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[TMG2] Secret – Victor Flavin

Secret

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I remember when I was younger. There I was, standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden. Forbidden by who? I didn’t know because no one had ever given me an instruction on this in my entire life. Somehow though, I knew that I shouldn’t.

I’d wrestled with this knowledge many times and I was familiar with the same crazy eight of dilemma, desire versus disappointment, self-actualisation against self-destruction. What should I do? What must I do? And more importantly what happens next.

I’d made it this far; clearing my schedule and taking the bus to this anonymous part of the city.  I didn’t believe that anyone followed me; I had made certain by making arbitrary turns and reversals of direction. Each time scanning to see if I recognised any face or if I could catch an observer in the act.

Eloise is my half-sister, but everyone thought she was my cousin. She was my mission, on this cold winters day. Our Mum and Dad had moved in with each other, me and my parent travelling the four miles from Curraheen, on towards the village and all that excitement. I got my own room in a massive house; it had a fantastically huge garden and a colour telly. What more could I want? I was 13 years old and living like a king. That’s when it struck, this ailment, Eloise.

I know she’s my half-sister, and at sixteen years old, she was quite sophisticated and mature. When I met her I saw that she was exactly what I had been missing all my life, and I hadn’t known it until we moved at the end of last summer.

Mum said “David, this is Eloise” just like that.

When I saw her for the first time I was dizzy and I’m sure my face reddened, it was fantastic, there was definitely music playing. I don’t think I said anything because Eloise smiled and hugged me and said “Oh, Hi David, we’re going to have so much fun!”

We were very close and in those first months as our parents explored their new marriage we spent a lot of time together: although that vision of heaven I had when we first met, that adrenaline rush of Nirvana was never quite equalled.

For comparison, I also glimpsed the depths of hell. One weekend when she went to a party with a boy from St Joseph’s and Dad said it was OK.

He even drove them about and picked her up afterwards. I didn’t eat all day, frantic with worry and sick with jealousy. Little wonder I didn’t speak when she came home, all buzzed with excitement from her date, I didn’t talk and was very possibly even rude to her.

This was why I was here, I would buy her a Valentine’s card and make plain my position on the matter. Everyone would realise how this was fated. Even if at first they were shocked, they would come round and be like ‘Oh well, that’s alright. David and Eloise will be great together.’

So, there I was outside Eason’s on O’Connell Street in Limerick, ready to buy my card. Walking into the shop I was filled with a sense of trepidation, it didn’t make me afraid exactly, it just filled me. Yes, I was anxious, nervous. There would be no going back. Clearly, I was taking monumental action in deciding that I would buy this valentines card. A greater action would be sending it to the object of my wishes, my love, my wonder, my heart, my soul. I asked the girl behind the counter where the Valentines section was and she just rolled her eyes, chewing gum and pointed behind me. Turning, I realised the world was filled with love, roses were rife, violets were too, there were millions of cards for you and for you. That was the problem.

Not one single card captured my feelings for Eloise.

There wasn’t a poem, a haiku, a picture or even a balloon that did justice to my eternal love.

I said as much to the guy that was filling shelves with overpriced, and to my eye, substandard teddy bears. It was important, to explain to him that the poetry was lacking.

“You could make a living doing that kind of thing.” He said.

His words reverberated in my head, I had never thought about what my love really meant until then.

This was a cathartic moment for me.

All of a sudden, it was not loves labour lost, I had another purpose. I would get my feelings out into the world. I would shout from the rooftops my brilliant, bright, all-consuming love for this other, this beacon of perfection.

It could be anonymous. None would understand and fewer still would approve, but at least the outpouring of sentiment my heart had made would not clog up my mind and senses; not to mention my geography homework book.  Also, on the plus side I imagined that I would get paid a lot of money for this life as a writer. It was certainly going to pay for me to move to another country. I would opt for somewhere a little more avant-garde than Ireland, The Netherlands perhaps, they would be more liberal about my relationship with Eloise as they celebrated the brilliance of the prose that I put forth. She and I would be able to live happily ever after.

I left the card shop and travelled home, determined. The next months were a whirl of duty and dreaming. School, homework, jobs around the house, trying to spend time with her before scurrying to my room to pen my literary love. I amassed quite a library of scribbles despite the fact that I discarded twice or even three times as much as I saved. I wasn’t writing all the time but I credit that activity with rescuing me from the worst excesses of the hormonal teenage male. Let’s just say I was a busy boy and leave it at that.

They were all the same I decided. Women that is, I had spent the earlier months honing my exposition of unrequited love, countless hours, writing and rewriting. Coded references to ‘E’ as I couldn’t risk a discovery of my secret. Although now I reflect on the prolific use of rhyming couplets and the word, ‘please’ appearing so often before or after my capital ‘E’, may have been a clue to an interested detective.

School that year had been full of talk about getting ready for next year. We would be heads down for Junior Cert exams. That made it hard to think things through and when all the girls in class started talking, I found myself fully distracted.

 Anyway, I digress, Eloise had been, quite literally, a bitch. She began shouting at me all the time and it didn’t make sense to me. She walked into my room one day and I wasn’t writing , as I’ve said , I was busy doing what boys do. I scrambled frantically for my self-respect. She saw what I was doing and I swear she smiled, she seemed to be thinking and she didn’t leave at once. Instead she kept looking at me until I hid my face, I just know she saw my geography book open on the desk. Eventually she left, saying it was a pity I was a boy and not a man.

After that she was always telling me to go away and demanding that the keyhole in the bathroom and bedroom doors be covered, for NO REASON, I heard Mum and Dad talking and Dad asking if Mum if she wanted him to have a word with me and Mum saying ‘No, I’m sure he’d die of embarrassment.’ It wasn’t entirely clear whether they thought that I was up to no good or not. It’s ridiculous being accused when no-ones actually seen you doing anything. I can remember feeling that I would be glad when she had done her Leaving Cert exams because the stress was clearly turning her paranoid.

On another day the whole family journeyed to Dublin to look at Trinity College because she would be going there in September, I was hollowed out inside and quite sick. She was kind to me that day and sweet as she ruffled my head, saying that I needed a break from her.

In July, our holidays were spent in Donegal and a rented house and the whole time Eloise didn’t ask me to do anything with her, instead she stayed in reading and wouldn’t even go on car trips when Mum & Dad asked. One day we strolled to the beach, and she insisted on sitting on the towel all day her face obscured by a big hat, sunglasses and a book. I still loved her and later, at the coffee shop on the coast road, I made a special effort and bought her a favourite treat which she didn’t bother to taste. It was a lemon sherbet ice cream that melted all over the counter.

Eloise left for University and life kept moving on and even I could feel the feel the intensity waning. She was at home at holidays and such but also often out and socialising with others. I followed Eloise to university but my college was in England and I remember one night being drunk and stoned and I told my story to two guys that shared the flat with me. They laughed and talked about me being on my knees to Eloise. I felt Damned by their careless mirth.

My parents’ marriage split when I was nineteen and away from home and after that Eloise and I never really saw much of each other, we send cards and make occasional calls and promises to visit with no intentions of doing so. We both have our own families and responsibilities that keep us busy. I heard that her diagnosis is now terminal and I cry about that and feel strongly that I love her. It’s still confusing to me whether it is a sibling love or unrequited first love. I cannot discuss it, I can’t face the possibility that my feeling is governed by base and illicit urges. To visit her now would be impossible, I couldn’t bear to look into her eyes and risk knowing the truth that she sees.

I don’t think about it, I have my life now.  Two people can keep a secret when one of them is dead. When Eloise leaves this time, my secret will be safe.

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[TMG2]Roanoke – Lisa Dabrowski

 

Roanoke

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The rugged cold terrain of Serbia held little comfort for Josif . He sewn together hides of animals to make a covering to try to keep the brutal winds from slicing him in two.  A roaring fire , and a pot with a fresh rabbit and a few root vegetables were stewing away as he sat there gazing up at the bright blue moon. Josif stirred his pot, his stomach growling, it had been days since his last meal. Food was scarce in the winter, and he was looking forward to his feast tonight.

Looking up from his stew, his ears picked up a crunching in the snow. A slight noise moving closer to him.  The noise grew louder, and stronger. WOLVES! A pack of wolves were now charging at him. In a matter of minutes his pot flew up in the air and was ravaged by the wolves.  They tore through his thick parka as if it were a baby’s blanket, shredding his skin, and leaving him to bleed out in the cold.

Josif lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness. During this time he had a vague recollection of a Hairy Behemoth carrying him to a cave.  He stayed there and slept for what seemed an eternity before waking up to a raven haired woman, wiping his forehead. Her eyes looked familiar to him, as if had met her in a dream.

“Rest,  you are safe here, “ she said in a loving voice before leaving him to join the others.

Josif drifted in and out of surreal dreams , he could not tell if they were really happening or just vivid dreams.  Looking down at his feet, only to find paws with claws that were covered with blood, Surveying his surroundings there were more like him, appearing to be beasts of the night with blood soaked teeth fresh from the kill. The body lay slain , shredded in a heap neath a tree.

He startled himself awake with a guttural Howl. The others looked at him and smiled.

“Yes, Brother, you are one of us now,” an older one said to him.

Josif didn’t know what to think. He felt a rush of adrenalin soaring through his veins, yet he was mortified at the thought he had done this to another human being. The taste of warm blood still fresh in his mouth only made him crave more. He was disgusted with himself.

The raven haired girl went over to Josif to calm him. “ Gather yourself. My name is Alana , and I am part of this Clan that works and hunts together for survival. I was the one who drew first blood from you, and could not stand to leave you there in the ice. A curse has been put upon our clan by a Gypsy Witch. When the Moon is full we turn  into beasts, half wolf, half man. The werewolf you have heard talk about. Our hunger is greatest during the Full Moon, though I will admit there are times when we do hunt for survival. We are gathering supplies to go to Romania to meet with Count Vladmir, who has also fallen victim to this curse. We have been turned into Creatures of the night. Hiding in plain sight, hoping to escape whatever trap the Gypsy Witch has dreamed up for us. Perhaps Count Vlad will have some advice for us. Regardless  it has become to dangerous for us to stay here. The townspeople hunt us on a daily basis , and our food supply grows short”

There were eight of them in their clan, They knew they had been turned into a mere pack of wolves, but as long as they kept their humanity they were going to refer to themselves as a Clan. They had sparse belongings to pack up for the journey. A lean-to made of animal hides, and a sack with a few cooking utensils and a couple of canteens . They were a rag tag bunch, but they clung together, for dear life.

Stash the leader warned them of the Gypsy Witch, and how she liked to make camp near the river. They decided to go west towards Romania, cutting through the forest. Their time would be cut in half, and their would be less chance of  coming across the witch. Josif could feel the blood begin to boil within his veins. The Moon was reaching her cycle. Alana and Stash watched him carefully, knowing that he had no control over his impulses yet.

“Look! It is Count Vladmir’s Castle!” Stash exclaimed pointing off in the distance, and not a moment too soon he thought to himself.

Trekking up the mountain to The Count’s Castle they could smell the distinctive stench of fresh kill. The closer they got to his castle the stronger the smell became. There were heads impaled om stakes in the front courtyard of the palace. {erhaps this was Count Vladmir’s idea of a Grotesque Garden. In any even it made them a bit nervous to come calling upon him for a favour.

Stash put his knuckles up to the door to knock, when the doors flew open. They were greeted by a pale man in his early thirties, with long flowing wavy chestnut hair. His eyes a mesmerizing hazel. “Come in dear Children of the night. I understand we share a common enemy. We have much to discuss, “ The Count said while motioning them in.

“The one they call the Queen of The Gypsies is in fact a Witch.  She placed a curse pon me after I rebuked the affections of her daughter.  This was once a Grande Kingdom. Great dignitaries came to visit from all of Eastern and Western  Countries. I had a loyal army, my people loved me, and the land was rich with crops. More important than anything else, I had a Queen who worshipped and adored me, and I her. The Curse of this Gypsy Witch has taken it all away from me!  I suspect she is also the one that has made you crave the flesh and blood just as I do.” The Count finished.

“She is the one. My father caught the Gypsy Witch’s Husband robbing our coin box from the sales of bread for the day. A fight ensued and my Mother was knocked to the ground where her head lay split wide open from a rock. Blind with anger after seeing my Mother’s life drain out of her, My Father choked the very life out of the Gypsy Witch’s Husband. It was then that she put the curse upon my family, “Stash replied.

“The heads on those stakes out front are of my soldiers who turned against me when the village came to burn me out. I unfortunately had to Impale most of the Villagers before they retreated. Word spread through the countryside like wildfire once my Beloved Wife had died , and I renounced God.  Something came over me in that moment, I now know it was the curse, and the I lunged for the throat of The Gypsy Witch’s Daughter who was laughing hysterically at my beautiful wife laying in a pool of blood, impaled from a cross that hung on the ceiling. I devoured the girl, ripping into her neck,  swallowing every last bit of blood I could drain from her. I was insatiable. Seems like a lifetime ago., “Count Vlad continued, “ You have come a long way, and I am sure you are famished. Tonight the moon will be full and waxing. I understand that you need to feed as well. I have no shortage of fresh meat. I have prisoners in the dungeon for your nourishment.”

True to his word Vlad took them down to his dungeon, where the prisoners were kept. Shackled to the wall were plump men, and gaunt men, at least a dozen or so. Enough for a feast. The wails and moans of others kept in cells down the dark corridor could also be heard. They were indeed famished. The sun began to set, and their beins began to crawl . The Moon in all her glory was rising in the dark sky. Their skin began to itch as the hair sprouted up their flesh. Bones could be heard cracking during the metamorphosis  from man to beast, Jaws extended, teeth like that of a wolf. Claws as sharp as razors. Let the Feast begin!

It was a feeding frenzy, prisoners being ripped down off the wall, shredded into bits, and consumed. Flesh devoured, Blood spraying about the dungeon creating a ghastly mess. They ate until they could not eat anymore, Bits of tattered flesh left clinging to bones scattered along the dungeon floor, The licked the blood up hungrily. They were insatiable.

Josif and Alana awoke naked in one another’s arms the next morning. Looking about, realizing what they had done, they held each other and made in love in a puddle of blood.  The moans and wails of the caged prisoners could be heard, in their shame they found solace within each other.

Count Vladmir provided them a warm bath and a fresh suit of clothing to wear after his man servant helped them clean away the debris from the night before.  Stash instructed hs clan to clean up after themselves so as not to leave a trail.

Johan , the man servant escorted them to dining hall of Count Vladmir. They were to discuss strategies over coffee.

“It is becoming too dangerous for our kind in this land, “ the Count began, “ I have arrange for Johan to travel by rail with me to France. I know the King there and he will aid me.  Count Dabrouski will also be leaving Black Square and acting as my mediator should the occasion arise. Count Dabrouski has once again found himself in a state of , shall we disfavour with his countrymen in Poland and needs to leave for awhile. He is also one of us. Immortal, drifting through the centuries. I feel it would be in your best interest if you  accompany me on my journey, and try to assemble a fresh start.”

Stash pondered the thought for a moment. The Count was right. They lived their lives in constant fear of getting caught, being hunted down like wild, soulless animals.  A change of scenery would do them some good.

Johan and Count Dabrouski  took turns caring for the Clan and Vladmir during the three week train ride. The Conductor and the Engineer had been handsomely rewarded to hear or see nothing during this trip. Two vagrants that had the misfortune of stowing away in a box car became dinner for both the  Count Vlad and The Clan when the Moon cycled full again, their carcasses, or should I say what was left of them being thrown from the train.

In France Count Dabouski made contact with  King Charles who promptly made living arrangements for Count Dabrouski in Paris.  Johan was to sttle everyone into the guest quarters in the rear of the Manor where they would live largely unassumed for the most part.  

Count Dabrouski was considered a dignitary from a foreign land, and thus was expected to hold formal gatherings and parties.  Occasionally special staff would be hired to help with these affairs. The Count being a wise and generous man, would allow the wait staff to consume a bit of brandy or wine, perhaps a bit that had been spiked with a sedative. Johan would then put them in the vegetable cellar until all of the guests had left and then he and Count Dabrouski would carry the bodies out to the Guest Quarters, where the Clan would eagerly be awaiting their feast.

Count Vladmir enjoyed strolling the streets of Paris , seducing young women, draining them in alleys, before going back to the Manor. Paris was lovely and so were the ladies. He was shocked that his libido had returned to him during this time. This move was just what he needed, yet he seemed to be craving more and more blood and lust, and could not separate one from the other.

Ladies were being urged not to walk the avenues and streets alone at night because there was a maniac on the loose attacking them for their virtue and then draining the blood from their bodies in a ghastly fashion. Word of this spread to Count Dabrouski, and he knew at once who was responsible for this recent string of murders. Count Vladmir could ruin it for not only himself, but The Clan and of course Count Dabrouski did not want to be involved in this scandal. He was in enough trouble back east right now. He must come up with a plan to send them somewhere else.

Count Dabrouski arranged for a cargo vessel to take Count Vladmir and The Clan to England, given enough gold, a Captain will do anything. Johan accompanied them, Count Vladmir was placed in a sealed coffin, and it was explained that he was being taken home to England to be buried.  The Clan were his servants that were going to work for his Nephew Johan.

Once in England  Count Vladmir and  Stash decided that they would part ways.  The Clan had a problems of their own. The sun was setting fast, and the Moon was to be full that night. They too felt that all too familiar craving coming upon them.  Trying to hide in the shipyards, their transformation began. The hair sprouting, breaking through with a painful itch. Bones disjointing, The jaws extending and their teeth pushing through like razors. All reasoning seemed to be gone, the need for flesh and blood was all consuming. Drunken sailors happened by. They were shredded to bits, razor sharp claws digging into the flesh, then chewing it off in a feeding frenzy as f they would never eat again. Blood spraying, growling, the clan fighting over every last drop.

They awoke in the morning in the hull of a ship. Obviously they had crawled in there to keep warm. Looking around, they found trunks, and put on dresses and suits. They could feel and hear the sound of the ocean.  Josif had once been a sailor. He could tell when they went top side by the direction of the wind and current that they were heading west. West? He needed to talk to someone to find out what kind of mess they had gotten themselves into.  

Dressed in the frocks and Sailor’s Uniforms the clan blended in with the others aboard the ship, By estimation nearly one hundred or so souls were on the vessel. They all seemed to be filled with anticipation of reaching this New Land across the ocean. They spoke of building a colony , a new civilization for the Motherland and claiming it for England.

The Clan had their usual problem, the moon was due to cycle. There was no escaping their curse.  Stash decided to see if he could negotiate a deal with the Captain, who had become fond of one of the females in their group, a red head  named Aileen. In exchange for Aileen, some of the passengers would be offered up to The Clan. The Captain and a few others would be given the opportunity to join The Clan as well. Their problem was solved and before they reached the coast of the New Land The Clan had grown from  eight members to twenty.

They were weary from travel but knew they must set up housing for the women. Josif learned that Alana was with child. Stash was overwhelmed with joy. They had lived for nearly a century now, and he believed that they had been cursed with sterility as well. He was going to be a Grandfather.

The celebration was short lived when a group pf indigenous peoples sprung forth on them screaming “WENDIGO! WENDIGO!” They were carrying sharp blades and throwing rocks, Clacking bones together and carrying torches. The Moon rose in the clear blue sky.  A few that were Native to the land chose to fight The Clan, all the while screaming “WENDINGO!” There was blood and flesh flying across the campfire , the stench billowing high in the clouds. Other Natives chose to run.

The next morning they began the clean up process, and finished building their homes. Alana was swollen with child and ready to give birth any day.They needed a name for their Colony, and Alana’s baby.  They chose Roanoke, and it became known as Roanke’s Colony.

The Clan survived off the Natives for many years until England decided to send another Boat over. They decided it was time to trek further east to see what the land held for them. They ended up settling in Bayou Country.  Josif and Alana were very comfortable raising their cub alongside the French. Roanoke would have the chance to grow up a refined lady.

The Captain and Aileen went their separate , always close to The Clan, just raising a Family while he and Josif ran a Shipping Company off the Gulf Coast with cash flow from their old frien Count Dabrousky who had given Stash a generous sum of mpney for keeping his immortality a secret.

Josif and Alana raised Roanoke in a fine Manor home safely tucked away in the bayous, and of course Grandpa Stash was there too. Roanoke went on for centuries without developing the curse of the Bloodlust. Her parents were relieved to say the very least.

Roanoke had a gift for writing. She could take words and spin them into gold. Her parents encouraged her creativity as most parents do, forgetting their lineage, and what could potentially occur should someone research her past.

Roanoke Dane wrote three Best Sellers write out of the gate. People loved her work and couldn’t get enough of it. They clamored for more. Reporters were calling her night and day trying to get an interview. She wanted to do an interview, although her parents strictly forbid it.  She felt trapped. She was over five hundred years old and her parents still treated her like a child. This was it, she called up the reporter in town from California and told him to come by alone that evening and he could get an exclusive interview, but only if he came alone.

Roanoke’s parents were going out with The Clan that night, so she knew that she would be home alone. She was nervous when she heard th knock on the door, then she opened it and there stood a short balding man with a notepad and a tape recorder. Not what she was expecting at all.  She invited him in.

She poured them a cup of coffee, and shook his hand before sitting on the setee in the parlour.

He sat down next to her and turned on his tape recorder.

“Miss Dane,  name is Alex and it is a pleasure to meet you. I am going to ask you a few questions that your fans are dying to get the answers to. Is that alright with you?” he asked.

“Well of course. That’s why we are here, and you may call me Roanoke.”she answered.

“Your name Roanoke, that is a very unusual name. Like the Lost Colony of Roanoke, “ He started.

“I never really thought about it. It’s just my name, “she shifted uncomfortably.

“ Your stories seem so vivid. It’s as if you have actually lived them or have known the characters in your book, “  He again pushed.

“I know them from my dreams, “she answered quickly.

“I have looked everywhere for your birth certificate and came up empty handed. How do you explain this?” He asked with a sneer on his face.

Something came over her. She felt her veins crawl, Hairs were sprouting, itching everywhere. Her body began to crackle as the bones morphed, Sje looked out the window at the full moon before her jaw line extended revealing her razor sharp teeth.

Alex tried to run, but she was fast,  lunging at his jugular, draining his life force. She began to shred the meat from his bones, savoring every bit of flesh. Ravenus, she left nothing but bones and hair.

When she came to the next morning, she played Alex’s tape back, and looked at his heap of bones and answered “That’s how I explain it, Motherfucker!”

 

 

 

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Eldritch Dreams – Brian Malachy Quinn

FinalContactV7
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Captain Jonathon Riesner reclined in his bio-chair, staring out the portal into the black seas of infinity – his head throbbed with what had become a never-ending headache. Three crewmembers had died mysteriously over the past five days. Officially, he reported the deaths back to Sector as accidents, but they were not. The crew was on edge. He had slept very little since the first death, tormented by a reoccurring nightmare and the feeling of extreme dread – and he feared it would only get worse. He was not the only one, the ship’s doctor had told him, when pressed that five of the remaining seven crewmembers had come to him complaining of trouble sleeping and seeking his help. The doctor was reticent to say any more when asked further questions, but there was something more to it – as the doctor himself was deteriorating with dark circles under his blood shot eyes and a nervous tic that drew up his mouth on the right side in a grimace, now occurring with greater frequency and severity.

They had only two of the bodies, Science Officer Varda Negrev had opened an air lock – what remained of him was somewhere out in space. Technician Lordis Mason had died of exsanguination, her throat torn out, apparently by her own hands because she was the only one in the pod at the time. Captured on security camera, Payload Specialist Jim Paulson had put a pneumatic driver in his right ear and turned it on. Lieutenant Souder was the only other person he had allowed to see it since he was concerned of the effect it would have on the rest of the crew if they saw it.

He turned on the com unit and made the end of day recording: “Outlander 3, Mission Gamma Circuit, Day 1423, Return to Earth. Fuel Cells at 48%, Food supplies for another 36 days. Three of four water recyclers functioning at optimal levels. At current capabilities should dock at outer Earth station Micron in 33 days. Nothing of significance to report. Captain Jonathon Riesner out.” The ship will make it back – If any of us survive, he thought.

He had taken a Somalune earlier in hopes it would help him sleep and he did feel drowsy. He reclined his chair fully, gave the audio command for the cabin lights to dim, and prayed that he would not dream. The white noise hum of the air recirculator helped him slow his breathing and heart rates to match it, his eyelids fluttered and he soon drifted off.

Great cyclopean cities of titan blocks with mile high monoliths piercing dark skies all dripping with green ooze, sinister with latent horror, something suggestive of ancient and profane cycles of life in which man’s world and his conceptions have no part. A sound reverberated in the distance: thump, thump … thump, thump … growing louder with each passing second – hideous wings flapping – It was coming!

His vital sensor system began its high piercing alarm waking him. It issued an audio warning:

Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 132 bpm”

He knew if he did not calm himself the cardiac pacemaker that had been implanted in him (as every crewmember had) would shock him to attempt to get back to appropriate levels. His hands were shaking and sweat was dripping from his face. The capacitors in the cardiac assist device, he knew were charging up – he had moments before he would feel the searing pain. If he could control his breathing, he might be able to get his heart rate down. He began breathing in, counting for five seconds, held his breath counting for eight seconds. Exhaled slowly counting for another eight seconds. Repeat.

Warning, Heart Rate at Dangerous Levels, 128 bpm”

It was coming down but not fast enough. Riesner placed three fingers of his right hand on the carotid artery on the right side of his neck and began a massaging motion stimulating the vagal nerve. He continued with the breathing exercises.

Warning, Heart Rate Elevated, 118 bpm”

The beeping alarm occurred less frequently – it was working. After about another minute his heart rate was within normal range and the audio signal stopped. He knew that the capacitors would harmlessly discharge.

He lay back and rubbed his eyes. It was the same dream every time he slept except that whatever approached got closer and closer. What was it?

He knew he would not sleep that night. Resigned, he sat up and went to the console, replaying the video that he had seen at least fifty times already. Payload Specialist Jim Paulson, “Pauly”, entered the pod, the camera in the corner looking down. His arms were jerking about his fingers as if some sort of fit of spasms flexing, bending, pointing making unrecognized gestures. He looked briefly up at the camera, his eyes wild, laughed shrilly and chanted: “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. Foam started pouring out of his mouth and he lowered his head. Looking up, he hurriedly went to the tool bench in which all the instruments were strapped down, picked a pneumatic driver, stuck the end of it in his right ear, turned it in and forced it in. Paulson began screaming, but continued to force the device in, blood and gray matter poured out between the shaft of the driver and his now enlarged ear canal. Finally, he jerked wildly and dropped to the ground – with enough damage to his brain done so that his autonomic system shut down, stopping his heart.

They had done analysis on the words and the language was unregistered in the computer. Also, they had interviewed every crewmember to see if anyone had noticed anything strange in the time leading up to the suicide. He had been the first, Lordis Mason killed herself two days later and two days after that Varda Negrev had decided to take a walk into the great unknown. Things had begun soon after they had gone through the wormhole.

Wormhole Gamma breached a tunnel to the Andromeda Galaxy. After the discovery of the element Prometheus on Saturn’s moon Titan, everything changed. The ore, a natural source of exotic baryons, resembled any ordinary ore in its inert form. However, once femto-refined it could stabilize wormholes, even artificial ones. With negative energy density, the exotic baryons could produce a locally mass-negative region of space-time, which allowed faster-than-light travel through the Casimir effect. Artificially produced wormholes were now possible with only an initial investment of energy.

The first manned ship had gone through Wormhole Alpha to the Crab Nebula just twenty-three years ago. The first ship to return to Earth through a wormhole occurred eleven years later with the crew alive. Currently, seven artificial wormholes existed within the Earth’s solar system for interstellar travel as formerly unreachable and sometimes even unknown areas of the universe now became accessible as space exploration consumed humanity. As space-time in the immediate galaxy began to resemble Swiss cheese, many urged caution in poking holes in the universe, as they believed that they were on the verge of some galactic cataclysm. However, the same wander lust that had brought man to new lands on Earth to explore and eventually populate the entire planet now propelled him to risk all to find new worlds overriding rational concerns and fears. The biggest fear – the wormholes can just as easily lead Whatever is out there to here – to Earth and the end of humanity.

An alert sounded and Lieutenant Souder spoke to him in his earpiece, “Captain, Come to engineering … IMMEDIATELY.” The last was in a panicked tone.

The Captain looked at his watch 3:15 AM Ship Time. Ship Time, based on an artificial 30-hour clock to help the crew maintain a regular schedule, established a sleep/wake cycle. Everyone except the duty officer should be in their quarters sleeping.

He left his quarters, hurried down the hallway past the other private quarters, half climbed down, half slid down the ladder to operations level, past the engine bay to engineering. There were two concerned crewmembers standing outside and the wall was in transparent mode so they could see everything. The door slid open and he went immediately to the control and set the wall to opaque.

Technician Tom Bailey had Doctor Kendra’s arms pinned behind his back. The ship’s doctor was thrashing about, his face red, spittle dripping from his mouth yelling, “We can’t bring It back with us!”

Lieutenant Souder was standing to the side, wringing her hands.

What’s going on?”

He was trying to sabotage the ship.” The Lieutenant said not believing her own words.

How?”

He was attempting to close the friction valve in the oxygen exchanger.”

Why?” Riesner moved closer to the two struggling figures. If the friction valve closed the oxygen flow could have ignited in the feed line – fire would have consumed everything and everyone in the ship within seconds.

Why?” the Captain asked again.

The doctor briefly made eye contact and Riesner’s blood froze – there was a look of shear madness in them.

Why?” Riesner asked this time more forcefully.

We can’t bring It back with us!” The doctor shook his head.

Bring what back?” The Captain asked fearing the answer.

Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal” the doctor said.

What does that mean?”

The doctor shook his head, distraught; eyes closed tightly, “Those are the words I hear in my head.” He stated softly.

Can I trust you if we release you?”

Cannot bring It back with us!” the doctor repeated.

Let’s get him back to his quarters.” The Captain said. “Lieutenant you had medic training can you give him a sedative?”

Yes, but we should keep him under watch.”

Yes of course.”

Bailey frog marched the doctor back to his quarters. With the help of the Captain, he placed him on the bed and the Lieutenant gave him an infusion of sedation. The doctor struggled less and less and lay quietly on the bed. The Captain went to the desk. He was stunned at what he saw. The doctor in his spare time liked sketching and painting watercolors. He had beautiful landscapes taped to his walls of idyllic places on Earth but what he saw on the desk was far from beautiful. It was quite alarmingly hideous – It was a watercolor of some foul creature. It was a white polypus thing with red luminous eyes. It could have been part octopus, part mythological dragon and part human. Tentacles hung from the head and it had a scaly grotesque body. Wings spanned out from the back and dramatic claws on hind and front legs. Riesner’s heart skipped a beat – It was what was in his dream, what he never saw but was coming. He knew It was! Riesner rubbed his head.

What is it?” the Lieutenant asked looking over his shoulder.

Have you had any dreams? Strange dreams?” The Captain asked not making eye contact.

There was a pause. “Yes, but …” and her voice trailed off.

Tell me about them.”

They are just dreams.”

I will tell you about mine.” And he told her about the alien cityscape, the approaching Thing, and the overall sense of dread.

He turned and locked his gaze on hers. She looked down.

Well …?”

Dreams are only random firings of neurons based on memories and influenced by imagination, they are …”

Are your dreams similar?”

She swallowed deeply, “… yes …”

Riesner took the watercolor sketch and went to the doctor lying in his bed. Bailey had brought a chair over and sat vigilant. The doctor’s eyes though glassy now because of the drugs still had a look of panic in them. His body lay listless.

What is this?” the Captain asked the supine doctor showing him the art. The doctor looked away.

You are a man of science and the sanest person I know, least you were.” The Captain said. When the doctor did not reply the Captain moved closer to him and so that only the two of them could hear, “Tell me John what is this? If the ship and crew are in danger I must know.”

The doctor closed his eyes and the Captain thought he was not going to say anything, then he did,” Cthulhu that is the name associated with It. You would think that It is only someone with a diseased malignant imagination could conceive. It is of eldritch origins – older than humanity. The others – they all have dreams of it. The city under the water, R’lyeh, will rise up and bring a rule of tyranny of madness upon the Earth. It would one day return to Earth when the stars aligned but the wormhole – it created a way for It to return, a path for madness to descend to consume all.”

How do you know all of this?” The Captain asked, wanting to doubt the doctor’s sanity but somewhere deep inside knew that he was right.

It communicates through thought, through space. It will enslave the soul of humanity if we do not stop it. “The doctor stopped and Reisner thought he was finished but continued, “I thought at first it was mass hysteria – a mass hallucination, But … “and the doctor shrugged his shoulders, “the madness is real, all the suicides – they are the end result.”

The captain patted the doctor on the chest, “Rest.”

The doctor was not done, “I was mistaken, blowing up the ship will not stop It – we must destroy the wormhole and Its path! “

Ok, Ok.” Riesner stood and spoke quietly to the Lieutenant, “Put a block on engineering so that only you and I can gain entrance.”

The Lieutenant nodded her head.

To Bailey he said, “Stay here and watch over him.”

Upon exiting the doctor’s private quarters, he met the rest of the crew.

What’s going on?”

“What’s wrong with the doctor?”

Bombarded with questions, he could no longer hide it from the rest of them, they knew something was wrong, but he needed time to think. “The Doctor is not feeling well. Go back to your rooms and get some rest. We will have a meeting at 8:00 in the galley.” He left and went to his room.

He began pacing.

This is all madness. He thought.

But, it is affecting the entire crew.

What if what the doctor said is true?

He unconsciously went to the overhead compartment above his bed, removed the chain around his neck with the key and took down the bottle – Glen Fiddich 100 year old single malt Scotch whiskey – it was almost empty, he had been going to it more and more lately. He reached for a glass, thought better of it and just began drinking directly from the bottle. He was so exhausted. After a half hour of pacing, he lay on his bed. Just a couple of minutes of rest – just close his eyes.

The greenish skyscrapers of non-Euclidean design reaching towards the poisonous sky. Pestiferous slime dripping from everything and the beating of wings: thump, thump, Thump, Thump, THump, Thump, THUmp, THUmp, THUMp, THUMp,…, No look away! THUMP, THUMP and IT was there before him, descending – the atrocity – the stealer of minds. Blotting out the sky, white phosphorescent slug like body, tentacles twitching about from the face, claws extended, the eyes – NO Do not look into the eyes! No too late! The searing red rending his soul!

Riesner woke with a start. He knew what he must do. As he strode down the hallway, he heard screams and sound of anguish coming from the other quarters. Though concerned he was undeterred from his mission. He went directly to the bridge. Though it should not have been, it was empty. He sealed the door and went to the helm, changed course back to the wormhole.

Within moments, he received a communication from Sector, “Sector to Outlander 3, why have you changed course?”

“Must not allow It through.”

“Please Repeat.”

“Must not allow It through.”

“Outlander 3, do not understand, why have you changed course? This is not part of your mission.”

“My mission is to save humanity.”

Riesner turned off the com. Liuetenant Souder was at the bridge door pounding – it would not open its controls fused.

“Captain, what are you doing?”

“Must not let IT through.”

“Captain we will not have enough supplies if we do not dock at base Micron soon.”

“The rest of the crew, you see them, you hear them.”

“Yes but, it is just, …”

“No, It is real, IT IS COMING!”

After about an hour the Lieutenant stopped pounding on the door and pleading and began sobbing. By the time the ship reached the portal to the wormhole she had gone quiet then began chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. The Captain watched over this period as four of the seven remaining crewmembers’ system sensors, which shown on the control panel, flat lined.

The entrance was a glistening sphere showing distorted images of the Andromeda Galaxy on the other side. Upon entering, it was like traveling down the center of a wide tunnel, surrounded by concentric circularly distorted repeats of the same view. An Einstein Ring with the whole view of the Galaxy wrapped into a series of rings that got more and more closely packed together as the Captain looked to the left or right -consequences of general relativity and the curvature of warped space like light viewed from a curved lens. Riesner watched the wondrous view, momentarily forgetting why he was there. But images from the dreams shook him and he choked with the stench of a thousand open graves and the stark reality of what was at stake brought him back.

Riesner projected a hologram of his family into the bridge chamber. He began sobbing uncontrollably then closed his eyes, reached for the key board and began turning off safety overrides. He ejected positive mass-energy into the wormhole and right before it collapsed and became a black hole his eyes rolled back in his head and yelled “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”.

As the wormhole became a black hole, masses nearby such as three of the outer moons of Uranus disappeared and the planet wobbled then stabilized. In Whitechapel London a fifteen year old full of teenage angst began spray painting the word “Cthulhu” on the sides of buildings though he did not know what the word meant. In a SOHO studio a painter who was one of the highest paid living artists began painting figures of a great grotesque figure with octopus features on a dragon body though he knew not why. In a South American village, a primitive tribe began dancing wildly around a fire chanting “Ph’glui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagal”. In …

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Campfire Tales Double Feature!

Get ready for a double feature of unrelenting horror! Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book One and Book Two consist of demented tales carefully crafted by established authors and promising newcomers to create a blend that will haunt you well after your first read.

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Share the stories in Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book One and Two with others while gathered around a fire at night, and you’ll be remembered. Oh, you will be remembered as the one that sent chills down their spine, renewed the fear in their heart, and instilled an overwhelming sense of dread. While I recommend to share these tales over a fire, do not read alone in the dark.

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Dear reader, please take the cliche warning seriously and do not read in the dark. These stories contain intense images of graphic violence and disturbing content that is absolutely not intended for the weak.

Deadman’s Tome Campfire Tales Book One and Book Two is available on Amazon for Kindle and in print.

Get access to Campfire Tales and most Deadman’s Tome titles for only $2 by becoming a patron of the Deadman’s Tome Patreon page.

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Uxoricide by Bob McNeil

 

During a Thursday, around 3:43AM, a female and male sauntered towards the driveway of her Spanish Colonial-styled mansion. The woman, Neala Desdemona Johnson, was blonde, in her thirties. Her appearance was comparable to the models found in Playboy. Her male counterpart, Rod Silverman, who was younger than she, favored an actor, Johnny Depp. In an attempt to convey his libidinousness, the male stopped and put his arms around his girlfriend’s waist. This effort at warming the woman to the proposal of having sex worked. Under her red leather skirt, jacket and shoes, she felt a lot warmer. And Rod’s blue Italian suit felt tighter, much tighter.

Mansions were common to Rod Silverman. Being the son of an investment banker father and an art curator mother, he was used to wealth. Irrespective of his family’s moneyed existence, as a young, rising model, Rod was getting riches of his own. Among the profits of appearing in fashion magazines and going to trendy clubs was dating attractive, wealthy divorcees like Neala.

Over to the right of Neala and Rod, crouching behind some shrubbery, the forty-seven-year-old African-American former football star Orello Johnson was wearing a ninja outfit. Disguised by his black cotton Balaclava Ninja mask, anger monopolized his expression. Sans his gear, he had short dark coiled hair, straight features, oval eyes, somewhat narrow lips, broad shoulders, bronze skin and an Olympiad’s musculature. Certain women thought the man was handsome. His awareness of these females made his ego rival the Rungrado May Day Stadium for largest mass.

Unheard by anyone else, Orello whispered, “I should take the blood from her fake breasts, breasts that I bought for her. I am the man who inflated those trailer tires and parked them in my mansion.”

Upon amassing an armory of anger, Orello emerged and unsheathed his head.

“What, what, what drug made you come here, Orello?” Neala screamed. Cold, pale fear encased her from skeletal pillars to the flesh covering her. Letting her fingers unify into fists somehow made the woman resuscitate her composure. The girder for steadying her logic was in place as she continued speaking, “I thought the court explained your visitation rights to you. You can see our daughter and son on the weekends.”

Asleep and oblivious to the fight below, two olive-skinned children with sandy hair were in the right wing of the mansion. Their little bodies, which had the attributes from both parents, were content.

“Pray, puta, pray!” Orello’s reply had all the rancor of a Rottweiler before chewing on its prey.

“Hey, uh, uh, don’t call her that!” Rod tried to posture like a defensive lineman, but the boy knew that if a fight started, Orello would defeat him.

“Shut up, sex toy. Your trampish hole and I have some probing to do. Does this boy know that you drove him in my Charcoal Gray 1969 Ford Bronco? Does this boy know that you’re gonna screw him in the house that I pay mortgage on? Does this boy know that you spend my one hundred six thousand dollars every four weeks?”

“Yeah, I’m a trampish hole, but not your trampish hole anymore. You will never screw me anymore and that’s causing your rage. Well, you had this hole for a whole long time. Some days I was your pleasure and other days I was your opponent in a boxing ring. Did you feel like the Heavyweight Champion of the World after beating a woman, Orello? Other than bringing grief, what else are you going to give our relationship?”

Each word that she lunged turned into a shank stabbing Orello in the abdomen. Psychosomatic or real pain, either way, it hurt as if it were a weapon. Enraged by her, Orello wanted the discomfort of the scene to cease. Walking away was not enough, he wanted blood. Orello wanted to see the submission of defeated fighters. His psychopathic need, the desire to ingest violence, wanted a couple of servings.

Evil was never birthed out of nothingness. Orello’s family proved that aforementioned concept to be incontrovertible. All Johnson men were large. Ranging from the tall and muscular to the stout, they were huge. What they possessed in size, they lacked in compassion for women considerably smaller. Bullying diminutive females was yet another trait these men possessed. Johnson men were known for abusing women. The clan pounced on insecure women. A specific Johnson son named Orello saw his father abuse his mother. That fight left bruises upon his psyche. The bruises metastasized into a murderous adulthood.

With a quick motion, Orello stabbed Rod with his Bowie hunting knife. The blade rammed through the trachea of the Hollywood-model-handsome male. Gurgling sounds, instead of other pained utterances, came out of the victim. Akin to a cocaine high, Orello felt exhilarated.

Before she could run or scream, Orello grabbed Neala. Stifled by his left hand, her howl was hampered.

“As opposed to screaming, why don’t you say this? ‘For giving my boyfriend a means to meet God, thank you, Orello.’ You won’t repeat those words, will you? Even though you won’t praise the gift that my knife gave your man, I am going to give you the same prize. But, first, speak your last words, say them.”

“What will you do with our d–d-daughter and s-s-son? Don’t deny Sandy and Justice a relationship with their mother. Leave before the police arrive. I won’t tell them that you stabbed Rod. Orello, besides thinking about our babies, I am concerned about your other children from your first marriage. Consider Arnette and Jordan before you do another thing right now.”

“Arnette and Jordan are adults now. They hate you. Praise for killing you, not criticism, is what I will get from them. Frankly, as for our kids, being six and seven, they won’t remember you after a while.”

“Imagine our kids’ lives with you in prison then put the knife down.”

“You’re merely another wallet-sucking parasite.”

“Your cynicism will prevent you from hearing this, how-however, I did love you. I profited from your love, never the money. Baby, even after the abuse started, I thought my heart could love you so much that your evil would weaken and go away. No matter how much love I gave, you still found reasons to beat me. Honestly, if I didn’t divorce you, Orello, I would have killed you. Much as I desired your death, I didn’t try to kill you. Two things prevented me from murdering you: our children and my hope that our relationship would become something beautiful. Please, Big O, don’t kill any chance for our reconciliation.”

Believe it or not, Neala was expressing some truth, despite what Orello thought. For a corn-fed 19-year-old Indiana girl, armed with dreams of being a model, L.A. was like paradise. So, between waiting tables and auditioning, Neala thought success was a tip away. Some fifteen years ago, at The Datura Club, when she met Orello, her whole spirit knew they were going to be media town’s hottest twosome. And, yes, around the beginning of the relationship, she did love him.

Years later, she saw that love get tackled until it hurt.

A single portion of the plea was false as a faked orgasm and that was the part about any future reconciliation. Neala would have sooner French kissed Charles Manson than date or remarry Orello again.

A combination of cocaine, steroids, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and genetics prevented Orello from comprehending Neala’s statement. Exceeding all else, the weapon in his hand was able to communicate Orello’s response. Quicker than his mind’s ability to realize what he was doing, Orello’s arm swung as if it were a scythe mowing grass. Known for its sharpness, the metal went straight through the victim’s neck. There was no way of concealing the sanguinary act, Orello realized. Blood shot out and stretched to greet his clothes. The knife was the bartender and it was serving blood. Unsinewed as a dishrag, Neala fell and a plasma pool widened around her outstretched body.

Soon, though, once the satisfaction of killing his ex-wife dissipated, elation died. Not much later, it became dread and nausea. Fear’s cold hand grabbed the killer’s spinal column.

Leopard-legged and madness-motivated, Orello ran into the darkness. Among his goals, not getting caught for his monstrous act was paramount. Through side streets, the murderer made his way to his new home. About half a mile separated him from his desired sanctuary. Midway to his destination, Orello reminisced about being the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Considering that he was now much older and his stamina had changed since the mark he set during the 1973 season, the former running back was pleased with the amount of strength his legs still possessed.

Orello entered his residence which looked like a place that Elvis would have enjoyed calling home. Although it was large enough to accommodate two jumbo jets, Orello preferred his former home. Expensive divorce proceedings made him lose the other house to Neala.

Disrobing in the dark and thinking about all that took place, the murderer scrutinized his actions. Garments and the weapon went into a plastic bag. The evidence was going to be put in a place as unattainable as Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa and D.B. Cooper. Sneaker prints on the carpet were vacuumed away. Inspired by a childhood spent watching Basil Rathbone on television, Orello mused that he could stump Sherlock Holmes.

Later, in his bedroom, numerous glasses of screwdrivers with a little juice could not remove Orlello’s conscience. Emotion-sedating pills, the kind that could make an elephant sleep, were also unable to remove the disturbing murder from his dreams.

***

“Yes, I killed my wife! Yes, I killed my wife!” Orello cried out. Remorse was a touchdown vulture that stole his demeanor.

“From the first news report, I knew you stabbed that woman. Unfortunately, by a jury of your so-called peers, you were deemed innocent of that charge. Double Jeopardy prevents the judicial system from putting you in a court for that case ever again. This time, however, the State of Nevada will make these unrelated kidnapping and robbery charges kick your prick into the penal system for a long, long bid.”

Orello did not know who spoke to him. He opened his eyes and found out he was not in his home at all, but he was in a 6 by 8 grey prison cell, wearing blue inmate garb. The voice belonged to a Corrections Officer in a green uniform. A middle-aged, tall, muscular white male with short auburn hair was standing outside of the prison door. He was in front of the bars looking at Orello. There, on his cot, Orello realized what transpired.

“Whoa, I was having a real serious nightmare, man. Check it out, um, what I was yelling wasn’t true. I had nothing, nothing to do with Neala’s, you know, you know, murder.”

“Bad dreams aren’t all you have to worry about today, football hero. Your court case is being called again. Make sure you wash yourself well because the jury is going to screw you.” The guard walked away from Orello’s cell. A blitz of laughter struck the walls and bars of the building. Inspired by the officer expressing his appreciation for his own humor, co-workers and other inmates stormed with their chuckles. From afar, Orello could still hear the guard speaking. “Try to understand this, sports star, pretend today’s New Year’s Eve and you’re the only available toilet in Times Square. Justice is going to piss on you. Court TV will let everyone see you get wet. Disappointingly for all the abused women out there, you’re not going to get a lethal injection, or what I call the ‘Juice.’”

Denied comfort, a need to satirize another inmate’s sorrow was on par with escaping. Humor was a tunnel to a freer place. Everyone in that section of the prison enjoyed lampooning the once venerated football player. By laughing at Orello, these criminals and officers felt better about their parts in the melodrama.

Disorientation was exiting with its fog in tow. Memories of situations that brought Orello back into the judicial double arm bar pin maneuver were appearing. The criminal remembered that after fifteen years of freedom, he made a life-defeating mistake. In a Las Vegas’ Auction House, with a gun in his hand, Orello confronted men who allegedly stole some of his valuable possessions. Since he stopped the auction in an illegal manner, Orello was arrested. That June, he was charged with a load of felonies.

Imprisoned by the realization that his somniloquy confessed to a form of unlawfulness while facing another form, Orello sat up on his cot. Right then, his desire for cocaine made him imagine the taste of the white powder on his tongue.

That guard returned to the cell. For a while there Orello thought he was hallucinating, because it looked like Neala exited the Correctional Officer’s body the way steam would from soup. Previous to disappearing, the apparition, dressed in a miniskirt-short ivory-colored tunic, turned, smiled and laughed. It was the type of laughter that people would associate with villains. Hearing the manic cackle gave Orello the feeling icy stalactites were forming on his spine.

***

Entering that courtroom with an infamous murder case in his past did not make the accused criminal look nicer. There was a full meal of reasons to hate Orello Johnson. Each person in that room chewed on some reason or another. Nervous about the setting, the defendant fidgeted.

Compounded with all the legalities Orello had to battle, there was Neala’s ubiquitous being standing next to the jury box. Later, she was standing beside Judge Janis Copper. Other times Neala stood a foot away from the bailiff. No matter where the ghost stood, she laughed throughout the long trial.

“Can you hear and see her?” Orello whispered the query to Criminal Defense Attorney Harvard Moldova.

“Who?” The middle-aged white lawyer in the pinstriped suit replied. Indeed, Harvard did not know to whom Orello was referring. In addition, he wished for another client.

“Neala is standing over there and over there at the same time. Look over there to the right and left of the judge before Neala changes her position again,” Orello whispered.

“Are you trying to get an insanity plea?” Harvard asked. Nervously awaiting an answer, the brown-haired lawyer stared at a client who made him feel hatred.

“Insane, no, I am not insane. I was just saying that some of the women here look like Neala.” A plea bargain for Orello to stay in an asylum would separate him from his children and his assets. His plans would be tackled. Sure, seven hundred fifty milligrams of Depakote and about four hundred milligrams of Theophylline would make the prison bid bearable, but deadening his senses would prevent Orello from getting the ultimate touchdown–freedom.

“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

Nervous about the setting, Orello continued tapping his brown slippers and biting the cuticle of his thumb. He wanted supernatural strength so he could race to a time before meeting his wife. If time travel were possible, Orello thought, he would jettison back to a time when he was loved by the American media.

“Yes, your honor, we have.” Harder than an assassin’s demeanor was the expression on the young, pale woman as she spoke, “Guilty, your honor.” Neala exited the woman’s flesh triumphantly.

His countenance became melted chocolate. All the flesh on his face dangled in a mass of sadness. Muscles that once maintained his structure buckled. Orello collapsed. His body and existence met the floor.

“Now, you’re gonna rot,” Frank, the father of Rod Silverman, screamed.

Age and despondency tormented the Silvermans. Every day the two conditions stabbed another part of them. Frank’s green eyes appeared murkier and sadder since the murder trials. His square jaw, which once gave him an appearance of a strong leading man, now hung as if the floor beckoned it. Over the course of the trial, his dark and full collar-length hair became grey. In his case, it was not the natural aging process. The loss of his son siphoned all vivaciousness from his being. Frank, in his sixties, could have passed for a man ten to fifteen years older.

Another victim of this siphoning process was Rod’s mother, Cheryl. Called the Elizabeth Taylor of the Hamptons, Cheryl’s beauty was admired for many years. Losing her son and finding alcohol turned her cinematic sultriness into a network of decrepit wretchedness. Wrinkles, warts and a disposition that would befit Edward Albee’s Martha replaced the woman Frank married. Undeterred by their divorce after the murder of their son, they attended all of Orello’s trials together.

Right alongside the Silverman family was Neala’s older sister, Daphne Ensler. Both were stairstep children, a mere year separated them. There, at age forty-eight, the auburn-haired buxom woman would sell her eyes and arms to get her sister back. Loss was an exclusive concern for the senior sibling, especially now since the murder of a family member and the death of her parents, Lars and Janet. On the day Orello stabbed Neala, he ran the blade through that farm couple. A little less than two years passed and both the mother and father died of heart attacks. Daphne’s heart was dedicated to her son, twenty-year-old Christopher, her husband, Jack, the contractor, and her career as a writer. Daphne’s books on domestic violence were acclaimed.

United, the Silverman family and Daphne Ensler stood in clothes befitting a funeral—Orello’s funeral.

Turning towards Frank, Orello saw the ghost of Rod Silverman appear, wearing the same type of tunic that Neala had, but his covered both knees. The ghost wore the expression of an individual who wanted to slaughter his slayer. If Orello were beef, Rod would have served the slices to sewer rats.

Even scarier than Rod’s expression was the presence of a brown-haired angelic woman with white wings and a yellow robe. None of the other apparitions scared him as much as the presence of this ethereal female. Maybe she was the devil, Orello thought. Yet, unlike any other known description of the fallen angel, she was not what the ex-football player expected. Materializing when she wanted, the creature was instructing Neala. Towering above everyone in the courtroom, she glared at Orello. Perhaps she was awaiting her moment to kill, the ex-football player concluded.

***

Orello returned to inmates and corrections officers tormenting him with words that felt like a bump and run. Such discomfort that was created by critical quips was not quite as painful as the visions of Neala, though. Without a logical schedule, the slain woman often appeared in Orello’s cell and laughed. Sometimes she was accompanied by Rod and that winged figure. Under those aforesaid circumstances, Orello awaited his next court appearance in two months.

Had Orello known how strange it sounded to others outside of his cell, he would not have yelled at his ex-wife. Testimonials from convicts and corrections officers agreed on this observation: Orello argued with a woman who was unseen and unheard.

In particular, there was this outburst from Orello that an inmate remembered. An unnamed eavesdropper said Orello bellowed the following: “Neala, Neala, appearing just to disappear won’t help you win this game. Stay so I can explain things to you or hide like a scared girl. Either way, I am going to win. I am Orello Johnson. Don’t you understand that in 1966, when your little ass attended grade school, I rushed for 1,709 yards, got me 22 touchdowns and earned the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and the Walter Camp Award all during that same year? Hell, in the Rose Bowl, just three years later, I ran 171 yards. Plus, I got an 80-yard TD run. What’s a pale as bird poop phantom gonna do to this brother, huh?

“I played the pig on the gridiron. America cheered me. America revered me. The reverence was a treasure in my bank. My name became success. My persona became a multimillion dollar advertisement. Back when America transmitted racism through rabbit ears, I was on TV. In people’s homes, I was selling waste and they guzzled it like they liked it. Spread out on the big scene movie screen, I was a buffoon with the stadium-wide smile and audiences wanted more helpings of my trash.

“Soon I am going to play a role that’s better than being in a franchise. This role is going to give me the Oscar for bedding that Lady Justice Broad.”

“Next to ants, you’re a giant. Next to an ethical man, you’re dirt,” Neala stated before her figure materialized.

“What’s a ghost gonna do to this brick house, huh?”

“Yo, Orello, shut your hole or I’ll show ya who’s goin’ to knock your brick house down. Ya sound like you’re crazy talkin’ to yourself,” an unseen inmate yelled from another cell.

Not a soul but Orello could hear Neala speak. Realizing that his responses were what the inmates overheard, Orello imagined cement drying on his lips.

Left with nothing else to do after Neala disappeared, Orello tried to sleep, but even that provided torment. Since his incarceration for his wife’s murder, Orello had nightmares about castration, not just anybody’s castration—his castration. Nighttime hours, rather fittingly it seemed, were now reserved for new horrific scenarios to play in Orello’s mind. The drama that played throughout his nightmare showed Orello tied to a bed and all the women he abused cheered as Lorena Bobbitt and Neala cut off his genitalia with knives. Every night there was this sensation of metal slicing him.

Besides the vision of the mutilating duo, there was another sorority that prevented comfortable sleep. His need to nod was interrupted by seeing Velma Barfield putting a toxic chemical in his meals. A lot of dreams were spent being chased by ax-swinging Karla Faye Tucker. Sweat formed all over Orello after watching Betty Lou Beets and Aileen Wuornos shoot at him. Sleep was a murderess. Nauseated, nervous and pained, Orello rarely got more than three hours of sleep per day.

***

“The judge is getting ready for the game, Mr. Sports Hero.” Those words were the alarm clock and calendar that alerted Orello to the date and time of his court case. It was two months to the day since his last judicial ordeal.

Orello saw himself as the team captain standing in front of a blackboard, drawing diagrams and preparing to defeat the other team. Further contemplation on the subject of his pending court case made Orello come up with what he believed was a good game plan. He envisioned himself mesmerizing the judge. Based on all accounts, Orello was effective in getting field goals on females. Even going back to his youth, the opposite sex wanted the athletic male. Success increased the man’s appeal. Orello figured by letting his charm run with the ball, the female judge would personally lead him to the parking lot. During Orello’s shower and dressing ritual, the idea became erotic.

***

“Is there anything that your client would like to say before sentencing?” The forty-something-year-old judge asked. Her approach to the case was much like the ponytail holding her black hair—severe.

“Your honor, my client would like to make a statement.” Earlier Orello told his lawyer that he had some words to impart.

“You may proceed, Mr. Johnson.” Only Orello could hear Neala’s cackle.

“Ma’am, I’m a simple former athlete. There’s no law degree hanging on my wall at home. Ignorance is the reason why I decided to do an unlawful thing. Someone told me about an auction that was going to take place. Also, I heard that my stuff, stuff that was stolen from my home was going to be sold. Sure, now after learning about the law a little, I understand that I shouldn’t have gotten a gun to get my things. Nor should I have held the thieves against their will at the auction house. Emotions, such as anger and hate, inspired a reaction before I could think about the best action.” Midway to the end of his monologue, Orello thought he made the judge wet.

“Your honor, let me say this, I am sorry about my unlawful act. Certainly, you can understand that I was trying to regain my own possessions from some thieves. My approach, though a little too hardcore, was well-intentioned. Whether some would call me a criminal or a hero, all I wanted was my own stuff back.” Convinced that his monologue was working, Orello started to plan a release party, complete with strippers, hookers, celebrities, booze and drugs.

“This state was always my favorite. A lot of my football fans live right here in Nevada, and I have always been good to my fans. Nothing would ever make me do anything against this area.”

“Mr. Johnson, you have two minutes before sentencing.”

“O.K, try to get into my motivations and you’ll understand why I handled the situation the way I did. Thank you for allowing me to speak in this honorable courtroom.”

Talking got Orello out of myriad personal dilemmas in the past. As a result, he was convinced that his voice made eggs sizzle. Unless the judge was a blind and deaf lesbian, her body should be lava, Orello thought.

“Thank you again, your honor.”

“You are welcome. I hereby sentence you to thirty-four years.”

Nine years before the possibility of parole became a mantra in Orello’s head. Over again the sentence echoed. He had to serve all those years in state prison before being eligible for parole. The judge might as well have shot Orello. There was, of course, the possibility of an appeal. No matter the legal option, the process of fighting the judge’s decision would take something that Orello did not have—patience.

There, as per usual, Frank Silverman was in the audience taunting Orello with condemnation. Orello’s acquittal for the murder of Neala Desdemona Johnson and Rod Silverman was a dagger in Frank’s heart. Granted, the Civil Court passed a judgment against the former athlete for two wrongful deaths, but it could not make the Silverman’s pain of losing a son stop. $66.6 million dollars that the parents were supposed to receive

did not alleviate the lamentation either. Consistent excuses as to why the complete amount could not be paid pushed the blade further into Frank’s psyche.

Ritualistically, beside Frank, Cheryl and Daphne stood.

It was the civil case that forced Orello into questionable business choices. He made a porno film, wrote a book about his wife’s murder and did personal appearances, etc. The celebrity could not let people sack his fortune. So, desperation became his defensive line.

“The Devil is going to bake your hide,” The Silverman patriarch cried out.

Consistently absent, Orello’s four children saw no reason to attend any of the court proceedings. As far as they were concerned, after Orello was arrested, he died.

Anna Simpson, dissimilar to her children, watched all of Orello’s courtroom problems on TV. Wearing a red floral Muumuu, red processed hair in rollers, surrounded by cherry soda cans, barbeque potato chips and a remote control, her pudgy physique was

orgasmic while watching the defeat of her abusive ex-husband.

A Hispanic bailiff, who was about the size of a kickboxer, took Orello out of the courtroom. The bewildered criminal turned to Rod’s father and stared. That uncommunicative state was caused by the presence of three afterlife figures. Overhead, unseen by all except Orello, Neala, alongside some befeathered female and Rod, cheered repeatedly.

***

Once the case concluded and the lawyer told Orello they could appeal the decision, the cell seemed even smaller. Handicapping this jurisprudential game, Orello knew that no appeal would overturn his predicament.

Later that evening, psychotropic drugs were administered to help alleviate the sensation of cleats and knives piercing Orello’s brain and lower extremities. The pills were prescribed because it was deemed that he was suicidal.

Somewhere around twelve thirty A.M., his ex-wife returned. The abusive spouse knew that the woman who bore his child would trek his way once more. Orello wanted Neala to haunt him.

“Now I guess my sentence will be spent being haunted by you.”

“Why would I share another portion of my immortal life providing a source of escape from your loneliness? No, you’re going to detox from your favorite stimulant—attention. Get ready for withdrawals from the warm love of women, football fans and your children.”

“Please allow your spirit to forgive. Please give me that.”

“You’re right. I should give you certain things. Here’s the first thing I will give: information. Recent reports have proven that a woman is beaten every nine seconds. That calculation inspired me to give you a gift. Right at the point some malevolent man hurts a woman, you will feel the blows upon your body. Punches and slaps some unknown woman endures will affect your flesh. Why should women suffer unaccompanied by your presence? Aside from being suicidal, you will experience discomfort a prison doctor will believe is psychosomatic.”

“Your gene pool was as worthless as pigeon crap on a porch. Until I came into your soon-to-be-on-food-stamps life, you were a liability. How could you have such powers?”

“Try to work past your stupidity and listen. That night you stabbed the life out of me, I saw a Goddess.”

“Did you get high before coming here?” A titter accompanied the question.

“She called herself Nemesis. This Goddess and her minions hunt men like you.”

“What kind of weirdo name is Nem-ee-sis?”

Annoyed with the process of answering Orello, Neala’s eyebrows illustrated her anger before she continued speaking. “My wounded form, which you created, angered her. She said, ‘Get up, Gaelic girl. Your parents dubbed you a champion and a champion you will be.’ For my promise to become a fighter on the side of her legion, I was given abilities.

“Far from this dimension, in a stratospheric area reminiscent of ancient Greece, fifteen of my postmortal years were spent training. Taught by Nemesis and other ancient mystics, I learned about bilocation, dematerialization, levitation, metempsychosis, mesmerism, psychokinesis, radiesthesia, telepathy and a lot more. Thankfully, this ghost of an abused woman was given powers by those omnipotent sources. I was using those powers to get you in this prison.”

Binocular-eyed and confused, Orello stood and listened. Neala’s words were unexplored constellations. Lost in her utterances, Orello could not believe how much his

former wife had transformed. Besides the powers the creature gave her, Neala’s IQ increased. His former simple country girl morphed into some kind of Mensa member.

“Above all, being vengeful was not a simple lesson. My folks taught their belief in forgiveness. Unlearning that concept was the hardest.

“Rod wanted justice to come down on you with the force of a mudslide.

Repeated pleas on my part gave me the right to administer your sentence. Albeit simple, my first attempt at attacking you was by storing a meaty suggestion in your mind. Over and over, I repeated these words: ‘Take your gun and get what someone got from you.’ Easier than waving flesh in front of a piranha, you enjoyed the bait.”

“I’m sorry!”

“Ah, Orello, your anguish is the best dish for me.”

Coinciding with the final vowel, she disappeared in a way that would perplex Houdini. In her place appeared Rod Silverman and the other outer worldly lady.

Frustrated with the amount of time Neala used for her revenge, Rod’s interest was his family. Rod was also exasperated by Nemesis and her associates. He was mystified by these beings, living in levitating jewel-encrusted Grecian buildings. From their ancient ceremonial clothing to their arcane rituals that were on par with witchcraft, Rod disliked their oddness.

Instead of yelling at Orello, Rod wanted to punch him and watch his frame become bloody pieces of dismembered flesh. Almost Herculean impulse inhibitors suppressed Rod’s vengefulness. Incapable of expressing his rage, he let Nemesis speak.

“Orello, certain people say I am a demon and others call me a saviour. Neither description matters,” Nemesis stated in a synthesized and genderless voice. “What concerns my existence is seeing parasites like you suffer. All of my ethereal resources are dedicated to a single goal—the destruction of brutish beings. View your torment as you would a tragic play. Moreover, know that Neala and I will enjoy your every upcoming scene.”

Before Orello could respond, the figures disappeared. Defeated, he tried to understand his fate.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Orello yelled while feeling invisible fists pummel him. Doubling over as a result of the attacks, he felt bruises form. Again, being consistent with Neala’s plan, the protuberances were imperceptible to everyone else. “I’m sorry,” Orello screamed once more.

“Yeah, you’re sorry for being such a sorry has-been.” Approximating the style of a stand-up comedian, the guard paused for an audience reaction. Bolstered by the sound of inmates laughing at his put-down, the correction officer continued his critical jokes about Orello. “Don’t be sad, Superstar. You’ll have your football memories to enjoy tonight. The guard quipped outside of Orello’s cell. Laughter that was coming from all sides of the isolation ward became louder than the 1812 Overture. The guffawing made the sobs Orello emitted inaudible in the Lacrimae Rerum Criminal Compound in Nevada.

A prison that was normally known for misery was pleased about accommodating its newest inmate.

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A Deadman is Summoned!

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July 2008, a sinister collection of gruesome tales is released under the banner Demonic Tome. These stories were originally offered for free directly from a site that no longer exists. This issue was lost and forgotten, until it was discovered by a historian that wishes to be anonymous. This brave sole found the July 2008 edition of Demonic Tome, and with his help, we’ve revamped the issue.

Deadman’s Tome July 2008 edition is reformatted and improved so that it will read better on Kindle devices and smartphones (obviously with the kindle app).

Buy a copy today for .99c or tweet at MrDeadmanDT to get a free digital copy. It’s not about the money. It’s about sharing the content. And this issue has some very potent stories. One in particular is so brutal even I had to walk away for a bit.

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An Identity For Sam Piles by Spinster Eskie

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I take the bus every morning to work. I mow lawns. It’s not a bad gig. I don’t have to talk much to people when landscaping, which I like, cuz I don’t like to talk much. I keep a low profile. I go home. I microwave cheese on top of Doritos and I watch my favorite medieval fantasy shows on Netflix. Sometimes I check my phone, just to see if anyone has called. Nobody ever calls. My ma calls once every few months, but we don’t have much to say to each other. We haven’t had much to say to each other in ages. We used to talk all the time, when I was her little man and she’d lay in bed with me and sing me church songs and stroke my hair with her thin, feminine fingers. Dad was always out getting wasted, so I kept Ma company. We took care of each other. But those days were long gone. The only other person to call would be my lawyer, Jack, who at this point was my only friend. He was the only one left that gave a damn. I used to think he was in it for the money and the notoriety, and maybe that was true at first, but he once told me that my case was the most shocking and horrific he had ever worked on. He said that because of that he could never forget me. I was a part of him now and therefore he planned to do whatever it took to keep me safe. I owed Jack everything. Without him, I’d be a dead man. I know this. Every day I wonder if it’s the day I’m gonna die. On the bus. In line at the bank. I wonder if I’ve been discovered, and if some stranger is gonna take me out. And if they did, could I blame them? I’m the most hated man in the country. A demon. A monster. A cold-blooded killer. If someone were to enact vengeance they would probably have every right to do so. And they would be revered as a hero. My death would probably cause a mass celebration of triumphant joy. Ding dong the evil motherfucker’s dead. Good riddance.

My psychiatrist gets concerned when I talk this way, but I’m not an idiot. I know the truth about myself, about who I am and what I am. I know that my own ma can’t even look at me because I’m a disgrace to not only her, but the entirety of mankind. I know I don’t deserve to live, but I’m too much of a fucking coward to do the job myself. I thought about it a lot in juvie. I once tied all my boxer shorts together to make a noose. I managed to connect it around the ceiling pipes, but my dirtbag cellmate ratted me out before I had a chance to get it done. Truth is, I was planning on chickening out anyway. I’m afraid of Hell. I’m afraid of what awaits me.

“Do you believe you’re destined for Hell?” Dr. Cumtits asked me. Her real name, of course, is not Cumtits. It’s Cunitz, but when she crosses and recrosses her legs when asking me a straightforward question, all I really wanna do is cum on her tits.

“Where else would I belong?” I answered, still imagining pulling up her skirt and fucking her from behind over the armchair, but I quickly distracted myself from the image in my mind for fear that she could see it. Dr. Cunitz was not a woman I could have if I tried. She was married and all business, not easy like the guards I had in juvie. Cunitz found me sad, pitiful. She wanted to help me. She wanted to do her job, but I was damaged goods in her eyes, which I guess is better than being seen as the devil.

“I’m a psychiatrist, Sam, not a priest, so that’s really not something I can answer. I can tell you that I’ve seen you make a lot of progress since your release from the corrections facility. You have shown remorse. You have worked to get your life together. I don’t see a man that’s destined for Hell sitting in front of me. I see a man who is trying to be a good person.” A good person seemed far reaching and I wondered if even she knew that. Yeah, I had remorse. Not a day went by that I didn’t regret what I had done. Maybe if I hadn’t have been such a dumb, fucked up kid I could’ve been something. I liked mechanics. Maybe I could’ve been an engineer or a programmer. Maybe I wouldn’t be so damn lonely and miserable in my rats infested apartment where my only visitor is my parole officer. Maybe I could have a girlfriend. A wife. Kids.

I had a girlfriend briefly when I first got out. Her name was Billie and she had curly hair and brown eyes and brushed up against me as she displayed her tantalizing pool skills. She wasn’t bad, but I was much better, having learned from the best in juvie. Of course, I didn’t tell Billie that. She knew me as Mike Bryant, the name given to me by the state to protect my identity. Jack fought hard for this, for Mike. I was getting death threats in juvie before my release. I was told that if I ever showed my face in public again, I would be slaughtered. Ma had to move twice because they kept vandalizing her home. They called her “Rosemary” in the papers. The mother of Satan’s child. So the courts issued me a new name, complete with a license and a passport. Sam Piles was no more. Mike Bryant was now in his place. But I had to keep it a secret. From everyone. From my boss, Billie, anyone who wanted to befriend me. Only Jack and Dr. Cumtits still referred to me by my real name, and even then it felt like they were talking to the ghost of me. A faded copy of my former self.

So Billie and I got on okay. We fucked a lot. Snorted coke. Fucked some more, cooked for each other, watched Netflix, and fucked during the end credits. But it wasn’t just the fucking that I liked, although it was certainly a highlight. Billie made me feel like a person again. She made Mike feel a little more real and she gave me hope that there was a better life out there for me. That is until she started to get nosy. She’d ask about my parents, where I was from, where I went to school, what my childhood was like. All the questions the courts hadn’t planned for when they created Mike. I’d catch her snooping through my drawers and on my computer when curiosity got the best of her. I freaked out and pushed her and called her names for poking her nose where it didn’t belong. She cried and told me that she loved me and she didn’t want secrets between us. She wanted to marry me. She wanted children. Children. I wasn’t even allowed to be around children without someone from the courts monitoring. Who would show up at our wedding anyway? Jack? My parole officer? I doubt even Ma would make the effort to appear. But Billie kept pushing for the truth. She wanted to know who I was. She wanted us to be closer and she knew I was hiding something. So finally I felt like I had no choice but to tell her who I really was. I thought maybe if I did there’d be some release, like the confession of guilt. I thought the weight would be lifted and she’d love and accept me for being honest. I woke her up in the middle of the night, at a time when I had found the courage and if I didn’t do it then I’d never do it. “I’m not who you think I am,” I began and Billie smiled, perplexed, and caressed my arm.

“What are you talking about, Baby?”

“Mike Bryant isn’t my real name. I was given a new identity as protection. A lot of people would kill me if they knew where I was.”

“Kill you? What for?”

“Do you remember the papers ten years ago? The little girl that was abducted from her home and tortured?”

“Ten years ago I was busy being in and out of foster care,”

“You’d know the girl’s name. Chelsea Withers.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that story. Who can forget? Her face was everywhere when that happened. Terrible what they did to her!”

“I’m the kid that killed her.”

“What are you talking about, Baby?”

“I’m Sam Piles. When I was eleven, me and a guy named Travis Thatcher raped and murdered a little girl.” Billie stared at me in silence and then laughed, hoping I would laugh with her but I didn’t. I then saw fear wash over her face as she realized who she was in bed with. I went to hold her, but she pulled away and jumped out from under the covers to retrieve her clothes.

“I gotta go,” She abruptly said.

“Billie, are we gonna talk about this?”

“No, I don’t think so. I gotta go.” I tried to touch her once again, but she was cold and defensive. She got dressed and was out of my place at lightening speed. I tried to call her cell several times after that, but I got only her voicemail. Soon after, I found notes slipped under my door calling me a “baby killer” and a “psycho”. I knew I had to let Jack know. And so, Mike Bryant was erased from history and I was now Collin Bearse.

“Sam?” Dr. Cunitz had noticed I was shutting down, while talking about Billie. I didn’t like to talk about her. The bitch betrayed me. She had told me I could trust her with anything, and I believed her. But what did I expect? Love? Forgiveness? I barely received that from my own ma. Why would Billie be any different? Cunitz suggested I was seeking validation from Billie to fulfill my inner need to be forgiven by Chelsea’s mother. I told her that was ridiculous and I really didn’t care if that dumb bitch ever forgave me. She had gone on all these TV programs to protest me getting parole. She told the news that she hoped someone would do to me what I did to her daughter. Fuck her. I was quite aware that I would never have her forgiveness. But I admit, I became obsessed with the Withers family. I wasn’t allowed to go near them, but I researched them a lot on the internet. Lisa and Daniel Withers. They were once young, hippy, idealists. Very Christian, but the kind that actually helped people and followed the true teachings of Christ. Very much in love and full of light and goodness. Dan was an architect and Lisa was a pianist and a painter. Chelsea was their only child at the sweet, innocent age of five and they adored her and spoiled her like a princess. When Chelsea went missing Lisa could not accept that her child might be dead. She spoke of all the things she wanted for her daughter and that she knew one day her little girl would be back in her arms.

In court they had to hold her back from me as she cried and wailed and called me a fucking lunatic. Lisa started to drink and Daniel started to have affairs and they ended their marriage soon after Travis and I were sentenced. These days, Daniel is chairman of the Chelsea Foundation, which helps families who have been victims of sex-crimes. He is remarried and has two kids and he seems to be functioning rather well. Lisa, on the other hand, is still determined to ruin me. She remarried her lawyer, but they divorced fairly quickly. She does not have any more children and she still appears on TV sometimes just to condemn me. She was once an attractive woman with long blond hair, much like her daughter’s. Now she’s fat and gray and you can tell she’s not someone who sleeps a whole lot. I know this because I’m one of those people. I have been having consistent nightmares for eleven years and to even get an hour or two of sleep per night is a luxury.

“Sam?” Cunitz was still trying to get my attention. “Have you still been fantasizing about meeting up with Travis?”

“Sometimes, yeah.” I admitted with a shrug.

“What would you say to him if you could see him?”

“I don’t know. I’d probably ask him if he was able to sleep.”

“Do you think knowing that he had any guilt would help with your own anxieties?”

“Maybe,” I said, but what I wasn’t telling her is that I had already tried communicating with Travis against authority demands. I talked Jack into finding me Travis’ new alias. He was reluctant, of course, but Jack understood me. He understood that talking to Travis after all these years was something I had to do, so that I could rest just a little easier. Travis was the only other person out there that could relate to me. The only other person who knew what it was like to have this secret.

Travis was now Richard Klump and he lived only three towns away in a dump apartment much like mine. As I drove there, a million questions were on my mind. Are you sorry for what you did? How’d you know I had it in me? Do you ever think about doing it again? Do you still see her face in your dreams? I knocked on the door and he answered it only ajar. I instantly recognized him. He had a beard and a gut now, but his eyes were unmistakable, because they were so dark and daunting. “Travis,” I exhaled and he stared at me with astonishment. He knew who I was. I was sure of it. “I’m sorry. I needed to find you. I thought we should talk now that we’re grown.”

“Who are you?” Travis spoke with agitation in his voice.

“Sam. It’s Sam. Well, Collin now. I received an alias, same as you.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Travis insisted and he went to shut the door.

“No, wait! Travis! Please! It’s been so long! I just need to talk to you! Please!”

“Get the fuck out of here or I’m calling the police!” Travis growled and he stared into me with his vacant, yet penetrative eyes and I knew he wasn’t messing around. I removed my foot from blocking the door and he slammed it in my face, and that was it. That was all it would ever be. Travis had a new life and he did not want me to be a part of it. Maybe he didn’t remember me. Maybe he repressed it all to survive, or maybe he was just scared of going back to prison. Whatever the reason, I knew that I’d never get another chance to ask him all the things I wanted to know.

 


Read the rest of the story in the Book of Horrors II

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Support Deadman’s Tome

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If you follow Deadman’s Tome, then you should ask yourself why aren’t I a patreon? It only take a dollar. 

Deadman’s Tome is an online horror zine that publishes dark gritty horror on weekly basis. This, of course, is only possible because of the dedicated work of the contributors. The featured authors have spent hours honing their craft to deliver truly terrifying stories. The sort of stories that haunt you with a chilling sensation down your spine. To reward them for their dedication and commitment, I offer them a publication on a site that strongly encourage community engagement, along with a monetary compensation calculated by the number of views, comments, and likes their story receives.

I pay the authors right out from my pocket. While I do not mind right now, there may come a time where I may not be able to. I honestly do not know when that time will come and I hope it never does.

I’m also looking for artists, and would like to one day publish content with artwork 100% of the time. That, as you could expect, may get expensive. Even the for the love artists want payment eventually.

Please consider becoming a Deadman’s Tome patron. It only takes a dollar, and it does give you benefits and access to discounts, exclusive titles, and insider information. I treat the patrons like a family – a good functioning family, not the Charles Manson style family.

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Inky Beast – M.J. Nicholls

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just… shut… up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lockdown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was. Back to work, indeed.

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

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Mad Love – Blair Frison

 

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Enhance your coffee

 

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Plot Twist by Adam Sturch

 

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

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

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

She brought a man home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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