Posted on Leave a comment

He’s Risen!

Read today

He’s returned, and he wants your flesh and blood! 

He’s Risen is an irreverent collection of blasphemous horror perfect for those with a sense of humor. In this collection, zombie Jesus returns to feed on the people, baby Jesus gives it to a priest, Jesus and Moses have a showdown in an end of days biblical apocalypse, and more. Much more. 

This issue is available on Amazon Kindle right now!

He’s Risen print version coming soon to multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Posted on 9 Comments

The Way In – Gary Buller

 

The Way In

Gary Buller

 

Leroy Tyrell’s mood descended as the lift slowly carried him to the fourth floor. Something had been niggling him from the moment he exited his car that morning, the distinct feeling that something wasn’t right. His dad would have probably described it as negative mojo, but Leroy wasn’t as superstitious as the old man. Still- it persisted as he straightened his pale blue uniform and made the short walk across the lobby of the Renfield Hotel he felt…lost. Was that right? Yes, lost.

The front desk had been unoccupied, not unusual for six in the morning, but a shuffling noise from the back office told him that Sadie was on shift, likely sorting out the box of faulty key cards that had plagued them lately. It was unusual that no light shone from under the closed door, but Leroy didn’t pay it much attention- he had other things on his mind.  His polished boots clicked briskly across the polished floor to the security lodge, which was more of a cubicle than a lodge really. Here he sat, basking in the green glow of the security monitors as he read his newspaper, discarded on the desk as always by Larry from the previous shift.

Today’s headline, in bold lettering below the red top, described how a missing child had been found dead amongst the heather and shrub of nearby moorland. He quickly turned the page, trying to erase the image of the white police tent against the patchwork of purple and green. He’d experienced his own loss not too far in the past which still left him feeling raw and things like this only served to make him feel worse.

He ran a finger and thumb down his chin as he read the sports section. When was the last time he shaved? He couldn’t remember, but his face felt thin and gaunt. He supposed that this shouldn’t be a surprise- he hadn’t been eating very well lately. Just hadn’t felt like it. It was hard to eat when everything was so dark.

The Walkie Talkie that was clipped to his belt squawked into life with a blast of static and he flinched.

“Uhh, Leroy we have a bit of a situation up on the fourth floor. Over.”

He raised the radio to his lips, frowning.

“Situation, Sadie? Over.”

“Yeah. One of the rooms up there is listed as unoccupied but one of the guests in 456 says that they can hear noises coming from inside. Could you please pop up and check? Over.”

“Sure. Probably another one of those emo bastards on the wind up again. Over.”

“I hear that. Over and out.”

Leroy sighed and reluctantly rose from his chair with a resigned creak. He checked that his night stick was still attached to his hip and then re-clipped the radio. Since they had found the poor guy that had ended his own life in 454 and it had made the local news they had all sorts of crazies trying to book themselves into that room. Most of them cited the bullshit rule that a person has the right to take any suite providing it was unoccupied, and they had Stephen King to thank for that one. Still, the management refused to let the room out to anyone who appeared to have any other motive than a good night’s sleep.

This hadn’t stopped them renting out rooms on the same floor to the oddballs, though, and this was what was going through Leroy’s mind as the lift pinged and the doors stiffly opened onto the fourth-floor corridor.

Leroy squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dull strip lights. The hallway that led off into the distance was bathed in a milky blue. He raised the radio to his lips, “Sadie, could you please get maintenance to pop up to the fourth when they have the chance? It looks like the strip lights up here are on their way out.”

The speaker hissed and crackled in response, but no reply was forthcoming. She was probably in the back office again, he thought. No big deal, he’d raise it in person when he returned. He exited the cart and then stopped, the doors grated shut behind him and the lift hummed as it began its descent. The carpet on which he stood felt unusually sticky underfoot. He lifted his heel, feeling resistance and then placed it down again. How strange. It was like someone had spilt a considerable quantity of fizzy soda here and then left it to dry. He would have to report this too, of course.

The pattern on the thick pile beneath him was designed to conceal stains. It was a looping motif of blues and reds that curled and curved over one another like the perpetually shifting waves of an ocean, broken only by pale edges that looked a little like foam. It was the same carpet on every floor of this damn hotel, but in this light, it somehow appeared…different.

He squatted, leaning on one knee as he looked a little closer. It reminded him a little of those magic eye books that he had once bought back in the nineties when optical illusions were all the rage. The blues seemed three dimensional somehow, they shifted and rolled in waves of darkness. It was like he was stood on water, and as he looked up the floor appeared to bobble and undulate. Down between his legs, the pattern fell and then lifted, forming into what looked like a face, mouth gaping below wide eyes, and it was slowly rising from the murky depths to meet him.

Leroy closed his lids tightly and raised his fingers to the bridge of his nose. He had been through a very difficult period of time in his life, and the stress was getting to him. That was all- it was to be expected in the circumstances surely? When he looked down again the floor had stopped moving, the carpet was as it always had been- the tackiness was still there, though. The light above him whined and flickered. Leroy rose and progressed towards his intended destination, struggling to focus in the unnatural luminescence.

“Thank Goodness you are here, sir!” A voice suddenly exclaimed. A shadow emerged from the space in front of him, and into his field of vision.

“Can I help you?” Leroy asked, inhaling deeply to try and stabilise his stomach. He didn’t feel right at all. In another place and time, he might have considered the possibility of an onset of food poisoning.

“Indeed you can,” the man said. He was wearing a tuxedo, and this hair was greased neatly across his head. Leroy could smell Brylcream but there was also another smell, something that reminded him of the kitchen bin back home, and the pile of leaves disintegrating atop the compost heap.

“There’s a terrible mess in my room,” the man continued, the pencil moustache atop his lip trembled and twitched as he spoke, almost like it had a life of its own. “Admittedly it’s my own fault, but I’ll kindly reimburse the hotel.” He briskly turned off to the left like a soldier on parade and through an open door. More of the blue light spilt out into the corridor.

Leroy followed shakily, feeling like he’d inhaled a particularly shitty toke of bad pot. He crossed the threshold where the man waited with one arm out towards the bed, like a smartly dressed steward guiding a filmgoer to their seat.

Leroy’s eyes widened. He turned and vomited.

The centre of the bed was a writhing red mess- like the reject chute of an abattoir. Amongst the bunched and creased sheets tendrils of pinky-grey intestines squirmed and slithered around bloated organs. It took a moment for him to realise that the motion was caused by the hundreds of maggots that pulsed in and out of the carnage.

A woman’s head, eyes rolled to the ceiling rested on the plumped pillow as if it belonged there. Her mouth was open and the purple fleshy slug of her tongue protruded over her grey teeth. A lace bonnet sat atop her head. Within the mismatch of limbs and bones Leroy spotted a tiny arm and leg, starved of oxygen and almost as blue as the filthy light that they bathed in. It was an unborn child.

Leroy vomited again and then remembering his purpose, pulled out his nightstick. He spun to face the suited gentleman.

He was gone.

The room was gone.

He was outside the lift doors again, stood in a puddle of his own bile.

That’s why it was so tacky, Leroy thought, struggling to understand what had just happened. The door that he thought he had just entered was closed and a push confirmed it was indeed locked.

He replaced the nightstick and raised the radio to his lips once more. “Sadie? You there? Over.”

He received only a hiss of static in response.

“Sadie. If you can hear me I’ll be back down in a few minutes. We need a Cleaner on the fourth floor. I repeat. A cleaner on the fourth floor. Over.”

He listened to the white noise for a few moments before speaking again. “Tell Helen and Gemma that I love them. Over and out.”

Why did I just say that?

It was impossible to tell Helen and Gemma anything. He knew that better than anyone, though he still tried sometimes as he tossed and turned in bed at night, talking to the darkness of his empty bedroom. He stood as time stretched out before him, staring off into the middle distance. He could see a pair of lips that were once pink and full, now purple where the poison had done its work. He blamed himself.  He immediately tried to focus on something else, the task in hand and wiped the tears from his eyes.

His heavy breathing caught in his throat as a scream sounded from down the corridor, somewhere beyond his line of vision. A cold drop of sweat inched down his spine, and his flesh crawled. Shaking the fever-like symptoms from his bones he ran through the eerie glow towards room 454, counting the door numbers as he passed as a way of retaining his grip on reality.

Reaching his destination, he stopped to catch his breath. He stood for a second with his hands on his hips, wondering how he had lost fitness so quickly. It was only last year that he had run 10k in thirty-five minutes, now he was struggling with thirty-five yards. He could no longer see the lift doors back where he had come from, only a smothering swirl of distorting blue fog. It was as if the other end of the corridor had ceased to exist.

The door of 454 was unremarkable- faux walnut with the numbers in shiny polished brass and a little peephole beneath. He put his ear to the surface. It was remarkably cold as if someone had left the air conditioning blasting in the room, which could have quite easily been the case. Aside from the seashell effect and the claustrophobic thud of his own heart beating he could hear nothing but a pregnant silence.

Across the corridor, the door opened and a young woman stepped out into the light. She wore leather boots and a blue denim skirt, a Sex Pistols T-shirt stretched across the small rounds of her chest ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ the famous logo proclaimed.

“Are you security?” she asked.

“Yes miss,” Leroy replied, “what seems to be the trouble?”

“I heard screaming coming from there,” she explained, nodding towards 454. A lock of her dark hair fell into her grey eyes and she swept it away with her hand. “I came to The Renfield to get away from my problems, not to encounter them. Got enough shit going on as it is.”

As if in response, a high pitched screech whistled like steam from an agitated kettle from somewhere within 454, rising with the hairs on the back of Leroy’s neck. There was a strange resonance to it, an echo that reverberated around the thin walls within. It sounded simultaneously very close, and also like it was traversing a considerable distance. He knocked on the door so hard that it warmed his cold knuckles. “Security- open up.” No response, silence had descended once again on the corridor.

He reached in the back pocket of his trousers.

“What you doing?” the girl asked.

“Double checking something.” He replied, putting the mobile phone to his ear. The signal was incredibly weak and popped and crackled but after a couple of rings, Sadie answered. “Renfield Reception how can I help you?”

“Sadie, it’s Leroy here.”

“Hello? Hello? Is that you Leroy? Signals not too good.”

“Tell me about it, can you just confirm that 454 is currently unoccupied?”

“Sure hang on.”

“Room 454 hasn’t been occupied for over a year now.”

“Thanks, Sadie.”

He hadn’t finished speaking when the phone beeped three times to indicate loss of signal. He checked the screen and then replaced it in his rear pocket. When he turned back to the girl she was no longer there, but the sight of the closed door made Leroy’s temples throb.

He saw a blade glide across delicate, pale skin like an ice skater on the rink, leaving a thin, red trail behind. The trail inevitably darkened and bled out, spilling out into clear water where it transformed into beautiful candy cotton bursts of rouge. A pulse tick-tocked in that wrist, the same pulse that beat a rhythm in her neck, and that is where the blade was heading now, with serene purpose.

Suddenly the screech rose from the door behind him again, and his blood turned to ice. Pocketing the phone, he pulled out the master key and swiped through the slot on the wall. With a low click the lock released and the door creaked open.

It was dark inside, and very cold. The curtains had been closed and Leroy had to utilise his small pocket torch in one hand and ready the nightstick with the other before he entered. The LED beam cut a white path through the darkness and he could see that the room was in complete disarray. A bedside table had been smashed against the inside of the door and lay splintered across the carpet, the circle of light found a print of three trees on a riverbank that had been decimated and was  hanging from one hinge, a pale mark behind it on the wall indicating where it had once been.

Leroy tentatively stepped further into the room, past the wardrobe on his right and the bathroom to his left. He could see the bed now, and for a moment he thought that an adult and a child lay side by side, perfectly still on top of the sheets. “Helen? Gemma?” he asked, his heart sinking. As he squinted the two figures faded from view and became the lumps and bumps of a duvet, which was half hanging off the bed.

I need to get a grip, he thought. The feeling of being on some sort of drug induced hallucination still persisted. Everything looked as if it was a clever piece of three-dimensional graffiti and if he turned his head a certain way he would almost certainly find that it was all just a picture- as real as those three trees behind the smashed glass. Except it didn’t. The torchlight penetrated into the shadows above the headboard and found weird shapes. Rusty brown coloured handprints covered the entire wall, some spattered around the edges, smeared in the same way that a Michelin star chef would spread a raspberry sauce across a plate. Leroy tried to swallow, but his mouth felt like it was fill of cotton wool.

Creeeeeeeaaakkkkkk

A lump caught in Leroy’s throat, and he spun to face the bathroom door, which was now swinging outwards. A squeak echoed from inside the black void, and he thought, with some relief that it might just be a mouse. Rodents were not unknown in old buildings like this, he had only called Rent-a-Kill a few weeks before because the chef had found some droppings near the walk-in fridge, but no. This wasn’t the cry of an animal, it was the resistance of metal against metal.

Plumes of vapour poured from the void as the shower hissed into life, lit only by the torch beam and the weak light from the corridor beyond. Leroy through that it looked like smoke, poisonous smoke that filled young lungs with carbon monoxide as they slept. Except the policeman in the back of the ambulance told him that carbon monoxide was invisible, and that is why it was so hard to detect. The same round faced cop that told him that he was very lucky to still be alive.

Lucky.

Something shifted in the steam, a movement as subtle as a light breeze except the shape that it formed was recognisable and unnatural. This really was like a magic eye puzzle now as his eyes took in the curls and loops that the plumes were taking on. A man.

Leroy’s eyes widened with horror, and his mouth opened to scream soundlessly as the semi-transparent shape floated out of the darkness. A fat, shapeless head was cocked to the side at an unnatural angle, hands lying limply by its sides as it moved a foot above the ground, toes pointed downwards to the splinters on the carpet.

“Let me out,” it hissed at him in a voice that sounded weak and distorted. A scream then erupted, but not from Leroy’s parted lips, it came from within the billowing fog that was now reaching out two ethereal arms and floating towards him.

Leroy whipped his nightstick at his assailant, but it found nothing but the resistance of air. The two hands closed on his neck, hot and damp, condensation dripping down his chest and into his shirt. The grip began to tighten and tighten until he couldn’t breathe.

Is this is what it was like for them? He thought, looking up at the ceiling, at the misty noose that extended upwards above the creatures head like a small tornado, is this is what it is like to slowly suffocate to death? The image of his ten year old daughter flashed into his mind. It was the photograph that they had kept on the wall behind the television, pride of place. His baby-girl sat side-on in her new school uniform, royal blue, with that beautiful dark skin she had inherited from her father, eyes wide and alert, mouth raised in a cheeky smile. No more.

He could hear his wife’s voice from within as his vision started to fade out red around the edges. “Fight it, Leroy, fight it. It was not your fault! We didn’t have a chance, but you do! You do!” With his last ounce of strength, he dropped the torch and pointed a shaky finger to the corridor. “There…” he said weakly “…light…” The shape stopped and turned. Upon seeing the open door it released the vice-like grip on Leroy’s throat. As his back thumped against the thin carpet Leroy could see the steam roll towards the open doorway, as if caught in a crosswind and within a second it was gone.

He started up at the static ceiling fan, his windpipe throbbing and the rise and fall of his chest slowing. “Must fight it, must…” he thought, weakly. Then his world faded to nothing.

#

He woke to the purr of the engine, with his chin resting against his chest. His eyes were streaming and he couldn’t tell if he had been crying, or if it was the thick choking smoke that engulfed the entire space where he sat. Groggily he turned to face the passenger side door and saw the source of the toxicity. Surreally, it looked like a green snake, regurgitating poisonous clouds of grey cotton candy- but he came to realise that it was a hosepipe.

What the hell am I doing?

He unbuckled the seatbelt, gripped the door handle with as much strength as his weak hands could muster and spilt out onto the floor of the Renfield Hotel’s underground carpark, coughing and spluttering on his hands and knees. He was still in his uniform which was slick with bile and yesterday’s dinner. He felt like he was suffering from the world’s heaviest hangover but had to get outside, get some fresh air and clear his head.

Like a baby deer on ice, he shakily rose to his feet and then leaning against the brick wall he slowly made his way around to the exit ramp, pausing every few steps to breathe. Behind him the car idled malevolently, driver’s door still open and spitting out plumes of lethal smoke.

He ambled past the yellow and black striped barrier to the kerb outside and allowed himself to stumble forward and collapse on the lawn. Rolling onto his back he looked up the grey stonework of the hotel and into an azure sky where the sun shone like a beautifully bright penny. He breathed deep, his lungs hungrily consuming the fresh afternoon air, then picked up his radio and sent out an emergency callout to reception.

“I’m out back Sadie,” he said, his voice hoarse and gravelly, “Please send an ambulance. I need help…” His eyes fell to one of the windows on the fourth floor, and he could see a man with dark brown hair waving down at him from within. At the man’s side, a pale woman in a headscarf linked his arm- gazing into the face of her companion with clear admiration. Inexplicably and without thought Leroy reciprocated the wave, dropping the hissing radio to his side. There was something familiar about them, the man in particular, but before Leroy could decide exactly what, he was gone.

Leroy Tyrell cast his mind back to the moment when his feet led him to his car, garden hose coiled tightly in fist. Next to him on the passenger side seat, his wallet had laid open with the picture of his recently deceased wife and daughter. The images had been taken by him, only weeks before the faulty boiler had turned his entire life on its head. He saw those beautiful smiling faces, and his heart ached so deeply, an all too familiar emotion that shook him harder than anything the Richter scale could record.

The distant wail of sirens found him, interrupting the birdsong and despite himself, his lips formed into a bittersweet smile.

Leroy Tyrell figured that his world was in pieces- that much hadn’t changed, but at least he was still here to pick them up.

One piece at a time.

The End

About the author: Gary Buller is an author from Manchester England where he lives with his long suffering partner Lisa, his daughter Holly and dog Chico. He grew up in the Peak District where the hauntingly beautiful landscapes inspired him to write. He is a huge fan of all things macabre and loves a tale with a twist.

Twitter: @garybuller
Website: www.garybuller.com

Posted on Leave a comment

All the Time, the Screaming – Austin Malone

 

img_20161001_142233.jpg
Enhance your coffee

 

All the Time, the Screaming – Austin Malone

 

The Angler rises, opens his cupboard. He gathers the biscuits and jerky, wraps them in a scrap of pale leather, places the bundle in his creel, and retrieves his rod from beside the door. Rod and creel in hand, he emerges into the perpetual twilight of the fishing grounds.

He looks neither left nor right, does not acknowledge his fellow fishermen, ignores the row of identical huts that dot the riverbank. In silence, with single-minded purpose, he strides to his designated place. The black waters suck at the bank, their hushed susurrations inaudible beneath the tormented shrieks that rend the thick air. All the time, the screaming.

A low mutter rumbles his stomach. He retrieves a strip of jerky, chewing as he unspools his reel. The flavor is bland, the texture fibrous. It brings him no joy. He is hungry. It is food. His teeth grind away at it as his hands secure the hook. It is an ugly thing, heavy, multi-pronged, bristling with barbed spikes. It is perfect. It feeds him and clothes him, and he is fond of it. He is not fond of the next piece of equipment. None of the fishermen are.

The Angler swallows as he withdraws the lure, and his face contorts with disgust.  He squeezes his eyelids shut, guides the bauble onto the hook, and the thing explodes with radiance. Even with his eyes closed, the light pulses blood-red behind his eyelids, searing his flesh. Whimpering, he pulls his arm back and whips it forward. The plop of the hook landing in the water is followed by the cool relief of the lure sinking into the depths.

He sighs, eases his eyes open, and waits. He does not wait long. He never waits long. The rod bucks in his hands. He counts silently to ten. Then he reels the line in, slowly, steadily.

Black water runs in rivulets down the fishing line as it emerges. The top of the hook appears first, followed by the lure, its glow muted now. Then, like pale, wriggling worms, his catch begins to rise into view, skewered by the bottommost row of hooks.

He hauls on the line, dragging the thing up out of the river. The wriggling appendages resolve into fingers, the attached hand pierced by the barbed spikes. More emerges. A thick arm, muscles corded. Heavy shoulders, a broad chest, meaty thighs. Then, the thing’s head lolls forward, and its scream joins the cacophony. It dangles above the riverbank, thrashing, water-slick hair plastered to its scalp above too-wide eyes and an even wider mouth. And all the time, the screaming.

The Angler holds the line aloft with one hand, and reaches for the knife at his belt. The noise will cease soon. Then there will be fresh meat to prepare. Bone meal to grind.

The knife goes in, tugs down. The thing’s final cry fades to a burbling whimper. It falls silent. And all around him, the screaming continues.

All the time, the screaming.

Posted on 6 Comments

The Splitting – Lorna Wood

img_20161001_142233.jpg
Enhance your coffee

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.

 

Posted on 1 Comment

Route 44- David John Wing

img_20161001_142233.jpg
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.

readlikeshare

patreonBecome a patron

facebookJoin the Fan Club!

twitterFollow Mr. Deadman

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.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Boy in the Trunk – Nicola Lombardi

img_20161001_142233.jpg
Enhance your coffee

 The Boy in the Trunk – Nicola Lombardi

Paolo was sitting on the stool, slightly bent over, right opposite the trunk. A ray of milky-white light filtered through the skylight’s murky glass, exposing the swarms of dust, otherwise invisible, drifting thickly through the attic. Around Paolo’s heavy breathing everything was dead quiet, a quiet that resided there above and was now lingering in the dim shadows, waiting for the voice from inside the trunk to be heard again.

When it returned, the spider webs abandoned among the beams above vibrated as if trembling.

“Are you still out there?”

Paolo was startled, almost as if he hadn’t expected to hear his brother once more.

“Yeah, Marino,” he replied anxiously, “I’m still here. And you . . . do you really want to get out?”

The tiny voice of the boy imprisoned inside seemed to originate from another room, as if the trunk were bottomless, as if it had been sunk deep into the floor and been lost in a dimension that extended well beyond the old house.

“I can’t do it by myself, you know. You left me shut up inside here, and you have to get me out. If you really want to . . . .

Paolo drew his hand through his hair. “I . . . I want to let you let out, Marino, believe me. It’s just that . . . “

“It’s just that what?”

“I’m afraid of what you could do to me.”

Still more silence, for a moment or two. The leaden beating, in fits and starts, of Paolo’s heart made his head ache.

When Marino spoke again, Paolo could not hold back his tears any more.

“You knew I was hiding inside here, you knew it very well. But you didn’t tell anyone about it. You always cheated when we were playing hide-and-seek. You spied on me when I was climbing up into the attic, you knew I’d shut myself up inside here. . . . And you didn’t tell Mom and Dad. Why didn’t you?”

Paolo could not manage a reply. The tight knot clotting his throat prevented him from uttering a sound, while his mind was already casting backwards, fumbling through his memories, to the day when Marino’s disappearance from the great vacation house had imposed a drastic turn to their family’s well-being. He could still hear his mother’s wailing, and behind his eyes that image of his father persisted even then, with that gaze of his lost in emptiness and his finger intent on endlessly scouring an unshaven cheek. He saw himself, over and over again, as he closed and locked the attic door and carefully replaced that key in the spot where they had always kept it, in the small bottom drawer in the cupboard, in the hallway. They were playing hide-and-seek he had told his Mom, his Dad, and all the other persons who had questioned him. Marino had wandered off toward the brushwood, a hundred meters or so from the house, going back up along the beach, hiding who knows where. So he had said, and they had believed him. He knew that Marino would not have yelled or called out, suffering as he was from asthma. And after days of searching, days steeped in tears and grief, they finally got away from there, returned to the city, and from then on, they never set foot again into that quiet, solitary, mournful house, the home of their summer vacations. What he had always wanted, he had at last obtained. He was back to being the only son, he had recaptured all that love and attention his brother, four years younger than he, had taken from him. Mom and Dad were once again his.

“Come on, Paolo. Let me out of here.”

Marino’s voice was now just a whisper, the gray wing of a moth that snatched Paolo from a spider web of memories.

“Yeah, I’ll do it, Marino. . . . That’s what I’ve come back for.”

Having said that, Paolo grabbed the heavy metal hinge that, having fallen in place, had made it impossible to re-open the trunk from the inside. After a life spent consumed by remorse, he was now finally ready to take the step he had never ceased dreaming about.

The metal began to creak, for the first time since that accursed day sixty years before. When the lock was released, Paolo’s spine experienced an agonizing rasp as he straightened his back.

“There,” he whispered. “Now you’re free once again.”

Then he lowered his head, burying his face in his hands. He knew he would not have the courage to look.

Barely a handful of seconds elapsed, and then the groan of the trunk’s lid rising cut through the quiet like the chalky grinding of a dull razor, raising shadows among the frenzied thoughts thrashing about in Paolo’s head. The old man prayed for his heart to spare him, to stop right then and there. But that didn’t happen.

A terrible odor spewed forth into the attic, and whatever remained of Marino began slowly to emerge.

 

(END)

translated by J. Weintraub

readlikeshare

patreonBecome a patron

facebookJoin the Fan Club!

twitterFollow Mr. Deadman

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Homeless – John W. Twilley

 

I returned home from a hard day of begging for change.  A bottle of cheap whiskey cost $6.99 from the corner liquor store.  An old cigar off the sidewalk completed my needs for the day. The cheap piece of crap burned my throat, but kept my lungs full of warm smoke.

It rained shit, icy stuff that clings to your jacket and pants, and soaks in.  On the street for any length of time, you realize winter kills.  Walking-pneumonia is what I had.  This would be my last cold week. I had a cardboard box used to package a washing machine.  It still had the plastic foam supports, or it would have collapsed from the weight of snow.

I could not remember my name.  My past was crystal clean.

It was near December, I guess.  People went back and forth in the slush of parking lots.  They carried bigger packages than usual. Colored decorations hung from streetlights.  I expected to find my box in the old familiar alley.  It was there, but so was a problem.  Up ahead three tough young men had a young girl cornered.  They had removed her clothes.  When she tried to get away, a knife flashed.  A tiny wound appeared.

I might have been in good shape once but my body had since lost any semblance of muscle.  I just stood there helpless.

I watched as they toyed with her.  She had light green hair that glowed.  Her pubic hair was the same color.  Each young man took her how he wanted with a certain careful pleasure.  They wanted her to put out a maximum effort so they beat her.  It took a long time.  Loss of blood and sheer exhaustion caused her to collapse on pile of trash.  They used her up, and she died with a last breath of white vapor but the heaviest fellow pulled a knife out and stabbed her several times to make sure.

They came up the alley towards me after finishing the girl.

“Hey Ripper,” said one of the young men.

“What do you want, Bob,” said the other young man.

“This bum has seen everything,” said Ripper. “You think maybe he would give us trouble?”

“Give him the knife,” said a third young man.  “He looks like a murdering pervert.  We’ll give him the part.”

Ripper placed his knife in my hand.  I held it out like a moron so he could place it there, kind of like a handshake.  You are an experienced salesman, and you know to hold out your hand.  The customer holds his out from an instinctual reaction.  Now you are shaking hands.  Now I had a knife in my hand.

Ripper said, “My God, Jack, you’re a genius.”

After a moment of shock, I realized my fingerprints on the knife would incriminate me.  It dropped out of my hand.

The young men left the alley laughing and joking with each other.  It was quiet then.  Only the cold wind spoke to me whistling above the glowing snow.

I could not stay in the washer box now.  Just the same, I went up the alley to the girl.  She was covered in blood from the many knife stabs.

Her eyes were wet with tears.  Her nipples stood out hard frozen in the cold.  I took off my coat and threw it over her nakedness.  With walking pneumonia, you do not notice the cold even in the high wind.  I did not need it, though she did not need it either.

I had my whiskey.  I thumbed the plastic cap until the paper seal broke.  The cap fell to the snow.  It made a little gray hole.  I upended the bottle.  The warmth spread from my stomach.  Euphoria puffed out into my head.  My eyes got cold.  I sat near the body to rest a moment before I headed back down the alley to search for a new home.

It came to me, that the bottle was almost finished, and so was I.  The whiskey held me in place.  By morning, I would be dead.  I must have dozed off because the coat on the girl was now covered in snow, as though the whole thing had never happened, disappeared under a pile of white cotton.

“Get up, you old fart!”

I looked up, and there she stood.  She was still naked, but the wounds had dried.

“I got unfinished business, ass hole!!!”

“I’m dying,” I said.

“Yah, yah,” she said.  “You still got two legs and a wiener. So get on your feet!”

“The wiener died a long time ago,” I said, “and as for my legs,…”  They were frozen.

“I’ll haunt your ass till you,…”

I started to laugh.

“Stop it!”

I looked up at her, “How’s it feel to be dead?”

“You’ll know soon enough, old man,” she said. “Guess you don’t have much to live for.”

It was true.  I held up what was left of the whiskey.

She smirked.

“That’s right, you’re dead,” I said. “Guess I’ll have to finish it myself.” I did.

“Guess my last hope is a dying bum,” she said.  She sat down across from me in the alley.  “You like that stuff, don’t you?”

“I never got Jesus either,” I said.  I smiled at her.

“There’s another full bottle of whiskey over there near my body,” she said.  “You want it?”

My smile fell off.

She grinned.

“Don’t suppose you’d care to get it?” I said.

She winked at me. “I’m a ghost.  I can’t grab anything, but I can tell you where stuff is.  I can even tell you about other things too.”

“Like what?”

She said, “Why don’t you crawl over there and get your whiskey.  We can talk then.”

I took a great effort to reason, that for another drink, I was willing to bend over and drag my legs to the corpse for the bottle.  Time passed as I clawed at the snow, then I got a bright idea.  I pulled my right leg up and discovered it still worked, even though it was numb. Eventually, I was up on my knees.

“You can do it!” she said.

A moment later, I was back on my feet with legs like boards.  I shuffled along until I got near the coat.

“Don’t,” she said.  “In the last minute, I got my money put away.  There’s no booze, just a bunch of money.  I rolled it up tight and put it up my ass.  It’s enough for a month of whiskey.  You have to get to the liquor store and thaw out to enjoy it.”

“Shit!” I cried.  “I can’t bend over.  I’ll snap off like a dried branch.”

“Fall on the soft snow,” she said.

I did.  The snow was not soft.  I was thinking about the next drink now.  I reached under the stiff coat.  Her cold body was there taught like a piece of furniture.

“Go ahead,” she said.  “You can’t hurt me now.”

I pulled the coat away and exposed a stiff blued body. I was still able to turn her over.  I used my left hand and pushed my fingers between the cheeks of her behind. She was still warm up in there.  My hand went all the way in.

“The money is up in there,” she said.  “It’ll be pushed up deep since one of those fellas gave me a cum enema.”

The smell was bad in spite of the cold.  I did get my fingers around the money.  When I pulled it out there was nasty stuff.  I cleaned it off the best I could on the coat.  I used melted snow to wipe the rest on her clothes.  “Sorry about that.”

“I don’t need them now,” she said.  “Go get your new bottle of whiskey.  On the way, I’m gonna tell you what you can do for me.  You’ll need some clothes too.”

I thought more about the whiskey.  I just nodded.  I was pulled along by the taste of my next drink.

It was still bright at night.  The day had dragged into an evening.  The moon rose above the gray yellow sky with the grief wind freezing the heavens.  I walked on brittle legs with feet made of pillows.

The liquor store, as I remember it, was not far away. The girl got in front of me so I could not see it.  I tried to walk around her.  She kept in front of me.

“Get across the street.  The drugstore is on the corner.  You need medicine!”

“Crap!”

“You need medicine!” she said, “If you don’t get some, then you’ll have a heart attack before you get to the liquor store.”

She was right.  Once, back in my feeble memory, I could remember being a doctor.  I knew I needed to get the fever down.  I needed rest.  I needed a warm place.  But medicine?

A thousand years later, I crossed the street with the walk-light.  Vehicles honked at me.  Never mind that I was dying.  They had places to go, shopping to finish before Santa arrived, and no patience for a bum like me.

I was barely able to get my breath when I reached the other side.  I staggered into the drugstore.  As I made my way back toward the pharmacy, the proprietor intercepted me.  The ghost girl told me to tell him I was sick and needed lots aspirin.  He called the police instead.  A scared teenaged clerk kept me at bay until the police arrived.

The police dragged me out of the drug store.  One of them accidently kicked in my side while he dropped me several times on the way to the squad car.

More of the same treatment got me into the emergency room.  A doctor examined me and explained I was dying.  He could give me a shot to relieve the pain.

I lay down to rest.  I felt a hundred percent better.

“You’ll die, and I’ll never finish my business!”

“I didn’t get my whisky either,” I said, “and it’s a fucked up world, isn’t it?”

“We got business,” she said.  “Let’s get your drink.” “I’m tired,” I said.  “It’d be better if you gave up on me.  I’d like to die in peace.”

“Without a drink?”

I thought about that.

“Crap,” I said, “you’re right.”

She smiled.

My world warmed a little, but then, she was a dead person.

I rolled out of bed. “Where too?”

“Out the entrance.  You’ll need clothes.  Next door there’s an old man asleep.  He’s dying too.  Get his clothes.  Nobody will care.”

I pulled the curtain back.  Sure enough, there were some clothes folded over a chair.  I put them on.  The belt was a little tight.  The old guy did not seem to notice.

“Get on the move!  The doctor is coming!”

I slipped out into the corridor and headed for the lobby.  I could feel my feet again.  Some energy had returned to my step.  It felt like I had a few more drinks to go before the finish.

I went outside through the revolving doors.  The old man’s shoes were better than I was used too.  His jacket was insulated.  I felt half-presentable for the first time in my miserable life.

“Keep it going!”

There was a taxi nearby.  She told me to wave my hand. I did.

The Taxi rolled up.  A power window went down.  “Where to?”

She told me.

Fifth Street Apartments,” I said.

“Get in,” said the driver.

The taxi pulled away.  I had not been in an automobile for as long as I could remember.

I was obliged to give up some of the stinking money when we arrived at the apartments.  The taxi driver looked at me strangely.  He dangled the fifty as though it might be alive.

I ignored the expression on the driver’s face as I got out into the cold wind.  He held his nose.  “Damn!” he said.  “I don’t know if I can spend this money.”

“Head for the left hand apartments,” said the girl. “Jack lives there. He’ll have booze and aspirin, but first we’ve got to get in.”

“Is Jack a generous person,” I said.

“No,” she said, “that’s the reason you are going to make a little stop along the way.”

“A stop?” I said.

She said, “Just a little further.  Jack’s apartment is about three more doors.”

“He’s one of the guys who raped you?” I said.

“Yup,” said the ghost, ”you can stay here and freeze. Or, keep going and get your drink.”

“Okay,” I said, ”now what.”

“Look down.  You’ll see some aluminum retainers. Next to it is a piece of rebar used to hold it in place. It’s loose.  Just pull it out.”

I did.  There was about a foot of rebar with a nasty point on one end.

I did not like this, “I’m not a murderer!”

“You’re dead already, or you will be,” she said.  ”What difference does it make.  There’s a bottle on the other side of the door.  Just goose him with it.  He won’t die. You’ll get drunk.”

“Just goose him?” I said.

“Yah,” she said, ”he’ll have to run to the emergency room, the one you just came from, while you’re drinking his booze.”

“That’s kinda funny,” I said.

She thought so too.

I went to Jack’s apartment door and knocked.  A half minute later, he answered the door.  For an old alcoholic I was fast.  I rammed the rebar right up his pee hole before he could react to my own watery-eyed fright.  He was big.  I was scared.  He was as surprised as I was, and hesitated a fraction of a second.

He backed into the apartment and looked at the rebar that stuck out where his dick should be.  He made noises like he was about to cry.  Nothing came out for a moment, then he let out a bellow of pain.  The noise was deafening.

I looked for his booze in the kitchen.  There was no bar.  The girl had lied.  “Where is it?”

“Check the backroom,” she said.

There was white stuff on the dining table.  She wrote her name in the dust while Jack watched.  It spelled out, “NICKY” in rough capitals.  He yelled again.

After I checked the back room, I was truly frustrated.

“He must have run out,” she shrugged.  Her boobs shook.  “He’s not going to the hospital.  Instead, he’ll call the police.  You better stop him so he won’t use the phone.”

I covered that eventuality with a quick tug on his rebar.  He did some more yelling.

“I yanked out the line,” I said.  “Now he can’t phone anybody.”

Jack was up and moved like he could read Nicky’s mind. I kicked his rebar so it put a stop to his plans pretty fast.

More screams, then I dragged him into the bedroom. There were some tools.  He was strong and frightened into superhuman strength.  Somehow, I managed to get a pair of pliers past his teeth.  I had the tongue out quicker than you can say, “Get em!”  I slammed my knee cap up into his chin at the same time.

“Boom!” I said, “He’ll make no more calls on the phone.  Let’s get out of here.  I need a drink.”

“They’ll catch you, damn it!” she said, “knock him out or he’ll make a lot of noise!”

Jack was bleeding everywhere.  He would pass out, but I took a baseball trophy from his dresser and chased him around.  Then he flapped his hands at me to defend himself. I got him on the back when he turned to run.  Must have knocked something lose just above his butt crack because he let out another holler.

“I think I broke his back,” I said.

“My hero,” said Nicky.

“Do you have any idea what my name is, Nicky,” I said. “I just started to get what you said earlier about being able to tell me things.  I’ve been homeless for a long time.  It’d be nice to know before I die.”

“Fuck no!” she said, “Right now, I only know about useful stuff. Let’s get out of here.  He’s not going anywhere, so we’re done.”

Jack began to cry softly to himself.  I did not have any sympathy for him.  He must have hidden the booze somewhere clever.  I opened the front door.  Cold night air wafted in at me.

Outside I felt used.  “If I don’t get a drink, I’m not helping you to get anymore revenge.”

“A deal?” she said.

“I guess so,” I said.

She said, “We’ll head for the bar up the street.  You look good enough to be acceptable there.  You can get a drink.  My treat!”

“Okay,” I said, “point the way.”

“Just follow my naked hinny, you old pervert,” she said.

“I can’t touch a ghost.” I said.

“When you’re dead, I’ll suck you off,” she said.

“Why did they have to kill you,” I said. “You double-cross somebody?”

She thought about what I said.  She continued to walk while I looked at her dead ass.  Even to an old man without life in the old hot rod I was still aroused in my mind. She stopped and turned back to face me.

“They were my bosses, like pimps but I was a drug connection.  The drugs flowed until I decided to ask for a promotion.”

“So the stuff in the alley was meant to send a message to the other company,” I said.  “You planned to double cross your bosses?”

“They thought I might start some rough competition, and I would have,” she said.  “There would have been a war.”

“It’s a bad world,” I said. ”Can’t you just leave it behind?”

She smiled evilly. “I’ll go to hell when I’m ready. These guys are gonna go first so I won’t be bored when I get there.”

“Never thought of hell as boring,” I said.  “I’m not sure it even exists.”

“It does,” she said, “and you’ll be better off doing what I tell you.”

“I don’t see any bar up ahead,” I said, ”and this is another one of your lies, isn’t it.”

She turned and walked backwards in front of me, “Follow the street sign to fifty-one twenty.  It’s a house.  It’ll be another guy.  His name is Ripper.  He likes to think of himself as dangerous.  He’s asleep right now.  Get in the back door.  There’s a key under the mat. He snores real loud.  It’ll be easy!”

Sure enough, it was easy to get into the back door. I came through the kitchen.  There was a real sharp knife on the table.  Nicky pointed at the table illuminated by the moonlight.  A really big handgun rested there next to the knife.  I started to protest.  She looked at me oddly, then stepped aside further.

There, on the table, next to a gun, was a bottle of red brandy shouting at me to come get some.

Nicky stepped in front of it again, then she stepped aside and glared straight at me.

Okay, so the bitch wanted me to off the bad boy in the bedroom.  I went to the gun and then went around the corner to the bedroom.  He was not in bed.  I heard a tiny exhale behind me.

Next thing, I’m trapped in a dark bedroom with a gun barrel touching my nose.

“I got an Uzi,” said Ripper.  His voice sounded like Jehovah.  He probably had muscles on his tongue.  “You got my magnum.  It’s okay.  I got the cartridges.  You might have one bullet though.”

I did not speak.

“I’m gonna turn on the lights in a moment,” he said. “You can pull the trigger all you want.  I’ll do the same. Bunch of bullets will come at you.  They’ll cut your legs off.  Then we’ll have some fun.  Okay?”

I opened the feed on the magnum with the tip of my finger and felt an empty hole.  No bullet!

“I’ll count to three,” he said.  “Ready?”

I rolled the cylinder until there was a tiny click. I felt with the tip of my finger, and found an empty hole, then rolled again,…

“One,” he said.

I rolled again.

“Two,” he boomed.

Another empty.

“Three!” he cried.  And, the lights came on!

I thumbed the cylinder.  I pulled the trigger.  There was a click.

He was huge.  There was no Uzi, just a big cock sucking wrestler type boy looking down at me.  He had a pencil eraser on my nose.  I popped the next trigger pull and caused the cylinder to turn, and there was a bullet in the chamber.  The gun exploded fire.  He twirled around, “God damn!”

I started for the kitchen, but he caught me, and slammed me up against the wall.  “Who are you?”

There was steam on the mirror between the kitchen and the hallway.  It caused the moon light to cast upon the table where the red brandy sat.

In capital letters on the mirror, I could see a word printed there backwards.  On the table it spelled NICKY in red.

He laughed at the word printed there.  “Are you haunted?”  He was bleeding high on his left shoulder.  It was a flesh wound, something his terribly muscled body almost ignored like a mosquito bite.

I nodded.

“Fuck,” he said, “I knew the bitch was trouble the first time I saw her.  Now she’s after my ass with a lame old fart who steals my own gun?”

I nodded.

“You want a drink, don’t you?” he said.

I nodded.

He rammed his fist deep into my belly up into my rib cage so my heart almost burst.  I fell to the floor.  While I was gasping, he went to the dining table and opened the bottle.  I watched with bloodshot eyes.

“Don’t give up,” said Nicky.  “He’s got bad habits. He’ll turn his back on you.”

I was out of wind.  I saw spots.  When I regained some of my lung power, I was more thinking of escape than coming at Ripper’s back.

After he drank half the brandy, wrestling boy made some phone calls.

I propped myself up against the wall into a sitting position.  It was the same situation from earlier today or last night maybe.  My memory is real bad.  I was dying. The way of it had changed though.

Ripper came back into the living room. “Jack will be over later this evening.  You remember him, the one you jammed with rebar and ripped out his tongue.  He’s looking forward to meeting you again.  He wants to give you back your rebar and let you have his baseball trophy.”

“Nicky made me do it,” I said.

“The other company made you do it,” Ripper said. “They put a hit on us.”

“Jack wrote a note in the emergency room.  They called Bob as a contact.  Jack said it was an old man bout like you,” said Ripper.  “A real professional.”

“I’m not from another company,” I said.  “I’ve been waiting for you.  I went over to Jack’s place.  I saw the steam on the mirror.  It’s the same trick in the blow on my kitchen table.  He had to write out his story for Bob to read at the hospital because you ripped his tongue out with pliers.”

“She’s real,” I said.  “She said she’s gonna send you all to hell so when she get’s there she won’t be bored.”

Ripper laughed.  “Does sound like Nicky.”

“She’s real,” I said.  “She told me how to get here.”

“Well,” he said.  “You won’t have to search for Bob. He’s on the way.  We’ll all have a big séance.  Meanwhile, you and I can get acquainted.”

Getting acquainted had to do with Ripper showing me how he got his name.  He stripped my left foot, and took my toes in each hand, then almost tore my foot in half with his bare hands.  If I had had my usual load of drinks, the process would be dulled.  While I cradled my agony, he talked about the evening festivities to come.

“We’ve decided not to kill you.  It’s a good bet we could make this fun last for at least a week.  I’ve even got a doctor who will make sure it lasts.”

“Wasted time,” I said through the pain.  “She’s got plans to get you all together.  I don’t know how I fit into this.  You should be asking me questions instead of torturing me.”

“Oh, well,” said Ripper, “we’ll do that too!”

“Idiot!” I said.  Hell!  I was almost sober.  “Don’t you see what she’s doing?”

He stomped on my mangled foot.  It popped and crackled as he ground upon it with his full weight.  I almost lost consciousness.  The pain was astronomical.  If I thought to scream it would be an eternal sound going on forever, my last one, but I did not have energy for it. I hissed air at him.

Hours later Bob arrived. He was like Ripper’s twin. They discussed the long-term outlines of my education of pain.  A little later, the doctor arrived.  He examined me and gave me another shot to relieve the pain in my foot.

“You’ll need to proceed with more caution and thoughtfulness, otherwise he may expire too soon,” said the doctor.

“Jack will be here in about an hour,” said Bob. “He’s a mess.”

“What about Nicky?” said the doctor. “You finished that bitch?”

“She’s history,” said Ripper. “The old man here is from the competition.  He’s some kind of company hitter.  We’ll need to make another example.  Want to fuck up an old man?”

The doctor made a face.  “I wish you had saved me a piece of Nicky.  I always miss out on the good stuff.”

“Old man says she’s a ghost,” said Ripper.  “She’s come back and forced him to avenge her.”

More time passed.  I could try to swallow my tongue or maybe make a fast crawl for a window?

“Crap!  It’s Jack.  He’s comin in on a fuckin wheel chair,” said Bob.  He headed for the front door.

They all visited until drinks got passed around.  A girl showed up to help with refreshments.  She looked a lot like Nicky.  She winked at me.

“Needles,” said the doctor.  “We could have a lot of fun with them.  I’ve got some neat instruments too, that you won’t believe.”

“I’ll heat up some silverware in the fireplace,” said Ripper.  “One of the last things we do will be to pop those eyes with a hot wire.  Ought to hurt like a mother.”

Bob said, “We’ll limber him up by busting all his joints to start with.  Every time he yells we’ll all cheer. Okay?”  Everyone agreed.  It was to be a fun evening.  More girls arrived.  One of them suggested they get to go to work on my private parts, but Jack wanted that for himself. The others would hold me down.

The doctor got started with his needles first.  He unpacked his stuff in front of me.

Bob and Ripper tied my wrists to either side of the couch arms.  My legs were spread out.  He had acids, poisons, and chemicals.  These would work by degrees to create a suite of nasty sensations.  He had various probes he would use to put pressure on my nerves.  The worst were the tiny thumbscrews and vices of various sizes.

Early in the evening, the doctor went to work.  My toes were crushed one by one as he pushed up my pain threshold, then he gave me a pain shot, then he went on to destroy the next toe.  My screams bored the boys after a while.  My feet bled like hamburger.  Something remarkable happened as Ripper was getting another bottle of brandy.

The doctor slipped and cut his hand, as he was ready to nip away the nail of my big toe.  The idea had been to nip each one off and dry me up to keep me from losing too much blood in the process, thus I lasted longer for my next tormentor.  My toe was not anesthetized, so it was quite painful, and there was no shot forthcoming.

“Impossible,” said the doctor.

“So you, a doctor, cut your own fucking finger,” said Bob. “I’ll get you a band aid.”

“You don’t understand,” said the doctor. “I cut myself with my own scalpel.”

Bob looked at him like he was insane.  “Well, duh!”

Then the doctor took his scalpel and whacked off the end of his little finger.

“Oh, man!” said Bob.  “You’re fucking mad at me, so you fuckin cut your own finger off?”

“I don’t understand,” said the doctor while holding his bleeding finger.  “I didn’t do that.”

“Suit yourself, if you got to whack your own fingers it’s okay,” said Ripper.  “Isn’t that right Jack?”

Jack vaguely smiled from his wheelchair.

“I’m going to have to leave,” said the doctor.

A moment later, the doctor came back in a panic.  His finger was forgotten, and he gestured toward the front door with his bloody hand.  “It’s locked.  Is that some kind of joke?  Did you lock the door?”

“Go open the door for him Bob,” said Ripper.

Bob stomped over to the door.  He turned the doorknob and tugged. “He’s right.  The fucking door is not opening.  It’s jammed.”

“Let him out the back then,” said Ripper.  He got up and went to get his hot scissors from the fireplace along with the silverware that had been heating up there.

A potholder kept his hand from being seared by the heat.  I think his idea was to brand my belly with the tips, kind of make a design, write his name or such.  Instead, they got loose and fell on his knee as he leaned over me. He sat back dumbfounded.  He yanked the scissors away, and sent them flying, just missing one of the girls who squealed in anger.  “What the hell!

A coal popped out of the fireplace.  The carpet started to catch on fire.  Ripper got up and grabbed it in his potholder.  The potholder burst into flames as he tossed it back in the fireplace.  He patted the flames out.

Bob and the frustrated doctor returned.  “My turn,” said Bob.

“Be my guest,” said Ripper.  A quiet descended upon the room, so he grabbed one of the girls and started to pull down her blouse far enough to pop the tits out of it. She squeaked, but did not resist.  He pinched her nipples. She yelped a little this time.  “What about the doctor? Is he staying?”

“We’re locked in,” said Bob, while ready to do his joint popping routine on me.  He had my leg doubled with a baseball bat in the crook under my knee, and was about to sit down his weight.  My leg would separate at the joint and tear away the knee itself.  It was already quite painful.

“Open a window,” said Ripper.  He pinched pussy lips between thumb and index finger as hard as he could.  The girl moaned with pain.  He pinched again, and she winced, and bit him on the arm.  He stared back at her surprised.

“This isn’t right,” said the doctor.

Another coal popped out of the fireplace.  The rug burst into flames again.  Bob crushed the coal under his boot and made a face as the heat burned his foot.

“Go get me another bottle,” said Ripper to the girl. As she got up, he spanked her bottom.  She yelped, and ran away.

“Let’s go bash a window out,” said Ripper. “We can throw the doctor out.”

Bob laughed.  He liked the idea.

They went into the bedroom.  I watched them go to the window and throw a chair at it.  The girl who looked like Nicky came back without the brandy, and cut my bonds.  She smiled at me with sharp teeth, and in her eyes, I could see the reflection of fire from the fireplace.  She dragged me by my feet into the kitchen.

More coals popped onto the carpet while I heard Bob say, “The fucking chair bounced off the window.”

The girl dragged me outside onto the cold snow and closed the door behind her as she reentered the house.

Bright yellow light played over the ceiling of the kitchen, as I lay there helpless.  The cold helped my pain. I struggled to get away from the heat.  The house was burning.  I crawled far enough to where I could roll to one side and see the boys at the back window beat at the glass in desperation.  The glass itself started to cherry. Muffled screams made a vague dream like music.

 “Screams,” I thought to myself, “burned up in the flames.”

“You did good,” said Nicky.

“That you Nicky?”

“Yep,” she said, “I was worried, but you are not as worthless as you look.”

“Now what?” I said.  The screams inside the house went on and on.  The boys continued to batter at the window.

“I won’t be bored in hell,” she said.  “Neither will you.”

“You sound like you want to go?” I said.  I don’t know why I talked with her.  I needed to die.

“Oh, yes, well,… I was born there, old fella,” she said.  “Those guys started a business with me.  I told them my price.  They just didn’t take me serious.”

It was my turn to be dumbfounded.  My face probably reflected my sentiments.

She grinned at me with a little sympathy, “I’m a she-devil honey.  We’ve been bounced back and forth from this world to hell and back.  You can’t remember your name because it’s been a long long time since you had one.  We’re doing this again and again.  Those guys will be a lot of fun, and I owe it all to you, sweetie.  You think I forgot our deal?”

I could not remember, the evening happened so fast. I thought real hard about it,… then I had a recollection like a nightmare.

“Oh, yes, you remember now, old man,” she said.  “It was a century ago, and you had a knife.  You wanted me to suck your dick off, and I always do my end of the deal.  Course after I’m done, I get my end of the deal,… until next time which is when you and I have some more fun.  So come on honey.  Let’s get your pants down.  And, you remember now, your soul is mine.”

I screamed, then I screamed again.  Her teeth were sharp.  She did her end of the deal.  It came off, and she ate it, and I died again, and again, and again,… until maybe she would get bored,… at the end of eternity.

 

The End

 

readlikeshare

patreonBecome a patron

facebookJoin the Fan Club!

twitterFollow Mr. Deadman

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Music for Scalpel and Prepared Piano – Brendan Detzner

 

In the process of removing Susanna’s eyes and tongue, he’d punctured one of her eyeballs and ripped her tongue in half. He could go without the tongue, but not the eye. He hadn’t wanted to hurt Brian. Brian was his best student. But he had no choice. If he took the time to find somebody else, he might get caught before he was finished.

He’d meant to leave him alive, but he was a composer, not a surgeon.

 

Writing Prompt: I’m very much interested in how other writers would build on this short but horrific flash fiction. I’m sure the author wouldn’t mind an ego stroke and a collaboration.

readlikeshare

patreonBecome a patron

facebookJoin the Fan Club!

twitterFollow Mr. Deadman

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Reinforced by Nick Manzolillo

 

Deadman’s Tome is home to Book of Horrors, a horror anthology loaded with terrifying horror short stories that’ll chill you to the bone!

6x9_Front_Coverhand
Available on Kindle

DISCLAIMER: Deadman’s Tome is a dark and gritty horror zine that publishes content not suitable for children. The horror zine proudly supports the freedom of dark creative works and stands against censorship. Hardly any subject matter is too taboo for this horror zine. As a result, Deadman’s Tome may feature content your mother would not approve of. But she doesn’t control you life, right?

Reinforced – Nick Manzolillo

 

He knows what’s at stake if everything goes to shit, but there’s no planning for a worst-case scenario.  For Tim Sallick, who’s been a locksmith for twelve years, and for anyone that works a job where you’re required to step foot in somebody’s home, there is always a risk that extends beyond the awkwardness of entering someone else’s life.  There is something about being in a stranger’s home that makes you vulnerable.  The street and the walkway leading to the front doorstep, that all belongs to you, to the way the world works and the order you expect people to follow. When you step foot in someone’s home, you become subject to them and their domain, their rules.  You give up all of your control when you leave the road and enter a place you know nothing about.

A homeless man is so curled up beneath his rain jacket on the sidewalk that at first, Tim thought it was just an abandoned coat tossed to the gutter–until he saw the tip of the man’s shoes sticking out from the dripping folds of his only shield against the relentless rain that empties the sky dry. Tim’s windshield is a mess because the rubber on his wipers has run thin and even with them running on full speed, the rain still clogs up his window to the point of near blindness.  Even so, he is positive that he has showed up at the wrong address, and now he’s tapping his fingers on his dash faster than the wipers can whip back and forth. His phone is pressed tight against his ear.  He is waiting for that fucker on the other end of the line to pick up.  

There’s a low guttural moan croaking from the far bottom of Tim’s throat and this part right here, finding the address, it’s worse than anything. Every minute that ticks by becomes a waste of time and using a GPS often leads to more confusion than it’s worth. A banshee’s blast of wind rocks Tim’s truck and then the homeless man amongst the backdrop of run down homes alongside the deli and the closed post office are all swallowed up.   The vortex of rain and shrieking means Tim could be anywhere.  When it all lets up and the sun creeps back into place, his truck could be washed up anywhere in the world.  This strange fear of somehow being swept away from the real world causes Tim to tune out the first few Hellos’ on the other end of his phone call.

“Hi..hi yes, Mr. Allen?  I am with Serenity Security, ah, according to the address you gave us, I’m here, but I was just inside the Golden Deli and they said I must be at the wrong spot.  Are you across the street at all?”

“No, no, ah…” It’s an older man on the other end of the line, maybe sixties, a little younger and less hoarse than Tim’s dad.  Guy’s probably still in the beginning stages of losing his grip on the modern world. “Sorry, I made a mistake, but you’re close, though, your just four streets over.  Easy fix.” The man, a Mr. Joseph Allen, then mumbles his new address and Tim punches it into his GPS, not asking for him to repeat it, already through with dealing with this idiot.  There are still two hours left on the clock but, tonight’s supposed to be a good one, some old friends are finally driving down to visit Tim and his wife from Cambridge.  Like most New Englanders, they picture Jersey to be as distant a drive as South Carolina.  Tim, prior to the rainfall, has already been smiling and chuckling himself all through the day’s appointments.  He anticipates the laughs, roast duck from a Chinese restaurant, musings of old times and light beer that will dictate the evening before an expensive cigar caps the night off.  He can nearly feel that cigar roasting between his lips and pushing his consciousness into the soothing haze of a near dream.

Even with the address punctuated by the client’s mouth, Tim still debates calling the guy back, before trudging through the heavy rain turned cylindrical by the wind to ring the doorbell of the house at the end of the driveway.  The place isn’t what Tim expected, because it’s too nice, with its colonial roofing, pointed peaks and deep red wood lining the throat of a massive porch framed by wooden columns.  At once it’s historical and flamboyant.  The neighborhood is alright, no bums this time. That poor bastard Tim saw goes to show how close the wealthy and the wrecked live almost side by side.  Because of the rain and Mr. Allen’s mistake with the address, Tim won’t say no to a tip if one is offered.  It’s not customary or even explicitly approved of by Serenity, but there have been times in the past where somebody, usually a rich polo shirt and golf short wearing bastard, will walk him to the door after the job is done and whip out fifty bucks that Tim will take with a grin and a humble thank you.  

Unlike all the other homes on the street, this place doesn’t have any porch lights on to act as a lantern, a beacon for Tim to trudge through the rain toward. The other homes are so swamped out, they seem like lighthouses warning him to steer away from the rocks.  This house is also the only one that has twice the yard space on either side of its driveway.  Rich bastards.  It takes Tim a moment to realize, through the rain, that the front door is cracking open and there is a blurry man, standing there raising a hand to him.  Ah, no turning back now.  He should try and get that tip out of his head before he winds up disappointing himself.

With his raincoat tighter than a straightjacket, Tim flips his hood down over his face so that it feels like a mask and then he raises his arms across his mouth and dives, swims his way through the waterlogged air until he’s unfurling his arms, flinging rain drops from himself when he’s halfway up Mr. Allen’s porch.  “What a day!”  Mr. Allen’s energy is nothing like the simple voice during the call.  His voice cracks but still ripples with confidence and energy.  This is the kind of guy that blinks awake at six o’clock every morning and then runs three miles before devouring a plate of pancakes and sausage.  His words are one thing though, for his face is bald and wrinkled like a deviled egg and the hand he sticks out to Tim is so soggy and soft it may as well have been left out in the rain.  “Come inside, dry yourself off, what a day!”  The home beyond Mr. Allen is dimly lit, as if every light bulb is only using half its energy, as if they’re either dying or waiting for one big burst of life.

There’s an earthy smell in the house that reminds Tim of the woods in Massachusetts, after the rainfall, when he was a boy playing with the dogs and throwing storm swept sticks for them to fetch.  Mr. Allen gestures for him to take off his rain jacket but Tim insists that once he sees where he’s going to put the lock, he’ll have to run back to the truck and find the perfect fit.  

“I insist.  You’ll drip all over the place and…some of the wood in the basement is…on the fragile side.” Mr. Allen waves his hands around, emphasizing his caution and Tim’s struck by the unprofessional desire to ask him what he does for a living.  It’s almost too hard to imagine. With a face like that, he’s almost too ugly for any corporate business, unless he struck rich when he was younger.  No, maybe he inherited this place.  He just seems so…soggy, like he’s been out in the rain for too long and he’s done and seen too much in that liquid tundra to ever be dry again.  There’s something particular about the way he moves and his elbows rotate in sync with his shoulders and his feet seem to firmly planted at all times.  Weird, weird, weird.  Tim has set up locks for weirdos before. Makes him wish he had a Purell bottle in the truck.

“It’s not as if I’m asking you to take your clothes off.”  Mr. Allen smiles good naturedly as Tim takes his coat off. A weird interpretation of those words is unavoidable.  Tim’s set up locks for some real freaks before.  Sex freaks, primarily.  All sorts of fetish cages and bars and contraptions rigged along the walls and ceilings and in bathtubs.  When you do your case filing, it’s the kind of thing you choose “other” for.  Tim almost wants to insist on tips from freaks like that if only because he has to actually set foot in their homes, but it’s the unspoken norm of the business.  People want locks and security, and people want to get off on the power of simplistic technology.  People want to submit, and give up control.  

“So, where do you want me?”  Tim tries to put some warmth into his smile but today’s already thrown off, pretending to enjoy himself until he gets home is almost a waste of effort.

“Oh, the basement.”  Mr. Allen gestures through the gloomy half shadows of the house around Tim.  While extravagant on the outside, it feels like some kind of countryside hotel in here.  Mixed with that earthy smell is pine, leaking off the wooden cabinets and polished dining table in the living room.  House is neat, which is rare.  There are paintings of mountains and deer with lamps made partially of antlers.  Before a stone fireplace in the corner of the home is some kind of animals skin splayed out as a rug.  This place is a lodge, far from the real wilderness.  The theme is overbearing.  There are half a dozen plates, set on the long dining table and the designs etched around their rims are of moose drinking from streams and wolves beneath full moons.  Nearly blending into every corner Tim can see is some kind of rifle.

Without comment, because that’ll only delay the process, Tim follows Mr. Allen’s shuffling footsteps to an open door that seems to lead to the source of the earthy smell.  Not pressing but rubbing his hand almost affectionately against the wall, Mr. Allen brings forth the light, as he leads Tim down the narrow basement steps.  The subterranean level is surprisingly modern.  A pool table with a red, velvet interior catches Tim’s eye.  There’s a short stub of a bar table with a humble liquor cabinet propped on the wall behind it and there are trendy, plush barstools scattered around the basement that look like silver metal poles stabbed into beanbag chairs.  You never know what to expect.  Maybe Mr. Allen has a batty wife that went overboard with her great American wilderness theme and this little man cave down here is his true hideaway.  No wonder he needs a locksmith.  Tim can’t imagine sharing his life with somebody that forces him to go underground.  Him and his wife Marissa only disagree on the quantity of hot sauce that goes into their meals and whose turn it is to scrub the toilet.

“It’s right over here.”  Mr. Allen’s shuffling along a violet curtain that runs along the same wall as the stairs.  His mushy fingers rub across the material before they rapidly clench and rip the curtains aside in a enthusiastic whirr that reveals a bronze….well…it’s more like a jail cell than a cage, except there’s a dark red leather couch inside along with a short bookcase that doubles as a side stand.  The back wall of the cell features a darker, almost crimson curtain.  Without the bars, it looks more like a quirky VIP booth or something.  Oddly enough, Tim’s come across this before.  

The cell, or cage, seems professionally crafted.  The bars are sturdy and gleaming, brand new.  There’s just a hole on the half-open cell door where a good lock belongs.  You’d think whoever built the cage would throw something together themselves but these kinds of people, like Mr. Allen and whoever the hell he’s married to, they want professionalism.  They want security.  When the submissive whoever (maybe it’s Mr. Allen himself) is locked up in there, they have to feel that it’s the real thing.  That they are utterly helpless.

“I’ve been assured this shouldn’t be a problem…” Mr. Allen sounds more nervous that he’ll have to call somebody else than he is embarrassed.  Hell, Tim can respect that.  Life’s too short to be ashamed of yourself.  Still, a pair of fuzzy handcuffs thrown into the mix of things is a kinky as he’s willing to go when things need spicing up with Marissa.

“Not at all sir.  Done this before believe it or not.”  Tim suddenly has the idea, the impulse to go and say “You’re not a werewolf or anything are you?” but that might encourage Mr. Allen to actually tell him why he has a cage in his basement. Tim sleeps better with the limits of his own imagination and sanity protecting him.  Witty comment or not, Mr. Allen’s smiling at him in a slow to form, almost spacey manner that’s immediately giving Tim the willies.

Tim focuses on the cage. “Who put this together for you?  They know what they’re doing.” He’s impressed by the glass paneling along the floor that rises about knee high, though it’s the biggest mystery of all.  What, so nobody can pee through it?  Hell, with the glass panel surrounding the bottom of the cage you could fill it with water and keep an alligator or something in there.  Oddly enough, Tim never figures that some of theses cages and cells people have are for animals.  That would be almost too normal.    

“I forget…” Mr. Allen stares almost longingly at his reflection in the bronze bars.  The lights in the basement are fluorescent, in contrast to the nearly useless things upstairs. They probably keep it so dark upstairs so as to better obscure the flaws of their rather corny decor.   

“It’ll be thirty minutes tops.  I can get everything together right now, should be a breeze and hopefully the rain lets up, huh?” Tim makes his own way upstairs as Mr. Allen just turns and continues to smile at him.  Only when he reaches the rain, falling and filling the air thicker than ever, does he realize how clogged up his nostrils are with the earthy scent.  Maybe the cell had to be dug out beneath the foundation?  That’s risky considering how close it is to being beneath the center of the house.  

Fumbling with his tools and rummaging through the boxes in back of his utility truck is every bit as miserable as he anticipated. When Tim re-enters the house he tilts his head back and just stares up at the dry ceiling.  Every part of him wants to scream a string of curses up towards the heavens and their ceaseless piss but Tim gets himself together.  Sometimes his job is too easy.  This is the universe course correcting itself.  On his way back to the basement, Tim takes a closer look at one of the mountain paintings on the wall. There’s a weird, black orb dangling over a mountain range.  It stuck out even with all the dim lighting in this place.  It’s almost like the artist spilled a bunch of ink on his work and tried to cover it up by adding more and making a shape.

Mr. Allen watches while Tim works, offering him a glass of water to which Tim responds; “I’ve had enough water for one day.”  He receives not the slightest murmur of laughter in return.  Putting his head down and working his trade grinds away the time and awkwardness easily enough, however.  After a bit of tinkering, it’s time for the key test and everything clicks and unhinges as Tim opens and closes the door several times.   

From behind Tim he hears the dry words: “How about you step inside?”  

“What?”  Tim turns around, not getting the joke but that’s what it must be.  

“To see if you can open it up at all…” Mr. Allen gestures.  

“Uh, you can go in there if you want.”  Tim laughs, because this is a joke.

“Well, I’m not nearly as strong as I used to be.  I’d need somebody with more…hop to their step…to give it a try.”  Mr. Allen’s gesturing toward the open door.  Tim’s holding the key in his hands and that thing is all the power he needs, if need be.  Mr. Allen’s reaching into his back pocket for what looks to be his wallet and that seals the deal as far as Tim’s concerned.  He’s got the key anyhow.  Tim steps into the cell and lets the door clang loudly behind him.  His craftsmanship on the lock is flawless.

Without looking at Tim, who rattles the cage and tries pushing, grunting at the cell door a couple times, Mr. Allen eyes the lock.  He runs his slow fingers of mush over it, and then he looks Tim right in the eyes.  “May I try unlocking it myself?”

“There’s no trick to it, turn right and pull.”  Tim closes his fist over the key as Mr. Allen nods, and smiles.  Where did his wallet go?  For fuck’s sake.  This is enough.  Tim reaches through the bars, sticks his key in the lock and then Mr. Allen’s fingers are folding, squishing against his own before Tim can make the lock click and give him up.  Tim’s hand is pulled, jerked downwards with sudden speed and the key…his key is falling from the lock and bouncing across the basement’s black, carpeted floor.  

“Motherfucker, motherfucker what the fuck?”  Tim, whose been lying to himself about uncomfortable this has made him, is erupting into steam and anxiety.  Mr. Allen picks up the key and then stands by the pool table.  This was all too easy…he got too comfortable with these freaks he deals with day in, day out and now what the fuck, what was he thinking going into the cage?  

“What is this?  Seriously?  Come on…I have other appointments…” Tim lies but Mr. Allen’s lips are tight and his face, his whole bald and droopy mess of a head seems to sag further over himself.    

The problem with Mr. Allen giving the wrong address in the first place is that it’s not in the system.  It didn’t seem like a problem, the metals and equipment Tim has in the truck at any one time hardly amount to several grand at best, there’s no fear of there being a robbery, there’s no reason for anybody to track him beside formality and scheduling for his appointments.  This guy doesn’t know this though.  He doesn’t know shit.

“They’re going to come for me…” Tim’s voice feels distant, his mind is whirring and panicking with such frenzy that he can hardly hear himself, feel himself except for his throat going dry and the buzzing vibrations running along his hands.

“Well, then I better hurry up.”  Mr. Allen shuffles over to the bar while Tim pleads with him about how silly this all his and then he picks up a bell from between two bottles of vodka and he gives it a high pitched shake of his hand as the ringing fills Tim’s ears.  The basement is alive with the dizzying frenzy of what’s coming.  There are footsteps upstairs, orderly and flocking towards the basement steps.  As they come down the stairs the cage starts rattling and Tim takes a sprinters start from one end of the cage to the other as he bashes himself into the bars and they wiggle but don’t make the slightest indication that they will give.  He tries kicking out the glass paneling but it’s on the outside of the bars and it’s too thick anyhow.    

Mr. Allen clasps his hands behind his back and stands in front of the cage.  Men and women, all shirtless, file into the room.  They all wear white dresses from their hips down and their chests are thick with spiraling lines of scars.  One of the women is missing a breast.  It almost makes Tim nauseous that his attention immediately went to everyone’s nipples, as he stares at their masked faces and feels something he never imagined before.  Death could be here right now.  This could be what all the people who have ever disappeared and turned up mutilated in a swamp somewhere have gone through.  The seven silent guests in the room wear a variety of wooden masks.  Some are painted in flashy colors and their carved, false faces reveal fangs and flaring dragon’s nostrils.  There are false antlers on the side of blank, triangular faces as well as visors, slashed across buckets of wood plopped over someone’s skull.  The seven form on either side of Mr. Allen and raise their arms behind their heads as if a bunch of police officers are leveling guns at them.  The seven go still as statues, as even their breath seems to cease as their stomachs go tight.  

Tim is muttering an uncontrollable string of curses and incomplete questions.  At last he decides the only thing he can do is just turn away and face the curtain and the couch.  He then hops over the couch and sits with his back against it.  This way they can’t stare at him. This way he’s not so…exposed.  He has nothing on him.  Not even his wallet.  Everything’s safe, dry and useless in the car.   “What the fuck do you want!?”  Tim screams over his shoulder and there is safety, being unseen as he is.  The cell’s so wedged into the wall that the only way they’ll get a good look at him is if they come in here and drag him away from the couch.  

“Huh!?”  Tim shouts again after waiting for a response.  

“Just listen to the rain.”  Mr. Allen’s voice is soft, soothing.  Beyond Tim’s frantic breathing, the rain is roaring and pattering beyond this fucked up place.  Something was wrong the minute he stepped inside and Tim didn’t do anything about it.  He stepped into the fucking cage…how the fuck did that old man hit him that hard?  Tim’s hand still throbs.  His thumb and his index finger almost seem strained, they’ll be swollen soon.

“Shhhhhhh,” Mr. Allen’s voice waivers between soothing and becoming a hiss.  Where did those other people come from?  Tim has a sudden flash to them hiding in the dim light, ducked beneath the dining table and pressed tight around the corners Tim didn’t look closely at.  Those masks mean nothing good is coming.  

“They’re going to come…..They’re coming right now.  If you let me call them…if you let me go…I’ll just…leave….you don’t have to pay, my treat, it’s okay….” If Tim starts screaming and insulting everyone too much they might get offended, and hurt him.             

“The sound of the rainfall is the sky speaking to you.  Speaking to the earth.  It’s telling us all a story, so we should listen.  It’s telling us to stay dry, it’s apologizing for the cold.  It’s telling us to stay together, so we are not washed away.  It is telling the great, great worms to taste our air and bless us for all our toils.”  Mr. Allen, what a preacher.

There’s a popping sound, from just beyond the curtain Tim’s facing.  Is there a breeze down here?  The curtains rippling amidst another popping sound.  Wet, crinkling sounds, like a child’s fingers scooping through a pie.  Something plops to the carpet with a wet, static filled ripping sound and from beneath the curtain wriggles a pail form the size of Tim’s forearm.  A worm, with too many beady black eyes to count peppered along it’s skull as it stretches back and there’s a pink mouth as the thing wrenches itself back and forth.  There’s another plop.  A second worm wriggles into view, covered in mud and oozing something sticky.   “What is this?  What the fuck is this?”

“An exhibit.” Is Mr. Allen’s reply, as the two worms are joined by a third, and then a fourth.

Tim’s hopping to his feet, running to the other side of the couch so he doesn’t have to see those things anymore.  “What the fuck are they?”

“They deserve respect.  They have noble ancestors in the black ether above, and they have risen from the wretched deep.  They are just trying to find a home.”       

Tim backs up against the cell door as there’s a volley of pops and the worms are wriggling, creeping around the sides of the couch.  “Like the sperm to the egg.”  Mr. Allen says. “There can only be one.  One that may never return to the earth.”  Tim could stomp on these things, bash in their little nubby skulls and black mouse shit eyes.  A hand of mush slips through the bars and grabs Tim’s throat, tilting his skull back so that the back of his head wedges lightly against the bars.  

“Come on, fuck, fuck fuck.”  Tim tries pulling away from the hand’s single grasp.  

“You’ll leave, with company.  You’ll be let out, I assure you.”  The seven spectators are all lined up around the cage to Tim’s left and right.  More arms snake through the bars and join Mr. Allen in holding him still.  The worms inch forwards, their squirms becoming a unified thrust.  One tries latching onto Tim’s boot and nobody’s got his legs, fuck them, he stomps and the worm’s head squishes in just as he hoped but another one of those things is latching on to the back of his ankle and they have little, sharp legs from beneath their tubular bodies.  One is on the back of Tim’s leg and in one lurch it’s behind hi knee and at this point Tim’s shrieking and jerking his body as much as the arms around his torso will let him.  Plop, plop, plop–more come from the curtains as they partially fall from the corner of the wall and there is earth on the other side.  Untamed, unmolded dirt.  As the lucky worm ascends his chest, Tim recalls looking into those scattered eyes and down that pink, steaming gullet as the things legs pierce against his chest like he’s been shot by a stapler gun and it crawls towards his open mouth, his skull.  As Tim looks to the ceiling, he marvels at how peaceful the rhythm of the rain is.

#

Four hours later, Tim stumbles home and surprises his wife and their guests, who have been waiting nervously in the kitchen for him to return home.  They have the TV on and their night has been ruined, but not entirely wasted, given they’ve drunk some of the beer Tim stocked the fridge with.  Tim ignores the questions, insults and half worried fury that immediately confront him. Still wearing his muddy boots that have tracked all over the white carpet of their dining room, and dripping rain from his drenched sweatshirt because his jacket is missing, Tim grabs his wife by the hips and delivers a long, hot kiss across her mouth.      

readlikeshare

patreonBecome a patron

facebookJoin the Fan Club!

twitterFollow Mr. Deadman

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.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Stalker – Elliot Richard Dorfman

beverage-mug-000000Enhance your coffee today  

Howard Thomas was a Social Studies high school teacher who lived in Manhattan with his wife Susan and their 15- year- old twins Brian and Arnold.  When Howard got his certification to become a principal, he started looking for a position in Upstate New York. In that area, the family could enjoy plenty of space and fresh air after living in a crowded, polluted city.                    

Always giving an excellent impression at interviews, Howard was hired as the high school principal at Winfield, a town in the Mohawk Valley near the Adirondack Mountains, starting the next school season in the fall.  

A local real-estate agent was hired and quickly found the family an old yellow painted Cedar wood Italianate farmhouse with a stream at the eastern section of a two-acre property. True, the house was built in 1890, but its condition was good and the place maintained a certain charm.

The family settled in Winfield about a month before the school term began. Susan suggested they purchase a portable above ground swimming pool for the boys, but Howard decided first to get a decent tractor first to mow the grounds and keep it from becoming an overgrown field of tall grass, weeds, and wildflowers.

Having lived in Manhattan, Brian and Arnold’s new friends admired them for their trendy way of doing things. The twins liked this admiration and quickly adjusted to their new surroundings.  As for their parents, it took a bit longer, although Howard personally enjoyed the prestigious role of being a high school principal.

The first time Howard experienced something strange happening was five months after moving to Winfield.  Unable to sleep one evening, he lay restlessly tossing and turning in the dark for hours until finally deciding to get dressed and take a stroll in the back of the house.

Most of the trees were bare by now, and the full moon cast an eerie blue light on the grounds.  Nearing the stream, Howard saw a figure staring at him from the other side. The man had long blond hair that framed a pale young face. When he called out to him, the stranger disappeared.  Thinking that perhaps his imagination was playing tricks and no one was really there, Howard returned home.  Once getting into bed, he was able to fall asleep until the morning.

  ***   

Busy at his new job and adjusting to his new life, Howard soon forgot the incident. However, one snowy winter night when he was at the desk in the den, he saw the same man staring at him from the window.  Getting up, he ran outside, but no one was there

What does this fellow want? he wondered, becoming more angry than fearful.

For the next few days, Howard searched the entire neighborhood to see if the man might just be some nosy neighbor without any success.  Yet, from that time on, he began to constantly see this stranger looking into the first-floor windows in his house or somewhere on the grounds. Oddly enough, none of the other family saw him.

Eventually able to get a bit closer to this figure when outside, Howard guessed him to be in his early twenties. Tall, thin, and dressed in something reminiscent of what men wore in the late nineteenth century, he attempted to speak to this strange person, but all the young man did was respond with an unnerving smile, turn, and walk away.

Naming this weirdo “The Stalker,” Howard became determined to stop him snooping around the premises. The following afternoon he went to the local police precinct and filled out a report on this prowler and asked for their assistance to apprehend him. He was assured they would get right on the case if he would be willing to press charges when the person was caught. Of course, Howard agreed to do this.

For the next few months, the Stalker stopped appearing again, and Howard thought the problem was over. During the Easter weekend, Susan and the twins went to visit her folks in Connecticut.  Since Howard had one of his bad migraine headaches, he stayed at home.

The first evening alone, it rained. There was a short in one of the lamps when he tried switching it on and the house when dark. Unplugging the wire, Howard went down to the cellar to turn on the breakers.  Reaching the box, he suddenly felt a cold hand touching his shoulder. Startled, he stepped back and tripped over something and fell to the floor. Standing over him was the stalker, only this time he glowed in a purplish haze that began fading when he started to speak in a steady deep voice.

“At last, we are able to communicate. This is going to be a glorious night for me!”

Frightened and starting to panic, Howard tried to rise from the floor, but was unable to do so.

  “You’ll get up when I am ready to allow you, the specter shouted, frowning with anger.

“My gracious, am I under his control?” Howard thought nervously.

The specter bent down and looked him with large light- blue eyes that seem to pierce into Howard’s soul.

“If you are thinking that I have you under my control, you are absolutely correct.”

“But why choose me?” the frightened man asked.

“You will find that out when I get my wish. In the meantime, if you promise to cooperate and don’t try escaping, we can go upstairs where it will be more comfortable while I tell you my story.”

Howard nodded. The cellar was so damp and dingy.


Upstairs, the phantom looked around and rubbed his hands gleefully

“My house has held up well.”

 “What do you mean your house?  This place is mine; lock, stock, and barrel,” Howard replied indignantly.  “In any case, just who are you anyway?”

“Better you should ask who I once was,” replied the phantom.  “My name is Cort Van Tassel.  I designed and built this house for myself back in 1890. I was quite a successful young architect then and had everything to live for; youth, wealth, and recently engaged to one of the most beautiful women in this state. Unfortunately, in my time, we did not have the advancement in medicine as you have now. A flu epidemic suddenly struck the town of Winfield shortly after I moved into this house and I was one of the first persons to succumb from the sickness.  After my death, the estate could not bear to keep this house and sold it.

My restless soul could find no peace and kept wandering this vicinity, wishing to try and find a way of living again.  It seemed so unfair to be so unjustly cut off from the prime of life.  Especially since I had always tried doing good deeds by helping aid the poor and other unfortunates  who passed my way. I never missed a church service, praying for peace on earth to which I now have come to a conclusion is an uncaring and unjust god.  Then one midnight, not too long ago, a hooded figure known as the supreme master of the underworld appeared before me.  He promised to help me if I would be loyal to him and find a soul that would become his once I decided to take over that person’s physical body.”

 Howard was aghast. “Why would you make a pact with such evil that spreads unmitigated suffering throughout the universe?”


Cort moved closer to Howard and clasped his shoulders. “Because I will get what I most want!”

“Just what has this to do with you haunting me?” the doomed man asked, in denial of his fate.

The phantom began to lose patience and become annoyed.

“Is your mind so slow as not to understand?   After carefully observing those now living, you sir, are the person I want to take over.  Now, brace yourself, for in a few moments my soul will enter your body and yours will become the property of the master.”

Howard only had time to give one blood-curdling scream as the transformation between the body and their souls took place.

When Susan and the twins came home a couple of days later, they did not notice at first how Howard was glancing at them with such an evil expression.  Working for the master as a living entity on earth had begun.


Epilogue

The town of Winfield had always been a pleasant place to live in, but then during the following spring a series of terrible accidents began to occur. The first took the lives of Howard’s wife and sons when his family went rowing on a lake near their home and the boat’s capsized.  Howard valiantly tried saving the others, but failing, just about managed to swim back to safety.   Despite his grief, people admired how he put even more effort into his job than before.  A year later, while accompanying the most outstanding students in his high school on a bus trip to the city, the vehicle lost control and veered into oncoming traffic, exploding as it crashed into a number of vehicles. Many souls were lost, but luck was with Howard again, and he was the only one there to survive the tragedy.

Continuing to remain focused on his job, Howard gained many influential friends in the county, and was asked if he would run as state senator.

“Ah, yes, I would like to do that. I can be so much more effective when serving in that capacity,” he said enthusiastically, an unholy glare coming from his eyes.

THE END                                   

 

 

Writing Prompt: I’m curious what other writers would do with this story. Has a build up for something sinister right before the epilogue. Send me what you come up with. Send to jessecdedman@gmail.com