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Free to Read Magazine

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When Deadman’s Tome first started out it offered a free to read ezine in a PDF that was downloaded direct from the website. We’re bringing that back. This release contains stories from various popular Deadman’s Tome titles in addition to new content and editorials.

Download your copy today.

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Mad Love – Blair Frison

 

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Enhance your coffee

 

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Plot Twist by Adam Sturch

 

He lay in wait like a spider.  Thick, clinging darkness enveloped him as he listened for the sound of her car pulling in the driveway.  He hadn’t moved from the couch in hours.  He was patient, impossibly patient.  He knew patience was key.  He couldn’t rush these things.  Everything had to be planned down to the smallest detail, or he’d end up in a cell for the rest of his life, a shame and an outcast to the few people he still loved.  Nothing but a bad memory.  A nasty scar.

He banished those thoughts and prepared for the task at hand. She was due home any minute. He caressed the hammer which lay beside him and this comforted him.  He thought of broken teeth and exposed brain matter.  Wild, animal eyes and anguished screams.  He could barely contain himself.

He heard a car coming down the street and he knew it was her.  The headlights momentarily flooded the room as the car pulled in the driveway. The sound of gravel being crunched under the tires made him tremble in anticipation.  A door slammed shut.  Then another.  He heard voices, drunken laughter.

She brought a man home.

His breathing became laboured and he felt dizzy.  He clutched the hammer tightly.  The key was fitted into the lock and the door opened.  They stumbled towards the bedroom without turning on the lights.  They didn’t see him as they hurried past, tearing at each other’s clothes.  He rose from the couch as they entered the bedroom, still gripping the hammer tightly.

Rage consumed him as he slowly neared.  He pictured them sweating and groping and fucking, her moans causing him to see red.

He finally entered the bedroom.  His eyes were already adjusted to the darkness and he saw the man was on top thrusting wildly, the woman screaming in pleasure.  Then she saw him.

The screams changed from pleasure to terror as she frantically tried to push the man off her.  The man turned around and, before he knew what was happening, the hammer came down in his face with a loud crack.  Blood spattered the walls and the ceiling and the screaming woman.

The man collapsed in a heap on the bed. The woman’s screams turned to crazed laughter.  She jumped up and rushed towards the man with the hammer, leaping into his arms and kissing him passionately, telling him how much she loved him, how much she enjoyed helping him kill.  

He dropped the hammer, then put her down gently.  He turned the light on so they could revel in the sight of their cunning crime.  They took in all the bloody details, then smiled at each other for several long seconds before he took a small box from his pocket and got down on one knee..

 

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

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Popcorn – Wayne Summers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She had no time to refill the machine.

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

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

 

The End

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

          

         

 

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Book of Horrors – Babel Frequency

Babel Frequency – David Wright

It was as if a giant magnet had passed across the earth and erased the collective hard-drive of humanity.

The woman woke from fitful sleep, her hair drenched with sweat, the visions of the dream world still fresh in her consciousness.This was the most important time. Only in sleep could she remember the past.  Only in the dream world did she truly know who she was and what things were.  But there was a danger, for in the dream world, dead men walked.

“Dead men walking.  Dead men walking.  Dead men walking.”  Her breath came in short gasps, racing in rhythm to the quickening beat of her heart.  She began to shake violently.  She felt as if she were about to die, alone in a dark empty world.  She was about to scream out into the darkness when strong arms wrapped around her from above.  They held her tightly as if to squeeze the fear out of her heart and the breath out of her words.  She remembered the arms.  They were her lover’s arms.  Slowly, her lips stopped moving and the fear ebbed from her like water from the shore.

Three nights ago, she saw the city out her apartment window.  It was alive with the sound, motion and purpose of ten million souls.  It pulsed to the rhythm of their heartbeats.  It breathed with the inhale and exhale of their lungs.  Until, in a moment, in the first moment, the once vibrant city was thrown violently into chaos.  She didn’t know why it happened or how.  In fact, she knew almost nothing at all–not the time of day, not the meaning of a word, not even her own name, only the warm touch of her lover and the unspoken knowledge that they must stay together.  As they huddled in terror, the city died all around them, and dream by dream their memories came back–frightened birds returning to their cages.

“I saw them again,” Lyra began.

“Hush.”  Her lover rocked her slowly.  Darren—that was his name.  She remembered.

“No, Darren.”  She tried the name for the first time in three days.  “I must tell you.  They’re real.  Their skulls are white like…like the moon.  Their eyes sunken in.  No skin, but their hearts are still beating.  They walk, and when they catch you, they drag you down to death, and they burn you with fire, and you can’t get away, no matter how hard you fight.”

“Just a dream.”
“No.”  Lyra pushed his lover’s hands down and reached into his pocket for the picture box.  It was one of the few things Darren had on him before zero hour and until a few minutes ago Lyra had not known how to use it.  Her fingers paused over the light emitting paper for only a second before touching the icon and bringing the ghoulish apparition to life.  “I saw this.”

Darren looked at the ghoul with distaste.  She knew her lover had not yet dreamed of dead men walking, but she knew others had.  She saw them in the night, huddled under benches or in doorways, shaking and screaming until their hearts stopped and their last breath wheezed out of them.

“Just like before.  Just like the first time.”  She looked into her lover’s black, sunken eyes–blank eyes that seemed to know only fear and confusion.  Over his shoulder, the first rays of sunlight were snaking their way into the bowels of the dead city.  Lyra and her lover stood, viewed the giant green woman over the water as she moved into the light, and once again set off in search of something, anything they could remember.

Hours passed.  Lyra grew hungry like she had yesterday and the day before that, but not knowing what food was, she could not satisfy her hunger.  She became thirsty, but knew nothing of drink.  They came to an intersection where, three days ago, the cars had crashed into one another or slammed into bewildered pedestrians who had wandered into their path.  Dead bodies, some with dried blood caked on their faces and in their hair, sat peacefully in the cars and under them.  The traffic light was still changing from green to amber to red with undaunted precision.  The smell of death choked at Lyra’s lungs and tugged at her empty stomach until she gagged.  She remembered the horror of zero hour and dragged her lover away.

Over the last three days and nights, Lyra had watched without understanding as, depending on their size and condition, people began to die.  The small ones were the first to go as their fathers and mothers wandered aimlessly away forgetting the once familiar sound of their children’s cries and leaving them to starve helplessly.  Lyra was more fortunate than most.  On that first night, she had dreamed of her lover, the burn of his unshaven face and the odor of his unwashed body.  Lyra had awoken from her dream to find her lover nearby, quietly watching the bugs gather around a streetlight.  Since that time, they had never been apart.

Even now, baffling visions from the dream world were cycling without meaning through her mind.  A woman, her mother, her soft lips, the warm touch of her hand.

They stopped at the corner before the next intersection.  Large buildings rose on either side of the street blocking all sunlight.  She remembered seeing a woman at this intersection two days ago.  The woman was not her mother.  She was screaming in terror at the sight of a cat or a fallen bird that had forgotten how to fly.  Cat.  Bird.  She remembered these words although she did not know them two days ago, or yesterday.

Her birthday cake.  Ten candles.  The smell of chocolate.  Hot dogs.  Her mother’s quiet, sad voice.  Turkey in the oven on… on Christmas.  Burned meat.  The smell of burned meat.

Lyra was not dreaming now.  She smelled burned meat and remembered.  She remembered the taste.  She remembered cutting the flesh and feeling it warm her tongue.  She remembered chewing and the cold splash of ice cold Coca-Cola as it ignited sparks down her throat.

Lyra pulled her lover down Park Avenue in the direction of the smell.  She stopped in front of a shop window.  Inside, the blackened flesh of some animal was still turning and smoking over a skillet.  Lyra walked blindly into the window, bruising her forehead.  She banged on the window with her hands.  Her blows grew fierce as the scent of burned meat grew and burned in her nostrils.  The smell of burned meat.  Frantic, now, with memory, she smashed at the window with her hands and knees.  The window shattered.  With bloody hands, Lyra ripped at the blackened carcass.  The taste of ash and flesh.
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“Dead men walking.  Dead men.  Dead men.”

Lyra woke from the deep sleep without dreams.  The room was dark but warm.  She heard screaming, her lover’s scream.

“Dead men.  Dead men.”

Lyra fumbled in the darkness until she’d found her lover’s shaking body.  Lyra tried to put her arms around him, tried to squeeze the fear out of him, but she was pushed aside by his strong arms.

“Dead men.  Dead men.”  Darren’s chanting grew louder and more urgent.  Lyra struggled to hold him down.  She pulled on the big man’s arms and legs.  She grabbed her lover’s hair and scratched at his face trying desperately to wake him, only to be thrown down again and again until one final blow knocked her head savagely against the wall.  In the distance, she heard her lover’s frantic screams grow to a crescendo and then stop.  Exhausted and badly beaten, Lyra crawled across the cold pavement in the direction of the last scream until she found Darren’s motionless body.  Lyra was just in time to feel her lover’s heart stop and the last breath wheeze out of him.

Lyra stayed with her lover’s lifeless body for two days.  There was hardly anything left alive, now, in the city, except flies and maggots.  She awoke on the sixth day to see them feeding on her lover’s eyes.  She tried to brush them away, but they were coming out from the inside.  Lyra couldn’t breath.  The smell.  The pain of hunger gripped her once again.

Lyra returned to the store with the burned meat, but the meat had been almost completely devoured by bugs.  Lyra smelled burning once again, but this time the smell did not bring to mind memories of food.  It was an unpleasant smell, a repulsive smell.  The narrow streets were filling with smoke.  Lyra’s lips were bleeding.

She pushed on, falling from time to time but feeling no pain.  She found herself in the trees when the lights went out.

Lyra was still alive when her picture box began talking.  They were there on her picture box.  The ghouls.

“Unit thirteen, take the next block on Park Avenue to the trees.  Clean it top to bottom.  Should take the rest of the morning.”

There was silence again and the box went dark.  Then another ghoul appeared.

“I hope not.  This place is beginning to stink.”

The box went black again.  Lyra listened.  Light was cutting a wedge on the grass.  She could not move.  She’d dreamed again–skating in the snow in a place she remembered–two blocks away.  She was only seven or eight.  It was cold.

“Dickie, hold up.”

Another ghoul appeared on Lyra’s picture box.  The ghoul reached his white hands up and took off his white, eyeless, faceless skull.  Lyra was surprised to see another head underneath, a human head.

“Dickie, I know we’re at war, but this is…  I mean, look at all these people, all these bodies.  What did this—a bomb?”  The ghoul spoke.  His voice was deep and his speech slow.

“Well, it’s not actually a bomb.  It’s a virus, a computer virus.”  The second ghoul appeared on the box.  He, too, had a human head under his white skull.

“A computer virus did this?”

“A special computer virus–the first computer virus to be successfully transmitted from hardware to wetware.  These poor suckers caught the virus from the ultra low frequencies emitted by their digital equipment–their computers, their cell phones, their calculators–and they died.”

“Yeah, but how?”

“The virus counts down in their brains to zero hour, then it savagely attacks the fear centers of the brain with visions of death so terrifying that either their heart stops or their brain, in defense, wipes the slate clean.   It wipes out their memories.  They forget how to eat and walk and talk, and then they just die.  Either way, they die.”

“What if they’re not all dead?  I mean, what if we see some survivors?”

The second man shook his head.  “We can’t take a chance of it spreading.”

“So.  What do we do?”

The second man shrugged.  “Dead men walking.”

The first man put his helmet back on.  “Tough way to go,” he said and flamed another body.

Lyra looked up from the picture box to see smoke rising from the trees.  They were coming closer.

Read more Chilling Stories in the Anthology.

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

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Book of Horrors – More Plastic Wrap

 

More Plastic Wrap – Florence Ann Marlowe

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

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

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

“Izzat you, Mikey?”

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

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Did you get me my smokes?”

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

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

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

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

“Didja have enough money for everything?”

Michael grunted and nodded.

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

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

She rifled through the bags.

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

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

“Not with my money!”

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

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

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

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

“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.

“But Mikey, I just signed it.”  

Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael shouted to her.  “You alright, Ma?”  He couldn’t very well tell her to “shut the fuck up, I’m trying to concentrate here!”   

In between coughing fits she called back, “I’m all right!  I just need some water!”

He leaned back in bed and gripped his cock with one hand until it hurt.  She was still hacking.  Michael tossed the magazines onto the floor and stared at the dark ceiling.  Friggin’ crazy bitch was going to cough all night.  

It sounded like she was in the room with him.  He rolled onto his stomach, his cheated penis aching. Why wouldn’t she leave him in peace?  Her coughs echoed through the old house.  It was as if the walls were mimicking her, coughing back in sympathy.

The coughing fit continued.  He could hear her straining to bring up whatever was blocking her throat and he felt his stomach roil in protest.  Each jagged hack was like a blow to the back of his head. The last thing he thought before falling asleep was “disgusting old bitch.”

Just past four in the morning, Michael stirred in his sleep.  Foggy, he sat up and listened.  His mother was calling his name.

“Mikey, I need you!”  She was struggling to speak.  Michael could hear her gasping and wheezing.   Her voice was strangled.  “Mikey!”

Michael felt no urgency to get up.  A great lethargy seemed to wash over him as he listened to his mother’s rasping calls.  He lay staring into the dark, only glancing once at his alarm clock to check the time.

Michael was well aware what had happened, it had happened before.  She fell asleep on her back and the mix of phlegm and tobacco in her throat had formed a plug.  She was choking.  But all she had to do was go into the bathroom and get a drink of water.

She gagged as she tried to dislodge the obstruction.  The sound turned his stomach.  Her voice, normally high pitched and whining sounded like a frog as it struggled to escape her clotted throat.

“Mickey, help! Water!”

He could hear her gasps and moans drifting down the hallway.  Instead of feeling alarmed, Michael felt nothing but excitement. Her labored breathing created a rhythmic pattern.  It reminded Michael of something he’d read as a kid in the school library.  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”   He began to chant the words under his blanket, along with the phlegmatic sound of his mother’s wheezing.

He stopped chanting and listened.  He could hear a weak, barely audible whistle from the next room; a rattling whistle like steam being expelled through a narrow pipe.  

It tittered several times before petering out into a wet rattle.  

“Mom?” he whispered and pulled the blanket down.  A cool breeze wafted against his cheek.  There was no answer.  For once, the house was silent.   He tried again in the softest voice possible.

“Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

The texture of the wood, the bubbles in the yellowed paint seemed to grow before him.  A tattered spider web hung in the corner above the staircase and Michael watched it sway gently.

His heart thumped in his chest. He rapped at the door with his knuckle and it sounded brutal.  He pushed the door open and whispered, “Ma?”  The door swung open and the picture was still the same.  His mother was frozen in an absurd ballet pose, half in and half out of the bed.  Michael padded into the room. Standing at the foot of his mother’s bed the room seemed impossibly neat save for the box of tissues and three packs of Marlboros on her nightstand, one already open and missing several cigarettes.  The white and pink quilt, lumpy and misshapen from too many rolls in the dryer, still lay neatly folded across the foot of her bed.  A litter of used tissues was scattered all over the floor beneath her one slippered foot.   

In the time it took Michael to move from the door to his mother’s bedside, he took in the white flecks of dry spittle around her mouth, the yellow discharge on the front of her pink nightgown and the glaze of her open eyes beneath the thick lenses.   He leaned forward as if to touch her and then bolted from the room.  He dashed into the bathroom; pitching forward over the sink; dry heaving.  The ghostly taste of Slim Jims filled his mouth.  

His mother was dead.  His mother was dead and she was lying in her bed like a stumpy manikin.   Michael dropped his ass onto the toilet and gathered up the legs of his pajamas.  She was dead – which was all right, Michael thought.  It was gross, but it was all right.  She was old, she was sixty-eight.  That was pretty old, wasn’t it?  She died of old age.  

He glanced into the hallway and realized he’d left the bedroom door open.  He imagined his mother’s still poised as if she were climbing out of her bed, staring at the ceiling.  He’d have to close the door before they came.  Who the hell was coming?  He’d have to call the police or the paramedics.  Who do you call when someone is already dead?  He’d have to figure out who to call.  Then what?  What happens after they come?

Michael skidded past his mother’s door and sprinted down the stairs to the kitchen. He pulled the fridge open and grabbed the container of orange juice.  He gulped big mouthfuls directly from the spout.  Finally he slumped down at the table and stared at the Formica top. The sugar dispenser and the salt and pepper shakers were arranged in a neat little triangle in the center of the table.  His mother had used them as paperweights to keep her precious Social Security check in place.  Michael put one finger on the pale yellow piece of paper and dragged it over to his side of the table.

Michael picked up the check and turned it over.  His mother’s neat, almost artistic looking signature was scrawled at the edge of the back of the check.  Funerals were expensive.  He looked up at the horrid yellow wallpaper and the garish light fixture dangling above.  He could sell “the beast.”  There had to be a will somewhere – although his Mom had always had a superstitious fear of talking about her own death.  What if there was no will?  And even if there was the rickety monstrosity could take years to sell.

His mother’s check felt hot in his hands.  “The beast” was paid off.  Who had to know if the old woman was dead?  Who would tell?  If she never left the house, it would be his secret – his and “the beast’s.”

His mother had been a small woman. Barely five feet tall, she claimed to have “shrunk” over the years. Michael considered storing her body in a plastic garbage bag, but he needed something more permanent.  In the closet between their rooms, a green Rubbermaid container had been stashed to hold the few Christmas decorations his mother bothered with each year.  

He brought a fresh garbage bag into the bedroom and regarded his mother’s still form. Michael had wanted to use her pink quilt as a type of shroud and just wrap her body up and dump it into the container.  Her body wouldn’t bend the way he needed in order to fit her into the container.  The garbage bag proved useless too.  It slipped and slid as he tried to cover her up. Her arms kept popping out.  

Michael had to abandon the quilt and roll her body off the bed and into the container. He shuddered each time his fingers gripped his mother’s cold lifeless limbs. He forced the arms to lie flat next to his mother’s sides and pushed her head down until it touched her boney knees.  When he stepped back, sweat pouring down his cheeks into his collar, her grizzled little head popped up slightly.

Michael forced the lid onto the container, pushing his mother’s body down.  There was some resistance, but he pressed the corners of the lid until he heard that satisfying snap of the sides locking into place.  A wild thought fluttered into his head:  that should keep her nice and fresh.  Michael allowed a high pitched giggle to escape his lips before he dragged the box into the hall. The box traveled in a series of short shoves and grunts.  There was only one place to store the box:  the hallway closet where he got the container from to begin with.

His mother’s winter coats and heavy suits hung above her final resting place.  Michael slid the box in as far as it would go until it hit the back wall of the closet.  The house was mercifully silent but he could feel it judging him as he closed the door.

The bank had no problem cashing his mother’s pension check.  He’d done it many times over the past few years and had even signed it for her himself.  He took the cash home in his wallet, reminding himself to take a look at her checkbook when he got home.  He treated everyone to Chinese food for lunch at the Video store and bought himself a new video game.  For dinner later that night, he treated himself to a dozen White Castles and a case of beer.

At home he tiptoed passed the closed door of his mother’s bedroom.  Pushing his sneakers off without untying the laces, he dropped onto his bed, face down. Soon he was drifting through a foggy world where he was at Donegal’s pub, tossing back beers and laughing his ass off with the buxom brunette from his magazine. The dark haired beauty wrapped one leg around his and pushed her tongue into his mouth when his mother started coughing.  Michael snorted and shook himself awake

“You okay, Ma?” he mumbled, rubbing at his scruffy face.  The wet coughing continued for a few seconds before Michael was shocked awake and sober.  He sat up, swinging his legs to the side of the bed and listened.  There was silence.  He dropped his feet to the floor and stumbled into the hallway.  His mother’s bedroom door was ajar.  

He scuffed down the hall as if he were walking through gelatin.  His brain tingled like mad when he stopped in the doorway and scanned the empty room.  The bed was naked, stripped of its linens. He was sure he’d shut the door after storing the body laden container in the closet.  He glanced down the hall at the closet door.    

He closed the bedroom door and shuffled back down the hall to his room.  As he passed the closet he caught a whiff of an unpleasant, sour odor.  He snuffled, running a finger under his nose.  Yeah, he thought, she’s in there.  

The next morning, Michael stood in front of the bathroom sink, splashing cold water over his face.  He looked dreadful.  His face was pasty and bloated looking.  His eyes were rimmed with red.  His stomach was unhappy and there was a horrid sour smell in the air.  

Michael wiped his face with a dirty towel and looked in the mirror.  He could see the hallway closet lurking in the corner behind him. The sour odor drifted down the hall..  

Michael’s mom always kept several rolls of clear plastic wrap in the kitchen.  He used his fingernails to claw at the end of the roll and pulled a long sheet of the transparent material.  His plan had been to wrap it around his mother’s body, but he couldn’t bear to open the container and face what was inside.  Instead he decided to wrap the entire container in as many sheets of plastic wrap as he could.

The tenacity of the wrap amazed him.  It refused to leave home base and fought off all attempts Michael made to rip a piece from the main body of wrap.  When he finally did get a strip free, it clung to his fingers and sucked at his bare arms.  He found himself flapping his arms around, trying to free himself of the parasitic clutches of the plastic.  He finally got one layer of wrap around the girth of the container.  He began to pull off a second sheet when the wrap came to a sudden end. No worries, he thought.  There’s always more plastic wrap.

He found the second roll of plastic wrap and wound several layers around the box before it gave out. He left the plastic attached to the roll and wrapped the container until all that was left was the very end of the roll.  He tried to rip it free with his fingers and then attacked the sheet with his teeth.  His face came close to the container and the odor seemed to bounce back at him, attacking his nostrils.  Finally the container was muffled under five layers of clear plastic wrap.  

Satisfied the smell was contained for good, Michael slid the box back into the closet.  The plastic wrap had built up beneath the box, keeping it from sliding freely over the linoleum floor.  Michael felt something jostle inside the box as he pushed it into the recesses of the closet.  He jumped and pulled away.  The box sat silently in its make-shift tomb and Michael shut the door.

*******

Days later the smell was invasive forcing him to go out and buy more plastic wrap.  He could feel it curling around the edges of the front door as he turned the key.  When he pushed the door open, it rushed to meet his nose and rubbed against his face like an affectionate cat.  When he closed the door behind him it seemed to envelop him, making him gag.  He swore he could see green tendrils of the toxic fumes hanging in the air.

Michael opened the closet door and the smell pumped into the hallway.  His eyes teared.  With ginger hands, he pulled the mummified Rubbermaid container out.  Michael studied the neatly wrapped package.  The layers looked rippled in spots, as if someone had tried to tamper with it.  Michael shook his head.  It was just more of a mess than he had remembered.  

He opened the first box of wrap and wound it in one direction around the box until the roll of plastic was spent.  He opened a second box and wound it around in the opposite direction. He finally used another whole roll over the entire thing, winding it tightly until it resembled a transparent beehive.  The dark green container could barely be seen beneath its cellophane cocoon.  He had a hard time shoving the box back into the closet; its lumpy overcoat skidded against the floor.  Before he closed the door, he thought he heard something bounce and settle within the container.  

The highboy dresser in his mother’s room was just narrow enough to fit in the hallway.  Michael pushed it into the hall and slid it in front of the closet door.  He wasn’t sure it would do anything about the smell, but he felt better not seeing the closet door.   On top of the dresser he began to place sticks of solid air freshener.  He’d grabbed the colorful columns of solid deodorants off of the supermarket shelf, not paying attention to what fragrances they held.  He opened each one and twisted the covers off, displaying the stick of fragrance.  The combined aroma was unpleasant, but tolerable and he thought he could sleep.

He woke with a start hours later.  His mother was coughing.  He lay frozen in bed, his eyes wide in the darkness.  He could clearly hear the staccato of her smoker’s hack.  It was muffled as if it came from behind a closed door; muffled as if it came from layers of plastic cling wrap.  

“Mikey?”

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

He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When he opened his bedroom door the odor of the apartment scrabbled at his throat.  It was thick and powerful.  He sprinted past the dresser in the hallway.  The stench followed him like an eager puppy. Michael gagged and somewhere upstairs something echoed his cough.

At the Quik-mart, he bought an egg and sausage sandwich and an orange Gatorade.  As he left the store, he unwrapped the sandwich and took a huge bite.  It tasted greasy. Behind him an older man wearing a blue windbreaker and baseball cap stood drinking a cup of steaming coffee.  He nodded to Michael and took a long drag from his cigarette which started a coughing fit.  

The sandwich suddenly tasted of ashes.

The older gentleman shrugged and motioned to the lit cigarette with his coffee cup.

“These things are gonna kill me one day, but whattaya gonna do?”

Michael tossed his sandwich into the dumpster and took a swig from his Gatorade before heading home.

The odor greeted him as he stepped into the apartment.  It was happy he was home.  He pushed past it, covering his mouth with his hand.   It seemed to grapple down his throat, searching for his intestines.  He could feel it winding through his guts like a snake.  

The air in the old house was toxic.  Mingling with the flowery and fruity smells of the deodorizing sticks, the resulting aroma was nauseatingly sweet. The odor came from a box wrapped in miles of plastic wrap. He needed to keep the odor in the closet or his mother wouldn’t stay put.  What would keep them both in?  More plastic wrap.

Michael dropped the boxes of expensive, brand name wrap on the floor in front of the closet.  He pushed the dresser away and stared at the closed door.  No power in the world could compel him to open that door.  He pulled one container of cling wrap open and then another.  He carefully placed a sheet of wrap over the closed door, sealing off the edges of the door frame, blocking the escape route for the bad smell.  The cling wouldn’t stay clung.  When he applied a second layer of wrap it fell forward.  He watched it drift down in slow motion.  

Michael searched the drawers in the living room until he found the stapler.  He attached each layer of wrap to the wall with the stapler, flattening out little pillows of putrid air trapped beneath the plastic.

He pushed the dresser back in place and inhaled deeply.  The foul smell was still there, but faint.  He was confident he had weakened it.  Looking up at the cracked ceiling he chuckled.   This house won’t beat me. You won’t be my tomb!

A blanket of perspiration lay on his skin.  A job well done, he thought as he kicked aside the empty cling boxes.  He picked up the last remaining box and took it into his bedroom.  His bedroom was safe.  The smell couldn’t get to him there.

The sun was setting as Michael lay, fully clothed, on his bed.  He was listening to the creaking house.  A bird warbled outside and the wind tree branches against the window.  Michael could hear the heartbeat of “the beast.”  It seemed content.  Beneath it all he could hear the soft purring sound of brittle fingers cutting through layers and layers of cellophane.  

Across his chest, Michael held the last unopened box of plastic wrap.  He picked at the cardboard lid until he freed the roll within and pinched the end of the cellophane sheet.  He peeled a good sized piece of wrap from the box and sliced it across the metal edge.  He let the blurry gossamer sheet flutter in his hand like a translucent sail.

From the hallway he could hear the sound of plastic being shred.  He could hear a muffled thump and then another like the frustrated pounding of someone locked out – or in.  Michael let the cling wrap float down over his face.  He smiled as it folded itself over his cheeks.  He was a big boy, he thought.  He could handle anything.  All he needed was more plastic wrap.

As his bedroom door slowly swung open, he grabbed the edges of the plastic cling wrap and drew them down tightly over his face and took a deep breath.

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

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Caught In The Act by Brian J. Smith

 

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

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DISCLAIMER: Deadman’s Tome is a dark and gritty horror zine that publishes content not suitable for children. The horror zine proudly supports the freedom of dark creative works and stands against censorship. Hardly any subject matter is too taboo for this horror zine. As a result, Deadman’s Tome may feature content your mother would not approve of. But she doesn’t control you life, right?

Caught In The Act by Brian J. Smith

WHEN the door flies open and hits the wall, it’s already too late; my dick shrivels like a turtle dodging a bullet and everything seems to slow down.

The air in the room grows into a thick suffocating noose that wraps itself around my throat and renders me speechless; my heartbeat muffles all sound, even the ones I can barely make out. Claire Hopkins sits up, her naked body still spread-eagle across my desk and gasps; her eyes only got that big when I’ve made her come but this is different. She is young enough to be my oldest daughter (twenty-one to be exact) but she’s got the body of an Internet scam. Smooth pale skin pulling taut over a slim rack of ribs, Grade-A breasts with stiff brown nipples, bubble-gum pink lips and shoulder length blonde hair pouring down her face like rivers of liquid sunlight.

How could I resist?

She was begging for it, wearing all those “fuck-me” clothes that didn’t leave much to the imagination. A little sliver of skin here and a little bit there and I was drooling like Cujo. I’d seen her staring up at me amongst the sea of other slack-jawed zombies slouching in their seats half sleep from long boring lectures about Hitler and The War of 1812 and blah-blah-blah. She’d always beam at me from her seat, all bright and cheery like a newly risen sun. To be honest, she’d caught it before I could.

“I need to pass this course, Mister Swanson.” She’d said ten minutes ago. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

The brightness in her eyes died and sadness clouded her looks. When I mentioned a one-on-one, the exuberance came back and she smiled like a California socialite. Today, she’d worn a breezy-white see-through and fire-engine red heels; her smoky blue eyes were accentuated by two thick rings of black mascara. She smelled like a rose that wanted to be fucked although she had hair as bright as a sunflower.

A shadow flees down the stretch of red carpet running between the seats, looking vague and blurry. Claire grabs her dress off the edge of the desk, her twisting under a mask of shock. Her lips drooping apart, she exposed a nice cum-dumpster mouth. I back up against the chalkboard, rapping my lower back against the chalk tray. I squint at the gloom as the shadow steps into the light like a whodunit and trip over my words.

 

 


Read the rest of the story in HORRGASM

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Sex Toy by Bob Freville

 

Illustration by James Neyman

They had been happy once, Eric thought. Before that primordial pecker monster, that god-fuck-it-all sexual sacrilege, made its entrance. The thought of the damned thing and the word entrance brought bile to his bearded throat, stuck in the craw of this love sick loser in his unwashed attire.

The rolled legs of his jeans smelled of piss and he hadn’t showered in longer than he could remember. What was the point? Ain’t no fuckin’ goin’ down, you can bet on that. Why bother? Truth be told, sex no longer held much fancy for Eric. He felt like chemical castration might be the answer for the human animal as a species. Neuter the damned.

Entrance. That word, goddammit. A reminder of that sick demonic curio’s slow then furious entrance into his wife’s sopping wet slot. And her. His angel. His whole world. The chick who’d sworn to be faithful, pledged to always be his, so easily losing herself in slobbering stupid devotion to something so wretched.

Thinking on it like that transferred Eric’s blind hatred from the thing to her. Elle, that ginger stupid, that harlot.

How had something so magical, so seemingly solid, been quashed out, made moot? Why?! He cried inside his piston of a head as he packed the box of bullets into his gym bag.

The worst part was that he still loved her. That dumb whore, taken in with the snap of a finger or the spurt of an inanimate ugliness by abject evil. What were you thinking? What happened to us?

No answer.

Only his recollection of the day they decided to try some new kinks on, inject some strange into their lives.

“Doesn’t it just…” Elle sighed, the muscles of her throat contracting where they faced the ceiling.

She was on her back, head hanging off the side of the mattress, still-wet ropes of permed auburn hair tickling the floorboards. Eric sat Indian-style against the wall, watching her delicate neck as what looked like two electric eels writhed beneath the dermis. He was so hot for her, he couldn’t wrap his mind around this.

“Just what?”

What was the matter with the way they’d been doing it all along? What she was saying was all Chinese to him. Not a word made any sense.

“Just, I don’t know,” she said, sighing again.  She came up on one elbow and fixed her eyes on the man she’d been sleeping with for four years of marital bliss, a marital bliss that had recently run dry, at least in her opinion.

“What?” Eric reiterated, exasperation in his voice this time.

“Come correct,” she said.

Eric threw up his palms. “I’m for real,” he said, wide-eyed, trying to stress how earnest his ignorance was. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say. You’re what? Sayin’ the flame’s burned out? At thirty?”

“No,” Elle cooed, bringing a warm hand to Eric’s cheek.

He resented this gesture, knowing that it was a mock-parental display, that he was, in essence, being placated in the way a small child is placated. Still, the warmth of her palm sent tingles to his loins. He wondered if she was getting moist…decided, balefully, that she wasn’t.

“I’m just sayin,” Elle blurted anticlimactically before taking her hand away from Eric and crossing the room to a Bic and a pack of Nepenthe ® cigarettes. She lit one of the smokes, exhaled a silky purple plume and, with her back to Eric, she said the words she knew she’d regret.

“I don’t get off, I don’t feel anything.” A long pause, penetrating the room the way she wished she could be penetrated, causing an unbearable silence that felt more leaden than any cock.

“You’re saying,” Eric started with painful uncertainty, choking back tears, the word flaccid whirling around in his aching brain.

Elle cut him off, determined to squash her husband’s suffering before it grew any more acute. “I’m saying that I’m in love with you, that I love you as much as I did the first minute, the first millisecond I saw you…but it’s all, the sex, it’s just grown stale. Routine. Ritual…tired.”

Eric contemplated this for a long beat, unable to think of a single sex act they hadn’t engaged in. Without a doubt, their twenties, especially those first two years before tying the knot, had been spent crotch-locked in estrus, tearing motel rooms apart with their intertwined flesh. They’d pissed in each others’ mouths, fucked in every conceivable public and private place, made love in virtually impossible positions. Eric had delivered the fruits of his loins to every inch and orifice of Elle’s body. And she’d thirsted for it! He thought. Hadn’t she hungrily sucked up every drop?

“Okay,” Eric said and watched as Elle turned to him, her eyes brightening with hope. “But,” he continued, and her face dropped.

“But what?”

“But…we’ve…done…everything.”

Elle’s shoulders went slack. She returned to the bed in a state of begrudging resignation, stubbing her cigarette out on the lid of a flat can of beer on her way.

“Everything,” she said.

“Well…” Eric thought. “You already agreed that a threesome or…cuckhold…it would ruin us for each other.”

“So,” Elle spat, sparking a fresh Nepenthe, blowing the smoke in Eric’s direction.

“So we’ve done the facial thing, we went bungee fucking that time.”

Elle blushed with amusement at this last part, a smile cracking defiantly across her grill. “It was bungee jumping. You made it into bungee humping.”

“Yeah,” Eric said, smiling too now, edging down on the mattress to meet his wife’s gaze. “And we made love in the middle of that field with all the houses around. Woke up when the sprinklers went off, fucked in broad daylight for anyone to see.”

“Could’ve gotten arrested,” Elle added.

“Okay, so we could’ve fucked in the back of a police cruiser. I’ll give you that.”

Elle laughed out loud at this one.

“Seriously,” Eric said. “What do we need to spice things up?”

They were at the XXX shop the next day. Except it wasn’t called a marital aid shop. It was called “Spanky’s Erotic Novelty Emporium” and it sparkled with neon-lit glittery shades, a sore thumb sticking way out amidst a complex of cluttered gray industrial factories along the Interstate.

Spanky’s, it turned out, only sounded janky. Truth be told, it was the finest triple X shop operating on Long Island. From its mirrored ceilings hung chandeliers. Its mirrored walls were bordered by ornamental mosaics depicting every variety of Tantra. The shelves, racks and wall hangings were festooned with every high-end product line people read about in lad mags but seldom see in real life.

Browsing Spanky’s aisles, they bore witness to the full canon of fuck possibilities (or so it seemed), marveling at the uber-expensive gadgets—Kia Sorrento-sized Sybians, full body latex replicas of adult film performers, even a $4,000 orgy simulator with six remote-operated dongs—and they yawned as they explored the more cost-efficient apparatuses on display. Whips. Been there. Nipple clamps. Ouch! Ball gags. What for?  Ben Wa Balls. Already wearin’ ’em. Cock ring. No thanks. Nobody likes a purple dick going black and begging for an ER visit. Labia stimulant? Done that. Grape-flavored cock cream? Done that too. What’s good, kid? What else you got?

Turned out the answer was nothing, at least as far as Spanky’s was concerned. After forty-five minutes, they’d looked at everything Spanky’s made accessible to the public. When Eric and Elle had exhausted all these options, from crotchless undies and feather boas to home video titles as sophomoric as “Nad Santa” and “DVDA: Black In Black,” they both felt boring and bored. None of this stuff was for them or, if it was, it already had been.

They were about to step out empty-handed when Elle spotted a black door at the rear of the store, on which hung a sign that read: RING STAFF FOR ACCESS, NO FREE ADMITTANCE.

Eric peeped the message and scoffed, “No free admittance. You know who that’s for? Some Williamsburg hipster in khaki pedal pushers and Buddy Holly glasses, comes to visit his relatives on ‘Lawnguyluhnd,’ decides he’ll plunk down all his blog earnings on something priced like a truckload of Ed Hardy swag so he can make some SoHo bar skank think he’s a collector of rare and special shit.”

But Elle wasn’t hearing anything. She was entranced by the door and the sensual scent spewing forth from the slat at their feet.

“Rare and special,” she droned.

“Oh Jesus! Don’t tell me you’re taken in by this hokum. It’s a fetish room dressed up as somethin’ exotic and exclusive. And can’t you smell that? We’re outside a friggin’ head shop!”

The odor, strong enough to provoke olfactory hallucinations of hellish BDSM acts, was one of Teutonic ecstasy, of sexual holocaust. Incense, foreign spices, a faint touch of lavender and sweat, definitely sweat. Oily flesh came to mind, mixed with something more, something ineffable.

“Patchouli and surface cuts,” Eric mocked. “We’re outside some emo kid’s dorm room in Bushwick.”

But he could see Elle wouldn’t let up til they’d glimpsed its presumably bogus wonders. So he flagged down the store manager, a thirty-something guy with a soul patch and a ridiculously receding Rockabilly hairdo.

“How do we get in here?” Eric asked.

“That’s not us, bro.” Soul Patch. “That’s kind of a sub-contractor. Private dealer throws us some dough for loanin’ him some space for his collection, dig?”

“Yeah, I dig it,” Eric said, biting his tongue. “So what’s it gonna cost to ring this dude’s bell?”

“He sets the price, that’s ‘tween him and you. We just get a kick-back. Number’s on the wall, bro.”

Eric looked around and, as if materializing straight from scratch, he saw what he hadn’t seen previously—a business card, laminated but yellowed and peeling, taped to the wall by the door. The black Book Antigua typeface stated no business name, only digits: 632-3232.

Eric took out his cell, stole a glance at Elle, whose eyes remained glued to the door, shook his head and punched in the number. A voice came on the line before the first ring was completed. Naturally, Eric thought. Cat’s so desperate for business, he’s been waiting by the phone, praying for two Rubes to come along as we just have.

“Yeah, what can I do yuh for?” the voice asked in a hoarse guido tone.

“We’re outside your…establishment,” Eric started. “Can we come in and play?”

“I’ll be right witcha.”

“How much?” Eric inquired, but the line was dead. The door was creeping open without an answer. Before them stood a hirsute man of indeterminate age, crow-black hair greasy and gleaming, slicked back severely to reveal an emphatic widows peak. His moon-shaped face was shrouded in a heavy beard, his grotesquely obese midsection ensconced in a thick dark vestment of sorts. His cupped hands could do nothing to conceal the shiny gaudiness of the gold rings that strangled his sausage fingers.

“Come on in,” the man said, waving and grinning at them, wonky eyes taking both of them in at once.

Eric craned his neck and could see that Soul Patch had already returned to stocking out suck pumps by the storefront windows.

“Before we come in, what’s this gonna run us? Dude up front said you determine the price.”

Stan smiled at Eric. “Yes, I base it on whether I like you for my pieces. If you’re suitable for my wares.”

“So?”

“So lemme ask yuh dis. How’d you say yer relationship is?”

Eric laughed faintly at the absurdity of this dollar store interrogation. But Elle answered straight away without considering him. “It’s great! We love each other very much. We’re just looking for something to key us up.”

The guido’s grin spread wide across the cratered plains of his fat skull.

“Excellent,” he said. He extended a hand. Elle took it. “Name’s Stan A. And you sound like just the type uh clientele I’m after.”

“Hazzat?” Eric interjected.

“Happy couple,” Stan A. said. “That’s what I want.”

“Your customers so happy, why do they need you?” Eric could see, almost feel the daggers Elle’s eyes threw at him.

“Stop it,” she murmured.

Stan guffawed. “You got jokes, huh, kid? That’s all right. You work in this biz, you hear it all. Had a customer once, brung back a butt plug that was, shall we say, drippy. Said, ‘What’s your return policy?’ I shit yuh not.”

Stan howled with laughter at this recollection.

Eric wasn’t having it. “No refunds, I take it?”

“Correct,” Stan said. “You comin’ in?”

“You haven’t priced the admission,” Eric reminded him.

“Fuhgedduhbotit!” Stan insisted. “You’ll pay once you’re in.”

Eric shifted from one foot to the other, wrapping his mind around this, trying to figure the grift. Finally, after some seconds, Elle poked him in the back and they crossed the threshold. Before the darkness of the hallway opened up into a dust mote ruled space of overhead fixtures, Eric was asking about the name.

“Stan A, you said?”

“I did.”

“Don’t people usually abbreviate their first name?”

“You just call me Stan. I abbreviate my last name ’cause you wouldn’t be able to pronounce it. Pretty long and indecipherable.”

“What? Like Ahmadinejad? You’re talkin’ to a career journalist,” Eric lied. “Try me.”

“Fair enough,” Stan said as he found the light switch and allowed his bloated hand to hover over it. “It’s Stan Alilamasabachtani.”

“You were right to abbreviate it,” Eric said.

Stan drew a short laugh then threw the switch. The dull shape of objects previously scanned, unimpressed, by Eric as he grilled Stan in the dimness, jumped to life in the harsh luminescence of the fluorescents. Now they were in a relative museum of awesome attractions. A monolithic statue of Adonis, chiseled features thrust out, stood before them in a stance of glory, a mortal a mere eighth of his size dangling from the shaft of his magnificent erection, gleefully milking the god. And his well-defined arm, flexed for the tension borne of his conquest, was extended to the east, pointing the way to the rest of Stan’s curios, ushering them to indulge their curiosity.

Eric’s peepers were naturally poised on Adonis’s ungodly prick, a plaster that put his—and every other human man’s—to shame. Elle’s eyes, on the other hand, had wandered down to grovel at the god’s feet where she could see the gold plate and its engraving, a verse ironically torn verbatim from the King James Bible: “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

As they inched their way along, the clutter of marvels appeared to reveal itself one glorious object at a time, as if every object waited for a spotlight to alight it so that its individual power could be fully appreciated without distraction from its predecessor. There was the Pearl of Anguish, a medieval metallic torture egg meant to be fitted inside an offender’s vagina where it would then open up and ruin the offender’s insides. And by the side of this so-called pearl, legs akimbo, head thrown back in terror recoil or terrible euphoria, was the porcelain effigy of a woman who wouldn’t have been out of place in the Korovo milk bar of Clockwork. Beside this medieval atrocity of eros stood a psychedelic lantern that spun of its own will, hurling mini-silhouettes of sodomy against the back wall. To its left were stacks of literary antiquities, first editions of Bataille’s “The Story of the Eye” and de Sade’s “Juliette,” to name but two.

Eric was chuckling like a dirty old man, gaping at mannequins with blinders on and phallus spilling from their plastic mouths, when Elle declared, “This is what I was.”

“What?” Eric said. He knew what he’d heard, but it made no sense.

Elle corrected herself. “This is what I…want. This is it.”

She delivered the words in a spent voice of sexual agitation, that panting, jittery sound of exasperation. Eric could remember hearing it the first time they’d gotten hot and heavy when, after sucking face for close to forty-five minutes, he’d asked her what she wanted him to do. And her answer was one he hadn’t heard since: “Everything you want.”

His head jerked around from the mannequins to meet the thing head on. His stomach sank at once. Elle stood before a marble table on top of which, dead center, sat a gargantuan…what? Not a big, black cock exactly and not quite a fist and forearm. Something of its vine-like shaft and helmet-like head’s spiky circumference suggested a sea creature from some sci-fi world. A moon snake, that’s what it was! A Mars-roving eel, Eric thought. Most definitely not a replica of any living manhood or other appendage. And was it pulsating underneath the opaque glow of the fluorescents? Sho nuff! But—and then the pulsing was gone, removed from the now inanimate object and placed inside Elle’s heaving chest.

“Fuck no!” Eric exclaimed.

Elle’s head shot around, snapped toward him and, with one eye on him and one never leaving the benighted battering ram beastie on the marble table, she shot Eric a look so cold it could create icicles in a dude’s urethra.

“This is what I want,” she said.

“I’m not using that, whatever it is, I’m not usin’ that on you.”

Stan laughed.

“Somethin’ funny?” Eric barked.

“Hey, don’t worry about it, kid. Your lady’s box, it contracts, same as her asshole.”

“Excuse me?! You talkin’ about my wife’s vagina?!”

“Easy, sport,” Stan said, holding up a chubby palm. “I’m just sayin.”

“I want it, Eric.” Elle, still staring.

“Nah, this is some bullshit.” Eric was flush with anger and awkwardness. “No.”

“How much?” Elle practically frothing like feral animal at the lips. Presumably at both sets.

“Give it to you for six.” Stan looked beyond Eric, through him, as he said this.

“Six hundred dollars!” Eric cried. “You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me!”

“I’ll take it,” Elle replied.

“You’ll…what?!” Eric was on the verge of whiplash now.

“Give him a check, Eric.”

At a loss now, all Eric could muster was, “You gotta be fuckin’ kiddin’ me” again.

No joke.

On the car ride home, Eric watched with unease as Elle peeled back the upper folds of the packaging and fixed her incandescent irises on the toy. “Touch it, Eric,” she cooed.

“What? No! I’m not touching that thing. It’s hideous!”

They drove in silence the rest of the way.

He could see the signs that something bad was happening that first night. Almost at once, Elle regarded him differently than she normally had. As soon as she’d unwrapped the onyx toy and set it down on the glass coffee table in their living room, she’d been unable or unwilling to move from the spot where she sat, on the bearskin throw rug, in front of It. She was adhered there, transfixed, from, the very moment after she’d drawn the venetian blinds and dimmed the recessed lighting.

After taking a shower, buzzing his pubic hair, lathering his crotch and belly in Elle’s favorite body lotion and brushing his teeth, Eric had returned to the living room, expecting to find a randy wife good and worked up and ready for marital intimacy. What he found, instead, was Elle, in moistened panties and nothing else, running her hands up and down the thing, from base to head. Sweat. Not unlike the smell from the black room. Heat. A stifling heat like a furnace.

Although disturbed by this sight, and against his better judgment, Eric disrobed and crept up behind his wife, placing a hand on the back of her neck and bringing his hot mouth to rest over her pulsing carotid artery.

There was no response from her, other than the pulse’s erratic drum beat, but when Eric opened his eyes, he thought he could see the onyx “toy” pulsing too, would swear the thing emitted a tea kettle hiss.

Illustration by James Neyman

Before he could react to what he hoped was a hallucination, Elle whirled around and smacked him away. Eric was stunned for a beat, then his eyes temporarily brightened.

“You wanna play rough?” He went to kiss her anew.

Elle shot out with both palms to his chest, knocking him off balance and on to his back. He briefly expected her to go cowgirl, but no straddling was forthcoming and, when he chanced a look by burying his chin in his chest, he could see that his wife had returned her attention to the toy, stroking it protectively like a dog that’s been kicked by an abusive boyfriend.

Eric got up and stormed down the hall to the bedroom, grabbed up Elle’s pillow and marched it into the living room, hurling it at her back. She didn’t move, didn’t break her silent vigil before the black Martian eel.

“Here! Sleep with yer fuckin’ toy then! I try to play along and this is what I get? Six hundy in the fuckin’ red and this is what I get?!”

She didn’t answer, clutched the onyx toy instead.

“Huh?!”

No dice.

“Fuck you,” he sighed and, seconds later, after he’d slammed the bedroom door and lay in bed, jerking off, he thought he could hear slurping sounds. But was it his wife or that hideous “toy?” The thought haunted him long after he’d reconciled himself to not getting off before slipping into restless sleep.

That night he dreamed of his wedding day. But it wasn’t his real wedding. The proceedings were held in a black lodge, divorced of excitement, imbued with dread. The flower girl slunk, hunched, along the aisle, surrounded by suited freaks in gnarled face masks, her skin melting, bones splintering as she reached the stage. Her little flower girl body wilting as she went and the rings she beared in her arthritic claws turning to ash and water.

On the altar they were not Eric and Elle, they were exoskeletons, aged and broken, ring fingers stuck in their cankered mouths, tears welded to their jowls in a fine crust. And when they stopped sucking their brittle digits and the high priest made his wicked pronouncement, their jaws dropped open and they howled in unison, an ear-shattering outcry of sad babbling hurt.

When Eric awoke, he knew nothing would ever be the same ever again. Entering the living room, ready with an apology for throwing the pillow, he found his wife crouched in the same spot on the now-soiled shag carpet where she’d been seated when he left. A puddle darkened the area of rug right in front of her and condensation had formed on the glass beneath the “toy,” so that it was impossible to tell whether the ejaculate fouling said rug belonged to his wife or her plaything.

The answer to this was, of course, both, something Eric ascertained when he sidled up behind Elle and saw her drenched nether regions and saw, too, the smaller puddle spreading under the toy. It was different from Elle’s effluence. It was thicker. It carried with it a stronger, more pungent scent, something between expired milk and industrial solvent.

Eric’s intense focus on the toy and its effluvia was broken when Elle turned to face him. Time was suspended and life dropped out of Eric when he saw her face. She was panting like a dog, prickly heat ruining her rosy cheeks, blisters scoring her sweat-saturated forehead.

When she opened her mouth, he could see nothing of the perfectly pearly chompers he’d always admired and loved. All that remained in their stead were crimson stalagtites of torn gum, shredded threads of pink-gray skin. That’s when he saw the needle nose splashed in red by her knees and the same red coating the head of the plaything, a head that had swelled, bloated with purple color, the purple of anguish. Or, rather, the purple of ecstasy. Unholy ecstasy!

 

 


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Pruning The Garden by David M. Hoenig

“Won’t you tell me about the girls who have passed, Lily?  No one else is willing to say anything.”  The speaker was a brunette, dressed in a dark red and black corset with stockings and garters, and she sat at one of the saloon tables with a blonde girl wearing a similar costume in white and pale green.  Both her accent and diction placed her origins somewhere far to the east of where she now found herself: St. Joseph, Missouri, ‘Gateway to the West’.

“Well, it’s like nobody even cares that they died, Dusk Rose!  Not the John Laws, not Bo Shanks, who owns this whorehouse.  We mean less than nothing.”

‘Dusk Rose’ pursed her lips, and glanced around to see who might be listening to her conversation.  She leaned closer to Lily, working girl at the Garden of Endless Flowers, and when she spoke her voice was soft.  “That’s exactly why I’m here, Lily.  My real name is Nellie Bly, and I’m an investigative reporter for a New York newspaper.”

“What?  You mean you ain’t a real ‘Flower’?’

“No.  I came because we’d heard of the recent deaths of Becky Hargrave, Jill Wheaton, and Tai Meifing in recent months, and they certainly seemed unusual.  I also don’t like the fact that the news hasn’t carried anything about why or how three young women might die unremarked upon.  It’s not fair and someone’s got to speak for the dead, I say, but all I’ve really learned so far is that no one in charge seems to care much.”

“They wasn’t just deaths, Miss Bly.  Them girls were murdered, and any of us could be next!”

A small furrow appeared between the reporter’s eyes.  “But I was told that they Miss Hargrave’s and Miss Meifing’s deaths were accidents, and that Miss Wheaton committed suicide.”

“I don’t believe none of that.  Pansy–that was Jill Wheaton, mind–was happier than a pig in slop working the Garden!  She was a one who really liked her work, and she’d never have just killed herself.  This life was just fine for her, though maybe she was a mite mouthy over who she took to bed.”

“What about the others?”

“Becky– she was Violet–had a powerful fear of the water.  She’d never have gone down to the Missouri River for a swim, no matter what Sheriff Hooky says.  And Lotus… uh, Tai… well, she drowned in the big tub downstairs, out back.  They said she must’ve slipped and hit her head, but she didn’t have no bumps or cuts, just a peaceful expression like she’d gone to sleep at the bottom of it.”  Lily leaned forward conspiratorially.  “It weren’t natural,” she whispered.

“Is there anything that links them besides working here?”

Lily shrugged.

“Can I trust the House Madam?”

“Miss Ruby?  She’s about the only one here you could.”

“You mean here in the Garden?”

“In St. Joseph.”  Lily maintained eye contact for emphasis before she finally stood.  “I’ll take you.”

Nellie got up and let the girl lead her through the great room and past the early afternoon crowd of the saloon-brothel.  Some of the girls were working the crowd, friendly as sunshine, but to the reporter’s trained eye there was an undercurrent of tension in the way they comported themselves. They went behind the main staircase and stopped at a door along the back wall.  Lily knocked.  After a muffled reply came indistinctly through the wood, she opened the door and led Nellie into the office beyond.

“Now, what do you girls want?” Madam Ruby Beaumont asked from behind her desk.

With an almost shy look at the reporter, Lily told the woman the truth about her newest Flower.

Nellie met the thinning of Ruby’s lips with a hurried explanation.  “I’m convinced that people need to know about the needs of you and the women who work here.  After all, they’re folk, just like everyone else, and especially vulnerable to the evils of the world when they have no one to speak for them.”

“You are looking to stir up a world of troubles, missy.  No one around here cares about these girls except me, not even Mr. Shanks.”  

“That’s exactly the problem I want to address, Madam Beaumont.  I know I can make people care about them.”

“Like you did in New York last year, Miss Bly?  With those poor wretches in the asylum?”

Nellie pursed her lips for a few moments, then abruptly sat in one of the chairs before the desk and crossed her legs.  “You are awfully well-read for a house madam, Ruby.”

“I am.”

“And you don’t seem half surprised enough.  How long have you known who I am?”

The madam leaned back in her own chair.  “There was something off about you when we first met–too self-assured, maybe–but I didn’t twig to your identity until after I went through your things.  After that it was just a matter of research.”  She paused, put a cigarette in a holder and lit it.  “So.  What brings you here besides the thrill of having some cowpoke grunt in your ear as he tries to shove you through a bed?”

The reporter laughed out loud, and the madam smiled along with her.  Lily, standing to one side, had a somewhat forced smile on her face.

When the hilarity had passed, Nellie’s tone was all business.  “I’m here about the recent deaths of Becky, Jill, and Tai.”

Ruby grimaced.  “They were good girls, and treated like less than nothing.”

“And that’s not right.  Lily told me some of the circumstances; I’d like to know more.”

The madam turned to Lily.  “You get, girl.  I think Miss Bly and I need to talk.”

“Alright.”  Lily went to the door and opened it.

“You done good bringing her to me, missy, but mum’s the word for now.”

“Yes, Ruby.”  The girl curtsied and left.

The madam leaned back in her chair after the door closed.  “These girls mostly have nothing else, Miss Bly.  The sad truth is they mostly die young, from disease or rough treatment by unscrupulous men.  Very few ever get out once they’re in this life… and now I’ve got three dead girls in almost as many months.”

“The Sheriff?”

Ruby let out a very unladylike snort.  “Useless as balls on a milk-cow.”

The reporter was quiet for a moment, thinking.  “Did the dead girls share a patron?”

Madam Beaumont bit her lip before finally replying.  “A mouthy woman could get herself pretty dead.”

“I can’t promise you safety, but if there is someone to blame, maybe you and I together can protect your girls.”

Some moments passed as Ruby Beaumont considered this, then the lines of her mouth firmed.  “Mayor Holloway’s wife, Virginia.”

The reporter’s eyes widened.

“Ginny’s a very rich and powerful woman, Miss Bly, and it’s no secret among certain quarters of her preferences.  And yet, if aspersions were cast on a lady of her stature that might threaten her relationship with the Mayor or her standing in town, well, any of us would likely meet the hangman’s noose faster’n a virgin finishes his first time.”

“And you think she’s somehow responsible for your girls’ deaths?”

“I know how crazy it sounds.  But I know Ginny gave Becky a present after their first time together because she showed it to me.  Horrid thing it was, too; looked mean and nasty first time I saw it, and thought ‘what a strange gift to give’.”  She licked her lips.  “But you know keepsakes–what’s important to someone may make it more valuable than what it is, right?”  At Nellie’s nod, she continued.  “But then it showed up later in Jill’s things after she died, and again in Tai’s effects after hers.  I think, somehow, maybe it killed them for Ginny.”  The Madam crossed herself in a very incongruous gesture, considering the surroundings.  “It’s a cursed, evil thing, Miss Bly.”

“Ruby, you strike me as one very sharp woman. You can’t believe that superstitious nonsense, can you?”

“You haven’t seen the devilish thing, or you wouldn’t think it’s so crazy.  I asked questions about it, quietly: an ugly jade toad that first came to town with Ginny’s first husband, a confederate officer.  I don’t know where he got it, maybe somewhere during the war.”

“First husband?”

“Yes.  He drowned–sound familiar?”

“In the river?”

“In a damned horse trough.”

“I think I’d like to meet this Ginny Holloway.”

“Oh, she’d just love you as you are right now,” Ruby gestured at the reporter’s ensemble with a half-hearted leer.  “But you might want to fancy up instead, and catch her over at the Women’s Temperance League for tea right about now.”

Thirty minutes later, Nellie Bly strolled into the building housing the Temperance League, suitably accoutered for the surroundings.  “May I help you?” asked a starchy matron by the entrance.

“I’m a reporter from New York, doing a feature article.  I’d very much like to speak to Mayor Holloway’s wife, if she’s about.”

A quick glance at a table with three ladies affirmed she was there.  “I’ll ask her.”  She went, spoke to a woman easily in her fifties, but immaculate in dress and appearance, then returned to Nellie.  “Mrs. Holloway would be happy to have tea with you in one of our private rooms.  Please come with me?”

The reporter followed the matron to a room in the back.  After a few minutes, Ginny Holloway swept in shortly to take her own seat.  “To what do I owe this honor?”

“I’m doing a story about events in St. Joseph, Mrs. Holloway.”  She told the Mayor’s wife her name and occupation.

“Oh!  Regarding the upcoming Faire?”

“Actually, I’m more curious about the recent deaths of three prostitutes from the Garden of Endless Flowers.”

Ginny’s face closed like the book of Judgment.  “I’m certain I know nothing about such distasteful matters.”

“Are you talking about the deaths or the prostitutes, Mrs. Holloway?”

The look she received in return was scornful.  “I don’t generally concern myself with either of those subjects, Miss Bly.”

Nellie met her gaze evenly, underscoring her disbelief, and the older woman looked away first.  “Even so, you don’t find the circumstances of their deaths worrying for women of this city, Mrs. Holloway?”

“They weren’t proper women!  And, as I understand, their deaths have been ruled accidents or whatever, so it’s nothing to me.”

“So, you wouldn’t have any objection to me looking into their deaths in pursuit of, say, a common patron the girls had, if I believed that the investigation has been incomplete?”

Ginny’s cheeks reddened, and when she spoke her tone was harsh.  “Young lady, if you are not out of this city by dusk, I will have the Sheriff arrest you for troublemaking and we’ll just see how you like that.”

“And he’ll jump to do your bidding?  Are you sleeping with him too?”

“You bitch!” Ginny breathed.  She stood so quickly that her chair crashed to the ground behind her.

Just then the matron came in, and Ginny turned and pushed roughly past her.  Bewildered, the woman looked at the reporter with concern.

“I don’t think she enjoyed the tea, I’m afraid.”  Nellie finished hers and stood.  “Good day.  I’m certain Mrs. Holloway is generous enough to cover the bill.”

She left the Women’s Temperance League and returned to the Garden of Endless Flowers to speak with Ruby Beaumont.  “I’m afraid that I’ve worn out my welcome in St. Joseph.”

“You’d best be out of town then, and right quick.”

Nellie nodded.  “I’m not letting this drop though.  I just wanted you to know that I’m going to write the story as I understand it, and let the facts speak for themselves.  What the women do here and elsewhere may not be glorious, uplifting, or heroic, but it’s not like they could do it if there wasn’t a market for it.”

The madam looked away, then nodded slowly.  

“And, what they do doesn’t mean they don’t merit kindness, justice, and recognition as people just like everyone else.”

When she turned back to look at the reporter, Ruby’s eyes were tear-filled.  “Thank you, Miss Bly.”

Nellie stood, shook the madam’s hand, and went directly to the rail station to take the first train back to New York.

#

A week later, Nellie Bly was at her desk at New York World, editing the article which would champion the rights of all women, not just those of privilege.  A young man from the mailroom arrived in her office.

“Package, Miss Bly.”

“Thank you, Wally.  Where’s it from?”

“Postmark says St. Joseph, Missouri.  Where should I leave it?”

There was a considerable pause before she replied.  “Do me a favor, Wally, and just toss it in the garbage?”

“You really don’t want it?”

“No.”

“Okay, Miss Bly.”

“Thanks, Wally.”

The young man took the package with him when he left her office, and took it home at the end of the day to see what it was.

He was found drowned in the pond in Central Park later that week.  

Sadly, his was not the only such incident to occur in New York City that year…

 

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

 

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Lost In The Dark by Matt Michaelis

 

The road curved through the swamp.  Headlights preceded the car as it careened over the asphalt, faster than the signs would allow it.

“Slow down, John, you’re going too fast!”

“We have to get to my parents’ house tonight, Sue.  We can’t afford a hotel room.”

“We won’t make it if you slide off the road and into a ditch!”

His voice rose, “Jesus Christ, will you calm down?  You’re just like your mom, you know.”

Sue fell silent, her desire for safe travel losing the battle with her desire to distance herself from her mother.  In her mind, the face of the angry woman who demanded full obedience loomed the way that it did when she was five, terrifying her until she ran to the only safety available, her uncle, Pete.

John had proposed to her three weeks ago.  Sue thought it was weird when he wanted to go to a baseball game.  Suddenly, she found herself broadcast on the  KissCam, with a ring in her face.  Stunned, all she could say was “yes,” unenthusiastically.

Sue looked at him, smug satisfaction shining out of him.  Not for the first time, Sue thought about throwing the ring in his face.  The voice of her mother calling her out for being impetuous and ungrateful kept her from acting in anger, so she kept her opinions about his reckless driving habits to herself.

Thus, the car continued careening down a winding, foggy road, and neither of them saw the plank of wood with the protruding nails until the front tire had driven over it.  The spikes penetrated the inner tube, and the sudden change in balance made John swerve violently.

“Shit!” he shouted as the car hydroplaned.  Sue held her breath, eyes wide, as they spun around and the car fell into the ditch onto its side.

 

The world came back into focus slowly.  John’s voice came through her delirium.

“Sue?  Sue, are you okay?”

“Huh?” she said, shaken.  “Y-yeah, I’m okay.  Wh…are you okay?”

He touched his forehead.  “I think so.”  He took his hand away.  Blood shone dark red on his hand.  “Oh, hell.  We have to get out of here.”

He tried his door, but it wouldn’t budge.  The frame must have bent, keeping it from opening.  Sue’s window had broken over the flooded ditch.

“Okay Sue, listen to me,” John began.  “You have to crawl out the window and into the water.”

“I-I can’t!  There’s glass-”

“Shut up and listen!  There is only one way out of here, and it’s out that window.  You have to go first.”

She looked at the window where the safety glass had shattered.  The swampy water sat, stagnant and dark like pitch.  She hesitated.  The abysmal water seemed endless and full of unknown terrors.

“Sue!”

His shout brought her back, and she tugged at her seat belt.  Her fingers fumbled the latch open with a click.  Sue took a deep breath and crawled into the murky water that lay beneath her.  John followed with a whimper, which he was relieved that she hadn’t heard.

They stood by the road, clothes dripping.  Her arm bore a few scratches, but other than that, Sue wasn’t hurt.  Aside from the cut on his forehead, John wasn’t bleeding.  No serious damage could be seen, although Sue worried about the bump on John’s head.

“Let’s see if we can get the trunk open.  The first aid kit should be in there.”

John moved to the trunk, and with some difficulty, managed to open it.  The kit had stayed together, and they patched their woundss.  John grabbed the tool kit and took out a flashlight, and a folding knife with a four-inch blade.

John took out his phone, but there was no signal.  Sue’s phone wouldn’t come on.  “Damn, that’s weird.  The compass keeps spinning around.”  He put the phone back into his pocket.

Sue shivered.  “How cold is it supposed to get tonight?”

“Low thirties.  Let’s change into something dry.”

They got their suitcases out of the trunk.  Sue looked up and down the road before disrobing.  John gave a snort of derision at her modesty.  He stripped completely nude, toweled off, then dressed.  He handed her the towel, smirking at how Sue danced in the cold to keep warm.

Teeth chattering, Sue toweled off quickly, and put on fresh clothes.  She looked down the road.

“Any idea how far it is through the swamp?” she asked.

He shrugged.  “Hard to say.  I think we had another hour’s drive before anything resembling civilization.”

“How far back was the last house?”

“At least an hour.”

“So what do we do?” Panic crept into Sue’s voice.

“Someone’s bound to drive by sooner or later.  Let’s go ahead and start walking up the road and we’ll stop the first car we see.”

“What if no one drives through?”

John fought the irritation rising in him.  “Then we walk until we find a store or something.  Stop whining.”

They set out down the road, the flashlight bobbing along the path.  Sue wrapped her arms around herself.  Even with dry clothes, the wind whipped through them.  John tried to look unaffected by the cold, but he clenched his teeth to prevent them from chattering.  His hand gripped the knife in his pocket. He stroked the spine of the blade with his thumb, the hard steel comforting him.

An hour later, they hadn’t seen a single car, nor had they seen a single building.

“Maybe we should go back to that turn-off and see if there is anything down there,” Sue suggested.

“It’s at least twenty minutes back, and I don’t want to leave the main road.  Something will turn up soon.”

“But we don’t know that!  You wanted to try the short-cut that you found on the GPS.  Neither of us have ever been here before.”

“For Christ’s sake, Sue,” he rubbed his head.  “I can’t take this.  I have a headache, and your pissing and moaning isn’t helping!”

Sue resumed her silence, and they trudged on.  John’s head got worse.  The steps he took were more uneven as they went on.

“Sweetie, we should probably stop, you aren’t looking so good.”

“I’ll be fine without your constant nagging.  I just need some food, maybe a beer.  Look!”

He shouted and pointed the flashlight into the swamp.  There, over the water, was a light, bouncing over the ground.  It looked like lantern.

“Come on, let’s go!”

“John, you must be crazy!”

“Crazy about getting out of this stupid swamp and getting some help, yeah.”

“He could be a serial killer!”

“Relax, I can handle it,” he patted the pocket where the knife was.  “Come on!”

Without waiting for her, he shined the flashlight on the ground and found a dry patch.  Sue followed him as he slowly picked his way through the brush.

“John, we’re never going to get through this.”

“This is the first sign of life that we have seen.  They must see us because they’re signaling to us.  Come on.”

They pressed on as best they could.  Sue’s jeans got snagged on brambles that tore through to her skin, like the forest was reaching out fingers to snare her.  The further they went in, the more that she felt like they would never get out.

John grunted as his toe hit a root.  “Jeez, he keeps moving back with that light.  I guess he’s leading us to his house.”

“Who could possibly live out here?  There’s no road!”

“There’s probably a back road that connects to a highway.”

Slow as they were moving, they still made progress, but the light stayed ahead.  The brush continued to harass them, as though it was warning them back.  Sue couldn’t tell how far they had gone, or for how long.

“Hold on!” John shouted.  “We’re coming, stop, ow!  Stop moving away!”

He increased his speed, and so did the lantern.  Sue tried desperately to keep up.  His breath came in heavier drags.  Sue was falling behind him, but could still see his flashlight bouncing and the lantern bobbing.

“John, wait!”  She couldn’t tell if he ignored her or couldn’t hear her, but didn’t even break his stride.

Suddenly, Sue crashed into John.  He had stopped in a clearing and was looking around.  He whipped around and yelped, as though he hadn’t known she was following him.  His sudden jolt knocked her over, and he shined the flashlight into her face while she was on the ground.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?”

“You just stopped!  What happened?  Where are they?”

“I…don’t know.  I must have lost him when you bumped into me.  Why didn’t you look where you were going, stupid?”

“I can’t see anything!  You have the flashlight and you nearly left me behind.  I’m sorry,” she said in a hurt voice.

The light they had followed was gone.  The stars and a full moon made the clearing visible.  There was no sign that anyone had been there.  John shined his light on the ground.  No footprints.  The clearing turned into a meadow with clusters of trees.

Sue shivered.  “What do we do now?”

“We go back, what the hell else do we do?”

“John, we barely made it through there once, and we have no way to tell which way we came.”

He pointed back into the woods.  “We walked straight the whole way, it was only about ten minutes.  We walk back, get on the road and keep going.  Come on, before it really gets cold.”

Sue followed him into the brush.  She wondered why she accepted his proposal, then she remembered all the people cheering at the Kisscam.  You can’t say no in front of thousands of people.  She was positive that had been his plan all along.

Her ears perked at the sound of a soft voice nearby.  She tried to listen to it over the cracking of debris under their feet.  Sue couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like her mother.

The quiet is getting to me, she thought.  It’s just the wind.

“Never listened to me either.”

She spun around, that time the voice was clear.  Almost as if it was in her ear.

“Is someone there?” she said, her voice rasping out.

“He’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Her hands clamped over her ears.  The voice sounded like it was still beside her.

“You’d just throw it away, because you can’t shape up for him.  That’s how you’ve always been.  Stubborn.  Useless.”

“Stop it!” she cried.

“What the hell are you yelling about?”

She looked at John, who was standing with the flashlight pointed at her.  He sounded exasperated.

“You didn’t hear that?  That voice?”

“There’s no fucking voice, Sue, or I would ask it how to get out of this fucking swamp!  I wish that there was a voice, but the only voice out here is your pathetic whimpering!”

She tried to cover up the sob that slipped out of her mouth.

John’s tone softened, barely.  “Come on.  We’ll make it back.”  He walked off without offering her a hand.

John went ahead, grumbling to himself.  “Oughta just leave her here.  Stupid bitch is useless.”

“You were the idiot driving.”

He spun around and pointed the flashlight at Sue.  “What the hell did you say?”

She looked at him wide-eyed.  “What?  Nothing.”

“That’s just cute.  Get cheeky, since you can’t be any fucking help.”

“John, I didn’t say anything!  What did you hear?”

She looked genuinely shocked at his reaction, which did nothing to make him feel better.  “Nothing, just shut up and come on.”

They continued, and Sue found the idea of being on a man-made path comforting.  Her heart lightened, and she moved faster, keeping up with John.

They were deposited into a clearing.  John’s curse echoed off the trees as Sue looked around.

“This is the same clearing that we were in a moment ago!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, it can’t be.”

“It is, look!”

His eyes followed where she pointed.  Already, in the mud, were their tracks from when they had arrived before.

“This isn’t happening.  We went back!”

Sue could see his eyes in the moonlight, and his look frightened her.  He was repeating, “we went back,” softly to himself.  She was afraid to say anything, just watched him as he looked around.  Suddenly, she realized that night air had gone eerily silent the moment they left the road.

“John, the crickets are gone.”

“Oh, big fucking deal!” he shouted, rounding on her.  “We’re, lost in fucking nowhere, and you’re worried about fucking bugs!  God damn, you are stupid, woman.”

That was the last straw.  “Fuck you.”

His expression turned dark.  “What did you just say?”

“You heard me, you bastard.  You always want to cut me down!  When we get home, you can choke on your ring.  I’m not marrying some pathetic-”

Something broke in John, too.  “Pathetic?” he said through gritted teeth.  “Pathetic?  I’ve been there for you when you were down more times than I can even count.  You think I cut you down?  I raised you up, you fucking cow!”

“You really are a pathetic, little man.  You can have your ring right now!” she screamed at him as she stripped it off her finger and threw it at him.

The ring bounced off his chest and he caught it

“Fine, let’s see how well you do without me.  Good luck not getting raped and murdered out here, you dumb bitch.”  John pocketed the ring and strode off.

“You can’t just leave me out here!  You have the only flashlight!”

“You should have thought of that before you went after my nuts.”

“Come on, we’ll walk back to the road.”  

Lights popped into her vision when he backhanded her.

“Don’t follow me, you little whore.  If I see you, I’ll kill you.”

Sue stood dumbfounded as the sting in her cheek subsided.  He had never hit her before.  It was like he was some other person, some monster, that she had never known until now.  A monster with the only flashlight.

 

John felt a small amount of satisfaction from leaving Sue whining in the dark.  Her biggest mistake was not appreciating him.  Well, she’d appreciate him now.

She was as good as dead out here, and good riddance.  He would get home, play the bereaved fiancé, then he would be free to find someone else, and give her the ring instead, someone who appreciated what a solid man he was.

The ring!

Shit, if they found her dead and he had the ring, it would look like he killed her.  He couldn’t leave her behind.  He had to find her and make up long enough to get them out of the swamp.  Grimacing and frustrated, he set off to find her before she did something stupid.

 

Sue wiped the tears from her eyes.  She had never felt so alone before.  Abandoned and afraid, she fought the despair that threatened to paralyze her.

“Oh, hell,” she sighed.  “I’m scared.”

“You should be.”

She jumped and nearly fell down again.  A woman stood in front of her.

“Mom!” she cried out.  “Oh, thank god!  How did you get here?  Please, you have to help me get out of here.  John’s gone crazy.”  She ran to embrace her mother.

The second slap made her spin.  “You ingrate!  For years I’ve watched you screw up, and now you’re going to die, all because you didn’t listen to someone who knew better than you!”

Sue looked up, but her mother was gone.  Her mind must be playing tricks on her.  But her cheek still throbbed.

  She had to find a way out.  If only she could stop her knees from shaking and take that first step.

 

John hoped Sue was where he had left her.  Dumb bitch would probably try to find her way out of the damn swamp by herself.  

“Where are you going, John?”

He turned around at Sue’s voice.  “What the hell are you doing there?  I was just looking for you.”

“And I had to find you, because you can’t handle anything by yourself.  Can you even wonder why I wouldn’t want to marry a little boy like you?”

He stopped, stunned by her words.

“We can talk about your attitude when we get to the road.  Come on, let’s go.”

She laughed.  “I’ll find my own way.  I’m leaving you out here.  You’re the one who’s lost.  Like you’ve always been.”

He blinked.  And she was gone.

How dare she talk to him that way?

“I’ll find you, you bitch.”

 

“I’m never going to find my way out of here,” she thought.

The woods had not looked so intimidating before.  Maybe it was the company of another human being, even John, that had made it less frightening.  Now, lost and alone, Sue felt despair creeping up in her.  The brambles tore at her, but she didn’t even notice anymore.  She was focused on finding the road, but she felt like she was just walking in circles through the trees.

“Don’t panic, Sue.  Don’t panic.  The worst that will happen is that you find the road in the morning, and then get picked up by some random driver…who hopefully isn’t a psychopath.  Oh God, I’m going to die out here.”

Suddenly, she heard a laugh, a high-pitched, chattering laugh.  Dismissing it as her imagination, she moved on, but she heard it again, closer this time.

“John?  Is that you?” she called at the trees, but all that answered was the laughter.  

“That’s not funny.  Who’s there?”

She felt something brush at her skin, and she gasped and turned towards it.  She felt it again at her back, and spun.  It brushed her again, this time, it felt like a hand on her shoulder, and she cried out.  It was as though the darkness was alive and mocking her.

“Stop it!  Stop it!” she sank to the forest floor.  The whispers became clearer.

“All alone,” the darkness said.

She put her hands over her ears, but that only made the laughter louder.

“You’re here forever.”

She sobbed as the words penetrated her thoughts.

“Here with us!”

“Shut up!” she cried.

She closed her eyes as tight as she could and screamed to drown out the voices.  When her lungs were empty, she fell to the ground and cried into the leaves.  She heard one last, tiny whisper.

“No escape!”  It trailed off with a giggle.

 

“Shit,” John said as he turned towards the scream.

He hoped she was just overreacting, like she always did, but he tried harder to find her.

“Sue!” he shouted.  “Sue, where are you?”

“Here!” he heard her from his right.  He turned to run towards the voice.  

“No, here!”

He spun around as her voice came from his back now, a malicious giggle at the end.

“Here I am, lover!”

He turned around again, but he couldn’t see her.  “Dammit, this isn’t funny!  Where are you?”

His whole body tingled as he felt breath in his ear, “Right here, baby!”

John threw his arm around in a hook, but his fist connected with the air.  His ear still tingled.  He tried to get his breath to slow down, but it was impossible.

“Calm down, John.  You’re in control.  She’s fucking with you, is all.  Just fucking with you, but you won’t let her.”  Determination solidified on his face.  “You’re in control, and you will show everyone. You’re the man, John.  You’re the fucking man.”

As he started to move again, his thoughts were interrupted by her voice.  “You going my way, cutie?” Sue stood right next to him, a mirthful smirk on her face.

He gave a start and looked at her.  He remembered that he needed to leave here with her thinking that everything was forgiven, so he managed a smile.  “Oh, baby, there you are!  I heard you scream.  Are you alright?”

“I’m better than ever!” she said, her voice sultry.  She walked towards him, her hips swaying seductively.

“What, um, what makes you say that?” he said, puzzled.

“Oh sweetie,” she purred, one hand coming to his cheek.  “I found someone out here.”  He stared at her, all response completely lost to him.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he said.

“I let the dark in.  It’s alive out here.”

“Sue, you’ve gone nuts.”

“No, baby,” her finger touched his lips and stroked them softly.  He quivered with desire, which warred with confusion and rage.  “You feel it, too.  The dark led us out here.  It’s lonely, baby, just like me.”  Her finger trailed down his torso, to his belt and below.  His eyes bulged and he gasped.

“What are you doing?” he said, warily.  She was never the type to be flirtatious or seductive.  Was she capable of this kind of trick?

All women are, he thought.

“I’m trying to help you, John.  We don’t have to be lost out here.  The dark can take care of us.”

The smile playing on her lips pissed him off more than the words.  “You’re not making any sense.  Stop trying to fuck with me and let’s get out of here.”

“We can’t, lover.  It won’t let us.”

“You think you’re going to keep me here?”

“Not me, lover.  The dark.”

“Stop saying that!” he shouted, rage grabbing him by the heart.  He lashed out with the flashlight and struck her in the temple.  Her head whipped back, and she toppled to the ground.

Lying in the brush, she still managed that infuriating smile.  “Is that it, lover?  I could barely feel it.”  Her tongue flicked the trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth.  “As usual.”

She began laughing.  Laughing at him.

The rage boiled.  His heart pounded in his chest like it wanted to get out.  His teeth ground together hard enough to crush bone.  “Shut the fuck up!”

She just looked at him and laughed.  He could feel her laugh all around him, running into his ears and down to his soul, tearing it like razors until the holes in him were filled with something else.

Something dark.

With a roar, he threw the flashlight aside and leapt on her.  His right fist came down on her face and he heard her jaw crack.  Still she laughed.  His left drilled into her eye socket, skin splitting, and slinging blood from her lips as her head whipped around.  Still she laughed.  He struck, again and again, her skin bruising and bleeding, her bones cracking.  Her hair whipped back and forth as her head slung around with each blow that crushed her face into something between meat and human.

And still, she laughed.

His thoughts didn’t collect into words.  The rage was its own language.  He couldn’t feel his knuckles as they cracked against her skull.  He felt her bones come apart.  The opening in her head oozed blood and gore, and still he struck.

And still she laughed.

“J-John?”

He heard the timid voice behind him, and whipped around.

 

Sue didn’t know what to think.

She heard the screams and grunts, and went to see if John was in trouble.  She was not expecting to see him hunched over a rotten log, beating it with his fists.

“John?”

He whipped around and looked at her with sheer madness in his eyes.  Spit frothed around his mouth, his knuckles were wet and dark.

“A-are you okay?  I heard you shouting and-”

He looked back at the log and looked back at her, confusion etched in his face.  He got up awkwardly and stumbled over to her, his hands reaching out to her.  She stepped back.

“Dead.  Why not…dead?  Kill you again…laugh at me, you bitch!  In fucking control…”

She turned and ran.  John had gone insane.  An odd thought popped into her head, unbidden.  Despite rejecting his proposal, she might spend the rest of her life with him anyway.  The idea nearly made the insane laughter in her mind boil out of her mouth.

 

John caught himself on a tree and stood up.  Why wouldn’t his head clear?  Thoughts felt like they were moving through tar.

He’d killed her.  Then she was standing there.  She laughed at him.  No one laughs at him.

“The dark.”

With those two syllables, it became clear.  He could kill her again.  The dark could give him all the Sues he could kill, forever.  This time, he could do it differently.

He pulled the knife from his pocket and opened it, the blade slipping in his blood-slick, trembling fingers.  He tested the edge against his thumb, and felt it slip into his flesh.  A dark bead pooled on his thumb. He stared into it.  He could feel himself sliding, falling into the dark as it filled him with a freedom he had never before experienced.  A freedom from hope, a freedom from consequence.  A freedom from humanity.

Fits of laughter shook his body.  The more that the darkness filled him, the more he laughed.  And with his knife out, he ran to find his love, his victim, and begin his new found life in a Heaven of ripping her flesh forever.

 

Sue slowed to a stop.  Fear and exertion had nearly drained her completely.  Somehow, she had to get away from the thing that John had become.  

The look in his eyes was totally animal, not a shred of human mercy at all.  She couldn’t run away from him while finding the road.  She was going to die here.

The realization did not horrify her as much as she thought it might.  She had been driven to the brink.  She had been brought all the way to zero.  Hunted, lost and desperate, she had nowhere to go but forward.

She heard him shouting her name as though he were calling a pet.

“Sue!  Here, baby!”

She moved away from his voice and took off her jacket, then threw it over a stump.  She picked up a branch and doubled back to a clump of bushes.  The anticipation of turning the hunt on the hunter thrilled her.  She could hear her heart pumping with the adrenaline coursing through her body.

Before long, he came into view, whistling.  Moonlight glinted off the blade of the knife he held.

“Come on, Sue.  Here, kitty, kitty!  Let’s get crazy and see where the night takes us!  You and me, what do you say?”

She saw him through the bush, his face obscured.  He movd towards the jacket, taking the bait.  With a shout of fury, she launched at him and swung for his head.  He turned, but not quickly enough.  The branch caught the side of his temple and he went sprawling.  The ground knocked the wind out of him, stars dancing in his eyes.  Still shouting, Sue brought the club down on him again, and he raised an arm to block it.  He cried out as it connected with his forearm, the crack announcing a fracture in the bone.  Her next swing caught him on the cheek.  He spat blood.

She came in for another swing, this time at his head, but he rolled away.  She toppled forward as he slashed her leg.

Sue fell to the ground with an agonized scream.  She crawled away from John, who was staggering to his feet, knife in hand.  He made a move towards her, but lurched to the right.

The pain of her injury was hard to ignore, but Sue made herself stand.  John had caught himself on a tree, and Sue launched at him and swung wildly, connecting with his shoulder.  As he fell, the knife came up and slashed under her arm.

It wasn’t deep, but her artery was cut.  She was losing blood fast.

John came at her again, but she side-stepped on her good leg, and struck again.  He crumpled to the ground.  With a wordless cry, she delivered a blow to his ribs.  Her vision became fuzzy.  She was bleeding out.  Tearing off her shirt, she bundled it up under her arm.  Clamping down helped staunch the flow, but she didn’t know how long it would take John to recover and attack again.  Her vision cleared, and the club slipped out of her hand as she limped away.

Her steps became shorter as the pain increased.  Each bounce made a little blood from her arm squirt out into the shirt.  Finally, she couldn’t run any more, and sank to her knees.

Half-conscious, she felt her senses slipping.  It was only a matter of time before she’d pass out.  She only hoped that she died of blood loss before John regained his senses and found her.

“He’s going to find me,” her voice came in a croak.  “He’s going to kill me.”

“No, Honey.  He won’t,” a man’s voice said soothingly.

She looked up and saw the moon was brighter than it had been all night.  His silhouette stood over her, and though she couldn’t see his face, she recognized the voice and the comfort of his presence.  But that was impossible.

“Uncle Pete?” she felt his strong fingers grip hers. “You…you died.”

“Everyone dies, but not everyone stays strong.  You held onto yourself.  I’m proud of you.  Come with us, Honey.  Come to the dark.  We have such wonderful things to show you.”

She couldn’t think anymore.  The hand that held hers was so warm and strong, she felt that it would never let her go.  It wasn’t the man who had comforted her as a child.  It was something else, something that could comfort her forever.  And she would be one with it.  One with the dark.

Her last breath came in a whisper that sounded very much like “yes.”

 

Carly drove the car down the foggy highway, faster than she should.  Beside her, John slept in his seat.  It had been a rough two years for him.

He was found dehydrated and raving in the woods and brought to the hospital.  When he recovered enough to tell what happened to himself and his fiance, he couldn’t remember anything.  Where she had gone, or how he had received his injuries, why he had her ring. After they searched the area, they found no trace of her body.  That was all that Carly knew, he wouldn’t talk about it.

He was haunted by nightmares that made him whimper.  He was so terrified of the dark, he slept with a nightlight.  Thankfully, his soul was finally on the way to recovery.

Carly had been a volunteer at the hospital through her church.  They hit it off.  When she stopped volunteering, she still came to visit him.  One thing led to another, and they began dating.

Now she was on the way to meet her future in-laws.

John stirred as they rounded a curve and grumbled.  He rubbed his eye and sat up in his seat. “Where are we?”

“The GPS found a shortcut, I thought I would take it.  We should be there soon after we get through this swamp.”

“Shortcut?” the word was barely out of his mouth when his face went pale.  “Oh God, no!  No!”

He began screaming hysterically and grabbing for the wheel.  Carly’s eyes went wide with fear as she fought to control the car.  When she looked back up, she screamed as well.

A woman in tattered, stained clothes was standing in the middle of the road, her tangled and matted hair over her face.  John’s fit became more intense as they came closer to hitting her.  Carly yanked the wheel to the left, and the car spun off the road and hit a tree.

Carly’s head impacted the steering wheel, and she lay there.  John’s vision swam, but he stayed awake.  He shrieked as he fumbled to get free.  Spilling out of the door, he scrambled to get up.  He ran down the road crying and shouting, “Please!  Oh God, please, someone help me!”

“Here, kitty, kitty!”

He turned towards the voice that he never expected to hear again, and fell back as he screamed. Crawling away on the road, he looked at the figure of Sue.  Her hair was snarled in swamp debris and her skin was lacerated from brambles.  Blood trickled down one arm, where he had stabbed her two years ago.

“No!” he screamed.  “No, it can’t be!  You’re dead!  You’re dead!  You’re dead!”

Her cracked lips parted in a smile that held all the cruelty in the world.  Her eyes menaced him.

“Everyone dies, John,” she said as she advanced, her hoarse voice clawing at his mind.  He scrambled back, gibbering.  “You only need to be afraid if you think you’ve done something bad.  Have you, John?”

Her fingertips touched his cheek.  He shrieked and curled into a ball.  “Shh, it’s okay.  It’s only Hell.  Come with me, Honey,” she extended her hand.  “I have such wonderful things to show you.”

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