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North by Due North – David M. Hoenig

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

 

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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?

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Leviathan by Adam Sturch

 

I woke to shrill screeching, and my bed shaking like it was the end of the world.  Bright sunlight flooded in as the window shade flew up.  The digital clock read 2:37 AM.

The rumbling continued, and my heart slowed as I realized what it had to be.  I doubted I’d get any more sleep, so I got out of bed, dressed and geared up, and went above deck.  I found the Captain of the Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel Svalbard at the bow, looking over the railing to the water, and speaking on a handheld communicator.

“Aksel,” I said to him, interrupting.

He held up a hand, and continued speaking into the walkie, looking over the bow as he gestured vigorously.  The engines reversed and the ship backed, turned, and forced its way into the ice at a new angle.  It seemed to make better progress.

“Ja?” Captain Aksel Falk was in full uniform, and looked back over his shoulder at me as the ship shuddered as it cut into the frozen sea.

“Situation?”

“We are making progress north; we’ve hit pack ice, about five hundred kilometers north of Longyearbyen, a little over eight hundred from your destination.”

“Satellite data?”

“The North Pole is solid ice this time of the year.”  At my look, he shrugged.  “This year, anyway.  We will have to see how close we can get before you will take a helo from the ship to your goal.”

I closed my eyes and turned my face upwards.  I could feel the ‘midnight’ sun warm against my lids, turning them bright red, and the color triggered an awful memory which lay too near the surface.  In my mind’s eye, I saw Cerise’s torn body, her blood staining our bed the same color, and I shuddered.  My lover, my truest companion upon my mad quest to struggle on against the return of insane, alien horrors had been murdered despite all I could do.  Her last reading had brought me to this point, on my way to defeat the Windwalker before its cosmic conjunction arrived and gave it the power to manifest.

I opened my eyes to a sudden sense of dislocation.  Aksel was gone.  What…?

Cries from far behind me.  Calls.  Shouting.  And then I saw a streak of blood at the railing before me!  The ship lurched as it went into reverse, and as we pulled back from the ice I saw the Captain’s body lying on the pack ice, blood splashed around him.  I saw a greyish black rope around his chest, and my first thought was how out of place it seemed.  Then the thing squirmed and I realized it was a tentacle, come up through a crack in the ice and pulling my friend further away from the Svalbard.

I looked around as the ship lurched again, this time to a sudden stop.  A glance over the side showed more tentacles from the water on both sides of the bow, clutching at the Svalbard, weaving their way up to the decking.  They were far too long to belong to a shoggoth such as had attacked Cerise and me just over a month ago, but we were sailing roughly two and a half miles above the Amundsen Basin, the deepest point of the Arctic Ocean.

Home to polypoid deep ones and to their Master, the Great Old One, Othuum.

But it made no sense!  First, it would have to be aware of me, and I was only mortal, my successes to this point of minimal impact.  Pyrrhic, in fact, considering how I’d lost Cerise–my love, my Oracle only months before.

The ship shuddered again.  I heard a helicopter’s blades begin whirling from the flight deck.  An alien god’s minions versus a modern, top of the line war machine- I had no idea how it would turn out.  But the Captain might not be dead, and I still had to get to the North Pole to stop the Windwalker in order to prevent that catastrophe.

I backed up for a running start, and another disturbing thought crashed into my mind.  Had this Old One sent the shoggoth to slaughter my love?  Had it known of me?  Of us and our war against their kind, and my coming north?

There was no time to consider all this now, not if I was going to help the Captain.  I ran for the rail and vaulted it, leaving the deck of the Svalbard for the bloodstained pack ice where Aksel’s body lay.

My right foot plunged through the crumpled ice as I landed, and I sank in up to my thigh.  The knee-high arctic muck boots I wore didn’t stop the shock of the frigid water as it soaked through the pants and rushed in to freeze my foot.  I braced myself on the slippery surface to pull it back up, then felt something under the ice grab and wrench me back downwards.

I sank to my crotch as the ice crunched beneath me and couldn’t stop the involuntary shout at the pain and surprise.  The muscles in my upper leg began to spasm as I fought the pull, and then I heard a muffled *crump* behind me.  I turned in time to see a missile dart from one of the airborne helicopters into the water where it then exploded.  Blood and chunks of meat burst into the air, and the water boiled angrily around us.  Several tentacles, ravaging at the bow of the ship, suddenly recoiled into the water.  The pressure pulling me downwards also vanished, and I fell forward onto my stomach with the abrupt release.  I crawled along the pack ice and pulled my numbed leg out of the water.

I heard another helo take off, and then the deck guns of the Svalbard opened up into the water as well.  I began scrambling towards the Captain, and then a huge explosion slapped the air behind me, pushing me forward in a helpless slide.  A fireball rolled in my direction, hissing over the edge of the ice before dissipating far too close to me.  When it cleared, I saw one of the helicopters motionless, lying ninety degrees to the vertical and impaled on a scorched tentacle for just a moment before both dropped into the ocean and were gone.

I got to Aksel just as I saw him jerk suddenly upright.  Like the doomed helo, he, too, was transfixed on an oozy, grey tentacle.

Then his throat moved and a grotesque parody of his voice emerged:

Sorcerer

This was not so not good.  My gaze was frozen on the horror my friend and ally had become, even as the sounds of hyperwar went on behind me.

You have become emboldened by success and your dreams reek of your self-assurance I care not what victories you win over others but your fear and pain and despair taste far sweeter You will fall to chance or to error or to horror or to the elements or to time and your task will remain undone while I endure I offer this gift to feed your nightmares…

… and Aksel’s body fell to the ice before me as the tentacle whipped downward out of his body and into the sea.

I turned back to see the other ropy limps disengage from the Svalbard and also slide into the water.  The cutter had sustained significant damage to the upper superstructure and the railing, and fresh scoring along the steel hull was apparent.  One surviving helo flew tight circles around the ship, nose down like it was sniffing for signs of the disappeared enemy.  I waved to get the attention of its crew, and it lifted to level and flew my way.

The muscles of my leg still spasmed and cramped, but I forced myself upright, and then to Aksel to lift his corpse from the ice.  I turned back, unsteady on my feet, to see a harness lowered for us from the helicopter.  I strapped the Captain’s body tightly, and it was winched up as I waited my turn.  My teeth chattered and my leg ached, and I knew that neither of those things could be blamed completely on just the cold.

Back aboard the Svalbard, the medical clinic was rife with the sound of pain when I reached it.  As battered and chilled as I felt, I was in much better shape than several of the Norwegian crew seeking attention.  So instead of going in, I went past it to the bridge and walked in on a heated discussion which stopped when the officers saw me.

Since they looked both shaken and angry, I thought it best to speak first.  “What’s the current situation, gentlemen?”

The First Officer looked at the others before answering me in a sharp-toned, heavily-accented English.  “We have sustained casualties, lost a helicopter, and the ship is damaged.  What the hell was that thing which attacked us?”

I reached for calm before I spoke.  “Arctic sea life.”

“That is just so much shit.”  He looked at his fellow officers, then at me with disgust.  “We’ve never heard of anything like it, and we’re all career in the Coast Guard.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Commander Adamsen.  But Captain Falk did explain the purpose of this mission to you and your men?”

“Only in general terms, I am afraid.  That you have connections which made it possible to have our top-of-the-line Cutter available to take you, an American, to the North Pole, was clear enough.”

I didn’t like that past tense of ‘made’.  “Do I still have your support?”

“Sir!  We must turn back.  We have injured who need far more care than we can give them here, and we’ve lost a helo, expended ordnance…”

“No.  I’m afraid it’s an absolute priority that we proceed onward to the Pole.”

An angry conversation broke out in hurried Norwegian among the officers.  I waited.

The Commander silenced the others and turned back to me.  “Out of the question.  We have a duty to those who are wounded and to the families of those we’ve lost, and to report what has happened.”

I held up a hand.  “Who will assume command with Aksel dead?”

Everyone looked at the Commander expectantly.  He collected their gazes, exhaled deeply, then nodded in my direction.  “Me.”

“Then I need to speak with you alone,” I told him.

Adamsen spoke to his men, never breaking eye contact with me.  “Hold position here.  Try again to establish satellite communications with our base, and wait for me.”  He then led me off the bridge and into the Captain’s operational room.  Once inside, he closed the door behind us.  “Now, who the hell are you, and why are we here?  When Captain Falk was in charge, I followed his lead, but now I’m the one who needs to know.”

“My name isn’t important, only my mission.”

He folded his arms.  “And that is?”

“To stop bad things from happening.”

“You didn’t stop this ship being attacked!”

“On the scale of bad things to stop, this was nothing.”  I saw him about to retort angrily, and interrupted before he did, holding up a placating hand.  “I’m sorry, Commander; I didn’t mean that to sound as though I was trivializing your losses.  Please know that I’m deeply sorry about Captain Falk and your other casualties, but what we’re doing is necessary in the larger scheme of things.  Aksel understood that.”

He deflated a bit, mastering his anger, and it made me respect him more.  “Then make me understand, too.”

“Okay.  That thing we fought; it’s like nothing you ever saw before, right?”  He nodded.  “It’s too big, too powerful, and far too intelligent.  It’s one of a bunch of such…things, beings, what have you… that the governments of the world have either turned a blind eye towards because they’re a difficult truth to acknowledge, or which they ignore because they’ve already been subverted.”

Adamsen’s eyes bulged.  “Conspiracies?”

“Or deliberate ignorance.  Look, you saw that thing in action, saw what it did to the chopper you lost, and to this ship.  Did you think anything natural could have fought the Svalbard as it did?”

He sat suddenly, as though the strength had fled his legs.  “My God!  What was it?”

“Ancient.  Perhaps alien, or at least so I believe from the Book of Eibon.”

“What was this Eibon?”

“Not a what, but a who.  He fought against these beings twenty thousand or so years ago; figured out how to use their power against them, left a lot of instructions.  That’s what I do, Adamsen.”

“But, I don’t understand!  There was nothing twenty thousand…”

I stepped close and put my hand on his shoulder.  “I lost someone very dear to me recently.  She was slaughtered by a thing much like that-” the Commander blanched- “only smaller, sent to stop us from heading north on this mission.  We need to reach the pole on schedule, to prevent something even more powerful than what we fought today from manifesting fully.”

His face paled and his eyes were wide as he looked up at me.  “Worse than that?”

“Much.  And, Adamsen–the woman I lost… she was Aksel’s niece.  That’s why he knew, why he had agreed to help me.”  

His eyes took on an introspective, vulnerable look, and I guessed that he was thinking of his dead Captain at that moment.  But he was trained military, and his eyes soon focused back on me.  “Tell me everything,” he said in a more firm voice.

“I will, but we still need to go north, and we have to go now.”

I saw the decision in his face when he made it.  He stood, opened the door to the bridge and gave orders in Norwegian to the crew there.  I listened for arguments, but heard none.  Adamsen spoke again, more softly, and I heard the sound of the ship cutting into the pack ice began once again.  Finished, he turned back to me.  Unconsciously, he straightened his uniform before he spoke.  “I need to address the crew, see the wounded, explain why we cannot return to base.  I’ll have dinner brought here, and then you’ll explain everything–from the beginning, mind–so that I can understand what I have committed my men to as fully as Captain Falk did.”

I nodded.  He left.

Alone in the Captain’s operational room, I reflected on how I’d just recruited the next pawn in the war against the Ancients that I would never stop fighting.  Not if it cost the lives of everyone on this ship including mine, and especially not even after the shoggoth had murdered the broken girl who’d been my lover and Oracle.

The costs of my war against the Ancients had already been beyond my once-naive reckoning, and would only escalate from here.  But I also knew that the stakes were too high to give up striving against Them.  For if I failed to stop the Old Ones from achieving their return to full power during their cosmic conjunctions–as painstakingly laid out in Eibon’s text–all of humanity might end up paying a horrible price.

However painful, victory was necessary, so I’d go on regardless of the toll.

And for now that meant north.  

Due north.

END

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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.

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Inky Beast – M.J. Nicholls

The featured horror short story can also be read in the Best of the Tome

 

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Alan Barbrush, Chief Editor at Scalped Olives Publications, had always been accused of skulking around the office cynically. Yet today, his undying cynicism had reached such a huffy zenith, it was as though the weight of a lifetime’s misery had finally – after twenty years – crippled him.

For two decades his organisation had – cynically – waded through over 1,292,827 submissions, rejecting every single one and publishing material from its own editing staff. Having failed to break even the previous year – losing £10,000 on a self-help guide for brainless neurotics, Stop Whining & Just Do It – tensions were running high around the office.

The new secretary, Lorraine, fresh from her Creative Writing MA, was looking to screw her first novel, Elaine’s Chest, into print. Alan had hired her because her grades were outstanding and she had a bright, burgeoning clitoris. He knew that regardless of whether he hired her or not, she would ascend to a lucrative role in the industry, either horizontally or legitimately.

She tapped on his office door, a gentle but firm tip-tap, signifying she knew her place but would soon have people tip-tapping on her office. He swigged from his vial of absinthe and coughed up a pubic hairball – he had been snacking on the vulva of an underground poet-cum-hooker the previous night.

“Come in,” he said, muttering sotto voce, “my face.”

“Morning Alan. I trust your wrinkly old pecker found a home in the snatch of some rancid Chelsea tart over the weekend?” she asked. Alan found this remark rather forward for her third day – she must have been chatting with the co-editors.

“Yes, something like that. Do you have the final edit of Danny’s novel? What godawful putrescence masquerading as contemporary genius are we churning out now? More self-help to the terminally retarded?”

“You can’t say that word anymore, Alan. The correct term is mentally spastic,” Lorraine corrected.

Alan wanted to bash her face in with a tire iron and spit mercuric chloride over her breasts until her pretty pink skin singed into a bloody black painball. Yes, he was almost definitely in love.

“Lorraine, I want your honest opinion on this novel and Danny’s so-called talent. I mean, he’s simply another snotty sub-Burroughs arse-budgie churning out hackneyed schlock, isn’t he?” he asked. He reached for the pills on his desk and hurled two down his throat, not bothering to check the label.

“God, you’re an ancient fucker, aren’t you? Alan – the kids today lap this shit up like heroin pasties. Kids are always looking for the latest decadent poet-of-the-streets to come blow their tiny minds with his trashcan rhetoric,” she said, parting her fringe. For all its spirit-level straightness, it served merely to enhance her clone-like chic.

“I know, but this feels like a step too far. You can only serve the same roadhouse slop for so long before the clientele starts choking to death. Anyway, it’s too late now. Maybe we can slip it out in summer unnoticed. No one reads books in the summer.”

“Ready for the team brief? Your minions are awaiting your instruction,” she said, smirking – a smirk that masked a desire to drain the blood from his decrepit body and steal his chair.

As Alan left his office, he stopped to look at the painting on the wall. It had been commissioned by an acid-popping millionaire asshole who spent his days draining his spunk into a fish tank for his latest installation, Spermy Gills. He wanted to punch a hole in the wall.

“Are you all right, Alan?” Lorraine asked.

“Fine. Just fine,” Alan replied. He wasn’t fine. He was so far away from fine, fine might as well have been hidden in an underground catacomb somewhere halfway across the world.

As he looked around the office, every nuance of the place piqued him. The photocopier sat like a constipated rhino atop the hideous green carpet, snorting out endless pages of fuming hot poop – next month’s poorly received zeitgeist-throttling wank. The windows and their peek-a-boo blinds bugged the arse off him. His staff could surreptitiously gawp inside as he was downloading his X-rated entertainment for the evening.

His industrious worker-bees were buzzing around the office, sharing gossip, taking pops at new submissions, and trying to close the drawbridge between colleague, friend and lover. More vats of magma spurted inside him. He knew these people so well, so bloody well, he wanted to belt them around the brains with an iron dildo. His eyes turned to Mark.

Oh, Mark! Mark, writer of profound hodgepodge about single mothers and abused children. Reports from the frontline of life. So devilishly moving and clever. Alan knew Mark was trying to wheedle his way into the slacks of Rebecca, the copyeditor whose capacity for snide humour knew no bounds. She was a proponent of slick comedies about the endless push-and-pull of man-woman relationships, fuck-and-fight fests for self-loathing students.

As he looked around the office at the pitiful display of subhuman life, it struck Alan that he was descending into oblivion. This was the beginning of his much-anticipated end. His emotional scaffolding was about to collapse. When he shut his eyes, he imagined a dozen donkeys dumping their bowels around the office until the entire room was seven cubic feet of whiffy excreta. He yearned badly, so bloody badly, to rid himself of this nightmare, this endless burden of printing words, that he seriously started to think about a career in advertising.

“Right, listen up,” he began. “Danny’s novel is a petrochemical aberration. I want every copy printed to be pulped. Seriously, pulp the fucker.”

“Actually, I think you’ll find Tarantino’s already made Pulp Fiction,” Rebecca chipped in.

“Shut up, Rebecca,” he scolded, his left hand twitching. “Just shut up.”

This was it. The moment of his meltdown. It had come so suddenly. Ten minutes ago, he had been looking forward to searching the internet for uncopyrighted material he could plagiarise for his winter schedule. Now he was in the teeth of a full-blown nervous meltdown. His chin was wobbling. He wondered if everyone could see that – his freakish wobbling chin.

“Just… shut… up.”

A silence descended in which the entire staff turned to face Alan, staring through him in case he dared to show a crack in his veneer. A soft rattling noise emerged from the silence, ignored by all. Lorraine bit her knuckles beside the photocopier: she knew it was close. Her time on the throne. Alan could feel his jaw clamp shut, speechless at the thought of his own demise. He knew this day would come, but had prepared nothing to save himself.

The rattling sound intensified, followed by a susurrant hiss, like air being let out a tyre. The source of this interruption was the photocopier – a faithful old banger that had lived in numerous offices and had seen more arses than a Russian bordello. Lorraine was too captivated by Alan’s imminent blow-up to notice the noise: her time as chief cock-at-the-top was near. Soon she would be sipping chianti with Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie and killing the dreams of saps daily with the twitch of a finger.

Meanwhile, a small portal was opening up inside the paper-loading tray of the photocopier.

A blinking black eye, dripping with ink toner, was expanding through the plastic panels of the machine. As the silence widened, so did the eye, absorbing the plastic and paper as it coughed up thick balls of inky sputum onto the carpet. Lorraine was halted – she didn’t know whether to take Alan outside, pop him in a cab, then steal his desk, or let him dribble down himself before taking him outside, popping him in a cab, and stealing his desk.

“I have had… it up… to HERE with you self-interested shitmunchers!” Alan cried out. Several titters escaped the pros, while the newbies looked on dumbly, anticipating a very funny joke.

Lorraine’s eyes goggled in expectation, her pupils expanding in tandem with the squelchy orb of the photocopier, which made an audible gargling sound at her side. The portal had expanded to cover the entire left half of the machine, coughing Malteasers of ink at Lorraine’s feet. A few hacks looked over to see what the problem was, but Alan’s meltdown was much more exciting than office equipment, so they returned to the show.

“You can take this company and… and… and shove it up your arses! All you want is to get your rotten books into print, so you can sip chianti with bloody Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie. I’ve… had… enough!”

The photocopier was buckling now, its insides churning with thick grogs of ink. It kicked and struggled like a horse gone mad; its engorged panels aspurt with hot liquid menace.

“Would someone shut that bloody photocopier up!” Alan shouted. Lorraine finally took her eyes off Alan to acknowledge at the puddle of ink at her feet. As she stepped onto dry carpet to protect her expensive shoes, the photocopier spasmed nearer, spraying a hot jet of toner across her legs. She leapt back in shock, but the inky beast powered up and lunged after her, backing her against the wall.

“What the fuck? Would someone stop this thing?”

The portal opened fully into a wide, bottomless void. A stream of ink blasted her legs, knocking her to the ground. She shrieked and slithered as the portal took hold of her body, sucking in her legs, reversing the flow of ink so it ran backwards then forwards. The flow was relentless, encasing her in a bubbling torrent of viscous ooze, slurping in her hips amid menacing mechanical gargles, then her torso, and – at last – her head.

After devouring Lorraine, the photocopier inched back into its regular spot, turning its ink shooters off. The office froze in hopeless stagnancy. What are you supposed to do when your colleague is devoured by the photocopier in the middle of your boss’s mental breakdown? Call out the technician? Upon shedding their bowels, no one had the slightest idea how to react.

A moment later, the machine rocked left and right, flashing its buttons in a victorious green swirl. The beeping stopped. Calm beckoned. From the silence came a cavernous munching sound. Then more silence. Then the machine shook, spitting out the inky black skeleton of Lorraine in a mighty belch, her ribcage shooting across the room towards the slush pile. The room erupted in horror. Distorted wails, horrified screams, and despairing murmurs came from the staff as the lights went out, the blinds streamed shut, and the doors self-closed.

Lockdown.

Alan stood still, oblivious to everything – a bystander in his hijacked nightmare. Copyeditors leapt around the room as the office equipment mobilised in a tyrannous revolt against their masters. 30cm rulers pinged from the desks in unison, pinning Dennis – the newbie working on a graphic novel retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff – against the toilet door.

A strategy of desks broke loose from the creative throng, churning monitors and keyboards around the room, cornering Simon beside the file cabinets. Simon had no time to wonder, as the drawers opened and shut against his head, pummelling him into submission, whether his poetry book 9 Dreams would make the 2011 winter catalogue. He certainly didn’t have to think about the 2012 catalogue as the desks nailed him to the wall, severing his legs from his torso. The desks clanged and clattered in a ritual triumph dance, soaking their scratched pinewood surfaces in his blood.

Temp #2, Vincent, with his four weeks experience editing novels from Rambunctious Slime Press, found himself at the mercy of the paper shredder, which chased him around the room until it sank its teeth into his blazer. Like the photocopier, it expanded its depths to accommodate human prey, showcasing an impressive set of gnashing razors and slicers. It nibbled on Vincent’s scrawny legs, widening its jaws, as he began to feel a deep regret at having left his old job so quickly.

Arising from the dim corner of the room was the leaning tower of rejected manuscripts. Swirling through the air, this enormous pile of unloved writing no one had bothered to read sped into a small interoffice twister. It set about the editor-in-chief Ronald Steegers. Ronald, caught in the grip of this 1000MPH vice, was swirl-sliced by a record number of papercuts. The blood drained from the forty million lesiures in his skin, sluicing out cartoon-like as his bones were dumped in a bundle by the dustbin.

Rebecca, agog at the mayhem, was oblivious to the guillotine making its way up to the ceiling. It positioned itself at a diagonal distance from her, swung down in a parabola, lobbed off her head, then flopped back into its old spot by the disused monitors. Nice and clean.

Hot coffee scooshed from the percolator, scolding unfortunate Frank. He didn’t even work in the office – he only came down to drop hints that his novel Custard in Outer Mongolia was looking for a publisher (wink wink). Still, as the scalding coffee melted his flesh into mulch, and an impressive silver-red froth foamed upon his bones, he had to admit to himself – it wasn’t very good anyway.

Danny hid beneath a desk, but a band of chattering staplers advanced upon him, staples shooting from their jaws and spiking his neck, making a perfect suture around his windpipe. Hole punches drained the blood from his skin, easing him into the big sleep.

It was almost over. Receptionists banging on the exit door were clobbered and strangled by flying keyboards. Others were taken out by CD trays ejecting at frightening speeds, overhead fans snapping from their cables, being spun to death on swivel chairs, fire extinguishers shooting people out the sixth floor window, and pens boring holes into hearts and squirting toxic acid in there for a laugh. The Venetian blinds wounded no one.

Mark – the last man alive – cowered as the photocopier cornered him three feet away from Alan.
“You did this, didn’t you? You sick bastard, you did this!” he said. The portal opened and the inky deluge came flooding out once more, sucking in the sub-Tarantino hack. Alan didn’t emote.

With the whole office massacred, the equipment returned to its previous positions. Alan bit his lips.

“Right, well. That’s that, then. Back to work,” he said.

And it was. Back to work, indeed.

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

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Mad Love – Blair Frison

 

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Enhance your coffee

 

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Plot Twist by Adam Sturch

 

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..

 

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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.

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Book of Horrors – Scuttle Bug

Scuttle Bug – Matthew Johnson

Amanda’s gut churned, ripping the delicate fabric of sleep. Her eyes flew open as waves of pain shuddered between her legs. She threw off the covers, thoughts veiled in thick fog of disbelief, a dream-like numbing skirting the edges of nightmare, and slowly, as another wave of pain struck, she comprehended what was happening and screamed.

Visible in the morning half-light, a black tail wagged through a ragged grapefruit-sized hole in her purple panties. Blood trickled down her thighs, staining her crotch dark red and soaking into the mattress cover. The cramping worsened as the creature burrowed inside.

“Get out!” she screeched, grabbing the black tail and yanking. Only it wasn’t a tail, but a segmented shell with pincers at the end that pinched the fleshy part between her thumb and palm. They pried at her hand as she tugged its backend. Amanda gasped, tears rolling down her cheeks. A strange mewling escaped her mouth as she struggled to birth the monstrosity clawing its way up inside her. Greased by blood, her hands slipped off the creature’s segmented rear, allowing it to dig further inside.

Amanda tried to sit up, but the pain cramping in her uterus dropped her back onto the bed. Her shoulder bumped against the nightstand, knocking off the copy of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, followed by the glass of water which shattered on the hardwood floor. Once more she wrapped her hands around the creature’s black, waggling abdomen. She carefully pulled, trying not to imagine the creature splitting in half, spilling its blood and innards inside her.  

A horrific certainty filled with panic: if it didn’t get out now, it never would. She would die with it inside. Then what? Lay its eggs in her ovaries to hatch a hundred baby creatures that would chew their way out of her bloated corpse? Her hands began to slip. She squeezed harder, bearing down not just with her fingers, but also her pelvic muscles. Her bladder released a warm flow of urine down the creature’s back and over her hands. The smell of blood and urine burned in her nose.  

She felt it slipping from inside her and falling half way out. It squirmed to get back inside. Two scuttling legs tangled in her pubic hair tried to gain traction. They twisted, tearing free from the fine hairs, only to slide out from the blood. More of the creature followed until an almost foot-long black body, six legs flailing, and finally a head the size of golf ball with antennae cleared the shredded folds of her panties.

“Get the fuck away from me,” she screeched, tossing the creature across the room. It thudded against the far wall, leaving behind a red smear where it struck. She trembled, bile crawling up her throat as its beady black eyes turned on her, and its head tilted as though weighing its options. Its mandibles, glossy red with a shred of flesh hanging from them, clicked together producing a chittering noise. Amanda threw a pillow and the creature scurried towards her. She screeched, listening to its feet pattering on the hardwood floor beneath the bed. She stared down at the mattress terrified that it could crawl back up to get her. No, there were springs and foam inside to stop it.

As if in reply, it thumped against the bottom of the mattress.

“What do you want?”

Another thump, followed by tearing of fabric. Vibrations shook the mattress directly beneath her. Amanda crawled to the opposite side of the bed, watching as the cover split open and black pincers poked through.

She jumped off the bed, crumpling onto the floor, doubled over by painful cramps. Tiny red droplets speckled the oak-wood. Antennae popped up between the split cover, touched the blood and bent them towards its mandibles. Its beady eyes tracked the room and discovered her. They stared at each other for a brief moment.

Then it crawled up through the mattress and scurried after her.

Amanda scooched backwards leaving a red trail. The pain hurt like a hot poker jammed inside so she couldn’t walk let alone run away. Her tattered panties slid down her thighs. She backed against the wall next to her open closet. The creature dropped to the floor, its antennae touching the blood Amanda left behind. It made a jittering sound of vibrating clicks as it approached her, testing the blood every couple steps. Amanda, without taking her eye off the creature, reached into the closet for anything she could grasp. One antennae touched her foot and she pulled it up under her.

With its mandibles open, the thing scuttled quickly towards her. Amanda’s hand frantically grabbed the first it could from the closet. She swung a high heeled shoe, the two inch tip smashing the creature, crushing its head, and pinning it to the floor. The creature twitched and several white, gelatinous balls rolled out from its backside. They pulsated on the hardwood floor. Amanda recognized them as eggs.

The thing intended to bury them inside her and turn her womb into an incubator for monstrous babies.

She plucked up the high heel and smashed the eggs repeatedly until they were nothing but white goo. Laughing cries hiccoughed from her throat, the room echoed with thromping of plastic sole on hardwood. The shoe flew from her red, sweaty hands clattering out of reach. Amanda sat back, wiping her dripping nose on her pink nightie. Rage sated, the pain returned. The bleeding hadn’t stopped and she didn’t think it would on its own. She needed help.

She removed the tattered remains of her panties and used them to cover the dead creature on the floor. Looking at it made her quiver in disgust. She managed to hide the smashed head, leaving its black segmented end sticking out, and crawled to the bed. After dragging herself up on the mattress, she reached across to the nightstand and picked up her cell phone, dialing 911.

“What is your emergency?” the operator asked, a woman which Amanda was grateful to hear. She might sympathize more than a man.

“I need an ambulance,” Amanda said. “I’m bleeding and it won’t stop.”

“Where are you bleeding?”

“Down there,” she said, hoping this lady operator would understand. “I was attacked.”

“Are you safe?”

“Yes.”

“I have dispatched an ambulance, ma’am. Stay on the phone.”

Less than twenty minutes passed and she heard sirens pull up in front of her home. Amanda dropped the cell phone on the pillow. There was a pounding at the front door. She remembered locking it last night, a night that seemed months ago, but couldn’t get up to unlock it. After some shouting, the wooden door splintered and two firefighters entered her room.

Amanda had pulled up a sheet to shield her dignity.

“Can you move?” one of the firefighters asked.

She shook her head and pointed at her lower belly.

“Holy shit,” the other firefighter said, staring at the dead creature on the floor by the closet. “What the hell is that thing?”

The other firefighter kicked off the panties.

“Looks like a giant earwig.”

No, it’s a vaginawig, Amanda thought, hysterical laughter choking her once more. The firemen looked at her, but didn’t say a word.

A pair of EMTs brought in a gurney and the four men used the mattress cover to transfer Amanda onto it. As they wheeled her outside, she noticed a white van parked in her neighbor’s driveway. Advertised on its side was a cartoon bug surrounded by gas and clutching its throat, eyes bulging. Peter’s Pest control. A man wearing a mask and carrying a tank on his back stopped to watch the commotion. The goggles protecting his eyes made them insectile– black and round. He held a metal rod connected to a hose in the tank. He just watched as they wheeled her past.

“I don’t know why they bother with poisoning?” One of the EMT’s commented. “The bugs find other places to hide and breed.”

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

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[NSFW] Fly Blown – Kenneth Whitfield

 

She has an earthy smell about her. Musky. I chalk it up to her being on the dance floor so much. Hot and sweaty, honky tonking, showing off her ample assets in a tight half-shirt with even tighter Daisy Duke cutoffs. She’s pretty, long dark hair, heavily made up brown eyes, full pouty lips and a seductive smile. Infectious laugh. But coming off a bit desperate.

I wave away a fly buzzing at my head as I watch her.

Maybe she’s horny. Maybe she’s trying to make someone jealous. Or maybe she’s just drunk. Probably a combination of all three. I watch as she shakes it all alone on the dance floor, appreciative men cheering her on; their girlfriends giving her the stink eye.

The annoying fly lands on my table. He rubs his little hands together happily, and then starts lapping at the ring left from my mug. I smile and tip my beer to him as I go back to gazing at her.

It’s early, the bar not too crowded yet. Whenever a man approaches her she smiles and shakes her head side to side, no no, not missing a beat. She comes back to my table between dances, drinking my Jack and beer chaser, leaning in closer and closer, whisper/yelling in my ear over the jukebox. Her breath a bit rank, telling me how she just loves to dance and wishes I’d join her. Rubbing her bare underboobs against my arm.

Nice.

The fly drinking from the beer ring on the table has been joined by some friends. They scatter when she visits, but settle quickly when she hits the dance floor again, not willing to give up the free beer. I chuckle, ordering another.

I’m flattered by her attention, her sour breath and body odor accepted. But I’ve seen this scenario before. I believe she’s just looking to start something, to prove something. I don’t know why she has latched onto me, maybe because I’m quiet and not drooling all over her like the other guys. Maybe because I’m alone. Most likely because she’s seen the wad of cash I’ve been peeling bills off when the waitress brings me a drink. (Today was payday.) I really don’t know, but I do think I know where this is probably heading.

The flies are having their own little party on my table, about five of them now lapping at the spilled beer, lined up side by side jostling each other. Belly up to the bar boys.

As the night grows on and the bar gets more crowded, she gets rowdier. As do the cheering men. I guess it won’t be long before that belly revealing shirt is above her boobs, and her shorts will have crept up to become denim thongs.

I give it serious consideration, and then decide I’m just not up to playing any games tonight. I chuckle again, reminded of that Skynyrd song Gimme Three Steps. One lyric in particular from the live version: “Lord I ain’t going to fighting over this cunt.” I throw a twenty on the table to finish covering my, (well, mostly her), tab, scattering the flies. I smile and nod at her shaking on the dance floor as I head out the back door.

She catches up with me just as I am opening my truck door. Tugs on my arm gently and asks if I can take her home. I turn and look. She cocks her head and smiles broadly. I look over her shoulder and don’t see anybody coming out the door after her. Looks like she’s slipped away and is serious about spending time with me. No games. I stand aside and wave her in, her aroma wafting over me as she climbs in.

She slides over just enough to let me behind the steering wheel. Her left thigh is pressed up against my right. She laughs and jokes and uses her right hand to gesture all about as she talks. Her left hand she keeps on my leg, rubbing gently. Her smell is stronger in the confines of the truck. It’s a warm evening, so I discreetly roll down my window.

She likes to lean in close as she talks. Her breath is cigarettes and beer and something a little riper. A rotten sweetness, like fruit going bad.

She points to a button I have pinned to the passenger sun visor. It has a picture of a grinning possum hanging by its tail from a branch and says “Eat More Possum”. She laughs, saying at first glance she thought it said “Eat More Pussy”. I smile. That’s the joke, I say.

She rubs my leg and squirms her hips a bit, smiling back at me.

She lives in a trailer park about a mile from the bar. Tells me she walks back and forth all the time. (I bet she gets rides back more often than not.) The park is pretty big and looks like it’s been around a while. Lots of old trailers lined up almost on top of each other, most with their paint fading and peeling. I see many cars in tiny yards in various stages of decomposition – hoods up, engines out, tires missing. Trash cans overflow in driveways. Indoor furniture – easy chairs, tables and sofas – is outdoors on porches and in yards.

Her trailer is gray with pink trim. I guess it was black with red trim at one time. There’s a sagging little wooden five foot square porch at the front door with rusted steel stairs leading up to it. A bare, fly specked 100 watt bulb is screwed into a grimy porcelain light socket base attached to the porch ceiling. A couple of sticky brown fly strips are hanging down, twisting in the warm breeze, each covered with dozens of tiny black bodies.

She heads up on the porch, digging the key out from the back pocket of her painted on shorts. I hang back, telling her I need to pay the water bill. She smiles playfully as she opens the door, telling me to let her know if I need any help. I smile back, saying yeah, the doctor told me not to be lifting anything heavy. I hear her laughing as I turn and take a couple of steps back through her over-flowing trash cans.

I have just gotten a good stream going when the breeze shifts and a smell makes me gag and almost piss on myself. A smell of rotted meat and decay. I finish quick, tucking myself back in. Morbid curiosity makes me look. I poke around the split open black trash bags with the toe of my boot. I flip one shredded bag over, and lying under it is a possum. Its dull gray eyes look up at me, lips pulled back in a grin showing sharp little teeth. It’s deflated; gray fur all stiff and matted. There’s a clouted hole in its side and a mass of flies are swarming over it. I wave my boot over them and they buzz away, revealing a writhing mass of maggots feeding inside the possum. The flies settle quickly back down, refusing to abandon their offspring and free lunch. I hold my breath and back away, heading up to the porch. She’s holding the door open, and I dodge the fly strips as I go inside.

After the smell outside, the smell inside is very faint.

She points at my crotch saying I left the barn door open, and then goes to make us a couple drinks. I pull my zipper up, watching her root around in the piles of dirty dishes, disturbing a few flies, finally finding two red Solo cups. She gets a bottle of Jack from on top of the refrigerator and pours us both good stiff ones, adding a splash of hot flat coke from an almost empty liter bottle to each. No ice.

She hands me mine, and we both take deep drinks, looking at each other. I feel the warm flush coming over me as the liquor goes down. She rises to her tiptoes and kisses me, hard. Smashing our lips, pushing her tongue past my teeth, licking and then sucking. She pulls back, grins, motions with her head for me to follow. She heads down the little hallway to what I am sure is her bedroom.

I follow, watching her butt shaking, barely noticing the smell, taking another drink to wash away her aftertaste.

In her bedroom, the single window is open, the warm breeze bellowing threadbare curtains. The screen in the window is full of holes, and I see several flies crawling through. More are flitting about. Her bedroom is about as clean as her kitchen, and we add our clothes and underwear to the piles we step over getting to her unmade bed.

Lying next to her, she giggles throatily, taking me in her hand. I watch the curve of her breasts as I reach between her legs, gently stroking. My fingers touch large fleshy lips, swollen with excitement. As I reach between them, the incredible moistness sucks them in, four fingers disappearing up to the second knuckle. She moans, arching her back.

This sure ain’t her first rodeo.

When I pull my fingers out, I am struck by the smell. It’s cliché, but there is a heavy fish odor. She bucks, pulling me on top of her. The hand I had between her thighs is now by her head and I smell the funk on my fingers even stronger. She sucks feverishly on my neck, distracting me. And before I can think any more about the odor she grabs my butt with both hands and I am sliding inside of her. I think of Daisy Duke wearing cutoffs with black stockings and as I empty into her, I feel a burning sensation. I’ve experienced similar when ladies used spermicide. It’d get backed up and in some kind of backwash burn like hell. I didn’t see her slide any spermicide in, but I know ladies can be discreet about that. (Though she didn’t strike me as the discreet type.) I grit my teeth and roll off her, the sensation slowly fading.

She smokes a cigarette as I finish my Jack Daniels. After that, we don’t exactly snuggle, she just lays close alongside of me. Presently she falls asleep, and not long afterward I do too.

I awake needing to pee again and swatting at a couple of flies buzzing around my head. The room is ripe with the smell of sour sex. Her back is toward me now, her breathing slow and steady. Her firm buttocks outlined with bikini tan lies. I ease out of the bed, tip toe around dirty clothes disturbing more flies, and ease the bathroom door closed behind me.

Flipping on the light switch, there’s a hum and then one dirty fluorescent tube above the mirror flickers and provides dim light. The dingy full moon and yellowish area light showing through the little open window provide a bit more illumination. I look at myself in the mirror, raising my chin, shaking my head at the giant red hickey on my neck. Waving away more flies I step over to the toilet and relieve myself. The burning sensation is still present, though not as bad. And there is a prickling sensation, an itch all throughout my crotch. Both inside and out. Everything looks red and irritated and I wonder if she gave me a dose of the crabs. Never had them before so not sure what the symptoms are or how long they take to show. I make a mental note to see a doctor. After finishing, I open cabinets looking for a bath cloth to wash off with. Can’t find any and I don’t want to touch the used ones mixed in with dirty underwear in the overflowing hamper. Everything in there is damp and stained. I twist the hot faucet meaning to rinse using my hands, but the foul smelling brown water trickling out changes my mind. I’ll take a hot shower and scrub good when I get home.

Back in the bedroom, I ease about finding my clothes. I dress silently, watching her sleep. She is very pretty. Lying naked on her side in the ruffled bed, no covers, hair mussed, breathing so heavy it’s almost a snore. I smile, the itching in my groin and the sour smell now seem fair trade for having shared that body. I walk over to wake her and tell her good bye. We both knew what this was so there’s no reason to sneak away in the night. I’m not that much of a dick.

As I lean over the bed and reach for her shoulder, she rolls over. I back up as she moans. She raises both her arms over her head and smacks her lips sensually. I smile broader, looking at her sleeping, happy face. Her big breasts, flat nipples quivering with each breath. Her taut stomach with a belly button piercing, a diamond, (probably cubic zirconium), rising and falling slowly. Her slick pubic hair quivering.

She pulls one leg up at an angle, exposing herself. It looks like a butterflied, abused veal cutlet. A trickle of thin, white fluid leaks out from between those enlarged bruised lips. A couple of flies land in her curly hairs and walk about in the stickiness. Another couple land and work their way toward the pooling white wetness. The smell of fish and foul meat is strong. More flies land in her stiff and matted fur.

I look closer and see a small white worm emerge from inside her and fall into the milky fluid. Then another. And another. They coagulate; form a small knot, squirming over each other. More flies land and begin to cover her pubes as the maggots continue to cascade from within her. Goose bumps pop up on her pelvic region, spread up towards her stomach, appearing and disappearing as the flesh undulates with the roiling masses beneath. More and more flies land on her, appearing as a single black mass. She moans and shifts position slightly. The flies rise, but settle back down quickly, unwilling to abandon their meal and offspring. The smell of offal rises in the thick heavy air, causing me to retch silently.

I back away from her, swallowing my gag reflex. Ease my way out of the bedroom, shooing flies with one hand, pulling and tugging and scratching at my groin with the other. I stumble through the living room, snatching the front door open. Staggering across the porch, I become entangled in the fly strips, fighting their stickiness, yanking them from my face and head along with skin and scalp. I fall down the steps and hit the driveway hard, ripping my jeans, skinning both knees and the palms of my hands on the sharp gravel. Getting to my feet I run to my truck almost yanking the door off its hinges.

The truck starts and I back out of her little driveway, tires spinning as I put it in drive while still rolling backwards. Leaving the trailer park entrance with dust and gravel spraying behind me. Tires squealing I hit the pavement of the main road, rear end fish tailing as I floor it. By the time I pass the bar I am doing better than ninety.

All the while scratching and tugging at my burning groin with one hand while flies buzz around.

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

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Book of Horrors Vol I

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Deadman’s Tome: Book of Horrors features ten solid, terrifying horror shorts designed to instill absolute terror. The anthology opens with a dark, brooding story of occult practices and an odd disappearance, then leads into a gritty reminder that a closet isn’t a good place to store dead bodies. Haunted houses cursed with ghost children, demonic visits, mutated bed bugs with a fascination for pink flesh, and exploration into the unknown make for a chilling read.

Buy the anthology and support the Tome and support the authors!

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Deadman’s Tome LIVE @ 10PM (CST)

 

 

Horror authors Brian J. Smith and Matthew Johnson join Mr. Deadman to discuss their stories, influences, and other projects. Brian J. Smith is the author of Caught In The Act, a short, dark, and gritty flash in the pan fiction of lust, revenge, and murder that lingers like the smell of gunpowder. Matthew Johnson is the the author of Scuttle Bug, a gruesome and haunting tale of a bug from Hell determined to borrow deep inside Amanda. Scuttle Bug is also featured in the latest anthology Deadman’s Tome: Book of Horrors.

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Book of Horrors – More Plastic Wrap

 

More Plastic Wrap – Florence Ann Marlowe

The gloom descended on him the moment his sneaker touched the broken walk leading to his mother’s house.  It was as if a cloud had taken up permanent residence over the green tiled house.  Michael looked up at the grimy windows and they stared back with baleful black eyes. “The beast” as Michael liked to call it, waited for his return, laughing at him.  It knew he was a prisoner, unable to escape.

The rusty mailbox, clinging to the side of the house by one screw, hung heavy with the day’s mail.  Michael shifted the plastic bags to one hand and dug out the fistful of envelopes.  Bills, advertisements and his mother’s social security check.  He gritted his teeth.  Another reminder that he was not his own man.  

Hoping not to wake her, Michael crept through the door – but the house betrayed him.  The door creaked, squealing on him.  Under his breath he cursed the miserable old beast.  

“Izzat you, Mikey?”

Her voice was like a buzz saw gnawing at the nerves in his ears.  Michael felt his lips curl back into a snarl.

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Did you get me my smokes?”

He tossed the bags on the kitchen table.  They contained three packs of Marlboros, six sticks of Slim Jims and a thirty-two ounce bottle of blue Gatorade.

“Did you get my smokes, sweetie?”  Her scratchy, witchy voice clawed its way from her bedroom upstairs.   

Michael shouted back. “Yeah, I got everything.  Here’s your mail.”  Under his breath he muttered, “Ya crazy, old bitch.”

His mother gingerly climbed down the stairs in a dingy pink housedress and terry cloth scuffs.  She was a tiny woman peering out beneath heavy black framed eyeglasses.  A nearly spent cigarette hung from her lips as she approached her only son.

“Didja have enough money for everything?”

Michael grunted and nodded.

The old woman patted his arm and eased herself into a chair to look through the mail; Michael flinched at her touch.

Thirty-two and living at home with his elderly mother, Michael acknowledged his failure. He had moved in with her when he dropped out of community college and swore it would only be until “he got on his feet.”  The years rolled by and there was always a reason he was unable to move out.  His mother pretended he was there to take care of her, but Michael felt trapped – trapped by the monstrous old house and his clingy hag of a mother.

She rifled through the bags.

“What the hell is all this?  I didn’t tell you to get this.”  The tone of her voice turned sour.

Michael grabbed at the bottle of Gatorade.  “I bought them for myself.”

“Not with my money!”

“No!”  Michael lied.  “I’ve got my own money.” Michael had already cashed his measly check from the video store and the piddling remains sat in his wallet.

The old woman patted his arm and nodded.  “All right, honey.  You can have your candy.”  

Michael furiously ripped open a Slim Jim and tore off a piece with his teeth.  The salty dried meat tasted bitter in his mouth.  

“Sweetie,” his mother said.  “You wanna take my check to the bank and cash it now?”

“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.

“But Mikey, I just signed it.”  

Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.

“It’s got my name on it now.  What if I lose it or what if someone breaks in?”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Michael growled.  

The old woman sighed.  ‘All right, honey.  I know you’re tired.  You rest up.”

Michael rolled his eyes and bit off another huge chunk of Slim Jim.

“I don’t feel so good.” She struggled to stand. “I’m gonna go lay down.”

He watched his mother’s tiny form shuffle back up the stairs, the saggy flesh of her upper arms waggling with each step. Her door clicked shut and he could hear her coughing.  

Alone later in his room Michael pulled a stack of dog-eared magazines from under his bed.  He rifled through the pile, knowing well the contents of each one by the cover.  The pubescent blue-eyed nymph sucking her forefinger while staring innocently at the camera promised many pages of girl on girl action beyond the cover.  Michael chose the cover with a dark haired vamp pulling bright red chewing gum from her lips in a long slippery trail.  He knew he’d find several pages of beaver shots glistening within.  

Michael slid his hand into his pajama pants and began to fondle his balls.  His vision blurred slightly as he got caught up in the images of young women on their backs, their legs open, forming a perfect V and the smooth, slick pinkness lying between their thighs.  He sighed and closed his eyes as he began to caress his erect cock when he heard his mother coughing in the next room.

Michael’s hand froze. He waited for the coughing fit to die out and then resumed playing with himself.

In his mind the nubile blonde from the magazine’s pages crawled onto his bed and laid her soft lips on his cock.  Her eyes were locked onto his as she dragged her tongue up the shaft and traced the tip of her tongue along the ridge of his big mushroom head.  He slid his hand up and down faster along his penis when his mother started a new 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.

“Mom?”

When he received no answer, he pulled his covers up and lay staring into the dark for nearly an hour before finally drifting off to sleep.

The next morning Michael waited until sunlight pierced the muddied windows in his room. The alarm clock near his bed said it was twenty past ten. The house was unnaturally still.

In nothing but his pajama pants, he crept down the hallway towards his mother’s room.  The door was still closed.  There was an unseasonal chill in the house.  The air felt frosty – like a wet, cool breeze snaked its way through the hallway.

Michael leaned an ear against the door to listen and the wood itself seemed to sear his flesh.  He pulled way.  A film of sweat lay on his upper lip as he caught the metal door knob in his hand. The knob felt icy cold as it turned.  He allowed the door to ease open just a few inches before peeking inside.  

She was lying on the bed in a tangle of bedclothes.  One skinny leg stuck out, a slipper dangling from her foot.  She was wearing the clunky eyeglasses; her head thrown back against the headboard.  Michael pulled the door shut with a jerk.

The texture of the wood, the bubbles in the yellowed paint seemed to grow before him.  A tattered spider web hung in the corner above the 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.  

“Mikey?”

As if he’d been shocked by high voltage, Michael sat up in bed.  He stared at his bedroom door as if he could will it to lock out anything that might wander in from the hallway.  The coughing had stopped, but his ears strained for any sound.  And then it came.

He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound.  

It was a crinkly, crackling sound like layers and layers of plastic being peeled away.  His heart battered against his rib cage.  A tearing sound, a clean ripping and a thud.  And then a wet splat, something like the slap of raw meat on the floor.  

Michael swallowed and listened again.  There was silence.  His head seemed to clear and he ran his hand over the front of his underwear.  They were damp.  He shook his head as if to rattle his brain.   It had been a nightmare.  The house, in its gloomy brooding, was still. It was toying with his brain. He slipped under the covers and glanced at the alarm clock.  It was just past four.

The next morning the smell still lingered in the hall.  Michael had bought ten rolls of cellophane, but pulling the dresser from the closet and opening the door was out of the question.  If he opened the door and the plastic wrap he had labored to seal the Rubbermaid container was tattered, rendered from the strain of the lid being pried open from within he would lose his mind. What if the lid had been dislodged and his mother’s decaying, blackened hand was sticking out, the nails clawing through the plastic wrap?  What if he opened the closet door and his mother’s putrefied corpse was sitting on top of the box, shreds of cling wrap lying at her feet, her accusing eyes bulging from behind her clunky glasses?

Michael scrubbed at his face.  The dark corners of the musty old house were drawing him in.  He refused to go mad.  It was just a bad smell and these things could be dealt with.

He carried an armful of air fresheners into the hallway and began to open them and place them around the dresser on the floor.  Michael fought not to see the wisps of cigarette smoke that he was sure was escaping the seams around the  closet door.

He dreaded nightfall.  Everything was different once the sun went down.  The dreary house became ominous, like a cranky old man.  Shadows seemed to dart out just beyond Michael’s peripheral vision.  He could hear thumping sounds from the hallway.  At one point, right after sunset, Michael thought he heard his mother’s bedroom door open.  Too frightened to look, he muted the television and stared straight ahead, listening.  The back of his skull tingled when he thought he heard the shuffling of her slippered feet.  He whirled around, a thin scream clawing at his throat, but nothing was there.  

That night Michael locked himself in his room.  He kept telling himself it was all in his head, the noises, the shadows, even the smell.  There was definitely a smell, a terrible smell; but it was not a visible vapor that dogged him from room to room.

He dozed off into a cloud of unrest where he could hear the crackling of plastic and fleshy footsteps in the hallway.  He jerked awake a few times when he thought he smelled cigarettes burning, but exhaustion forced him back to slumber.  Sometime in the middle of the night he dreamed that his mother was in his room, hovering over his bed.  He opened sleepy eyes and saw her face, blackened like an overripe banana, floating behind her thick glasses.  She leaned close enough that he could feel her whistling, wheezing breath on his face and the heat of her own flesh decaying.  

Michael bounded from his bed, his hands outstretched, fully expecting his fingers perforate her pulpy flesh.  He was alone in his room.  Clutching his chest, he looked at himself in the mirror over his dresser.  His chin was scruffy with bristles.  He hadn’t 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.

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

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Book of Horrors – S. Alessandro Martinez

Mr. Deadman and S. Alessandro Martinez talk about the Deadman’s Tome: Book of Horrors. An anthology loaded with ten great terrifying horror shorts designed to disgust, creep, and frighten you!

 

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors

Featuring ten horror stories crafted specifically to terrorize, frighten, and horrify, this brand-new anthology is a solid beast. Any and every horror fiend should have a copy of this chilling collection of short stories!

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