HORRGASM delivers six solid terrifying mix of horror and sex!
DISCLAIMER: Deadman’s Tome is a dark and gritty horror zine that publishes content not suitable for children. The horror zine proudly supports the freedom of dark creative works and stands against censorship. Hardly any subject matter is too taboo for this horror zine. As a result, Deadman’s Tome may feature content your mother would not approve of. But she doesn’t control your life, right?
A Corpse Can’t Laugh by Salem Martin and G. B. Holly
A shadow, long and spindly, like something from a fever dream, betrays the teenage girl. She crouches in the shade of the rusted bike shed, her chest rising and falling in snatched, shallow breaths with one hand on the corrugated steel. She is looking out towards the empty recreation yard, a neatly tied ponytail hanging, glossy blonde, over one shoulder.
Time stands still for one perfect second, its cogs jammed by inevitability as I watch. I appreciate the way she has been created, the attention to detail in this blissful moment; from the restrained sobs to the way her gingham skirt ripples against her tanned legs in the breeze. A small plastic bag flutters along beyond her, distorting in the mid-day heat.
She senses me and turns with a strangled gasp. Those green eyes, once spiteful and judgemental, are now glazed over with tears. She raises one hand, with perfect polished nails made for scratching and hair pulling, in a ‘stop’ gesture, but it’s too late. Her head explodes in a firework of claret.
Blood rains down from the sky like red confetti. It is so beautiful. One droplet lands on the concrete in front of me, it is a perfect square of ruby. It settles and then starts to dissipate with the grace of a melting snowflake.
“Headshot!” the deep angry voice reverberates around me. It echoes across the recreation area, and some crows in a nearby tree are startled into flight. The delivery and inflections remind me of long nights sitting alone, a joypad my only grip on reality, whilst arguments raged below.
The decapitated corpse lies on her side, back against the wall of the old shed. She is beginning to fade. I can barely make out her tongue protruding from the stump of her neck. It is swollen like a fat, pink leech. “Who’s the ugly bitch now?” I find myself saying.
Satisfied, I turn back to the main building.
A square-edged sun sits beaming in an endless blue sky as I approach the double doors, scuffed and worn with frequent use. One of the adjacent windows is ajar and as I check my inventory for ammunition levels I can hear frightened sobs, and whispered shushes in perfect stereo clarity. I am reminded of my mother’s tears as she sits in the living room amongst the broken furniture, a purple welt on her thin, frightened face.
“Get your mother an ice-pack” she had said to me; her voice so pathetic that I almost cried. It wasn’t the first time I had to assist with first aid, it certainly wasn’t the last.
The doors push open with the squeak of metal on metal. I can almost smell the nostalgic scent of old wood, chalk and sweat.
“Heeeeeere’s Julie!” I boom down the echoing corridor, and I can’t help but chuckle. This is an empowering role reversal. Whilst some of the girls here claimed to own these hallways, I was at home racking up high scores. Who’s queen now, bitches?
“Eeeney. Meeney. Miney. Moe,” I recite slowly, deciding where to go next. “Decisions, decisions.”
“Don’t waste too much time,” the deep demonic voice says, I can sense that it is hungry for more death.
There is a sudden noise up ahead and I am distracted by one of the bins clattering onto one side, spilling its contents all over the floor. There is a shusshhhh of trainers skidding on linoleum as a figure runs away. The teenager’s arms pump like he is trying for the one hundred meters. Tall and gawky, he is not much older that I am. The green tracksuit he wears is similar to that of a video-game plumber with whom I grew up.
I raise the gun. Shoot. The bullet thuds into a noticeboard, but I quickly reload and aim for a second time, a tinnitus whine ringing in my ears. The second shot hits the green tracksuit in the base of his spine with a wet thwack. He carries on running for a couple of yards, a magenta stain soaking around the small of his back, before drunkenly losing control and smashing into a table at the far end of the corridor. It collapses under the impact and he skids face first into the wall, surrounded by pixelated splinters. He coughs once, arches his back, and then lies still.
“Spinal tapped!” the voice booms. A smile quickly flashes across my face.
I see that the bullet has not completely passed through him when I kick him over, but a trickle of blood runs down his distorted face. His eyes are open and stare up at the ceiling, glassy and lifeless. His final expression is one of mild surprise. It reminds me of their faces when I told them about the divorce. I thought that it had worked, that they would stop hurting me out of sympathy. Maybe they would feel sorry for me. It was a short respite.
“And to think you just watched as they did what they did to me,” I hiss at him. “You didn’t even go for help…” I can feel a tear welling up in my eye as a memory fleetingly enters my mind before I force it back out again. Using the sleeve of my jumper I wipe my blurred vision. I need to concentrate, need to be on my game.
Dink. There’s a hollow, metallic noise behind me, and I quickly spin around with my gun raised. A woman stands there, she has emerged from a nearby door that gently clicks closed behind her. Her trembling hands, neatly painted with red nail varnish are raised level with her thin-lipped face. She smiles nervously, and her eyes flit briefly down at a soda can that has spilled from the bin.
“Please, Julie,” she begs, her voice trembling. She licks those thin lips. “I’m so sorry, it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“You made me feel like it was all my fault.” I reply coldly, “You made me think that I was the reason my dad left..”
She looks confused, like she had lost the thread of a conversation. “Julie, I don’t understand what…”
She doesn’t see the grenade coming. Her innards project outwards at velocity, and for a frozen moment in time the woman is a blossoming pixel-art flower. The concrete behind her is like a giant chessboard, spattered with alternate squares of red and black all the way up to the ceiling. She has been reduced to a glitch, still smoldering from the explosion; her body lies half in and half out of the wall. I can smell the sweet and metallic aroma of fresh blood.
“Over their dead body!” the voice roars in my head. It reminds me of the man that gave me life, and almost took it away. A person who had a judgemental opinion on every little thing that my mother and I did, provided a running commentary on our failures.
“My Commentator.” I whisper aloud. I can feel my eye twitching, but I don’t know why. My kill ratio must be impressive now, even by national standards. But it’s not over yet.
A semi-transparent map appears in front of me, floating in mid-air like a hologram. I am surprised by its presence at first, but this quickly turns to fascination. It shows a top down view of the building. I can see where I am standing, marked with a red skull. The others, all huddled in one of the rooms to my right, are represented by pale blue dots.
Ensuring the gun is fully loaded, I march towards the frosted glass of the library. First, I press my ear up to the crack between the doors. I can hear muffled whimpering and frightened whispers. Good, the more terrified the enemies are, the larger my point multiplier becomes.
I let things become deathly silent before kicking open the doors. The frosted glass shatters as it bounces off the walls. I hear a collective intake of breath, and I catch sight of students and staff huddled under tables and behind bookcases.
As if that will save them.
“Slaughter time! Kill as many as you can within the time limit!” the Commentator is shouting instructions for this area. A grinning skull icon floats in mid-air, at the upper edge of my vision, leering at me. He wants to feed on their exquisite suffering. The more I kill and the more brutal the kills, the more points I get. I’ve gotten far. I’m doing well. I can’t fail now. I need that high score.
“Heads will roll!” the Commentator roars and I spring into action. A symphony of bullets tears through tables, books, and bodies. A tapestry of gore stains the walls and floors. Shrieking and yelling rises to a deafening level. Everything is so crisp and clear. The audio and visuals are stunning. I can hear the crack in a girl’s scream. I can make out pieces of skull in the bloody pulp that used to be someone’s head.
“Bloodbath!” the Commentator shrieks with glee. I see his skull icon transform into a more demonic form. He grows twisting horns, his teeth become razor sharp, his smile becomes unnaturally wide.
“Brutal kill!” the Commentator roars again as I send Mrs. Thomas flying over a table with a storm of bullets.
“Brain drain!” Mike, the school’s best basketball player, is now leaking all of his education through a hole in his forehead.
“Break a leg!” Jared won’t be running track anymore.
“Pain in the neck!” Karen’s singing voice is useless now as she clutches the wound in her throat.
“Ass Blaster!” Mr. Taylor will no longer be able to sit behind his desk to scold me.
“Belly up!” No more stealing my lunch, Joseph.
“A little off the top!” Oh no, now Lucy can’t wear her crown when she gets voted prom queen.
I hear the Commentator’s raucous laughing as I stop to catch my breath. I gaze around at my handiwork. It looks like a scene from a horror movie. There isn’t one inch of the library that isn’t splattered in wet crimson. People are lying on the floor, riddled with steaming bullet holes. Many of them are missing chunks of flesh that have been blown off. A few are even missing half of their faces.
They look like they were savaged by a pack of wild animals. I can’t believe the detail and work that went into the character models. Some of the bodies twitch, but I haven’t missed anyone. This definitely has to be a new high score. It just has to be.
I allow a smile to grace my lips. I wipe away some drops of blood from my cheek. I look down at my hand and see that it’s not blood, but tears. I quickly wipe my hand on my skirt and exit the library.
“You’re not done yet,” the Commentator says. His voice is much deeper now. It resonates in my skull. I rub my temples.
I hear something far off. It’s coming closer. It’s something loud and piercing. It sounds like sirens. That means my time to complete this level is running short. I have to get moving.
I make my way down the silent corridors. Every so often, I search a classroom for useful pickups. I receive bonus points for finding and killing any characters hiding in there. I would like to check every room, but my time is running out. I can hear the sirens growing closer.
I make my way to the other side of the building. There are large double doors with windows that make up almost their entirety. These lead out into a courtyard and the street. I peer between a flyer for the autumn dance and one advertising the chess club that are taped to the door windows. Outside I can see men and women crouched behind cars with flashing blue lights on top.
“This is it,” I whisper to myself as I pull away from the window.
I didn’t think he would have so many minions though. My hands become sweaty as I grip the gun. I feel a tightening in my stomach. I have to win.
“Come out with your hands up,” I hear a magnified voice blare. I locate its source and see a man with a large megaphone and a grim, hardened expression. That must be him. If I take him down, I win.
“Kill him,” the Commentator instructs in a silky voice. As I stare at the Boss, a ray of sunlight shines down, as if highlighting him.
It is in this moment that I notice that the sun is not square at all, but a perfect sphere, and I see an ambulance next to the shed, men are loading a gurney into the back of it, a pair of tanned legs poke out at the bottom of the white sheet. I can feel and smell the sticky syrup of blood all over me, and around me. It’s all so…real.
“Let’s keep calm here Julie!” the megaphone booms, off to my right. He’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security. There is an echo of metallic crunches, as weapons are raised.
“We know what your dad did to you, Julie- and the bullies. We sympathise with what happened to you, and your mother, but there is absolutely no need for this- what you have done is wrong. The first step to redemption is acceptance…”
I blink more tears from my eyes, the left one twitching like crazy. My head hurts, it hurts so much. What have I done?
“Come out quietly, Julie…please…we’re here to help you,” he continues.
“Finish them,” the Commentator growls in my ear.
I grasp the brass doorknob in a sweaty hand and twist it slowly. They don’t seem to notice outside. I ready my gun. My heart is pounding in my throat. I can taste the adrenaline. I swing the door open and step out onto the concrete steps, raising my gun to my target.
“She has a weapon!” I hear several of the minions shout. My vision dances with red dots as lasers crawl over my body like fireflies.
My finger, sweaty and shaking, places pressure on the trigger.
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.
He lay in wait like a spider. Thick, clinging darkness enveloped him as he listened for the sound of her car pulling in the driveway. He hadn’t moved from the couch in hours. He was patient, impossibly patient. He knew patience was key. He couldn’t rush these things. Everything had to be planned down to the smallest detail, or he’d end up in a cell for the rest of his life, a shame and an outcast to the few people he still loved. Nothing but a bad memory. A nasty scar.
He banished those thoughts and prepared for the task at hand. She was due home any minute. He caressed the hammer which lay beside him and this comforted him. He thought of broken teeth and exposed brain matter. Wild, animal eyes and anguished screams. He could barely contain himself.
He heard a car coming down the street and he knew it was her. The headlights momentarily flooded the room as the car pulled in the driveway. The sound of gravel being crunched under the tires made him tremble in anticipation. A door slammed shut. Then another. He heard voices, drunken laughter.
She brought a man home.
His breathing became laboured and he felt dizzy. He clutched the hammer tightly. The key was fitted into the lock and the door opened. They stumbled towards the bedroom without turning on the lights. They didn’t see him as they hurried past, tearing at each other’s clothes. He rose from the couch as they entered the bedroom, still gripping the hammer tightly.
Rage consumed him as he slowly neared. He pictured them sweating and groping and fucking, her moans causing him to see red.
He finally entered the bedroom. His eyes were already adjusted to the darkness and he saw the man was on top thrusting wildly, the woman screaming in pleasure. Then she saw him.
The screams changed from pleasure to terror as she frantically tried to push the man off her. The man turned around and, before he knew what was happening, the hammer came down in his face with a loud crack. Blood spattered the walls and the ceiling and the screaming woman.
The man collapsed in a heap on the bed. The woman’s screams turned to crazed laughter. She jumped up and rushed towards the man with the hammer, leaping into his arms and kissing him passionately, telling him how much she loved him, how much she enjoyed helping him kill.
He dropped the hammer, then put her down gently. He turned the light on so they could revel in the sight of their cunning crime. They took in all the bloody details, then smiled at each other for several long seconds before he took a small box from his pocket and got down on one knee..
Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes terrifying horror short stories and horror flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker and grittier the tale the better. If you enjoyed the horror short, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.
The gloom descended on him the moment his sneaker touched the broken walk leading to his mother’s house. It was as if a cloud had taken up permanent residence over the green tiled house. Michael looked up at the grimy windows and they stared back with baleful black eyes. “The beast” as Michael liked to call it, waited for his return, laughing at him. It knew he was a prisoner, unable to escape.
The rusty mailbox, clinging to the side of the house by one screw, hung heavy with the day’s mail. Michael shifted the plastic bags to one hand and dug out the fistful of envelopes. Bills, advertisements and his mother’s social security check. He gritted his teeth. Another reminder that he was not his own man.
Hoping not to wake her, Michael crept through the door – but the house betrayed him. The door creaked, squealing on him. Under his breath he cursed the miserable old beast.
“Izzat you, Mikey?”
Her voice was like a buzz saw gnawing at the nerves in his ears. Michael felt his lips curl back into a snarl.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Did you get me my smokes?”
He tossed the bags on the kitchen table. They contained three packs of Marlboros, six sticks of Slim Jims and a thirty-two ounce bottle of blue Gatorade.
“Did you get my smokes, sweetie?” Her scratchy, witchy voice clawed its way from her bedroom upstairs.
Michael shouted back. “Yeah, I got everything. Here’s your mail.” Under his breath he muttered, “Ya crazy, old bitch.”
His mother gingerly climbed down the stairs in a dingy pink housedress and terry cloth scuffs. She was a tiny woman peering out beneath heavy black framed eyeglasses. A nearly spent cigarette hung from her lips as she approached her only son.
“Didja have enough money for everything?”
Michael grunted and nodded.
The old woman patted his arm and eased herself into a chair to look through the mail; Michael flinched at her touch.
Thirty-two and living at home with his elderly mother, Michael acknowledged his failure. He had moved in with her when he dropped out of community college and swore it would only be until “he got on his feet.” The years rolled by and there was always a reason he was unable to move out. His mother pretended he was there to take care of her, but Michael felt trapped – trapped by the monstrous old house and his clingy hag of a mother.
She rifled through the bags.
“What the hell is all this? I didn’t tell you to get this.” The tone of her voice turned sour.
Michael grabbed at the bottle of Gatorade. “I bought them for myself.”
“Not with my money!”
“No!” Michael lied. “I’ve got my own money.” Michael had already cashed his measly check from the video store and the piddling remains sat in his wallet.
The old woman patted his arm and nodded. “All right, honey. You can have your candy.”
Michael furiously ripped open a Slim Jim and tore off a piece with his teeth. The salty dried meat tasted bitter in his mouth.
“Sweetie,” his mother said. “You wanna take my check to the bank and cash it now?”
“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.
“But Mikey, I just signed it.”
Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.
“It’s got my name on it now. What if I lose it or what if someone breaks in?”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.” Michael growled.
The old woman sighed. ‘All right, honey. I know you’re tired. You rest up.”
Michael rolled his eyes and bit off another huge chunk of Slim Jim.
“I don’t feel so good.” She struggled to stand. “I’m gonna go lay down.”
He watched his mother’s tiny form shuffle back up the stairs, the saggy flesh of her upper arms waggling with each step. Her door clicked shut and he could hear her coughing.
Alone later in his room Michael pulled a stack of dog-eared magazines from under his bed. He rifled through the pile, knowing well the contents of each one by the cover. The pubescent blue-eyed nymph sucking her forefinger while staring innocently at the camera promised many pages of girl on girl action beyond the cover. Michael chose the cover with a dark haired vamp pulling bright red chewing gum from her lips in a long slippery trail. He knew he’d find several pages of beaver shots glistening within.
Michael slid his hand into his pajama pants and began to fondle his balls. His vision blurred slightly as he got caught up in the images of young women on their backs, their legs open, forming a perfect V and the smooth, slick pinkness lying between their thighs. He sighed and closed his eyes as he began to caress his erect cock when he heard his mother coughing in the next room.
Michael’s hand froze. He waited for the coughing fit to die out and then resumed playing with himself.
In his mind the nubile blonde from the magazine’s pages crawled onto his bed and laid her soft lips on his cock. Her eyes were locked onto his as she dragged her tongue up the shaft and traced the tip of her tongue along the ridge of his big mushroom head. He slid his hand up and down faster along his penis when his mother started a new bout of throat wrenching coughs.
Michael shouted to her. “You alright, Ma?” He couldn’t very well tell her to “shut the fuck up, I’m trying to concentrate here!”
In between coughing fits she called back, “I’m all right! I just need some water!”
He leaned back in bed and gripped his cock with one hand until it hurt. She was still hacking. Michael tossed the magazines onto the floor and stared at the dark ceiling. Friggin’ crazy bitch was going to cough all night.
It sounded like she was in the room with him. He rolled onto his stomach, his cheated penis aching. Why wouldn’t she leave him in peace? Her coughs echoed through the old house. It was as if the walls were mimicking her, coughing back in sympathy.
The coughing fit continued. He could hear her straining to bring up whatever was blocking her throat and he felt his stomach roil in protest. Each jagged hack was like a blow to the back of his head. The last thing he thought before falling asleep was “disgusting old bitch.”
Just past four in the morning, Michael stirred in his sleep. Foggy, he sat up and listened. His mother was calling his name.
“Mikey, I need you!” She was struggling to speak. Michael could hear her gasping and wheezing. Her voice was strangled. “Mikey!”
Michael felt no urgency to get up. A great lethargy seemed to wash over him as he listened to his mother’s rasping calls. He lay staring into the dark, only glancing once at his alarm clock to check the time.
Michael was well aware what had happened, it had happened before. She fell asleep on her back and the mix of phlegm and tobacco in her throat had formed a plug. She was choking. But all she had to do was go into the bathroom and get a drink of water.
She gagged as she tried to dislodge the obstruction. The sound turned his stomach. Her voice, normally high pitched and whining sounded like a frog as it struggled to escape her clotted throat.
“Mickey, help! Water!”
He could hear her gasps and moans drifting down the hallway. Instead of feeling alarmed, Michael felt nothing but excitement. Her labored breathing created a rhythmic pattern. It reminded Michael of something he’d read as a kid in the school library. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” He began to chant the words under his blanket, along with the phlegmatic sound of his mother’s wheezing.
He stopped chanting and listened. He could hear a weak, barely audible whistle from the next room; a rattling whistle like steam being expelled through a narrow pipe.
It tittered several times before petering out into a wet rattle.
“Mom?” he whispered and pulled the blanket down. A cool breeze wafted against his cheek. There was no answer. For once, the house was silent. He tried again in the softest voice possible.
When he received no answer, he pulled his covers up and lay staring into the dark for nearly an hour before finally drifting off to sleep.
The next morning Michael waited until sunlight pierced the muddied windows in his room. The alarm clock near his bed said it was twenty past ten. The house was unnaturally still.
In nothing but his pajama pants, he crept down the hallway towards his mother’s room. The door was still closed. There was an unseasonal chill in the house. The air felt frosty – like a wet, cool breeze snaked its way through the hallway.
Michael leaned an ear against the door to listen and the wood itself seemed to sear his flesh. He pulled way. A film of sweat lay on his upper lip as he caught the metal door knob in his hand. The knob felt icy cold as it turned. He allowed the door to ease open just a few inches before peeking inside.
She was lying on the bed in a tangle of bedclothes. One skinny leg stuck out, a slipper dangling from her foot. She was wearing the clunky eyeglasses; her head thrown back against the headboard. Michael pulled the door shut with a jerk.
The texture of the wood, the bubbles in the yellowed paint seemed to grow before him. A tattered spider web hung in the corner above the staircase and Michael watched it sway gently.
His heart thumped in his chest. He rapped at the door with his knuckle and it sounded brutal. He pushed the door open and whispered, “Ma?” The door swung open and the picture was still the same. His mother was frozen in an absurd ballet pose, half in and half out of the bed. Michael padded into the room. Standing at the foot of his mother’s bed the room seemed impossibly neat save for the box of tissues and three packs of Marlboros on her nightstand, one already open and missing several cigarettes. The white and pink quilt, lumpy and misshapen from too many rolls in the dryer, still lay neatly folded across the foot of her bed. A litter of used tissues was scattered all over the floor beneath her one slippered foot.
In the time it took Michael to move from the door to his mother’s bedside, he took in the white flecks of dry spittle around her mouth, the yellow discharge on the front of her pink nightgown and the glaze of her open eyes beneath the thick lenses. He leaned forward as if to touch her and then bolted from the room. He dashed into the bathroom; pitching forward over the sink; dry heaving. The ghostly taste of Slim Jims filled his mouth.
His mother was dead. His mother was dead and she was lying in her bed like a stumpy manikin. Michael dropped his ass onto the toilet and gathered up the legs of his pajamas. She was dead – which was all right, Michael thought. It was gross, but it was all right. She was old, she was sixty-eight. That was pretty old, wasn’t it? She died of old age.
He glanced into the hallway and realized he’d left the bedroom door open. He imagined his mother’s still poised as if she were climbing out of her bed, staring at the ceiling. He’d have to close the door before they came. Who the hell was coming? He’d have to call the police or the paramedics. Who do you call when someone is already dead? He’d have to figure out who to call. Then what? What happens after they come?
Michael skidded past his mother’s door and sprinted down the stairs to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge open and grabbed the container of orange juice. He gulped big mouthfuls directly from the spout. Finally he slumped down at the table and stared at the Formica top. The sugar dispenser and the salt and pepper shakers were arranged in a neat little triangle in the center of the table. His mother had used them as paperweights to keep her precious Social Security check in place. Michael put one finger on the pale yellow piece of paper and dragged it over to his side of the table.
Michael picked up the check and turned it over. His mother’s neat, almost artistic looking signature was scrawled at the edge of the back of the check. Funerals were expensive. He looked up at the horrid yellow wallpaper and the garish light fixture dangling above. He could sell “the beast.” There had to be a will somewhere – although his Mom had always had a superstitious fear of talking about her own death. What if there was no will? And even if there was the rickety monstrosity could take years to sell.
His mother’s check felt hot in his hands. “The beast” was paid off. Who had to know if the old woman was dead? Who would tell? If she never left the house, it would be his secret – his and “the beast’s.”
His mother had been a small woman. Barely five feet tall, she claimed to have “shrunk” over the years. Michael considered storing her body in a plastic garbage bag, but he needed something more permanent. In the closet between their rooms, a green Rubbermaid container had been stashed to hold the few Christmas decorations his mother bothered with each year.
He brought a fresh garbage bag into the bedroom and regarded his mother’s still form. Michael had wanted to use her pink quilt as a type of shroud and just wrap her body up and dump it into the container. Her body wouldn’t bend the way he needed in order to fit her into the container. The garbage bag proved useless too. It slipped and slid as he tried to cover her up. Her arms kept popping out.
Michael had to abandon the quilt and roll her body off the bed and into the container. He shuddered each time his fingers gripped his mother’s cold lifeless limbs. He forced the arms to lie flat next to his mother’s sides and pushed her head down until it touched her boney knees. When he stepped back, sweat pouring down his cheeks into his collar, her grizzled little head popped up slightly.
Michael forced the lid onto the container, pushing his mother’s body down. There was some resistance, but he pressed the corners of the lid until he heard that satisfying snap of the sides locking into place. A wild thought fluttered into his head: that should keep her nice and fresh. Michael allowed a high pitched giggle to escape his lips before he dragged the box into the hall. The box traveled in a series of short shoves and grunts. There was only one place to store the box: the hallway closet where he got the container from to begin with.
His mother’s winter coats and heavy suits hung above her final resting place. Michael slid the box in as far as it would go until it hit the back wall of the closet. The house was mercifully silent but he could feel it judging him as he closed the door.
The bank had no problem cashing his mother’s pension check. He’d done it many times over the past few years and had even signed it for her himself. He took the cash home in his wallet, reminding himself to take a look at her checkbook when he got home. He treated everyone to Chinese food for lunch at the Video store and bought himself a new video game. For dinner later that night, he treated himself to a dozen White Castles and a case of beer.
At home he tiptoed passed the closed door of his mother’s bedroom. Pushing his sneakers off without untying the laces, he dropped onto his bed, face down. Soon he was drifting through a foggy world where he was at Donegal’s pub, tossing back beers and laughing his ass off with the buxom brunette from his magazine. The dark haired beauty wrapped one leg around his and pushed her tongue into his mouth when his mother started coughing. Michael snorted and shook himself awake
“You okay, Ma?” he mumbled, rubbing at his scruffy face. The wet coughing continued for a few seconds before Michael was shocked awake and sober. He sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the bed and listened. There was silence. He dropped his feet to the floor and stumbled into the hallway. His mother’s bedroom door was ajar.
He scuffed down the hall as if he were walking through gelatin. His brain tingled like mad when he stopped in the doorway and scanned the empty room. The bed was naked, stripped of its linens. He was sure he’d shut the door after storing the body laden container in the closet. He glanced down the hall at the closet door.
He closed the bedroom door and shuffled back down the hall to his room. As he passed the closet he caught a whiff of an unpleasant, sour odor. He snuffled, running a finger under his nose. Yeah, he thought, she’s in there.
The next morning, Michael stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing cold water over his face. He looked dreadful. His face was pasty and bloated looking. His eyes were rimmed with red. His stomach was unhappy and there was a horrid sour smell in the air.
Michael wiped his face with a dirty towel and looked in the mirror. He could see the hallway closet lurking in the corner behind him. The sour odor drifted down the hall..
Michael’s mom always kept several rolls of clear plastic wrap in the kitchen. He used his fingernails to claw at the end of the roll and pulled a long sheet of the transparent material. His plan had been to wrap it around his mother’s body, but he couldn’t bear to open the container and face what was inside. Instead he decided to wrap the entire container in as many sheets of plastic wrap as he could.
The tenacity of the wrap amazed him. It refused to leave home base and fought off all attempts Michael made to rip a piece from the main body of wrap. When he finally did get a strip free, it clung to his fingers and sucked at his bare arms. He found himself flapping his arms around, trying to free himself of the parasitic clutches of the plastic. He finally got one layer of wrap around the girth of the container. He began to pull off a second sheet when the wrap came to a sudden end. No worries, he thought. There’s always more plastic wrap.
He found the second roll of plastic wrap and wound several layers around the box before it gave out. He left the plastic attached to the roll and wrapped the container until all that was left was the very end of the roll. He tried to rip it free with his fingers and then attacked the sheet with his teeth. His face came close to the container and the odor seemed to bounce back at him, attacking his nostrils. Finally the container was muffled under five layers of clear plastic wrap.
Satisfied the smell was contained for good, Michael slid the box back into the closet. The plastic wrap had built up beneath the box, keeping it from sliding freely over the linoleum floor. Michael felt something jostle inside the box as he pushed it into the recesses of the closet. He jumped and pulled away. The box sat silently in its make-shift tomb and Michael shut the door.
Days later the smell was invasive forcing him to go out and buy more plastic wrap. He could feel it curling around the edges of the front door as he turned the key. When he pushed the door open, it rushed to meet his nose and rubbed against his face like an affectionate cat. When he closed the door behind him it seemed to envelop him, making him gag. He swore he could see green tendrils of the toxic fumes hanging in the air.
Michael opened the closet door and the smell pumped into the hallway. His eyes teared. With ginger hands, he pulled the mummified Rubbermaid container out. Michael studied the neatly wrapped package. The layers looked rippled in spots, as if someone had tried to tamper with it. Michael shook his head. It was just more of a mess than he had remembered.
He opened the first box of wrap and wound it in one direction around the box until the roll of plastic was spent. He opened a second box and wound it around in the opposite direction. He finally used another whole roll over the entire thing, winding it tightly until it resembled a transparent beehive. The dark green container could barely be seen beneath its cellophane cocoon. He had a hard time shoving the box back into the closet; its lumpy overcoat skidded against the floor. Before he closed the door, he thought he heard something bounce and settle within the container.
The highboy dresser in his mother’s room was just narrow enough to fit in the hallway. Michael pushed it into the hall and slid it in front of the closet door. He wasn’t sure it would do anything about the smell, but he felt better not seeing the closet door. On top of the dresser he began to place sticks of solid air freshener. He’d grabbed the colorful columns of solid deodorants off of the supermarket shelf, not paying attention to what fragrances they held. He opened each one and twisted the covers off, displaying the stick of fragrance. The combined aroma was unpleasant, but tolerable and he thought he could sleep.
He woke with a start hours later. His mother was coughing. He lay frozen in bed, his eyes wide in the darkness. He could clearly hear the staccato of her smoker’s hack. It was muffled as if it came from behind a closed door; muffled as if it came from layers of plastic cling wrap.
As if he’d been shocked by high voltage, Michael sat up in bed. He stared at his bedroom door as if he could will it to lock out anything that might wander in from the hallway. The coughing had stopped, but his ears strained for any sound. And then it came.
He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound.
It was a crinkly, crackling sound like layers and layers of plastic being peeled away. His heart battered against his rib cage. A tearing sound, a clean ripping and a thud. And then a wet splat, something like the slap of raw meat on the floor.
Michael swallowed and listened again. There was silence. His head seemed to clear and he ran his hand over the front of his underwear. They were damp. He shook his head as if to rattle his brain. It had been a nightmare. The house, in its gloomy brooding, was still. It was toying with his brain. He slipped under the covers and glanced at the alarm clock. It was just past four.
The next morning the smell still lingered in the hall. Michael had bought ten rolls of cellophane, but pulling the dresser from the closet and opening the door was out of the question. If he opened the door and the plastic wrap he had labored to seal the Rubbermaid container was tattered, rendered from the strain of the lid being pried open from within he would lose his mind. What if the lid had been dislodged and his mother’s decaying, blackened hand was sticking out, the nails clawing through the plastic wrap? What if he opened the closet door and his mother’s putrefied corpse was sitting on top of the box, shreds of cling wrap lying at her feet, her accusing eyes bulging from behind her clunky glasses?
Michael scrubbed at his face. The dark corners of the musty old house were drawing him in. He refused to go mad. It was just a bad smell and these things could be dealt with.
He carried an armful of air fresheners into the hallway and began to open them and place them around the dresser on the floor. Michael fought not to see the wisps of cigarette smoke that he was sure was escaping the seams around the closet door.
He dreaded nightfall. Everything was different once the sun went down. The dreary house became ominous, like a cranky old man. Shadows seemed to dart out just beyond Michael’s peripheral vision. He could hear thumping sounds from the hallway. At one point, right after sunset, Michael thought he heard his mother’s bedroom door open. Too frightened to look, he muted the television and stared straight ahead, listening. The back of his skull tingled when he thought he heard the shuffling of her slippered feet. He whirled around, a thin scream clawing at his throat, but nothing was there.
That night Michael locked himself in his room. He kept telling himself it was all in his head, the noises, the shadows, even the smell. There was definitely a smell, a terrible smell; but it was not a visible vapor that dogged him from room to room.
He dozed off into a cloud of unrest where he could hear the crackling of plastic and fleshy footsteps in the hallway. He jerked awake a few times when he thought he smelled cigarettes burning, but exhaustion forced him back to slumber. Sometime in the middle of the night he dreamed that his mother was in his room, hovering over his bed. He opened sleepy eyes and saw her face, blackened like an overripe banana, floating behind her thick glasses. She leaned close enough that he could feel her whistling, wheezing breath on his face and the heat of her own flesh decaying.
Michael bounded from his bed, his hands outstretched, fully expecting his fingers perforate her pulpy flesh. He was alone in his room. Clutching his chest, he looked at himself in the mirror over his dresser. His chin was scruffy with bristles. He hadn’t shaved in days. His eyes looked like wet holes in his head. He needed escape.
When he opened his bedroom door the odor of the apartment scrabbled at his throat. It was thick and powerful. He sprinted past the dresser in the hallway. The stench followed him like an eager puppy. Michael gagged and somewhere upstairs something echoed his cough.
At the Quik-mart, he bought an egg and sausage sandwich and an orange Gatorade. As he left the store, he unwrapped the sandwich and took a huge bite. It tasted greasy. Behind him an older man wearing a blue windbreaker and baseball cap stood drinking a cup of steaming coffee. He nodded to Michael and took a long drag from his cigarette which started a coughing fit.
The sandwich suddenly tasted of ashes.
The older gentleman shrugged and motioned to the lit cigarette with his coffee cup.
“These things are gonna kill me one day, but whattaya gonna do?”
Michael tossed his sandwich into the dumpster and took a swig from his Gatorade before heading home.
The odor greeted him as he stepped into the apartment. It was happy he was home. He pushed past it, covering his mouth with his hand. It seemed to grapple down his throat, searching for his intestines. He could feel it winding through his guts like a snake.
The air in the old house was toxic. Mingling with the flowery and fruity smells of the deodorizing sticks, the resulting aroma was nauseatingly sweet. The odor came from a box wrapped in miles of plastic wrap. He needed to keep the odor in the closet or his mother wouldn’t stay put. What would keep them both in? More plastic wrap.
Michael dropped the boxes of expensive, brand name wrap on the floor in front of the closet. He pushed the dresser away and stared at the closed door. No power in the world could compel him to open that door. He pulled one container of cling wrap open and then another. He carefully placed a sheet of wrap over the closed door, sealing off the edges of the door frame, blocking the escape route for the bad smell. The cling wouldn’t stay clung. When he applied a second layer of wrap it fell forward. He watched it drift down in slow motion.
Michael searched the drawers in the living room until he found the stapler. He attached each layer of wrap to the wall with the stapler, flattening out little pillows of putrid air trapped beneath the plastic.
He pushed the dresser back in place and inhaled deeply. The foul smell was still there, but faint. He was confident he had weakened it. Looking up at the cracked ceiling he chuckled. This house won’t beat me. You won’t be my tomb!
A blanket of perspiration lay on his skin. A job well done, he thought as he kicked aside the empty cling boxes. He picked up the last remaining box and took it into his bedroom. His bedroom was safe. The smell couldn’t get to him there.
The sun was setting as Michael lay, fully clothed, on his bed. He was listening to the creaking house. A bird warbled outside and the wind tree branches against the window. Michael could hear the heartbeat of “the beast.” It seemed content. Beneath it all he could hear the soft purring sound of brittle fingers cutting through layers and layers of cellophane.
Across his chest, Michael held the last unopened box of plastic wrap. He picked at the cardboard lid until he freed the roll within and pinched the end of the cellophane sheet. He peeled a good sized piece of wrap from the box and sliced it across the metal edge. He let the blurry gossamer sheet flutter in his hand like a translucent sail.
From the hallway he could hear the sound of plastic being shred. He could hear a muffled thump and then another like the frustrated pounding of someone locked out – or in. Michael let the cling wrap float down over his face. He smiled as it folded itself over his cheeks. He was a big boy, he thought. He could handle anything. All he needed was more plastic wrap.
As his bedroom door slowly swung open, he grabbed the edges of the plastic cling wrap and drew them down tightly over his face and took a deep breath.
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.
Tonya Dumont’s husband was dead, and under strange circumstances. It looked like an accident but his body was still at the morgue four days later so she knew it had the possibility of not being just your everyday accident. So when the morgue contacted her to visit her at home she thought it was just as strange a circumstance.
“We operate a bit differently,” was what the man from the morgue replied with when she asked if this was usual protocol. As she waited for him to show up she couldn’t quite remember his name. Was it Robert, or Ronald? Some name that was usually shortened, or ‘nicked’, as her mother would say.
“We like a more personal touch. This is the single hardest thing a person has to deal with, why should we make them go through it in anywhere else but the comfort of their home?” His logic was agreeable and furthermore he did run a private business, so why couldn’t they meet here instead of there to discuss the disposal of her late husbands body.
Disposal, she now thought sourly, if he would’ve used that word I wouldn’t have been so agreeable.
But she could say it, to herself in her own home. Anything could be said or done in one’s home and that’s why she didn’t question him, it just made sense. She wondered not about this mortician but rather about every other mortician, thinking they all should be this understanding.
So now she was waiting for him, this Robert or Ronald, and was frantically picking up her living room. She believed in the appearance of normalcy simply because she didn’t want to be seen as just another sad fresh widow. She didn’t want to be pitied and she didn’t warrant it, or at least that’s what she was trying to achieve. In movies or books when someone loses the love of their life they always spiral into this purgatory, with dishes piling up and a half drank bottle of booze in the midst of it somewhere.
Well not her.
Not the mighty Tonya Dumont.
Just because her husband was dead didn’t mean that she had to ruin everything they’d worked for. She continued going to work and as she walked around her house now she found it quite a quick job to clean up for her guest. All she had to do was wipe a thin layer of dust off of the coffee table and she was done. The coffee table that, through every evening, was her husbands best friend. He put his beer, food, and feet up on it, not to mention the wide-spread of every Sunday paper and it was just then that Tonya realized that while he was alive she never had to dust it. He never left it alone long enough to gather dust. And now that her simple tidying was done she felt entirely empty. Empty because she found that even though she worked so hard to put on a mask of life to wear when she went out, it was removed every time she stepped foot in her door. The walls here knew what was missing from inside them, and they pitied her whether she liked it or not. They felt the air, now so still after housing his constant energy and knew exactly what she was; a sad and lonely widow. There are, after all, no secrets that can be kept from the walls of a home.
Her expression began to hollow out, taking the look she never even let herself see. Eyes sinking in, lips losing color, mouth hanging agape. Like a doped mental patient, if only so numb.
The first time the doorbell rang she didn’t even hear it. She just kept looking down at her dead husbands favorite spot until the man knocked instead. This snapped her back and she felt the blood return. A quick breath and adjustment to her hair was all she needed, and she was back, to open the door with as much of the mask on as the walls would allow.
“Hello Mrs. Dumont? I’m Randall Flynn from Roseview.” Randall, she thought as he offered his hand. She took it and opened the door in its entirety.
“Please come in,” Tonya said standing back with a modest, only-being-polite smile on her face.
“Thank you. Wow,” he looked around, up the stairs and at the chandelier hanging above him. “This is a beautiful home.”
“Oh thanks,” she replied, a little bashful. It had been a long four days since anyone had been in the house with her. “Can I get you something to drink before we get started?”
“Just a water please.” She showed him to the living room, Randall continuing to marvel at the house while all Tonya saw was the coffee table, and then went to get the water.
“Have a seat,” she called back to him, but once she returned, she wished any other words would’ve been spoken. After turning the corner her feet slowed, just for a step, and she felt the mask slipping off.
Randall was sitting in her husband’s favorite spot, letting his brochures clutter her husband’s favorite coffee table. Rage and injustice filled her but she managed to grab the mask just before it hit the floor to inevitably shatter, and put it back on. Tonya continued her stride with that same polite smile and placed his water in front of him.
“Thank you,” he said somberly. “Now,”
and so it begins, she thought,
“we have a number of affiliates around town that can set you up with a beautiful service, so let’s clear some of this up. Did you have a cemetery in mind? A plot already reserved perhaps?” He was verbally walking on eggshells, like a parent talking to their child about sex and his face was anxiously compressed.
“No. It was just the two of us, his parents aren’t in the picture and mine are still alive so we just never really thought about it.”
“Right,” he nodded. “Well in that case I’d recommend you take a look at these.” He slid the brochures over slowly, as if he was trying not to scare her. Tonya picked one up and began looking, as he recommended.
It was perverse. A delicately manicured advertisement to make money off of not the dead, but the grief of the living. Everyone wanted a ‘respectful’ burial, which of course meant an expensive burial. One full of flowers and granite and marble and things that cost half a years salary, only to be visited a few days a year.
She sighed at the bullshit of it all.
“I know this is hard,” he responded. Looking at him, she tried to hide her contempt. This was a business man sitting in her dead husband’s favorite spot and he had fooled her even before meeting her. Fooled her into thinking that he cared by coming to her, instead of making her come to him. A good businessman, with his look of delicate apprehension and understanding. But what was he, maybe thirty? At best? What the fuck did he know about-
“Mrs. Dumont?” He looked even more anxious now. She quickly reapplied the mask.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t know where to begin here,” she said pretending to look back down at the brochures.
“Take all the time you need. I know it’s especially hard when the deceased is murdered.”
“What?” Tonya’s mask shattered before she felt it fall.
“Scott was murdered?” It seemed like she couldn’t get enough air.
“Oh, oh Mrs. Dumont I’m so sorry. We found out this morning I thought the police contacted you. I-” His hands were up, like football player who just got flagged.
“I talked to the police this morning and they said nothing about this.” She was furious, wanted to smash the untouched glass of water against his forehead and watch him bleed. She kept the quiet, even tone of a person who has known anger all their lives and can use it for the tool that it is.
“I apologize, you must feel-”
That’s where she cut him off. After her rant was done she was unsure of what exactly she had said but it went on five, maybe ten minutes and only at the end did she realize she was standing over him, yelling down at him as if he was a dog. She called him things she’d never said before and told him exactly how she ‘must feel’.
Then she stood up straight.
“Now get out. I’m not doing business with you.” But he didn’t move. “Did you hear me? I said-” She wanted to scare him, to make him flee away like the house was burning down. But then he began to smile, with a slow spreading pleasure, and she realized that he too, had been wearing a mask.
“Why don’t you sit down?” He said.
“Your fucking sick. I’m calling the cops.” She reached down to her phone on the coffee table, but then couldn’t move.
Randall had pulled out a knife and stabbed it through her hand, nailing her to the table. At first she just stared as it stood straight up out the back of her hand, and then she began to scream. Tonya’s guest leapt up at this and stuffed fabric into her open mouth, muffling and choking her. The force of this act sent her back down to the chair. She attempted to fight back with her free hand as the man brought duct tape to seal her mouth but the constant jerking against the shining blade that crucified her was unbearable. After she was silenced and fixed to the table he sat back down, lounging like a cat in the sun. He was satisfied.
Tonya looked at her hand through the tears and saw her blood dripping off the side of her husband’s favorite table. The other hand gripped the arm of her chair like a child at the dentist.
“Soooo as you probably guessed, I’m not from the morgue. I’m just a guy,” he reached into his pocket, “who is interested in how people will react,” he continued digging around. “How we react is the what makes us who we are,” he found what he was looking for and pulled out a small tape recorder. “And you-,” he rewound the tape then pressed play. She heard herself screaming at him and tried to do the same again, but the tape covering the soggy cloth in her mouth stopped it. He likewise stopped the recording. “-are a very interesting person.”
He opened up the tape recorder and took out the small cassette containing her audio and put it in on the table next to her bleeding hand, then took out another cassette from his pocket and slipped it in, clicking the recorder shut. Excitement lit up his eyes as he pressed play.
At first all she could hear was crying, then Randall asked a question, and her husband’s voice responded through sobs. Her eyes opened to their fullest and upon her realization he stopped the recording. She reached out with her free hand but he swatted it away and it went to the handle of what was fixing her in place. Jubilation took him over and a small happy gasp escaped him. Her hand was wrapped firmly around the handle of the knife. As she stared at him his crazed eyes darted between her eyes and the knife, her eyes and the knife. She took in short quick breaths and felt adrenaline build her up. Then she pulled.
But she couldn’t get it out. She began to cry again and let her hand drop lifelessly from the handle.
“Oh!” He shouted. “That would’ve been intense!” He settled back down and sighed. “So I killed your husband,” she met his eyes, “obviously,” he continued, “and I’ve got just about everything I need from you. But before I finish I’d like to thank you, seriously,” he leaned forward, “you were way more interesting than your husband, he just cried the whole time,” he took on a disgusted look, “cried and begged.” He stared at her eyes for a moment, trying to make sure that hammered home. Then he took out a pad and pen, flipped it open, and began checking things off.
“Okay,” he said slowly, “so we’ve got the death of a husband, the widow’s reaction, and… do your folks live near here?” Her eyes widened again in realization and she tried once more to reach out and grab him, this time he caught her by the wrist, then held her hand in both of his, tenderly. “Don’t worry,” he consoled, “they’ll be fine,” he thought about this, peering upward, “physically,” he amended. Tonya pulled back her hand from his in a snap. Their skin made a rustling sound against each other and she felt sick from it. “But,” he stood up, gripped the knife that was stabbed through her hand and put his face inches away from hers, then removed the knife to use it elsewhere. “I’d love to get their reaction when they find out that I killed their daughter.”
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.
Edith McCarthy liked to peep on potential clients before meeting them. She had parked her van near their Dutch Colonial-style home and was looking through her binoculars. What she saw through the kitchen window did not surprise her. Missus Collins, the lady who had phoned her, was getting fucked like a bargain priced prostitute found on a street corner with a broken light. She was bent over the kitchen table, panties down below her knees, as the broad shouldered man pounded her. Edith decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and presumed the man to be her husband.
Edith placed the binoculars on the seat next to her, rubbed her eyes, and started up the van. She had seen enough. The couple looked happy—they fucked like it at least—and added to this Missus Collins had said they had recently purchased the home. Edith had the inspiration required.
Back in her small apartment on the other side of town, she paced the living room as she counted down the time until she was meant to meet Missus Collins. She couldn’t stand waiting and decided to get through some training. As she never entertained guests she had set up her own little gym in her living room. Cash was tight, so it was mostly a bench and some free weights. Edith picked out her favorite CD, Classic love songs of the eighties, which she had managed to shoplift.
As her portable CD player pumped out the tunes, she did bicep curls, staring herself in a body length mirror. There was no denying the extra few pounds she had put on since getting out of prison—she had been convicted of assault—but she had also gained more muscle. Having just turned forty-two, standing five-foot eleven and weighing a hundred and sixty pounds, she felt good. She clenched tight on her next curl and grimaced, wanting the bicep to pop. The steroids she had purchased from a man riddled in acne at her gym had been worth it.
Prison had changed her. She had not learnt any rehabilitation, if anything she had discovered how to hate more and from a place deeper within. In fact, she had learned to love the hate, to turn into something beautiful. She had also learned how to take better care of herself in a fight and how to get away with certain things.
Edith finished up her set, wolfed down some food, and showered.
When Edith arrived for her meeting with Missus Collins, she found the lady dressed impeccably in a gray skirt and floral white shirt. She also found out Missus Collins first name was Tiffany. Tiffany’s heels clacked on the wooden passageway as she led Edith to the first room she wanted to have painted.
“I was so surprised to find a female painter” Tiffany said, entering the empty room. “Have you been in town long? We have just recently moved here, this is actually the first home we have ever purchased, we are so excited.”
“Nah, I move around a lot,” Edith said.
“Well, this is to be my office, I am a realtor, oh, remind me to give you a card before you go.”
“The other room, just down the hall to the left, will be my husband, Harold’s, entertainment area, mostly for him and his buddies to watch sports. You know how it is.” Tiffany smiled. “He was here earlier, but will only be getting home at four, has some or other meeting.”
Edith nodded. She was glad both rooms were on the bottom floor and that she now knew for sure she had already seen Harold that morning. Good, good, they’re in love, how sweet, Edith thought. She checked her wristwatch. It was only one o’clock. There was more than enough time until Harold arrived.
Edith took a notebook and pencil out from her back pocket. She pretended to start writing things down while looking over the empty room. “You have your color in mind already?” she said.
“Yes,” Tiffany said. “A pastel blue. I don’t want it to be too distracting.”
Edith frowned. “How do you feel about red? Bright red?”
Tiffany shook her head. “No, that would drive me mad. Definitely a light, soft blue.”
Edith took a step towards Tiffany. “No, I am afraid that is just not possible. It will have to be red.”
She reached for Tiffany’s wrist.
“What the fuck?” Tiffany said, pulling away.
Tiffany’s reaction speed surprised Edith, but Edith had natural close-combat skills ingrained in her from prison. She moved right up against Tiffany and stabbed her in the lower part of her neck with the pencil. Tiffany let out a shriek; Edith pulled her close and pressed the pencil in deeper. A stream of red blood shot out from Tiffany’s neck, landing on the light gray carpeting of the room. Edith released Tiffany, who fell to the floor and began crawling for the door.
“Look what you made me do,” Edith said. She reached for Tiffany’s legs and pulled her back. Tiffany tried to scream but all that came out was a gurgling sound. Edith turned her over and dodged a kick. Tiffany’s neck was bleeding profusely and even her mouth had become an exit point for some crimson blood. The sharp copper smell hit Edith like a slap to the face.
“Fuck woman,” she said. “You’re wasting the blood. We don’t waste the fucking blood.”
Tiffany tried to kick out but couldn’t lift her leg high enough. She attempted to roll over again. Edith figured Tiffany was trying to escape again and assisted her. When Tiffany was back on her stomach, crawling with less impetuous than a few moments ago, Edith brought her right boot down on Tiffany’s lower back.
There was a dull crack sound. Tiffany’s body writhed back and forth then stopped. Edith moved closer and brought her boot down on Tiffany’s neck.
Edith said, “Fucking blood wasting bitch.” She tensed, her arms became rigid on her sides, but she calmed and found focus. She made her way to her van, now she needed her equipment.
When Edith returned to the room, she stepped over Tiffany’s body and placed her portable CD player in the middle of the room. She pressed play. Her favorite CD immediately soothed her. She put her empty white five-gallon bucket near Tiffany and then lifted Tiffany’s neck over it. Edith removed the pencil and watched as the blood began pooling at the bottom of the bucket. Fortunately, she had a few techniques to extract a bit more blood, but she didn’t need too much. The room was small.
Satisfied with the amount of blood, she added her own special mix. This mix not only helped to thin out the blood but also helped it to dry faster. Edith poured some of the blood, now mixed, into her roller tray. She dipped her roller, which she had attached to a longer frame, into the tray.
Edith made sure she got a good amount of blood on the roller and then made her way to the wall. She began in the middle of the wall to the right and half a roller length from the corner. This would help against the blood getting too thick in the edges. She made sure not to force the blood out of the roller. It didn’t take long to find her groove. Edith painted the room with Tiffany’s blood. She couldn’t resist singing along to her favorite ballads.
Edith sat on the large, noisy, and uncomfortable black sofa in the living room. Tiffany’s body had been wrapped in plastic and had been placed her in the van. Her equipment stood in the other room that still required painting. She stared into the blackness of the flatscreen hanging on the wall before her, breathing in deep. Her body still rocked with energy that she had received when painting the room with Tiffany’s blood. Glancing down at her wristwatch, she saw it was four o’clock. She tensed different parts of her body and felt the current rocket there. Her muscles hardened. She was ready.
The front door opened.
A man, who she recognized from the morning’s spying, entered the living room. He wore a neat navy blue suit, and a soft yellow tie swung around his neck. The man was attractive and Edith had to force down the jealousy she felt towards Tiffany. Such emotions had to wait, as there was a job in the process.
The man’s eyes narrowed when he saw Edith. “Oh, hello.”
“Hello, Harold,” Edith said.
“Ah, okay, are you a friend of Tiffany’s?”
“I am the painter.”
“Oh I see,” Harold said. His face seemed to relax. “I thought she was meeting you earlier this morning?”
“She was,” Edith said. “But she wanted me to get your opinion on something.”
Harold removed his coat. “I don’t really have much time. I thought she would handle all this. We’re expecting my parents this evening.” He removed his tie and placed both it and the coat on the side of the single-seat chair next to him.
“Where is she?” Harold said. He started walking towards the staircase. “Tiffany,” he called.
Edith got up. “Oh, I will show you. She’s here on the bottom floor.”
She led him to the room she had painted, battling to keep the happiness spreading across her face in check. It was not often she got to show off her work to a client.
Harold looked all around the room, shaking his head. “What the fuck is this mess?”
“The paint job, you don’t like it?”
“Just tell me where my wife is?”
Edith smiled. “She’s here.”
Harold stepped towards her. “Listen, I don’t have time for nonsense. Just tell me where my wife is and what the hell is going on? And what the hell is on the walls? It doesn’t smell like paint.”
“It’s blood. Your wife’s. Do you like it?”
Harold reached for Edith’s throat. “Listen you steroid junkie, tell me where the fuck my wife is.”
Edith hit Harold in his ribs with a clean left jab. He winced and bent forward. She pulled her right arm back and launched a right hook aimed at his temple. The shot clean and Harold nearly toppled over.
“What the fuck?” he said, trying to regain equilibrium.
Edith kicked at his left knee. There was a sharp pop sound. Harold buckled and screamed. He fell forward onto the bloodstained carpeting.
“You fucking crazy bitch!”
Edith walked towards him and lifted her right boot. “I have to break your neck now. I can’t be wasting any more blood today.”
“Get the fuck away from me you freak. I am gonna put you in jail for—”
Edith brought her boot down on Harold’s neck. The dull snap made Edith smile. She stood over Harold and nodded, realizing he was dead. Edith looked over to the recently painted walls and smiled. The current it sent through her almost brought her to tears. She wanted to savor the moment a bit longer, but she had more work to do.
Edith grabbed Harold’s feet and began dragging him to his entertainment room. “What lovely work I am doing these days,” she said to the recently deceased Harold. “You see, once I have finished your room, your new home will be the talk of the neighborhood.”
Once Harold was in the center of the room, she placed her bucket next to him. She reached for her knife.
Edith sat in the front of her van staring at the house. Both bodies were wrapped and in the back of her van. She knew a river where she could dispose of them, along with any other items from the house that needed to join. The cellphone she had been using while staying in town could also go. She had stayed in town longer than usual and knew it was a risk, but she had enjoyed her time here. The place had so much love to give. Her operations had also begun to run smoother.
I really did some impressive work here. Both those rooms came out just perfect. Oh, his parents are going to be so impressed when they arrive this evening, she thought. She waved goodbye to the house, and was about to start up the van when the phone rang.
“Hello, this is Welcome Home Painting,” Edith said.
“Oh hello, I was wondering if I could make an appointment for tomorrow morning. My husband and I purchased a home a few months back, and we received some great news this week, we are expecting our first child.”
“Oh that’s wonderful, congratulations.
“Thank you. We’d like to have the room we want to convert into a nursery painted. My husband also mentioned doing the garage while we are at it. It’s our first real home, and we want it looking great.”
“That’s great; you two sound so in love.”
“Ah, yeah, we are. My husband will be at home for the meeting tomorrow. I’m out of town until next week, but I’d like the work done as soon as possible.”
Edith smiled. One more job, she thought. “Well, I just happen to be free, finished a lovely job today. I can even start tomorrow after your husband has told me what he wants. By the time you’re back, I will be long gone any room you need painted will look beautiful. I promise you my work is incomparable.”
“That’s great, thank you.”
When done with the conversation, Edith started up the van, humming the tunes to one of her favorite ballads. She made her way to her apartment. The energy from the day surged within.
Edith wondered if this was what it felt like to be loved.
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.
Holly’s headache had progressed from a dull throb to a pounding jungle beat. Since she had turned off Route 85 at Gila Bend the narrow road seemed to stretch before her in an unrelenting straight line through the desert to the horizon. She had not seen any directional signs since she had passed Sentinel over an hour ago, nor had she seen a single car. Another Excedrin moment was definitely in the making, and if she turned to one more radio station playing Patsy Cline she knew she would completely lose it.
Just thinking about the cargo that she carried in the rear of Dr. Stanley Cooper’s old Chevy van would be enough to send creepy crawlers along the spine of most people. But Holly Samuels was not most people.
That was what Cooper had told her when he asked her to transport his five canisters through a dozen Nevada ghost towns to some God-forsaken medical laboratory twenty miles south of Painted Rocks State Park. The man could not have found a more secluded spot to continue his research than if he had bought real estate on the far side of the moon. Cooper trusted her with his secret and that was enough for her, although the man had yet to explain to his wife that he had been banging his lab assistant for the past six months. But that was a headache meant for another day.
Holly’s thoughts traveled their own path as she drove. There was something else about Cooper’s cryogenic project that she had always strained to remember but could not, something misty and unformed that lurked in a dark chamber of her brain. Holly considered it strange how a part of one’s mind did not always share the secrets of one’s own thoughts. Especially when so many of her thoughts included Dr. Stanley Cooper.
Last night in her bed he had exploded inside her like some sort of lower form primate, but once dressed Cooper again became all business, the research scientist speaking clinically to his lab assistant. The man could switch gears so quickly that for a moment Holly had even considered taking out her notepad.
“The Oatman Foundation people are beginning to ask questions,” he had explained to her as he slipped on his shoes. “ We’ll have to move the specimens tomorrow morning, and you’ll drive them to the Sonoran lab. We can’t take any more chances leaving them at the Kingman Center.” Holly knew this was true, although she might have also believed Cooper if he had asked her to believe in the tooth fairy. The $140,000 Oatman research grant had so far produced little more than a few computer graphics and analysis charts from Cooper, and the Foundation was having second thoughts about its magnanimity.
Timing the move to the Sonoran location was critical, because no one could object if the Oatman people suddenly decided to inspect the Kingman lab. In the morning Holly had helped Cooper pack the five specimens into the canisters with the liquefied hydrogen and oxygen needed to preserve them, carefully averting her eyes from them as she worked. She hoped Cooper would dismiss this morning’s squeamishness as the natural reaction that any woman would feel, although she knew there were other reasons for it. As always, Cooper mentioned how the job required the utmost secrecy. That, and a strong stomach.
“No problem,” Holly had assured him. She lied.
Holly never doubted she would keep the doctor’s secret, but now she had some doubts about keeping down her lunch. Because she had not seen any gas stations since leaving route 85 she reluctantly turned off the air conditioning to save fuel, and within minutes her nipples peeked through a tank top sopping with perspiration as if she had been in a wet t-shirt contest. Cooper would have appreciated the high beam look, but he would not think such happy thoughts if he knew she was lost.
A half-formed memory again teased her thoughts with peek-a-boo flashes, but still it refused to come out. Something about those damned canisters that only she knew, something even Stanley Cooper had not considered. Her solitude always seemed to give birth to some mighty uncomfortable thoughts.
Holly looked into the rear view mirror and wiped a damp string of hair from her forehead. A small bead of sweat had caught in the tiny half-moon scar above her left eye, one of many such childhood memories of her father after another alcoholic rampage. Shortly before Vernon Samuels died he had arrived home late one night playing that same God-awful Patsy Cline tape he always played on the truck’s cassette deck. When he tripped over Holly’s bicycle in the driveway, he called out her name, cursing and howling while she pretended to be asleep. He found his way into her bedroom, snapped on the light and grabbed the first thing he saw, one of the high heeled shoes Holly had worn to her first social. Sputtering and cursing, he slammed the heel deep into the girl’s forehead, narrowly missing her eye. She always hated hearing the sound of his footsteps on the staircase as she lay awake in bed. That had not been a good time to feel alone, and neither was this.
Keeping one eye on the road Holly reached into the pocket book beside her. She found the small pill box, and downing two aspirin dry she felt her stomach double over on itself. The sudden wave of nausea was not brought on entirely by the aspirin. These memories and those damned canisters were a whole lot more to blame for her guts slam dancing inside her. Better not to think of those canisters, though. Better to think of anything but those buckets when she did not have the slightest idea where she was. She was thirsty, and the fuel gauge was slowly creeping up on ‘E’.
Without pulling to the side of the road Holly stopped the van and cut the engine. It was at least 110 in the shade out there, except that she could not see any shade. She rifled through the glove compartment for a road map. If Cooper had not left one in there for her, the man would have to stand on his head and spit nickels before she climbed under the sheets with him again. She found the map crumpled beneath a medical kit and spread it open on the seat. Tracing the blue line of route 85 to Gila Bend, she knew the road she should have followed would have passed the Air Force bombing range at least twenty miles ago. Whatever road she was on, it was not on the map.
If she turned back toward 85 now, she would not have enough gas to make it. Although Cooper had bought a fancy high-tech cellular phone for his new Porsche, he had not equipped his old Chevy van with one because he had normally used the vehicle only for local hauls. Maybe she could continue following this road and hope to find a phone. She might flag down another driver who might allow her to siphon some gas, assuming the guy was not a serial killer. Or, of course, she could simply stay put and wait for the vultures.
She turned the ignition and for a moment the engine wheezed, sputtered, then clicked off. The red ALT dummy light on the dashboard flickered on and Holly stared at it dumbly, her mouth open. She turned the key again. This time, nothing. It took a moment before the realization hit.
“Goddamn it all to fucking hell!” she burst out, smashing her fists into the horn. The shrill blasts startled her into silence, and she heard the horn’s echoes wail in the distance, disappearing far away like the cries of lost children. If any patrol cars were in the area the noise might bring them, and considering her cargo that was not such a good idea. Holly turned the ignition key again, but even the dull clicking had disappeared.
Leaning forward over the steering wheel, she tried to summon a rational thought. She looked into the rearview mirror and tore her fingers through her hair, revealing the tiny half-moon scar above her eye. “ Holly, ol’ girl,” she muttered into the mirror, “ we are in the proverbial deep shit.”
There was no need to take inventory. She had brought neither food nor water with her because the van had just passed its state inspection, and this was supposed to be only a four hour drive. She had intended to haul ass all afternoon and reach the lab by dusk for Miller Time.
A four hour drive to the middle of nowhere . What had she been thinking? She knew the desert showed no mercy, and people died out here all the time. Where was her head? Had Cooper been so focused on his damned cryogenic project that the danger of this trip never occurred to him either? Where in hell was his head?
The thought almost made her laugh. Where was his head? Hell, that was an easy one, as easy as (Ha! Ha!) a walk in the sand. Holly knew where five of his heads were. She was doing a lot more than simply hauling ass for Cooper.
She was hauling heads .
Months earlier Cooper had reminded Holly of a messy scandal back in the early ‘80’s involving Dr. Benjamin Reuben, a seasoned Philadelphia MD who had become involved in somewhat secretive cryobiological research. The man had believed that the human head could be kept alive apart from its body, and demonstrating the medical profession’s insatiable desire to cheat death, Reuben believed his work would pave a dramatic inroad. If one’s body became diseased and the head could live on, perhaps in time it could be attached to a healthier body, maybe even a prosthetic one. The MD had made the incredibly stupid mistake of having a human head shipped to his doorstep by an unusually curious UPS carrier, and after a lengthy trial Ben Reuben narrowly escaped imprisonment. Cooper had explained that following his trial, old Ben had some difficulty finding patients willing to open wide to say “Ah.” He believed that Reuben was probably today selling vacuum cleaners somewhere closer to Somalia than Philadelphia. Cooper told Holly that he had no intention of joining him.
Somehow the federal government learned the specifics of the Philadelphia doctor’s research, and they also knew of the Oatman Foundation’s generous gift to Dr. Stanley Cooper of Nevada’s Kingman Medical Center. The Feds were prepared to assist. But if the contents of the Chevy van were confiscated by some toothpick chewing state trooper, Holly knew that no federal official would step forward to admit the government’s role in a project that might equate Stan Cooper’s research with that of another doctor named Frankenstein.
The state authorities were the ones to fear. These isolated desert roads were commonly used for drug smuggling, and routine checks were in every law official’s training manual. Any officer wearing a tin star who took one look at the contents of the old storage trunk inside the van would toss her and Dr. Stanley Cooper into a dark room four miles underground and lose the key.
Holly could picture the scene when a baby-faced deputy might confront her with the evidence after swinging open one of the canisters.
“What the–? Say, isn’t this–?”
“That’s right, officer,” she would answer with child-like innocence. “That’s the head of Angelo Hemp you’re looking at. You remember Mr. Hemp, don’t you officer? The man who left various parts of school children scattered throughout the country a few years back? You might be wondering what I’m doing with a part of him? See, my doctor friend thinks Mr. Hemp’s head may still be alive. Why not pop open the other four canisters and say hello to the heads of a few more celebrity psychos? Hell, why don’t you take old Angelo here and go bowling while I pose for my mug shots?”
The real explanation would be considerably more complicated. The remains of supposedly executed prisoners had supplied the federal government with all the bodies they needed for their secret research projects, and fortunately the heads came with them. The word (and maybe a little cash) came down from Uncle Sam to selected state prison officials to tone down their wattage for the hot seat, to spill a less-than-lethal dose of morphine into that final booster shot, or to pump just enough carbon monoxide to provide a convincing last dance inside that death chamber. The federally appointed prison doctor would dutifully pronounce the time of death, and other prison goons would cart the poor schmuck off. Excepting the decapitation part, there was no fuss, no muss. Within twenty four hours the Feds had signed a few papers and delivered the latest package in the ever-popular plain brown wrapping to Dr. Stanley Cooper, who also signed a few papers. The men in dark suits wished him a nice day, and were gone. It was as efficient an operation as it was illegal, as American as apple pie and old Chevy vans.
Holly knew dehydration would get to her long before the law did, and the hours spent baking inside the van had already caused her tongue to swell. Her throat felt like she had swallowed a fistful of razor blades, and she was feeling woozy with the heat. In the desert death was an insidious little bastard, and thirst was his first calling card. She crushed her fists into her temples to clear her mind.
Of course! Any high school kid who had ever taken Chemistry could have figured this one out. There was liquefied hydrogen and oxygen inside the canisters. Good old H2O ! Condensation would have gathered at the bottom of each container, enough for a nice cool drink. She rummaged through the glove compartment and found the collapsible plastic cup inside the medical kit.
Pulling the keys from the ignition she scrabbled crab-like to the rear of the van. The large trunk that held the canisters had a simple bolt lock, and she twisted the key inside it, swinging the flap open. The lids to the containers inside were fastened with flap-top locks, and Cooper had scrawled numerals on them. Holly did not know whose head would greet her when she opened the container, but she knew who these guys were. Their faces would have been familiar to anyone who did not live in a cave.
Reaching for the first canister her hand hesitated, then dropped. “Come on, Holly kid,” she muttered. “This is not the time to turn candy-assed.” She chewed on her lip and stared at the first container.
She knew enough about the history of each to write a resume on at least four of them. With one notable exception these folks had made headlines right alongside such specialty sociopaths as Jeffrey Dahmer and Gary Heidnick. Holly had been the traveling companion of a rogue’s gallery of American VIP’s, and the list read like a Who’s-Who at the Post Office :
Angelo Hemp of Denver, Colorado, had been a department store Santa the Christmas before he began his kiddie spree. Children’s remains were discovered in condemned mine shafts across several states, and one little girl’s badly decomposed body was found with her still clutching her Cabbage Patch doll.
Jake Wessey of Fort Worth, Texas, had strolled into the local Chicken n’ Ribs during lunchtime, ordered a whole mess of each, then after casually wiping the sauce from his chin took a .38 from his denim jacket and blew away three waitresses and the high school cheerleader in the next booth.
Coley Simms of Scranton, Pennsylvania, frustrated over the care and feeding of his mentally retarded adult daughter, one night sliced and diced the woman into puppy chow, stuffed her remains into his Hotpointe, and served up a hearty meal for the family dog.
George Gracey, a guitar-picking dishwasher from Los Angeles, had spent two years picking up pretty coed hitchhikers and inviting them to his home for dinner without bothering to inform them that they were the main course.
And there was a woman. Cooper had refused to speak about this one. Her crime had been so horrible that the police, fearing an inspired copycat, had urged the news media to bury her story on the last page. Fortunately Desert Storm had eclipsed the woman’s deeds when she was captured in 1991, so relatively few people knew the name of the second female to face the electric chair in the past twenty years.
The gang was all here, and because Holly’s tongue blistered, she had no choice but to say howdy to each of them. Her thirst would require a few trips to the well, and if she could reach into the canisters without actually looking inside, maybe she could handle this without getting the dry heaves. How difficult could it be? Scoop up a little moisture collected underneath, and bottoms up.
Holly popped the flap-top from the first canister. The head inside the bucket seemed small enough that she could easily slide her arm along the edge, and working carefully she might work her way toward the bottom without rubbing flesh with the thing inside. She saw it only from the top, and its hair was long and stringy, rodent-colored. Pulling open the plastic cup Holly slipped her hand slowly inside the canister, casting her eyes skyward while trying not to gag.
The coldness should have felt soothing in such dry heat, but the matted hair brushing Holly’s forearm felt like she were probing a spider’s web caked in ice. Her arm lightly brushed against the head, and she dislodged it slightly, causing the cold cheek to lean heavily against her wrist. The flesh felt like thawed meat, and strangely smooth. This bucket contained the woman, but Holly did not look at her.
The cup struck bottom where a cool liquid gathered, enough for maybe three good gulps. Holly scooped at it, and brought the cup back, bringing it to her swollen lips as soon as her hand was free. For one triumphant moment she hesitated and forced herself to look into the bucket. She raised the cup in a toast to her silent companion who rested inside.
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” she sneered at the woman’s head peering back at her through narrow slits. “ Lady, I never was a quitter just because the other person was ahead!” Without even looking at it she downed the liquid in one swallow, drinking so quickly that some of it streaked vein-like down her chin. It felt cold going down her throat but sticky with thick pulp, and its taste was bitter. Hardly like water at all.
Holly ran her hand across her chin that dripped with the gluey stuff. She looked at the smears on her hand, then spun to see her reflection in the rear view mirror.
“God! Oh God! Stupid! I am so fucking stupid!”
Her chin dripped with the blood she had gulped down. Holly had swallowed a mouthful of pulpous gore that had leaked from the neck of the severed head inside, and even when spitting proved useless she persisted. Her lips dripped with the gummy residue and the foul taste lingered as she gagged on it.
The realization struck her even as she choked.
She knew she would have to go back into the canisters to see if there were any pure liquid she could salvage that might quench her thirst. And that meant that for even a single mouthful of water, she might have to remove every head that lay inside. The blistering heat permitted no further delay.
“Okay, then,” she muttered, wiping the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand. “ Let’s do it …”
She grabbed the stringy hair and lifted the woman’s head slowly from the container until only its forehead peeked out from the top. Holly again forced herself to look down at the half concealed face as if the head had presented the challenge to her, “ Look at me if you dare, you cowardly worthless piece of shit. You belong in here with me!”
For a moment she believed her eyes had deceived her. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. Seeing only the woman’s forehead Holly’s jaw dropped and her body stiffened with paralysis. What she saw simply was impossible.
There was a half moon scar just above the woman’s left eye, an exact duplicate of Holly’s own.
A voice inside her screamed Drop the goddamned thing back into the box and slam the fucking lid! Run into the desert and get yourself far away from here ! Run! Run! But the paralysis remained and she crouched frozen with the thing in her hands, and suddenly it pressed against her palms as if it were resisting being placed back into the container. Impossible! the voice inside Holly screamed. Just above the lid of the container the thing’s eyelids were flickering, as if struggling to open.
Impossible! Impossible! Run!
The eyes in the woman’s head suddenly blinked wide open and rolled upwards. They locked with Holly’s and held fast. A voice spoke from the bucket, echoing within the tiny chamber.
“Well, are you going to take me out of this fucking thing or not?”
The heat! It had to be the goddamned heat!
As if her hand had free will, Holly lifted the head and held it between her palms directly in front of her face. She looked at it hard and saw it staring back at her. She wanted to scream, and she wanted to laugh herself sick. Clearly her mind and all reason had finally parted company.
“Go on, Holly,” the voice said to her with icy calm. “Take a long look at me and tell me what you see.” Its mouth curled into a twisted grin as it spoke.
Holly watched the thing’s mouth move, the blood dripping from its teeth, and suddenly she laughed like a kid at the circus who had just seen the funniest clown in the world. And the longer she looked into the face she held in her hands, the harder she laughed. She had never seen anything so gut-busting funny in all her life. Losing one’s mind was more fun than a day at the beach. And her companion found humor in the situation too, because she also laughed.
Like looking into a mirror, isn’t it?” the voice from the head spoke to her, and in it Holly heard the echo of her own. It whispered to her as if sharing a secret. “Look inside the other containers, Holly. You’ll be surprised at what you find.”
She half expected to hear a calliope playing “ Pop Goes the Weasel” just before a blood-soaked Jack-in-the-box sprang out of each bucket. But of course Holly had already known what she would find inside them. She popped the latch of the second canister, the third, fourth, and fifth.
The four remaining buckets contained the same thing, and she almost vomited with laughter with each head she removed. And in the midst of her chortles the memory that had lurked inside her mind jumped out and shouted “ Boo!” like a mischievous little kid hiding in the subterranean passageways of her brain.
I remember!” she said aloud to her five companions, now resting like grotesque centerpieces along the rear panel of the van. “Oh, Jesus, I remember everything … everything!”
Holly looked at the heads she had lined up in the van’s cargo area like toy soldiers, each a twin sister right down to her tiny half-moon scar. She sat cross-legged in front of the five heads looking like a little girl at a pajama party sharing an incredible secret with girlfriends who shared the same face and were missing their bodies. Holding her sides, Holly Samuels laughed so hard that it hurt.
She laughed so hard she hardly noticed the soft flesh along the stitches of her neck tear and separate, and she laughed even as her head lolled forward, leaving her body.
And the five heads with Holly’s face continued laughing with her. ***
After three viewings of the videotape, Stanley Cooper snapped off the Kingman lab’s VCR. “I’m working too hard,” the doctor finally told himself, wondering what trick of his imagination had made him think he had seen the Samuels woman’s eyes flicker. He had aimed the camcorder at her head specimen for hours but did not notice anything different since that one moment around noon.
But if his cryobiological hypotheses were to have any merit he had to consider all possibilities. A cryogenic subject – if technically still alive – had to have thoughts, didn’t she? Whether with truths or fabrications, the human mind needed to occupy itself. He wondered what kinds of thoughts Holly Samuels might have. Thoughts reflecting her supreme isolation, perhaps, because of her inability to communicate, but what else?
Cooper gulped down the remaining cold coffee and stared at the girl’s frozen head specimen behind the freezer’s glass canister. The young woman’s face revealed nothing of the demons that must still have lurked inside that head, demons which two years ago had caused Holly Samuels to go on a killing spree across the country.
Hadn’t her lawyer tried to cop an insanity plea, claiming Miss Samuels had some form of schizophrenia, a rare multiple personality disorder? Cooper had read the court transcripts of a psychiatrist who had claimed the Samuels woman had even given her personalities men’s names and personal histories, perhaps bringing back to life the father she had shot to death years ago. The jury didn’t buy her insanity plea, and eighteen months later the state of Nevada strapped Miss Holly Samuels into a chair.
The day following the Samuels execution Nevada’s Kingman Medical Research Center received a visit from three pasty-faced men in dark suits carrying a large container for Dr. Stanley Cooper. The men had told him nothing about the woman’s psychological profile, but Cooper believed a doctor’s first duty was to know his patient. It mattered little to him if that patient were in a freezer apart from her body.
Staring hard at the head specimen, Cooper considered a possibility. If schizophrenia were the only reality Holly Samuels had known, wouldn’t her thoughts reflect that? Cold and alone, literally cut off from the physical world, wouldn’t she try to connect, to reconstruct reality based on whatever felt familiar, whether it were a voice or a sound? In a desperate attempt to reconnect with life, might she even display a motor reaction of some sort?
“I’m working too hard,” Cooper again told himself, sinking into the soft chair before the VCR. He poured himself another cup of coffee and hit the ‘Play’ button again. The radio had been on during the videotaping he had done of the Samuels specimen at noon, and for a moment he closed his eyes to listen to “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline.
In the canister inside the freezer behind him, Holly Samuels’ eyes struggled to open …
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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.