independence Day lit up creatures that flew overhead. She hit the accelerator until she reached 40 MPH and then hit the brakes. Bodies hurtled from the car, landing on the road in front of her. She pressed down on the gas again and drove over a multitude of little bodies, the car bumping as she drove. They crackled and squished as she drove over them, and she used her squeamishness to continue on her journey. The clouds of creatures seemed to go on forever. Could she safely make it home? First, get onto the main road into town, and then she could worry about her son.

More fireworks burst overhead, competing with the full moon. Mrs. Jones turned on the radio, hoping for some answers.

‘… lock yourself in your homes and board up all entryways including doors and windows. The cause is unknown. The Army has been notified and is on its way to town…”

Switch to a different station.

“… seems to be contained to Norwich, Massachusetts. There are no reports of infestations in nearby Rockport, Ipswich, and Gloucester…”

She lived on the edge of Norwich. If she could get home, get Paul, and get out of town they might be safe.

The ten minute drive home seemed to stretch on for hours. A yellow corona exploded overhead followed by myriad red starbursts. The fireworks provided a strange backdrop for the clouds of fairies following her home. They slammed into her windshield, grasping at the wipers and trying to break them off but they did not succeed. Spraying them with windshield washer fluid only pissed them off even more. Why did John have to go dig up those infernal rings in the grass? 

If he hadn’t, would they have only emerged later to catch them even more unawares?

Neighbors had been ravaged as the creatures had attacked. The Clark children two doors down from her home lay sprawled in the grass, bodies torn as they had played with a Frisbee. The scent of burned meat wafted from a smoking grill. Mrs. Clark lay facedown on the porch, her head on the bottom step and her feet on the top. A tray of burgers spilled onto the ground. The paperboy’s bike lay in the middle of the road. The boy himself had made it as far as the tall oak in Mrs. Jones’s front yard. Fairies squatted on him, tearing at his clothing and chattering amongst themselves. They stopped chattering to watch Mrs. Jones drive by. The sight sickened her. She knew the paperboy quite well. Gave him a gift every Christmas. She didn’t get along with the Clarks but no one deserved an end like that.

She pulled into her driveway, crushing the creatures beneath her tires as she put the gear into park. Paul’s car was in front of her, and it was covered with bodies that by now had grown to be nearly a foot long. They gaped at her from inside the car. Only a half hour ago they were the size of mites. Molting and growing quickly, their formidable natures astounded her. How much larger would they get? Their colors ranged from vivid blue to deep hunter green and violet. Some stretched their wings and wrapped them around their bodies as if they were chilled. Every one of them stared at her from the porch, the stairs, inside Paul’s car, the sills and the roof. Thousands of glowing eyes glared at her. How was she going to get into the house? And was her son alive?

The shutters on both floors had been pulled and locked. The creatures had torn her prized rose bushes to shreds, and she felt a pang of sadness over the loss. There would be many losses today. Before stepping out of the car, she doused herself with perfume hoping to keep them at bay. Fearing her son had succumbed to their attacks, she unlocked her car door and quietly opened it one inch.

The fairies didn’t move. They only continued to stare at her. Why were they so quiet? Was it her perfume? She could only hope.

She opened the door, gently moving several of them out of her way. They appeared to be resting, as if exhausted but not exhausted enough to sleep. Dormant, their hive mind dozed enough for her to emerge from her car and take tentative steps to the porch. One or two lashed out with their sharp claws, drawing blood on her ankles, but she didn’t flinch. With slow movements she took five excruciating minutes to make it to the porch and the front door. She took her key, turned it in the door’s lock, and opened the door enough so she could slip inside her house without the creatures following.

The living room was quiet and dark. No fairies lurked within. Smoke filled the first floor. Ah, Paul must have cooked steak again. He always smoked up the house when he cooked beef. The smoke may have repulsed the fairies enough to keep them outside.

There was no sign of Paul. She resisted calling out his name or making any noise out of fear she’d attract the creatures’ attention and they’d swarm again. 

The only way to find him was to go door to door until he revealed himself. What if she found him as mangled as she found John? No, don’t think about that. Just find him. 

She walked through the empty kitchen and opened the bathroom door to find no one. That left the second floor. She climbed the stairs, careful to not make the third step creak the way it always did. Moving with stealth, she reached the landing and heard thumping sounds coming from one of the back bedrooms. Fearing Paul was being mauled, she raced to the door, opened it, and went inside.

“Paul, we have to get out of here…”

Fairies perched on tables, chairs, and shelves. They clung to the curtains in front of a broken window. When they heard Mrs. Jones’s voice, they came to life and flew from their perches to swarm around her, clawing at her face, her hands, and her bare legs. Wailing, she waved her hands in front of her to fend them off but they only came on stronger; wave after wave of bodies crashing into her. Sliding down the wall as they tore at her hair and bit her forearms, she crumbled in a ball on the hardwood floor. They pushed on the door behind her, slamming it into her lower back and causing pain to shoot into her spine. Then, she felt two large hands grab her feet and pull her through the door’s opening.

“Mom, are you hurt?” Paul said as he shut the door and locked it. The fairies beat against the frame from the other side in a futile attempt to get out.

“I’m okay. What are we going to do?”

“I’ve packed for us. I called you but you didn’t pick up.” He pointed to two suitcases. “Where’s John?”

Mrs. Jones cried. “He didn’t make it.”

“The radio says they’re only here in Norwich. If we can get in the car and make it out of town, I think we’ll be fine.”

“I hope you’re right. I told John to leave those grass circles alone but he wouldn’t listen to me–”

He squeezed her shoulders. “They’re coming from those holes in the back yard. I watched them from the window. I already called 911. The Army is coming to plug them up but we have to get out of here. Now.”

They quietly walked downstairs, Mrs. Jones holding one suitcase and Paul holding the other. More than anything, she wanted to hole up in her house and wait until the Army dealt with the miserable vermin, but she no longer felt safe in her own home. The only thing to do was to leave with her son and wait until it was safe to return, assuming it would ever be safe. She’d never feel safe in this house again.

Before he could open the front door, Mrs. Jones explained their curious behavior in light of her perfume and the sticky substance they left on her skin. She sprayed Paul all over with violet scent. She prayed the fairies wouldn’t attack.

Paul opened the front door, drawing it out as slowly as he could. The bodies on the porch had increased. To her surprise, the creatures had moved but they continued to sit as if dozed. Some sprawled in circles on the porch – large circles, small ones, several where they sat stacked atop each other. They chanted in a language she couldn’t understand, but what they sang resembled an incantation. While they acknowledged her presence as well as Paul’s, they neither attacked nor lashed out. It was as if they operated from one mind and that mind was too preoccupied to pay any attention to the two humans who made their way to Mrs. Jones’s car.

Mrs. Jones swept them aside in slow motions with her feet as she made her way the four feet to the steps. She gazed at her destroyed garden in the direction of the holes where her husband had dug out the fairy circles. Rather than pour from the holes as she expected to see, the creatures flew into them, searching for what remained of their stomping grounds. Fireworks continued to illuminate the clouds of fairies that flew overhead. Such a strange sight – a festival of independence marred by creatures that rendered all humans in Norwich helpless to defend themselves. 

Once they reached the car, Paul placed the suitcases in the back seat, all the while moving as slowly as possible. Neither he nor Mrs. Jones called attention to themselves lest they attract unwanted and tragic attention. Rather than slam the door shut, he closed it with a gentle click. The sound boomed in Mrs. Jones’s ears, and she watched the fairies but they did not attack. Mrs. Jones walked to the passenger side, opened the door, and took the front seat. Paul made it to the driver’s seat without difficulty. Once inside, he placed the key in the ignition, turned it, and the car roared to life.

They sat in total silence, watching how the creatures reacted to the car’s engine. A few pounded on the windshield and stomped on the roof. One stood in front of Mrs. Jones, gnawing at the windshield wiper and scratching its substantial claws against the glass. It was nearly a foot long with filmy wings the hue of an oil slick and a body the color of brick. The malevolence on its face terrified Mrs. Jones, but she clenched her jaw in silence. Paul put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. 

“Let’s head to Gloucester.” Mrs. Jones said. “The radio said they didn’t get that far.”

Paul turned the radio knob.

“… have invaded Rockport, Gloucester, and have been seen as far as Beverly Farms.” Beverly Farms was 15 miles away. She checked the gas gauge.

There was less than a quarter tank of gas in the car.

Maybe by the time they reached Beverly Farms the creatures would have moved on. She gazed out the window. Fairies converged on the grass, tore apart bushes, and danced on telephone lines. Starting up the car must have roused them from their stupor. She turned her head away in horror as a gang of them attacked a German shepherd chained to a pole outside a split-level. Paul drove along the narrow one-lane road out of town, and Mrs. Jones closed her eyes in her futile attempt to ignore the sound of bodies crunching beneath the tires. Her heart raced and she picked the cuticles on her fingernails as they drove in silence save for the radio that just announced the fairies had been seen 40 miles away in Boston.

Maybe they’d make it safely out of town before they ran out of gas.

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The idea for this story came to me after my husband spent some time in the hospital with an infection in his leg. It was pretty gross. I based John Jones in the story on him, and he got a major kick out of me killing him off, LOL. We have very bent senses of humor. Here’s a conversation we had about his leg.

Me: “Your wound is really disgusting. Make sure you do what the doctor tells you. Don’t be stubborn.

Him: Me? Stubborn? Never!

Me: Yes. You. Stubborn. That thing looks like it’s going to burst any moment. You know what’s going to come out of it?

Him: Puss?

Me: Spiders!

Him: You have watched far too many horror movies. That’s why I love you.

Me: I love you, too!

Here’s where to find me on the web:

Elizabeth Black – Facebook https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

E. A. Black – Blog and Web Site http://eablack-writer.blogspot.com

E.A. Black – Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/E.A.-Black/e/B00BBWHMFM

E. A. Black – GoodReads (I didn’t create this page. I’d like to thank whoever did, if I knew that person’s identity.)

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468111.E_A_Black

Elizabeth Black – Newsletter http://eepurl.com/b76GWD   

I’ve just started a new writing gig with a game company. It’s so new I don’t have much to report yet, but I will say I’m having a blast. I’m now a game developer! I’m also finishing my first horror novel. Here are my latest appearances in anthologies:

Jester of Hearts – my story is Trailer Trash Zombies

Wicked Women: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers – my story is The Fetch

The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories – my story is The Storm

Horror For Hire: Second Shift – my story is A Job To Die For

Fark in the Time of Covid: The 2020 Fark Fiction Anthology– my story is A Skirmish Outside Beaufort

 

 

 

Women In Horror: Regrets by Jess Chua

Regrets by Jess Chua
“Sophia was a bohsia, okay? End of story.”Irfan put out his cigarette as he strolled home with his best buddy, Dinesh.“What is it with girls and women nowadays?” Dinesh said sadly. “They used to be so sweet and gadis baik (good girl types).”

“Nowadays, love stands for legs-open-very-easily.” Irfan looked around at the leaves rustling in the breeze. “Glad Sophia was just a one night stand. That’s all she was worth.”

Sophia, he thought. Pretty face…cute curves…and a little bit of a birdbrain.

She had a thing for bad boys with motorcycles. Irfan was the hot bad boy that many girls found irresistible.

It was too bad that she had recently gotten into a terrible highway accident involving a drunk rider. Sophia hadn’t made it out alive.

“Do you have any regrets?” Dinesh asked.

“About?”

The two young men let the silence in the air do most of the talking. Sophia had become a stage five clinger relatively quickly after hooking up with Irfan. Perhaps her absence was somewhat of a relief if Irfan wanted to be honest about it.

“Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. I—” Dinesh froze for a second as he felt something ice-cold rush through his body. The impact was almost enough to knock him off his feet.

The voice of a banshee screeched: “The baby was YOURS!!!”

When Dinesh turned around, Irfan was lying eviscerated on the ground. A pale ghostly image with Sophia’s face and bloodied hands hovered over Irfan’s dead body before vanishing off into the woods.

Perhaps Irfan would have expressed some regrets, if he was still able to respond.

###

Author Bio: Jess Chua is a writer and editor for a personal development podcast. Her microfiction was a runner-up in the Mysterious Photograph contest at Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She enjoys yoga, healthy cooking, and spending time with her pets. Her website is www.jesschuabooks.com

Meet the Author: Brian Craddock

Brian Craddock is widely published in horror anthologies, establishing a lead in character Richard Dalziel to navigate the majority of his short fiction. Collected, these stories are The Dalziel Files, set around the globe. Of these, “Ismail’s Expulsion”, set in Pakistan, won the Long Fiction Award at the 2018 Australian Shadows Awards. Brian has two novels available: Chuwa: The Rat People of Lahore (set in Pakistan) and Eucalyptus Goth (set in Australia).
CHUWA: THE RAT PEOPLE OF LAHORE
This novel is set in Pakistan, about a woman caught up in conflict between mafia and monsters. The book was shortlisted in the 2019 Aurealis Awards.
I have a sequel in development.
THE CEMETERY CHILDREN
This horror/sci-fi short-story is set in Indonesia, in the future. I was inspired after meeting a group of children in Jakarta who use their local cemetery as a playground, due to lack of public parks to play in. They would put “makeup” on the angel statues, using chalk and crayons.
THE DALZIEL FILES
My collection of horror short stories (free to read on Kindle Unlimited), nominated as a finalist for Collected Works in the 2018 Australian Shadow Awards. Several stories are set in Asia:
  • Ismail’s Expulsion is set in Pakistan (inspired by alleged true-life vampires told to me by a local when I first visited Lahore)
  • Ikiryo is set in Japan (about the Japanese legend of the Ikiryo, the living-dead)
  • Masala Nightmares is set in India (demons and body-snatching)
ATISHFISHAN
A short story, using Lovecraft’s mythos, set in the southern deserts of Pakistan, included in the Lovecraft tribute magazine The Arkham Diaries.

Asian Horror Month – First Ever Ghost Story Game – Angela Yuriko Smith

First Ever Ghost Story Game

Happy Halloween!

Six authors got together to play an impromptu story telling game. Join us and laugh as we try to make up spooky tales on the spot. Thanks to Kate Jonez and Omnium Gatherum for helping bring the Ghost Story Game to life… and thanks for the brave participants: Geneve Flynn, Lee Murray, Austin Gragg, Ryan Aussie Smith and Eric Shapiro.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Asian Horror Month: Book Review/REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

Book Review – REVENGE by Yoko Ogawa (Japanese)

(English translation by Stephen Snyder)

Review by Renata Parvey

Yoko Ogawa is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I love how her writing covers a range of genres, all brilliant works in their own way. Revenge is a peculiar book, written in the form of short stories, where each story connects to another – in no particular order – culminating into a larger tale somewhere down the line. More recently, Jane Borges’ Bombay Balchao was another book written in the experimental fiction format – a collection of seemingly unrelated short stories woven together to form a novel. Both Ogawa and Borges are a pure delight to readers with their literary prowess in taking writing – and reading – to a different level.

Coming back to Revenge, it can be termed as a series of dark tales, with sinister elements binding them to one another. The protagonist of one story can be a minor character in another, at times not even named – leaving the reader to decipher who we are reading about, what role they play in each story, are they even connected or does the reader feel so because we assume the stories are strung together. The eerie world created by Ogawa moves across generations, time spans, places – past, present, future, the real world and the supernatural, fact and fantasy all drawn in as well as apart from each other.

An aspiring writer, a murderous landlady, an obsessed bag maker, a singer, a surgeon, a Bengal tiger, a mother, strawberry cake – crossing paths and converging their fates in this dark web of vengefulness. Ogawa can be emotional and unsettling, impassive and heartbreaking, creepy and gentle. Her macabre take on relationships and emotions make this book effectively terrifying. Revenge is not horror in the traditional sense. A passenger train, a bakery, home gardening – the fact that her settings are so bland ups the ante of the terrors that lurk within. Ogawa’s writing can transform a normal scene next door to something downright horrifying – nothing seems out of the ordinary, and you can’t tell when and how the horror crept up on you. The best part is connecting the stories, navigating clues as you wander in this strange world.

Of course, Ogawa’s frequent English translation collaborator Stephen Snyder deserves as much of credit as the writer herself, for marvelously bringing life to her stories. Revenge is a disturbing collection for those who revel in the written word and the beauty she creates with literature.

My rating – 5/5 

Renata Pavrey ~ December 2020

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Renata Parvey is a Nutritionist by profession; marathon runner and Odissi dancer by passion. Driven by sports, music, animals, plants, literature and more. Reads across several genres and languages, and loves the world of horror – in both, books and movies.

Asian Horror Month:The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter by Elaine Cuyegkeng

This story was originally published in Black Cranes edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn

‘The Genetic Alchemist’s Daughter’

by Elaine Cuyegkeng

She dreams of death and rebirth on her mother’s table.

The smell of antiseptic: chemicals, artificial cherries and other-fruit. The specimen on the table. Herself, slipping a needle under the specimen’s skin to obtain samples for reconstruction. Finally, the disposal of the body while the new one grows inside her crimson egg, kicking her little amphibian feet. Later, a telepathic matrix imparts an (edited) library of the Prodigal’s memories. This reinforces the desired traits, knitted carefully into the genome.

In twelve days and twelve nights, there will be a single, perfected being: waking in the specimen’s old room with only a vague, uneasy sense of displaced time. There will be no official record, no trace of the original (save for the genetic profiles, buried deep in her mother’s libraries).

Everyone dreams those strange, mundane dreams of themselves performing their daily rites. The genetic alchemist’s daughter is no different; why should she be? But still, Leto Alicia Chua Mercado wakes as if she were a child waking from a nightmare. Leto thinks: there are fragments of bone and marrow in her pyjamas, in her blankets, her bed. For a moment, her hands are viscous with ruby red.

The Genetic Alchemists

Leto is her mother’s daughter, and so, when she wakes, blinking out crimson dreams in the pre-dawn, the day’s business is the first thing that occupies her. Nothing in Leto’s creation was left to chance; the same is true of Chua Mercado Genetic Alchemy.

Below, the family’s laboratories gestate the fruits of several lucrative contracts. Tiny mermaid embryos, for a techno-prince’s private aquarium. A new variant of winged cat: Bengal Beauties, with jade eyes and leopard spots, jewelled peregrine’s wings. Luminous Moths, ordered by an exclusive fashion house for their silk. There are the Prodigals, the human specimens who will be delivered to their families’ holdings, waking in the original’s old room as if from a dream.

And finally, there are the little Seraphim, tiny embryos swimming in their exo-wombs. The bulk of these are still ordered by foreign CEOs—grateful for the assurance of a rarefied offspring, grateful to be spared the inconveniences of caring for pregnant wives. One day, Leto’s mother hopes, the world will be full of them. There will be no Prodigals, no broken creatures in need of repair.

(Leto feels a tenderness for them. She doesn’t know why—perhaps it’s their shared origins. The fact she knows, and they don’t.

Leto’s mother scoffs at that. You’re not a specimen. You’re my daughter.)

But Leto has always been what she is: the girl with all the gifts, Ofelia Chua Mercado’s irrefutable proof. All the world had seen Leto in her womb, the tiny crimson egg Ofelia created. It made Ofelia’s fortune and her infamy. How the Manilero elite were scandalized! Ofelia had created Leto without the help of a husband, without the blessing of the Holy Apostolic Church (or any church), simply because. Priests cried about the dissolution of the family from their cathedrals, pastors from their multi-million-dollar pulpits. But hereditary heads of state, foreign billionaires, Hollywood queens—all of them came clamouring for Ofelia’s service.

Leto’s mother waits for her at the breakfast table. She is a slender woman, not beautiful but magnificent. She has a cruel mouth, a hard face, a hooked nose as if she truly were the witch the more poetic among the Manila elite call her. Her black hair falls in rivulets down her back. No matter the demands of the day, Ofelia Chua Mercado insists on taking this time: the time to sit down and have a meal with family. She didn’t create a daughter just to neglect her. She prides herself on having better husbandry of children. On the table are buttered toast, salted duck eggs, slices of chilled fruit.

“Today’s clients will need careful handling,” Ofelia murmurs, handing her daughter the day’s dossiers. “I know you’ve managed them before, but darling, today, I need you to resist the urge to gloat.

Leto opens the dossiers. She understands the moment her eyes fall on the client’s name. She doesn’t smirk; she knows it’s unladylike.

Ever since she was a tiny thing, old enough to be presented in a sad little classroom with portraits of saints, every single one of her classmates had hated her. They called her soulless. They said: You don’t have a papa. And yet, over time, so many of them ended up on Leto’s table. She carefully explained all the reasons why their families elected them for the procedure. She feels that they’re owed an explanation, but she can’t help feeling some satisfaction. She had never disappointed her mother.

“Not one Prodigal,” Ofelia says, sipping her tea, “but three. Can you imagine that, darling? Imagine if they’d come to us from the beginning. It would have spared them so much trouble.”

It’s an old, old story. It is the puzzle that so many familial dynasties have tried to resolve. How does one halt the decline that seems to seep in the third, fourth generation? Sixteen, eighteen, twenty years old, and their beloved offspring showed signs of delinquency, addiction, general malaise, rebellion, depression, of all things. They showed poor scholarship. How does one save a child from themselves? Eighteen years of Mandarin lessons, ballet or music, and Catholic school didn’t fix them. The Church and the promise of heaven can’t fix them.

Manila might have been horrified by Ofelia, the woman who made a daughter. But as the decades passed, one by one, they crept to Ofelia’s door, and begged her for her help. They turned to her genetic alchemy and, over the years, a whisper network has formed between desperate, gossiping mothers, patriarchs over games of golf and exquisite lunches.

Leto feels her fingers itch. Thinks of the discarded original, turning to ash in the furnace while a new, tiny creature emerges whole from Leto’s artistry. All her fellow heirs have hated her: have always hated her. But here she is anyway, granting them a gift unbidden. They will never even know.

Her mother rises and kisses her cheek. “Good hunting, my sweet girl,” Ofelia murmurs, and Leto blushes.

Her mother knows her, inside and out. Better than she knows herself.

The Dowager

When Leto goes to meet clients, she brings her mother’s wares as if they are the trappings of their self-appointed office. In her arms, she brings a winged cat with snow-white plumage, her little feet ending in owl’s talons and one blue eye alongside jade (feline specimens with heterochromia fetch three times the price). A speckled serpent with a forked tongue wraps himself around Leto’s neck like a regent’s gold necklace (base specimen: Atheris hispida). And finally, after a moment’s consideration, Leto carefully selects amber earrings made from the chrysalises of Luminous Moths. She picks up a rose as white as a funeral, a present for the Dowager. She paints her mouth with a neutral pink (edging towards a baby pastel); lines her eyes with modest shadow (Industrial Revolution—a shade popular among her peers). She takes her little slate and programs the nanites in her hair; they colour it a deep black with only the faintest streaks of a foreign autumn.

Leto understands what the heart wants: it wants a useful young woman, modest and helpful, who will solve all their problems with a flick of her manicured fingers. Leto meets clients because her existence says: you could have a helper, a dutiful, reliable heir. The child you need, if only you had asked for our services from the beginning. She revels in clients’ gritted teeth and fingers pressed into their palms—how they hate being proven wrong! She sits herself at the little table, waits for the client to arrive.

And when the Dowager slips into Chua Mercado’s rooms, dressed as if for a funeral (or a cocktail), Leto can’t help it. She rises up and kisses the Dowager’s cheeks like a fond niece. The Dowager closes her eyes; she smells, very faintly, of very fine, expensive whiskey. She shudders; or perhaps, it’s poor Leopold that terrifies her, the gorgeous speckled band winding himself around Leto’s neck, or Anne-Marie, the snow-white cat purring in her arms. Here is Leto, an unnatural thing, decked out in unnatural things. But the Dowager needs her help.

“I have three daughters,” the Dowager says with a rasp. “And they will all be the ruin of me.” Her elegant hand trembles as she sits in the client’s chair. Outside, Leto smiles; inside, a frisson of schadenfreude ticks upwards in spite of herself. She knows the Dowager’s daughters: they are just like every other classmate who’s ended up on her mother’s table.

“Why don’t you tell me what you need, Tita?” Leto asks. Like the witch in the story. What do you need? What do you lack? What price are you willing to pay?

The Dowager is Eva Maria Romano Iglesia—scion of a saintly house, married to a handsome media pastor in her baby-faced youth. She was a woman alone of all the multi-million-dollar pastors: having inherited the position after his untimely death. She preached in Chanel and pearls, wasp-waisted dresses with billowing skirts, and spoke of love and deference to husbands and fathers. She spoke of the sanctity of the family, this woman with no husband, and adoring crowds of women threw money at her. She was the most vicious of Ofelia’s detractors, when Leto and the exo-womb were unveiled. She called Leto soulless. She called Ofelia a fallen woman, creating a child outside the sanctity of marriage, outside the bounds of God’s intended methods.

But now two tiny granddaughters are dead. A son-in-law is set to be buried tomorrow, and the daughters are locked in their rooms in the family compound.

“I need you and your mother to give me the daughters I should have had from the beginning,” the Dowager says. She almost spits. How it humbles her, to be abandoned so by the God who showered her in gold but gave her delinquent children on which to build her church.

“Our congregation needs us,” the Dowager whispers, clutching her Chanel pearls. An entire congregation of lost souls—expensive women with husbands who loathe them, girls who became pregnant too early. They all find solace in the Dowager and her family of perfect women. What happens when the image that gives them so much comfort comes crashing down?

Leto is never really interested in all the clients’ reasons why this has to be done. She’d rather hear from the specimens themselves. Console them on their deathbeds.

“We’ll need to stagger them out,” Leto says. “One by one, to accommodate schedules for other clients.”

“I want it over and done with, as soon as possible.”

“I understand,” Leto says evenly. And nothing more.

(Really, Leto just wants her to anguish over it, just a little longer.)

Silence settles between them. Leto feels the Dowager acquiesce. No one else can help her. She can’t disappear three young women and gain their replacements, their better selves, on her own. She can’t create a replacement daughter, and raise her, not at her age.

The Dowager is old. She is running out of time.

“No one will know?” The Dowager’s hands tighten around her cane.

“No one will know,” Leto says softly. “From head to toe, down to their cells, they will be exactly the same.”

Leto takes the pale white rose, as perfect as a faerie dress. They named it Blanca Nieve. It smells like a perfumed night. She gives it to the Dowager. Places it carefully on the table, along with a lacquered box containing its food. Ten little nightingale corpses.

“People need to see you leave with it in your hands,” she tells her. “So you’ve had a reason to come to us. Feed it with ten nightingales. You won’t be disappointed.”

The next day, a funeral for the Dowager’s son-in-law is held in her stained-glass church. The cathedral arches are snow-white with roses, and they spill down the steps of the church, singing with bell-like voices.

No one even sees the bones.

Faith

She starts with the youngest. Why not?

They take her from the family compound. They place her, fast asleep, on Leto’s table in the lab. Faith is a delicate snow-white beauty: long limbs, a small head, the fair skin that Manileros prize so much. It’s at odds with Faith’s reputation.

Leto waits, and watches as the specimen slowly blinks herself awake. The upsurge in fear when she realizes that she’s strapped to the table. When she realizes that she’s not alone.

Leto doesn’t see what she does as revenge, as former classmates have accused her when they have woken up to find themselves in her lab. She sits with the specimens, waits for them to wake up. It feels wrong to her, simply destroying the originals without explaining why their families requested the procedure. She hopes that a vague memory of that conversation settles into the client’s cells. When they perform the process, create the new, perfected specimen, the Prodigal will not relapse.

“Faith?” Leto says. Her words come out muffled behind her mask. The girl stops struggling; she recognizes Leto’s voice.

“Oh God,” says Faith, and the pretty girl laughs. “All the stories they said about you are true.”

Leto’s hairs prick up at the back of her neck.

When they were children, Leto was the witch’s daughter. Now, as adults, she is her mother’s right hand, her coolly competent heir and that is where her story ends. All the specimens returned to the client families have had their memories edited: they know nothing of her mother’s labs. But her classmates know nothing of Prodigals, of Leto’s part in the process. They know nothing of the Procedure. It’s in their parents’ interest: that their children know nothing. They’d rather forget the unpleasantness and have their baby back (they never really will).

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asks Faith. Faith laughs and pulls at the straps.

“I killed my sister’s husband,” Faith rasps. “We did it together, you know. Me. Charity. Harmony. We pushed him off the balcony.”

They’d said it was an accident. Pat del Rosario—beloved husband, beloved son-in-law—falling over the balcony in the family’s multi-million-dollar compound. Thank God, the Dowager had board positions on various media boards: his death was announced without mention of murder or suicide. They had locked Faith in her room until the funeral and she had appeared with the rest of the family, her stony face easily interpreted as a perfect mask of dignified grief.

“I did it knowing you’d show up,” Faith whispers.

“You knew nothing of the sort,” Leto says. Her voice is even, but under the table, her hand shakes.

Faith has no reason to believe Leto would show up. She has no reason to believe in her mother’s lab. Leto is not a fairy tale, the way the Prodigals she perfects are fairy tales. They emerge perfect and whole under her fingers, blessed with cool-eyed competence, the smothering of their genetic demons.

“Do you even want to know why?” Faith asks.

“I know you want to tell me,” Leto says.

It doesn’t matter what they tell her; the procedure will go ahead anyway. But it’s as if she’s a confessor tending to a penitent on their deathbed. How can she say no?

You’re not a specimen, Ofelia had told Leto. You’re my daughter.

But still, the fact remains: Leto was created to prove the viability of her mother’s product, the efficacy of her mother’s services. Ofelia edited Leto’s genes. She edited them for beauty, for genius, for musicality, an affinity for maths and languages, all those things that the ultra-rich crave in their children. They like to feel as if their genes have given rise to better stock, better product.

Leto was engineered for obedience, which meant she was inclined to recognize her mother’s authority in all things. Her mother had been frank about this: there was no point in raising a child who spurned all her gifts. From the moment Leto stepped inside a classroom, she had excelled, surpassing her peers. It gave the elite of Manila something to consider, even as they called her soulless. When their beloved babies grew up, showing signs of rot by the time they reached their teens, they turned to Ofelia Chua Mercado and her helpful, perfect daughter. Who swap out imperfect specimens for better ones. Or at least, they edit the genetic code, so they are more inclined to conform to their parents’ expectations. They’re like fairy godmothers, granting obedience as a gift.

Faith had failed from the beginning. Even when she and her sisters were little, when the Dowager paraded them around as her little saints, Faith was infamous for her rage. There was a party, when a group of boys held her down to take her photo (wasn’t it sweet? Babies and their games!). She’d pushed one of them down the stairs, and he broke his leg, right there on the Dowager’s immaculate floors. When they were all older, there was another incident, another more grown college party, when she’d taken out someone’s eye.

The Dowager said: they’d hoped she’d grow out of it. That time and patience and their guidance would temper her. It honestly surprised Leto that it’s taken Faith this long to come to her table.

(Leto’s mother said, scoffing, that they should have edited Faith’s anger out of her, long ago. Leto had wisely kept quiet. She doesn’t blame Faith, the way her mother did. But she knows what traits are desirable and what aren’t—they don’t like rage in little girls.)

And now there’s a dead body that they’ve had to cover up with bribes and ritual, and a snow-white funeral.

“He killed Charity’s babies,” Faith snarls. “Did Mommy tell you that? He killed her girls.”

It was in the dossier—a sad obituary in the Manila Times of the Dowager’s twin granddaughters. But babies often die for strange, unknown, and unknowable reasons. Especially when they’re so small.

“He put stuffed toys in their crib,” Faith says. “It’s a SIDS risk: everyone knows that. They kept telling him to stop; he laughed and kept doing it. Look, she loves her little teddy. What’s the harm? Everyone said: Men don’t raise children, it’s not in them. You can’t expect them to understand. It was Charity’s responsibility: after all, she was their mother.

“Charity couldn’t stay awake forever. She tried. We all did. He found reasons to keep us away. And one day she found him standing over their crib with a pillow—and her baby girls were dead.” She closes her eyes. “A house full of people who were supposed to love them, and they all said she was hysterical. They didn’t believe her. Poor Charity. He barely cried.

“Why would he do that?” Leto asks.

She really shouldn’t have asked. All Faith wants is to unburden herself.

“He wanted boys,” Faith says. “It’s not as if he hid that. He was so disappointed when they came out! And Charity was so happy—his disappointment was such a small thing to her, at least in the beginning. That she loved something he didn’t.”

“Annulment was an option, you know.” It’s not that she objects to what Faith did; it’s that she should have been clever about it. She starts thinking of ways to snip the rage out of her, or at least temper it. They can modify memories to reinforce caution.

“Annulment isn’t part of our brand,” Faith says. “It’s not an option for us. Can you imagine the scandal? Lola would kill us first. Mommy would.”

That, Leto thinks, unfortunately is true.

“I’d have been more careful about it than you,” Leto says. Faith laughs.

“We were past careful,” Faith says. “After he killed the girls. After they all said Charity was hysterical and not thinking clearly. They even blamed her: Lola, Mommy, our aunts. We shut them up when we threw him down the balcony.”

Leto starts prepping her needle. She needs to draw blood; their work is easy, really. They have such a rich source of DNA.

“So what are you going to do?” Faith asks. “Replace me with a soulless little drone? A more palatable version of me?”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Leto says. “I can’t make or remove a soul. I’d make a version of you that wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

It’s not quite what Faith’s mother would have wanted. It’s not what Ofelia Chua Mercado would have wanted. But there is no one here to gainsay her decision.

She’s not sure why or how she decided this: that Faith is entitled to her anger. But here she is.

“It’s alright,” Leto says, and she is back on familiar ground. “It’s alright. You won’t even remember this happened. The you that wakes up won’t even remember this.” And if the new Faith doesn’t remember and the old Faith is simply erased, does Faith even suffer?

She lets Faith see the tiny little selves, swimming in their little crimson eggs, before she puts her to sleep. It seems to calm Faith: watching tender little creatures made from her bone and marrow. Leto dresses the new specimen herself when she emerges, perfect and whole. The new Faith will be little more calculating, a little less given to rages. If the new Faith does need to act on her rage, she will take better care not to get caught. The Prodigal is returned to the family. The Dowager sends back a message, saying: Faith is much improved. Leto imagines the Dowager breathing a little easier even as Faith is counting her grudges and biding her time. Counting down the days, until it’s all done.

Leto schedules the next two procedures. She takes her time.

Charity

She was the last person Leto had thought would end up on her table.

The middle sister: kind-hearted and soft, the kind of girl who deflected other people’s faults. The fairy tale girl people say they want but, in reality, isn’t equipped to keep a dynasty together. Still, she had that fairy tale wedding, married the boy her family picked for her. The Dowager was very clear about her specifications: they want their sweet girl back, before she went wrong.

Really,” Leto told her mother wearily, over chai tea and congee for breakfast, “they want a Charity who doesn’t remember how much her family failed her. They want a Charity who won’t make them feel guilty, every time they look at her.”

“If that’s what they want to believe,” Ofelia said. She shrugged her elegant shoulders. It’s cheating, but it’s not quite cheating, is it, if a Prodigal is exactly the same, just slightly improved? It’s the improvements they focus on.

Leto didn’t tell her mother about what Faith had said. It’s not that she believes Faith, exactly, but…

When Charity wakes up, when she sees Leto, she looks almost resigned. There’s no shock. Ice pricks at the back of Leto’s neck. Charity should be shocked. Charity should cry for help. Why doesn’t she?

“I knew something was wrong,” she says. “When Faith came back… She wasn’t herself.”

Leto doesn’t answer.

“Poor Faith. Did she feel anything? Was it fast?”

“What can you possibly know about the procedure?”

Charity laughs, a sad little laugh that almost sounds like affection.

“We all talk about it, you know,” she says. “All our old classmates, all our old friends.

None of you were ever my friends. Leto digs her nails into her palms. She is not…she is not supposed to be the monster in anyone else’s story. She’s more than that unveiled creature in the womb, more than the girl in the schoolroom, more than the witch’s baby everyone decided they should hate.

“I’m frankly surprised that you don’t know. I would have thought that your mother would have told you. We could never match you in scholarship, but we’re not stupid. Sometimes an old classmate would show up and…they weren’t quite themselves. They would remember things—but in slightly different ways. We heard about the oldies’ little whisper network. They say there’s a little dungeon somewhere—where all the bodies are kept. There’s a little lab where you clone tiny little creatures to replace us. That you sell our souls yourself.”

Leto’s heart is beating fast.

There is no reason. There is no reason why Charity and her friends should know. The specimens’ memories of her mother’s workshops are wiped. The Prodigals are returned to their rooms, and they don’t remember—they don’t remember anything of their time as tiny little creatures in blood-red eggs, their hatching.

If what Charity says is true and there are whispers of the process, and Leto’s part in it… How could she not know that she has turned into a story she has no control over? How could her mother not know? She feels like she’s back in that dreary little room again: her classmates whispering poison, spinning stories she has no control over.

Charity watches her face. “Do you remember?” she asks. “Do you remember anything—from before?”

“Before what?”

Charity closes her eyes and sighs, as if she is very tired and ready to go to sleep. She opens them again, and her eyes fix on Leto. “I wouldn’t tell your mother about this conversation if I were you.”

“We tell each other everything,” Leto says.

“Do you?” Charity asks. “Do you really? Do you ever wonder about the little gaps in your memory—”

She doesn’t have to pay attention to this. She doesn’t.

“Look at me,” Charity says, her voice soft and urgent. “I did everything my mother wanted. I married a boy she wanted. I gave up the idea of a master’s degree in science. And still—look at where I am right now.” Leto twitches, remembers her dreams of little feet, a crimson world.

“I wasn’t expecting to have to destroy everything I was when I married,” Charity whispers. “I wasn’t expecting to destroy everything I loved. That wasn’t the bargain I thought I made. Do you remember your Bella Norte?

When she was fourteen, Leto had engineered little bees who sang like bells and were nocturnal. As sweet and docile as Charity. She’d been frankly surprised that the Dowager had purchased a specimen from Chua Mercado Alchemy. A birthday gift for her middle daughter, who later became obsessed with beekeeping.

“They never really caught on,” Leto says. That was the trouble with new patents.

“Do you remember?” Charity asks. “Do you remember making them for me?”

Leto just stares. She’d done nothing of the kind. She made them, Charity ordered them, and that was the end of it. Charity sighs, softly.

“I kept beds and beds of nocturnal flowers to feed them. I did everything you told me to, even when you stopped answering my letters.

Nocturnal roses, honeysuckle, lavender. Leto can’t even remember why she made them: only that she did.

“Mommy and Lola never approved. Pat wanted me to stop: they were dangerous to me and the baby. Who knew what they were picking up while they were dancing in the dark? Who knew how reliable the patent was, how docile they really were? I went on a trip to the States; I came back to find most of my hives burned. Lola said: But it’s such a little thing. Mommy said: You have babies now. You won’t even notice they’re gone.”

Charity closes her eyes. “And then the girls turned out to be girls. We didn’t even want to know—he was so sure God would give us what he deserved. I took their blood. I cut their hair. I wanted something to remember them by, just like I kept the bees to remember you.” She breathes in, breathes out. Looks over at Leto, whose face is carefully blank.

She would have no reason. Her mother would have no reason to remake her. Leto is perfect, has been perfect, since the beginning. She was engineered for beauty, for intelligence, reliability. There is nothing that Leto wants, outside of what her mother needs.

“They were right,” Charity whispers. “Oh God, they were right.”

Leto doesn’t answer. She preps her needle.

Listen to me,” Charity says, before she slips off to sleep under Leto’s needle. “You’re not so different from us. Someone should have told you that from the beginning. I’m sorry we didn’t.”

Charity is easier, in many ways. They keep the base genetic profile. They edit her memories. Faith did it. Harmony did it. Charity just watched. Leto goes through an entire album of memories, editing things out, snipping inconvenient ones.

When the new Prodigal wakes in her room, she is more certain of her mother’s authority, of her mother’s love and adoration. The need to defer to her authority. She won’t remember that conversation with Leto, in the lab below.

Leto should talk to her mother. She should talk to her, but something stops her, every time. Leto stays in the lab, watching over the dreaming specimens. Cinderella, over the turtledoves that shake gold and silver over her. She thinks of the ashes of every discarded specimen, feeding her mother’s roses. Faith, Charity, an endless, endless parade of names before them.

And she wonders, she wonders. How many of them were her? How many dreams has she had, of a crimson world and kicking feet? Can she count all the times she might have been remade? She wouldn’t even know when it began, what had been the starting point. She walks into the garden at twilight, where the apiaries of little Bella Norte are kept. Their little feet brush against her cheek like a kiss.

Do you know more of me than I do? she asks them.

Do you?

Harmony

The eldest daughter escapes.

She must have seen the writing on the wall, Leto muses to herself when it happens. The Dowager is beside herself. It would not have happened, it would not have happened, if Leto had done all three of them at once like she had asked.

You should have known better than to let the other girls out, is all Leto thinks. Ofelia lets the Dowager know, calmly, that matters are being handled and shoots Leto a look. Leto understands: she wants Leto to fix it. The foundations of the world her mother is building depends on Chua Mercado’s reliability, their reputation. She needs to undo the damage she’s caused.

But Leto spends some time in the garden, among the specimens and patents that never quite caught on. She spends some time with the Bella Norte bees, waking in the moonlight, settling on Leto’s dress like golden dust.

You made them for me, said Charity. Why would Leto do that? What did she owe her?

She considers that Charity and Faith may be right, that her mother has been wiping her memory, altering her like a story that she can’t quite perfect. She should be terrified. She should be outraged, but all she feels is hollow. She wonders if anger was edited out of her too.

“I don’t know what to do,” she says, honestly, to the Bella Norte bees, as if they could answer her.

They track Harmony down in a shabby little street in Binondo, in a shabby little room. Leto insists on going herself. After all, it was her mistake.

At that, something inside Ofelia seems to untwist and loosen. She kisses Leto on the cheek. She says: She knows Leto will make it right. Everyone makes mistakes. We all learn from them. We make ourselves perfect.

Leto lets herself into the shabby little room, and there is Harmony, waiting.

The survivors of Charity’s bees surround her, drinking sugar water. Harmony is tall and striking, even with her hair slick with the humidity and the lack of care over the past few days. Charity was the sweetheart, Faith was the baby, but Harmony was meant to be their mother, all over again. It must have galled the Dowager, when Harmony picked her sisters over her mother. That was not the natural way of things.

Leto isn’t sure what edits to make to improve those outcomes.

“We all know you’d come for us, you know,” says Harmony. She doesn’t move. The bees settle around her, as if she is their saint.

“So I’ve heard,” says Leto. Harmony raises her eyebrow.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks, point blank.

Leto says nothing.

“What do you remember?” Harmony asks. “How many times did she make you over, so she could start all over again, a clean slate?”

Leto thinks of the ashes in her mother’s garden. Whether any of them are made up of her former selves. She wouldn’t know when her mother started. She wouldn’t even know where to begin.

“I know about Charity’s daughters,” she says, her voice hollow. “I know about the bees.”

Harmony sighs, and her shoulders slump over.

“We didn’t know,” she says, “if she’d remake you, over and over again. Just to make sure you couldn’t remember. Do you remember? Making the bees for Charity? Do you?”

Leto feels breathless. A little bella norte lands on her cheek.

“She cried when you stopped answering her letters,” says Harmony. “When we passed by each other and you acted as if you didn’t know her. And later—when classmates came back, from rehab, from sabbaticals, from tours, not quite right, well, we all wondered.

It’s like a knife to her ribs. She doesn’t—she can’t feel anything.

Harmony gives her a box.

“I’d do it again you know,” she says, between her teeth. “I would pick Faith and Charity, every time. Every time. Hollow me out, empty me of all the inconvenient things my mother wants gone, and I’d still make the same choice.”

“What’s inside?” Leto asks.

But she already knows.

The Dowager sends payment: all three Prodigals, successfully remade. She even gifts Leto with the survivors of Charity’s bees. They have no use for them, and the girl is getting married again in the fall. Another fairy tale wedding. Then: one for Faith, and one for Harmony. She’s already signed contracts for little Seraphim to be made.

“Well done,” Ofelia says, and kisses her cheek. Another death, smoothed over. Because these girls wanted something outside what they should want.

What does Leto want? Nothing except her work. There’s nothing that her mother left her.

So she creates a second variant of the Bella Norte, from the daughters of Charity’s bees. They have Faith’s anger; Charity’s love; Harmony’s loyalty. And inside, inside, they contain slivers of memory, two baby girls avenged by their mother and aunts.

Leto’s daughters have no debut: they are not presented to the world the way Leto was. Instead, she lets them fly wild.

That year, the Dowager and her congregation will be haunted at night time by bees that sing like wind chimes, that smell of baby’s breath, and build cathedrals inside her church. At her wedding, Charity will turn to look at them, and she won’t know why she feels joy and heartbreak. Faith will wonder as she lets them settle on her shoulders and Harmony will feel a strange peace, even as the bees murder her mother’s congregation.

They’ll say it’s a miracle, that the three of them are left alive.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Elaine Cuyegkeng

Elaine Cuyegkeng is a Chinese-Filipino writer. She grew up in Manila, where there are many, many creaky old houses with ghosts inside them. She writes about eldritch creatures, monsters with human faces and the old, old story of art and revolution. She now lives in Melbourne with her partner.

Elaine has been published in Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, The Dark, Rocket Kapre, and now, Pseudopod! You can find her on @layangabi on Twitter.

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Latinx Month: Planet of the Dead by Steven Arellano Rose

Planet of the Dead

The moaning wind of the cemetery colony was already attempting to bury the landing pad that Buster Ross had lowered his ship on in the surrounding, desert sand. The funerary agent from Earth ran quickly toward the looming nearly-all-glass funerary building both to escape the storm as well as to meet the master of this literally dead planet. Both pad and building were surrounded by tombstones from nearly every region on Earth, many of the stones rolling with the dunes and sinking into the dark of the hollows. They were stone and metal crops, some of them being simple plaques or stump-size stones barely rising up out of the ground, others more fully risen. Yet a seed lay below each of those stone and metal crops, a seed known as the human corpse. The official name of the planet was Memoria. The Global Government on Earth wanted to be sure its name was as honourable sounding as possible to the ones buried there. Some people on Earth called the planet New Giza for its millions of tombs as well as for its desert geography. However, many people called the planet by a derivative of Ancient Egypt’s City of the Dead; many people called it the Planet of the Dead.

Immediately arriving at the front door, Ross was stopped by a cold electronic voice: “State your purpose for entering, please.”

Ross said, “I’m here to see a Mr. Juan Moreno.”

The electronic voice said, “Thank you. Now please state your purpose for your visit with Mr. Moreno.” While it spoke, Ross noticed that it generated from a speaker on a small, white box framed within the all-glass wall to the left of the door. A tiny bead of an “eye” glowed red in the upper center of the box.

Ross said, “To pick up some bodies and transport them back to Earth.”

The electronic guard said, “Thank you. Now give your name, please.” Ross did that, impatience beginning to well up from within. Then the automated guard told him to state who sent him. And the guard’s questions went on like this another five times. Then a red beam of light streamed out from the ruby eye and scanned him for weapons. When the red light disappeared a loud click sounded from the double front doors and they slid open. Ross entered when suddenly a 20-something girl walked up to him.

Her face was very pale due to the amount of makeup covering it, and she wore dark gray eye-shadow. Her eyelashes were long and black, and, likewise, her hair was also black and shiny. However, although her features were Hispanic, one could tell that her very straight hair was an unnatural color. She reminded him of people he had seen on the Net in encyclopedia illustrations and black-and-white video clips to articles on 19th-century society and ones on the 20th century’s horror movie industry. It was as if she had walked out of a scene from one of those weird, ancient films. She wore a long, black tailcoat with a tight black satin vest underneath and underneath that a snug, white 19th-century shirt. On her head she wore a black derby. The pants she wore were tight, shiny black stirrups that seemed to merge with the polished, black Victorian gentleman’s shoes she wore with the raised heels which made the shoes look more feminine. Her appearance was almost melodramatic.

“Mr. Ross?” she said, with a dead expression.

Ross smiled and stammered, “Tha-, that’s right. I’m here to see Mr. Moreno.” He did not expect to be greeted by such an odd character as this girl, if it could be called a greeting. Saying nothing else, the girl walked over to a somewhat crescent moon-shaped desk that appeared to be built into the marble floor since both were white. There she pressed a key and spoke into a microphone in which, like the key, was built into the desk. “Mr. Moreno, Mr. Ross has arrived.” As it was when she had spoken to Ross, her tone was expressionless. A man’s voice faintly sounded from an inconspicuous speaker on the desk saying he would be down shortly.

After that, the girl said nothing else. Instead, she keyed information into the desk’s terminal without looking up while Ross waited. Her movement and pose were so repetitious and monotonous, they seemed robotic.

“Mr. Ross?” echoed a man’s voice from above. Ross, startled flashed his head up toward the direction of the voice. At the top of the winding metal stairwell was a man who looked to be around Ross’s age, 60.

Ross answered, “Yes?”

“I’m Manuel Moreno.”

Ross introduced himself, although awkwardly. He was shocked at Mr. Moreno’s appearance more than he had been the girl’s. Moreno’s skin was a very pale brown, his gray hair disheveled. He wore a black, Victorian suit. So many youngsters are bad enough, but such an appearance is way out of the norm for a man of any age, thought Ross, proudly patting his short-cut, neatly parted hair.

When Moreno reached the bottom of the stairs, Ross walked up to him and the two men shook hands. Moreno said, “Delighted to have you here, Mr. Ross.” His smile was faint. Then gesturing to the stairway, he said, “Would you kindly walk this way, please?”

Ross walked up the stairs, hesitantly.

Moreno held the door open and gestured to Ross to enter. Victorian and neo-Gothic furnishings made the room appear more a study than an office. One of the few exceptions to the old-style atmosphere was the transparent wall behind the funerary manager’s desk that looked out onto the fields of gravestones.

After Moreno shut the door, he offered Ross a seat in front of the desk lined with armies of miniature skeletons and skulls. Many of these were idealized with the thick, black lines of features in the style of the Mexican Dias de los Muertos. Several others were more realistic appearing. More of these figurines appeared in various places on his bookshelf. Some of the life-size skulls looked so real they looked as if they had just recently been shoveled up from the graves outside. Panting, Ross more than gladly accepted Moreno’s offer. He was too used to taking elevators. However, Moreno had no reaction at all to the walk; he breathed as normally as if he had not even gone anywhere.

Moreno said, “May I offer you a drink, Mr. Ross?” Although he spoke with a tone of weariness, he sounded much more inviting than the receptionist downstairs.

After several pants, Ross, answered, “I would like that a lot, thank you.”

“What would you like?”

Ross said, “Whatever your favourite is, as long as it’s thirst-quenching.”

After sitting down at his desk, Moreno grabbed the receiver to his long necked 1920’s phone and ordered an employee to bring them a bottle of amontillado and two glasses. He said, “We have received news, Mr. Ross, that the descendants of some of our residents have contacted you.”

Ross paused. Then he said, “Residents?”

Moreno looked down, pausing and then said, “It is, you may say, a euphemism for the bodies that rest here.”

Ross stared with bewilderment at Moreno for several seconds before saying, “But they’re already called units, Mr. Moreno, why would they need to be called anything else?”

Moreno looked away from Ross, tightening his lips. Then he smiled, saying, “We like to refer to them as if they were still living since we get so lonesome here on Memoria. It is only myself, and my two attendants—Luther and Felicia–who notified me of your arrival. Both serve as my secretaries, pallbearers, caretakers and morticians. Aside from the three of us, it is only a few gardeners, computer technicians, and, although for an impermanent span of time, some construction workers who are working on my new house. That is not very many people for a planet that is twice as large as Earth.”

“Mr. Moreno, did I hear you correctly?” Ross asked, bewildered. “Did you just call your attendants pallbearers, caretakers, morticians?”

Moreno froze a stare towards Ross for several seconds before saying, “Forgive me. Those are words that have been out of use for hundreds of years. We use a very unique manner of speech in the funeral business here on Memoria, Mr. Ross. It consists of words that you will no longer find except in ancient, or near-ancient at the least, literature,” he gestured a hand to the ceiling-high bookcase to his left. The case held copies of titles that had been out of print for hundreds of years. Although the titles were still talked about, they were only done so for reasons of historical reference. Nobody read bound books such as the ones on Moreno’s shelves for leisure anymore, books from the gothic and horror forms of storytelling.

Eyeing the books, Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, those are amazing. But isn’t it much easier, space efficient and safer for the value of these hardbound books to read . . .” his look of confusion turned to one of coldness as he studied the titles on the spines, “those, on computer? I mean it seems like such a waste of money when you can read literature for free on the Network.” The titles indicated dark, threatening things: titles such as Poe’s Tales of Terror, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lovecraft’s The Dunwhich Horror and Other Tales, among many, many others of their kind.

Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, the Network does not have these books. It only makes available the books that society desires. If a story from centuries ago is not felt to relate to our times, then the Network ‘makes’ it relate to our times by rewriting it. And so we are not reading these authors’ stories,” he gestured toward the bookcase again, “but those of society at large. In addition to that, reading is more than just comprehending the words on the page; it is the holding of the piece in your hand and touching the beautiful pages cut from a dark woodland that is an enormous part of the reading experience.”

“Well I don’t know about that,” said Ross, “but what’s the point in reading a story if it doesn’t relate to the problems that we have to deal with today?”

Moreno countered, “Mr. Ross, the stories of several centuries ago do relate to the problems of the present. We encounter the same basic problems today as our ancestors of several centuries ago did. Though our robbers and murderers that we fear so much no longer commit their crimes on dark streets nor in dark estates, though they now commit them on the Network, or in the average size or smaller home, the same basic cause and effect of crime still lurks in our universe—the cause being the motivations of crime, the effect being the fear that crime brings forth. Those two things do not change. Motivation and fear: both of these stem from the human condition. And we can only understand those problems by examining the past and relating the ones of the present to those that occurred in other forms centuries ago.”

Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, the crimes are the problems, not the motivations, not the fears of the crime, but the crimes themselves.”

“My apologies, Mr. Ross,” interrupted Moreno, “but I think I should make ourselves aware that we should discuss the corpses that you came for; we are very busy here on Memoria.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, we’re going off-topic. I have to be back to Earth by tomorrow, myself.” Ross snapped open his briefcase and pulled out several papers documenting the evidence of the corpses’ living descendants. He began explaining them when he was interrupted by a pounding at the door.

Moreno shouted, “Bring it in.”

The door swung open revealing a young man who appeared to be in his early 20s. He almost looked like he could be a twin brother to the girl, Felicia; his way of dress and bodily features were very similar to hers except the shoes did not have the heightened heals and the hair was much shorter.

Moreno said, “Oh, Luther, I thought you were Felicia with the amontillado.” Then he said sharply, “What do you need?”

Luther said indifferently, “They found another fresh corpse.”

Moreno shouted with a shocked look, “Good Lord,” and jumped up from his chair. He asked earnestly, “In another grave? Another open one?”

Luther nodded, his powdered face without expression.

Moreno hung his head and complained to himself, “Why, damn it all, did they have to do this so early?” Then he turned back to the young man, saying, “Whose body was it this time, Luther?”

“One of the construction workers.”

Moreno asked, “Would the other workers happen to know what he had been doing out there?”

Luther said, “They do not know.”

Moreno turned to Ross. “This has been the third person on the planet who has turned up dead and in a grave. First two of my technicians and now a construction worker. At first we thought the murders were being committed by somebody hiding out in the graveyard areas. . .” He inhaled deeply and then exhaled, “Until now.”

“What do you mean?” asked Ross.

“The construction workers never go out to the graves,” said Moreno, grimly. Then he turned to Luther. “Was there any sign of the method of the murder? Were there hand marks on his throat like the two previous men?”

Luther said, “We do not know; we have not pulled him out yet.”

Moreno said, “Well, then we shall pull him out now.” Then he turned to Ross. “I apologise dearly for you having to experience this matter, Mr. Ross.”

Keeping in mind Moreno’s unusual archaic style of speech and outdated clothes, Ross said,

“This is no game now?”

Moreno said, sounding slightly annoyed, “This is no game; men have actually been turning up murdered here, Mr. Ross.”

Ross corrected, “You mean there have been homicides on Memoria?”

Moreno paused staring at Ross before saying, irritably, “Yes. And the terrible thing is–or maybe the good thing, depending on how you view the matter–the murderer is among us. He can only be among us. We can catch him. As I have already said, Mr. Ross, there are only a few of us on this planet; the killer can only be one of us.”

Ross asked, “Have you called the police?”

“I am the police on Memoria,” Moreno said. “I have gone through the police training, and I am authorized to make an arrest of the suspect if we ever find him or her. This is why the Global Government has not assigned any police or even mere security guards here on Memoria. As we all know, Earth has been in economic crisis since the interplanetary colonial wars. The only security we have here, aside from myself, is Sphinx, our automated guard at the front door who asked you to identify yourself.”

Ross said, “Yes, and she did a really good job of it. She played 20 Questions with me 20 hundred times, which included ‘state your reason for moving the bodies, please.’” He said this with a slightly nasal sound to imitate the guard’s electronic voice. “Come on, why does security need to know that? What other reasons would people like myself have to come to a planet of dead people we don’t even know?”

“Forgive me, Mr. Ross, but I recently programmed her to ask those questions to anybody who comes to the gate from outside due to the incidents I had just indicated: two men have been murdered; now, as we have just been told, there is a third. We thought the murderer may have incoming connections from Earth. Like our mother planet, we must use caution when visitors come to Memoria.”

The Earth funerary agent said, sarcastically, “So like on Earth, everyone’s suspect when a crime is committed here?”

Moreno said with a faint smile of delight, “Suspect! You’re learning the language of Memoria, after all, Mr. Ross! If not that, then perhaps Earth has not lost all honesty in her languages.” As he finished speaking, he caressed a set of Sherlock Holmes novels on one of the shelves. Then he slid open a drawer from his desk and keyed in a call for Earth on his satellite phone within it and reported the murder for the Funerary Department to put on file.

As Moreno, his two attendants, Ross, and the construction crew foreman approached the burial site, the Earth funerary agent and foreman were the only two who were breathing heavily with exhaustion. Ross said, “I think it would’ve been better to have taken the buggy, Mr. Moreno. You people must keep in great shape; I’m ready to die.” He looked around at the tombstones. Then he said, “But if I do, please don’t bury me here; I have known family still living on Earth, thank you.”

Moreno suggested, “You people need to stop depending on so much mechanical transportation; Earth’s become too dependent on it.”

The body lay in the open coffin at the bottom of the freshly dug grave. The corpse seemed to be frozen in terror, eyes wide and mouth gaped open. It looked as though it had seen something too horrible to exist. It made Ross’s stomach sick to the point where he had to swing his head away from it.

Moreno asked the construction foreman, “Mr. Henriksen, do you or any of your men have any notion of how long he had been away from the worksite before you discovered him here?”

The foreman said, “The last time any of us had seen him was just a little before dawn this morning. He was eating breakfast with all of us. Then went out for his morning smoke as usual. After that we never saw him again.” He took a deep, quivering swallow of breath and exhaled, “Until now.”

Moreno further inquired, “He does not often come all the way out here to have his morning smoke?”

Henriksen said, “Not that any of us know of. He often just stands right outside the dining caravan.”

Moreno asked, “And none of you saw him out there when you parted for work?”

The foreman shook his head.

Moreno thanked and dismissed him and then turned to his two caretakers, Luther and Felicia, saying, “Apparently, this murder occurred just outside the dining caravan, and whoever did the killing did so silently and quickly. Take the pulley, raise him up and have it transport him to the morgue. We will perform an autopsy on him later.” Then he turned to Ross saying, “I do not know what the cause of such trouble on Memoria is. Suddenly within the past two weeks, there have been murders. And each victim’s body has been used to replace a resident taken from his grave.”

Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, you keep saying ‘murder’ rather than ‘homicide’. ‘Murder’ has not been in use for centuries. Why do you use this outdated jargon?”

Moreno stared hard at Mr. Ross for several seconds before saying, “As I have already said, Mr. Ross, we get very lonely up here on Memoria. We like to use language that makes our lives and work exciting.”

“You act like incidents such as this are games of some sort,” Ross said, gesturing to the open grave where the bone-white mechanical hand of the pulley was beginning to raise the corpse. “Someone has just been killed and you turn it into entertainment!”

Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, when I said we like to use language that makes our lives and work more exciting, I was not referring to entertainment; I was referring to the living of life itself. Very few people have actually lived life itself for the past several hundred years, Mr. Ross. Too many people have lived their material wealth instead, their automation-made possessions–their cars, their computers, their virtual vacations, their virtual gyms; nobody lives life in its natural form anymore!”

“What does speaking in all these outdated terms have to do with natural life?” asked Ross.

Moreno said, “These terms, Mr. Ross, indicate that natural life can easily be ended by Death at any time, and so it indicates the value of life. When people are always speaking the practical and technical language of today they are only reminded of what is meant to keep preventing death, making them forget the true value of life whose very frailty gives it that value. And that is why I am not a man of the present world and culture, Mr. Ross, and neither are my caretakers. We live in the days when lighting at night did not come as easily as it does in the present day, and only candles and oil lamps provided one’s source of light after the sun had descended to the other side of the earth. Is not fire all we need?”

“You said it again: ‘caretakers’. That gives a very negative connotation to a monument ground to most people now days.”

Suddenly, Luther called out from the edge of the hollowed grave, “Mr. Moreno, hand marks on the neck like the other ones.”

Moreno hung his head in disappointment and disbelief for several seconds. Finally, he lifted it again and commanded to Luther, “Take him to the morgue.”

Ross exclaimed to Moreno, “How the hell can that be? No one from the caravan heard any commotion.”

Moreno hesitated before he said, “Whoever killed him must have had the strength to kill him before he could scream out. Therefore, Mr. Ross, the murderer was not human.”

Ross said, “I thought there was no native life on the planet.”

Ignoring this, Moreno said, “Returning to your argument against politically ‘incorrect’ speech, Mr. Ross, I must make it known to you that I have my own ideas and beliefs of what a graveyard should be like. And as I have just said, I am not a man of the present. That is why I took the position of undertaker here on Memoria, or, if you prefer, since you don’t speak our language, monument ground manager.”

“This, this is, a little unusual,” Ross said. “I, I have to say, very unusual. Such language hasn’t been used for centuries. . . it’s so antiquated . . .“

”Yes, it is, because, you see, ever since Earth forbade its people to speak that dialect, people like ourselves here on Memoria who still speak it have been treated like old people who have no significance to Earth’s societies. Therefore we are antiquated and so are of no use to Earth’s advanced technocratic societies and neither is our dialect.

“Earth’s societies felt that our poetic manner of speaking gave a sense of discomfort and tension for the loved ones of the . . . dead, as we, whether you people like it or not, refer to them here. If we were not treated like old fashioned outcasts, then we were treated like young trouble-making punks. I, of course, am not of youth anymore but I have a youthful state of mind, the very same state that my two gothic caretakers have, and they are of youth.

The ultra liberals hated us for wanting to leave unknown corpses on Earth because they felt it took away space for the living, especially the living who were very poor and who needed housing that they could afford and facilities that could give charity to them. The conservatives hated us not only for wanting to leave the bodies of unknown people in earth that capital-oriented developers wanted to build over, but also merely for the way we dressed.

“Both conservatives and liberals saw the dead who preceded them as non-existent merely because their bodies had no documented identification. And so as with the people buried here on this remote desert planet, we do not exist to Earth either; we are just as dead as the buried residents are.”

The whole time Moreno had been speaking, Ross’s face was paling and his eyes were wide. Moreno snapped, “Now I know most definitely that you are one of them, Mr. Ross, one of the Earthlings who side with the material/technological masses who are so centered on self-gain that they will not consider the bodies of the ancestors who have gone before them.” Then he smiled and asked, “Do you realize how pale you are? You look like I have just told you that . . . I killed . . . somebody.” Moreno’s mocking expression turned to a stunned and angry one. “So simply because I speak, a ‘foreign’ language, Mr. Ross, you think I killed those people? That is exactly the reason why people like myself and my attendants came to this planet, Mr. Ross, because everybody on globalized Earth who lives a little bit of a different lifestyle is under suspicion when something goes wrong. Well now that you suspect me, Mr. Ross, and are going to report me, may I give you a little tour of that house I’m having built? I am certain you already think I am mad.”

Ross said, “Yes I’m aware that you’re mad, and so am I, because you’re taking this homicide very lightly when you’re all so willing to show me your new house. Just what do you need that new house for anyway? You have a free one from the Global Government.”

Moreno reemphasized, “Once again, Mr. Ross, I am not like the rest of the people of society. I desire an older style of architecture. And there is very little we can do about today’s murder; the representatives from the victim’s funerary service on Earth will not be here for a couple of days. The autopsy can wait, so that gives me plenty of time to show you the new house.”

Ross said, mockingly and with accusation, “But you said one of you here on this world has got to be behind these homicides. If you don’t find out who that is now who will be next?”

“Mr. Ross, my attendants who have worked for me for a sufficient period of time and, therefore, whom I trust, will keep an eye out on the area. If anything looks or sounds suspicious they will notify me immediately.”

“Do you have a communicator?”

“Of course. All of the Government’s facilities are required to have one of those damn things.”

Ross said, “No, do you have a portable communicator with you?”

Moreno said, with sudden comprehension, “Oh. A portable communicator is a device too much of the present, Mr. Ross. No, I do not have one.”

Ross snapped, “Because you’re not a man of the present, right, Mr. Moreno? Because if you were, then you would care about keeping up with today’s technology for emergencies like this!”

Raising his voice authoritatively, Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, devices such as your portable communicators, and much of the other damned technology that has grown along with them, including condensed Network versions of our classic literature, is the cause of murders such as the one that has occurred this day. Because of this technology, no living soul cares about life anymore, Mr. Ross, because there is no life. There is only the soulless machine. And because of that there is no mystery. If there is no life, there is no mystery!”

Ross shouted, pointing toward himself, “We are life, Mr. Moreno. And so it’s our duty to take care of ourselves and preserve ourselves as a people, but we can’t do that if we let a killer run around loose! Maybe you’re too secular to understand that! Maybe you take too much advantage of the world’s freedom of belief; maybe you’re just too damn atheist to care about the life of humanity!”

Moreno said, “Mr. Ross, that is exactly the point of my argument: because there is no life, as in natural life, not electronic or biotechnological imitations of it, there is no longer any concept of or belief in the supernatural and, therefore, the mysterious. There is not even any belief in the soul and therefore the consciousness of the other person. Therefore do not dare to blame me and call me an uncaring atheist for not owning an evil device such as these damned portable communicators that basically cause people to avoid natural life, life the concrete experience of our flesh and blood existence, the experience of life as being with people, conversing with them in present time and space rather than just sending apathetic, abstract information to people by way of a cold, unfeeling machine!”

“Mr. Moreno, technology was advanced to solve the world’s problems such as crime like the one that happened this morning. It is a sin against humanity to not keep up with technological advancements all because you’re only concerned about your own aesthetic interest! Or should I say atheistic interest?”

Moreno took a deep quivering breath. Then, gritting his teeth, he said, “Mr. Ross, I am not an atheist and technology has saved none of my family! Death has saved my family, Mr. Ross, Death! He called them through the disease that was inherent in all of my family and they went forth!”

Moreno hung his head, lifted it back up and then said, “Mr. Ross, can I show you the house that I’m building?”

“Please,” said Ross, disbelievingly.

“Follow me.”

As the two men started walking back toward the facility, Ross asked, “By the way, Mr. Moreno, if you’re not an atheist, what religion do you practice?”

The funerary director stopped. He paused staring hard at Ross. Then he said, sarcastically, “I thought religion had no place in government, in our employments, Mr. Ross. Should it be of any concern to you what my religious beliefs are? Now, if you still want to see my house, then I shall show it to you, if not, then we shall retrieve the bodies you came for.”

Ross said with suspicion, “I would like to see the house, Mr. Moreno.”

They crossed the symmetrical-style front yard with the perfectly trimmed lawn and trees in order to get to the back of the government-made funerary building where a small, narrow gate stood. The shadowy structure could be seen looming in the distance before Moreno opened the tan, smoothly painted, wrought iron gate. As the gate swung open absent of any creaks, the shadowy structure was revealed to be a partially built medieval castle. The portions of walls that had already been built over the skeleton consisted of all storm gray stones chaotically cemented together. There was a tower in the front part of the castle. The whole structure looked like some half decaying brontosaurus or giant serpent lying on top of a high Egyptian sand dune, looking as though it were raising its long neck from a fossilized hibernation. A hibernation that any sane person would pray that it would never wake up from.

Ross gasped, “What is this?”

Moreno said, “It’s my house, my house!” He said this with a wide smile, a smile that was like the sudden burst of the sun coming out of the clouds on a dark grey day. It did not match his overall morbid character. Then the sun sunk back into the clouds when he continued in a bitter tone, “Not the Government’s.”

Ross said, “No one builds houses like these anymore.”

“I am very well aware of that; that is the precise reason why I am having this one built.”

Ross criticized, “I have never seen anything like this. Not in real life. The only places I’ve ever saw such horrible architecture is on the Network at certain sites. Honestly, Mr. Moreno, this is very disrespectful to the people who are buried here. It gives a monument ground a very negative connotation.”

Moreno said, “That is the problem with society, Mr. Ross. Man has always been afraid of death; he has always seen it as an arch-enemy of humanity; he has always seen it as the ultimate menace as though it should never have existed. And so throughout history, he has identified it through the dark, deteriorating haunted castle in our literature and films. But ironically, Mr. Ross, it is a part of life. Without death, there can be no life.

“People always try to put off that which is infinitely greater than themselves: they get surgery done on their body parts to prevent themselves from aging (there are no more wise old men or wise old women; in fact, people move as far away as possible from their own parents and grandparents because their parents and grandparents represent the death that they fear since the elderly are so near it); they put chemicals on their scalps to prevent balding or they surgically have them replaced with the scalps of the dead who did not have enough respect for their own bodies and so in their wills gave their parts away to strangers; they put manufactured remedies in their hair to ward off graying; they go as far as having machine organs put into them to avoid their natural deaths! They try to cheat Death, as the old saying goes. But, Mr. Ross, history all the way up to this point has proven that you cannot thwart Death’s plans! But scientists are constantly trying to thwart them. They are now going to the extreme of trying to locate the microscopic organ that stops the overall process of the body’s functioning, that which ‘brings’ about death, so they can remove even it.”

Ross said, “Mr. Moreno, all religions, or nearly all at least, believe in the preservation of life. And that is why most religions try to prevent death.”

“Mr. Ross, Death is Life!”

Ross remembered a biblical saying similar to Moreno’s last statement. It suddenly dawned on him what religion Moreno practiced. However, he asked to make sure, “Mr. Moreno, you having a Spanish surname, I would like to say are Catholic. But I have a big feeling you’re not.”

Moreno said mockingly, but cheerfully, “May I remind you, Mr. Ross, Earth is a politically correct world, and it is politically incorrect to stereotype certain cultures.”

Ross verified, “So you’re not Catholic?”

Moreno shook his head with a proud grin like a child who thinks he’s out-smarted an adult, and then said, “My religion, if you must know–” then his grin turned to one of a solemn expression, “and if you tell the Government and they get suspicious like yourself, then I am willing to die for my religion–my religion is a break-off of my ancestral Catholicism, Mr. Ross.”

Ross guessed, although he knew he was wrong, “You or your family were converts to Protestantism.”

The proud childish grin grew back. “No, it is much newer than any Protestant sect, although there have been similar religions in the most ancient of times.”

“You don’t even worship God,” Ross said.

“Not that god, Mr. Ross. You people were wrong about God nearly all of history.”

“You worship . . . Death,” he said, as much as he dreaded to, with a cold gasp, eyes wide, face pale like the one of the corpse that the bone white pulley had rolled away with. Then he choked out, “Only a worshiper of Death could commit such a homicide as the one committed today.”

Moreno said, “You dare accuse me of a crime solely based on my religion, Mr. Ross? That is complete bigotry and religious intolerance. The function of the World Constitution is to protect us from that. Let me reveal to you, Mr. Ross, that we, the worshipers of Death, believe that He must take his own course. We touch nobody and nothing. We do not make machines that bring on death as people on Earth make machines that prevent it. We do not make machines for capital punishment. As Catholics say that their god is the only one who can punish by death, so do we say the same about our God. We do not even make or give support to euthanasiac devices; one must accept the form of death that our God brings; His will is His will.”

At this, Ross gasped, “You would let ill people suffer, you cold blooded bastard!”

“We are not of cold blood in our beliefs, Mr. Ross, because we prevent acts such as euthanasia in order to save poor suicidal souls from even a worse suffering, the suffering of eternal hell. Therefore we do not stop Death in His course, nor do we influence Him to speed up his course. We leave be the will of Death, Mr. Ross. That is our doctrine.”

Ross interrogated, “Who’s ‘our,’ Mr. Moreno? You and who else? Where’s the rest of your congregation? Just you three? Those two overly pale face, juvenile, gothic punks that work for you?”  

Moreno’s face flamed red as he commanded, “Enough!” Then in a more calm yet firm voice, he continued, “I am through with your insults on our planet.”

“The Government’s planet, Mr. Moreno! You don’t rule this planet, the Global Government does, and the people who support it.”

Moreno said, “And we the people who live here do support it, Mr. Ross, and since we live here you are insulting our home planet merely because of our ways.”

“Yes, that’s right! I am insulting your ways, Mr. Moreno! You people take the time to glorify  your ‘god’, Death, but take no compassion on the ones your god ‘takes’ from the universe; in fact, you show even less compassion to the ones who are still alive, the ones who need euthanasia, for instance.”

“Much in the same way you take no compassion for the ones you send here to get buried because nobody on Earth cares about them; you relocate them, exile them to be precise–but you dare not use that term because you’re ‘not inhumane people’–you exile them off of their own planet like the 19th century Americans did with the Native Americans with their land and like the 20th and 21st century Americans did with my Mexican ancestors in their southwestern United States homeland. You do that because the living don’t remember the names of the dead or how they relate to the dead, and so you tear out their graveyards, their neighborhoods, and transport them over here like garbage, Mr. Ross, like garbage to be dumped in a remote Gehenna!”

“We transport them here because the majority voted for that kind of method to make room for the living.”

Moreno said, “That is all you people are concerned with: that which is alive and present. The people of Earth have no concern for the past nor for the people who made it! Earth fears the past; Earth fears that if the past is remembered then it will be relived and so will stop material progress and keep the wrong people in power; Earth fears that the past will haunt society forever. But, Mr. Ross, Earth forgets too easily what gave us our ideas for the present–the past. If there is no past, there is no present and thereafter no future. Without the past, and so without our dead ancestors who made it, there is no meaning for any of us. We forget our past too much and everything and everybody that make it up. We forget the events that made our present day events, we forget our ancestors, we forget our ancestries, and so we forget ourselves to the point where we are just a people floating around in an infinite, black, eternal midnight universe! We, my two caretakers and I, may be a minority in our religion, Mr. Ross, but we know where our faith lies.”

“In death!” Ross barked.

Moreno raised his voice, “Yes, Mr. Ross, in our eternal, old friend Death! Our tour stops here. You will pick up your bodies now and leave. Remember, I hold authority over who comes and goes here, Mr. Ross. And I do not think you are the kind of person who should come here. Now get your bodies and be gone.”

“That’s true, Mr. Moreno, you do have authority over this planet, I’m sorry to admit. But I will be back with higher authority from Earth, Mr. Moreno, do you understand that? I will be back with higher authority to investigate this case!” He was yelling near to the point of losing his breath. “Because this is all a disgrace to turn a place of burial into one’s own aesthetic theme park. Building a haunted castle on a monument planet! You’re sick!”

The two attendants met Ross at the front gate, Luther saying to him, “The bodies are loaded.”

Ross thanked him without expression and headed back to the ship through the moaning wind.

Luther and Felicia met Moreno in his study. He asked, “Did you load all three of them?”

Luther said they had.

Moreno said, “The weapons too?”

Felicia answered in the affirmative.

Then Moreno said, “Good. It will be the only way that Earth will ever believe us. Earth, that foolish world with its beliefs merely in the so called here-and-now, merely in that which can be explained and rationalized, only that which can be shown in the light! Well, the people of Earth are going to find out that all cannot have light shed on it, not even on things that shed blood, and that we are not above God no matter how advanced in science and technology we are! There is still mystery in this universe–” As he spoke he was looking out the transparent wall behind his desk and then suddenly slumped down onto the floor with no resistance.

Luther checked the old man’s pulse. He looked up at Felicia saying, “Death has taken him.”  

Without expression, Felicia said, “Do we have time to embalm him?”

Luther looked out the transparent wall for several seconds and then said, “We will have to put him in deep freeze. We can’t lose any time. The three generals will be back on Earth soon expecting the squadrons and troops. . . .” He glared at the endless fields of gravestones as he continued, “Whom we have yet to awaken.”

Ross’s ship was already fleeing through midnight black space several miles out of Memoria’s atmosphere when he and his co-pilot heard the sounds from below. The sounds were like three coffin lids dropping.

The End

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

–Steven Arellano Rose

HorrorAddicts.net 191, Holiday Ghost Story Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 191
SEASON 15
**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Russell Holbrook


**Holiday Ghost Story Special**
Dedicated to our long-time listener Jeff. Here you go, buddy!

Ghost Stories:

“A Corpse Going to a Ball” or “Fair Charlotte” by Seba Smith, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert W. Service, read by J. Malcolm Stewart

https://www.amazon.com/J-Malcolm-Stewart/e/B0088I39XG

“The Open Window” by Saki, read by Daphne Strasert

http://daphnestrasert.com/

“Gatekeeper” by Rish Outfield, read by the author

http://rishoutcast.blogspot.com/

“The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christen Anderson, read by Emerian Rich

http://www.emzbox.com

“Staying After” by Angela Yuriko Smith, read by Ryan Aussie Smith
http://www.spaceandtimemagazine.com/

“Four-sided Triangle” by Nancy Kilpatrick, read by the author

https://nancykilpatrick.com/

“Company” by Sumiko Saulson, read by the author

http://www.sumikosaulson.com/

“Citrus, Spice, and Not a Thing Nice” by Phillip T. Stephens, read by the author

https://reifinery.medium.com/

“Just Like a Dolls” by Michele Roger, read by the author

https://www.amazon.com/Michele-Roger/e/B00FJQIMJ6


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

b l o g  / c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s

http://www.horroraddicts.net

p a t r e o n

https://www.patreon.com/horroraddicts

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

google play music

https://play.google.com/music/m/I5rjr5vrnpltxyr3elfqtzujzay?t=HorrorAddictsnet

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Guest Blog: What’s your Jam? by Michael Fassbender

What’s Your Jam? By Michael Fassbender

Recently, I was browsing on Stuart Conover’s site, The Horror Tree, and I saw an interview with a publisher who got his start with a Punk magazine. While he’s branched out to the realm of fiction, the punk sensibility has never left him. Indeed, “punk” is the second adjective in the list of qualities he’s looking for in prospective stories. For those who have been a part of that scene, the punk sensibility remains an enduring part of their character. 

It’s a sensibility that resonates with many writers, as attested by the gamut of subgenres from Splatterpunk to Steampunk. It’s not one that resonates with me, however. I identify with a competing scene, Heavy Metal, and have done since I was in high school. Superficially, there are certain similarities: music that is played loud and features distorted guitars, and wardrobes that boast a lot of black T-shirts, but there aren’t too many common threads beyond these. 

As art forms, Punk and Metal are created very differently. In Punk, the medium is secondary to the message, and Punk Rock songs tend to be fast, energetic, and haphazard. The band is reminding you that they don’t take anything seriously, including themselves and their music. Metal bands are quite different; they may take nothing else in the world seriously, but they are fiercely earnest in their dedication to their craft. They are perfectionists in their technique, and for those unfamiliar with the genre, surprisingly sophisticated in their composition. Much of the Metal scene has been converging with classical music at least since Randy Rhoads recorded “Blizzard of Ozz” with Ozzy Osbourne in the early eighties. Doubters are urged to listen to string quartet or piano arrangements of Metal songs, such as Apocalyptica’s first two albums.

Both genres relish horror imagery. It just manifests itself differently. Punk horror art takes on a pop culture veneer, almost an Andy Warhol approach. Metal horror art favors the look of medieval woodcuts, Hieronymous Bosch paintings and Grand Guignol-style performance stills. Contrast the imagery of The Misfits and Mercyful Fate, and you’ll see what I mean. Each of these bands exemplifies the horror aesthetics of its team.

We generally don’t hear about a Metal sensibility in horror fiction. We don’t have Occultmetal or Possessionmetal subgenres in the community, but upon examination of my own habits as a writer, I see common threads with the musicians I champion. I share their perfectionist tendencies in terms of technique. Typos and faulty grammar vex me, unless they’re meant to appear in the story as a function of characterization. I was mortified recently when I discovered a continuity error in a story that had reached the final proofing stage. For the most part, I like to think that my stories are in good editorial shape when I present them to editors. Whether or not they resonate with the editor is another matter entirely.

It’s not just about the technique, either. I do take myself and my art seriously. I’d rather give my readers the chills than make them laugh — or score points in an imaginary debate. In terms of horror styles, I have a marked preference for supernatural horror, although this encompasses a number of subcategories, such as Lovecraftian, occult and mythological themes. The same preoccupations reign among many Metal acts, from Scandinavian Black Metal through retro acts like Blood Ceremony and Brimstone Coven. And in execution, I prefer to write my stories in earnest, not with irony. One annoyance I’ve had with the Lovecraftian community is the prevalence of tongue-in-cheek content. Overtly jokey stories and poems only serve to lighten the mood.

Metal and Punk are not the only musical in-groups with substantial linkage to horror. Goth is a third, and it carries its own sensibility to the same literary well. Of the three groups, the Goths probably feel the greatest affection for classic tropes like vampires and ghosts. The differences with Metal are more in the realm of nuance: Metalheads are more likely to present monsters as menacing, and Goths more as misunderstood. Goths are more likely to bask in the melancholy side of the spectrum, and Metalheads incline more to the macabre side. Nor should these three musical genres feel that they control horror imagery in music; other bands have swum the same waters, either intermittently or chronically. Stephen King is famous for interjecting his classic rock obsessions into his fiction.

Herein lies the significance of the exercise. Readers in general, and writers in particular, are likely to discern common threads in the literature that drives them, the films that excite them, and the music that drives them. While the linkage between books and movies is obvious, given the number of stories that came to the screen after success on the page, the relevance of musical taste can be just as significant, at least if the musical interest is a strong one. Horror writers can learn a great deal about themselves and what drives them if they stop to consider their musical tastes and examine their parallels in the fiction they love and the stories they produce.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Michael Fassbender is a part-time writer in the Chicago area. His story “Inmate” appeared in Sanitarium Magazine in 2016; “The Cold Girl” appeared in Hypnos Magazine in 2016 and has resurfaced in October 2019 in a volume entitled Re-Haunts. “But Together We Are Strong” has appeared in the February 2020 issue of Horror Magazine, “Miroir de Vaugnac” found its place in Dark Divinations on May Day, and “Schattenlenker’s Hidden Treasure” was revealed in The Nightside Codex in August. This Halloween, “Old Growth” began spreading in Scary Stuff. You can read about more of his work on his website, michaeltfassbender.com.

Latinx Month: Best Latinx Horror Movies

from Will “the Thrill” Viharo

Naschy and Franco made hundreds of films between them so this is only a small but representative sampling. Here are some of my favorites. Salud!

THE BLIND DEAD quadrilogy directed by Amando de Ossorio 

  1. Tombs of the Blind Dead
  2. Night of the Seagulls
  3. Return of the Blind Dead
  4. Tombs of the Blind Dead

Also by Amando de Ossorio:

  1. The Loreley’s Grasp
  2.  Night of the Sorcerers

Rino Di Silvestro:

      Werewolf Woman

Paul Naschy:

  1. Werewolf VS. The Vampire Woman (aka Werewolf Shadow)
  2. Curse of the Devil
  3. Dracula’s Great Love
  4. The Mummy’s Revenge
  5. Hunchback of the Morgue
  6. Vengence of the Zombies
  7. Horror Rises From the Tomb

Jess Franco:

  1. Vampyros Lesbos
  2.  She Killed in Ecstasy
  3. The Awful Dr. Orlof
  4. The Diabolical Dr. Z
  5. Succubus
  6. Venus in Furs
  7. A VirginAmong the Living Dead

 Listical courtesy of Will “the Thrill” Viharo
http://www.thrillville.net/

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology – Last Week

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

Slay : Inspiration for The Retiree by Steven Van Patten

Inspiration for ‘The Retiree’, a short story by Steven Van Patten to be featured in Slay: Tales of the Vampire Noir.

Most of my short horror stories start with an idea—sometimes inspired, other times flat out ridiculous– that refuses to stay contained. And if you have a parent who refuses to give up their right to share an opinion whether you asked for it or not, or if you are the child of such a person, this is one for you.

The trick is that while the story’s hero is grumpy and probably a little too honest for his own good, he’s also a hero in a few ways that his daughter and the rest of their family never expect. He’s a curmudgeon to the core, right out of an episode of Sanford & Son and yet he’s also self-sacrificing and probably the smartest guy in the room he walks into. That’s old Gideon Hastings for you, a man’s man, facing his end with the same grizzled defiance that he stared down a treacherous life.

Submission Call: Haunts and Hellions, A Gothic Romance Anthology

Haunts & Hellions
a gothic romance anthology
edited by Emerian Rich

GOTHIC ROMANCES of old featured a female protagonist dealing with a terrifying ordeal while struggling to be with her true love. Set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins or haunted castles, the love interest was either a brooding handsome gentleman or a supernatural monster disguised as a gentleman. Following the example of such works as Northanger Abbey, Phantom of the Opera, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House and the like, we want your darkest, creepiest horror love story. 

Although we crave gothic romance style, don’t feel the need to paint a damsel in distress. The woman may certainly be the one who saves the day. We are also open to LBGTQ love stories. The main plot should be horror and romance. We don’t like stories written specifically with social or political agendas. Sensual or passionate stories are acceptable but we don’t want erotica or sexually-based stories. No rape. The editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.

Stories MUST contain: 

  1. An overwhelming sense of menace and dread. Horror must be just as much a part of the story as romance. 
  2. Inclement weather.  ie…fog, rain, snow, hurricane. 
  3. A supernatural horror being or entity. ie…ghost, monster, vampire, werewolf. Being can be the hero, anti-hero, or the being they are battling against. Just remember the editor likes horror. Be careful of sci-fi creatures or anything that sways sci-fi or fantasy.
  4. Set in a spooky location. ie…ghostly gatehouse, haunted lighthouse, dilapidated abbey, crumbling cathedral, terrifying tower, cursed castle, decaying plantation.
  5. Time period 1700-1940. We are looking for the classic gothic romance feeling in whatever time period you choose. Also, if writing a diverse character, please set to time period standards. Know your world, what the political/social rules were and if you break them, make sure it’s plausible. If it’s an alt-history world, make sure our readers understand how it became that way without writing an encyclopedia on the subject.  

Look below for examples of books & movies that have the feeling we are looking for.
No previously printed work and no simultaneous submissions.
We are doing blind submissions. Wow us with your story.
Enter up to two short stories only. Make sure they fit the theme

Manuscript Format:
*Font: 12 pt Courier, Times New Roman, or Garamond.
*Double spaced.
*Your manuscript must be in either DOC, DOCx, or RTF format.
*DO NOT place your name in the manuscript.**
*No header on the manuscript. JUST THE TITLE.

**Again, we are doing blind submissions. Make sure the manuscript is scrubbed of your name and personal info. This could be an automatic decline.**

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY, CLICK HERE:
https://forms.gle/KKb39vo7Go9FFqGZ6

Deadline: October 31st, 2020, 11:59pm PST
Length: 2,000-5,000 words
Payment: $10.00 USD + digital contributor copy

Return time: Final decisions will not be made until AFTER the submission close date (10/31/20). You should expect an answer within three months of the submission close date. If you do not receive an email stating your manuscript was received within two weeks of submission, please send a polite query to:  ha.netpress@gmail.com

For any other questions, please send an email to: ha.netpress@gmail.com


FURTHER EXAMPLES OF THE GOTHIC ROMANCE FEEL WE ARE LOOKING FOR TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING: 

Movies: The Hearse, Crimson Peak, Vampire Journals, Dragonwyck, Sleepy Hollow, The Woman in Black, Gingersnaps Back, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Byzantium, Suspiria, Corpse Bride, Mary Riley, Dark City, Kill, Baby…Kill

Books: Northanger Abbey, The Grey Woman, Dracula, The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Witch House, The Yellow Wallpaper

Music: Midnight Syndicate, Valentine Wolfe, Destini Beard, Goblin, Mazzy Star

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeny Todd, Love Never Dies, Corpse Bride

TV Series: Dracula (2013), Penny Dreadful, Dark Shadows (1991), Twin Peaks 

 

HorrorAddicts.net 190, 3 hr Halloween Special

Horror Addicts Episode# 190
SEASON 15 “Cursed, Cubed”
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
with guests Star, Mercy Hollow, and R.L. Merrill
Intro Music by: Valentine Wolfe


3 hr Halloween Special!

nicole givens kurtz | jack mangan | frank h. woodward | selah janel | shadow fashion | frankenstein chronicles |

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net
14 days till Halloween/Halloween NOT canceled!
terror trax: shadow fashion, children of the night
catchup: welcome, intro to in-studio guests: star, classic literature, r.l. merrill, musical musings maven, mercy hollow, return victim, drinking word: horror
merrill’s musical musings: r.l. merrill, mechants by isolation
craft: halloween wall-hanging
supplies:
*3 (or more) wooden halloween cutout ornaments
*thin string or embroidery thread
*at least 2 markers of your favorite colors that compliment each other
*a sparkly glitter pen
*various halloween charms and beads that match your colors.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

how not to be cursed: know when to quit, jeanne rodgers the “most cursed”, bat, boat mishaps, etc…mercy cursed? star favorite costumes, lucy, sonny bono, mad hatter, boy George

14:00 Interview Selah Janel
costuming, acting, gizmo, gremlins, king’s island, friday the 13th, punked fairytales, lost boys, dress made of synthetic skin, demon attack, swedish chef outfit, batgirl, fairy, wings

ro costume misshaps, cyndi lauper, how to use/start your glitter pen
daphne’s den of darkness: daphne strasert small town horror, hold the dark, the crazies, the fog, 30 days of night, and the town that dreaded sundown. emz, storm of the century, mercy, alfred hitchcock, the birds
frightening flix: kbatz, frankenstein chronicles S2

42:13 Interview with Frank H. Woodward

men in suits, frank was on #97, s8, lovecraft fear of the unknown, wrong turn 6, 30 years of working in movies, movie biz, marketing, covid, closure of sets, postponing releases, netflix buying theaters, disney, amc, microbudgets, short film, clean, drivein festival, lovecraft country, h.p. lovecraft, racisim, harry potter, j k rowling, bad mouthing trans people, doesn’t belong to her anymore, movies, etc are the fans, neil gaiman, new rules about set procedures, tyler perry, pods in filming, batman, robert pattinson, quarantine pay, sick pay, celebrate, film fest, zombie escape room in your home
Film Sense Podcast
https://directory.libsyn.com/shows/view/id/filmsense

crafting check-in, juiced glitter pen, color the wooden pieces and use glitter pen on top of colors
live action reviews: crystal connor, alone magnolia pictures
movies coming up: Don’t Look Back (2020), The Empty Man (2020), Synchronic (2019), Come Play (2020), Dune (2020), Antlers (2021), Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), Morbius (2021), A Quiet Place Part II (2020), Last Night in Soho (2021), Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Spiral (2021), CANDYMAN Expected 2021, The Forever Purge (2021), The Batman (2021), Halloween Kills (2021)
halloween movie watchlist game: evil dead 2, rocky horror, frankenstein, nightmare before christmas, the great pumpkin, hocus pocus, beetlejuice, ghost ship, little shop of horrors
craft check-in, tie them together

1:37:10 Interview with Nicole Givens Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press / SLAY
The book SLAY, non POC writer mistakes, women write horror, only white men can write horror?
Writing the Other: https://writingtheother.com
Mocha Memoirs Press: https://mochamemoirspress.com
halloween suggestions: bram stoker’s dracula, sleepy hollow, the crow, the haunting of hill house, pet semetery
Nicole’s work: https://nicolegivenskurtz.net
chilling chat: naching t. kassa, nicole kurtz

2:05:01 best band award announced and message from the winner,
kbatz krafts: halloween haul and how not to make orbs
logbook of terror: russell holbrook, milo’s yard
bigfoot files: lionel green, the search breedlove’s documentary

2:12:03 best in blood, winner is announced and surprised on audio.
glitter attacks, watermelon glitter burst, mercy glitter crime boss, star craft, too much glitter, rassle dazzle ghost
dead mail:
michele: the grey lady, the turnoff the screw, the woman in white, dracula, the portrait of dorian grey, salem witch trials, cotton mather notebooks, the house of seven gables, old time radio, the plague by albert camus
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather
(other suggestions: “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers, “Diary of a Madman” by Nikolai Gogol, “The Signal Man” by Charles Dickens)
jeff: answer for realistic pandemic movies for james, contagion, outbreak, the hot zone, alas babylon, the stand, ghost story special, nancy kilpatrick, mercy favs: 12 monkeys, i am legend, the rain, the handmaids tale, 3%
seth: movie soundtracks for writing, interview with the vampire, dracula musical, 5th element, beetlejuice, accuradio video game soundtracks, classic horror film soundtracks, suspiria, ros: fright night, pet semetery, rocky horror, reanimator, the shining, danny elfman, in the tall grass, midnight special, the twilight zone, wanna see something really scary, creature features, gremlins, the lost boys, g tom mac, episode #136, dan shaurette interviewed him
news: the new craft movie, the craft legacy, blumhouse, jesse orr, my darling dead, bastards, mocha memoirs press, SLAY, haunts and hellions, transmundane press, ON TIME, emerian rich, philip steven, dj tryer, valentine wolfe.bandcamp.com
book review: benjamin langley, normal review by stephanie ellis

2:41:50 Interview with Jack Mangan
was on #23, #52, in two of dan’s two audiodramas, am i evil, metallica, diamondhead, brian tatler, sean harris, witch burning, revenge, comic, graphic novel, fan art, rich catino, james f beverage, derek mau, spherical tomi, fiction writing, halloween plans, no more events on halloween, no trick or treating, but fun at the house, candy, harry potter, peanuts, star wars, snakes, slytherin, horror movie recommends: evil dead 2, bruce campbell, evil dead musical, splatter zone, poltergeist
Am I Evil: https://www.amievil-graphicnovel.com
Metal Asylum: http://www.metalasylum.net
Jack Mangan’s site: http://jackmangan.com

last word on crafts, ro: advanced crafting, star: by the book, mercy: flamethrower edition.
Mercy Hollow: https://www.mercyhollow.com
R.L. Merrill: https://www.rlmerrillauthor.com
Star: I can’t wait for The Haunting of Bly Manor!
bloopers


Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

horroraddicts@gmail.com

h o s t e s s

Emerian Rich

h e a d  o f p u b l i s h i n g

Naching T. Kassa

p u b l i s h i n g  p. a.

Cedar George

b l o g  e d i t o r

Kate Nox

s t a f f

KBatz (Kristin Battestella), Daphne Strasert, Jesse Orr, Russell Holbrook, Lionel Green, Keiran Judge, Crystal Connor, Nightshade, Courtney Mroch, R.L. Merrill

Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email horroraddicts@gmail.com

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https://www.patreon.com/horroraddicts

t h e  b e l f r y  a p p

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.wizzard.android.belfry&hl=en_US

s t i t c h e r 

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/horroraddictsnet

spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/show/0DtgSwv2Eh6aTepQi7ZWdv

overcast

https://overcast.fm/itunes286123050/horroraddicts-net

podcast republic

https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/286123050

himalaya 

https://www.himalaya.com/en/show/501228

google play music

https://play.google.com/music/m/I5rjr5vrnpltxyr3elfqtzujzay?t=HorrorAddictsnet

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Logbook of Terror : Milo’s Yard

“Milo’s Yard” 

Every year Milo’s Halloween decorations grew more elaborate, ambitious, and horrific. Milo’s yard had become so scary during the month of October that all the neighborhood joggers and walkers rerouted their familiar paths to avoid that peculiar house until November came and the terror was put away for another year. 

Halloween night was especially dreadful, so much so that none of the adults would come within a block of Milo’s yard. Only the children were brave enough to go, and yet still, only the bravest would return, their faces ashen white, their eyes deep pools filled with dread. And the children who weren’t so brave, the ones who were called The Lost, the ones all the neighbors whispered about during the months that followed Hallow’s Eve, they seemed to somehow disappear; they would enter Milo’s yard and never return as if their own fear kept them trapped there forever. But, everyone knew that Milo had the best candy. There was no candy like it anywhere else in the whole neighborhood, and no one could ever figure out where it came from. It was beyond delicious. It was legendary. It was worth the risk. 

Milo checked his watch – it wouldn’t be long now. He surveyed the yard and smiled far and wide at his creation. Gargoyles leered from every corner of the roof. Phantoms hoisted on unseen wires and pulleys flew back and forth above the headstones, zombies, witches, and ghouls that filled the front yard. Lights burning orange and purple lit the scene. Two meandering rows of glowing skulls illuminated a path that weaved its way through the yard to the front door. Wireless speakers hung hidden in the trees, waiting to come to life and proclaim their fearful song.

Milo hurried into the house. He powered up the six fog machines. Three minutes later dense fog began to fill the yard. Excitement and anticipation filled Milo’s soul. He pressed the play button on the stereo. As his favorite haunted house tape echoed out into the gathering gloom, Milo sat in the dark of his front window and waited for the trick or treaters to arrive. 

***

Chase Cabrini stood with his parents and little sister at the top of the hill, just up the street from Milo’s house. “You know we can’t go with you, son, it’s just the way it is,” Landau Cabrini said to his oldest boy. 

Chase had just turned eleven and was teetering on the edge of adolescence and the loss of childhood wonders. He looked up at his father. “It’s alright, dad, I’m not scared.” 

Landau looked down at his boy. His eyes filled with empathy. He knew the kid was full of shit. 

“Alright, son, we’ll wait here for you,” Chase’s father said. 

The small family stared down the street toward Milo’s yard. Horror music wafted up the hill, carried along on the ever advancing fog. Chase took three steps before he turned back and glanced at his family. He grinned and then trotted away and disappeared into the mist, his black vampire’s cape flying in the wind behind him. 

***

The fog seemed to clear a bit as Chase neared the house. He could hear odd, unearthly voices underneath the music, inside the fog. He felt eyes on him. His shoes hit soft earth. He was there. He was in Milo’s yard. He stopped and took a breath, taking in the sweet aroma of the fog. A cool wind chilled his skin. He gazed into the fog and saw the lighted path that led through the cemetery and to the front door. Chase felt his nerve start to shrink. The door suddenly seemed so far away. His dad was right after all; he was totally freaked. “Shit…” Chase muttered to himself. He stood still and listened and hoped to hear the reassuring voices of other children coming down the hill but there were none. He was all alone in Milo’s yard. 

Peering through the fog, Chase saw the front door creep open. He choked down the lump in his throat and began to walk. 

The front door seemed impossibly far away. His ears burned hot with fear. His eyes watered. His hands trembled. Leaves crunched under Chase’s feet as he walked the path. He felt fingers and hands brush across his back. Strange creatures beneath the gloom breathed hot breath onto his legs and nipped at his toes. Chase’s eyes darted around, searching for the monsters hidden in the fog. Two zombies lunged at him, one from either side. An ancient black cat tore at his pants leg. A coffin lid moved and a mummy rose up into the fog. A sudden banshee shriek tore the air behind him. Chase jumped and bolted straight for the door, his heart racing out ahead of him. He tripped and stumbled on to the porch. He looked up and there was Milo, standing in the doorway, staring down at him with a devil’s grin. Chase straightened up and cleared his throat. “Trick ‘r Treat,” he squeaked out. 

Chase held out his trusty plastic pumpkin bucket. Milo smiled and dropped a handful of candy in. “Why don’t you go ahead and try a piece now?” Milo asked the boy. 

“Sure…!” Chase said, his face beaming with eager joy as he reached into the pumpkin. 

At first bite, the candy didn’t seem all that special, but then something happened. The flavor changed. The chocolate coating somehow seemed indescribably delicious. Chase felt a wild euphoria sweep over him and he cooed like a baby. His eyes went limp and numb. 

“This is delicious,” Chase said through a full mouth. 

“Good…” Milo said. “Have another.” 

So Chase stood on Milo’s porch and ate another and another and still one more. And Milo dumped more candy into the plastic pumpkin bucket. Chase’s feet felt light. Pure happiness flooded through him. He couldn’t feel the porch beneath him. He looked down and saw that he was floating. He began to laugh and Milo laughed along with him. Chase dropped his trick or treat pumpkin and flapped his arms. He felt his teeth grow into sharp fangs. He drew his cape up around him and floated out into the fog of Milo’s yard. 

“I love it here!” Chase exclaimed. “I never want to leave!”

“And you’ll never have to!” Milo said with a huge smile. “You can stay in my yard forever and ever and have all the candy you like.”  

“I’m a real vampire now!” Chase shouted as he perched on the limb of a withered old tree, enshrouded in fog, and waited for the next trick or treater to come by.

My Darling Dead : Bastards / Episode 13

Her husband had become just that. A husband, in name only. There were days she did not even see him, so busy was he flaunting his power over the desirable women of the court. More desirable than his queen. 

When the wizard came upon her at her window, weeping silently into a goblet of wine, he was uncertain. But she had imbibed enough already to unload her heart’s anguish onto him. As she wept, she sought solace in his arms. The wizard’s initial reluctance melted as she moved against him, carnal desire replacing sense, lust overcoming caution. 

Afterward, she had forbidden him to speak of it. It was a promise they both kept until she began to show. Fortunately, it was nearing the frost, nobody thought twice about the extra layers the queen now wore. Clothes only covered so much though and finally, making up a story to the distracted king, the queen took refuge in a cabin in the woods with two of her most trusted ladies in waiting. Upon news of his son’s imminent birth, the wizard set out for the cabin. He arrived just as the child made his first cry and, without a word, took the child from the queen’s midwife and vanished, the queen never even laying eyes upon her son. 

Zavier had clearly been waiting long to share this fact and the light shone from his eyes with the intensity of a bonfire. Orteg and Agathas both were stunned into silence. Zavier paced back and forth before them, gesturing wildly as he continued his soliloquy. 

“A bastard by the queen is nothing to anybody. My father knew that, as did our mother, Orteg. They saw to it that I was kept out of the way, a humble pageboy, and learned all I could from my father in the ways of magic, for the day when he would no longer be there and the kingdom required a leader. But as I watched it descend into more and more chaos, I became certain; the queen’s son would have no right over the throne in the eyes of the people, particularly in these troubled times. It would have to be a man who carries the blood of King Wendell himself, who would reunite the kingdom. 

“When I found you, Orteg, I thought my search had ended. Here was a simple, stupid man who would be easy to install as a figurehead, then direct him to do my will, by one means or another.” Zavier shook his staff. “Then Barris and his disgusting sister here decided to place before you an unthinkable choice, one that no father would have made. My entire plan would fall to ruins if you refused to ascend to the throne. I compelled you to dispose of your obstacles to the throne, but instead of accepting your destiny and becoming king, you had to start conspiring with that bloated sack of offal, Barris. I hoped to teach you a lesson watching him die, but you seem to be the same angry self-righteous peasant as you were born, and you have irked me overlong as it is.”

Color rose in Zavier’s face, veins in his forehead standing out as his face darkened. His eyes bulged and he looked quite demented. Orteg tried with all his might to move any muscle and only succeeded in twitching his nose. Agathas whimpered from the cage. Zavier’s eyes shifted to her. 

“Agathas. You have no reason left to live. You realize that, don’t you?” Zavier said, his voice sympathetic though his eyes lost none of their manic gleam. “You know I have to dispose of you as well as this fool or nothing will ever change.” Zavier began breathing heavily as he pulled out his polished staff, running his fingers over its contours lovingly. “For the kingdom. You understand.” He pointed the staff at Agathas. 

Without warning, a blinding light seared Orteg’s eyes. Unable to throw up a hand to cover them, Orteg screwed his eyelids together tightly, though the light continued to grow. Dimly, he could hear Zavier yelling and Agathas screaming. The light was so bright through his closed eyes it seemed loud, shouting in his ears and even though he could not see, he prayed for release…then it came.

Darkness. Orteg ventured his eyes open only to see more darkness. Gradually he heard the snuffling moans of someone laying on the ground nearby. This reminded him of his previous paralysis and he flexed a finger experimentally. It responded, along with its fellows. His entire hand and arm worked as though there had never been any interruption. He clambered to his feet, his legs aching. The darkness was fading and he could make out the room he was in once again. The light had been so bright it had drowned out the pitiful sunshine from outside. 

The moans came from Zavier, laying spread eagled on the floor on his back, struggling to move his lips to form words. Though he trembled with the exertion, no sound beyond his quiet moaning escaped his mouth. Orteg scarcely noticed Zavier though, his eyes were drawn to the fairy Liseem, standing over Zavier, looking more radiant and lovely than ever in her fury. Agathas was similarly gaping at her, making no effort to hide her awe. 

“Zavier, Son of Hespa, bastard child of the crown, you have disgraced the name of sorcery with your foul actions,” Liseem stated, not raising her voice though it filled the entire room and Orteg’s head rang with it. “Due to your haste to grow beyond your status, you shall henceforth be smaller than the eye may readily see, that you may observe the world you may not engage with. Those who do observe you will hate you upon sight and hasten to murder you.” Liseem spun away from Zavier’s horrified expression, raising her hands to the sky and calling out a strange word. 

The light exploded in the room again. Orteg and Agathas screwed up their eyes at once but the light was not nearly so merciless this time. There was a popping sound and the smell of sulfur. The light winked out and Orteg opened his eyes at once. Zavier was gone. Where he had lay on the floor scurried a large cockroach, antenna twitching frantically as it sought to avoid the humans in the room. It rushed at Liseem, then seemed to think better of it, making for the door. 

“My lady?” Orteg asked, a smile on his face. 

“Please,” said Liseem, her own smile radiating light. 

Orteg raised his boot, bringing it down with all the force he could muster. The cockroach crunched under his boot, sending a stream of yellow goo shooting across the floor. Orteg ground his boot back and forth, the crunching sound beneath his foot giving way to the whisper of dirt on stone. When he raised his foot, there was nothing but a wet spot. 

Orteg Bluenote was crowned king of Dandoich before an enormous crowd. From his viewing point, he could see nothing but his new subjects as far as his eye would reach. As the crown was set on his head by Agathas, the roar of the crowd took his breath away. A tear came to his eye, speedily wiped away, lest he show weakness before his new subjects. Agathas stood at his side, her part in the death of the king’s children having been overlooked in the fate that befell Barris. As the king’s adviser, and with Barris out of the way, as the senior member of the council who had run the kingdom for years, she was uniquely positioned to be invaluable to the inexperienced king. Her mind was already feverishly at work, thinking of how best to turn her new position to her advantage.

After the coronation ceremony, the new king was in his chambers, still attempting to grasp the changes in his life over the last few weeks. His family was gone but he had more wealth and power than he could ever imagine. With the blessing of the fairy, he felt invincible. Pouring himself a glass of the finest wine in his chamber, he toasted the window and the moon pouring its light into the chamber. 

Midway through sipping the wine, Orteg heard a noise from just outside the window. It was a scratching sound, as though a cat were sharpening its claws on the stone below the window. As Orteg listened, it became clearer and more pronounced. A snuffling sound, then a high-pitched giggle floated through the window, chilling Orteg’s bones. His innards turned to ice as a hand, thin and bony, with long filthy ragged nails, crawled up over the windowsill. It was attached to an arm, as scrawny and filthy as the hand. Eyes appeared over the sill, dark slits in the dirty, pointed face twisted in a demented grin. 

The brilliant light appeared in the room, making Orteg and the rat creature shield their eyes. As it faded, Orteg saw that the rat creature had entered the room, along with a second and he could see a third scrabbling at the window and (dear Gods) it sounded like there were more working their way up the wall. A figure had solidified in the center of the room, coalescing out of the whiteness into the fairy who had saved him. 

“Liseem!” Orteg gasped. “Thank the gods you are here! You must help me! This creature—”

“These creatures,” Liseem broke in, a nasty grin upon her face, “Will be your doom, Orteg Bluenote.” The fairy touched the face of the first rat creature, delicately pressing her finger against the sharp teeth in the creature’s face. Instantly, all the rat creatures froze. The sound of those climbing the tower ceased. There was nothing but the fairy’s voice.

“Many years before your birth,” Liseem said, turning to face him, “I was in love with a king. The king of Dandoich in fact. Your father.” She fell silent for a moment, looking at Orteg with no kindness in her eyes. “You are of his seed, yet I do not recognize you at all. You are nothing like the king.”

“But—Esemli!” Orteg gasped, his hands clasped before him in an unconscious prayer. “She was in love with the king and was killed by the princess! She has been dead longer than I have been alive! Everyone in the kingdom knows that story!”

“This is where the story ends,” whispered the fairy. “I, Liseem, am the fairy Esemli.” 

A series of images rushed through Orteg’s head. The fairy and the king rutting in his receiving room before being interrupted by the queen. The king groveling as Esemli listened from behind the door, listening as he cast their love aside instead of keeping his promise. Faster, images of the kingdom’s descent into chaos flashed through his mind. Rat creatures feeding on garbage, peasants, each other. Crops rotting on the vine as farmers barricaded themselves in their houses, afraid to tend to the harvest. Esemli laughing, laughing, laughing. 

The images stopped, but the laughing continued. Liseem’s laughter merged into that of Esemli and Orteg knew that she spoke the truth.

“No…” whispered Orteg, feeling as though all blood had drained from his body. 

“Yes,” hissed Esemli, her hatred changed the fairy’s beautiful features into an inhuman rage. “And now, Orteg Bluenote, you shall die carrying on the suffering of your lineage. The kingdom’s spiral into darkness will continue!”

With mad laughter, the fairy vanished. Sound regained its control on the world, the scrabbling sounds of a rat person clawing its way into the room registering first on Orteg’s ear. He realized with a start that his back was against the stone wall opposite the door. The first creature crawled across the floor, its jerky skittering motions sending spasms of horror up and down Orteg’s spine. The thing kept grinning, nose twitching, as it advanced. Orteg tried to make a break for the door, but the creature was too fast, scuttling between Orteg and the door with a drooling grin. There were more crawling in through the window. Cowering back against the wall, Orteg moaned, helpless, frozen in terror as the creatures came for him. 

Agathas had been waiting to visit the new king in his chambers until after he had time to get himself sufficiently drunk. She intended to ask for less oversight on his part as she conducted the day-to-day business of the kingdom, in essence giving her free reign to govern as she saw fit. Under Barris, she had learned from the best and had no interest in the new monarch sticking his nose in her affairs. 

She was lingering in the anteroom below the king’s chambers when the screaming began. The king’s hysterical shrieks brought all within earshot running. Throwing open the door, Agathas and the castle staff beheld the new king, his eyes and throat wide open, gaping in the direction of the door, hand stretched out, even as the humanoid thing that now resembled a rat snuffled and scrabbled at Orteg’s chest, seeking his heart as blood from his neck bathed them both. Other rat creatures prowled the room, looking in corners and under things for their next meal. At the sound of the door, they stopped as one and stared.

Agathas screamed, drawing the attention of the rat creature away from Orteg’s lifeless body. Like a spider, the creature scuttled toward her, eyes twin pinpricks burning brightly amid the face of blood. The next moment, it was flying back, impaled by a long silver spear. Blood ran from its mouth, grinning even as it spluttered for breath. The captain of the guard pushed past Agathas, striding across to the creature. It snarled at him, coughing blood all over his boots as it did. 

The man’s face wrinkled in disgust. In one smooth movement, he drew his sword and struck the head from the creature’s shoulders. It flew across the room, striking the stone wall with a sound like wet sand. Falling to the ground, the jaws gnashed twice, then were still. Looking around, Agathas saw the last rat creature scuttling out the tower window and heard a thud as it hit the ground below. 

“The king is dead,” Agathas said, recovering her composure speedily. “Let it be known throughout the kingdom that the Council once again reigns supreme.” A smile spread across her face. “Inform the council members that their leader has summoned them at once.”

“At once, Honorable Prefect,” said the captain of the guard, sheathing his blade.

“Queen, I think you’ll find, Captain,” Agathas said, smiling an ugly smile. The captain of the guard was only taken aback for a moment, before bowing to her.

“My liege,” he said, already scheming his own rise to power. 

There would never again be another monarch to rule the kingdom. The fairies would see to it.