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Something Bad – C.M. Saunders

Something Bad

C.M. Saunders

 

I puzzled over the trail for weeks. Where was it coming from? What could make such a thing?

I decided the only thing to do was wait in the bathroom.

Wait, and watch.

It starts as a single black drop of goo coming out of the C tap.

Drip, drip, drip.

The stuff has the consistency of puss leaking from an infected wound. Soon, the drip turns into a steady trickle. And then a torrent. Soon it blocks the drain, and the level of gunk rises until it overflows its porcelain prison and dribbles down onto the sparkly-white tiled floor where it gathers in an ever-expanding pool.

It smells like stagnant water and festering shit.

You would think that would be enough.

But, no.

If I stay long enough, shivering in the doorway, mouth hanging open and facial muscles twitching, I see the stringy black stuff on the bathroom floor begin to move and take shape. It writhes around in little currents, each particle seemingly following its own agenda as it moulds itself into a seething mass in the centre of the bath tub, all the while drawing more volume from the tap as it spews forth a steady stream.

I notice that whatever strange magic has taken over the C tap has also affected the shower head. Strings of the black goo are being drawn out of it some unseen force like matted hair being pulled from a drain.

I feel my stomach flip over and the strength ebb out my legs. I swallow back a mouthful of bitter bile as my supper tries to rise. I want to turn around, run away, but my feet remain planted firmly on the cold tiled floor. A cold shiver racks my body, my goose-pimpled flesh crawls.

I watch, transfixed, as the black gooey stuff in my bath tub gathers in mass and form. Now I can make out little, stubby arms and the beginnings of a head.

This is where my nerve generally deserts me. I back out of the bathroom, close the door and go back to bed where I huddle under the sheets. Eventually, sleep comes and in the morning, I pretend it was all a dream.

But tonight is different. Tonight, I cannot move. I want to see this play through to the end.

The thing now has a mouth, a huge gaping void. Black fluid spills out of it and down its emerging chin. It makes thick gurgling sounds, as if it is trying to say something. In spite of myself, I take a step closer. Some strange compulsion drives me forward. If it is going to say something, I want to hear.

It is much bigger now, and seems to be taking the form of a person hunched over, kneeling in the bath tub. It is shaking violently, as if suffering some kind of seizure. And still, those awful gurgling sounds…

I feel my face contort into a grimace as I lean closer. I hold my breath, but the fetid, heavy stench hanging in the air still brings tears to my eyes. I can’t believe this is happening. The world shimmers in and out of clarity, I feel woozy and nauseous. I sink to the floor next to the bath tub, hands and knees melting into the cold, congealing black mess that continues to spew out of the C tap and shower head.

I hear voices, whispering in my ear. But I cannot distinguish any words. It sounds like hundreds or thousands of people all talking at once.

Then there is a sound like a rush of water, a liquid roar, and struggle to raise my head. Instinctively, I know what made that sound. The creature in my bath tub is not kneeling any more. It is standing, towering above me.

I open my eyes, it’s like staring down a long tunnel at a single point of light in the distance. The point of light enlarges, bombarding me with fragments of fractured colour and shapes like a kaleidoscope. I see the a vast black tide descending to engulf me as the monstrosity in the bath tub flexes and wraps its arms around me as everything goes black.

THE END

About the author: The dark fiction of C.M. Saunders has appeared in over 30 magazines, ezines and anthologies, including Raw Nerve, Fantastic Horror, Trigger Warning, Liquid imagination, and the Literary Hatchet. He is a hybrid author with nine long-from releases under his belt, the most recent being the novel Sker House and the charity novella No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches. He is represented by Media Bitch literary agency.

 

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The Spider – Ron Thorne

 

There was a spider living in my shower. I had barely noticed it the other day, as I had to put my glasses on the sink, so obviously I had them off as I stepped into the bathtub. It was a tiny thing, struggling to hold on to the slickness of the porcelain lining of the tub. To me, it was like a black dot, scurrying as it did, bouncing almost like a little ball. It was odd, though, as soon as I blinked, it disappeared. I looked around for it, (it might have seemed odd to my wife, had she came in at this moment) but could not find it. I bent over, looked inside the faucet and under the stopper that lets the water flow down the pipes; but it was nowhere to be found. Well, it must have went down there and drowned, poor guy, I thought to myself, and that was that.

The next day, Toby, our golden retriever and I were playing fetch. I threw the ball across the hallway and it ended up in the bathroom. Toby darted through the living room and hallway so fast, I thought he would crash into the bathtub when he entered the bathroom. From my recliner in the living room, I can only see halfway into the bathroom and I could only see Toby’s tail, which was wagging violently with energy. Then his tail stopped moving and I could see his fur sticking up. He began to bark menacingly at something in the tub. I walked into the bathroom and asked him what was wrong. He looked at me with his curious eyes and then back at the faucet. I got a phone call just then, and had to go back in the living room to get my cell. While I talked to my wife, I paced back and forth, my usual habit when talking on the phone, and somehow ended up back in the bathroom. Toby was still in there, sitting quietly on the rug in front of the tub, with his eyes fixated on the faucet. At the time I didn’t think much about it. I should have though.

My wife is a traveling saleswoman. Her name is Karen and she is hardly at home, in fact, that’s an understatement. I believe this month alone I had only seen her twice. I, on the other hand, work online. Mostly freelance writing gigs. So most days it’s just me and Toby here. For the two of us, this house seems enormous, when in reality, it’s a typical two story colonial home. We live in the back country, the boonies as some might say, and this is our second time living together. We moved out of the humdrum of the city to a more solitude life. It’s just something about the smells and the colors that makes the country life seem so much more beautiful and alive. I had almost declined the offer when the real estate agent showed me this house. But something about it screamed silently in my head. Purchase me, you won’t regret it, the voice said. In my brain, I could picture Karen and Toby running in the field near the trees outside. Karen and I sitting on the front porch reading books while Toby sits at my feet his big floppy tongue panting away in the dead heat of a long summer day. So I said, yes. We will take it.

As I said before, Karen, being the traveler that she is, left about two weeks ago, and other then the phone call, I haven’t heard from her since. But it was no surprise. We were both used to it. It came with the marriage, I thought to myself. Today was cleaning day for me and I was in the bathroom approaching the tub and shower with my cleaning supplies. I had already mopped the floor and let it dry. The tub shouldn’t take no more than a few minutes, then I could go back in the kitchen and prepare some lunch for Toby and me. I had begun scrubbing the tiles on the wall on top of the tub when I could hear a scratching sound resonating within the pipes. I was standing in the bathtub as I was cleaning, so I knelt down and put my ear up to the faucet. It was an odd sound, almost like thin metal nails scraping their way up and down the vast system of pipes below. This may sound a little crazy, but what I heard next I didn’t really believe at the time. I thought I heard a voice, far off, like a person having a conversation. To listen more acutely, I put my ear right on top of the coldness of the faucet head. Then it stopped. I no longer heard the scraping or the voice. I laughed nervously, thinking how silly this is, then I felt something hairy touch the side of my earlobe. The bristling caress startled me so much, that I fell backward into the tub. I saw a black furry leg retreat into the faucet once more. I thought it was now a perfect time to call an exterminator.

The exterminator, Jack, didn’t arrive until late the next evening. I didn’t notice anything strange when I took a shower that morning, but I was in a hurry. I had almost been late for a doctor’s appointment. When I pulled in the drive I went past his yellow van, the vehicle had a worn out decal on the side, “We kill all pests that crawl.” I walked around the house and saw the basement door open. I went down inside and could see big black boots sticking out of the crawlspace in the middle of the room. Jack slid his way out, and after seeing his large figure, I wondered how he could have fit in such a small space. His face was flushed and he was sweating. He offered his hand, then realizing that he had gloves on, took one off and shook my hand with a firm grip, “Nice to meet ya, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Just a few rats. Took care of ‘em. All clear down here.”

I smiled at him and said, “Did you want to see the bathroom? That’s where that spider came from. I was wondering,” Jack interrupted me by holding up his ungloved hand, “No need. Checked the pipes. Sprayed some chems on parts of ‘em. Whatever you saw, I guarantee you, it’s dead now.” And that was it. I felt a sense of relief as I watched Jack pull out of my driveway.

The day after, I woke even later than before, and didn’t even have the energy for a quick shower. I was beginning to think I had a flu virus coming on. I made the effort to ensure that Toby had his food and water. After writing a few blogs for the companies I worked with, I decided to take a nap. When I woke up, it was already dark in the house. The only light in my room was the faint glow of the power off button on the monitor. I got up and made something to eat. As I stood near the kitchen table, I noticed Toby hadn’t touched his food or his water. And where was Toby, anyhow? Normally, Toby charges me when he sees me after a long nap. Dogs sure miss us, even if we’re gone for a few hours. But the house was very still. I decided that I would search for Toby after I had a shower. Taking an extremely hot shower at this moment, seemed to be the only thing to wake me up. I was still drowsy from the nap.

I went in the bathroom and stripped down, reaching for a clean towel to drape over the side of the shower rod. With everything in place, I turned the water on. I was looking down at the drain when I could hear clogged up water trying to burst through the pipes. As I looked up, sticky white balls shot out of the shower head, along with a little bit of water. The white clots stuck to my face as I panicked and fumbled for the lever to turn the shower off. I finally gripped it, and jerked the lever to shut it down. I grabbed the towel and wiped my face and neck, as some of the white balls splattered on my throat. Observing the towel in the tub was hard, as there was not enough light to study the strange material, I had to get out and look at the towel by the overhead light at the sink. Spreading the white balls apart, revealed tiny little spiders. Jack didn’t take care of the problem after all.

Karen called me that night and we talked for a few minutes. She mentioned Toby, and I immediately thought about how I was to search for him that evening and did not. I told her about the exterminator and how, after taking a nap, Toby disappeared. She thought it odd as well. I hung up the phone and explored the house. I searched the basement, thinking that maybe I left the door open when Jack the exterminator came, but then realized that had been the day before, and Toby couldn’t have went down there, and indeed, there was no sign of Toby. I went back up the steps and investigated the first floor. Nothing. As I approached the steps to the second floor I saw a shadow on the top of the staircase. It was Toby, alright. At least that’s what I thought. It was as large as a dog and it raced toward the bedroom up there. I smiled, thinking how Toby must have slept upstairs the entire time. He was getting older and had less energy than when he was a pup. So it seemed natural for him to rest often. I made my way up the stairs and went to where I had seen the shadow go. “Toby, boy. You must have needed more rest than me,” I laughed. But there was nothing in the hallway. The doors to all the rooms were shut tight. A wave of anxiety penetrated the back of my neck as the hairs stood up. My heart began to beat faster. I turned on the hallway light and at first I didn’t see a thing. But when I got to the end of the hallway, near the bedroom, the rug in front of the door was disarrayed. I walked to the edge of the rug, and carefully pulled it back to its rightful position. I stepped on the rug to open my bedroom door; then I let out an embarrassing yelp, as my foot fell through it and landed on a pipe under the floor. Knowing something was definitely wrong in my house, I panicked. I went into my bedroom and locked the door, thinking that whatever it was, it couldn’t get through a locked door. In my haste, I had completely forgotten about poor Toby, and what could have happened to him. I stayed on top of the bed the rest of the night, both the ceiling light and the light on the nightstand bathing me in their glow, carefully surveying the room with frightened eyes. At times, as I drifted off, I swear I could hear something walking, or rather, crawling, around in the hallway. And somehow, I knew it wasn’t Toby.

After I saw the sun come up through my bedroom window, I left the safety of the bed and walked around the house. With the light casting its glow in the house, I felt a surge of bravery. Around noon, I stopped my search in order to use the bathroom. As I was washing my hands, I heard a distant sound of a dog barking. It was Toby’s bark, I was sure of it. But where was it coming from? I spent about half an hour looking until I ended up in the bathroom once more; discovering the sound was coming from the drain in the tub. I had a kitchen knife with me now, although it wasn’t much of a weapon; it was all we had in our home. We were democrats and owned no guns. I could hear a voice down in the drain screaming at the dog, whom I believed to be Toby, and then silence. When I thought it was all over, I felt the bathtub begin to vibrate until it was shaking so hard, you’d thought an earthquake was happening. But the tub was the only object shaking in the entire house. I could hear a scraping sound rising up through the shower head. I braced myself, although I didn’t know what was going to happen. Thin black woolly legs began popping out of the shower head, from the tiny holes that sprayed the once satisfying water on my body. In moments, the shower head collapsed under the enormous pressure of the monster tearing through. It was a spider, and I believe it was more than that; this ancient abomination could not have survived on the surface, indeed, it came from the depths of the earth, and it wanted me. I didn’t know the reason, nor had a chance to ponder it; as the spider enveloped me in its eight clutches smashing my limp body through the bathtub, into the basement, past the pipes and dirt; until we fell no more. We had fallen into a cave. The behemoth was nowhere in sight. The fall must have injured it and it left to recover its wounds.

I, on the other hand, was badly hurt and couldn’t walk. I believed both my legs and my right arm was broken. My ribs ached terribly; probably broken as well. But what I saw in the next couple of minutes made me try to endure the grueling pain and force myself to find an escape. Only a few feet in front of where I landed, was Toby’s collar. And beside it was even more horrifying. There were hundreds of rings in a pile. They all appeared to be some type of wedding bands, both men and women’s. And I recognized the one that was at the very top. It was my wife’s.

The creature came out of the darkness now, and as it approached me, its fangs dripped with poison. I could see through the blurriness of my vision that it had a red hour glass on top of its back. I looked down at my chest, apparently during the descent into the cave, the spider bit me. I knew then that I was poisoned by a black widow. She opened her mouth, but before she ate me, she recited a poem:   

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is down a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes down your winding stair can ne’er come up again.”

Karen laughed to herself as she walked away from the corpse. She believed that her husband’s life insurance policy was going to be very substantial; it would fix up the bathroom rather nicely. She smiled and a bit of poison dripped from her lips.

 

Adapted Excerpt of The Spider and The Fly fable Original written by Mary Howitt, 1829

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

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The Boogeyman – Larry Sells

beverage-mug-000000Enhance your coffee today

Tears flowed down my cheeks.  I lied in bed and watched the darkness.  It seemed to move and hid something, something that I could not make out.  It scared me.

 

From downstairs, I heard my father and mother’s loud voices.  I did not know what scared me worse, the way the darkness moved or the yelling my parents were doing.  

 

Then, it happened.  A flesh to flesh sound erupted through my ears.  

 

“You slapped me.  You bastard.”

 

“If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll do more than that to you.”

 

“Is that a threat?  You a big man threatening a woman.  The mother of your children.”

 

“Not a threat, but a promise.  A woman.”  I heard him laugh.  “You mean a whore.  As for the children, I helped to bring them in this world, am more than happy to take them from it.”

 

“You mean.  You will kill the children.”

 

“Yes, I will kill the children.  I don’t want to do it, but I will if you keep pestering me all the time about money.  And about how you work all day providing for this family.  While I do nothing, but stay at home and sponge off you.”

 

I felt the tension get tighter and the shadows moved closer to me.  I wanted to scream out for help, but was afraid who would answer.  My mother or dad.  I had heard my dad striking my mother, and I did not want to see my father’s handprint on my mother’s face.

 

I held my breath when the shadows came within touching distance.  I closed my eyes, and slowly opened them.  I felt a cold hand touch me.  I looked and saw a solid black creature with bright red eyes and huge white fangs.  I could not hold it any longer.  I screamed.  “Mom, Mom.

Come, quick before the monster takes me and eats me alive.”

 

The cold hand dissolved when my mother turned on the light.  She held me.  “There, there.  There’s no monsters here.”  She looked underneath the bed. “No monsters here.”  She looked in the closet.  “No monsters here.” She then gave me a hug and wiped my tears away.  “Want me to keep the light on.”

 

“You better turn off that light, or I come up there with my pistol and shoot the fucker off.”

She reluctantly turned the light off and walked down the stairs.

 

I lied down and closed my eyes and tried not to think about the shadows moving around my bed.  Sleep came to me.  

 

Inside my nightmare, I ran from a giant, six-foot-tall shadowy figure.  Voices from its victims called it the boogeyman.  I grew tired running from it, but I knew if I stopped the monster would catch me, kill me, and might even eat me.  Somehow I knew that if I died in this nightmare, I would die in real life, as well.

 

I prayed for a tree to climb or a door for me to close and lock.  I knew that neither option was available to me, but I could only wish.  

 

Just over the hill, I saw a tree.   I sprinted to it and climbed the tree.  I sat on the second highest branch, so I could catch my breath and calm myself down.

The shadows started to move.  I saw the shadow creature.  It moved like the shadows at night in my room.  I looked closer at the face, it resembled my father.

 

I was jerked up from the bed.  I woke up to a punch in the face.

 

“This is what you get for screaming like a baby.”  My father punched me in the face again.

 

The world started spinning.  I heard my mother, “Get away from him.  Have you done enough damage to him for the night.”

 

My fear was when he was finished with me that he would kill my mother.

 

Before I went into the darkness, I heard a loud thud.

 

I was back in the tree looking down at the creature and the face of the creature was my father’s, again.  My mind was not surprised, for my father loved to act with violence first and ask questions later.

 

A creature who hides in the darkness of my room and in the darkest corner of my mind where nightmares bred.  

 

My mother pulled him off me.  I was already unconscious and my face started to turn black and blue and puffy.  “Stop it, you’re going to kill him.”

 

“What if I do.  We will have one less mouth to feed.  Nobody will mess him.  He’s different.  There’s something mentally wrong with him.  I’ll be doing him a favor by killing him now.”

“You don’t get to make that choice.”

“Yes I do, I brought him into this world; I’ll take him out of it.”

“He was in me for nine months, and I gave birth to him.  I have more say what happens to him than you do.”

“Too bad he’s waking up.”  He left.

 

I came back to my body and the pain.  I moaned and my mother held my head.  I looked at her and said, “Did you see the Boogeyman?”

 

Tears came down her cheeks, “I saw the Boogeyman.  He’s gone for now.

 

“He did this to me?”

 

Tears flowed down my mother’s cheeks as she nodded.

 

In the closet, the shadows shook as globs of darkness joined together until the darkness and shadows were shaped like my father.

The light bulbs flickered.  From the closet, what was my father growled.

“We better leave and leave fast.  Whatever that is I don’t think we should be here when it gets done doing whatever it’s doing.”

We started running as fast as we could.  As we got to the bottom of the steps, my father was definitely no longer my father.  He looked like a creature maybe the Boogeyman.

“Come on he’s not your father anymore.”

I swallowed hard and went with my mother.  The creature started to walk down the stairs. Its scarlet eyes held us in place.

“Come on before he gets us.”

We didn’t break wind when we erupted through the front door and the door slammed hard.  Minutes later, the door opened and the boogeyman came out.

“Come on.  Wait for me. I swear I wouldn’t hurt you, much.  Heck, I’ll just kill and eat you.”

All the streetlights went out.  I felt a chill go up and down my body.  It’s getting darker the closer he got to us.

Was he absorbing light or was light running away from him. My mind struggled with this puzzle.  I knew it was vital that we somehow came to this conclusion.

We ran as fast as we could, but he kept up with us slowly gaining up with us.

“Why don’t we stop at one of the neighbors?”

“The lights are off.”

“What that has to do with it.”

“Everything.”

“What”

“The boogiemen got them.”

“How, because the houses are unusually dark and quiet.  When was the last time you saw an entire block of housing full of darkness?”

“Never. Yes, I see your point also too quiet.”

“Hurry, he’s, gaining again.”

I look behind us.  “Damn he’s just a half a block behind us.”

“There,” my mother stopped at a car, she opened it up and started it, as I ran across it, and got inside.

“We are safe.”

I saw the boogeyman right on our tail as the car pulled ahead.

He held up his right hand and twisted it.

Our car sputtered and died.  Mom tried to start it, but it failed to start.

“Run.”

Inside my head, “I got you.  I got you.”

Mom and I had problems getting to our feet as the boogieman came closer to us.

A loud crack came from behind us.  Another one. Something struck the boogieman twice and knock it backwards a few steps.

From behind us, a van pulled next to us. “Hurry come in.” A third crack came from behind us and it knocked the boogeyman backwards again.  

Seconds later, we picked up the guy who was shooting the boogeyman and off we went into the darkness.

“How come we didn’t turn your van off.”  

“We were shooting him.”

My mother asked, “How many do you think they are?”

“I don’t know or we think there is at least one in every house or apartment throughout the whole town.”

“That many,” I looked up at mom.

“We don’t know what kills them.  We have a ham radio and got a hold of a military base.  They told us that it’s not just here.  It’s national.

My mother said, “What.”

“It’s nationwide. And they don’t know how to kill them anymore than we do.”

A loud rumbling noise overhead. And a whistling noise.  Then, a series of loud bangs.

“What then hell.” Bang.  Silence.

The boogeymen combined because of the heat of the bombs and flew toward the planes.  The pilots yelled as they became infected.

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There – David J. Wing

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A house, there, not too far.

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

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

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

Now they looked, now they saw.

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

Stubbed hands, reached out. Gripping.

And then the slam.

Safe?

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

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Popcorn – Wayne Summers

 

6x9_Front_Coverhand
Available on Kindle

“How long’s it been there?” asked Shirley, her flabby arms akimbo.

Tina, seventeen, scrawny and wearing too much eye make-up, was jabbing at the dead creature with a broom handle. Her face was contorted in disgust. “Well how am I supposed to know?”

“You’re supposed to know because you’re supposed to clean that popcorn machine every night,” said Shirley, her brow heavy over eyes narrowed by fat, puffy cheeks.

“We do clean it every night but not back there,” snapped Tina, chewing a piece of gum that had long since lost its flavour. “It’s joined to the glass. Ewwww it must have got melted on.”

She gave the dead creature a few more jabs and succeeded in dislodging it.

“You’ve left a bit on the glass,” Shirley noticed, pointing to a small ring of flesh.

Tina sucked her teeth and rolled her eyes. She reached behind the popcorn machine with an old rag in her hand and scraped the last traces of the dead creature from the back of the popcorn machine.

“What was that?” Shirley asked, leaning in to get a better look.

Tina jumped back. “What?” she shrieked. “Is there another one?”

Shirley frowned. “No you twit. Something fell out of its…its butt and landed in the popcorn.”

Both women brought their faces up to the glass and examined the inside of the glass cabinet.

“It’s drilled a hole through the glass,” Tina observed.

“There it is,” said Shirley, ignoring Tina’s statement of the obvious. “What is it? It looks kinda like, like an egg.”

“Look there’s more of them,” said Tina. “Yuk Shirl! How long has that thing been laying eggs in the popcorn?”

Shirley’s face turned a pale shade of white – not because of any concern for the cinema going public but because she been rather fond of picking at the popcorn when no-one was watching. Tina wore a matching expression of horror. The problem was that there was no way of telling how many eggs each of them had ingested since the eggs themselves looked remarkably like pieces of popped corn.

Shirley tried not to think about what may be lurking in her intestines but the harder she tried to push the thought from her mind, the more vivid the images became. But as they do, one thought led to another and soon she was imagining what might have been growing inside the eggs, growing inside her at this very moment! A wave of nausea swept like a tsunami over her, giving only the shortest warning of what would happen next. With her mouth stretched wide she leant forward and a stream of popcorn vomit sprayed the glass cabinet and the floor beneath. Tina, who had a weak stomach at the best of times, caught only a whiff of it and started throwing up herself.

Even when she arrived home, the stench of vomit still strong in her nostrils, Shirley could not get the creature and its eggs out of her mind. She hurried into the bathroom, turned on the bath tap and while she waited for it to run she brushed her teeth.   

The warm water flowed around her bulk as she settled into the bath. She rested her head back against the end of the bath and closed her eyes. A long sigh slid from her lips.

As visions of the dead bug stole into her consciousness she pushed them away, replacing them with more mundane thoughts. What did she feel like for dinner? Remember to buy some sponges for work. They had used the last two cleaning up the vomit. Keep the receipt.   

While her mind was occupied on blocking out all memory of her nightmare discovery at work her fingers were kept busy scratching an itch on her leg and then another one on her belly.

Buy more milk. Did she need cat food? She’d have to check.

The itchiness persisted; her thigh this time, and just above her left breast. Another itch just above her hip demanded her attention. Only then did she realise how itchy her whole body had all of a sudden become. It also happened that at that precise moment the itchiness turned into pin pricks of burning white heat.

Panic radiated from her eyes. Splashes of water jumped the side of the bath and flooded the tiled floor as she struggled to alleviate the pain.

Then her wide eyes became wider still as a tiny head, all tiny, jagged teeth and throat, punctured the flesh of her stomach. She screamed and started slapping the worm-like intruder with the palm of her hand. It disappeared back below the skin while another of its kind appeared above her left breast and another on her thigh. Tears streamed from her eyes as more and more of the toothy worms ate their way through her vast stores of flesh. Rivulets of blood poured from each wound, staining the water a pale red.

She scrambled to her feet nearly slipping but saving herself from falling by landing against the wall, pressing her bulk against it as the worms bit back into her flesh, tunnelling through it, eating flesh, muscle and nerve, and growing at an alarmingly exorbitant rate. Her naked body was streaked red. Her vision started to blur. The worms were now tearing meat from her bones, attacking each other beneath her skin. By the time Shirley fell, splitting her head open on the side of the bath, the largest of the worms were making their way up the tiled walls to the cornices.

By first light the following morning the worms had cocooned themselves in the space where the wall met the ceiling, stuck there by a mesh of thick, grey silk. Shirley’s body was cold and purple, riddled with holes turned black by congealed blood; her eyes open, staring into forever.

Within two days Shirley’s body was swarming with blowflies. Already maggots wriggled and slithered inside her slowly rotting carcass. Yet the buzzing and wriggling wasn’t the only movement in the small room. The cocoons were pulsing with new life. Hour after hour the silken sheaths swelled and ebbed as the creatures within strengthened themselves, preparing for life beyond the bathroom.

By dusk the flies had deserted the body and the bathroom was filled with tearing sounds as tiny teeth bit through the silk casings; then clicking sounds of communication as the fledgling creatures stretched their gossamer wings and flexed their giant mandibles. The abdomens of the females throbbed, a pinkish hue behind pale skin which attracted the attention of the males.

Weak but driven by an unstoppable urge to breed the males climbed onto the females and fertilised them. By instinct or by some other sense the females thanked their mates by turning on them and devouring them. As new life grew already within them they feasted on the flesh of the males, much needed nutrients for the long flight ahead.

Night fell. Electric light from the street lamps outside filtered in through the frosted glass of Shirley’s bathroom window. Sensing it was time, one of the creatures flew into the glass, creating a cobweb of cracks. Another of the creatures flew into the glass and the cracks grew longer, larger. Then another and another flew at the window until the tinkling of glass falling out onto the concrete footpath below signalled departure time.

The creatures sped into the night sky, their senses honed to detect the slightest traces of hot butter and salt, for that’s where they would find the popcorn that would camouflage their eggs and the popcorn machines that would incubate them. As they flew their razor sharp teeth bit into any of their number that they encountered. A vicious breed, it was sure that only the strongest and most voracious would survive to breed.

At The Astor cinema Margaret who was both the owner and manager slammed the phone down.

“I can believe it of Tina but not of Shirley,” she ranted to her husband. “I always though Shirley was dependable. She always calls me if she can’t come in.” She shook her head mournfully, her silver-grey ponytail scraping across her back. “Well, pull your sleeves up, baby. We’re going to have to do this shift. You go and open the doors and I’ll add some more popcorn. It doesn’t look like I put enough in.”

Margaret counted the money in the cash register as her husband unlocked the double doors of the small cinema, dropping the keys in the process.

“Damn it!” he cursed, bending down to retrieve them and not noticing the two insect-like creatures flying into the cinema.

Margaret had her head in a cupboard as the two intruders found a narrow gap behind the popcorn machine and set to work drilling a small circle of glass out of the window. Fuelled with the meat of their mates, the creatures made light work of the glass; pushing their ovipositors through and then falling into a trance-like state. By the time Margaret had found the bag of popping kernels the creatures were already pumping eggs into the popcorn that was already there.

She had no time to refill the machine.

“Can I help you?” she asked, brushing her fringe away from a sweaty forehead.

“Two tickets to “Small Mercies”, please,” said the woman. “Oh, and a jumbo popcorn.”

 

The End

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

          

         

 

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Book of Horrors – Scuttle Bug

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

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The Bleeder by Jesse C. Dedman

The Bleeder by Jesse C. Dedman

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It was a few minutes past midnight when the commotion subtly uprooted the diseased calm that lingered in the ally way. The back doors of the van flew wide open, but the pocket of darkness offered a great cover that the brake lights contested, glowing with a hue that seeped into the darkness, revealing a glimmer of movement. A body, or something that resembled one, was thrown out to tumble along the rough pavement. The heap splashed into a puddle of water and stayed without the slightest twitch. Just like that, the van was gone, driving off into a distance unseen by the huddled homeless.

 

Curiosity lured a few, which later grew into a modest crowd. They observed and discussed the strange form of the man’s condition. His arms and body were swollen with bulging muscles, and metallic etchings throughout his skin invoked a wave of questions. They pointed at his face, explaining the oddity of his mask, which was a modified wielding mask. There was a metallic cube of extreme weight that illuminated with flashing dials, which connected to his body by a series of tubes and hoses.

 

Being starved for most of their time, the homeless crowd was only as humble as their basic needs. They tried as hard as they could to pillage from the helpless manifest. Swooping as if they were vultures over a rotten corpse, attacking the pockets of his jeans only to fine lint. It was only the strange bulk of metal that was profitable, but it wouldn’t come undone. They beat the connections with bats, and the failure led to a bigger consumption of desire. One of them was wise enough to use his knife, but the sharp edge of his blade was dulling to the surface.

 

His arms moved, flopping in the puddle, but nothing significant. The mere fact that he was becoming aware scared off most of the people; the three that remained were the most rugged, disgusting, and unclean of the bunch. They were the alphas of their ken, or perhaps just the most desperate. They watched him move and grew with eagerness; their victim was weak, shaking to keep his own weight. Caught in a desperate cycle, the desolate fiend struggled to even kneel.

 

The boldest one acted first, placing his gritty, contaminated palm upon the surface of the cube. He brushed against the surface, feeling the cold untouched metal, while toying with a clever idea. A series of chords detached from the sides of the device and lunged at the man. One by one, three different lines snapped into his body with a force he couldn’t contest. His cry and torment was not given a reply he hoped for. His brethren ran off, but their attempt was without success. The remaining lines expanded into the distance, piercing through their chests.

 

A web of chords drained them of their blood and other valuable fluids at a rate that their body couldn’t adjust too, a strong piercing pain, followed by a searing vacuum gave allowance to a creeping coldness. The dials on the device flourished with an assortment of lights, while the entity attached suddenly had the strength he needed. He rose from the ground, carrying the device in his hand, which he clipped to the narrow bars that ran along his back. The being took notice of his surroundings and couldn’t help but feel the overwhelming sensation of being lost, alone, and without any help. He could see the damage done to him, but not feel the pain.

 

He took the overcoat from the bold one and used it to cover his shirtless torso. The fabric loomed over the device, rendering him as muscular hunchback. He walked throughout the narrow pathways as if to find something, while studying the sudden change in place. The shadows were thick, but his eyes were keen to resolving that. He saw with illumination, everything beamed at the seams with a slight golden tint, but it started to fade as his eyes have endured the torment of electrical shocks and chemical injections all too much.

 

The smell of tobacco redirected him to another narrow passage, where a slender young woman stood with cigarette in hand. She wasn’t aware of his presence and that offered a moment of invitation. He approached with an opened hand with its machinery infused fingers and lunged for her frail neck. She screamed but was silenced by a sudden slam to the wall. A gash was indented into her skull, which bled out onto the crusty pavement.

 

He knelt over her and opened the visor of his mask. His pale skin was riddled with crust lines and scars. The eyes were of a more enriched story; strained from the constant injections, the whites of his eyes were of that of a waterlogged, blood-soaked sack, and drooped with intense saturation. With careful fingers, he released himself of sight, and began to take hers. His fingers were tipped with a silver piece that housed many uses. They adjusted to what his body needed in order to complete the exchange of eyes.

 

It was shortly after this procedure that he heard the low rumble. It was a subtle bass that pounded from a source unclear. He searched for it, following the noise. It grew in texture, expanding into a chorus of speeches and mid-topic rants. It was difficult for the lab designed creature to follow, but what he found were basement doors that had seen better days, bared with an iron piece, chained by a web of iron and padlocks, all of which were destroyed in contest against his strength.

 

He bled from the tips of his fingers at an invariable rate until the last drop. He didn’t faint, nor did he suffer. It was this exploitation that was seen as a miracle by those around him. This ability blessed him with continuous tribute, placing him as an idol before their praised lord. They tested him, searching for flaws in ability, but all the questions were answered with a notion that their faith was honest. The men and women in this chamber serve a god not to alien from common beliefs, one that rules with intolerance and justifies punishment, pain and torment, by any means, Nzulmbi.

 

The third day of their trials delivered onto them a fatality that bolstered the creature’s reputation. It was during a ceremonial chant. The head of the Covent praised the work of other members, discussed foul showcases of violence, while reading a passage from an ancient tome. He spoke in Latin about a deity that rules with righteousness, blessing those that should be blessed, those willing to make great sacrifices. The speech was what made his accidental death something of a novelty by the group. They watched as the creature drained the head priest until his flesh was cold.

 

With natural reason diluted by actual practice, the Covent was quick in their efforts. They appointed a new head priest and developed a network of trusties that would allow them to offer sacrifices to their newfound idol. The first victim was a meek little man that seemed too scared to either resist or run away. The others were snatched from a status that made it almost impossible to trace. Compared to the previous, they faced more elaborate chanting and festivities, while standing in his shadow. The moldy basement became more alive after each additional victim, until the day she was offered.

 

A little girl, not much older than ten was delivered in front of the idol. He sat on a handcrafted stone throne, a tribute from one of the more talented individuals, with an unshakable calm, the same he expressed with the others. The network of cables launched out from his backside, but they didn’t strike into her flesh. Instead, he studied her more carefully and saw in her a gentle innocence; she was young, fresh with life, and blessed with a clean slate something different from the others.

 

“The sacrifice must be made, as it claims it so in the tome of the ancient king. Don Laviall was an honest man willing to make our lord happy no matter what the means. The death of this young girl will bring his eyes onto us and enlighten us with a type of kindness never seen before. Wealth will rain down onto us from the heavens once we know how valuable our lives are in comparison to the lord,” said the Priest.

 

“She is so little. She has no life yet to take, seizing a beginning,” said the masked creature.

 

“But you, as the bleeder, must surely understand. You did after all come to us and give insight.”

 

The light within him had been contested before, but the memory of it was faint. Searching for it, digging through a dark hole, scratching at any photographic image. He breathed slightly and never felt his lungs expanding. He thought with an active mind, a mind that has been conditioned and void of deep wondering. He was a shell of a man, but inside was something animated by carefully designed mechanisms. It was partly because of these machines that he lived in this numb state. Even when he bled, it poured out of his body without the slightest awareness.

 

The image of the girl, her flush cheeks and blond hair, freed him from the nothing he was so accustomed too. It was for this feeling that he moved to defend her against a group that had housed him for months. He felt nothing in response to the thought of fighting them, only slight confusion, as he never registered anything they have ever said.

 

“I have to think, does your messiah really profit from her loss?”

 

“He profits from our existence, but we don’t exist without his blessing. This is for us to begin a new cleansing.”

 

“You exist right now, you feel it don’t you. You feel it when you breathe, when you move. The one that doesn’t exist is I. I don’t exist and neither does this lord that you speak of.”

“The Bleeder might have misspoke, he wouldn’t denounce his creator, not with full intent. Perhaps we were wrong about the level of your servitude. You are less of what you seem, the Bleeder is thus a shadow of another idol. We will find that such idol, and we will create a better platter for it. Right now, we have this dear child to offer to Nzulmbi and that must be done. To not, will bring this Covent down to a low unimaginable.”

 

“No one will hurt this child, no one will even touch this child. A group of men like you stand before me, with a mind much more diluted than mine. That bothers me and makes me feel something I have long forgotten about. The absence of emotion had left me stale, but that has been revoked. I dare you all to challenge me, but I dare you even more to challenge each other. This lunacy has gone far enough,” said the Bleeder.

 

“You are part of what you just labeled as lunacy. You are a totem of worship. Your body is not by design from the god we neglect, but by the god we worship. You are him. You will feast.”

 

“If God created me, then he owes me an explanation.”

“We are the messengers of that. You must know it to be true, you found us.”

 

The Bleeder paused and his hesitation grew as he thought about that notion. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt aware, or even felt at home with anything. His mind was diluted into a despairing loss and was of no use other than to further dissolve any stable radiant. He moved from his place and felt an instant gain of pressure and had to use the arm of the stone chair to keep his place.

 

“You see, you are weak without her blood. You body needs to be revived so that it can flourish at full strength. Your ability to live is because of the way he crafted you. You steal blood, gain nutrients and bleed out the rest. You are what you hate. Do not let this girl be the end of you.”

 

The chords launched from his back, piercing through the air at rate faster than before. The metallic lead of the cable stabbed through the priest’s neck, causing him to gasp for air.

“…This isn’t his will…,” were his last words before the clamp readjusted so that it could absorb the blood. The other cables launched out, attacking random people in the thick crowd. The rest were speechless and not sure what to make of it. The head of their command, of their view, was cut off and now they are bleeding for their idol.

 

“This isn’t his will, then he is a traitor and must be punished,” said a bearded man.

 

The bleeder regained his strength and swallowed the frail girl into his arms. He bolted for the door, while offering his thick skin and muscles as protection against the rain of attacks. The rioting crowd was of no contest to his will; he reached the door and left with his web of cables springing back into place. The sporadic movement of the cables caused further injury onto the people, slicing through the skin of many.

 

The fallen idol slammed through the door shattering it into a thousand splinters and kept on running. He ran through a network of passages, running past several sleeping homeless, junkies, and social misfits. He was in a place much worse than before, even though it was more open. It was a forgotten part of the city; a place that once had a great view of the river bend. Now it contained only a collection of scattered cars, buses, and other junk that acted as housing for the people that lived there. They were the type that considered a morning injection of heroin to be a good way to start the day, a type that wouldn’t care at all for his intrusion.

 

Using the overlapping shadows of the place as a cover, the Bleeder began to pace much slower and wandered without any direction. The escape had dissolved to an expanding calm, he stooped behind a brick wall releasing the girl from his grasp. He examined her and sighed to the strange feeling. Her eyes moved, twitching to a disturbance known only to her. She squirmed for a moment, startled for a second that went by slower than how it started.

 

“Home, I want to go home,” she cried while crawling out of his arms. “Where am I?”

 

“You want to go home. Home, that is where you should be, where is it, your home.”

 

“What happened to you? You look weird, eew gross, is your hand bleeding?”

 

“Yes, it bleeds, and what happened to me is the reason of my being. That is the only thing I can make out of this misery.”

 

“Why are you so sad?”

 

“Is this sadness? I don’t know. I saved you from those people. Do you remember the people that brought you before me?”

 

“I thought that was just a dream. Does that mean I get to go home now.”

 

“Yes, but where is it.”

“I don’t know, not here anyway. We should leave this area. Head for a much wider street.”

 

“I will try, but I’m not sure where here is.”

 

A group of people gathered at the opening of the ally, and the sound they made brought onto them his attention. He poised his dark image before them, empty of fear. The cultists made their taunts, but the empty reply drove them impatient. They charged at him, leaving him with only seconds to think. He glanced at the girl and spotted a latter. He offered her cover and rough persuasion as she climbed to the rooftops. The rushing mob swarmed him like ants on a spider, weak and pathetic, but the surge of their numbers was a greater advantage than first thought. He spun his fists, pounding for release, but they stayed with their fight. He grasped a kneecap and smashed it with his fist, causing the pile of bodies to cave.

 

He fled from the scene, but turned around to find a man with shotgun in hand. The barrel was pointing directly at his chest, and the man didn’t hesitate any longer. The shot was fired and the bullets punctured through his chest creating a cavity that exposed the fumes of his inner workings; a musky green essence seeped out, causing the man to churn with a repulsed stomach.

 

The Bleeder climbed the ladder with difficulty at first, but he proved to be too strong for the others to hang on. Upon reaching the top he lunged for the face of a follower and smashed it against the brick wall. The body fell unto the others, freeing the ladder from their efforts. The little girl was at the edge of the building seemingly amazed by the sight of the busy city.

 

“You are okay, but only if we hurry?”

 

“My home is over there,” she said while pointing at a collection of rundown apartments. The Bleeder glance at the sight and became one with the objective. He pulled the girl closer to him, further staining her white dress. She was more repulsed by his roughness than his skunk-like stench.

 

“I will take you there.”

“What about those people? Aren’t they trying to kill you?”

“I believe so, but their intent shouldn’t last too long. I am stronger than they are and will succeed.”

 

“You might want to see a doctor, I never seen green smoke come out from a person’s chest before,” said the girl.

 

“I can’t say I haven’t and I doubt a doctor would be able to do much. I’m a monster, after all.”

 

“Yeah, you are, aren’t you? But than that makes you my monster, I don’t mind.”

 

“I see that you don’t,” he took her into his arms and jumped across to the other roof. He ran over the rooftops with the speed of a bull and was nothing close to being acrobatic. The pavement would crack to his landing, any glass surface would shatter to the vibration of his stomping, and the ledges crumbled easily to his presence. The air was the only thing he didn’t harm as his coat flapped on every jump. The girl screamed with fear at first, but that soon changed to excitement.

 

He crashed onto the roof of an apartment and shattered it, causing a great commotion as the residents were rudely wakened. He ignored the shouting and continued towards the girl’s direction. He navigated the grounds of the place, stomping over grass, bushes, and flowers until he reached a fence that was instantly taken down. She was amazed by his strength and laughed at him for his seer determination. He didn’t respond, as he didn’t know what to say. He stopped suddenly at her door and gave no indication of being out of breath. He set her down and turned his back.

 

“Wait, where are you going? You should meet my father, he should thank you.”

 

“If he is like you than yes,” he said.

 

“He is, he taught me much about the world and trained me to be smarter than most.” She opened the door and ran into the small apartment. For a place that was centered in a rat’s nest it was actually well kept, taken into high regard in appearance and smell. The Bleeder had difficulty walking in, but once he did he found the girl rejected by her own father.

 

“You are not to be here. How did you get here?”

 

“Daddy, I was saved by this man here, I think some bad people were going to do some awful things to me.”

 

“That awful thing was what they needed to do, what we needed to do. You are my only daughter and to offer someone like you with your importance is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Humanity needs to be redeemed.”

 

“So, you let them take her. You just give her up for a belief?”

 

“What are you supposed to be?”

 

“They worshiped me, I think. The people you gave her to…”

 

“Dad, I don’t get it, what is going on,” asked the girl.

 

“Abigail, this is the thing that was to take your life. Salvation is close… all he has to do is strike.”

 

“That is not happening. I might be lost and some sadistic manifest, but I am not some tool. You, as her father failed, and the only salvation is in your death,” yelled the Bleeder. He lunged for the father and raised him by the neck.

 

“Wait, he is my dad, my family.”

 

“Do you have a mother?”

 

“No, she died when I was born.”

 

“Hmp… Her death was my awakening,” said the father.

 

He squeezed his hand just enough to give a stern warning. The girl cried a trembling wave of tears, “You monster.”

 

The Bleeder closed his grasp, teetering with a cold delivery of death, but she stopped him. She wiped her tears and looked too clever for her age, “He wants to die, don’t give it to him. Instead take me to my aunts and I will explain what happened.”

 

“She’ll never believe you and I will win in court. You are my property,” said the father.

“What about the cult,” asked the Bleeder.

 

“We do not exist, nor do we give detail of anything we do.”

 

“Then your death will free her”

 

“My will locks her into another, there is no way to stop what must be done.”

 

“Then he will die too. I made my decision, and I will protect her, as she is just a girl.”

 

“Then Nzulmbi will take you back and he isn’t passive like the others, he will find you and set you back.”

 

“I’m a creation of something human, that I believe to be true and it is your cult I have to thank for that.” He squeezed the throat with full might, snapping it into a flatten mesh of flesh, bone, and blood. He dropped the body to watch it fall and noticed the girl’s repulsive reaction.

 

He left her there with a promise that he would keep watch. She didn’t want her only sense of security to be far and away, but her cries were of no use. As much as he wanted to protect her, there was a growing curiosity of his creation, a longing for a sense of purpose. A monster such as him shouldn’t be real, but that is a moot point when considering what man can do so long as there is desire and drive to do it.

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature, lovecraftian literature, or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

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Happy Anniversary by R. L. Schumacher

A soft breeze fluttered the curtains that hung on the open window. Legs tangled with silk sheets on the bed. Two lovers tied in passionate embrace in the darkness. Daria slinked on top. Her palms pushed down on Jake’s chest. He slid inside of her as she began to rock back and forth. The bed creaked in protest of their efforts. He looked up at her as her head cocked back, her raven hair drifting back from her face. Their eyes locked. She began to grind down on his pelvis locking them together in one continuous motion of ecstasy. The minutes passed as their passion built into their inevitable climax. Daria and Jake now spent, collapsed upon each other both exhausted but fulfilled.

Daria moved up close so to whisper into Jake’s ear.

“Happy Anniversary,” Her hot breath almost ignited Jake’s passion once more.

“I love you too.” Jake told her.

The curtains moved again without aid of the wind. Jake looked around and saw nothing but blackness all around them from their bed’s edge. Suddenly red eyes appeared in the center of the blackness. Jake went to move…It all happened at once.

A flurry of motion and panic filled the room. Powerful hands took Daria from him by and dragged her to the window. The One held her in his arms, his bleached incisors clamped down upon her throat. Blood flowed around his mouth and down her neck. She swooned in his arms and went limp. The One smiled at Jake as he rushed the window. His powerful hand slapped Jake throwing him to the ground like a rag doll. The One stood over Jake delivering his pronouncement before vanishing with Daria in his arms. He left nothing but the fluttering curtains in the darkness of night.  

“I have given this mortal love’s greatest gift! More valuable than anything you could possess. Behold, now she is immortal!”

To Jake’s ultimate horror Daria opened her eyes. Their crimson orbs focused on him. Her hungry grin exposed the fangs that protruded from her gums.

  

***

That image still burned within him ten years later. He’d spent the last decade learning how to track and kill those like the one that took her. Jake amassed much knowledge on how his adversary’s survived in the world of man. Jake became obsessed in an endless search to find him, the one that took her away.

The long nights he’d spend in crypts searching, Jake journeyed into the deepest recesses of darkness, layers devoid of all light to dispense those like the one who lay in wait for the night. He took great joy in destroying the undead fostered by the One. His retribution laid waste to many of his legions. With modern weapons, he thrust his vengeance upon all those who caused him so much pain. Jake over time had gained a lethal reputation among those he hunted.  

    The sounds of traffic filtered in through the open window. Jake sat in front of a small table. Its surface covered with the tools of the hunt. Silver bullets littered the table top as he inserted them one at a time into his favorite weapon.

As each projectile slid into its appropriate slot, he recalled his most recent kill.

The vampire’s red eyes filled with shock just as a set of perfectly placed bullet holes appeared in his forehead.

Jake smiled as he spun the chamber to the next open slot.

He saw Daria’s face from ten years ago. The woman he loved, her smile now filled with the long fangs of a predator. Her eyes changed forever crimson by the One.

Another silver slug found a home.

Daria and Jake alone in the house knew nothing of the danger that stalked them. They celebrated their wedding anniversary. He’d been happy then.

Another bullet found a home.

The chamber spun to the last open receptacle.

The One appeared from the shadows. Jake tried to move. His powerful hand hit Jake as he fell to the ground. He lay there witnessing the One’s damnation of his wife. He saw her look upon him with the hungry eyes of the dead. As they vanished together, the One’s laughter rung in his ears as the night air grew cold.

The last silver messenger found a home.

    Jake spun the bullet in the chamber gun. The silver slugs blurred from rotating then slowly came into focus as the chamber stopped. He closed the gun locking the chamber into place. Jake held the barrel of the weapon against the side of his face with one hand. A silent prayer came from his lips as the night air filled the room.

The room suddenly felt cold, the sounds from outside fell silent. Jake now on his guard, knew he had company. He scanned the small room, nothing but an old bunk bed and an old dresser. A light hung from the ceiling by a withered cord.

The experience he’d gained in hunting them these past ten years served him well. His senses tuned to a fine pitch due to his training. Jake could feel undead as they drew near. And he had modern technology at his fingertips. Jake’s free hand slid along the table until he found the infrared glasses. Slipping them quickly over his eyes changed the prospective of the room. The dimness fell away, revealing the One standing near the dresser.

Jake’s eyes recognized the One, the monster from his past. He stood there silhouetted in crimson and smiled at Jake. Jake cocked the hammer back on his weapon, its gunsight falling into perfect alignment with the crimson shadow. The Vampire’s laughter filled the room.

“I would think after all this time we would have had proper introductions.” The One offered standing in the darkness.

“Let me introduce you to the silver bullets in my gun.” Jake answered.

The One chuckled as he drew closer.

“You know I’m faster than you.”

“I’ve gotten quicker since.” Jake answered focusing on squeezing the trigger.

“But I’ve come on love’s errand.” The Vampire insisted. “Surely that will warm your heart.”

“My heart’s dead thanks to you.” Jake began to squeeze the trigger. The chamber swapped a bullet into lethal position.

“I’ve come to make amends, see.” The Vampire slowly gestured toward the door of the tiny apartment.

With no physical cue from him, the door of the room opened of its own accord. Jake’s horror nearly unraveled him as he saw Daria standing in the open doorway. She looked just as she did on their last night together; except for her eyes.

“Jake I’ve missed you. I want to come home.” Daria spoke seductively through scarlet lips.

“Ah-,” The One lamented. “She still shares the bond with you even after spending immortality with me. Even the gift cannot break what has been between you.”

The Vampire turned his attention back to Jake. His thin lips parted slightly revealing the lethal teeth within. Ivory shafts sharpened like a spear, the One’s mouth a pointed arsenal of death.

“My heart knows only what we’ve shared my darling Jake. I have waited all this time so I could return to you once more.” Daria’s words slid seductively from her lips.

“Even after all I’ve given her; she only desires to be with you.” The One’s hand gestured from Daria then toward Jake.

The hammer of the gun clicked all the way back now. Jake held his weapon firmly fixed on the One. Sweat poured down his face. His eyes darted constantly between that which he once loved, and the object of his revenge.

“I give her back to you. I have no hold on her.” The One pronounced.

“Jake it’s true; I’ve come back for you.” Daria begged.

Daria smiled, her fangs exposed, her smile identical to the One’s. Jake felt the rush of his revenge flow through him. He leered at the One, his heart filled with hatred. Then it all happened at once.

The One moved toward him. Jake unloaded his weapon. Daria burst into the room toward Jake. Jake rose from his seat as the One fell to the floor holes from the silver bullet spread out over his chest. His lethal grin forever locked on his face. Daria leaped on Jake, his weapon falling to the floor. Her arms wrapped around him. Jake turned his head just as Daria’s head leaned back, fangs exposed. Her crimson eyes fastened on his neck as she plunged down. Jake felt the darkness encompass him.

***

He awoke in her arms. Her hands held his face. She gazed down upon him with a mix of love and passion. They would be together again. His eyes opened, his crimson orbs reflecting back into hers. Daria’s fangs mixed with an angelic smirk. She leaned in close and whispered in his ear.

“Happy Anniversary-”   

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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Rock-a-Bye Bigfoot by Shawn M. Riddle

 

North Carolina-September 1889

Ken ladled his dogs’ dinner into three dirty old bowls. Banging the ladle on the bottom of the empty pan he called, “Paunchoe, Sadie, Max, c’mon now! Dinner time!” The dogs ran out from the woods behind the cabin, ears pricked and tails wagging.

He rolled a cigarette and poured three fingers of whiskey into his glass as he watched them eat from his rocking chair on the front porch. Ken loved this time of year, the air was cooler, the trees brighter, and the hunting was always better. He planned to go hunting the next few days to stock up on meat for the coming winter.

“Ya’ll eat up now, we got us a busy day come tomorrow!” Ken told the feasting dogs. They raised their heads for a moment, wagged their tails, and returned to wolfing down their dinner. He finished his cigarette and whiskey and cleaned up the empty bowls. Giving his dogs a loving pat on the head, he brought them into the cabin. They lay down on the floor and immediately drifted off to sleep. Ken changed into his night clothes, and followed their example, flopping into bed, asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

A piercing howl shattered the silence of the night, Ken sprang upright in his bed as the dogs jolted from their sleep and began barking excitedly. The high-pitched ululating howl continued for several seconds. It was unlike anything he had ever heard and the source was no more than a couple hundred yards from the cabin.

“Y’all be quiet!” he grumbled. They immediately ceased barking, but continued deep throated growls and looked at the window, ears pricked, listening intently. Several seconds later the howl came again, intense and angry, like a beast pursuing prey. He threw on his overcoat and grabbed his rifle from above the fire place. Taking care to keep the scrambling dogs inside, he opened the door and stood on the front porch.

“What on God’s green earth was that?” he asked himself in a whisper. A third ear-piercing howl shattered the cricket-call of the deep night, this time closer to the cabin than before. Whatever it was, it was moving in his direction. He heard the crunch of leaves under heavy feet and the swish of tree limbs swaying, and then snapping. By the light of the full moon, he stared into the forest about fifty yards from his porch and saw trees and bushes violently jerking back and forth.

He heard another distinct howl, different from the first, just beyond the tree line–the cry of a creature in agony, then a triumphant, primal roar and a sound like that of wet burlap being torn apart. Ken’s blood ran cold. He breathed heavily, gulping in air and felt sweat begin to run down his face. Once again, he scanned the tree line for any sign of movement, as the dogs inside the cabin whimpered loudly.

A deep guttural growl now filled the air. Something flew from the tree line toward the cabin, nearly hitting Ken. It crashed into the front of the cabin with a sloppy wet smack and slid down the wall onto the porch. His eyes followed the trail of blood, and settled on the head of a large black bear, trailing bits of fur, bone, and flesh from the neck laying on the porch step. He looked back toward the forest. Standing in the clearing was a huge creature, perhaps eight to ten feet tall, covered in long shaggy black fur; it was difficult to tell for sure in the moonlight. Its eyes glowed a fearsome red in the moonlight, blood dripped from long razor-sharp teeth. In one of its hands it clutched what looked to be one of the bear’s legs, its vicious claws dug deep into the flesh.  

When his eyes met the creature’s, for a split second time seemed to stop. His feet felt rooted to the spot, his sweaty hands shook as he clutched his rifle. He tried to breathe, but something prevented it. A lead weight crushed his entire body and kept him from moving, or even making a noise.

The creature dropped the ravaged leg and opened its arms wide and threw back its head roaring at Ken. It ran straight at him with astonishing speed on two legs, like a man. Ken raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired. An eerie human-like yowl of pained rage erupted from the creature as it stopped in its tracks and looked down at the fresh bullet wound in its stomach. Ken cocked the lever of his rifle and chambered a fresh round as the creature turned to retreat into the woods. He fired again, hitting the creature in the shoulder. It disappeared into the trees in less than a second, howling in rage.

Ken stood on his porch in stunned silence and stared at the spot where the creature had disappeared. Eventually he turned and went back to the table on the porch and poured himself a full glass of whiskey which he downed in seconds. He sat in his rocking chair, replaying in his mind the events that had just occurred, over and over. It wasn’t until the first rays of the dawn that he finally moved. He opened the door to the cabin and said to himself, “What could have possessed God in heaven to make a monster like that?”

He went inside, the dogs were cowering in the far corner of the room and they had lost control of their bladders and bowels. He called them over to him, but they remained still, cringing and shaking. Kneeling on the floor, in a gentle and reassuring tone he reached out to them, “C’mon now, its ok, ain’t nothing gonna hurt ya. It’s gone.” Hesitantly, looking around as they moved, they slinked over to their master. He scratched them behind their ears and patted their heads. “That’s right, it’s all good now.” Paunchoe, his favorite, looked up at him with large frightened eyes and licked the back of Ken’s hand.

After cleaning up the mess, he cut a few chunks of the dried deer jerky hanging in the corner and tossed them to the dogs. Taking a hunk for himself, he sat on the end of his bed and watched the dogs as they devoured their breakfast. He said, more to himself than to them, “Well pups, looks like I scared him off, but I got a feelin’ he’ll be back. Think the best thing to do is track him down and finish him off. We’ve already put the hurt on him and he’ll likely be more dangerous. Best we deal with him directly.” The dogs stopped chewing and raised their heads. They looked at Ken for a moment, tails wagging gently, as if they understood and agreed. A moment later, they returned to their meal.

Ken put on his hunting clothes, grabbed his knife, his Colt Peacemaker .45 pistol and his Winchester repeating rifle. He loaded his pockets with beef jerky, some extra ammunition, and assorted other gear he would need and headed for the door. He turned around before leaving and said, “Best ya’ll stay here, you won’t do me no good anyhow pissin’ yerselves and runnin’ away out there.” The dogs looked at him for a moment, and then lay down on their beds.

Ken walked through the clearing toward the place he first saw the creature. A few feet into the woods he stopped to look at the bear’s body. Its right front leg and head were missing. Its belly had been torn open and its entrails were strewn several feet in every direction. Flies and other insects were crawling over the corpse.

Making the sign of the cross over his chest he said, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” He turned his attention to the direction he thought the creature had fled. Searching for a moment, he saw a trail of blood leading off into the woods. He could see that he wouldn’t need to rely on the blood trail to track the creature–its path was made clear by the broken tree limbs and crushed bushes it left behind.

He followed the trail for an hour; its course through the forest became more and more erratic. First it went one direction, then backtracked and went in the opposite. Ken began to notice a pattern; it seemed to be making its way back to the cabin. He was stunned for a moment when he realized that the creature was heading back toward his home. He thought This thing is either very smart or very dumb, never seen anything get shot and come back for more. Unless it’s comin’ back to even the score? He shook his head and almost chuckled, There’s no way an animal would come back for revenge. But then again, this thing ain’t an ordinary beast.  

Ken quickened his pace; now he was worried about his dogs. They had been left in the cabin, and would be no match for this creature. He continued to follow the trail, now heading directly back to the cabin. In the distance he heard a familiar roar. He broke into a run, tree limbs smacking him in the face as he ran. The sounds of smashing wood filled the forest, along with the panicked yelping of dogs. Breathing fast and hard, he sprinted homeward.

Once there he saw the cabin completely torn apart. Only one wall remained standing. The rest of the cabin was in splinters. His bedding and furniture had been torn to pieces. Shards of shattered stone from the ruined chimney littered the ground. He saw no sign of the creature except for a fresh path of destroyed plant life that headed north into the forest.

He saw what little remained of Sadie and Max. They had been completely torn apart. Their legs had been ripped from their bodies and thrown seemingly at random. Ken fell to his knees beside what was left of his dogs and cried. They were like his own children, and now two of them were gone. He looked around for signs of Paunchoe, but did not see him nor any sign of him in the wreckage.

Ken searched for anything he could salvage that was useable. He found some jerky, ammunition, extra clothes, his traveling pack, a rusty hatchet, and four sticks of dynamite that were holdovers from his days as a miner. Everything else was missing or destroyed. He packed his gear and set it on what remained of the front porch, then collected the pieces of Sadie and Max and placed them next to his pack, intent on returning to bury them. He gave his dogs’ one final sad look, picked up his traveling pack and set off in the direction the creature had taken.

He followed the path the rest of the day and into the night. He sat down near a gnarled old tree in a clearing. He had to rest. As he sat there gazing up at the stars, exhaustion overtook him and he drifted into restless sleep.

He awoke just before sunrise and continued his journey. He hadn’t heard the creature or Paunchoe since he left the ruins of his cabin, but the path was clear. It was mid morning when he found another clearing near the base of a mountain. There was a cave seated in the rock face directly in front of him at ground level, the creatures trail led right to it. The entrance must have been twenty feet high and at least ten feet wide. Footprints and a trail of leaves and brownish dried blood led directly into the cave.

He moved as quietly as he could to the side of the cave entrance and stood with his back to the wall.  He waited, listening. He heard growling and shuffling from inside the cave. From time to time a rock flew out of the cave mouth. He heard a second sound as well, whimpering. He knew that Paunchoe was in there and that creature was trying to get to his dog.  

Sweat beaded on his forehead as he returned to the tree line. He took the four sticks of dynamite out of his traveling pack and trimmed the fuses to about four inches. Ken stood up and bellowed at the top of his lungs, “Hey in there, we got unfinished business you and me. Get your hairy butt out here and let’s dance you furry son of a…,” Ken was interrupted by a reverberating roar coming from the cave. As the creature appeared at the entrance, he lit the fuse on the first stick of dynamite. Its filthy matted fur stained with blood and dirt, the creature spotted Ken and howled once again. He threw the dynamite directly into the path of the creature as it started to run for him. Ken dropped to his stomach and shielded his head with his hands. The creature only made it a few steps before the dynamite exploded.

The explosion threw the creature backward, slamming it into the rock face where it slumped to the ground with a heavy thump.  It lay there and struggled to get to its feet. Ken grabbed his rifle and pocketed the remaining dynamite. He didn’t take his eyes off the creature as he slowly advanced on it. When he got to within a few feet of it and he could see that it was still breathing. Nothing could have survived that! Ken thought.

He raised his rifle, and the creature’s lifted its head from the ground, baring its bloody and broken teeth. It let out a weak growl, its red eyes glowing with hatred as it pushed itself up. Ken shot the creature through the left eye, liquefying the eyeball and sending a stream of bright red gore shooting from the back of its head. He shot it five more times in the head after it fell, completely destroying the top of its skull.

Ken reloaded and charged his rifle; he closed the distance between them and looked down on the creature. It was huge and powerfully built. The explosion had torn a hole in its chest. He could see parts of the creature’s ribs, and what he took to be its lungs dangling from the chest cavity. Its legs were burned from the explosion and were criss-crossed with gaping wounds.

Whimpering inside the cave reminded him, “Paunchoe! You in here boy? Paunchoe!” About one hundred feet inside the cave, he saw Paunchoe crouched behind a pile of rocks in a corner. He was badly hurt, Ken saw blood on his flank and one of his legs seemed to be broken. When Paunchoe saw Ken, his eyes lit up and he wagged his tail weakly. Ken reached down and stroked the top of the dog’s head very gently, “There there now boy, I’m here, everything’s gonna be ok.”

Paunchoe bared his teeth and began to growl. Ken heard footsteps from deeper in the cave and drew his pistol. From out of the darkness of the cave, another creature appeared. It was smaller than the first, only five or six feet tall, but with the same glowing red eyes. In an instant, the creature charged at him from the darkness, gnashing its teeth and extending its claws. Ken shot the creature twice in the chest and it fell to the ground a few feet from him. No sooner had the creature fallen than two more came from the darkness. He shot the first one in the head as it approached, and turned to aim at the second. He managed to get off one shot, hitting the creature in the leg. As it fell it clawed Ken’s leg. He screamed as he fell to the ground. Paunchoe barked as he lurched from his hiding place and attacked the creature, growling and sinking his teeth into the creature’s leg. It turned around and ripped Paunchoe’s head from his body and hurled the head at the cave wall. Ken raised his pistol and fired his remaining two rounds into the creature’s head. It slumped to the ground, dead.

Roars echoed through the cave. Ken looked up and saw three more of the creatures, each as large as the first, standing at the mouth of the cave. He had no time to reload his pistol, and his rifle was lost somewhere in the clutter on the cave floor. Ken realized he had one option left. He dug a second stick of dynamite from his pocket. His hands shaking and slick with blood, he lit the fuse and threw it at the approaching creatures. He rolled behind the boulders that Paunchoe had used for cover and covered his ears, the blast rocked the cave. Blasting loose rock from the walls and ceiling, the cave collapsed on the creatures, burying them beneath tons of rubble.  

Kens head throbbed like it had been hit with a hammer and his ears were ringing. His leg was bleeding severely; he took off his shirt and wrapped it around the wound. It was no good, the shirt soaked through in seconds. Ken knew he would bleed to death if he couldn’t stop it soon. He rummaged through his travel pack and pulled out a small hatchet, his last bottle of whiskey, and another shirt. He cut the remaining pieces of his trousers in the area of the wound off and threw them to the side. He wrapped the shirt around the top of the hatchet, covering the blade. Dousing the shirt with the last of his whiskey, he lit a match and set it ablaze. He put the handle of his hunting knife between his teeth and applied the flame to his open wound. He shrieked, biting down hard on the knife handle. As he burned the wound he felt as if he would pass out from the pain but fought to stay conscious. After what seemed like hours of agony, the wound stopped bleeding. He dropped the makeshift torch on the ground. His heart pounded, and he could feel it in his burned and mutilated leg. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, he leaned to the side and threw up onto the cave floor.

With his body aching and his leg burning and painful, he grabbed his torch as he crawled over to Paunchoe’s remains. Putting his hand in the dog’s soft fur he lovingly stroked him. “I’m sorry boy, I’m so sorry.” He knew he had to try and find a way out of this place. He saw his rifle on the floor a few feet away. He crawled over to it and checked it over, it appeared to be undamaged.

Ken slung his rifle over his aching shoulder, with his hands shaking; he managed to reload the pistol. He began to crawl down the narrow passageway, holding the torch in front of him.

After crawling for what seemed like hours, he saw a split in the passageway ahead. It forked off in two directions, one heading to the right and one to the left. Ken was beyond tired, beyond exhaustion even, but he knew he had to keep moving. Weak and terrified, Ken pressed on and chose the passageway to the right. The cave was cold and dark, and the smell of rot and feces filled the air. The flame on his hatchet torch had shrunk; he only had a few minutes at best of light remaining. He continued half crawling/half dragging himself along the passage.

About fifty feet into the passage, he saw a chamber ahead. He could hear footsteps and a low pitched growling coming from it. Terrified, he raised his head and searched in the blackness ahead. It looked to be a shadow at first, slowly heading in his direction. The figure let out an ear splitting high-pitched shriek and began loping toward him. Ken dropped his torch and pulled his revolver from its holster. He aimed at the creature, this one much smaller than the others, about the size of a human child of five or six years old. Its red eyes glowed in the dim light given off by his torch. It rushed at him, arms extended and teeth grinding. He pulled the trigger and another loud crack filled the cave. He heard the creature drop to the ground.

After the echoes dissipated, he could hear the sounds of more of these creatures. Their screams sounded almost human–reminiscent of the wails of children. The sounds of many small feet echoed through the passage headed toward him, accompanied by howls and shrieks. “Oh good Lord, “he whispered, “their nursery.”

He unslung his rifle and pointed it in the direction of the noises. In the fading light of his torch he could see several small figures running in his direction, he opened fire, missing several times, but dropping four of them as they rushed towards him. As he pulled the trigger again, his rifle gave a dry ‘click’. More creatures advanced on him from the darkness. He recited the Lord’s Prayer in his head as he reached into his pocket and withdrew the remaining sticks of dynamite. He lit them with his dying torch and held them close to his body as the advancing creatures reached him. He felt a peace wash over him as the explosion rocked the cave.

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

-Mr. Deadman