Wednesday, February 28, 2007




Winston Smith

Usually when an employee is destined to be laid to rest, the decision is made based on the opinions and experiences over a period of weeks, sometimes months. However, Malcom had been employed for merely seven hours when several of his co-workers unanimously decided he didn’t deserve to live. It wasn’t that Malcom brought morale low; in fact he had made the self esteems and egos of his fellow co-workers soar. That wasn’t enough, though. He was annoying, redundant, and dimmed the intelligence radiating from the other five men trying to run the department. The engineers got together by Zach’s car before work to develop a plan.


The bar was dirty; there was no doubt about it. The environment was ripe for conflict. The tabletops were dripping with spilled beer and sweat. Hanging lamps swung a bit from random slaps from pool sticks, cigarette smoke having stained the glass long ago. Several waitresses migrated through the crowd of men, mostly suit-wearing types, with plates of alcoholic drinks to drown sorrows, annoyances, and memories with.

Malcom laughed at the top of his lungs for no reason in particular. This was one of the many things he did that bothered his co-workers, other than breathing. The other men sitting around the table were Dylan, Freddy, Joseph, Bob, and Lars. Dylan smiled forcibly and passed Malcom another shot of whiskey. Freddy and Joseph talked politics, Bob scanned the crowd for possible partners after this was over, and Lars sat still, trying to hide the seething hate boiling under his skin. Lars was the designated driver, also known as the guy who was to make sure the job got done.

Dylan passed Malcom yet another drink, cheerfully talking to him about robots and other things that don’t matter. Dylan was voted to be the friendly one, making sure Malcom didn’t see through the plan, and not only did Dylan seem to be the nicest of the group, he also pulled the shortest straw.

Malcom stood up suddenly, slurring out “Party time for – yeah!” then started to stumble toward the door. This was it, the moment of fruition. Freddy headed towards the van, tossing Lars the keys and sliding the door open. Together he and Joseph helped Malcom into the backseat. Joseph then climbed into the front passenger’s seat. Dylan climbed in and sat down. He was followed by Bob, several phone numbers crumpled in his hand. He shoved them in his pocket, and then slammed the door shut. Lars took the last drag off his cigarette, lifted up the arm of his t-shirt, and jammed the butt into his bicep. He gasped a little, his eyes rolling into the back of his head. Then he tossed the butt away and sat in the driver’s seat, turning the ignition. He then turned to Joseph, who was staring in disbelief. Lars shrugged, and for the first time in months, grinned and backed out of the parking spot.


The upcoming forest surrounded the highway, and eventually, the van. The road winding, spirits high, the six men shouted drunken declarations over the rock music playing on the radio. Lars slowed the van down, and turned onto a dirt road surrounded by more trees. He drove until they could no longer be seen on the highway. Once more the vehicle turned and they arrived in an empty field, surrounded by yet more trees. Lars parked the van and turned off the ignition, then climbed out to smoke yet another cigarette.

Malcom began to get uneasy. “Hey uh, fellas? What’s going on?”

Freddy retrieved a roll of quarters from his pocket and smashed his fist against Malcom’s jaw, fracturing it in several places and knocking a few teeth to the floorboard. Bob threw the side door open of the van and grabbed Malcom by his hair, dragging him to the ground. Joseph retrieved a baseball bat from under one of the seats and hit him in the kneecaps, shattering one and sending pain all throughout his body. He started to scream, but Dylan wrapped a cloth around his mouth tight, cutting off almost all noise.

Freddy descended from the van, pocketing the roll of quarters and retrieving a knife from under his shirt. “You could never shut the fuck up, could you?” He asked menacingly as he neared the bleeding mass of pathetic flesh in front of him. He knelt down next to him, and with a slight grin, sliced Malcom’s broken kneecap. Then he stabbed the wound, twisting the knife around. The sound of bones grinding was enough to make Dylan uneasy.

“Guys, maybe we should cut this out. This is getting really out of hand.” Without a word, Freddy plunged the blade of the knife through Dylan’s throat. Bob instantly threw up in the grass. “Oh God,” he choked out through the vomiting. He then collapsed on the ground. He no longer wanted to do this. Everything had gotten out of hand.

Freddy, wild-eyed, slowly waved the knife around as looked at the remaining 2 men. “Does anybody else have a problem with this?” Lars answered his question with action, not words. He grabbed Malcom’s leg and broke it again twice at the knee. Then he twisted it and ripped the bottom half from the thigh. Finally, he used Malcom’s leg to beat him in the face. A disturbing chuckle escaped Joseph’s lips. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pen. He removed the cap, then stabbed it into Malcom’s eye, then twisted the pen and pulled the eye out, ripped it and threw it to the side.

Malcom passed out from shock. Freddy awakened him with a stab to the stomach. He then cut around and made a hole. Blood spurted and poured from the several wounds in the poor man’s body. Lars grabbed the bat and thrust it into the hole, lifting Malcom up into the air. By now Malcom had coughed up so much blood into the gag that he choked on it and died. Lars lowered the bat and let his lifeless body fall to the ground.

Bob came to, and saw the scene in front of him. He started to freak out, breathing uncontrollably and muttering to himself. He jumped up and swung a gun up that was concealed in his pants. “You sick motherfuckers!” He fired sporadically into Freddy and Joseph, sending them to the dirt, both spiraling toward death. Lars stood still, staring intensely at Bob. Bob pulled the trigger several times, but only got clicks. He became very frantic and turned around to run. The bat flew through the air and struck him in the legs, knocking him to the ground. Lars calmly walked over to him, hovering over his body like a vulture. He picked up the bat and hit him repeatedly in the face and neck until the life leaked out of his head alongside the blood.

Lars lifted his arms up and stretched. He then dropped the bat and surveyed the area. Suddenly a harsh commanding voice broke through the night. “Hit the ground, you sick bastard!” Lars turned to see four police officers coming through the trees. They were about fifteen feet away.

Lars scooped up Malcom’s body and took off towards the officers. Bullets came at him like sideways rain of death. One bullet hit him in the shoulder, and Lars barely winced. He reached the officers and threw Malcom’s body on two of them, knocking them down. He ripped a gun out of one of their hands and took three of the officers out before the last one shot him in the face, taking half of the skin from his cheek with it.

Lars threw a punch into the officer’s head, cracking his skull, and knocking him to the ground. They both then shot each other directly in the head. The officer died instantly. Lars collapsed to the ground, life escaping his body. He lifted the head of Malcom, and in a last act of brutality, pressed his thumbs through his eye sockets until the remaining eyeball popped, sending blood squirting. Then he dropped the corpse and fell into unconsciousness, eventually becoming one himself.

Flight of a Bee

Flight of a Bee

by Nathan Tyree

Just before they touched, a bee which had only moments earlier alighted on the bust of Voltaire, buzzed lazily between them and then continued its circuitous journey through the room and toward its eventual demise at the hands of a rather curious toddler who would run crying from the confrontation. They had stopped for a moment in front of the corpse of Wilfred Owen, to admire his scars, and comment on the insubstantial brown shade of his uniform. The moment was overwhelming, and they leaned in to kiss each other without noticing the bee.

Then the one eyed dwarf was leading them into the next room, where the memories of Nixon where kept in poorly labeled bottles, and the ghost of Stalin roamed freely. This room wasn’t listed in the tour itinerary, and they were very excited to be allowed to view the rare and remarkable artifacts stored there. They commented to each other that they were very lucky that their guide had decided to break with protocol and allow them this divergence.

Nixon’s memories were, after all, a disappointment. They had blackened and corroded with age and lack of use, or cleaning. However, Stalin’s ghost was very friendly and talkative, if a bit mad. At first he said interesting things about viewing history as a dialectic, but eventually he just ranted on and on about Trotsky.

They excused themselves, and the dwarf showed them into the next display. The bee was, by this time, quite dead and nearly forgotten by everyone who had ever seen it. The toddler who had brought about its demise was the only person who had any memory of the poor creature. And his memory of it was, well frankly, not a happy one.

The next room they entered was filled with broken bottles and pools of gasoline. Everyone who took the time to seek out the museum would eventually visit this room. Few of them found it of much interest, and most wandered back out as quickly as they entered.

Jan looked down at the dwarf, and asked when they would see Napoleon’s penis. He replied that it was kept in the same case as Hitler’s Brain, and Lewis Carroll's photographs. They would, he assured her, reach it shortly.

The bee, or rather the ghost of the bee, was busy trying to pollinate the viscera of some anonymous Latin-American tyrant who had been beheaded and gutted by members of his own political party.

Jan touched William’s arm lightly, and he began to scream. She couldn’t help but giggle at his over reaction. She knew that his burns had not yet healed, but even so, if he

couldn’t stand to be touched a bit what sort of evening were they going to have. William bent at the waist to pick up a bit of bone that was lying on the floor at his feet. He worked to find its place, and then carefully reinserted it into his skull. The skin of his face hung in strips, dripping and oozing lightly. Where his eyes had been were two blackened holes.

Jan was similarly disfigured. Her stomach lay open, and her intestines kept falling out. She would have to gather them up, and poke them back inside the wound. Her hair had been burned completely off. William thought she looked quite attractive without hair. Her hair had always gotten in his way, tangling up in his fingers, and falling in his face while they were making love. He was happy to see it go.

The toddler was wandering about, moving from room to room. He seemed to be looking for someone or something, but it was not at all clear exactly what he was in search of.

Jan and William followed the dwarf to the next exhibit. This one was filled with large, ceramic ovens and piles of clothes and luggage. They looked at these for quite some time, but were not able to divine their significance. They puzzled over the display for a while, then William suggested that it had something to do with death.

But, doesn’t everything? Jan asked him. He wasn’t sure. He supposed that, yes, in a manner of speaking everything was related to death in some way or another. But, he assured her, not everything related to life. She seemed confused by this.

The dwarf tugged at Jan’s sleeve. She looked down at him, and he motioned for her to look up at a sign on the wall. The sign read Arbeit Macht Frei. Jan could not read

this. She just shrugged, and they continued to the next exhibit.

The toddler ran past them as if in a great hurry. For the first time They noticed that the child had something sticking out if its back. The toddler had been impaled on a wooden picket, broken from some one’s fence. Blood was caked and dried around the wound.

The bee was now following the toddler wherever he went, as if it needed always to be in close proximity to the thing that had killed it.

The penultimate exhibit they entered was built around a set of gallows. They were old and wooden, and the body hanging from the end of the rope was in a state of advanced decay. Flies buzzed around the bloated and discolored remains.

The body had turned a rich shade of black, and the flesh had cracked in several places, allowing something dark and viscous to seep out. It swung gently back and forth as if in rhythm with a breeze that none of them could feel.

Jan found this quite fascinating. William, however, was bored by it. He badly wanted to move on to the next exhibit. He told the dwarf as much. The dwarf suggested that he shouldn’t be in such a hurry. However, he obligingly led them on.

The last stop on the tour was, at first, unremarkable. The room was arranged like a standard, comfortable living room. A couch and several chairs were arranged around a large television set. Various nick-knacks and baubles were littered about the room. Jan noted that this room looked just like their living room.

The dwarf concurred, and said that he hoped they both approved of the


Jan quite naturally took a seat on the couch. William followed. They both began watching the television, despite the fact that it wasn’t turned on. As they set there, the dwarf excused himself, and closed the door on his way out. A few moments later, flame began to lick and caper around the room. They both set as their skin began to burn, trying to remain calm and enjoy the experience. When the ceiling gave way and crashed down on them, they both began to scream.

The bee saw none of this.

The Job

The Job

By Jonathan Daniel

Darkness surrounded her still form, cool against her skin like satin sheets. Around her, the mansion was still, as if holding its breath in anticipation of a horror to come. She could feel the approaching terror, the screams, the death. It was unavoidable. The heaviness of it pressed down on her, not uncomfortably, but like a lover resting atop her. It felt good now, and would feel better when the blood came.

She breathed evenly, allowing her body’s rhythms to slow and her energy to condense to a single point. Like ink billowing through water her mind reached beyond the house, feeling along the fringes of the property; searching. The gardens to the rear of the lay silent and unmoving, the bushes and trees looking grotesque and deformed in the soft light.

Overhead the night sky’s infinite darkness reminded anyone who looked upon it that God’s sun would not shine over the Marsten house. The woman shifted her mind to the front of the house where the grey cobblestone path gleamed dully in the dirty moonlight like a perverse tongue lolling from a dead mouth. Shadows traced across the lawn, the grass unwavering even in the soft breeze. The shadows undulated and pulsed, shifting into a nightmare kaleidoscope. She could sense them out there, waiting in the darkness. There were three of them, just inside the trees that ringed the sprawling estate. They had come for her. That was fine, she thought. Let them come. She had the means to accommodate them. And after them, the one closest to her. In the blackness her eyes opened, milky orbs marred by cataracts. Her lips peeled back in a smile, then slowly she began to mumble.


The job was going to be easy, Tyler thought to himself. He stood next to a large pine tree, the bark flaking off onto his shirt as he leaned against it. A soft rustle to his right caught his attention. He turned his head and saw Lisa behind another large pine. Her hair was drawn back in a ponytail and she chewed on the filtered end of a cigarette with nervous energy.

Both of them turned when Dale approached, his face red in the moonlight that filtered through the trees. His long brown hair hung in dark wet clumps to his forehead and cheeks. Tyler chuckled inwardly at the other man’s clumsy exertion. Tyler’s eyes moved to the larger man’s shoulders. He saw behind them the hulk of a backpack.

“You got everything?” he asked Dale.

Dale shrugged one shoulder to indicate the bag. “Yeah, everything we need. These fuckers go off and even God’s dentist won’t be able to ID this bitch. Talk about a crispy fucking critter.” The man grinned at his own humor.

Tyler looked at the backpack again. The devices were a homemade invention of his and Lisa’s. When placed in an electrical socket and fired off by a remote controlled device, they would trigger a fire that to even the most seasoned Fire Marshall would look just like an accidental electrical spark. The blaze would be hot enough to destroy all evidence of a device having been present.

Tyler looked briefly at Lisa then back to the house. The Masten house was a large estate that sat on a fifteen acre lot. The house sat in the middle of the large clearing, encircled by heavy woods. As he shifted his position next to the tree, Tyler looked across the front yard to the house and marveled at its size. Bradley Masten hadn’t fully described the house, at least not its immensity, when he first contacted Tyler about killing the old woman. He had simply said that it sat on a large piece of property and was well secluded. Well, the boy had been right on both counts, Tyler thought. The front yard was flat and open. Three quarters of the way from the woods to the house two large oak trees flanked the driveway. Tyler could see small benches at the base of each tree. Beyond the trees was the parking area, which was devoid of any cars.

The house was ugly, a very gothic looking mansion. It reminded Tyler of the kind of house that would be seen in an old vampire movie. It was a large brick structure, odd angles and jutting ledges. Four large columns flanked the front doorway. Low bushes crouched like hulking beasts along the foot of the walls. Spaced evenly along the ground, dirty yellow lights shone upward, illuminating small sections of the house. Tyler looked along the shafts of light, expecting to see the hideous features of gargoyles.

He checked his watch. Fifteen after midnight. According to Masten, the old woman went to bed early. Again Tyler adjusted his position against the tree and felt more bark rub off.

Brad Masten had wanted them to kill his mother. Tyler and Lisa met him at a small pizza joint, an hour from Tyler’s house. He was young, dressed the part of a rich kid. He was exactly the kind of guy that made Tyler sick to even look at. But thirty thousand dollars was enough of a reason for Tyler to stomach the meeting. Bradley explained to the two that his mother was near death yet the two of them had grown apart.

Brad explained that his mother had lost her faith in God, blaming Him for her inevitable, painful end. Her son feared that she had taken to witchcraft as a last hope for physical salvation. One night as he had brought her dinner, she told him that she would be leaving the entirety of her fortune to a local coven of witches. She further stipulated that the house would become property of the coven and they were to use it for anything they needed. Tyler and Lisa had listened to the story incredulously. This man wanted his mother dead because of a family fortune and witchcraft? Lisa asked him if his mother truly was a witch. “No more than I’m President of the United States,” he answered.

“We going to do this or what?” Lisa whispered harshly. Tyler glanced at her, the pale moonlight falling across her face. Jesus, she looked like a ghost, he thought. Tyler nodded and checked his watch again.

“Yeah. The bitch should be asleep now. All we have to do is get in through the basement door that the kid said would be unlocked. We have to be silent though. Get in, place the devices and get out. I don’t want any chances of her waking up and calling the cops.”

“And we’ll get five grand each for this?” Dale asked. Tyler looked at the man. He was good at his craft, but not so quick on the uptake.

“Yeah, Dale. Five thou each. Not bad for about thirty minutes worth of work, eh?” In the dark, Dale’s teeth flashed in a smile. Tyler motioned them forward and as one, the three began to creep out of the woods and across the expanse of the yard.

Tyler had never felt so exposed in his life as he crossed the grass. Every muscle in his body was tensed in anticipation of an army of police officers led by the yuppie Brad, his finger pointed accusatorily at the thugs he had hired. “Yes, officer, these are the people I overheard plotting to rob and kill my mother.”

Beside him Lisa and Dale kept pace, their legs moving them ever forward while their heads and eyes moved around constantly in surveillance. They paused that the large oak trees and crouched, listening. The house loomed high into the sky, a massive beast that seemed to be holding its breath in ravenous anticipation. When no sound of alarm came, the three continued the rest of the way, angling to the right of the house.

The door, recessed in a small alcove down a flight of four stairs, was unlocked just as Brad had said it would be. Tyler pushed it open gently, bracing himself for a loud protest from the hinges but the door moved silently.

Inside the basement was cool and as silent as a tomb. The floor was bare concrete and the space held dark shapes of objects in the stasis of storage. The air was slightly pungent, a sharp sour smell that made his nose wrinkle in disgust. He turned to the others.

“Okay. The bitch is sleeping upstairs on the third floor. According to the kid, she’s in a bedroom on the far end of the house.”

“Tyler.” Lisa looked at him with hard, eager eyes. Tyler loved it when she took on that look, like an animal deep into the hunt, bloodlust coursing through its veins.

“Yeah, baby?”

The woman looked around. The sprig of her pony tail jiggled with the motion. “We’re going to burn this place to the ground with her in it, what do you say we take a few extra things for our troubles? Who’s going to know? The way these things burn, especially with that accelerator, there won’t be much left for the insurance company to identify. So we should be able to pick up a few extra, ah, souvenirs before we set it off, right?”

Fearful excitement tickled Tyler’s chest then rippled through the rest of his body. “Take whatever you want. Just be quiet doing it. Try not to break glass or anything unless you absolutely have to.” He looked around. The basement was cluttered and probably held little of interest. Besides, it would require flashlights or full interior lighting in order to navigate the stuff to get to the goods.

He looked at his watch. Twelve thirty. “I’m giving you guys thirty minutes from right now to meet me back where we started in the woods. Set your shit, get your goods and haul ass.”

Dale pulled the devices from the bag and passed them around. Then they moved to the staircase that led to the ground floor where they split up.


Lisa breathed out quietly through her mouth and followed the carpeted hallway. The entire house had a musty, acerbic smell that left a bad taste in her mouth. Christ she hated old people, their stink. The corridor turned left and stopped a few feet further on. Two doors were set into the walls, one directly in front of her, the other to the left. She went straight, the door opening with a hushed click.

Inside was a large library. Bookshelves filled with gold edged leather bound volumes stretched from the floor to the ceiling on two walls. There were several leather chairs positioned throughout the room and a large stone fireplace along the left wall. Heavy curtains were drawn over massive windows. The only light came from two small lamps mounted on tables next to a chair. In the dim light her eyes scanned the walls for electrical outlets. She found one near the floor opposite the

door. From a cargo pocket in her pants she pulled a multi-tool and engaged the screwdriver bit. Installing the incendiary device took only five seconds. Satisfied with her work she turned to leave.

A soft thump made her spin rapidly, her heart moving up near her throat as it beat wildly. Lisa froze in a crouch as she gazed about the room.

“Tyler?” she whispered. No response came and slowly she began to relax. She shook her head and mentally scolded herself for getting so spooked. Exhaling through her mouth again, Lisa started to the door.

The thump sounded again, followed by a wet scrape, like someone pulling a wet mop across a stone floor. Lisa froze in her tracks. The noise came again, from behind her. Slowly Lisa turned towards the fireplace. Her mouth worked in horror but no sound would come forth.

Pulling himself out of the fireplace was a man. He moved only with his arms, dragging deformed stumps that were his legs behind him. Lisa’s feet took a tentative, unbidden step towards him. She caught herself and stopped short. The man was pale, his skin luminescent with an unearthly glow in the dim amber light. His skin was wet with blood and other fluids, and the flesh looked to be ripped, even chewed. He had no hair on his body; his head looked like a mold covered grapefruit. A section of his scalp bulged with movement and a long black centipede pushed its way from under the skin and down his shoulder.

The room tilted crazily as the man turned his head upward and looked at Lisa with black eyes that seeped blood. He opened and closed his mouth, opened it larger than any person should ever be able to. On legs that felt filled with helium Lisa staggered back towards what she thought was the door. Her legs hit the edge of a chaise lounge and she toppled over it, slid off the far side and landed with a thump. As she scrambled to regain her feet she heard a fast rustling. Her head whipped around to the spot where the man had been. The room was empty. She looked around, her breath coming in gasps.

“What the hell?” she asked softly. A shiver ran through her body and she convulsed with it. Imagination, she told herself. That’s all that it was, her imagination. The house was creepy in itself, and they were there to kill an old lady, so naturally her brain was running rampant. She looked at her watch. She had wasted almost fifteen minutes in the room. Cursing she started for the door.

Something small and wet hit her skin on the nape of her neck. Lisa stopped and waited for her heart to regain its rhythm. It’s behind you. Don’t turn around, whatever you do. Don’t turn around and see it, standing impossibly behind you on

those deformed legs, bugs crawling out of it and all that wet blood and yellow fluid on it. Don’t let it touch you.

She felt soft, hot breath on her neck as if someone were panting mere inches behind her, yet the room was silent. God, don’t turn around, don’t turn around, don’t don’t don’t.

She turned. The multi-tool fell from her hand and a strangled scream tumbled over her lips as a hoarse croak.


Dale wiped sweat from his brow with a meaty palm and adjusted the bag on his shoulder. Damn thing was getting heavy with everything he had found to take. He had gone through the kitchen, taking several pieces of silverware, and now into a bedroom that looked like it hadn’t been used in twenty years. A thick mantle of dust coated everything in the room and cobwebs draped across most of the furniture. Old bitch had way more than she needed, he thought as his footsteps echoed dully in the space.

Dale wrinkled his nose at the smell that permeated the entire house. Smelled like week old shit. Lousy smell to put up with for a simple five grand. He was sure that Tyler was stiffing him on his cut of the money. The older man had always thought Dale was a dim-witted idiot. Dale’s fingers found a sterling silver hairbrush on a dresser and placed it in the backpack. So dim witted that I’ve been screwing your woman for

two years and you don’t know about it. Dale smiled at the thought. He couldn’t wait to get out of here and back to his apartment. Lisa would come over early the next morning, having told Tyler some bullshit lie about an errand, or just having snuck out while the man slept off the hangover he was sure to have.

He looked around the room. Nothing else seemed to grip his fancy. He left the room thinking that it would be good to find something for Lisa. A small gift to let her know he appreciated her affections. Outside in the hallway he looked in both directions. He had placed four of his five devices and needed to get his bearings before getting seriously lost. His eyes followed an invisible trail until he was sure that he knew where he was. He was on the back side of the house, still on the first floor. Tyler was on the top floor, where the old woman was sleeping. Lisa was somewhere near the front of the house. A brief stirring in his libido suggested that he find her and pull her into an empty room for a quick session, her bent over a bed or chair, his hands on her waist.

No. Dale shook the thought from his head and walked off the stiffness that had started in his jeans. Focus on the task. His path took him along a carpeted hallway and, selecting a door at random he found himself standing in a large room with a hardwood floor. The room seemed to be a display room of sorts, with glass encased display shelves on every wall. The objects behind the glass were smoky grey lumps in the dark. Dale couldn’t see a window in the room so he risked snaking a hand along the wall and flipping the light switch.

Dirty light flared from overhead. Dale squinted until his eyes adjusted and then he moved further into the room. The shelves were full of old artifacts, Indian war hammers, arrow heads, books, plates with gold inlay. He saw two old Civil War era pistols and a saber in a scabbard. He grinned stupidly, like a child in a toy store after closing. The door was unlocked and he quickly searched for a trip wire that would activate an alarm. Seeing none, he cautiously lifted one of the guns. Dale let out a heavy breath when it came away quietly.

He moved around the room, selecting items at random, mentally noting the ones he’d give Lisa. In the far corner of the room, he came across a small hallway that had more shelves. He fingered another wall switch and moved down the space, his eyes brushing across the objects.

Halfway down the aisle he stopped. Had he really seen that, or was it a trick of his mind? Dale blinked and refocused on the item in front of him.

“Holy son of a shit,” he breathed. A severed human hand rested on a small blue velvet box inside the case. The hand belonged to a woman, rings on slender feminine fingers told him as much. But the hand was black, decayed. Ragged meat hung limply from the stump and he could see the dirty bone protruding from the wrist. Next to it was a foot, then a snake head, then a human scalp.

“This bitch is perverted,” he said and moved back down the hall and into the display room. As he entered, movement caught his periphery. Dale froze and squinted out into the dark hallway. Christ, he was standing in a lit room. He was a target for anyone. Tyler had said that there would be nobody else in the house, but Tyler could have been wrong. Or lied. Dale quickly crossed the room and slapped off the light. He stood still, waiting for his eyes to find their way in the gloom. A soft sound of motion came from down the hallway in the direction he had been traveling.

Slowly, making sure his steps fell smooth and silent, Dale crept to the doorway and peered out. There was nothing. He took a tentative step out into the hall, every nerve in his body screaming in anticipation of a gunshot or cry of alarm. As his second foot landed on the carpet, he relaxed. The sound had been nothing.

With lightning speed, something large and rough pushed past his left side, moving from behind him. Dale spun, felt a searing pain in his neck and caught himself against the wall. One hand shot to his neck and he felt hot wetness. His hand came away black. Blood. Holy shit, someone cut my throat, he thought. But despite the pain, he felt no suffocating weight on his chest. He was able to draw breath and swallow. His eyes scanned the dark, looking for his assailant.

He heard the growling before he saw the green glowing eyes float a few feet above the ground. It sounded like a cat mixed with a wolf mixed with something not of this world. And the eyes, the eyes….

Dale opened his mouth to cry out, but only a cracked whisper escaped. The creature moved closer and Dale could see its crouched hulk, a black shadow in the dark hall. Was that the thing that hit me he wondered. Again he tried to make a sound and again was rewarded with only a weak whisper.

His vocal cords had been severed. Whatever had hit him hadn’t cut his throat to kill him; it had done it to shut him up. Dale began retreating down the hall, one hand clutched atthe opening in his neck, the other sliding along the wall. He never turned his back on the beast, even when it began to follow him with the soft flutter of many legs.

Finally his brain could take it no more. He had to get out of the house. It was a mistake coming here, he knew it. Panicked, he turned and ran down the hallway, desperate to find an exit. He ran and ran, not comprehending that the hallway now seemed to stretch on into infinity with no turns or end. Like a soundtrack to his soft footfalls, he heard the fluttering behind him and knew the beast was close at hand.

He ran for what felt like forever. When his muscles could take no more, weakened by the loss of blood, he stumbled and collapsed to his knees. Tears ran down his large cheeks, and his breath came in jerky gasps. Numbly he looked around. The hallway looked just as it had outside the display room. Paintings still hung on the walls, the occasional mirror. But ahead the corridor stretched into blackness.

The beast was behind him. He felt it before he heard its unearthly growling. The hulk of it took up an immense space over his shoulders. Beneath the growling he heard a sound like the whispering of a hundred people, a soft buzzing in his ear.

God forgive me, he thought as he cried. He heard the jaws open behind him, felt the thick drop of saliva hit his shoulder and braced himself for the end.

When it came, it came with the pain of eternity.


Tyler was lost. With every step, he cursed himself for blindly walking through the house and not trying to remember how to get the hell out. He scowled and looked around in the thick darkness. Goddamn this place was huge inside. Hallways ran everywhere, taking a person into depths that most often led nowhere. Doors opened into room after room, bedrooms, dining rooms – how many places did the bitch need to eat in? Some of the rooms were completely empty. He had seen one that held what looked like an old sewing machine with the large spinning wheel, and another room that had nothing but farming tools hanging from the walls.

Tyler looked along the passageway. The old woman’s bedroom was down there somewhere he knew. He started walking, not bothering with moving slow and quiet. He was getting so frustrated that he didn’t give a damn if she woke up and saw him. She was as good as dead anyway. The watch on his wrist read twenty minutes after one in the morning. Tyler stopped in his tracks. How was that possible? There was no way he had been wandering through the house for almost an hour.

Rage building within him like a rising bubble, Tyler stormed down the hallway, past tall silent doors. “Where are you, bitch?” he mumbled to himself as he walked. Several yards ahead of him, the hallway ended at a wooden door. Large vertical wood planks held together with massive iron bands, the door looked like it belonged in a castle rather than a modern house.

Tyler stopped at it and stood there, breathing hard. A door like this could only lead into the master bedroom, he thought. His lips parted in a sadistic smile. This was going to be fun. He’d put a device on her and let it burn right through her skin and bone, a little ‘fuck you’ for making him wander lost through the house. His hand reached out and touched the large black knob. As he gripped it, he felt one of the muscles in his upper shoulder spasm; a quick lurch of the tissue, moving the length of the muscle. It felt like a bug crawling heavily on his skin and he rubbed his free hand on it to brush away the feeling.

The door opened smoothly and Tyler stepped inside. The door glided along its hinges more easily than its immense size suggested. Tyler turned on a light switch and the room was bathed in a soft yellow glow.

Moments later he erupted from the room. He sprinted down the hallway trying to catch up with rapidly fading reality.

“Nothing’s wrong with me, nothing’s wrong with me,” he stammered as his feet pounded the carpet. Holy God in Heaven, how could he have seen what he just did? How could one person –

Tyler shook his head as he ran. No. He wouldn’t think about that, ever again. However, the image would be forever burned into his mind, so he knew that denying it would be uesless. Instead, he concentrated on finding his way out of the maze of hallways and doors. Downstairs, I have to get downstairs.

He turned left on a whim and cried in relief at the vision of dark wooden handrails at the farthest end of the hallway. He felt a surge of energy and increased his speed. As he neared it, he felt a tickling on his neck and slapped at it. The tickling turned hot, to a buzzing, scratching pain. He slapped it again. The feeling surfaced in other places almost immediately. His face and shoulders crawled with the burning feeling. Abruptly, Tyler stopped. He stood panting in the center of the hallway; Jesus, had he only ran half the distance to the stairs? The burning feeling was multiplying along his skin. He felt it on his arms, legs, and chest. Grunting, he slapped at every spot, scratched in the areas that it burned the worst.

“Fuck it,” he said, his voice weak and scared. He started walking towards the stairs, forcing himself to calm down and to ignore the feeling that now covered his body. “Lisa?” he called out. Silence be dammed at this point. “Dale?” His voice was answered with the thick silence of the house and the burning sensation just under his skin. Again, Tyler lurched to a stop. He stood motionless, his head cocked. Had he just felt something crawling on him? He waited, concentrating through the all encompassing pain. There it was again. The feeling of a many legged insect crawling on the skin of his arm.

Tyler pushed up his shirt sleeve and searched for the culprit. His arm was bare except… In the muddied light of the hallway his arm seemed to be moving on its own. The skin of his forearm bulged slightly, the bulge rolling along the length of his arm, then curving back up towards the elbow.

“Holy shit,” he mumbled. Pain, sharp, hot pain, burned through the skin just below his elbow. He watched with a grimace as the flesh pushed up once, twice, then split open. Blood surged up then ran down either side of his arm. From within the rip in his skin, a long smoke grey centipede emerged. From the head jutted two long bull-like horns. It crawled out of his arm and fell to the floor where it scurried for the stairs. Tyler stepped on it and felt it die with a tangible crunch.

The bulging started in three other places. His cheek, abdomen and shoulder blade all fell victim to the pushing, then tearing of skin. He felt each centipede climb out of his body, two of them getting caught in his shirt. Their bodies flailed in the entangling folds.

Tyler bolted for the stairs. With each step he felt more of the insects crawling beneath his skin and burrowing to the surface. His blood ran freely from open wounds. As the centipedes became trapped within his clothing, he felt them stabbing into his flesh with the horns and then begin chewing back into him as they searched for a way out. They were everywhere, his stomach, back, legs. He felt one crawling around his scrotum just before it bit in and began chewing. Tyler screamed and screamed as he ran and ran.

The staircase never seemed so far away.


Silence reclaimed the Masten house again, settling over it like a thick blanket over a sleeping child. The hallways were empty, the carpets spotless. Not a sound could be heard in any of the dozens of rooms. The dust lay unspoiled across furniture and paintings, the paper thin carcasses of insects unmolested along the baseboards. In the darkness of her room, the old lady stopped mumbling and slowly closed her eyes. A slight smile brushed across her lips as she settled back into sleep. The three had come and had equally been dispatched. She had felt their anguish, tasted their fear and pain. The work had been more exhausting than she had anticipated. She would need her rest. There would be time for her recovery, time for preparations. The next one would be most special. Her son would be coming to visit her soon, she knew. She had to be ready to receive him, too.




Friday, February 23, 2007

The Hunger

The Hunger

By: David Probert

Sandra awoke in the confines of a musty basement. She’d been unconscious. For how long, she didn’t know. But she wasn’t alone. Her boyfriend, Roy, was with her, as well as their friend, Carol. They sat engulfed in a thick blanket of darkness that was cut by a faint ray of pale moonlight which spilled through a window on the far wall.

“Everyone ok?” Sandra asked, slowly rising on her trembling legs with the support of the wall behind her assuring that she wouldn’t topple over.

Carol responded, a voice without origin in the blackness. “My head hurts but I think I’m alright.”

“Where the hell are we?” Roy fumbled through the dark. He grasped Sandra’s arm and pulled her toward him. “Are you ok?”

“Yeah, you?”

“I’m alright.” He kissed the top of her head and wrapped his arms around her. It didn’t matter what had happened to him, he was just relieved that she was ok.

The basement door flung open and a large figure, preceded by the bright beam of a flashlight, descended the stairs. Roy yanked Sandra back and watched in horror as a bloody arm shot from the dark and wrapped a hand around Carol’s throat.

She coughed and gasped for air as a large figure dragged her up the steps, her arms flailing and legs kicking against the wood. The basement door slammed shut behind them, muffling her cries for help.

Roy’s feet pounded up the old planks of wood and he jiggled the door handle. It was locked. “What the fuck is going on?”

Sandra stood at the foot of the stairs, her eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness. Below Roy’s silhouette a thin lining of dull light shone from under the door, and every so often a shadow would scuttle across.

“There’s more than one person up there.”

They both froze as Carol began to scream from beyond the door.

Her screams were followed by the loud buzz of a chainsaw.

The moonlight spilled over Sandra’s terror-stricken eyes and she trembled like a leaf in a vigorous breeze, barely clinging to her own sanity. The piercing screams rattled her eardrums. She could hear the saw grinding as it cut through (what could only have been) Carol’s flesh and bone. “What’s going on, Roy?”

There was a loud crack, then the splattering sound of heavy liquid spilling onto a tiled floor. Carol stopped screaming and an eerie mumbling arose from the other side of the door.

Roy stumbled down the stairway in a panic, grabbing at the wooden rail to steady himself and prevent a severe tumble. “They killed her. They fucking killed her.”

He began to fumble through the darkness. “Feel around, there has to be something we can use. He’s going to come back down here. We have to do something.” He clumsily felt around until his fingers tapped a cold metal surface, a toolbox. He snapped the lid open and carefully felt inside, wrapping his hand around the wooden handle of a hammer. “I found something. Where are you?”


“Keep talking, I can’t see you.”

Sandra’s voice resonated with fear. “Roy, I just had a really bad thought.”

“Not now Sandra.” Roy took her hand and slowly led her through the basement.

“What if someone else is down here?”

“Don’t say that.”


He paused for a moment as footsteps shuffled overhead. “We would have known by now.”

“I don’t feel so good.”

“Me either; it’s nerves Sandra.”

She rubbed her stomach. “Do you think we’ll make it out of here?”

“We have to stick together, that’s all. We’ll wait under that stairs and trip him as he’s coming down.” He pulled Sandra beneath the steps, where they waited in silence until the door burst open again.

A pair of heavy boots pounded down the stairs. Once Roy could see the back of the stranger’s legs he swung the claw of the hammer between the steps.

The stranger let out a scream and tumbled forward, slamming against the basement wall. Roy quickly darted around and bludgeoned him with the hammer. A violent crack emanated from his skull as the hammer crashed down. The basement door slammed shut, and Roy retreated back into the shadows.

“Do you think he’s dead?” Sandra whispered, her body quivering.

“If he’s not, he’s not going to manage too well with his brain mashed like a bowl of potatoes.” Roy watched the lifeless silhouette through the gloom. Suddenly, it began to moan in agony.

The door opened again. This time there were two men. The light from the doorway shone down into the basement where the body was visible and twitched in a dark pool of blood. Fragments of skull and brain matter were splattered across the wall.

Sandra raised the back of her arm to her mouth to keep from vomiting. Her stomach churned with nausea. Roy held her close as the two men carried the body back up the stairs, closing the door behind them.

“Come on, we have to get the hell out of here.” Roy pulled Sandra toward the window. He cupped his hands and lowered them to her knees. “I’ll lift you up, and then you can help pull me out.”

“You’re too heavy, Roy…”

“Than if you can’t pull me up, go get help.”

The door creaked open again. Sandra stepped on Roy’s hands and he hoisted her up to the window. She fumbled over the lock then pushed the window open and slid out. Before she could grab Roy’s hand, she heard him screaming as he was drug toward the stairs, toward the same grisly fate as Carol.

Sandra turned to run. What she saw sent her heart into a pounding frenzy. Once she’d crawled out of the basement, she’d crawled out on reality entirely. The world before her was like nothing she’d ever imagined; a horror movie come to life. Bloody corpse’s littered the lawn; their gaping wounds glistened in the pale moonlight. Some of them twitched, groaned, and clawed at the soil. Others lay motionless.

She cupped a hand over her mouth as she felt vomit begin to crawl up her throat and burn her esophagus. She sprinted around the house and the world seemed to spin frantically around her.

The front porch was filled with more of them. She saw a man pounding on the door like a crazed lunatic. Another hunched near the front steps, gnawing on a severed arm.

Hiding behind a group of bushes, she watched them in their tattered, rotten skin. They didn’t appear confused, disoriented, or even phased by the fact that they should have all been dead. Instead, they were crazed; their eyes wide with malice, shrinking their pupils to the size of black pencil-tip erasers.

She retreated to the other side of the house. There were more. They were dead, yet mobile, still functioning just as well as any living being.

She watched from the shadows as they ran across the driveway, toward the other side of the house. Her heart thumped against her chest and a dry lump balled in her throat.

A few cars sat in the driveway and Sandra weighed her options: run and pray to God that there was a set of keys in one of the cars, or keep hiding and hope that the living dead didn’t find her. After what had happened to Roy and Carol, she decided to place her odds with the cars.

She crept toward the edge of the shadows and scanned the area; it was clear. Her feet pounded against the gravel in a wild sprint for safety. She jiggled the first door handle but it was locked. She quickly moved to the next, and her luck had changed; the car was open and dangling from the ignition was a shiny set of keys.

Her heart pounded as she slid into the car and locked all of the doors, but she was spotted. A small group of the undead charged the car.

Sandra turned the key in the ignition and the car started immediately. She threw it into drive and floored the gas pedal, striking one of the animated corpses and sending it onto the hood. She backed up and the body slid to the ground, leaving a wet trail of blood behind. Its bones were broken and it couldn’t stand. It grasped at the dirt with its decayed hands and screamed at the car like a wild animal defending a fresh kill.

Sandra turned the car around and followed the only road she saw, a long dirt road to nowhere.

The car swerved around corners and tore through gravel. She never let up on the gas. She kept her eyes on the road and drove until she saw lights, a town. A little reluctant, she veered off the road and parked in front of a gas station and ran inside for help, hoping that help hadn’t fallen to the evil that ran ramped outside.

She insistently rang the small bell on the counter, but no one answered. A loud thud sounded outside, and as she turned, she saw more of the undead, attacking her car like a swarm of angry hornets. They must have thought someone was inside. Their eyes were furious, and dark scarlet blood masked their faces. Some of them had gaping head wounds. Others were missing limbs. She even noticed one with its stomach torn open and a glob of organs hanging loose. They hissed and screamed as they pounded on the car, denting the hood and doors, and breaking through the glass.

Gunshots blared and a bullet struck one of them. Its head jolted back as a splatter of blood shot into the air like a crimson fountain. It turned around, then fell against the car and slid into a sitting position against the front wheel.

The assailant emerged, aiming and firing. Blood sprayed as another fell. A bullet lodged in its skull. The man cocked his rifle to reload, but was overwhelmed by the hoard. It was a feeding frenzy; he didn’t even have time to scream. They bit at his flesh and tore it from his bones. His screams turned to gurgling as blood sprayed through the crowd, and the more blood that sprayed, the more violent they became.

Sandra ran from the window and into the back room of the shop where she noticed a glass door leading outside. Moonlight lit the outside with a light blue glow. There were probably hundreds of them, hiding in the shadows and waiting for the next living being to waltz into the spotlight of the moon where they would charge and fight for a taste of flesh.

She approached the door with caution and scanned the area. Her eyes had somewhat adjusted to the darkness and she didn’t see anything but the general store across the street. Its lights were out, but the sign on the door still read: open.

She dashed into the night, across the street, and inside of the store. It was a mess. The violent corpses must have already been there. Bags of food had been torn open, soda cases were vandalized, and shelves were knocked to the ground, spilling their contents throughout the store. Blood was smeared across the back wall, and at the end of the arched smear was a scarlet handprint providing proof of a violent death.

She noticed local and regional newspapers on a shelf along the wall. Headlines read: Strange outbreak keeps the dead from their graves. Viral outbreak closes local area hospital. Is the impossible possible?

On the cover of the local paper she saw a picture of Roy, Carol, and herself, they were all smiling at the camera as it snapped their senior class photos. She snatched the paper and read the caption beneath the photo: Day 3 - Local teens still missing.

The paper slipped from her grasp. She remembered being abducted, along with Roy and Carol. The memories invaded her mind with horrible flashbacks of a large man locking them in the basement; it was the man Roy had beaten with the hammer.

A group of cars screeched in front of the store. Sandra ran her fingers along her throat and felt thick, sticky liquid covering a rough opening across her neck. She looked up at the glass and saw her reflection. Her skin was pale and rotted, her cheeks hollow, and her eyes lifeless. A line of crimson, where the abductor had slit her throat, was the only visible color on her body.

She stood for a moment and glared at herself in horror. She was already dead. So were Roy and Carol. They’d been murdered in the basement. They were all dead and being slaughtered as they arose to join the animated corpses.

A group of men approached from the parked cars in front of the store. They’d spotted Sandra through the window and their rifles were raised.

She closed her eyes as the craving for flesh began to overwhelm her senses, her stomach churned; the hunger was setting in. Soon she’d become crazed just like the others. When she opened her eyes, the last thing she saw was the group of undead screaming as they charged the men from behind. They aggressed from the shadows like a pack of animals.

There was a loud crack as one of the men pulled his trigger. Sandra dropped to the ground, blood spurting from her head. She took comfort in knowing that dying again was the best thing that could have happened to her. The world as she knew it was no longer the same, and nor would it ever be, once the hunger had set in.