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The Accident on Mitchell Street by Jacob M Lambert

Heels scuffing the hardwood of the foyer, the couple dashed through the open door and out into the frosty October wind, the pungent scent of their deodorized bodies lingering behind them—lilies, aftershave, and musk all rolled into a single funk.

And Ellie Masterson, who’d seen this happen at least twice a day, simply pressed the clipboard to her chest, sighed, and let her almond brown hair drape over her face. She then left the kitchen (which was the farthest she’d made it with potential clients) and approached the front door, waiting on the next group.

“You’ve got about ten minutes, and then I’m—”

Before she could finish the sentence, two men—one wearing a fuzzy green sweater and the other a long trench coat—strolled up the sidewalk, holding hands. Ellie forced her best smile, one she hoped made her look more welcoming and less like a sixty-year-old, impatient ghoul. But with the dark eyeliner and rouge lipstick on her pale face (in addition to the knee-length substitute teacher dress adorned in bright flowers), she doubted the most sanguine display would make much difference.

There was the house, too.
And as if it knew her thoughts, the floor trembled beneath her feet, drawers flew open upstairs, chandelier lights flickered above—everything that drove the previous potentials from the kitchen and back to Watertown, or wherever they had come.    

Again, Ellie sighed.

“Excuse me, are you Ms. Masterson?”

The man in the trench coat extended his hand. He was handsome, she thought, with his tanned, pop-marked face and auburn goatee. A white scar stretched from his right cheek to his chin—but that only made the flesh of Ellie’s neck flush even more: she thought scars were sexy.

“I’m sorry. Yes—I’m Ms. Masterson, but please, call me Ellie.”

Smiling, the man said, “We called about the house. I’m Blake and this is my—”
“Tim,” the man in the green sweater interrupted. He casted an awkward, wide-eyed glance at Blake, then let his gaze fall back on Ellie. “We were hoping the house hadn’t sold yet. It hasn’t—has it?”

Momentarily feeling out of place, as if she were swaying drunk in a room full of addicts, Ellie dipped her chin and tightened her lips. “Actually no: we haven’t sold it yet.”

“Great,” Blake said, his smile widening. “Can we have a look?”

Ellie nodded and, stepping to the right, ushered the two into the foyer. She then—as always—remained silent, letting them formulate their own opinion before she interrupted. It was something she’d learned the hard way: too jovial, too insistent, too micromanaging was for the mannequins on QVC, not underpaid realtors. And while she watched Blake climb the stairs, where he stopped, pointing at something near the top, a familiar sound reverberated in her ears: the staccato thumping of her own heart.

“What was that?” Tim said, stopping midway between the hardwood and the stairs.

Here we go again, she thought, and for the third time (at least since the couple arrived) sighed. “I didn’t hear anything?”
“I never said I heard something,” Tim replied. “Is there someone here?”
Ellie walked toward them. In her peripheral, a rounded ceramic plate with child’s feet stamped in red paint swayed on the imitation wood paneling. Finally, she stopped a few feet shy of the bannister. “There is an extra aspect of the house I didn’t mention in the online advertisement. But I usually wait until—”

“You’re not going to tell me what I think you are, right?” Blake descended the steps backward, while keeping his eyes on Ellie. The flush came again, and she could smell the sweat fuming from her chest—a sickly scent that stood out over the dust, cologne, and mixtures of various undefinable stenches creeping through the house.

Pursing her lips, Ellie nodded.

“Wonderful!” Tim shouted, the disgust in his voice striking Ellie like an invisible cannon ball to the stomach. “I knew there was something off about this place. The outside looks like a Victorian mansion—and the inside…it’s beautiful. But eighty-thousand: too unbelievable.”
“It’s hardly noticeable. I promise. Just—”  

“Are you serious right now, lady? C’mon, Blake,” he said, interrupting her. But as he reached for his husband’s hand, the opposite happened.

“Who is it?”

Ellie met Blake’s gaze, but she quickly looked away as she spoke. “A man—I don’t know his name.”

As he opened his mouth to reply, ahead, on the wall next to Ellie, the plaster (the only place without the unpleasant paneling) started cracking, large chunks crumbling to the floor. Tim’s eyes widened, but he remained stationary, right hand clutching the bannister. However, Blake, moving past him, approached the area between stairs and wall—where a narrow hallway led to the kitchen. Through all this, Ellie continued pursing her lips, chin tilted, as if waiting for a disciplining blow. Her heart paced rapidly in her chest, and had she not grown use to the sensation, she would have feared the worst: heart attack, stroke, etc. etc. etc.

But that didn’t happen. It never did.
“Are you sure it’s only a man?”
“Why?”

Bushy brows drawn into a single arch, Blake shook his head. “Because, I don’t think a grown man would write this.”
On the wall, carved in jagged, mismatched letters, was a single question: IS MY BIKE GOING TO BE OKAY.

***

As Tim’s legs thawed, so did his mouth. “I can’t believe you knew about this and still tried selling us this house. I swear you’ll lose you license over this, lady. I swear.” 

“Still think it’s a man?” Blake said. “Cause I don’t think so.”

“Are you listening to me?”

Hearing him absolutely fine, Blake reached out and traced the coarse texture of the scrawling, then lowered his head—his bottom lip trembling.

“When I was a kid, my grandfather died in a motorcycle accident, a few days before I turned eleven.”

“I’m…sorry,” Ellie said, raising her head, but only a little.

“It’s okay, really—that was a long time ago. But he loved his bike, you know?” Blake paused and wiped a single tear from his left cheek, before it could dampen his mustache. “For a long time, I wondered if he was still there. My parent’s said he was in heaven: their usual poor attempt at commiserations when someone passed. But I didn’t believe it, cause sometimes, when I was alone, I could smell the Talcum powder. He would always use too much, and the scent would follow him: a medicated, menthol odor. You know what I mean?”
Ellie understood perfectly, but for her it wasn’t a smell—it was a sound: laughing.

“I’m not smelling anything right now, though,” Blake said, “but the bike, the way this is written on the wall: a child wrote this.”

From behind, now standing on the bottom step, Tim rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Will you come off it already, Blake? This whole thing’s a scam, don’t you see that? She probably read a few of your books and looked you up online. It’s not that difficult, with all of the sites out there offering pennies for background—”

“Tim, go outside. Smoke a cigarette or something. I’m sure you’re having a nic fit anyway, so just go.” Blake’s voice, especially on the emphasis of Tim’s name, made Ellie’s large frame shudder. She hadn’t expected the sudden severity in the man’s tone, but she was glad for it: Tim’s slender neck craned forward, and he released an exasperated breath. Then his previously smooth features wrinkled into a scowl as he descended the step, sauntered to the front door, and slammed it—rattling the blinds over the frosted window in its center.  

Closing his eyes and shaking his head, Blake frowned. “I’m sorry about that. Been married only a week and I’m already kicking myself. But he’s a good man, Ellie. Just doesn’t have an imagination, that’s all.”

“No, it’s alright,” she replied. “I should have mentioned this in the description.”

“Well, it’s not exactly something you broadcast. But the message on the wall: I think a child wrote this—not an adult. What do you think?”
Ellie shrugged.

“Look, give me a few days to talk to Tim, and I’ll give you a call with our decision, okay? I think that whoever wrote this,” he said, again pointing to the words, “might just need the same thing I did: someone to guide them forward.”
Blake smiled and nodded to Ellie before retracing his earlier steps to the front door. For a moment, she stood there—between the wall and stairs—then wiped the tears away from her own cheeks as she ventured into the foyer, where the round, ceramic plate rested against the imitation paneling. There she stopped, facing it, her eyes drawn to the four-inch-long red footprints adorning the front.

“I think I might have found a home for you—both of you,” she said, smiled, and started rounding the corner. But the sound of someone digging into plaster, like rats chewing their way through a cardboard box, halted her progress.
The thumping in her chest returned. But this time a wave of unreality seized her vision, making everything appear sharper, louder, and more urgent. Turning on slick joints, Ellie returned to the wall, where she then took a deep breath before lifting her eyes to the letters. IS MY BIKE GOING TO BE OKAY remained etched there in deep, crooked groves. But there was also something else, directly below it:
MOMMY.

“I told you before, a dozen times: I’m not your mother.”

In that instant, the plaster started falling again, and letter after letter appeared, each digging deeper and deeper into the wall.

“Please, you have to stop,” she said, dropping the clipboard and placing her hands to her temples, where she then squeezed, as if the pressure alone would halt the irrational fear that her head might tumble to the floor.
More pieces of the wall crumbled as the response appeared. And if there was any equivocation to the message, the startling crash of the ceramic plate shattering on the hardwood floor extinguished it. Underneath the previous MOMMY was this:
YOU COULD BE. MY DADDY LIKES IT HERE. IT’S NICE

“No, we’ve been through this,” she said, letting her eyes wander over to the ceramic shards—noticing the way each piece somehow broke into a perfect bladed shape. “I won’t. I am Not. Your. Mother.”

As Ellie backed away, now almost tripping over her feet, one final message formed on the wall, but this one went deeper: into the wooden support beams, scrawled almost irritably.
THEN LEAVE ME ALONE. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT.

***

  Blake’s hands shot into the air, palms facing the gunmetal sky, as if holding an imaginary globe. “You don’t have to be such an ass, Tim.”

“Did you not see how she acted? Could barely look me in the eyes.”

“She was afraid you’d judge her—like you’re doing now.”

Silence fell between them. The October air numbing his semi-bearded cheeks (where the hair was already growing back from the morning shave), Blake leaned against the hood of their black 08’ Honda Civic. “Look, can we agree to disagree? I’m tired of arguing.”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just—”

Across the road, both men heard the front door of the house swing open and slam against the inside wall. Moments after that—they saw Ellie, hands over her ears, dash down the front steps, through the yard, and continue toward the road.

“What’s she doing?”

He didn’t reply, just simply watched the woman keep running until she disappeared around the corner and out of sight.
Finally, Blake repeated the question, but again, Tim didn’t answer. “I thought we were okay now? Say something.”
“We’re fine. We’re fine. But look at that. Have you ever seen anything like that?”
Even from where he stood, Blake could see the distinct shape of a boy standing in the open doorway and the undulating effect his presence had on the house: it was like an invisible finger pressing the center of an object made of partially liquefied gelatin. Everything bounced and rippled outward. And when Tim squeezed his shoulder, Blake, before breaking his stare, caught the sight of a much taller man shadow the boy’s tinier frame.
Then it was gone.
“Did you see that?”
Tim nodded. “Let’s follow the lady’s example, Blake. Unless you’re still thinking about buying the house? And you’re not, right?”
He took a step away from the car, further into the street.
“C’mon, Blake? Blake?”

THE END

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Black Beauty: A Tale of Morbid Love by Mark Armstrong

I watched the world darken and smiled. It was a somber smile, one of the joys to come, yet with the knowledge that this was the world now. Dark; Dead; Hostile. A person in my profession should be overjoyed with this glorious turn of events. Truly, as it were, I was as depressed and devoid of life as any other would be survivor. Where is the joy in the hunt when there is no sun with which to warm my bones and the cold skin of all my potential lovers? Another day brings another false promise of sun rise and the notion of becoming something’s dinner; Tragic indeed. Once upon a time I reveled the notion of being discovered as the monster I am. Now? Now I am no monster. In this dusty, dark existance, I am just as any of these other cretins walking the streets. Quite annoying, I admit.
Taking one last drag of my crooked cigarette, I flicked the butt over the lip of the rooftop. I watched it fall, my final lungful of wispish cancer following on the wings of a stale breeze. Up, up, up it traveled into the already cancerous atmosphere. Poetic and pathetic. That’s my style.

I turned back towards the open portal to my personal paradise and allowed the pungent odors within to assault my sinuses. Closing the window behind me, I surveyed the room. To some, it was clothed in a drape embroided with Hellfire and brimstone. To me? Why, to me, it was a play room. A carnival hall of games and fun. Giddy, I glided across the stained wooden planks of the converted attic room to my prize. My, was she lovely.

A table stood in the center of the room, draped with white satin sheets I’d found in a closet below. On this, my dais of desire, open to all the world and it’s filth, was a young African American woman. Her abdomin was a glistening, gaping hole. The tips of her ribs shone bright white in the glow of the candles I had placed around the spanse of the room. Her organs were in a large mixing bowl on the floor. I had it covered with a towel so the flies wouldn’t get them and the smell wouldn’t attract unwanted attention. I licked my lips at the thought of them. I think tonight I’ll sample a brain and kidney stew.  Anyway, back to my Black Beauty.

Her lips were grayish and pale; parted just enough to see her white teeth. She had very good dental hygeine before her death. I traced a finger along her high cheekbones and down to her slightly pointed chin. I felt my pulse rise in anxiousness as I caressed the large smile across her throat that my knife had granted her the night before. Quite a tale, that one.

I’d been traveling all day and needed a place to lay my head. Finding myself in the surburbs on the outskirts of the city, I was in a prime area for some comfort. It wasn’t hard finding a lovely two story home to call my own for the night. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one with that idea. My Black Beauty was sleeping in a back bedroom on the second floor, the door barricaded from her side. I’m assuming she wasn’t expecting company of my sort, because upon forcing myself inside out of curiosity’s sake, she was just shying out of her sleeping bag, baseball bat at the ready. I smiled my most award winning smile and put my hands up, a show of friendship. She didn’t lower the bat, but after a bit of light conversation and much convincing, she did. Her mistake, hehe.

The feeling of my knife skating across her chocolate flesh was bliss in every sense of the word. Her scream was muffled into my hand, her breath warm against my palm. I felt her gnash her teeth, trying to gain purchase upon my flesh, her spit dampening my already sweaty hand. The gurgling started as her jugular began to spew precious crimson. Music to my ears. A symphony of darkness. She died quickly in my arms, going limp and beginning to cool. I caressed her as a lover and as such, had my way with her body. We lay together afterwards, me smoking a cigarette, her staring deeply into my eyes. Oh those lovely, glazed over brown eyes.

Snapping back to reality, I let my eyes wander ever more over my Black Beauty. Her skin was supple, soft to the touch. It gave beneath my touch, reminisent of a memory foam mattress. I walked my fingers along her inner thigh and down to her vaginal lips. Sucking the tips of my fingers to make them moist, I slowly inserted them inside. Her cunt was cold and sterile. My fingers slid cooly over her inner flesh and I quaked with excitement. No longer in control of my own faculties, I dropped my trousers and proceeded to lubricate my cock with spit. Slowly, ever so slowly, my God, I slid deep into her crevice.

The pleasure shot through me like a syringe full of pure Columbian heroin. I pumped my hips faster and faster, my cock spearing her pussy harder and harder. I cried out as my seed screamed into her body, the table rocking with the force of our ungodly love. Slumping forward, I rest my head upon her left breast, a pillow of slowly rotting meat. I breathed in deep her stomach churning scent with relish. I would keep her for a few more days for sure. Why not rest here and enjoy the fruits of this world for a bit? Survival takes a step down from my cardinal pleasures.

I commenced to clean us up when I heard the noise below. The shattering of glass and wood, the cries of the hungry. “They’re here!” I croaked, my throat going dry. Is there no privacy for love? Maybe not unholy, necrophilic love, but God has turned a blind eye to this world. I ask not for light but beg for peace and privacy. There was pounding throughout the house as the dead searched for me. They must have heard my lovemaking to the lovely Black Beauty. I cast one last look upon her heavenly form and kissed her pale lips one more time. “Au revoir mon amour.” With that, I took up my knapsack and and gun belt and headed for the window.

The darkness seemed sentient in that it immediatly wrapped itself around me like a living shroud. I crouched low, my breath coming in small gasps. The sound of the house being searched echoed below. The sounds of the hungry grew louder and more urgent. They must have caught my lover’s scent. Creeping along the roof lip, I peered over the edge. It was quite the drop, but there was a balcony below and the drop from there wasn’t too brutal. I didn’t think twice.

Swinging my legs over, I slowly lowered myself down until I hung by my arm’s length, my legs swinging just above the balcony railing. Grunting with excerssion, I let go, a soft prayer upon my lips. I landed hard upon the railing and flailed. Tis the end of me, my dears. Falling backwards, I screamed as I hit the hard ground a good eight feet below. My pack cushioned the fall, but I felt my right ankle snap, the bone shearing through my flesh and exposing itself to the tainted world. I cast around wildly to see if I was alone. Wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t. Three beasts loomed upon the porch. They leered down upon me, their black silouettes even blacker than the darkness surrounding us. I screamed again and began to crawl backwards, drawing my pistol. Oh cruel fate, thy name is irony. A cannibalistic necropheliac about to be devoured by walking corpses. You better believe there is a God and he a is a sick fuck, laughing down at me for my sins.
I fired two shots before the first of the hungry reached me. Claws like white hot spears impaled my thigh as the beast drug me towards it and it’s dinner guests. I heard the gutteral croak in it’s throat as it groaned it’s success at a live meal. The others within the house began to pour out as well. It was over. I had a great run, with many lovers and many succulent meals in my life. Now, I was the meal. I couldn’t help but start to giggle. The two hungry from the porch caught up the the leader and sank their greedy claws into me as well. There was no pain anymore as their needle like teeth began to rend the flesh from my bones. Blood pooled beneath me and poured from my mouth. I coughed and shook, the laughter never stopping. My final image was of a beaked tounge shooting from one of the gaping maws over me as my eyes were plucked from their sockets. Still, I laughed. Then, silence. My final living thought was of her. The night I shared with my morbid Black Beauty. Poetic and pathetic. That’s my style.

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Updates and author payouts

Quick update: Deadman’s Tome needs submissions! Enjoy writing? Have a desire to express through written word? Want the satisfaction of others relating to you through story, or do you simply want to scare?

Well, send in your short fiction and we’ll let the public feed on it!

For authors, some of you know that I payout incentives based on likes, comments, and shares. Deadman’s Tome will release payouts June and July.

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Kingdom of the Living Dead by Joseph Rubas

(The following account was written by Stanly Ford in Reno, Nevada, between July 3 and 4, 1928. The events described reportedly took place between on June 18 of that same year somewhere in the desert west of Austin, Nevada. Though no hard evidence has ever been discovered that would definitively prove or disprove the events herein related, Mr. Ford was able to convince a number of scientific figures of the day, including the folklorist Howard Lovecraft, who wrote a lengthy article on the Ford case which he published as part of his Eldritch Myth in 1942. In researching his article, Lovecraft met with Mr. Ford, who had been found “wandering in the wilderness, vacant and babbling” on the morning of June 28 by a nature photographer from National Geographic. In Lovecraft’s opinion, Stanly Ford was a “Frank and intelligent fellow whose eyes shone with honesty.” This account was first published in Amazing! Magazine on February 18, 1956, under the title “Attack of the Fifty-Foot Ghoul.”)
 
My name is Stanly T. Ford, and I was born twenty-eight years ago in the town of Patricia, California, which straddles the Oregon border. As a child, my pursuits were normal and wholesome. I attended church, sang in the choir, played sports with the other boys, and aspired to one day become a missionary in strange and foreign ports. I eventually abandoned the calling, but remained faithful.

What I have to write today is, then, not a delusion born of morbid fascinations or exaggerated whimsy. I come before the world with the truth. Already, the papers in town are calling me mad, and while that perturbs me to no end, I am resolved to stand firm in the face of ridicule.

God help me, I’m not lying when I say that I and my colleagues encountered something hideous in the badlands of central Nevada, a creature which has no rightful place in this world, a foul, soul-petrifying thing escaped from the most depraved of Arabic folklore. I beg you all to take my words to heart.

It, whatever it was, is out there now, shoved into some dark subterranean chamber, waiting to rise once more. God help us, it might even be coming this way as I write.

The firm for which I work, Birchen Asphalt Co., was contracted by the government to erect a highway between Austin and Ely, Nevada, a distance of some fifty miles. As the house surveyor, it fell to me to scout the best possible route for this proposed highway.

I arrived in Ely on the fifteenth of June along with my partner, a stout and brutal former doughboy named Lewis, and a sixteen-year-old apprentice by the name of Elroy. We checked into the Union Hotel on State Street around noon that cursed day, and then took our lunch in the café across the street. As we waited for our food, Elroy picked my brain, so to speak, and Lewis sat to himself, seeming to gaze into the ether.
The day was well over 100 degrees, and the café felt like an oven. The combination of the heat and Elroy’s incessant questions began giving me a headache, and, as politely as I could, I excused myself before it could progress into a full-scale agony.

Outside, the arid breeze washed over my fevered face; compared to the stuffy air of the diner, it was blissful. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the wall flanking the door. Slowly, the pain faded, ebbing away like spring runoff.

“Hot day, isn’t it?”

I opened my eyes, and saw, before me, a brown man in khaki shorts and shirt. At first, I mistook him for a negro, but quickly realized that he was, indeed, a white man, albeit one whose prolonged exposure to the sun had baked his skin an unhealthy shade of dull brown.

“It is,” I replied, “much warmer than California. I’m afraid I’m no good in such brutal climes.”

The man chuckled, a raspy, rusted sound that grated the nerves. I feared that my headache would flare back up like an ember buried deep within a seemingly extinguished campfire.

“California man, eh? What brings you here? And in summer?”

I told him, and he grinned. “Looks like we’re coworkers, almost. My name’s Sam Johnson, and I’ll be doing some digging in that area.”

Johnson, in a surprisingly plainspoken manner, told me that he was a professor of archeology, and was conducting a dig along with members of his college’s folklore department.

“Looking for evidence of Old Ones,” he said, nearly whispering the last two words.

“Old Ones?” I asked uncertainly.
Johnson nodded. “Those who walked the earth before us.”

Intrigued, I invited Johnson to accompany me, and, together, we returned to the table, where Elroy was making the grave mistake of questioning Lewis. For his part, Lewis sat with his arms reservedly crossed over his broad chest.

I introduced the Doctor, and then listened rapt for what must have been a half an hour as he regaled us with tales of these Old Ones. From what he told me, the world was once ruled over by strange beings unlike anything ever seen since. With the advent of man, the Old Ones went “underground,” so to speak, and have been biding their time, waiting through untold eons to retake what is theirs.

“Dr. Franklin can tell you much more than I ever could,” Johnson finished, taking a sip of water, which the waitress had brought with our meals. Looking around like a man just woken from a long coma, I saw Lewis, drumming his fingers on the table and looking impatient. The plate before him was clean. Elroy, like me, had been listening intently. His eyes were large and boyish, and he had hardly touched his food.

“He’s the head of the folklore department,” Johnson explained. “Say, how about we all meet up tomorrow? We can take you surveying, and then you can come with us on the dig? I’m sure Dr. Franklin wouldn’t mind.”

I jumped at the idea, as they say, and we arranged to meet in the lobby of the Union the following day.

Back in the hotel, Lewis, Elroy, and I spent rest of the day relaxing. I wrote a lengthy entry into my diary (which I seem to have lost in the desert), and read a newspaper. When it came time to sleep, I was restless, and laid awake long past midnight, my mind spinning. I cannot say that I believed in Johnson’s Old Ones, but he had offered compelling evidence, and the singular nature of the whole thing awoke in me a hitherto unknown chasm of dark curiosity.

Perhaps there was something to it. I do, and did, believe that there are things which man cannot explain. Or rather, there are things that conventional and intolerant science cannot explain. Men like Johnson and this Dr. Franklin are our only chance at truth, for the scientific community, despite its tremendous strides in the past hundred years, is stubborn in its refusal to entertain things like the paranormal, and dismisses what it cannot account for as stupidity, superstition, or flat-out falsehood.

Thus wired, my sleep, when it finally came, was light and fitful. When dawn crested in the east, I rose and hurriedly dressed. When the appointed time came, my compatriots and I met with Johnson and a small group of swarthy men in the hotel lobby. With them was a small, rotund man with large glasses and a bald pate. Dressed haphazardly in a tweed jacket and a pair of dirty slacks accented by a yellow bowtie, Dr. Franklin was not an impressive specimen. When I spoke to him in the car, however, I found him to be a genius of the highest magnitude.

I’m embarrassed to admit this next part, but I, after little thought, called off that day’s work so we could accompany the Johnson-Franklin group to its campsite, roughly thirty miles west of Austin, and fifteen miles south from there. I was like a giddy child who ignores his studies in favor of playing in the dirt, and my professional nature recoils in hindsight. Then, though, I was concerned only with the blasted dig.

On the way, Franklin told me more of these Old Ones. An assorted race of star dwellers who came to earth several millennia before the accepted dawn of time, they built weird and futuristic cities and regularly traveled between here and unknown planets in space. Godlike, the Old Ones are monstrous in appearance and intent, and, Franklin whispered, may have even created humankind themselves.  

My head swam with the frightening subject matter, so much so that I was struck speechless until we arrived at the campsite sometime after noon. Horror suddenly forgotten, I was agog at the starkly beautiful terrain surrounding us; Strange and alien rock formations rose from vast seas of sand, and mountains that seemed somehow off towered into the duty skies on three sides of us.

At once we set about getting set up. Lewis approached me at one point and demanded to know when we would be leaving. “Tomorrow,” I told him, though, and again I regret to even say it, I was lying. I was consumed. So much so that I can’t help but think that that thing was influencing me all the while, pulling strings from a distance.

Within an hour, a virtual tent city had sprung up. There were twenty people in the party, not including us, but in that isolated waste, they seemed multiplied; I could have sworn there were twice as many.

Ever the amiable host, Dr. Franklin invited us to stay with them as long as we liked. That night after dinner, as we sat around a small fire, I told him that we would most likely be leaving in a day or so. Was it a lie? I don’t know.

“Well, then,” Dr. Franklin said with a grin, “I suppose we had better follow up the most promising leads first.”

“Leads?” I asked.

Franklin nodded. “I told you earlier that there were many types of Old Ones. They are like man, grouped into races, classes, what have you. I did not tell you, though, which Old Ones we are looking for.”

“No,” I replied, “but that…”

Ignoring me, Franklin went on: “They are popularly called ghula, or ghoul. In Near East mythology, the ghoul is a demonic entity that dwells in the wilderness, usually near cemeteries and oft traveled highways. Cannibalistic by nature, ghouls are incorporeal, and thus are forced to take on the form of the poor wretch they last ate. Most ghouls eat only the dead (and so appear as the dead). Others, however, are more…daring, and kill living humans…”

Trailing off, Dr. Franklin poked the fire with a stick, sending a shower of sparks into the night. For the first time in what may have been hours, I became aware of the camp around me. Dark and silent, it was asleep. Dr. Franklin and I were alone with the night.

“It is believed that the first ghouls were created by a cannibal giant who lived under the Arabian Desert. This proto ghoul, I believe, was but one of a race, a race with lives even now beneath the deserts of the world.”

“What brings you to this particular spot, then?” I asked, “what leads do you have?”

Franklin smiled. “This…area has always been shunned by the Shoshone Indians, who have lived in this part of the country for centuries. There are stories of “Wendigos” haunting the deserts, giant cannibal creatures who turn human beings into flesh-eating revenants. This part of Nevada is particularly legend haunted. I’ve spoken to a few Shoshone, including a medicine man who claims to be one-hundred-and-fifty, and they all agree that there is, in fact, a “Wendigo” in the salt flats. They couldn’t agree on where it lived, but the medicine man says there is a “bottomless” cave about three miles south of here. That, my friend, is where we are going tomorrow.”

There, we ended the night.
I had no trouble sleeping, thankfully, but my dreams were plagued by giant, hoven creatures. By morning, I was fatigued and lethargic. When Franklin came around to rouse me, I nearly begged off, but forced myself out of bed anyway.

We began our trek into the desert at once, just Johnson, Franklin, two of their laborers, and myself. The heat of the day was astounding, the sun a boiling caldron of hellfire, and by the time we came into view of what Franklin believed to be the cave (a large, humplike mound of rock), all of us were heat sick.

Taking refuge under an out jutting rock, we ate lunch and excitedly discussed the looming hill, yet a mile off.
Done, we buried our trash in the sand and pressed on. Twenty minutes later, we stood before the mound. Composed of reddish rock, the hive-like mound rose perhaps eighty feet into the air. At its base was a yawning maw. A sort of pathway had been erected leading into it, stones laid out like fine jewels.

“I want you all to stay here,” Franklin said, pulling a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. “I’m going to make sure the land is clear. Once I know it’s safe, I’ll come out and get you.”

We grudgingly agreed, and stood in the sun while he cautiously disappeared into the darkness.

“If we don’t find anything here,” I asked Johnson, “where is our next destination?”

“About two miles north of here. There’s a little oasis that near the mouth of another cave.”

            For the next several minutes, we waited in silence. Finally, Dr. Franklin appeared. “Come on!” he cried excitedly, “you have to see this.”

            Johnson and I looked at each other. Followed by the laborers, we went to Dr. Franklin, whose eyes shone. “It’s amazing! Simply amazing!” he babbled. “It all but confirms the presence of the ghula.”
            For the first time, apprehension blossomed in my stomach. I could see that Johnson was slightly rattled as well. Regardless, we followed Dr. Franklin into the cave, which was cold after the heat of the day. In the dim sunlight filtering through the entrance, I immediately  noticed strange hieroglyphics on the walls.

            “Arabic,” Dr. Franklin said, “it says ‘All entering, know that this is the kingdom of the living dead.’”

            A shiver trickled down my spine.
            Franklin, electric torch in hand, motioned for us to follow him deeper into the cavern. “And up here.”

            Close to what I imagined to be the back of the cave, we found a pit, perhaps twelve feet across and twelve feet long. “Down there,” Franklin said, “is where I believe the ghula to be.”

            Franklin shined the light down, but the beam only reached five feet. I cannot say what lay beyond that, but I sensed that it was forever.

Looking up, I then noticed that the walls were honeycombed with archways, gaping holes which no doubt led to hidden chambers. In one of them, I perceived, or thought I perceived, a flicker of movement, and my heart jolted against my ribcage. Behind me, one of the laborers muttered something under his breath, and the other spat the word “Evil.”

            “Dr. Franklin,” I stuttered, licking my sandpaper lips. Scanning the lopsided thresholds, I became convinced that each one held something living, something infinitely grotesque. “Shine the light up there.”

            “What?” he asked, turning. I pointed to the first entryway I had seen, and he gasped.

            “I hadn’t noticed those.” He raised the light, and at that moment a dreadful noise, much like a long, hollow moan, drifted from somewhere imperceptible.

            Almost simultaneously, the light fell upon the opening, revealing a figure in a dark, ratty robe, its face bluish and…crusted, for lack of a better term. I started, while one of the men behind me yelped.

            The thing stood there watching us, its eyes as black as midnight on the ocean floor. Paralyzed, we could do little more than stare back, which we did for what seemed an eternity, but really couldn’t have been more than a minute. Finally, the spell was broken by Johnson, who yelped like a small dog tread underfoot. “Something has me!”

            Franklin turned the light, and we all beheld it; hands, gray with decomposition, were popping out of the ground like abominable serpents, and one held fast to Johnson’s ankle.
Panicking, Johnson pulled back, and the creature who had him, displaying a detestable premeditation, let go; screaming and pin wheeling his arms as though he were a bird, Johnson toppled into the chasm. Franklin reached out to grab him, dropped the flashlight, and was tripped by one of the hands, falling to his knees with a muffled umph.
With a cry and a rustle of feet, the two laborers fled, leaving me rooted to where I stood, too terrified to move, my heart thundering and my stomach tightening.

Dr. Franklin screamed; the darkness teemed. Seconds crept by, a minute, I stayed where I was, my legs like cinderblocks. I sense movement all around me.

“Damn it!” Dr. Franklin screamed, struggling with the creatures, “get off of me!”

In the beam of the fallen torch, his face was contorted in fear and desperation. There must have been five sets of hands rising from the floor, clawing, pinching, grabbing.

As I looked helplessly on, a head broke through the dirt not a foot from Dr. Franklin’s face. Its eyes were black like the others’, and its mouth, twisted in hateful hunger, worked up and down, chomp, chomp, chomp. The doctor wailed, and the creature, becoming aware of his presence, turned to him. I can’t be sure, but it looked like it smiled.
“No! No!” Franklin screamed.

The ghoul strained forward.

“Help me, Stanly!”

The ghoul bit. Blood gushed. Franklin howled.

With an electric jolt, my paralysis broke, and I threw myself toward daylight, teetering precariously on the brink of madness. All around my feet, hands waved mockingly back and forth, clawing at thin air, waiting to rip and tear. Close to the cave mouth, beyond which sanity lie, one of the ghouls had worked its way entirely free, and stood in my way, waiting to enfold me in its undead embrace.

A man more in his right mind might have stopped. I didn’t. I barreled right through the thing, knocking it aside, and exploded into the sun.

I had expected to find safety outside of that cave, as if such horrors could only exist in the dark. Instead, I found more terror. There were two, three dozen ghouls hobbling aimlessly to and fro. A number more were bent over two supine figures, partaking of their flesh.
          
  The ones not otherwise preoccupied quickly noticed me, and began shambling in my direction, their arms outstretched and their mouths working furiously.
           
With a muttered curse, I ducked heedlessly to my left, and almost fell over a boulder sticking out of the ground. Climbing over, I landed on my back and struggled to my feet. Before me, a long, sandy incline hugged the bottom of the accursed hill. Beyond, open desert.
            Panting raggedly, I got perhaps halfway down before I tripped in the deep sand and fell. Screaming, I rolled head-over-feet the rest of the way, striking hidden rocks with my knees and elbows.
            When I finally came to rest, I got back to my feet and spared a glance over my shoulder: A line of ghouls were picking their way down the hill.
I ran then. It seems I ran for eons before I again looked back, but it couldn’t have been more than five minutes. Thankfully, the ghouls had given up the chase. In the hazy distance, the hill stood like a beacon to the living dead.
Before I could turn my back one final time, something extraordinary happened. With a shake and a rumble, the hill collapsed on itself like a house of cards. Within seconds, the debris exploded into the air as something titanic rose from the depths, a gigantic stalk of organic horror fifty feet high and as wide as a building.
            The human mind can only handle so much, I’ve been told, and at this point, I lapsed into blessed catatonia.
When I came to, I was here, in Reno. How I came to be in this area is beyond me, as it is three hundred miles west of where I began. For several days after being found, I am told, I was stark raving mad. In fact, yesterday was the first moment of lucidity I’ve known in some time, though when I came to, I imagined that I was still in the desert, moments away from being trampled or eaten.
The others weren’t as lucky as I. The paper says that they are all missing, but I know what really happened to them.
As for the ghula itself, the animating spirit of dead flesh, I know where it is, if, God forbid, it isn’t in transit. You won’t see it, just a fraction of it.

My grandmother once told me that God was so big that the sky was but the iris of his eye, but even she could never comprehend the size of the ghula. For that rising stalk I beheld in the desert was not the ghula. Right before I blacked out, I recognized what it was, from ball-and-socket pivot to the jagged, misshapen crown. It was not the ghula. Or at least not its body, or even its arm. What I saw was but one single finger.

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The Corruption in the Deep by S. Alessandro Martinez

I should never have gone there. I should never have prodded into the depths of unknowable things. That deep, dark realm of nightmares and horror, it was my doom. I will not condemn you if you decide to take my account as the result of a bizarre fantasy, for it is a difficult tale to accept. But I am writing this down in the hope that someone finds it amongst these ruins. My own consciousness constantly hopes that everything that has happened is just a dream and that I shall wake up soon.
At an early age I had come to the realization that there was something wrong. I always felt an intrusive, alien presence within my own self; part of me, but also distinct. I noticed abnormalities with how the flow of time was perceived, with how space and distance were judged, and how the world seemed incorrect to me. I lived with these thoughts every day, trying to push them from my mind so that I could go on with my life. However, these inclinations never truly disappeared. There would always be a tugging at my mind, forcing me to bring my realizations back into view. And with each passing year as I matured into young-adulthood, my noticing of these aberrations became more and more intense and debilitating. They would cause me great anxiety and paranoia. I would seldom leave my home, and would spend most days cooped up with my books.
As far back as I can recall I had a substantial interest in matters of the occult and of the mind. My family being not of great wealth, I could only study and learn from what paltry offerings my young and inexperienced self could get my hands on. Yet as I grew and circumstance changed, I was able to expand my knowledge, being able to afford to buy books, go to school, and procure other sources of information. I divided my time between studying psychology in school and occultism in private. But what I could not discover was the source of this…pulling at my mind. What was this accursed presence within me that was driving me slowly to madness? I obsessively studied my occult and psychological materials in search of an answer, but to no avail.
My mental condition grew worse with each passing year, although I managed to keep it hidden from my family and peers. My anxiety had become so overwhelming that I never stepped outside, with the exception of going to my classes.
But at the start of my third year of university, the dreams began.
In my dreams I would find myself in a dark city, not a city of metal and glass, but a city of ancient stone. A place with buildings constructed of massive obsidian blocks covered with hieroglyphs, obscured by countless years of overgrown moss and vines. There were immense pyramids crumbling to ruin, and colossal brooding obelisks scattered around, whose purpose had been lost to time. This was a city of great antiquity that sprawled out in all directions as far as I could see, and was bathed in the sinister moonlight emanating from a sky of eternal night. And although no living things were in sight, I had a creeping and inexplicable sense that this place contained a lurking horror which should not be disturbed. After initially taking in the surrounding view I decided to move deeper, but that is when I awakened in my bed.
From then on every night I dreamt and found myself in that lonely, decayed city of timeworn stone. And every night I would manage to explore more and more of the bizarre surroundings before waking. I walked among those dead and silent buildings for what seemed like hours every time I slept. My fear of rousing some hidden horror among these ruins was overcome by a sense of fascination and curiosity. The decrepit and alien city sparked such a grand wonder in me, perhaps due to my occult interests. But there was an utter loneliness and silence that disturbed me down to my core, for I had not encountered any living things. Surely I should have come across something by now. I would roam around the hulking buildings, gently caressing the cold stone with my fingers as I passed by. I wandered under uneven archways of oddly menacing angles and through large, empty city squares, admiring the unearthly architecture. Even though this place brought on a sense of terror and dread, it also inspired great awe.
I kept the knowledge of this world to myself, of course. What would be the point of telling any others? My educated classmates and my knowledgeable professors would most likely tell me these were just some fanciful dreams my subconscious mind had concocted. But were they? I had never had dreams of such vividness that at times I wondered whether my waking life was the dream, and if my dreams of the ancient city were my true waking reality. The crunch of gravel beneath my shoes, the gusts of wind through my hair, and even the smell of rotting vegetation that I experienced there had to be much more than simple constructs of the mind. Had my study of the occult, of the arcane, and of the forbidden, sparked something inside me? Had my fascination with dark things and my studies into the inner workings of the mind opened some sort of mental rift into a world unknown to man, only accessible through a higher state of consciousness attained in the dimension of dreams? I set out to discover the truth.
From the musty storerooms at the university, and through some shady dealings, I managed to acquire the ingredients for a drug that we had learned about in class that would send one into an extremely deep and long slumber. I hoped that consuming this would give me sufficient time in the dead city to find some sort of evidence that the dream was indeed an alternate world. Afterwards, I headed home to begin the second step of my preparations.
Years ago I had unofficially “borrowed” an ancient, leather-bound tome of supposed spells from the off-limits section of the university library for my own private studying of arcane knowledge. In it, I had discovered one incantation that seemed well-suited to my venture. Never having attempted to cast magic before, and not sure whether I actually believed in it and whether it was foolish to even try it, I studied the yellowed pages of the book for a good while before carefully performing the spell step by step. Swallowing the drug with a glass of water, I strapped my schoolbag around my shoulder, secured my pocketknife in my shirt pocket, gripped my flashlight, and made myself comfortable on my bed. The spell I had performed would supposedly allow objects of my choosing to travel with me into the alternate dimension. I felt the effects of the drug taking hold soon enough, and when my eyes became heavy with sleep I closed them without hesitation.
When I opened my eyes again I found myself staring at that familiar decayed city of eternal darkness and night. I looked down to see my flashlight in my hand and felt the pull of the bag on my shoulder and the weight of the knife in my pocket. Either the spell had proved successful, or my subconscious mind had projected the ideas of these objects into my dream. Not caring just exactly how my items were with me, I set about to explore the deepest levels of the desolate metropolis, smirking at my own cleverness. I had made much progress though the winding streets and structures since the dreams first began, but this night I would cover much more ground. I walked along the deserted streets, weaving my way through the enormous buildings, pyramids, and obelisks. I went through the city going farther than I ever had before. Even after so many trips to my dream world, I still found the eerie architecture dread-inducing yet beautiful.
It was after several hours of intensive exploration that I came upon what seemed to be a sort of cemetery. There were broken markers scattered about that resembled gravestones, mounds of odorous black dirt, and large oblong boxes made of smooth rock and covered in bizarre markings. With my interest in dark and occult things I was instantly fascinated. I crept among the alien-looking graves and sarcophagi and finally came upon what appeared to be a grand mausoleum of finely-cut black stone and rusted dark metal. I stood there taking in the sight as the baleful moonlight shone down across its front archway revealing indecipherable characters of an unknown language. And below that lay the open gateway of the tomb, like a gigantic yawning mouth leading straight to the darkest recesses of the Pit itself.
The opening in the mausoleum filled me with unease, for shining my light into that black abyss could not even penetrate its darkness. I studied that grim tomb until I noticed the rank, fetid smell of rot in the air which seemed to be emanating from the dread doorway. I let the flashlight fall from my grasp as I quickly moved my hands to cover my nose and mouth as the stench grew thicker. And along with it came the sound of something moving inside the crypt, the first living thing I had heard in all my time here. Such a wretched and nauseating odor mixed with a sound so disturbing was terrible, but my feet were transfixed to the spot as a man-shaped shadow drew itself from out of that mausoleum.
I rapidly drew out my pocketknife but the thing suddenly spoke to me. It did not direct its words to me through vocalized communication, but I perceived the words right inside my head. It told me, in a malicious manner, that it had dwelled in this hell for quite some time and that I was to help it escape. I was to finally be its freedom from this dead place. I was to be its key to unlocking the gate and that I was going to help it whether I wanted to or not.
Wanting to look upon this shadowy being I gathered up the nerve to quickly pick up my flashlight, and I shone the light at its face. Horror gripped my heart as I beheld my own face staring back at me; my own features and likeness, except with a certain malevolence and malignity in its eyes. What manner of delusion was this? This could not be real. This must be some terrible nightmare after all, a construct of my own mind.
The being began to lessen the distance between us as I stood there awe-struck. While my brain tried to rationalize the situation, my body made its own decision and I turned to flee. I ran in a frenzied panic through the streets of that decayed and massive city. But how would I escape? My means of leaving this place previously had been by waking up, but I had taken that accursed sleeping drug. My only hope was to hide from this doppelgänger until the medication wore off and I could awaken. But no matter how far or how fast I ran, I could hear him behind me, although the sound was not the sound of footsteps, but of something large pulling itself across the ground.
I shouldn’t have looked back; it was my downfall. As I ran I had begun to feel a rousing and stirring somewhere out of my current body which I interpreted as my real body waking from its slumber. How grateful I was to feel that sensation. I would soon be free of this nightmare. My morbidly curious mind, although terrified, wished for one last glance at my pursuer. As I turned my head to look behind me, my feet stumbled and I fell. I screamed in utter terror at the thing pursuing me, a creature so horrid and blasphemous, it was almost beyond the description which human minds can fathom. Its body had changed completely. The wretched things was so terrifying, my mind could not retain the image of its full form. All I can recall is a pale, bloated body, and a mass of eyes, mouths, and limbs that bent at grotesque angles. A truly hideous monstrosity from the darkest depths of insanity had been chasing me. I cowered there on the ground and feebly raised my pocketknife as the thing grabbed me and all went black.

#

I finally awoke, not in my own bed, but still in that ancient city of my nightmares. I do not know how long I’ve been here now; time has lost all meaning as the sunless days have all blurred together. Sometimes I can hear faint voices around me, voices that sound familiar but I cannot remember who they belong to. And sometimes I can hear my own voice and see flashes of scenes as if I were back in my own waking world. I do not know what has happened to the body that used to be mine in my own reality or what shall happen to me in this place. But that nameless horror that attacked me is gone and I am still here, with my mind half-broken, in this dead and decayed city of eternal darkness.

The End

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The Memory Chamber by S.J. Budd

“If you want to proceed, you’ll need to sign here.” Jennifer James took the pen and consent form in her shaking hands, “Has someone gone over the risks with you? I must remind you how dangerous this can be.”

“Yes, yes, that I could lose all my memories for good and become a vegetable, blah, blah, blah.”

Dr Fawcett pushed up his heavy spectacles, “Yes exactly, there are many risks. Memories define us, they build our identity and shape our behaviours…”

“And destroy us completely,” Jennifer sighed and handed back the signed form, “Look doctor, I’ve spent the last ten years drinking from every bottle and scavenging for any drug, my mind is half unravelled anyway. I’m the perfect guinea pig, so let’s get on with this.”

“If you’ve spent the last ten years trying to wipe your memories why are you so keen to re-find them now?”

Jennifer looked down at the recent scars across her wrists and quickly tried to cover them up, Dr Fawcett nodded and understood, “That method doesn’t seem to be working. My shrink said I should gain some closure and sent me to you.”

The room suddenly seemed quieter and smaller, more constricted, Jennifer hated doctors, she hated their questions. Thinking was something she didn’t like doing anymore. “The sweetest memories are also the most painful. Look doctor I know I aint got long left, but there’s a few I want to see one more time. Hopefully they’ll kill me for good this time.”

Dr Fawcett shrugged, “As you wish. We’ll begin straight away.”

A tired overworked nurse came in at the Doctor’s command and wordlessly ushered Jennifer out of his office and down the empty sterile corridor that smelt of cleanliness to the trial area. Plush carpets were replaced with linoleum floors and bright unflinching lights that burned into her retinas.

Jennifer couldn’t believe her luck that she had been selected for the trial. Even to her drug addled mind she could see how this would be revolutionary. A new drug that allowed you access to all your memories from birth onwards. Nothing in life would ever be a mystery again, all the answers could be found with this new drug. She was going to be one of the first to try it out.

She trembled slightly as she was tied down onto an uncomfortable hospital bed with brown leather straps, she was used to this procedure but it still gave her chills to be restricted like this. It reminded her of all those bad times, of how she had ended up in this psychiatric ward.

Jennifer waited, unable to move as they prepared her dose in silence. She felt that slight pricking in her arm as the injection was administered before being wheeled out and placed in a small isolation chamber and left there alone in the darkness.

She waited.

“Jimmy? Are you there?”

As the drug took effect there was a mighty shudder from deep inside her abdomen that threatened to split apart her hips, the blinding pain took control and she screamed out in pain and ecstasy. No one had come to check up on her. Surely they could hear? Jennifer cried out once more she hoped there wasn’t something wrong with her dosage.  Her vision turned to white and the pain quickly subsided as if it had never been there at all.

And there he was, all pink, blubbery and helpless, cradled in her arms. The most perfect child to have ever been born: her child. Her Jimmy.

Jennifer’s body shook with delight as she relived all her precious moments with him, his first smile, his first babble, the first time he ran onto her arms, the way he would hold her tight after hurting himself. The feel of him cuddled up to her on the sofa as they watched TV together and stroking her long hair. How could she have ever forgotten that special way in which he looked into her eyes last thing at night, like she was the only person in his world.

These were the good memories, but over time they had hurt the most. It had been so long since she had allowed herself to think of him but always he was there in her mind, just out sight, painfully out of reach. She vowed to remember these moments forever, this was her life now. She could not go back to the dreary pain and existence afforded to her outside this chamber. This was how she wanted to be.

The drug took control as she remembered all the moments she had spent with Jimmy, her only child. Her bliss transcended to an overwhelming feeling of completeness that no drug could ever give her. This was natural, this drug was a miracle cure, and she had found everything which she had lost.

Until finally she woke up.

Except she was not awake, this was it. Dr Fawcett had told her that she would have had control over which memories she could access that she would not have to relive the ones she did not want to. He could never contemplate just how dark some of her memories were. She had feared this one would eventually surface and now she desperately fought against it.

“Jimmy!”

She tried to remember his funny little run he had, when he’d just learnt how to walk, the way in which he used to wave at her when she returned in the mornings. Her arms and legs shook in retaliation trying to wake herself before the inevitable took hold.

It was a Sunday morning, the worst day where the entire excesses of the week finally caught up with her, she had finally sobered up to face reality. She had not made it to bed but was on the sofa sleeping under her torn denim jacket, her head rattled from drink and the room began to spin as she tried to navigate her clumsy limbs off the sofa. Jennifer had no recollection of the night before, or whom she had spent it with, only that it now hurt and that the only way to stop the flooding feelings of utter shame and guilt was to carry on with the half empty bottle of whisky in front of her.

Jimmy bundled in the front room, all hurricane and torque, “Mummy, mummy, can I have some juice? Mummy, mummy I’m hungry. Play with me mummy. Take me to the park.”

“Jimmy can you just be quiet for ten minutes, Mummy’s got a headache! Go and play somewhere else. I’ll fix you up with breakfast when I’m less poorly.” Jimmy looked down and gently tugged at her elbow, she smacked his little hand away and turned over, back to sleep. He was always bothering her first thing. Could he not see she was tired?

“Oh Jimmy! I’m so sorry.” Jennifer struggled in vain against the drug as it took her closer.

Her next memory was of waking up late afternoon the same day, it was much later. She had not intended to sleep for so long. A day she unfortunately remembered all too well.

Straight away in the pit of her stomach, Jennifer was struck by how quiet it was in the house. There were no cartoons being played on the TV, there were no noises of a little unsupervised child running around loose in their small flat. There was nothing.

“Jimmy?” Jennifer got up by balancing herself against the sofa and shuffling out into the hall way which was spinning rapidly out of focus, “Jimmy? Answer me now?”

A car screeched to a sudden halt outside, it sounded so clear, so near. She turned as she felt a cold breeze shiver upon her back. It felt refreshing until she realised their front door was ajar and Jimmy’s coat and boots were gone.

“Jimmy! Jimmy No!”

She had no more memories of Jimmy after that last moment. Her body was shaking uncontrollably and her head felt like it was fit to burst. She felt a tremendous pain take over her, the pain of loss, it was too much to bear and then like before her vision went white and she woke up on the sofa, it was Sunday morning and her head hurt like hell…..

“No, no, no.” She begged for release but the drug was still rampant running free churning out all her memories like a burglar ransacking a home.

“Quick we’re losing her.” Doctor Galton ordered as Jennifer was rushed out of the isolation chamber and down the corridor to an emergency resuscitation room. Dr Fawcett hovered in the background scribbling on his clipboard of notes, “Why didn’t you raise the alarm earlier Dr Fawcett?”

“I doubt there’s much we can do with this one. Her liver was already on its way out.” Dr Fawcett replied calmly.

“Oh was this the junkie?” One of the nurses asked, “Still I think you’ve given her too much. This was her first dose.”

“She still deserves to live, c’mon we must keep trying,” ordered Doctor Galton trying to have Jennifer resuscitated.

“Does she? She had a son once, I looked in her notes. It’s why I chose her, she has a very colourful past, this one. She couldn’t look after him properly and he died aged three, got hit by a car. At least it was instant for him.”

“That’s awful.” The nurse said.

“Well, she’s stabilised for now, she’ll need a CT scan to assess for any brain damage, or activity. But in my opinion I think she’s brain dead. Something happened in there.” Dr Galton offered in explanation.

Dr Fawcett played with his bushy moustache, “I see, but I still have need of her, take her to my ward.”

The nurse looked stunned but offered up no resistance, “As you wish Dr Fawcett.”

Dr Fawcett returned to his office and pulled out the Dictaphone from inside his walnut desk and began to speak his mind.

“Memories are a funny thing. You can’t stop them once they’re unleashed running around in your mind and your body, the slightest smell, noise or  feeling of déjà vu will bring them back. They can never be truly forgotten. My research has shown that not only is this new drug a force for good where conditions like Alzheimer’s and Amnesia can be cured, it can also be a forceful weapon for those who should never forget what they have done.”

Dr Fawcett sighed, what was the use he asked himself. He knew already that straight away this new drug would be instantly banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but he was still determined to go ahead anyway. To punish the sorts of people that were responsible for the death of his wife ten years ago. Robbed and killed by hungry junkies for the ten pounds she had in her wallet that day.

There was a knock on the door, Dr Galton came in looking dishevelled still in his blue scrubs. He came right up to Dr Fawcett sitting behind his desk.

“It’s not right keeping Jennifer alive, she’s brain dead. The kindest thing to do for her now is to turn off her machine. What do you still want with her?”

“Doctor Galton may I remind you that I have authority here, she is my patient and she signed the consent form. I could do anything I like to her.”

“You’re sick,” Dr Galton spat as he stormed off.

Dr Fawcett smiled and took out his Dictaphone once more.

“What’s really remarkable about this drug, it that not only are all the patient’s memories experienced from birth accessible but that it’s possible to select which ones they have access to. It is the most horrifying and painful memories that are most often supressed by the test subjects but these can be found by giving a higher dosage. Once they are released back into the conscious stream so to speak, it is possible for the patient to relive them over and over again as long as the high dosage is maintained.”

There was another knock of the door as a nurse entered.

“What have you got for me Elaine?”

“We have stabilised Ms Jennifer James, though she’s still in a coma, Doctor Galton says she’s brain dead but her pulse is still elevated and there’s some occasional flickering being observed in her eyelids and fingers.”

“Good,” He pressed the record button once more.

“It is my hypothesis that memories are so powerful that they can still be experienced when the patient has become brain dead. Effectively they will keep on reliving the same memories they spent their whole life trying to erase, over and over again. Such a marvellous thing.”

“Shall we turn her off? No one will come to claim her.” The nurse asked.

Dr Fawcett grinned, “No let’s leave her on, and up her dosage. All she has left are her memories.”

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Scuttle Bug by Matthew Johnson

Amanda’s gut churned, ripping the delicate fabric of sleep. Her eyes flew open as waves of pain shuddered between her legs. She threw off the covers, thoughts veiled in thick fog of disbelief, a dream-like numbing skirting the edges of nightmare, and slowly, as another wave of pain struck, she comprehended what was happening and screamed.
Visible in the morning half-light, a black tail wagged through a ragged grapefruit-sized hole in her purple panties. Blood trickled down her thighs, staining her crotch dark red and soaking into the mattress cover. The cramping worsened as the creature burrowed inside.
“Get out!” she screeched, grabbing the black tail and yanking. Only it wasn’t a tail, but a segmented shell with pincers at the end that pinched the fleshy part between her thumb and palm. They pried at her hand as she tugged its backend. Amanda gasped, tears rolling down her cheeks. A strange mewling escaped her mouth as she struggled to birth the monstrosity clawing its way up inside her. Greased by blood, her hands slipped off the creature’s segmented rear, allowing it to dig further inside.
Amanda tried to sit up, but the pain cramping in her uterus dropped her back onto the bed. Her shoulder bumped against the nightstand, knocking off the copy of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, followed by the glass of water which shattered on the hardwood floor. Once more she wrapped her hands around the creature’s black, waggling abdomen. She carefully pulled, trying not to imagine the creature splitting in half, spilling its blood and innards inside her. 
A horrific certainty filled with panic: if it didn’t get out now, it never would. She would die with it inside. Then what? Lay its eggs in her ovaries to hatch a hundred baby creatures that would chew their way out of her bloated corpse? Her hands began to slip. She squeezed harder, bearing down not just with her fingers, but also her pelvic muscles. Her bladder released a warm flow of urine down the creature’s back and over her hands. The smell of blood and urine burned in her nose. 
She felt it slipping from inside her and falling half way out. It squirmed to get back inside. Two scuttling legs tangled in her pubic hair tried to gain traction. They twisted, tearing free from the fine hairs, only to slide out from the blood. More of the creature followed until an almost foot-long black body, six legs flailing, and finally a head the size of golf ball with antennae cleared the shredded folds of her panties.
“Get the fuck away from me,” she screeched, tossing the creature across the room. It thudded against the far wall, leaving behind a red smear where it struck. She trembled, bile crawling up her throat as its beady black eyes turned on her, and its head tilted as though weighing its options. Its mandibles, glossy red with a shred of flesh hanging from them, clicked together producing a chittering noise. Amanda threw a pillow and the creature scurried towards her. She screeched, listening to its feet pattering on the hardwood floor beneath the bed. She stared down at the mattress terrified that it could crawl back up to get her. No, there were springs and foam inside to stop it.
As if in reply, it thumped against the bottom of the mattress.
“What do you want?”
Another thump, followed by tearing of fabric. Vibrations shook the mattress directly beneath her. Amanda crawled to the opposite side of the bed, watching as the cover split open and black pincers poked through.
She jumped off the bed, crumpling onto the floor, doubled over by painful cramps. Tiny red droplets speckled the oak-wood. Antennae popped up between the split cover, touched the blood and bent them towards its mandibles. Its beady eyes tracked the room and discovered her. They stared at each other for a brief moment.
Then it crawled up through the mattress and scurried after her.
Amanda scooched backwards leaving a red trail. The pain hurt like a hot poker jammed inside so she couldn’t walk let alone run away. Her tattered panties slid down her thighs. She backed against the wall next to her open closet. The creature dropped to the floor, its antennae touching the blood Amanda left behind. It made a jittering sound of vibrating clicks as it approached her, testing the blood every couple steps. Amanda, without taking her eye off the creature, reached into the closet for anything she could grasp. One antennae touched her foot and she pulled it up under her.
With its mandibles open, the thing scuttled quickly towards her. Amanda’s hand frantically grabbed the first it could from the closet. She swung a high heeled shoe, the two inch tip smashing the creature, crushing its head, and pinning it to the floor. The creature twitched and several white, gelatinous balls rolled out from its backside. They pulsated on the hardwood floor. Amanda recognized them as eggs.
The thing intended to bury them inside her and turn her womb into an incubator for monstrous babies.
She plucked up the high heel and smashed the eggs repeatedly until they were nothing but white goo. Laughing cries hiccoughed from her throat, the room echoed with thromping of plastic sole on hardwood. The shoe flew from her red, sweaty hands clattering out of reach. Amanda sat back, wiping her dripping nose on her pink nightie. Rage sated, the pain returned. The bleeding hadn’t stopped and she didn’t think it would on its own. She needed help.
She removed the tattered remains of her panties and used them to cover the dead creature on the floor. Looking at it made her quiver in disgust. She managed to hide the smashed head, leaving its black segmented end sticking out, and crawled to the bed. After dragging herself up on the mattress, she reached across to the nightstand and picked up her cell phone, dialing 911.
“What is your emergency?” the operator asked, a woman which Amanda was grateful to hear. She might sympathize more than a man.
“I need an ambulance,” Amanda said. “I’m bleeding and it won’t stop.”
“Where are you bleeding?”
“Down there,” she said, hoping this lady operator would understand. “I was attacked.”
“Are you safe?”
“Yes.”
“I have dispatched an ambulance, ma’am. Stay on the phone.”
Less than twenty minutes passed and she heard sirens pull up in front of her home. Amanda dropped the cell phone on the pillow. There was a pounding at the front door. She remembered locking it last night, a night that seemed months ago, but couldn’t get up to unlock it. After some shouting, the wooden door splintered and two firefighters entered her room.
Amanda had pulled up a sheet to shield her dignity.
“Can you move?” one of the firefighters asked.
She shook her head and pointed at her lower belly.
“Holy shit,” the other firefighter said, staring at the dead creature on the floor by the closet. “What the hell is that thing?”
The other firefighter kicked off the panties.
“Looks like a giant earwig.”
No, it’s a vaginawig, Amanda thought, hysterical laughter choking her once more. The firemen looked at her, but didn’t say a word.
A pair of EMTs brought in a gurney and the four men used the mattress cover to transfer Amanda onto it. As they wheeled her outside, she noticed a white van parked in her neighbor’s driveway. Advertised on its side was a cartoon bug surrounded by gas and clutching its throat, eyes bulging. Peter’s Pest control. A man wearing a mask and carrying a tank on his back stopped to watch the commotion. The goggles protecting his eyes made them insectile– black and round. He held a metal rod connected to a hose in the tank. He just watched as they wheeled her past.
“I don’t know why they bother with poisoning?” One of the EMT’s commented. “The bugs find other places to hide and breed.”

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More Plastic Wrap by Florence Ann Marlowe

The gloom descended on him the moment his sneaker touched the broken walk leading to his mother’s house.  It was as if a cloud had taken up permanent residence over the green tiled house.  Michael looked up at the grimy windows and they stared back with baleful black eyes. “The beast” as Michael liked to call it, waited for his return, laughing at him.  It knew he was a prisoner, unable to escape.
The rusty mailbox, clinging to the side of the house by one screw, hung heavy with the day’s mail.  Michael shifted the plastic bags to one hand and dug out the fistful of envelopes.  Bills, advertisements and his mother’s social security check.  He gritted his teeth.  Another reminder that he was not his own man. 
Hoping not to wake her, Michael crept through the door – but the house betrayed him.  The door creaked, squealing on him.  Under his breath he cursed the miserable old beast. 
“Izzat you, Mikey?”
Her voice was like a buzz saw gnawing at the nerves in his ears.  Michael felt his lips curl back into a snarl.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Did you get me my smokes?”
He tossed the bags on the kitchen table.  They contained three packs of Marlboros, six sticks of Slim Jims and a thirty-two ounce bottle of blue Gatorade.
“Did you get my smokes, sweetie?”  Her scratchy, witchy voice clawed its way from her bedroom upstairs.  
Michael shouted back. “Yeah, I got everything.  Here’s your mail.”  Under his breath he muttered, “Ya crazy, old bitch.”
His mother gingerly climbed down the stairs in a dingy pink housedress and terry cloth scuffs.  She was a tiny woman peering out beneath heavy black framed eyeglasses.  A nearly spent cigarette hung from her lips as she approached her only son.
“Didja have enough money for everything?”
Michael grunted and nodded.
The old woman patted his arm and eased herself into a chair to look through the mail; Michael flinched at her touch.
Thirty-two and living at home with his elderly mother, Michael acknowledged his failure. He had moved in with her when he dropped out of community college and swore it would only be until “he got on his feet.”  The years rolled by and there was always a reason he was unable to move out.  His mother pretended he was there to take care of her, but Michael felt trapped – trapped by the monstrous old house and his clingy hag of a mother.
She rifled through the bags.
“What the hell is all this?  I didn’t tell you to get this.”  The tone of her voice turned sour.
Michael grabbed at the bottle of Gatorade.  “I bought them for myself.”
“Not with my money!”
“No!”  Michael lied.  “I’ve got my own money.” Michael had already cashed his measly check from the video store and the piddling remains sat in his wallet.
The old woman patted his arm and nodded.  “All right, honey.  You can have your candy.” 
Michael furiously ripped open a Slim Jim and tore off a piece with his teeth.  The salty dried meat tasted bitter in his mouth. 
“Sweetie,” his mother said.  “You wanna take my check to the bank and cash it now?”
“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.
“But Mikey, I just signed it.” 
Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.
“It’s got my name on it now.  What if I lose it or what if someone breaks in?”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Michael growled. 
The old woman sighed.  ‘All right, honey.  I know you’re tired.  You rest up.”
Michael rolled his eyes and bit off another huge chunk of Slim Jim.
“I don’t feel so good.” She struggled to stand. “I’m gonna go lay down.”
He watched his mother’s tiny form shuffle back up the stairs, the saggy flesh of her upper arms waggling with each step. Her door clicked shut and he could hear her coughing. 
Alone later in his room Michael pulled a stack of dog-eared magazines from under his bed.  He rifled through the pile, knowing well the contents of each one by the cover.  The pubescent blue-eyed nymph sucking her forefinger while staring innocently at the camera promised many pages of girl on girl action beyond the cover.  Michael chose the cover with a dark haired vamp pulling bright red chewing gum from her lips in a long slippery trail.  He knew he’d find several pages of beaver shots glistening within. 
Michael slid his hand into his pajama pants and began to fondle his balls.  His vision blurred slightly as he got caught up in the images of young women on their backs, their legs open, forming a perfect V and the smooth, slick pinkness lying between their thighs.  He sighed and closed his eyes as he began to caress his erect cock when he heard his mother coughing in the next room.
Michael’s hand froze. He waited for the coughing fit to die out and then resumed playing with himself.
In his mind the nubile blonde from the magazine’s pages crawled onto his bed and laid her soft lips on his cock.  Her eyes were locked onto his as she dragged her tongue up the shaft and traced the tip of her tongue along the ridge of his big mushroom head.  He slid his hand up and down faster along his penis when his mother started a new bought of throat wrenching coughs.
Michael shouted to her.  “You all right, Ma?”  He couldn’t very well tell her to “shut the fuck up, I’m trying to concentrate here!”  
In between coughing fits she called back, “I’m all right!  I just need some water!”
He leaned back in bed and gripped his cock with one hand until it hurt.  She was still hacking.  Michael tossed the magazines onto the floor and stared at the dark ceiling.  Friggin’ crazy bitch was going to cough all night. 
It sounded like she was in the room with him.  He rolled onto his stomach, his cheated penis aching. Why wouldn’t she leave him in peace?  Her coughs echoed through the old house.  It was as if the walls were mimicking her, coughing back in sympathy.
The coughing fit continued.  He could hear her straining to bring up whatever was blocking her throat and he felt his stomach roil in protest.  Each jagged hack was like a blow to the back of his head. The last thing he thought before falling asleep was “disgusting old bitch.”
Just past four in the morning, Michael stirred in his sleep.  Foggy, he sat up and listened.  His mother was calling his name.
“Mikey, I need you!”  She was struggling to speak.  Michael could hear her gasping and wheezing.   Her voice was strangled.  “Mikey!”
Michael felt no urgency to get up.  A great lethargy seemed to wash over him as he listened to his mother’s rasping calls.  He lay staring into the dark, only glancing once at his alarm clock to check the time.
Michael was well aware what had happened, it had happened before.  She fell asleep on her back and the mix of phlegm and tobacco in her throat had formed a plug.  She was choking.  But all she had to do was go into the bathroom and get a drink of water.
She gagged as she tried to dislodge the obstruction.  The sound turned his stomach.  Her voice, normally high pitched and whining sounded like a frog as it struggled to escape her clotted throat.
“Mickey, help! Water!”
He could hear her gasps and moans drifting down the hallway.  Instead of feeling alarmed, Michael felt nothing but excitement. Her labored breathing created a rhythmic pattern.  It reminded Michael of something he’d read as a kid in the school library.  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”   He began to chant the words under his blanket, along with the phlegmatic sound of his mother’s wheezing.
He stopped chanting and listened.  He could hear a weak, barely audible whistle from the next room; a rattling whistle like steam being expelled through a narrow pipe. 
It tittered several times before petering out into a wet rattle. 
“Mom?” he whispered and pulled the blanket down.  A cool breeze wafted against his cheek.  There was no answer.  For once, the house was silent.   He tried again in the softest voice possible.
“Mom?”
When he received no answer, he pulled his covers up and lay staring into the dark for nearly an hour before finally drifting off to sleep.
The next morning Michael waited until sunlight pierced the muddied windows in his room. The alarm clock near his bed said it was twenty past ten. The house was unnaturally still.
In nothing but his pajama pants, he crept down the hallway towards his mother’s room.  The door was still closed.  There was an unseasonal chill in the house.  The air felt frosty – like a wet, cool breeze snaked its way through the hallway.
Michael leaned an ear against the door to listen and the wood itself seemed to sear his flesh.  He pulled way.  A film of sweat lay on his upper lip as he caught the metal door knob in his hand. The knob felt icy cold as it turned.  He allowed the door to ease open just a few inches before peeking inside. 
She was lying on the bed in a tangle of bedclothes.  One skinny leg stuck out, a slipper dangling from her foot.  She was wearing the clunky eyeglasses; her head thrown back against the headboard.  Michael pulled the door shut with a jerk.
The texture of the wood, the bubbles in the yellowed paint seemed to grow before him.  A tattered spider web hung in the corner above the stair case and Michael watched it sway gently.
His heart thumped in his chest. He rapped at the door with his knuckle and it sounded brutal.  He pushed the door open and whispered, “Ma?”  The door swung open and the picture was still the same.  His mother was frozen in an absurd ballet pose, half in and half out of the bed.  Michael padded into the room. Standing at the foot of his mother’s bed the room seemed impossibly neat save for the box of tissues and three packs of Marlboros on her nightstand, one already open and missing several cigarettes.  The white and pink quilt, lumpy and misshapen from too many rolls in the dryer, still lay neatly folded across the foot of her bed.  A litter of used tissues was scattered all over the floor beneath her one slippered foot.  
In the time it took Michael to move from the door to his mother’s bedside, he took in the white flecks of dry spittle around her mouth, the yellow discharge on the front of her pink nightgown and the glaze of her open eyes beneath the thick lenses.   He leaned forward as if to touch her and then bolted from the room.  He dashed into the bathroom; pitching forward over the sink; dry heaving.  The ghostly taste of Slim Jims filled his mouth. 
His mother was dead.  His mother was dead and she was lying in her bed like a stumpy manikin.   Michael dropped his ass onto the toilet and gathered up the legs of his pajamas.  She was dead – which was all right, Michael thought.  It was gross, but it was all right.  She was old, she was sixty-eight.  That was pretty old, wasn’t it?  She died of old age. 
He glanced into the hallway and realized he’d left the bedroom door open.  He imagined his mother’s still poised as if she were climbing out of her bed, staring at the ceiling.  He’d have to close the door before they came.  Who the hell was coming?  He’d have to call the police or the paramedics.  Who do you call when someone is already dead?  He’d have to figure out who to call.  Then what?  What happens after they come?
Michael skidded past his mother’s door and sprinted down the stairs to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge open and grabbed the container of orange juice.  He gulped big mouthfuls directly from the spout.  Finally he slumped down at the table and stared at the Formica top. The sugar dispenser and the salt and pepper shakers were arranged in a neat little triangle in the center of the table.  His mother had used them as paperweights to keep her precious Social Security check in place.  Michael put one finger on the pale yellow piece of paper and dragged it over to his side of the table.
Michael picked up the check and turned it over.  His mother’s neat, almost artistic looking signature was scrawled at the edge of the back of the check.  Funerals were expensive.  He looked up at the horrid yellow wallpaper and the garish light fixture dangling above.  He could sell “the beast.”  There had to be a will somewhere – although his Mom had always had a superstitious fear of talking about her own death.  What if there was no will?  And even if there was the rickety monstrosity could take years to sell.
His mother’s check felt hot in his hands.  “The beast” was paid off.  Who had to know if the old woman was dead?  Who would tell?  If she never left the house, it would be his secret – his and “the beast’s.”
His mother had been a small woman. Barely five feet tall, she claimed to have “shrunk” over the years. Michael considered storing her body in a plastic garbage bag, but he needed something more permanent.  In the closet between their rooms, a green Rubbermaid container had been stashed to hold the few Christmas decorations his mother bothered with each year. 
He brought a fresh garbage bag into the bedroom and regarded his mother’s still form. Michael had wanted to use her pink quilt as a type of shroud and just wrap her body up and dump it into the container.  Her body wouldn’t bend the way he needed in order to fit her into the container.  The garbage bag proved useless too.  It slipped and slid as he tried to cover her up. Her arms kept popping out. 
Michael had to abandon the quilt and roll her body off the bed and into the container. He shuddered each time his fingers gripped his mother’s cold lifeless limbs. He forced the arms to lie flat next to his mother’s sides and pushed her head down until it touched her boney knees.  When he stepped back, sweat pouring down his cheeks into his collar, her grizzled little head popped up slightly.
Michael forced the lid onto the container, pushing his mother’s body down.  There was some resistance, but he pressed the corners of the lid until he heard that satisfying snap of the sides locking into place.  A wild thought fluttered into his head:  that should keep her nice and fresh.  Michael allowed a high pitched giggle to escape his lips before he dragged the box into the hall. The box traveled in a series of short shoves and grunts.  There was only one place to store the box:  the hallway closet where he got the container from to begin with.
His mother’s winter coats and heavy suits hung above her final resting place.  Michael slid the box in as far as it would go until it hit the back wall of the closet.  The house was mercifully silent but he could feel it judging him as he closed the door.
The bank had no problem cashing his mother’s pension check.  He’d done it many times over the past few years and had even signed it for her himself.  He took the cash home in his wallet, reminding himself to take a look at her checkbook when he got home.  He treated everyone to Chinese food for lunch at the Video store and bought himself a new video game.  For dinner later that night, he treated himself to a dozen White Castles and a case of beer.
At home he tiptoed passed the closed door of his mother’s bedroom.  Pushing his sneakers off without untying the laces, he dropped onto his bed, face down. Soon he was drifting through a foggy world where he was at Donegal’s pub, tossing back beers and laughing his ass off with the buxom brunette from his magazine. The dark haired beauty wrapped one leg around his and pushed her tongue into his mouth when his mother started coughing.  Michael snorted and shook himself awake
“You okay, Ma?” he mumbled, rubbing at his scruffy face.  The wet coughing continued for a few seconds before Michael was shocked awake and sober.  He sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the bed and listened.  There was silence.  He dropped his feet to the floor and stumbled into the hallway.  His mother’s bedroom door was ajar. 
He scuffed down the hall as if he were walking through gelatin.  His brain tingled like mad when he stopped in the doorway and scanned the empty room.  The bed was naked, stripped of its linens. He was sure he’d shut the door after storing the body laden container in the closet.  He glanced down the hall at the closet door.   
He closed the bedroom door and shuffled back down the hall to his room.  As he passed the closet he caught a whiff of an unpleasant, sour odor.  He snuffled, running a finger under his nose.  Yeah, he thought, she’s in there. 
The next morning, Michael stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing cold water over his face.  He looked dreadful.  His face was pasty and bloated looking.  His eyes were rimmed with red.  His stomach was unhappy and there was a horrid sour smell in the air. 
Michael wiped his face with a dirty towel and looked in the mirror.  He could see the hallway closet lurking in the corner behind him. The sour odor drifted down the hall.. 
Michael’s mom always kept several rolls of clear plastic wrap in the kitchen.  He used his fingernails to claw at the end of the roll and pulled a long sheet of the transparent material.  His plan had been to wrap it around his mother’s body, but he couldn’t bear to open the container and face what was inside.  Instead he decided to wrap the entire container in as many sheets of plastic wrap as he could.
The tenacity of the wrap amazed him.  It refused to leave home base and fought off all attempts Michael made to rip a piece from the main body of wrap.  When he finally did get a strip free, it clung to his fingers and sucked at his bare arms.  He found himself flapping his arms around, trying to free himself of the parasitic clutches of the plastic.  He finally got one layer of wrap around the girth of the container.  He began to pull off a second sheet when the wrap came to a sudden end. No worries, he thought.  There’s always more plastic wrap.
He found the second roll of plastic wrap and wound several layers around the box before it gave out. He left the plastic attached to the roll and wrapped the container until all that was left was the very end of the roll.  He tried to rip it free with his fingers and then attacked the sheet with his teeth.  His face came close to the container and the odor seemed to bounce back at him, attacking his nostrils.  Finally the container was muffled under five layers of clear plastic wrap. 
Satisfied the smell was contained for good, Michael slid the box back into the closet.  The plastic wrap had built up beneath the box, keeping it from sliding freely over the linoleum floor.  Michael felt something jostle inside the box as he pushed it into the recesses of the closet.  He jumped and pulled away.  The box sat silently in its make shift tomb and Michael shut the door.
*******
Days later the smell was invasive forcing him to go out and buy more plastic wrap.  He could feel it curling around the edges of the front door as he turned the key.  When he pushed the door open, it rushed to meet his nose and rubbed against his face like an affectionate cat.  When he closed the door behind him it seemed to envelop him, making him gag.  He swore he could see green tendrils of the toxic fumes hanging in the air.
Michael opened the closet door and the smell pumped into the hallway.  His eyes teared.  With ginger hands, he pulled the mummified Rubbermaid container out.  Michael studied the neatly wrapped package.  The layers looked rippled in spots, as if someone had tried to tamper with it.  Michael shook his head.  It was just more of a mess than he had remembered. 
He opened the first box of wrap and wound it in one direction around the box until the roll of plastic was spent.  He opened a second box and wound it around in the opposite direction. He finally used another whole roll over the entire thing, winding it tightly until it resembled a transparent bee hive.  The dark green container could barely be seen beneath its cellophane cocoon.  He had a hard time shoving the box back into the closet; its lumpy overcoat skidded against the floor.  Before he closed the door, he thought he heard something bounce and settle within the container. 
The highboy dresser in his mother’s room was just narrow enough to fit in the hallway.  Michael pushed it into the hall and slid it in front of the closet door.  He wasn’t sure it would do anything about the smell, but he felt better not seeing the closet door.   On top of the dresser he began to place sticks of solid air freshener.  He’d grabbed the colorful columns of solid deodorants off of the supermarket shelf, not paying attention to what fragrances they held.  He opened each one and twisted the covers off, displaying the stick of fragrance.  The combined aroma was unpleasant, but tolerable and he thought he could sleep.
He woke with a start hours later.  His mother was coughing.  He lay frozen in bed, his eyes wide in the darkness.  He could clearly hear the staccato of her smoker’s hack.  It was muffled as if it came from behind a closed door; muffled as if it came from layers of plastic cling wrap. 
“Mikey?”
As if he’d been shocked by high voltage, Michael sat up in bed.  He stared at his bedroom door as if he could will it to lock out anything that might wander in from the hallway.  The coughing had stopped, but his ears strained for any sound.  And then it came.
He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound. 
It was a crinkly, crackling sound like layers and layers of plastic being peeled away.  His heart battered against his rib cage.  A tearing sound, a clean ripping and a thud.  And then a wet splat, something like the slap of raw meat on the floor. 
Michael swallowed and listened again.  There was silence.  His head seemed to clear and he ran his hand over the front of his underwear.  They were damp.  He shook his head as if to rattle his brain.   It had been a nightmare.  The house, in its gloomy brooding, was still. It was toying with his brain. He slipped under the covers and glanced at the alarm clock.  It was just past four.
The next morning the smell still lingered in the hall.  Michael had bought ten rolls of cellophane, but pulling the dresser from the closet and opening the door was out of the question.  If he opened the door and the plastic wrap he had labored to seal the Rubbermaid container was tattered, rendered from the strain of the lid being pried open from within he would lose his mind. What if the lid had been dislodged and his mother’s decaying, blackened hand was sticking out, the nails clawing through the plastic wrap?  What if he opened the closet door and his mother’s putrefied corpse was sitting on top of the box, shreds of cling wrap lying at her feet, her accusing eyes bulging from behind her clunky glasses?
Michael scrubbed at his face.  The dark corners of the musty old house were drawing him in.  He refused to go mad.  It was just a bad smell and these things could be dealt with.
He carried an armful of air fresheners into the hallway and began to open them and place them around the dresser on the floor.  Michael fought not to see the wisps of cigarette smoke that he was sure was escaping the seams around the  closet door.
He dreaded nightfall.  Everything was different once the sun went down.  The dreary house became ominous, like a cranky old man.  Shadows seemed to dart out just beyond Michael’s peripheral vision.  He could hear thumping sounds from the hallway.  At one point, right after sunset, Michael thought he heard his mother’s bedroom door open.  Too frightened to look, he muted the television and stared straight ahead, listening.  The back of his skull tingled when he thought he heard the shuffling of her slippered feet.  He whirled around, a thin scream clawing at his throat, but nothing was there. 
That night Michael locked himself in his room.  He kept telling himself it was all in his head, the noises, the shadows, even the smell.  There was definitely a smell, a terrible smell; but it was not a visible vapor that dogged him from room to room.
He dozed off into a cloud of unrest where he could hear the crackling of plastic and fleshy footsteps in the hallway.  He jerked awake a few times when he thought he smelled cigarettes burning, but exhaustion forced him back to slumber.  Sometime in the middle of the night he dreamed that his mother was in his room, hovering over his bed.  He opened sleepy eyes and saw her face, blackened like an overripe banana, floating behind her thick glasses.  She leaned close enough that he could feel her whistling, wheezing breath on his face and the heat of her own flesh decaying. 
Michael bounded from his bed, his hands outstretched, fully expecting his fingers perforate her pulpy flesh.  He was alone in his room.  Clutching his chest, he looked at himself in the mirror over his dresser.  His chin was scruffy with bristles.  He hadn’t shaven in days.  His eyes looked like wet holes in his head.  He needed escape.
When he opened his bedroom door the odor of the apartment scrabbled at his throat.  It was thick and powerful.  He sprinted past the dresser in the hallway.  The stench followed him like an eager puppy. Michael gagged and somewhere upstairs something echoed his cough.
At the Quik-mart, he bought an egg and sausage sandwich and an orange Gatorade.  As he left the store, he unwrapped the sandwich and took a huge bite.  It tasted greasy. Behind him an older man wearing a blue windbreaker and baseball cap stood drinking a cup of steaming coffee.  He nodded to Michael and took a long drag from his cigarette which started a coughing fit. 
The sandwich suddenly tasted of ashes.
The older gentleman shrugged and motioned to the lit cigarette with his coffee cup.
“These things are gonna kill me one day, but whattaya gonna do?”
Michael tossed his sandwich into the dumpster and took a swig from his Gatorade before heading home.
The odor greeted him as he stepped into the apartment.  It was happy he was home.  He pushed past it, covering his mouth with his hand.   It seemed to grapple down his throat, searching for his intestines.  He could feel it winding through his guts like a snake. 
The air in the old house was toxic.  Mingling with the flowery and fruity smells of the deodorizing sticks, the resulting aroma was nauseatingly sweet. The odor came from a box wrapped in miles of plastic wrap. He needed to keep the odor in the closet or his mother wouldn’t stay put.  What would keep them both in?  More plastic wrap.
Michael dropped the boxes of expensive, brand name wrap on the floor in front of the closet.  He pushed the dresser away and stared at the closed door.  No power in the world could compel him to open that door.  He pulled one container of cling wrap open and then another.  He carefully placed a sheet of wrap over the closed door, sealing off the edges of the door frame, blocking the escape route for the bad smell.  The cling wouldn’t stay clung.  When he applied a second layer of wrap it fell forward.  He watched it drift down in slow motion. 
Michael searched the drawers in the living room until he found the stapler.  He attached each layer of wrap to the wall with the stapler, flattening out little pillows of putrid air trapped beneath the plastic.
He pushed the dresser back in place and inhaled deeply.  The foul smell was still there, but faint.  He was confident he had weakened it.  Looking up at the cracked ceiling he chuckled.   This house won’t beat me. You won’t be my tomb!
A blanket of perspiration lay on his skin.  A job well done, he thought as he kicked aside the empty cling boxes.  He picked up the last remaining box and took it into his bedroom.  His bedroom was safe.  The smell couldn’t get to him there.
The sun was setting as Michael lay, fully clothed, on his bed.  He was listening to the creaking house.  A bird warbled outside and the wind tree branches against the window.  Michael could hear the heartbeat of “the beast.”  It seemed content.  Beneath it all he could hear the soft purring sound of brittle fingers cutting through layers and layers of cellophane. 
Across his chest, Michael held the last unopened box of plastic wrap.  He picked at the cardboard lid until he freed the roll within and pinched the end of the cellophane sheet.  He peeled a good sized piece of wrap from the box and sliced it across the metal edge.  He let the blurry gossamer sheet flutter in his hand like a translucent sail.
From the hallway he could hear the sound of plastic being shred.  He could hear a muffled thump and then another like the frustrated pounding of someone locked out – or in.  Michael let the cling wrap float down over his face.  He smiled as it folded itself over his cheeks.  He was a big boy, he thought.  He could handle anything.  All he needed was more plastic wrap.
As his bedroom door slowly swung open, he grabbed the edges of the plastic cling wrap and drew them down tightly over his face and took a deep breath.
END

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Open For Submissions!

Deadman’s Tome is open for submissions.

Writers of horror, send to the Tome stories of so terrifying, so horrific, that the very text haunts the reader!

Please send short story submissions of no more than 5000 words to

Jessecdedman@gmail.com

Deadman’s Tome will offer payment for certain submissions based on quality. Minimum of $5 with additional payout based on performance and reception calculated at a rate held at the discretion of the Editor-in-chief.

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Uncertainty

As the title reveals, I’m not too sure about the longevity of Deadman’s Tome. The truth is that submissions have not been coming in, and it might have something to do with the lack of site promotion. The drive I had for the site, the passion, has been derailed simply due to distraction and priorities.

To reveal even more, I work at a psychiatric facility as a mental health tech and deal with a mountain of absurd, unfathomable stuff on a daily basis. When I get off of work, I don’t feel like plugging the site or even plugging one of my own productions. I feel like having a beer, lifting weights, and perhaps attending to the grad work I’ve been meaning to complete.

While it is saddens me that Deadman’s Tome may not exist a few months from now, it served its purpose. The site gave exposure to writers of various skill and style. But in this day and age, anyone with wifi access can create their own means of exposure. A simple blog could achieve what Deadman’s Tome did for some. The difference is that I put money in advertising and struggled to get it “out there” but that’s the price.

My overall point is that I don’t have the drive I once did for Deadman’s Tome. I have other priorities now. To those that have assisted Deadman’s Tome throughout the years, thank you. I will stay in contact and will help promote your future titles anytime. I will create a more personalized blog in the future, one that allows me to focus on giving back to the authors that assisted me.