Sunday, 28 November 2010

JUNGLE LOVE By James C. Clar


Jungle Love

 
“Listen, Jake,”  HPD Detective Ray Kanahele squinted into the hot, tropical sun as he turned toward his partner. “Does it seem to you like we’ve been playin’ roles in the X-Files lately instead of Hawaii Five-O? I mean, shit! If it had to be one or the other, well, I like Scully but that new Kono is a stone fox. Anyhow, it’s been one really weird case after another.”
 
As easy on the eyes as Grace Park was, Jake Higa still preferred a male Zulu and the original 1960’s TV series. The wiry Japanese American knew better than to mention that to Kanahele, however. The big man was a devoted fan and dreamed of someday appearing on the remake.
 
“I never thought of it like that, Ray, but you’re right. Maybe it has to do with the bizarre weather we’ve had this year. Who knows? Could be it’s just our turn.”
 
It was only 8:30 and, already, the two men were baking in the sun that had so recently risen over the mass of Diamond Head that loomed, quite literally, over their shoulders. It was uncommonly warm and unaccountably humid for November.
 
“Whatever,” Kanahele continued. “All I know is that we just had, maybe, the coolest and wettest summer in years and now it’s shaping up to be the warmest and driest winter. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it but every whack-job on the island seems to be coming out of the woodwork.”
 
Stocky and powerfully built, Kanahele shuffled his feet. He wrinkled his nose at the pungent odors emanating from the small lagoon filled with flamingos and other tropical wading birds located on the far side of the footpath from where they stood just inside the public entrance to the Honolulu Zoo. Higa looked down so that his friend wouldn’t see the smile that played across his normally stoic features. For a Hawaiian, Kanahele was all but allergic to the great outdoors. Surfing and barbecuing were about as “back to nature” as he ever got.
 
Higa was spared the necessity of responding by the arrival of a uniformed HPD officer and an attractive young woman of about thirty-five with short black hair and a tropical print blouse. It was obvious that the woman had been crying. Equally obvious was her effort to pull herself together.
 
“I’m Officer Ona. This is Helen Maitland,” the policeman addressed the two detectives. “Her husband’s in with Zoo security. The man nodded his head to indicate the first aid and security station behind him and along the Kapahulu Avenue side of the grounds. “Neither one of them is very happy, let me tell you.”
 
“Thanks, officer,” Higa spoke quietly. “Why don’t you head back there and see if you can settle them both down. We need to talk with Mrs. Maitland.”
 
After introducing themselves, Higa and Kanahele led Helen Maitland to a bench in an area somewhat pretentiously called the “Fuji Stroll Garden.”  They were surrounded by lush tropical ferns and flowering plants. The humidity was still an issue but at least they were in the shade. Over the sound of busses running up and down nearby Monsarrat Avenue came a manic shrieking from the primate enclosure down the path and around the corner past the restrooms. The Zoo was closed this morning owing to the strange events off the previous night. The monkeys, however, seemed determined to put on their accustomed show.
 
“I can’t believe this happened,” Maitland began without prompting as she looked down at her feet. “It’s all my fault.”
 
It seemed to Higa that he had never heard more pain and embarrassment from someone he was questioning.
 
“Tell us a little about yourself, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa urged. He looked down at the black Moleskine notebook in his hand. “I understand you’re anthropologist?”
 
“Yes. I’m teaching part time and working on my PhD up at UH-Manoa.”
 
“What’s your particular area of interest?”
 
“Shamanism and ancient medicine.”
 
“Oh boy,” Kanahele blurted. He was about to offer more but was silenced by a withering look from his partner.
 
“OK,” Higa turned his attention back to Mrs. Maitland. “How long have you been married?”
 
Maitland looked up and dabbed her eyes with a crumbled napkin. Kanahele offered her a clean white handkerchief. The detective had begun carrying them recently for just such contingencies. ‘Semper paratus’he had told Higa when the latter commented on the practice a week or so ago. “See, Jake,” Kanahele had replied. “I can quote shit in Latin too.”
 
“Ten years, detectives.”
 
“And everything has been going well?”
 
“Yes.” Maitland hesitated and looked down again.
 
“Hey, Mrs. Maitland,” Kanahele spoke. The veteran policeman’s prevarication detector was going off in his head. “I know this must be tough, but we can’t help you if you aren’t honest with us.”
 
“I know that,” the woman responded after a moment. “Donald and I are still very much in love, if that’s what you mean. It’s just that we’ve both been so busy.”
 
“What does Donald do?” Higa asked.
 
“He works for Matson shipping. He’s one of their IT people. It’s a very demanding job.”
 
“I’m sure it is.” Higa wrote briefly in his notebook. “Do you think the stress of his job has anything to do with, well, you know?”
 
Maitland began to sob, the sound mixing oddly with the rhythmic cooing of the zebra doves that nested in the thick undergrowth surrounding the benches where the trio sat.
Kanahele proffered a second handkerchief. “It’s my last” he said in a tone that approached admonishment. The trumpeting of an elephant off to the right added a bass note to the feral cacophony of ambient noise.
 
“It could. I just don’t know what to think anymore. The truth is, Don just hasn’t been interested in me lately. Physically interested, I mean.” Higa shot Kanahele a warning glance.
 
“You know,” Higa stated matter-of-factly, “that could have more to do with your husband than it does you. When men reach a certain age, well, things change physically and so do their, um, interests.”
 
“I realize that, and I even suggested to Donald that he have a physical exam. But he refused. He said he was just tired and preoccupied with work. He tried, I mean, we tried, but things just didn’t work out like they should. That’s when I decided to take matters he into my own hands.”
 
The two detectives looked at one another. Kanahele spoke first. The perspiration ran down the back of his neck and trickled from his receding hairline into his eyes. Silently he wished he’d saved one of his damn handkerchiefs for himself.
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“I took a trip into Chinatown.” Maitland’s eyes brightened as she began talking about something that she was obviously passionate about. “There’s a place … a little shop ... near Smith and North Hotel Streets just a few blocks from the Maunakea Market. Do you know the area?”
 
Higa and Kanahele nodded their heads in the affirmative. Both men were intimately familiar with the jammed sidewalk stalls featuring rare tropical flowers, exotic seafood, arcane herbal remedies and all manner of fresh produce that abounded in the triangle of narrow streets between Nuanu, North Beretania and South King. Kanahele, for his part, had spent his first two years on the force patrolling Chinatown’s seedy bars and “interfacing” with the area’s aging hookers and other hardened denizens.
 
“They’ve cleaned things up down there, of course, but, if you know where to look,” Maitland continued, “you can still get just about anything you want in Chinatown.”
 
“OK.” Higa interjected. He couldn’t hide his confusion. “You took a trip into Chinatown. I’m not sure how that bears on what took place here last night.”
 
“Oh, it ‘bears’ alright. Anyhow, I found the place I was looking for. I’d heard about it in the course of some research I was doing on an ancient Taoist text. There are still people out there in the ethnic communities that place great stock in the ‘old ways’, in this case, the proverbial ‘ancient Chinese secret’.”
 
Higa and Kanahele looked at one another, their puzzlement growing. Muffled audio borne on the light trade wind could be heard from the sound system at the Waikiki Shell across Monsarrat. One of the island’s ubiquitous hula festivals was in full swing.
 
“A small bell nailed to the door tinkled when I entered. The old Chinese woman who owned the shop looked at me suspiciously.” Helen Maitland paused to blow her nose on Kanahele’s handkerchief.
 
“I mentioned a name. The woman smiled at me, relieved. I told her just what I needed … powdered rhinoceros horn, bear paw, tiger penis and preparations made from the organs of the pangolin and civet cat. Who knows? Maybe she misunderstood me. I struggled with the names in Chinese. Maybe she gave me too much of something or, more likely, I made a mistake when I mixed everything together when I got home.”
 
“Jesus,” Kanahele exclaimed. “Most of that stuff is strictly black market. You realize how many endangered species acts were violated in obtaining it, not to mention the statutes that were broken smuggling it into the islands?”
 
“More to the point, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa interrupted. “Are you saying you made some sort of concoction and fed it to your husband?”
 
“Three nights ago. I prepared a philtre and mixed it with Donald’s wine before dinner. He drank the first glass so quickly I doubt he even noticed the after-taste. As far as the weird smells from the kitchen, he’s used to me experimenting with strange foods.”
 
“Well I be a monkey’s uncle” Kanahele blurted. Higa had all but given up trying to restrain his partner. Reality itself was quickly becoming too twisted, even for the madhouse that was Waikiki.
 
“Donald was gone that first night for, maybe two hours. The next night it was a little longer. He claimed not to have remembered where he’d been. I noticed that there was hair all over his clothing. I was convinced he’d been seeing another woman. I was crushed. Then I got the call this morning from the police and was told to come right down here. That Donald had … you know?”
 
Maitland began sobbing again as Higa and Kanahele stood.
 
“We’ll take this one step at a time, Mrs. Maitland,” Higa stated with more confidence than he actually felt.
 
“We need to square the trespassing charges with the Zoo officials. Then we’ll need to get some more information from you concerning that little shop you visited in Chinatown. We may be able to leave your name out of it, but the Fish and Wildlife people will need to be informed. Maybe Customs and Immigration too. We’ll see.”
 
“Of course, detective,” Maitland agreed. Her eyes were red and her nose was running. “But what about Donald? Of course I’ll stand behind him. The whole thing’s my fault, after all. Oh, God! I never thought it would work, let alone have the results it’s had.”
 
“We’ll know better once we have a chance to interview Mr. Maitland. At the very least, I’m going to recommend that he have a full physical exam, including a toxicology screen. He’ll probably be held over for psychiatric evaluation as well.”
 
“Hey,” Kanahele quipped with congenital but non-intentional insensitivity, “I’m willing to bet ole’ Donald’s gonna’ be banned from the Zoo for life, too.”
 
***
 
“I can’t help but feel sorry for that couple, Ray.”  The two policemen walked past the Nene goose and the Komodo dragon exhibits. They turned left through the orchid garden and headed toward their car which was parked just outside the service and maintenance gate along Kapahulu Avenue. Both men were sweating profusely and looked forward to cranking up the A/C once they reached their vehicle.
 
“C’mon, Jake,” Kanahele responded. “Any guy that isn’t interested in that Maitland woman is a loser to begin with. I mean, man, she’s a good looking lady.”
 
“I did notice that you couldn’t keep your eyes off of her. If Maile saw the way you were looking at her, she’d kill you.” Higa never tired of ribbing his partner about the latter’s loving but often tumultuous relationship with his long-suffering wife.
 
“You’re kidding right? Maile’s always telling me she’d pay me to have an affair. Says it would get me out of her hair for awhile.” Kanahele paused, pulled out his phone and checked the screen. Higa suspected that it was probably Maile herself checking in with a text message … as was her wont.
 
“Oh well,” Kanahele continued. “This one won’t get us on Five-O, that’s for sure. Do they have something like an Animal Planet: Porn channel? Anyhow. I’ve been thinking.”
 
Higa turned toward his loquacious partner. Ray Kanahele was a good cop and the right man to have in a tight spot but thinking was not always his greatest strength.
 
“Seriously. If that lolo buggah Donald Mailtland ever gets it together and has a son, you know the kid will be a real ‘chimp off the old block’. Get it? A ‘chimp off the old block’?”
 
Mercifully, the traffic noise and susurration of the palm trees overhead prevented the big Hawaiian from hearing his partner groan.
 
The End
 
BIO:
 
James C. Clar's short fiction has been published in places like Flashshot, The Taj Mahal Review, Golden Visions Magazine, Apollo's Lyre, Word Catalyst Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Long Story, Short, Antipodean SF and the Magazine of Crime & Suspense. Stories featuring HPD Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele have appeared previously here on Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers as well as on A Twist of Noir and Powder Burn Flash.

THOSE BODIES AT THE TEMPLE By J R Lindermuth


THOSE BODIES AT THE TEMPLE

Now it seems to me, a village priest should be among the first to know what’s happening in his parish. That’s not the case here, though. Not here in this isolated Korean parish where I’ve been laboring for the past three years.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do find out about most things—eventually. My people do trust me. They do confide in me. Honest.

It’s just that it doesn’t always happen as soon as I’d like.

Take the case of those bodies found out at the old temple. You would think I’d be among the first to be informed about something like that. Not that dead bodies are my special interest. But you have to admit a person in my line of work could be of value on such occasions. For instance, who would be better at breaking the sad news to family of the deceased. I’m not bragging when I say experience counts in such a situation. And, should the poor soul be Catholic—well need I say more about my role in such a situation?

The point is, no one bothered to tell me about those bodies. I had to find out for myself.

It’s midsummer. The rice is green and heavy on the stalks. It’s warm and humid and the sky is daily that singularly clear blue which has earned the country its sobriquet of Land of the Morning Calm. When the people aren’t busy in the fields they’ve been going out to the park surrounding the old Buddhist temple for picnics. I’m not so na├»ve I don’t know the young people flock to the farther wooded edges of the park for clandestine assignations. Some of these incidents lead to scandal; for the most they result in couples coming before me for the bonds of matrimony.

One particular morning I became aware of a current of excitement running through the village. It resembled the sort of thing I witness whenever one of the popular traveling shows arrive in the village, or when the local shaman is performing one of her superstitious rituals, or when some ripe scandal is being circulated by the chief gossips.
For reasons I couldn’t fathom, I wasn’t being made privy to the source of this excitement. Everyone I asked either evaded my question or pleaded ignorance.

I wasn’t about to be put off. Something was going on and I intended to find out what.

Yet people kept ignoring me. Even Mrs. Song, a notorious gossip, passed me off with a mere shrug. Finally I confronted Sergeant Choi, our local policeman. “I demand to know what’s going on,” I told him.

Choi, who has seen way too many of our Western movies and fancies himself an Asian version of John Wayne—though he’s half the man’s size and carries no gun—sucked on the cigarette perpetually hanging from one corner of his mouth, withdrew it pinched between thumb and forefinger, exhaled a cloud of smoke and squinted at me.

“Well?” I said.

Sergeant Choi pulled his cap down by its brim, curled back his lips, exposing two gold teeth, and said, “No problem, Father.”

“What do you mean—no problem.”

After taking another drag on his cigarette, he said, “Two dead people have been found in the woods.”

“And that’s not a problem?”

“They are not from here.”

“They’re still dead. Aren’t you going to do something about it? What happened to them?”

“It appears they made a good-time. Afterwards they ate poison.”

They killed themselves?”

It would seem so.”

“Is there nothing I can do?”

“I have done what needed to have been done,” he said with a coy smile. “Word has been sent to their families.”

“Do you know why they did this terrible thing?”

He shrugged. “They did not leave a message and, of course, they talked to no one here.”

“Perhaps I should give them last rites. Where are they?”

I don’t know if they are Catholic. I suppose it would not hurt. They are in the back of Mr. Rhee’s store.”

“In the store?”

He shrugged again. “I didn’t know where else to put them.”

Considering the lack of dignity for these poor children, laid out among the cans and boxes like so much storage, in the back of a store, I suggested we move them to the church.
 “As you wish, Father,” he said, complying with no more interest than had I ask what day of the week it were.

Once the bodies were moved and I had a chance to view them, I was shocked. Not simply by their youth but also the fact they were well dressed and apparently not of the lower, uneducated classes. Despite the grimaces left on their faces by the poison they’d consumed, both appeared to have been attractive in life. What could have led them to such a tragic end? It was beyond my understanding.

When I expressed this to Choi and other villagers I was met with blank looks, mumbles and shrugs.

Such nonchalance about a tragedy could not be ignored. I am, after all, a priest. It’s my duty to point out to people the error of their way. I decided there was no better place to address this than in my homily at Sunday’s Mass.

I took my text from Luke. I used the story of the Samaritan who had compassion on the man fallen upon by thieves. I was in rare form. I railed at them. “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” I shouted. I drove the message home. “Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”

Alas, it was in vain. They regarded me with blank expressions. Not one of them commented, said a single word, as they filed out after Mass. I was perplexed. Had they no shame? How could they not have had some shred of compassion for those poor children?

Sergeant Choi was among the last to leave. I caught his arm as he passed. “Well?”

He smiled up at me. “Good sermon, Father.”

“Is that all you have to say? Did you not understand what I had to say?”

“Sure, Father. I tell you, good sermon. Jesus want us always to be care about other peoples.”

“And you think that’s what you and the people of this village did for those poor children?”

Choi screwed up his face and studied me. Then he shook his head. “Is sad thing, Father. No one can help.”

I confess. I exploded. I waved my finger in his face and shouted. “What do you mean? You could have at least had some common decency. You could have treated them with…”

Choi raised a hand. “Please, Father. You no understand. You come. We have coffee and talk some more.” He turned on his heel and strode off, taking for granted I would follow.
Well, what else could I do? Of course I followed him. Koreans love coffee. But in our village it was a rarity. What more often was available in Mrs. Pak’s establishment was the traditional hot barley water drink.

I sat across from Choi and waited to hear more. He took his time, sipping his brew and nibbling dried cuttlefish. Finally he gazed up at me and said, “You know war do many bad things to my people.”

The war hadn’t been that long ago. Of course I was aware of its devastating impact on the Korean people.

Choi stared into the cup he held in both pudgy hands. “Many families get split during war. Some peoples go here. Some go there. Sometimes later they find one another. Sometimes not.”

“Yes, yes. What does this have to do with…”

Choi regarded me with a sad smile. “This boy we find at temple. He go to college in Seoul. Family happy. They making good life. Then boy, he meeting this girl. She work in shop. They liking one another. Soon they say love. Want to get married.”

“What’s wrong with that? That’s a good thing, isn’t it.” Then it dawned on me. “Oh, no. You’re saying his family wouldn’t accept her. She wasn’t good enough for their son. Is that why they…”

Choi shook his head. “No. Family happy son want to marry. They anxious to meet girl. That’s when problem come.”

“Problem? What problem?”

Choi tossed off the last of his drink. He looked at me and I saw his eyes moist up with tears. “Girl not stranger. She being long lost daughter.”

END

BIO:

J. R. Lindermuth is the author of eight novels and has published stories in a variety of magazines, both print and on line. Living in Korea in the 1960s provided the seed for many tales.

Being Someone Else (July 2010), Whiskey Creek Press
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press

Saturday, 27 November 2010

THE HOME TOUR by Hal Kempka

The Home Tour

The sleek Mercedes pulled into the small town’s single-pump gas station. A wrinkled old man sat in a chair by the door, his fedora pulled over his eyes. Benny lowered the car’s smoked glass window.

“Pardon me, can you tell me how to get the Old Oliver place?”
 
The man raised his head just enough for Benny to see gray stubble carpeting his gaunt face.

“Yep.”
 
Getting no further response, Benny asked, “So, do you mind telling me how to get there, old timer?”

The old man spit a gob of russet-colored juice toward a coffee can spittoon, and wiped an oil-colored trickle from his chin.

“The name’s Claude and not old timer.” 

“Okay Claude, how do I get there?”

He pointed down Main Street with a bony finger.

“Follow the road out of town three quarters of a mile and stay to the right when the road forks. Turn left after another mile. Just before the four mile bridge turn left again. When you reach a gravel road, follow it to the house.”

“Thanks,” Benny replied.

“You’re going out there because of that ad in the city papers about the home tour and free dinner, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Benny replied, “Why?”

Claude sat forward in his chair. "Are you a serious buyer or a looky-lou? I know they don’t take kindly to freeloaders wanting a house tour and a free dinner.”

"I’m a realtor specializing in Victorian resales,” Benny replied. "But, I doubt it’s in the condition advertised in the paper. Regardless, I’ll get the owner to come down to what I will pay.”

“Maybe, and maybe not," Claude replied.

“I guess we’ll see,” Benny scoffed. “Thanks for the directions old ti . . . , I mean Claude.”
 
Benny drove off devising a way to scam the owner. He followed Claude’s directions, which returned him to the road fork. The gravel drive sat just before the fork. 

“Oh, you schmuck,” he said, realizing the old man sent him in one big circle.
 
The three-story Victorian sat on a stone foundation, and from a distance appeared to be in perfect shape.
 
"I am going to make a fortune off this place,” Benny said, stepping onto the porch.

He knocked, and the leaded glass and oak door opened slightly. He stepped inside to a marble-floored foyer flanked by heavily furnished rooms, whose musty, polished wood aroma hung in the air.
 
"Hello, anybody here?" he hollered.
 
A few seconds later, a muffled voice replied, "Come in, I'm down here!"

“Down where?” Benny called out.

“Follow the hall straight ahead, and take the stairs. I’m in the basement.”

Benny followed the narrow hall. His footsteps echoed on the wood floor as he stepped between Persian rug hall runners. Benny made a mental note to use the creaking floor as leverage.

Mid-way down the hall, the floor beneath him gave way. He tumbled into a darkened chasm with the rug wrapping around him.

Benny slammed to a stop. Vertebrae crunched and his lungs deflated in a loud,

“Hunnnh!”

He sprawled across several evenly spaced iron bars with tiny, ripsaw-toothed edges that ripped into his skin. Barely conscious and paralyzed except for his eyes, Benny’s chest rose and fell sounding shrill and forced.

“Hello again. I’m so glad you could drop in. Oh! I just made a joke.”

Thunderbolts of pain shot through Benny’s brain. His frightened eyes darted toward the voice.

Claude, the old man, stood next to a furnace where flames licked at a grate placed above it.

Claude pulled a leathery, brownish clump from his pocket and bit off a piece. He held it out to Benny.

“Care for a chew? Dried liver is much better than regular tobacco. It’s chewy, retains the juices, and you don’t have to worry about cancer killing you.”

Claude grabbed an axe off the woodpile, and felt the edge. After running the edge along a sharpening stone along the edge he raised it over his head. Benny could only watch through the tears pooling in his eye sockets.

Claude chuckled and split a fire log in two with a loud crack. After feeding the log into the flames, the cellar quiet echoed with another chop. Although he felt nothing, Benny’s horrific screams echoed in his mind.

“I’m sorry you got the quick tour, but looky-lou’s and devious real estate agents are time-wasters. However, we did promise a free meal. I hope you like your meat cooked medium.”

Claude seasoned the severed leg and set it on the grill. After sharpening an carving knife, he removed Benny’s liver and hung it over the fire to dry. Several seconds later, the room faded into darkness.

BIO 

Harold ‘Hal’ Kempka is a former Marine, and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Thrillers Killers and Chillers, Black Petals, Night to Dawn, Golden Visions, House of Horror, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Microhorror, Flashes in the Dark, Blood Moon Rising, The New Flesh, Sex and Murder, and The Shine Journal, among others. Hal also has stories appearing in upcoming anthologies from Pill Hill Press and Blood Bound Books. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California. His emailaddress is: rvnvet6667@yahoo.com

NEON ELECTRIC by Ron Koppelberger

This tale first appeared in Necrotic Tissue.


Neon Electric

Posey Wing lay beneath the window sill staring through the blinds; there were a few missing louvers and he could just make out the neon signs exclamation.

“HOT….L”

Vacancy the sign flashed. The red neon gave Posey a candent red eyed appearance, pupils dilate and undialate, scarlet like the eyes of a dog in a photograph.

He dozed in a nightmare restlessness, sleep without rest. The sound of his sighs, his exhalations in smoke scented perfumes and moldy carpeting, in cockroach heaven, tinctured the electric buzz of the neon sign with a breath of life; he was lonesome in beggar realms of dirt, stone and humid tears of sweat.

The air conditioning was just beneath the far side of the sill, the foot of the bed, close to the door. The far corner of the blinds bled dirty droplets of dust down onto the cold metal of the conditioner in spattered dew drops.

Clairvoyant, he was clairvoyant. He knew someone had died in the room, he could see the man laying in the floor near the bathroom. He wasn’t there he knew that, nevertheless he still saw and in seeing he suffered the misery of the clairvoyant.

Blood, puddles of blood , the green nap of the carpeting was stained a dark brown, almost black. They hadn’t bothered to replace the carpeting. The man lay in a nimbus of mist, scarlet, frozen in time; hanging above his head was a fine spray of blood, still, glistening, suspended in an instant.

Posey turned from the ugly taboo and grabbed the pack of smokes he had placed on the edge of the window sill. Voodoo amusements he thought as he lit the cigarette, voodoo amusements my man. He inhaled deeply savoring the taste . He needed a coffee, black and strong. Posey stood and grabbed for the ancient coffee cup. There were bits of green and blue mold floating on the surface of the half empty cup. “Yuuuuuucccckkkk!” he groaned.

Crossing the room, past the mans body, the blood and the sightless eyes, he found the dark silhouette of the radio; he turned the knob and the radio blared to life. There were three or four stations playing simultaneously, a Mexican man talking in wavery exclamations, drifting in and out, wavering in ripples of sound. Beneath the Spanish broadcast a Pink Floyd song, he couldn’t remember the name of it; there was the faint sound of a minister in a preachy voice, “Re……ent, ……….pent sinners!” he exclaimed over the Floyd song and the Spanish dialogue. He listened for a moment and decided the radio was haunted.

As he was about to turn it off, he paused; from the bottom of a long dark hole, a tube, gravely, liquid, dark and in ethereal command , a voice sounding like bubbles and static, deep. The voice reminded Posey of an old episode of The Outer Limits, an alien voice, definitely not human. He clicked the radio off and an image clouded his mind for a moment, babies crying in a long tiled room, a woman in the throes of passion, and the alien.

The alien, the monster was a black silhouette in shadow, gurgling, flemy and in vigilant dimensions of madness. The shadow tilted at a crazy oblique angle near the corner of the room. Posey jumped as the radio blared back to life. “……iners repent, ye sinners!” he heard in infinite echoing static. Posey trembled uncontrollably for an instant as the monster melded into the corner of the wall. Posey paused for a breath and a hazy moment of contemplation.
There was a tiny sink and mirror on the opposite side of the room. “Coffee.” he whispered to himself as he imagined the bitter taste of caffeine. As he crossed the room he grabbed the cup from the bedside stand: the logo on the side of the mug read,

“Wild Coyote Inn.”

With a picture of an amber colored coyote on the front. He dumped the ancient brew into the drain. Bits of fury green mold clung to the basin. Posey ran the hot water and using his hand he pushed the chunks of mold into the swirling rush of water. Taking a bar of soap wrapped in paper, he washed the mug and mixed a cup of coffee with the white labeled generic brand he had bought earlier that day.

As he drank the coffee became viscous, it tasted like blood, the lifeblood of a dream, a nightmare in pass. Posey wiped his mouth on the starched white cotton of one of the motel hand cloths, it smelled of bleach. The towel came away stained scarlet in smears of blood.

He exhaled loudly as he clicked the radio back off, dumping the mugs contents into the sink. “Just coffee.” he said aloud as he looked at the brown liquid staining the sink.

Posey grabbed a t-shirt from his battered suitcase and slipped it over his head. He found his tennis shoes and slipped them onto his sock less feet. His mother had told him, “Always wear socks with your shoes Posey, otherwise your feet will stink!” He felt a brief moment of guilt as he saw his mothers look of admonishment peering through a veil of years.

Posey walked out onto the front stoop closing the door to the room behind him. The sidewalk was washed in the flickering neon light of the hotel sign. A pile of dead flies lay scattered across the sidewalk beneath the sign.

Posey crossed the street and began walking south on Mawson Lane. As he approached the corner of Mawson and Rhy he spotted the prostitute on the corner. She walked toward him as he approached. A cool sashay, lipstick and curly blonde hair. She wore a lace halter done in white, sweet songs done in dry deserts he thought. She massaged her hip with long rose colored fingernails. The scarlet colored miniskirt inched up just far enough for him to catch a glimpse of her panties.

“ Watchya doin honey?” she said. Posey paused in mid stride, she was covered in blood and long gashes, knife wounds covered her arms and throat. Several of her fingers were missing as if she had tried to fight off an attacker. She seemed oblivious.

He had discovered his Psychic self when he was eight years old, or rather it had discovered him.

He had been by himself at Aziza Memoriam park; there were swings and slides and spinning wheels for the children. The barbecue pit was near the center of a group of picnic tables and the public restrooms. He had been on the spinner by himself; he pushed ran and jumped on the spinning wheel. Around and around, the wind, tall pines and picnic area became a blur. Jumping back off, his head swam for a moment and he staggered to the picnic tables. The smell of burning charcoal and hamburger grease filled his nostrils. He felt sick as the park wavered and tilted in front of him.

He saw three or four men around the barbecue pit, only thing wuz that they were ghosts he thought, he could see right through them. He was frozen in place as the scene unfolded before his eyes.

The men were laughing and yelling, “Burn baby burn!!” one of the men shouted in a whooping rage.

“Got dat beech but good man!” a scraggly man in a green t-shirt exclaimed.

“That’ll teach that miserable witch!” the third man said to the green shirt.

He watched as a plume of smoke drifted in thick oily streams from the cement pit. The cloying odor of charred meat hung in the air and Posey gagged back the contents of his stomach. He went over and looked in to the cement and mortar barbecue pit, Ash, gray ash and ghosts in blood and bones, “Blood and Bones.” he whispered aloud as the prostitute waved him closer.

High-down in his memories, he took a few steps closer to the bleeding woman. Her mouth moved but the words didn’t match, a mans deep tenor.

“Beware the wrath of the jade willows breath and the blood of the myrter!” She said as she looked at the bleeding nubs of her missing fingers.

Posey took in a deep breath, clean and tinged by the scent of lilacs, perfumed incense. The prostitute turned away from Posey for a moment and said, “I love the scents of summer honey. Can you smell that, it reminds me of my grandmothers perfume. She always wore it before she went to the store or bingo. Grandpa said she was a rare beauty and she baffled the sky. Do I baffle the sky Posey? Do I make your heart race like a wild Raven Posey?” she asked in an easy rhythm of seductive coquette. “Do I baffle the sky Posey?” Posey stared at her as she tried to apply her lipstick. “Cherry blossom hun.” It was blood red and in commune with her bleeding face. She kept dropping the damn lipstick, her damaged hands weren’t working. “Gosh darn it Posey, I can’t get this right.” Posey thought for a moment and offered,
“You definitely baffle the sky miss.” She grinned in open eyed glee as she put her lipstick away.

“Thanks honey…..hey…..” she gave him a sly smile, “I might be sweet on you Posey, how about a freebee babe?” Posey shook his head in horror at the thought and said, “ No thanks…..ahhhhhhaaaaa?” he questioned.
“You can call me Daisy.” she offered in return.

“No thanks Daisy.” he said apologetically.

“Suit yourself hon.” she said as she crossed the street in directions of unknown haunt.

Posey looked at the spot on the corner where Daisy had been. The was a spreading puddle of scarlet and several bloody footprints pointing further down the street. Only thing was the footprints weren’t hers, they were large, a mans footprints, tennis shoe tracks, clearly heading toward the Neon Electric.

The city offered a few rarities, good bear, a good burger, museums for the eclectic minded, he hated modern art, and the Neon Electric.

Posey lit a cigarette and too a breath of smokey relief as he followed the bloody shoe tracks. He ended up standing near the bright neon glare of the Neon Electric. The footprints led inside. He looked at the ticket booth for a moment then the sign. Two stories high the sign flashed green and indigo light, spilling out onto the concrete in black light illumination, the bloody tracks glowed in the signs wash.

“NEON ELECTRIC.”

It sang in a staticy hum.

The ticket booth to the black light museum was empty and the front entrance beckoned him with its unbidden secret. Posey went inside.

His eyes took a moment to adjust to the black lighting. The first thing he saw was the jade willow, six foot tall it took up an entire corner of the front room. The jade sparkled in the shadow light like a great ghost. He could hear the wind blowing through its jeweled branches. Near the base of the willow lay the body of the ticket taker, crumpled in the final throes of death.

The hall leading to the back of the museum was lined with shelves and colored neon lights. A giant mural of a seductive ornate design covered the opposite side of the hall. The mural showed a woman kissing a man in a fireman’s uniform, she wore nothing and her eyes seemed to loll with the black lighting in the hall. The shelves were lined with glowing curios, glitter covered, painted bright and obvious.

Posey moved into the hall. There were smears of blood covering the floor and tennis shoe tracks. Posey had a brief flash, a vision overwhelm his senses with the sight and smells of a nightmare drama.

The end of the hall seemed to waver in the dark lighting, swaying at a crazy angle, and the smell of blood fresh, coppery. Posey tried to fix a glance at the shadow he saw crouching there, or was it laying there, he couldn’t tell, his psychic senses were in full swing. Dressed in black he saw a skull faced reaper with a blood spattered scythe. Black and white bone, sinew rending unto the blade. The figure screamed, “Drink the wine! Drink the wine Posey!” Posey shook for a moment as if jolted then he paused the red neon glowing in his wide eyes. He looked at the pathetic creature crouched beneath a display of stained glass crucifixes. “Drink the wine!” the man whispered in a throaty exclamation.

Posey stared at the shadowy shape of the killer, he was still, quiet in solstice with the screaming ghost, “Drink the wine!” The mans head had nearly been blown in half and a sodden mess of brains lay next to his motionless figure. Blood, great puddles of congealed crimson liquid pooled beneath his body. He had just missed the action. The killers escape, his way out by self destruction.

The man whispered, “Drink the wine Posey!” he held out a bottle of grape MD 20/20 toward Posey, “Have a sip my man, have a sip!”
Posey turned and walked out of the Neon Electric to the waiting street with its freaks, ghosts, burnouts, hookers and dirty dreams of poverty. He made his way back to the motel and bolted the door behind him.

“HOT….L” the sign flashed as Posey layed down in a haunted portion of respite.

BIO

Ron Koppelberger is aspiring to become established as a poet and a short story writer. He have written 98 books of poetry over the past several years and 17 novels: He has been submitting his work for the past year and a half. He has published 348 poems, 190 short stories, and 36 pieces of art in over 90 periodicals, books and anthologies. He has been published in The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. Also he recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry In The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. He is a member of The American Poet’s Society as well as The Isles Poetry Association. 

LONELY HEARTS by AJ Humpage

Lonely Hearts

She added one last entry to her diary, closed it and flicked the light off. She left the house and wandered into the dark, humid air.

She had weathered an eight-year storm; lost on a cold, grey ocean of unlimited depth, and for a long time the bilious undercurrents had swept her further from reality. Her life had been all but a slate coloured mist, except for the needle like pain of a moment in the past that periodically brought her to. This static encrusted memory kept her going because she knew she would find him again, however long it took.

She remembered his face; deep frown lines peppered with beads of sweat, the hint of whiskers poking through sun kissed skin. She remembered his scent, the mix of musky perspiration and beer and traces of Armani. She remembered the heady mix of desire and alcohol, the way he deftly lowered her defences when she least expected, as neatly as unzipping a dress.

The art of betrayal had ingrained in her memory, never to leave.

She remembered his stale breath against her face, his saliva like slime, left on her skin from a tongue hewn from granite, trailing like a snail from mouth to vagina. And his eyes, as distant as a blown star, never burned with depth or feeling. They were dark, indistinct and somewhere behind the burnished facade, a demon huddled, waiting to pounce.

He was a shark in the depths, picking off his victims, tasting them and then spitting them out.

She remembered his touch, rough like sand across her skin. He left marks across her flesh, deeper ones in her mind. Reddened welts peppered her arms and legs. Worst of all, he had sliced her with the penknife - leaving trails of blood soaking the bed sheets - while eking out a name in broken flesh: slut. She haemorrhaged crimson clots as soon as he forced a path inside her, so violent that he split her open, while hot streams oozed from nose and mouth, the softness of skin no match for his fists.

He had snatched the thin thread of trust that she had forged during their date, ripped it from her in that moment of frenzy. She had been looking for Mr. Right.

But she couldn’t fight him, couldn’t kick, nor would she dare to scream; she could barely raise a whisper. Instead, she had to listen to the screams in her head while the fear sat crushing her chest like churlish demon.

He worked in a hospital. A doctor. The drug he’d used was Benzodiazepine. It had clouded her motor functions, impeded thought and she was unable to stop him. Electrical pulses imploded, and muscles spasmed and at first she didn’t feel the pain, but as the drug gradually dissipated through her veins and began to wane, hours into her ordeal, the fire in her groin became intense, like a container full of nails had exploded in her womb.

Long after he had spilled his seed and was gone, the pain in her abdomen remained for days, a grotesque reminder of her naivety.

The darkness enveloped her. She shook the memory from her mind and looked up at the face in the distance, bathed in ochre from the street light. His was a familiar square face, suffused by the swirling night which protected him.

Clicking of heels over cobbles signalled primitive urges. Red lips, plump and waiting for a kiss, moved in perceived slow motion until her face found the light.

“I’m Jen.” A lie. “You must be Morgan.”

Morgan Smith looked at her from beneath lowered eyelids, as though gauging her. He cast a probing shadow across her pale face. The subtle inflection in his expression belied his true nature.

“I have a lovely bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape waiting at home,” Jen whispered, moving. “Shall we?”

His voice was soft, rounded. “You’re much smaller than your picture. I thought you would be taller.”

She looked up. Subtle flecks in her pale green eyes bristled beneath the dull glare of the street light. “Everyone says that.” Her attention dropped to his left hand as he moved. The gold wedding band glinted. Her eyes narrowed.

He saw her expression, slipped his hand in his pocket. “I...I’m separated.”

She smiled to ease his tenuous expression. “Don’t worry, I meant what I said in my advert. No strings attached. You probably have a lovely family at home, but we’re both looking for fun, right?”

The advert in the lonely hearts column of the local newspaper, the no strings fun of two consenting adults, had caught his interest, because she matched his criteria perfectly.

His eyes darkened. “Right.”

She walked along the cobbles, her footsteps echoing through the alley. “My place isn’t far.”

He followed, soft even steps mingling with hers.

Ten minutes later, she opened the front door and stepped into the dark umbra clouding the hallway. She stopped momentarily, talked to a shadow in the murk, then walked towards a door at the far end.

Morgan closed the door with his foot. Immediately the shadow rose from the floor, growled, startled him. Morgan stiffened against the door, unable to see the threat.

She flicked the light on. “Oh, don’t mind Jason. He’s just wary around strangers, that’s all.” She slipped into the kitchen.

Morgan gazed at the sleek black Doberman. The dog stared back at him, very still, upright, ears to attention like sharpened spears. Lips curled in a silent scowl.

Morgan slid along the wall, slowly eased past the dog and entered the kitchen.

Jen had already popped the wine. She handed him a full glass, then grabbed hers, gazed up at him, her green eyes glowing with a strange, eerie candescence. She sipped the ruby coloured liquid, licked her lips.

He watched, fascinated, took a gulp from his own glass.

She reached up and touched his face, saw how his eyes became like polished steel. She sipped her drink. “Drink up, it’s a good way of banishing those inhibitions.”

He grinned, knocked back the glass. She poured him another.

She was silent as she took his hand and led him upstairs. She pushed open bedroom door, allowed the feminine scents within to tantalise him, draw him in.

A cool pewter glow from a full moon framed her silhouette as she stood by the window. The darkness crowded them, pressed against their piqued skin. She undid the coat and slipped it off.

Morgan could see her shape against the moon glow pressing against the window. He set the wine glass down and quickly unbuckled his belt and unzipped his trousers. He pulled off his shirt, threw it across the room.

She moved forward, her milky shadow grazed by the light. She settled on the bed. She reached up and pulled him down on the bed beside her; lay close enough to feel the warmth of his body, the pulse of his quickening heartbeat under his skin.

His scent tickled her nose. Armani and raw musk. Her memory fizzled.

She felt his hand sweep up her leg and hip, then up across her back, but the sensation was cold, insipid. Hot breath clouded her face as he tried to find her lips, but she had her head turned towards the pale light, her eyes focused on the moon through the half-closed curtains. The cold man in the moon seemed fearful.

She let him paw her. Her memories pushed through the dust clouds in her mind; the same touch and sensations that she could never forget. Her body seemed to his touch and after a long while of play she moved so that she sat astride him, rubbed her hands down his chest and groin. She could just make out the slight smile on his face as he settled back against the pillows.

She gripped him, thumb rubbing his against glans. From the greyness, she heard him moan. It was a subtle sound, almost lost in the darkness, but in her mind, it sounded more like a foul sounding whine of a dark, bestial creature.

She eased forward as though to tease, but she reached under the mattress with her right hand while she continued to rub him with her left. Her fingertips touched the blade beneath the mattress, found the handle. Fingers tightened.

He moaned again, throbbing against her palm.

She tucked the knife tight against her wrist and straightened. She glared at him through the gloom, recalled her memory of him. His face hadn’t changed. His eyes were still dark and barren like a lifeless moon, still the same glacial expression devoid of depth or emotion. Still the same stench poured from his skin.

Her insides juddered as she remembered him. Everything about him.

She curled her fingers around his penis, thumb and forefinger squeezing gently. She tucked her feet beneath her thighs, knees resting in the folds of his inner thighs.

She eased the knife from the protective veil of the darkness, lifted his member and without hesitation or sound or a stuttered heartbeat, she sliced into the base, pushed the knife deep into the flesh, felt blood squirt across her hand.

Morgan screamed as the pain shot into his system, although it sounded more like an intake of breath meeting a cough, and for a second or two he gurgled on his own saliva. He tried to sit up, found that he couldn’t. Arms seemed strangely unwieldy, muscles unable to comply with synaptic charges.

“What the f--”

“Flunitrazepam,” she said, cold, sawing through him, the blade easily carving through his tightened skin. “Rohyphnol to you and me. And you know all about that, don’t you, Morgan? Being a doctor.”

Tears spilled from his eyes and mixed with saliva bubbling from his mouth. He knew exactly what it meant. He had limited control of motor functions because the drug inside him was working to numb his muscles. He realised then how much she must have put in his glass of wine. “Bitttchh...what the hell...”

Even through the maw, she could see his distorted face, his neck swollen with pain, veins throbbing and crawling beneath his skin like scurrying roaches. Thin threads bulged in his face, looked as though they would burst any moment.

“No! God dammit...”

Something warm splattered and dribbled down her stomach. The slimy, seamy feel of warm blood dripped between her legs. She heard his guts quiver.

He whined, body stuttering.

She tore the last remaining sinew from him and his member detached. An oily film of blood covered her hands. “Look Morgan, bits of you. This is what hurt me. This is the weapon you used against me.”

He was breathing shallow, hard, the creeping numbness in his body making him cold. He stared at her through his pain. “You crazy bitch! What the hell are you talking about?”

“Eight years ago. You answered my ad in the lonely hearts column of the newspaper. You lived in North London then. Single white female seeks fun with single male, 25 - 40. But it wasn’t any fun for me, was it? See, I thought it was the alcohol that made me senseless and numb, but you drugged me. Is that what you did to all your blind dates, Morgan? Drugged them and raped them?” She waved his severed penis at him. “Not anymore.”

“I’ll kill you for this you crazy slut,” he rasped, his senses beginning to fog. His eyes shuttered.

“Eight years. That’s how long it’s taken to trawl the lonely hearts columns of all the newspapers, week in, week out to finally trap you.” She rose from the bed, grabbed her coat and slipped into her heels before opening the door. “You might want to get to a hospital soon, Morgan, before you bleed out. Think of your poor wife. What on earth will you say to the police?” She squeezed the severed penis in a symbolic fit of anger, dug her nails into it, felt how warm it was. “Oh, one last thing...my name is Melanie, not Jen.”

It took all of his strength to fight the numbing sensation of the drug to clamp his hand over the gaping hole where his cock had been.

He screamed, but it was pathetic and somehow lost in the darkness that poisoned the room.

Melanie Clark, early twenties, brunette hair, mesmerising green eyes. Tiny little thing. Now he remembered. Christ did he remember.

Melanie wandered downstairs, watched by the dog sitting in the middle of the hallways. She deposited the bloody knife in the sink and washed her hands. She stared at the lump of flesh on the kitchen counter, felt a cold satisfaction trickle into her stomach. She picked it up by the fleshiest part, walked down the hallway.

She smiled at the dog. “Hungry, baby?”

The dog sat up, barked.

From upstairs, she heard Morgan wail.

Long glistening strands of saliva dripped from the dog’s mouth, splattered against the tiled floor.

She threw the bloody piece of muscle to the dog. “Enjoy, baby. Eat it all up.”

The dog snatched it up, chewed eagerly through the flesh and fat tissue. The deep, satisfying sound of mastication echoed around the hallway and drifted up the stairs like a sinister trail of vapour.

Morgan could barely move. He heard the dog chomping, felt the bedclothes growing damp around his backside, the awful sensation of blood rushing from the gaping hole in his groin filling him with abject terror and he screamed again.

Melanie smiled to herself, watched as the dog licked up the remaining blood. She slipped her coat on, grabbed the dog’s lead and hooked it into his collar. She picked up her keys and opened the door.

She glanced down at the dog as the darkness pressed against them. “Let’s go work you up a big appetite...”

Bio

A J Humpage has been writing thriller & horror stories for over 20 years, with stories published in anthologies like 6 Sentences & Static Movement, Pill Hill Press. She also writes articles & dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com. She has completed her first novel & some of her stories & poetry can be found at http://ajhumpage.blogspot.com.