Monday, January 29, 2007

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Never Judge a Book by its Cover
by Joshua Weston

His face was somewhat attractive. He stared at the mirror into his own eyes. He didn’t think he was ugly. Why did he hate himself so much? He cocked his head slightly to the side and back upright. He dug his fingernail into his cheek. His face was now completely numb. The empty needle in the sink took care of that. He stared down at the sink for several seconds, second guessing himself. No, it had gone too far now. He had to finish.

His life was not wasted in any way. He was a successful attorney, had a nice car, spacious apartment, and was never a stranger to the ladies. On the surface, he lived the perfect life. Underneath, however, was a completely different monster. A monster that was never satisfied, that had broken down every shred of humanity possible. He was so fucking ugly underneath his skin, it was now time to show the world his true face.

And with that he got to cutting his flesh. Scissors started it off, snipping at his lips in triangles and rectangles, the fat pieces of flesh slapping the sink with sickening thuds. He worked fast, knowing full well what he would feel when the drugs wore off. It hurt like hell, burned even, but was nothing compared to what was really happening, and his mission needed to be done before that pain was fully realized. After both of his lips were nothing more than piles of bloody meat in the sink, he stopped to take a look in the mirror. Technically, his mission had been accomplished, as no one would ever look at him the same way again. He wasn’t even sure if one could survive for long like this. But he wasn’t done.

Next, he took a filet knife and scalped himself. It hurt a lot more now, and it wasn’t because the drugs were wearing off. No matter what you’re on, it’s impossible to do this and not feel it. He felt it, but it turned him on. The women at the bar would flock to him if they saw the erection he was carrying right now. Then three cuts down the front of the face and he resembled a chart in a Biology class.

The scissors came back for the ears, clipping them down to little stubs on the side of his head, resembling radio knobs. If only he could’ve tuned these in to another station years ago. He then sliced his nostrils up to the eyes, letting the flaps of skin slap him in the face.

The pain came rushing now, he had to finish. He hadn’t prepared himself for this. Tears poured from his eyes, mixing with the blood and splashing on his hands, sink, and floor. He screamed louder than he ever had before, and was so mad at himself for sounding like a girl. If nothing else he figured his last vocalization would be somewhat manlike.

He had to abort, he couldn’t stand it. He said his goodbyes to his pistol as it entered his mouth and blew his brains onto the wall behind him. The pain was immense. His head hit the toilet, throwing out more chunks of brain matter, and he slumped on the floor. He could feel the blood encompassing his dying body. Then, he felt nothing.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


By Nathan Tyree

Buck scratched a match along the sole of his boot and brought the flame up to light the cigarette that he had rolled a moment earlier. His hand was shaking just enough to make getting the thing lit a bit difficult. Henry, the other deputy, was checking his rifle for what must have been the tenth time since they had barred the door to the sheriff’s office. Buck was starting to realize that since Sheriff Johnston was dead that it fell on him to take charge. It was that realization that had started his hands trembling. How weird, he thought, that he had been calm and steady all through the events that had transpired a few minutes earlier, but that now that they were safely behind a thick oak door in the most secure building in the county he was genuinely afraid.

The three cowhands locked in the only cell were raising a ruckus. They kept yelling that Buck would let them out if he knew what was good for him. They insisted that they had friends, hard men, who would be coming for them. When all of this started Buck and the sheriff had both believed that that was exactly the situation. When they had heard the noises out front, the yelling and a few stray gunshots, they assumed that the boys from Bar-J had gotten drunk and come to demand the release of their buddies. That had not been the case at all. By now Buck wished that it had been.

“What are those things, Buck?” Henry had set aside his rifle and had started reloading his revolvers. He carried two of them; one on each hip tied down in quick draw style. It was for show; the truth was that Henry was a slow draw and possible the worst shot in the whole county. He only got the job as deputy because the sheriff had been his cousin. He was starting to look about as pale and drained as a man could.

“Don’t know,” Buck said without looking up. He was studying the surface of the desk as if he expected to find the answer to that very question in the grain of its wood. He stood and walked through the small door that separated the Sheriff’s office proper from the small jail in the back. The three men there, Buck had forgotten their names, were getting louder and he had decided to do something about it.

“Look, you boys need to quiet on down now. If ya don’t, there are gonna be consequences.” With that he pulled the nickel plated revolver from its holster, pointed it directly at the biggest of them, and smoothly pulled back the hammer. They all went quiet. Buck re-holstered his gun and walked back to the front room.

Outside the moaning was getting louder. Henry was peering through the small barred window in the door and muttering to himself. “There’s more of them,” he said.

Buck strode over and pushed Henry aside so that he could have a look himself. He was right. When they had been outside there had been maybe thirty of those damned things in the street. Now it looked like at least fifty.

“What’re we gonna do, Buck?” Henry’s voice was starting to get that panicky sound that Buck knew too well. He knew that when a man got that sound in his voice it was going to be bad. Men who sounded like that made bad decisions. Sometimes they’d just freeze up and let death come. He thought that maybe he should try to calm Henry down. He might need him.

“We aint gonna do a thing. Right now we’re just gonna wait. We’re gonna relax and wait ‘til morning comes, then we can make our move.” He was thinking that the wait would give Henry time to get control and to fight off the panic.

“Johnny shot that one, Buck. He shot him point blank in the chest. I saw it. I saw it. He shot maybe three times right in the chest. It shoulda’ died. A man dies when you shoot ‘em in the chest. A man dies when-“

Buck brought his palm hard across the other man’s face. Henry’s head rocked back and his eyes got wide. He inhaled sharply. For a moment the two men just looked at each other. Then Henry said: “What did you do that for?”

“You gotta get control of yourself, Henry. We’ve gotta be calm and we gotta make a plan.” Buck slid into the sheriff’s chair and lit another cigarette. He believed the things he had said. He knew that they needed to stay calm and think. But, he really wasn’t sure if doing that was going to do them any good. He had seen those things out there. And, just like Henry had said, he had seen Sheriff Johnny Johnston, the toughest man in Carson County, fire three shots point blank into one of them. It had just kept coming.

Buck leaned back in the sheriff’s chair and tried to think.

The three cowhands from the Bar-J had been brought in early that morning. Johnny had gone out himself to pick them up. The three of them had raped a Mexican girl. When she stumbled into the Sheriff’s office, her face a ruin of blood and ripped flesh, Buck had asked to describe the men. Johnny knew immediately who she was talking about. A good sheriff is always well acquainted with those sort of men. Buck had offered to go with him, but the sheriff had said “Leave ‘em to me.” He brought them in without firing a shot. He could’ve killed all three of them, but preferred to see them hang.

As soon as they were locked in their cage they started in with the standard spiel about how their buddies would be coming and coming in force. If the sheriff and his men wanted to survive, then he better open that goddamned cell and let them go. And, they said, since when was it a crime to fuck a Mexican?

“Maybe I will open this cell,” Johnny had said, “Buck, you keep your rifle ready.” Buck stood just outside the cell and raised his rifle as Sheriff Johnny Johnston unlocked the door and walked in. He put himself face to face with the biggest of the three and struck him hard on the chin with an iron fist. The man went down hard into a big ugly pile on the floor.

“You can’t do that,” that was the oldest of the three. He was maybe thirty, and his face was a mess of lines and cracks. His skin looked like badly cured leather and his blue eyes were cold.

“I can do whatever I want. I’m the law.” Before he had even gotten the last word out Johnny had started his fist on its way to the man’s gut. As the cowhand double over Johnny brought his other fist against the man’s temple. Then he turned to the last of them. “You got anything to say?”

The man shook his head. Johnny exited the cell and Buck locked the door. Then they went back to the front of the office where Henry was sipping a cup of coffee and trying to pretend that he hadn’t heard what was going on.

“So Johnny, ya think the other boys from Bar-J are gonna come looking for them drunks?” Buck asked this while pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“You never know. If they do they’re gonna wish they hadn’t.”

The rest of the day had been slow. Normally the three men would have made a few rounds around town to show their presence and keep everyone in line. Johnny had ruled against that, figuring that they should be prepared if the Bar-J boys did make an appearance. After the sun went down Johnny had started talking about sending Henry over to Martha’s to get them some steaks for dinner. It was then that they had heard the noises outside. There was a scream and someone had fired a shot. Then they started hearing the groans and the sound of something crashing over.

“Well, I guess they made it.” Johnny stood from behind his desk and checked that his revolver was loaded. The three men moved to the door and stepped outside expecting to see a bunch of drunk cowboys waving their guns around and yelling. That wasn’t what they saw. What they did see froze all three of them for a moment.

There was a crowd outside, but not the crowd they had expected. The things in the street looked like men, but their skin was gray and peeling in strips. Their clothes were tattered and many of them looked to be coated in dirt. They jerked and shambled dragging their feet as they moved aimlessly about moaning and making unintelligible noises. Whoever had been shooting was no where to be seen. In fact, none of the townspeople where in sight at that moment. That changed a minute later. Paula Scolson, a young girl who’s father worked at Hap’s General Store, came running from an alley making her way toward the now open door of the Sheriff’s Office. She only made it a few feet before one of the gray things was on her. It mindlessly groped at her and managed to get purchase on her dress. She screamed as it pulled her in close. Buck couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The thing that wasn’t a man seemed to be sinking its teeth into the little girl’s neck. She fought to pull away and Buck saw a hunk of her flesh rip and blood begin to squirt in dark red arcs and splash into the dust of the street.

Johnny ran to her. He grabbed the girl by the arm and wrenched her from the creature’s grip. As she collapsed in the street he pulled his gun and fired three shots directly into the things chest. It didn’t seem to notice that it had been shot. Its half rotten hands reached out and one tangled in the Sheriff’s hair. “Fucker,” was the word that floated from Johnny’s mouth as he threw a massive punch that landed square on the thing’s temple. Any man would have dropped instantly from that blow. The thing just ripped harder and a portion of Johnny’s scalp tore loose from his skull. Blood ran in rivulets down his face and he fired again; this time he had his gun right against the man-thing’s head and its face exploded. The thing fell.

By then Buck was on the move. He was on his way Johnny, but it was too late. The rest of the creatures were already surrounding him. As they fell on him Buck heard the screams and immediately moved back toward the door. As he ran backwards he fired wildly into the crowd.

“Come on” he yelled at Henry as he went through the door. Inside they barred the door and began to wait.

Sitting there behind the desk trying to think Buck had managed to drift off to sleep. Henry shaking his shoulder hard woke him. “Buck. Buck. Wake up.”


Henry looked terrified. Even more terrified than he had when his cousin the Sheriff was ripped apart by those things. “They’re trying to get in.”

Buck heard it now. The things had gathered at the door to the Sheriff’s office. They were scratching and scraping and prying at the wood. It sounded for all the world like there were a thousand of them out there. The moaning echoed and filled the air. The three men in back were starting to make a hell of a lot of noise as well. They were shouting wanting to know what was going on. They had stopped demanding to be let out of their cell.

Buck head a splintering sound. He thought that they were going to eventually get that door open. Buck thought for a moment, and then looked at Henry. “Get in the cabinet and find three extra rifles. Make sure they’re loaded.”

Henry was already opening the gun cabinet when he thought to ask: “Why?”

“We’re gonna need all the help we can get. I’m gonna go open the cell.” Buck grabbed the keys and moved through the small door to the jail. “Now you boy’s quiet down, we need to talk.”

The three men just stood and looked at him with mistrust and something verging on fear. Buck holstered the pistol he had been carrying and asked: “What’re your names?”

The big man stepped up and said “I’m Paul, this here ugly fella is Bob and that fella is Willie.”

“I’m Buck. Now listen boys, we got a situation out there. That racket you’re hearing is a bunch of… well, things. I don’t know what they are, but they look like dead bodies that got up and started walking around. Whatever they are, they killed the sheriff and a girl right in front of me and Henry. We shot at ‘em a lot, and most of those shots hit, but they didn’t seem to mind getting shot at all. Except, I noticed that all those shots we put into them didn’t do nothing, but the one Johnny put in that one’s head killed it. That got me thinking that maybe you have to shoot them in the head to kill ‘em. Now here’s what I’m thinking: there’s a bunch of them out there and they’re trying to get in. I think they’re gonna, too. Me an’ Henry can’t hold ‘em off forever, so I was thinking maybe you boys would like a pardon.” Then Buck waited.

The three men looked at each other for a minute, then Paul said “Get us out of here and we’ll give you all the help you need.”

Buck turned the key, swung the door open and said “Let’s go.”

The four of them moved out into the main office. Henry was finishing up loading the rifles. “You sure about this, Buck?” He looked nervous about having the men armed.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

The cowhands took the rifles and the five of them faced the door ready to begin firing.

Buck cocked his own rifle and said “Boys, remember to aim for their heads.” It was then that the door disintegrated in front of them. A mass of moaning decomposition swarmed in through the opening and the room was filled with the deafening sound of gunfire.

They kept coming long after the ammo was gone.

Lester's Complex

Lester’s Complex
By James Horn

This is a story called The Golden Chain
By Z. Lustig

I woke up in time to see my feet being eaten. There were children everywhere. They were busy chewing on my flesh and so did not notice when I started to change. In a few minutes they would really wish that I hadn’t.

This is a story called Femoral Antecedent
By Ephraim Seltzer

I woke up in time to see my feet being eaten. There were pirates everywhere. They were busy signaling each other and clattering about the cost of deodorant and so did not notice when I started to grow. In a few hours they would start to wish that I hadn’t.

This is a story called Lucky Strike
By Harold N.M. Mater

I didn’t wake up when they started eating my feet. In a few minutes I would start to wish that I had

Friday, January 26, 2007


Jon Catron

Lawrence stabbed the "Stop" button on his tape recorder with a nicotine-stained index finger and absentmindedly rubbed his forehead with his left hand.

Fuck all, this made no sense.

Two months ago, his sister Laura shows up in the county morgue, the victim of a brutal murder. The prime suspect was her shit of a worthless husband. Lawrence had warned her multiple times that he was just like Martin (Father, you mean?). Schizophrenia coupled with multiple compulsive and disassociative disorders, classic sexual predator. And Laura had fallen right into his world of shit like she'd been born into it, mostly because she had...

But... I mean... Fuck! How could he have done that to her? How could anyone even
remotely sane have done that?

The idea that Harold had molested and abused little Sarah almost made Lawrence sick to his stomach, but it was unfortunately no surprise. Even less surprising were Sarah's pervasive and insistent denials of Harold's involvement in her mother's death. Lawrence wanted to dismiss her claims of a monstrous Boogeyman as a classic denial syndrome. (because there's no Monster like Daddy Monster, right?) But how the hell could Harold have done that with two broken legs? Or even at the height of his strength? The facts just... damn it, they just didn't make any damn sense.

But the D.A. didn't need to mention all that to send Harold screaming like a lunatic off to his spot on death row. So Sarah came to live with her closest blood relative.

Good ol' Uncle Larry.

Only Sarah called him Larry now. His buddies had called him that before he got on The Wagon. His first wife had also, but she was just as dangerous as the whisky she kept flowing to Lawrence. The second and third knew him only as Lawrence, the emotionally distant and controlled psychiatrist and recovering alcoholic. Work had become his new drug, and neither woman liked being analyzed the way Lawrence would.

So what the fuck did he know about raising a child? Nothing, that's what. He sure as hell hadn't received any nurturing as a child. But then, he'd gotten out... Right? He broke the cycle and knew how to look for the signs. He was certain that he would not let that seed take fruit in him. Sure, everything ever written about medical or psychological ethics said that self-diagnosis was the ultimate form of self-delusional narcissism. But Lawrence could avoid that trap. He could help Sarah. He could find out what really happened for her. He could help her get closure. Help find the Truth.

No matter what the cost.

Love Story

Love Story
Joshua Weston

We were watching some unmemorable comedian on TV when I decided to stab Mark repeatedly in the chest. It wasn't a planned thing, when he called wanting a place to crash, I just said "Sure, come on over". But sitting there, bored off my ass, I decided to do something different. So here I was, covered in someone elses' blood. My favorite shirt. Shit.

What's even worse is he was still bleeding. Four or five times in the chest, and he's still squirming around on the floor, indistinguishable phrases leaking from his freshly tied gag. I recognized one of the most used words as "fuck", but I think "friend" was used as well. He stopped moving and stared straight ahead. I recognized his stare; it was false hope. He spotted the gun I kept under the couch. I lived in a dangerous neighborhood, after all. You can never be too careful. You never know when some asshole will stab you while you're watching cable TV.

For a dying man he shot out his arm pretty quick, and I have no doubt that he had his hand around the gun handle. However, before he could bring his arm out to finish his heroic plan, I plunged the knife through his arm and into the floor.

He was crying now, his final dreams of life smashed into oblivion. I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. It was like desiring a certain drug, or woman, and upon receiving what you'd wished for, you decided you wanted more. I knew as I was doing it this wasn't the last time. I wasn't done, because I wasn't pleased. I started to take the gag from his mouth to explain that he wasn't making me satisfied, and he started to scream the most useless phrase in this situation: "Help me!" So he'd just have to listen for the last few moments of his life.

"I know what you're thinking," I said to him. "Mark, you didn't tell anyone you were coming over, did you?" His pause followed by whimpering and tears told me I could get away with this if I did it correctly. "I haven't decided yet what to do with your body. In fact, I guess I could've planned this a lot better, huh?" Chuckling was probably the last thing he wanted to hear, but I couldn't help it.

His breathing become irregular, his eyes widened. The end was near. I retrieved the knife from his arm, lifted his head by the hair, and quickened his descent to Hell. His foot shook for almost a minute, he gasped a few times, and he was gone.

I glanced up at the television. The same comedian was still prancing around on stage, pretending he was funny. He wasn't funny. He was so damn unfunny that someone had just killed another human being to keep from being so bored by him. I wonder if he ever thought of that while practicing his moronic jokes in the mirror.

It was now clean-up time. I'd never been one for chores, and now I had a big one to do. I decided then and there I'd take this show on the road. No one knew me but Mark and a few others that didn't know a friendship existed between us. I wouldn't miss anyone, and no one would miss me. Luckily for me (and my landlord as well) I had a freshly finished floor that wasn't going to be hard to scrub clean. Then came the bathtub and trash bags. In an effort to disguise my departure, I paid two months worth of my rent, slipping an envelope into the manager's mailbox containing a check and a note announcing an inheritance had inspired me to be proactive. Right, proactivity would've kept me from this situation in the first place, but that's neither here nor there.

I took the fire escape down to the trash dumpster, being careful not to alarm anyone, although most people were asleep anyway. I lined the trash bags behind the dumpster, in the shadows, so I could pick them up a few minutes later. Then I headed upstairs to put on shoes and grab a few things. I shut off the lights and said goodbye to the place for the last time, locking the door behind me.

I glanced casually up and down the sidewalk, and then crossed the street to my car, opening the back door and swinging my duffel bag into the seat. Then I started the car, put it into gear, and drove around the block, still eyeing my surroundings cautiously. I pulled around to the dumpster, popped the trunk, and headed into the shadows.

The missing bags clued me in that something wasn't right...