Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A note from the Editors - Horror Submissions

It's been a huge pleasure for me to publish some stellar chillers on TK'n'C this last year. Thank you to all the writers that have taken the time to submit their stories.

As Horror Editor I thought it might be time to give would-be submitters to the Horror category more of a low-down on what I'm looking for. 

We're closing our doors to subs for June and July as we already have a schedule of tales to tantalise you over those months. I hope the following might give you the time to gather inspired words to chill the blood in our readers' veins.

I'll start in reverse and tell you what I don't want; no point in wasting anyone's time:

  • Anything resembling Twilight. Too soft for us. An earthy True Blood or Blade-type vampire is more to my taste but if you must do vampires, make them unique. I don't want a rewrite. 
  • Twee. 'Nuf said.
  • Humour has its place - but it's got to have a killer twist and punchline - and still be chilling.
  • Anything involving child-abuse. I don't like it. I won't have it. If the story's got a kid in it; he'd better be a Damien or a Toshio, or have no sexual connections whatsoever. An adult behaving in a certain way because of something that happened to them as a child is acceptable as long as it is implied and not explicit. 
  • What I call 'grunt sex'. I get too many stories - some of which are very well-written which suddenly descend into private gratification and make me roll my eyes in boredom. If you use sex in your stories - use it cleverly. As Clive Barker's spitting, flailing, tattered Celestine calls out in his masterpiece Imajica - "You stink of coitus." This entire work is also darkly sensual and demonic - now that's clever.
  • Slashfests with no story. It's immature. I like visceral rather than gore for its own sake.
  • No self-harm, cruelty to minors or animals, teenage angst (been there, done that) or suicides.

What DO I want?

  • I want you to scare the hell out of me. Shock me or seduce me subtly but frighten me senseless. If it works for me, it'll work for TK'n'C readers.
  • Ghosts or stalkers, zombies or psychopaths - I don't mind a cross-genre or three. In fact I like that, so don't be afraid to twist and blend styles. Be yourself - your voice will shine through.
  • I like bizarro; I like strange. I like altered observations. I don't like 'safe'.
  • Blood and death, and the relationships that dance between them
  • Serial killers. This could cross over with Crime. If anyone has read any of AJ Humpage's Hackett series on my blog in the weekly Prediction flash fiction challenge then you'll know what creeps us all out. If not - do take a look. 
  • If you don't know my own work (and this isn't a publicity stunt) I had several pieces published here on TK'n'C and in several print anthologies before becoming Horror Editor. My recent eBook Cabaret of Dread is a collection of 11 long and 32 shorter extreme horror stories. You can read my latest psychological horror story A Smile, Reflecting for free at Absolutely*Kate's At The Bijou, which includes a short interview.

    I don't want you to write like me, I just want you to get a feel for what I do as it might give you a deeper insight into what inspires me.

So who'll write the next Peter Straub's Koko? Who'll fill a volume with characters and scenes such as those in Clive Barker's Books of Blood? Who's got Johnny knocking at the door with an axe? Come August when TK'n'C submissions reopen - I'd like to find out.


Looking forward to reading you...

Lily Childs
Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers Horror Editor
____________________________________

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

SWEET DREAMS by Carl Carswell

A new voice sings a fine crime/horror tune, and it comes from the lungs of Cumbria's Carl Carswell. Please bid Carl welcome with...

SWEET DREAMS

Darius Rucker singing a Roy Orbison classic? Sounds like a bad idea, doesn’t it? I know I shouldn’t doubt the talents of Mr Rucker, but who can do Orbison? He takes a bit of topping singing his own stuff, don’t you think? Darius is taking a lot on here, I can tell you. Darius Rucker? You don’t know him? Oh, sorry, I suppose he is a bit of an unknown to the average muzak fan. He’s the singer with a band from South Carolina who go by the fabulous name of Hootie and the Blowfish. Never heard of ‘em, eh? Didn’t think you would have. As I say, they ain’t what you would call British mainstream. 

Hey, no worries, your loss.

So, anyway, there I was, sitting on a low rocker on the patio, cold beer in one hand, Hootie c.d. in the other, musing over the Rucker versus Orbison dilemma. The time was approaching 9 pm and the hot summer had never felt better. I was alone, which was good because I’m cool with my own company. I reckoned that in a couple of hours I might need a sweater, or next door’s patio heater. 

Either way, hardship it ain’t.

I read the track list on the reverse of the c.d. sleeve. It was an album of cover versions, and the Orbison tune Dream Baby was track 11, not far from the end. I reached down to the right of my chair to recover my freshly sharpened kitchen knife. I sliced through the cellophane covering the jewel case, removed the disc and popped it into my portable c.d. player. I pressed Play and lounged back, simultaneously dropping an empty can and the knife down onto the red brick paviours. I fished a fresh beer from my cool box, and cracked it open, its froth cascading from the tin onto my naked torso. I took a sip, its cold sharpness welcome in the evening sun. Heaven was my back garden, bathed in sunshine and summer sweetness. My only concern was whether the Southern sour mash drawl of Darius Rucker could pull off a cover version of the Roy Orbison classic.

Then the fly fell into my ointment. Well, actually, there was no fly, or ointment. But there was water, a drip-drip that I ignored at first as if it wasn’t really there. I turned the c.d. player volume up loud.  Max. The Hooties in fine form. And yet the dripping water still managed to cut through the country rock filtering through the evening heat. Better check it out and then I can get back to relaxing. I reached down once more and picked up the knife. Well, you can’t be too careful can you?

The back door was open, no need to close it on such a balmy night; but the drip was louder, harder on the ear as I walked through into the kitchen. Here I witnessed the cause of my irritation; a small puddle in the middle of the laminate floor, and if I’d owned a puppy I’d have blamed him. Then I glanced up at the small swelling that was beginning to bow my kitchen ceiling, staining the white emulsion a curious red-rust colour. The bathroom, directly above the kitchen, would be a mess, sure to need a complete re-furb. I nipped upstairs to check the damage, determined that this irritation wouldn’t ultimately spoil my evening in the sun.

The bathroom door was shut, but I could hear the water slopping and slapping onto the tiled floor. I opened the door, conscious of the knife in my hand, and my eyes confirmed what my ears had already told me. The man lying in my bath stopped thrashing around as I entered the room. He looked frightened of me; he had good right to be.

I won’t bother you with his name; I had promised myself years ago that I would never again allow his name to cross my lips, although it was etched in my mind. I had vowed one day to mete out to him what I considered to be appropriate justice. Today was that day.

The ice cold water spilling onto the floor pleasantly cooled my hot, sweaty feet. If you were thinking I should be annoyed at the mess, well you couldn’t be more wrong. The wet floor was merely a consequence of the plan that I had put in place a long time ago. Oh, if you’re wondering why my guest hadn’t just got up and out of that freezing bath, well that was because I had attached his ankles to his wrists with a series of electrical cable ties. Those ties were pulled as tight as I could manage, the plastic bands digging into his joints, causing pain at every movement. And why didn’t he cry for help? He didn’t cry for help because I had cut out his tongue.

Now he looked at me with an expression that seemed to me to be a mixture of bewilderment and fear. His soppy, sad puppy dog eyes implored mercy and forgiveness. The bruising and swelling from the beating I had given him had softened the geography of his face, the traumas tempered by the soothing water, the same water where his life would end. Naked and without dignity, exactly as I’d planned it, exactly how he had left her all those years ago. Now it was his turn to die, and it was important that he realised that this was his day. That was the reason I had cut this tongue out. I wanted him to suffer the same wanton, gratuitous violence that he had doled out in his heyday. I could have simply gagged him to keep him quiet, but that might have raised his hopes of release. No such luck, not today my friend.

Now, I had no idea what his specific cause of death might be. Hypothermia was a possibility, given he was lying in freezing cold water. He could bleed to death, I suppose, or maybe even drown. Hey, if none of these did the trick, well there was always starvation. What I did know was that his life would end where he now lay, cold, wet and alone; certain death.

I hoped he felt fear and pain, I hoped he felt the abject terror that was once his trademark. I regarded his cold, white, waxy shrivelled body once more, blood spilling from his mouth, colouring the water a thin pink and making him look like shark bait. Then I shut the door.

I left him to his cold, dark solitary demise.

I felt good.

The puddle on the kitchen floor was growing, and I knew the dripping sound would be an irritant when I returned to the garden. I retrieved a dirty bath towel from the washing machine and placed it folded on the spot directly under the leak. The sound of the drip was now muffled, not perfect but not bad, not bad at all.

A moment later and I was back on the patio, sitting in my old, low rocker, a fresh beer scooped from the now melted ice in the cool box. The evening was losing its light if not its heat. I opened the can and took a long swig, closing my eyes as I listened to the sweet sounds coming from the beat box. Soon I was listening to the deep, soulful voice of Darius Rucker doing justice to the memory of Roy Orbison. It turned out to be a fantastic version of a great song. It seemed a shame to me that Hootie and the Blowfish hadn’t had greater success in this country, but hey, as I said earlier, your loss.

When the album ended, I simply put it on again. By now I had collected a good few empties which I lazily let gather around my feet. The sun had set and the beers had made me mellow. If I’d had anyone to talk to I would probably be slurring my words to them. From a neighbour’s garden that quintessential summer smell of lighter fuel and cremated sausages drifted from the barbeque and an over-indulgence in alcohol turned up their guest’s volume. For myself, well, I realised that for the first time in almost twenty years I was getting drunk without getting angry as well. She had been laid to rest many years ago, but my grieving processes had remained incomplete, open like a raw wound, until now; closure at last.

I sat in the gathering gloom, a can in my hand and a smile on my face. The automatic security light suddenly reacted to the darkness, clicking into life, bathing the garden in artificial light, highlighting the colourful patio planters and my pile of empties. A sparkle of illuminated mosquitoes buzzed round the luminescence and an uninterested hedgehog lumbered towards the conifer hedge; a world in order. I raised my can in a silent toast, a single tear spilling down my sun-parched cheek; the perfect end to a perfect day.

Sweet dreams baby.

__________________________

Bio: Carl Carswell is a 51 year old unpublished writer and factory worker from Carlisle in Cumbria. Having dipped in and out of different writing genres over the past five years, purely for his own entertainment, he has now completed his first novel and is currently working on a follow-up, also in the horror fiction genre. He lives with his wife Claire, daughter Hannah and Zak, the best looking staffy/West Highland cross mongrel you've ever seen. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT by Jeanette Cheezum


Great friend of TKnC, Jeanette returns with high stakes in a casino classic... bet you like it... 


The Stroke of Midnight 


  
Sophia was no Cinderella; her life wouldn’t turn around before midnight, because she couldn’t behave. There was always another sucker to take the place of the last one as she slipped away. 

The roulette tables were full and the slot machines sung just enough to keep the customers interested; after all that’s what casino life was all about. The size 44 B’s across the table projected nicely under cashmere and sequins. Not realising how much she would help Sophia. Not too many men tonight would concentrate only on the table without drooling over her and that’s when the ritual would begin. 

With great deliberation, Sophia planted herself on the other side of any man that sat next to or stood behind the perky 44’s. Actually when they got as close as possible without rubbing against the blonde that’s when Sophia pinched their billfolds, and money clips. 

The drunks were the marks of choice or the homely guys praying for someone to sleep with tonight, fixated on a possible invitation of the 44’s, always the 44’s. 
*** 
Tonight’s take would finally get the hospital bills paid in full for Jamie. Maybe Sophia could breathe a little. She had only taken a few nights off in the past six months between working or sitting and sleeping by her son’s side. She was exhausted. God, she wished the echoes 

of the police that night would go away. “Mrs. Davis, I’m sorry, but your husband and son have been in an accident. The car was totalled and your husband didn’t survive. We’ve taken your son to Mercy General where I understand you work.” 

Sophia leaned in one more time and lifted a small leather clip. She’d leave now before her collection spilled out of her Frauda soft top bag that stayed snug to her right side. No one at the tables paid attention to her. She bet small, said nothing and dressed matronly with the wig of the night always covering her forehead. 

Knowing cameras were everywhere Sophia made her way to the parking lot never stopping on the way. Not even taking the time to remove the cash once she was safely in her old van. The traffic on Las Vegas Blvd. was light and she couldn’t wait to get back to her home. 

The smell of stale cigarettes clung to her wig and sweater. However, she kept imagining the smell of booze. The kind that seemed to seep through the pores of some of the drunks that came to the hospital. Her stomach felt queasy as the van stopped in her driveway. 

Suddenly, from nowhere an arm slipped around her neck. “Don’t scream!” The grip became tighter. 

“I won’t, what do you want?” 

“You!” He eased off a little. “Come around the seat and get back here next to me. Don’t do anything stupid. I have a blade that would cut you into pieces in seconds.” 

“My husband is inside; he’ll come out to check on me.” 

“You better hope not. Besides, where is his car?” 

“He rides a motorcycle, it’s in the garage.” 

“Then we better hurry.” He laid the knife down beside him and reached for her bag. “What do we have here?” He opened the bag and ran his hand through its contents keeping her in his view at all times. “Whew-wee, jackpot.” 

No not the final payment to Mercy. “Please don’t, I have to have that money.” 

“Me too!” He shoved her. “Take off your clothes. It’s my lucky night.” 

She shuddered and tried to think fast. Looking how far she would have to leap to open the door and jump out. Damn, she had locked the door. 

His large smelly hands grabbed both sides of her face. “I could snap your neck.” 

Her brain swam with ideas, but none of them would work. 
  
He reached for her slacks and snatched her closer, “lie down and take your pants off before I cut them off with you in them.” 

Slowly, she obeyed; waiting her chance, constantly hoping for the perfect solution. “Do you have a rubber?” 

“No!” He reached out again. 

“Okay, okay.” Sophia tugged at her pants leaving her shoes on so she could stall. 

“You’re trying my patience.” 

“Let me sit up! So I can do this properly. I don’t want to be hurt. I’ll undress and you can get the full picture and I will make you harder.” 

He sat back to wait for whatever came next. 

She removed her wig slowly, then threw it close to him; slipped off her shoes and slacks each time getting them in a neat pile. The Bobbie pins in her hair were removed one at a time and she softly hummed a lullaby. Hoping he would pass out or become hypnotised. 

He unzipped his pants and began breathing heavily. 

Good. She played with the sides of her thong running them back and forth in small strokes. 

“Take them off,” He whispered. 

She got on all fours and moved closer to him. He was mesmerised and that’s exactly what she wanted. She touched his shoulder and gently pushed him down. “I like it on top.” 

He smiled. 

Sophia remembered how she had used this technique years a go while putting her self through nursing school.  

She threw one leg over his hips and just as it landed she scooped the knife up and plunged it into his neck repeatedly. 
  

Bio: 
Awarded The Helium Network’s Premium Writer’s Badge and a Marketplace Writers award. 
Jeanette’s work has been published on several online writing sites and in print. She’s published in twelve Anthology books and four books of poetry. Three of these books have made the New York Times Best Sellers list. Recently she’s published seven eBooks for Barnes and Noble Nook and six for Amazon Kindle for children and general adult audiences. 
You may see where some of her work is published on the about me page at 
http://cavalcadeofstars.wordpress.com/ Or on the member’s page at http://www.hamptonroadswriters.org her personal email is jcheezum@cox.net 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

YOU ARE WHAT I EAT by Harris Tobias

Harris has been absent from TK'n'C for a while. He's back, and he's hungry...

You Are What I Eat

It was a fine recital, better than some, better even than some before the war. The stage in the half burnt auditorium was still mostly intact, littered though it was with debris. The charred and fallen timbers opened the stage to the night sky. The rest of the school was a burnt and tumbled ruin, matching every other structure in the world. Desolation, destruction and ruin was what the post war world had become. It wasn’t like anyone missed the old world, they never had any use for buildings, only their inhabitants.

The dancers, young and lithe, their bodies in the mold of dancers everywhere. Limbs made strong from frequent repetition. Young bodies, muscled, grey skinned, shuffled lifelessly around the stage; their movements devoid of rhythm and grace; their dark eyes sunken in their skulls; their tights and tutus filthy and torn. The overall effect of this sad desolation went unnoticed by the audience or the troop of young dancers. Is that that our child on stage? a mother asks. Is it? No one in the audience could say for sure. Even if they had video cameras, they wouldn’t use them. No one remembers or cares what recitals were all about. Only dim recollections of life before the war remain in the collective unconscious of the victors. How different the world was then - not better, not worse, just not what anyone from the losing side would recognize as normal. None of that mattered to the victors, none of it.

The audience twitched nervously watching the children dance. They were hungry, thinking about their next meal. They were always hungry. It was their hunger that drove them to destroy the world in the first place. The record player’s needle skips and wanders across the grooves. Strange, sounds fill the space, not at all like music. The needle, glides weightless on a pillow of dirt, hardly making contact with the spinning disc. The effect would be weirdly disconcerting if anyone remembered what music was supposed to sound like. In this crowd, no one does; the memory of music having been completely forgotten. The presence of the record player itself, the result of an impossible set of circumstances which, like the recital itself, somehow survived in this new world. Strange which cultural artifacts survived while almost everything else was lost. It’s purely random. Most of what once passed for civilization is lost forever, but against all odds, the idea of a recital endures.

When the recital was over, the dancers joined hands and took an awkward bow, their heads bobbing randomly to the silent house, those in attendance having forgotten applause.

Before the war, it was the custom to take the little ballerina out for an ice cream sundae or chocolate shake, but such things were pre-war and, even if the memory of such a custom survived, it was no longer possible. For one thing, there were no ice cream parlors anymore. Nor was there any ice cream for that matter. The very idea of ice cream had entirely faded from the world. Maybe some of the cattle remembered the frozen treat but who knew what the cattle thought. They were only food.

It was safely before dawn when the family returned, stiffly to their den. Mother found a severed arm in the market and gnawed greedily at it. Father grabbed it from her and, when the little ballerina reached for it, he struck her across the face with the bloody thing. This was the new custom - after the recital, a feast. It was no better nor worse than how it was, it was just different. The fact that there was a market was an encouraging sign. Perhaps a new beginning.

____________________


Bio: My books http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/harris-tobias

My podcasts http://tobiash.podbean.com/

My Blog http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/

Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Every Photo Tells, Quantum Muse, Thrillers, Killers & Chillers, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications.  You can find links to his books at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/harris-tobias

Friday, 11 May 2012

EMPTY DINERS AND PASSING TRUCKS by Richard Godwin


The inimitable Richard makes a welcome return with... 

EMPTY DINERS AND PASSING TRUCKS

Beyond the stained window the highway looked deserted. Patty felt she was in the wrong   town with no visa. The diner was empty apart from the guy in the corner. He’d been eyeing her all night.

‘I don’t suppose you have a light?’ he said, walking over.

‘Sure’, Patty said, flicking her Zippo, hiding the stain, snuffing it out. ‘Spare a cigarette?’

‘Oh yeah.’

The waitress bristled past, all swish of starched uniform and the click of over chewed gum. She looked at them out of the corner of her eye, a slight curl of her lip.

Patty stepped outside into the mix of ice cold and diesel fumes.  After the initial silence, they started the smokers’ chat. Weather, journeys, directions, bitching about this and that, and then he said it. Just like that. No interlude, no build up. As if he was ordering a pizza.  ‘Last night I killed a man.’

He took a deep drag and blew it skywards then turned and looking her right in the eyes, said, ‘A guy got smart. He was nobody, really. I shot him. Twice.’

‘That right?’

Silence. And just two burning cigarette ends in the cold and the smog.  A truck whizzed by.

‘Why you telling me this?’ she said.

‘Cause there’s one thing I always feel like doing after I kill someone.’

‘No shit?’

‘You look good to me.’

‘I ain’t gonna sleep with you.’

‘I ain’t asking you to sleep with me, honey. How old are you anyway?’

‘Twenty-six.’

‘That right? There’s a bad dude out there, in case you ain’t heard, he’s been chopping women up. Much badder’n old Jim. I don’t kill ladies, just fuck them.’

‘I can look after myself.’

‘Heard one woman got her throat opened up real bad. Out here, alone, just her thumb in the air and only her poontang to pay. They call him the maniac trucker, although I hear this guy drives a pick up.’

‘Thank you for the smoke,’ she said, walking back in.

Inside, the waitress stared at her from behind the counter, hands on her hips. Then she went out back. Patty felt weak and as she tried to remember the last time she’d eaten, Jim walked in, laughing, almost dancing across the diner to where she sat.

‘Come on, darling, we can do it in the john,’ he said.

The smell of pizza drifted across the air.

‘How much you got?’

‘I knew you were a pick up. I reckon you’re worth a hundred.’

‘Hundred and fifty.’

‘Done.’

He peeled a stack of tens out of his wallet and laid them in her palm.

‘I’ll see you in the john,’ she said. 

After a few minutes Jim made his way there.

She was standing at the back, past the urinals, outside the only clean cubicle.

Jim walked in and put a broom handle against the door.
‘Well, hallelujah baby.’

‘Come on,’ she said, walking into the cubicle, pulling down her jeans.

‘You’re as sweet as cherry pie, ain’t you?’

She thought she heard someone trying the door as he entered her. She looked over Jim’s shoulder at a fly crawling across the graffiti. She felt the cold wall against her buttocks as he stopped.

He winked and ran his finger across her cheek. ‘Told you I ain’t the maniac trucker.’ Then he looked down at her right forearm and shook his head. There was a jagged scar running through the tattooed word “Mom”. 

After he left, she heard a pick up drive off as she checked herself in the mirror. She was thinking about food when the door swung open and the waitress walked in.

‘I knew it,’ she said. ‘I saw him leave. I’m calling the po-lice.’

‘Why the fuck you such a bitch?’

‘You just made a big mistake, you ho.’

‘You don’t get to call me no hooker, you’re just a fucking waitress.’

She was trying to leave when Patty grabbed her hair. She spun round and struck Patty hard across the face.

‘I wish that killer would pick you’, the waitress said.

Patty smiled. ‘Oh yeah?’

She had one fist clenched in the waitress’s uniform as she pulled her switchblade from her pocket and opened up her throat. The blade was still moving in the air as the waitress spurted blood on the wall, staggering round with her eyes popping. And Patty watched her fall, one hand on the floor, reaching for something she never found.

She stepped over the body and out of the diner and hailed a passing truck.

Jim went back the next day and heard the waitress had been killed by the maniac trucker.

Every time he took a piss there, he thought of the hot little tattooed thing he’d screwed, as the steam rose from the urinal like a mist.


Bio:
Richard Godwin is the author of crime novels Mr. Glamour and Apostle Rising and is a widely published crime and horror writer.
Mr. Glamour is his second novel and was published in paperback in April 2012. It is available online at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Glamour-Richard-Godwin/dp/0956711332 and at all good retailers. Mr.Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. The novel is about a glamorous world obsessed with designer labels with a predator in its midst and has received great reviews.  Pulp Metal Fiction recently published Piquant, Tales Of The Mustard Man, his culinary genius. His  Chin Wags At The Slaughterhouse are interviews he has conducted with writers and can be found at his blog . You can also find a full list of his works on his website.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

MY BLOOD RUNS HOT FOR CARNAVAL by Chris Allinotte

Chris Allinotte salsas back into the TKnC arena with a horror twist...

MY BLOOD RUNS HOT FOR CARNAVAL

Quentin moaned, and pulled the blanket over his eyes. Coming to Rio and staying wasted for the entire week of Carnaval had seemed like such a great idea ... on paper. No one thinks of the hangover before they drink, and no one understands that if you keep the good times going, the body keeps running up the bill. Eventually, thought Quentin, you've got to pay.

But not today.

Marcel, who was born here, had invited Quentin to come to Rio with him and "show him a good time." As luck would have it, Marcel also had the constitution of a lion, and was a morning person to boot.

"Hey, Quentin," called Marcel as he came into the room. "Get up. Get up! Time to get ready to go, man!"

"Fala mais baixo," groaned Quentin. "Estou de ressaca."

Marcel laughed, but lowered his voice. "Hangover, huh? Who taught you that?"

"Some chick."

"It's six o'clock, man, you slept all day." Marcel was all business about the partying. "We got to get going. Drink this." He put a small glass of orange liquid down by the bed. "Then take a shower. I've got some food waiting for you.

Quentin picked up the glass with a trembling hand. His mouth tasted like the bottom of a sandal. The juice was cool, and tasted of citrus and mango, with a little back-end kick of sweet liquor. Immediately Quentin felt a little better. He pushed himself upright, and walked to the bathroom. After a nearly two minute piss, and an eight minute shower, he was feeling almost human again.

When he came out of the bathroom, there was another drink waiting for him. He downed it, and got dressed. Marcel had thoughtfully ordered in some breakfast, despite the fact that the sun was setting. The man himself was standing on the balcony with a glass of wine, watching the party come to life on the streets below.

"What's the plan for tonight?" Quentin asked, between bites of egg and sausage.

"We're going to a club my cousin owns," said Marcel.

"Cool."

Half an hour later, they were down on the street together, working their way through the crowds. He wasn't one for dancing, but Marcel had found that everyone moved to the Samba rhythm of Carnaval, and that going with it meant you got where you were going a lot faster. Marcel slipped him another can of beer. They'd be drinking good stuff in a bit, but keeping the appropriate party buzz took careful planning and maintenance.

Everywhere Quentin looked, there was vibrant, violent excess. Costumes of lace,lamm√© and papier mach√© filled the streets with a rainbow of sweaty, gyrating colour. And women. They were the real promise of Carnaval,  fulfilled. At Marcel's urging, Quentin had spent each of the four nights thus far with his hip pocket full of condoms. From ten, he only had two left.  Carnaval, it seemed, brought out the best - and worst - in people. To his surprise, almost all of them had been fellow tourists. Brazilian women, though fierce and fearless in the amount of skin they showed, preferred to keep dancing. Luckily, the women here on vacation were under the same misconception that Quentin had been, and would not be returning home unfulfilled. The trouble, if you could call it that, was that between the constant drinking and the language barrier, it was hard to distinguish one frenzied tryst from the other. He finally got to thinking of them in terms of position.

The first night, he'd been with a petite Italian brunette that had started the evening dressed as a silver butterfly. Here, on Tuesday, he remembered her as "Missionary." Saturday through Monday had brought "Doggie style" from Spain, "Reverse Cowgirl" from Australia, and finally, the six-foot Amazon - the only native carioca in the bunch - that had practically thrown him into the ladies' room at the Scala club last night. Her name, she'd said, was "Iara"; but by the time he got back to the office next week, he'd only remember her as "Up Against the Wall." By Wednesday, Quentin had decided that Marcel had a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue coming his way for bringing him along on this trip.

His thoughts broke off as a slender hand covered in silver rings pulled lightly on his wrist. Quentin looked around, and saw a Gothic Goddess smiling back at him. Her black lace dress was accented with thousands of tiny crimson crystals. Thick white makeup coated every inch of exposed flesh, which was considerable. The effect, in contrast to the riot of colour surrounding them, was shocking.

She didn't speak, but pulled him into a nearby alley. Before he could fully register his new situation, she was kissing him with hectic, predatory fervour. Her tongue found his, and coaxed it quickly to response. Quentin could taste rum, cigarettes, and the heavy black lipstick she'd been wearing. He started to pick up the pace, and his hands started running over the lines and ridges of her costume. Gently, she pushed him back, and drew him further down the alley. At the far end, Quentin could see the tell-tale bare-bulb lights of the favelas. The slums were no place for a gringo, no matter how beautiful the woman he was with. In fact, it was highly likely that she could be luring him to an ambush. Quentin stopped.

His dark, and so far silent, companion pouted, then shrugged prettily and moved to embrace him again. There was a pile of discarded cardboard boxes against the wall, and they sank down to the ground upon them. Quentin came to rest with his back against the wall. He closed his eyes as she kissed his neck. No matter what, he promised himself, he'd get and remember this one's name.  He felt her hands on his chest, popping open the buttons to his navel. Then, she was kissing his body. The sensations were incredible, her lips seemed to be in multiple places at once. Quentin wanted to cry "enough!" More than that, he wanted to throw this black angel to the asphalt beneath him and have her right here. That, too, was Carnaval. He reached out to grab her, and touched only air. Confused, he finally opened his eyes. The woman, whoever she'd been, was gone.

In her place were four small creatures. Each of them was distinctly human in appearance, except for the leathery black wings that sprouted from each of their backs. The things were engaged in licking blood from a dozen tiny wounds on his torso. Quentin screamed, and jumped to his feet. He staggered, as the sudden movement left him dizzy.

The things fell off of him. Now that they were away from him, Quentin saw that they, too, were dressed in costume.

One wore a tiny black tuxedo with red satin accents. Its hair was slicked back from a Bela Lugosi widow's peak, completing the picture.

Standing beside "Bela" was a female creature, dressed in a red leather body suit, that was open to her tiny navel, revealing the swell of proportionately massive breasts. She was licking drops of Quentin's blood off of her lips.

The third creature was a twisted, bald horror in a rotting black suit. Its fingers were long and crooked and its needle teeth protruded at wild angles from its rubbery purple lips.

The final of the miniature monsters was the most "normal" looking of the bunch. It wore a simple cotton shirt over crushed blue velvet pants, and miniscule purple sunglasses. This one still had blood on its lips, but was currently more interested in fixing its long blonde hair.

"What..." Quentin began. He was interrupted by a sultry voice from the shadows further down the alley.

"They're vampires, gringo."

The Goth Queen stepped out from where she had doubtless been watching the events unfold. Quentin's head was swimming from the alcohol and the loss of blood; some of which was still running down his chest.

"You anglos," she continued. "You come here, and you take our festival, our ritual, and you make it something cheap, something to feed your prick."

The creatures started to approach again. With a rapid flutter of leathery wings, the ugly one disappeared over Quentin's shoulder. Sighing and giggling, the female fluttered up to his neck, and began to kiss him. His hands came up to bat her away, but the strength seemed to be gone.

"Do you even know what it means, Gringo? Carnaval?" the woman asked. Her tone was furious, but her black-painted lips were twisted in a feral grin. "It is 'farewell to flesh'. Fitting, no?"

Bela and Lestat battened onto Quentin's calves, and he sank down to his knees. There was a sharp pain in his back as something bit him hard there.

"I...I'm sorry," he cried. "Please..." he swallowed. It was getting hard to talk, and the world was swimming in and out of focus. "Help me."

"Help?" laughed the woman, "Help is for these ones. They are sacred, and they need food. We say farewell to your flesh tonight, huh gringo? They will live. They will bless us."

A surge of anger flooded through Quentin. It was too late to save his life, but he managed to spit, "They're the stupidest looking things I've ever seen. And you..." he gathered some moisture in his mouth and spat. "You are nothing but barrio trash."

She laughed. "That may be, anglo. But I will be still alive in the morning." Looking at the vampires who were ruddy and flushed with colour, she finished, "And my friends don't look like this all the time."

There were tiny smacking sounds coming from from his neck, and Quentin heard the female vampire speak as darkness clouded his vision. It sounded like her mouth was full.

"Come now, gringo, smile! It's Carnaval!"


_________________________


Bio: Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

He is the editor of 9 Days of Madness, and the host of the blog The Leaky Pencil.

His first collection of short stories, Gathering Darkness, will be published in May, with a novel to follow sometime in the next half decade.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

PAINKILLER by Christopher Hivner


TKnC welcomes Christopher with this eye-watering debut...

Painkiller


"She knows now, Vic. She knows! You'd think I would make out good in the deal. I told her weeks ago he was cheating on her," Mike Peters droned on, his voice a high-pitched drunken slur. Vic the bartender tried to pry the glass of vodka away so Mike would leave as the bar was closed.

"Why won't she just give him up and stay with me?" Mike continued. "She keeps inviting me back but spends twice as much time with him. Hell, Vic, she knows now."

"So what?" Vic yelled, exasperated.

"So . . . well, hell, Vic. She was pissed when she found out. Really pissed. I told her weeks ago and I think it should bring us closer together. It proves I love her more. I didn't cheat on her."

"So what's the problem?"

"I was over there earlier tonight. I mean if she knows now and she's really pissed . . . I should be the recipient of all her built up sexual tensions."

"Yeah?"

"I wasn't." Mike sat with his arms spread, shrugging his shoulders. "She told me I'd have to leave, she didn't feel well. What kind of bullshit is that?"

"I don't know, Mike. Go home," Vic said tiredly.

"Vic, where's your sym . . . sympathetic ear. You're a bartender."

"You're a pain in the ass. I want to go home."

"Hell, Vic."

"You come in here three or four times a week and whine about this woman. You're a simp. Get a new woman. I don't see this other guy, what's his name, Derek? I don't see him in here whining."

"Come on, Vic."

Vic turned to wash off the bar top and fill the sink with hot water when a man crashed through the door. He was big, his shoulders eating up the doorway. His long, dark hair was drenched in sweat, thick strands sticking to his haggard face like leeches. Only one arm was slung through his black leather jacket. Hidden underneath his shirt up to the elbow was his other arm.

"We're closed, bud." Vic announced. But the man rushed past and into the men's room. Vic started toward the restrooms but Mike stopped him.

"That's him. Derek." Mike nodded for Vic to go back to work. He straightened his tie and pressed down on his mop of hair. His gait to the bathroom was wobbly. This was not the ideal condition to be in when he confronted Derek, but he wasn't going to turn back now. Mike pushed the door open and entered.
The restroom appeared empty at first, but then Mike saw a pair of legs in the last stall. He ambled over and pushed in the unlatched door. Derek looked up at Mike with tears of pain running down his face.

"What do you want?" Derek snarled.

Mike smiled insipidly. Standing with his hands in his pockets, he rocked back and forth on his heels. He was satisfied that Sophie had given his rival the boot and he couldn't help gloating.

"I just came in to freshen up before going over to console Sophie. She must be so upset."

Derek swallowed hard. He softened his gaze and his voice and said, "Don't go yet. I need your help."

"Help? I'm not going to help you in any way, shape or form."

"Listen to me! I'm not kidding." Derek stood up and took a step forward. Mike backed up quickly. Mike was only an inch shorter than Derek but sloth and alcohol had left him a weakling. Derek’s mountainous upper body came at him like the flared neck of a cobra. Mike's backward momentum was stopped by one of the restroom's sinks, which he grabbed to hold himself up.

"Looks like after tonight, Sophie's all yours, Mikey” Derek growled. “But the bitch gave me a going away present that I don't want." Derek held out his left hand, thumb raised. Blood was seeping out the top, trickling down his arm. He held a cloth in his right hand, soaked red. Mike turned a shade paler than he already was as he turned his head to stare at the wall.

"I gave Sophie a present of my own tonight," Derek continued. "A diamond stick pin. She went crazy, telling me how much she loved it. She said she didn't want to go to dinner anymore." Derek moved closer to Mike. Mike tried to back away, but had nowhere to go. He cringed as Derek got so close he could smell his breath.

"Sophie was hot tonight. She had my clothes off before I knew what hit me. Then she asked me if I'd ever been tied up. She ever tie you up, Mikey? Sexy, man. I'm lying on my back, hands tied to the bed posts, and she's got every muscle in my body tingling. Just when I think she's going to ride me into oblivion, the bomb drops. She knows about me and my old girlfriend getting back together again. Needless to say, Sophie's not too thrilled and I'm helpless to defend myself. That's when she decided to give back my present."

Derek grabbed Mike's face and turned it back to look at him. Then he wiped the fresh blood off his thumb and held it directly in front of Mike's eyes. A small diamond, still sparkling, but now a muted red color, stuck out the top of Derek's thumb. Mike looked at Derek in shock.

"She drove that son of a bitch through my thumb, Mike. I can't get it out. It's been about a half an hour now, so the throbbing feels like a jackhammer. I need to get it out."

Mike tried to figure out how this confrontation had gone so wrong. He was just supposed to gloat for a few minutes and then head over to Sophie's. Now he was not only scared of Derek but also of his girlfriend. Sweat slid down the sides of his face and he wiped it away with the sleeve of his jacket.
Derek was holding his thumb close to Mike's face, the whole hand trembling from the intense pain. Mike grabbed his handkerchief and gently wrapped it around Derek's thumb. As Mike pinched the head of the diamond between his fingers, Derek turned away, unable to look. Mike paused momentarily and then pulled on the pin.

It budged just slightly at first and then wouldn't move at all. Derek was clenching his teeth and rumbling, trying not to scream. Mike let up for a few seconds and then pulled again, but the more pressure he applied the more resistance he got, like another force was pulling the pin downward at the same time. Mike backed up to brace himself fully on one of the sinks. He pulled with all his strength, but the pin refused to loosen. Finally Derek could take no more and roared in pain pulling his hand away. He slammed into a stall door, falling to one knee.

"I'm sorry, Derek. I tried."

Derek's head was resting on the cold metal of the stall door. His hand hung limply at his side, fresh blood dripping onto the tiled floor.

"You're not done. Give me a minute to rest and then try again."

"I can't. It won't budge. You're bleeding like crazy."

"Doesn't matter," Derek growled. "The blood will stop when it's out."

Mike started to sidestep toward the door. "Derek, I really have to go. The bar is closing, and you should go to the hospital for that, really."

Derek leapt from his crouched position and slammed into Mike. They both crashed into the restroom door and bounced off. They fell to the cold floor in a jumble of arms and legs. Derek quickly recovered, wrapping his right arm tightly around Mike's neck and jamming his left hand up to Mike's face.

"I'm losing my mind to the pain! Pull the damn thing out!" Derek's face was contorted to a monstrous pattern and spittle fell from his clenched teeth. There was nothing Mike could do but try again.

"I can't get my hands up to yours in this position," Mike wheezed, his breathing being restricted by Derek's wrestling grip.

"No. No more tricks from you. I don't let go until that pin is out." With that, Derek shoved the head of the pin between Mike's teeth.

"Ahhg, shitsh!" Mike yelled. He tried to pull away but was no match for Derek's strength. Derek pushed his right hand against Mike's face and pulled his left hand the opposite direction simultaneously. Mike screamed through the blood seeping into his mouth and pushed desperately at Derek's back. Derek pulled harder, but the pin wasn't moving, like it was embedded into the bone. Derek screamed until his lungs were spitting fire. Tears welled up in his eyes.

The blood had filled Mike's mouth. He felt like he was drowning. Finally he was able to part his teeth a little to let some of it flow out onto the floor. This allowed Derek's whole thumb to slide into Mike's mouth. Mike gagged and grabbed wildly at Derek's clothing, but Derek was lost in a world of severe pain.

Mike felt the warm, wet flesh of Derek's thumb enveloping his teeth as his head was shoved down. Derek pushed harder and shifted all his weight on top of Mike's head. Then Mike heard a crack and felt a great jolt of movement. With another push, Derek's thumb cracked again, and Mike felt the bile rising in his throat as he realized his teeth were driving into the bone of Derek's thumb.

Squirming like a bug on its back, Mike managed to get to his knees, but he had very little leverage. His head was still crushed to the floor under Derek's full body weight. Derek felt Mike gain some ground and gave one last push. This one smashed Mike's teeth into the bathroom floor as he bit off Derek's thumb.

Derek finally loosened his grip on Mike and rolled onto his back, the cold floor tiles soothing his sweating, overheated body. His left hand lay peacefully on his chest. The thumb-stump was pumping out blood, but Derek felt no more pain. He lay with a relaxed smile on his face. After a few seconds, he stood, tore his shirt, and wrapped the rag around his hand. He stumbled out of the bathroom, the door creaking shut behind him.

It was a long time before Mike Peters could move again. He still knelt on the floor, his head lying flat on its right side, in a mixture of water, blood and urine. A human thumb rested between his teeth, two of which were now loose in their sockets. When his daze finally lifted, he scrambled for the toilet and vomited.
When Mike finally exited the restroom, he saw Vic sitting behind the bar, his arms crossed, an expression of exasperation on his face.

"I saw the other guy leaving, bleeding like hell,” Vic said.  “I thought you must have won the fight but now I'm not so sure."

Mike smiled. Vic raised an eyebrow at this. It wasn't a forced smile or a tired one, but a satisfied Cheshire grin.

"What are you so happy about?"

"The 'fight' was more of a draw, but I've won the war."

"Oh, how's that?"

"Sophie broke it off with Derek tonight. I'll wait a few hours, get cleaned up and some sleep. Then I will go and claim my spoils."

"So she kicked Derek out. What makes you think you can just walk in and take over?"

"I can see your point Vic. But there's one thing I didn't tell you. I have a gift for Sophie: A gift that will show her that I'm more man than she can handle."

BIO:
Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books and the echoes of music. He has recently been published in the Winter Chills and 100 Horrors anthologies. A book of short stories, "The Spaces between Your Screams" was published in 2008. He can be visited at www.chrishivner.com.