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The Chasm Bridged by Carson Winter

In the walls, I hear her voice. She speaks very plainly. It was the same voice she used to ask me for a kiss. To invite me into her bed. To say she loved me. And finally, when the sickness had reached her mind, to ask “Who are you?” over and over again.
I put my ear to the drywall, and I could still hear her, speaking the garbled chant of a dead language. It’s a constant sermon that family and friends dismiss as a problem with the plumbing. Pipes being pipes. But they don’t listen closely. Those syllables touch upon something primal, like a surgeon poking along at the folds of a patient’s brain, pressing on the uncanny and fleshy crevice that makes you feel like you’re being watched.
Brian looked at the walls closely, glasses resting snugly on his nose, eyes darting behind the glass. “And you’re sure it’s not the pipes?”
“Positive.”
While Brian was always my most skeptical friend, he was also the most empathetic. In the face of a thousand curt grimaces and I-just-don’t-know-what-to-say’s, true empathy was a rare commodity. He looked at me seriously, as if to say that he was taking this seriously and said, “Okay. Then we wait.”
In the past, before Elizabeth died and I became a morose wreck of paranoid visions, Brian and I used to talk about our problems over a six-pack. He had brought one today, as much a gesture as anything, and as we settled down into the living room chairs, he popped the cap off of two and gave one to me.
“Here,” he said, “Drink up.”
I didn’t want it but I took it with as much grace as I could, out of appreciation for the gesture.
There was some heavy silence as we both took sips of our beer. Brian kept looking at me, like he had something to say, or there was something he wanted to say. Probably a thousand things. But, without the business of the noises, the forced professionalism of a friend making a house call to check on the plumbing, there wasn’t much to be said. Elizabeth was dead and I was sad. And that was that.
He cocked his head as if he heard something, or as if he was trying to hear something, or as if he wanted me to think he was trying to hear something, but I knew there was no chanting right now. It was silent except for the shuffling of our bodies and the clink of glass on wood.
Finally, he said: “When did it all start?”
“Right, after she passed,” I said. The words were hard to muster. As the word ‘died’ choked my throat, I discovered the utility of euphemisms. “As soon as I got back from the funeral, I could hear her.”
Brian nodded politely, and ran a hand through his wavy black hair. He studied the condensation on his bottle and said, with difficulty, “Are you doing okay, man?”
I thought a moment, and said, “No.”
“I’m so sorry any of this happened to you.” His eyes looked as sad as my own.
I thanked him and we sat there a little longer in silence, sipping on our beers. I stripped the paper label from the bottle with my thumbnail to honor the silence.
And then, low, but intelligible, the voice came. It was plainly Elizabeth. But the words were unpronounceable perversions of language. Brian’s eyes widened, and I could see that he heard them too.
His eyes were a question mark. I nodded curtly. “Yes, that’s it. That’s her.”
I sprung up from my chair and went to the wall, pressing my ear up against it. “She’s in there,” I said. The unique timbre of air passing through her vocal cords was almost too much for me to handle, and I was on the verge of breaking down. I didn’t care what Brian thought or saw, I wanted to break down and cry, just as freely as I did alone. I wanted to smash a hole in that wall and climb in. Anything to be closer to Elizabeth.
Brian had stood up. He was behind me now, watching me press my ear to the wall with a mixture of curiosity and pity. “What is that?”
He said it to himself, but I couldn’t help but answer, “It’s her, Brian. It’s her.”
He took a step back. I couldn’t tear myself away from the wall. “I think it’s coming from below,” I muttered.
Brian might have nodded, or might have just been staring dumbly at me. I was drunk on those enchanted incantations. I’d heard that the sound of a deceased loved one’s voice is the first thing you forget. I was working hard to never let it happen for me. I studied every lilt of her cadence for a desperate taste of the past.
“Does your house have a basement?”
The thought never occurred to me. “No,” I said. But I tore myself from the wall, painfully, and looked at the floor. Brian was looking too.
“Is she down there?” I asked aloud, to myself mostly.
Brian answered, “Something is.”

#

I had a toolkit that my father gave me when I bought the house. “You’re gonna need it,” he said wryly. I was never much of a handyman but I accepted it with a smile, as a joke.

Now I was armed with a flat-head screwdriver, hammering it into the creases where the floorboards met, splintering wood with every levering motion. Brian was on the other side doing the same. Two city boys tearing at the work of real workmen with the feverish intensity of armageddon street preachers.

One end of a board came loose, rigidly bent upwards. Brian and I pulled on it together, snapping it in half. I tossed the board aside and looked down.

A window, with a jagged, splintered bottom– staring deep into impenetrable blackness. We looked at each other, then back down at the hole in my floor. I felt silly for a moment. We were grown men hunting for ghosts. I was grieving. I probably wasn’t in my right mind, I should–

And then, it was Elizabeth’s voice. Louder than before. That same impeccable diction learned in an east coast boarding school, speaking impossible sounds.

“I can hear her, Brian.”

“Me too,” he said.

His face was growing worried, pale like the blood had been drained from it. He looked older now.

“I need to go down there,” I said.

Brian looked at me like he had already become acquainted with the eventuality of our actions. “Do you have a flashlight?” he asked.

I rummaged around in a kitchen drawer for a moment, back in the living room, he explained, “Before anyone goes down we should shine a light in there, see if there’s anything dangerous.”

Logic trumped excitement and I agreed. We stood over the hole in the floor, almost ceremonially. He had the flashlight turned downward, but not illuminated yet. His eyes turned upwards at me, locking with my own, “Alright, are you ready?”

It was a silly amount of suspense for a hole in the floor. It was probably just earth, or maybe a rat. Maybe it was nothing. But we were tense nonetheless, jittery with curiosity and fear. Behind this tiny black window could be nothing, but the other possibility was that it could be anything. It was looking straight into the eyes of the unknown and we both felt the nervous energy shudder like electricity through our limbs.

“Let’s do it,” I said.

He flicked the light on. He was shaking so much he missed the hole at first. Brian apologized quietly and steadied his hand and moved the beam of light to the jagged black rectangle.

Nothing, or anything.

As soon as we saw it, Brian jerked the beam away. I jumped backwards; awe and revulsion cooking my consciousness. Brian was braver, or perhaps more foolhardy. He stood over the six-inch wide sliver of black and shined the light into it again. Even having prepared himself for whatever was down there, he couldn’t handle it any better a second time. He  dropped the flashlight onto the hard floor, looking numb and scrambled. I was having trouble breathing, my lungs were filled with rocks, I leaned up against the wall. Brian stepped out to the kitchen, out of the corner of my eye I saw him with his hands on the counter, vacantly staring down into the brushed metal of the sink.

When I finally caught enough air to keep me moving, I staggered to a chair and sat down. Elizabeth started chanting again. It filled the house, louder than ever.

“What did we just see?” Brian said, finally.

I didn’t have the words to describe what I saw in the black hole in the floor, and judging by his reaction, he hadn’t either. It fried every nerve ending I had, and sent me caterwauling into an abyss I could scarcely conceive.

I shook my head. My tongue was thick and dry in my mouth. Brian re-entered the room and sat down opposite of me. I saw his eyes. His irises were rimmed with blood, his cheeks and nose had the impression of frostbite.

“What was that?”

He started to speak, then stopped and slumped back into the chair and stared into the ceiling.

Elizabeth called from the blackness, dread words of an unknown origin. Perfectly pronounced and impenetrable.

“I understand everything,” Brian said finally.

I looked at him curiously. And then he repeated, “I understand everything. Literally.”

He took a deep breath and stood up and said, “I’m sorry, Paul. I can’t live like this.”

And I saw the red rim of blood around his iris spread and overcome the whites of his eyes. “There are forces… They stretched me like putty, man. I understand everything. Elizabeth isn’t dead, Paul!” He was raving now, frothing at the mouth. His lips twitched when he spoke.

He was tearing at his own face and eyes, all the while he kept saying he was sorry. He stood up, and for a moment I forgot about my grief. I was genuinely scared for my friend. “I can’t do this,” he kept saying. And then he laughed, “They understand everything and nothing.” He looked me in the eyes, with his own blood-red orbs, as if this were of particular note. His pacings kept bringing him closer to the hole in the floor.

And then he stopped, standing over the broken floorboard, “I can help you.” He got on his hands and knees and started stabbing his wrists into the sharps splinters of shattered wood. He grunted athletically until both wrists were an ugly, battered mess of torn flesh and fresh blood. I got up to stop him but he was too quick, he had both hands down into the blackness of the floor before I could get to him. I heard his bones crack.

He was being reshaped. Crushed and dismantled inside the shell of his skin. His skull was first, turning his face into a slack and bloodied tube of meat. He was being dragged into the blackness, through the half-floorboard opening. He didn’t scream, the new dimensions of his body didn’t allow for extravagances like air.

In a matter of seconds, the only thing left of my friend were the remnants of a six-pack and a pool of blood seeping down between the crevices of the floorboards.

#

The toolbox sat lonely on the floor next to the hole, and I decided to give it some company. I rummaged through it idly, not sure yet whether I was searching for anything in earnest. Maybe I wouldn’t know until I found it.

As I poured over the tools I was keeping my mind busy, counting the degrees of separation between myself and tangible reality. It was like everything I knew was painted on a flimsy sheet that I could see billowing in existential winds.

Elizabeth was still speaking an impenetrable essay in that same casually affluent tone. Even with Brian dead, sucked into the chasm below my starter home, I still grieved for her first.

My fingers found themselves on a hammer. I gripped the shaft of its handle solidly, its absurd weight brought me careening back to earth. It hurt to breathe. My muscles ached. I was eerily aware of my own heartbeat. But, I was here, and just like the hammer in my hands, I had weight and purpose. I looked at the hole in the floor and was overcome with the desire to make it larger. To stare into madness again, if only to get a glimpse of Elizabeth. I started swinging the hammer, the sharp thwacks could probably be heard around the block. I didn’t care. Let them hear, I thought. Let them complain. The widower is at it again, they’ll say. And they’ll be right.

I ripped out floorboards like weeds in a garden. I tossed boards aside, soon there was a pile. The blackness lay in front of me like a slab of lightless eternity.

Without taking my eyes off of it, I reached for the flashlight Brian dropped and switched it on without hesitation.

Beneath my floorboards was a nightmare of colors and inverted flesh– a phantasmagoric menagerie of life and light that pulsed and swelled on a scale as large as the universe. And there, floating in membranes and fluid, was my Elizabeth. The pool she lay in looked like the giant pupil of a massive eyeball. Just like Brian said, she wasn’t dead. They were putting the finishing touches on her skin, her hair was growing. Her lips were moving, chanting those awful syllables.

I wanted to look away. I could feel my eyes burning with hot and salty blood. I knew I was seeing something I wasn’t supposed to. Like a child walking in on intimate parents. But she was there. She was alive, and breathing. And yet, impossibly, I knew she was not. She was in a churchyard in northern Connecticut. She was decomposing. And yet, she was also here, born again in a kaleidoscopic web of organs beyond my capacity to comprehend.
I was piecing together the secrets of everything. Overloaded with stimuli, it was like identifying ingredients you’ve never had in foods you’ve never eaten. I stared into the abyss, never taking my eyes off Elizabeth. If you concentrate, you can pick out the broad strokes of anything. Meat. Broth. Sauce.

I knew what Brian meant when he said he knew everything. I knew now why he laughed.
They reconstituted a vessel. But not a living one. They made from scratch a person who’d already been alive. I shuddered excitedly at the thought, smiling broadly while my irises began to bleed.

I reached down into the corporeal cosmos and grabbed Elizabeth by the wrist, she floated up with my touch like a balloon. And soon she was gripping the edge of the floorboards and I was helping her out. She lay naked on the floor, amniotic fluids pooling around her new body as she gasped her first breaths of air.

They needed a proselytizing sack of organs and bone.

They didn’t realize they were performing a miracle.

I was very lucky.

#

In the coming weeks, we started a new life. We moved quickly to a place we’d never been; a place where the sun shines. There were questions about Brian, but the floor was repaired and there was no trace of our sacrifice. I discovered a bevy of loose ends could be tied with a shrug and an earnest, “I don’t know.”

She only remembers what I told her.

I’ll keep her as long as I can, before she’s urged away to do their bidding. Even now, she has strange intrusive thoughts, but they haven’t consumed her yet. Next time, I’ll be more prepared for her leaving. For now, we’ll enjoy lazy days and Sunday mornings. We’ll laugh and kiss and cook dinners. We’ll make new friends, people who never had the pleasure of meeting her. In some time, there’ll be another funeral, with an entirely different group of mourners, lucky to have loved her. I’ll be the only one who was there for both services.
Elizabeth was reborn to spread the gospel of those strange and wonderful Ancients, but for now, she’s mine.

We lay in bed, close to each other, high on each other’s warmth. My fingers brush her hair to the side, just like I did the first time I kissed her. When she sleeps, her lips move in those old, impossible shapes. I smile and hold her close, thankful for God’s folly.

 

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DOSE by Marc Shapiro

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The whore exploded through the door, pulling the tattered remains of her short shorts and halter top around her nakedness. She was the best $100 hooker that money could buy and she was up for any scene.

Except this one.

Ron appeared in the doorway, his stubbled face and sweaty body wrapped in a bed sheet. A bed sheet spotted with her blood and his seed. A bed sheet that could not disguise Ron’s third leg standing tall.

“Come back!,” he croaked in a low animal whisper. “I’m not finished with you yet!”

“Crazy motherfucker!,” she screeched as she backed her way slowly down the hall of his upscale high rise. “You’re more than finished! You’re history!”

She looked down at her crotch where a slowly expanding blood spot was turning her short shorts a mottled grey.

“You’re a freak! Look at that thing! It’ll never go down! And I’m not going to let you carve up my insides trying to get it to.”

Ron did not have to look to know she was right. He hung his head in frustration and despair as the best $100 hooker that money could buy turned on her round heels and was gone.

Ron slammed the door and walked dejectedly back into his apartment where the savaged remains of his hip, Yuppie furniture and objects d’ art gave evidence that his coupling for cash had gone incredibly wrong. He let the sheet drop, giving full freedom to his pulsating animal which was not doing what a prong that had gone off five times in the last hour should be doing.

He raced to the bathroom and hung his shaft, rubbed incredibly raw and bleeding from endless sex play, over the toilet bowl. His hand went to his member and he masturbated himself; generating and pain as he stood, a glassy eyed zombie until a thunderous orgasm showered his sperm to a watery grave. Ron’s breathing went from savage to labored to satiated as his heart retreated to a regular beat.

His dick went from hard to soft and immediately back to hard.

“No! No! No!,”he screamed in anguish as he turned and lurched, a madman in torment, into the living room. He reached under the couch and pulled out a ragged copy of T&A, one of the sleazier outcall rags in town, and turned to the back pages where ads promised total satisfaction.

He sighted on the most promising of the ads and punched up the number. He had long ago been reduced to giving a false name. But his address was a dead giveaway.

“Oh yeah? Who’d want to fuck your cows anyway!,” yelled Ron as he clicked off his cell and threw the offending device across the room. Word was on the street thought Ron as he collapsed on the couch. Don’t go near Ron with a ten foot pole…

…Because he had a ten foot pole.

Ron gave up and went to bed. He closed his eyes and thought of bills that needed to be paid, responsibilities that were not being met, goals he had not reached and never would and his extreme shallowness as a human being.

All things guaranteed to shrink any person’s manhood down to size. Except Ron’s which only throbbed and bucked that much harder. After a time his hand began its nightly crawl up to his extended shaft. He sighed and began a slow, easy stroke.

It was going to be another long night.

***

It had been pushed along city streets like leaves before an advancing wind. It was there since men first gathered in bars to brag and dream of conquest. His father had heard the tales and his father before him. And now, after hard days of playing at corporate raider, it was there for Ron and his cronies.

They would kick back with a Bud or a Vodka Tonic, discuss stock mergers, lays and, inevitably, the latest rumors of a phenomena  that made Loch Ness and Yeti pale by comparison.

“The best sex in the world,” exclaimed Ron’s cohort Eddie as he liplocked a Seven And Seven. “It’s out there somewhere! I know it is!”

Ron nodded in agreement. He heard it everyday. Somebody was having the best sex one could possibly have. But to Ron’s way of thinking, those who said they were were lying. “If there is anybody out there who is truly having the ultimate orgasm, he’s not telling. I mean would you let me know if you were getting the biggest bone known to man?”

“Yeah,” roared Eddie. “After I was dead and buried six weeks.”

They laughed and clinked glasses and dreamed that somewhere out in the night was a woman whose pussy had the power. It was a dream that just would not go away.

Often the obsession to the form of a fun loving ‘Snipe Hunt’ in which Ron and any number of his Wall Street buddies hit the streets, bars and whorehouses in search of the ultimate exchange of bodily fluids. Uptown, downtown, all around the town. On a good night it would add to their growing list of insignificant others. Throw in the occasional social disease or a girl with attitude and you had a bad night.

But at the end of the night, when they’d gather to add up their carnal wins and losses, nobody was willing to lie. Sometimes it was good but it was never the sex of their dreams.

“I’m out of here,” screamed Ron at the top of his lungs at the end of another wearing day. “I’m tired of making rich men richer! I quit!”

His co-workers looked up from their terminals and out of their cubicles and yelled in unison chorus “See you tomorrow Ron!”

“Yeah right guys. See you tomorrow.”

Ron stood on the curb, his arm out in a cab hailing wave. Too tired for the hunt. Too tired for action. Next stop something dark in a bottle and something X rated on the Sink The Pink Channel.

A gust of wind strayed and danced at his feet. Ron breathed in. It wasn’t the usual pollutant stew that came with the territory. The air smacked jagged and black against his nostrils. There was adventure, risk, danger in the air. If this wasn’t an omen…

A cab screeched to a halt in front of him.

“No thanks,” said Ron suddenly flush with what he did not know. “I think I’ll walk.”

Ron was feeling brave but not stupid. So while North was more in keeping with the rush, North was mugger central. South, with its trendy clubs, overpriced restaurants and business hacks and hackettes, would be his playground.

The sidewalk was a crush of post work humanity. It was wall to wall at the Zen $ Bar. Ron stared in the front window. At the bar, a shapely blonde caught his glance, smiled and waved. He knew her and wished he didn’t. She caught his vibe and flipped him the finger. Another day in paradise, he shrugged, and walked.

The scent that started him on this quest was in every breath. He did not know what it meant. But Ron reasoned that he was on the right track.

Light flashed out of an alley as he walked past, stopping him in his tracks. It flashed again. Ron looked sideways into the dark. He thought once, twice, thought better of it. But entered the alley anyway.

Stepping over overturned garbage cans, puddles that smelled of urine and a homeless person  crashed out, head inside a cardboard box, Ron maneuvered through the obstacle course to the alley’s end at the brick side of a building….

….Where a small, square billboard blinked blood red. With nothing on it.

“Weird shit!,” chuckled Ron, finding the dark humor in the cold shriek of fear that suddenly railed along his spine. “It must be something hip, something underground,” he thought. He cautiously looked up and around. Nobody was waiting to murder his ass. He looked down and found the stairway.

Ron stepped to the edge, looking down and deep. Raggedly cut concrete plunging into darkness, meeting more red light from behind a curtain, the entrance into….

Instinctively he took a step downward. Then another and another. Ron stood at the bottom. And then he thought about it.

“The boogeyman could be on the other side,” his saner side putting those mental cards on the table. He thought about taking a powder. Something in his ID shuddered. Ron’s penis went stiff in his pants. He smelled the scent of female.

He pulled the curtain aside.

Ron blinked into the gloom, blinking out a slow focus. Black on black paint slathered over even more black; a single red strobe spitting out texture. Ron continued to scan. Hardwood floor. A deserted bar shoved flush into an irregular corner. Next to a winding stairway leading up to a second floor and who knows what terrors. A round table, two chairs no waiting.  A second table, sliced at an angle of limited light and dark.

Ron’s gaze froze. His jaw dropped.

Three women were seated in various stages of prick tease. One black with exaggerated blonde hair, long legs crossed high and mini dress cut to expose ample cleavage. A Latina, pouty indifference on her lips, dressed in a private girl’s school uniform.  Finally another blonde, full on Nordic, poured into tight fitting black leather with matching stiletto heels. Toying with a riding crop as a cigarette dangled tantalizingly from her lips.

“Sit down!,” roared Ms. S&M, pointing at the vacant table as she left the henhouse. Ron, lost in his stare, hesitated. A bit too long.

“I said sit down!” Up an octave and bumpered by the riding crop cracking a rimshot on the table. Ron did as he was told. The chair was hard.

She half walked, half glided to his table, pulled out the chair facing him and stared silently. Ron fidgeted, arousal mixed with excitement and that ever present companion, fear.

A smile crossed her face. She snapped her fingers and the black in the mini stepped over and stood at her side.

“This is Regine. Regine is to be eaten.”

Regine’s hand moved up under her dress and began to finger play her clit. Her face flushed, she bucked slightly and came. The vamp moved to Ron’s side, bent over and pressed the hand, sticky with her juices, to his mouth; gently prying it open and forcing his tongue to accept a taste.

Ron’s mind raced as he accepted the offering. This scene was scaring him to death. But he knew he was not going to cut and run. Regine returned to her table and sat down. Another finger snap. The school girl approached.

“This is Kathy,” black leather intoned. “Kathy has been bad.”

Kathy bent down and lean over her master’s lap. The woman, all the while smiling at Ron, flipped up Kathy’s dress with the riding crop, exposing white panties. She pulled them down with a rough yank and began whipping the girl’s bare bottom, drawing blood.

Ron freaked. This shit was hitting close to home. To that Catholic school down the street from his high school. To those fantasies  about what he would like to do to that forbidden fruit.

The spanking concluded and Kathy joined Regine. Ron eyed the woman in leather. Mentally daring her to offer him a sample of her scene. Because, at this point, he had the jazz coursing through his veins. In his mind and in his loins that he was ready for anything.

“Come upstairs.” A voice hauntling, lilting, feather light and emotionally dark drew Ron’s attention to the top of the stairs.

Where a naked, feminine shadow in the flickering black and red stood, arms outstretched and beckoning. Ron strained his eyes for details. But could make out nothing.

“Come upstairs.”

Ron rationalized a sense of urgency in her voice. Was she needing it? Needing it as bad as he was?

He turned back to his tablemate, looking for a sign that the preliminary stoking of his fires was over and that the main event was about to begin. Her smiling crease parted, showing teeth. She tapped the riding crop softly on the table, then pointed it toward the figure at the top of the stairs.

He had his answer.

Ron moved to the stairway, all the while eyeing this Siren who just might be luring him onto the rocks. He was half way up, hoping to see her face, when the woman turned and walked slowly down the second floor hallway. Ron reached the top of the stairs and moved cautiously behind her.

Cautiously because his last fragment of reason was making its presence felt. He could be mugged or worse. Was that even a woman? He might get AIDS or a dose of something equally evil and die a slow, agonizing death. But while he was thinking those dire thoughts, his eyes remained focused up ahead on the slim outline that walked the walk. Reason and sanity were counted out.

The phantom turned the corner ahead of him as Ron heard the distinct click of a door opening. His pace slowed as he stepped in the open doorway and looked into a small room, shrouded in blacker black and mixed with the occasional finger of red slicing in. Spotlighting a bed and the prone form of the woman lying on it. Ron took a tentative step into the room, then another.

He bent over the form lying on the bed. And stepped back with a start.

The woman, lying motionless on the bed, had no face. No mouth, no eyes, no nose. Smooth as an egg in human form.  Horror drove him toward the door. But as he did, he instinctively surveyed the rest of this abomination’s body.

His retreat slowed.

Breasts. Perfect orbs jutting out into firm nipples. A flat, perfectly rounded body that rose slightly with each breath that was coming from somewhere. Long, colt like legs. That were spread wide to reveal glistening womanhood wet in anticipation.

“Shit!,”.  his mind raced. “Was the best sex in the world going to be sex with a monster?” The hard on in his pants said yes.

Ron’s slacks hit the floor, followed immediately by his shorts. He stood over her, his blood engorged penis citing down on her opening like a smart bomb over the Persian Gulf. He mounted this woman or whatever it was. It made no sound and its body offered no resistance. Ron slid in and began his rhythmic dance.

He felt her wet warmth and a sense of something prickly damp seemingly coating the outside of his organ. It was as if something alive had awakened inside her and was making its presence felt. It was a sensation he had never felt in coitus before. But then this was supposed to be the best sex in the world.

Ron went off in ten strokes, a blinding crackle of light and fleeting phantom figures blazing across his mind’s eye. He collapsed in a heap on her body, disappointment crippling his thoughts. He had not been able to control himself. What must this creature think of his non performance? But the biggest blight was that while the sex had been good, it had not been great.

Ron started to pull out but suddenly went hard again. He felt the charge again, hotter, more electric as if something less damp and more alive were probing his member, seeking entry. He did not know what was happening but question and concern quickly gave way to instinct as he got up and began to ride again.

As he plunged in and out with renewed ardor, his mind played a demented carnal tape. Enlarged male organs penetrating enlarged female organs against a backlit black and red universe; their sexual contortions beating a deafening tattoo into his brain. Cut to kinescope flickers of Ron doing sexual rough trade to his favorite female characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beverly Hills 90210 and, yes, even The Mickey Mouse Club.

His physical charge leaped with each thrust, pumping an endless supply of animalistic hot blood to his other brain. Ron remained hard for a full 20 minutes before his heart two stepped, he cried out and exploded in an orgasm that ended a full minute after it started.

Ron lay still between the things’ legs, heart beating rapidfire, sweat slipping from his body, his entire being in a wrung out state of physical and emotional bliss.

“God!,” he managed. “That was the best sex I’ve ever had!” He was not worthy but the Gods had not seen it that way. Ron’s smile broadened as he started to pull out And couldn’t.

The thing’s vagina muscles had turned to steel, holding him fast. He pulled harder and felt a stretching pain. “This isn’t funny!”, understated Ron.

Just as the bees came.

Not exactly bees but that damnable prickly shock/charge that had returned and was stinging his buried penis with a vengeance. Ron screamed as the attack became more pronounced. He felt his foreskin yielding to the onslaught. Something was crawling inside, invading his penal gland, fortifying the rush of sex blood in a maddening rush to his head.

And making him grow hard once again.

Ron’s mind screamed. He stared at his faceless concubine which was turning into a thing that was in him, unleashing sex lust like he’d never felt. Or desired. Madness filled him, a madness that featured the giant fornicating organs and other horses from his mental merry go round. A madness that pointed toward only one way out.

Ron’s body rose and fell, a piston shaft, out of control and driving home. For minutes, a half hour, many hours, a day. Ron blacked out.

He slowly came out of darkness into darkness. Alone. Naked. His dong a flaccid memory of…

It jerked and sprang to attention. Ron rifled the sheets. His sex beast was gone. Leaving him with his desire standing tall and painfully alive. His hand instinctively found his erection and whipped it like a Central Park perv until he came on the very sheets where he had confronted ultimate lust and won.

Or had he really lost?

He dressed in a rush and ran from the room and down the stairs. Where the kinky trio who had primed his pump sat. They looked at him and smiled. Not the smile of congratulations, the hoot and pat on the back he’d gotten after bedding the office tease.

It was a smile that said your shit is weak.

Ron raced from the hell hole, up the stairs, down the alley and into the street. He stopped, breathing heavy but feeling he had, somehow, outrun his demons as a late night crowd passed around him.

He felt the bulge rise in his pants.

Ron’s eyes flashed wildly. His hands dropped in a futile attempt to cover his crotch. He fled back into the alley where he found nothing. No blinking signs. No steps down to his own private hell.

“I’ve got a dose!,” his mind going ballistic as he dropped to his knees in a fit of frustration, anger,  fear and exhaustion. Worse than the worst case of Syph, Crabs or Tijuana Clap. He’d settle for ten leaky dicks at this point. What he was stuck with was a terminal case of the hards courtesy of a bitch from the dark side.

***

Ron zipped down his pants and took out his pulsating staff. He beat it. He whimpered.

Ron shuddered and came, the sensation of his seed exploding into the toilet bowl dragging his mind out of the past and how he got this way and into the present. He wiped off on an already extra crusty/flakey sheet. He should probably do some laundry. But as he got up to warm some coffee and found himself already standing up and facing him, he reasoned why bother? He poured soupy grounds into a cup and slouched on his couch, pulling his pud and looking back on the hand a bad dose of monster disease had brought him.

***

Why bother with things like laundry and shaving when he rarely went out anymore. He didn’t have a job to go to. Spending more time in  the men’s room playing pocket pool  than conducting business had resulted in the old heave ho.


 

Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II

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The Valley of Sex by Joseph Rubas

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On March 20, 1937, a tropical storm system, having formed off the coast of east Africa, struck the eastern seaboard of the United States with tremendous force, devastating parts of the Carolinas and Virginia. The hardest hit areas were those along the central Virginia coastline. The town of Fredericksburg, while somewhat inland, was particularly hurt, as the river which borders it (the mighty and majestic Rappahannock) swelled and burst its banks, sending a flood crashing into the Old Towne district. Many historical landmarks, from the colonial period to the Civil War, were utterly destroyed, their loss striking antiquaries especially hard.

In the days after the flood waters abated, it was discovered that a hitherto unknown series of catacombs existed under the city. Appearing of Rome design, they were dubbed the “Fredericksburg Tombs” by the media.

In July 1938, I was contacted by the archeological department at Miskatonic University; they had obtained permission to explore and document the Tombs, and wanted a local journalist to be present. As I was the author of a highly popular column in the Arkham Advertiser, my name was naturally the first to come up.

Being a student of the arcane and antiquated, I jumped at the chance.

The expedition, headed by the famed Jean-Terri Sebech, a French-Canadian archeologist who had studied strange and unutterable ruins in the Arabian Desert, left Arkham on the first of September. The team consisted of several other researchers, a team of negro laborers, myself, and Hugo Mansfield, dean of the school. We traveled south in a caravan, and reached Fredericksburg at dusk on the second: seen from a distance, the Old Towne district rose grandly back from the river, its shaded streets lined with archaic buildings. A gothic church spire rose into the dusky sky, and a big white plantation house stood on the highest hill (Marye’s Heights), keeping watch over the narrow lanes, forgotten courtyards, and age-encumbered alleyways.

The house, as fate would have it, was where we were to stay; owned by the Fredericksburg Historical Society, it still bore the marks of General Burnside’s disastrous invasion of December 1862. Standing on the columned porch and looking out over the sweep of the Virginia countryside, I was filled with a fervent admiration for the Southern spirit of the region. Below, the city clustered closely together along the riverside, its grid-like streets busy with cars, horses, and people enjoying the evening. I imagined the horror of the invasion, Burnside and his men storming across the ice-choked river like locusts, buildings smoking and aflame, and for the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be a Yankee.

After we had settled into our accommodations, we supped in the grand banquet hall. Or, rather, the white men did; the negros ate in a separate dining hall.

Over our meal, I pumped Sebach for information, asking his opinions on the Tombs.

“I can’t say what they mean, Wilmarth, but I suppose they could be anything. Romans very well could have made their way to the new world. There is some evidence of it in Maine and Vermont, alters to Roman gods crumbling in the higher hills. As to how they were forgotten, I can’t say that either. I’m almost certain the catacombs predate the city, so it could very well be that no one ever knew they were there.”

After dinner, I retired to my room and wrote down my initial impressions of the trip and dinner. To think: Romans in America, standing proudly on the sandy shores of Virginia, an entire legion dispatched beyond the borders of the known world on some strange and forgotten mission. Is it possible that these proud warriors landed here? If so, how many of their works did they leave behind? What happened to them? Surely the Indians musty have fought them the way they fought later Europeans, but they would have presented no real threat.

The next morning, we woke, ate breakfast, and started for the catacombs before eight, led by a short, talkative fellow named William Johansen who headed the FHS.

The Tombs, he said, were discovered when one of the older buildings along the waterfront collapsed under the weight of the floodwaters. The foundation itself had been washed away, revealing a gaping hole he said must have been formed by the water. The hole opened on a long, decorated passageway that led deep into the bowels of the earth. No one had ever gone far into it, but those who did emerged quickly, complaining of strange sensations. Sebach was certain that their unease was caused by infrasound, vibrating sound waves that cause disquiet, fear, and panic. It was Sebach’s opinion that infrasound is responsible for “ghost” sightings. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.

The building atop the hole had been set slightly away from the rest of the city. A brick wall of perhaps six feet had been left on three sides. The inside was dusty, protected from rain by a blue canvas stretched tautly over the gaping, sixteen by sixteen crater in the earth.

“Let us begin,” Sebach said.

Sebach, myself, and Dean Mansfield were the first into the cavern. Using electric torches, we traced the ornamentals adorning the rough stone walls: Figures, hieroglyphics, designs the likes of which none of us had ever seen.

“It’s not Roman,” Sebach said.

“What is it, then?” Dean Mansfield asked.

“I don’t know.”

Sebach sent for the negro workers, and when they were in the corridor, he ordered them to trace as much of the strange writings on paper as possible. While they set to work, Johanson descended the ladder the negros had set up, and led us as far as anyone had ever gone.

“This is the place,” he said, “where no one passes.”

The “place” was high, vaulted room, the bulk of which stretched out before us. Catwalks edged along the walls.

In the wavering light of the torches, strange and eldtrich shapes loomed from the darkness. Sebach’s light froze on the twisted face of a stone idol which stood in the center of the room, its arms open before it as if to embrace us. I could sense something in the man had changed. He was uneasy.

“What is it?” Dean Mansfield asked.

“I’ve seen this before,” Sebach said. “In Iraq.”

“What is it, man?”

“K’yleth’a’tu.”

The words rolled low and reverently from his tongue, echoing grotesquely in the subterranean crypt. Johanson didn’t seem to grasp the meaning of the name, nor did Dean Mansfield, but, I, for one, nearly swooned. K’yleth’a’tu, the moon worshipped god of sex, was, so I had read, the most evil deity mentioned in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul-Alhazard. Even then she was mentioned only in shuddery brevity. She was studied at length in the disgusting Forbidden Book of Chinese sadist Le-Yu-Kang, who praised her spirit of sexual depravity, commanding his followers to couple in the shadow of her likeness, offering her not mere intercourse but abominable sodomy.

“Who were these people?” Dean Mansfield asked with a shudder.

“Devils,” Sebach said.

We started along the catwalk. “It’s here that it begins,” Johanson said, and even before the words had left his lips, I became aware of a strange and wholly repellant sensation along the back of my neck, a tingle of sorts, but sharper than such, like a pointed legs of some disgusting insect. The others in my party felt it as well, for pained and revolted expressions crossed their faces. The farther we went, the more intense the sensation became, until our entire bodies were atingle with the numb, stabbing pins-and-needles sensation most associated with inert appendages. I began to catch glimpses of unfathomable things from the corner of my eye, but when I turned to face them, they would dart away.

“It’s infrasound!” Sebach cried through clenched teeth. “Make for the other side!”

The catwalk ended ahead, at the vaulted entrance to a passageway. When we reached it, the eeriness faded away, and normalcy returned to us.

Panting, we made sure we were all alright.

“What lies beyond?” I asked Johanson.

“I don’t know,” he said.

I looked to Sebach. Shouldn’t we wait for the others? Would it be safe for only the four of us to continue on?

It was, he assured me. Even now, I remember the mad gleam in his eye. He was like a bloodhound onto a scent.

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When the Last Candle Dies by Trev Hill

Mamiko felt the hairs on her neck rise as the older girl turned and fixed her with a playful yet malevolent smile. The flames flickered across her face, adding to the demonic glint in her eye. Realising the hold she had over Mamiko, she licked her lips slowly before speaking in a, sing-song voice,
    “And the girl, Yuki, went into the toilet… she went to the third door and knocked , ‘Hanako San, come out to play!’” As the other girls gasped, Mamiko squealed,
    “No, Ayaka, stop… I know about this and it’s true…” The group huddled together in the flickering candlelight, as Ayaka continued slowly, sounding each syllable like a drop of water,
    “Yes Mamiko, it is true… but you must hear it all… those are the rules!”
Mamiko shuddered. She hated this. One every holiday someone would suggest telling these stupid ghost stories. In the old days, it was called hyakumonogatari kaidankai and there were 100 candles in a dark room and people told ghost stories, extinguishing one candle after each tale until there was only one left and then, following the final story, it too was extinguished, leaving the audience in total darkness. Sometimes they stopped at ninety-nine because after the last one was put out it was supposed to be possible to call the spirits. There were only four of them here now, but it still gave Mamiko the creeps, and all the others knew it. Ayaka continued,
    “… and when Yuki called, a little voice said, ‘I am here…’ As she opened the door, Yuki saw a smiling little girl in a pretty red skirt…”
“Sometimes she wears white!” a third girl, Keiko, chipped in, only to be hushed into silence by the single boy in the company.
    “Shhhh! Let her finish!” he snapped. Ayaka continued without breaking rythym,
    “slowly Yuki opened the door… ‘Are you Hanako-San?’ she asked. The little girl turned and smiled‘Yes, I am…’” The girls gasped at the revelation. Looking at each of them slowly, Ayaka smiled, showing her teeth in the yellow- dance of the flame, before continuing,
    “Yuki wanted to scream… the little girl’s eyes were blood red… (more gasps from the audience)  She tried to turn and run, but Hanako-san grabbed her tightly and said, ‘No, you can’t go… you called me… now you have to play with me… Forever!’ and she pulled Yuki down into the toilet… and when her friends came, all they found was Yuki’s handkerchief… covered in… BLOOD!” she concluded, blowing out the candle in her hand to a shriek from the girls and a loud laugh from the boy. The trembling girls began to calm down as the boy, holding the last remaining candle, said,
    “That was good, but do you know the story of Aka Manto?”
    “No!” choired the girls (except Mamiko), “Tell us, Goichi!” Mamiko clenched her teeth… one more story and then they could put the lights on… but she knew Goichi would drag this one out, just for her.
Goichi smiled at them, the shadows dancing across his face. He paused a second before letting his face go blank, betraying no emotion. Then he began,
    “Aka Manto is a charming man, who wears a mask and a red cloak…”
    “But who is he?” Ayaka asked.
    “Nobody knows,” Goichi replied, “but he has the name Aka Manto… ‘Red Coat’, because of the red coat he always wears… along with his silver mask, so nobody sees his face, which is said to be… horrible…”
    “What does he do?” Mamiko squeaked, knowing she would wish she hadn’t asked. The boy continued,
    “Well, one day a girl went to the toilets in her school, it was an old building…”
    “Why do all these ghosts live in toilets?” Mamiko moaned, whose legs had already been crossed for some time.
    “So when they scare you, you are in the right place to pee your pants.” Keiko replied.
    “Quiet!” Ayaka hissed, “Let him tell the story.”
    “I don’t want to hear it if it’s too scary,” Mamiko whimpered, “I’m almost peeing my pants now!”
    “Are you going to let me continue?” Goichi sighed,
    “Go on…” Keiko nodded. Taking a breath and resuming his former composure, Goichi went on,
    “Well, the girl was looking in the mirror and she heard a handsome man’s voice say, ‘You look very beautiful, would you like a red scarf… or a blue one?’ Without thinking, she said she’d like a red one… and they found her… dead.” The girls gasped once more. Mousily, Mamiko enquired,
    “But how do they know she asked for a red one if she was dead?”
    “Because,” Goichi whispered, “ her throat was cut open so wide, that all the blood looked like a red scarf. That is what Aka Manto does… that is how they know.”
    “It’s not true!… is it?” Mamiko demanded, pleadingly. Ayaka put a hand on her shoulder and nodded,
    “It is, it happened at my cousin’s school as well… I heard about it!” she confirmed. Mamiko’s eyes widened. Keiko snorted scornfully,
    “But it’s easy, don’t ask for a red scarf… what else can he do?” Goichi smiled knowingly, shaking his head,
    “That’s not a good idea either,” he cautioned, “Another girl heard about Aka Manto and thought the same thing… she went to the toilets and she also heard a voice asking, ‘Would you like the red scarf or the blue one?’”
    “What did she do?” asked Ayaka.
    “Well, the police say she must have asked for the blue scarf… because when they found her…” Goichi said, suddenly standing up with his arm above his head and his head on one side, “she was hanging by a scarf… and her face was blue!” He blew out the candle. The girls screamed satisfyingly. In the darkeness, Mamiko felt a cold shudder go down her back. After a second, Ayaka went to turn the lights on.
    “Oh man, that’s weird…” murmed Keiko, “Is it true?” Pleased with his triumphant ending, Goichi sat down.
    “Yeah, he’s never been caught… and he’s been seen all round the country.”
    “Stop it,” groaned Mamiko, “I’m scared… and I need the toilet.” Chuckling, Goichi rose from his seat and moved out of the circle,
    “Do you want something to drink? I’m going to the kitchen…” he declared, walking out before anyone had time to answer.
    “In a minute… I really do need to pee…” moaned Mamiko. Ayaka laughed tauntingly,
    “Haha! Those stories really scared you, didn’t they?” Mamiko shook her head defiantly,
    “NO! I just had too much Coke… do you want to go with me?”  she asked. Ayaka and Keiko shrieked with laughter, taunting her together,
    “Ha, you are scared… ooooh, scaredy cat!”Mamiko clamped her jaw and shook her head angrily.
    “No I’m not…” She snorted, stamping a foot, “ I’ll go alone then, see if I care…” and she stormed out of the room, trying to convince herself as much as the two older girls, who stood watching for a second before spluttering out into fits of giggles. Eventually Ayaka pulled Keiko towards the kitchen,
    “Come on, let’s fix something to eat”.
*
Mamiko sneaked down the corridor of the hostel. This was always the other worst part of these school holidays, staying in these creepy old buildings with faulty lighting. They made you believe the stories…
Eventually she reached the communal bathroom. Slowly, gingerly, Mamiko pushed the door open. There was a toilet next to a shower cubicle and a wall sink with a mirror. Mamiko fumbled for the light switch, waiting in dread to feel something grab her hand. Finding the cord, she pulled it and checked the bathroom once again… Her reason for coming was getting more pressing and she was less worried about ghosts than the amount of Coke she’d drunk. Scanning the room once more, she went to the sink and splashed some water on her face as if to give herself some courage. Suddenly she thought she saw a movement behind her in the mirror. She snapped her head around but saw nothing, just the slight motion of  the shower curtain as the breeze from the window caressed it. Angrily, she scolded her reflection,
    “You’re so stupid… there’s nothing to be scared of… it’s just a game and there’s nothing real… grow up… or you will wet yourself!” Half believing her new courage, she moved to the toilet and, checking once more, slipped her shorts and panties down to her knees before sitting down.
As she began to relieve herself, a deep, male voice crooned softly from behind the shower,
    “You look very beautiful… would you like a red scarf… or a blue one?”
Mamiko stiffened, her shoulders rising and her breath quickening… for a second all she could hear was the beat of her own heart pounding over the dribbling sound in the toilet. From the corner of her eye she could see a red cloak and a silver mask moving slowly from behind the curtain. She tried to speak but produced nothing more than a guttural squeak. Once more the voice crooned,
    “Come my dear… I have a lovely… red scarf just for YOU!” at which a cold, wet hand stroked her neck.
The coldness shocked her into a reaction and Mamiko let loose a piercing shriek of terror and sprang from the toilet. Shrieking again, she ran, only to trip over her shorts as they fell around her ankles. Screaming and sobbing continuously, she crawled madly towards the door before pulling herself up, one hand madly trying to tug up her shorts, before running, shrieking, down the corridor followed by the wild laughter of the red cloaked man, who held onto the sink whilst doubling up with mirth.
Eventually, still laughing, Goichi removed his mask and staggered backwards, sitting on the toilet as he began to calm himself down,
    “Hahaha! Oh god, that was so funny… she really fell for it… whooooo! Aka Manto is coming to get you… silly little cow! Oh I wish I’d seen her face… haha! Whooooooh! Come out to play…”
After a few minutes, he rose and, still chuckling, moved towards the door. Suddenly, he jerked back, his cloak snagging on something. He pulled on it only to find the cloak being tugged back harder, wrenching him backwards. He tried to jump forward but something seized his legs, whipping them from underneath him so that he fell face forward onto the hard, cold tiles of the floor. Before he could move, a small but heavy object landed forcefully on his back and Goichi felt a cold , wet thing slithering up his neck, under his chin. The little hand clamped his jaw and forced his head backwards.
Unable to speak or move his head, Goichi peered out of the corner of his eye, to see a small white face with dripping wet hair that stank of urine. He smelt the stagnant, dank breath as the face came to rest against his, staring from the corner of its own blood red eye into his tearful one. A second slimy little hand snaked over his face and forced itself between his teeth, slowly beginning to prize his mouth open.
The little faced smiled a malevolent yet playful grin as the sing-song little voice giggled,
    “You can’t go… you called me…” Then the demonically strong hands wrenched his mouth open and the upper part of his face backwards. As Goichi felt his jaw joint begin to crack and the corners of his mouth tearing apart, Hanako continued in her giggling song, “… now you have to play with me… FOREVER!”
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Zombie Perspective on God

God is so awesome and merciful that he decided, out of the kindness of his heart, to resurrect me from the dead. Except, that he forgot to fix my brittle bones, heal my decaying flesh, and cleanse me of my horrid odor.

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/8181185

What, should I be grateful that I even got a second coming? Yeah, I’m so grateful to lumber around aimlessly was I slowly waste away.

Yeah, I get a bit cynical this episode, but walk a mile in my shoes and you would be, too.

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Blackmouth by S. Alessandro Martinez

It was a freezing, starless night. The moon tried feebly to reach out behind the black clouds, and the icy wind bit at my face as I trudged through the dirty snow on my way home. It had been a rather long, awful day at work. As much as I love books, working at a library was not always the best time. I especially loathed having to deal with loud, runny-nosed, sticky-handed children. The weekend had finally come though, and I was looking forward to relaxing at home with a good novel and some hot tea.

I was a block from my apartment building, too wrapped up in my thoughts to notice the patch of slick ice on the sidewalk. I felt my foot sliding all too late to catch myself and I fell forward onto my face with a loud smack that echoed through the deserted street.

I waited for the stars in front of my eyes to disappear before attempting to stand up. I hoisted myself up from the ground using a nearby postbox and was glad that no one was around to have seen me become acquainted with the pavement. I grumbled at myself and started to brush the dirt and snow from my clothes when I noticed a warmth in my mouth. I spat onto the ground and saw a crimson splotch right at my feet. When I began to feel my tongue throb I realized I must have bitten it during my trip. I sighed heavily and my irritation grew. 

I made it to my apartment building without any additional incident and went in. I took off my heavy coat, glad to be away from the cold, and headed up the stairs. When I arrived on the third floor landing, I saw a small, wooden crate lying in wait for me in front of my door. I made a hum of curiosity in my throat. I was not expecting any packages. Thoughts and fancies ran through my head, wondering what was inside.

After unlocking my door and bringing the crate in, I headed to the bathroom to see what the damage was to my tongue. I examined it in the mirror and took note that it was as bad as I had feared. A good-sized, red gash ran down the right side of my tongue, where my molars had smashed it from top and bottom.

The pain, however, was soon forced from my mind and replaced with excitement over what the mystery crate contained. A smile grew on my face as I read the name of the sender, one Leonard T. Snower, my uncle. And I was his favorite niece. Uncle Leo was an adventurer, as I enjoyed calling him. He traveled all over the globe looking for forgotten relics, strange people, and weird mysteries. He delved into the dark corners of the world, or so he’d like to say. Whatever he did exactly on his wild adventures, it must be wonderful, just like I had read in so many books.

From reading the return address, it seemed that my uncle’s latest trip had taken him to Spain. My head filled with dreams of how amazing it must be over there as I set a kettle on the stove to heat water for some tea. I quickly grabbed a hammer from the closet and set about prying open the crate.

Inside, after removing all the newspaper used for packaging, I found a black metal box with a letter on it. The box was a bit weathered and rusted, but overall beautiful. There were strange markings all over it, engravings of puzzling characters and images of monstrous, grotesque creatures from long-forgotten myths. Pulling my eyes away from the thing, I picked up the letter and began to read:

“Dear Emily,
I hope all is well with you. I am off playing adventurer, as you’d say, once again. One of these days you will have to come on a trip with me. Anyway, as of the moment, I am in small seafront town in Spain. It is very beautiful here and the food is delicious. A Spaniard friend of mine has asked me to be part of an expedition to explore sunken galleons off the coast here.
We have explored many wrecks already. There are many others to search, but we have already found valuable items. As is my custom when I go on a trip, I am sending you a little gift. Although, you might want to keep this one secret since I took it unofficially. We found it in what appeared to be an old pirate vessel. I hope you enjoy them, perhaps with some wine.

-much love, Uncle Leo”

I was confused at first by that last sentence, but after opening the metal box, I understood. Inside were three gorgeous and exquisite goblets. They were all three made of the darkest obsidian, at least that’s what it resembled. Whereas their container was weathered and rusted, these goblets were in perfect condition. The cups depicted the faces, if they could be called that, of grotesque creatures. There was a different engraved image on each one, images of monsters straight out of the nightmares of a madman. And I noticed that when the light shone through them and changed color, they were not pure black as I had first thought, but the first was a deep blue, the second a dark crimson, and the last a shadowy green.

I was very happy with my gift and couldn’t wait to thank my uncle when he returned. I was gently examining the blue goblet, which depicted the head of some demonic creature with many eyes and a gaping maw full of sharp teeth, when the tea kettle began to whistle. I had no wine, but figured that tea would serve just as well for breaking in one of the goblets tonight.

After thoroughly washing the blue goblet and then filling it with some chamomile, I sat down on my sofa, under a cozy blanket. I opened up the book I had been reading and took a sip of my tea. I gave out a squeak as a pain spread across the side of my tongue. I had forgotten about the gash there.

I quickly went to the bathroom to spit out the tea and to look at my tongue in the mirror. I inspected my mouth and everything appeared fine. No burns or further injury to my tongue were present. But just when I was about to close my mouth, I thought I glimpsed something strange. I opened my mouth wide and peered in. I could have sworn I saw a bump form next to the cut on my tongue and pulse, but upon second inspection I saw nothing. It must have been a spasm or something of the sort.

#

That night I awakened with a start. Bizarre and disturbing images from my dreams faded from my mind and back into the ether as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I sat up in my bed for a few seconds wondering why I had awoken when I felt my tongue throbbing painfully. It was if with each pulsation, a hot blade was digging into the right side of my tongue.

I immediately went to the bathroom and swished some cool water around in my mouth to try to alleviate some of the pain. When I spat it out in the sink though, it came out with a blackish color. I was taken aback and rapidly opened my mouth wide in front of the mirror.

The side of my tongue had turned a horrific and repulsive black.
I stepped back in shock. Had my injury been worse than I first thought? Had some infection set in? Had part of my tongue become gangrenous? I was definitely no doctor, so I could only form conjectures based on my very limited medical knowledge.

I was frightened. I did not know what to do. I could not go to the emergency room, I had no medical insurance. It was past midnight, so no pharmacies would be open at this hour. I was also alone. I had no roommates, my family lived in another state, and of course, Uncle Leo was in Spain. I had no one to go to.

My only option, it seemed, was to wait until morning. Hopefully by then the blackness would have at least lessened. Perhaps it was just a very temporary bodily reaction and all would be well when I awoke. Hope was all I could do at the moment.

#

The next day my anxiety turned into fearful panic. For when I awoke and looked in the mirror, my whole tongue, my gums, and my lips had turned a grotesque black. And when I watched my tongue in the mirror, I could see a stronger pulsing and throbbing all across its surface.

I felt nauseated just looking at my mouth. My stomach lurched each time I viewed myself the in the mirror. I employed all my willpower to keep myself from vomiting, for fear that becoming sick would aggravate my mouth’s condition.

I needed to go to see a doctor as soon as possible, with or without the means to pay for it. But I could not go out looking like this. I looked like something from a horror film. There was no way I could show my face in public and allow people to see me. I decided to call a doctor and ask him for a home visit. It was my only option.

I searched the phone book and called the nearest doctor’s office, but when the receptionist answered the phone, I discovered I could barely speak. As I tried to form words, searing pain shot through my entire mouth. My lips felt as if they were on fire, my jaw had an intense soreness, and my tongue spasmed in agony.

I dropped the telephone as I reeled from the hellish torment in my mouth. I could faintly hear the voice of the receptionist coming from the earpiece asking if someone was there. But I could not respond. All I could focus on was the pain and horror I was experiencing at that terrible moment.

I began to weep. How I wished Uncle Leo was here with me. He was the one who always comforted me in my youth whenever I felt sad or got injured. I would always cling to his shirt and let my tears fall onto him. But he was in Spain now and could not be here. He didn’t even know anything was happening to me.

As I thought of Uncle Leo and stumbled around my apartment in misery, my eyes fell upon the goblets – those beautiful, yet disturbing goblets with their chilling etchings. Did my current crisis have something to do with those cups? Perhaps some form of deadly bacteria had been on them, unknown to my uncle when he shipped them to me. Or maybe something more insidious was at work. I never believed in anything beyond the known and natural. But the longer I stared at those goblets, with their depictions of those monstrous, leering faces, the more I became chilled to the bone.

My jaw suddenly snapped shut of its own accord, and I could not unclench it. I ran to the mirror and saw with utter horror that the black had spread down my jaw and neck. I wept more as my jaw clenched even more tightly, and the pain from my teeth beginning to crack under the pressure filled my entire skull. I desperately clawed at my mouth trying frantically to pry it open, but to no avail.
I crumpled to the floor from the agony and tried to scream, but only a muffled moan emanated from my throat. Why was this happening to me? Was this some sort of punishment? I did not know. I just wanted it to stop. This was the worst sort of suffering I had ever experienced.

My vision became blurry and I passed out.

#

I do not know what time it was when I regained consciousness, but the sun had already set. I wearily got to my feet and walked towards the light switch in a stupor. I flipped the lights on and rubbed my eyes as I realized that the agony in my mouth had subsided to a dull ache.

I was afraid to open my mouth and look in the mirror again, but I gathered up my courage and went to the bathroom. I felt something hard in the back of my throat and quickly flicked on the light above the sink and coughed. Broken pieces of my teeth fell out of my mouth and clinked in the basin. I stared horrified at the sight. I slowly looked up into the mirror and felt my stomach clench. Not only was the blackness still spread all over my mouth and neck, but my teeth were all jagged and mangled, and my blackened tongue now had dark, pulsating blisters all over it.

I could not handle it any longer and upheaved the contents of my stomach into the sink. I began to cry once more, this was the most terrible experience of my life, and the pain began to grow in my mouth again. I felt my tongue spasm horrendously and I hesitantly took a chance to examine my mouth in the mirror one last time.

What happened next pains me to recollect, for it was mind-rending enough to cause any healthy person to go mad.

I reluctantly stuck my black, blistered tongue from my dark, mangled, and disfigured mouth, when I watched it suddenly split in half with a sickening tearing sound. I witnessed a fetid, dark, bloody pus splatter into the sink, and then there came a tiny, spindly limb.

Another emerged, and was used to pull a small, wriggling, obsidian-colored body out from my tongue. It fell out of my black mouth and into the sink where is squirmed in all the muck and looked up at me. It let out a screech as I looked at its face, with its many eyes and its mouth filled with needle-like teeth.
It was the same hideous, fiendish face depicted on the cup that I had drank from.