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Monster – W.C. Jones

 

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Monster – W.C.Jones 

 

“Dad, there’s a monster in my closet.”

“Son, that’s impossible,” Ron Young said in a half sigh to his seven-year-old son Timmy. The boy was sitting upright in bed, his eyes wide.

Timmy glanced toward the closet at the end of the room, waiting for the sound which had awaken him a few moments ago to repeat itself.

Ron looked to the closet as well and frowned. Representatives from Sammy’s Inc. would visit his office tomorrow and he hated the idea of walking in with bags under his eyes. Besides, the reason was ludicrous; he’d had nightmares too when he was small and all his dad did was storm into the room with blood-shot eyes, throw open the closet doors, and show him it was empty before saying: “Now quit being a little coward and go to sleep.” That’s all he needs, Ron thought, some good ol’ fashion discipline.

He started toward the closet when something caught his eye; it lay upside down on the floor in front of the door, its blue, plastic frame glowing in the light given off by the Power Ranger night light on the wall. He stooped and picked up a tiny toy car and turned to his son. “What’s this doing on the floor?”

“I’m sorry,” Timmy said, pulling the covers down to his waist, “I forgot to put it up.”

“This room gets messier every time I come in here.”

“But dad, it’s only one car.” Timmy looked around the room. In the dark, the blue walls transformed into towering black shadows and the base boards a ribbon of white. Below these lay a sea of hard-wood flooring devoid of anything save a few specks of dust.

“It’s still messy.” Ron turned and tossed the car into an open box in the corner. “Rooms need to be kept clean by their occupants,” he said, turning around to face his son again, “even if their occupants think there are monsters hiding in the closet.”

“But there is one,” Timmy said. “I heard it moving around in there! It woke me up!”

“Enough, Timmy,” Ron said, raising his voice. “It was just a dream.”

Timmy pointed to the closet, his finger trembling. “No, he’s in there,” he said. “I can hear him moving around when you’re gone.”

Ron scowled. “Fine.” He walked over to the closet and grabbed the doorknob. “I’ll prove it to you.”

Timmy closed his eyes as he heard the door open, his mind picturing a large, green hand with claws lunging for his father—his father screaming as the fingers wrapped around him like vines—and waited. Nothing happened. When he opened his eyes, his father stood inside the closet, showered in the glow from the light bulb in the ceiling. He held a large stuffed dinosaur in his hands.

“Is this your monster?”

Timmy shook his head as his father pulled the light string and doused the closet in darkness again. Ron walked toward him, the dinosaur cradled in his arm. Before he reached the bed he threw it against the wall and the toy fell limply into the open box.

“There, it’s gone. Now go to sleep.”

#

The thick, whiskery mass waited until the footsteps of the larger human receded before poking its small head up through a loose floorboard in the back of the closet. Skin twisted and split down the center of a cylinder-like head attached to a few feet of wiggling purple flesh. Legions of needle-point teeth protruded from a vertical set of dull orange gums while two cloudy red eyes—one on each side of its mouth—fixed themselves on the humans in the distance.

The smell of the child’s apprehension tickled the slit above the creature’s mouth. The thing blinked its eyes twice, attempting to adjust to the sudden change from dark to light.

“But dad,” the child said. “I heard it moving around in there.”

“Timmy,” the taller human said, its voice rising in pitch. “Just go to sleep. There is nothing in there.”

The taller human disappeared into the darkness, leaving the child alone. Excitement coursed through the thin, tube-like body hiding in the shadows. It yearned to sneak up on its prey and sink its fangs in.

It had done so to other children in the past, and never left without taking something from each of its victims. This closet was home, had been since the house’s construction. One by one the children had come to it. The fear of a dozen or more already comprised its being, all of which was taken in the darkness of the night thanks to the toxins it carried. One bite caused instant paralysis, and it secretly loved this; returning to feed on the same victim over and over was an absolute joy, especially when the larger humans didn’t interfere. This made the hunt so much easier.

A sliver of clear liquid trailed from the corner of the creature’s mouth as it watched the blue glow—the very essence it wanted to take away—of the child in the corner.

Timmy fought the sensation of warmth and comfort tugging at his eye lids. Come on, he thought, blinking a few times, trying to push away the softness of the pillow behind his head. Come on Timmy, you can do it—he raised his eyelids and searched the darkness. He found what he knew he would crouching in the shadows, peering at him through a veil of blackness.

Two small bulbs of red appeared and faded again, never reaching forward. This relieved him—At least it hasn’t tried to get me yet—and he pulled the covers up to his eyes, as if the act would somehow slow the thing down, or stop it entirely. The red specks continued to watch him—It’s waiting for me to fall asleep—and coldness crept into his sheets, breaking his arms out in goose flesh.

He wasn’t going to close his eyes, not for a second. That’s all it will take, he thought, his eyelids drooping. The covers slid down as his grip relaxed and—

—Wake up!

An image of his father invaded his mind and his eyes shot open; he looked toward the closet. Darkness held its position, unpierced by the faintest shimmer of light. The night light lay on the floor, its bulb broken and its cover missing. Timmy’s mind raced for an explanation for its disappearance. Did it come out and eat it? He searched various areas of the darkness for the red eyes but didn’t find them. His eye lids grew heavy, and a yawn forced its way out of his mouth. He rubbed his eyes. Maybe it went to sleep? Another thought suddenly shoved its way to the front of his mind: Do monsters sleep? He stretched his arms and legs as more thoughts invaded his head. None of them made any sense, but he held on to them as long as he could before his eye lids finally closed and he relaxed into the softness surrounding him.

#

The rhythmic sounds of respiration sent a wave of pleasure and triumph storming through the two foot long slender body hidden under wood and bedsprings. It extended several sets of legs—each with jagged nails on the end—and crawled out from under the fabric hanging off the end of the bed. Then it craned its segmented head towards the top. There, encased in a thick blanket of darkness lay what it sought.

Upon seeing the child’s chest rise and fall beneath the blanket, a row of thin, curved fangs descended from the front of the creature’s gums and tasted the air in the room. The taller human’s scent was bitter, but it was faint.

Time to strike.

#

What’s wrong with that boy? Ron stood in the bathroom, staring at his reflection in the mirror. A few red patches across the side of his chin grabbed his attention. He picked up a bottle of facial cleanser, dabbed a few drops on his palm, and rubbed his hands together before spreading a layer of white around his cheeks and forehead.

He gets it from her, he reasoned. Carol was always like that, but she’s gone and he’s my responsibility now. I’ll teach him better than she ever could.

The sound of running water, rolling over and in between his fingers, settled his nerves. It reminded him of taking a shower, an endless flood of warmth seeking out every stiff muscle and tender area on his body. He saw an office room in his mind’s eye; in the center sat a long, oblong-shaped oak table with several men in suits seated around it, staring back at him. I’ll get the deal closed tomorrow, he thought. He had waited for this meeting for months. The clients wanted to negotiate the purchase of a larger building space to expand their own franchise. Ron knew his boss, Mr. Sherman, a short balding man with beady eyes, loved the idea. He’ll make me vice president for this, Ron thought, the water slipping through his fingers. He smiled and turned off the faucet.

Several small, black patches of whiskers he’d missed when he shaved earlier caught his attention when he looked in the mirror. A product of carelessness, he thought. Suddenly the suits in his mind’s eye stood up and began to exit the room, single-file, disgust written on their up-turned noses and blade-thin eyes. “What’s wrong,” Ron asked them in his pressed pants and ironed jacket. A man in a gray suit with a beige tie turned to him and scowled. “How can we trust you with such an important investment when you can’t even shave correctly?”

Ron blinked and found himself standing in the bathroom again. A white hot anger filled his veins with adrenaline, and his father’s face glared back at him from the mirror. He remembered this face laughing at him in the past, its small brown eyes instruments of condemnation. His father always found some kind of fault. Only with my mistakes, Ron thought, my weaknesses. The face scowled at him, its eyes piercing into his.

I’ll show you, he thought. I’ll show all of them! With trembling hands he took a can of Barbasol from the cabinet. Then, like an artist, he painted his masterpiece, taking care to cover every inch of his cheeks and neckline. Smiling at his father’s reflection as he did—it was covered in the same white foam as his—he picked up a razor and began to dismember the remaining hairs.

#

The slender body wiggled in sync with its many legs as it raised its first segment onto the bottom of the bed sheet, the tips of its claws curving inward to hold the material more firmly. Its ascent took a few minutes. Once, when it was halfway up, the child jerked right with such intensity the thing dug in deeper for fear of falling off. When the moment finally ceased, it continued up, poking holes in the fabric with its tiny claws.

Timmy’s leg itched. He reached back and scratched it, mumbling a few indecipherable words before sleep overtook him once more.

Something poked him through the bed sheet.

He scratched his leg.

The sheet rose and fell as something poked it in several places at once, moving forward in a slow, methodical motion.

Timmy’s eyes shot open.

A glowing pair of eager eyes greeted him. They suddenly blinked and moved apart, revealing something shiny and wet a few inches from his face.

It was at this point, with his mind in shambles, that Timmy let loose a blood curdling scream.

#

“Da—ddy!”

The sound assaulted Ron’s ears. His hand trembled and the razor bit into his cheek.

Fresh blood emerged from the tiny cuts, transforming them into a grating of red steel that then slithered down his neck. He looked at the reflection in the mirror. His father’s face leered at him, his cheek bleeding as well. You’ve gone and cut yourself like a fat heifer, the face seemed to be saying. You’re worthless. And they’ll never make a worthless man like you vice president of anything—Ron’s teeth clenched and moved back and forth—you can’t even shave right—a thick, purple vein pulsated beneath the skin of his forehead—and all this because you don’t know how to keep a kid quiet!

The razor fell into the sink, landing in one of many small, red pools that were beginning to slide toward the drain. Ron looked up into his father’s face, reared back his fist, and slammed it into the mirror.

Nothing peered back at him now. His hand throbbed. Tiny silver bits protruded from his knuckles. Blood oozed from the cuts, trickling onto the surface of the sink. He pictured the office room again, and he was standing before the men in the suits, his eyes wide, wiping the blood away with toilet tissue. They looked at him and laughed. Tears cascaded down his cheeks and began to mix with the blood. “I’m sorry,” he said. They laughed at him and his anger boiled to the surface, bringing a desperate need with it. The contract for the property sat on the end of the table, staring up at him, mocking him with its blank signature page. Ron grabbed it and thrust it into the faces of the businessmen. “I’ll show you!” He tore it in half. “I can keep my son quiet!” He ripped it into three more pieces. “I’ll show you all!”

“Da—ddy!” a now alien voice screamed out. “Help! The monster’s here!”

Ron blinked and looked into the shattered mirror. Without a word, he walked out of the bathroom, blood still trickling from his chin. A thin, black leather belt lay on the bed. This is the boy’s fault, he thought, scowling. This is the goddamned boy’s fault!

He picked it up, smearing the surface with blood as he folded it in half. When he turned to step through the bedroom door he caught a glimpse of himself in the dresser-drawer mirror. His father’s face glared back at him, grinning widely as blood seeped down his freshly cut cheek.

The creature was still recovering from the child’s scream as it slithered across the bedroom flooring toward the protection of the closet. The sound had forced it to abandon its attack and though it yearned to try again, the heavy footfalls of the taller human approaching from the distance hurt its ears even more. Defeated for the moment, it moved back into the shadows, searching for the weak board which led under the floor.

A sudden explosion of sound jerked its head around for a look. Brightness encased the room suddenly, revealing the two humans transfixed before one another.

The taller human held something long and black in its hand.

The child stood before it, revealing many discolorations in its light skin that the darkness had kept hidden. Their colors were peculiar; some held a light to darkish blue tint, while others seemed almost a dull brown or yellow.

As the child tried to open its mouth the taller human attacked it, bringing the odd object across its face.

Trembling, the small, cylindrical creature eased its body into the corner of the closet and disappeared into the shadows as the scene unfolded: “There are no monsters in this house!” the taller human screamed, bringing down the object again, this time on the child’s back. The child fell and twisted on the floor. “Show me one,” the taller human roared, continuing to attack, “show me a monster!”

THE END

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

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The Vampire Nymph by Jim Lee

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In the traditional myths taught before the Revolution changed so much, Nymphs were minor Goddesses who manifested themselves in human form as lovely, innocent and above all unattainable maidens. So to my adoring eyes seemed Dominique Benoit!

Cascades of soft brown hair framed a fair-complexioned face which showed a slight degree of north-south angularity—just sufficient, to my way of thinking, to balance the tendency toward the excessively oval that suggested in the other village girls a vapid nature, at least to my Paris-bred preferences and/or prejudices. Said face was multiply blessed, indeed—with warm wide eyes, a sturdy but by no means masculine nose, pixie-like dimples and full, ever-laughing lips.

A pair of high-riding breasts swelled appealingly beneath an array of brightly colored peasant blouses and contrastingly plain shifts. Of modest size they were, yet as near to perfect as nature would allow in both contour and degree of firmness.

Her hips flared outward most adequately, though their curvature was of a subtle nature—thus lingering on just the proper side of vulgar invitation. And yes, my mouth went dry as the proverbial bone, even as a fantastic yearning to feel her toned thighs locked tight around my lower reaches made me sweat that fateful early summer when our briefly restored Emperor led the nation toward final and absolute defeat far to the north—even as Dominque and I both turned eighteen in isolated and blissful ignorance.

I was not alone in admiring her, of course.

Seemingly every male of a certain age in that village—if not in the entire Department, as the Provinces have been styled since 1790, according to the old calendar that would itself soon be restored—felt drawn to her, sure as the compass needle is compelled to seek magnetic north!

Faced with such legions of self-assured competition, the humbled and often tongue-tied son of an equally humbled minor aristocrat turned political refugee and struggling high-country barley farmer that I was, considered my chances almost negligible.

Still, if he is to avoid drowning in despair a youth must dream his dreams; hope his bittersweet and hopeless hopes. Only later, if at all, when faced with ultimate disappointment, must he grow past and beyond them.

This natural process was abruptly deranged for me on that too-warm 15th night of what today is again known as June—even as our ‘Little Corporal’ prepared to lead his doomed army into the Belgian sections of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

That was the night, in the foothills unimaginably far south of Waterloo, that one of the mountain-dwelling Vampires whose existence I once confidently scoffed at paid my adopted village a visitation. What news of the nation’s latest spasm of martial lunacy that had so far filtered to this distant outpost preoccupied all those not as love-struck as I. Additionally, the unseasonably oppressive heat that normally cool region had suffered under that entire preceding week rendered the lot of us at once restless and lulled to near-insensibility.

In short, our guard was down and the legendary creature had all-too-easy a time of it.

In the morning, we took stock of our losses: Old Madame Le Clair and her grandson Henri dead—utterly drained of blood, the both of them—and our beloved Dominque gone missing. “Carried off,” it was whispered in appalled fright by all and sundry.

A search was mounted, armed parties plunging deep as they dared into that region of the central Pyrenees beyond the village. But of course, as per the too-familiar pattern of such infrequent yet recurrent tragedies, no clear trail was in evidence.

Soon enough another potentially deadly night drew near.

The others had to forcibly drag me back toward our homes.

I struggled futilely, not soothed at all by their insistence that by now Dominque “must surely be dead.” I fought them, shaking bodily and crying out—exclaiming that I would not believe it till I beheld her lifeless form.

The one true friend I felt I had among the unschooled country folk I was interned with clasped me by the shoulders. Gaston, who like so many had formerly harbored his own hopes regarding the girl, shook me with uncommon violence. Then he looked back, across his shoulder at the looming, nearly unchartered peaks.

I saw his fear, heard it in his voice.

“Wyatt,” he used the diminutive I’d long outgrown and would’ve never tolerated from any but him and my parents, and very possibly Dominque, should she have ever deigned to speak intimately to me. “Wyatt, you had best pray she’s merely dead! And that you never see nor meet her again! I would have had her too, you know—but not now, my friend. No, most assuredly, I say it—not now!”

I took his meaning, gave my aching skull a nod. Yet I did not share his terrified disgust. Somehow, I could not do so. I felt only loss, and the exhaustion born of despair.

Broken with grief, I followed my companions back to the relative safety of the village.

We heard no more of Vampires for a two full years and five months, at which point an especially brutal winter had already fully settled upon us. Then a village to the east was raided.

Though the attacker escaped, her description was suitably vivid.

All the others quaked in fear and said, “Now we know for sure—she is damned!”

Gaston insisted we go to the tavern and get very drunk. We did so, which only led to trouble. My friend grew ever cruder with each cup of cheap back-county wine. Nearing the evening’s end, he slapped my shoulder and exclaimed loud enough for all to hear, “Pity none of us ever got to stick it to her, Wyatt! But fear not, the opportunity might still arise—only this time, we best use actual wood! Sad but true, a fleshy stake is well beyond her interests now!”

Others looked up, stared at us. Many looked dismayed, even appalled. Others grinned, two nodded. One even dared laugh.

I struck that lout then turned and gave Gaston a matching blow.

And so I was tossed out, into the cold mid-November night.

I wandered off, more than half-drunk and weeping.

How could they be so faithless? How could they turn so easily against one they’d once all sworn to adore forever?

The tart bite of a slightly premature winter wind revived and partially sobered me. Yet it instilled no desire to return and see Gaston or any of the others.

No, none at all!

A wild fancy come upon me, I sneaked past the village watch and headed south. I walked perhaps an hour, till I reached the base of the nearest true mountain. I took a deep breath of icy air then carefully picked my way upward—perhaps twenty of the still-new meters we were now expected to measure such distances by. There I encountered a level area too broad to properly be styled a mere ledge or outcropping. Beyond it, the upslope became quite more gradual for a good distance. There I paused. I could not have told you how I knew; why I felt drawn to that very spot—I simply, inexorably was!

With gloved hand I brushed a thin film of snow from a somewhat flat slab of the ubiquitous granite. I sat, lowered my head into my cupped palms.

Rather than linger there to shiver mindlessly, I began musing on an obscure piece of legend I recalled from before my family fled the Terror—the tale that supposedly explained how this very mountain range received its name.

Like so much of the mythic, it was a story full of lustful passion, betrayal and abandonment, tinged with cautionary horror followed by regret and concluding with a measure of vaguely ironic and incomplete, semi-magical redemption.

The legend held my notice for some indeterminate time.

Then I chanced to look up—if indeed any that happened that night or since was mere chance.

In any event, I saw her in the moonlight. Moving purposefully and sure-footed, she practically glided down the slope and toward the copse of stiff-needled Mountain Pines I sat among.

Pinus Mugo,” I murmured, absentmindedly voicing the Latin name for that particular species of conifer. And it occurred to me that the previous spring I had accompanied Gaston and some others to the crique—the semicircular upper end of a neighboring valley which ended in the more typically precipitous cliffs. It was a spot not too far southwest from where I now sat and we’d come to harvest the young cones, which were then sun-dried before boiling what dripped from them to a sugary concentrate—thus producing the pine syrup I still craved with childlike gusto.

I sat patient—and not as discomforted as I should have been—observing her approach.

She came to me, as pale and diaphanous as the soiled and torn nightgown that was her only garment. I marveled briefly that she seemed unaffected by the chill then laughed at my own foolishness.

What did I know of Vampires? Perhaps they reveled in such conditions.

But for her part, the once-mortal found me a marvel, indeed!

She stood over me, her mouth open and fangs exposed. The latter were displayed thoughtlessly, without guile or pride or pretense.

“You’re unafraid,” she whispered as I slowly regained my feet. “You don’t fight, or struggle—or flee, crying out for mercy?”

“But I do,” I responded quietly, making bold to touch her bare upper arm. It was cold, of course yet still soft, still firm and, most especially still—her arm! “Only I fight and struggle to regain your presence. I flee to your side and the only mercy I seek is in your embrace—not in being allowed to escape from it!”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are you a suicide?”

I shook my head. “I love you. That is all. I would be with you, Dominique—forever if it could be so?”

She stared long at me—as if searching memories so distant they might have been from another lifetime. Then she smiled and that first time—I shall admit—was a weird sight, fangs and all. Merciful Jesus, they were long! And they looked sharp, and deadly.

Yet they too—they too were hers.

At last awareness glimmered in eyes that, in contrast to her previous existence, had till then seemed cloudy and somehow remote.

“Guy!” She cried out and I was thankful that she used my adult name. The childlike Wyatt would have been too much to hear, under such circumstances. “Is it you—truly?”

“Indeed, it is.”

Vampiric arms flung about me, I felt crushed in a preternatural embrace of greeting. At length she released me and stepped back.

“But all the others—why aren’t you afraid?”

I ran fingertips across her partially bare shoulders. “I am,” I admitted. “But I’m far more afraid of trying to go on without you!”      

She met my eyes, saw truth in them and nodded slowly. Then she stared into space for a time. “Come,” she said at length, rousing herself and beckoning.

I followed her for hours, upward and around, around and upward and still further upward along winding trail more hinted at than truly evident. At last we approached one of the gaves—the lofty mountain-side waterfalls common here. This one was already frozen by more than half. Behind it hid the mouth of the glacial cave that was now my beloved’s place of residence.

Inside, we sat upon the raw and ragged skins of assorted local fauna—I recognized remnants of ibex, mountain otter and even, to my foolishly shocked eyes, a full-grown brown bear.

I could scarce imagine her taking such creatures on her own, even in her extraordinarily altered state. Reluctantly, I voiced these sentiments.

She admitted it was not all her doing.

The Vampire who abducted and turned her—her ‘Sire,’ she called him with a justification I could not decline to accept though it had an unpleasant temper to my ears, had called this rude and icy palace home as well.

Hearing this, I looked about me with some trepidation.

Dominique laughed at my alarm. She assured me we were quite permanently alone.

Six months after her Transformation—he having overseen her training in her new manner of existence—her Creator had departed for distant climes. It seemed that Vampires, by their usual preference and a practical necessity she did not then explain, were traditionally of a solitary nature.

Even so, I shivered and mostly for my comfort we built a fire using wood supplemented by a few chunks of the low-grade lignite found nearby—for what little good coal there is in these mountains is found to the south, on the Spanish side.

We spoke a few more words then drifted into reflective silence.

I smiled to myself and she inquired as to my thoughts.

So I recounted for her the tale—no more than a side-story to the wider legend, really.

The often dubious hero Hercules once traveled through ancient Gaul in route to the site of one of his Seven Labors—I couldn’t then nor now quite remember which one, but that didn’t seem to matter.

In any case, King Bebrx offered him respite from his journey.

Hercules paused there and that monarch’s virginal daughter Pyrene caught the lusty strongman’s eye. In a drunken frenzy, he raped her and then resumed his latest quest in his usual, thoughtlessly carefree manner.

Pyrene was found to be pregnant.

Worse, when her time came the unholy nature of the situation caused her to give birth to a hissing serpent!

Horrified, she ran off to the woods and hence into these very mountains.

Weeping and crying out, she told her troubles to the surrounding trees. In so doing, Pyrene called attention to herself and wild beasts came. They tore her to pieces.

His task complete, an unknowing Hercules retraced his steps for home and in due course learned of Pyrene’s fate. Now sober and remorseful in his typical manner, the big lout saw her remains properly buried. Furthermore, he arrogantly demanded that the entire locale where she met her fate should forever mourn her and preserve her name.

“And so,” I concluded, “this entire vast mountain range is the Pyrenees—after the tragic Princess Pyrene.”

If I’d hoped to impress the relatively unschooled country girl turned Vampire with the piteously small fruit of my Parisian education, my smug self-assurance was instantly dashed.

She knew the legend as well as I.

“But you tell it well,” Dominique said, kindly stroking my crestfallen ego.

“My one true love,” she said next and sighed, looked at me. “I probably should have known!”

My fingertips met her hand. “Now you do.”

“I could kill you in one blink of the eye,” she reminded. “You and one-hundred like you.”

“But you won’t—will you?”

“By rights, I should.” There was profound sadness in her eyes. “I can’t let you go back, Guy. You’d never betray me of your own will, but—”

“I don’t wish to go back. Simply make me like you! Why else do you think I sought you out?”

“But it is not a simple thing,” she insisted. “The Transformation—I’ve never done it. I’d have to take your blood repeatedly—and just the correct amount each time. It must be enough to make you ready for the Change, weakening you again and again but never quite enough to kill you—until the final stage. Then I must open one of my own veins and feed you my now-tainted blood, and you must suffer through the Change—which is, I must tell you, intensely painful for long hours at a time.”

“I understand.”

“No, you do not!” Her eyes blazed, with no trace of the remote character they now typically presented. She pushed my hand back and glared meaningfully. “Our nature is such that, once feeding there is a powerful urge—no, a compulsion—to continue until the source is exhausted! Each time would be an enormous risk—and one you would face each night for a solid week!”

“The legends speak only of being ‘thrice-bitten,’” I observed, but this drew a scornful snarl.

“As if you mortals know!”

I noted the phrase ‘you mortals’—a reminder that this was a no longer a sweet French country girl—no longer human, even. But still, she was Dominique.

“I agree. After all, you came through it!”

“Under an experienced Vampire’s attention, yes. But Guy, I am uncertain—”

“I, on the other hand, am quite certain.” A firm hand placed upon her shoulder, I continued speaking. “I’ll face the danger, with thoughtful concern but no qualms. And besides, your only other alternative would be to kill me outright. But I do have one request: Love me, Dominique. Let us do so before we even begin, so if it goes badly—at least my greatest desire and hope will have been satisfied?”

Despite her great new powers, I now saw that she was in some ways still strangely vulnerable. She looked aside and spoke softly

“I—have never—”

In some sense I should have felt relief. Yet I was more puzzled than otherwise. “But—the other one, he who made you Undead—surely he—I mean, all the stories—?”

“Mortal guesswork again,” she sniffed, almost haughtily. Then her tone softened; she stroked my face. “He is as a Father to me, now. We have no other means to reproduce. The Change takes away the other possibility—though sexual congress itself is still possible, I surmise. So on occasion, when one of us feels the need and an acceptable opportunity presents itself—”

I nodded, understandingly. “And he would no-more lie with you than with his own natural child,” I said and instantly regretted my choice of words. “But what of you and I—?”

“Different,” Dominique admitted, ignoring my unwitting reference to her current, supposedly accursed condition. “We’re the very same age. And I have known you for some years—ever since your Father came among us, in order to avoid the possibility of a Shave, as they say, from our infamous National Barber! I could never feel as a Mother to you!”

I was glad to hear her speak thusly and gladder still when she did not dismiss my proposal out of hand. Nor did it win immediate and full approval, I must add.

“Stay with me a fortnight or two,” she said. “Observe all that this novel existence entails. Then—should it still be your desire—we can proceed. First as lovers—though I admit such intimacy itself carries great risk, with me not knowing quite how I might respond and the degree to which I can retain self-control. And then—if that part goes well—we can attempt the other, even greater Change?”

Now Dominique paused. Her expression remained thoughtful, yet her voice now conveyed a tangle of emotions—an uneasy mix of awakening desire, honest hope and great fear of the unknown and unknowable.

“But what,” she added with evident pain, “if you should find all this intolerable? If you choose not the Vampiric way, I should be required—”

“Unlikely,” I replied. “But if so,” I added in a rush, lest my courage fail me, “you shall be spared such an unpleasant task. I—I shall—do the deed for you,” I concluded, though I admit the last words of the promise came forth hesitantly and with a quavering characteristic.

The silence then between us was profound and long-lived.

She finally broke it with a sigh, followed by a nod. “You must love me truly. I regret not sensing your dedicated passion beforehand. Though I never acted upon them with another, I have long felt certain impulses—desires?”

A shy smile passed her lips and I felt warmth that had no connection to the crackling fire.

I rose to my feet and circled the fire. She rose to meet me, but did not face me as I positioned myself behind her.

Dominique sighed as my arms encircled her middle.

I lifted my hands to her breasts. I clasped and squeezed them.

She sighed again. “Please don’t,” she whispered.

My hands persisted where they were as I kissed her neck.

“No, Guy—please!”

“Pleasing you is exactly my intent,” I whispered in her ear and one of my hands slowly descended her torso. I found the sweet, sweet place between her thighs and caressed it through her minimal attire. My gentle stroking grew more intense and she moaned; her bottom began to rotate—grinding against the growing prominence in my pants’ front.

“This is dangerous for you,” she gasped.

“Worth the risk,” I gasped with equal passion and began to lift the thin garment with flexing fingertips.

“All right!” she snarled through flashing fangs and turned her head to meet my gaze. “Take me! Fuck me!” Her eyes glowed red with inhuman lust. “But do so from behind. Do not meet my eyes, nor come near my mouth—I doubt I could control myself!”

“Understood,” I growled and she let me ease her down, onto her hands and knees.

She directed her vision toward the flickering campfire as I yanked the soiled cloth up to the small of her back. Her naked backside captivated me and I cupped the perfectly rounded though unnaturally pale flesh-globes with eager palms.

My mouth watered as I contemplated tasting of the folds of flesh protruding from amid her dark curls of womanly hairs. And yes, for an instant I also thought of applying my wanton tongue to the other opening for her enjoyment.

For an absurd instant I wondered if that puckered orifice still expelled solid waste as a mortal’s did—and what form it might be take, given her liquid-only vampiric diet?

“Fuck me, Guy!” she demanded again, breaking me from this bizarre reverie. “Do it, while I still retain enough self-control—so that you might survive it!”

“Immedaitely, my love!”

My hands abandoned her buttocks and thrust my own garments aside. My member was painfully rigid with a droplet of the preliminary fluid already glistening in the pulsating opening at its tip. I guided it against her with both hands then slapped eager fists into place around her flared hips.

My lower body drove forward. Her love-flaps opened around me and we cried out  and I together in bestial joy. I thrust myself in deep, taking her ‘cherry,’ as they say with ruthless abandon. Balls-deep, I ground against her for a long, delicious instant.

I pulled back, but not out. And from there, we rutted together for all-too-short a time—back and forth, in and out—we fulfilled our destiny with a gasping, groaning and mutual frenzy.

I climaxed in her depths and ground my lower body against hers yet again.

We collapsed together and my member slipped from her. I saw it coated with a mix of my mortal semen and her bloody, vampiric fluids.

I joked stupidly, asking if she would care to lick it clean and her head jerked around in fury. Her eyes were even redder than before and her fangs bared.

“Idiot!” Dominique snarled and jumped up, quit our sanctuary before she could do something most regrettable. She was away all that night, returning only just in advance to the dangerously imminent dawn.

“Not again,” she said then, just before throwing herself down to rest. “Not till the matter has been decided, Guy—do you understand?”

I said that I did and hung my head in shame. I tended the fire as she slept away the daylight hours.        

Thusly, our time together began.

The agreed time period passed slowly and yet in another sense too quickly, if you take my meaning?

Now a creature of the night, Dominique slept almost the entirety of each day.

At first, I attempted to keep watch for the vengeful intruders I was certain would come—though in fact, none did. Absolute exhaustion took me after three days of that and I joined her in deep, untouched slumber on the opposite side of the low fire we maintained to shield my mortal form from the cold.

Each night thereafter we prowled for food, traveling in a range of many hundreds of square kilometers and occasionally sighting the tracks of humans in the snow.

Whether any were searching for me—or I dare say us—I could not say.

And now, quite frankly, I hardly care.

She did not go among the humans at all those nights—and that, I learned, was not merely a nod to my still-mortal sensibilities.

Her former brethren were too organized, too dangerous to be standard prey. Foremost on our bill of fare were the wild creatures. In that time she took ibex on three occasions and I roasted, feasted on and quickly developed a hunger-fueled appreciation for those wild goats’ flesh, even as she drained every drop of blood from the animals.

We scouted out the hiding places of future prey, large and small alike, on the other nights. I noted that, if a given meal was substantial enough, she felt no need to sup as regularly as I did.

“We’ll turn to the smaller creatures later, so as not to unduly cull any particular kind of food’s number,” she told me. “A predator must not become focused exclusively on one sort of prey—otherwise eventual starvation beckons.”

I noted my relief that, though she’d also made certain to locate the winter dens of the greatest wild creatures found within her range, she had made no effort to confront any of them.  

“Yes,” she remarked matter-of-factly, “the bears are of course the single greatest source of food—of either the solid or liquid variety—in this locale. In the grasp of their winter sleep, one can catch them unawares. But I know if I chose to take one, you would insist on attempting to help—and I will not risk you, in your present vulnerably mortal state, in such a circumstance.”

I was dismayed to think that Dominique felt obliged to protect me from danger.

She shook her head at the complaints my male pride brought forth.

“Perhaps later,” she said to pacify me, “after the Change—we shall attempt it.”

I grumbled but bowed to her will.

Toward the end of this period, we finally observed what I took for far less dangerous prey, but again she warned me off.

“The Basque herdsmen and their dogs guard their sheep well—especially at this time of year.” Dominique gestured as to a foolish child. “If the winter proves as long and hard as I fear, we may find it necessary to take the risk—but not now, not yet!”

“You raided a human village,” I pointed out. “And before, your Sire—”

“On both occasions, scouting was done, Guy. He and then I noted a laxness in their defenses. Village life can be a challenge, but is for the most part more stable and safer than a herdsman’s existence. The Basques tend to be more wary—and more determined in exacting vengeance for the loss of their property, when it occurs.”

I shrugged and she looked closely at me.

“Why do you think my Sire left this region? Why are vampires—especially ones in areas such as this—mostly solitary?”

I shrugged again.

She sighed, disappointed in me. “I hoped you would see that we must never overtax one district’s resources. To do so leads to desperate measures—which can in turn arouse mortal anger and prove dangerous, even fatal to us!”

I saw her point and suddenly it occurred to me that she might send me away at some point—to forestall such an eventuality.

“We shall be careful!” I exclaimed. “We’ll be all right!”

“One vampiric raider, rare and singular, is a nuisance. A dangerous and deadly one, I concede. But two or more—it becomes impossible for mortal men to put such a threat from their minds. They shall band together, gather their courage and hunt us down—so my Sire claimed and I tend to accept his wisdom.”

I shook my head, finding it a reasonable argument, even as I knew I could not live without Dominique—especially now, having been truly with her once and then spending every waking moment at her side for so long!

“Time for your decision,” she told me the following evening.

I nodded, answered her with a kiss.

She trembled slightly then returned the tender contact.

With no further words, we began to remove one another’s clothing.

Dressed as minimally as she was, my task was far simpler than hers. Yet I compensated by moving extra-slowly, willfully restraining my eagerness by lingering for long moments over each bit of cool, pale and perfect flesh that I exposed.

I trembled as much as she, even my male pride must admit.

Oh, I loved her—I desired her so!

And at last the two of us were naked—gloriously, wondrously naked together!

Again, I touched a breast as fine-shaped and firm as I had imagined. I bent my head, folded my lips with care around a jutting brown bead of nipple-flesh. I suckled briefly then kissed its tip.

More kisses followed—there and on its twin, on my Undead Beloved’s cheek and lips and chin and forehead. And soon after, lower—much lower.

On my knees and unashamed, I clasped two mounds of cool bottom-flesh and kissed, licked and suckled upon the most compelling of Dominique’s woman-parts.

Other acts of love followed—as many performed by her as by myself, and with a building urgency, not to mention eagerness and even, in some measure, confidence.

We loved one another deeply, passionately and—better, not as furiously as that first time. Our passion compensated for our relative inexperience. We coupled often and with undoubted, mutual delight. We shared a rich variety of lovemaking activities—excepting only open-mouthed kisses, which she warned that at the present still presented excessive danger to me.

In fact, on only a single occasion did she bare her wickedly gleaming fangs. She leered at me a moment then threw her head aside and sank the elongated canines into her own upper arm—to stave off the impulse to drink from me.

We held one another afterward, she on top of me and our arms interlocked, our eyes focused on the embers of a dying flame that neither of us wished to take even one precious minute to reinforce with fresh fuel.    

“Make me as you are,” I muttered at last.

“Yes.” She sighed. “We shall begin tomorrow night.”

The week of nights that followed were as Dominique had explained to me.

I found being fed upon a strangely giddy experience—which she told me was normal, the sudden loss of blood triggering a unique species of euphoria. Each time she stopped in time, if only barely so and I was left progressively weaker.

Likewise, the Change itself was as painful as she had warned—yet I bore it without, I hope, too much complaint.

And then I was as my Beloved—a new, potentially Immortal and quite hungry Vampire!

At her direction, we hunted all manner of wild creatures and for a time things went well. My skills grew and along with them, my confidence and daring. We hunted as a team, helping and protecting one another. This was, I thought, just as it should be—even as the passionate embraces we also shared were absolutely correct and normal in my eyes.

Yet as that winter dragged on, as cruel and long-lasting as she had feared, Dominique grew moody and taciturn.

“One of us should go away,” she said once and then several more times, her tone reluctant yet progressively more determined. “Otherwise, we two will utterly denude the landscape of wildlife and be forced to seek the other alternatives!”

But like me, she could not face our parting and we went on, till even so unseasoned a predator as I saw that we must reduce the pressure we put on the wild things’ numbers.

“What can they do?” I snarled with too much confidence and not nearly enough experience, as we observed our old village from a safe distance. “A grown male bear, so much stronger than any of them, we have taken in his den and with little difficulty! Such as they—”

“The watch is well-posted this time,” Dominique remarked. “And armed, in ways no mere animal is capable of. We may not age, but we are not—legends notwithstanding—immune to injury and even death. No—this is not the time!”

“What then? I hunger—and so do you!”

I wanted to argue further, yet the look in her eyes cowed me.

We withdrew to our glacial mansion and a night of gnawing, seemingly unnecessary hunger. We quarreled at the beginning of the next night and for the first and last time we resolved to hunt apart from one another.

I, foolish and arrogant, returned once again to haunt the fringes of our old village.

Again well-armed guards were posting, shivering in the cold.

One was Gaston and my eyes narrowed, recalling the intemperate words he’d spoken that last night of our friendship. I sat on my haunches behind a withered bush, observing him with contempt.

At length, another came to his post—a comely gal whom I recognized.

Nicole was Dominique’s cousin and almost as lovely, though with a superior sniff I remembered that her bosom was too large and often too blatantly exposed for my taste. Altogether, I found her quite distressingly obvious—especially now.

Of course, coming abroad in such weather, she was more properly wrapped—at least until she reached Gaston’s side.

Nicole had brought a steaming pot of tea and a cup—her excuse for this late-night rendezvous. But having looked about to confirm their illusion of privacy, her true purpose manifested itself. She put the pot and cup aside, leaving them to melt the snow around them. She abruptly wrenched multiple layers of garment aside. The grinning Gaston propped his musket against a nearby tree and welcomed her into a lewd embrace with gloved hands flexing eagerly.

Nicole threw her head back as he sank his fingers into her recklessly exposed breasts and the two fur-lined hats stacked upon her head tumbled to the snowy earth behind her. Her mouth puckered open in a silent yet undeniable expression of ecstasy.

Gaston’s mouth, gaping likewise, covered hers and they surged together—as profoundly distracted and unaware as any could have wished. Their hot groins exposed to the cold with sudden frankness, they surged together in frenzied and freestanding lust.

I could easily have eased past them stealthily, yet I had another idea—a mean impulse that I acted upon.

I jumped out, broke one neck and then the other with heartless efficiency.

Yet the second one to die—it was Gaston—did have time to scream in protest.

The balance of the guard came running from the village perimeter—running and, soon enough, shooting!

I snarled in scornful laughter when one musket ball tore into Gaston’s already lifeless form. I had no time to feed, yet I was unwilling to abandon all hope of a meal of rich human blood.

Accordingly, I tossed Gaston’s corpse aside and hoisted Nicole’s body onto my shoulders by the wanton’s dirty-blonde hair.

One of her dangling breasts absorbed most of the force of the next shot, though the ball did pass through to break my skin and painfully damage my left shoulder-blade.

I staggered once then took off running.

I knew from the shouts behind me that more armed men were coming—boiling out of the village, weapons in hand. I pressed on through the snow, but though stronger than any mere mortal and normally able to run faster, the burden of my prey slowed me so that the swarm of angry men began gaining on me.

I was about to decide I was doomed unless I gave up my burden—until a bestial snarl came from my right and in front of me.

Eyes glowing with a fierce and mindless rage, Dominque rocketed from the darkness—a wild and wondrous thing, speeding out to protect her mate!

She took the first man with fangs full in his throat and threw him aside, already dying. The next lost his heart to her—but far more literally than I, as she plunged a powerful fist into his chest and tore the still-beating organ from his body with one mighty jerk.

However, others were upon her by then.

Men armed variously with firearms, torches and, perhaps worst of all, pick-axes and stakes turned from pursuit of me to surround and bring down, slaughter my Beloved even as I staggered to undeserved and cowardly safety in these now-bleak and empty mountains.

Not halfway to our icy lair, I stopped and hung Nicole’s remains upside down from the branches of a tree. And yes, I fed on her. I drained every droplet of what was left in her bleeding, cooling corpse.

It filled my belly, but provided little satisfaction.

Taking two great fistfuls of blonde hair by the roots, I twisted and pulled until Nicole’s head dislodged itself from her neck. “Worthless thing,” I snarled at it—though I might as well have been addressing myself. Then I flung it with all my considerable vampiric might as far from my sight as I could manage.

That done, I trudged home through the snow—making certain that, failing a fresh snowfall that my expanded senses told me was unlikely, my trail would still be plainly visible to even mortal eyes come morning.

Thus I returned to crouch at the mouth of our cave, as I do this very moment. Thus I shall await the coming of dawn and of a pack of vengeful villagers. In the daylight, they will have every advantage and I shall accept my fate—while taking as many as I can with me.

I see no further point to my existence beyond that—not with my Dominique gone.

Yet it is only the rash and foolish act of attacking blatantly when stealth was more properly called for that I regret—that, and what inevitably followed.

I sit reflecting upon all the long, sweet, tender and blood-drenched nights we had.

And I know what the lowly mortals only dimly sense, if at all—that love can make most anything beautiful and right!

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/05/21/deadmans-tome-book-of-horrors-pre-order/

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. take Snoflower for example, a story of necrophilia and kidnapping entwined with love and infidelity. If you’re thinking where to submit horror short stories then consider Deadman’s Tome. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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The Appointment by Karl Lykken

 

“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” Dr. Dunkelheit says, showing a brief look of genuine concern before his usual stoicism reclaims him. “It’s only been six weeks, yes?”

“That’s right,” I confirm. “I’m not here about my stomach pains this time, though. I’m here about this.” I lift up my shirt and show him the purplish growth on the side of my gut. Not that the shirt did a great job of concealing it anyway. “Frankly I wish it was just more stomach pains.”

“When did you notice this growth?” Dunkelheit says, bending down to examine it.

“Yesterday. I got bit by a spider. At first I thought the bite was just swelling up a bit, but then it got so hard and just kept growing. I mean, you could fit a tennis ball in there! That can’t just be a normal spider bite, right?”    

“No, but I’ve seen this before,” Dunkelheit says, pulling on a pair of gloves. “It’s nothing you need to worry about, but I need to move quickly. We don’t have time to schedule an operation, so I’ll just remove it myself.”

“Wait, what?” Panic sweeps through me. “Why is it so urgent? Shouldn’t I get a scan or something first?”

“Try to relax,” Dunkelheit says, motioning for me to lie back on the bed. “You’re just having a reaction to the bite. This is a simple procedure, but it’s important that I start draining the fluid right away. Otherwise it may burst.”

“Burst?”

“Don’t worry; I won’t let that happen. And on the bright side, since I’m performing the operation you won’t have to pay for a surgeon.” He gives me a smile that I know is meant to be comforting.

“It’s not my wallet that I’m worried about right now, Doc.”

“You don’t need to be worried about anything. I’ve done this many times before.” His voice is calm, but his eyes are not. God, what kind of bite is this?

He moves toward the counter and readies a pair of hypodermic needles. “I’m going to give you an amnesiac,” he says, bringing over one of the syringes and rubbing an alcohol swab over my arm.

“Jesus, Doc, this has got to be nasty if you don’t want me to remember it. What is this thing?”

“It’s nothing. The amnesiac is just because I prefer to operate in the nude, and I don’t want to give you nightmares,” he says with a smirk. I would chuckle if I wasn’t so terrified. He gives me the injection and then picks up the other syringe. “Now I’m going to give you a local anesthetic.”

I feel a small prick as he sticks in the second needle, then soon nothing at all around my stomach. “That amnesiac should already be kicking in,” he continues. “So we can go ahead and get started.”

I angle my head so that I can see the growth. The doctor brings over a small surgical tray and picks up a scalpel. He makes a small incision along the top of the bite, and a foul odor issues out from it. I wonder if he’s cutting into my bowels. I see him set down the scalpel on the tray and then reach into the growth. He pulls out–what is that? What the hell is that? He sets the thing down on the tray, its wings and pincers limp and lifeless.

“Damn. Spider bites can induce early birth, but six weeks was far too premature for him to survive,” Dunkelheit says. “I’m afraid we’ll have to try again.” His mouth opens wide, his cheeks forced apart by two long pincers, and a stinger snakes its way out from his throat. I want to recoil, but I’m paralyzed from either the drugs or my fright. He bends down and lets the stinger plunge deep into the middle of the deflated growth. I try to scream but nothing comes out.

Dunkelheit stands up straight, the pincers and stinger sliding back into  his throat. He rotates his head, cracking his neck joints. “Now then, hopefully it will be a good eight weeks before you need to come for your next appointment.”     

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Become a patron today and support the online magazine!
https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3340730&alert=2&ty=h

Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors Anthology
https://deadmanstome.net/2016/05/21/deadmans-tome-book-of-horrors-pre-order/

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. take The Appointment for example, a story of body horror, spiders, and wicked doctors. If you’re thinking where to submit horror short stories then consider Deadman’s Tome. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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Stats Update and Money Stuff

Who doesn’t like money? Hipsters that already have money and don’t have to pay bills. This post is meant for the authors. A simple break down of the stories posted in 2016 and the views, likes, and comments. If your work for whatever reason does not earn more than $5, I’ll send you $5 anyway. Honestly, there are stories with stats that are less than desired, especially considering the quality of the work.

When do you get paid? I generally wait a few months after the work was published to send payment. You should know when your story was published. If you don’t, you can find the date on your work’s post.

If you write horror or if you’re an author of dark and demented fiction, then feel free to submit your work. Deadman’s Tome is growing, and its because of the constant release of material, the networking on social media, and the focus on community engagement.

Title Views Comments Likes Money Prior Payment Amount
Home page / Archives 2167
Blackmouth by S. Alessandro Martinez 325 14 5 34.4
The Way Out by Gary Buller 300 8 7 31.5
Melissa’s Hobby by Sean Glasheen 277 5 28.2 2/1/2016 $27
The Weapon Collector by Dave Hann 275 1 4 28
Beached by Corey Niles 223 4 3 23
Escape by Gary Buller 184 9 6 19.9
Mad World by M. R. Tapia 172 4 5 18.1
The Night We Aired the House by Chris Campeau 160 5 2 16.7
My 1963 Ford Galaxy and the Maniacs of Dearborn County by Gary L. Robbe 125 6 5 13.6
The Chasm Bridged by Carson Winter 118 2 3 12.3
The Corruption in the Deep by S. Alessandro Martinez 95 2 1 9.8 5/5/2015 $10
Fisheye View by Grimm Webster 83 2 1 8.6
Candied by Sarah Doebereiner 78 5 10 9.3
A Small Problem by Diane Arrelle 72 4 5 8.1
They Shall Rise by Rebecca Dempsey 70 2 1 7.3
The Adler Street Boarding House by Kelly Evans 61 1 5 6.7
Killer Instinct by Gabrielle Esposito 48 1 4 5.3
The Old Girls by Trev Hill 45 8 5.3
Confession by Clive Carpenter 43 4 1 4.8
The Prince by Anddre Valdivia 40 1 2 4.3
When the Last Candle Dies by Trev Hill 38 3 4.1
Schrodinger’s Dilemma by Dan Lee 35 5 4 4.4
Scuttle Bug by Matthew Johnson 34 1 3.5 4/6/2015 $5
The Gates by Lisa De Young 32 2 5 3.9
Lord Weatherby by J.D. Mraz 31 1 1 3.3
Happy Anniversary by R. L. Schumacher 31 1 2 3.4
The Woman in Red by B Thomas 28 1 9 3.8
An Identity For Sam Piles by Spinster Eskie 25 2 2.7
Black Beauty: A Tale of Morbid Love by Mark Armstrong 25 1 5 3.1
Leonard and the Carousel by Mario E. Martinez 23 3 2.6
Blithe Town by Cain Miller 23 1 1 2.5
When The Engineer Knocks by Mike Mitchell 22 2 2.4
Lockdown by Shawn M. Riddle 20 4 2.4
Patty Cake, Patty Cake… by Ken Goldman 18 1 2 2.1
A Hero’s Welcome by Peter Indianna 18 3 3 2.4
ANT FARM by Roger Dale Trexler 18 5 2.3
The Valley of Sex by Joseph Rubas 18 7 2.5
Kingdom of the Living Dead by Joseph Rubas 18 2 2 5/10/2015 $5
Dinner Time by Peter Indianna 14 2 4 2
The Boxes by Rick McQuiston 13 1 3 1.7
The Babel Frequency by David Wright 13 1 1.4
DOSE by Marc Shapiro 11 1 1.2
Life Cycle by Adam Phillips 10 1 1.1
Rock-a-Bye Bigfoot by Shawn M. Riddle 10 2 2 1.4
Paint by Kathleen Wolak 9 1 5 1.5
A Sinister Nature by Helen Mihajlovic 6 4 1
The Four of July by Shawn M Riddle 5 2 0.7
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Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers Review

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A video review would really do this justice. I mean, why take the time to write out with words my thoughts and feelings towards an exploitative B-film? Because this exploitative B-film is self-aware and thrives on the fact that the story is not just thin, but bat shit-insane.

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Michelle Bauer giving a lucky man that “look.” Seems a bit crazy, though. Might be better off talking to her friend with the dark hair.

 

The opening scene consists of a blonde woman being interviewed. She goes through the steps of her routine of prostitution, and then claims that she gave the man male enhancement treatment and pulled out a chainsaw. Yes, you read that correctly.

The movie is literally about an ancient cult of people who worship chainsaws because they represent a force that combines life and death. You’re probably wondering how a cult that worships a modern tech could be ancient. Well, according to the film, the Mayan’s were the chainsaw of the gods. Honestly, I don’t even understand the logic.

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This is that friend you were thinking of hooking up with. Still think you’ll have a good chance? 

The winning quality of this film is that men would be presented with several very nice full frontal nude scenes along side of women killing predatory men. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers may not have an outstanding story, or a coherent one at that, but it combines misogyny and misandry! Radical feminists will be pleased to hear that women are empowered. The vulnerable hookers are actually the predators in this film, preying on men that would normally prey on them. Imagine that an exploitation B-movie would challenge the patriarchy! Hollywood could really learn something from Chainsaw Hookers.

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Because Egyptians and chainsaws have something in commen

Yes, the movie is cheesy, but it’s not heavy or a strain to endure. The pacing is fast and doesn’t dwell. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers moves like a crime film with lazy dick of a detective that goes from in the office, to a strip club, to strapped to a bed. The problems with the film isn’t with pacing. The problem is the, obviously, the story. But when the film doesn’t even take its story own story seriously, but just goes along with it, what can you really say?

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The amount of skin and the quality of said skin is just great. Ass, boobs, and bush.

Marvel movies don’t make any sense and people just go along with it.Sure, it’s cool to believe that a super soldier with a trashcan lid can take on a bunch of dudes with guns. What happens when a bullet hits the captain, huh? He dies. But, it’s crazy to believe that a cult would worship chainsaws?

yeah, it’s still fucking insane. But is it worth watching? Yes. Even if just for the novelty of it all, yes. Watch the film, and remember that this was a legit project, and it’s still better than some films of the current year.

Still on the fence? Well, sounds like you need some TFC: Tender Fucking Care. Here’s a link.

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

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-Mr. Deadman

 

 

 

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Become a Patron!

Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s horror stories, ghost stories, monster stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre dark 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.

Become a patron today and support the online magazine!

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3340730&alert=2&ty=h

-Mr. Deadman

 

 

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My 1963 Ford Galaxy and the Maniacs of Dearborn County by Gary L. Robbe

 

A turbulent blue sky washed across his open dead eyes before I shut the trunk over his ugly assed face. This was the third one today, and there was plenty of room in the oversized trunk to accommodate  many more guests. Once a hundred years ago I smuggled eight friends and acquaintances into the Twin Drive-in, and there was still room for beer and rotgut wine in the trunk. The car is a beast.

I checked on Katie. She was frozen in the front bench seat, her mouth still open after that long piercing scream that brought me running from the lake where I was filling a bucket of water for the radiator. Lucky she was in the car and could roll up the window before the Maniac got to her. He was still scratching and kicking at the passenger side door when I caught him from behind with my tire jack, which fortunately I had carried with me to the lake for protection. I ran out of bullets the day before, thanks to the Maniac’s trunk companions.

“It’s ok,” I said. I tossed the jack handle in the backseat.  Realized there was blood on it and reached over and wiped it with a greasy towel that covered the basket of food and beer we had scavenged  from an abandoned house a few miles back.

“We should have stayed there,” she said in a quivering thawing voice.

I moved around and opened the driver’s side door, took a good clean look around us to make sure we were truly alone, then pulled myself in the car like one of those astronauts squeezing into a Mercury capsule.  “No,” I said, “Not a good idea. We got to keep moving. We got gas, we got hope.”

She looked at me like I was crazy. I could see she was running through all the crazy shit that had happened to us the past two days. I could see, too, that she was stuck. She wanted to stay put somewhere, hole up and wait this thing out. I was determined to ride out of trouble with my tank of a car. “What if…”

I cut her off.  “Don’t go there,” I said.  “We get out of this county, out of this country, we’ll be all right. I just know it.”

“You left me alone,” she said.

“The car was locked. I didn’t want to wake you up.”  Now she was letting it settle in. Puffs of blonde hair fell to her forehead. Streams of tears fell too as she really shook this time. I thought she was beautiful and I wanted to do it right then and there, in the front seat, but she was so scared, so… helpless. “The car was overheating. There was steam coming out and everything, so I stopped to get a little water.  No way I  would’ve left you here alone if I thought one of those Maniacs was nearby.” I brushed her face with my fingers. She didn’t pull back. Good. I scooted closer. How long have I owned this car?  Six months? And I never had the opportunity to make love to a pretty girl in the front seat. Until now.

I cupped her breast. She slapped me so hard my head bounced off the leather seat like a basketball hitting the metal rim.

“Shit.” I rubbed my cheek.

“You left the window down you stupid shit. That Maniac could’ve gotten me, and all you’re thinking about is getting laid. Fuck you.” She crossed her arms. I stared at her for several minutes, noting the crust of blood and grease on her arms and legs, delicate blonde hairs poking through in spots, a rebirth of life in the ash after a volcanic explosion. “I’ll get the water,” I said.

Twenty minutes or twenty years  later we were on the road again, zigzagging past empty rusted cars and the carcasses of dead farm animals placed strategically in our way like some sick obstacle course. Katie didn’t say a word, just stared ahead and took deep breaths every time I swerved or ran over something.

Katie was all I had.  I was convinced, somehow, she loosened the radiator hose, fucked up my car so we would have to stop, make a stand, stop running. How else did she get grease on her fine arms and legs?  If we stopped anywhere I was going to sleep where I could keep an eye on the car. My Ford Galaxy was everything. I loved that car.

I swear I didn’t know Katie before this, didn’t know she existed.  I found her just outside what was left of Carlsville, standing by the side of the road like a mileage sign. I should have assumed she was a Maniac like everyone else, but I didn’t. She didn’t look crazy. I stopped. She had to have given up to be standing there out in the open, waiting for who knows what.

She must’ve been waiting for me. Maniacs don’t drive cars. She got in the car before I said a word and we high tailed it out of there, my 1963 white Ford Galaxy blazing a slippery trail through the wilderness of bloody guts and farm machinery, car hulks and skin shredded splinters of horse and cow legs, and the occasional dead Maniac in or off the road. The smell of death numbing and reassuring after we gave in and rolled the windows down due to the stifling heat. We’ve been together a long time now. Two days maybe. Time being a pretty screwed up concept.

I can’t remember when it happened, the Change, although I’m sure it wasn’t too long ago. It seemed like I only had my car, my first, a few months, and although everything is a little hazy, memories of driving to and from high school, my buddies Chad, Nolan, Bill kicking it up, partying like there was no tomorrow. Kidding me about my Mayberry car.  I have no memory before the Ford Galaxy. I suppose it’s the trauma. Snapshots of my parents as we looked over the car before buying it. A 1963 Ford Galaxy500 KL, 260 V8 Cruise-A-Matic, three years old and the only one like it in the entire county.  My dad saying nothing bad could ever happen to me with that car. 

Then the Change.  I woke up in the backseat of my car after a hard night partying and it had already happened. I slept right through it. Dead bodies everywhere. Most of the buildings crumbled shells, including my house and my high school. Everyone I knew and cared about was gone, and in their place were unrecognizable rotting bodies. And Maniacs who come out of nowhere like surprise jack in the boxes, who try to hurt and eat you.

I have five in my spacious trunk. Chad and Bill were the first occupants. They were gnawing on each other in front of the main library, or the rubble that had been the main library. I drove up on them, then over them when they came at me with  mouths agape, grunting and wheezing like they each swallowed a longneck bottle of Strohs.  I cried like a baby, then lifted their crumpled bodies into the trunk.  Don’t know why I’m keeping them in my trunk. Guess it makes me feel safer, knowing where they are and all. They can’t come back when they’re locked in my trunk.

I drove out-of-town. I drove and drove through the valley of the shadow of, well, you know, the point being that things were really screwed up. There were occasional gas stations that somehow escaped the carnage, and I was able to fill up, add oil and water and all that stuff. I missed the full service. I missed the parade of cars cruising through the main street of Carson City, engines revving, the smell of exhaust and fried food.  The music, loud, each passing wave of lyrics. Tell me over and over and over again, my friend, we’re on the eve of sugar pie honey bunch, you know papas got a brand new bag don’t let on, don’t say she’s broke my heart…

There are cars scattered  everywhere but their radios are silent now.  I think I drove about a thousand miles before I stumbled across Katie. She didn’t say a word at first. Just stared at me and the car that was around me, a look of disbelief that we were actually moving.  Then she spoke. “I know you,” she said.  I must have looked puzzled because she followed that with, “The Frisch’s Drive-in. Carlsville?”

My eyes stayed fixed on dodging all the debris in the road. Still, I managed to shake my head.  You’re cute, kinda, but I don’t remember

“I was a car hop. I remember you, your friends, this car.”

“Yeah.  I guess we did hit the Carlsville Frischs a few times.”

“I remember this car because one of your asshole friends hit me with a beer can, hit the tray I was carrying spilling shit all over the place. You tore outta there like a bat outta hell.”

I said nothing.  “This car doesn’t go very fast,” she said.  “At least it’s roomy.”

She tried the radio knob. Nothing. Static.  She cried in a subdued innocent way, the way a fox might after stumbling into a trap and exhausting itself trying to find a way through the steel mesh. We drove on and on. I had never been out of Dearborn County. I was eager to see the rest of the world.

*                                            *                                        *

 

It seems so long ago, but like I said time is so screwed up.  I thought Katie was sleeping again, but she must’ve been thinking about the Maniac who almost got into my car. “I think he was just trying to get in,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I think he was scared.”

“You were the one scared. He was a Maniac. He wanted you for lunch.”

The road bumped on and on and I was all over it, the engine grinding and struggling to haul the metal beast strapped to it. I felt her eyes on me the whole time waiting, then she said, “I think they’re like us. Only scared. They have nowhere to go.”

“You’re thinking too much,” I said.

“Those two we killed this morning, I bet they just wanted in the house. This guy wanted to get in the car. I don’t think he wanted me.”  She looked helpless. Guilty.

“Well, he’s in the car now.”

*                                     *                                    *

 

She’s not really all that helpless. She was stirred up enough to help kill those two Maniacs who stormed the house this morning. Or was it last month?  I don’t remember how I came to have a hand cannon that took off  one of the Maniac’s hands, nor what happened to that same gun after we drove away. I have this fleeting image of Katie swinging a baseball bat at the head of the other one and connecting with a home run, but there it is again. I don’t know what happened to the bat.

Don’t know where the food came from but it’s there in a basket in the backseat suggesting we are on our way to a picnic. Andy and Helen and Barney and Thelma Lou, me and Katie.

Katie doesn’t talk about her family or her friends or anything at all really, the words that bubble out are elusive and distant, the way a hitchhiker would be careful about not sharing too much.

“We’re still in Dearborn County,” Katie said after a long bout of silence.

“I don’t recognize anything,” I said. “I know every inch of every road in Dearborn County and we should be halfway across the country by now.”  I swerved to avoid an overturned tractor with a glistening arm bone jutting out from underneath it. Bare leafless trees leaned over us on this stretch. We were so far out in nowhere.

“Should be a city somewhere,” she mumbled. She drew her legs up under her and closed her eyes.  Her trembling fingers not too far from my knee. I sped around a curve then another unexpectedly, the back wheels sliding just enough to jolt us both into thinking we were going to melt into any number of  lifeless trees. I braked hard and slid to a stop.

A Maniac stood in the road.  She was naked and dirty and wore a grin that reached around her face like Bozo the Clown. She was screaming at this marvelous white machine in front of her, screaming something about missiles, and mushrooms, and the Russians and the Red Threat, and Lucy and Cuba, and clouds that shouldn’t be, and she came at us. So fast I blinked and she was on the hood of my car, my 1963 Ford Galaxy XL, scrambling toward the windshield on gnawed to the bone fingers like some sort of crayfish skittering on a wet rock.

 

I screamed. Katie screamed. I stomped the gas pedal throwing the Maniac flat squished face into the windshield. Then she, it, the Maniac tumbled off.  I sped away at top speed, looking in the rearview mirror to see if the thing was getting back up, then the car dropped over a rise and the image was replaced with empty road. I thought about going back, making sure it was dead, adding it to the trunk. But Katie was already freaked. There was no turning back.

We didn’t talk.  I knew what she was thinking. That maybe getting in this car with me was not a good idea. That maybe she was giving up. If I slowed down she would toss herself out, end once and for all.  I didn’t want to be alone. I couldn’t slow down.

Stars streamed past the Galaxy as we neared light speed. Maniacs fell from the sky in blooming parachutes. The wipers scraped them off the windshield. Katie  huddled against the door with her eyes closed. I heard her thoughts pounding away like a jack hammer. Why are we still in Dearborn County after all this time?  What if  that lady wasn’t a Maniac, like you say? What if she was trying to tell us something? Her thoughts ran on and on. This car is ancient. It doesn’t belong here. We don’t belong here. That’s why we have to stop.

The world flipped a switch and all that remained, all that mattered was my 1963 Ford Galaxy500 XL, still in pristine condition after three years and forty odd thousand miles. Katie thought it was slow but it was steady Eddie and true, true as could be, what the fuck did she know, anyway?

Dearborn County is as big as the United States of America, hell it spreads into and over the ocean like a baby’s blanket, and some of these roads could be in France or Germany, anywhere. The scenery doesn’t matter. Yes, Katie, we are still in Dearborn County. Yes Katie, the Maniacs are a figment of my 260 horse powered brain, there is nothing to be afraid of. Katie, I told her, you are lucky to be with me in this car. Nothing bad can happen to us in here.

 

“No”, she said. “We have to stop. Find out if there are others. Give them a chance.” She said she couldn’t go on, not like this. Not with me.

I didn’t say anything.  We were the last two. She should be grateful for that. And every Maniac we come up against is a painful reminder that the world has ended as we know it.  She needed to embrace the truth.  The Maniac behind her closed eyelids could never do that.

“Isn’t it obvious?” she said. “It will always be 1966 and we will always be stuck here in Dearborn County, and there will always be Maniacs in your head chasing after you. I don’t want to be a part of this any longer. I don’t want to be in this fucking piece of junk.”

At some point I knew we would run out of road, or gas, or Maniacs, and we would have only each other.  Right.  The hate that seeped from her eyes told me otherwise. There was no us, not in her mind anyway.  I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to stop. I knew what I had to do.

There was plenty of room in the trunk. I love this car. The road straightened out.  Before us was an expanse of flat untended farmland.  A house in the distance, a blip on the horizon where the green sun was setting into swirling blue clouds, death’s feather finally dropping onto the earth.

 

THE END

 

 

 

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Leonard and the Carousel by Mario E. Martinez

I.

The security company assigned him to the Riverside Mall.

At first, the idea made Thomas a little excited. Fresh out of rehab, he hadn’t been to that mall since he was a kid, the storefronts bright and filled with delights all lighting up his memories. The entire layout nearly unfolded itself in his mind from the Gold Coin Arcade and the Sal’s Pizza to the Sears hiding behind the two-story carousel that gave off obnoxiously cheery music that he could still hum with ease.

Once, he remembered, he and his grandmother tried to catch the last feature at the theater—4 screens and an 80 seat capacity—for some cartoon, which they never made. They walked the entire length of the mall in defeat, his grandmother breaking the silence with an apology, but Thomas said nothing in return. The atmosphere struck him dumb.

The entirety of the main corridor with its high ceilings and avant-garde sculptures of doves floating among spheres of tin were for them alone. The storefronts were dark and obscured by gates. Even the carousel was off, the horses with their white teeth and tails no longer vibrant, the life gone without the multi-colored lights. He imagined breaking away from his grandmother and running, running with all his speed and energy through the empty place.

The images came flooding back as he took the highway downtown.

What greeted him was not the same building that had once been a source of joy. Instead, it looked like a blockish beast drudged up from the river lazily moving behind it. Even on, the sign was rusted and some of the bulbs blackened by neglect. The parking lot was more pothole than asphalt and within the ruts were nests of cigarette butts accentuated by the occasional syringe. The service entrance was beside the main doors, the glass carved up with names and gang signs.

He found the door locked and rang a bell beside it. The day man, Carlos, was a minute before he made his way to the door and looked out its steel-mesh window. He recognized Thomas—his ID was photocopied when he was hired—and unlocked the door.

The service corridor was drab, a smell of cardboard and cheap disinfectant hanging all about it. The narrow thing was dotted with steel doors to the shops where deliveries were made and smoke breaks were had. The security room was in the center of it.

Even before entering the little room with its wall of monitors, Thomas was a little uneasy. The isolation. The decay. But, he thought, in the right context, anything could be frightening or strange. Anything at all. The dark had that power. So did the hour. Yet, what tied all the strangeness together was the person waiting for the two security guards at their station.

Mrs. Maria V. Crawford owned the mall. She was a plump woman, short in stature but gave off only a sturdy air, not one of frailty. She did not speak to Thomas until long after Carlos told the new recruit who she was. When she spoke, her voice was surprisingly buoyant and youthful.

“Mr. Castaneda has informed you of the standard duties, yes?” she asked, her black eyes never wavering.

“Not really,” Thomas said.

“The agency?”

“No,” he told her. “They just gave me the assignment and told me to show up.”

This seemed to disappoint her. “That is… unfortunate,” she said. “Have you done this work long, Mister…”

“Clarke,” he said. “Thomas Clarke.”

“Well, Mr. Clarke, what is your experience?”

“Truth be told, this is my first week out of training,” he said. “I had some issues… I was away for a while.”

This too seemed to vex Mrs. Crawford. “Regardless,” she said finally, “this job does not require much skill. For one hour, I ask that you sit in this room and watch the monitors. If anything odd occurs, call the authorities. If nothing happens, once that hour is up, you will walk through the building. If, again, you see nothing, return here and repeat the process.”

“Have you had a lot of break-ins?”

“No,” she said. “As you no doubt noticed, this place is past its prime. More than likely, any thief would target the pawnshop down the street. At this point, I’m more interested in not incurring more costs… other than you, of course.”

“It’s understandable, with the economy—”

“The economy has little to do with it,” Crawford corrected. “This city has grown outward. The area is no longer fashionable. And, as it was, even the lowliest of anchor stores wants nothing to do with a mall that’s ‘on the outs’ to borrow a creditor’s phrase. But, as you can imagine, I don’t keep this mall running for lack of other ventures. If I were so inclined, I could sell the land and pocket a hefty profit. But… that brings me to the final and most important part of this meeting.”

“Which is?”

“My son, Leonard,” Mrs. Crawford said.

“Does he work here too?” Thomas asked, the question making the silent Carlos fidget.

Mrs. Crawford leveled another glare at him. “Sadly, my son is… unable to work. So much of what was canon in my youth is now seen as barbarity and madness. There were… complications with Leonard. The prenatal supplement, metathormiacin, that’s what did it… made him different. You see, my son… is special. Shy. He was born healthy enough, strong enough. But, his mind never truly developed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Thomas told her.

“Apologies are for tragedies, Mr. Clarke,” she shot back.

Carlos groaned.

“My son is a miracle, a misunderstood miracle,” she said. “Children with his condition usually died in the womb. But, not my Leonard. He is a sweet, curious boy. It was people—with their ignorance—that forced my hand, drove him to depression and rage. He tried the world outside and was found wanting. So, I opted for this instead. He always loved this place, so I let him wander around when no one is here. He likes to look into the shops and ride the carousel. And, lately, he’s even taken to playing in the arcade.”

“So, I’ll meet him and introduce—”

“You most certainly will not meet my son,” Mrs. Crawford said. “People looking at him… triggers the old feelings. People made him uncomfortable. I’ve informed him that you will be here during his playtime, so if you hear the carousel or see the arcade gate open, it is most likely him, thus no cause for alarm. But, I cannot stress it enough, don’t speak to him, don’t gesture to him, and, above all, do not look at him.”

“Is that what happened to the last guy?”

“My lawyers have informed me to say nothing about it,” Crawford said, struggling to rise. Carlos moved to help her, but one stare sent him back to the wall. Standing, finally, Mrs. Crawford said, “In spite of all that I’ve told you, this should prove to be a very mundane job, Mr. Clarke. One hour here. One hour of rounds. Repeat until Carlos opens in the morning. And, above all, if you should ever find yourself near Leonard, he will ignore you unless you stare, understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good,” she said, making her way to the door. “If there was an incident, you could explain what happened to a police officer,” she said. “You could tell him about the thief, give descriptions. All very neat. Leonard, on the other hand, if he were to catch someone… he wouldn’t be able to explain… The bathroom is next to the food court and the vending machines work.”

“I didn’t bring any change,” Thomas said.

Mrs. Crawford looked at him, a nearly imperceptible grin creeping across her thin lips. “That’s a pity,” she said and left.

Carlos was close behind her.

The footsteps receded down the corridor and then a metal door was shut and a bolt thrown. Thomas Clarke stood in the guard station and tried to adjust to the vast and empty solitude. The walls of monitors served as a reminder of the sheer size of the mall—once the fourth longest in Texas and still favored by mall-walkers—in relation to himself. But, a screen showing the carousel at an odd angle reminded Thomas that he wasn’t alone.

In that empty building, he wasn’t really alone.

There was someone named Leonard.

II.

The first night, Thomas dreaded the thought of making the rounds, the image of him in the dark with a socially inept recluse building and building into a tension in his shoulders. The monitors didn’t ease any of it. The lack of color and sound mixed with the shadows of the storefronts and kiosks until everything looked sinister. All of the cameras recorded at strange angles like the carousel’s frame. He thought on it, figuring it was a way of letting Leonard move around freely. That realization also made the anticipation worse.

At the top of the hour, Thomas took a series of deep breaths and walked into the main corridor of the Riverside Mall. It was a shock to see the state of a childhood memory. What was left were the scraps of commerce.

The benches were square slabs or reclaimed planks painted a sticky blue and the rectangular pots—filled with leafy shrubs once—that dotted the lane were filled with cigarette butts and trees grown withered and cancerous in the stale dirt. Some of the gated storefronts, Thomas realized, had been closed long before he ever got there, their innards vacant except for the bones of countertops and empty display racks. Places with names and logos of a dying era, copies of a copy of a copy, until there was nothing left but distortions.

One such place was a toy store, J & B Toys, with a sign made up of a train with a smiling face; from its smokestack puffed the store’s name in a style popular twenty years ago. From what he could see, the toys were either entirely generic and nondescript or they were shameless knockoffs. Bins of teddy bears left to die and a wall of discolored heroes with misspelled names. Thomas used his flashlight to see further in back where there was a stack of baby dolls of an off-putting design. Even from that distance, Thomas felt the itch of the cheap fabric.

Another, which replaced a Gadzooks if he remembered correctly, was a sporting goods store where, for all the time he stood staring into it, couldn’t find a brand or logo on any of the bats or shoes or balls.

It depressed him to see the mall in such a state, his boots scrunching on broken tiles and dodging more than one “construction” area, which were nothing more than open holes in the floor taped off with cheap plastic ribbons anchored by trashcans. But, as he neared the eastern side, a sign, faded as it was, brought a smile to his face.

The Gold Coin Arcade.

He almost ran to it, all the old memories of pumping quarters into the Koth-Dar the Barbarian machine or firing off round after round in Classroom of the Dead. Always dark except for the lights of the arcade screens. But, he knew what kind of place the Riverside Mall had become. Thomas hoped that somehow, by some miracle, the arcade had been spared. The smell of it dashed his hopes away. A stale stink of mold and cigarette smoke left to moisten in the humidity of the air.

Some of the arcade games were still inside, their cabinets discolored and chipped. But, the place was now filled mostly with slot machines and video poker. He lingered there, hoping to catch a glimpse of any game he remembered, but was again disappointed. He turned away from it and lit a cigarette, knowing no one would care. He couldn’t make it any worse with its coin-operated rocket ships half destroyed and its lone restaurant called Pizza & Beer which smelled like congealed grease and farts when he passed it.

He didn’t see or hear Leonard that first night, only the vague shadows of the past springing to mind as though they wanted Thomas to mourn the loss of what had once been. Still, he always kept his mind sharp, ready to freeze at the sound of a strange echo or whispered word. Yet, it wasn’t until the fourth night that he had any real evidence Leonard existed.

III.

On his third set of rounds, he stood at the front window of Babette’s which, from the merchandise, catered to the slutty but economical grandmothers of the area. After lighting a cigarette, he noticed one of the potted plants had been dug up, the soil and cigarette butts scattered on the floor.

Further down, dirty handprints smeared the carved-up walls and smudged the glass of a jewelry store, their cubic zirconia and glass pieces glistening in the mall’s sparse light. Further still, one of the store’s gates had been lifted enough for a man to squeeze through. Unsure of what to do, he stood outside listening.

In the heavy silence, hangers clinked on their racks and heavy feet, bare flesh on tile, moved about the dark. It laughed, throaty and buffoonish, and Thomas froze. It was not the jubilant laughter of a thief collecting his loot but that of a child happy to have found some shiny bauble to consume them for the moment. Yet, there was a raw power to it, a strength in its childish unpredictability.

Thomas backed away slowly, careful not to make a sound. As Crawford had told him, all he had to do was make the rounds and leave Leonard alone. If it was a thief, he’d find out about it the next day and tell Crawford that all he did was follow her instructions. He’d be blameless.

Back in the guard room, Thomas watched the monitors diligently. Even the hint of movement sent him face-to-face with a greasy monitor. But, the angles were all wrong. Perfect for a Hitchcock film but terrible for any real surveillance. He didn’t see or hear Leonard again that night, though his rounds were now exercises in dread, each step a false herald to that idiotically powerful laugh.

IV.

Two nights later, Leonard followed him. Thomas had made his way from the center of the mall to the carousel. Fat and painted to resemble a circus tent, the carousel was marred and savaged like the rest of the mall. The horses tattooed, the brass torn off their saddles and hooves. The old scenes painted on the inner walls were hidden in tagger-scrawl and misspelled messages.

Thomas thought he’d heard something, a click or scrape against the metal of the two-story carousel, but paid it no attention. It was old and abused, decaying a little each day until all that would be left were wooden corpses and ink.

He’d made a ritual of it. Since no one had said anything about his smoking, Thomas lit one up at either end of the mall and enjoyed it on the way back to the guard room. That night, he stopped in sight of one of the entrances, the pollution of light seeping in like a limp tongue into the hall.

Outside, the river flowed and his car sat alone in the parking lot.

He smoked his cigarette slowly, watching the glow of the moon surf on the flowing water. When the flame singed the filter, Thomas brought up his boot and stubbed out the cigarette. As he did, a shape receded behind one of the rectangular pots. From the little he saw of it, the shadow was shaped somewhat like a person, but, knowing it was Leonard—any thief or junkie would’ve clubbed him to death long before—Thomas didn’t look back. Instead, he continued his rounds, keeping his stride even and calm.

Yet, if Leonard could see Thomas’s face, he’d know, even with his primitive brain, that Thomas was terrified. Terrified that now all Thomas heard between his steps were the soft pads of bare feet moving from shadow to shadow, a thing that had been put into hiding, isolated from all the world. In rehab, Thomas learned that, sometimes, solitude helped ease a troubled mind. Yet, other times, it degraded them further.

For the briefest of seconds, Thomas tried to put a positive light on his pursuit. He thought, perhaps, Leonard was like a curious puppy, sniffing around behind a new person in his territory. The thought made a single breath easier before he remembered that even if Leonard followed him out of some sort of curiosity, Leonard was still very much a human and with such a designation came a complex proclivity toward the deviant.

Maybe, Thomas thought, he followed to see if Thomas touched a favored plaything or otherwise disobeyed some other unspoken rule of the house. Or, Thomas panicked, Leonard’s state of mind was toward the sexual, toward ideas that would have Thomas pinned face-first on the floor with an idiot’s cock up his ass and all the screaming would have Leonard pounding harder and harder until Thomas needed to go to San Antonio or Houston for an experimental surgery to fix his anus and throat. Or, maybe still, he’d never get to that point, Leonard, satisfied and no longer able to pound away at Thomas’s destroyed ass, would then turn violent, beating Thomas to death.

All of those images flooded his imagination and threatened to drown him. They made his entire being go through the primal struggle of survival versus logic and reason. Every fiber and muscle wanted to run at the grunts formed out of an idiot’s mouth, wanted to jump at every treble-filled breath. But, his mind told him to walk slowly. Calmly. Leonard, by all accounts, was like a pet tiger. Yes, it grew accustomed to people, learned not to bother them, but, like all captive animals, it was still very much a wild thing. Unpredictable and dangerous.

Finding the door to the service hall was like seeing god. Still, even when the door was closed, Thomas didn’t sprint for the guard room. If Leonard was the unpredictable beast-man Thomas thought he was, even the slightest sound of retreat might send him into a rampage. So, he made his way to the room slowly. Opened the door in no rush.

In all that time, the service door never opened after him.

Still, he locked the door and didn’t leave the room until Carlos relieved him mid-morning.

V.

For the next few nights, Leonard was bolder. Never standing in plain sight, but louder and sloppier in his trailing. The full weight and strength of his limbs present in the sounds of his approach. Throughout it, Thomas kept his pace and his hand on the nightstick provided by the company—they wouldn’t risk a former junkie with a gun or taser. He knew it would do him little good. Every scenario always ending with his horrible death.

Leonard was a wild thing and Thomas was a frightened one.

Once, lighting a cigarette, Thomas finally caught a glimpse of his pursuer in the reflection of a mirrored column. For the days afterward, during his rounds, Thomas held onto his nightstick so tight his knuckles hurt for the rest of the day. Not only did he have his own morbid imagination to contend with, but now he knew Leonard’s dimensions.

Crawford had said he was special, was shy. Thomas thought it was due to his stunted mental age. But, the deformities hadn’t stopped with Leonard’s mind. It seeped outward into his limbs and flesh. Suddenly, Thomas was painfully aware of why the cameras were set at such odd angles.

The bulbous skull and drooping chin. One small arm pressed to its chest like an injured wing; the other was strong but twisted. All of its visible skin was patchy and gray. It moved as though it were an ape, its large arm leading and his deformed legs catching up behind it.

Still, as crippled as Leonard seemed, Thomas knew the truth about him. He was a threat. Never to be trusted. The man was libel—isolated from society and any concepts of boundaries save the most primal—to do all types of things to Thomas against his will.

Yet, through it all, Leonard always kept away. Never close enough to touch and never so aggressive as to be seen. But, he was always there.

At the end of one shift, Thomas asked Carlos about Leonard.

“Just don’t look at him,” Carlos said. “He won’t do anything—”

“And he’s running around all night, following me,” Thomas told him. “He’s followed me-”

“I used to have your job,” Carlos said. “And trust me, Leonard is ugly, but harmless if you leave him alone. If he’s following you, it’s because he’s curious. That’s all.”

“Curious? Curious about what?”

“Ah, it’s like a dog,” Carlos said. “Just wants to know who you are. In time, he’ll get bored and leave you alone too.”

Thomas nodded and went home to soak his cramping hand in ice-water.

VI.

Carlos had been right. After a week, Leonard no longer hounded Thomas on his bi-hourly rounds. It seemed Leonard found him as boring as all the other security guards—there had to be more than just Carlos, he was sure—and went back to terrorizing the mall in his own harmless way.

One day Leonard squirmed his way into the toy store and overturned a bin of dusty teddy bears. Thomas heard his brutish laugh throughout his entire circuit of the mall. On another, Leonard managed to turn on one of the games in the Gold Coin Arcade. Thomas walked to the brief tunes of 32-bit glory cut short by sounds of loss and Leonard’s frustrations. But, most nights, Leonard played on the carousel.

Thomas never saw it even in the guard room. Only the slow revolutions and lights were visible at the camera’s odd angle. But, Thomas heard it. The cheap circus music scratching through worn-out speakers. The squeak of gears. And Leonard’s laughter. Full of sound and fury as it was, Thomas couldn’t help but to pick out a twinge of innocence in it. Perhaps it was in the glee that Thomas felt somehow matched his own when he too rode that carousel, with his grandmother watching on a nearby bench. Or, maybe, it was what Carlos had told him.

Leonard was like a puppy. Like any animal.

He was not inherently good nor evil. He was a creature of basic reactions. There was a bestial quality to his intelligence, prone to fits of emotion that overpowered his limited intellect, but there was no malice in it.

As dogs needed to be fed, Leonard needed to be ignored.

More and more, Thomas thought on the words until there was less fear in Thomas than pity towards Leonard Crawford, harmless but forever shunned. Ugly but kind, drawn to the meeting places of the public but only when they were gone, leaving nothing but the ghosts of their scents. Thomas thought the world was particularly cruel then. A perfectly fine creature confined to a decaying place all for the comfort of the masses.

It would take too long to explain to each and every one of them why they shouldn’t be afraid. He wasn’t cruel. The discoloration was not contagious.

If only they could hear him laugh, Thomas thought. At first, as it was with him, it would be frightening. The sheer palpability of it was seldom heard in daylight. But, if they could only stand there, listening. Thomas knew they’d feel the warmth and innocent joy in it. They could learn something from Leonard’s laugh. Like a child seeing through the graffiti and faded paint to the core of a new discovery that, in its own way, was exciting and beautiful.

It was infectious. Not that Thomas dared join in with it—in fact, the creature hid himself whenever Thomas got within fifty yards of him—but he listened.

Thomas grew to admire it.

Admiration soon grew to envy.

Thomas used to laugh like that. Used to look at the world like it was built on magic and miracles, all of it new and exotic. Life stole that from him, though Thomas couldn’t remember how exactly. Ex-girlfriends took some of it with them, a few by force. School took another along with a sizeable chunk of his wages still. Work stole the rest, grinding away the days with early or late shifts, gnawing until weeks slid by with nothing to show for it but more bills and a crick in his neck from a shitty mattress he couldn’t afford to replace. But, those reflections, when matched against Leonard’s voice, made him feel worse.

Thomas tried to find that feeling again with needles and powders, but they’d only left him twice as empty and twice as broke. But, not Leonard.

Leonard had learned enough of the world to hide from it, the memories of scorn and terror still fresh in his mind. Leonard’s life was frolicking through the garbage of visitors like they were relics of a world he once knew. Yet, despite it, Leonard laughed with what sounded like his entire being.

All over a carousel he’d ridden for decades.

In the guard room and on the way home, Thomas tried to recall a time that he was ever happy enough to laugh like that. The fact that he couldn’t followed him for days.

VII.

Thomas got it into his head that seeing Leonard on the carousel would somehow transfer some of that childish joy into him. But, as enamored with the idea as Thomas was, he still knew that Leonard was dangerous. All he needed would be a glimpse, just one quick look at Leonard’s face further deformed by happiness. He’d have to be quiet, careful.

It took days of deliberation, of convincing himself to do it. It was Leonard’s private matter, he told himself once. But, that thought was demolished by Thomas’s selfishness. The world needed the kind of unbridled positivity that was hidden away at the Riverside Mall. All Thomas had to do was witness it and then it would pass like a virus. The world, he told himself, would be a better place if he took one look at Leonard trapped in a moment of pure joy.

For a week, he only left the guard room when the cheap circus music came and even then, he only walked close enough to see the lights play across the storefronts. Always close, but never too close, until the day when it played like a siren’s song and Thomas decided he needed to look.

He removed his boots, the floor gritty through his socks. He stepped a few times to test the silence. Then, he lit a cigarette, puffing at it until he was sure the cherry was bright and strong. Thomas dropped it, thinking that if Leonard was anything like an animal, the smell’s distance might deceive him enough to let Thomas get close.

Even then, Thomas didn’t move immediately. The human mind is resistant to any difference including the addition of joy. The carousel creaked on, the music played. Leonard laughed and pulled at the stained poles.

The carousel revealed itself by centimeters, mere glimpses of the tops of bulbs at first, then the edges and eventually parts of the horses. Defiled as they were, they kept a steady pace, the gears all greased and in working order. It took Thomas a moment to spot Leonard among the horses. Thomas thought he’d find Leonard at the bottom, his disfigurement not allowing any more than that.

Leonard was resourceful, Thomas realized, spotting Leonard on the second story, seated on a two-seater shaped like a carriage and pulled by a thick-necked Clydesdale. His monstrous arms were held up as though he were holding a set of reins. The simple flick of his wrists, the snap of imaginary leather that urged his steed through untold adventures playing out in Leonard’s head, brought forth that laugh that Thomas wanted to hear.

Thomas stepped closer and stared at Leonard’s face. The eyes were semi-closed and his mouth gaped open like a wound. The teeth he had showed yellow and twisted. All the movements were the workings of broken parts reassembled. Yet, Thomas saw through it. He saw no skin color splashed over Leonard’s cheeks. Paid no attention to the misshapen skull and mouth. All he saw was a joy as pure as the universe in its first instant. A thing no amount of money or drugs could ever duplicate.

And he’d found it at the end of a road of laziness and bad decisions.

When the carousel’s revolution hid Leonard from sight, Thomas was filled with what he was convinced was the grace of charity. In flashes, he went over the next few months with Leonard. The gaining of his trust and start of their friendship, all started because Leonard saw that Thomas wouldn’t look away, didn’t treat him cruelly. Thomas thought he could teach Leonard to speak and he would, after many weeks of talks, would reveal to Leonard that it was the simple joy that he displayed on the carousel that inspired Thomas to be a better person.

The thoughts filled Thomas with a warm, sleepy feeling. A sense that he’d found a path that he could be proud of and that would lead him to new heights of the human experience.

When Leonard came around again, he stared at Thomas. There was no anger in his eyes, just a hesitant curiosity. Leonard got out of his seat and, with a nimbleness Thomas thought Leonard couldn’t possess, climbed down from the still moving carousel. Once on the tiles, Leonard looked at Thomas, unsure of what to do.

“It’s okay,” Thomas said, patting the air. “I’m not here to hurt you. I want to be friends.”

Leonard was uncertain of what to do next, but, after a few moments, he shuffled a few steps closer and sniffed the air as if to test it.

Thomas knelt and beckoned him forward. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said gently.

Leonard inched closer. As he neared, Thomas got a clearer view of the extent of Leonard’s deformities. The goiters and swellings. The patches of hair and scaly skin. A mouth with only a few gnarled teeth.

“It’s okay,” Thomas said again. “I just want to be friends. Don’t you want to be friends?”

Leonard grunted, trying to imitate Thomas’s speech.

“Yes, yes,” Thomas said, smiling. “I want to be your friend, Leonard.”

At the sound of his name, a distortion rippled through Leonard’s frame, settling in his eyes.

There was no innocence in them. Yellow and sickly as they were, they had more tiger than lamb. Thomas stood in their predatory focus and was introduced to another universal experience alive since the first seconds. Fear. The fear mice have of hawks. The fear calves at the sound of howls in the night. There was no humanity in Leonard’s eyes. Only anger. Anger so complex that Leonard’s mind could articulate it in anything but the pose of a wild animal ready to attack.

Like the laughter, the purity in Leonard’s anger was hypnotic.

Thomas didn’t react to Leonard jettisoning forward like a wounded ape until Leonard was only a few feet away, teeth bared and voice quaking. Thomas turned to run, but his socks slid on the tile, sending him to his knees. Like a sugar-coated infant, he crawled as fast as he could.

He knew it was useless. Knew Leonard would tear him apart. Still, the animal part of his brain screamed scenarios at him, all the horrid possibilities. There was a purity in it too. No worry of property of defilement or defamation, only the desire to feel no pain, the desire to be away, away, away.

Something heavy landed on his back, flattening Thomas out. His brain told all of him to move, to summon all his strength. Only his arms responded, flailing fruitlessly. The misshapen hand clamped onto his back of Thomas’s skull and pressed his forehead into the tile.

Thomas felt the cheap tile crunch against his forehead and felt the pressure of Leonard’s weight on his neck. Behind his eyes, a pressure built until he couldn’t shut his eyes against their inflation and evacuation.

Leonard laughed, hearty and strong.

The carousel spun on.

—ETC.—

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It Bleeds But Cannot Die

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Through fringe medical science, a cadaver is resurrected and tossed out into the streets. Known simply as The Bleeder, the monstrosity of rot and devious engineering lumbers in the shadows with a never-ending hunger for blood. This mechanized zombie, vampire, and Frankenstein hybrid takes the lives of thousands, while police struggle to deal with the insane carnage. Being half flesh and half machine, can the Bleeder regain his lost humanity, or will he forever be a blood-thirsty test-subject of an unfathomable experiment?

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