by Charlotte O’Farrell
When conversation turned to Paul’s new favourite TV show, ‘Devil’s Advocate’, Sally resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It must have been the hundredth time he’d told her about it, but like all his other little obsessions, it sounded harmless enough. In any case, it was building to a finale on Halloween night, so hopefully she wouldn’t be hearing about it again come November. She was getting sick of sleeping alone while he stayed up to watch it.
“It’s so absorbing,” he raved. “Never seen anything like it. One episode a night, on the dot at midnight. It’s all about a guy living a normal life – just an ordinary family guy – but demons keep pestering him to murder his wife and kid. He resists at first but they gradually wear him down. I think he’s going to give in.”
“Hmm. Sounds great, dear.”
She looked back down at her newspaper.
The next night, 30th October, Sally woke suddenly. Maybe she was coming down with something. Her throat was dry and she was covered in sweat. Pulling herself out of the warmth of her bed, she heard the raging storm outside and thought to check on the baby.
Poking her head into the nursery, she saw he was still sleeping soundly. His chest rose and fell softly, rhythmically.
Sally padded onto the landing. Her mouth was still parched, so she headed down the stairs to grab a drink.
Halfway down, she saw Paul on the sofa and froze to the spot. He was transfixed, watching TV static, unblinking.
by Rory Malek
“Is there any hope for my boy?” the mother asked, her hair bobbing pleadingly. “He’s just… off. That’s all! It’s curable, isn’t it?”
“Madam, your son will be just fine in my care,” the doctor replied. “Now, come. I will show you around the hospital.”
Their footsteps on the immaculate floors echoed throughout the halls. He led the mother through gated doors and winding hallways. Nurses in white nodded as they passed, and the mother grew more comfortable. The doctor stopped in front a massive set of doors with the words Infernum Averteret spelled out in neon lights. He pressed a button on a metal panel next to the doors.
“Eva, darling, could you open the doors?” the doctor spoke into the panel.
The doors opened. He extended his elbow to the mother, and she obliged. The doctor led her into the hallway.
Windows ran throughout the hallway. The mother gawked at the windows. People in hospital gowns were chained to the beds like prisoners. What was more horrifying was what seemed to be wrong with them; they were all gaunt and ghoulishly malnourished.
A man had his entire lower jaw removed, his tongue sticking out like a worm from a crow’s beak. His legs were sewn together, and his eyes hid in the depths of his eye sockets.
One woman lay gravely on a bed, her head dotted with holes that revealed grey matter. Her gown was purple, white, and green like a suffragette.
Another person- whose gender was unclear- had their internal organs exposed, the heart convulsing erratically, spilling blood everywhere.
“How do you treat these sick people?” the mother whispered.
“Sick? My dear, these people have been cured! They’re fixed!”
The mother stopped.
“I’d like to have my son admitted immediately, then,” she smiled innocently.
by Desmond White
The students turned the page in To Kill a Mockingbird, highlighters poised like fangs. Kara read until the teacher said, “So what does Scout and Jem and Dill sneaking up behind the Radley place tell us about people?”
A girl raised her hand and, authorized by a nod, said, “Humans torment those who are different? Those they don’t understand.”
“True,” the teacher said. “Not very useful. Harley?”
Thinking of the pants Jem snagged in the fence, Harley said, “If they leave something behind, they’ll return for it.”
“Humans are attracted to what scares them?” said a boy.
The teacher gave him a look that said raise your hand next time, then retorted, “Not anymore. People are more aware of danger. They avoid unused buildings, don’t sneak at night, watch the skies. In some ways this book is outdated. But I still think there’s something useful here.”
Harley shot up her hand again. “The Mockingbird kids—they’re crafty. When humans have a goal, they can be discrete—they’ll do what it takes—they can be really clever.”
“Exactly!” The teacher was excited, writing discrete and clever on the board “We must always be vigilant. Who knows who’s looking through our windows?”
The kids glanced anxiously at the wall, where the windows were filled with cement and plaster. The outlines remained, like the lashes and brows around closed eyes.
A bing over the intercom announced lunch. It took a few minutes before the custodian arrived, pushing a cart, a human lying there secured, nude, scrubbed, chained, skin browner than their glittering gray.
The teacher made them line up, orderly and civilized. And because Harley had been so great in discussion, she stood in front—was the first one to eat.
by Laura Danks
He wore no shoes.
His feet were filthy, cold. Soles putrid with cracked heels and warped ingrown nails. His toes were deformed, two piles of sticking out bones planted on the dirty pavement in the dark grimy underbelly of these lurid surroundings.
The soot that had dug itself so deeply into his skin, under his nails, inside his nostrils, down his throat, within the deepest crevices of his lungs, tasted bitter of death.
An oily, dark, sticky film completely covered the ache on his naked body, the pain brought tears to his eyes.
He felt her presence and started to run. Dust flew.
He tumbled to his knees, panting with fear. The nausea rising from his gurgling stomach made him barf.
Reason stretched, and extended, and drifted in his brain, flavourless and dull while a guttural sound filled his throat like a struggling fish in a pelican’s gorge.
He wasn’t alone. He heard the voices.
He heard the rats scurrying around, turned, right-left, saw the horde of them moving quickly in the shadows. He screamed, tried to crawl but those scratchy feet were running under his skin, inside his brain.
He swayed and collapsed on the slippery edge of reason.
The fog approaching enveloped him with her callous fingers, he knew that he will soon feel her icy venom dripping into his bones.
“I’m here, darling” she whispered and he cowered in fear wailing like a wounded animal.
“Mrs White?” the doctor approached her as she sat at her husband bedside “Maybe tomorrow?” He suggested, and she nodded looking at her husband still coiled in a foetal position caught in a nightmare with no beginning and no end.
“Of course. Maybe tomorrow.”
She walked out the psychiatric ward with a smile, the smell of mescaline still on her fingers.
by Bethany Cody
Dead Man eating mini-wheats at our six-seater kitchen table. His skin sloughs off onto varnished wood, bits and pieces kick up milk from the cereal bowl encircled by his thin, shredded arms. Sunlight from the window behind his back spills onto leathery, weepy skin cloaked in what used to be a suit.
Dead Man watching me with sightless eyes, two colorless circles stuck in a rotten melon head cracked down the center. I don’t know what’s holding him together. There’s a stapler on the benchtop he could always use.
Dead Man gnashing his teeth around mouthfuls of soggy crisscrossed wheat, yellow spears in a jagged hole of a piglet-pink mouth, looks like bubblegum inside when he yawns. Dead Man ignoring my sister skipping circles around her toys in the hallway. He dodges her little body and lumbers for the front door. Skeletal, mud-colored fingers unlatch the lock and he’s gone.
Dead Man’s boot prints staining the carpet, I follow them back to the kitchen and put his bowl with the fleshy chunks in the sink. There’s brown gunk on the spoon, sticky red stuff like strawberry syrup I might stick my finger in to taste. I wonder what mom will think.
Dead Man coming home six minutes to midnight, scrabbles to slot his spare key in the lock before he staggers through the house like dad when he drinks.
Dead Man undressing in front of the bathroom mirror, tugging slack elastic down over spindly, hairy legs and kicking it in the corner. In the fluorescent light, in the reflections of porcelain and toothpaste smears and dried shampoo caked on the shower wall, I see Dead Man is my brother.