July’s Zeroflash Competition Entries

Lullaby (Lily’s Song)

by Lionel Ray Green

Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop.

Lily jogs through the forest, oblivious to the shadowy creature stalking her.  The creature snaps branches as it approaches, but Lily’s ears are deafened by the music pulsing through her headphones, drowning out the warning sounds.

Lily senses a flash of movement in her periphery, but not soon enough.  The creature grabs her by the shoulders and flings her into a nearby pine.  Before losing consciousness, Lily detects a pungent animal odor from the tall, hairy beast that stands before her.

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

Nine months later.  The edges of a faded flier nailed to a telephone pole flap in the winter breeze.  Lily’s sister Holly reaches up and tenderly touches the flier’s photo of Lily holding a fluffy, black Pomeranian.  The flier asks if anybody has information on Lily’s whereabouts. Eighteen years old.  Blonde hair.  Blue eyes.  Last seen May 4 near Oleander Park.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.

About the time Holly touches the new flier on the pole in town, the creature emerges from a cave in the forest.  The sound of a haunted female voice, singing a lullaby, follows the creature outside before fading back into the tunnel and settling into the creature’s lair.

A slight, solitary figure slowly rocks back and forth in the space.  Filthy and naked, hair tangled with twigs and leaves, the figure stares at the tiny creature in her arms. The wee creature is covered in reddish-brown hair, its large feet poking from its blanket of dirt-encrusted burlap.

Lily smiles and finishes the lullaby.

And down will come baby, cradle and all.

 

The Night the Boogie Man Visited

by Nicole J. Simms

 

‘Wow! I got a new follower,’ said a voice.

‘W-what?’ said Tyler, switching on his bedside lamp. He gasped. A tall black skeletal figure, holding a mobile phone, stood by his bed.

‘I’ve got a new Twitter follower. I’ve got 299 followers now.’

‘W-what are you?’ Tyler gripped his duvet.

‘Silly me, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m the Boogie Man, but you can call me Barry.’

Tyler looked to his bedroom door, wondering if he had time to escape.

‘I know, let’s take a selfie.’ The Boogie Man –Barry– leaned over Tyler sending a waft of rotting meat and sweat up Tyler’s nostrils. Then a bright flash filled the room.

‘P-please don’t eat me.’ Tyler trembled.

‘Eat you? Why would I eat you?’

‘B-because you’re a monster.’

‘You humans think you’re so tasty. I couldn’t think of anything more disgusting than human flesh.’

‘So, why are you here?’ Tyler lowered his duvet.

Barry shoved his hand into his pocket and took out a chocolate bar. ‘To give you this.’

‘Huh?’

Barry rolled his eyes. ‘It’s your reward.’

‘For what?’

Barry pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. ‘You’ve been extremely naughty this week: you stole your brother’s phone, kicked the cat, oh, and refused to eat your vegetables.’ Barry stuffed the paper back into his pocket and held out the chocolate bar.

‘This is a reward for being naughty?’

‘Yep.’

‘Cool.’ Tyler snatched the chocolate from Barry.

‘A thank you would be nice.’

‘I’m sure it would, but naughty boys don’t say thank you.’ Tyler smirked. He then pulled out a mobile from under his pillow. ‘What’s your username?’

‘Aren’t you too young for Twitter?’

‘I am, but my brother isn’t.’ He winked. ‘I’ll follow you.’

Barry grinned. ‘Great, I’ll finally have 300 followers.’

Untitled Entry

by Katie Lewington

Trust us to go to Brighton on the hottest day of the year so far. There were delays and we, that is my partner and I, with various other people were stood in the aisle of a train for an hour and a half.
A monster emerged on the platform: looked around, patted his breast and cheek then looked at his hand where his green paint had imprinted –
a performer.
He better not get on this carriage you muttered in my ear and I felt my knees tremble, thirsty and with my bag rubbing on the sunburn on my left shoulder.
I don’t like monsters .
This monster did get on our carriage. His tentacles tickled the cheeks of adults, his spines bent against the suitcases squeezed in between legs. He scared children too,
they screamed, fainted –
another delay
added a further twenty minutes to our journey time.
All I wanted was to sit down and have a pint by the time I got home.

All you need is Love

by Alan Morris

‘Abandon hope, ye that enter here.’ I turn to Hope. ’It’s not looking good for you.’

(I’m Charity I tip the scales at 203 and a bit, quite a bit, Hope here is definitely size zero.)

’What do you want to leave me for, asks little Hope?’

‘Well you’re always causing trouble.’

’Trouble moi, she simpers?’

‘Haven’t you heard of false hope? Now me, I’m substantial, at my dress size you don’t get much more real.’

‘Just because it says and Charity is the greatest of the three, doesn’t mean you have to keep filling your face with deep fried Mars bars.’

‘Look, even I, can give into temptation, once in a while.’

‘Every morning, thirteen handfuls of doughnuts, that’s not once in a while. Anyway, where is Faith?

‘Nice lettering on that arch.’

‘Don’t change the subject!’

(I told you Hope is annoying.)

‘Well in these heels, you have to sit down now and again, and I…………’

‘And you………………?’

‘I……………………..I sat on her. She always was a bit short sighted, almost blind she should’ve known to get out of the way, too trusting by half was Faith.’

‘That’s monstrous. No good hiding behind those dark glasses, I know love is blind and all that nonsense.’

‘But I’m Charity, sweet Charity.’ Everyone knows me, everyone loves me.’

’ The only thing sweet about you, is your sweet tooth’

‘Abandon hope, I should have left you years ago.’

‘It’s hard to leave a friend my dear when your heart is filled with hope.’

‘It’s just as hard to find the towel when your eyes are full of soap.’

Fumbling for her next meal, Charity ate Hope, swallowed her down in one.  Charity was just hopeless.

The Strangler

by Cath Barton

@CathBarton1

We get up at 5am to visit the temples. That way we’re ahead of the crowds and the worst of the humidity. I stand in the shade of a banyan tree while Marcia is buying the tickets and I feel a tickling on my hair. I shake my head and it’s gone. Marcia’s back, pulling my arm.

“What’s the big hurry?” I ask.

“You shouldn’t stand under a banyan,” she says. “It’s…”

But she’s interrupted by a would-be guide. She shouts at him in his language but he persists. So she pulls my arm again and we walk away. I don’t ask her what she was going to say about the banyan tree. Some spirit story, no doubt. Marcia’s got a lot of those. All bunkum, in my opinion.

We go our separate ways, circling and re-circling the carvings of princes and buddhas, elephants and peacocks. I’m engrossed, unperturbed by the swirling mass around me. Until I feel another pull.

“No, Marcia! I haven’t finished!”

But it isn’t Marcia. The arm is engorged and moving towards my throat. I duck and it clasps the stone, engulfing centuries-old carvings for all time. My breath is caught in my throat as I ease back and away. Down below I can see the school groups leaving. There’s just me and the strangler. The heat is intensifying. The creature’s limbs, descending now, are pulsing.

I get round a corner, and another, quickly now down the first steep flight. But ahead of me the descending roots are already taking hold. Far below Marcia is standing next to the banyan. And then she’s gone, everything’s gone because the limbs are upon me.

The visitors who come after will marvel at the tree that engulfed the temple. If they but knew. It could happen again, any time.

 

The Misty Beast

by Winnona Vincent

The sign on the trail said no one beyond this point. There was a group of boulders across the path. The three men stopped and looked at the sign.

“So we just spent the last three hours hiking up here to just turn around and go back to the parking lot?”

“Guess so,” said the Mike.

“Oh come on Mike” Tony screeched. “What is in there that is so dangerous.?”

“Bears probably. “Answered Tim. “Maybe they have a plague epidemic or rabies in this part of the park,” Tim answered.

“Look, guys; we did not come all the way from Alabama to Lassen National Park so that we could camp with the rest of the tourists down in the visitor’s center campgrounds. We have been planning this trip for over a year! So are we going to go on and camp up by the wilderness lake tonight or are we going to go back with our tails between our legs?”

Mike and Tim looked at Tony. Then the three of them walked around the boulders. They made it to the lake an hour later. Next to the lake was a cave. Its occupant had just sensed them and was flowing along the floor of the cave at that moment. It was an ancient being that had no intelligence other than when it was hungry it fed. What it sensed now, was bigger than any of the wildlife it had been eating.

The Misty Beast flowed out of the cave raised up and covered the three hikers.

Absorbing them, it returned to the cave. Their backpacks, shoes, and clothing lay in piles near the caves mouth. Being extremely full, the Misty Beast went deep into the cave to take a long nap.

Caution Sign

by Amanda Bergloff

I woke up to the sound of the car horn. Brian was looking intently at something large in front of our stopped car.

    “What did you hit?” I asked.

    “Nothing. It was already in the road.” He tapped the horn again, but the figure didn’t move.

    “I told you not to take this shortcut,” I said. “You saw that caution sign.”

    “You mean the yellow one with the drawing of a walking bear on it?”

    “You know what it was,” I said dryly, “and you know it wasn’t a bear.”

    “Whatever. I’m going to go take a look.”

    Brian got out of the car and walked over to the dark shape. He shoved it with his foot, and the thing rolled onto its back.

    “What the…Tracy, come here!”

    I ran to his side.

    The headlights illuminated a creature that looked exactly like the figure on the caution sign.

    I couldn’t look away until Brian’s laughter caught my attention.

    “Now I know why it’s called Bigfoot,” he said.

    He pointed down and lined his shoe up next to the creature’s left foot. The hairy foot was the same length as Brian’s size twelve shoe. Then, Brian pointed to the creature’s right foot which was much larger than its left and easily thirty inches long.

    “Get a picture, Tracy. No one will believe us!”

    I reached in my pocket for my phone, but was interrupted when the creature yawned and stood up.

    I dropped the phone when Brian and I jumped back. I heard the sound of breaking glass as the thirty inch foot came down on my phone, and we watched the creature run off into the trees with its lopsided ga

“You’re right, Brian. No one will believe us.”

Changing Times

by Taye Carrol

When the Great Lakes began disappearing the monsters packed their bags and moved to the cities. The last was the Lake Michigan monster, Mitchie, a name he detested, so obviously modeled on his infamous cousin Nessy. Never having lived elsewhere and being a bit agoraphobic besides, Mitchie was determined to stay. He stuck it out even after the water was gone and the lakebed was nothing more than a dry, cracked basin. He moved into the roomiest ship that had sunk in the former depths and bought blackout curtains, a children’s ocean-wave nightlight projector and an aquarium. But then came the adventurers, scavengers, people with metal detectors, trophy hunters. They were followed by tour buses filled with excited sightseers armed with maps of Great Lake monster celebrity homes. The flashes from their cameras gave Mitchie migraines and the constant honking intended to make him look out upset his digestion. Finally, he gave in, packed what he could carry, donned his headphones and while listening to his psychoanalyst voicing words of encouragement, stepped beyond the lakebed. He thought he might like belonging to a child but as there were no closet or under-the-bed vacancies, he found an apartment in a crowded building and got an accounting job. Mitchie had always been good at math and it was expected that monsters now support themselves as the great leviathans were no longer worshipped as they once had been. They had become just another minority though not one eligible for Government funds. Mitchie’s neighbors had no complaints but neither did they stop for conversation when seeing him in the hallway. Though there were water monster meetups, Mitchie never went, fearing the infinite pain of nostalgia. At night he lay awake listening for the lulling sounds of underwater waves and liquid bubbles which never came.

The Attraction

by Stanley B. Webb

On the blind road stood a ramshackle cabin, with an attached garage. A billboard proclaimed:

BIGFOOT ALIVE!

EIGHTH WONDER of the WORLD!

A bewhiskered man emerged through the cabin’s ten-foot door. “Welcome, folks! I’m Parker Parkerhouse.”

“We saw your sign on Route 3,” said the Groom.

“We’re honeymooning.” The Bride sparkled.

Parker sighed. “Ain’t marriage bliss?”

“I’ve never heard of Bigfoot in the Adirondacks,” said the Groom.

“The main tribes are in the Pacific Northwest, but there are scattered enclaves: The Wild Men of the Midwest, Skunk Men of the bayous, and Ice Giants up north.”

“And, the in Himalayas.”

“No, the yeti are just mountain apes.”

“What’s your admission price?”

“Fifteen dollars.”

“That’s quite steep, considering . . .”

Parker laughed. “Come on in, and if you think Taffy’s a humbug, admission’s free.”

The dim interior smelled of sour laundry. A cage occupied the rear. An eight-foot being glared out, her hairy dugs pressed against the bars.

The Bride whispered, “She’s real!”

“Don’t get too close!” Parker flourished his amputated pinky finger. “I caged her up, before she ate something important.” He winked at Taffy. “Now, my fees? Thank you.”

“A zoo would offer you a fortune,” said the Groom.

“Not selling.”

Suddenly, Taffy screamed, revealing fangs. She seized two bars, and bent them apart.

Parker cried, “She’s gone wild, run for it!”

The Honeymooners fled.

Taffy laughed, restored the bars, and exited the cage’s hidden door. “You could have been rich.” Her voice trilled.

“I love you too much.”

“I love you, too.” She offered her amputated pinky. “Your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood.”

Parker touched his amputation to hers. “Your flesh is my flesh; your blood is my blood.”

Tree

by Sean Daly

I shared a tree with my neighbor whose leaves had turned brown with thirst. Let me also make it clear that I couldn’t stand my neighbor and he couldn’t stand me although he wouldn’t admit it. He, instead, sauntered over to my property.

“Please come to our men’s bible study tonight,” he said.

I wanted to neither encourage, nor show contempt. We did share a distressed tree, after all. My neighbor’s a harmless guy, but how can you try to convert someone and not secretly hate them on some level?

“We have a few new people in our group,” he said.

Then his tone got conciliatory, therapeutic, “I’ve never left a study session feeling worse than when I came in,” he said, as if he just realized this.

We both stared up at the tree that was slowing dying.

“I think we should take turns watering this,” he said at the risk of sounding stupid.

“Poor thing,” I agreed.

That night I woke to the sound of a crack, a falling that never seemed to end, a crash. I raced outside, my eyes adjusting to see where it had landed, hoping it hadn’t struck my neighbor’s house, but it was too dark to tell.

Sweet Child of Mine

by Phoebe Hancock

Come child, let me tell you a story.

Do you remember that man? The one who watched you out of the corner of his beady eyes? You were younger then; perhaps you did not see.

He stayed late into the night, talking with your father, both of the belching poetry and that cheap wine.

***

Do you remember that man? Once, when he arrived, you were outside. Your mother watched from her window as you picked flowers from the carefully planted garden. Later, when you presented the withered and blackening bundle into her arms, she laughed with forced delight.

Still later, when you were safe in the cocoon of your bed, she cradled the bundle of once living things to her breast. The next morning I found all that remained of the bouquet surrounded by the ashes of the fire.

***

Do you remember that man? He and your father railed against each other, their arguments clouding up the house. You played with the body of your neighbours cat as they argued, the skin decomposing on the kitchen floor.

That man looked at you as he argued, and your father forced him out.

***

Do you remember that man? Once he arrived at our door, sick and bloody. Your mother took him in and bandaged his wounds. He watched you fro the corner of his eye, as you hovered by the bed. You were relegated to your room when your mother saw how close you were. It was not yet his time.

***

Do you remember that man? Surely you must, by now. The thread of his life is fraying now. One tug would be enough to sever it. You know how to find him, and what you must do.

You are my monster, and there is only one way this story can end.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

by G. H. Finn

Cape Wrath. The most remote point in mainland Britain. To get there, Clive had driven to Northern Scotland, inflated a dingy, rowed across the Kyles of Durness, then hiked twelve-miles to Cape Wrath Lighthouse.

He’d travelled all this way because of a tip-off,  in a direct message via an invitation-only Pokémon-Go on-line forum. Letting him into the secret…

“Go to Cape Wrath at midnight, at full-moon, and you can catch Articuno, a ‘legendary’ Pokémon…”

No-one in the world had caught Articuno yet.

Players weren’t even sure Articuno was in the game…

But Clive had faith.

A true believer, he devoutly made an epic pilgrimage to the furthest, remotest location, praying he’d be first to catch the rarest Pokémon of all…

Arriving, he was shocked that he wasn’t alone. Other players were there too. Brian, Olivia, Mohamed, May-Lin and Sid.

Wolfgang and his children, Connor and Susi, came as a group.

Although disappointed not to be the only one to catch Articuno, Clive didn’t really mind. He’d still be one of the first, and might make some friends. He was a bit lonely. Most of the gamers on the forum were.

At midnight, dark clouds cleared, revealing the pale moon.

Wolfgang raised his voice and addressed the gathered players.

“You’ve been brought here under false pretences. There’s no Articuno here.”

Connor added, “No Pokémon at all.”

“What?” exclaimed Clive, disbelievingly. “There’s nothing to catch?”

“I wouldn’t say that…” replied Susi.

She, her brother and father began to change.

Fur grew, jaws elongated, claws and teeth lengthened. Wolfgang howled, “Let the hunt begin!”

The players screamed – panicking, running, sobbing.

Connor turned to his already blood-covered sister and grinned wolfishly as she chewed on Clive’s arm, reminding her, “Don’t eat that now! Don’t forget…”

“Yes, I know,” Susi replied,

“We’ve gotta catch ’em all.”

The Wedding Band

by S.E.Casey

@thesecasey

The brothers wait for Mother’s return.  Dutifully they stay inside, together and safe.

There is danger in the world.  The creatures are cruel. 

And these beasts aren’t stupid, a cunning equal to their ruthlessness.  Mother told Bennie many stories of their depravity and malevolence.  She ordered him not to share with his brother, still too young for these hard lessons.  But late at night, Bennie would whisper them anyway…

To be scared is to be safe.  There is danger in the world.

Footsteps echo outside.  The two boys restrain rushing out to greet Mother.  The footfalls sound like her, but they know the trickery inherent in the world. 

However, it is Mother who bursts in, and she carries dinner!  The boys barely acknowledge her distracted by the food that is their favorite.

Bennie hits his brother who eats too fast.   He sulks, but slows.  Sure enough, soon after, his body stiffens and eyes bulge.  Face contorting, he pushes a shiny object to his lips.  Bennie nods to the pile.  His little brother spits the metallic circlet across the room sending it rolling into the collection of similar silver and gold loops, studs, and chains. 

Bennie grinds his meal between a double row of incisors with renewed vigilance.  Searching for more hazards, he sends a sonar blast into the remaining meat, only to return unintelligible static not having quite mastered this ability.  Undeterred, he skewers the remaining bits with a sharp nail at the end of one of his sixth-set of tendrils probing for more dead metal that no matter how thoroughly Mother rends it, still sticks to their stubby digits or pins to their flesh.  While dazzlingly tasty, the creatures can’t be eaten too fast, even in death lashing out with tricks and snares. 

There is danger in the world.

Fresh Start

by JY Saville

He’s lying in bed watching me put my earrings in when he says it.

“I’m off to America next week with Charlie.”

Casual, like he’s asking if I want chips for tea. I could say all sorts in reply, starting with the usual arguments about money, or how long it is since I’ve had a holiday.

“Are you sure you’ve thought about it?”

“What do you think I do all day?” he says.

“Look for jobs?”

I can tell from the look on his face that I sound too much like the woman at the Job Centre. Mingled disappointment and vindication.

“You know you’ve to have a visa,” I say. I might as well, if I’m sounding like I know it all.

“It’s all sorted.”

Is it now? I suppose I should be grateful he’s bothered to tell me, instead of disappearing like when he went to Amsterdam for a stag weekend.

“How long are you going for, a fortnight?” I say, leaning in to the mirror to concentrate on my eyeliner. You don’t go to America for the weekend.

“No, you know. Like, to start a new life.”

I damn near poke myself in the eye and there’s a black splodge by my nose. I can’t turn round to face him so I watch him in the mirror, I can just see his face in the bottom corner. He doesn’t look like he’s joking.

“Right, well I’d best pick up some fries from the freezer shop on the way home,” I say as I smear the eyeliner round with a tissue.

He won’t go, he says he’s going to do all sorts and never does. Last month it was opening a chip shop with Des. Still, I take a long look at him as I leave for work.

a tall tale

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

Grandfather was a man of few words, but he did like to tell a good story. ‘Tall tales,’ Grandmother would say, tutting as she’d walk towards the door. He’d blow her a kiss, she’d say: ‘Old fool.’ he’d cackle, clap his hands together and begin.

Grandfather’s voice was unlike any other. It was thick, it was warm and it reverberated in my chest as though I were back at last week’s school disco, standing in front of the loud speaker feeling John, Paul, George and Ringo singing about needing HELP!

Grandfather would talk of storms raging beyond the horizon; of monsters lurking below and above the ocean; and of the man who travels from town to town collecting what he’s owed. ‘Never open the door to this man,’ Grandfather would say, ‘and never invite him in.’ ‘Why not?’ I’d ask. Grandfather would never answer. He would either end the story immediately and begin another or he would stare silently at the window, his breath high and shallow in his chest. Either way, I knew that when it was time for bed I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’d lie awake, listening for the traveller’s approaching footsteps and his knock on the door.

I entered the front room, snuggled up against Grandfather’s shoulder, closed my eyes and listened.

About ten minutes later Grandmother joined us, screamed and fainted.At her back arrived more family members than I knew I had. I don’t know who grabbed me, it might have been Uncle Harvey, but whoever it was yanked me out of Grandfather’s coffin and dumped me on the sofa. ‘Danny,’ it was Mother, ‘what are you doing?’ I shrugged and looked out of the window at a man I didn’t recognise, unlocking the garden gate.

The Loch Ness Monster

by Jan Kaneen

@JanKaneen1

The croft cottage chimney smoked black curls over a blood-orange sunset. Rabby clicked the latch shut and ran as fast as his young man’s legs would carry him, through the heather and bracken down to the water’s edge. He knew he should be filled with regret but Jeanie McDonald was nothing to him and he couldnae be stuck with the wee idiot and her wailing bastard forever. No-one would ever know. He wasnae there. He was camping on the other side of the Loch wi Jimmy, taking photographs of the Loch Ness Monster with their brand new Brownie Hawkeye Flash.

He dived back into the dark water. It washed him clean. He arched his hard arms into swift front-crawl stokes dipping his head below the surface slicing his cupped hand through the fragmenting ripples, following the firelight.

On the other side, Jimmy was still away up the cliff – the best vantage point he reckoned.

Rabby changed quickly into the identical clothes he’d hidden in the old rowboat and fed the wet ones to the campfire.

The kettle was whistling when Jimmy exploded back into camp so excited he could barely speak.

‘Ah caught it,’ he breathed. T’was distant but ah saw it. Clear as ah see you now. Let’s away home. We’ll develop the film tonight.’

Hours later, at their loch-side cabin, the brothers had drunk half a bottle of malt in celebration. Jimmy had been right.  He had caught Nessy. Leastways he’d snapped a dark diplodican head and neck in silhouette, rising out of the choppy sunset waters.

Rabby held their fortune in his fingers, knowing no-one else would ever know that Nessy’s shadowy neck was his distant arm, her head his curling hand front-crawling through the water.

Loch Ness’s new resident monster smiled and took another sip.

Anastasia Imitates Anastasia

by Kyle Hemmings

1.

I tell her not to linger close to windows. Trying to protect her from the soldiers of the night. From the rats pretending to be rabbits. Tell me again she says with that accent drifting from Eastern European train wreckages, the lips of women waiting for a body to fall. I tell her there are so many causalities under Avenues A, B, C, and D.

2.

There’s this recurrent dream she has of a man from the old country entering her between rest stops and strategic points. When he’s inside, she says, he feels like a snake slithering this way and that. Until he coils around my spine and I’m paralyzed.

How does he get back out? I ask.

She makes the scowl of a gangster.

He sheds himself. All snakes do.

3.

Whenever I make love to Anastasia, I feel as if I’m entering and leaving a country of doe-eyed snipers. Ones who become very small when cornered, who give up everything when pressed. I imagine myself behind the scope of a high-powered rifle, how I could zoom in on a small piece of the world. After we both fail a climax, Anastasia pushes me off, says she couldn’t love me for long. She could break me so easily. As if I am her prisoner.

4. 

.At the train station, we embrace but do not touch. The man with the briefcase takes Anastasia by the hand to a better life. The train hisses. Anastasia turns and yells out through a crowd of crunched bodies–Did you ever love me? I smile. I won’t answer because that word, love, always causes me to become phobic to light and go underground. The train pulls away. There are so many faces in the passing windows. They could all be Anastasia.

Everyone Else

 

by Alex Wealands

 

He sat on the sofa listening to the whirr of the washing machine as it drowned out a television programme he wasn’t watching. The whole flat shook. He looked at his phone and started scrolling through pictures of friends and strangers. Sighing, he put the phone back down and sat staring straight ahead lost in thought.

You Can’t Get Away

by CR Smith

@carolrosalind

I thought I saw him once, fleetingly. Over there, in the corner — no there — behind the wardrobe. One blink and he was gone, the shadows conspiring to hide him. Even so, I could still feel his presence, watching me, waiting for me to cross that line.

My parents introduced us. They were briefly acquainted before I was born and seemed to have no qualms about letting him scare me shitless. It probably made life easier for them. I was a difficult child, always poking my nose in where it didn’t belong, doing those things I shouldn’t. They had to put a stop to my hijinks, somehow. It was for my own good, they said.

His existence hung over me like an ominous cloud full to bursting. I couldn’t get away, no matter what I did. My life became regimented. I was constantly on guard: peering into shadows, cautiously opening cupboards, tentatively looking under beds. My every action awaiting his reaction.

And make me wait he did. Many a night I spent with duvet tucked tightly around my trembling body, wondering where the hell he was and what he would do to me if he ever turned up. Sleep deprived, too frightened to move in case an arm or leg slipped out for him to grab. We never spoke. He allowed his reputation to speak for itself.

They never let me forget. The very mention of him stopped me in my tracks. But, as I’ve grown older, he’s become less problematic. We called a truce. If I acted responsibly, he would stay out of my life, returning to whence he came, born of the shadows. He bided his time. Until, having children of my own, I did what any self-respecting parent would do. I told them The Bogeyman was coming.

Shed-Monster

By Tom Moody

By the time James Crane was ten-years-old he had stopped believing in monsters. Monsters and ghouls and ghosts and goblins were something younger children believed in – like his six-year-old sister, Katy Crane.

Katy often read books about these kinds of things – but James, being two years shy of his teens, was far too grown-up for that kind of nonsense. Or so he thought…

It was Christmas Eve. Heavy dollops of rain sploshed and splashed against James’ bedroom window as he looked out into his back-garden.

Young James was just about ready to go to bed – but something unusual caught his eye…

Outside, in the garden, James could see the shadow of a seemingly deranged beast thrashing and lashing about in the garden-shed.

Maybe monsters do exist?! he thought to himself, his legs trembling from fear. Maybe, during the night-time, the garden-shed is home to a yeti?! Or Bigfoot?! Or maybe even…an alien?!

James knew he had to investigate further. So he pulled on his dressing-gown, slipped on his slippers, fired up his torch and made his way downstairs and into the rain-soaked garden.

As James got closer to the garden-shed, he could hear moaning and gurgling. What on earth could it possibly be?! he thought, as he reached out and touched the shed-door.

This was it: the big moment. James slowly prised open the shed-door to reveal…his Dad.

Dougie Crane had been at the neighbour’s Christmas Party – and he was now sprawled out on the shed-floor, clutching onto an empty bottle of Christmas sherry as drunk as a sailor.

BIG FOOT

by Randy Whittaker

I stared at the huge footprint as my breath came in short gasps.

From heel to toes, it was probably three feet long. I looked and saw the prints headed back into the dense underbrush. With my heart in my throat, I tried to follow it as long as I could but the thicket was too dense and the branches scratched my arms.

My father and I took this boys only trip every year. As I was now ten, my father allowed me a certain freedom to explore by myself near the camp.

After I finished the dishes and he had come back from gathering firewood, he allowed me some time to myself. That’s when I spotted it. I knew I had to tell him.

I ran back to the camp and as I approached the car, I could see him covering something in the trunk with a tarp.

“Dad,” I said my heart still pounding in my ears.

“You have to come see. I think I found some Big Foot tracks,” my boyhood excitement seeping through my pores.

“What?” my father said peering off into the distance.
“Where? Show me,” he said.

We hurried to the spot and I pointed to the tracks like a trained dog. He knelt down and stared with the intensity of a scientist. I stood beside him, my heart racing with the excitement.

“Yep, I think you might be right,” he said the seriousness dripping off his tongue. He stood and peered into the unknown underbrush. My gaze followed and the trees swayed with an eerie presence.

That night, my dreams were filled with images of me as a scientist studying large, furry creatures prowling the night landscape.

As I slept, my father stoked the fire with a wooden imprint of a large foot.

Good Hunting

by Robert Allen Lupton

I tossed the axe handle in Jimmy’s car, jumped in the passenger’s seat, and grabbed a beer.  Another Saturday night without dates and we were off for a night of bum-busting. It was our civic duty, find some homeless drunks and beat the crap out of them.

Jimmy squealed the tires and said, “Let’s check the bridges and overpasses downtown, good hunting there last week. Since they’ve started tearing down the old monastery, the bums can’t sleep inside the old buildings anymore, they’re back on the streets.”

I chugged the beer, tossed the can, and said, “I’m glad it’s being torn down, it creeps me out.  The wall carvings and statues belong on the gates to hell instead of decorating a church.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy replied, “When I was a kid I was terrified a gargoyle would jump down and kick my butt. Mom said gargoyles steal bad children.”

We found a wino asleep or passed out leaning against a pile of bricks from the monastery. His head and face were hidden by a filthy hooded sweatshirt.

Jimmy drew back and swung the ax handle at the bum’s hoodie covered head.

The bum reached out, caught the axe handle with one giant hand, and snatched Jimmy toward him. He grabbed Jimmy’s throat, ripped the axe handle free, and pushed Jimmy onto the pile of bricks.  He put one foot on Jimmy’s chest, pointed the axe handle at me, and said, “I’m keeping this one. I’d run if I were you.”

The cowl slid back and his chiseled marble reptilian features reflected the moonlight.

I ran.

After the demolition, the city opened a park where the salvaged statuary and gargoyles are displayed. The smallest gargoyle’s face is frozen in a scream.  It looks just like Jimmy.

Done Fishing

by Carl R.Jennings

The two old friends sat on either side of their ancient row boat in the lagoon, facing opposite directions, with the lines from their fishing rods disappearing into the dark, calm water. Neither spoke until a shout came out of the thick palm trees. It was terrified—one of a woman in serious danger. A nearly identical one followed, this time from a man.

The old man who sat facing the shore casually looked up as something stomped into sight. It was monstrous—colored a sickly pale green, gills like a shirt collar, and large, black eyes. A mouth was open to reveal rows shark-like teeth. It had a struggling, naked young man over its shoulder.

“Looky there, Jeb,” the old man said, “It’s that thing again.”

The other man, Jeb, grunted without turning around and said, “Looks like it, Pete.”

They were both silent as it approached the water’s edge.

“Looks like it has the McCoy boy this time,” Pete said, shaking his head slowly. “He musta played hooky to skinny dip with the Bentley girl again.”

Jeb nodded. The creature strode into the Stygian water, taking the young man with him and silencing frightened his shouts. Bubbles erupted for a dozen or so feet into the water and then stopped.

Ripples in the water spread out and rocked the boat. Pete began to calmly reel in his line.

“Might as well bring it in, Jeb,” he said, a pang of disappointment in his voice. “No more fish gonna come by today after that. Scared ‘em all away.”

Jeb sighed and nodded, his own reel clicking as he pulled is line back out of the water.

“This keeps up,” Pete said, “We ain’t never gonna get another fish from outta here.”

From the Depths

by Rob Santana

The power went out just as Mum and Dad’s Volvo reached the summit of the road that led to Brentwood’s shopping mall. Dusk loomed.

                  “Make sure Shelley doesn’t wander off this time, David.” Mum had said.

                  David, fourteen, stared out beyond the kitchen window of their modest home. There stood his sister, age seven, wandering in the back yard that overlooked the vast terrain of rotted winter foliage. No TV, no CD player, no lights. Power outage? For how long?

                  “Shelley!” he shouted. “Back inside!”

                  Then he heard the rumbling. Shelley froze, staring at the ground beneath her. Earthquakes in the UK? Nonsense. He stepped out to fetch her. Her eyes were wide, gazing up at him.

                  That sound again.

                  It’s when the pavement shook and the jagged lines ripped across it that he grabbed her wrist and whisked her inside. The tremor increased. Shelley buried her face in David’s stomach, her arms gripping his waist.

                  Then he saw it.

                  He remembered the transistor  radio Dad kept in the cupboard for emergencies. He found it and switched it on.

                  “-no details as yet for these disturbing outbreaks,” said the announcer. “People are advised to stay in their homes. The ridiculous theory persists that an ancient curse had been unleashed due to underground work being done by Con Ed and that-“

                  The broadcast died. David looked out and pulled back.

                  A giant claw, scaly, like that of a demon’s, shot up from the soil. It groped, slithering. Soon the entire arm stretched across the yard towards him. In the distance, another claw sprouted, then another. David thought back to the rumors in class. Was it true, then? That the Apocalypse had its many forms?

                  He backed away, clutching Shelley, as the creature’s digitals loomed closer.

A Century Apart

by Austin Worley

I’d just fed Great-Grandad’s chickens when I saw her.  A woman—wearing a buckskin dress with elaborate beadwork—sauntered out of the woods behind our farm.  Traditional Ponca clothing, I noted.  Odd.  “Can you help me?” her honeyed voice called out.  Tall grass swayed about her hips.

Supernatural lust gripped my heart.  Transfixed, my eyes swept over her.  An oval, russet face with amber eyes met my gaze.  Twin braids of silky black hair ran down to her breasts.  Her dress and the grass hid everything else.  Perfect.  That thought felt foreign, but I couldn’t deny it.  Trying to focus, I shook my head.  “What’s your name, and what do you need, ma’am?”

She smiled.  “Nidawi.  My sister is lost in the woods.  Will you help find her?”

“Lead the way.” I dropped the bag of chicken feed.  Nidawi.  Where’ve I heard that name before?

“Wonderful.”  Nidawi’s smile widened, and she stepped closer. “You know, you’re very handsome.”  I frowned at her forwardness.  “After we find her we could…”

Then Nidawi stepped out of the grass, and I saw it:  a cloven, deer-like hoof peeking out from under her dress.  A Taxti Wau.  A Deer Woman.  One of Great-Grandad’s stories filled my mind.  By her name, same one Great-Grandad ran into.  I gaped, and she must’ve read my thoughts.

Surprise filled her face. “Vernon’s kin?!”  Chanting in the Ponca language, Nidawi whipped off her dress.  Above the waist she resembled a woman, below it a doe.  Her hip bore a nasty scar.  Where Great-Grandad shot her.  When she finished her chant, a blinding flash and a thunderous boom filled the air.  As my eyesight returned, I glimpsed a doe dart into the woods.  She tried luring me, would’ve killed me…just like she tried on Great-Grandad almost a century ago.

Costumes

by Sophie van Llewyn

@sophie_van_l

Laura was admiring her own reflection in the muddy waters of the Loch, the tartan plaid, the slender line of the embroidered corset.

‘Do you like costumes?’, he asked, suddenly appearing beside her.

‘I do,’ she said, against her better judgement. ‘I am wearing one.’

The colour of the stranger’s eyes transfixed her, a murky green the colour of algae.

‘So am I,’ he chuckled.

She frowned, looking at the young man’s Armani shirt.

’I’ve never seen you around these parts.’

‘I’m from Glasgow, came with a friend for the Games. She must be around there, somewhere, watching the Caber Toss. Tried to phone her, but…,’ she said, pointing vaguely with her arm towards the crowds in the distance. She shrugged and turned her eyes away from him.

‘Are you afraid of me?’

She gave out a nervous giggle.

‘It’s this place, I guess. It has a weird vibe. The mists, the people, the costumes. I feel like all those legends could come true, you know?’

Discreetly, he begun pulling the mesmerised Laura into the turbid water.

‘Wait,’ she said, when she was knee-deep in the loch. ‘Where are we going?’

‘Home.’

He moved to kiss her and an agonising pang pierced her body. She felt that her lungs were being sucked out of her, a searing, maddening pain. She tried to scream, but his liquid lips sealed her cries. Under water, his silhouette melted into the shape of a green fluid horse, becoming one with the lake, like the mythical creature that he was. And her his bride.

All that the search party found was only a pair of lungs, tossed aside at the edge of the loch. The old women just shook their heads and said,

‘It wis the waterhorse again, that’s whit it wis.’

Szentmihalyi

by Stephen Lodge

@steveweave71

The rattle of chains, fearsome screams echo through the castle courtyard. The villagers far below close tight their doors and windows, crossing themselves for fear of the night and all it brings. Something has awoken the slumbering monster. The living and the undead share this dread. If the monster escapes, what can stand in its way?

This graveyard was always the seat of the undead. Now we feed this monster to keep him placated. With him in the grounds, no hunters trouble us. But our heightened senses are well aware of the enemy within.

Into the night from our open graves we crawl then stand, majestic. Lawns are strewn with multi-coloured leaves, frozen, through mists of shadows on this wintry eve, on a path only the lost or the undead tread. I search the graveyard for her, deafened by the anger and cacophony of an offshore storm and the monsters’ fearsome howls. The moon highlights the sea-sprayed cliffs, stark, high above the inlet to the bay.

Then she stands before me in desire and lust, her icy kiss upon my neck. Amid jagged twists of lightning, her cherished lips again feast on me. I stare out at the rich, midwinter tapestry. Her gentle caress calms my thumping heart. My eyes close slowly. I can sense that she is gone.

Now there is a hunger in me that must be satisfied. Mad shadows move across the lawns or are they just silhouettes of crumbling stone statues from a bygone time? I want to scream out, to share my thirst with others like me who prowl these dark nights in search of fresh blood, but the only noise is the anguished howls of the monster. Tonight we will seek our prey and food for the monster in the nearby village of Szentmihalyi.

Coelacanth

by Lee Hamblin

@kali_thea

A snow-white man is sitting on the floor. His legs are crossed, his spine erect. His head is freshly shorn and glossy, and he is draped in a sea of black cloth. Eyes barely shut; he plays a wooden flute – a shakuhachi – and each long note emanates something far greater than his words ever could. It is just he, and I, in a mausoleum a rich man built long ago for his wife.

I have been stood here long enough for my breath to still, and for my heartbeat to quieten. The man does not sense my presence, or maybe he does but his mind lies somewhere beyond intrigue.

I lost my pursuer somewhere among the hoards as I weaved my way through the market stalls. My legs followed a path of their own making, the path that led me to here. And in here I feel safe – for now – but I know my follower will not give up. His weapons of choice are things from the past, things far more dangerous than even a samurai’s sword. He is more terrifying than any bogeyman ever depicted – for he lives somewhere deep within me – and will not leave.

He is – I know this for certain – armed, and well capable of pulling the trigger. He is simply waiting for his moment.

It is the snow-white man playing his flute keeping him at bay. Each note he plays trails away into nothing – yet into everything, echoing back from the domed, black-veined, white-marble walls. Is this what they call stillness?

Somewhere close by a door slams shut, a thunderclap rattles through me, pounding every nerve. The snow-white man has fallen silent. I look everywhere, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Fear grips every cell of my body… I can run no more.

Twin Brothers

by Anna Nazarova-Evans

@AnitchkaNE

Jason hasn’t looked at me since I got in. His eyes are fixed on the revolving doors on the other side of the car park. (Intent.) His chest rises and falls heavily under the vest.

A lanky man with a briefcase walks out of the doors (victim) and the veins in Jason’s arms and neck swell. My muscles tense up too. I don’t try to stop him. I am compelled to watch something the judge later calls ‘an attack so brutal, it made people glad they would never meet Jason McEves’.

Jason runs out of the car and I guess I follow. The scene that unfolds resembles something I’ve seen on Animal Planet. A cheetah ran across the bottom of the valley in three long powerful strides and drove its fangs into the neck of an antelope before yanking hard to rip it off. There are screams, the smell of blood and the sound that makes me look around for a driven over hubcap, until I realise it’s the sound of a jaw breaking.

Before me is the picture the jury members will be crying over three months later.

Jason is hysterical. “You made me do it again!” His finger shakes, pointing at me. Perhaps he is right. His screaming accompanies the sound of the sirens. It doesn’t take them half as long this time. (Repeat offenders.)

I stare down at my trainers splattered with blood. (Evidence.) The new white laces are stained a dark red. The feeling of doom I remembered an hour earlier returns, but this time it throws me down to the ground and clips hard metal around my wrists. I hear more words, but they aren’t coming from within my head or Jason’s: “Ah, well look who’s here? Not getting out for good behaviour now, sunshine.”

Death Grip

by Alex Z. Salinas

@Alex_Z_Salinas

 

“Mommy, why do we have to go home already?”

“Because nothing good happens after dark. How many times do I have to tell you, Lor?”

Tabitha Sanchez walked five-year-old Loretta home, who crossed her arms and pouted the whole way.

After she tucked Loretta in bed, Tabitha performed the sign of the cross and kissed her daughter’s head and said, “I love you, baby girl,” as she always did.

“Mommy, do we have to come home because of the bad man?”

Tabitha’s throat tightened.

“Where did you hear that?”

“Why are you yelling at me?”

Tabitha grabbed Loretta’s little hand and squeezed. “I said where did you hear that?”

Loretta began to cry. “Mommy you’re hurting me.”

Tabitha tightened her grip and demanded an answer. Loretta responded with cry screams.

“Don’t you ever repeat that again, do you hear me?”

Still the cry screams.

“I said do you hear me, little girl?” Tabitha shouted.

“Mommy!”

Tabitha shut off the lights and slammed the door, which muffled the chaos.

She walked to living room and collapsed on the futon, fighting back her own tears.

The bad man. The Crawler.

That’s what they had called him when he plagued the city twenty years ago. Two weeks of terror, of kidnapping three young women, of raping and strangling them and burying their naked bodies in an open field, ended in a bloody shootout with police.

One of his victims was Maria Sanchez, Tabitha’s mother. Tabitha was Loretta’s age when it happened.

That night, Tabitha would not sleep. She would recall the mugshot of a handsome man with a narrow face. His lips thin, his eyes full.

Maybe tomorrow Tabitha would tell Loretta that monsters weren’t real, that bad things don’t always happen after dark, but deep down, she knew she wouldn’t.

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