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The Splitting – Lorna Wood

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The Splitting – Lorna Wood

 

We were I then. I floated in the element, a sticky, warm, viscous fluid full of nutrients. The smallest food dissolved and slipped in through the pores of my integument. When larger organisms drew near, I lazily flipped my cilia, swooshing them down the nearest gullet.  I was—we are—omnivorous. Creamy, crunchy, gelatinous, sweet, salty, even bitter—all delectable.

I was swelling, exuding pheromones that eddied around my cilia before being carried out farther and farther.

Inexorably, they were drawn to me, desperate to see my ripeness, stroke my taut integument, absorb my exudate. The element sloshed as they thrashed and corkscrewed through it, but I could only float, waiting.

They came from all directions. Their pheromones were faint at first, like the memory of an especially tasty organism, then stronger. The element became a love potion, maddening my inflamed ganglia.

One day they were there, gray, ropy, tumescent, all singularly focused on my need, which was also their own.

They wriggled, observing my body quiver involuntarily as the waves they created washed over me. My gullets opened and closed, instinctively synching with the rhythms they created.

Seeing my response, they began to touch me. At first they barely grazed my cilia with the tips of their tentacles, but even this was exquisite torture. I could feel my cloacal vacuole swelling, my insides gathering themselves.

Sensing my acceptance, they presented gifts: organisms I had never tasted before, balms for my strained integument. Although I felt far too full to be hungry and too stretched to be touched, my gullets opened convulsively to their offerings, and I let them gently cover me in healing ooze.

They became bolder. Lewdly training their eyestalks on the integument around my cloacal vacuole, they saw the telltale stretching and quivered vibrating, triumphant laughter through the element. Then they wrapped me in their tentacles and squeezed.

For a few seconds, I was in agony. My overloaded ganglia telegraphed fire to every part of my distended body, but there was no release, only the pain of the squeezing, coupled with my need for them.

Then, suddenly, my cloacal vacuole burst, expelling a thousand baby thems into the element. The force of the expulsion loosened their grip, and I saw their eyes turn fleetingly in the direction of their successors, but they were in the throes of it now and could not let go. Murmuring their greedy desires, they snaked their swollen tentacles everywhere around my quivering body, even down my gullets and into my cloacal vacuole.

I could already feel the change, the we-ness, as it were. And I no longer felt tight, inside or out. Still, I needed them even more than they needed me. The expulsion had left an emptiness that needed filling.

I began to suck with all my gullets. Their tentacles seemed the only food I would ever need, but I needed it insatiably.  My quivering condensed into a focused, peristaltic pulse in every gullet groove. The tentacles became mush. Involuntarily, I released enzymes, breaking them down further. My integument tightened inexorably around the opening where the expulsion had occurred, and when the chemicals had broken down the tentacles in the cloacal vacuole and harvested their DNA, they were severed and the vacuole closed.

All the time I heard their cries, saw the anguish in their eyes, bobbing in terror on their stalks, but I could not help them. I seemed to need all my energy to pull against their attempts to withdraw the tentacles. I told myself I would help them later, if I could, but this was foolishness. I was still hungry when all the tentacles were gone, and it would have been cruel as well as wasteful to leave their little bodies floating helplessly. I pulled them in too, though I took no special joy in it.

For a moment, all was quiet. Even the element seemed absolutely still and empty. Then the pains began.

I was ripped in half. My nerves snapped, then regrew, my integument split, and my tender insides were torturously exposed until it too could regrow. It took a long time. I don’t know how I stood it, or her, my sister-self, either. We sent each other comforting element waves, signaled back and forth with our neural transmitters, eventually talked.

It’s peaceful now. We enjoy floating side by side, ingesting. One day, we’ll be a colony.  

End

lorna-woodLorna Wood is a violinist and writer in Auburn, Alabama, with a Ph.D. in English from Yale. She was a finalist in the 2016 Neoverse Short Story Competition and the Sharkpack Poetry Review’s Valus’ Sigil competition. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Between Worlds Zine, Dark Magic (Owl Hollow Press anthology), No Extra Words, Wild Violet, These Fragile Lilacs, Experimementos, Cacti Fur, Birds Piled Loosely, Every Writer, Blue Monday Review, and Untitled, with Passengers, as well as on Kindle, where her author page is  amazon.com/author/lornawood.

 

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Many Died After Reading Ancient Tome

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This accursed ancient tome contains tales of sinister mutations, carnal perversions, harrowing afflictions, insatiable blood lust, and absolute terror. When unearthed from the ruins of the ancient city of R’lyeh, a bizarre and sinister fate fell upon the excavators. The laborers reported excruciating migraines, bleeding from various orifices, and suffered from demonic hallucinations. The foremen reported visions of hell on Earth and spoke of direct contact with demonic entities. Investigators tried to make contact with those afflicted to verify the claims, but with each attempt came a horrible fate. One poor soul went as far as to put a bullet in his head the moment a journalist began an interview. The journalist, after relaying the chilling episode, stabbed his own eyes out with his fingers. Another laborer was contacted for an interview, but halfway through he ate his own tongue. Afflicted with madness, the man bashed the reporter’s skull in with the digital recorder before authorities could respond.

 

The original source of the Book of Horrors is sealed in a secured area, locked behind layers of cold steel. Initially, researchers attempted to study the strange abhorrent artifact by direct contact. However, that quickly changed after not one, not two, but three tragic deaths. In order to minimize anymore costly deaths, the department mandated that further study be done remotely from a digital copy that the last direct researcher was able to generate before he bashed his head against the wall until he died.

 

Of course, by making a digital copy, the material, whether or not classified, became subject to hacking. A hacking that was rendered easy through sloppy handling of confidential emails. I present to you a portion of the digital copy of the original Book of Horrors. Readers beware, for the passages contained within this electronic copy may not be without a certain, dreadful, and otherwise avoidable curse. It is not yet known whether the stories in the digital copy of this tome carry the same curse that lead to so many preventable deaths. You have been warned.

 

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Scary Stories and Demented Tales for Any True Horror Fan

Deadman’s Tome delivers scary stories, demented tales, and morbid horror that any true horror fan would enjoy. The six anthologies, one half contains back catalog of tales no longer available on the site, and the other half contains a live and thrilling dose of unadulterated horror, can ALL be read for just $5. That’s right. Five dollars towards Deadman’s Tome via Patreon gets you access to the whole library, which includes any future anthology.

www.patreon.com/deadmanstome

Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors II

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This accursed ancient tome contains tales of sinister mutations, carnal perversions, harrowing afflictions, insatiable blood lust, and absolute terror. When unearthed from the ruins of the ancient city of R’lyeh, a bizarre and sinister fate fell upon the excavators. The laborers reported excruciating migraines, bleeding from various orifices, and suffered from demonic hallucinations. The foremen reported visions of hell on Earth and spoke of direct contact with demonic entities. Investigators tried to make contact with those afflicted to verify the claims, but with each attempt came a horrible fate. One poor soul went as far as to put a bullet in his head the moment a journalist began an interview. The journalist, after relaying the chilling episode, stabbed his own eyes out with his fingers. Another laborer was contacted for an interview, but halfway through he ate his own tongue. Afflicted with madness, the man bashed the reporter’s skull in with the digital recorder before authorities could respond.

HORRGASM

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Featuring eight titillating tales, this anthology delivers a chilling blend of provocative horror. THE WOMAN IN RED opens with a lusting and blood thirsty couple hell bent to outshine Jack the Ripper. Take a bizarre road trip delivering body parts with a hot blonde with a twisted past in HEAD TRIP. DOSE goes through hookers and drugs faster than Charlie Sheen, explores the S&M scene, while delivering a haunting climax. SEX TOY plays with an odd, foreign and blasphemous sex curio that takes a couple’s love life to a whole new level. TOUCH ME, I’M SICK warns of a grave consequence no lustful adulterer would ever want to pay. THE VAMPIRE NYMPH wraps up the anthology with sizzling vampire sex served with a cold dish of irony. The anthology concludes with TURBO SLUT: EAT MORE PUSSY and EAT SHIT AND DIE – two ultra-violent, hyper-sexualized, and brutally offensive and unapologetic cyberpunk episodes of SexBots gone psycho!

Warning to the perverts (don’t feel ashamed), while the stories featured have adult themes and erotic moments, they’re not erotica. The stories will help you achieve HORRGASM, though!

Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors I

 

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Lost, but not forgotten. Discarded, but not abandoned. Rumor has it that somewhere deep in the dark abyss lies an ancient relic of wicked men, a product of madness. A tome of horrors so unimaginable, so unfathomable that a few lines was all it took for people to go mad. There are documented accounts of this book shattering families, tearing through the strongest of examples of love, causing mothers and fathers to devour their young. Somewhere, lost in the ocean of misinformation, exist reports of small towns cursed with mass hysteria, mass murderous delusions, consumed by either fire, cannibalistic orgies, or both. Every time, this ancient tome, the very book you are reading, was found beneath the rubble. Of course, this is only a copy, and only a fragment of the original tome. Any curse or dark spirit that haunted the original shouldn’t possess a mere replica. You should be safe, but if you begin to see shadows in the dark, smell burning from the walls, and hear voices outside your windows, then do not continue. You have been warned

Featuring:

Melissa’s Hobby by Seán Glasheen|The Memory Chamber by S.J.Budd| MORE PLASTIC WRAP by Florence Ann Marlowe| The Corruption in the Deep by Alessandro Martinez| Scuttle Bug by Matthew Johnson| Black Beauty: A Tale of Morbid Love by Mark Armstrong| The Accident on Mitchell Street by Jacob M Lambert| Shut In by Jill HandKingdom of the Living Dead by Joseph Rubas| The Babel Frequency by David Wright

Deadman’s Tome Best of the Demonic

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The Best of the Demonic compiles an assortment of editor picks as a way to celebrate our two years of publication. Loaded with ten gruesome, horrific tales that will pull you to the edge of your seat, this greatest hits anthology will deliver back-to-back a complimentary sample of what Deadman’s Tome is all about. Fans of our thriving ezine, you already know that this purchase will be totally worth it. Those passing by, you don’t need to hold on to your doubt. As a growing monthly electronic magazine, the quality of our releases has increased phenomenally, and this anthology is a sort of snapshot of what we become.
If you crave horror, if you enjoy a good chill running down your spine, then look no further. Deadman’s Tome delivers.

Featuring:

Kristine Muslim (Author), Dawn Allison (Author), A.D. Dawson (Author), Brandon Hooks (Author), Dru Watkins (Author), April Loche (Author), Saul Lemereond (Author), D.D. Bell (Author), Mercedes M. Yardley(Author), Jesse Dedman (Editor)

Deadman’s Tome Best of the Tome

Best of the Tome
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Celebrating three years of publication is nice, but without friends and associates to share the moment with, the party would grow very boring, very fast. To that end, we reached out to everyone that has ever helped us in the past for their personal favorite picks and reasons why they enjoy this online magazine of the macabre.

Featuring fifteen tales designed to instill fear: Plain Old Wrong by K.S. Riggin, Solitary Man by M. R. Nelson, Inky Beast by M.J. Nichols, Armstice Day by D.D. Bell, and a lot more.

Featuring:

Deb Eskie (Author), J.W. Schnarr (Author), M.J. Nichols (Author), Brian Rowe (Author), Philip Roberts (Author), Jesse Dedman (Editor)

Deadman’s Tome Best of the Demonic (POETRY EDITION)

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The Best of the Demonic: Poetry Edition is tailored with the same respectful touch we used with its counterpart. We gathered all of the poems out from the depths of our archives and scanned each and every one of them for a handpicked chosen. The fruits of our labor means for your guaranteed enjoyment. Every poem included in this anthology has earned its spot, and that means for a collection of quality poetry for your eyes to feast upon.

Reader beware, however, that even through the simple lines of poetry can madness be instilled.

$5 Patrons have FREE access to ALL of the anthologies. Become a patron today. 

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Raunchy Interview and Month of Horror Winner Announcement!

 

Interview with Marc Shapiro where we talk about his horror short entitled DOSE about a dick that just won’t quit. Marc and Mr. Deadman talk about the difference between horror and erotica, Trump, and celebrity stuff.

 

 

Month of horror writing contest winner announcement and reading.

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Last Of The Aztec Riders – Mark Mellon

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“Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you a good story.”

Jack Pilgrim regarded the one-eyed, one-armed, huge man on the barstool beside his. The half of his face minus an eye was scarred almost beyond recognition as human, his deformed lip pulled down in a perpetual half scowl. After twelve hours on his hog high on meth, Pilgrim only wanted to focus on the shot and the beer before him, drunk to delay and lessen the inevitable bummer.

“Look at the patch on my cut.”

He turned his back to Pilgrim. On the faded black leather vest, a skull with a feathered headdress screamed. The top rocker read “Aztec Riders;” the bottom said “Tiny.”

“I’m the only one allowed to wear this patch, man. Nobody left but me. And I can tell you all about it, the whole freaked out story. But you gotta buy me that beer first, man. So what do you say?”

Intrigued and sympathetic to a biker so fucked up he’d never ride again, Pilgrim nodded to the bartender who poured a draught Bud in a pint glass and set it before Tiny. He knocked it back, set the glass on the bar, and wiped the foam from his scraggly beard with his hand.

“Like I said, I’m the only Aztec Rider left. You should’ve seen us back in the day, bombing a hundred strong in a tight vee formation at eighty per, total road Nazis, blowing through every traffic light. And no one, not no citizen, not no pig, dared fuck with us. We had Bullhead City under our thumb and most of Nevada and Arizona too, at least as far as pussy and meth went. And it was all because of our Prez, Pothunter. See, we called him Pothunter coz he was always poking around in caves on Federal parks and reserves, looking for Indian stuff, old shit, know what I mean? Even if it is a Federal beef. Like we cared about stuff like that. And then he showed up at the clubhouse with this idol, like a real idol, you know-“

***

The clubhouse was a long, one story cinderblock building with a corrugated iron roof in the middle of the desert, surrounded by an ten foot fence topped by concertina barb wire with signs posted that read KEEP OUT! and TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT! in huge, screaming red letters. Inside the dimly lit clubhouse, the Riders sheltered from the roasting heat to the dull roar of a sorely overtaxed wall unit air conditioner, ripped off from a hotel. In the background, John Kay rumbled Close your eyes, girl, Step inside, girl on the tape deck while Tiny snorted yet another line of meth. The room became infinitely extended in his tunnel vision. Blood pounded in his ears like hammers against anvils. He wondered if he was going to pass out.

The door burst open. The blast of light and heat sent the Riders scurrying to

darkness like rats to their holes. Pothunter walked in, a burlap bag held in both hands. A prospect hurried to shut the door.

“Hey, Prez. What you got? Beer or scotch, I hope,” Tiny said.

Pothunter set the dusty bag on the already filthy carpet.

“Lots better, Tiny. I went to Teuwanta State Park and dug some by the cliffs. You won’t believe what I found.”

He undid the rope and pulled down the bag to reveal a terra cotta figure about two feet high, ancient and worn, the paint faded, the features still distinct. The idol was a hideously grimacing, round-headed skeleton, dressed in a mask and garments made from flayed human skin. Internal organs, liver, heart, and kidneys, dangled from an open chest cavity.

“Whoa. What the fuck is that thing, Prez?” almost everyone said simultaneously.

“Our new mascot.”

Pothunter’s broad, red face beamed with pleasure. Tiny had never seen him happier, not even when he beat a Red Devil to death with a chain. He picked up the idol and set it with great ceremony on the card table that held the club’s shrine, composed of pictures of members who were either dead or in prison and some fake Indian relics Pothunter bought in Nogales one time.

“Listen up, everybody. This is the first real find I ever made. It’s some kind of god, some kind of bad, evil thing that just lives to make trouble. You know, like us.  This is bringing us wicked good luck. So I declare a three day party in honor of our new mascot, the god of the Aztec Riders. Bad Bob, tell the mommas to haul ass over here. They got some trains to pull.”

“Bitching,” Tiny bellowed.

The others howled as well, more delighted by the prospect of days of sex, booze, and meth than the idea of an official mascot. Head bent, arms pumping, Pothunter shuffled back and forth before the idol in his own version of a ritual dance. Puzzled and somewhat disturbed by the grotesque figure, like the loyal members they were, others showed club spirit and followed the Prez’s lead. They danced behind him in strict order of precedence, Vice Prez Bad Bob, Secretary Tiny, Treasurer Vulture Ed, and  Sergeant of Arms Bruiser Vito, followed by patch members in order of seniority. Prospects brought up the rear. The Indian Dance became a ritual, a ceremony that set the Riders apart and drew them together.

***

“Swear to God, if our luck didn’t change the day Pothunter found that idol. Like bam, like the biggest, best hit of meth you’d ever want in your life. In no time we had a steady stable of a dozen whores, each one turning over eighty percent of everything she made in tricks. She’d a fucking well better if she didn’t want her ass beat. Plus we had five meth labs going, no bucket shop shit either, man, each one with a real cook who knew his stuff cold. And no cop ever so much laid a finger on us, not one bust in the whole club for eight months, I shit you not.”

Tiny paused to give Pilgrim a significant look with his pale blue orb.

“Storytelling’s thirsty work, you know.”

Pilgrim nodded again. The bartender set another Bud before Tiny. He knocked it down like the first.

“Yeah, so like I said, we was rolling in serious bread after years of nickel and dime bullshit. We knew we was lucky and Pothunter was right. The idol brought us luck. Every weekend we threw a party with enough booze, drugs, and sluts to do up Vegas, and live bands too. And the big climax was always the Indian Dance in front of the idol. Man, you should have seen how we used to get into it. It was downright tribal, know what I mean?”

Tiny frowned with the good side of his face and shut his eye.

“And everything was cool, man, just completely cool, until this bitch came along one night and really started some shit, you know-“

***

The sun was a bloody red eye above the horizon. Clean, fine desert air was marred by the stink of tobacco and marijuana smoke, silence shattered by pounding drums and twanging guitars.

“And this bird you cannot change,” a three hundred pound man in a tiny black cowboy hat wailed from the stage as his band thrashed through primitive chords behind him.

Tiny took a drag off a giant reefer to take the edge off the speed tweaking through his veins and stared at bare breasts flaunted by drunken mommas as they gyrated to the music. He caught Bad Bob’s eye and stuck out his tongue. Bad Bob made a fist and pumped it up and down, the universal symbol for a gang bang.

The night wore on. A select few outsiders were allowed inside the clubhouse to party with the Riders, primarily hangers on and attractive women. Flush with cash, the Riders had refurbished the clubhouse, equipped with a new pool table, fully stocked wet bar, and an impressive new shrine, handcrafted from mahogany by a full patch member who also held down a righteous day job as a cabinet maker. The idol was in its own special niche, topped by a banner that depicted the Riders’ crowned, screaming skull.

Lines of meth were laid out on a table, straws alongside for anyone who cared to snort.  The open bar was staffed by two succulent, young honeys, enormous fake breasts straining against ridiculously tiny t-shirts to the point of rupture. As always, Steppenwolf blared, only now from a state of the art MP4 player.

Last night I found Aladdin’s lamp

The scene was lively, the vibe as mellow as could be among a gang of violent felons high on hard drugs. Tiny tried to take it all in, perception fractured by alcohol and drugs until moments became difficult to link together. He took another drag off the joint, exhaled, and went into a coughing fit.

A loud, brassy, female voice cut through the party chatter and music like a semi-trailer’s klaxon in the desert night.

“So what the fuck is that supposed to be? Santa Muerte or something?”

A fortyish Latina woman drunkenly swayed in the middle of the room, attractive even though overweight, jet black hair flecked with a few silver threads, a loose grin on her face, eyes wide and full of devilry. Miller tall boy in one hand, she pointed at the idol. Wild, chaotic laughter burst from her.

“Where did you gringos find that? In Tijuana? I bet you paid way too much.”

“Listen, bitch, that’s our club mascot, so don’t disrespect it, you hear me,” Pothunter bellowed, his ordinarily red face a brighter shade of beet.  “That’s a genuine pre-Columbian artifact I dug up myself out at Teuwanta State Park.”

“Are you kidding me? Where I come from in Guerrero, factories make stuff like that by the shit ton. Dios mio, que gringo tontería.”

“No, bitch, you’re wrong. This is the genuine, real thing that I dug up with my own hands. And I’m gonna prove what I mean right now. Members. It’s time for the Indian Dance.”

Pothunter dropped low and began the familiar windmilling shuffle. The other Riders fell in behind him with the precision of a well rehearsed dance team. Back and forth they danced before the idol in zigzag lines, each man caught up in the intricate dance steps, faces serious and grave.

“Oh, shit, I can’t believe this shit. This has got to be the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Ay, que broma.”

Her beer gut rhythmically shook with laughter, the whites of her eyes and teeth flashing in the black strobe light.

“Bitch, I’ve had fucking enough of you,” Pothunter screamed.

He ran over to the woman and with one vicious uppercut knocked her sprawling, out cold before she even hit the linoleum. Tiny put two fingers to his mouth and blew out a long, loud appreciative whistle.

“Down with one sock. That’s why Pothunter’s Prez. Yes, sir, Aztec Riders forever.”

The Indian Dance continued. The woman lay where she fell, ignored by everyone. The night wore on. Before Tiny knew it, sense of time destroyed by drugs, it was three in the morning and no one in the clubhouse but the few most hardened partiers and the unconscious woman.

“Tiny, chop up some more flake,”

“Sure thing, Prez.”

Tiny dumped a hefty pile of meth flake onto a mirror and chopped it fine with his buck knife. The woman on the floor moaned loudly. Pothunter looked over at her and grinned.

“Looks like she’s coming round. Good thing too. Now we can kick her ass out.”

She sat up and cradled her aching jaw in her hands.

“Oh, you motherfuckers. You cracked my tooth.”

She looked up and focused on Pothunter.

“You’re a real brave man, you are, punching a woman. Que hombre.”

“Yeah, well, you see what you get, bitch, when you disrespect the Aztec Riders.” Pothunter said.

She got to her feet, still good and drunk and plenty angry too.

“Disrespect a bunch of pussy, pinche cocksuckers like you, you fucking gringo. I got chulo buddies that eat little shits like you alive. Fuck you and fuck your stupid idol most of all. Pendejo joto cabron.”

She spat at Pothunter.

“Bitch, I’ve had just about enough of your fucking shit,” Pothunter said.

He ran over to the woman, knocked her flat again, and kicked her repeatedly with his steel toed Chippewa boots. Other Riders joined in, punched and kicked her as she writhed and screamed on the floor.

“Hold her down. Hold the fucking cunt down,” Pothunter ordered.

Riders pinned down her arms and legs. Bad Bob crooked a massive arm around her head and pinned her jaws shut. Pothunter took out his Bowie knife with the sixteen-inch blade. He slit the woman’s shirt open, bared her soft, unmuscled gut. Tiny’s eyes went wide with joy. He loved nothing better than a gangbang.

Pothunter raised the knife high over his head. The woman’s eyes went wide with fear. She tried to break free, but half a dozen bikers held her down hard.

“Now you’re going to pay for your fucking disrespect, cunt.”

“No, Prez, no,” Tiny bellowed. “Not in front of witnesses.”

Pothunter’s knife stabbed down, deep into the woman’s stomach, just below the sternum.

AAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH

The scream that poured through her clenched teeth deafened everyone in the clubhouse, a horrible, mortal wail of pain. Pothunter nonetheless dug the cruel blade in deeper, rent her stomach open into a gaping wound.

“We’re gonna worship the idol the real way, the Aztec way.”

Deep into shock, her eyes rolled back into her head. Her body thrashed uncontrollably. Beer gutted bikers could barely hold her down. Pothunter jammed his right hand into the open wound. He fished around for a moment, grunted with satisfaction when he found what he wanted, and with one, awful, tearing wrench yanked her heart loose from its mainstrings.

The screams ended. The woman lay still, quite dead. Covered with gore, Pothunter stood tall and proud. In his bloodstained hand, to the Riders’ awe and terror, a still beating heart. Black blood oozed from ventricles.

“This is just like the Aztec priests did it, brothers. Good enough for them, good enough for us. This is going to change our luck forever.”

He took the heart and held it high before the idol.

“Accept our sacrifice.”

Pothunter smeared the idol with the heart. Blood stained the idol’s face. Pothunter smiled widely, drunkenly, well pleased with his handiwork.

There was an awful thunderclap, a crash of doom like the last trump. The lights went out.

“What the fuck happened?”

A grotesque figure appeared before them. A skeletal corpse clad in another man’s flayed hide crouched before them, the idol brought to life. Internal organs dangled from his open chest cavity, lungs, liver, and beating heart. The god’s unsmiling mouth protruded slightly from the splayed lips of the expertly skinned face that covered his own. Vertical stripes ran down the mask. The flayed man’s hands hung loose by his wrists. Long tassels hung down his back from his elaborate, green-feathered headdress. Beneath the flayed garments, yellow skin was painted red.  Blood and pus seeped to the floor from the abscesses and open sores that covered his body. The smell of rotting flesh was unbearable. Blue flames burned in the flayed mask’s eyeholes, the only light in the otherwise black clubhouse.

Pothunter smiled broadly. He pointed to the bizarre apparition and gestured widely to his brothers.

“Do you see this shit? It fucking works. Everybody get down on your knees and bow.”

Addled with drugs and adrenaline, caught up in the moment, the Riders automatically did as their Prez bid. They got down on their knees and bowed low to their mascot made flesh. Pothunter even made so bold as to approach the idol and  present the heart to the idol, thick blood caked on his hand.

The apparition’s face split wide in a soundless roar. So did the flayed skin of the victim’s face. The skin ripped into pieces to reveal the wearer’s broad-nosed, cat-mouthed face, only to have that split wide. With a great gush of blood and splintered bone, the face destroyed itself to show a new one. The tiny, fine-haired head of a squalling infant screamed for his mother’s dug only to also split wide with a violent wrench of flesh and bone to show a handsome, young man, red face smooth and unlined. The handsome face seamed down the middle and ripped in twain. There in its place stood the withered, drooling countenance of an incredibly old man, only to have the hoary face crack in turn to show the grinning skull that lurks under every human face.

Bits of bloody flesh and fragments of shattered bone spattered Pothunter’s face. Slack-jawed with fear, eyes fixed on the exploding head despite the endless spray of gore, Pothunter managed to scream at last, a long and low, pitiful wail like a small animal about to die.

The idol stuck his long nails like daggers into Pothunter, ripped him to literal shreds before the other Riders like an angry child with a newspaper.

“Shit. Run for it.”

Riders ran for the door, but it was padlocked shut and the lock wouldn’t turn. A few men had enough nerve to pull their pieces and fire at the monster. Bullets riddled the walking corpse, but it just kept on coming, a trail of gore and lymph behind it. Grim face indifferent to their misery behind his flayed mask, he inflicted the same fate on each man, tore them into bloody gobbets of meat, rent them asunder limb from limb. Brave men who’d sworn never to crumble or bend the knee, each begged for mercy in his turn, called out for his mother, only to be tortured to death, maimed and savaged until he died with a last, despairing  cry.

Tiny found himself outside the compound with no idea how he got there. His right arm hung useless and shattered by his side. Blood streamed from the ruins of his left eye socket. In the distance, he could hear a siren’s wail, a police car or an ambulance. Tiny stumbled toward the approaching siren, his only hope for survival.

***

“And that’s the straight and narrow of it, swear to God on a stack of Bibles before my mother’s grave, every last word of it. Only thing I can’t figure out is why I was the only one to get out of it, even if it wasn’t it in one piece.”

“Because you told your Prez to stop before she killed the woman,” Pilgrim said.

Tiny considered this, then shrugged.

“Maybe so, but it’s still about the God damnedest thing I ever saw. Think you wanna stand me another beer, man? Just one bro helping another, you know?”
Pilgrim pulled out his trucker’s wallet and put three twenties down on the bar.

“Keep the change,” he told the bartender.

He headed toward the door only to have a painfully thin blonde woman intercept him. Once even more than passably pretty, her delicate features were ravaged and gaunted by hard living.

“You didn’t believe that line of bullshit he was handing out, did you?” she said with a conspiratorial grin, teeth blackened from meth abuse. “He just blew himself up cooking meth, that’s all. You ain’t headed to Kingman, are you? I’m not too proud to slut a ride, if you know what I mean. You got any meth on you?”

“Sorry. I ride alone.”

Pilgrim went through the batwing doors, outside into heat that smothered him like a funeral pall. He saddled his Indian, kick started the engine, and drove off into the night.

 

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‘Are STEM Syllabi Gendered?’ A Feminist Professor Says Women Can’t Do Science – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Every now and then I find an article that is so horrifically stupid that I can’t resist blasting it on the Tome. Those familiar with the Tome know that sometimes I refer to this as Real Horror, and boy, does this little gem of stupidity earn the label.

Apparently, the reason why women do not enter STEM fields is because the scientific  method is sexist! A method in which to conduct science, which says nothing about gender, is sexist!? 

Even better, STEM classes are SO sexist that even their syllabi are gendered and insensitive. Well, maybe that one college in the deep south might have a clause about how women should let be in class, but I don’t see how “promoting the idea that knowledge can be ascertained through reason” is sexist unless you’re implying that women can’t reason, and ifor that’s the case then the real sexist is the one making that stupid claim.

I wish I was making this up. This is a direct quote from the article:

The syllabi for college-level STEM courses—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are “gendered” because they promote the idea that knowledge can be ascertained through reason. This is a masculine concept that hurts women’s feelings and makes it difficult for them to succeed.
In addition, apparently the wording of this phrase in a syllabus is offensive to women:

critical thinker considers all available evidence with an open mind and uses appropriate techniques to analyze that evidence and reach a conclusion.

Now, before you go over to the site to channel your frustration, I should point out that this article is actually referring to a scientific study by the University of North Dekota. But that just makes the claim that STEM and scientific method are inherently sexist even more absurd.

http://reason.com/blog/2016/09/22/are-stem-syllabi-gendered-a-feminist-pro

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There – David J. Wing

 

Looking out from the rural track, a single tree sat in the near centre of the field, bathed in sun and stretching a small shadow down across the scorched grass. Daisies populated frequently throughout and a light breeze deceived the passer-by into thinking the day was less warm than a British Summer should be. The boys left their bikes by the stone wall partitioning the field from the one over the road. Dodging cow excrement, fresh and old, Harry and Liam walked towards the tree and the shade. Their shirts swam in sweat from a day’s cycling and their water bottles sat half empty in their hands.

As they got nearer their steps began to slow, their smiles fled and they stopped all together.

The smell hit their noses like a rotten bin at the back of a restaurant, then they saw it. One, then two, then more.

Fingers, swimming in blue bottles on a bed of green.

Ashen-faced, the boys knew what must sit beneath the tree. The shade, masking a shadow that would extend across the field in the later hours.

The pair looked at each other, as if daring, yet not. They had to see, didn’t they? When the kids at school asked, fingers wouldn’t be enough. They’d need guts and entrails, limbs and sinew.  

One step, then another. They encroached on the thing that had to live there, under the oak. The closer they got, the less they saw. The figure, its arms and legs splayed out revealed nothing.

The shadow of a being. As if cut from the flesh, along with the digits.

Liam turned to Harry and Harry to Liam alike. Their frantic, pumping legs led trainers to tread deep in cow faeces, yet they noticed not for a moment. Their water bottles fell and laid together. Leaping and scrambling over the wall and wrenching their bikes from their resting places the pair peddled as fast as seven-year-old legs could go. Down, down was easier. Down seemed better, nearer to somewhere and closer to safety.

The sun fled and the shade chased. Tarmac became darker behind them. The only sound to pierce their ears was the heavy breath that escaped each boy.

A house, there, not too far.

A few hundred more feet. A few hundred more breaths.

Neither boy so much as glanced at the other, nor did they look back. Had they…

Their tyres screeched and marked the driveway to the house, the bikes running free and the boys falling and fleeing fast. Their fists battered the oaken door, their sweat soaked the welcome mat.

Now they looked, now they saw.

Behind and in front, it fell upon them; a night and a shadow a shade and nothing.  

Stubbed hands, reached out. Gripping.

And then the slam.

Safe?

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes horror short stories and horror flash fiction. The online magazine publishes dark and gritty content from professional horror writers, Bram Stoker award nominated horror authors, along with talented newcomers of the horror writing craft. Deadman’s Tome features chilling, terrifying horror shorts ranging from ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, monster horror, and even horror erotica. Deadman’s Tome is one of the best online horror zines to publish horror short stories, horror flash fiction, and dark flash fiction. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the horror authors.

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Deadman’s Tome LIVE with Marc Shapiro

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Enhance your sex life

Friday October 7th at 10PM CST, Marc Shapiro meets with Mr. Deadman on the Deadman’s Tome podcast to discuss his dark, highly sexualized short about a dick that just won’t quit entitled DOSE. DOSE is one of those stories that thrives in the area between porn and erotica, and it delivers with a sense of humor that doesn’t beat around the bush.

Use this link to listen to the interview LIVE at 10PM CST (minus a few minutes):

http://www.spreaker.com/user/8056632

Marc Shapiro is the author of nearly 70 unauthorized celebrity biographies such as J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter and Creed: From Zero To Popularity . He is a published short story writer, published poet and published comic book writer. He actually makes a living doing this. Don’t tell the authorities.

Have questions for Marc Shapiro? send them through the comments below or tweet them to me @MrDeadmanDT

 

 

 

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The Statewide Thing – Joseph Rubas

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Enhance your coffee

The Statewide Thing – Joseph Rubas

“Come on, Harv; you’re killing me.”

Dave Birsk switched the phone to his left hand and switched on the lamp, filling the living room with soft, warm light. It was late, past nine, and he was tired.

On the other end, Harvey, his brother, sighed. “I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t an emergency.”

“Are you sure it can’t wait until tomorrow?”

“I’m sure.”

Dave shook his head. “Alright. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

Harvey sounded relieved. “Good.”

Dave hit the END button and put the phone into his pocket. He got up, sighed, and went over to the metal rack by the door. He grabbed his shoes, slipped them on, and hit the bathroom before leaving.

Outside, the night was crisp and cold, a frigid wind moving noisily through the trees along the highway. A half mile past them, the Potomac crashed against the shore, the sound of it near deafening.

Harvey owned a bail bonds business in Fredericksburg, twenty-five miles north of Colonial Beach, where Dave lived. With travel time alone, Dave wouldn’t be back until past midnight. Thank God he was off tomorrow.

Dave…you gotta help me, Harv had said. He sounded bad…like a man in deep shit.

What? What’s wrong?

I…I can’t tell you over the phone, but you gotta come. You gotta.

God only knew what Harvey had gotten himself into this time. Ever since Yolanda left him in 2013, he’d been a wreck, drinking too much, going to the bars, always stinking like booze. Dave loved his brother dearly, but dude was turning into a fucking alkie, just like dad, and Dave couldn’t stand alcoholics. The last time they talked, in March 2014, Dave told him he needed help.

I’m fine, Harv said.

No, you’re not, Dave countered.

They argued, and that was that. Harv didn’t call him and he didn’t call Harv. Now, out of the blue, Harv was on the horn, sounding all shaky and shit.

Dave didn’t like it.

The wind washed across his face like a brisk slap, bringing him out of his reprieve. He locked the door, descended the steps, paused, listened to the crashing of the river, and climbed into the Silverado.

As he drove through the empty streets of the Beach, Dave cycled through the radio stations, finally settling for 95.9 WGRQ, Hometown Oldies or whatever they called it. He was surprised to hear the opening strands of one of his favorite songs from childhood.

Whaaaaaat? That’s not oldies! That’s…

Dave sighed. He supposed it was oldies. The new oldies.

May, how time does fly. He would be fifty-one next year, though he neither felt nor looked it. Harv was only a couple years behind. Forty-eight? Forty-nine? He couldn’t remember, but he was coming up on the big 5-0 pretty fast. It was wild when you thought about it. When you’re young, you know intellectually that, say, ten years isn’t a long time, but you never truly know until you can look back at ten years past with the clear and level visibility of a thirty or forty year old. It wasn’t a long time, but, then again, it was. Just long enough to put some gray in your hair without being too obvious.

Outside the Colonial Beach town limits, darkness swallowed the Silverado. Houses were few and far between on the road to King George, and many of them were already dark. A car passed in the opposite lane, going back into town, but that was it. He didn’t see another vehicle until he crossed 301.

King George, the county seat of King George County, was clustered along the main drag (Highway 3…Kings Highway in town), a series of low, time worn buildings; auto shops, diners, the court house, the library. Dave checked the time on the dashboard clock. 9:40.

Things closed down early in the countryside. When he was a kid he hated it. The town he grew up in was a farming community south of Richmond. As soon as that sun set, everything closed like throwing a switch. Now, as an older man, he didn’t mind. He worked, he came home, and he slept. Not much time for anything else.

Dave’s phone buzzed in his pocket, scaring him.

“Hello?”

“Are you coming?” Harv asked. He sounded desperate.

“Yes, I’m on my way.”

“Good, I don’t think…”

Harv stopped, and Dave was sure he heard someone else in the background.

“Harv, what’s going on?” Dave demanded.

“I can’t tell you until you get here.”

Dave could fucking strangle Harv. “Alright. I’ll be there shortly.”

He hung up and tossed the phone onto the seat next to him.

Fifteen minutes later, he was pulling onto Lafayette Blvd, which ran along the southern border of Fredericksburg’s Old Towne district. To his right, a set of train tracks crossed over a slanted street, the bridge gray and ancient. Just ahead, the old train station. It was a restaurant now, though it still served commuters to D.C. and Northern Virginia.

On the radio, CCR sang about someone named Willie.

Harvey’s office was north of the old courthouse on Princess Anne Street, right smack-dab in the heart of Olde Towne. Dave turned onto the street, waiting for a black man in a puffy jacket to cross, and crept forward. Ahead, the grand spires of a gothic church rose high into the night.

He parked at the curb in front of Harv’s office (STATEWIDE BAIL BONDS…EVERYWHERE, EVERY TIME!), a squat, ugly building with a red roof wedged between the town museum and a vacant lot. The front was all glass. In the alley between the museum and Harv’s office, a light shone. It was probably the light by the side door.

Harv was waiting.

For a long minute, Dave stayed in the car, preparing himself for what he might find. A dead hooker, maybe, or Harv covered in blood, a failed suicide attempt. His heart ached and his stomach rolled. He wished for a brief second that he hadn’t come after all, but then pushed it away. Harv was his blood. If he needed him, he’d be here.

With a deep breath, Dave killed the engine and got out, a particularly strong gust of wind nearly ripping the door from his hands.

At the head of the alley, Dave stepped on something, slid, and nearly fell. When he caught his balance, he looked at it.

Blood.

Jesus Christ.

At the side door, Dave pounded like a cop with a warrant. “Harvey!” he cried.

Nothing.

“Harv!”

Dave pounded again. This time, the door opened, and Harvey stood in the doorway, a tall, thin man with glasses and a balding pate. His cheap brown suit was ruffled, and he looked sick, his face gray and his eyes bloodshot.

“What the hell’s going on?” Dave asked, pushing past Harvey. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Harvey said, “it’s not me.”

Dave stopped.

“What do you mean?”

Harvey looked guilty.

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Then what trouble are you in?”

Harvey swallowed. “Let me show you.”

Harvey led Dave down the hall to the back room where supplies were stored. The first thing Dave noticed on entering was the table in the middle of the room.

The second was the child strapped to it.

“What the fuck?” he drew.

The child stirred, made a small noise, and then turned to look at them, its head flopping bonelessly against the table. In the meager light cast from an overhead lamp, Dave saw two things: One, it was a boy, maybe four or five, and two…it was dead. Its skin, he noticed, was mottled and gray/blue. Its head was cracked and oozing. It was naked save for a pair of underwear, providing Dave a pretty good look at the decomposition already starting on the stomach.

“Hey, Dave,” it said, its voice dark and vile, “come suck my dick.”

Dave grabbed Harvey by the lapels and dragged him out into the hall. “What the fuck is that?”

Harvey chafed. “I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you, just let me go.”

Dave shoved him back.

“Whip his ass, Dave!” the monster called.

“Shut up!” Harvey yelled. He looked back at Dave. “I don’t know what it is. I was coming home down 218 and it ran in front of me.”

218, which wound from Fredericksburg to King George, was one of the most dangerous roads in the area; surrounded by forest, it twisted, turned, rose, and fell so often it could legally be classified a theme park ride.

“It was starting to get dark, and I didn’t see it until the last moment. I hit the brakes, but…”

“You ran this thing over?”

“Look at its neck and head, Dave.”

In the room, the thing laughed. “My head flops like your wrist!”

Dave nodded. “Okay. So you hit it.”

Harvey nodded. “Yeah. I hit it, and stopped. I thought it was a…a…a deer or something. I mean, it was on all fours.”

“Like Yolanda in the projects!” the creature shouted, and Harvey stiffened.

“Hey, buddy, how about you shut the fuck up,” Dave said, taking a step into the room. “We’re having a conversation here.”

The monster flicked its tongue suggestively.

“Go on,” Dave said to Harvey.

Harvey took a deep breath. “I got out of the car and looked around. I didn’t see anything. My headlight was broken. That was it. Then as I’m getting in the car, I heard something underneath. I got down on my hands and knees…and there he was.”

Harvey shuddered as he remembered the creature in the darkness beneath the car.

“He flew out at me and tried to bite my neck.”

“Yummy neck!” the creature laughed.

Harv subdued the creature and tied it up with a pair of jumper cables he had in the trunk. “I panicked and brought him here. Then I called you.”

Dave took a long minute to process the story. It was crazy, impossible, yet there, tied to that table…

“Come on,” Dave said, slapping Harvey’s chest. “I want a closer look.”

Harv did a good job tying the monster down. One long strap went across its chest, while others held its hands and feet immobile. Dave did a circuit, walking slowly around, and studied the creature, despite its name calling: “Fag! Bitch! Punk!”

Upon closer inspection, its skin wasn’t just blueish gray, it was also shot through with yellow and brown. Its nails were long and jagged, its eyes deep and inky black. When it opened its mouth, its teeth were yellowed and pointed. He hazarded a quick touch of the thing’s forehead, and it was cold.

“This is fucking crazy,” Dave said finally. He stepped back from the table and put his hands on his hips. The monster asked for a handjob.

“You got a dirty mouth,” Dave said. “Where’d you learn to talk like that?”

“You’re mother.”

Dave chuckled nervously. He and Harv exchanged a glance.

“Who are you?” Dave asked, his tone serious. He came forward and knelt by the creature. “What are you?”

The creature flashed a reptilian smile. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Get away from it,” Harv pled.

“Are you a zombie?”

The thing laughed. “Brains! Brains! Give me brains!”

“Come on, Dave,” Harv said.

Dave got up and went to his brother. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know,” Harv whined. “Kill it?”

Dave considered it. “No. We should call someone. The government. The army.”

Harv started. “But they’ll probably kill us! We’ve seen too much!”

Sighing, Dave looked at the creature. “What are you?” he asked again.

“Nothing,” the monster said.

“Kill it,” Harv said. “That’s the only way!”

He was right. “Do you have a crowbar or something in here?”

Harv nodded. “I keep a baseball bat in my office.”

“Go get it.”

Harv nodded and scurried away. For the moment, Dave was alone with the creature.

“You can’t kill me,” it said. It flopped its head back and forth several times as if to corroborate. “Your faggot brother couldn’t with his car, and you can’t with that bat.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Take your best shot.”

“Oh, I will.”

“You’re a bitch.”

The creature laughed and began to sing. “Dave is a bitch. Dave is a bitch. Punk ass, pussy ass bitch!”

Harv returned with the bat. It was heavy and wooden. Dave took it. “Alright,” he said. “Stand back.”

The creature smiled as Dave approached and raised the bat. “Make my day, asshole.”

The bat crashed down.

The creature’s head exploded. Skull and brain fragments sprayed Dave’s face. Dave opened his hitherto closed eyes. The monster’s head was a splattered mess.

It didn’t move.

“I think it’s dead,” he said.

Harv sounded relieved. “Thank G…”

In the mess, something moved.

“The fuck?”

“What?”

Bone and brain fell away, and, to Dave’s unending horror, a pink, slug like thing emerged. “Holy shit!” he screamed.

“What?”

The thing was roughly six inches long and smooth. On what Dave took to be its head, two antennae quivered and worked.

He had the unsettling feeling that the slug was looking at him.

“You gotta…”

The creature sprang forward, launching itself into the air. Screaming, Dave ducked, and watched in horror as it hit Harv square in the face. “Jesus Christ, Harvey!”

In a flash, the thing disappeared into Harvey’s nose. He screamed, danced back, pounding at his own face, and fell. Dave threw himself at his brother and collapsed at his side. “Harvey!”

Harvey screeched in agony as the thing bore into his brain. He jerked, writhed, and sputtered, his eyes turning red and his face losing its color. Dave was petrified. He tried to hold him down, but he was too strong. He looked helplessly around. There had to be something, something he could jam up his brother’s nose and get the slug.

Harvey fell still.

Dave looked down at him. His eyes were closed, his lips slightly parted. “Harv?” he asked, shaking his shoulder.

Nothing.

“You okay?” he asked, his heart pounding.

Finally, Harv’s eyes opened.

They were black.

“Shit!” Dave spat, falling back. Harv sat up, rolled his neck, and looked directly at Dave. “Told you….”

Dave screamed and struggled back to his feet. The bat was lying halfway under the table, where he dropped it. He snatched it up, and, without hesitating, slammed it into the Harvey-thing’s arm with a sickening crack. The thing toppled over, spasmed, and began getting back to its feet. Dave brought the bat down onto its back, once, twice, three times, hoping to break its spine. Maybe if Harv couldn’t walk, or use his arm, the thing would go in search of another host. Out in the open, he could kill it.

For a long moment, Harv didn’t move. Dave stood at the ready. The slug didn’t appear either.

Fuck this, he decided. His phone was in the Silverado. If he could get to it, he’d call the cops, or the army, or someone.

“I’ll be back,” he said…to his brother, not the thing.

The rest of the building was dark and quiet, and Dave imagined other things in the shadows.

Outside, the wind had picked up and become even colder. Dave fought his way to the street, but before he reached the truck, something stopped him.

He looked up.

Things moved in the sky, obscuring the stars. They were large, he saw, massive, in fact, black and trimmed with bright running lights. Planes, he thought, but no; they didn’t look like any planes he’d ever seen before. Boxlike in dimensions, long, wide, and square.

“The invasion’s begun,” the Harvey-thing said from behind him.

    END

Joseph Rubas is the author of over 200 short stories and several novels. His work has appeared in: Nameless Digest; The Horror Zine; All Due Respect; Thuglit, and many others. He currently resides in Florida.

   

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facebookJoin the Fan Club!

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes horror short stories and horror flash fiction. The online magazine publishes dark and gritty content from professional horror writers, Bram Stoker award nominated horror authors, along with talented newcomers of the horror writing craft. Deadman’s Tome features chilling, terrifying horror shorts ranging from ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, monster horror, and even horror erotica. Deadman’s Tome is one of the best online horror zines to publish horror short stories, horror flash fiction, and dark flash fiction. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the horror authors.

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Route 44- David John Wing

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Enhance your coffee

Route 44 – David John Wing

We’d heard a few stories along the way, you do. Travel the country as much as my wife and I and you hear all sorts of things, sometimes you see them too.

A few years ago the kids left home. College and work saw them off to different ends of the country and as we’d retired, we thought we’d give travel a go. We’d saved well – the kids, Jane and Mark were successful in their own rights and short of any disasters; our money was ours to do with as we pleased.

We cleared out the house (heirlooms and sentimental items went to storage) and put it on the rental market – then took the cars to the local dealership. We came out well and sporting a beige, 2008 Winnebago. It had everything you could imagine and then some. A short course in truck driving and we were off. No particular direction. Jean was about to turn sixty and I’d passed that mark a little ways back, so we put the motorhome in drive and took a left out the driveway and onto the highway.

The years went by, mostly without incident. We got the occasional flat – one nearly saw us flat too, but Jean always did have quick reactions and we survived to tell the tale. We picked up the occasional hitch-hiker, mostly nice folk – mostly. We saw the landscape change a hundred different ways and then a hundred more. The ‘Winnie’ just kept on ticking. Once in a while we changed the oil, every now and then a sparkplug. Mostly things went fine.  

The kids didn’t like the idea of their ‘olds’ hippying around the country, but we made sure to check in whenever we stopped and that calmed them some.

New England was where things changed.  

We’d been ‘on the road’ for a few years when I guess my eyes started to play up. I swear I saw them though – birds, giant black ones, must have been twelve/thirteen feet tip to tip, like pterodactyls screeching from the sky. I’d had to swerve to miss them and hit a tree. Jean got a cut on her head and a concussion. The kids begged us to stop travelling, but Jean was adamant. The doctors said it was a cataract in my right eye. It would cause problems from now on and Jean would have to drive at night, I could still see fine in the day.

We spent the next few nights stationary. Despite what she said, I knew Jean was a little nervous. My eyes and my story both disturbed her. She listened attentively, but shy of actually seeing black, flying monsters coming straight for you, it’s difficult to believe on faith, even if that faith is based on a fifty year marriage.

The map placed us not far south of Boston. We drove by the local Walmart and re-stocked the cabinets. The shower needed a new head, the camera a new battery and we were all out of hot-pockets. Jean found me a nice pair of slacks with elastic around the waist. She said it was the new style, but I caught the label that read ‘maternity’ and saw a wry smile on the face of the cashier when I paid. No matter, they were comfy and those hot-pockets needed to go somewhere.

I backed us out of the parking lot and we turned onto route 44 towards Rehoboth.

We’d been travelling for a few miles when the engine started to chug.

“What’s happening?” asked Jean.

I glanced at the display, the gas gauge read zero.

“Uh, technical issue” I replied.

“Gas?”

“Gas.”

I pulled us off the highway and into a service station nearby. The ‘Winnie’ jerked and threw us to a stop by the pumps. I stepped out to stretch my legs while Jean took advantage of the novelty of peeing in a stationary position, although her sea-legs were well and truly established some years back.     

The attendant started the pump and asked me where we were headed.

“Nowhere in particular, just going forward.”

He hummed in agreement. I thought I sensed a little jealously too.

“You know anything about this area?”

I shook my head.

“Na, we’re from California, but we’ve been all over.”

“Not here though.”

“No” I repeated. He was being a little ‘off’, I thought.

The pump hit forty bucks and just kept going.

“Look, you seem nice, so I’m gonna tell ya.”

I cocked my heard, waiting for the local knowledge to flow from his lips.

“Don’t pick anyone up around here.”

“OK?”

“No, I mean it! Just don’t and if something happens, stay in the vehicle. It’s best that way.”

I looked the boy square in the eyes, he was serious so I gave him the slow nod, to show I understood, even though I didn’t and wished the ‘Winnie’ would drink her fill and we could go.

Jean came back from the bathroom and we turned back onto the 44.

“You OK dear?” she asked me, rightly concerned, so I told her about the boy at the service station. She made the “oooo” noise and we laughed.

The weather began to turn. What had started a nice, clear day now threatened rain. The sky paled to grey and the windscreen wipers took over.

“Maybe I should drive?” Jean asked.

I turned and slightly nodded in agreement. It isn’t easy to get old and accept it.

I pulled in; we swapped positions and hit the road again. Taking advantage of the stop, I threw a ‘pocket’ in the microwave and set it to 3 minutes.

The traffic began to thin. Lights only seemed to be heading towards us. Then the Winnie jerked again. I fell against the sofa, luckily and grabbed onto the table top.

“Jean?”

“I’m OK, Mark, a flat I think.”

We pulled up off the highway, on a quiet side the high-beams showing with trees and embankments on either side.

The microwave dinged.

“You have a bite, Dear, I’ll do the manly stuff.”

Jean smiled but said nothing. I grabbed the jack and my windbreaker and stepped into the drizzly rain. It was coming east to west and whipped against my face something nasty. I pulled the hood over my head and grabbed the spare from the back. It was the rear right tyre that had shredded. Must have been a piece of glass or a stray nail somewhere back on the 44. I put the travel light on the road and angled it at the tyre.

The nuts came off slowly. This happened to be the only tire that hadn’t blown since we’d left California, so much so we had a nick name for it.

Jean called from the door, holding the ‘hot-pocket’, minus a few bites.

“How is it?”

I looked up and yelled back over an increasingly vicious wind.

“Its ‘old reliable’, he’s done for.”

Jean let out what I think was a sigh, but it seemed to come from somewhere beyond her and she closed the door. I carried on turning the nuts. The last one dropped and rolled under the wheel arch. I shook my head, put the wrench on the floor and reached under. I couldn’t see anything. I flashed the light around and saw it was all but dead centre, right under the Winnie and a full crawl away.

I huffed and began the shuffle forward.

I’d just about reached the nut when I felt something. Or, I heard it. I can’t be sure. I turned and flashed the light left and right, then all around -nothing.

Crawling back out, I switched out ‘old reliable’ and the spare and tightened the nuts in place. Just as I twisted the last one I saw something in my periphery. My hood fell back in a gust and there he stood, some way beyond the Winnie’s low-beams, just standing there.

He was tall, with a red flannel shirt and an almost red glow around his face. I called out; surprised Jean hadn’t seen him and let me know.

“HEY! You OK?”

No response.

“You need a lif…”

I stopped and remembered what the service attendant had said. I’m not usually suspicious or nervous, but something in the weather was having an effect on me.

He started moving towards me.

I rolled the flat towards the door, opened it and shoved the tyre inside, slamming the door shut and locking it.

Jean jumped.

“What’s going on? I heard you yelling something.”

I jumped into the passenger seat and flicked the low’s to high. The blacktop reflected in the rain, empty.

I thrust my head forward and stared, looking all around – nothing.

“Mark, really, what’s going on?”

I couldn’t help by just stare.

I shook my head.

“It’s nothi…”

There was a knock on the door and the pair of us jerked in our seats.

Jean laughed a little and then made to answer it.

“NO! Don’t!”

Jean looked at me, alarmed.

“Mark?”

“I mean it, Jean, Just drive!”

There was another knock at the door.

“DRIVE!”

Jean turned the starter, shoved the Winnie into first and took off.

We’d gotten around fifteen miles down the road when Jean slowed to a stop and turned off the engine.

“What was all that about?”

I just kept staring forward.

“Mark!”

I turned towards Jean. She could see the alarm in my eyes and softened her face. I didn’t want to say, but after the birds and the boy at the service station I felt I had no choice. She listened, she always does. I told her about the feeling I had, about the man in the flannel, about the red.

Jean put her hand on my arm. I really think she would never have taken it away if it weren’t for the laugh. It came from behind and then it came from in front and then it was all around. The motor-home began to shake and the lights in the cabin flickered off. Jeans light, reassuring hold on my arm became a desperate clench.

“Mark? What is that?”

I shook my head and stood up. We swapped seats and I turned the starter – nothing, not even a whine. I kept twisting the key until I dreaded the thought I might snap it and stopped. Then the laugh disappeared and fell into the distance. The cabin lights came back on and radio blared into life.

Jean and I damn near shot through the roof. I reached over to turn it off but just as I touched the switch the music stopped and the laughing started again.

It ran all around the cabin, through the speakers and under our skin. My hair shot from my arms and Jean screamed!

I’ve never heard something so natural and terrifying in equal measure.  

The high-beams shot forward and there he stood, staring.

His face shone red and his eyes seemed to match.

I frantically twisted and turned the key. Nothing happened, but the speakers grew louder. The laugh began to echo Jean’s scream and I fell back into the seat.

The laughter stopped.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He got closer and closer, but I couldn’t see him walking and then came the knock. Jean’s eyes pleaded with me. I turned the starter – nothing.

Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, but I just felt I had to. I stood up and moved towards the door. Jean held my arm for a second and then released it, accepting.

I unlocked it and took a step back. The door clicked and the door swung open slowly. In a moment, there he stood, his beard a vicious red, but almost transparent. I could see the dark world beyond him, and then the door slammed shut.

We awoke some time later. The Winnie sat idling at the side of the road, the motor running and the radio playing. We were alone and nearly one hundred miles further into New England.

I reached over and held Jean as tight as I could. The dawn was beginning to rise when we saw the birds in the distance. Jean wept and so did I.

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes horror short stories and horror flash fiction. The online magazine publishes dark and gritty content from professional horror writers, Bram Stoker award nominated horror authors, along with talented newcomers of the horror writing craft. Deadman’s Tome features chilling, terrifying horror shorts ranging from ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, monster horror, and even horror erotica. Deadman’s Tome is one of the best online horror zines to publish horror short stories, horror flash fiction, and dark flash fiction. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the horror authors.