Lovely Dinner, Dear
by KF Williams
The ungodly stench of singed flesh entangled with the fragrance of fresh herbs enticed Mirka to have a second helping. The louder she screamed the more his ragged mouth overflowed with saliva. The muffled shrieks made him crave more. His mistress watched and smiled as he enjoyed his birthday feast.
His wife never offered him anything of this sort. This one is juicier than the others – more satisfying. The mangled leg battered in bluish bruises was his favorite. He twisted the toes off, one by one. Royalty considers them to be a delicacy, so he took his time savoring every brittle bone, every cracked nail, as it slid down his thick callused tongue. Her bones snapped at the hip as he tugged on the leg to see her flesh tear from her ligaments. The visual aroused Mirka.
His mistress stood from the table, wearing a see-through negligee. The way her hips swayed with the soft fabric made him even more aroused. Mirka knew what was next – the finale to the four-course meal. Her green pitted flesh oozed with longing and he knew he was going to give it to her even better than he gave it to his wife earlier that evening.
“Ready?” her grumbling voice whispered in his ear. He nodded yes. She stepped to the side of his main course and slowly pulled the burlap sack from the head. Mirka loved eating the brain and she knew it. His mistress’s teasing made him want it more than ever.
Before he could argue, before he could stop his knife from splitting open the skull, before he cared that he just ate his wife for dinner, he was inside of his mistress – enjoying her for dessert.
“Please, dear,” she pleaded, “keep your elbows off of the table.”
by Old Beacon Hill
‘Hey Don how’s tricks?’
‘Oh, hi Harry, didn’t see you there, what you been up to’
‘Just hangin’ around mate…. heh….uuugh….. heh’.
‘The old fellow still smoking I see.’
‘Someone’s got to tell him about secondary smoke, it’s not on. What brings you here then?’
‘Well the lady of the house still has that bladder problem and….’
‘Say no more mate, I understand.’
‘Nice to be out in the breeze though eh?’
‘Yep nothing like a bit of fresh air to iron out the creases’, heh, uuugh, heh.
‘You want to take something for that cough mate’.
‘Well if he doesn’t stop soon I’m going to smother the bastard while he sleeps, that’ll sort the problem’.
‘Ohhh Christ, just what I need’.
‘Not having a good time lately are you?’
‘Not really mate, emphysema, jaundice and now covered in bird shit….what a life. Bet she’s going to throw me back in the machine again too.’
‘No getting out of that one Harry, there’s a big streak all down your back.’
‘That thing gives me a headache.’
‘Never mind, things could be worse.’
‘Well you know their youngest son, the one with the acne?
‘Well, he fell into the washing machine yesterday’
‘…….came out spotless!’
Witness to a Crime
by Rhonda Howard
“911, I just saw two men dressed in black with machine guns going up the fire escape of my building.”
“They just broke my bedroom window and are entering my apartment.”
“Oh God, I am afraid.”
“I am safe.”
“No one saw me.”
“I am watching this from across the street.”
“I was at a concert and took a cab home.”
“Please someone help me!”
“Yes, that is the correct address. Please hurry.”
“Maysa and her husband and child live in the apartment next to mine.”
“She is a very sweet, non-violent Muslim woman.”
“Her husband Ali always smiles at me in the hall.”
“No, I have never seen anyone suspicious going into their apartment.”
“Mai Chin lives across the hall, she keeps to herself.”
“She is the owner of the building.”
“I am not sure if she is Muslim or not.”
“Look, my neighbors are awesome people.”
“They just can’t be in any type of trouble.”
“Please hurry, someone could get hurt.”
“Why do I have to be questioned?”
“This is why I don’t like reporting problems.”
“You think that I know these people?”
“I just heard two gunshots.”
“What is taking you so long?”
“Red flashing lights and sirens are approaching the building now.”
“Oh God, the two men in black are running down the alley.”
“One of them looks like he is injured.”
“No, the police are already inside.”
“I can’t go over there.” “I just can’t bear to see what has happened.”
“One of the officers brought Maysa’s little girl outside and placed her in the back seat of their car.”
“She is crying hysterically.”
“I am on my way over there now.”
“I see the ambulance turning the corner.”
“Yes, I will cooperate with whatever they need.”
“Got to go.”
by Lauryn Green
It clattered as he hurled it against the wall, thudding dully against the carpeted floor so quietly it was unsatisfying in his anger, and rolled under his chest of drawers. He needed loud. Needed doors slamming so violently that it shook the whole earth, made everyone else feel as upside down as he himself did.
She’d left. And in her wake, a pen remained. A pen. He was furious. How dare she die? How dare she leave him? Weeks later, he would know it wasn’t her fault. A month later, he’d know it was the driver’s fault. Three months and he would know who that driver was, spit flaming words at the man in court who dared to take her away, until an inferno burnt down to a flicker and then to ashes of numbness. It would be a decade before he believed, even slightly, that it wasn’t his own fault.
A year later, he’d pull out his chest of drawers when his family moved house. ‘Too many bad memories,’ his mother would say. ‘It’s not good for you.’ And he’d find the pen, go to write a hassled scrawl of instructions to the people who’d soon be turning his bedroom into a study, explaining the way the door stuck and you had to stamp down the floorboard outside to get it to open.
‘You took your time,’ the pen wrote, yanking his hand to form the words in an unfamiliar style. Not his handwriting. Hers. ‘I miss you,’ it wrote. She wrote.
But that was a year from now. Right now, the pen lay, abandoned.
A pen. She’d left. And in her wake, a pen remained. A pen.
Never buy a coat from a man in a library
by Cath Barton
I never could resist a bargain. Even from a man in a library, hissing his offer in my ear as I’m sitting there leafing through the local paper.
“Twenty nicker to you lady. Lovely bit of stuff,” he said, stroking the fur. He was oddly alluring. I fished out the money and he grabbed it. When he’d gone, vanished like a genie from a bottle, the coat was lying on the chair next to me, stretched out as if it was having a rest.
The librarian came over.
“Dogs aren’t allowed in the library,” she said, looking over her spectacles at me. She reminded me of my biology teacher at school, when she was teaching us about amoebae. Single-celled organisms that live in damp places. Pseudopods, that’s how they move. Temporary protusions. Why do we remember useless information like that? I frowned and looked down. The coat had slipped onto the floor. I snatched it up.
“It’s not a dog,” I was indignant. “A man…” I stopped. The librarian had raised a finger to her lips. Her eyes widened and she waggled her finger at the coat as it started moving slowly down again like a furry amoeba.
“I told you!” Her face was red.
For a moment it looked funny and I laughed. Loudly. I really shouldn’t have done that. If I’d known what was going to happen I wouldn’t have laughed. There’s plenty else I wouldn’t have done either.
I do have bad dreams. Sometimes the creature is attacking me. I always wake up screaming, and lately I’ve found that my hands are bloodied, as if I’ve been biting them. I see movements behind doors, flurries. There’s never anything there, not even a growl. But now I know the information about amoebae was not useless. And I’m careful.
Beware of Pumpkins
Hidden from view most of the year, it’s only at Halloween I see any action. Of course, she’s aware of my presence. I make sure of that. Silently calling out to her from across the kitchen until she has no choice but to look in my direction. I feel her eyes searching for me.
It must be party time again if the surrounding revelry is anything to go by. My anticipation rises, the air so thick with pungent smoke I can smell it from here. A wild night of partying keeps me on edge until it fizzles out in the early hours. Lingering partygoers crash where they can, falling silent while I grow impatient. Where is she?
Creaking floorboards inform me of her presence. She pulls open the dresser draw, bathing me in the soft yellow light. It bounces off my blade enticing her to pick me up. Reverently, she runs her hand along my steel, following the ritual. Lifting her costume to slice into her flesh, muttering with each cut. Checking I’m still sharp enough to be deadly, her warm blood coating my cold surface. I know exactly what she’s planning. We’ve done this before.
She smiles at my weight in her hand as we close in on our victim. I feel the resistance as she pushes me against their skin; as my razor-sharp blade slices through their flesh. She’s excited by the sight of blood. That initial line of red as it begins to ooze, to drip, to gush, releasing its unmistakable tang. She awaits that final exhale as life slips away, and only then is she content.
She slits the throat first, allowing me to catch their reaction. They always look so surprised to see a pumpkin wielding a knife.
A True Story
by Marie Norman
When Dave hit me it wasn’t the first time but it would be the last. I held my stinging cheek and cried on the toilet. Like a coin flipping my spirit hardened. I dried my face, unlocked the bathroom door. I placed essentials in a bag and went downstairs. I punched him hard in the gut and left him without a word.
This was a fresh start but it didn’t stop the panic attacks, the irrational fear of loud voices. It took up all my time to stay steady, to believe in myself. The more I tried, the more I slipped.
The shadow creature was testament to that.
Watched in the shower by unseen eyes, followed home from work, it would appear in my room late at night, faceless, semi- transparent and shrouded in dilating shades of black, nurturing negativity and feeding on my sadness.
Suicidal ideas seeped into everyday tasks; while slicing tomatoes, the image of turning the knife on my wrist. Looking down, the knife was at my wrist, a bead of blood sat at the tip like a glistening ruby.
One day, my room was cold, nothing out of the ordinary there, yet paranoia mounted in my chest and pressure of its presence pressed on my shoulders.
“Get out,” I spoke firmly. “You’re not welcome here. Don’t come back to this house, this street, this town. I forbid you from following me, or anyone I know.”
Materialising by the door, this time it possessed, an idea of a face, fire red and non-descript, fury emanated from it.
Then thank God, it was gone.
I dreamt of Jesus’s crucifixion and cried. I woke, arms outstretched, hands curled in agony. I couldn’t move but the room was warm.
Cthulhu if by Sea
“A Cthulhu, really?” said the barkeep.
“Yeah, mate. By my car.”
“You’re fucked. I’ve heard dodgy shit before, but come on. You havin’ a go at me?”
“It’s just sitting there trying to light up. Kept getting the ciggy all wet. Couldn’t figure out the lighter.”
“Go on mate. Shove off.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere. Get rid of that … fucking sushi, then I’ll be off. ‘Til then, grab me a pint.”
“Think you’ve had a few pints too much, yeah. Fucking Cthulhu. Bollocks.”
“Five quid, then.”
“You already owe me five quid.”
“Double or nothing, then. Ten quid if no squid.”
“I’ll bite. Let me go look.”
“What’s he doing now?” said the patron.
“Eating a cat.”
“A feline, for Christ sakes, he’s eating a cat.
“Why’s that shocking? That is their diet.”
“Never actually seen it. What are you worried for? Hasn’t been a Cthulhu related death in Sussex for 20 years.”
“I don’t like the smell. And they always want to know the time. Like, I get it, you have a schedule to keep. But, buy a watch. I wish they’d leave.”
“It’s the fog and the stray cats.”
“That’s it, I’m moving to Arizona, they don’t have this problem.”
“No you wanker, fog and rain.”
“Daylight Savings Time neither.”
“My friend moved there, says they don’t have daylight savings.”
“Must be nice.”
“What, no daylight savings, or no Cthulhu?”
“No rain or fog.”
“Ah. Yeah. S’pose so. But they’ve got Chupacabra.”
“That’s a myth.”
“It’s their arms. Too tapered and slippery.”
“They can’t wear a watch because it won’t stay on proper.”
“S’pose you’ve got a point.”
“That’s why they’re always late.”
“Yeah, one’s got a job at the bank.”
“Now you’re having me on,”
“Yeah. Want another pint?”
by Michael Snyder
“The neighbours are at it again.”
“Screaming or screwing?”
“Hard to tell.”
Every sound in the adjoining apartment is carried through ductwork, then magically amplified through the vent in our living room. The walls seem to be made of Graham Crackers.
Then comes the metronomic headboard banging, the clichéd affirmations, as if they’re trying to win an Emmy.
“How come you don’t scream like that?” I say.
“Maybe because you don’t screw like that,” Mandy replies.
We always tease like that. Then we turn off the lights, hug our pillows, and wonder.
On Monday, Mandy catches me swearing at a referee on television. Tuesday, she goes a little berserk on a telemarketer. And on it goes. I flip off a guy in a Mustang, then curse him impotently from the bubble of my Camry. I overhear Mandy in the shower, first moaning with pleasure then weeping inconsolably.
Finally we inflict our brand of pedestrian intimacy upon one another. There’s kissing followed by predictable petting that culminates in one missionary mewling and the other stifling grunts into his pillow.
Weeks later I arrive home from work, looking forward to a quick jog, a quiet dinner, and some mindless football on TV. Mandy meets me at the door in her bathrobe, ranting about divorce. I’m mostly speechless as she enumerates her many grievances and reminds me of mine. Shouting leads to pushing, which leads to Mandy comparing me to my mother. That’s when I lose it. We are toe-to-toe. I’m the manager; she’s the umpire. I call her a bitch.
She smiles then and yanks off her robe. My eyes absorb her naked body as she shoves me onto the sofa, tearing at my clothes.
Eventually, the neighbours bang on the wall and shout at us to keep it down.
The Blind Spyle
by Phillip Miranda
My vision flickers back along with the panic in my spine, and I peer through the nearly perfect darkness that lays palpably, like moths, against my skin. I’m on the ground, in the swirling shadows of an alleyway, far removed from the protective glow of any streetlamps. I need to get back into the light.
Struggling against bloodless legs, I rise and start toward the brightened mouth of the alley. Abruptly, the light of the street blacks out as something moves between me and the light. I freeze, and catch the rising gasp in my throat by clamping a hand over my mouth. Reeking breaths of disintegrated flesh waft into my face and worsen the horrific nausea. If the thing were any closer, I would be touching it. Even in this dark, I’m so close that I start to make out its appearance, and I immediately shut my eyes.
I shut them so I cannot see the bony protrusions crawling from its eye sockets, covering most of its blind face. I refuse to see the taut folds of skin around its mouth that is twisted into a constant, demonic grin; the clefted upper lip that further disfigures its visage and showcases its several sets of jagged teeth, or the purple tongue twitching eagerly in the putrid recesses of its maw.
It must smell the tang of my fear because it begins to growl, softly, unsure.
I stray my free hand behind me for something– anything– and my heart seizes between its hammering beats as my hand closes around a spur of rebar standing among the alley’s detritus.
It seems more certain now, leaning forward, breathing quicker.
The spike of metal pulls free just as the thing finds me, and I stab in a desperate arc toward its neck.
The White Ninja
by Kareem Shehab
I, a ten-year-old boy, stand alone in the middle of the debris of my building. It’s only been seven minutes since I left my mom, my little sister and my grandmother in there and went out to find food. I couldn’t find food, and now I can’t find my family either. Allepo used to be a lovely place. That charred building on my right used to be my school. That van tainted with blood and bullets on my left used to be an ice-cream van. That smelly pile of garbage behind me used to my favourite park. And right before my sight, that shapeless building, was the mosque of the city. I still remember how everything used to look like. When I asked my grandmother why this is all happening to us, she said “The animal instinct inside us won over, son. We have lost our humanity.”
When I went out today to get food, and saw the planes swimming above me and throwing balloons with boxes attached to them upon my city, I remembered Halloween. I wondered whether they were tricks or treats. Treats would cost those planes less money than that they buy tricks with. But they prefer tricks. I remember when we wore costumes and wandered the streets; when we made fun of old men wearing Batman or a ninja. Then they would give us candy. Now men with ninja costumes walk around us everyday. When my father made fun of them, they shot a candy through his head.
When I grow up I will wear those ninja costumes too, but in white. I will wander the world holding a balloon box in my hand, search for families like mine, knock their doors and say: “Trick or treat?”. But I will be holding a treat.
Blue and Red
by Riham Adly
I am the black soul of a sun that shines but gives no light. I am the darkness that is not the color black but the fake vanilla sweetness of your vanity. I am the gun that fires your syrupy lies. I am your hooded prejudice. I am the piecing stare you use to ensnare. I am the sweet-scented illusion of the roses you dump once they’re dead. I am what you call love but isn’t. I am the engineer of all your camouflaged miseries. I am your perfumed malice. I am your ego, but I am not you.
Ramona’s throat hurt as she tried to swallow the urge to cry. The note with the sprawled handwriting had her name on it. Someone must have slipped it under the door of her dorm room. Who would write such awful things to her? She was a good girl. She did her best to fit in and score good grades.
Ramona caught her own reflection in the small slab of a mirror in her room. A scary sense of Déjà vu took over. Did this happen before?
“Ramona, I’m borrowing your red dress for tonight’s party.” She flinched at the untimely intrusion of her roommate.
“Fine, take what you want.” Annoyance flitted over her face, but at least the urge to cry was gone.
“You scared the hell out of me last night. Again.” Caren started.
“What are you talking about?”
“You’ve been doing it every night for a week now. I think you need to see someone. What if…. ”
“Stop it. This isn’t funny anymore.”
“No it’s not funny when you wake up in the middle of the night, leaving the room only to come back an hour later with your hands stained in red and blue.”
Picking up a legend
by Charlie McCarthy
The wind that lashed his face had ice on it. He knew he was in danger of catching pneumonia if he persisted in standing by this motorway slip road but he didn’t have the dough to take a room. If he had the readies he would have showered, ate at the late night diner and tried his luck again in the morning. The car that stopped for the hitchhiker did so because the driver spotted the guitar case.
Where you headin?
Bleaker Street New York.
Your lucky night pal, get in.
Alan John Rigby had been tasked by the company to find new talent. The music industry was always looking and if your competitors got there first, you knew it could be serious trouble for you and your company. When they arrived in New York the rain had turned to snow. Rigby hadn’t the heart to offload his charge into the Chelsea Hotel, it was such a dump. So for the singing of three songs, the hitchhiker had the comfort of a room in a heated apartment overlooking Central Park.
Rigby couldn’t quite put his finger on it but there was something about this guy. He couldn’t sing for toffee, nor play anything but three or four chords but his words, oh my, his words took you soaring across oceans of electricity. This was no song and dance man, this was the real deal, a poet’s first trip to the Big Apple. Rigby made a couple of calls, gave the singer $100 and cut him a deal to record what he wanted, anytime he wanted the studio. No one had such a contract.
That was a lifetime ago. Tonight, he shuffled in to hear the Nobel Laurette who appeared to be oblivious to all fuss.
A LOVE STORY
by Ananya Dasgupta
In the woods surrounding The Valley With Yellow Light lived a woman dressed in blue. She was from Armenia and loved all things Armenian, especially her country’s super smelly glue. Her heart’s deepest wish, (oh how very deep it was) was to build a pyramid so tall, it would be several millennia till someone would hit dirt, if from it he were to fall.
And this little woman (oh she was the smallest you’ll ever see) though seemingly kind and nice, loathed candy, despised bows, toys and cream and was terrified of mice.
Her favourite time was winter when the air is thick and opaque. A flower she couldn’t stand, no presents would she give or take. Grime, slugs and murk was what she prized above all. No one ever looked her in the eye, no one had the gall. And every time she heard laughter she’d yell through gritted teeth, “Be quiet you noisy heap of filth” and with boiling rage, seethe.
She squished the tiny bug, stomped over the squirrel and trampled over the budding lily. If an infant dare smile at her she’d shriek, “Oh, Don’t be silly.” Everyone was offended, hurt and angered so from her all of them ran. No one tried to understand the reason for her bitterness, which was of course a man.
by Philip M Stuckey
Within the silent depths of an ancient wood, clothed in dewy moss and tangled roots, something stirs. As yet formless, dark and empty of soul it waits.
Like smoke from dying embers it swirls and eddies amongst the knurled oaks, suddenly aware, sensing the souls of the lost and fallen. The appointed time has come and like a mute dog upon a leash it strains with silent screams, drinking the fear of countless dreams.
Cloaked in darkness deeper than death, it takes form, freezing the hearts of those who dare to bear witness within their troubled sleep; dripping dread like poison into their blood.
A storm gathers fury, electrifying the bruised sky and illuminating the golem, rising tree-like from the loam. The stench of decay hangs upon the energised air as this ancient bane takes a first lumbering step and then another, eager for the destruction it has been created to unleash. It is the children of this world the creature has been called to punish, for the sins of the fathers who turned their faces from the light.
A deep and ominous rumble claims the night, groaning and straining until finally it fractures, waking a thousand restless souls from their tormented dreams. All have heard the same three, dread words, echoing from the dark dimension…I…am…come.
Thus begins the Reaping and sorrow will consume the new day, for the cries of a thousand mothers will be the song of the morning. Yes, I have seen it, and this is my prophecy. All who have ears, hear me and repent, for that night is coming, and soon. It is yet a shadow cast by the light of a full moon, but as surely as the sun sets like a fox to his lair, so will the golem rise.
Mrs. Schultz’s Cats
By Samuel Brower
“That’s Meph,” Jacob said, pointing at a large, black tomcat. “One of Mrs. Schultz’s cats.”
“What kind of a name is Meph?” Brayden, Jacob’s best friend, asked.
“It’s short for something. Mephisto… mephistophil… something, I can’t say it.”
The great beast of a cat sat at the edge of the sidewalk, idly batting at fallen autumn leaves.
“Black cats are unlucky,” Brayden said. “Let’s go.”
Jacob stayed put. “Mrs. Schultz says that’s not true. She says that’s an old wives’ tale only stupid people believe.” He looked up at the house directly behind the black cat—Mrs. Schultz’s house.
“Jacob, let’s go,” Brayden urged, eager to get about their Saturday.
“Meph is an inside cat,” Jacob said.
“So Mrs. Schultz won’t want him outside. He could get hit by a car.”
Brayden rolled his eyes. “Let’s hurry then.”
The pair approached the house together. Meph pricked up his ears as the boys neared. Jacob made soft cooing noises and patted his leg. The cat stood, stretched, followed.
At the front door Jacob knocked to no avail.
“She’s not home,” Brayden said.
“She’s like a hundred, where would she go? Maybe she’s taking a nap. I bet the back door is unlocked.”
They circled around to the back yard. Jacob continued to beckon Meph; the big cat continued to follow. At the rear of the house the boys stopped. Only the screen door was closed, and it had a large, ragged-edged hole in its bottom.
“Jacob,” Brayden pleaded, eyeing the hole.
Jacob, undeterred, went in through the torn screen door, Brayden reluctantly trailing behind. The door opened into a kitchen. Cats scattered away from a form lying on the stained linoleum floor. A pungent, rotten odor pushed against the boys. Brayden began to cry. At their feet, Mrs. Schultz lay in her final repose, her face, eyes, and fingers gone, gnawed away by her many cats.
The Girl and the Library
by JRJ Richmond
Every Monday, little Candice Fairweather visits the same library. Her library card is the only proof of who she is, proof that she even exists at all. Every week she arrives to return a single book, and to get out a new one. The library staff now know her never-changing routine off by heart. She starts by scanning the shelves, going through each row far too fast to possibly take any particular title in. Every now and then she suddenly stops to grab a book and then sits down to read it.
Candice only ever reads one page of a book before making her decision. She either adds it to ‘her’ pile or puts it back. Candice then repeats the process until she has nine books. Those fortunate enough to make ‘her’ pile are then whittled down again. Next in her strange routine, Candice places the books with their backs to the ceiling and puts the palm of her hand on each book, as if getting a feel for its temperature. Staff have asked her about her strange ways but she always ignores their questions, usually by pretending she didn’t hear them in the first place.
Eventually ‘her’ pile is whittled down to three. Next, Candice begins dropping the books on the floor, as if checking their weight. She has been told off several times for this, but continues to do it anyway. Eventually she takes one single book to the librarian at the front desk, never saying a word. Candice then leaves the library and isn’t seen for a week. Some peoples say, once she is alone she climbs inside the book and lives out the week as a different character. Others say she is a character that escaped a book and is just trying to get back home.
by Jack Koebnig
They could be storing him anywhere; a garage, the boot of a car, a damp cellar beneath a disused log cabin at the edge of a deep dark lake … a coffin?
He sniffed the warm air swirling around his head; it definitely wasn’t damp. There was also no trace of petrol or spilled oil. He didn’t know what the inside of a coffin smelled like, but, he thought, if it was anything like this then it wouldn’t be so bad.
A door opened to his right and warm air raced over the tip of his nose. It tickled. He wanted to reach up and chase the itch but couldn’t. He was lying on his hands, no, I’m lying on my fists and they feel as though they’ve been tied together at the wrists.
The floor boards creaked once then were silent. It sounded like a scream choked into submission. He tried to move but could only manage a half-hearted wriggle.
He was no longer alone. Someone was with him. He could hear their breathing, words too, and they seemed to be coming from an impossible distance.
Light suddenly filled the room. He tried to open his eyes but couldn’t. It was as though his eyelashes had been glued together. His eyeballs darted frantically behind the closed lids as though searching desperately for an escape route.
His eyelashes fluttered and he heard something similar to heavy boots stomping on thawing ice. He guessed it was the glue beginning to crack and lose its grip.
Whoever it was they were standing over him, ready at any moment to yank him to his feet.
‘… Mark, I won’t tell you again. Get up or you’ll be late for school!’
by Tim Goldstone
Witches toe-steps scutter softly past my window when I am four. They don’t want to wake me but I stay awake for them knowing one night they’ll take me – I know where to get newts from and when the fat moon-stunned toads are slow, and I know where my familiar waits – a creature I have summoned from the end of my life where without it I will burn to great cheers, but I will have my glory now –
You see? See how I have grown while you were reading?
None So Blind
by Travis West
Kara sucked hard on her cigarette. She blew the smoke up into the sky; it curled and twisted up towards the stars. Her anger was starting to dissipate. It seemed like since they’d moved to the city, all they ever did was fight. She flicked the cigarette away, watching it spiral through the air. It landed on what she’d thought was a pile of old rags and her eyes widened in surprise when the rags stirred.
Kara took a step back, thinking it must be a rat. Rats were everywhere here. The rags rose from the ground and revealed themselves to be a man. He reached out a hand towards Kara but she started walking in the opposite direction. If he needed help, she wasn’t the one to give it. One more problem with the city: the homeless were everywhere too. Looking behind her to make sure he wasn’t following her, she walked head-first into something. Turning, she saw the same man was somehow in front of her now, and up close she could see that he was more terrifying than she’d realized. Instead of eyes he had only black, empty sockets; he smelled of saltwater and decay. He reached out towards her and she fell backwards onto the asphalt.
Kara screamed as the man’s fingers came closer and closer to her face. She couldn’t move as this homeless man began to dig his dirty fingers into her eye sockets with unnatural strength. He closed his fists around her eyeballs, cracking her skull down the middle. He pulled her eyes from her head with a swift jerk and Kara collapsed into the dirt. The filth and the darkness seeped around her and into her and moments later she could hardly be distinguished from a pile of rags on the ground.
by Lee Hamblin
I’d been given the bottom bunk. Rabinowicz is up top. He’s a shorn-haired, pallid kid from Poznan, somewhere I’d never heard of. And just like mine had, his face contorted in puzzlement when I told him the town I was from, but he said he’d heard of Syria.
Four other boys share the room – four, red-eyed, tall as palms, dark as coffee, boys. They speak no English at all. Mine is okay, I was learning it at school when it got hit. Rab’s, though, is excellent, but that’s only because of the ages that he’d been here.
The rooms are sorted on account of our ages, so we would have all been eleven years old, and while none of us were alive, none were yet ready to be dead.
Rab says that some of us get to go back, the ones schooled in forgiveness, he says, those who’ve managed to forget the horrors, he says, more like become brainwashed, he says. He then calls them something else, in Polish, which I do not understand, yet I understand completely. The Governess calls them Angels, and her heart knows that most will lose their purpose on the long journey, that they will be dismissed and ridiculed, that soon they’ll be forgotten, and return to this place with wings fractured and hearts desolate.
Rab says that on one night of the year, the best night of the year, we, ‘the others,’ as he calls us, get to visit the place we once called home, and for one night only we get to scream suffering on the howling wind, to plant terror deep in the shadows, to cry tears in torrents of rain. To remind you how a world where hatred is king will soon no longer be.
by Myrto Zafeiridi
He saw me looking at him, as I was crouched half-hidden behind the dumpsters. I was too hungry to care. In a blink of an eye I dragged him in a dark corner and soon I was savouring the metallic taste of his blood. Before long, his heart stopped beating and his stare became blank. Now I was able to take a more careful look at his face. Why did he seem so familiar?
I wiped my hands off his sweater. It was a bloody mess anyway, with pieces of flesh all over it. I had bitten him so deeply that his bones were showing. He had also emptied his bowels and the stench was unbearable even for me.
Later I went back to my hiding place, an abandoned office building just off the interstate. I had been laying low there during the day ever since I realized that I was a monster. I didn’t remember anything about my past, apart from a name.
I knew this was somehow important, but the reason eluded me.
I wrapped myself with a torn blanket I had scavenged a few months ago from some unlocked tool shed. As I drifted in and out of sleep, an image came to me. It was the man from before, wearing a brown sweater and carrying a box filled with books. Then another one, of the same man smiling and pushing a plate of food towards me. I started remembering the way he smelt, like chamomile and lemon, and that he disliked musicals. The images were filling my brain now, like a movie in fast forward.
A flowery quilt. The man putting a tattered old bear on my pillow.
The name Barry stitched artlessly across its belly.
“Oh no, what have I done…” I whispered.
by Miriam Averna
The crate I am kept in hasn’t been opened for days. The smell is nauseating, a mixture of urine, faeces and something else. A foul stench that supersedes the other odours. An all-consuming, bile-rendering odour, worsening as time goes on. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, only how much pain I have endured. I am too weak to remember details, just aware of pain and extreme hunger. I drank the last of my urine hours ago. The taste of ammonia lingers on my tongue even though the moisture left it a while back. I guess I must be close now. My body slowly surrendering to the inevitable. I slip in and out of consciousness.
I am horizontal now, not dead, but strapped to an examination chair. There is a funnel in my mouth. Relief washes over me as I realise a feeding is imminent. My captor steps out of the darkness, a bottle of brown liquid clasped in his left hand. I am too weak to struggle as the liquidised faeces is poured down. Tears stream down my eyes. I hold back the urge to vomit as the next bottle, which calls for a spoon, appears. This concoction includes slimy lumps of a metallic liquid that easily slide down my throat. The hard crunchy bits, do not and I begin to cough.
The last thing that I am fed doesn’t seem so bad in comparison. It feels like raw pig skin but tastes, different.
At the end, my captor asks:
‘How does it feel to have eaten yourself?’
I look down at my mutilated body. A scar runs across my stomach, various puncture marks are on my arms. My legs have been completely skinned.
Now I know what that smell was.
by Ahaa Jan
Tom is smiling a smile only his lover can give him. They’d had a fight but now Tom’s in post-coital bliss; drained and at peace with everything. There’s nothing a great fuck can’t fix.
Not wanting to be disturbed, they’d set their phones to silent; Tom’s rings out to another voicemail to add to the unanswered texts but his smile says he can’t care less.
They had a shower together before his lover cleaned up, fixed Tom’s toy poodle, Babs, a treat and left, and now Tom is sitting up in bed smiling; wrapped in his velour dressing gown, another gift his lover gave him. An Americano steaming beside him mingles with the smell of his immaculate home. He can’t imagine moving from this spot though there are things to do, places to go and yes, people to see.
On the dot, the letterbox snaps and Babs drags the local rag upstairs. The lead story, with a jump to an inside spread, is about a killer on the loose; he’s been nicknamed The Mortician but Tom isn’t worried or the least bit titillated.
Babs berates the ringing bell and the knocks at the door. Tom isn’t expecting anyone and sinks into the pillow wedged into the small of his back; smiling. Babs nibbles more of her moistened kibble and curls up in the silence. The summer sun creeps across Tom like a warm blanket. He doesn’t see the shielded eyes at the backdoor or hear its turning handle.
Tom is lost to the world; filled with restful moments. If he could stopper Time he would. He’ll never know what you know, that formaldehyde already preserves it and his smile.
On Her Majesty’s Silver Service
by Stephen Lodge
Ian Blond wriggled aggressively as he tried to get loose of the restraints that held him captive. He lay flat out on his back on what appeared to be a plank of wood, stretching out from a pier far above the sea. There was little sea breeze and Blond could feel beads of sweat on his face. Seagulls sang a mocking tune.
“Ooh, I wouldn’t waste your time struggling, Mr Blond. You’ll only cut off your circulation.” Blond recognised the awful voice of his arch enemy, the Queen Of Mean, Madeuragon. She sat on a deckchair on the pier, looking out at Blond who was trussed up like a Christmas turkey.
“I’d prefer you to be awake to watch what will happen to you. Now, I’m sure you are aware of the sea creatures that blight this region.” She paused to finish a chicken leg then toss the bone into the sea. “The Maunkex. We believe there is one on its way here right now. Can smell the blood where we cut you. Sorry we ruined your trousers, but you won’t need them again. The Maunkex will tower up out of the sea, land on the plank and begin to devour you from your feet working its way up your body until just your bones will be left. Don’t ask me why they don’t like bones, Mr Blond. I’m a Super Criminal Mastermind. I don’t have a degree or diploma in the ways of the Maunkex. Oh, yes, I must tell you. I am not making the mistake of other so-called Super Criminals. I am staying here watching until only your bones are left. No more will you meddle, Mr Blond. I’ll probably just sit here sipping fine wine and stroking my lovely pussy.”
Lord of the Flies
by Kelly Griffiths
Flies! I blame them. Like black rain they pelt, they buffet me. Though I shush them, they buzz in my ears, rude and cunning, so I crush their black exoskeletons against my palms and wipe their creamy insides on the fabric of my uniform. They keep coming.
I swat the pests like I’m directing a requiem. Flail, spin, convulse– anything to jolt the flies. Be off buggers! I live.
After forty-one years of fetching corpses, bagging, tagging, and zipping, riding lights-only to the morgue, we’re in no rush– death’s stench soaked into my fingers. Elastic gloves don’t fool the flies about what hides underneath. I’ve taken to wiping the sticky red on my pants as well. Lord of the Flies, I call myself, because I’m still clever. I’m not mad. Just, I can’t rid myself of the flies.
The curved bone mast protrudes from a crater in her chest, the small tattered flag of her lacy nightgown attached where it ripped through on its thrusty exit. Don’t ask me how her rib blew out. I just bag them.
Something about her nags at me. Maybe it is the way my flesh goes numb, or how my fingers tremble when I zip the black bag reeking of synthetics over what once giggled and peed and scratched.
I have a dream. Her. Pale in a lace night gown, a night light lying that she’d be safe. Her shallow snoring, the buzz of sleep. Buzz… buzz… and I… shush it. A memory of crushing her breaths against my palms, swiping at the cream skin quivering, resisting, until the insides became the outsides and a bone mast rears a truce.
Silence. The flies, they come and enrobe her in a bag of black. My fingers, sore, sticky, zip it closed.
The Other Sort
by Sandra Arnold
We hadn’t been there five minutes before the first arrivals started drifting through the doors: a man staring out the window muttering about somebody who was late; a woman searching for something she’d lost,but she’d forgotten what it was.
While Auntie Jane was showing Mum around the garden I wandered off to explore an old shed. That’s when I saw the boy hanging from the doorway. I must have yelled because Auntie Jane and Mum came charging back. When I realised they couldn’t see him I told them what was there. Mum started telling me off for making things up again. The building used to be a school, Auntie Jane interrupted, before she bought it and renovated it. She’d read that a boy had hanged himself here a century ago after a ferocious beating from the headmaster for being late. Ask him what he wants, she said, ignoring Mum’s protests. I did. He said he couldn’t find his mother to say he was sorry. It was a long shot, but I told him to follow me.
The minute the woman saw the boy she stopped searching and held out her arms. The man at the window started crying. I supposed he felt differently now about the importance of punctuality. I returned to the garden to tell Auntie Jane that she would have three fewer residents. Oh good, she said. I did feel that it was a bit crowded at times.