Free Fiction: The Banyan Tree Ghosts by Sravani Singampalli

The Banyan Tree Ghosts by Sravani Singampalli

People in the village were always scared of the banyan tree at the corner of the old palace where once a beautiful princess named Kamakshi committed a suicide along with her best friend. Princess Kamakshi used to spend time in the shade of the banyan tree with her best friend named Moya who was a farmer’s daughter. Both of them had the same mindset and fell in love at a much younger age. They both were in deep love and used to discuss their thoughts and future sitting under the banyan tree. They used to advise each other and were sure that their parents would agree for their marriage with their lovers but that didn’t happen and it led to unexpected repercussions.

Princess Kamakshi and Moya failed in convincing their parents and one fine day both of them committed a suicide by hanging themselves from the banyan tree. Their sudden demise shook the entire village. Nobody expected that these two girls would take such a brutal step. Moya’s parents were in shock and left the village while Kamakshi’s parents donated their property to an orphanage and lived in a small house with their daughter’s memories. The news of their death spread to all the nearby villages. Children started weaving their own stories and that banyan tree became very popular.

One day, a farmer named Raju was passing by the banyan tree where Moya and Kamakshi hung themselves and all of a sudden he started shouting like a lady. People who listened to his voice and observed his behaviour were very sure that he was possessed by some evil spirit. From that day all the villagers became alert and were very scared of going near that banyan tree. Raju’s health kept on deteriorating as days passed by. He was newly married and lived happily with his beautiful wife but after that strange incident, happiness left his life. He spoke all the weird languages and dirty words. Sometimes, he just used to drape a saree and walk like a woman. People were not only scared of that banyan tree but were scared of Raju’s behaviour too.

Raju’s wife was very worried and felt insulted because of his behaviour. Children used to hurl stones at him and some people also used to beat him badly that led to serious problems. Raju’s wife finally decided to approach an exorcist for help. She had to visit another village to meet the exorcist and explained everything in detail to him. After listening to the entire story, the exorcist came to a conclusion and decided to perform an exorcism. The very next day, the exorcist visited Raju and tried to know about the spirit who possessed him. To his surprise, he came to know that not one but two spirits had possessed him. He asked their names and also their wishes. Everybody was shocked to know that Raju was possessed by the spirits of princess Kamakshi and Moya. The exorcist questioned them about their intentions and wishes. They just said that they never got to enjoy life so they decided to play with this newly married innocent man as he was living a happy life. They promised the exorcist that they would leave Raju’s body if he agrees to wear a red colour saree and walk till that banyan tree with a pot full of water on his head like a woman. The exorcist told Raju to do as they demanded. Raju did whatever they wished for and after an hour he became completely normal. He was free of both the spirits.

Raju’s wife was on cloud nine and grateful to the exorcist but the exorcist warned all the villagers to stay away from that banyan tree in order to lead a happy life. The villagers decided to build a fence around that banyan tree. Nobody understood what Kamakshi and Moya wanted after this strange incident. To some people, it seemed funny but rumours about that banyan tree continued to spread to other villages and nobody dared to visit that place.

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Free Words Wednesday: Infested by ReaperScoob

Free Words Wednesday

Guest Writer: ReaperScoob
INFESTED

Alexa woke up in a cold sweat. A reoccurring night terror disturbed her slumber and as usual, the events of said dream escaped her memory as she arose. The coffee started dripping into an awaiting mug in the kitchen. Alexa grabbed the mug, still in a haze, and sat at her kitchen table. With a deep breath, she took her first sip. Before it reached her gut, she spat it out in shock. 2 little cockroaches stood on her table, their antennas flailing this way and that. Her whole body tensed up. She hated roaches and had never seen one in her own abode before. One moved with a jolt toward her and she squealed in horror, rocking in her chair and falling backwards onto the floor. Coffee flew everywhere, covering Alexa and sending the mug crashing next to her.

Alexa’s head thudded off the wooden flooring, dazing her. Wet and somewhat burnt, she gave a frustrated scream and took a deep breath. She rolled to her left, away from the shattered mug, and began lifting herself to her forearms.  Glancing upward, she saw 6 or 7 more roaches on and around her table leg. She shuddered at their sight, tears welling up in frustration and fear. She got to her knees, noticing a trail of roaches leading from the kitchen out to a spare bedroom on the left down a brief hallway. These roaches were rather peculiar in their behavior. Only a few traveled back and forth, the majority acting as roadsigns for the insects traffic. They sporadically twisted and turned, going nowhere. The ones moving followed the mindless like a set of trail-markers. Reaching the door, the trail went right under, while dozens of other roaches covered the door-frame. Alexa crept up to the door. Her mind raced but some deep curiosity kept pushing her forward. Every inch of her crawled nervously as she took note of the roaches on the frame. Heart pounding, she grabbed the handle and opened the door.

Hundreds of roaches ran over her feet. The walls moved like living tar, pouring out into her home. Blood covered everything and a rotten corpse of a horse lay in the otherwise empty room now that most the roaches had ran out. The smell of death invaded her nostrils and she puked. She fell to her knees and put a hand down which was instantly covered in a swarm of roaches that came rushing from the living room. She flung herself backwards and her whole place was now ablaze. Fire engulfed everything as smoke piled into the room, Alexa began to cough. She rushed towards a window but a burst of flame blocked her path. She choked and began to black out. She ran for the front door, stumbled and fell to the floor.

Alexa woke up in a cold sweat. Her heart pounding and tears ran down her face. She remembered the whole thing. What hell had her conscience sent her to? Finally calming down, she sat up in bed. In the kitchen she heard the coffee begin to pour into her mug. As Alexa got up and headed to the kitchen, there scurried a roach, running rampantly towards the kitchen.


Griffin Mekelburg (ReaperScoob) has had a hand in a variety of jobs, giving him insight into many backgrounds that have lead to his stories. His style is graphic and unforgiving, covering all aspects of horror and thriller. 

Guest Blog: EMERALD EYES By R. B. Wood

EMERALD EYES

By R. B. Wood

It was raining the night the dark-faced, false-skinned murderers came for my children. I’d been through and survived their senseless killings before, escaping with my life and little else.

If it were just me, I wouldn’t be concerned. But I had children now, and the three youngsters were asleep, huddled together for warmth and comfort. The wind howled at our home while torrents of rain lashed down, threatening to drown us. Indistinct voices sounded outside. They didn’t kill us to eat. They slaughtered us for fun, and they were far more dangerous than any jungle storm.

Lightning exploded around me as I woke the children. The two youngest, Chand and Saarya, fussed and complained sleepily, but Ishaan, my eldest, woke instantly and was immediately alert, staring at me with his beautiful and expectant emerald eyes. There was so much more to teach them, but there was no more time. I had to trust that they could find their own path, as young as they were. I did once, long ago. Now it was their turn. I needed to face the false-skinned murderers and keep them from my family.

I knew that by dawn, I would be dead.

I nodded once to Ishaan, then to the jungle. He nodded once in response. He swatted at his sister and brother and the two fell into line behind him. My three babies stole away through the lashing rain. It took only seconds for them to disappear from sight—an impressive feat for ones so young. I felt a moment of pride, just then, I admit it.

Ishaan was doing his job as the eldest. It was time for me to do mine as their mother. The false-skinned murderers wanted something to kill? I would not make it easy for them. I leaped out of the door of my home for the last time and began to stalk my prey. I found the first one urinating against a tree. I took him before he even knew there was danger.

I ripped the throat out of a second murderer moments later. This one lets out a gurgling cry, but the wind and then rain masked the sound of his death. I was approaching a third when I heard a loud crack—the report of one of their damnable fire-sticks. Caution be damned, I ran toward the sound, already knowing what I’d find. Little Chand was lying among the fronds, his blood pooling, mixing with the rain and the dirt. A ragged wound had taken the place of the soft, black fur of his chest. I watched him take his last breath. Whether he realized I was with him when he died, I’ll never know. 

A second crack sounded nearby and I roared with rage, bounding away from one dead child only to find another—my little Saarya—missing half of her head. I could see bloody, broken teeth showing through the hole. A grotesque mockery of what had been her beautiful smile. All around my daughter I could smell her death, taste her blood. I was about to scream again when I heard a higher pitched yell of fear and pain. Not Ishann too, I thought and set off as fast as my legs would carry me.

I splashed through puddles and slid in the muck, scrambling to get to my boy. I found him. But it hadn’t been he who screamed. Lying on the ground was a murderer. His throat had been ripped out, much like I’d done to his companion moments before. A broken fire-stick lay beside him.

Ishaan was there, ripping at the murder’s false-skin, tearing into the dark flesh underneath. My son was in the middle of a blood rage. He had lost the sense of himself, lost awareness of the danger that still surrounded us. I pulled him off his kill. He bit and clawed at me, and I let him until his rage faded.

Shouts could be heard coming closer, and beams from false-suns sprang up. More murderers would come, as they always did, sensing an impending kill. They would be riding in metal beasts and carrying larger fire-sticks.

We needed to run.

No, I thought. Ishann needs to run. I failed to keep the false-skinned killers from Chand and Saarya. I will not fail a third time.

I held my son close, inhaling his scent, trying to explain to him how he needed to run, how proud I was of him. How much I loved him. Rain washed away the blood and dirt from the fur of my child as I set him down upon the sodden ground. He looked up at me, emerald eyes unblinking, understanding. And at the next flash of lightning, my son was gone. Thunder rumbled, and I growled a challenge in response, matching tone and timber.

Voices were all around me now. Many false-suns lit the jungle chaotically, bouncing off trees and ground and rain.

And me.

One of them shouted, and other false-suns turned to me in an instant. There was no more time. I snarled in defiance.

This is for Chand and Saarya. This is to keep my Ishann free.

I pounced amongst screams. Their fire-sticks roared. Blood flowed, and the rains fell harder.

 

*********

 

BIO:

R. B. Wood is a technology consultant and a writer of Speculative and Dark Fiction.  His first novel, The Prodigal’s Foole, was released to critical acclaim in 2012.  Mr. Wood is currently working on multiple stories and his MFA (Emerson College Class of ’19).  Along with his writing passion, R. B.  is the host of The Word Count Podcast – a show that features talent from all around the globe reading original flash-fiction stories.

R. B. currently lives in Boston with his partner, Tina, a multitude of cats and various other critters that visit from time to time.

#NGHW 500-Word WINNER! Harry Husbands

Winner for episode #139

VIRTUAL REALITY IS REVOLUTIONISING HORROR

by Harry Husbands

This winner’s entry will be read an discussed in full
on the Cemetery Confessions podcast, June 2nd, 2017.

Here is just a taste of the blog:

“Imagine you enter a theatre in the year 2025 and take a seat. In front of you is a device that you place on your head and over your ears. Your vision is blackened. Thirty minutes of adverts begin because some things just never change. Eventually the film starts and you’re in a corridor where the lightbulb flickers and a putrid smell of rotting meat wafts to your nostrils. You are creeping forward when the light goes out completely. There’s icy breath on the back of your neck. You not only hear it but you feel it too…” Hear more on Cemetery Confessions June 2nd.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW 500-word Horror Blogs, the Runners Up

#NGHW 500-word Horror Blogs, The Runners Up featured on #139
Daphne Strasert and Quentin Norris

  1.  # 2 HORROR BINGE by Daphne Strasert

    Fear evolved to be a fleeting physical reaction. Fight or flight is only supposed to last long enough to escape danger. Psychologically speaking, humans aren’t built to endure hours of sustained terror. Yet, whether it’s Penny Dreadful or Stranger Things, horror addicts love to curl up with Netflix for a marathon of dread. Watching horror isn’t like it used to be. With the rise of streaming services, the horror genre faces the new challenge of binge-watch culture. What effect does this medium have on scare factor and can it take horror to new heights?

    How did we get here?

    Before streaming, television horror was constrained by weekly time slots. Creators had to contend with an unreliable audience, so they structured series for casual viewing. Shows adopted a “monster of the week” format that worked well even if watched sporadically. However, what worked well for syndication floundered when viewers started consuming a decade’s worth of episodes in a single weekend. Faced with a fundamental shift in how audiences watch television, producers adapted their approach. Netflix pioneered the world of “binge content” by releasing shows in season-long chunks and optimizing them for marathon viewing.

    A new approach to story telling

    With longer run times and no commercial breaks, binge content plays by different rules. For better or worse, creators have changed how they make shows to keep you clicking “Watch Next”.

    • No Filler

    Binge shows don’t waste time on scenarios (or infuriating Christmas episodes) that won’t be mentioned again. Every installment stays on track and, with no fluff to waste time, the storyline moves forward at breakneck speed. Episodes bleed together without having to rehash plot points. Twists and turns pile on each other with never-ending suspense and mystery. Stranger Things is a perfect example—more like a seven-hour movie than a television show. The long format gives the creators room to develop a complex story.

    • Stifled Experimentation

    Tight plots and fast pacing can have drawbacks. Sometimes an amazing concept doesn’t stand up to a full season of scrutiny. These ideas benefit from single episode exploration. Buffy mastered this with one-off monsters like The Gentlemen.

    • No anticipation

    A tortuous wait between episodes isn’t always a bad thing. A horror show that updates every week stews for seven days, allowing imagination to fill in horrifying implications while the show isn’t playing. American Horror Story capitalizes on this by leaving key doors open at the end of episodes to bring viewers back each week.

    As viewers increasingly turn to streaming services rather than cable subscriptions, we can expect binge content to grow and adapt. We are already seeing the medium evolve. Stephen King and J.J. Abrams are teaming up to bring us Castle Rock. It isn’t out yet, but internet whispers say that it could bring us an anthology show that breaks the mega-movie mold. So, look forward to new terrors as horror masterminds push the envelope of an already edgy genre.

  2. ********************
  3. #3 FIVE FILMMAKERS CHANGING THE FACE OF HORROR CINEMAby Quentin Norris

    It’s no secret that horror is one of the most easily dismissed genres in any medium, especially in film.  It’s hard to blame the critics. There are always exceptions, but the early 2000s were too bogged down with tepid remakes of ’80s gems to make any true impressions on cinephiles. Horror’s reputation has been changing thanks to exciting visions from the following filmmakers who are breathing new life into the genre:

    Alice Lowe: Alice Lowe took no prisoners with her feature film debut, Prevenge, a twisted tale of a mother-to-be who is slave to the will of her sociopathic unborn child. Lowe starred in the film while seven months pregnant and used her own fears as inspiration. Lowe conjures up the most delightfully wicked scares mixed with pitch black humor with the most limited of resources, and the results are nothing less than entertaining.

    Jordan Peele: Although the well-noted sketch comedian had been discussing his desire to make a horror film for some time, no one quite knew what to expect from Get Out, but what we got was a groundbreaking wake up call for America, and could not have come at a better time. The filmmaking is inspired by past films — particularly the dread of Rosemary’s Baby — but the subject matter is extremely modern, exploring the inherent terror of being a person of color in modern society. Like many great horror films before it, Get Out uses socio-political themes to reflect something deeper inside everyone.

    Oz Perkins: As the son of Anthony Perkins, the original Norman Bates, horror runs through Oz Perkins’ blood, although he’s had a bit of a rocky start. His first film, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, is only now being released, while his second, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House, was quietly released on Netflix late last year. Pretty Thing may have been released to little fanfare, but it is a striking film that is well worth a watch. Feeling like a cross between Terrence Malick and David Lynch, the film creates a gothic ghost story like no other before it.

    Robert Eggers: Scaring Stephen King is no easy feat, but that is exactly what Eggers did with his excellent feature debut, The Witch, a creeping tale of a doomed New England family haunted by a demonic presence that feels like a knife slowly digging under your skin for an hour and thirty minutes.

    Julia Ducournau: This French-Canadian filmmaker’s feature debut, Raw, gained a reputation as a gross-out film after audiences fainted at a film festival screening. While there’s no shortage of gooey body horror to be found in the film, it is much more than just that. The film is a layered, emotional coming-of-age film with enough body horror to make David Cronenberg beam with pride.

    And that’s just to name a few. There are many more independent genre filmmakers and many more to come who just can’t wait for the opportunity to collectively scare us all in the dark.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW 300-Word WINNER! Naching T. Kassa

Winner for episode #138

The Laughing Man

by Naching T. Kassa

The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

“Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

“Does he come every night,” I had asked.

“He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

“What if I can’t sleep?”

“Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

“Johnny?” a voice whispered.

I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

“You awake, Johnny?”

Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

“Johnny?”

I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

“I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.


Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net

#NGHW TOP Seven 300-word Stories

TOP 7 / 300-WORD STORIES featured on #138

  1. 1: LARVAE by Sumiko SaulsonLARVAE – A sliver of sunlight pierced the stagnant air of the subbasement, illuminating claw marks in the mossy walls. Under the stream of light I observed bloodstains at the base of my torn nailbed. I winced. The iron-rich smell would attract the creature.Its piteous mewling arose from the depths. I nervously kicked soil into the tunnel at my feet. I had to escape before it returned. Clutching the soil, my fingers dug deep within. Quickly, I ascended. I was six feet up when I felt a tug at my feet. Looking down in horror, I witnessed the creature’s bloated, white body creeping up my pants leg.

    “Get off me, foul thing!” I screamed, kicking the hideous larvae. It was three feet long. Its maw oozed putrescent yellow fluids reeking of fetid lard. That evil oral emanation hit toe of my sneaker, melting canvas and eating away at flesh. I screamed in pain, kicking loose the shoe, sending the maggot dropping below with it.

    The small crevice at the top of the well was just feet away. Heart racing, I redoubled my efforts to scale the wall. A nail broke with a gut-wrenching crack. I felt blood rush out from under the cloth, hot and sticky. I began to calculate how much pressure it would take to knock the wooden cap off the well.

    A new sound emerged. Loud buzzing that grew rapidly closer. I felt wiry hairs touch the back of my neck. Against my will, I turned to look.

    A monstrous fly stared at me with its compound eye. It’s voice, high-pitched and querulous, vibrated against my maddened eardrum. “I bet you didn’t know we evolved,” it said, arrogantly hissing before its mandibles slid into the unyielding flesh of my eyelid, tearing asunder the fragile orb underneath.

    2: THE PET by Daphne Strasert

    THE PET

    You first found your precious baby while she cowered under a car—tiny, trembling, more fur than flesh. Such a helpless angel… you couldn’t leave her to the cruelty of the streets.

    You recline on the couch, Netflix droning in the background and your snuggle muffin nuzzled against your chest. Her breathing lulls you into the blissful space between sleeping and waking. You stroke her fur, careful to avoid the sharp spines, and trace each of the prominent bones that protrude from her back. The tip of her tail coils around your wrist, forming a vice of soft hair. Loving cupcake, you’d do anything to keep her happy.

    You coo at her and she raises her head, blinking each of her four eyes in turn. A rumbling hum passes from her body through yours and she stretches to rub her nose against your arm. She nibbles at your finger and three rows of jagged teeth prick your skin, a minor pain while you swim in an ocean of bliss. Warmth trickles along your hand, followed by the rasp of your sweet pumpkin’s tongue and a crunch as her jaw snaps bone. You murmur affectionate words of encouragement. You would never deprive her of happiness over something as insignificant as an appendage. She gnaws at the edges of your mangled finger, mewing between nips.

    Blood and flesh—you have plenty to spare for your darling. After all, your body is useless if it cannot cater to her. Any pain is worthwhile if you can provide what she needs. Isn’t that what you want? To be with her—a part of her—together forever? You’ll give anything for your dear pet. Even your life.

    Especially your life.

    Story 3: LINGUA by JC Martinez

    LINGUA

    The rotten smell comes from the body it left in the shower. It’s grown worse. It’s almost my time.

    I hear something. A muffled splash, like a wet towel hitting the floor repeatedly. Its footsteps. Then, another sound, like the towel getting wrung. It’s disposing of the body. It’ll come for me next.

    I close my eyes as the closet doors fly open. I close them hard, but I still see it. There’s nothing human about its shape, except for the… tongues. It’s all made of lilac tongues, grouped together like tangled hanks of yarn. I don’t know how it sees, for it has no eyes. I can make out no noses or ears either, just those tongues that wiggle wildly in all directions.

    It grabs me by the waist, pulls me toward it. God, no. It yanks my feet, lifting me effortlessly. The tongues are everywhere now, all over my legs and arms and torso, leaving a slimy trail that dries swiftly over my skin.

    Its tongues are over my closed eyes too. It pulls gently at my eyelids, as if caressing them. I want to scream, but I don’t. All I can do is cry silently, and that’s exactly what it wants.

    It tastes my tears. It drinks them.

    Over the next weeks, it’ll keep me alive, feeding me that strange marmalade that I don’t know where it gets from. It’ll keep me alive, savoring my tears and sweat and saliva, and any other body fluid that it craves.

    After it grows tired of my taste, it’ll leave me to starve to death in that putrid shower. I’m not sure how it’ll do away with my body, but since I can see no other, I guess it’ll devour it whole.

    So much for an open-casket funeral.

    Story 4: BLOODWORM by Jonathan Fortin

    BLOODWORM

    It started with wriggling under her fingernails. Sam ignored the feeling. It was late, and most of the office had left, but she had to finish this report.

    Then came heat, flushing her back and brow with sweat. Sam slipped off her hoodie. She was probably reacting badly to the meds she’d ordered off eBay. They’d looked shifty, but she’d had no choice—this scummy place didn’t provide health insurance.

    The wriggling sensation spread through her body. She felt dizzy and numb, her fingers punching random keys. “Shit…” She couldn’t let this distract her from the deadline. She tried to sit up.

    Her body didn’t respond.

    A red worm poked out between her knuckles. Then another, from her wrist.

    Terror hit her like a train. The meds—did they house parasites? Was she now their host? She’d been so stupid to take them!

    She tried to scream, but instead fell off the chair and became fetal on the floor. She choked as worms crawled up her throat and out her mouth like regurgitated noodles. They plugged her nose and burrowed out her eyes, popping them. Pain rushed through her as worms ripped out her back and twisted into sinuous, red-soaked ropes.

    Blind, she felt her body rise up from the floor, like a puppet. She took steps against her will.

    “Sam?” A voice. Her boss! She tried to tell him to run, but her mouth was blocked. Vomit rushed up and back down again.

    She couldn’t stop. Her hand collided with something, just as her boss began to scream. She pummeled over and over amidst wet sounds until the screaming ceased.

    Sam felt his still body with her fingers. She felt worms slip out from her and burrow into him.

    And then, soon after, she heard him stand.

    Together they lurched.

    Story 5: The ODDMENTS Monster by Adele Marie Par

    Corners hold secrets that burst forth like rotting fruit when darkness falls.

    A blackness within the dark. Shapes that form to become objects of dread as they begin to move. A puppet dance with no master.

    This is the jerky, raggedy birth of the Oddments Monster.

    Tommy’s safe world no longer existed. It had exploded into shards when his father died.

    The house became a lifeless tomb that he and his mother shuffled through.

    She trailed dust and dirty clothes behind her.

    Tommy was a ghost, incorporeal, unheard.

    Perfect conditions for the Oddments Monster.

    Wrapped up like a mummy in his bed, Tommy waited. Frightened into silence and rapid puffs of breath.

    A crackling sigh vibrated around the room. A slithering sound followed, evocative of a snake shedding its skin.

    The atmosphere became heavy. He gulped air like a fish stranded on land. He felt compelled to look and when he did…..

    Blackness filled his dirty clothes. A striped t-shirt wavered and flapped. Jeans bent at the knees and wobbled into an upright position. A crusty, grey handkerchief became a face. The centre puckered inwards to form a rudimentary mouth.

    The monster moved.

    Tommy cried.

    It lurched towards him, eyes made from lost buttons. Black as coal with twin, red, pinpricks of evil intelligence behind them.

    The raggedy thing leaned over Tommy’s paralyzed body.

    The stench of its breath was forgotten memories and sorrow.

    “Dust and ashes you will be, Tommy boy.”

    His trembling bladder gave way and the sharp smell of urine drew the monster closer.

    Ancient bubble gum drooled from it’s puckered mouth and dribbled onto Tommy’s face.

    He opened his mouth to scream but the monster kissed him. He tasted death and dirt as the monster sucked his breath.

    Story 6: THE LAUGHING MAN by Naching T. Kassa

    The heart was still warm when I found it near the latrines. It hung from the barbwire fence like some hellish Christmas ornament, dripping blood into the muck below. I wasn’t sure who it belonged to.

    It might’ve been Private Jefferson’s or Lieutenant Blackmore’s. They’d gone missing and Sargent Collins had laid the blame on the Hun’s doorstep. I knew the truth, though. My mum had told me long before I took up my gun and gasmask.

    “Go to sleep, Johnny,” she’d said one night before bed. “Sleep before Laughing Man comes. If he catches you awake, he’ll rip your heart out and hang it up to dry.”

    “Does he come every night,” I had asked.

    “He does. If you smell almonds, he’s coming. And, if you hear him whisper your name, he’s testing to see whether you’re awake.”

    “What if I can’t sleep?”

    “Best pretend, love. Pretend and pray.”

    The memory of her words kept me from the trench and the squirming shadows which filled it. I returned to my dug-out as quickly as I could.

    The blanket had grown cold in my absence. I huddled under it and would’ve drifted off if the scent of almonds hadn’t wafted in.

    “Johnny?” a voice whispered.

    I froze. Something moved in the moonlight. It dropped to all fours and peered through my doorway.

    “You awake, Johnny?”

    Moonglow didn’t favor the creature. Instead, it laid bare every flaw in his leprous face. I shut my eyes but the image of oozing sores remained. He hadn’t changed.

    “Johnny?”

    I answered with a snore as I had always done. A moment later, his cold hand clutched my throat.

    “I’ve always known you were awake,” he said.

    Laughter echoed throughout the dug-out and, like a malevolent lullaby, it bore me to my final rest.

    Story 7: Always Hungry by Cat Voleur

    ALWAYS HUNGRY

    It was horrible when the sound stopped. For the last few hours Kimi had been forced to listen to the slurps of the creature’s messy eating – interrupted only by the occasional cracking and crunching of bone. Sickening though it had been, it was preferable to the silence in which she was now stuck.

    They have an insatiable hunger for human flesh that grows as rapidly as the beasts themselves.

    Her grandmother had believed strongly in the Algonquin lore with which she had been raised, and Kimi had heard many such stories growing up.

    If only I had listened.

    The beast had stopped eating, which could mean only one thing; it was out of food.

    For a moment it lingered, still crouching in the bloodstained snow a safe distance from dying campfire. Elongated limbs extended from the emaciated torso at strange, unnatural angles. Even in the warm glow of the embers Kimi could see that the skin stretched thinly over its skeletal frame was a sickly, mottled gray.

    It was all she could do not to gag as the thing straightened and she caught a whiff of its decaying scent.

    At its full height, she saw that it was clearly taller than it had been prior to the feast, and Kimi gasped at the realization its head would now be level with the branch where she was hiding.

    It turned toward the noise.

    For the first time she could see it in all its grotesque glory. Teeth jutted in all angles from the gaping, gore-filled maw. Its distorted facial features were dripping with blood. Worst were its eyes – two black orbs that were sunken deeply into the deformed skull, reflecting no light.

    She knew in that instant she would not be spared.

    The wendigo is always hungry.


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