My Darling Dead: Episode 1 – The King

 

 

As a hurricane is preceded by calm, the kingdom of Dandoich had known peace and prosperity for many years. The townsfolk fought, argued, lied, cheat, stole and generally behaved as humans do, but they were content within their sphere of existence. There had been the odd uprising against this noble or that plantation owner, but it was swiftly quelled by the kingdom’s royal guards, often without too much bloodshed. A true civil war had not happened in centuries.

King Wendell had been ruling the throne for over sixty returns of the season and had taken care to extract the maximum enjoyment from his posting as he was able. Wary of the fate of his own father, Rockney the Beheaded, he exercised his kingly power with discretion, well aware that he was ultimately at the mercy of his own people whose population far outnumbered him. As a result he was well loved by his subjects, who knew their grievances would be fairly heard out and attended to in a fair and just manner.

Today, the bells were tolling as though for a wedding, but with one tone missing. The bell carrying the middle C note had been silenced, and the altered tone of the bells told of the christening of the princess, and all hastened to the square to bear witness. Christenings were the common practice in the kingdom, but the christenings of royalty were done by a fairy, and many of those living in the kingdom today had never beheld a fairy in the flesh. They were mystical beings, rarely seen unless they chose to reveal themselves.

Queen Hespa looked at herself in the mirror, her gown’s dark green blended with her red hair nicely but she could have shattered the mirror and used its shards to cut her own throat. Her smile remained frozen as her ladies in waiting bustled about her, adjusting a stitch here, a loose end there, an unbasted seam somewhere else. They were a hive of activity about her and she wondered, once again, if today would be the day she would take her own life.

The king, ensconced in his own chambers, looked up from the wench servicing him to beckon another to refill his glass with the honeyed mead he preferred. Another set his ceremonial crown on his head, and he could feel his neck creaking. He never wore the enormous heavy thing except for formal occasions, and his daughter’s christening would definitely qualify if nothing else would. He took a mighty drought of mead and hiccuped. It was his third such mug, but with the fairy Esmeli appearing tonight, he would need all the strength and nerve he could get. He glowered at the servicing wench, who had paused for breath.

“Did I tell you to stop?”

Dutifully, she returned to polishing his boots.

The princess Alasin, not yet two months old, wriggled in her crib as her nurse changed her. She had no idea that her very existence would bring about the ending of the way of life that so many generations before her had enjoyed. She did not know that her father’s affair with the fairy Esemli would plunge the kingdom into turmoil for years to come. She simply slept, dreaming baby dreams, oblivious to the world around her.

Two guards stood at the entrance to the castle, bedecked in garlands and flowers to mark the christening day. Both felt like the posterior of an equine, but knew better than to remove them. The only soldier who had done so was now on latrine duty for being out of uniform.

“Cor,” grunted the larger guard. “’ot as ‘ell today.” He spit.

The other nodded, yawning and exposing several yellowing teeth. “Aye.”

“’most noon,” said the first, squinting at the sky.

The second looked to the sky as well, nodding as he did. “Aye.”

“I never seen’t a fairy before,” the first continued, looking up at the sky as though he expected her to drop from the clouds. “They purty?”

The second licked his lips, unaware he had done so. “Aye.”

The first guard chortled and scratched himself. “Where do a fairy come from?”

“D’no,” the second said, shrugging. In his mind, he came upon a fairy in the woods, missing most of her clothes, chest heaving. His manhood throbbing, he walked up to her and…

“I’ll thank you, sir, to remove that filth from your head this instant,” a cool voice whispered in his ear. The guard jumped a mile, colliding with the larger guard who was still staring at the sky.

Esemli stood with her hands on her hips, long blonde hair waving in the gentle breeze. Her dark green tunic and leather boots were of the deepest forest greens and browns the guards had ever seen. Her green eyes matched them perfectly as they radiated scorn at the second guard, who at that moment felt the size of a worm.

“A thousand apologies, Milady,” he stuttered, stumbling over his words as inane jabber raced through his head. “I was… you see we…”

Esemli held up her hand and the guard’s voice froze in his throat, though his mouth still worked, attempting to speak. “Do not finish. You will go inform the Lord Wendell that I have arrived and await his pleasure in his receiving room.” So saying, she lowered her hand and swept past them through the door they guarded as the larger guard followed, leaving the second guard to regain control of his vocal cords and pray the fairy did not speak of his discourtesy to the king.

When King Wendell arrived in his receiving room, the windows had been covered and the torches burned with a dark red light, casting large shadows in the room’s corners. Esemli’s blonde locks were a muted bright spot in the dim room, and the king made his way toward her, blood rushing unbidden to his loins.

“My lady,” the king said gravely as he approached her.

Esemli turned, the shadows giving her face a sinister cast as she smiled and dropped her tunic from her shoulders. “My lord,” she whispered, and moved to greet him.

Queen Hespa stood outside the receiving room door, listening to the sounds coming from within. There were no tears from the queen, only rage. With the strength of fury she raised a foot and kicked the door open with a bang. The sun was behind her coming through a window slit and it fell neatly through the door and illuminated the king atop the fairy.

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BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 2 of 3

Monique watched the airships ready for take-off through the bars of her cage, hanging beneath the cliff. She still bore a black eye—the latest bruise from her mother. Only this time she’d fought back: punching and scratching. She’d done no more than was needed to fend Isabelle off and stop her beating. Still, two more weeks were added to her sentence.

 

Longing pierced her soul, as she gazed at the puffs of steam streaming from the ships on their way to patrol, and the wooden wings flapping. Suddenly, the first one was airborne—flying past the slender rocks that separated the triangular stacks of boulders at the edge of her village. The sound of palms on drum-skins beat in refrain to the ships’ wings, as if the drums were were the reason they could fly.

 

One. . . two. . . three … and now they soared into the distance. Monique stared at them until they were lost to her gaze. She gripped the bars of the cage. Suspending prisoners outside during the day, and letting them return home at night, was supposed to be a kinder punishment than perpetually confining captives indoors.

 

I’m still a prisoner. Being outside just makes it worse.

 

The rumbling of her belly and the shaking of her cage let her know it was time to eat. In the next moment, two women hoisted her cage up from under the rock and shifted it to the ground. Their narrowed eyes and pursed lips revealed what they thought of her. The strange one who lusts for the flesh of her sisters. The bad daughter who beats her own mother. 

 

One of the women reached into the folds of her dress and produced a skeleton key. A few moments later her dearest friend, Angelique, sauntered over.  She was a plump young woman, her skin the color of ripe bananas with a thick head of hair. She carried a basket and there was a blanket under her arm. The delectable smell of diri kole ak pwa, brown rice with red kidney beans topped off with red snapper, tomatoes and onions, drifted toward her.

 

Angelique smiled, her teeth flashing against her cafe au lait skin. “Let’s find somewhere nice to eat.”

 

Angelique was a mulatto Affranchis: a wealthy descendant of the union between slave owner and slaves. Birth determined the Affranchis social position, and intermarriage between them solidified this caste solidarity. Some of them had even owned slaves, before General Toussaint had emancipated all living in Saint-Domingue.

 

Angelique knew how the ships were put together, what made them tick and she could fly. So she said. She and Monique’s mutual interest in airships had brought them together and they’d quickly become friends—in spite of their dissimilar backgrounds. How she’d come by her knowledge of airships was a mystery. But she’d shared all she knew with Monique and swore her to secrecy.

 

She was also in love with John, the dark-skinned son of former slaves. Because of his social status Angelique’s parents, who followed the old ways of class solidarity, had forbade any courtship between their daughter and John. Tradition meant she must obey her parents’ wishes or suffer the same fate as Monique.

 

“But I’m going to marry him anyway,” she’d whispered. “See if I don’t.”

 

Monique secretly thought Angelique made half of her stories up, although she never said so. Still, she tells pretty tales, non?

 

Monique followed her past the cottages to a meadow, took the blanket from her friend and spread it on the grass. “If you don’t stop being so nice to me, they’re going to get someone else to bring me lunch.”

 

The young women sat down, unpacked the food and began to eat. “I bet you wish now you’d just taken the punch instead of fighting back, eh?” Angelique said, her sympathetic eyes belying the coldness of her words. “Next time will be probably worst you know. Isabelle has always been ill-tempered. She’s so angry with you. She had her heart set on grandchildren.”

 

Monique frowned. “I can’t help the way I am. Just like you can’t help loving John. . . Your parents will never let you marry him. They’re going to pick out a man for you.”

 

Her best friend grinned slyly. “So they believe.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

Angelique bit into a piece of fish and didn’t answer. For awhile they ate in silence.

 

“Do you miss Simone much?”

 

Monique’s eyes filled with tears. “Wi. . . It is an ache.”

 

“So you love her?”

 

“Wi.”

 

“What is it like. . . loving a woman?” Although they’d been best friends for years, they’d never discussed this.

 

Monique shrugged. “Like your love for John, I suppose. For me, it is as natural as breathing.”

 

“Well, perhaps after tonight you will met another woman and fall in love.”

 

“Loving someone, whether man or woman, is not like picking vases from the well. If one is empty, you just pick another one, n’est-ce pas? Love is not like that. . . What makes tonight so different?”

 

“Stay awake and find out.”

 

Monique shook her head. “I can’t go fishing. I need my sleep.”

 

“Who said anything about fishing? You must pack a bag and stay awake.”

 

“Poukisa wap fè sa? What are you up to?”

 

Angelique laughed like a child but would say no more.

 

Monique gazed at her friend with exasperation and affection on her brown face. “Why do I always listen to you?”

 

“Because I’m your best friend! Who else would you listen to?”

At that moment, two women plopped on the grass to their right, close enough to hear what the friends were saying. They fell silent and finished eating.

 

##

 

To be continued… Feb 8th, 2019… stay tuned!


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

#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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