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Inky Beast – M.J. Nicholls

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just… shut… up.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lockdown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was. Back to work, indeed.

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

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Mad Love – Blair Frison

 

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Enhance your coffee

 

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Plot Twist by Adam Sturch

 

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

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

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

She brought a man home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Popcorn – Wayne Summers

 

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Available on Kindle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She had no time to refill the machine.

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

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

 

The End

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

          

         

 

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Book of Horrors – Scuttle Bug

Scuttle Bug – Matthew Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you want?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where are you bleeding?”

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

“Are you safe?”

“Yes.”

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

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

Amanda had pulled up a sheet to shield her dignity.

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

She shook her head and pointed at her lower belly.

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

The other firefighter kicked off the panties.

“Looks like a giant earwig.”

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

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

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

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

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HORRGASM PRE-ORDERS

6x9_Front_CoverHORRGASM
Tentative Cover

Featuring six titillating tales, this anthology delivers a chilling blend of provocative horror. THE WOMAN IN RED opens with a lusting and blood thirsty couple hell bent to outshine Jack the Ripper. Take a bizarre road trip delivering talking heads with a hot blonde with a twisted past in HEAD TRIP. DOSE goes through hookers and drugs faster than Charlie Sheen, explores the S&M scene, while delivering a haunting climax. SEX TOY plays with an odd, foreign and blasphemous sex curio that takes a couple’s love life to a whole new level. TOUCH ME, I’M SICK warns of a grave consequence no lustful adulterer would ever want to pay. Lastly, THE VAMPIRE NYMPH wraps up the anthology with sizzling vampire sex served with a cold dish of irony.

HORRGASM is due to release August 15th, 2016. PRE-ORDER your copy today.

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Book of Horrors – More Plastic Wrap

 

More Plastic Wrap – Florence Ann Marlowe

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

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

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

“Izzat you, Mikey?”

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

“Yeah, it’s me.”

“Did you get me my smokes?”

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

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

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

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

“Didja have enough money for everything?”

Michael grunted and nodded.

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

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

She rifled through the bags.

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

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

“Not with my money!”

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

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

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

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

“Not now, Ma.” Michael said.

“But Mikey, I just signed it.”  

Michael gritted his teeth and headed for his room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mickey, help! Water!”

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

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

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

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

“Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

“Mikey?”

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

He could hear a crisp, dry crinkling sound.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sandwich suddenly tasted of ashes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book of Horrors – S. Alessandro Martinez

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

 

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Love Electric by Calvin Demmer

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Edith McCarthy liked to peep on potential clients before meeting them. She had parked her van near their Dutch Colonial-style home and was looking through her binoculars. What she saw through the kitchen window did not surprise her. Missus Collins, the lady who had phoned her, was getting fucked like a bargain priced prostitute found on a street corner with a broken light. She was bent over the kitchen table, panties down below her knees, as the broad shouldered man pounded her. Edith decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and presumed the man to be her husband.

Edith placed the binoculars on the seat next to her, rubbed her eyes, and started up the van. She had seen enough. The couple looked happy—they fucked like it at least—and added to this Missus Collins had said they had recently purchased the home. Edith had the inspiration required.

Back in her small apartment on the other side of town, she paced the living room as she counted down the time until she was meant to meet Missus Collins. She couldn’t stand waiting and decided to get through some training. As she never entertained guests she had set up her own little gym in her living room. Cash was tight, so it was mostly a bench and some free weights. Edith picked out her favorite CD, Classic love songs of the eighties, which she had managed to shoplift.

As her portable CD player pumped out the tunes, she did bicep curls, staring herself in a body length mirror. There was no denying the extra few pounds she had put on since getting out of prison—she had been convicted of assault—but she had also gained more muscle. Having just turned forty-two, standing five-foot eleven and weighing a hundred and sixty pounds, she felt good. She clenched tight on her next curl and grimaced, wanting the bicep to pop. The steroids she had purchased from a man riddled in acne at her gym had been worth it.

Prison had changed her. She had not learnt any rehabilitation, if anything she had discovered how to hate more and from a place deeper within. In fact, she had learned to love the hate, to turn into something beautiful. She had also learned how to take better care of herself in a fight and how to get away with certain things.

Edith finished up her set, wolfed down some food, and showered.

#

When Edith arrived for her meeting with Missus Collins, she found the lady dressed impeccably in a gray skirt and floral white shirt. She also found out Missus Collins first name was Tiffany. Tiffany’s heels clacked on the wooden passageway as she led Edith to the first room she wanted to have painted.

“I was so surprised to find a female painter” Tiffany said, entering the empty room. “Have you been in town long? We have just recently moved here, this is actually the first home we have ever purchased, we are so excited.”

“Nah, I move around a lot,” Edith said.

“Well, this is to be my office, I am a realtor, oh, remind me to give you a card before you go.”

Edith nodded.

“The other room, just down the hall to the left, will be my husband, Harold’s, entertainment area, mostly for him and his buddies to watch sports. You know how it is.” Tiffany smiled. “He was here earlier, but will only be getting home at four, has some or other meeting.”

Edith nodded. She was glad both rooms were on the bottom floor and that she now knew for sure she had already seen Harold that morning. Good, good, they’re in love, how sweet, Edith thought. She checked her wristwatch. It was only one o’clock. There was more than enough time until Harold arrived.

Edith took a notebook and pencil out from her back pocket. She pretended to start writing things down while looking over the empty room. “You have your color in mind already?” she said.

“Yes,” Tiffany said. “A pastel blue. I don’t want it to be too distracting.”

Edith frowned. “How do you feel about red? Bright red?”

Tiffany shook her head. “No, that would drive me mad. Definitely a light, soft blue.”

Edith took a step towards Tiffany. “No, I am afraid that is just not possible. It will have to be red.”

She reached for Tiffany’s wrist.

“What the fuck?” Tiffany said, pulling away.

Tiffany’s reaction speed surprised Edith, but Edith had natural close-combat skills ingrained in her from prison. She moved right up against Tiffany and stabbed her in the lower part of her neck with the pencil. Tiffany let out a shriek; Edith pulled her close and pressed the pencil in deeper. A stream of red blood shot out from Tiffany’s neck, landing on the light gray carpeting of the room. Edith released Tiffany, who fell to the floor and began crawling for the door.

“Look what you made me do,” Edith said. She reached for Tiffany’s legs and pulled her back. Tiffany tried to scream but all that came out was a gurgling sound. Edith turned her over and dodged a kick. Tiffany’s neck was bleeding profusely and even her mouth had become an exit point for some crimson blood. The sharp copper smell hit Edith like a slap to the face.

“Fuck woman,” she said. “You’re wasting the blood. We don’t waste the fucking blood.”

Tiffany tried to kick out but couldn’t lift her leg high enough. She attempted to roll over again. Edith figured Tiffany was trying to escape again and assisted her. When Tiffany was back on her stomach, crawling with less impetuous than a few moments ago, Edith brought her right boot down on Tiffany’s lower back.

There was a dull crack sound. Tiffany’s body writhed back and forth then stopped. Edith moved closer and brought her boot down on Tiffany’s neck.

Edith said, “Fucking blood wasting bitch.” She tensed, her arms became rigid on her sides, but she calmed and found focus. She made her way to her van, now she needed her equipment.

When Edith returned to the room, she stepped over Tiffany’s body and placed her portable CD player in the middle of the room. She pressed play. Her favorite CD immediately soothed her. She put her empty white five-gallon bucket near Tiffany and then lifted Tiffany’s neck over it. Edith removed the pencil and watched as the blood began pooling at the bottom of the bucket. Fortunately, she had a few techniques to extract a bit more blood, but she didn’t need too much. The room was small.

Satisfied with the amount of blood, she added her own special mix. This mix not only helped to thin out the blood but also helped it to dry faster. Edith poured some of the blood, now mixed, into her roller tray. She dipped her roller, which she had attached to a longer frame, into the tray.

Edith made sure she got a good amount of blood on the roller and then made her way to the wall. She began in the middle of the wall to the right and half a roller length from the corner. This would help against the blood getting too thick in the edges. She made sure not to force the blood out of the roller. It didn’t take long to find her groove. Edith painted the room with Tiffany’s blood. She couldn’t resist singing along to her favorite ballads.

#

Edith sat on the large, noisy, and uncomfortable black sofa in the living room. Tiffany’s body had been wrapped in plastic and had been placed her in the van. Her equipment stood in the other room that still required painting. She stared into the blackness of the flatscreen hanging on the wall before her, breathing in deep. Her body still rocked with energy that she had received when painting the room with Tiffany’s blood. Glancing down at her wristwatch, she saw it was four o’clock. She tensed different parts of her body and felt the current rocket there. Her muscles hardened. She was ready.

The front door opened.

A man, who she recognized from the morning’s spying, entered the living room. He wore a neat navy blue suit, and a soft yellow tie swung around his neck. The man was attractive and Edith had to force down the jealousy she felt towards Tiffany. Such emotions had to wait, as there was a job in the process.

The man’s eyes narrowed when he saw Edith. “Oh, hello.”

“Hello, Harold,” Edith said.

“Ah, okay, are you a friend of Tiffany’s?”

“I am the painter.”

“Oh I see,” Harold said. His face seemed to relax. “I thought she was meeting you earlier this morning?”

“She was,” Edith said. “But she wanted me to get your opinion on something.”

Harold removed his coat. “I don’t really have much time. I thought she would handle all this. We’re expecting my parents this evening.” He removed his tie and placed both it and the coat on the side of the single-seat chair next to him.

Edith smiled.

“Where is she?” Harold said. He started walking towards the staircase. “Tiffany,” he called.

Edith got up. “Oh, I will show you. She’s here on the bottom floor.”

She led him to the room she had painted, battling to keep the happiness spreading across her face in check. It was not often she got to show off her work to a client.

Harold looked all around the room, shaking his head. “What the fuck is this mess?”

“The paint job, you don’t like it?”

“Just tell me where my wife is?”

Edith smiled. “She’s here.”

Harold stepped towards her. “Listen, I don’t have time for nonsense. Just tell me where my wife is and what the hell is going on? And what the hell is on the walls? It doesn’t smell like paint.”

“It’s blood. Your wife’s. Do you like it?”

Harold reached for Edith’s throat. “Listen you steroid junkie, tell me where the fuck my wife is.”

Edith hit Harold in his ribs with a clean left jab. He winced and bent forward. She pulled her right arm back and launched a right hook aimed at his temple. The shot clean and Harold nearly toppled over.

“What the fuck?” he said, trying to regain equilibrium.

Edith kicked at his left knee. There was a sharp pop sound. Harold buckled and screamed. He fell forward onto the bloodstained carpeting.

“You fucking crazy bitch!”

Edith walked towards him and lifted her right boot. “I have to break your neck now. I can’t be wasting any more blood today.”

“Get the fuck away from me you freak. I am gonna put you in jail for—”

Edith brought her boot down on Harold’s neck. The dull snap made Edith smile. She stood over Harold and nodded, realizing he was dead. Edith looked over to the recently painted walls and smiled. The current it sent through her almost brought her to tears. She wanted to savor the moment a bit longer, but she had more work to do.

Edith grabbed Harold’s feet and began dragging him to his entertainment room. “What lovely work I am doing these days,” she said to the recently deceased Harold. “You see, once I have finished your room, your new home will be the talk of the neighborhood.”

Once Harold was in the center of the room, she placed her bucket next to him. She reached for her knife.

#

Edith sat in the front of her van staring at the house. Both bodies were wrapped and in the back of her van. She knew a river where she could dispose of them, along with any other items from the house that needed to join. The cellphone she had been using while staying in town could also go. She had stayed in town longer than usual and knew it was a risk, but she had enjoyed her time here. The place had so much love to give. Her operations had also begun to run smoother.

I really did some impressive work here. Both those rooms came out just perfect. Oh, his parents are going to be so impressed when they arrive this evening, she thought. She waved goodbye to the house, and was about to start up the van when the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Welcome Home Painting,” Edith said.

“Oh hello, I was wondering if I could make an appointment for tomorrow morning. My husband and I purchased a home a few months back, and we received some great news this week, we are expecting our first child.”

“Oh that’s wonderful, congratulations.

“Thank you. We’d like to have the room we want to convert into a nursery painted. My husband also mentioned doing the garage while we are at it. It’s our first real home, and we want it looking great.”

“That’s great; you two sound so in love.”

“Ah, yeah, we are. My husband will be at home for the meeting tomorrow. I’m out of town until next week, but I’d like the work done as soon as possible.”

Edith smiled. One more job, she thought. “Well, I just happen to be free, finished a lovely job today. I can even start tomorrow after your husband has told me what he wants. By the time you’re back, I will be long gone any room you need painted will look beautiful. I promise you my work is incomparable.”

“That’s great, thank you.”

When done with the conversation, Edith started up the van, humming the tunes to one of her favorite ballads. She made her way to her apartment. The energy from the day surged within.

Edith wondered if this was what it felt like to be loved.

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

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Hellfire Pass by L. L. Hill

 

“More rice. Please.” Stafford added the courtesy word as a reluctant and unwarranted afterthought as he held his dented empty tin bowl towards Sergeant Anzai. The stench of old sweat, outhouses, machinery grease, dust, and wet jungle lay in an unnoticed pall over the prison camp.

Lieutenant Stafford still covered his bald spot with his lank brown and greasy hair hand combed over. Unshaven, his uniform khaki shirt hung down from gaunt shoulders and covered a waist cinched with a belt three notches smaller than his prewar size. A dirty big toe showed in one of his sockless dress uniform shoes. A heavy brow ridge with long eyebrows shadowed his light brown eyes and their ring of crud. He looked down into the snapping brown eyes of the Japanese sergeant.

The sergeant did look rather like a snapping turtle he had observed on his uncle’s Ontario farm in a pond. Mean, vicious, and ready to bite. Stafford blinked his long lashed eyes and wished for enough water to wash the crusty build-up away. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he located a last grain of rice stuck in a tooth, worked it out and swallowed. A fly buzzed down and he jerked away.

Hands behind his back, Sergeant Anzai glared up at Lieutenant Stafford as if the black hatred emanating from him could vaporize the officer and all that he represented in opposition to the Japanese Empire on the spot. The fly dashed past him and landed on the rim of the rice pot with a dozen others. Silent spectators, the prisoners of war around the nearly empty pot watched the confrontation escalate like a tropical boil. One of them slipped away between flimsy bamboo huts to get the Major.

“No more rice,” Sergeant Anzai spat out.

“I need more rice, I am sick and hungry.” Stafford did not want to sound petulant but did. Rather like pleading for more birthday cake when he was ten, he thought.

“You think you get more food than me?” Clenched into tight fists, Anzai dropped his hands to his hips.

“I’m bigger than you. I need more.” No point in rationalizing with the dictatorial pricks, but dogged persistence occasionally produced results, and today Stafford was very hungry. Perhaps he really was sick, he thought. His stomach felt completely empty after eating a cup of rice and his bones ached.

“You bigger make you more man? You surrender! Disgrace self!” His spit landed on red soil and dissipated in the morning heat.

“I surrendered in Singapore on orders. Per the Geneva Convention…”

“You no even learn to speak Japanese! I have to speak English to you!” White spittle formed in the corners of his lips. “My uncle had his store stolen from him. He in jail for being Japanese. He no soldier. You man to put family in jail for being Japanese!? You man!?”

The half-ring of soldiers behind Anzai laughed at Stafford’s now red face even though they likely understood little but the emotion of the exchange. At a gesture from their sergeant or officer, they would beat any prisoner into submission. Some had never returned from beatings.

“I should like sufficient food to eat, per the Geneva…” As he spoke, Stafford thought that he felt a rat gnawing its way out from his empty stomach and then Sergeant Anzai interrupted with a virulent flood of Japanese that had his soldiers laughing.

“That’s enough then Stafford, old chap, you did your part,” said Major Jennings striding in as fast as his gimp leg allowed. “Stand down there, man. Have another go another day. Jolly good show,” he finally whispered. A young lad that pushed too hard, thought the veteran.

Jennings slapped Stafford’s back as Anzai’s tirade continued with the sergeant pointing to his groin and miming penis size. Behind the jeering guards, a black and gold hoopoe with a long, curved beak landed on a patch of grass. Transfixed, Stafford watched the bird find an insect and work it up the long bill to swallow.

Anzai, observing that he had lost the attention of the target of his audience, shifted his position so that he could see what Stafford was looking at. On seeing the bird, he rushed at it with a kamikaze yell. In a whirring blur the bird fled.

“You have time to watch bird, you no need food!” Anzai began miming an officer walking with a cane as his continued his Japanese oration on the evident evil of the British, bird watchers, and surrendering.

In a fugue of starvation, Stafford had been wondering if there were any small nets to catch birds available during the loud display. Jennings pulled him back and steered him back to the mess with a hand on his shoulders.

“Have a seat, old man,” Jennings said pushing him down onto a broken cane stool.

Sergeant Anzai’s eruption dissipated into the occasional flare of a magma laden comment as the prisoners of war pretended to focus on clean up and the Japanese withdrew to the scant shade of some trees.

“Did your part to get the Japs riled up there Stafford, old man. Now we need to get out and get some blasting done.” The blond hairs of Jennings stiff, thin moustache appeared to be glued onto his parchment yellow skin. A fly landed to drink in the tear dripping down the side of his nose and he waved it away with a flick of his long, tapered fingers. “Remember, push the limit, but don’t go over it,” he said in a tone just loud enough to carry around the mess.

Jennings was looking at the red and black dirt that had accumulated under Stafford’s ripped and torn fingernails, and worrying about his mental state when Stafford asked, “Do you know where I could get a fine mesh net?”

A tin mess cup dinged against the water pot in the silence that followed Stafford’s question. In a babble of jokes and laughter, Jennings gasped out of white lips, “Good God man, you’re not going to start collecting tropical birds are you? They’re just feather and bone man, not worth the effort.” He was now very worried about his junior officer and gazed at the other men for support.

“I think that three or four would be the size of a quail,” blinked back Stafford. He then closed his lips and pouted, feeling his idea as disregarded as that of a child.

Jennings knuckles were white on his cane. Another gone to battle fatigue, he thought. “Look man, plucking small feathers would take ages even if you could find a net to string between trees. And how would you stop the Japs from finding it and taking it away?” He stopped talking as he reflected that talking to a mule would be a more effective expenditure of energy. “Right then. You’ve already missed the morning medical so you’ll have to come out and help blasting that damn pass! Can’t think why the Japs had to put a line here. I’ll send you to the doc’ as soon as I can. Mess crew, carry on. Blasting crew, with me. Maybe we’ll find some fruit on the way.” He limped towards some Japanese guards followed by the blasting crew in loose formation.

Bloody waste of another good man, he thought as he marched through a mixed crew of Malays, Tamils, and island Chinese already at work carrying steel rails in 120 degrees before they became too hot to touch in the afternoon. Rain or shine, this railway was a killer; one rotted and the other cooked any laborers. The Asian slave labor all wore loin clothes, Jennings noted as he turned to look at his tattered crew. His lot looked like blast survivors in threadbare and ripped uniform remains, he thought. At least the natives were used to the heat, he thought as Stafford tripped on a loose rock at the tail end of the group. The hospital today for that officer, thought Jennings as he resumed his trek.

Stafford stopped and looked at the pale red blood that oozed from the scrape on his ankle. It should feel sore, he thought, but it felt numb. He looked up and saw that Jennings and the others had continued on.

One of the guards cracked a whip across the bare back of a coffee brown slave. The small man fell to the ground pleading and was whipped again. Then the guards began kicking him where he lay on the gravel rail bed. No other prisoners tried to help.

Stafford stepped back into the shadows of some drab olive leaved trees and looked down at the ichor that now welled out of a bone-like lump that appeared under the wound. With a bump he sat on the ground. He would have to go to the hospital, he thought. That was a blooming infection already yet bloody Jennings would have to clear it first. What a pest that man was, thought Stafford, forms and orders for everything. If there were an order for nets for birds, Stafford would have had them. At least his stomach had settled its demands to a throb.

With a ping-clang, sledges almost as tall as the men that heaved them began to hammer in nails around the rails. Stafford had just decided to get up before the guards found him when he saw a red patch peeking out from the cover of a branch of leaves in the crook of a tree.

His sluggish heart skipped a beat as he raised the branch to see a plump, juicy mango that had been placed there until someone had time to eat it. Saliva began to lubricate his mouth. Stafford jerked around looking back and forth and saw none of the slave crew nearby. ‘Wogs,’ he thought as he grabbed his red treasure as he scrambled away into the trees.

Used as a fence by the Japanese, the tangled jungle that clad the steep hills of Siam usually killed those that tried to escape into it. Snakes, spiders, scorpions, tigers, and mosquito born disease were additional deterrents to the rugged landscape to any attempted flight.

Stafford could still hear the slave crew when desperation drove him to sprawl heedless of venomous snakes and spiders on the ground. With shaking fingers and tartar coated teeth he peeled a strip of skin and sucked the fibrous orange interior. Not since Singapore had he had one and this one was sublime.

He had rolled onto his back to suck the juice more easily when a small brown man ran up and leaped down on him. Spitting and growling, they thrashed together into and around creepers and thin barked trees. Stafford whimpered as he pushed the thick, spice laden greasy hair away from his nose with a punch. Digging his knobbing fingers in around the large seed, he ripped the fingers of his other hand through the welts and bruises on the Malay. The heart thudding shock of the attack over, Stafford began to truly fight for the succulent fruit, blocking the blows of the shorter man while inflicting pain whenever possible. If he wanted the mango so badly, he should have held onto it, thought Stafford as he pressed his thumb into an eyeball and felt a pop. His assailant reeled away screaming with fluid dripping down between his stubby fingers. Stafford was aware that the Malay’s grimacing in pain displayed teeth filed to points at the same time both men realised that Sergeant Anzai and three soldiers with fixed bayonets had quietly become spectators.

Muted by quaking trees, a blast shook the ground – Jennings had blown a hole near completion last evening thought Stafford. Gazing at Anzai, he raised the mango to his gaping mouth almost as slowly as the fruit had grown. The clangor of the sledges continued below. As if drawn up by a string, Stafford’s arm lifted its treasure as he watched the slave and the soldiers, noting every sweat bead on Sergeant Anzai’s thin moustache, that his thick lips were open with curiosity and anticipated cruelty, aware of the whimpers of the desperate brown man who still protected a destroyed eye and ignored a toe nail hanging by a strip of skin. Even minor injuries killed as the Asian slaves had no hospital or access to medicine, but Stafford was indifferent to anything but the tasty fruit.

“Stop, you stop now,” barked Sergeant Anzai.

In reply, Stafford sank his teeth into the orange pulp as the Malay attacked him screaming and flailing uselessly with limbs that knew their lifespan was short. Curled up with his long boney back to the blows, Stafford continued to eat, stuffing his mouth with large bites. He heard Anzai snap an order and felt the soldiers pull the Malay away. Then he heard the thumps of boots and rifle butts breaking the man. Sergeant Anzai stepped on Stafford’s wrist with one foot and wrenched his sugar prize away with long nailed fingers as the prisoner cried out in desolation over the loss of his mango.

“Stan’ up!” ordered Anzai.

Awkward, Stafford lurched to his feet and swayed as dizziness assaulted his balance. The man on the ground had been silent though blows still rained down on his pulped, broken, and bloody body. Looking from Stafford to the Malay without moving his head, Anzai gave an order in Japanese and his men stood at attention.

Still holding the remnants of the mango, Anzai led the way back to the railway. None of the men looked back at the ruined wreck. On the embankment above the Malay crew, the sergeant stopped and waited for the sniffling Stafford to stumble to a stop. He flinched aside from a last push with a rifle butt by a blood spattered soldier.

Stafford looked down into a sea of black hair and bodies shaded yellow and brown. ‘Inscrutable’ was the word Jennings would use, thought Stafford as he swayed transfixed by the raised gaze of the men below. With ill yellow and red eyeballs, they looked just as desperate as their deceased comrade and he was alive, he thought. ‘I am British,’ he said to himself.

“Now,” Anzai said grinning. “Now you fight for mango,” and he tossed the fruit into a lunging, jumping, grabbing, punching, kicking melee of hunger and rage.

Stafford licked the dried syrup around his lips as the now grit filled fruit kicked into view in the scrum. He began to lean forward to assess his chances and stepped back when he realised that his shaky legs would not hold him from falling into the writhing pit below.

Stafford looked into the grin folds that held black eyes in a face whiter than his own. “I think that I must return to my work party now, Sergeant Anzai.” I will find another mango, he thought.

“Yes, I tink so to. An’ you no leave again or ‘accident’ happen you.” The sergeant continued to grin. “You no want to be fight again.”

On wobbly knees Stafford took short steps between the immobile soldiers and walked around the curve cut into grey and brown rock. A bamboo grove on the lower side had been logged for building supplies and material. Morning and night work parties cut the section they now called ‘Hellfire Pass’ into the side of a steep hill. Exhaustion and starvation pitted against solid rock and hatred had won due to British ingenuity and courage thought Stafford as he shuffled up to his fellow prisoners.

“Bloody hell! Stafford old man, where did you get to? You look like you’ve been in a fight,” said Jennings in concern.

“I think I was, can’t remember…” Stafford trailed off as he knew that he could not explain his actions, as Jennings would note that it was ‘not cricket’ to take a wog’s fruit.

“Was it one o’ the wogs, Lieut’nant?” asked a Scottish corporal.

“Well, I’ll make sure Sergeant Anzai knows…” Jennings began and was interrupted.

“Already knows, told me to stay with group, remember that…” Stafford fainted.

“…maybe we can trade with the Thais for a chicken,” suggested an American private as he waved a shirt over Stafford’s recumbent form. “Obviously we’re not getting enough to eat.”

“What do we ‘ave to trade, mate?” asked an Australian officer. “Japs keep takin’ our Red Cross parcels.”

“Right, he’s awake,” said Jennings.

Stafford’s eyelids fluttered as he woke to a babble of consternation. He winced as a shirt blew sand into an eye. As tears flooded the eye he covered his face with his hands and turned away. When he saw the Malay’s face again, he began to bawl in great gulps as if each breath that he took would bring the starving man back.

“Alright then, give Stafford a moment then,” called Jennings. “There’s four holes to be drilled. Let’s get at them, lads.” Tears were not shed or shed in private.

There was a scuffing, shuffling, muttering as the prisoners of war dragged themselves back to their tasks. Stafford wept on, thinking about the Malay’s eye and wondering how he found the fluid to weep. Jennings would decide to say nothing if he was told, Stafford thought as his bubbling dwindled, but then he would be excluded from officer’s duties.

A boot kicked him to writhing pain in a kidney. Then a flurry of kicks reminded him that he was as mortal as the brown Malay. He heard Sergeant Anzai order the beating stopped and lay choking and gasping for breath.

“Look, no cry Ingrishman, look what I give for you,” jeered Anzai with a plump red mango perched on his manicured fingertips. “Look, look, you go get.”

Stafford’s stomach growled and an arm betrayed him by reaching to bring the juicy fruit to his lips. He was kicked in his boney buttocks as the prize remained out of reach.

“Ger up! Ger up!” ordered the corporal.

“See, for you we find. Now you go get,” said the sergeant as he sidestepped to the recently blasted wall.

A cloud loosed a caul of rain that misted down on the cut as Stafford got up and took one small step. His tongue wiped the moisture from his lips with the taste of dust and cordite. He should call for Jennings, he thought.

“Come. I no tell. Come,” urged Anzai who ignored the fine rain.

Stafford stepped forward again, thinking that Jennings was a good sort but would not understand after all. He was really close to the fruit too, so close that if Anzai were careless then he could grab it. He thought to feint a half-step stumble but Anzai stayed put. In the shadow cast by the cloud and the wall, he could not see the miasma of hatred in Anzai’s eyes yet felt worry needle his brain.

A tremor began in his knees. By clenching his jaw, Stafford found that he could stop his knees from shaking. He felt the soldiers behind him step closer and stepped forward to get away. Their breath carried the odor of horseradish and Stafford wrinkled his nose as he again stepped forward.

“Come, come,” said Anzai, shaking the mango like a treat for a dog. “Come, come.”

Anger made Stafford stop. He swallowed and glared down at the shorter man. A rifle butt connected with a kidney. He groaned and sagged forward. Anzai had a plan to disgrace him, Stafford now knew in the fog of his starved thinking. How he planned to do so near the freshly blasted wall, Stafford could not see, so he decided to fight.

In the thin soles remaining to his shoes he rushed forward and smacked into the wall as Anzai called out in Japanese and the mango lifted in a net tied to a rope above his head. Almost had it, thought Stafford touching a bloody nose and listening to laughter. He had felt the net brush against his hair as it rose.

“You try again. Go, climb and get mango,” directed Anzai as three bayonet points connected with Stafford’s back.

Hungry, tired and with the tendrils of terror beginning to wrap his body, Stafford thought again of calling for help. The prisoners had heard the Japanese guards and were making more noise as they pretended to work harder.

“No call Jennings, you climb,” ordered Anzai as he observed Stafford’s head shift. “Now.”

The bayonets pushed and Stafford began to climb the sloping wall. He had half a mind to climb to a ledge and call for help, but he could just see the plump red fruit bounce up the wall. If he could get it, he could embarrass Anzai too. With that excuse to fortify himself, he climbed hard and fast on rain slicked rock watching the prize bob just ahead of him.

A foot slipped and he held on shaking. Anzai called from below, “You climb more,” and laughed.

It then occurred to Stafford that the rope itself, a thick hemp used to secure railway ties, was now the prize. If he could grab that then he would be away from Anzai and not clinging to a ledge. He shifted his weight and waited. Jeering Japanese voices announced the dropping of the prize.

Stafford watched it pass and eyed the rope for a spot that passed over a gap in the rock face so that his hands had space to grasp the rope. Someone shook the rope like a cat’s tail from side to side. Stafford shifted his weight one more time to the tips of his toes and jumped. His hands slid on the harsh fibres and held. Then pain spread in his arms and shoulders as his weight stressed his weak sinews and muscles. His feet scrabbled on the rock to take the load off.

Toes caught on a ledge, he leaned out with a smug smile at his achievement. The sun returned and showed him Japanese soldiers very close above and well below him on the glittering rock face. He was planning to climb up when Anzai called an order and the rope was loosed from the top. Stafford fell with the rope and landed on the rough cut rail bed. Next to his sightless eyes, the mango had split open.

Anzai barked an order and the rope whipped upwards. His giggles were shrill cackles.

“What happened?” asked Jennings drawn down finally by the thud. “Stafford!” he exclaimed.

“Most unfortunate accident. He fall from rope while checking rock wall. Write report.” Anzai walked away from the shocked officer giggling.

“You bastard!” spat Jennings, enraged.

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

 

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