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Fragments of Fear: Collection: Fragments of Fear

Fragments of Fear: Collection: Fragments of Fear

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Fragments of Fear: Collection: Fragments of Fear

592 pages
6 hours
Jan 27, 2020


"Eva's curiosity held her hostage, dragging her to find the source of the haunting song that wafted through the forest. In her eleven years of life, she had never heard anything so beautiful yet tinged with such sadness." - Siren song

"I hold the candle in front of me as I creep down the hallway. The flickering light causes shadows to jump all around like a hoard of evil spirits." - Haunted

"Frozen by fear, the darkness envelopes me. I feel its physical presence pressing down on me, crushing me." - Invader

These are just a few of the short stories that lie in wait to fuel your nightmares in this book. Over six dozen stories in all. Each one carefully crafted to mortify, mystify, and mesmerize. 
Listen for the quiet sounds of an uninvited guest. Feel the fear creep up your neck like a spider. Shiver at the chills that haunt you in your warmest room. 
Will you open the first page and step into this land of tiny tormented tales?

Jan 27, 2020

About the author

Michael Kelso self-published his first short horror story seven years ago. Since then he has gone on to self-publish many more, won 2 horror writing contests, and publish his debut Crime fiction novel.  He conitnues to work on his next novel, a YA sports novel, along with sequels to his first crime novel.  Michael lives with his wife and children in Pennsylvania. Author interview: https://www.qwertythoughts.com/authors-lobby/interviews/michael-kelso/5d2c15e11a1ffb34782c440f Review of One on One: https://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=102148&fbclid=IwAR3f66nynkRjlEECORSPN-S83Ph4pCxxgHmn_9J-WDo5TPGeHc6ILx5wsHg

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Fragments of Fear - Michael Kelso


This anthology contains Fragments of Fear 1, 2, and 3. It also contains my other short stories and novelette that were previously published, 72 stories in all.

This anthology consists entirely of previously published work. It is a collection of all of my self published works up to 2019. No part of this book may be reproduced in any way without the written consent of the author.

Fragments of Fear

Volume 1

Originally released 3-9-16

Michael Kelso

© 2016

This collection is an original work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locations is entirely coincidental.

Some of the stories in this collection are particularly graphic in regards to violence, blood, gore, language, and sexual references. This collection is not recommended for those under the age of eighteen.

These stories came about because of Dean Kuch. He put out a challenge to write horror stories that were 500 words or less. I took this challenge and ran with it. The result is the collection that you are about to read.

When I write horror I do it with two goals in mind. The first is to terrify the reader, but the second is to make them think. Hopefully I have accomplished both goals in all of these stories.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those who have assisted and/or inspired me through the process of writing this collection. Aside from the above mentioned Mr. Kuch, there is Linda Engle, Mark Valentine, Michael Cahill, T.R. Mullins, and Mike Battaglia. But most important, as always, is my wife and family. They are so valuable and put up with so much from me,  I can’t even begin to say thank you enough. Love ya guys!

Cover photography and design by Michael Kelso

Check out my website for news of upcoming events and a look at my blog.


Siren Song  9

Avian  13

Fast Food  17

Field of screams    21 

Haunted  25 

Invader   29 

Labels  31

Neighborhood Watch    35

Open  37

Puppets  39

Puzzled  43

Quite a riot  45

Safe  49

Stained  51

Trauma  55

Sub-conscious  57

The Exam  61

Couples therapy  67

Used too  71

Voyeur  75

Siren Song

Eva’s curiosity held her hostage, dragging her to find the source of the haunting song that wafted through the forest. In her eleven years of life, she had never heard anything so beautiful yet tinged with such sadness. When her parents had suggested that they go camping, she resisted. It took her dad's ridiculous claim of camping on the border of a haunted forest to pique her interest. They kept up a good act. Pretending to be nervous and jumping at every noise. That alone made the trip worth it.

They turned in early, but in the middle of the night something woke her.  She slipped out of the tent and heard music coming from the forest. She hadn't brought a flashlight, but the light of the full moon and the beautiful song were enough to guide her. As she approached, she began to hear words.

Come my dear

Never fear

Now draw near

To the song you hear

She reached a clearing and saw a boy sitting on an old tree stump. He was the same age as her, with dirty blonde hair.  He seemed to be sleeping, yet he sang the same verse over and over. When she reached out to touch his face, his sky blue eyes snapped open, startling her.

Who are you? she asked.

For a long moment the air was still and silent. She felt a profound sense of loss that the music had ended.

Please sing again, she said.

When he opened his mouth the song was barely audible. She leaned very close.

Run away

Please don't stay

Heed what I say

He comes this way

Who comes?

She drew back and saw tears streaming down his cheeks. For the first time she noticed his arms and legs were bound by tree roots. Panic flooded her mind as he sang again.

It's too late

There's no escape

I'm only bait

You've sealed your fate

Her heart pounded as she frantically searched for the way out. Black clouds drifted in front of the moon, blanketing the forest in darkness.

The boy bowed his head.

The girl shrieked and was suddenly quiet.

The clouds passed.

The boy looked up and saw a trail of blood leading into the dense, dark forest. A shadow stirred at the edge of the clearing. The boy stared at it, then sang.

Master wraith

Is your hunger slaked?

Please I pray

Let me go my way

The answer was a low growl. The boy knew from many times before exactly what that meant. He sighed deeply and began to sing.

Come my dear

Never fear...

The song wafted through the forest seeking another victim.

In the weeks that followed, the girl's picture was placed on milk cartons like so many others. In a small store on the edge of the forest, her milk carton stood in a cooler next to one that had a picture of a boy with dirty blonde hair and sky blue eyes.


T ime of death 8:46 AM.

Everyone in this room is under quarantine, Dr. Fyne says. If this is what I think it is, we're all dead.

8:44 AM

Clear! the machine sends electricity pulsing through my body.  

No pulse.

Shock him again!

Nothing. Flat line.

The doctor pulls down his mask slowly.

Then we'll never know for sure.

Won't an autopsy show it?

Let's find out. I'm calling it...

8:40 AM

Blood sprays from my mouth as I cough uncontrollably.

Vitals dropping, the nurse yells, we're losing him.

Charge the defibrillator. Did you draw the blood sample I wanted?

Not enough time.

I need that sample!

Defibrillator charged.

8:36 AM

So, I hear you have the flu, the doctor says.

I start to cough.

Sorry about that, I tell the doctor.

That's okay, when did you notice...?

Coughs wrack me to the floor.


Yes, doctor?

Get me vitals and a blood sample on this guy.

He's seizing!

Crash cart to room five, stat!

8:34 AM

Finally. I think I have writer’s cramp.

The doctor will see you now, follow me to room five.

I still feel a little silly. It was just some freak occurrence.

Good morning, the doctor says, How are we feeling today?

Fine, I guess.

8:01 AM

Fill out these forms and have a seat, the receptionist says without looking up.

7:50 AM

I drive down the road still in shock.

Did that really just happen?

Dents in the hood of my car and feathers clinging to my clothes confirm it.

I look at the bloody scrapes on my arm.

Maybe I should go to the hospital.

7:45 AM

I breathe in the crisp morning air. There's an odd tinge to the smell.

Halfway to the car, I hear a 'thunk'.

A small bird lays motionless on the ground in front of me.

Another 'thunk' and another.

What the hell?

I look up to see a hailstorm of birds falling toward me.

Eyeing the distance the car is closer than the house, so I sprint for the car.

The rain of death intensifies. Bodies hit me left and right.

The ground is now covered with avian corpses. Their bones crunch under my feet as I struggle to open the car door, and dive inside.

As I drive down the road, the strange phenomenon stops.

7:00 AM

The alarm clock crushes my dream of lounging on a beach.





I watch the news during my morning routine.

... the CDC reports that a new strain of bird flu may have made it to our shores. Officials aren't yet sure if it's contagious to humans, but to be on the safe side, they recommend caution. If you see a dead bird, don't go near it. Call the number on your screen immediately.

I turn off the TV and walk out the door.

Who would be dumb enough to mess with a dead bird?

Fast Food

I ’m reporting this , Juan shoved a finger in Charlie’s face.

To who? All your inspector buddies are on break, Charlie shot back.

Not for long, this time I’ll see to it you’re fired.

That doesn’t sound like a healthy decision to me.

You don’t intimidate me like everyone else here, I don’t care if you are the biggest, baddest drug dealer in the slaughterhouse.

Charlie’s eyes burned with rage. He swung his air hammer up and stunned Juan with it.

He fell among the cattle, unconscious. Charlie whistled and Jorge came running over.

What happened?

He got in the way, Charlie said.

Serves him right, the damn snitch.

You know he’ll report me when he wakes up.

What do you want to do?

A gleam shone in Charlie’s eyes, Help me with him.

They hooked his legs to the chain that carried cattle into the slaughterhouse.I’m not sure about this?

Didn’t you lose a week’s pay because this prick got you suspended?


He’s done that to everyone on our line. It’s time to put a scare into him.

Jorge smiled. I like it. Then he went back to his station as Juan disappeared into the building.

Charlie whistled, getting the attention of the workers on the line. He pointed towards Juan's unconscious body, hanging upside down like a cow, and drew a finger across his throat.

A silent understanding passed between each of them, and any objections were quickly squashed by a glance at Charlie.

They went to work like they had on cows countless times before. First they de-skinned him quickly and efficiently, causing him to scream in pain and terror.

His scream died in his throat as his head was severed from his body and thrown into the chute with the scraps.

The next man took a power saw and sliced him neatly into two halves. At the next station they removed the internal organs, cut off the legs and hung the remaining meat on hooks.

By now he was unrecognizable as anything but meat. They sliced him up into smaller and more manageable chunks which was ground into hamburger, packed and sent out to restaurants.

Charlie went back to his station, and started knocking cattle again.

What happened to Juan? the inspector asked when he returned from his break.

The whole line shot furtive glances at Charlie.

He had an emergency, Charlie said, There was a death in the family.

Oh, sorry to hear that. Do you think you'll be able to handle the line without him?

Yeah, I think we'll do just fine.

At the end of the shift, Jorge and Charlie walked to their cars.

How did it go with Juan?

Grade A, Charlie snickered.

I would’ve loved to have seen the look on his face when they pulled him down.

They told me it was to die for.

Hey I’m hungry, how about you?

Let's go grab a burger, Charlie said.

Field of Screams 

Ilove living in the country, away from all the lights. Over a dozen meteor pictures and I should still have time for more.

I trudge through waist high grass, climb into my car, and listen to the radio as the camera automatically takes another picture. Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ plays softly, causing me to smile and close my eyes.

When I wake the full moon is up, bathing the field in an eerie glow.  

The grass undulates as if waving in the breeze.

That’s odd, the wind isn’t moving the trees.

The wave of grass continues steadily towards me, enveloping the car. I stick my head out through the window and watch one of the waves pass right by me. It stops moving and out of the grass I see glowing red eyes.

I throw myself back inside the car and roll up the window, ignoring the sound of something scraping on the door.


I focus on my breathing to avoid a panic attack.

In my mirror I see the mounds of grass moving away.

I roll my window back down, lean out, look down and see no red eyes.

I think it’s time to go home.

My camera sits a mere four feet away.  I won’t step out of my car, or leave it in the field.

I pull over closer to the camera, reach out through the window, grab the 'Oh shit' handle inside the car, all the while shooting furtive glances down at the grass.

Got it!

I sling myself back inside the car, roll up my window, and try to calm down. The longer I sit here the more silly the whole thing seems.

It had to be a dream. I fell asleep and dreamt the whole thing.

I chuckle at my own stupidity, then turn the car around and drive back over the same tracks I used to get here.

I drive out of the field, through my own backyard, and park beside the house.

I head for the backdoor, exhausted.

Two a.m. is late, even for me.

Against my better judgment, I lean down to look at the side of the car door and was surprised to see scrapes in the metal.

Must've been a stick or something I brushed against in the field. 

I head inside, lock the door, and start looking through the night's pictures.

Several of the meteor pictures are nicely framed with the field and trees. As the moon comes up, the stars disappear.

This must be where I fell asleep.

As I scroll through, I notice the waves in the field.

So I didn't dream that?

I enlarge the picture.

My breath catches in my throat.

Red eyes.

I push to the right and see another set of eyes. I zoom back out and count dozens of them. Every hump of grass has glowing red eyes looking out.

Oh my God!

My spine turns to ice when I hear scraping at the back door.


Click to hear this story narrated.


I hold the candle in front of me as I creep down the hallway. The flickering light causes shadows to jump all around me like a hoard of evil spirits.

They flit about at the edge of my vision, each time I try to catch sight of one, it evaporates.

I tremble a bit as I hear the sound again. My feet drive me inexorably toward it, against my will. Before I can protest, I'm standing in front of the door. The sound is clearer now. It's an old typewriter clacking.

Stop in front of the door and the sound ceases. I hesitate, wondering what the mystery typist has in mind for me.

The glow of my candle bathes the doorknob in an eerie light. I reach for it, half expecting it to be locked, but it swings open.

I steel myself for whatever horrors lie within and step through the doorway.


It looks like no one has been in this room for ages. A faint recollection stirs in the back of my mind but I can't put a name to it.

In the corner is an old typewriter on a small desk. The whole thing is dusty as if it hasn't been used in years.

Wait a minute. The keys are dusty too. 

I gently blow on them and am rewarded with a small cloud.

That's not possible.

I lean closer to see a fresh piece of paper with a sentence waiting to be read.

‘Get out of my house!’

Chills run down my spine.

I run downstairs, more than happy to oblige the offended spirit.

I reach the front door at a full sprint, but it's locked.

I run for the back door, locked too.

Every door and window is sealed by some supernatural means.

I sit with my back to the front door.

If you want me out, why are you keeping me in? I shout to the spirit.

It doesn't respond.

In my darkest moment a sound calls out to me, familiar yet somehow different.

Against my will, I'm drawn back upstairs to the same room.

As the typewriter clacks I determine to catch the mysterious typist.

I fling open the door only to find the room empty again. Strangely the typewriter is now an electric model.

Go away! the page reads over and over.

My ire rises inside me.

I will not go away. This is my house, and I'll not be chased off by some stupid ghost.

I'm suddenly struck by a vision.

I LAY IN BED IN THE same room. My wife sits beside me, begging me to let her send for a doctor, but I'm too stubborn.

She holds my hand to her cheek, tears streaming down her face, as the life fades from my eyes.

I'M YANKED BACK TO the present by a startling revelation.

I'm the ghost!


Ilay quietly, enveloped in the warm, moist, darkness. Whatever lived in this cave before me must’ve rotted away. The stench is horrible, but this is only a temporary shelter. I dream of a bountiful hunt, the feast afterward, of my mate at home, and the many mouths I have to feed.  My only hope for survival, for feeding my family, is darkness and stealth.

I hear sounds, see a sliver of light. The enemy's afoot. I must be on my guard. They are more powerful and numerous than I. Open attack would be suicide. The rumblings fade into the distance. I try to stay alert, silently edging up to the border of my hiding place. I spy the enemy. They are all about me, yet seem more concerned with their own affairs than a single wayward hunter.

I creep back, unnoticed into my place of refuge, and wait for my moment of opportunity. Try as I might, my alertness wanes and I tumble into restless sleep.

I'm awakened by a strange presence. An unnatural darkness has befallen me like an early night. I wave in front of my eyes to make sure they're open, but the night is blinding. There is a heaviness, a pressure that comes with it. I retreat back into the furthest corner of my hiding place, but there is no escape.

Frozen by fear, the darkness envelopes me. I feel its physical presence pressing down on me, crushing me.

Can't move.

Can't breathe.

Driven to mortal desperation, I try to use my weapon but I’m pinned, immobile.

Eyes bulge as this crushing force squeezes the very life out of me.

Goodbye my mate, my children. I go on ahead of you into the unknown.

And then it retreats as suddenly as it came.

Breath flows through me once more. I am left to wonder at this sudden benevolence.

What hellish fate awaits me?

Enemy or not, I run with abandon towards the mouth of the cave.

The ground shakes beneath me. Gravity itself is upended and I fall up into the light.

I land, poised to fight to the death.

I hear the shrill cry of the enemy, Daddy, squash it!

Hopelessness overtakes me as my hiding place becomes my doom.

My cave, my place of refuge, descends upon me, carrying death with it.


My bodily fluids spray in every direction under the crushing force. My eight legs curl up in death's final reflex.

The last sound I hear, as the darkness takes me, is the enemy's cry of victory.

Got it!


"H ave you ever stopped and thought about the labels society gives people?




If all of our labels were printed out like the tags in the backs of t-shirts, there'd be no shirt, it'd be made entirely of tags.

Let's look at your tags, for example. You've got 'Rapist' , 'Child molester', 'Piece of shit', and so many more. Now, thanks to me, you can add 'Victim', and 'Hostage' to your list. Isn't that exciting?

Oh come on, at least have the decency to answer."

Mmph ...

"A shattered jaw is no excuse for being impolite. We’ve got some time yet, would you like to play a game?

I'll take the look in your one remaining eye as a yes. Okay, I'll hold up an object and you say the first thing that comes to your mind. Like for instance, when I hold up this gore-stained hammer...

Okay, recoiling doesn't really count as a word. Let's try again. When I hold up your severed penis?

No reaction? You're damn straight. There won’t be any reaction from this anymore."

*Throws it on the floor and stomps on it*

"We'll do one more try...how about this beer bottle?                   

No response? Really? I would think this would create the most emotion. This is the same beer bottle you used to molest my twelve year old daughter, to damage her physically, mentally, and emotionally for the rest of her life. You gave her several new labels, not the least of which was, 'Vegetable'.

Did you even care about her labels?

'Daughter’, ‘friend’, ‘honor student’, ‘only child’, ‘innocent...'

But, you took that last label from her. Just like you took my vibrant little girl and turned her into a husk of a human being. A ruined body was all that was left when you were done."

*Turns away*

Excuse me, I promised myself I could do this without emotion, but I can't help it ...

*Dabs tears*

"When I think about my little girl and the things you did to her. I want to add a few more labels to your list. How about,

'Sick fuck!'

*Bottle smashes*

'Arrogant prick!'

*Stabs remaining eye with bottle*




*The bottle stabs faster and faster*



*Blood flies, chunks of gore fall from the table*


*Tosses the bottle and picks up the hammer. With the full force of aggression, adrenaline, and rage, the hammer hits, shattering his skull*

*Steps back, covered in blood and gore. The hammer slips out of the ruined cranium and clatters to the floor.*

Your new label is 'corpse'.

*Collapses to the floor and begins to weep bitterly.*

*Flashing red and blue lights approach to give Colin his new label.*

Neighborhood watch

Y es, officer, how can I help you? Lilly said, holding the door partially open.

Ma'am, we're on the lookout for a murderer that was last spotted in this area and we are going door to door, warning people.

Oh my, do you think I'm in danger here alone?

Lock your doors and windows. Call us if you see anything suspicious.

Okay. Thank you very much, officer.

He smiled. Just doing my job, ma'am.

She closed the door, locked it, then made sure all the other doors and windows were secured. Just about the time she was done, a knock sounded on the door.

Yes, officer, is there something else I can do for you?

I'm sorry to disturb you again, ma'am. I've been to four other houses and no one seems to be home. Have you seen them leaving today?

Oh, I forgot. The lady across the street is a travel agent. She got a fantastic discount on cruise tickets and several of the families in the neighborhood all went on a cruise together.


Yes, they all departed yesterday.

I can't imagine going on vacation with my neighbors, we'd kill each other.

Lilly shrugged. I guess it was a helluva discount.

Why didn't you go?

"I'm not what you'd call the social type. I p

So that means there's not a living soul in this whole neighborhood except me and you? he said, eyeing her up and down.

That sounds about right, she said, feeling his hungry eyes on her.

I get off soon. I live just a few blocks away. Here's my card with my personal number on it. If you hear anything, see anything, or just want some company, don't hesitate to call.

Thank you very much, officer, she smiled. I'll be sure to do that.

She quickly shut and locked the door.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she climbed the stairs and headed toward the bathroom.

The cast iron tub sat in the middle of the candlelit room. Dozens of lit Sterno cans sat under it, their flames licked the bottom of the tub, warming the liquid inside.

Lilly undressed and slowly stuck a single toe into the tub.

Ahh. The perfect temperature.

She slid the rest of her naked body beneath the warm, red liquid. Once she was seated, she noticed it covered her legs, and stomach, but there wasn't quite enough to cover the rest. She splashed some onto her breasts, but it wasn't the same.

Looks like I'll need a little more.

She reached for her pants that were laying on the floor, and pulled out the business card the officer had given her, being careful not to let the blood obscure the number.


My tormentor sits beside me, mocking me.

Come on, Ben, you know you want me, why don't you just do it?

I try to ignore it, work on my tan. The sun helps out by shining down as bright as possible, baking me to a crisp.

Beeeeennnnn, it sing-songs to me. Why don't you peel off this outer cover and do what we both know you want to do?

Water splashes in my face, pulling me out of my delusion.

My mind drifts back to this horrible reality.

Alone in a life raft, adrift in open water, my companion who speaks so seductively is an unopened can of baked beans.

For three days I've stared at that can. During my less lucid moments, it mocks me and beguiles me.

Whoever loaded the supplies on this life raft was either stupid or one sadistic bastard.

They packed saltines, peanuts, canned food, but no can opener, and no water. The crackers and nuts were gone on day one. Now my throat feels like it's swelling shut.

My stomach has stopped rumbling and sends jolts of pain now. I fear that it is slowly devouring other internal organs. But that's nothing compared to my pounding headache.

I feel like I'm going to burst into flames any second. I don't know if I could drink even if I had water.

The irony of dying of thirst in the middle of the ocean throws me into a fit of hysterical laughter...on the inside. On the outside, I only have enough energy for a weak smile.

Early morning day four, that's when my miracle happened. The most commonplace of all miracles, water fell from the sky.

The first drop hits me on the cheek, and my eyes struggle to open.

I'm having another horrid, sadistic dream.

It wasn't until I was soaking wet that I made a feeble attempt to open my mouth as wide as I could and allow drop after life-saving drop to slowly fill it.

I attempt my first swallow in nearly two days.

Try as I might, I can't do it. My throat has swollen nearly shut. Breathing has become difficult.

Now my mouth is full of water that has begun to drip into my lungs.

Four days ago I would've just spit the water out. But then, four days ago I was able to swallow. Now I'm so weak I can't turn my head and I can barely cough. Even when I do, a mere drop or two of water comes out.

After two feeble attempts, I can’t breathe.

Whatever energy reserves I have, go into one last cough.

It barely makes the water in my mouth gurgle. Panic fights exhaustion, and loses.

The rain comes down in torrents. What I thought was my savior has become my doom.

Lying on my back, I look like a fish out of water. My mouth moving, unable to breathe, slowly suffocat...


Istand in line at a grocery store, sharing the same blank stare as the fat woman in the moomoo, the skinny biker with more tattoos than teeth, and worst of all, the Young Urban Professional in the dark suit.

None of us can read each other’s thoughts. If they knew what swirls around in the dark abyss of my mind, they would've called the asylum already.

I don't see people anymore. All I see are meat puppets, dangling on the strings of conformity.

Of 'Normalcy'...

Of 'Morality'...

Of 'Sanity'...

Throw another tub of ice cream on that register belt, you fat bitch, it might last you until supper. Why don't you buy a garden trowel to eat that with?

She looks at me and smiles.

I force myself to smile back.

Your time's coming.

The skinny biker behind me puts his items up on the belt, leaving no space for mine.

I'm sorry, am I in your way?

I swallow my rage and look at my list.


FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS aren't exactly a hotbed for intelligence, but when I'm standing in front of the soda machine, take half a step to my left to set my tray down, and some old bitch shoves her cup under the nozzle, I get pissed, especially when she's too fucking stupid to figure out how to work

the machine.

This proves my point.

Is it any wonder I hate people?

Is it any wonder I do the things I do?

I finish my chores, starting to feel ill, then go to the hospital.

Fill these out and have a seat, the attendant says without looking up.

Sure thing. I wouldn't want you to acknowledge me as a human being or anything.

I start to fill out the form.

Name: Doesn't Matter

Age: 47

Occupation: Molecular Biologist

Allergies: Sarcasm, bitterness, apathy, greed, callousness, all of humanity.

I’m sent to a room, feeling much worse.

The doctor examines me, frowns, and then orders a battery of tests. An hour later he comes into my room, looking worried.

It’s about time.

I umm, have some news, he says, standing back from the bed.

What is it, doc?

I don't know how to say this.

Try just telling me.

I can feel the bile rising in my throat.

Okay, you have a disease I've never seen before.

Really? I rasped, coughing.

He took a step backward.

Yes, it seems to be a mutation of several deadly diseases.

Is ...it ...contagious? I ask  through ragged breaths.

It's the most contagious thing I've ever seen. We're talking pandemic if it ever got out.

Good ...I ...created ...it ...and ...injected ...myself ...this ...morning.


Mankind ...isn't ...worthy ...to ...exi s...

I lose consciousness.

The doctor’s face freezes in a mask of realization morphing into horror.

Where have you been today? he yells, searching through my clothes for any clue.

Doctor? the nurse said. We need to quarantine this area.

It doesn't matter, he said, showing the nurse the piece of paper.

It reads,

Grocery store,

Fast food restaurant,





Click to hear this story narrated.


He finally placed the last piece.

For years he had worked on this puzzle. He had bought it at a yard sale, that had some of the most strange antiques. Henry had always been a fan of puzzles. He couldn't resist when the woman told him it would take a lifetime to put together.

He was surprised and amused when she handed him a large paper bag full of puzzle pieces. He had to dedicate a table only to this puzzle, it was so big.

For the longest time he barely touched it, having no idea what the picture was, without the box it was nearly impossible to get started.

As time wore on and Henry became less active, the puzzle held more interest for him. He began to make progress on it and soon had it more than half done.

The strange thing was sometimes it seemed like the picture on the puzzle was different from one day to the next. Still he kept at it. It had become an obsession now. He had to know what was on the picture.

When his wrinkled, arthritic hand put the last piece in, he leaned back to take a look and a chill ran through him. It was a picture of him as a younger man. He was sitting at that very same table and putting together that very same puzzle.

As if that wasn't unnerving enough, over his shoulder, in the window behind him was a shadowy figure. He leaned closer to the puzzle to get a better look.

The figure was robed entirely in black with a hood covering its face. A skeletal hand held a scythe beside it.

Henry's eyes grew wide with fear. For what seemed like eternity, he sat as still as a tombstone.

This can't be real. There's some logical explanation, but for the life of me I can't think of it.

Finally Henry's curiosity devoured him like a starving predator. He slowly turned and looked at the window.

THREE DAYS LATER THE paramedics found his decaying body hunched over, with his head laying on the table. Bodily fluids had pooled on the puzzle, ruining it.

They never saw the picture of the man, or the now empty window.

Quite a Riot

The cell block was trashed then barricaded by the inmates. Three guards were grabbed in the early stage of the riot and kept in separate cells. 

The three biggest gang leaders, Juan, David, and Sharif, converged on cell seventeen where Officer Spencer lay in the fetal position. 

Puh ...please d-don't hurt me, he pleaded. 

Not part of the program, bitch, Juan said, pulling out a knife. 

But I've always treated you fairly, Spencer said. I never caused you problems. 

That's true, Juan said. But that don't make a damn bit of difference. 

Juan grinned from ear to ear then pulled his pants downs. David and Sharif followed suit. 

"Now, you're gonna suck me, then suck them,

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