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Letter from the Co-Editor……………....................….5 Anathema Alley by Jeremy Maddux………...………..7 DMC: Devil May Cry, a review by Courtney Alsop…….......................…..11 House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge, review by Courtney Alsop………......................……13 Adultery Assassin by Lesley Crigger……..…………..15 Into the Majestic Madness: An interview with Jake Anderson of Pilcrow Designs…….....................…..21 Three Pregnancies by Ray Duchene………..…………27 Weird Wild Art by Carter Ryder…….................….30 Siberian Hellhole: A Review by Garrett Davis….........................…….35 Notes from the Guts of a Hippo: A Review by Jeremy Maddux.............................36 Cruciphyxiation by Ron Cruz…….................……..39 Joe’s Return by Matt Shaner……....................…..43
Henry by C. Wait…………......................................47 I Become a Hulking Beast by Tony Rauch……….…51 Inside the Bizarro Wonderland of Tony Rauch: a multiple choice interview with SG..................….59 Pilgrimage of the Mast People by Justin Powell……………...................................……69 Slinky by Mark Slade……….........................………73 Cold by Laura Hughes…………..............................77 A Strong Woman, A Strong Temper by Sean M. Thompson……...................................81 The Scavenger by Matthew Wilson………….………..85 Passing the Torch: A Tale of Corruption and Horror by Lee Bishop…….......................................………89 The Typewriter by Robert W. Kingett……....……..107 The Marionette by Chris Johnson……....……………111 Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove by Lars Kramhoft Illustrated by Cristina L. Stakerman............…….117 Death will be my Bride by Tunc Gencer.............121
Letter from the Co-editor
I sit here, charged with the task of introducing what you now store in your electronic vessel of choice. Welcome to the April issue of Surreal Grotesque magazine. Should I introduce myself, talk about what first attracted me to this pageant of perversity? I could, but no. Our theme for the month is deformities. Deformities come in many shapes, sizes, colors, odors. Some people are double jointed. Some people have bushy eyebrows. Some people have genital warts. Some people merely have oddly shaped birthmarks. I count myself among the lucky who only has the latter. There are others who have no choice but to embrace their deformities. Take Dede Koswara, the ‘tree man’ of India, whose body has been hijacked by Lewandowsky-Lutz Dysplasia, a debilitating disease which makes him extremely susceptible to macules and papules which makes his skin resemble oily tree bark. For Dede, he must be defined by his deformity. Some people champion unusual traits such as these by joining the circus or taking part in a documentary. Some go about their lives as if they looked as common as you or I, which brings me to the crux of my esteemed introduction to you all. I want to talk about a stranger who looms uncomfortably in my memories, whom I sometimes recall with empathy and a healthy dose of wonder. When I was 19 years old, I got my first job in a calendar store at the mall. I used to revel in all the fascinating characters I met. Many were regulars. I did and said anything I could to keep them at the counter, telling me about their lives. If I was to be a writer, I knew I had to learn storytelling from the people in my life. I listened and watched everyone, but I lacked the wisdom to execute it. I thought no one could shock me. I can still remember the day a man proved me wrong. It was the first of the year. All the calendars were marked down. My seasonal employment was coming to an end. I didn’t care. I was too immersed in the heartbeat of all these retail communities and their revolving door cast of characters. One Sunday, when business had slowed to a crawl, I waited for someone from the affiliated bookstore to come down and grant me my break. Periodically, every ten minutes or so, I would peek around the corner to see who was riding down the elevator from the second floor. On my fifth peek, I saw a man within six feet of me whose face was so mangled, his presence shook me. I felt my eyes bulge and my jaw clench like it was taking in an excessive amount of citrus. His stringy hair was tied back with a rubber band. He had on a casual dress shirt and jean shorts. He was lanky, with the figure of someone ravaged by the slow decay of alcohol. His face seemed to end at his nose, then draw down and around his left lip. My initial impression was ‘Where’s the rest of his face?’ Worst of all, the man was looking right at me. He saw every one of my manifold expressions as they played out, only he didn’t cry or hide his face in shame. He smiled, as if to say ‘Hey man, I know I’m the boogeyman. I don’t blame you for looking away.’ When I finally adjusted myself to the sight of him, I was able to appraise what he held in his hands: handles. He was pushing an empty baby stroller. There seemed an obvious story here, but I would never be able to confirm it. That would have been the ending, except I saw the man one more time a few weeks later when he came to buy a calendar. I was prepared for him this time. To make up for before, I sauntered up to him as if he looked just like me or you. I said ‘Hey, buddy. Can I help you find anything?’ He didn’t look at me or make eye contact. He lowered his head. His half-jaw peeled back in some alien shape of sorrow. He crooned using only his eyes, shook his head and walked on. Still, he pushed that empty baby stroller as if it contained a live infant. I asked around at the music store, the book store, even the janitor about the disfigured stranger. No one could tell me anything. It’s true that deformities may define some. In the case of my stranger in the mall, I will never know what defined him. Something tells me it was in that baby stroller, though.
By Jeremy Maddux Utah has been host to many unusual phenomena, from the Donner Party to its naturally occurring Salt Lake. Suspended between Ballard, Utah and the border of the Ute Indian Reservation is its most puzzling landmark. There, in the Uintah Basin, you will find 480 acres of menace which have come to be known as Skinwalker Ranch. Had it bore this name on the day Tom Gorman purchased the property, he might have reconsidered signing off on it, but as you’ll see, the ranch earned the ‘Skinwalker’ title from an accumulation of eerie happenings that have never been explained to any kind of contextual satisfaction. Tom Gorman, an expert in animal husbandry and artificial insemination, had aspirations of a quiet life on Sherman Ranch, raising and breeding the finest livestock money could buy. Immediately, these ambitions were frustrated by strange forces who seemed interrupted by the family’s arrival. The first incident involved a wolf of abnormal size (somewhere north of 250 pounds) introducing itself to the Gorman family. It interacted with them as any domestic dog would, but its behavior changed when it saw one of the four young calves on the property. The wolf seized the calf by its snout and tried to drag it through the bars. Gorman, an expert marksman, shot the wolf roughly four times with a .357 Magnum at point blank range, which did little to deter the wolf from its target or even wound it. He aimed the fifth shot at the creature’s heart. Even this measure merely startled the creature enough to saunter off in the direction whence it came. Though the Gorman Family were shaken by this experience, they wouldn’t be deterred from settling into their new home. The forces behind the Ranch were just getting started. For the rest of 1994, paranormal activity surged. One day, Tom and his wife speculated how unfortunate it would be if they lost the bulls as they had the calf on the day of the wolf attack. Hours later, his bulls had gone missing. They were finally located in an unused trailer on the property which was secured with a padlock. Mysteriously, cobwebs still blanketed the inside of the door, as if it hadn’t been entered in years. Sightings of red, orange and blue lights soon became a way of life for the troubled family. It was said that whenever red orbs appeared, more cattle would die. They were often found with punctured eyes, missing ears, broken limbs as if dropped from a great height and most curious of all, no traces of blood. Conversations could be heard which seemed to originate from the night sky by those toiling in the fields. The terror was not confined to open places. The home itself became a magnet for supernatural occurrences. Gwen Gorman unloaded groceries just to find them back in their bags later. She stepped out of the shower to find her towel and comb gone only to turn up in the microwave or refrigerator later. The bathroom door, however, showed no sign of being unlocked. Apparitions were often seen in the home and at windows. Another wolf, bigger than the first, greeted Gwen at her car one morning. It was said to be so tall it met her at eye level by her car window. They spotted an RV multiple times far out by the ridge where no RV ought to be capable of going. Thinking that the operator of the vehicle was stuck, the couple sought to help them. When they got within yards of the vehicle, it drove silently away. They chased after it on foot, only to watch it clear the patch of cottonwood trees and fly away. This same RV was later parked facing the home, Gwen insisted one morning when Tom wasn’t home. Someone (or something) was pacing back and forth inside, as if waiting for her to make a move. Perhaps one of the most chilling accounts came from Tom about a curious visitor to the ranch who wished to meditate on his land. Tom was a practical man, unaccustomed to these flights of impulse, but he granted the visitor this one boon. He took the man out to a spot
on the ranch where he could meditate. He wasn’t far into his meditation when a translucent figure, almost like an outline, rushed up to the man and shrieked. Visibly shaken by the event, Tom’s guest swore to never return. The term ‘Skinwalker’ came from a belief of the Navajo Indian set that a shaman could effect adagash, or black magic, by wearing the furs and hides of slain animals, thus transforming into the creature they wore. The Ute Indians, fierce and proud rivals of the Navajo, are forbidden to this day to set foot on the ranch which borders their territory, ominously referred to as ‘The Path of the Skinwalker.’ The Utes attribute the supernatural properties of the ranch to a Navajo curse which holds strong today. In 1996, the Gormans lost three dogs in one day chasing after one of the blue cylindrical orbs in broad daylight. The dogs left behind no remains, but after three distressed yelps and the discovery of three singed piles of grease, the family decided they had enough and moved away. By this point, the Gormans communicated their trauma to media sources, which allowed billionaire philanderer, Robert Bigelow, to hone in on the ranch, which he purchased for an undisclosed sum. He started an on-call investigative organization called The National Institute of Discovery Science, or N.I.D.S. An elaborate grid of surveillance technology was set up to monitor and confirm activity on the ranch. Then, something strange happened. The activity abruptly stopped. Though the orbs and strange lights still continued, their sightings became fewer. It could be that whoever or whatever orchestrated the cryptic dramas in that lonely stretch of land doesn’t like to be watched. Even more likely, Bigelow’s people could simply be sitting on reports of any such modern-day activity with the hopes of one day confirming extraordinary claims about the ranch. However, doing so with a scientific approach is not likely to yield desirable results.
DmC: Devil May CryA Review by Courtney Alsop
Rebooting a video game franchise is a heavy risk. The hope is that a reboot will bring in a new generation of fans and please old fans. At the worst, it will alienate the previous die-hard fanbase and fail to connect with new players. There have been some reboot failures, such as Bomberman: Act Zero, and successes, namely this year’s Tomb Raider. DmC: Devil May Cry, the reboot of the Devil May Cry series that started in 2001, was fraught with drama the moment it was announced. The 2010 Tokyo Game Show Trailer, the first trailer we saw, has him smoking, sporting a deep and gravelly voice, and it looks like he is wearing eyeliner. This trailer caused some fans to foam at the mouth and start a petition signing backlash. I shrugged my shoulders at the trailers and decided to wait for a final release in stores before flipping out. I am glad I allowed myself to form my own opinion, because this game exceeded my expectations in a myriad of ways. While it is a reboot, the core of the story is still present. Dante and his brother Vergil are the sons of the great demon Sparda. Their mother is no longer human, slightly changing their lineage to Nephilim. Overall it does not drastically alter the universe we have come to love. The antagonist is Mundus, a formidable demon, and in this version he controls the human world through debt, subliminal messages, and soft drinks that maintain a submissive population. It is up to Dante, the reluctant hero, to take down the demon and release society. It has a story like Lollipop Chainsaw has a story. It’s there, it does its job, but it is not exceptionally deep or enthralling. It is functional and keeps you progressing though the missions. I enjoyed the way the game uses the media and luxuries to control the human population. Dante is still a cocky protagonist, but we are not supposed to like him immediately. The original series is classified as hack and slash, and DMC mixes in more action than previously seen, and I found it more engaging. You will receive an arsenal of demonic and angelic weapons, guns, and abilities. Combat and controls operate the same as before, though I found the controls to be easier to handle this time around, with the exception of the camera that caused me to jump strait into death on too many occasions. The difficulty is significantly easier now. Of the three default difficulties, I was on Nephilim, supposedly the most difficult available on a first run. Not that I knew, because the game doesn’t come with an instruction booklet. I accidently hit the right bumper on the mission screen and blindly played with the settings from there. The challenge involved is minimal and the style system rewards you too quickly. You must beat the game once to unlock the more difficult modes that provide a real challenge. Unfortunately, so many people wrote DmC off prematurely. Despite the initial overwhelming negative reaction to the trailers, DMC is a highly enjoyable game that does not drastically depart from its roots. It is not in the realm of horror by any means, as the demons are not running amuck ripping people apart or causing real mayhem. If you enjoy action hack and slash games with dialogue that is not always PG (including a demon calling Dante a “wrinkly little scrotum”) I highly recommend DmC: Devil May Cry.
Imogen is a house hunter. No, she doesn’t find expensive houses for spoiled rich couples. She captures and trains wild houses to be homes. Houses have legs and are semi-sentient. Houses can go feral and kill livestock or fight other houses. S.T. Cartledge takes the concept of a house hunter and makes it literal. Firmly situated in Bizarro fiction, House Hunters is a kind of weird that makes you second guess what you read. The story involves the evil Housing Association (an evil version of the Homeowners’ Association), who is hunting the legendary Jabberhouse. With the Jabberhouse, the Housing Association can control all the homes and cities. With a society largely revolving around houses, the Association stands to have a frightening level of power. Imogen and a stranger named Ellis decide to search for the Jabberhouse before the Homeowners’ Association can exploit it. The most compelling part of this story is the world it is set in. House Hunters is extremely imaginative and vivid. On top of the concept of houses having legs and walking around, there are imps, cockroach people, sprites, insect ladies, origami walkers used for transportation, and organized house fighting. Their society revolves around the houses because of the destruction they are capable of. Imogen fights to keep her world safe from dangerous houses and those who wish to abuse their power. Despite the imaginative world that Cartledge creates, the story is weak and merely stands as a pretense for why scenes are taking place. Characters seriously lack consistency and emotional depth. The protagonist alternates from badass female to whiny. When I thought about it, I couldn’t sincerely care about what happens to Ellis, and I wanted to connect with Imogen but I was unable to. What kept me reading was the detailed world the story is set in. With
House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge-A Review By Courtney Alsop
every page you learn more about the houses, their methods of travelling, and the people, layering details that keep you immersed. The book is accessible, though sometimes Cartledge does not adequately explain concepts that are unique to the world, forcing the reader to fill in the blanks themselves. An imaginative reader will enjoy filling in the gaps, and others might find it tiresome. The people who will enjoy it most are fans of Bizarro fiction. It’s a hard sell to readers who have a difficult time suspending their disbelief. If you enjoy the strange and unusual, House Hunters delivers a truly bizarre experience.
Adultery Assassin Lesley Crigger
“Jared, is everything okay?” Panic monetarily wraps its fingers around my heart. Jared looks like shit. Buttoned wrong, his shirt hangs awkwardly off one shoulder. Matted knots of hair lie limply against his forehead. His puffy, bloodshot eyes hold my stare only a moment before quickly looking away. “I didn’t know where else to go,” he says as I step aside to let him in. It’s then I notice the half empty Miller Lite in his hand. He’s wasted. They’ve been fighting again. “Damn, Beth, you give the worst relationship advice . . . ever,” he says drawing out each syllable of the last world and punctuating the air with his beer. Liquid sloshes from the bottle as he flops himself onto the pillowy couch. Jared takes a long pull from his beer. “You . . . I should have never listened to you. My marriage is a joke.” He gives me a pathetic grin. “I tried, I really did.” I stand dumbly before Jared, mouth moving but the words don’t come. I’m to blame. It was me who encouraged him to work on his marriage two years ago. I’ve watched as their relationship has steadily declined since then. “She thinks we’re fucking each other.” I gasp at Jared’s candor. My stomach instantly sours, tears spring to my eyes. God, I’m more to blame than I thought. Who else thinks I’m a whore? “I’m married to woman I don’t love and best friends with the one I do.” “Jared, you’re drunk . . .” I stammer, taking a step backwards. This revelation comes as a shock to my system. Jared’s focus shifts towards something behind me. “Oh . . . I . . . I didn’t know you had company.” “I don’t.” The words barely come out of my mouth before the back of my head explodes in stabbing pain blinding my vision with a blanket of white that quickly begins to darken. My body slams into the floor and I let the darkness take me. ** “D . . . Daddy?” I’m not supposed to disturb him while he’s watching TV. “B . . . B. . . Beth!” He mocks, never taking his eyes off the television. I take a deep breath to steady my rattled nerves. The horror I witnessed moments ago is nothing compared to Daddy when he’s angry. “There’s something wrong with the cow.” “Yeah, she’s pregnant. Turns most cows into bitches. Just ask your mother.” Daddy’s face crinkles like he has a bad taste in his mouth. He takes a sip of beer to wash it out. I check myself for tears, Daddy hates tears. “There’s a leg hanging out.” “What the hell are you talking about? A leg hanging out of what?” Daddy turns to look at me for the first time. Pointing towards the TV he demands, “Can’t you see the game is on?” I steady the tremble in my voice, “The cow, there’s a leg hanging from her . . .” I make a motion to my rear and burst into tears from the fresh memory. “God, Damn it, Beth, Quit your blubbering.” Daddy pitches the remote that bounces off the wall leaving another small hole in the plaster. “What the fuck are you trying to say?” “The calf, it’s stuck. The cow can’t push it out. It’s half it, half out.” I flinch away as Daddy stands thinking a slap is coming my way but it doesn’t. Instead he stomps toward the door to get his boots and head outside. “Damn it,” Daddy mutters once he spots the pitiful creature. I feel queasy watching a glob of clear slime bubble from the cow’s rear and slowly slide down the grotesque leg protruding from it. The leg is matted with blood and a milky, liquid that drip to the ground,
leaving a trail behind the cow. Bent at an odd angle, the leg gently bounces with every step the cow takes, forcing more of the sludge to ooze with a sickening sound much like a punctured tire. “She’s breeched. Help me get her into the chute.” Once in the chute, Daddy doesn’t bother with lube or gloves, but forces his hand around the protruding leg and inside the cow’s anus. The cow jerks and moans. Bloody slime gushes with a sucking sound, like someone stuck in the mud, as Daddy slides his arm further up the canal. Bile fills my throat when the plume of nauseas gas makes it way to my nose. The stench in indescribable, almost a cross between vomit and rotten meat. “Stillborn. Gonna have to cut it out in pieces.” Daddy sees my eyes grow big, “Cow won’t push a stillborn, can’t pull a breech out in one piece, C-section will kill the cow. Only option we got is to cut it up and pull out the chunks.” A bloody sheet of something fleshy clings to Daddy’s arm as he pulls his arm out of the cow. Snot-like droplets drip from it as Daddy tries to shake one end off of his arm, the other end still inside the cow. It falls way from Daddy’s arm, glides through the air and wraps around the cow’s leg with a wet slap. The rest of the bloody flesh slides out of the cow’s anus releasing a wave of bloody manure. Daddy opens his switchblade. I hold the cows head, trying to calm her as she moans in pain while Daddy inserts the knife into the canal. I hide my face and shed the tears the cow cannot. The cow’s fat muffles the sound of the knife sawing through bone but I can still hear the teeth of the knife chewing away at the calf’s bones. I hear the skin rip as Daddy twists and pulls the protruding leg. Something pops and Daddy pulls the leg and a portion of the hip bone out. Most of the skin is missing and through the blood and ichor that slides off the bones I can make out a tiny bit of white. Blood drips from Daddy’s arms as he examines the leg, holding it up and letting tendrils of bloody mucus drip and splatter. He tosses the leg. The meat hits the ground, liquefies and spreads. Bones remain in a puddle melted muscle, skin and blood. “My arms are too big.” Daddy says, handing me the knife. I take the knife and stare blankly at it. “Well, hurry up.” “Daddy . . .” I begin trying not to cry, “I don’t know what to do.” “Start cutting, everything’s gotta go. Just keep the
knife away from the lining.” I take my place behind the cow. My body trembles, tears spill down my cheeks. Fear of hurting the cow makes my chest tighten; fear of Daddy makes me gently slide the knife in. The blade cuts the anus as I plunge it in deeper. I begin working my other hand inside. My hand slides along the canal’s slick wall. Warmth heats my arms as the move along. My fingertips bump into a squishy mass. The calf. My hands tremble as they search for a bone to begin cutting. I close my eyes, hoping I don’t cut something I shouldn’t and begin to saw the knife back and forth. I feel, rather than hear something break loose. I tug and the soft mass in my hands, pulling it towards myself. I pull my hands and the mass out of the anus. My stomach lurches, fresh tears spring to my eyes. I drop the disgusting, bloody mess to the ground. The calf’s intestines dangle from the mother’s rear. Green infection clings to the bloody organ that sways inches from the ground where another bloody mass lay in a pool of infected slime. “Shit!” I vaguely hear Daddy shout. “Can’t have a septic cow, gonna have to put her down.” My eyes are mesmerized by the calf’s intestines that are slowly exiting the mother’s anus- leaking puss and blood and the intestines slip out. Without warning, Daddy shoots the poor animal in the head. The head explodes, sending skull fragments and grey matter in every direction. The cow’s limp body hits the floor, pushing the built up gases, forcing chunks of flesh out the anus in a spray of warm blood and thick mucus. Putrid air fills my lungs and I struggle to breathe. . . ** Returning to consciousness, I gag on the repressed memory of my childhood while the back of my head pulsates and throbs from the earlier blow. A rancid smell fills my nostrils, bringing with it an image of the dead cow with her calf scattered around her in bloody bits and pieces. A shiver races down my spine, more from fear than the cold concrete I lie upon. I keep my eyes closed, trying to be as still as possible. It might be best to play dead. A familiar voice softly calls my name. Jared! Oh God, not Jared too. A high pitch, frenzied scream erupts from my throat as I open my eyes and behold the horror that surrounds me. Inches from my face, the lifeless eyes of another stare blankly back at me. Blood has begun to settle
and pool at the bottom of the girl’s naked body showing through her skin as deep purple splotches on her sides and outer thighs. Internal organs have bloated and begun to push through the multiple stab wounds on her body. A large fleshy mound protrudes from a long slit along her lower abdominals. Maggots feed upon the tissue and dried blood, creating a small well within the mound. The skin on her face has begun to turn black with putrefaction, appearing to slide away from the bone. It hangs loosely, dripping with puss as it starts to tear and fall away from the body. I to scramble backwards, away from the mutilated, decaying corpse, but chains bite into the delicate skin around my wrists and hold me in place. Again I hear Jared calling my name. Across the room, he’s also chained to what looks like some sort of pulley system, capable of letting its captive have more or less chain length. Blood drips from his nose and over his swollen lips. He looks like he took one hell of a betting. “Jared, what the fuck is this?” He shrugs his shoulders and looks around the dimly lit hell hole. “Everything’s going to be fine, we’ll get through this.” “I seriously doubt that,” a new voice adds. “Look, whatever you want. . .” “I’ll take,” the man interrupts Jared. He looks average, normal. Not the Mike Meyers or Freddy Krueger I’d expected. He uncoils a bullwhip, keeping his icy stare on me. The chains rattle as I tug and pull in a vain attempt to escape the whipping I fear is coming. The whip whistles as it slices through the air, splitting my skin as it hits with a sickening pop. I scream, squirm, tug and pull at my shackles as the torrent of thrashes lick my back. My restraints keep me in the perfect whipping position; knees bent, back upright. The only thing I can do is hide my face in my arms and scream in agony. “You sick son of a bitch, stop. What the hell do you want?” Jared screams, tugging at his own restraints with enough force to bloody his wrists. The whipping continues, shredding my shirt and fully exposing my back. From the corner of my eye I can see blood and chunks of skin fall and splatter the ground. Searing heat scalds my back with each strike that bites into my skin and tears another piece of flesh from my body. “Please, stop. Just stop.” Snot and tears streak Jared’s face as he pleads for my release.
“Why?” The man asks never easing up. My vision begins to falter; I’m not sure how much of this I can take. “Because you’re going to kill her.” “What difference is that to you?” “I love her!” Jared screams. The whipping stops. Both men stare at each other; one appears justified and silently exits the room, the other perplexed by his recent admission. I pant as blood trickles from the cuts, pooling on the floor. I can’t move, only tremble in pain. Jared looks to me, “What I said, when I was drunk, was true. It always has been.” ** The scabs that have formed over the cuts on my back are the only indicators of time in the dank and continually dim room. My hunger pains subside and bile rises to my mouth as I look at the rotting body next to me. The organs protruding from her body no longer hold their shape, but have deflated as they continue to liquefy. Her throat begins to pulsate, almost like the jugular has resumed pumping blood to and from the heart. Maybe an after-death sporadic muscle spasm? Flesh begins to separate as something pushes it way to the surface. Small teeth tear the remaining skin, creating a hole for a bloody rat to climb through. The rat claws and bites, ripping and tearing skin until its whole blood stained body fits through the hole. The rat turns around and begins tugging something out of the neck. A long muscular bit of flesh inches forward as the rat struggles to pull out his prize. Finally, the rat succeeds in pulling the dead woman’s tongue out of the hole in her neck. He scurries off to his hole, leaving behind a trail of blood and slime. A Clorox bottle hits the floor with a magnificent boom, stirring me from my reverie. The man has returned. My chains restrain me from being a threat, confident of this the man takes a seat beside me, placing a cheese slicer next to the bottle of Clorox. “What do you want?” I ask barely above a whisper. “To make you pay for your sins.” “What sins?” I ask as a tremble ripples through my body. “Adultery.” “We haven’t committed adultery,” Jared screams, beginning to tug and pull at his restraints. Silently the man picks up the cheese slicer, its sharp blade glistening in the florescent light. Pulling against the chains, I try to squirm away but am only able to
wiggle back and forth. “You should be still; you wouldn’t want me to cut more than I intent to.” Fear takes hold of my body, locking my joints and muscles in place. The cold metal pushes into my back, making me jump with its surprising iciness. Slowly, the blade is forced over one of the many scabs, ripping and tearing the newly formed flesh as it slices the scab off. I howl in agony, intense pain vibrates through my back. I shake and tremble as he slices another scab off. Meticulously, one by one he places the cheese slicer over each of the scabs on my back, ripping each of the old wounds open. When he is done he taps the slicer on the ground, releasing a bloody wad of flesh and scabs. A motor grinds loudly, activating the pulley, affording me more chain length. The man kicks at the bottle of Clorox. “Take it to the one you have seduced.” Picking up the bottle with one hand, I crawl to Jared. “You better rinse those cuts out; wouldn’t want them to get infected.” Jared shakes his head and stammers his opposition. “Do it or I’m going to shoot her in the head.” Jared’s tears fall onto my mutilated back as he slowly reaches for the bottle and unscrews the top. “I’m so sorry,” He stutters as he pours the chemicals into the fresh cuts. The liquid splashes into the cuts with a vengeful heat that scorches everything in its path. My skin burns and sizzles under the liquid fire. The pain is more intense than the whipping, more intense than the slicing. Tears stream down my cheeks. God, when will this end?
Into the Majestic Madness: An Interview with Jake Anderson of PIlcrow Designs, Monster Maker
1. So what inspired you to start your company and make your designs? As a child, I always had a facination with sculpture work in toy figures. Such as He-Man, TMNT. Mind you, I am a kid at this point. But in my teenage years. Mcfarlane toys came out and had a big impact on me. The toys started to look more like art pieces, they started to get more detailed and grotesque. So I was in love with those. Nothing was happening in my life, by the time I was 19. .I was broke, I couldn’t land a job. Unless it was a fast food joint. As a child, my teachers told me that’s what I was going to be growing up, that or a serial killer. I have a facination with death. But I don’t have it in me, for either one of those. After 9/11 happened. I kept telling myself I need to do something with my life. So I figured I’d force myself to draw. Well by 2003, Nothing was changing for me still. I didn’t teach myself anything great in the past 17 or so months. My drawings still looked like doodles. I needed to do something to make money. So in march of 2003 I started to research how figures are made. I came across a website called the clubhouse. I started to learn from other artists and fans of the model kit art form. I was so broke and wanting to try my hand at it, a guy on the forum was nice enough to send me some sculpey clay. So I tried my hand at making a head. I sculpted 3 pieces. All looking terrible. I spent like 14 hours straight on each one. Trying to learn how to do this stuff. A week or two later, I borrowed some money from my old man so I could sculpt larger figures. Again, I spent 14+ hours striaght trying to make something. After about 3 days. I figured I couldn’t do this. So I gave up on it. 3 months past and someone told me to check out a forum called THE H.M.A. Once I was there, I was blown away with what the artists where doing there. All large scale sculptures, monsters, zombies, movie icons. I felt like the fat kid in the candy store all over again. This is what I wanted to do! While I was there someone mentioned to check out an artist by the name of Casey Love. So I did and contacted him, he was cool enough to talk with me online and tell me about the supplies I’d need to do this kind of work. So I got some odd and end jobs and borrowing more money from my old man. I put together about $300 bucks and bought the clay and tools I needed, along with molding supplys and latex. My first few trys where all epic failures. But I loved it a lot more this time around, it was like playing in the dirt. I ended up sculpting 2 pieces finally, on a flat board. An Alien and some weird thing that I was destroying and ended up looking like a MK character, so I kept it. I molded them up and cast them in latex. I showed them to other people to see what they thought. A guy by the name of Erich Lubatti, of Lubatti designs bought them both. For $35 bucks! I was excited about it. I felt RICH! So I kept at it and kept selling pieces here and there. Slowly selling my work up to $65-$70 bucks. I thought I could have something going for me here. Well, I got too cocky about it I guess. Sales dropped. My art was still lacking and I needed some money again. So I started helping my uncle rock houses. The whole 9-5 thing wasn’t cutting it for me. The pay sucked. $58 bucks in 10 hours of work bustin ass and only getting that, kind of lit a fire under my ass. So I told my uncle I quit, I really think I could be good at this. So I went home and forced myself to learn how to sculpt and do a much better job at it. Around this same time, Zdzislaw Beksinski was murdered. He had a big influcence on me around 2004, when I
bastard didn’t grab me. So I didn’t get back into the genre until I was like 13 or 14. I seen a comic book for aliens and didn’t know there was a film on it. Then checked those out along with the first predator and was blown away by them. The sci fi horror genre I love! The slow stalking serial killer films, I am not much a fan of. But still enjoy all things horror related. 3. How do you get most of your clientele? Most of my clientele comes from word of mouth and putting my stuff up on ebay, deviantart and thehma. I also came across a free webhosting site called zhibit. org and have a site on there to showcase my work. 4. Do you have many Hollywood clients or just private buyers? My biggest buyer to date has been Guillermo del Toro, Director of Mimic, Blade2, Hellboy, Pan’s Labrinth. He bought the first paleman I done, based on his design. That was pretty cool. I was kind of scared at first, cause I just recreated the mans own artwork. But he was really nice about it. I’ve had some other artists that work in the film industry buy my work, along with members of bands from other countries. But the majority are private buyers, mostly overseas. 5. What’s the strangest request you have ever gotten? I was commissioned to sculpt a mutilated woman. A guy was giving it to his wife as an anniversary gift. I don’t know if he was joking about it or not. But it was one of my more fun commissions to do. I wish I would of done better on the design. But at the time I was only into sculpting maybe 3 years.. 6. Is there any design you wouldn’t create? There is one I wouldn’t touch and I don’t know if I should even mention the design. Awhile back I was thinking of some twisted designs and this particular one popped into my head. I was going to do it, but I don’t want to be an artist that is known for doing controversial artwork. I like creating detailed horror type stuff and will push it as far as my skill set will allow me. But controversial stuff I’ll leave alone. If its dealing with a living person, a president in particular. 7. So walk me through your process, how do you go about creating a mask? To create a mask, You need to start with a base form your clay is going to stick to. I know some artists that have just piled up a bunch of clay and done it that way. But I like sculpting on an armature. This is my base, it can be 2x4’s, to body forms. I use a resin mass form that I made. I apply the clay to this armature in
came across his artwork.. So I kept telling myself, If I am going to do art, I want people to feel like I feel, when I view his artwork. That is when I made a piece called The Day Of Suffocation. It was influenced by him and his murder, of suffering. It really reflected the style of artwork that I wanted to do. My artwork changed from then on and ever sense, I been doing this full time. 2. Have you always been a big horror movie fan?
I’ve always had a facination with them. When I was younger, I loved the Tales from the Crypt TV show, the giant bug films, Gremlins. Then I saw Cape Fear when I was like 9 and it shocked me a little. Then I saw Predator 2 and it made me sleep on the floor of my parents bedroom for about 2 weeks haha. It got me hooked. So I started watching a bunch of horror flicks after that. Tremors, Hellraiser, Critters, Body Parts, Then I saw Ghoulies 2 I think it was. When the guy gets his guts ripped out from his butt, while taking a dump. That changed me, cause from the time I was like 9 to 12. It made me look at my crap, while I dropped one. To make sure some green little pilcrowdesigns.deviantart.com
the form I see fit. Refining hundreds of times as I go. Once the sculpture is complete to my standard. I then seal the sculpture with crystal clear and then dulling spray. I let the sculpture sit for about 30 minutes, so the sealants will dry. Then I start on the mold of the sculpture. If its going to be a 2 part mold, I will create a dividing line in clay down the middle of the head. Side to side, not front to back. Usually behind the ears. A lot of people go along the ear. I’ve always hated doing it that way. So I create the divide behind the ear. I then apply the molding material to the back portion of the sculpture. I use ultracal 30, its a plaster of sorts. After the back portion is done, I remove the clay divide wall, then apply a release agent on the plaster showing. The release agent can be dish soap or vasaline. There is a wide range of products you can use. But I typically use dish soap. After this is done, I apply the front part of the mold, in plaster. Once this is set up, I seperate the 2 parts and clean out all the clay inside the mold. Once the clay is out, I will wash the inside of the mold with water and a cut down chip brush. Then I will let the mold sit for a few days to dry out and further setup. . I will then brush in some laquer thinner inside. This will help get rid of the crystal clear and dulling spray residue. Then I let the mold sit for about 2 hours. I do this outside mind you, cause it stinks! After this, I then pour in the latex. I usually pour in about a gallon of latex, rotating the mold around and brushing it around to get in all the cracks and detail. This helps produce a cleaner casting. After this, I fill the mold up with latex. I then let the mold sit for about 2-3 hours. As the mold is sitting with the latex inside, the mold will absorb the moisture in the latex and create a film. I then pour the latex out of the mold, leaving a nice latex thickness inside. I then let the mold sit for 3 to 4 days. During this time, the latex will start to dry out. Once the latex inside is dry, I put some baby powder inside, brushing it around. This will help so the latex don’t stick together. I then pull the latex piece out of the mold. Then cut off any access latex, then I have to seam the mask with a dremel tool. After this is done, I apply a base coat of paint. Usually white, then do mulitiple layers of thinner paint on top of this. Creating a more realistic skin look. After the paint job is done, I seal the piece with crystal clear and dulling spray. After the mask has sat for about 45 min to dry out. I brush on some epoxy on the eyes, teeth and
gums and any parts I want to look wet. After this is done, I usually wait for someone to buy it from me, or if its a pre-order I get it out to the costumer right away. There is a lot of steps involved in the process of creating a mask. It is very time consuming. But damn, is it a lot of fun! 8. What’s the longest it has taken to create a single piece? Typically, I like to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours on a piece. There has been a couple I probably spent about 50-60 hours on one piece. This was back when I was trying to learn how to sculpt teeth and make things look more clean. But over the years I cut down the time. My sculptures usually take me a month or 2 to complete. I’m kind of a lazy bastard and don’t like sculpting everyday, all day. Then it makes it feel more like a 9-5 job. So I have learned to be patient, and eventually it will be done as time passes. pilcrowdesigns.deviantart.com
9. Which of your sculptures are you most proud of? I’d say the most proud of is The Day Of Suffocation. That piece really made my eyes open to the whole process. The other one is a piece I done called Corrugator. It’s when I learned some new tricks and alot of patients. 10. How long have you been sculpting? Is this your true passion? I started sculpting in march of 2003, so this year will be ten years now. But during this time, I’ve had months, and even a year and half where I didn’t sculpt at all. Some stuff would come up and my mindset just isn’t there. I know I missed out on a lot of great creations, now that I look back. One thing about art and the process of creation, it teaches you a lot about yourself. I would say it is my passion, I absolutly love doing it and talking with the buyers I have had over the years. They made it even that much more enjoying. So I am going to die doing this, regardless of the stuff I have to give up and miss out on, to do it. 11. What are your personal favorite horror films? The first predator is my all time favorite, along with the aliens. 12. On average, how much does one of your sculptures cost? On average, $150-$300. But lately I sell a lot of my stuff between $700-$1,500. I realized over the years. Selling a piece at the lower range. Gives one no money to do anything. Barely covers supply’s, if your lucky. At that price range, you’ll go without a lot of stuff you need to keep going. So I raised my prices a bit.
Three Pregnancies by Ray Duchene
Three pregnancies, Katrina thought… three pregnancies for this jerk and three miscarriages. He hardly knows I’m here with that damn computer glued to his lap. All he ever does is sit there and click his life away…god knows who he’s talking to! Katrina Miller’s last miscarriage occurred over six months before, but the lasting effects of losing her third child were still taking a toll. She’d been unable to get out of bed for over a month after. She wasn’t sick, at least not physically; she just didn’t feel like going to work anymore. Eventually, her boss fired her. It seemed to her that the whole world had gone to shit. She couldn’t trust anyone, except Jim…maybe. She moved behind her husband, hoping for a glimpse at his computer monitor. She managed to see that he’d been reading an email, but he felt her presence and slammed the lid closed. “What are you doing?” He said. “Spying on me?” Katrina tried to think of something to say, but a lump bulged in her throat and words failed her. She turned away from Jim and returned to the kitchen without answering. It was almost time for dinner. Jim followed her into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around her. He knew that his wife had been having a tough time and he felt bad for jumping all over her just because she was curious. He gave her a tight squeeze and kissed the back of her neck. Then he walked to the stove and lifted the lid on one of the pots. “You need some help Hun?” He asked. “Nope,” Katrina said; “I’m just boiling some spaghetti for dinner. I already made the sauce this afternoon. You should go wash up.” Crises averted, Jim left the kitchen with a renewed bounce in his step. He took a shower and changed out of his work clothes. By the time he returned to the kitchen, his plate of spaghetti was waiting for him on the table. They ate in relative silence. Katrina asked Jim how his day went, but he didn’t like to talk much about work, so the discussion was short-lived. Jim never asked her how her day was…not anymore. He finished his dinner, placed his sauce-stained plate in the sink and retired to the living room, where he planned to spend the rest of the evening in his favorite chair, playing on his computer, and watching the news. Once the kitchen was set to rights, Katrina settled into her usual chair across from Jim’s, opened her worn, well read copy of the New Testament, and waited. The drug that Katrina put in Jim’s food took about an hour to take effect. She began to worry, after awhile that she hadn’t used enough. She’d cast glimpses at her husband over the top of her book, looking to see if he began to look drowsy, or tired in any way, the suspense was exciting to her.. There was no gradual decent into unconsciousness. Jim was wide awake one second, and lying flat on his face in front of his chair the next. When Jim fell from his chair, the lap-top landed under him. Katrina had to maneuver his unconscious body to the side in order to pry it out. Prize retrieved, she sat back in her own chair and looked at the computer monitor, her eyes narrowed as she read the message in the trash folder. She searched for the reply icon, clicked it, and began to type. Once the message was written out, she read it, and then re-read it, just to be sure. Satisfied, she clicked the send icon. An envelope appeared in the center of the screen and the message appeared to be tucked into it, before it sped off into
cyber-space. Katrina closed the laptop lid, set the computer off to the side, and looked down at her husband. We have to get ready, she thought. She got up, grabbed Jim’s arms, and began to drag him to the bedroom. She spent the next hour getting ready… applying make-up and fixing her hair. She hadn’t been out on a date for years, so she decided to make the best of it. When she came out of the bathroom, she looked and felt like a new woman. Jim was still unconscious and would be for awhile. She kissed him on the forehead and then left the house. It was dark in the bedroom when Jim woke. He strained his eyes to see something in the blackness, then squinted against the light when a single match ignited, casting an ominous glow across Katrina’s face. In the bright glow of the small flame, Jim was horrified to see that Katrina’s face was unrecognizable. Her eyes and mouth was covered in what appeared to be red lipstick, her cheeks were shaded with a dark blue or black color, and her hair was gone, shaved down to the scalp.
fist down between her husband’s open legs. “You don’t get to make this about me…not anymore.” The force of the blow sent a shock wave of pain through Jim, radiating from his genital area, down his legs, up his torso, and out to his finger tips. If he could’ve screamed, he would have…but the pain was too severe. Katrina turned from him and flipped the box top off, and then she reached inside it, lifted out a female’s head by its long, brown hair, and held it up to her face. “She’s very cute, Jim,” she said, and then kissed the woman’s open mouth. Jim gagged and nearly vomited. Katrina saw her husband’s apparent revulsion, laughed, and then pressed the girl’s face against his. He drew back, heaving and spitting. “What’s wrong baby? She asked.”You told her that you wanted some head…Here you go.”
Jim jerked his head side to side, but Katrina just moved the head along with him, making sure that the dead, silently screaming lips touched his as much as Katrina lit a candle, blew the match out, and then possible. In the many years that they’d been together, set the candle on the bed-side night stand, next to a through rough patches like his father dying and losing large, white box. Justin tried to move, but found that three babies before they were even born, she’d never his hands and feet were tied to the four corners of the seen him cry. When the tears began to leak out of his bed. . He tried to pull his arms and legs free, but the tightly closed eyes, Katrina’s only thought was, oh bindings were too tight. Katrina grabbed the white sheet that covered her husband, yanked it off, exposing sure…right…you cry for this bitch. When she felt that he’d had enough, she pulled the head away from his his naked body, and then tossed it to the floor. Then, face and set it between his spread open legs, facing she reached behind her back, produced a large knife, him. Then she picked up the knife from the nightand set it down next to the candle. stand. “What are you doing, Katrina?” “Okay,” she said as she slid into the bed, next to him, “you got yours…now I want mine.” “Who’s Jessica?” She asked. She stood above him, looking down on him…towering over him. She caressed his chest with the knife blade, dragged the tip up the center, circled his nipples, and then “What?” Jim said. “What are you talking about?” buried it into the soft flesh of his throat. He didn’t “Jessica,” Katrina repeated. “Who is she?” have time to scream, his air suddenly cut off by a barrier of fluid and stainless steel. When she felt his Jim searched his wife’s face for a sign that she was warm blood spray across her face, Katrina smiled for bluffing, but he couldn’t find one. the first time in months. “Have you stopped taking your medication again? Babe, you know that the doctor said…” “Shut up!” Katrina screamed and brought her closed
Weird Wild Art by Carter Rydyr
Siberian Hellhole: A Review by Garrett Davis
heavy rhetoric and lengthy inner monologues that far outweigh the actual storytelling. For example in the first chapter the readers are introduced to Tobias, a security guard, manning a lone outpost in the forest. He hears a knock on the door but when he opens it no one is there. Then he sees a silhouette outside followed by more tormenting knocks. Fearing for his safety he grabs his gun and heads outside determined to scare this potential prankster off. Tobias loses his way in the storm and eventually is attacked but not before breaking to reflect on the nature of loneliness. “LONELINESS IS THE CORE OF ALL FEAR. WAVES MAY VIOELENTLY CRASH AGAINST ROCKS WITH SUCH FORCE AND WONDEROUS FOROCITY THAT IT SEEMS THEY COULD CUT THE IMPENERATBLE, JAGGED ROCKS IN TWO LIKE A KNIFE DOES BUTTER. A RIVER’S WATERS CAN LOOK SO PEACEFUL, QUIET AND INNOCENT THEN SWEEP YOU DOWN TO THE RIVER BED IN A ROUGUE CURRENT INVISIBLE UNDER THE REST OF THE WATER. A SEEMINGLY PEACEFUL, IDYLLIC LAKE WOULD HAVE ONCE CAPTURED THE IMAGINATION OF POETS LIKE WILLIAM Siberian Hellhole, a novel by Michael BUTLER. YEATS MAY REPRESS ITS UGLY Mulvihill, is a mess albeit an ambitious one. Stripped UNDERBELLY,IT’S SURFACE NOT THE down to its core the story is the classic, bible RECIPTICAL OF IT’S BED, FULL OF WELLS AND influenced, good versus evil battle for the world QUICKSANDS THAT COULD SUCK YOU UNDER and all the souls in it. Already there are some heavy AND HIDE YOUR DEAD BODY FOREVER. themes to tackle: Faith, war, morality, etc. Being set ALL THESE DANGERS ARE ALSO ABOUT in a Siberia in a Post-Perestrokia Russia adds another LONELINESS. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT.” layer where one could address the collapse of the The quote continues to say that no matter how Soviet Union and the Russian Orthodoxy. As a concept you die it is done alone. The literary and historical these elements make for an interesting read, even name dropping is also present throughout the novel. more so when psychology, pseudo-psychology, and neurobiology are added… right? It’s a lot for an author The all caps is something of a mystery but perhaps to put on his plate let alone do right and unfortunately Tobias’ thoughts are yelling at him. Many other sentences in the story fail to make any sense at all Siberian Hellhole wants to talk about it all. Without such as this one found six pages later: focusing on an underline universal theme the story ““Acting casually and innocently upon the logical comes across as having a case of ADHD. side, The White Hand cradled the left hemisphere of The inaccessibility of the prose does not Tobias’ brain in his hand. (The White Hand was also help the matter. The whole novel is punctuated with
naturally action malevolently and enjoying these activities.)” Or else they willingly contradict themselves, as they do here while referring to a geologist named Alexis: “Confident in his own expertise, he had managed to quiet their doubts. Alexis still had his own doubts.” Prose, redundancies and rhetoric aside when Siberian Hellhole does have some event to depict it does it moderately well. There is an intense scene in chapter 24 where Father Evangi, a local priest, kicks down the door to a vampire nest and yells, “The lord is my shepherd!” before foot sweeping an attacking vampire and pressing a cross to its forehead. He then saves the girl and burns the place to the ground. The actual attack on Tobias (mentioned above) is also interesting and grotesque enough to easily hold the reader’s attention but these are far a few in-between. A tip of the hat should also be given to the realization of the characters in Siberian Hellhole. It is evident that a staggering amount of thought went into them. Characters like Tobias, Sergi, and Lyuba are given pasts and personalities that justify every decision they make throughout the story. The villains on the contrary are evil because, well….they’re demons….. and zombies…..and vampires. Ironically The Devil come across as the least evil, stopping by only to poison a cup of coffee and screw around with a Russian whore before admitting defeat. In the end Siberian Hellhole is a novel with lots to say but doesn’t quite know how to say it.
A Review by Jeremy Maddux
Jay Robbins has been hand picked to head up an investigation that will take him into the heart of Brazil, and the butt of a hippo. Apparently, there is a mythical species of hippopotamus (the Lastiz) that serves as the bridge to another dimension populated with cactus monkeys and fish that transform anyone who eats them. It’s the sort of plot any Bizarro author could love! It gets even better when Jay’s dead friend, Steve, is bound metaphysically to him. Hey, the afterlife’s a dark and scary place and he’s just not ready to go! Though the narrative crackles with energy at times, I sometimes laughed not because I thought something was funny, but because I knew I was being set up for a joke. Certainly, a hippo that hosts another world in its innards is ‘ripe’ with potential. It just seems like author Grant Wamack didn’t quite realize its full potential. This is not to say that Wamack doesn’t know what he’s doing. Anyone who heard Grant’s short story, Face to Face, on a recent podcast of Surreal Grotesque is sure to recognize his talents and sardonic sense of humor. Unfortunately, it feels like only half a novel, making Notes from the Guts of a Hippo feel more like footnotes.
Cruciphyxiation Ron Cruz
I’m relatively sure Petra is the prettiest girl to ever shed tears into a glass of Chateau Bleu. I pray for her to reanimate and cry once more. The drying pen in my dying hand uncontrollably shakes as I consider the most beautiful girl I have ever known: her thick rolls of chestnut hair, wine stained lips framing a brilliant smile, her wonderfulness to the very last breath when she labored no more. The prettiest girl to ever spill tears into the velvet Chateau. Each plopping drop sent ripples rolling outward in tiny rings. Expensive wine, evaporating time. The horizon froze into perpetual sunset for three weeks more, deep oranges and amber hues hid the hills and mountains. Each day was a little darker, each moment a little slower. The invisible sun strained from somewhere beyond the haze, turned to the other side of the globe and allowed the night sky to fade to lavender. No more stars. No more moon. Only memories of the path the sun would travel across the sky. Star moon memories. The air was thick and still – nothing stirred. No one admitted to knowing the origin of the acidic vapor. It rolled in last week and burned away all sense of smell. It was somewhat of a blessing as it replaced the omnipresent scent of sulfur which seemed to leak from every crack, crevice, and hole in the earth. Frik Frak. Perhaps this was as pleasant as a cigarette before the eruption of a firing squad when the terribleness kills even the cancer. Lots of speculation and questions as the last human days on Earth roll by, but there’s only one thing certain— by tomorrow morning there will be no one left alive. All with a whimper, not with a bang. The wine glass slipped from Petra’s grasp and burst as it hit the carpet; wine leapt across the carpet with feline grace. Virgin wine settled into the carpet with legs spread open across the floor. Petra pulled her purse from the counter and treaded through the burgundy mess and stretched it with short stepped footprints towards the door. There was no waiting for merlot or Godot, she walked on through and didn’t lock the door. She wasn’t coming home. Outside we were struck immediately by burning fumes that stung both the eyes and skin. I grabbed Petra’s hand as we crossed the wasteland of lawn, cracked sidewalk, and into the alley. Air was so thick with fume and mist that we paced along landmarks and familiar streets. We dragged slowly along the old brick wall; we walked slowly along the old curbed street, severely slow, severely hunched. It was impossible to be any faster. My chest heavy as lead, lungs feeling riddled with holes, we walk on. Compulsively, in health, I neurotically checked my heart beat. I knew what it was in the morning, in the shower, in the evening after sex. I stopped bothering. Since hell fell from the sky, I gave up on my pulse. It was too weak and I worried I could worry it to a stop, but now it was closing in on its final beat with each step, with each weak beat. Thumpity tump. Frik frak. Petra dragged on. She viewed death through painted eyes, made-up master pieces with extravagant layers of vibrant shades of blue darkening inward to her striking, light eyes. Her dark hair framed her beautifully carved features and her teeth played along her wine stained lips. She was ready to die, but she still hoped her Lord would save her. She prayed for Jesus on his white stallion and fiery sword. She had her delusions, her devotions. Devoted to her, I had no other choice but to hope for her Lord to save me as well. Government, science, and man had all failed. “It took long,” she paused and tried to catch her breath. I was used to it and couldn’t talk any better, “my eyes.” “Bea-” It was painful to talk. “tiful.” The street was still. There were various people in various places; all were very, very still. There were no vehicles rolling around: no cars, no busses, no cabs. Earth was a jar of ants and the lid was screwed
down tight. We were the last couple of ants taking our last couple of gasps as we crawled among the fallen. The broadcasts were done, no radio or television, there was nothing left to discuss and no one left to dance. Some groans arose from the twiggy remnants of a dead, dried bush. It was a woman in a dirty skirt and torn shirt. One shoe was gone and her leg looked twisted and broke. She clung to a stiffened dog with missing patches of fur and gaps where the skin had broken open. Rocking it back and forth, she exposed the rot of dried innards and hollowed pockets. It took us a mini-eternity to pass by, to consider the poor lady, her position, and situation. Was she blind? Was the dog her eyes, hope, and friend? Was she homeless and now completely alone? Had she once been happy? A mother a wife? She was a broken remnant of a society that thought it could fly but was falling the whole time. Crash. Frick frak. I prayed she was blind. There’s nothing left to see when even the maggots are dying? Dead bushes and trees surrounded the red brick cathedral, clinging to the base like a crown of thorns. Some of the older trees still stood, but purely out of habit. Bushes deflated and the weeds and grass browned and withered. There were no flowers outside and no singing inside. The stained glass windows were hidden in the haze and obscured parables. The steeple hid up in the haze. Like a million times driving or waking passes the front of the tall church, Petra crossed herself as we walked by. We passed the steep front steps which was stacked with flesh, rows of people laying on rows of people, some dead and some close. The side entrance had a manageable ramp and people stretched out on the sides leaving a narrow path down the middle. In a small alcove, next to a marble bench, was a statue of the Virgin Mary. It had once been surrounded by flowers. Ivy had scaled the walls. Parishioners would bring in their flowers, lay them at her feet, pray and touch her hand before heading into the worship. Now she was alone in the shadows, like a ghostly phallic apparition springing up from the dirt. There was graffiti painted on the walls, but the efforts to clean them had died as did the desire to tag them. There was little to say even in that medium. The cool air inside the church, the sense of peace, and the beautiful tradition was all gone. No more incense burned and the fresh air had been endlessly exhaled. I looked at Jesus and heard him say that it is done.
The chairs from the front, the bishop’s and priest’s, had been propped up on a make shift stage of boards on the pews. Behind them on the wall were the stations of the cross, Jesus’ journey to his demise, ironically civil and sanitized compared to scene unfolding before it. The remaining clergy were passively sitting in the chairs, atop the platform, waiting to die. One already had. General absolution had already been granted. All sins were forgiven. Since then, nothing more had come from Rome. The light from the city on the hill had gone out. No more miracles, no more confessions, no more, no more, no more. One priest, who spoke no English, was weakly making the sign of the cross and blessing those around him, but it was sporadic. A man wore the bishop’s hat, but he was not the bishop. He had been propped up, dressed in garb, and told to simply look kind and to hope. The father of the parish stared upward. He had left still waiting for revelations. It was rumored that many Protestants had camped along a hill, waiting for the fireworks to begin, laid out like stars on fields where grass once thrived, slowly abandoning their beliefs. It was just too difficult to hold on for the literal when breath fades from broken lips. Petra sat sideways in front of St. Francis of Assisi. She still had her faith, breath, and convictions. There was, perhaps, something to them, but I only knew that it wouldn’t matter once the day broke. The icons, the study, and everything else that was between would evaporate with the last cognizant thought – instantly forgotten. I left her for the basement, slowly walking down the declined ramp, through the thin trail between the crippled mass. It could have been a leper colony or internment camp; it wasn’t even sad anymore, just reality. The restroom was at the end of the trail, and while many would have stained their shoes rather than search out a toilet, there was dignity in decorum. I just had to hope Petra would wait. The lights flickered over broken tiles, smashed sinks, and overflowing urinals. Mold seemed to be the only thing thriving in the semi-darkness. Here was all decrepit and filth, a carpet of naked flesh covered the floor. Chests heaved and hips thrust as the sea of sweaty bodies attempted to grasp at a semblance of one last human contact. It was a manifestation of the gasping human condition, the dying loving the dead. I stepped over and through the group, slowly
to keep balance. It was hard not to look at the contorted faces of those who passed and consider how they mirrored the faces of the others gripping hips and shooting tiny gyrations. The last toilet stall was just as disgusting as everything else, but I was able to unload and only slightly dot the corpse that stretched between my legs. Another Elvis tumbling off his throne into the darkness? The king is dead. Frik frak. A small smile in slow death, a fine finish is pissing on Elvis. The slow walk up, a few hands poked to touch my leg, tug on my hem. It hurt to walk and my lungs ached with each step. But the flickering mess and low subtle hum that I hadn’t recognized until it was behind me was gone. Months ago that scene would have shocked me. Petra was there, looking up at Jesus on the cross. She didn’t move when I sat down next to her. I reached out and grabbed her hand. She didn’t have the strength to squeeze much, even if she had been alive. Her eyes were wide and the angle of her head and crease of her brow made her seem as if she had an epiphany, like the answer to a question that had previously eluded her had become suddenly clear. I wished I could ask her and I wished she would tell. I’d try to pray, but I lose my mind each time I try. I sit on a wooden pew like I had done so many times in the past, waiting for Mass to begin; I sit on the wooden pew like so many times in the past, waiting for it all to end. If any were to find Petra in her current state of grace, would they take inventory of her beauty or simply write verse of the suppleness of her milk, white breast?
Joe’s Return By Matt Shaner
In the gym the buzzer sounded to signal a new arrival. They delivered them to the cells during workout, lunch, or any other planned distraction to avoid problems. The new ones learned to get tough. If you didn’t eat, you would be eaten. Two guards rolled a stretcher between them. Three steel bars bolted the guy in place. The second guard rolled an IV line. They used drugs on the hardcore mental cases. We watched for a second. If those guys caught your gaze they remembered. You could punch them for years and they’d stand there with a blank look, blood dripping over their eyes. Then they laughed. I’ve seen hardcore fucks get spooked by it. A tattoo on the arm of the guy in the stretcher grabbed my attention. Joe Gracie finally found his way back. When the guards passed the room exploded in conversation. I met Joe on year ten of my sentence. He arrived off a murder conviction, catching his wife cheating then killing the guy. He stood a stolid six feet with a frame hardened by years at a Bethlehem Steel plant. Fighters picked him out for trouble but, after sending a few to the infirmary, they stopped. He sat next to me in the library with a copy of Hemmingway. Our conversation lasted for the next hour. Despite his upbringing, he found as escape in books and words. He read half the local library. I majored in Literature in my old life. When he found this out, he stuck to my side, running my throat raw form late night discussions. They gave him a job in the laundry, allowing an examination of the halls running around the building. One day in the library he pulled me aside. “I need your help,” he said. “What can I do?” “I’m making a run in two days. I need your eyes.” I thought of the addition to my sentence if caught, then of the possible beating for denying his request. “Deal. Tell me what to do.” The day came and he attacked two delivery drivers before they left. He hid their bodies, stole the truck, and drove out. I watched that truck progress to the horizon with admiration. He chased our version of the American Dream. He sent a postcard from Oregon. He signed it from my father, as planned, and told me he had some business to take care of before he went south. I wrote back telling him to forget it. He wanted his wife. A second letter came after a month. I almost didn’t want to read it, opening it at a back table in the library. I’ve moved home. She’s doing things, man. She’s doing things to me. Inside is better than this. One thing I didn’t tell you about her, she’s different. That night they caught me I tried to kill her, I swear I did. The cuts closed before the cops arrived. They vanished. I have to go. She just came home. I’m going to do something if she lets me leave. I need jail. I’ll write again if possible. I shared the letter with our group of friends. They laughed. They said he had trouble adjusting to the outside. Two weeks later we watched him wheeled past us on that stretcher. The mental guys have a free room next to ours. They give them less time and discourage conversation. I had to know what happened. I worked, my way to the fence between our areas, waiting to catch his routine. He wondered out to the yard and went to the corner. He stayed there until they sounded the horn to go inside. One day a fight gave me the chance. While the guards stepped in, I went to the corner.
“Joe. Joe! Look at me man.” He didn’t move. “Joe, what happened? Did you get her?” A guard yelled my name and I gave up for the moment. My job progressed from the laundry to the library and finally as an assistant in the medical ward. Sick guys gave me favors and money for the meds I smuggled to the floor. They bought Joe in one day. I looked over his chart when the nurses and doctors left. It said he suffered a seizure and violent fit, injuring other inmates and screaming something about a curse. That night he opened his eyes, his jaw locked in a restraint, and attempted to speak. “Wait a sec,” I said, taking off the metal plate. He sucked in a large breath. “Thanks.” “How are you? How was it out there?” His eyes fixed on a point on the ceiling. “Beautiful. The ocean, the waves, they washed me away.” “Did you go home?” His eyes shifted to me. “She took it from me, my life. I ran one night.” HE cringed. The pulse monitor increased. “Calm down. You have to relax or they’ll bring in more meds.” He nodded, sweat forming on his brow. “She’s a witch. She marked me. Look.” His eyes pointed down. I lowered his gown. Scars and deep cuts covered the skin. They formed words in a language I couldn’t understand. Drawings of crazed figures danced across his abdomen. Each breath pushed wounds to give up blood. “My god what happened?” “Kill me. Do it. I have nightmare, these visions. She corrupted me. Give me pills, strangle me. Do it.” The monitor spiked and an alarm sounded. He leaned his head back and screamed. The autopsy said his heart crushed like a hand squeezed it. Two days later a news story caught my attention. Authorities raided a suspected cult compound on the Oregon coast. They found bodies in a mass suicide, their hearts giving out with no sign of a cause. They found ritualistic wounding of each person, cut neck to foot with illustrations and figures not known to law enforcement personal. An expert from Oregon State University would advise the case. The leader of the cult, a woman named Teresa Gracie, held an extensive record. Her husband just died while imprisoned. I watched the hearse with his body pull away from the jail, hoping he finally found freedom.
Henry By C. Wait
I found a life sized clown doll in my parents’ bedroom closet on Wednesday after school. My big brother was supposed to be watching me but he went outside to smoke a cigarette so I snuck into their room. The clown was sitting over to the side of the closet. It had puffs of spotted white hair that grew up from a smooth, leathery skull. The hair felt rough and coarse when I touched it, sticky and thick when I placed my fingers together and ran it through the tips. Its mouth didn’t open but the lips were bared back into an upside down frown. Like it was being forced to smile and didn’t want to. It had a white jumper on with yellow and orange polka dots that were the size of my fist. “What an ugly sunofabitch you are,” I said. I’d learned the word from my brother yesterday and wanted to try it out. “How did you get here?” The clown doll looked at me with its glossy, glazed eyes and it seemed like he was smiling at me. Like he was trying to respond. I leaned closer and cupped my hands around my ears. I waited. Closed my eyes and was so quiet I could hear my own heart beating. My breath echoed in the enclosed space. Finally the doll spoke back. ‘Help,’ he said. ‘Get me outta here. It’s dusty and dark and I hate it.’ “They’ll yell at me.” ‘They won’t notice. They don’t love me anymore.’ A lock of hair fell in my face as I leaned forward. He seemed like such a nice doll, a sweet doll. How could they stop loving him? We stared at each other for while before I nodded and picked him up in my arms. He was light in my hands; his head rested comfortably against my shoulder. ‘My name is Henry,’ he said. He twitched in my grasp. ‘It is so very nice to meet you.’ I stashed Henry in the corner of my room in a pile of winter blankets. I drew back the curtains so he could see outside and opened the windows a crack so he could smell the fresh air. He sat contentedly there for a day or two—his tiny, knobby fingers crossed over his chest and his frowny grin exposing jagged teeth. I left him sitting up but when I came home the next day from elementary school, I found him lying down, his glossy eyes staring straight up at the ceiling. It was a Friday and my parents were going out again. They went out every Wednesday and Friday and sometimes Saturday and Sunday, too. They had people over to the house during the week—only for short bits of time. They would trade things with each other, then the people would leave. I thought my parents must be awfully nice to have so many friends and so many trades going on. Henry shifted when I lay down next to him. Then he said, ‘You’re such a nice girl, Betty. It’s such a shame your parents don’t love you.’ “They do.” ‘No, they don’t. If they did, wouldn’t they share all those nice gifts with you? Wouldn’t they take you out to see the park on the weekends? Wouldn’t they play with you?’ I had eaten strawberries for lunch and could still taste them. I picked at the seeds with my tongue, squinting up at the ceiling in the spot where Henry was looking. “My teacher says all parents love their children, even though sometimes they can’t express it.” Henry’s hair was rustled by a breeze. ‘They say that but it’s not true. It’s not true, Betty, and you know it.’ I started sleeping on the floor in the mess of soft blankets with Henry. We lay on our backs and stared at the ceiling together. He said if you tried real hard, you could see the stars through the ceiling. There were things in the sky called constellations, he said, and they were patterns of stars that fit together in shapes. Every night we looked at the constellations and made
up our own. Weeks passed. I tried to tell my mom about the constellations but she always said she had a friend coming over and that I should play outside until they left. On a Sunday in the late winter, I felt hungry so I put a pizza in the oven and waited for it to get crispy. The microwave didn’t work. I could see the wires jutting out from the chord in its back—a mess of blue, red, and yellow. The broken wires were like veins, Henry said, and when you cut veins blood would spurt out and whatever had been cut would die. He said that was the way a lot of people died, like in a car accident or stabbing or shark attack. Henry told me that shark attacks didn’t happen that much but stabbings did. They happened all the time. After a while of waiting, I reached into the oven to get my pizza and burned the top part of my arm on the metal bar of the oven grate. I yelped and called for Mom. My pizza dropped on the floor. Sauce splattered across the floor and the cheese smeared in between it. I called for Mom three or four times more but she never came. I couldn’t sleep that night. I lay awake on the floor with Henry, watching the stars through the ceiling and holding a wet cloth over my burn. It had turned into a violent shade of brown, one that was tinged with red and purple streaks and crinkled when I moved it. My burn throbbed. It ached. Henry tried to tell me a story to calm me down, but I was so mad. I was so mad that Mom wasn’t there to help me and I couldn’t even find the burn cream to make it heal faster. So I just sat there for a long time in the blankets, not knowing what to do but feeling like there had to be something. ‘Mommies are supposed to make you feel better,’ Henry said. “Not mine. She never does anymore.” ‘She’s bad,’ Henry said. “She doesn’t love me. Daddy, either.” We talked for a very long time, and eventually I saw the sun begin to rise. I closed my eyes for a little while and didn’t wake up until it was almost time for school. The kitchen was cold when I went in to make my lunch box that morning. Frost pinched the insides of my nose when I inhaled and it burned, like the brown spot on my arm. I took out two slices of bread and
placed them on a plate, spread jam and peanut butter along the inside. My hands fumbled with the small knife. The metal was cold. The sticky peanut butter caught the smooth edges and clung to it. It bothered me a lot, the way the peanut butter held onto that knife and didn’t let go. So I put it in the sink to be washed and took out the big carving knife to cut off the crust of the sandwich. I rocked the blade slowly through the browned crust of the bread, admiring the way it sliced so clean. It was a nice knife. I bet it could hack through almost anything. “The hell are you using that giant thing for?” My mother had entered the kitchen without me noticing. She was searching through the cupboards and her curly blonde hair hung in tangles by her shoulders. She smelled sweet. There were dark rings under her eyes and her skin was so white it almost matched the tiles on the floor. I smiled. “Mama, look, it cuts so nice.” “Put it back. You’ll slice your damn fingers off.” I flinched. It seemed like her voice was an angry dog that was biting at my skin. I hated when she used that voice. It seemed like more and more she used it on me and I couldn’t figure out why. “Mama—” “I don’t have time for this today, Betty.” “Will you help me? Please?” Mom hesitated. The light from outside kept pushing its way into my eyes and I couldn’t see what kind of face she was making. I heard her sigh. Her hands fell away from her hips and she shook her blonde curls before stepping into me. Carefully she placed her hand over mine on the knife, brought it so it was hovering over the second edge of crust. Slice. The metal cut through so neatly I could’ve cried. She moved my hand over to the third crust and for a second our hands just hung there in the air, meshed together. It was nice to feel her skin on my own again but it was not warm and soft like I remembered. Instead it was cold. Rough. It got me thinking about things; thinking about Henry and the burn and the trades and coldness of the house. You’re such a nice girl, Betty. It’s such a shame your parents don’t love you. It was almost as if I could hear Henry upstairs. Hear his feet pressing against the carpet as he walked out to the staircase, watching me with his knobby fingers clenched around the railing. Waiting.
My mother was bringing my hand over to the last edge when I twisted my wrist. It happened in one swift motion—I flipped my hand out of her grasp, turning it clockwise like I was turning a doorknob. The bottom of the knife scraped her hand and before she could gasp I had jerked it up and into the soft flesh of her forearm. The blade cut a three inch line up the inside of her wrist. Blood gushed out onto the floor. “It was an accident,” I said. Just like Henry told me to. Mom was shrieking, hissing. She sounded like a cat to me, a cat that had just been petted and didn’t feel like being friendly. I just stood there and watched her as she clawed at the cut, trying to get it to stop bleeding but her face was already turning grey. That’s when you knew they were about to die, Henry said. When their faces turned grey because they didn’t have any more blood in them. I heard a thud from upstairs and hid in the food pantry, clutching the knife in my hand. It was Dad. He entered the kitchen, eyes growing big. He said a bad word and looked at Mom. She was lying still on the floor now. He circled her. “For chrissakes, Lisa.” Mom didn’t say anything back. “What the hell am I supposed to do with Betty?” It had been such a long time since I’d seen Dad that I was surprised he still remembered me. I’d almost forgotten about him… almost. As he circled, he slowly turned his back on me. He bent down, swearing and yelling at Mom to get up. I stepped out from the food pantry and stuck the knife in the side of his neck. Exactly the spot where Henry told me to put it. The same thing that happened to Mom happened to Dad except he didn’t shriek and hiss, he just gurgled a bit before falling silent. He dropped to the floor. His blood spilled onto the dirty white tiles and I watched as he twitched, arms flopping like a fish. His face hit Mom’s leg. When he finally was still, I tiptoed around them both to grab my peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the countertop. It tasted good even though there was still one side of crust on it. “It was an accident,” I said. My mouth was full and the words came out muffled. From somewhere nearby I heard the sound of Henry’s knobby knuckles knocking together, clapping.
I Become a Hulking Beast By Tony Rauch
I wake up with a really sore back for some reason. But that’s all I thought it was, just a sore back. Gradually, throughout the day I become more and more hunched over, to the point that when I get home I feel like a hunchback. I lay down on the couch and rest, but am so sore I don’t get off of the couch. I sleep there all night. Then in the morning, I feel all funny-like. I can’t straighten up, thus have to basically drag myself into the bathroom, and there, standing before myself in the large mirror above the sink is a hairy beast. It is me. I’m the hairy beast. I know that much. I have somehow changed into a loping, bent-over beast. I shuffle back to the couch and call in sick. I lay there all day, dreading looking in the mirror again. I try to fall asleep, thinking it’s all a bad dream and that I just need to wake up. But I can’t sleep. I just keep thinking about the hideous creature I have become. I run it over and over in my mind – something I ate, some bad bug I caught, germs, bad germs, real bad ones. Perhaps it’s just various crushing burdens beginning to weigh me down, distort me, the burdens of wanting too much, of wanting it all. Maybe my expectations are just set too high. It’s good to want things, gives you something to work for, keeps you motivated, but wanting too much can drown you in unhappiness, can distort your perspective. I lay there and think some more, finally figuring this all probably has something to do with the temporal distortion experiments I’m tinkering with in my basement in my spare time. I fancy myself an inventor, you see. It’s merely a hobby, just something to fiddle with to pass the time, to keep me out of trouble. I have created a little cart that you can sit in. It’s surrounded by tubes that create an electromagneto field that will hopefully distort the time around you, drawing the future or past to you. So far I am unable to generate enough electro-magnetic energy to distort the time around me, to change or escape this time field via a special and temporal rupture. But man, I’ve had some wicked visions sitting in that thing, let me tell you. I can see the past or future rushing by. Just faint blurs and flashes, but enough to realize I’m on the right track here. But this, this seems like a nightmare, so I force myself back to sleep, hoping it will all clear itself. I wake about an hour and a half later and lope into the bathroom only to find that I’m still a hairy beast, hunched back, drooling, twitching, lurching around (hey, people change into things). I stand there and think for a moment, then I sigh - you gotta play the cards fate deals you. So I lumber outside, only to find myself staring at the ladies, leering in fact, drooling, making lewd offers – “care to dance the mattress polka?” And the staring, oh yeah, lots of lewd and uncalled for staring (I wonder if the staring is due to the fact that deep down I must be concerned about what the fairer sex thinks of me now, now that I’m beastly). But people only look away in disgust. I notice in my hand that I carry a little bell for some reason. I began to ring it annoyingly at people as they pass: ding-aling . . . ding-a-ling (now why would I do that? Ever do some weird or stupid stuff and then later wonder what compelled you to do so? It’s like that with me and the bell). I lose my job. Then my house. I’m out in public for quite a while like this – all hairy and hunched over, hulking, a pointy snout forming, my eyes receding into mere dots, arms much longer than they should be, knuckles dragging, drooling, staring at the ladies, ringing my little bell in protest at people as they pass, as if to shoo them away. I become rat-like, a large rattish man, and I ask the most annoying of questions – “Care to fetch me a soda? . . . Care to scrub out my nethers? . . . Care to take a pottery class with me at the community center? . . . How about scrapbooking? . .” It isn’t a pleasant sight. People strive to avoid me, but then for some reason, the tide seems to slowly turn in my favor. People’s perceptions of me begin to change, and thus I begin to change. At first the change is only in people’s eyes. People begin to regard me as something of a curiosity, a mascot, and thus begin hanging around
more and more in the alley behind the gas station where I hang out. I have long since scared away my old, so-called friends, due to my now beastly behavior and appearance – the drooling, leering, and annoying ringing of my little bell. Maybe in seeing me everyday these new people became familiar with my condition and just accepted it as such. People begin to sense my humanity, my struggle. They grow more accepting of me, and are gradually less repulsed by my rancid odor, appearance, and behavior. Slowly I seem to change physically. We’re merely a loose collection of other people’s perceptions I guess. Slowly people begin to feel sorry for me. Gradually people start to look deeper, behind the layers of tattered, filthy clothes (for I could no longer hold down a respectable job), snarls of grimy matted hair. Eventually people look beyond my humble appearance to view my humanity layered beneath, my dignity, my perseverance, my glorious radiating struggle. Slowly my posture improves, and with it other people’s prejudices seem to relax. Then I clean myself up a bit, and more people seem to stop sneering and hissing in my direction. Slowly less people yell things at me, chase me, throw things at me. Then I seem to become a beast of another variety all together – I get a job in a restaurant where I am required to wear the most ridiculous and demeaning garb – a sort of basketball uniform from the mid1970s – flared trousers with wide vermillion stripes bordered with super thin blue stripes. Hopelessly out of fashion, displayed for all to see, almost worse than being the big dirty rat guy. Gradually my new transformation seems to fade. I blend into the crowd, into the background to the point where I become a nobody. I settle into a comfortable groove. A strange calm settles over me. I am anonymous. It’s kind of sad to a degree that when I was a hulking beast, at least I was something, someone unique. At least I stood out to a degree. At least I had an identity when I was the rat man – I knew who I was and where I stood. Now, I don’t know so much anymore. I don’t know who I am any longer. My special uniqueness has been peeled away and the rat man has faded into the vague, fuzzy corners of memory. It isn’t like everyone’s mind has been scrubbed clean of the beast that I was. It’s more like that hulking beast had moved away now, and will be replaced soon by a series of other characters around town – a super well-dressed bum, a woman who’s
always way too tan, a man with a huge nose, a super pale girl, and the like. But can you explain the beauty of these people? Insomuch as you can explain the beauty of a rose? Would you need to? Or do you just appreciate one for what they are? Do you need an explanation for everything? One day I’m on the bus riding to my job at the restaurant when the chap next to me, a guy I’ve gotten to know from the bus, turns to me and asks: “Remember that giant rodent that was roaming the streets?” “Yeah, that giant rat-like squirrel beast. That was me. I was the giant white rat. Smelly and greasy. A coughing, wheezing, hissing, germy little monster beast. Greasy and humped. Bad breath. Runny, snotty nose. Pus dripping from open sores. . .” “No. No you weren’t,” the guy interrupts. “Yeah, sure I was. I remember. I have a great memory.” “There’s no way you could’ve been the hulking beast guy . .” “Why? because I’m well groomed now? Well mannered?” “No. Because I happen to know for a fact that a guy I used to work with – his brother-in-law’s neighbor’s college buddy’s neighbor’s plumber’s gardener’s cousin was the greasy little rat man.” “No. I was. Honest.” “I don’t believe you.” And with that he pulls a book from his bag, opens it and never speaks to me ever again. Later that week I have to look for an apartment because my gal tosses me out (she claimed I was too much of a slickie-boy and never wanted to see me again). I find a decent place closer to work and, unbeknownst to me, end up with a roommate who is a foul-mouthed amorphous blob who insults people (hey, who amongst us is perfect?). His name is Chester, and he’s actually pretty nice to me, but he leans out our third story window and hurls subtle insults at passersby as his main pastime. We actually have another roommate, but we never see him. I’ll be sitting there after work, watching television, and Chester will be hanging out at the window, hoping a funny looking person will happen along, and there will be silence from the other bedroom; the door always closed. We see him every once in a while, but not too often. We can only assume he is a direct descendent of Adolf Hitler, a secret grandchild perhaps, probably the son of his secret love
child. Stew is his name. Never around much. But he leaves crumbs all over and pots and pans on the floor in the living room half full of beans or sour hash and I step in them in my bare feet while making my way to the bathroom in the darkness in the middle of the night. For the most part I enjoy my new digs, sitting in dead men’s clothes in my chair up in the third floor, as if up in the sky. My clothes are from secondhand stores, thus the unwanted refuse from fancier people, from better people. My chair situated perfectly to read my paper by the setting sun, and a great view down the street, as if the entire town will someday be mine. A good view to help cultivate a megalomania. I read about a fungus who is running for school board who is currently incarcerated for some reason. There is concern amongst the constituency, not that he is a fungus, but of the legalities of a convict running for municipal office. Eventually the convict loses to a one-armed chain-smoking stenographer. Out on the street a well dressed woman approaches me. “You’re my three o’clock, right?” she asks. “Ah, no. I don’t believe so,” I stammer. By the bewildered look on my face she must know it isn’t me. In any event, she moves on to the next guy. They are up ahead, out of earshot. But she says something to him and he nods and they go off together, around the corner. Curious, I slide over and peek around that corner, looking into an empty alley. There they are down at the far end. She happens to be tickling him all over, her arms flailing, her hands and fingers a wiggling blur. He is squirming and blushing like you wouldn’t believe. I didn’t know whether to be horrified or slightly amused. Later at work, one of my female coworkers looks over to me and says, “Let’s get weird.” She’s sitting on the floor. I look over, confused, furrowing my brow. She smiles at me. Her smile makes me happy for some reason (maybe it’s because I like it when people smile at me, makes me feel like they’re happy to see me, glad that I’m around. Or maybe it’s because I never have seen her smile before, and now here she is, in all her glory, out of the blue smiling at me, so I want to make her happy). I shrug, as if to confer, “Yeah, OK, let’s go, buddy.” Then she looks around, as if she’s about to pull out a couple of long necks [beer]. She looks back over to me and starts shining very very brightly. A slowly throbbing amorphous lavender blob oozes up to me. I look it up and down. “I’m Jasper,” it says
from a little slit of a mouth. “Yeah, so. . . Congratulations,” I look him over. It’s basically just a six foot glob of miscellaneous goo, like a giant lump of yogurt. “We gotta talk about Chester,” it sighs. And without going into detail, this Jasper creature begins to go into how Chester (one of my new roommates) used to room with Jasper and owes him money and ate a bunch of his food and all that bad roommate crap while my coworker sits on the floor shining brightly. I thank Jasper for dropping by and giving me the low down on Chester, and assure him that I’ll lock my cupboards and get the rent well in advance. We get off on a tangent, Jasper feeling our society is being ravaged by cases of “mild stupidity”. While I feel our society is becoming too rigidly conformist and that if anything we all need even more stupidity, more random folly. We finally come to a middle ground, deciding that it’s a wonder how fragile it all is. At night I sit on the fire escape, reading my paper in the cool breeze of the alley. The girl across the alley climbs out onto her fire escape. I’ve seen her around and spoken to her briefly out the window several times while she sat on her fire escape, her legs dangling down, swinging in the breeze. But those conversations were brief, mild pleasantries, just being neighborly. http://js4853.deviantart.com/
“That’s you again, right?” she calls. I look up and over, my paper flopping down. “Yeah, hey,” I sigh, happy to be talking to someone. She has a bright, fresh smile, light blue eyes, and high cheekbones covered in freckles. Her short, reddish blond hair is tugged back into two short ponytails. “Hey Froggie,” Chester barks from the window around the corner, calling to someone below. “Yeah, you. You walk like a frog.” There is a pause for a rebuttal from the street below. I hear some squawking as if a faint threat, then Chester’s reply, “Just hop on back to your lily pad in the pond, Frogman.” “Hold on,” I nod to the girl across the narrow alley, then sit up and look into the apartment. I pick up a broken brick (about a third of a brick, looking like a large, jagged rock) and whip it inside, hitting Chester square in the middle of his corpulent blobbiness, in what I assume to be his face. The oblong projectile is slowly absorbed into his midsection. He turns and sloshes off, into his room. “Knock that nasty crap off, you insecure lump,” I snap, “Go do something with your life. . . . Then we’ll all find out what’s what.” “Yeah, whatever. The game’s starting soon anyways,” Chester oozes off, away from the window. “Get a constructive hobby. Geez,” I watch him slither for a second, then settle back down and look back over to my counterpart across the alley. “So, what’s new? Any thrills?” “Just got out of counseling,” she sighs. She stares ahead, obviously sightless, around fourteen or fifteen years old. Maybe sixteen tops. “Yeah? Why the counseling?” I ask. “Well, I was at camp this summer and met a boy from the next camp over. He was sitting under a large shade tree overlooking a stream. I wandered by, out for a stroll. He called me over, wondering what my cane was for. So we got to talking and I sat down in the breeze and grass. We met up again and again and I fell in love with him. His skin was so soft and he talked so nice to me. I’ve always been kind of isolated, my mom worrying that someone will take advantage of me,” she stops to sigh and catch her breath. “Well,” I sigh in agreement, “that’s your mom’s job to worry. . . So what became of the boy?” “Turns out he was mentally challenged. From the next camp over. I didn’t know it. I mean, how could I tell? I’m blind. . . Have you ever talked to a fifteen year old boy? I defy you to tell the difference.” “That’s too bad,” I sympathize. “I really liked him too. . . I miss him so badly, . . even
though I’m not supposed to, I guess. . . He was just so nice to talk to. All I ever talk with is other sightless girls . . or adults.” “Can’t they let you out more? Can’t you join some other activities? Chess club or something?” I ask, genuinely curious. “Not with those giant rats roaming the city. How many are there now?” she exhales deeply, as if a shut-in enduring a particularly bad winter. “I don’t know what they told you, but there was only the one. And he really wasn’t all that bad, just a little lascivious, that’s all. Really, they should’ve just taken him aside and cleaned him up a bit, mentored him a little,” I shrug. “Now he’s gone. . . Stories get all blown out of proportion.” “Still, a rat’s a rat,” she shrugs. “Maybe we’re all a little rat-like sometimes,” I consider, looking off to the sunset, thinking I’ll probably need to get a new roommate now. What a hassle. Then I look back over to the girl, her head hung in sad realization. “Think you’ll ever see him again?” She shakes her head no, frozen in a permanent stare, looking down. “It was awful. They make me go to counseling. . . They found us in one of the assistant’s office. We had our shirts off. . . I remember he was so warm, his skin so smooth, his heart beat so soft and gentle. I felt so comfortable, so safe and warm. It was so nice to be close to someone, to have someone like me that way. . . He smelt so good, like a spring breeze.” “You’ll meet someone. You just need to get out more, get involved,” I perk up, optimistically. “They were afraid I was going to run away with him. . . Where’m I gonna go? I’m blind. I need someone to show me where the bathroom is.” “I see you outside,” I say. “Mom lets me walk up and down the walk. But she watches from the window. . . I can feel the eyes of others on me too.” “Yeah, I seen you. I must admit, I watched out for you too. Saw you with your cane and all. Yeah.” A loud boom crashes from inside. I snap my head, rise to peek in the window. The door to our apartment explodes off its hinges, the door flipping through the air, bouncing off a wall and sliding across the floor. Shards of the wooden doorjamb splinter to tumble in the air. Two rather large fellows with determined looks on their faces rumble in. I don’t have time to react or even move. For some reason, instinctively, I
duck lower, just peeping from the lower corner of the window. The large men stomp across the hardwood floor and grab Chester from off the couch. They wrap their meaty arms around him, lifting and tugging with all their might. They slide him off the couch and over to the window, his weight sloshing this way and that. They lift him out to spill him into the air. They stand and watch as Chester drops. I turn, crawl to the end of the fire escape, and watch as Chester hits the pavement, splattering into many amorphous, blobby chunks with a soft, wet “splat”. I watch as each little piece rolls away. Then they just lay there, scattered from the others, each piece at least ten feet from the other, two dozen in all. Several start to wiggle and then slowly slosh away, each in a different direction. Someone steps from the sidewalk, into the street and winds up to give a basketball sized piece of Chester a good, hard kick. The piece hops into the air about ten feet. “Froggy that,” the guy says, turning to sulk away. I slide back to the window, look up to find the large men leaving through the now open doorway. They disappear into the darkness of the hall. I look back to the street and most of Chester is gone now. Some kids are running off with a large chunk of him, grinning wildly, looking as if trying to carry a gelatinous couch cushion, all jiggly and sagging, like a big slab of jello. I look down to find another piece slowly sloshing down the alley, all wobbly and undulating. A lady sticks her head from her first floor window and throws a pan at the piece of Chester. The pan misses, hitting the pavement about two feet from him and bouncing into the wall to spin down the alley with a series of loud clangs. She fires an iron, hitting little Chester square in the middle, the iron being absorbed into the little blob. Another pan comes out the window, but only glances off a corner of little Chester as he makes his way into the shadows. “Looks like that’s it for Chester,” I look back over to the other fire escape across the alley. The girl is still there, swinging her bare legs in the breeze (she’s wearing shorts). “Easy come, easy go,” I shrug. “Your roommate seems like a colorful guy,” she says. “Well, that’s very polite of you, but he’s a jerk. Some big dudes just threw him out the window. I doubt he’ll be back.” “He just sounds scared. . . Maybe he needs to get out more, interact more. . . Maybe he’s afraid. Maybe he’s had bad experiences.” “Everyone has. But you need to get past them, see
past the negative to the good stuff. What good does hiding yourself away do? Where does that get you?” I think out loud. “So how’d you end up here?” she asks. I don’t know if she could tell what happened or not. I thought it best not to bother her with it, but I wasn’t sure, so I answer, “I was experimenting with temporal distortion. It got out of hand. Oh, and my girlfriend walked out,” I state. “Blow up your lab or something? Create a rift in time?” she asks. “Not really. I couldn’t generate enough power to distort time enough to take advantage of anything. Maybe my electromagnets aren’t powerful enough yet. Maybe it was the power source. Not powerful enough just yet. . .” I stop to think, “It got frustrating. Maybe I need time off to gain perspective, to think. . . All my crap’s in storage now. For a while anyway. . . I hope for just a while. . . Plus all that temporal distortion gradually modified me on a molecular level. Slowly I turned into a hulking beast. Maybe the temporal shield wasn’t strong enough, the gravity stretching my atoms and molecules out of shape. . . Maybe it’s a good thing I caught it in time. Maybe if the field would’ve been stronger, would’ve held longer, maybe I would’ve stretched to the point of snapping. Snapping into a million pieces.” “Wow, a beast,” she giggles, “Well at least that’s something. Maybe your experiment wasn’t a failure after all. . . Are you still the beast?” “No. But I was the giant rat people talk about,” I admit, “But it wore off. Over time. I think my molecules slowly stretched back to their original form. I think I’m fine now.” “Wow, you were the rat?” she sighs, “I never met anyone famous before. . . How do I know you’re still not the rat?” “Do I sound rat-like to you? . . Anyway, no one believes me now. I mean, that I was the rat. How could I prove that?” “Why would you want to? Why would you care?” she shrugs, “I wouldn’t care if you were a hunched little rat-beast with greasy hair and inexcusable breath. I mean, as long as you were nice to me.” “I guess,” I whisper, “It’s just that when I was the hairy beast, well, at least I was someone. At least I had something. I mean, it got me attention.” “From the ladies?” she perks up. “Only ones who liked me for the wrong reasons thought I was sort of semi-famous locally.”
“Oh. Yeah, that’s no reason to like someone,” she nods in agreement. “Do you believe I was the rat?” “Were you disgusting and filthy?” she asks, intrigued. “I was more beast-like. Like something from an obscure, Eastern European fairytale. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was a rat. I was definitely rodent-like though,” I think about this a moment, “Tiny claws. Pointy snout. Large pointy ears. Yeah, I was more rodent-like. Not exactly a rat per say.” “Did you have a tail? A long, thin, scaly gross one?” “I believe I had several such tails. I didn’t look back there much. I think I was too afraid of what I might find. Self-realization can be scary.” “And girls liked you?” she squirms. “Some wanted to get to know me. I think they felt sorry for me. Or felt they could fix me. . . But most people didn’t like me at all. I wasn’t like them. I didn’t fit in.” “It’s funny, the things we turn into,” she ponders, “Here I was supposedly taking advantage of someone with so-called ‘diminished capacities’. . . I just wanted someone to talk to, someone who’d like me, want to spend time with me, laugh at my jokes, take me away http://diosenzanome.deviantart.com/
from the puzzle that is life. . . But at the end of the day all I was was a common creep. I wasn’t anything special at all really.” “According to who?” I ask, “Who are they to judge what you want, what’s best for you? Sounds like everyone else has their own agenda. Maybe they want to further that through you? Or just keep you down, exert their power over you.” “What do you think of all that?” she asks shyly, looking away, as if hoping for an answer to solve the great riddle. “Ah, I really don’t know,” I exhale, “It is what it is. All that might seem like a big deal right now, but in a few months you’ll gain more perspective and realize it’s no biggie. You’ll see. . . . But then again, maybe I’m the last person who should be giving advice on matters of the heart. Mostly I know about the bad things,” I look away, over the rooftops. “Yeah, what I know about girls are mostly the bad things.” “You just haven’t met the right one yet,” she reassures. “May not ever,” I sigh. “Maybe not,” she smiles, “But still . . who knows?” “Anyway, I don’t think I ever really liked the way love made me feel – all funny, out of control. Made me do stupid things.” “Still,” she says, “Least it’s something. Better than not feeling anything.” I consider this a moment, then comment, “Although it’s been an interesting week, I guess sometimes I do sort of miss the attention I got when I was the hulking beast. . . Seemed to make me feel less alone in this world. . . Less lonely.” And we talk into the night.
Inside the Bizarro Wonderland of Tony Rauch: A Multiple Choice Interview with Surreal Grotesque
Tony Rauch Bio Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published – - “I’m right here” (Spout Press) - “Laredo” (Eraserhead Press) - “Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again” (Eraserhead Press) He has an additional title forthcoming in the next few weeks/months – “as I floated in the jar” (Eraserhead Press). He has been interviewed by the Prague Post, Oxford Univ student paper, Raintaxi, and has been reviewed by the MIT paper and the Savanna College of Art and Design paper, among many others. He can be found at – http://trauch.wordpress.com/ His work deals with fragility, uncertainty, impermanence, the mysteries hidden in everyday life, a sense of discovery, escape, concealment, ennui, regret, loneliness, technology run amok, eerie vibes, irresponsible behavior, confusion, absurd situations, surrealism, modern fairy tales, etc.
Tony Rauch will answer via multiple choice so as to give the reader several options to mix or match as they see fit. This is America after all, and we certainly support freedom of choice and experimentation Question 1: SG: You must realize that your penchant for ending stories just as they seem to offer the most fantastic twists can be frustrating for readers. Why do you do this? TR Answer to question 1 A.) because I am bastard type person. Specifically a withholding control freak, a tease if you will, puritanical in witholding even the slightest amount of joy from others. People should be working after all, toiling away at their daily drudgery. Now go to bed, you. B.) yeah, well, hey, that’s just the way it goes sometimes, you know?
C.) Yes, this was a conscious choice. Some of the stories have traditional beginnings, middles, and ends. Others are meant to be “story starters,” stories that could go in any number of directions. I like story starters because they force you to think about possibilities, hopefully many potential endings or directions. Although some people may be uncomfortable with the ambiguity of a resolution they may have to provide for themselves, I would hope they would appreciate that I want people to also think for themselves, to not be passive, to spark something, to get their creative juices flowing, thus the story become your story - what did you want to happen, what did you think happened? Though at times I suppose it may be like waking early from a dream - an expectation is being set up and then not played out. But hopefully even if it congers those kinds of feelings, then at least it’s getting people away from their comfort zones and into something adventurous. That’s the goal / hope. D.) Some stories were intentionally left open-ended, similar maybe to some O. Henry stories or Twilight Zone episodes, where the ending is only hinted at so as to not have to spell everything out. Sometimes spelling everything out can ruin the power of the mystery of things, or insult intellect, or just driving a story into the ground that could’ve been ended much earlier. In order to be distinctive, sometimes a writer has to play with conventions, and that stretches the elasticity of the form, so artistically hoping to push outdated and arbitrary rules, templates, formulas, or boundaries. E.) Some stories are front-loaded with suspense or drama and the resolution may actually be less exciting than the initial premise, similar to life which at times leaves us without a denouncement or concrete wrap-up. Life seems to be a continual, ever evolving thing where there may not ever really be definitive beginnings and endings anyway. Though I agree that complete resolutions are a relief in a world where few are available at times, and this is one reason people may enjoy storytelling of any type - because they can offer complete resolutions. And there is also comfort and power in definitive resolutions, though sometimes endings are illusive, middles are purgatorial, beginnings are . . . oh, man, don’t even get me started on beginnings. Question 2 SG: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which one do you feel best exemplifies your triumphs as an author? TR Answer to question 2 – A.) “I became a different person” (from ‘despite our best efforts’, a collection that has yet to be published, but the story is on my website) because it hits on themes I would like to explore - the notion of identity, and people projecting what they want and need you to be onto you. Also, it’s a funny, absurdist piece, and I see existence, or the world, as an absurd place. B.) “the goombees (are moving in down the block)” (from ‘as I floated in the
jar’, another collection that has yet to be published, but is on my website) because it is about doing the right thing, overcoming fears, not following the crowd, prejudice, taking a chance, keeping an open mind, etc. It has a social conscience, meaning, is imaginative, puts you right in the middle of the action, is odd, thought provoking, and brief. C.) “the gloombus” (from ‘come drift with me’, yet another collection that has yet to be published, but is on my website) because it has mystery, excitement, a sense of discovery about the world, fun, anticipation, wonder, a sense of adventure, takes you away, and is also brief. D.) I would leave it up to the reader to decide what my best work is. Each person is looking for something different and I could only hope that I am able to give them an interesting experience without hogging all their time. E.) Any story that I can tell quickly and efficiently that is creative and different (has meaning and gets people thinking about possibilities) that I can write quickly. Speed and brevity are two of the traits I am most proud of - that I learned to write interesting short stories (that got published in journals) quickly, thus not wasting my time or the readers. Question 3 SG: Do you ever see yourself making the jump from the short story medium into the novel writing medium? TR Answer to question 3 – A.) Probably not. I see my strength, focus, and joy in volume – that is in a variety of ideas, which I feel is best applied to short fiction. B.) A novella might be nice to tackle at some point – to stretch out an idea, or throw a multiple of ideas sandwiched into a single template like slices of bread in a bread bag. C.) I have some short, 30+ page chapter books that are basically longer short stories broken into short chapters. I hope they get published in book form some day, but that’s the longest I’ve ever needed to write in order to say everything that needs to be explained without getting bogged down into unneeded description or background filler. D.) Part of it has to do with the art of the short-form – spacing, proportion, transition, breathing room, reflection, visual resting spots, etc. – like jazz music, there is a math to it and a reasonable ending point without dragging a story out for no reason. E.) Unfortunately my career and other responsibilities keep me very busy, thus free time is limited, so as for writing, shorties seem to dovetail nicely into that free slot of time. (no doubt there’s some freaky genius in some isolated nowhere (or just super swamped somewhere) who’s just sitting on a heaping pile of great stories and doesn’t even realize it because he/she may only see themselves as just a hobbyist). F.) All things in moderation, my son.
Question 4 SG: Of all the adjectives I would use to describe your work, the closest I can come to capturing their essence would be to call them ‘whimsical’. With that being said, do you ever let autobiography slip into your work? TR Answer to question 4 – A.) Whimsical seems to be a common reaction. I like surreal or existential, though opinions differ on degree and definition. I definitely think the world, or at least my life, could use more whimsy, and I hope I’ve brought some into this world for others. B.) Yes, things I think about get interjected into the stories at times to ground them in some reality and make them more relatable. Stories are probably never going to be universal, unless maybe it’s some sort of ‘coming-of-age’ or ‘manin-the-mirror’ realization moment type deals that most people go through at some point. C.) The better work has a percent of biographical content, in being things I’ve felt, similar experiences, or extruded metaphors as reflections for how I was feeling at some point. But they are not 100% real transcriptions or reports, only metaphors for boredom, contradictions, frustration, exasperation, incompleteness, longing, unfairness, ambiguity, embarrassment, discovery, hope, etc. These are universal concerns, and the underlying feelings behind some of http://diosenzanome.deviantart.com/
the stories are then real. Question 5 SG: Do you think there is anybody else who does with words and images what you do? I’m leaning towards no but…? TR Answer to question 5 – A) There are similar writers, but probably none that matches 100%. Not that I’d ever consider myself as accomplished or as good as these writers, but I have been compared favorably to, and have gleaned a lot of inspiration from - Donald Barthelme, Franz Kafka, Barry Yourgrau, Mark Leyner, Stephen-Paul Martin, D. Harlan Wilson, Andersen Prunty, and Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury. And to a degree I agree with all of those. My stories have been identified as post-modern, bizarro, and modern fairy tales, but I see them as a mix of styles and tropes. B.) I would say my work is a combo platter of absurdism, existentialism, experimental writing / dada, and sci fi / fantasy / surrealism / fairy tale. So parts may be similar to other styles, but not the story in aggregate. So combining several tropes, styles, genre, formats, templates, etc. to create something that may at times be similar to some of these, and yet different from them as the story may only contain 10% of any one style. Fragmenting a story, truncating, or playing with format also attempts to play with existing paradigms. You may only get the ending of a story, for example. Sometimes it’s what you leave out that may be the most interesting, hopefully getting people to grow their imagination in a direction that they then deem necessary. C.) I would say most of my work is comparable in style and genre to Barry Yourgrau or maybe Donald Barthelme. Though I think being influenced by others will sift through the process and spice up what is probably mostly my view, or a combination of the above and my voice. D.) Being unique, individual, distinctive, etc. is an accomplishment in itself in any artistic medium. It is very hard, rare, and unlikely to be only just of yourself. Possibly impossible. But that is something I also strive for. E.) I would hope my writing is derived also from art, music, inner thoughts, philosophy, and listening to what is around me and filtering that in. If I only rely on other writers or genres, then the work reads flat to me and not three dimensional or grounded in some type of relatable feelings. Question 6 SG: How did you get your start in writing? Did you have a mentor or teacher who taught you to harness this gift of yours, or were you largely self taught? TR Answer to question 6 – A.) I have been writing and drawing since grade school. My friends and I wrote stories, skits, and drew drawings which were basically stories in pictographic
form. It was more for art or writing classes, more about assignments, but we also did it as a social, fun thing too. That gave me a good start – that fun aspect, and started building my conceptual, investigation, and curiosity skills. B.) In college I took courses in creative writing for elective credits and enjoyed them. I was published in the school literary journal several years in a row, then some friends started their own lit journal, which continued to publish my stories, then a few years later they contacted me about doing a collection of my work, which became my first book, I’m right here (Spout Press). At first I thought they wanted to put out a chap book, or maybe a series of them, but they meant a perfect bound book. C.) A combination of self-taught and formal instruction. I learned a lot by doing, listening, and observing, but also by reading a lot of short stories from a variety of sources. Reading others helped me with wrapping things up in a hopefully poignant or thoughtful ending. I was never big on writing groups because that time was better spent writing and you can’t please everyone, which is what the writer’s groups I’ve seen tend to be about. D.) No mentors who sat down with me or reviewed my work, though my writing teachers in college were very encouraging and that helped. What I lacked then is ‘life experience’ and a broader knowledge of the short form, which I have gained since college. Now I have too much life experience. Boy, do I ever. E.) Practice and research were the best teachers – ass to chair. Various publishers, editors, and reviwers (those in the know who see a lot of writing) have also had good tips over the years. I’m glad I’ve gotten faster, more efficient, and better at writing, and that is a major accomplishment for me – speed and brevity. Question 7 SG: Here’s a hypothetical scenario for you: You have crashed on a desert island with only a nun, an English professor and a professional wrestler for company. How do you pass the time? TR Answer to question 7 – A.) We would probably spend the first few days building shelter, a signal fire, and gathering food. After that it would be foraging and the ‘hunter-gatherer’ thing. Once we got settled, we’d probably think about constructing a raft. B.) If the English professor became proficient with a fishing spear, we would really be in business, otherwise this person would really have to bring something to the efforts, and I mean pronto, buster. C.) I’m thinking the wrestler would be useful for his/her strength. The Nun would keep us grounded, optimistic, and would probably sing to us a lot. D.) They would probably end up eating me. I wouldn’t blame them. Doubt I’d bring much to the table other than some rudimentary building knowledge and conceptual skills, which would be useful for a while. Yeah, we’d need to be rescued pretty
fast or my days would be numbered in the single digits. I’d give myself two weeks tops, otherwise my bones would be picked clean. Leave my bones in a tidy pile, tell my family I don’t hate them. Question 8 SG: I am allowed one self indulgent question. Because The New Kid from your collection eyeballs growing all over me …again is such a mystifying tale, I must know. Does the narrator end up as one of the new kid’s tabletop football figurines, or do they really become bff’s due to their shared interest in the fringes of reality? TR Answer to question 8 – A.) They’re friends. The New Kid would probably have some insight into the psyche of the narrator, thus could tell he was a descent kid to hang with. B.) The New Kid realizes he needs friends too, so he would be friendly and invite the narrator over and be nice to him, try to help him. C.) Yes, there is an element of danger there, so the narrator is walking a fine line and must decide if the things the New Kid brings to the proceedings are worth the risk – finding out about that girl, or ending up who-knows-where. D.) In real life, the New Kid turned him into a human popsicle, which for legal reasons I can’t get into. If anyone ever asks, you’ve never heard of me. E.) I am the New Kid. . . . I’ll just leave it at that. Question 9 SG: What will your upcoming collection as I floated in the jar consist of? Would you like to give a synopsis or teaser of any stories it contains? TR Answer to question 9 – A.) No, I would not. Get away from me. B.) Yes, of course, I would be delighted to oblige your kind request “as i floated in the jar “ is a short story collection of imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. These fables will make great story starters for young adults and reluctant readers. Some of the pieces are absurdist or surreal adventures that hearken back to imaginative absurdism, sci-fi, and fantasy of the 1950s. With themes of longing, discovery, secrets, escape, eeriness, surprises, and strange happenings in everyday life, readers will delight in these brief but wondrous adventures – - a lonely girl finds a small spaceship in the woods. - a stranger extracts a baby from a man waiting for the bus. - a farmer invents gadgets to fight off infiltrators leaking in from another dimension. - a gang travels into the past to escape a regression plague that slowly turns people back into primates.
- unique creatures move in down the block. - a man gets a verbally abusive amorphous blob as a roommate. - a jar falls from a passing wagon, spilling a strange liquid that turns a small mud puddle into something else. C.) samples can be found at – http://trauch.wordpress.com/books/dejavuweekends/ D.) depending on when this interview runs, the book may be out by then. Then again it may never be published. It has been accepted, but the wheels of the industry turn slowly. It’s hard to be patient. I don’t know when it will be out, though the publisher said they wanted to do it. Question 10 SG: On the dedication page of eyeballs growing all over me ...again, you quote three separate books of the Bible: James, Romans and Matthew, all of which deal with one’s faith and character being tested. What do these passages mean to you? Are you a man of faith? TR Answer to question 10 – A.) They remind me to take the long view and try to be patient, positive, and optimistic. No doubt they’d mean other things to other people. I suppose I struggle with faith as much as some people do. I wonder why things aren’t easier. But I am not materialistic, so I don’t struggle with material desires. Some people believe we are put here to learn one thing, and only one thing and then move on, and each person may have a different thing to learn, which I think is an interesting notion. Some Buddhist’s believe all pain is caused by desire, which I also think is interesting. Some of my stories are more existential, thus reflective of things I struggle with at times. B.) I attend mass some times, but not every week. I go to very liberal or alternative churches because the history, pageantry, and artifice of it all is something I already know about and for me gets in the way of the real meaning of things. I think mass on the bank of a lake or river would be a perfect setting. C.) I wonder if the publisher feels these quotes, or any religious quotes, would offend some people and thus turn them away from something they might otherwise find interesting? D.) Peace, love, understanding. Hard work, growth, introspection. Punk rock, beer, popcorn (fruit of the gods). Love thy neighbors, they’ve got it tough too. Sleep, diet, exercise, cleanliness, moderation. Arson, theft, cousin Oliver, veiled threats, Peter Brady’s inhibited dancing (restraining a wild abandon). Contradiction, ambiguity, ambivalence. It’s all a rich tapestry. Question 11 -
SG: If there’s anything we missed, you may have the floor to address it now. TR Answer to question 11 – A.) My stories are generally a mix of tropes and genres. B.) My first book was more experimental fiction, the second more experimental with some fairy tale, the third more YA shorts with fairy tale and sci fi / fantasy. C.) Iggy Boogie. (i had a dream where me and Cameron Pierce wrote a book of shorts together. only he did most of the work. I only emailed fragments, ideas, lines, and words without ever seeing the stories or even hearing about them. so no clue as to context from my end. just random blither. one of the emails I sent in the dream was just this: “iggy boogie.” yes, I need to get more sleep more often) D.) All things in moderation, my son.
If a god exists it had most certainly punished them for a crime before birth. If not, nature is the cruelest mother of all. There were stories of them, nature’s abnormalities. Someone through the decades coined their name. These “mast people” were secluded but turned nomadic every few years. Their destinations were never known. They were left alone. Perhaps humanity had more sympathy than nature. Today a collision was about to occur that would unveil mysteries about these reviled few. There were two hikers in the rocky hills and a communion of mast people twenty yards away. The hikers were named Isabelle and Simon. Both wore blue and orange climbing suits with yellow helmets. It was as far from camouflage as one could imagine. They were good friends since childhood. They were partners in mischief in their youth. That is not to say they were bad people just that their missteps came when they were together. Isabelle was the daring one and Simon the risk taker on their adventures. They were bonded by a mutual search for unknown frontiers and experiences. Isabelle was in her late twenties with decades of physical daring left in her. She was white with black hair that was spun into a ball under her helmet. She was gorgeous by any measure but leaned towards tomboy aspirations. Her femininity took a step behind her exploits. It was often replaced with a twisted grin of excitement at the next mission as the two called it. Simon was of similar age and a perfect companion in the adventures. They pushed each other past limits they did not know they had. He was also white with shaggy, overgrown brown hair that under the sweat had turned almost black. His love life was plundered by his time with Isabelle. His lovers sought precedence over her but he refused and lost many of them. Love and family, community even, had been overridden by their admiration for the other. The rocky hills they wandered were green and misty with boulders and outcroppings. They wanted to reach a top and call it a completed mission. Ahead by twenty yards was a circle of boulders that jutted
Pilgrimage of the Mast People by Justin Powell
out of the green. Neither was speaking as the trek had taken most of their breath. Simon caught sight of the boulder circle first. He stopped and motioned to Isabelle. She joined him and saw the boulder circle as well. They looked at each other and smiled. It was a new unknown and they began to walk towards it. Meanwhile, the mast people were gathered around an unlit pyre. There were thirteen of them. Their deformities were on display as they stood naked like pagans. From each one of them were long bones that sprouted from the elbow and ran like forearms in the opposite direction. The shoulder down was like a T. Skin sunk a few feet down from the upper arm. It was thin but still skin toned. It was unconnected to the abdomen. From these features they gained their name and the disgust of the so-called normal people. Many of the mast people were reciting prayers to a god that they hoped would cleanse them of their shame. It had arisen from the gawkers and fearful looks of children. Every few years they needed such a cleanse. During the prayers they took a hallucinogenic drug that would bring them visions. If they saw their god their life was complete. These people would be set fire to on the pyre. The rest would break from meditation when the drug wore off. They would pilgrimage from supposedly holy site to holy site. The process would cleanse year by year the shame of their existence. One of the mast people noticed Isabelle and Simon as they ducked into the circle of boulders unaware of any presence. Both immediately stopped and scanned the naked ritual. They could tell that they were mast people. No normal humans had observed such a ritual. The mast person who saw them rose while the two looked another direction. He was grey haired, well-experienced in the rituals with sagging flesh that mimicked the skin under his upper arm. The drug was beginning to wear off and his senses knew of the intruders. Isabelle and Simon were stunned by both the oddity and nudity. Neither had seen a mast person
before let alone a group of them. Their deformities were apparent especially the extended elbows. Neither wore faces of disgust and there was a sliver of sympathy in Isabelle. They had stepped fully into the stone circle. The gray haired mast person proclaimed, “Trespassers!” Some of the mast people were stirred from meditation by this. Their bodies motioned towards the pointed finger of the gray haired man. Isabelle and Simon were not prejudice and did not immediately recoil. Three mast people sprung at them still under the influence of the drug and yielding to external suggestion. Isabelle’s foot was grabbed and then her thigh before she was pulled down. Simon raced to help but Isabelle was dragged towards the pyre. A third mast person took hold of Simon’s arm and shoulder and he too was pulled down. The gray haired mast person ran over and assisted in Simon’s restraint. Simon was pulled next to Isabelle and held down. The two cried for help. It awoke more mast people. No one else was in the area at that moment. Their calls went unanswered. “Please let us go!” Isabelle screamed. “Take your hands off of us!” Simon yelled. The mast people had never been intruded upon on holy ground. Their attack was reactionary, one out of defense. They had learned that from a life of threat. The leader of the mast people rose. He was the oldest and administered the drugs. He awoke from their screams and assessed the situation. He was beaten from time and age but bore wisdom out of the struggle. “Who are these two?” he said with a quivering voice. “Intruders,” the gray haired mast person replied. “Perhaps, perhaps,” the leader contemplated. “It may be that they wish to join us.” “We just want to go!” Isabelle cried out. “You do not just walk onto a holy site by accident. There was purpose here even if you were unaware of it.” “We are sorry. We will not tell anyone that we were here. We won’t tell anyone about you,” Simon pleaded. “There is a greater reason you are here. There must be,” the leader said looking down to gage the universe’s reasoning. Many of the mast people were still adrift in dreams brought on by the drug. “If they are meant to be here then perhaps they
should take the drug,” the gray haired mast person said. “The drug,” another repeated. “The drug!” a third repeated with reverence to the concoction. The leader walked over to a wrapped bag held shut with a thick gold thread. He picked it up and walked over to the two captured hikers. Isabelle and Simon were overpowered and completely pinned to the ground. The extended elbow of the mast people was perfect for holding down threats. It was not in their nature but it was in their skeletal structure. When he was above Simon, the leader undid the thread and a black powder poured onto his hand. His palm cupped it. He knelt beside Simon. “Hold him down tight. My age has the best of me,” the leader said as he put the powder to Simon’s mouth and nose. Simon kept his mouth tightly shut but the powder poured down his nostrils. The drug’s effect was immediately. His view of the two holding him down and the leader began to fade and the world around them vibrate. His hallucinations began. There were body convulsions and then a trancelike state. Isabelle could not see this through one the mast person holding her down. Her legs kicked but her upper body was immobilized. She was the next to receive the powder. Just as before her mouth rejected it but her nostrils betrayed her. She passed into hallucinations as well. The two had been subdued. The four mast people holding them let go and awaited the next instruction from the leader. He paused and his mind wandered into uncharted realms. “Strip them so that they might cleanse themselves. They must meet nature naked. It is our way and it may be that they must join us,” he instructed. The four began to strip Isabelle and Simon. They were gentle leaning on his last line. Nudity from the normal humans would be an oddity to them. Never had lust or love or fetish brought sex their way. None of them molested or took time in the current deed. The leader was convinced that they had a purpose and in turn so did they. Down to their underwear neither Isabelle nor Simon could feel the chilly air consciously. Their bodies went to shivers. Simon’s boxers were slid off and the two doing the duty where surprised that the private anatomy was the same. The leader was wise enough to know this. The others many much younger did not realize that below the arm and between the sunken skin of
the upper arm they were the same as everyone else. They discovered the same was true of Isabelle when her sports bra and panties were pulled off. There were female mast people here but they were among those unstirred and still in meditation. All the awakened mast people looked over the nudity of the normal ones. Both twitched from the drug and shivered from the cold. “Lay them as part of the circle. If they meet a god in their meditation, if the words are mumbled, they must be burned on the pyre as all of us must be. If they do, it is the will of a higher creator that they join him. That may be the reason for their presence. If not, then they must join us and become mast people as well,” the leader said with attention of all awakened mast people turned to him. The awakened mast people laid the bodies of Isabelle and Simon on the ring of the mast people’s circle and sat next to them and listened. If the word ‘god’ or any similar word or name were mumbled they would be killed among the flame. Various noises came from the two as they journeyed through drug induced dreams. Isabelle dreamt of a Technicolor forest where she was alone and calling out to Simon. Every call echoed back. Her dream reflected her real situation. Helplessness set in and she called out again. In the waking world she mumbled Simon’s name. Other names were mumbled as well. Unaware of the danger she called out to her god in the dream. Only the divine it seemed could save her now. It too echoed back. She began to mumble again but the word ‘god’ came out as a low whine. None of the mast people could understand it. Simon dreamt of being trapped in a cave with an arm pinned down under a rock. It would not move and he too cried out for help. First it was to Isabelle and then to anyone. Then in his dream he cried out to God to save him. The mast people moved in above but could only make out moans. They wondered if a word would break through. The moans continued. Yet no word came. They were spared of burning on the pyre but after a half an hour the mast people were all coming to. The drug’s effects lasted two to three hours and those hours had pasted. They were ready to move on. They all now observed the naked bodies of Isabelle and Simon who were still deep in the grasp of the hallucinations. All them broke from the circle and gathered around the leader.
“Be dressed and prepare for the next holy site. Our god took no one this day but the cleansing must continue. Then gather rope, wood and knives. God has delivered us two more who will share in our look and lives,” the leader said as the others dispersed. They all were dressed and had gathered what the leader wished. They wore special shirts that they pulled on over the neck and chest then tied at the sides. Lacking in more of these shirts, they dressed Isabelle and Simon in the clothes that had worn. Between the tremors in both bodies they had done the job. Out of respect the women had clothed Isabelle and the men clothed Simon. The two were as they came. “Take the wood and rope,” the leader began. “Tie the wood to their elbows so that they may join us. It is the will of our god that we do this. Why else would they be delivered to the holy circle?” Isabelle and Simon’s sleeves were torn off. Long pieces of somewhat straight but warped wood were tied at their elbows. They now looked like actors beginning to portray mast people. “What of the veil of skin?” a female mast person asked of the leader. “That is what the knives are for. We will cut from their back,” he replied. Now at a sitting position, their shirts and jackets were pulled up revealing the back and indent of the spine. Simon was first as two mast people held his upper body and a third cut a centimeter thick slice from the top down on one side of the spine. This was repeated on the other. His body reacted both times. To stop the bleeding one of the mast people lit a piece of wood on fire and ran it down the two sides of his back. These slices of skin were punctured and rope run through them. They were tied around each upper arm. Simon’s conversion to a mast person was complete. The same was done to Isabelle after her bra had been cut off. Twin spirits in adventure were now twin spirits of the deformed. Their backs were now grotesque. The pyre was dismantled and the mast people departed with Simon and Isabelle. They were held up with arms around the mast people. In a few hours the two would awaken. They would be met with a choice. Return deformed and the punishment that a cruel world brings with it or continue on the pilgrimage as new members of the mast people. It was ridicule or haven with maker. Perhaps the mast people had proven something this day. Perhaps nature was no longer the cruelest creator after all.
SLINKY BY MARK SLADE
Hopper Gold was a comedian in the silent era known primarily for his character some termed “the happy hobo”. A few years after his career took off, Hophien Goldstein, a name given to him at birth, was able to create his own production company, and then with Mary Martell and Norris Colin Beaumont, they had their own film company. Hopper had money and lots of property. He’d bought a houseboat from a man he had once worked for at a marina as a bathroom attendant. A month later he took a year off to just sail the pacific coast. Drugs were sometimes a factor in his wild behavior. A little coke, which wasn’t completely against the law yet, but Hopper wasn’t hard bitten with them unless he was filming. Hopper’s weakness was young girls. Not too young, except that time in his hometown of London, he purchased a twelve year old for one night. No. Hopper liked his women sixteen and no older than twentyfive. Hopper had just been married for the fourth time to Bessie Spence. They married on her seventeenth birthday. Already a veteran in the film business with twenty eight films under her belt, Bessie was happy to get far away from her controlling stage mother. On the night of one of the last great parties that Hopper threw, cowboy star Tex Magee had already planned his revenge for his much hated boss, and Hopper wasn’t going to get the last laugh. Tex had been over Hopper’s house a month ago to get his signature on a new three picture deal with Star bright, the company Hopper had started. Hopper was the only one holding out. Mary Martell signed right away, since she remembered how easy Tex was at pleasing her years ago. Beaumont had no problems signing since Tex’s last three movies made a lot of money for the company. Tex met the butler at the door and the butler showed Tex to the game room. That was where Tex saw Hopper’s new prize. The poor creature. She was missing her lower half, just a torso with very long arms. She had a face only a mother could love. One eye larger than the other. A slack mouth and a nose flattened to her yellow skin with tiny holes for nostrils. There were only four long black strands of hair tied in one ponytail on top of her peanut shaped head. Tex approached the cage carefully, that sat on a pool table. The closer he got, the more excited she was. “Howdy, pretty lady,” Tex said nervously. “Where did he get you?” She screamed, laughed, and shook her cage. Tex backed away. He heard footsteps from behind him. He turned, saw Hopper standing there smoking a huge stogie. “You like her?” He said gingerly. “Saw this misfortune at a shop in Siam. I quite took a fancy to her.” Hopper exhaled a large smoke ring that hung in the air a few minutes. “I’ve got big plans for her next dinner party. You see, Tex, I own or have owned nearly everything you could think of. Until now, I have not owned a human being. What a huge responsibility it is!” Hopper let out a wheezing laugh. Strange a man makes his living making others laugh and he has such a weak, slimy personality. Hopper sighed. “Now I understand how those slave owners felt. The weight of it all is...crushing.” He is a small man, Tex thought. Like a dwarf. “Yeah...Hopper, a mess I would say, This thing.... anyway my contracts---” “No,” Hopper chewed his cigar. “What?” Tex took a few steps toward Hopper. His sixone stature towering over the comedienne. “Listen, chap. When you have proven yourself in Tinseltown, maybe you can have your own production company. But those...horse dramas you make, will never be art.” “Made more money last year than your slapsticks, boy-o.” Tex’s face had puckered up like he’d eaten a grapefruit with dog shit on it. “I have been in this town ten years. I won three straight Rodeos. 1909,
1910, 1911--” “Rodeos....Ro-de-ooos!” Hopper shook his head, laughing. “I do love your accent. Oh my, Texans are so droll.” He walked away laughing. Tex was left with the torso laughing at him. “I’m from Omaha.” He said, defeated. Just outside of the studio Tex sat in a local diner with Hopper’s butler. The elderly black man was nervous. Kept looking over his shoulder. “He doesn’t know you’re here, Albert. Everything’s alright,” Tex told him. Albert shook his head. “No sir,” He pointed at the sign on the wall behind him that read No Negros or Dogs allowed. “I’m not worried about Mr. Gold.” Tex smiled a toothy grin. “Naw, no reason to be scared, Mr. Albert. I own this place. As you can see, we are almost closed anyway. Now, just relax.” “I can have the money now, please, sir?” Tex threw down two twenty’s. “As per our agreement, hoss. Tell me about that curiosity Mr. Gold has in his game room.” “It’s hideous, Mr. Magee. I wish Mr. Gold had never brought that thing in the house. The noises it makes at night, screeching’ like an owl. Growling’ at me and the servant girls when we come and go.” “He found this at a shop in Siam?” Albert looked confused. “No, Mr. Magee. I was with him. We were here, in Los Angeles. I heard about this man who traveled in a carnival. I went to a speakeasy a few months back.” Albert smiled, shrugged. “My only weakness is going’ out, hearing’ some hot jazz.... some low blues....and drinking’ myself into a stupor. I can’t help that.” “No man can help that, Albert. Go on.” Tex poured himself a glass of beer from a bottle. The bottle was dusty and he didn’t even wipe the top, which disgusted Albert. “This man showed Mr. Gold how he trained...that thing.” “Trained?” “Like in a circus. Lions.” “Ah. How was that, Albert?” “He had a code word.” Albert leaned in, whispered. “Slinky. He calls it slinky...because it slinks across the floor.” “That’s the code word?” Albert nodded. “Then he strokes its head. Says things to it you should only say to your wife....do things... you should only do with your wife. It says so in the Bible.”
“No kiddin’?” Tex was taken aback by that revelation. “I don’t like bein’ there, Mr. Magee. We close up house before the big dinner party. Mr. Gold goin’ on family vacation, I have a whole week off. I’m not lookin’ forward to going back. No sir.” “What does he get her to do, Albert?” “Oh, Mr. Magee...it’s horrible. She eats small animals. Alive. It started with rats...now cats and...The neighbors’ little dog. He has the pet shop send him small dogs and she tears into them. I can’t take bein’ there.” “Your not goin’ to, Albert. You come work for me. Fifty a week, boy. That’s more than Gold pays right?” “What do I tell him? I been in his house for three years.” “Tell him that you’re going home, Albert. Back to wherever it is. One more thing, hoss. You keep that key after you lock up his house. Give me the key.” “I....don’t know....” The old man nodded his head. “Good boy. He is leaving her, right?” “He can’t take that thing to England, Mr. Magee. He’d have to get it a passport. A famous man like Mr. Gold can’t be seen with a freak. Tex sat back in his chair, nodded. “No, I guess he can’t, can he?” Tex let himself in Hopper’s house. The floors were cold from the fires being out, no electricity. Clumsily, Tex found his way to the game room. He had sent word to all involved in his affairs, he would be gone the whole week to New Mexico to look at land. He even had his girl drop him off at the train station. He dropped his duffel bag on the floor. He brought supplies for himself. He noticed that Hopper hadn’t left anyone to care for his little treasure or any means of food for it. Tex pulled the blanket from her cage. She stirred a little, then sat up. She shook the cage and grunted, pointing at her mouth, indicating she was hungry. “I don’t think so, pretty lady.” Tex said. He took out a pack of rolling paper and tobacco. He rolled a cigarette. He took a few puffs. “You know, if your funny friend was nicer to me, I wouldn’t do this to you. But,” Tex put the lit cigarette to her large forehead. The flesh sizzled and sank underneath fire red tip. She screamed, a cry that Tex would never forget. “All’s fair in love and war.” The stage was set for Tex’s vengeance, and Hopper called everyone into the game room for a special show. It was a crowd of about thirty or so people, all with
a glass of brandy or stronger, some with a vein full of nefarious narcotic. Tex took a view up front, just behind a newspaper tycoon. Tex lit his cigar, smiled big. Only he knew the joke. “Ladies and gentlemen, I use the term loosely, see my new prize!” Hopper pulled the blanket from the cage. The audience drew short breaths and recoiled. “Now, now. No need for that.” She stirred in her cage, pulled herself up by holding on the cage. She came closer, into the light. Hopper noticed deep burn marks and lifted an eyebrow in a question. He quickly pulled in the natural showman. “Now, everyone, hold on to yourselves for a remarkable show. Watch as Matilda eats this---” a new butler brought in a newborn lamb, set it on the pool table. “You will never forget this night.” Hopper unhinged the clasp to the cage. She slid out of her cage cautiously. Tex could feel his heart skip a beat. He inhaled the cigar, exhaled in one long sigh. Hopper looked at his audience. He motioned with both hands. “Well, come closer!” They did so, except the newspaper tycoon. He stayed back and pushed Tex forward. Tex was side by side with Hopper. She saw the cigar and began to grunt. Hopper smiled big and whispered, “Slinky...” She put both hands on the pool table and pushed past the lamb. She grabbed Tex by his tuxedo coat tail and pulled him down. He smashed his face into the wooden side of the pool table. She took a handful of his blond hair and fell with him to the floor. Hopper’s audience screamed and scattered. Her teeth bared down on Tex’s cheek and the small sharp points burrowed deep to the bone. Blood fiercely spurted everywhere, blinding Tex. No one came to his rescue as Tex’s cries could be heard throughout the mansion.
COLD By Laura Hughes
Of course, she didn’t do it. She knew she didn’t do anything illegal. The point was convincing them she didn’t do it. How was that possible? They wrongly assumed her guilt, and now their assumption had landed her behind bars. She was guilty until proven innocent. It was unjust. How were they so convinced of things they knew nothing about? She felt no regret, but there was nothing to lament. She had committed no crime, enacted no brutality against anyone. Violence just wasn’t in her. Surely, she could feel it if she had the capacity to be what they claimed. She could feel that cold venom flowing through her veins, if it were true. But, it wasn’t. They repeatedly peered through that damned window on the door. It was infuriating. What did they expect to see? There was no way out of the room except for that door, no other window aside from that microscopic opening on the entrance. She wasn’t going anywhere. She had no intention of fleeing. Then she would just be labeled a “fugitive of justice,” as if she were a criminal. The repulsive holding cell was utterly disgusting. No doubt hundreds, or even thousands, of the lowliest human beings alive had sat in the same spot as she. Individuals with countless diseases and their revolting flesh had touched what she had to. The chair appeared equally as battered and filthy as the bed. At least the sheets on the cot were white and clean. She stripped the thin, dingy blanket from the bed and sat on the sheet. In life, she had never felt guilt, but she never had a reason to. She wasn’t guilty of anything. She had never regretted her decisions. Everything was decided with calculation and deliberation. She didn’t have an ounce of spontaneity in her entire person. It wasn’t practical or reasonable to make harsh decisions or take immediate and unplanned action. Everything had to be planned. It was nonsense, utter nonsense. Nothing gave them the right to hold her for such an extended length of time. What proof did they have? Fingerprints? It was purely circumstantial evidence. They didn’t have a shred of concrete proof that she was at any scene at that time. She gave the nosy guard an indifferent look. She was a master of cold looks, after all. For that matter, she always felt cold. There wasn’t a single day in her life where she felt warm and bright. Internally, she was cold, black, darkness. She shivered and crossed her arms over her chest. Shivering was a way of life. She always shivered, but never out of fear. Fear was not a familiar emotion. She had never experienced that high, “the anticipation of getting caught,” as therapists labeled it. Sometimes she wished she could fear. That she could tremble in the wake of something that frightened her so much she collapsed. That would certainly be something. Anything would be better than the nothing she experienced. Everyday was the same, no fear, no love, no hope and no emotion. She didn’t cry at sad movies, although sometimes she almost felt sad. She couldn’t recall a day in her life where she cried. Somehow, nothing ever came out. It was all bleak, dull and boring. She was a barren desert, incapable of forming tears. She had tried to tempt emotion, bungee jumping, skydiving, scaling cliffs, but nothing worked. Nothing provoked fear or excitement. She couldn’t be breathless with anticipation because she couldn’t be breathless at all. Her body wouldn’t respond in the manner needed to invoke such a reaction. Adrenaline was a foreign substance that everyone discussed, but she never felt. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just cry, for once? To sit down and bawl your eyes out? She mused at the high ceilings. She was so bored and restless. She felt
boredom and restlessness; they were her companion emotions, the only things she knew. She had done terrible things in the past. She wouldn’t pretend she was an angel. Being the responsible person she was, she corrected them all in the end. Other people got emotional and they felt. She hated them for their abilities and their response, but how else could she know if she could feel? She had to commit those desperate acts. There was no way around it. She’d dodged those impulses and urges for two decades before finally submitting to their lure; however, in utmost disappointment, they provided nothing, no high, no low, merely the same bland continuum as every other day. She hated that she had to do so much, but she couldn’t be held accountable for that. It had been a few years since, and back then she was young and eager to feel. She had accepted her life and her lack of emotional capacity. Her mind returned to the present. There was something buried deep within her mind. Something so annoyingly implanted into her brain that she couldn’t drag it out. She forced herself into deep reflection and saw a spark of the unknown. Was there more to life? More to her? She couldn’t recall the previous night. How unusual. Why was it so hard to remember? It’s not as if she was afraid to remember. Why on Earth would her mind hide it? There was nothing to fear. The current situation was just a mix-up, nothing serious, just a slight inconvenience that she would emerge from and move on. The sliver of recognition arose only long enough to provoke her interest and then retreated into the vast recesses of black memory. She pushed deeper. It had to be there. What had happened the night before? She sat up, enthralled by the possibility. A new emotion? She could lie with no difficulty, could get out of any situation imaginable. She could control her reactions because she felt nothing. Now she felt curiosity. That was something special, something aside from boredom and restlessness. She smiled. It was wonderful. She felt young again when there was so much to learn and explore. She went deeper, what really had happened? What was that damned spark of knowledge keeping from her? She reclined on the thin mattress, determined to
remember. She just had to. She had no desire to know anything aside from what it was trying to tell her. Her eyes widened as she remembered coming home from work. That was something. She left the office as usual and went home. It was almost disturbing, as she didn’t have blackouts. It wasn’t like her to lose track of a day. She went home in the same manner, but a man stood by the road. He stood there with his thumb in the air, waiting for a ride. She picked him up, against her practical side’s protest. She picked him up and what happened? She couldn’t remember. Her mind rolled through swirls of shadows and mist, it was there. The full recollection was there and she wouldn’t rest until she grasped it. He started saying how she shouldn’t be picking hitchhikers up without a weapon. She shouldn’t—She had suddenly grabbed the stun gun beneath the console and jolted him. Only before it touched him, she switched it to the highest level and stunned him. That happened just before she pushed him out of the car, off a bridge, and into the flooded river below. But, there was more. There had been much more. The drifter shook and jerked from the electricity until he hit the water. She didn’t know what happened to him after she dumped him. She didn’t remain to watch. She had then hit a deer with her car. That was how her car’s window fractured. She floored it, on purpose, and struck the animal. She couldn’t even remember why she did it. She pushed her mind further. She had wanted to feel. She recalled. She just wanted to see if anything at all might provoke her heart. Did she even have a heart? She had hit the deer to see if she could feel pity or remorse, regret or anything. There was still nothing. Was that all? No, it had been far from over. The evening was young and she took advantage of it. She was determined she would feel something. Enraged at her lack of ability, she killed. She remembered it, four men and two women in one evening. She tried to remember more about it. It was so difficult. That was why she was in the room, why they kept talking about her future. They hadn’t merely found her fingerprints. They found blood from where the persistent woman had clawed her. She looked down at her arm, those scratches. That dead woman made those scratches. Her eye itched. It felt moist and strange. She reached a hand to wipe her eye and looked at her fingers. She
had no allergies. Her eyes never watered. Yet, here was a tear. The first tear she’d cried in her life. She was crying? She was crying. The tiny drop moved over her skin. It was astounding and beautiful. It looked like a liquid prism and didn’t turn to ice as she suspected it would. She was so cold. Astounding.
Bio: L. Chambers-Wright, who also writes as Laura Wright, has been producing fiction and non-fiction all her life. She is the author of Infectious, The Moon Sees Me, Virginia Creeper, Stranger Stories, Wither, Moonshine and numerous other titles. Her primary website is Laurawrites.net and her research website is Appalachia Obscura [http://appalachiangothic.com].
A Strong Woman, A Strong Temper By Sean M. Thompson
Sarah couldn’t remember how she’d made it to the field adjacent to where they’d set up the tents. She blinked sleep from her vision, and as consciousness stirred she felt something in her left hand. Crusty, juiceless things, once wet with moisture and attached via complex nerve endings into a human life. Now, useless and dried out from the hot noon sun, which glared down angry and accusatory from the Alabama sky. Panic sizzled to life like a grease fire deep in her gut. Lightning surged through her veins with realization. The smell of dirt, and the acrid stench of horses drifted from the carnival. But there was a scent so much closer. An odor much more personal and obscene. Metallic yet organic. She dropped the foul things with a spasmodic shake of her hand. She didn’t know whose eyes they were. … Sarah was the strong woman in the Benjamin Winegate Carnival of Wonders. She’d been with the outfit for around two years, since 1932. She loved getting to see all the new cities of America. The crowds, and all the energy directed at her, when she lifted that three hundred-fifty pound dumbbell of hers, or when she’d get a volunteer from the audience, and lift him up with an arm wrapped around his torso. One arm. Then, she’d grab another volunteer with her other arm. Gerald hopped onto the Carnival in spring of 1934, when they visited El Paso, Texas. He was beautiful to Sarah. Despite having no arms or legs, when she’d see him smile her way, and wink one of those brown eyes at her, she felt a little flutter in her chest. One night, after all the crowds ha gone for the night (this was North Carolina if she remembered correctly), she’d gone to grab a drink behind her trailer. Gerald was there, waiting for her, leaned against the stairs. “Hey gorgeous, what’s a gal like you doing here?” he asked, a sly smile on his face. “It’s my trailer, you horse’s ass,” she replied. He hopped his way over to her. She was amazed at the dexterity, which he possessed. He was able to stay upright the entire time. And it was a hop, not a wiggle, but a full on jump. She smiled down at him. Despite his lack of limbs, he was handsome. And those eyes, the brown of warm summer earth on your skin, as you lay down and just shut your eyes, and let the warmth wrap itself around you like a celestial blanket. “Hey, you mind picking me up, and droppin’ me down on that bench over there?” She realized she’d been staring, and blushed. “Sure, uh, Gerald? That’s your name right?” “Yeah, but you can call me Gerry. My friends call me Gerry.” She picked him up with her big, powerful hands. Hands, with blue veins that traversed from behind her fingers, all the way up her heavily muscled arms. Her powerful, tall body moved over to the old, wooden bench, and placed Gerald onto the place meant for sitting. “I was going to have a drink, if you wanted to join me,” Gerald said. In a fluid motion, Gerald ducked his head down into the front pocket of his overalls, and picked out a flask. He looked up, and she saw the metal of the object clasped between his teeth. “Gee, don’t that hurt your teeth?” she asked him. Through a mouthful of flask he mumbled. “Yough geght usged togh ight.” “Here, allow me, Geral…Gerry,” Sarah said. She grabbed the flask from Gerald, or Gerry,
as she was trying to get used to calling him, and unscrewed the cap. She took a big swig. Ah, whiskey. “That’s good whiskey,” she said. “I only drink the best,” Gerald said. She walked over to the table, and set beside him. She smiled at him, and he smiled back, a glimmer in his eyes. Those eyes; you could get lost in those damn eyes, Sarah thought to herself. They drank from the flask, until it was gone, which wasn’t very long. “I only weigh about 70 pounds, so I don’t have a high tolerance. I can usually nurse from that thing a whole day. Maybe fill it again halfway if the mood suits me.” “A lady never tells her weight, but let’s just say that flask is like a shot to me.” She left, made her way into her trailer, and came back out with a bottle of Scotch. “You don’t mind if I partake, do you Gerry?” “Not at all, Sarah.” She took a large mouthful. As she did, she wondered about the exact way the logistics would work to kiss Gerry. Then, she wondered about some other, even more complicated acts, and how they might work, practically. “Gerry, forgive me for being forward, but were you born like that, or…” He didn’t frown, or go silent. “Don’t worry darlin’, I don’t get offended none by questions about my lack of arms or legs. I was born like this. My momma and daddy still loved me all the same though. When Old Ben’s Carnival road through town, ma and pa saw a way for me to make money, but also saw something more. A way for me to make friends. To connect with other people, sort of like me. People who knew what it was like to…well, be different.” Sarah always thought she’d had it hard, being born six foot four and being so broad. All of this seemed like a walk in the park compared to Gerald, and his body. Imagine it, not only no arms, but no legs. She had so many questions, but some of them seemed to be in poor taste. “You want to come into my trailer?” Sarah asked him. Genuine shock seemed to cross Gerald’s face. “Sure, my, you are forward, ain’t ya?” “Let’s just say I’m a strong woman.” He guffawed at this, rocking back and forth on his torso.
“Oh, and you got a sense of humor.” “That’s not all I’ve got,” Sarah said, and winked at him. “All right, just, let’s go slow with this. I’d hate to…no offense, get crushed to death.” She frowned at him. “Offense taken, but I see your point, and we’ll take it slow.” “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, er nothin’.” “It’s okay, lover boy. Tell me, does it…” “Oh, it’s the closest thing to a leg I’ve got!” he exclaimed. She picked him up with her right arm, and they made their way into Sarah the strong woman’s trailer. … They made love for many nights after that. As they traveled the country, from state, to state. Sarah, performing her feats of strength for the crowds, her golden hair shining. And Gerald, with his brown hair shimmering in the sun, would throw darts from his mouth at a target, with a balloon at the center. He was very talented with that mouth of his, Sarah would often think, and shudder with delight at the remembrances of former bed affairs, and of others to come. It was in Alabama, Decatur to be precise, when Sarah’d seen Gerald flirting with the Siamese twins, Amy and Lily. Those little conjoined whores, with their short skirts, and cleavage hanging every which way. Still, Sarah was confident Gerald was just having a harmless flirt back. Nothing to be worried about. It was later that night, when she went to knock on Gerald’s trailer door when she discovered the truth of his infidelity. She heard Amy and Lily moaning from ten feet off from the steps to the trailer. “You son of a bitch,” she said to herself. She made her way up the stairs, to the front door, and kicked it down with one swift downward smash, the muscles in her right leg on fire with adrenaline. There, on his bed, were Amy and Lily, completely naked, and before them, equally naked on the bed, was Gerald. “How could you, you dirty rotten…” “Sarah it’s not…” “Fuck you, you piece of shit!” She stomped off, and before she left, she punched her large fist into the wood where the door used to be. It shattered, and left a fist sized hole. She went and found her friend Meghan, the
fortuneteller. She always had the good stuff. “I want something to make me forget about everything for a while,” Sarah said. The tears came, no matter how hard she tried to stop them. “Absinthe. That’s what you need,” Meghan said, in that thick Polish accent of hers. “Why is it green?” Sarah asked. “La fée verte, the French call it. This means, “the Green Fairy.” As to why, how the fuck should I know this thing? I’m not even a real psychic, or do you not remember? Everyone just assumes I know what I’m doing, because of my accent.” She gave her some money for the whole bottle, and proceeded to guzzle it like it was water. She didn’t hallucinate, just became very drunk. And very angry. The more of the green liquid she consumed, the angrier she got. She fumed, and stormed back to her trailer, and drank down a bottle of whiskey. After the whiskey, she was black out drunk. If she were a bystander looking on, she would have seen herself head back to Gerald’s trailer. She would have seen herself, screaming with rage, and throwing the man, with no means to stop his flying torso, into the wall of the trailer. She would have seen him hit the wall of the trailer head first, breaking some of the wood paneling. She would have seen herself punching the Siamese twins in the face, alternating which of the two her fist was aimed towards. She would have heard the snap of bone, as she broke the Siamese twins noses, right arm, and left leg. And she would have seen, much to her dismay, her large, strong hands, go back to the beaten, bruised, and broken bodies. Seen her hands, the way she made her money, make their way up to Amy, Lily, and Gerald’s faces, and throats. She would have seen the fingers of her left and right hands crush the larynx of Amy and Lily, simultaneously. Then she would have seen her dominant right hand dig into first Amy, and then Lily’s eye sockets. Lastly, she would have seen her massive frame move slowly to an unconscious Gerald. Of course, the next day, she woke up in the field, with Gerald’s eyes in her hands. … “Oh God, Oh Jesus Christ,” Sarah said, hyperventilating. She stood up, and felt sick. It wasn’t just the hangover. “What have I done?” she asked the field. She saw flashing lights off in the direction of
the carnival. She needed to hightail it out of there. But, she had to know. She had to be sure first. She made her way back to the eyes. She picked one up. God help her, the iris was brown. “Oh Gerald, you damn fool!” she whispered. She was on the box car of a train in half an hour. She stared at the world around her, warm and inviting from the sunshine. Such a shame, it was such a gorgeous day. All she wanted was torrential rain. She went through the pockets of her jeans. “Oh fuck…” She tossed Amy and Lily’s eyes out the door of the car, then sat. She wondered what she’d do for a job now. What name she’d go by. What color she’d dye her hair. She’d find something. If there was one thing she knew about the world, it was that someone always needed some muscle. She sighed, and tried out new names aloud.
The Scavenger Matthew Wilson
We always seemed hungry during the war. Mom complained the butcher would not slip her something extra to put on our plates. She called it criminal a family of six should be restricted to ration books. Each of us looked sick, but only Robert and I were too young to work. But we had pride and decided to do our part however little - and add some meat to the plate come Sunday. We were no soldiers, could not go up against German soldiers threatening to drop by parachute like demons in the night, but we were not scared of work. The no trespassing signs were another matter entirely. Farmer Garsen was of German stock so was sick of children throwing rocks through his windows. Before he dragged us to mother, kicking and screaming he’d make sure to clip our ears, there were horror stories of his massive labour hardened fingers tearing poor kids lobes off and like trophies hanging them on the length of barb wire surrounding his home - slash - castle. This was no place for children. But we’d not come here for good conversation, but Rabbits. Not much of a meal, but things had gotten so bad in or street, there were tales of old dears eating Dog food or bird seed. The only excuse was there was a war on. It did not matter we starved, so long as men thousands of miles away got a hearty meal before getting killed. We were not bitter, just trying to survive. Rabbits hardly had enough to get our teeth into, but it might get us through winter and mother might make a soup with them. Father was dead in the ground, but the army had been kind enough to bring a few things back from Dunkirk with his mortal remains. The least of use had been pawned and with the money, mother bought us school uniforms. Poverty left no room for sentimentality, anything of any use was used and reused again. I never had clothes that fit me, the worst with holes in were stitch together and used as curtains. Barb wire was our skipping rope, and a Nazi helmet our football I broke my little toe on kicking. I still have the dent above my left eye but at least my header scored the winner. Drinking rain water from a mossy garden barrel left me embarrassed, but everyone in our street was the same. The Queen mother was famous for saying she could meet the common people in the eye once Buckingham palace was damaged by a bomb, that she was just like us. Yet she had another castle to escape to. We were all in it together as posters claimed. So no one looked down on each other, as long as we didn’t hold out on supplies no one judged us for doing whatever we had to survive. Mom would be proud of her smallest children at last for making an effort . For throwing the bunny bag down on the table with feigned indifference like we were part of the men. She’d wrap us in her arms, cover our cheeks in grateful kisses. As long as we weren’t caught! James nearly gave the game away as he risked tetanus. I told him he wasn’t good enough to leap over the rusty nails pounded into the fence but of course, he didn’t listen. He wailed as his trousers ripped. “Richard! Richard!” “Shut up, shut up.” The house at the edge of the field lay in darkness. Farmers moaned they worked hard, up at four A.M milking cows so hopefully, Garney would be drained and on his back for hours. It was dead of night with only the moon to guide us. Cows were numerous, but poor witnesses. Around us, the bunnies bounced, fearful by sun light
they stayed in their burrows and since we lacked appropriate digging equipment this was the only time that worked. I cut my hands quite badly in the poor light as I released my brother from the rust coloured spider web like metal. He never did what I asked. “Don’t rip the pillow, we need that for noise suppression.” “Noise what? Ow!” “Stop shouting, genius.” He missed the cow pat by inches as I let him down. I did not trust him with the revolver but the snap I thought his coccyx turned out to be the wooden catapult in his back pocket. It was damaged without sellotape but he managed to wedge the elastic across his fingers hard enough to whizz rocks through the air at decent speed. “Look at that, mom only made them from the shower curtain last week.” “Leave the trousers alone.” I told him. My eyes made aware of dancing shadows dropped me into a crouch. Dad had taught my big brothers some skills before he’d been deployed. Judo was a little too much out of my talent range. But I knew how to creep up on something with brains the size of an orange. In one hand I held the gun, the other, a pillow. “Keep eating grass, you big toothed-” “Richard!” With an alarmed spring, the floppy eared creature took to his extended heels and bounded easily out of my four foot shooting range. “Jeez.” “Can I have a go?” He asked, then as if he’d not made himself clear added with a hint of hope, “The gun?” “James, we’ve been over this-” He didn’t care. My belly grumbled angrily, it was shouting at me, demanding my attention for not filling it. There was no room for James’ opinion. Had it been as easy for father to kill Germans as for me to shoot bunnies? Was that how he’d gotten through many, awful, battlefields? Making a game of it, remembering better times hunting with his other sons? His favourites. Truth was, though I believed James would pop himself between the eyes with the gun, I did not want to hand it over for it was the last memento I had of fathers. It was mine. Mine! I said my brother could carry the rabbits, feel like part of the kill. Any he wished to bean round the
head with his catapult he could be my guest. But that was not enough, he’d always been trouble. I had to keep cool, ignored him and stalked through long grass. I made the signal and James found a rock, threw it in some random direction. Again a bunny took flight and this time I was ready. I saw it’s eyes gleam like discs in the moonlight as I raised the pillow, but the awkwardness of a filling between the gun barrel and target threw my aim off. I was so close I could almost touch it, but there came a splash of sod bounding back in my face like a ball off a cricket bat. I had missed at point blank range. Nerves had got the best of me. Instinctual, I looked at the old, dark house. My preparations were good. But James’ patience was at an end. “You’re hopeless,”he cried so I was amazed no air raid warden had slapped him with a noise pollution ticket. He grabbed at the gun, trying to wrestle it from my numb fingers. There was so little excitement for a boy his age in such a small town where most men were off fighting, dying. He was alone and I had conscripted him to come along - to fend off my own fears of the dark by lying he could have a go on the gun - endangering us all. Of course he couldn’t. But he wouldn’t listen. This was dads gun. And in his absence none would take it from me. James was a dumb kid with sticky fingers. All he had were broken toys. He’d ruin it. This second shot was muffled by James’ shirt as the bullet went up into his bladder and making me step back in surprise, the cease of struggles gave him nothing to hang onto. He fell face forward in the mud, this time, no Rabbits ran out in fright. Moon light made the grass cold against my back, shadows stilled. The only sound seemed to be my heavy breathing, and for a moment not even then. “James? James, talk to me, man.” A detailed check informed me he was quite dead, his head hung at a hideous angle like a coiled up hose and his lifeless eyes had the same horrified expression as dads before mom kicked the lever that sent him down to that deep, eternal hole. Of course I had no heart to continue hunting that night. I feared punishment, devolved back to a frightened child in that instant. Despite my age and it being the worst of accidents, I was quite sure that I’d be hung from the yard arm at dawn. I did not go and get mom, nor could I carry James back over the barb wire fence, he was too big
for so cumbersome an ordeal. He was going nowhere, at least not in one piece. I have already mentioned that any man will do almost anything to survive a war and with my life in danger from all avenues I made a decision that would ensure my remaining families survival. Mom even had a little meat cut from the bone left over to sell to neighbours. At least I’d helped bring money into the house. Even James had done his part. I told her I’d come across a dead calf in the road - road kill - and tore some pieces off. Mom insisted I take her there with a wheel barrow to stock up, all it needed was a clean under the tap then we could have veal for breakfast. But again I lied - not the worst crime of the evening - and told her I’d already come to that decision. Returned to the carcass for extras and found the locals had already stripped it. Mom nodded. Cest la ve. Easy come, easy go. Like little brothers in dark times. Mom had a nervous break down but it did not bring her boy back. Her favourite. I do not know why but it seems to me that she has never liked me. Perhaps I rub people up the wrong way. Cest la ve. Either way, though mother has joined James on the other side these twenty long years and the little snitch must have told her everything repeatedly, regardless, I wish to make a clean breast of things. My councillor says it will be good for me to face my past resentments. At the very least, he hopes to find the reason I ate my wife.
Bio - Matthew Wilson, 29, is a UK resident who has been writing since small. Recently these stories have appeared in Beyond Centauri, Starline Poets Association and Carillon Magazine. He is currently editing his first novel.
Passing the Torch: A tale of COrruption and Horror Lee Bishop
Salsberg, Maryland October 28th, 1987 She heard him coming as she sat in the darkness. The sounds of his heavy boots were loud on the old wooden stairs of the basement. He walked slowly, not in any hurry. She had been here for three days now, she thought. It was hard to tell, there were no windows down here and he kept her in pitch blackness. She was still sore from the last time he had used her, her little body felt broken. She whimpered as he reached the bottom of the stairs, clutching the filthy blanket tighter around her. The cold stone floor had given her a chill, and it was seeping slowly into her bones. He had taken her as she walked home from the bus stop, each of her classmates peeling off toward their safe, warm homes as they walked through the neighborhood. She had never even heard him coming, one second she was walking along with her house in sight and the next strong, dirty hands had snatched her up. He had covered her mouth so she couldn’t scream and thrown her into his van. He bound her hands with tape and covered her head with some sort of bag before starting the van and driving away. She was crying and screaming, but he didn’t tell her to be quiet. He had just been humming this song..... the song he played when he came for her down here. Her eyes jerked open as she heard the needle hit the vinyl surface of the record, and the sound of music flooded the little basement room. Jesus loves the little children..... All the little children of the woorrlldddd..... She began to cry when she heard it, and the locks on the door began to open one by one. She sank farther back against the wall, trying to cover herself as light flooded the room. He had taken her clothes from her, and all she had to cover herself was the old ratty blanket. He stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the light into a figure of pure darkness. And unbeknownst to her, that is what this man was inside..... pure darkness. He stepped inside, and hunkered down next to her. He reached out and began to play with her hair. “Don’t be afraid little one” he said in a soft tone. “Today is your special day. Today you get to be free.” He smiled at her, his small teeth yellowing and black in places. He scooped her up, and carried her into the main room of the basement. The room with the bed and the camera was to her left, a room she had come to think of as Hell. She expected him to carry her into Hell, for more pictures and pain, but he carried her past it and to another room. This one was not as dark as her cell, but the single bare bulb illuminated it only slightly. It was as if the darkness in this room was a tangible thing, and fought back the small wattage light for control of it’s domain. The light fell onto an old wooden table fitted with straps. The surface was grooved deeply all over and stained a reddish brown color. Flies buzzed about it, landing here and there all over it’s surface. She was frightened then, but not near so much as when she looked at the wall. Hanging there was an assortment of old rusted knives, saws, and aged power tools. Even at nine years old, she put the pieces together. She began to struggle then, and he shifted her into a bear hug. He squeezed her frail little form with all his might, which was considerable for a man as small as he was. She screamed in pain as he whispered into her ear. “Be a good girl just for a bit longer, and all the pain will stop. I’ll do it to you again, if you fight me.” She stopped struggling and began to sob. He moaned into her ear. “Yes dear, that’s more like it. Don’t cry though, Jesus would not want you to cry would he?” She cringed back as much as he could in his grasp, the
sounds of the record still coming to her. All the little children of the wwooorrllddd...... He carried her to the table, and ripped the blanket from her exposing her tiny little body to the cold dank air of this basement abattoir. He kissed her in several places as he strapped her to the table, then wiped the tears from her face. He began to disrobe, and fear took her over again. She shouted for help, and he laughed. He reached for one of the knives, and brought it down to her cheek. He had just began to cut into her face, the blood running onto the table as he did it, when a sound from upstairs caused him to raise it in a defensive posture. The crash cut through the sounds of the hymm, played so ironically and blasphemously in this man’s sick playground. The sounds of many booted feet pounded on the floors of his house causing dust to rain down over them both. “NO!!! THEY CAN’T HAVE FOUND ME!!” he was screaming. He looked down at her with an insane hatred in his eyes. “This is YOUR fault you little cunt!” he screamed as he raised the blade high over his head. He was beginning to slam it down into her when a shout sounded through the sudden chaos. “EVANS! PUT DOWN THE KNIFE NOW!” a man in a brown overcoat screamed. The Man’s face transformed into this mask of insane smiles and nervous twitches. He began to laugh as the knife clattered to the floor. Men in black clothes and helmets swarmed into the room, and tackled the man to the ground. He only continued to laugh as they cuffed him and stood him up. He looked at her, still laughing and smiling, even as the man in the brown coat stared daggers at him. “Randall Evans, you are under arrest for kidnapping, child molestation, rape of a minor, and child pornography. And we will add attempted murder to the list. Get this scum out of my sight, and read him his rights. Don’t give the sicko any excuse to use in court.” He looked down at her then, to the crying, broken little girl strapped nude to the table. She was looking at The Man though. He was still staring at her as they dragged him away. “Jesus loves the little children.....” he sang as they were carrying him to the stairs. She screamed then, a loud piecing scream, as if her soul was trying to express the horror she had endured. Tears were pouring down her cheeks, pooling onto the surface of the blood stained wood of the table. The
policeman undid the straps and covered her with his coat, then began to stroke her hair. “It’s OK now Carrie, he can’t hurt you anymore. My name is Detective Reed, I am a policeman” he said as he showed her the badge hanging on a chain around his neck. “I know you are scared and hurt, but I need you to focus for me right now. Are there any other kids down here?” he said to her in a comforting voice. She could still hear the record playing, and fear was her master. Even so, she managed to choke out the words. “In... in there.” she said and pointed to the room she had been kept in. Reed looked at one of the men in black and spoke. “Go check it out Bobby.” he said. The man, Bobby, headed to the room where the battered gray wooden door stood open. He swept the light on the end of his gun into the room, that cold black room where no light was ever permitted and the smell was enough to invade even your nightmares. He recoiled in shock. He leaned over, retching, and vomit splashed onto the floor. He fell to the ground and crab-walked backward. He wore a look of disgust and anger, mixed with sadness. He was saying nothing, just groaning. Reed shouted his name and he snapped out of it. “Bobby, are they in there?” he asked. “Yeah Detective, but.... but they are all dead. Oh dear God in Heaven.... they....” he began to retch again, dry heaving so hard he doubled over. Reed just closed his eyes and his head sank over. Carrie saw tears begin to make their way from his eyes, but he soon got control of himself. He reached down and began to lift her off the table, but she screamed in pain. He placed her back down at once. “He hurt me, please don’t make it hurt anymore..” she whispered. Her tears had finally run dry, it seemed. Even though she she still felt every bit of the pain, all of the humiliation and fear, the crying had stopped. She didn’t know if she would ever be able to cry again, she may have used up all of her tears. Reed just petted her head and smiled down at her, the light on the ceiling forming a ring around his head like an angel. That was how she would always remember Detective Reed, her angel. Her savior. Jesus had done nothing to protect the little children here.
“OK baby, we will get someone down here who can move you.” he said as he reached for a big radio on his belt. He raised it to his mouth and spoke. “This is Reed, get me some medics down here now, the house is clear and we have a live one. Victim is battered, multiple contusions, some lacerations, maybe some broken bones. This kid has been through hell. Move it, double time!” he said to the radio. A voice came back. “Roger that Reed, paramedics inbound, ETA two minutes. We told em to step on it sir. Did you get the bastard? Over.” the voice on the other end said. “Yeah, we got him. Send the Coroner too, we got some who didn’t make it. Over.” An audible groan came in response, then the other voice said “Roger that Reed. Sending word to the Coroner. Goddamnit, I hope you shot the guy. Over.” “Negative on that dispatch, we took him alive. Repeat suspect is in custody. We got here just in time though. I do mean just. Over and out dispatch.” Carrie looked back up to the detective, and she spoke softly. “Will you put him in jail?” she asked. Reed hunkered down next to the table, and looked her in the eye. “Yeah baby, we are going to put him in jail forever. Forever and ever. He won’t hurt you or anyone else ever again. I promise.” he said to her softly. After he spoke, she closed her eyes and started sobbing again. He patted her head again. “It’s OK Carrie, it’s over now.” he said to her. She just nodded and tried to open her eyes, but the darkness came and took her down into a deep sleep. Maryland Institute for Traumatized Children: Three months later Carrie sat with her mother and father, watching cartoons in the TV room at the institute, when a news report cut in. A woman in a heavy coat was standing out in the snow before a large stone building. She spoke into the camera, her voice clear and full of emotion. “This is Sarah Bryant reporting live from the Winchester County Courthouse, the location of
accused serial child rapist and murderer Randall Evans was to begin today. In a surprising, and this reporter must admit shocking turn of events, most of the charges against Mr. Evans have been dropped. I repeat that, most of the charges have been dropped. Despite the mountain of evidence recovered during the rescue of nine year old Carrie Murray, the warrant for the entry and search of Mr. Evans’ home was not signed properly by the issuing judge. Given this fact, the counsel for the defense filed a motion that all evidence obtained in the search be disallowed.” ‘The only charges which remain are the kidnapping charges, which his lawyers are expected to plea down. Given the almost complete lack of a case from the prosecution..” the woman broke off and reached up to her ear. She seemed to listen to something, then began speaking. “This just in from inside the courtroom..... council for Evans and the prosecution have announced a spur of the moment plea bargain. Though it must still be drawn up, Evans has agreed to a ten year sentence for a guilty plea in the kidnapping charges, of which he may only serve as little as six. Repeating that for those of you just joining us, Randall Evans accused serial murderer and rapist of up to thirteen children over the last four years has taken a ten year plea deal due to a technicality...” Carrie had clutched her father tightly and began to cry. She looked up at him and spoke through the tears. “Daddy, what is she saying? Are they letting him out? The policeman said he would be locked up forever and ever!! I just had to tell them what he did! I didn’t even get to tell them! What’s happening!?” She began to scream. And scream. And scream. The nurses and a doctor came running in and gave her a shot. The drugs washed through her veins quickly, her sobs fading into whimpers then finally to darkness. Salsberg Junior High May 1st, 1990 Carrie walked along the halls, clutching her books to her chest. Just a few more minutes and she was home free for the summer. Away from the boys who always picked on her. They were bad, but the boys who always tried the other were worse. They would catch her alone, and try to make her kiss them. She hated them, just little versions of The Man.... no his name was Evans. Randall Evans. Her anger rose in her every time she thought of him. Along with the
anger was fear. She knew he would be out one day, and she could never shake the thought that he would come back to finish what he started. She was deep in thought, looking at her shoes as she walked along. She hit something and it startled her. She didn’t realize what she had bumped into at first. Her books slid from her arms and hit the floor. She jumped at the same moment, and looked up. For just a moment she thought it was Evans, but the figure before her was much smaller. Timmy Wright stood there, his arms crossed and this smug grin on his face. He leaned against the lockers, and looked her up and down, his grin growing larger. “Hey Carrie. What are you doing out in the halls, all alone?” “Leave me alone Timmy, I’ve told you, I don’t like you!” she said to him. She spoke in a whisper, her little voice like that of a mouse. Timmy just leered at her. He took his shoulder off of the locker and uncrossed his arms. He was strong for a kid, he played football and wrestled. She saw the wiry muscle in his arms. She felt the fear and anger rising up in her. He reached out and took her arm, squeezing hard. “Listen here Carrie, every girl in this school likes me. And I know what kind of little whore you are. You know you liked what that guy did to you. You know you want more, don’t you?” he said and tried to pull her in and cover her mouth. “Don’t fight bitch, I just want to play with you a little.” he said as he turned her around and slammed her back into the lockers. He kept his hand over her mouth, pressing her head hard into the lockers and the other hand moved from her arm and tried to reach under her dress. She felt it then, that feeling she had when Evans had forced her onto the bed and taken pictures. The anger rose in her, and a sickening clinch hit her in the stomach. She felt this desire to lash out well up inside her. As his hand was going up her skirt, she bit down on Timmy’s fingers. She bit hard. She felt her teeth go through the flesh there and clamp onto the bone as blood, hot, salty, and strangely satisfying, shot into her mouth. Timmy screamed. He let her go and fell onto the floor, cradling his hand. She looked around wildly, and fixated on the books there. She reached down and grabbed the thick history book and began to drive it spine first into his head. She hit him again. And again. And again. By the fifth strike, he had stopped moving.
Timmy wasn’t conscious. Blood was everywhere. She just looked at him. Everything had happened fast, it was over in less than two minutes. By the time she had dropped the book into the blood pooling around Timmy, the teachers and students had come out of the rooms near them. They found her with her hands and face bloody, staring at the boy. She saw for just a second Evans laying there, broken and bloody. A teacher, Mr. Wells she would remember later, ran over to her and shouted at her. “Carrie! What have you done!?” She slowly looked up at him and began to scream. Seconds later the bell rang, ending the last day of school and children flooded into the halls, and Carrie Murray was an island alone in the sea of staring faces. She screamed and screamed until she was overcome and passed out. Salsberg City High School March 13th, 1996 Carrie sat in the courtyard with her girlfriend, smoking a cigarette. She wore a cut off shirt, tight black jeans, and knee high boots. Her hair was died black, and she wore heavy purple eye shadow. The smoke drifted past her black fingernails, lazily rising to the sky before being lost to sight. It was bright today, a clear spring morning. Ashley sat beside her on the low brick wall, her arm draped over Carrie’s shoulder. Carrie was looking down at a newspaper, the headline burning into her brain like searing hot lines of fire. “RANDALL EVANS RELEASED FROM PRISON LAST NIGHT” it said. Such a simple string of words, all in large boldface black print. They took up the top half of the front page. She had yet to read the story, she just stared at the headline. Randall Evans Released From Prison. She wondered what Reed thought of himself. He had promised her, it was forever and ever. Evans was supposed to rot in there, getting raped over and over again, she had hoped. She began to read the story, fear slowly rising in her like the tide on a beach. Evans had been a model prisoner, even so he had been turned down at his first parole hearing. The second one, only days ago, had gone his way. There was a picture, showing Evans standing outside the prison gate. He looked almost exactly as he had nine years before, and the bastard was smiling. His yellow and black teeth
were on display for the reporters and photographers. Reportedly when asked where he was going, he had just smiled again and replied “It’s a secret, just between me and Jesus.” After reading that Carrie dropped the paper and took a long drag off of her cigarette. Ashley held her close, and kissed her cheek. “It’s OK baby, there is no way he will risk coming after you. Have the cops said anything to you?” she asked. Carrie shook her head. “Reed retired a few years ago, but they said if I wanted they would put a patrol on me for a while. I told them not to worry. I am a big girl now after all, probably too old for him.” she said as she reached up and squeezed Ashley’s hand. She was not sure of this however, he might want to finish what he started. The thought made one of those stomach clinching waves of anger wash over her. She broke from Ashley’s embrace and turned toward the main building. “I need a few minutes alone babe. Wait here, I’ll be back.” she said as she walked off. Ashley called out after her, but Carrie kept walking. As she slipped into the door, she found herself in an empty hallway. Everyone was at lunch or in class right now, so she had the run of the halls. She made her way across the campus toward the gym, and ducked into a small alcove where a water fountain used to reside. She knew Mark Conner usually dipped out here to burn a joint or a cigarette during gym. The PE coach was always so lenient with the jocks. Maybe that was why he had covered up the assault on Kelly Harris. The thought once again made her blood boil. Mark had tried his best to rape the girl at the last school dance. She had waited, but when nothing had been done she had begun to watch Mark. She studied his habits, learned his routines. Today was the day. Today had to be the day. Evans was loose again, and she felt the need to make someone pay. She heard the gym doors creak open, the sounds of squeaking sneakers, bouncing basketballs, and murmuring voices leaked out into the hall. Mark came out, right on schedule. He looked around nervously and produced a small joint and a lighter from the pocket in his shorts. He turned his back to her as she watched from the corner of the alcove. She reached into her purse and pulled out the small collapsible baton. She put her hair into a pony tail and started
creeping toward him. He was only ten feet from her, so she stepped softly. As she closed the distance the feeling hit her, a mix of anger, pain, and anticipation. It felt like a stronger version of sexual anticipation, the way she felt when Ashley was undressing for her. She was only a foot from Mark now. She raised the baton, and brought it down in a savage blow to the back of his head. He dropped to the floor, blood pouring from his scalp. He lay there, curled up in a ball, his feet and legs twitching and beating out a soft tattoo on the cold linoleum floor. She stared down at him, her vision beginning to shake as the rage took her over. She hit him again, breaking his kneecap. He looked as if he was trying to scream, his mouth opening and closing, nothing came out but quiet whimpers however. She struck again, crushing the side of his face and his nose. More blood poured onto the floor and he stopped moving. Then, as if watching someone else do it, she saw the baton begin to rise and fall over and over again. Blood sprayed from Mark’s head, and the sound of his skull crunching under the baton brought her back. She stared for a moment, looking at the broken dead boy laying at her feet. She turned then, and ran the opposite direction. She ducked into the girl’s bathroom down the hall, and walked to the sink. She looked into the mirror, and saw the blood on her face and shirt. She turned on the water and began to rinse the blood and hair from the baton. After she had it cleaned up, she broke it down and stowed it into her purse. She then washed the blood from her hands and face, and turned her dark shirt inside out. She looked into the mirror and found herself smiling. For the first time in a long time she felt peaceful. She laughed and turned from the mirror, leaving the bathroom. She continued down the hall and exited through the door at the end. She was close to the parking lot. She calmly walked over to her car and got inside. She turned the key in the ignition, and backed out. She reached down and turned on the stereo as she left the lot. The sounds of the Bahaus blasted from the speakers and she punched the Camaro, singing along as she blasted down the road. “Bela Lugosi’s dead! Bela Lugosi’s dead!” she sang. She felt wonderful. She felt alive. She felt as if there was justice in the world. As she drove, she thought
of Evans. She felt the rage creeping back in, and before she realized it she noticed she was doing over a hundred. She slowed down and tried to breathe calmly. She looked over at her bag, the handle of the baton was sticking sticking out. She felt the idea form then. If Mark could go....... She smiled. She made her way into town, and pulled up outside of her house. She ran inside and changed clothes. Luckily both of her parents were at work, so she had to answer no questions. She went to her dresser and pulled out the small cigar box she kept stashed there. When she opened the box, the money was still there. She had saved up from waiting tables at the small cafe over on Maple for the last year and a half. She took it all and stuck it into her purse. She left the house and jumped back into her car, making for downtown. In a very few minutes she pulled up in front of Morgan Hardware. There was shopping to be done, she had work to do.... Six Months Later.... She had been looking for Evans for half a year now, and he was nowhere to be found. The need gnawed at her insides, begging... no demanding that she kill him. She had asked anyone she thought might be able to find him. She had been sneaking into the bars, strip clubs, even watching the schools. She had to admit that he wasn’t here in Salsberg. The thought made her angry, she wanted revenge. She had been cautious at first, the hunt for Mark’s killer had been fast and furious for the first month or so. She had been worried, she had no idea if there had been any witnesses. No one had even questioned her. She was lucky, getting away with it the first time. She had been so sloppy. The second one was better. By the fifth, she had it down. Old man Price was her next target. The old pervert had been skulking around the schools for years. She wasn’t sure at first, not until she had snuck into his house. It took her the better part of three hours of searching, but she had found the pictures behind a dresser drawer. Younger girls than her, standing there naked and ashamed. Those were bad, but the bigger portion of them had been young boys. When she looked through them, her vision had gone red. She had replaced everything and left through the back door. The old man was in church that Sunday
morning, and he always went to dinner with his son and granddaughter afterward. The thought of what he might be doing to her made her stomach clinch. She felt the Need rising in her in that moment, but she wasn’t going to be sloppy this time. She had watched him for a week after that. She had already learned his patterns, and the trips he made daily driving by the playgrounds and schools filled her with rage. Tonight was the night. She walked up to his door, dressed in as slutty a manner as she could. When she knocked, he answered the door quickly enough. When he saw her on the porch, he smiled. She flicked her hair back like the skanks in school did, and started talking. “Hey, I am sorry to bother you, but my car broke down. Could I come in and use your phone? Plleeaaseeee” she had said, winking at him. He had licked his lips, looking her up and down. She had smiled at him, even though it made her sick to do it. He stepped aside and motioned for her to come in. She looked back as she walked past, wiggling her ass as she went. The old guy was leering, and she gave him a suggestive looking smile. He had closed and locked the door before following her. “Uhh, the phone is in the kitchen sweetheart. My you are a pretty little thing, what’s your name?” he asked. She just smiled, and walked over to him. She got close and put an arm around his shoulders. “Do you really care what it is, or do just want to play with me?” she said in a lusty voice. The old man had blinked and then slid his hand up her back. He leaned in for a kiss, and she slid her other hand into her purse, pulling out the stun gun. She had stepped back, and buried it into the side of his neck, hitting the switch. His eyes went wide as the high voltage jolt shot through him. He hit the floor like a sack of flour as quickly as he realized he had made a huge mistake. She moved fast, securing his hands with zip ties, and gagging him with some duct tape and the old, yellowing snot rag hanging from his pocket. She laid in a few kicks in the ribs for good measure. “Stay right there Mr. Price, I’ll be right back” she said in a flat, emotionless voice. She went out the front door and got her bags from the trunk. She brought them into the house, and saw Price starting to move. She laughed at him, watching him struggle. He was so helpless now, and she felt her power over him. She
dropped the bags, and they hit the floor with a heavy thump. He looked up at her with anger in his eyes. She reached into the bag and pulled out the hunting knife. She stuck it to his throat, and smiled at him. This was no coy, flirty smile however. It was cold, ruthless, and predatory. “Don’t try to struggle, or I’ll hurt you. Be a good boy, and this will all work out.” she said. She went to the bedroom in the back, and returned with a pillowcase. She placed it over his head, and he began to scream through the gag. She smiled and grabbed her baton. She gave him a sharp shot to the head, and he went out. Now she had time. She took one of the bags to the kitchen, and pulled out the drop cloths. They were made of clear plastic, and thickly gauged. She moved the table and chairs and lined the floor. Next she lined the table, letting the sides drape loosely over. Then she covered the windows, and the low ceiling. This took her the better part of an hour. She then went back to the bedroom of the modest single story house, and grabbed the pictures. She took them and laid them in the kitchen before going for Price. He had begun to stir then, and she broke open a pack of smelling salts to bring him back. He moved sharply under the bag, and she grabbed him under the arm. “Stand up. We are going now. Try anything funny, and I’ll cut your heart out.” she said to him, pressing the knife to his back. He stood as she asked. “Now walk. Straight ahead.” she said. He did as he was told, and she moved him into the kitchen. He turned his head in a thoughtful way as he stepped onto the plastic. She walked him over to the table, and turned him around. She hit him with an uppercut, knocking him sprawling onto the table surface, and he began to struggle. She immediately put the blade to his throat, and he stopped. She used her pocket knife to cut the ties on his hands, and made his lay flat on his back. “Now hold still. You move, you die. Understand?” she said. He was nodding, and she heard sobs coming from under the headbag. She got the duct tape and used it to strap him to the table. It took only a few minutes. With him secured, she went out for the other bag, the fun one. She came back and he was crying. She relished the sound, it made her feel like she was finally in control. He deserved this, the sick bastard. She laid out her tools: knives, saws, and a small propane torch. Having everything ready, she stripped
off her clothes. She took a deep breath, the cool air of the house felt good on her skin. She was burning up, her whole body was on fire with anticipation. She felt aroused, even more than when her and Ashley did it. She walked over and pulled off the bag. He blinked a few times, and then looked very confused for a few seconds. He was looking at the plastic coverings, worried, then he saw her. Even in his dire situation, he seemed transfixed seeing her standing there nude. He looked her up and down, and she punched him again. He winced as the blood started to run from his nose. She picked up the knife, and traced it down his cheek. He began to moan. “You have something to say, Mr. Price? Let me help you with that.” she said, and cut off the gag. He took a few deep breaths. “Why are you doing this? You don’t have to rape me honey.” he said. She felt the darkness rising in her, and she grabbed the stack of photos. She held them over his face, and his eyes focused on them. “Oh God no.... please no. How did you... What are you going to...” he whimpered. Tears ran from his eyes, and a look of shame washed over him. It seemed to take the place of his fear, and he just cried. Carrie looked down at him, unblinking. Her cold gaze was locked onto his face. “How many Price? How many little boys and girls did you take? How many innocent children did you victimize?” she asked. He tried to turn away, but she grabbed his jaw and turned him back. Her face was right in his, her cold eyes locked on him. He licked his lips and started to tremble. “Fifteen. I tried to stop, so many times. I just couldn’t. I have this..... need. Nothing else ever satisfied me. God, did I try. Please, you have to understand, I couldn’t help myself, I just couldn’t.” he said. She let go of his face, and turned her back on him. She stood shaking, the need, the arousal, the anger beating in her head like a drum. It pounded at her temples, and made her stomach clinch up. Her breathing became heavy, she was panting. She picked up the torch, and turned back to him. “Trust me, I understand. I can’t help myself anymore either.” she said as she approached him. He saw the torch and began to scream. She stuffed the snot rag back into his mouth again. She reached down and unzipped his pants, pulling out his cock. Even now,
it sprang to arousal. He really couldn’t help himself. She grabbed it, and stretched it taught. Her other hand opened the valve on the torch, and squeezed the igniter. It sprang to life with a slight whooshing sound followed by a steady burning hiss. Price was screaming, muffled by the gag. She smiled at him and brought the torch down to his cock. “You think this is hot. old man? This turning you on? It is getting me very excited!” she shouted at him as she put the fire to him. He screamed loudly as the smell of roasting meat filled the kitchen. Blood sprayed onto her hand as she cut with the fire, but it was cauterized almost as quickly as it was cut. She cut slowly, making sure the blood loss was minimal. In just a minute, she had it off. She dropped it on his chest, and set the torch down. He was thrashing and screaming. His eyes were rolling madly. She licked the blood off of her fingers, relishing the hot salty taste. She then picked up the knife and went to work. Using the torch to cauterize the wounds as she went, it lasted for over seven hours. When the light finally went out of his eyes, she smiled. She looked down at herself, she was covered in the old man’s blood. She ran her hands all over her body, relishing the feeling. This was better than anything else, better than sex, better than food, better than even love. She grabbed the Polariod out of the bag and snapped a picture, as a memento. She put it back in the bag, and stood there thinking. She did not know what she had turned into, only that Evans was responsible. She had to find him. She picked up the saw after a moment, and began to dismember the body. It was quick work, surprisingly. She placed the pieces in garbage bags, and stacked them on the back porch. After taking down the plastic from the kill room, she went to the bathroom and took a shower. She took the trap from the tub afterward and threw it in with everything else. She dressed, far more conservatively than when she arrived, and pulled her car around to the small, dark alley behind Price’s house. She lugged the bags to her car and threw them into the hatch of the Camaro, then drove slowly away. It took her an hour to get to the old, abandoned farmhouse out on route 26. When she arrived, she took the bags to the fire pit she had dug two nights before. It was already lined with dry wood, and a gas can sat nearby. She threw all the bags in,
and doused the works with gasoline. Striking a match, she said “Good riddance, you sick old bastard”, and dropped it into the pit. Fire sprang up at once, consuming what was left of Price. She watched the body burn, until it was lost amongst the glowing logs. When the fire finally went out a few hours later, she grabbed the shovel. It took her another two hours to cover the fire pit, and by then the sun had been up for a while. She stood in the morning sunlight, letting it bathe her in it’s warm, radiant glow. This was a good day to be alive. She felt satisfied, as she always did when making a kill. She looked down at the freshly packed earth before her, and wondered if every little girl who survived someone like Evans turned out this way. She had felt the changes happening over the years, starting when she had beaten Timmy half to death. She had not given in again until Mark, but when she did, she felt the metamorphosis truly begin. She had turned into something less than human, she was not oblivious to that. She was now something beautiful, dangerous, and deadly. What really troubled her now was how comfortable she was with what she had become. She was good at it. This was her sixth victim, and as far as she knew, no one had suspected anything. Missing persons reports had been filed on a few, but most of them had been loners. She supposed that type always are, better to hide your secrets. She thought about that then, now that she had a big secret to hide. The realization hit her that she could never get too close to anyone, if she wanted to keep killing. And she had to. She did. She had the taste for it now, and it was more pleasurable than anything she had ever known before. She cried a little when she realized she would have to dump Ashley. She loved her. She did. But she wasn’t going to risk it either way. Either Ashley would find out and try to turn her in, or she would bring her down by association if she got caught. And she couldn’t let that happen, not until she got Evans anyway. She turned away from the grave and walked to the old barn. She put the shovel away, and got back in the Camaro. As she drove home, she turned her mind to tracking down Evans. He was out there somewhere, waiting on her blades. An old, forgotten house. Salsberg, Maryland October
30th 2006 The basement was cold. That was not unusual for any basement in October, but this one was especially chilly. There had been no maintenance done to it for almost 30 years. This was a house no one wanted to live in, it had known far too much horror. Carrie looked over to the old, battered wooden door, remembering. It seemed like a hundred years ago that she had been on the other side of that door. In a very real sense, that was where she had been born. Not the little girl he had locked down here, no. That was where the monster had come from, the beast she had become. There was another thump on the door, followed by pleading and begging. She looked up then, her cold reflection staring back at her from the dirty old mirror on the wall. Her icy blue eyes were full of malice and anger, her brows set in a hard set of lines above them. Her lips were pressed together so tightly that they seemed almost to be gone. Her right eye began to twitch, the anticipation building. Ten long years she had waited for this moment. Ten years and almost 60 victims between her and her goal. Finding them was easier in New York, the sex offender database was almost a menu for her sickness. It had taken her this long to finally find the one, the one who started it all. She cast her mind back, reliving all the ones who had been on her table. There had been men and women, rapists, child molesters, parents who had pimped out their children: anyone who had victimized children like her. She saw them all, bleeding, screaming, begging for mercy. She had shown them none. She felt like her very soul was awash with their blood, a baptism of vengeance. On every face, she saw him. With every slash, stab, and cut she had heard his voice screaming. Now it was time. Now she would hear it for real. She turned to the small battery operated stereo and pressed play on the CD. As she walked to the door, the music started “Jesus loves the little children..... All the little children of the worrllddddd....” When it began to play, the thumping on the door had stopped. She reached out with a trembling hand and unlocked the door. Throwing it open, the light behind flooded the room. The old man on the floor was pressed against the wall, blinking up at her from under the ratty old
blanket. He threw up his hands, which were bound together with thick zip ties. She stepped into the room, and hunkered down next to him. She pulled his hands away from his face, and screamed. “LOOK AT ME, YOU BASTARD!” The Man looked up, his eyes watering. He was quivering, his skin covered in gooseflesh. She grabbed his hair and wrenched his head back, forcing him to look at her. She just stared into his eyes, unblinking. Suddenly his panic seemed to abate and recognition hit him. “You! You were my last one, weren’t you?” he said. He closed his eyes and listened to the music for a moment. “Yes, little..... Carrie wasn’t it?” he whispered, smiling. She let him go, and gave him a solid punch to the mouth. Blood from his split lip covered his rotten teeth when he smiled again, then began to dribble down his chin onto his bare chest. “So good to see you again. I had hoped you would remember me.” he said winking at her. She was seething, the rage was about to overflow. “Remember you, Evans? How could I forget. You took my innocence from me, turned me into a monster.” she said. He laughed. She was shaken a little. He was supposed to be afraid. Why wasn’t he afraid? He just laid his head back against the wall, and began to speak. “A monster? You don’t know the meaning of that word, little girl. I am a monster. You think spending all this time to track me down and kill me makes you a monster? I was a terror, I was the thing of nightmares. For years this town was afraid of the monster who would take their precious little children. You know nothing of causing fear, you are ignorant of the exquisite art of pain. Oh I know I taught you plenty of both, little Carrie, but you never surpass your instructor.” He looked back at her then, and she smiled this time. “What makes me a monster is the 60 sick bastards I murdered when I was looking for you. You are the one who is about to step into a world of pain and fear, Evans.” she said. She pulled the knife from her belt and placed it under his chin, the point digging into the soft flesh there. “Stand” she said as she began to apply pressure. He stood, still smirking at her. She led him past Hell, that room where she had learned shame
before his camera, and into the other room. The old room had been lined expertly in plastic, every surface was covered in an airtight layer. The old table was still there, but had been lined as well and fitted with new straps. An assortment of knives, medical tools, saws, torches, and other implements of torture were laid out neatly on a larger table along the far wall. Polaroid photos of mutilated corpses were hung all about the room, with names and dates on the back. A video camera and television were in one corner. The camera was pointed at the main table, but the television was displaying a video of a naked woman slowly dismembering a living man with a chainsaw. She went back over the wounds with torches, stopping the blood flow. When she moved out of frame, Evans could see the tourniquets applied to the legs and arms. He turned to her, the smug expression gone. He was wide eyed, and she could see the fear creeping back into him. “You.... you’re serious... You did all of this?” he asked. She just stared daggers at him and pointed to the table. She did not blink, she just raised the knife and made a cut at his arm. The blood flew from his bicep, splattering dark red on the clear plastic. Evans stumbled back, and she was on him. She pushed him into the edge of the table and he bent over the surface as the wind was knocked from him. She drew the stun gun and pressed it into the back of his neck. He went out. She maneuvered him into position, then cut the ties on his hands. She strapped him down to the table, the leather straps running over his forehead, chest and arms, waist, and legs. He lay there nude and still, breathing steadily. She stripped down, an important part of the ritual. She felt she had to be nude, at first because doing this made her hot. Her skin was literally on fire with anticipation. But now it had just become a part of the process. She walked over and put a fresh tape into the camera, and switched it over to record. She pressed the button, and the little red light showed it’s self. She looked through the viewfinder, making sure Evans was in frame. She walked over to the table, and picked up the torch. She ignited it, and proceeded to seal the cut on his arm. He sprang awake instantly and howled in pain. She shut the torch off when she finished, and set it aside. “Welcome back. I wanted to make
sure the blood loss was minimal. We are going to be down here for a long time, Evans.” she said. He was looking at her, his eyes wide. She leaned over him, her face inches from his. “You are about to learn what pain really is. I would normally tell you why this is going to happen, but I think we both know it’s not necessary.” He looked up at her, then licked his lips before he spoke. “You don’t get it do you, bitch? What I did, it gave your life meaning. This is what has kept you going, isn’t it? Dreaming of the day you would get me on this very table. You do this now, and you will be lost. After me, you won’t have a reason to live.” he said, then laughed. She reached over and grabbed the dental speculum. As he was laughing, she shoved it into his mouth and cranked it all the way open. He stopped mid chuckle, and his eyes widened again. She was looking down at his black, rotten teeth thinking. She turned around and grabbed the pliers off of the table and held them before his face. “Let’s start slow...... no need to rush the foreplay right? Isn’t that what you said to me?” She walked to the back of the room and grabbed the camera. She set the tripod next to the table, and positioned it to capture his face. His eyes were rolling from her to the camera, and then back to her. He looked down at her breasts, focused on them. She sneered and lowered the pliers to his mouth. She fastened them onto his left front tooth, and began to twist it in the socket. Evans screamed and tears burst from his eyes. She worked the tooth side to side, then gave the pliers a sharp twist. It wrenched in the socket. She then yanked, and it came out in a spurt of blood that hit her on the cheek. She was smiling as Evans screamed. She grabbed the torch, and hit the blade of the knife with it. It was glowing in short order, and she pressed the hot metal to his gums, sealing the socket. “How was that? Am I being a good girl? You won’t do it to me again will you? AM I BEING A GOOD GIRL?” she shouted at him. He just screamed and shut his eyes. She went back to the table and grabbed the hammer and chisel. She placed the chisel on his other front tooth. He began to pant and she thought beg. It was hard to tell with his mouth pried open. She raised the hammer, and swung it down with just enough force to snap off the tooth. He screamed louder. She leaned down, and spoke. “Like I said, we are going to
be here for a while. The first tooth was just a tease...” she said. She worked her way around his mouth, breaking and splitting all the teeth. That was the first hour. “How are you enjoying yourself, Evans?” she said. She had removed the speculum, and he was trying to talk. Mostly he just screamed. He had passed out a few times, but she had shot him up with amphetamines. She had also started an IV drip, to replace some of the blood he lost. She wanted him alive for as long as possible. She moved the camera, focusing it on his hands. She tied tourniquets onto his fingers, and picked up the heavy surgical shears from the table. She fired up the torch, and held it in front of him. “You ready to get started with the main event?” she asked. His eyes focused on the torch. “Pleasshhh jushh kill me” he said, his words slurred and whispered. She slammed the bottom of the torch’s tank into his solar plexus, hard. He screamed and began to cough. He sucked wind, as his diaphragm spasmed. She turned the flame onto his cheek, just for s second or two. He screamed, fighting the straps which held him in place. “Oh, you are going to die, make no mistake. But it is going to be slow. So slow.” she said. She opened the shears, and placed them on the third knuckle of his little finger. As she squeezed, she heard the crunch of the bone being cut. Blood spurted from the amputated digit, and was soon cauterized. Then his ring finger, then the middle finger, and so on. Soon she had worked her way up, removing all his fingers from each hand, one segment at a time. Then his toes. That was the second hour. The third, fourth, and fifth hours consisted of her slowly slicing his forearms and calves to thin ribbons. She was careful to avoid the arteries and veins, only shredding the skin and muscles. For the sixth hour, she slowly removed his instrument of rape, taking exquisite care to make it as slow as possible. At many points she would ask him a question. “Do you think I am a monster now? Are you happy with what you have done?” Always he would only scream in response. He had cried many times through the first night. She left him after the sixth hour, she needed sleep she said.
She came back after a few hours, and Evans was out. She checked him, and found he was still breathing and his heart beat was strong. She was getting better. She shot more amphetamines into his system, and his eyes snapped open. She went back to work. Next to go were his biceps and thighs, then she flayed open his shoulders, exposing the arteries. Following this, she began to slowly strip the skin off of his chest and abdomen, exposing the muscles. She talked as she worked, explaining every step. “I am of course going to leave the muscle here intact. We want to preserve your core, you will die far too quickly if I expose your organs.” she said. The camera still rolled, capturing every detail. After she had his entire chest and abdomen exposed, she began to cover the muscles with rock salt. “This will keep purification from occurring.” she explained. She started some IV antibiotics, and covered him with sterile bandages. This took her over eight hours in total. She went to rest again. His screams were a sweet lullaby to her. She came back on the third night, and once again woke him with the drugs. His vital signs were weakening finally. She could see the infection starting when she removed the bandages. He was looking up at her, feverish and shaking. She looked into his eyes. “Today is your special day, Evans. Today you get to be free.” she said. He closed his eyes and began to sob again. “Pleashhh I am sshhhoo sshhoorrry.” he said. It was the first time he had spoken since begging for death on the first night. She looked down at him, her cold blue eyes locked on his brown ones. “You have no idea how sorry you are going to be. I know you are hoping this will be it, but you are very, very wrong.” she said. She replaced his fluid IV with straight O negative blood. There were two units on each side. She turned on the camera, which she had placed next to the table. She began to tie tourniquets around his legs, just below the hips. Se had left the top quarter of the thighs and arms for a reason. After she had the legs tied off and was satisfied that the blood flow was suitably slowed, she pulled a chainsaw from under the table. She readied the torch, and started the small saw. Evans was begging now, and she smiled. She pulled the IV from his arm and inserted it into his neck. She taped it down securely.
She lowered the saw to his leg, below the tourniquet and began to cut. Blood still sprayed everywhere, she was covered with a fresh splatter coat. It turned her naked body red, and dripped from her onto the plastic lining the floor. She had the leg off and once again used the torch. His other leg followed, then his arms. There was blood everywhere, and it dripped from the blade of the saw after she shut it down. Bluish smoke hung in the still air of her play room, and everything was quiet. Evans was not conscious. She pulled the severed limbs off of the table, and checked his vitals. He was still in the game. She began to pile the body parts under the table, and to put away her tools. It took her two hours to take down all the plastic, leaving only what was on and under the table. She went to the other room, and returned with a large plastic box. It was constructed from clear bulletproof acrylic, and had a hinged lid. She had asked the designers to ensure it would be airtight when locked, and had been pleased with the result. She had added a few things to the design afterward: hooks for holding IV bags, and a bracket for the tank. She went over to Evans and removed the straps. She checked his pulse again, and found it was getting stronger. Good. She went and retrieved the large O2 tank from Hell, and fitted the mask over Evan’s nose and mouth. She started the flow, turning the regulator to the minimum setting to support life. She placed the heavy tank inside the box, within the bracket. Next she removed the blood and antibiotic bags from the poles and secured them to the hooks on the lid of the box. She taped them flat to the lid, and ensured they would continue to drip properly. Lastly, she lifted Evans from the table and laid him inside the box. She took the needle, and administered one more dose of amphetamines. Evans slowly regained consciousness. He looked up at her, and then around at the box he was in. She smiled at him. “Welcome to the final act. Before I shut this lid, I want you to know I considered several possibilities for the coups de gras. I settled on this. I may not get to watch the light go out of your eyes, but I know it will be slower and infinitely more hellish than burning you alive. I want you to know, this was everything I thought it would be and more. When you get to hell, make sure to tell them that nothing they can do to you will compare to
this.” she said as she slammed the lid and fastened the padlock. Evans was trying to thrash, but the tank held his head in place. The design was perfect. She brought in the dolly, and slipped it under the box. She wheeled him into Hell, and deposited him next to the hole in the floor. She had torn up the old rotted flooring and exposed the dirt underneath. She had dug a hole there, down to the foundation. It was a good five feet deep, more than enough room to hold the box. She ran a line through the small block and tackle she had attached to the beam above the hole. She ran some strong line through the metal brackets on the sides of the box, and set the hook through the looped ends. She then pulled on the line and the box lifted off the ground. Evans was screaming again, begging and pleading for a clean death. She looked at him as he was suspended over the hole, and kissed the air as she began to lower him into the pit. When he hit the bottom, looked down at him. She spit onto the lid of the box and picked up the shovel. “You have enough air in the tank for another three days of survival, and the blood and antibiotic IV’s should keep you alive the whole time. Enjoy your slow death in the dark, you sick bastard!” she screamed. She shoveled in the dirt. The last she saw of Evans was him screaming at her from the bottom of the box, the last thing she heard was his voice filling the air with the word “NO!” over and over again. Once the pit was half full, his voice had ceased to be heard. She hoped he was still screaming down there. It took her an hour to fill the hole, and she was tired. Her back ached, and her arms were burning. She still had a few things to do however. She got the gas cans from the main room, and took most of them upstairs. She left them sitting in certain rooms, with the lids off. She did not empty them, gas dried quickly when spilled. She took all her things to the front door, and set them on the porch. She dressed, not bothering to wash off the blood. She wanted to wear it for a little while longer. She went back to the room in the basement, where she had left Evans’ parts. She stacked the limbs on the table, and doused it with some gas. As she lit it up, she moved quickly. She torched the small cell, and the floor in Hell too. She smiled knowing this place would burn, and be the closest thing to a grave marker Evans would ever have. She ran up the stairs as the fire spread along the
old wood. At the front door, she kicked over the large five gallon can, and it spread into a lake on the floor. She struck her zippo again, and dropped it into the gas. It went up with a foomp sound and she grabbed the bags and turned to the yard. She walked to her SUV as the house went up behind her. She was throwing her gear in the back when she heard the gas cans go. Small explosions blew out the windows, and fire was consuming the hateful place. She started the Navigator, and peeled out from the old dirt driveway. As she drove away, she expected the feeling of peace that always followed a kill to come over her, but it was elusive. As she drove east, into the rising sun, she wondered if Evans had been right. Was her life going to be empty and without purpose now? All she felt inside now was an emptiness, a hole as dark as the one she had left him in. Was that the price for vengeance? Had she trapped herself just as she had trapped Evans? She drove on, feeling nothing on the inside, except the first faint return of the Need. She just stared at the road blankly, feeling as if the last part of her soul had finally been consumed by darkness he had infected her with. There was no catharsis, only a black pit inside of her. She felt nothing now, and she knew that her actions were not vengeance anymore. He had passed the torch, he had finally made her into him.
The Typewriter. By Robert w Kingett.
My name is James. I guess it’s about time I do a memoir since I after all have been a best selling author for fifteen years now. I began writing short horror stories on a little old typewriter that I bought at a pawnshop one afternoon walking home from somewhere. I looked at the typewriter, manual, and one of those models that looks beat up beyond recognition, and instantly loved it. It seemed to call to me as though it and I were made for each other. The man who owned the pawnshop even gave it to me for free because he was going to go out of business anyway and no one else was ever going to buy that crappy thing when computers now dominated the written word. So, on a bright and sunny day, I lugged the typewriter home with me. I wanted to see just how this thing worked for my needs. Working as a janitor by day and writing by night, I soon completed my first novel after six months of writing. The words somehow just came easy to me. No hassle, no writers block, and no hang ups of any kind. I was shocked but amazed. After I was done typing it on that old typewriter I bundled it up and sent it to the first publishing house I could, and many more. The first publisher I sent it to agreed to publish it! With woops of joy I leaped in the air and I even kissed my dog. I was an author! She had even scrawled a cute little hand written note at the top right of the acceptance letter. Awesome horror story. Let’s see what else you got. So excited to the point where I even danced on the roof of my car, I began to type more works all on the same old typewriter I had bought at the pawnshop. The second book came just as easy as the first. If not more so. The 5th, 7th, and 12th book also poured out like water. All of them were best sellers and I even made it on the New York Times best sellers list. After about fifteen horror novels I was sitting down at the typewriter and I just started thinking to myself something completely random. What if I did something other than horror? That will make me a well rounded author in my book, and I will get the chance to sell even more books. So I did. I started to work on a happy heartfelt novel in which the main character overcame natural hardships and grief. It was a happy novel, one that I kind of liked more than my previous works. When I was writing it however, I looked back at the manuscript and frowned with deep disapproval on my face. This wasn’t what I had typed. It was a massive bloody book with heads getting chopped off, people dying, and knives being thrown in the air. Weird. I looked back at the old typewriter, daring it to say “ha. I tricked you” I thought something was wrong so I went to a doctor. My doctor had told me after I spilled out the whole story to him that I had nothing to worry about. He explained as calm as he could, and as nicely as he could without making me feel like an idiot about brain waves and thought patterns. I even showed him the manuscript but again he said I didn’t have to worry. When the time was right it would all be okay. I went home and put a blank sheet in the typewriter. With shaking fingers I typed out the sentence… “Even though he loved his parents very much, he desperately had to tell them.” I rolled the typewriter paper back up and looked at the words now displayed on the page. They now read… “Even though he loved his parents very much, he desperately had to kill them.” My hands started shaking as I looked down at the words that I didn’t
write. I didn’t write these words! I didn’t! Panicked, I slid another paper in the typewriter and began typing. This time I looked at the keys as I typed… making sure I watched every finger stroke. “Even… though, he, loved… his parents very much, he desperately had to T, E, L, L them.” I made sure I looked at every key I pressed. Again the sentence read “Even though he loved his parents very much, he desperately had to kill them.” This was scary! I ripped the paper out, crumpled it into a ball, and chucked it away. Mad and scared at the same time. I put another sheet in and typed the word, tell, on the typewriter. “Tell.” I said as I typed it. Looking at it I saw that it was the word tell. This was honestly getting creepy. I showed my doctor what I had discovered and he again said there was nothing to be upset about. In fact he liked the new manuscript I had written about the little boy that killed his parents. But wait, I didn’t write that. The typewriter did. Not me! I knew what I had to do, and I had to do it fast. I had to get rid of the typewriter. That was a few months ago, and now I traded the typewriter for this new IBM computer I am typing on. I guess all in all it was kind of scary, but I am just glad that it’s all over now… I’m just glad my doctor was there to help me through it all. I should thank him. I should go to his house, and bring a nice knife with me, and chop his ugly head off and watch as blood splatters his house! I will give his heart a nice stabbing and blood will be gushing all over! Blood will be covering everything like a little cute waterfall. I shall purge the earth of his worthless useless existence since I hate him so much! Oh! I can’t wait to see that knife in his eye, slowly easing the bleeding pupil from it’s resting place…
The Marionette By Chris Johnson
It could have been a car crash, your tinkling glass glitter and smeary wet rouge and smoky dead bruised eyes. Maybe you can tell him your last name is Ecchymose. See if he gets the joke. It doesn’t really matter. You didn’t dress up tonight but you look nice. A cotton blend blue dress that grabs you like a pea in the shell. Shoes whispering bondage while showing your pedicure and testing your balance. The heels make your legs and ass look like an ice cream cone. You used to study the effects of bile on tooth enamel. Tonight is no big deal, but your poofy hair is flat against your skull, your ears working as emergency brakes. The flesh around your eyes is a ray of sunlight spearing a flophouse smoke room. You’re going out tonight because his picture looks alright. You’ve never seen him in person before but you go to the same university. He’s in the medical school and you have three classes a week while you live daddy’s money in a two bedroom walk up. You have two classes tomorrow. Reverse Etymology. The African Hermaphrodite. Getting your lip pierced would be too cutting edge for your family. At least you’re getting a degree. This guy that invited you to the bar, his name is Casey. His picture looks okay and you both know some of the same people. He looks chubby but you don’t mind that. Besides, he’s pretty funny on that social networking site. What he said about how your friend from high school looks like Mickey Rourke in a two piece. The Motorcycle Boy Reigns! You get out of your Nissan and try to keep from falling on your ass on the ice in the parking lot. The brass bells on the Plexiglas door jingle. Smoke and stale beer, grease and Boston on the jukebox, they grab your face for an introduction. More than a feeling indeed. Two guys are playing pool in the back, leaning for their shots and lurking around the center of light. They both go to school with you. Well, not with you, but you’ve seen them before. The bar is bare except for a can of Crisco with legs, staring at his telephone, wearing a pork pie hat and horn rims. There’s another fellow sporting a shirt and tie. Put together again from the looks of his scars. The bar is half-restaurant, but who would eat here? Maybe you, when you get around enough Singapore Slings. The restaurant half is lit with fluorescents and the bar with plain 60-watt incandescent bulbs. That means no one’s supposed to have any blemishes, but you could see Casey’s pimples from across the room when you walked through the door. Pimples on his pimples, sebaceous social suicide. He’s sitting at the corner of the L-shaped bar with a plastic cup in front of him and the cup is filled with what could be hepatitis urine. He’s on his phone but not talking. Staying disconnected by being connected. You’re already regretting this idea, but you tight-rope the floor to him. When he sees you his face lights up. Literally. His pimples are shining in the low light from overhead. When he smiles you see the nicotine and coffee stains on his front teeth. “My God, you’re gorgeous,” he says. You notice he has a submarine sandwich. The smell of Philly Cheesesteak and mustard and ketchup hit you in the cheek. He takes a bite and some of the meat slaps his chin before he sucks it in his face. The grease left behind reflects the light from the gambling machine beside the bar. “Thank you.” Always demure, that’s the way you were taught, even when you’re on the cusp of nausea. You call for the bartender to bring you something strong. You weigh half this guy, but you need something that could put him on his ass. Casey is a poached throwback. He has one
long eyebrow, temple to temple, bushy the way VHS porn was. The other fellow at the bar has several eyebrows. The skin on his face has been shaved by some kind of improvised explosive device. He’s stitched-together beautiful, a baseball with a tan and curly black hair. Mosaic Adonis. He keeps checking his appearance in the mirror behind the bar. You noticed because he’s doing it more than you are. Other than his awkward way of saying hello, Casey hasn’t said anything else. You’re waiting for him to speak or take another bite. Clack dunk roll clack of the billiard table. Don Henley asks what your plans are this evening from across the room, accompanied by a hip-hop artifact rhythm and talking strings. “I’ve got to move this watertower away from the groundwater pollution before my city is vacated,” Casey says. He smiles at you. It’s a leer, like maybe he just guessed the circumference of your areolae. You tell him to take his time. The gin makes your throat dry. That’s good. You’ll drink more. That’s when the intentional accident sitting on the long side of the L of the bar speaks to you. “Slow down. Aren’t you driving?” You smile and show him how much your mouth cost your parents. He grins but doesn’t show his teeth. Good. He’s embarrassed and he should be. Your fine china caps should leave his mercury seafood smile in the dust. “You don‘t look like you have a lot on your stomach is all,” he says. He shows his teeth with this smile and you can see where his partial denture is anchored. You wonder what it would be like to kiss him without that in his mouth, but you’d never do anything like that. It’s just something you want. You say you’re not that big of an eater, looking at Casey. He’s wiping his face with a bar napkin and pouring more stale draft beer into the throwaway cup. You ask the scarred fellow’s name. “Andy.” You tell Andy about your day at the veterinarian. # The old woman that brought you the burned cat smelled like a nightmare of mildew and yeast. She was wearing tennis shoes with knee high stockings and a jean skirt. Her psoriasis was still on the couch two hours after she left. The cat she brought to you because you said
you’d take it to the vet, someone threw hot grease on it. Or doused it in lighter fluid and struck a match. Either way, you’re the one who has to clean up the mess. You go to the clinic and do the paperwork while you watch the cat stumble across the carpet. He lands on his face and pushes himself back up with his paws. His mewing sounds like a baby crying far away. Long, choking sobs. The crust of the burn makes a tip tip when you touch it with your pen. When you picked the cat up, even with you being very careful, you felt the hard shell slide like a fried chicken’s rough skin and the cat cried out and swiped a slow motion paw at you. In the back, you look at the cat’s face. All the pain in the world and no one knows why. He’s lying on his side and the vet takes the retractable safety syringe filled with pink sleep and pushes it in his back leg. You watch his eyes close. # Andy hands you a napkin for your face. Casey excused himself to go to the restroom a moment ago. You tell Andy you wish you had a way to get out of here without hurting Casey’s feelings. “Be subtle,” Andy says. “If he doesn‘t catch on, get more direct.” You finish your Long Island Iced Tea, the one Andy ordered you. Casey comes back to the bar. He says something about how the turd he left in the bowl looked like Wayne Gale, even the same hair. You don’t laugh but Andy does. “You like Natural Born Killers?” Andy asks. “Fuck yeah!” Casey shouts. “Lemme buy you a beer man. When’s the game come on?” Then he looks at you the same way he’ll look at the kids he regrets having ten years later, like something he forgot to take care of, a household chore maybe. “You watch the game, babe?” You give him your most sardonic smile. He doesn’t take the hint. Casey stares at Andy. “What happened to your face, man? You look like ground beef.” Andy’s smile is so big you can see the metal rings that attach his upper plate to his molars. “IED in Kirkuk, then I was in a coma for eleven years until that whole deep brain stimulation stuff evolved.” He taps the back of his head and you hear a faint tip tip. “Got the whole unit helping me. Some days are better than others, I’m still trying to get used to the glitches.” “Yeah,” Casey says. “They’re a bitch. You
know a doctor can control and reset the implant remotely if he wants, right? Even from a mobile phone. You don’t have any problems around power lines?” He laughs. “Don’t talk to him that way.” Casey looks at you, shocked. “Fine.” He goes back to his phone. “I’m not supposed to be drinking anyways,” you tell Andy. “Midterms in the morning.” You try to bring Casey back into the conversation by asking about his tests but he doesn’t respond. Andy smiles at you and says “Well, baking hexagrams can…” He looks confused, his face twists like he’s trying to swallow. “Are you alright?” He shakes his head and says “Fine. I’ll be right back.” He walks to the restroom. You order a beer and wait for him to come back. Casey is still deep into his phone, perhaps watching the SIMS bang at the lover‘s lane in his city. Andy comes out of the bathroom. His tie is gone and his shirt is buttoned wrong. He’s sweating and when he walks past the mirror outside of the restroom, he turns his head so he doesn’t see himself at all. Pulling and twisting at his eyebrow with his fingers. His hand drops to the hair on his chin, plucks the same way. He’s walking in jerks and twitches, a functioning epileptic. He sits down at the bar beside you. “You sure you’re okay?” you ask, smiling a little. “Mmmffnn…” he’s trying to say something but seems he can’t open his mouth. Then it happens a little bit. “Mnnn nf nnn been like this since I first got the implant.” Casey perks up. “When you first got out of Walter Reed? It’s a good thing they got you out of that coma. Good thing for everybody.” He looks up from his phone and flashes a brass band smile, one Andy can’t return. Then he goes right back to whatever he was doing. “Yeah, fir-first thing when you g-g-get out of the hossssss…pital…they t-t-teh-tell you not t-t-t…tto l-l-luh…luuuuuh…” “Not to look in mirrors?” Casey finishes, not taking his eyes off his phone, still typing fast as a news show‘s closed captioning. “Why?” you ask. Casey answers. “Because you have to remember who you are first. Looking at the mirror and
seeing a stranger is never good. How long were you in a coma? Eleven years?” You look to Andy and he nods. He’s not blinking. He’s looking at the mirror over the backbar, staring at himself. He opens his mouth, closes it, opens it, closes it, then says “Hydration is the mack press wrote ecstatic her crack.” “What?” you ask. You look at Casey and he’s still focused on his phone. Just like most of the world. Then you feel Andy stand up, and as you look back to him, he throws his almost full glass at the mirror over the bar. He pitches it, only thing is he’s still jerking so the throw takes out a few bottles in front of the mirror. The bartender goes straight for the register. He reaches underneath and slaps a button. “You can leave if you want, but the cops are coming anyways.” “I keep a book of nights without sleep!” Andy shouts in reply. He jerks, twitches, snap-walks around the back of the bar. He’s tilting to one side and you notice he’s lost one of his shoes. You’re watching this, the guys in the back playing pool have stopped their endless game to watch too. Casey’s still staring at his phone, his fingers dancing across the keypad. Whenever he slows down or stops fingering the buttons, Andy slows down or stops too. The bartender, keeping his eyes on Andy, he goes out the door behind the bar, the one that leads to the restaurant half, opening the door with his ass. Andy is crying. He smashes the first section of mirror he comes to with his fist. He sidles to the next one and smashes that, and the next one, and the next one. His hand’s flicking blood around with the quickness of his puppet-string movements. The guys playing pool make for the front door. Casey’s still sitting at the bar, still on his phone. Calm. Andy’s breathing hard, still staring at the mirrors, only now there’s a million billion of him staring back through their dead glitter. You should be frightened, but your first thought is of the cat. The little baby crying, that’s how Andy sounds now. He’s breathing hard and clenching his fists. The one bleeding, you can hear it drip drip drip. It’s flowing pretty good now, and you stand and walk behind the bar and find a rag. You grab Andy and look into his eyes. Nothing. Blank. He’s saying “Anatomically, scientifically try
your very best from the legs first, the little tricks so fame from his lectures are a game for four, slackening the muscles. Could come to their apparent and education, for each fights for them without outlines, like lying on a terrace, sipping abolitionism were regs over her on bent through my tissues…” You manage to get him to the floor, get him sitting down, and you tie the rag around his hand. This is a little tricky because he’s still clenching his fists, his muscles a thrumming network of badly wired impulses. You ask Casey, “Can you please help me with him?” “I’m not going anywhere near him. You should probably leave him alone. You wanna end up like the mirror?” And he laughs. You go from dislike to hatred in the second he giggles. “Fuck you.” The cops are here, you can tell by the seizurelights from the top of their cars shining and flashing on the inside of the bar, even through the tinted windows, and you have time to wonder if this could make things worse for Andy. You need to ask them to turn their lights off. You get up, and as you walk past, Andy grabs your ankle. You fall. Then he’s rolling you over, climbing on top of you. He grabs a glass bottle from above and smashes it against the bar. Swipes it at your face so fast you only feel the wind of it. Way too fast to feel the pain. Then the alcohol from the bottle gets into the cut. He slices your face, at first fast, then as slow and precise as a surgeon. And there’s no way you can get away. He’s too strong. The way the cutting feels, it’s a furnace and ice, and the ice is cutting you. Like when you and your brother tried to make sno-cones from real snow and ended up cutting your tongues, you didn’t know you did at first until something acid got into the cuts. Only it’s your whole face now. Another slash and your left eye is gone. Imagining your head stuck inside a wasp’s nest filled with iodine. You can feel cool air on the inside of your mouth from where your cheeks are cut through. Up until this moment, you’ve tried to buck out from under him, and now you remember your voice. There’s no getting up from under him, he’s too strong for that, but you’re bullshit with pain and fear. That’s probably why you didn’t remember to scream until
just now. “Wake up, mama, turn your lamp down low…” Gregg Allman advises you from the juke box. “You got no nerve baby, to turn Uncle John from your door…” Casey has not moved. Still with the phone. Andy’s crying and screaming “The public to win all the cards I walked around in that, begin with your nineteenth century and helped her fix a cold snack. To my behind you as high are hall, or lyceum. Homemade wine - elder from the colonial perverts for several minutes…” There’s a crash, then a spray from the top of his head. A restaurant sign melting in fast forward, all red and yellow. His brains and blood and snot and teeth are on your face, adding to the warmth and hurt there. The last thing you ever hear is a cop shouting “Get a fucking ambulance here right now!”
Now available on Amazon for Kindle!
Check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iQVUCzSdYE by Tunc Gencer
My bride is a decaying body, perhaps I am buried under my vomit only and my hands are sticky now They crave for a dry napkin I do not know where we come across but the cancer has eaten me up long before and looking for place to spit out My pains are humble My shroud is on my lips A fly is breathing and imitating me with its lips It is playing the act where my saliva was running down It is curtain time and the fly flies away My ego, which resounds the walls with applause, comes back I hold a wooden stick in my hand and I shout out loud It is autumn time around and I am a point amongst mansions I vomit out the comma slowly and I move forward and follow the clown A door is opened There it is a pig within excrement, whose hands are similar to mine I can its hands clearly It holds out its hands to me It is the Hallelujah from Hector Zazou at the back ground Yes it is so, I definitely remember it to be so My nose itch Damned, like a bite of a giant fly, it does not stop, the itching does not stop Anyhow, Aren’t I lying on bed My dream has dried up and crumbles on my hands and my eyes are opening up What is that, someone has chalked up himself with a charcoal pencil His eyes are like fireworks and myself
He was born in Istanbul in 1984, completed his secondary education immediately after high school in the 50th year of Tehran University, graphic design entry to the estuary photos and illustrations here in a photo contest organized by university studies mansiyona yaptı.haliç and animation work was awarded the United States and Europe began to produce work of a Colombia is a very young and most prestigious festival of festivals cinenautas defilm’den special jury award is now working on the middle of a job feature. SHORT FILMS directed by Death Will Be My Bride - 2012 Cartoon Animacion Offical Selection (Plasma Most Corto Offical Selection) in Argentina. 2012 Athens Animation Film Festival, Finalist. 2013 Cineclub Lumiere Special Screening. 2013 Offical Selection Festivaldecortos Launion Valle Colombia. 2013 School Of The Arts Manuel Belgrano screening. 2013 Untitled Screams - 2011 Festival de Cine Pasto Offical Balcony Section. 2011
Holy Water - 2009 21. Ankara Film Festival, the National Short Film Competition, Contest Selection, Suleyman Demirel University, Display Selection. 2010 21. Ankara Film Festival, the National Short Film Competition Finalist. 2010 23.5 The Turkish Film Festival, Armenia, Display Selection. 2010 International Animation Festival, animcam.tv (offical section). 2010 ITS Film Festival, Starlihts Generation, TV Gösteremediklerim Division, Selection. 2010 16. London Turkish Film Festival Selection. 2010 6. Istanbul International Animation Film Festival, Film Contest. 2010 Experimantel Video Art (EVA) Film Festival, Austria, Display Selection. 2010 Independent Rozafa adminRequired anifest Section, Albania-hand Gabinete offical selection Cineclub Bang Awards Internatıonal Animation Festival, representation. 2011 Catwalks Cinenautas Festival, Special Jury Prize (Best Animation) 2011 An - 2008 6. Pam Short Film Festival Film Contest. 2008 5. Istanbul International Animation Film Festival, Film Contest. 2008 20. Ankara Film Festival, the National Short Film, Animation Department, Finalist. 2009 Courier International Video Festival, Animation Selection. 2009 El Ojo Cojo Film Festival, Screening Selection. 2009 ITS Film Festival, Starlihts Generation, TV Gösteremediklerim Department, views. 2010 Real Life Tips - 2007 18. Ankara International Film Festival, Short Film, Animation Department. 2007 5. Istanbul Pam Environmental Short Film Festival Film Contest. 2007
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