Sunday 29 August 2010

BREAD CRUMBS By Savanna Lujan

This one from newcomer Savanna will get you thinking...

Bread Crumbs.

Let us experiment.

Find a person. Any person really. Get to know him. Get him to trust you. Do anything you have to, to get him to believe in you. Anything. Change your personality, if you must. Kill, if that’s what it takes. It’s when he trusts you that the timing is right.

Betray him. Stab him right in the back. Take from him everything that he holds dear. Let him know that it was you who did it.

Steal his soul. Make it yours.

Watch his reaction. You’ll be surprised at what you find. Can you imagine it?

I’d like to say that I don’t enjoy doing such things. I’d like to say that I only do it because I have to, and it’s true that I have no choice. However, I would be lying. A part of me enjoys it greatly. Such a rush it gives. The other part of me hates it, because I know it’s wrong that I enjoy it.

My comeuppance is coming. I can feel it. Smell it in the air. I’m looking forward to it. Punishment sounds so… invigorating.


* * * *

I know he’s here. So close I can almost taste him. The man who stole my life away. I should be angry with him, but I’m not. I should want revenge, but I don’t. It’s a strange sensation. That man raised me up from nothing - let me enjoy it for a while. Let me get used to it… and then he tore it all away.

I want to see him again. I want to let him know that I didn’t crumble after what he did to me. He needs to know that it takes more to tear me down. He needs to see how well I’m doing. I need to prove him wrong. His theory isn’t right. He can’t destroy everyone.

I want him to try again.

And as I see him coming near me, I know in my heart that he will. He smirks, and I smile back at him.

* * * *

He’s directly across the street from me. I can’t believe that he’s so close. This man who my mother spoke of endlessly. The man that drove her into a worthless state. She became an endless conversation; incapable of letting go of the past. She was pointless insanity - my mother. Right in front of my eyes, the man that put her there.

She told me the same things of him billions of times. Worthless stories, and warnings that probably held truth. It doesn’t matter though, I don’t care to listen to them. It’s not as though I don’t feel for my mother, and the things that this man put her through… but I’ve always wanted to meet him. I still do. I want to spend time with him, to get to know him. The man that breathed life into my body.

Hello, father. Come and greet your son.

* * * *

He’s here - how lucky to meet him here. He’ll pay for what he’s done. He’ll pay for making me do what I did. He’ll suffer for making me lose all those so dear to me. For taking away something I can never get back. His curiosity will be satisfied.

He’ll know what pain is.


He turns around. It seems I’ve interrupted him. Some woman is coming near him. Once smiling. The man opens his mouth to greet me, and I pull out the last thing I have.

A pocket knife.

“Wait!” The woman screams. The demon is grinning.

I point the knife at him, and he backs against a wall. His expression of strained amusement doesn’t fade, and it makes me angry.

I plunge the knife into him, as deep as I can get it.

“Dad!” Someone screams. I’m oblivious to it, caught in my revenge.

“Now, you know, this is what it feels like!” I yell.

He starts laughing.

Savanna Y. Lujan is a timid individual with plenty to say, just not to you. The total word count of how much she talks in a day is maybe 150, but her daily writing word count is in the millions. She loves to write, draw, and loves long hours on the computer. She is single, and enjoys Asian food.

FREE by Ian Ayris

TKnC welcomes Ian...


To wake up without fear, that's one hell of a thing. I mean, no fear at all. Nothing.

And that after one fucker of a year.

Started last April when me dog got run over by some prick in a white van. Loved that dog, I did. Trixie. Border collie. Had her since I was twelve.

Tracked the bastard down, though. The geezer in the white van.

I know where he lives.

And then there was Lucy, our little girl. Gorgeous, she was. My little angel. Five years old. Leukaemia.

Doctor said she'd be okay. Pull through, you know. Watery blue eyes, she had. Like she knew.

Doctor Gareth Williams. 46 Tennyson Close. That was him.

Wife left me two days after the funeral. Said she couldn't cope. Moved in with her mum. Her bitch of a mum. Never liked me, she never. And the old man, what a cunt he is. Thinks he knows everything, he does. But he knows fuck all. About me. About my life. About what it's like livin without the only things what was ever able to get right inside you and make you feel something.

Thompson and Sons. Doormakers. Was there since I left school. They reckoned I should see a psychiatrist, get counselling, or something. After everything, you know. I said I'd be all right, just take a bit of time.

That's when the burnin started, sittin in that office, listenin to all that shit. Got worse at night, the burnin. Got so when I closed me eyes I had to grit me teeth so hard I thought they were gonna break. All that just to hold it in. That burnin. I'd wake up with me eyes all wet and tears all over me pillow.

But that stopped. After a while. The tears, I mean.

They got rid of me anyway. There since I was a nipper, and they got rid of me. Just like that.

The bank threw me out the house. The bank on the high street, next to the post office. Couldn't pay the mortgage, see. Ended up in this little bedsit where I am now. It's a shithole. But it does.

And the burnin, that burnin what I was talkin about, one night, it just went cold. Stopped. And I woke up in the mornin light as a fuckin feather. I've started smilin again. But it ain't like a happy smilin or nothing, it's more like I'm smilin cos I know what I gotta do. I got a purpose. Something to live for.

It's been two days since. It's took me that long to get all me bits together.

The paraffin. The ropes. The knives. Me list of names and addresses.

My name is Terry Jenkins. I am twenty-four years old. And for the first time in my life, I am free.

Ian has had a dozen short stories published online and in print, in such publications as Byker Books 'Radgepacket' series, The Flash Fiction Offensive and Pulp Metal Magazine. He lives in London with his wife and three children, and has just completed his first novel.

Monday 23 August 2010

ONE WISH by David Barber

David's back, flashing with this impressive pair...

One Wish

“If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

It was a question that, for some reason, she was always asked. As if people were compelled to ask it as soon as they struck up a conversation with her.

“Well? Come on, what would it be?”

“You don't really want to know,” she said.

“I do, I do. You know what I’d wish for? I rich man’s lifestyle: money, fast cars and big houses. The whole shebang.”

A vision flashed into her mind. A mangled red car wrapped around a tree. The dead occupant slumped against the steering wheel, its decapitated head barely visible on the dashboard through the broken windscreen.

“Well, what would you wish for?”

She studied the man asking the question, his kind face smiling as he waited for the answer.

“I’d wish that I couldn’t see into the future.”

To A Better Place

“I’ll vouch for her,” he said, striding towards the desk, his eyes firmly fixed on the police officer, “she was with us all night.”

Her eyes opened wide when she turned and saw who it was. The tall thin man, wearing a black pin-striped suit, looked up from the policeman and glared at her from across the room.

“I think you’ll find all is in order with the paperwork, officer."

"Yes, all looks in order, erm...Dr Schimberg."

The officer looked over to where she was sitting, "Miss Jane Wild, you're free to leave now."

Dr Schimberg held out a hand, "Come now, Jane. Let's take you home."


Walking her down the deserted hospital corridor, he said, “The servitude we have bestowed, and you repay us this way. Well, I assure you, this will never happen again.”

He took out a bunch of keys and unlocked the door to her dingy room.

Pushing her into the gloom, he said, "Never again, Jane. I will personally see to it that you never get out of here....ever!"

Jane heard the key turn in the lock, followed by his footsteps echoing on the tiled corridor floor. She slumped down on her metal bed and opened her handbag, lifting out the very thing she had left for.


The lamp that sat on the table in the corner was flickering, as if waiting for the bulb to blow. On the floor, a piece of burnt aluminium foil laid next to the dying body of nineteen year old Jane Wild. There was only so much physical, sexual and psychological abuse a body could take, and her frail body could take no more.

She would soon become just another statistic on the social services computer system. Another victim let down by the failure of the very authority that was supposed to look after her.

The syringe hanging out of the crook of her arm had administered the lethal overdose that it was meant to, and was now taking Jane to a better place. A peaceful place where she would come to no more harm.

Manchester born and bred, but now living in Crieff, Scotland with wife, Lisa, and our two daughters, Imogen & Melissa. Recently inspired to write again by an old and good friend (Col Bury) and the beauty that surrounds me up here. Always reading - when not entertaining my girls and working - crime and horror…and now writing. David has numerous pieces on ezines and blogs here,
where he's recently embarked on a challenge of writing something every day!

Sunday 22 August 2010


Paul debut's with...

Bedtime Stories

“But mommy, I don’t want you to go. I don’t like him.” The little girl’s eyes were round and big. She was sitting up in the small motel bed. She looked too serious to be five years old.

The woman sighed. Jesus, why tonight? Why now? The guy was waiting out in the small living room/kitchenette. She could hear him pacing through the thin door.

“Sammi, we’ve been through this before, c’mon kiddo. I’ll be right in the next room. Momma’s gotta work.”

Sammi knew what she meant. Sometimes five isn’t so young anymore.

“Mommy, I don’t like that man, he scares me.”

Leave it to a kid to cut the bullshit.

The woman brushed a stray lock of thin blonde hair out of the little girl’s eyes and kissed her on the forehead. She took her time, felt the girl’s warm forehead tremble through her lips.

“For Christ’s sake, c’mon in there.” His voice was sharp, impatient.

It was the guy. She didn’t know this one’s name, it was better that way. She didn’t charge by the hour but he was getting tired of waiting. She could hear his heavy footsteps pacing back and forth.

The little girl sniffed. She was trying hard, the kid was tough. She was five going on forty but she was still only five. Her mother reached out and pulled the little girl half out of the thin covers and hugged her as tight as she could.

Gloria’s lip shook. She knew if she sniffled she’d lose it. Right on the edge. If she lost it, the kid would too. Gotta suck it up. Life gets that way; God knows it makes you hard but you’re never tough enough for this.

She made herself push Sammi back into the bed, it felt like peeling off her own skin. Then she pulled a smile out of somewhere and showed it to the little girl so everything would be ok. It wasn’t, but at least they could pretend again. Sammi smiled back, her own a miniature version of her mother’s. It must have run in the family. Gloria ruffled the little girl’s hair and stood to go.
"Luv ya, pumpkin.”

The little girl sniffed one more time. “Luv you tons, mommy.”

The woman paused in the doorway and watched her little girl burrow back into her blankets. Her head settled down on the thin motel pillow. Gloria pulled the door closed behind her.

As soon as the door clicked shut, the little girl’s eyes shot open. She spent the next half an hour pretending she didn’t hear the noises coming from the other room. She didn’t know what they were but they scared her. She only knew that when they stopped she could have her mommy back and the bad man would be gone. It was enough for now; she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

When he finally left, Gloria opened the door and crept back in to check on her. She saw Sammi was asleep and collapsed into the armchair next to the window and just watched her breathe.

The eyes she recognized from pictures of her own mother. The nose she remembered from Sammi’s father. Gloria couldn’t help it, she started to cry. She fought to keep it quiet so the little girl wouldn’t wake up but it didn’t work.

Sammi rolled over awake; she heard her mommy crying. She saw the door was open and knew the man was gone. She unwrapped herself from the tangled blankets and dangled her feet onto the cold floor then ran to her mother sitting in the brown chair by the window. “I love you, mommy,” she said as she wrapped her arms around Gloria’s waist in a hug.

Gloria wiped her eyes with the back of a hand and faked a grin. “I love you too, pumpkin.” She pulled the girl up into her lap and held her tight to her chest. Sammi snuggled into her mother’s arms and soon was asleep again. Safe and warm.

The tears came again but quietly this time; from somewhere different. A softer calmer place. Gloria kissed the girl gently on her forehead. Her heart overflowed with too much to feel all at once. It wasn’t a lot but it was all she had and it was enough to get her through another day.

Paul Newman's most recent published stories appeared in: Ethereal Tales May/10, Midnight In Hell March/10, and Beat To A Pulp Feb./10. If you're interested, you can find a few more stories on his website

THE TARGET by Jim Harrington

The Target

The assassin watched the apprentice remove the M24 sniper rifle from its case and hold it as if it was his firstborn son.

“Sweet. Where’d you get this?” the apprentice asked. “I thought the army and the police were the only ones who could buy them.”
“Gotta know the right people,” the assassin said.

“You gonna introduce me to these people?”

“We’ll see.” The assassin lit a cigarette and leaned against the stone wall, his ankles crossed.
The apprentice sat on the bell tower floor, lowered the rifle’s bipod to the edge of the arched window and placed the stock to his shoulder. He reversed his cap’s visor, sighted the target area through the Leopold Ultra M3 scope, then fingered the stock, cheek and day optic adjustments.
“Wind’s strong today,” the assassin said. He formed a circle with his lips and launched a lazy smoke ring.

“This is calm compared to the mountains in Afghanistan,” the apprentice replied. “And it’s only half as long a shot as this baby can handle. Hell, I got a kill outside of Kabul at 1000 meters.” He sighted the entrance to the building once more and imitated the sound of a silenced rifle expelling its projectile. “Now that was a hell of a shot.”

The assassin frowned at the younger man’s arrogance.
“Besides, one shot’s all I need.”

“Better be. This ain’t Afghanistan, and the people paying the money don’t like mistakes,” the assassin said. “I hear you had a problem on your first job.”

“The guy was unpredictable.” The apprentice shrugged. “The job got done.” He lifted the suppressor from its case, screwed it onto the end of the barrel, and adjusted the settings one last time.

“Maybe you didn’t do your homework.”

“Is that why we’ve been following this guy for a week? We could have killed him last Monday and been done with it,” the apprentice said as he continued to watch through the scope.

“You don’t do it right, you screw up, and screw ups get you in trouble” The assassin dropped the cigarette on the floor and flattened it with the toe of his boot.

The apprentice shook his head. “Or stuck with some old fart.”


The apprentice pretended to adjust the scope, then changed the subject.

“Do you know who this guy is?”

“The man somebody wants dead. That’s all I need to know.”

“You’re never curious about the targets? Who they are? What they did to piss somebody off? If they have a family?”

Neither spoke. A distant jackhammer, a plane passing overhead, car horns below and the smell of garbage filled the void.

“The wife left me and took my kids to her parents shortly after I got back from my third tour.”

The apprentice pulled a cloth from the rifle case and wiped the eyepiece. “She said I was different.”

“Listen up, kid,” the assassin said. “I ain’t your friend, or your priest. I don’t care about you, or where you been, or what happened to your family. We’re here to do the job. Got it?”

The apprentice started to reply when the assassin said, “Here he comes.”

The apprentice angled the rifle to the right and saw the black Lincoln rolling toward the hotel. He panned the barrel to match the speed of the limo.

The assassin knelt next to the shooter.
“You’re making me nervous,” the apprentice said.

“Just concentrate on the shot.”

The apprentice slipped the safety off, placed his finger on the trigger and waited. A heavyset man in a grey suit stepped out of the car and up to the doorman. They shook hands and laughed.

The apprentice squeezed the trigger. The gun recoiled. The target lurched into the doorman’s arms. And as grey suit fell to the ground, the apprentice felt the needle pierce his neck.

The assassin pushed the plunger and watched the apprentice slump to the floor. He sat back on his heels and waited for the end. As with the others, he felt no remorse. He knew if he ever did, he would end up on the wrong end of a needle, or gun, or whatever his killer’s preferred method would be.

He glanced at the confusion across the street, then packed the rifle in its case and stood. He looked at the cloudless sky. “Really good shot, kid. Too bad you screwed up.”

He picked up the case and walked calmly toward the exit. He had another apprentice to deal with.

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His Six Questions For blog
( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” In his spare time, he serves as the flash fiction editor for Apollo’s Lyre (

Friday 20 August 2010

EIGHT CUPS A DAY by Chris Allinotte

Eight Cups a Day

Cameron was absolutely ordinary.  He filled a respectable desk at a respectable company, earning a respectable paycheque that had kept him and his ex-girlfriend Nadia quite comfortable in their respectable apartment.  He had a physical once a year, and was in respectable health, nothing out of the ordinary there either, with the exception that his blood pressure was a little low for his age and size.  “Drink more water,” his doctor had recommended, then sent him for some routine tests.

Cameron took those words to heart ... for about a week;   just like the way he stayed right on top of flossing for three or as many as four days at a time after a visit to the dentist.  The trouble was that he just didn’t feel thirsty all that often.  He didn’t have to do a lot of soul searching to realize it had something to do with how much coffee he drank.  Magnetronics Inc. liked their employees happy and well caffeinated, so the pot in the sixth floor lunchroom was almost never empty. 

Unlike some people who just forced down their one cup in the morning every day to get going, Cam actually liked the flavour of coffee, even the mediocre shit they had in the sixth floor lunchroom, drinking an average of six to seven cups a day.  He’d mentioned his coffee intake at his check-up, and the doctor hadn’t sounded worried, “Just have some water now and then.  Coffee doesn’t hydrate you, it dries you out.” 

Right now he was supposed to be producing slideshow charts for next week’s big meeting with Jefferson & Sanford.  Technically speaking, Magnetronics was only the software provider for the ad company, and shouldn’t have to manipulate the data, but the firm was sixty-five percent of their business, so if they wanted charts, they got charts. Instead, he had a very small Window open on his desktop beside the firm’s currently empty corporate template, and was watching the “top five stupidest extreme sports injuries.”   He wondered how watching teenage idiots sterilise themselves on public handrails never got old, but it didn’t.  The phone rang.  Cameron recited the company script.

“Magnetronics, Inc., how may I help your business today?”

“Who’s this?”

Cameron recognized the voice immediately, and tried to keep his voice from quavering, “Mr. Jefferson?”

“That’s right. Who am I talking to?  Hurry up.” The man was a notorious ball buster.  It was bad luck that Cam’s boss was out, as Alvin Jefferson Jr., that everyone called “Ay-Double-Jay”, would call everyone in the building until he got the answers he wanted.

“Cameron White, sir.”

“I’m looking for my charts, White.  I want to look them over before the meeting next week.”

“Um ... I think ... those charts are ... in production right now sir.” Cam swallowed guiltily, and with some difficulty, as his throat was bone dry.  He shut the Youtube Window, as if the man had been standing over his shoulder, rather than at the other end of the phone. 

“Damn it White.  Why do you people always leave things until the last minute?”  Jefferson sounded pissed, but, as pissed seemed to be his natural state, this was about a three out of ten.

“Sir, with no disrespect, I believe the deadline for the charts was Wednesday, and we’re well on track to hit that target.”  Cam was breathing hard.  He was in survival mode.  He’d witnessed a dressing-down by the hot-tempered young lawyer before, and it wasn’t something he wanted to experience. 

“Get them to me this afternoon White.  Make it happen.” 

The line clicked dead before Cameron could reply.     

Cam was shaking.  He wasn’t used to dealing directly with clients like that.  He swallowed again, and felt a dry click at the back of his throat.  It was time for a cup of coffee.  The caffeine never failed to steady his nerves. 

He passed Marnie Adams on the way to the lunchroom and forced himself to stare at her glasses.  Marnie was notorious for wearing shirts that showed cleavage just over the line of office-appropriate.  The thing was, she was also incredibly likely to snap your head off if she caught you looking.  He got a “side of the eyeful” and continued on. 

Preparing his coffee in the lunchroom was like a zen ritual to Cameron.  Selecting the creamer, tipping the Styrofoam cup under the spout, and just the right amount of stirring.  It allowed him to let his mind go blank, and press his mental “reset”.  Right now, he thought he could get out of hot water, if he could just focus on what Double-Jay wanted to see.  The biggest project on everyone’s lips in the past month had been the rollout of Slipstream 3.3.; if he selected only the most important features ...

His thought broke off suddenly, as he choked on his first sip of coffee.  It was as if the liquid had soaked into the lining of his mouth, as if his gums and cheeks were made of sponge instead of tissue.    The remainder had been just a trickle that had hit his throat a split second too late to swallow correctly.  A bitter, metallic taste remained, like he’d been sucking on a battery.  Cam dumped the rest of his cup down the sink, got some water instead and walked back to his desk.  That was damned strange.

Cam sat down hard into his chair, rolling backward a bit with the momentum.   He lifted the water to his lips and stopped.  He really didn’t want this water.  In fact, for some reason, he seemed repulsed by it.  It was almost as if his body didn’t recognize it as something good to drink.   He passed this thought off as a leftover from the incident with the coffee and took a sip.

The water bubbled violently in his mouth, mixing with his stale, coffee-tasting saliva and becoming viscous foam that started dripping from his lips.  He reached under his desk and pulled out the tiny wastebasket, which, thankfully, was lined with a garbage bag, and spat. 
He felt his forehead, it was fine.  Something was wrong with him, though.  He dry-swallowed some aspirin from his drawer, and turned back to the charts.  He tried to keep working, but now he was acutely aware of being thirsty – his mouth felt like it was baking.  He tried another bit of water, but got the same disgusting result.  That did it.  He wrote a quick “going home sick” email to Mr. Martin, who may not have appreciated his disappearance, but didn’t usually give grief for actual sickness. 

Thirty minutes later, Cam was sitting on his couch watching Sports Center’s afternoon wrap up.  He ate potato chips and waggled his bare feet, recently sprung from their wing tipped prison.  Looking at his feet, Cam considered booking a pedicure.  He’d always had dry skin on his feet, but the calluses and cracking around the bottoms of his feet seemed to be getting out of control. 

On top of his many flaws, and he did have a few, Cam was a “picker”.  He could never encounter a flaw on his skin and just let it heal on its own.  His chest bore several reminders of his bout with chicken pox when he was fifteen and had scratched himself raw.  When he got a cut, it took three times longer than usual to heal, as he was forever popping off the scabs.  So, when he saw the raised ridges of skin along the cracks in his right heel, he couldn’t resist.  He worked his thumbnail underneath one edge and began to pry up a strip of dead skin large enough to cut away with his nail scissors. 

He was just getting a good edge that he could work on when, without warning, a chunk of flesh the size of a walnut broke away from his foot.  It was completely dry, and the tissue inside was a pink honeycomb.  The hole it left behind revealed more of the same weird dry sponge texture and a nubbin of something white that could only be bone.  Incredibly, there was no pain, but his stomach lurched and he began to heave.  Nothing came out, but he retched until his throat felt like it was on fire.  He hopped on his left foot to the bathroom, before he remembered what to expect from drinking water.  He decided then that the answer was to just work through whatever was going on, and just keep pouring water in until his body accepted it.  Leaning against the wall, he got his clothes off, threw the pink shower curtain aside and got into the shower stall.   He fumbled for the handle, threw it on full and opened his mouth.  Out in the living room, the phone began to ring.

Cam’s body was becoming a horror.  His throat was foaming again, and he couldn’t bring himself to endure the choking, so he let the vile mixture fall from his mouth to the drain.  His attention caught up with the situation then, as his senses screamed that something terrible was happening.  As the pelting spray hit his skin, it was immediately absorbed, and he felt as if he was filling up.  He looked down at his hand, and saw it had doubled in size in the brief seconds he’d been in the shower.  His skin was sucking in the water, and retaining it like a sponge.  He felt an itch at his waist, and rubbed his heavy hand against it unthinkingly.  The top layer of epidermis sloughed off at this tiny bit of friction, and piled in on itself like wet toilet paper.  As if it had only been waiting for this one weak point, the skin began to fail all over his body, coming off in long transparent strips he’d always associated with a peeling sunburn.  Free from restraint, the flesh underneath began to swell even more, bulging grotesquely around those patches where his skin was still managing to hold on. 

He struggled to turn the shower off then, but the water had made his limbs so heavy that he was completely incapable of moving.  Vaguely, he could hear the phone still ringing outside, a million miles away, in his bedroom.  “Guess the machine will get that one.”  He laughed crazily, which quickly broke into sobs that, in spite of his new surplus of moisture, were still dry.  His knees gave out then, under the pressure of a hundred extra pounds of waterlogged flesh.  Now he felt pain, and began to scream, but his throat was still so dry that the sound was weak and cracked.  His nose bulged into his line of sight as his face began to fill up as well. In a matter of moments, his head snapped forward under the weight and mercifully ended his life.  The water continued its work, filling and filling and filling, until his corpse began to break apart and wash down the drain a bit at a time. 
Cam’s remains were found a week later.  Neil Gorstein, who lived in the apartment downstairs, had noticed a drip in his bathroom ceiling.  The water coming from it was a muddy red colour, and stank to high heaven.  He called the Super and reported the leak, saying he was pretty sure the neighbour upstairs had gone away and left his bathtub running.  Mr. Lao had gone upstairs, to the “big” apartment at the isolated end of the hall to bang on the door, and had come away gagging.  Police and Ambulance were called, and finally Cam was discovered. 

The washroom was flooded two inches deep in the reddish brown water. In the shower, in a position oddly like prayer, was a skeleton kneeling in a soup of pink putrescence. Fresh water was still pelting down and spattering loudly against the bones. 
There were three messages on the answering machine.  The first was from Alvin Jefferson Jr., demanding to know what had happened to him, where his charts were, and informing him he’d be without a job if he didn’t get in touch immediately.  The second message was from Edgar Sanford, informing him he needn’t return to work tomorrow.   The third was from Doctor Jacobs’ office asking him to call them immediately to discuss his test results.
In the meantime, though, he should ensure he was getting plenty of water.

Copyright Chris Allinotte 2010

Tuesday 17 August 2010

PAT-A-CAKE by Lily Childs


He’s a Roger, by name. He’s staring out the window where the rain is spattering, disguising his display of cupcakes and fat bread rolls. A curly calendar on the wall reveals the date he’s been working towards, the days leading up to Friday 13th obliterated with huge Xs and random scribbles.

He’s a victim of his own profession, is Roger. Standing large and pink behind the evil till he surveys the thing, blinking in green at him. He had to use it himself these days, the assistants only lasted a few weeks, tired of the machine snapping at their fingers. ‘Tired of your leering, and your fiddling hands,’ his wife had said. She was gone now too.

The spitting rain turns hard outside and throws itself in squalls at the shop. Intermittent gusts whistle through the door, the door which has never closed properly. It bangs with every blow.

Roger’s thoughts are black. He is tipping back and forth on shoes wrapped in blue plastic bags. He could be a coroner, he thinks, or a forensic scientist. But he is a confectioner.

Everything’s a weapon. Roger hungers to use one. He spots the sharp corners of this morning’s loaf tins, sitting clean and stacked on the shelves in the back. They’d puncture nicely; he daydreams about the holes they’d make.

The counter overlooks the day’s deli selection of egg mayonnaise, tuna and sweetcorn, and grated cheese and onion – all ready to fill the crispy baguettes for the office workers – who never come in any more, most of them made redundant, those left opting for fancy coffee shop chain creations or home-made cheapies with sub-quality bread. Roger remembered his customers; if they came in now, looking down at him the way they always did, they’d find their heads slammed against the counter, tasting the hard shafts of glass that would shatter prettily into their clever city mouths.

Passing cars have their headlamps on, glaring as they speed past, making the gold and silver balls on his wedding cakes sparkle and glimmer. You can overdose on those balls, Roger thought, or choke, if they are rammed down your throat by the thousand.

He looks around. A knife for cutting. A knife for slicing. A knife for carving, ripping, gutting. Even pie-crust pastry spouts could put someone’s eye out.

Roger’s breath is laboured now. His chest and heart strain as he contemplates death, considers murder. He shuts up shop.

Ovens – crematoria. Big enough for a doubled-up body, squashed in tight.

Flip. He kneads the dough. Flip. He needs the dough. His business has failed beyond help, fucking supermarkets. The Financial Advisor who visited him at six this evening is now a very poorly bunny. The man lingers in the corner, bound and splayed across the floor – almost unconscious but not enough to miss the plastic bag that is pulled over his face. Roger is fascinated how the man seems to suck the bag into his eyes and up his nostrils as Roger pulls the handles tight around the man’s throat; aided and abetted by the ties of Roger’s apron strings which are knotted at the back of the man’s neck. Roger tugs until the face bloats blue to match the bags at his feet, and lets his hands fall. Quickly, he steps back as the body defecates across the floor.

There is death on every surface, say the authorities. Roger cleans up the filthy spillage, creating a cocktail of bleach and disinfectant, a recipe for a future kill – a blend to corrode a gut, poured into a throat, forced open. He adds this latest method to his repertoire; it comes in as runner-up to the tongue-swelling peanuts added to ‘safe’ chocolate for allergics – as his wife would testify, if she’d lived.

Roger opens the oven door – there she lies. Yeast and flour and milk and salt and butter and sugar coat her tiny frame. She’s been cooking for days now. She’s the icing on her own cake. It didn’t take long to build up the collection. A few cats, a handful of stray dogs, an elderly but very strong tramp. That made nine. Then Mary their Monday assistant retired – permanently. Ten. Vicky, the afternoon girl – always talking, never shutting her stupid mouth. Eleven. The insurance man. Twelve.

Roger stares at his wife on the baking sheet. He’s never stopped loving her. He is so sorry to have let her down. He bends over her – she smells so good; good enough to eat. He bites off her ears, gnaws at her ribs, nibbles at her fingers. Thirteen lives in thirteen days, culminating in his beloved Patricia. The perfect baker’s dozen.
Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction, horror and chilling mysteries. Recently published in Caught By Darkness (available on Amazon) many more of her short gothic horrors, ghost stories and nerve-janglers are currently touring the blogosphere. Lily is the author of forthcoming urban series ‘Magenta Shaman’ and has a novel or three on the way - all set in the south of England where she lives - a stone’s throw from the sea. She blogs at where you can read some of her work, reviews and interviews.

Monday 16 August 2010

The Collector of Souls by Catherine Dalling

A warm welcome to Catherine…

Collector of Souls.

Oh so you're back.  

I suppose I should have known it would be sooner rather than later. 

You look confused. 

To be honest I'm not really surprised.

Look, let me try to explain.  No, don’t sit there, come into the kitchen and we can talk while I make breakfast.

Ah that's better, I always think clearer after a good cup of tea. 

You sure you don't want anything?

Fair enough, don’t suppose it would go down too well.

Do you remember anything at all?

You don’t – okay let me start at the beginning.

There was an accident, quite a nasty one, about four months ago.  Blood everywhere, there was.  The ambulance got there just in time; well that's what they said anyway.  Surgery took about twelve hours, the surgeon looked exhausted when he walked out of the operating theatre.   He was very kind, saying that they had stopped the internal bleeding and patched up all the broken bones, now it was out of his hands and only time would tell. 
Nearly two months in a coma when they said they wanted to switch off the machine.  Minimal brain activity they said, that’s nothing new I thought.

Hey, don’t look at me like that!

Anyway then something strange happened, just after they had turned off the machines the heart monitor started to beep, they said it was a miracle.  I wasn't sure I agreed with them.  But nevertheless the discharge papers were signed. 

The doctors said it was as if nothing had happened and everything should be back to normal, but to get in touch with them if I was worried.

But it wasn't back to normal, it was better than normal. 

Dinner at Gianni's twice a week, long walks by the lake. Snuggling up with a DVD and a good bottle of wine, followed by hours of passionate love-making. 

It seemed strange, but I didn't question it, why should I?  It was better than the rows and the beatings.  They say people can change after something like that don't they, personally I didn't think it was possible, but it seemed like I was being proved wrong, again.

You look a little pale, are you sure you are all right?

Stupid question, sorry. 

Anyway where was I?

Oh yes I remember.  I knew it was too good to last though, just my luck.  There was a knock on the door last night.  Well okay so it was Halloween, there were plenty of knocks on the door.  Word must have got around.

Anyway it was some bloke, calling himself ‘the collector’.  To be honest at first I thought he was some whack job, you know some sci-fi geek in a bad Halloween costume.  I told him to go away, he was too old for trick or treating.  That got a laugh out of him, I can tell you.  But he wouldn’t go away, told me things that would make your hair curl, if you had any of course.  Eventually I had no choice but to let him.

As soon as he was through the door all hell broke loose.  It seems it wasn't a miraculous recovery after all, something had taken over.  A lost soul, I think that's what he called it.  Yes that was it, one who died too young or never had the chance to experience life, he said that they use them sometimes when the proper soul goes AWOL, gives them a chance to see what it was like.

Are you sure you are ok? You don't look to happy.

Ahh, so it's finally dawning on you. 

Serves you right really. 

So anyways he said that their job is to look after the body until the rightful soul can be found, you know when the body is about to die but it isn't it's time, they are sort of caretakers.

Well he was a little shocked I can tell you, when I said I was happier the way things were.
Funny he wore an expression pretty similar to that one.

Ahh, now you have more colour. 

Don't start spluttering like that, it isn't good for your health and it makes you look ridiculous. 

Oh sit down, let me finish.  You did ask after all.

Look I've already told you to calm down, it doesn't hurt you know, he said so. 

Oh and that won't work, stop shaking your fists, you can't intimidate me anymore. I'm not frightened of you, you see it was me who cut the brakes on the car...

Oh hello darling. 

Let me introduce you to my husband.  I'm sure you recognise those fine features, that well toned torso, I am so glad that you spent all those hours working out at the gym, Julia was her name wasn’t it?  She called here after the accident, was very surprised to find out you had a wife. 

Now why do I get the feeling you are jealous, could it be that this was once yours? 
There’s no point running, the Collector will be here any minute – see he isn’t fussy who he takes with him, a soul is a soul to him, we struck a rather nice little deal, so don’t worry love, you won’t be missed.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Black Soul Bitches By Erin Cole

pentagram.jpg PENTAGRAM image by MerenwenAlcarinBlack Soul Bitches

We called our coven, The Black Heart Bitches, and we were Detroit’s best and ‘baddest’dark witches, seeking justice for the murder of our sister, Lauren Mills.  We knew there were others, all victims of Marsha Stein, a radical, religious nutcase.  But technicalities allowed her to walk—fortunately, right into the spell of nine, angry, skyclad women.  She now laid naked on a walnut table, circled by thirteen black candles; four witches’ bottle; a pentacle of myrrh, frankincense, and salt from the Dead Sea; and the horns of a wildebeest—she was fucked.

“The Gods and Goddesses are present, the circle is cast,” Zoe, our priestess says, pausing to smile at Marsha’s ballooned, glassy eyeballs darting face to face.  Had they popped from her eye sockets, I imagined they would float and cling to the ceiling, dangling the bloody optic nerves like strands of ribbon. 

Zoe holds the athame tip to the left of her cinnamon-colored nipple, indenting flesh where a pool of blood will soon flow like wine from our cauldron.  “It is time for the sacrifice.”  She nods at me, and I stuff Marsha’s underwear in her mouth.  “May the deities be more forgiving of you than we are, Marsha Stein!” 

The spearing of soft flesh elicits muted screams from Marsha, and spasms quake through her tattooed body.  Blood decants and spurts, and though some of us want to recoil, we remember Lauren, and keep our abhorrence vigilant upon Marsha’s suffering. 

Zoe cuts and pries, dismantling her chest, however much unlike our other paroled victims.  All of us look on with anxious faces, clenching tight to each other’s hands.  The blade finally sinks through rib tendons, and Zoe wrenches bone and cartilage aside.  She peers inside the chest cavity, looking to extract the heart, but her eyes seem to be searching for it.  Dropping the athame to the floor, she backs away from the table.  “There’s no heart.” 

“What!”  one of the sister’s shouts.  “That can’t be.”

Zoe only nods.  I know her well enough to know that she believes we have made a big mistake.

Like a bad dream, Marsha coughs with laughter, resounding darker than the fluid flowing from her shredded ribcage.  Latin vocals spew from her blood-caked lips, and a crackling noise gathers around us…like beads falling on hardwoods. 

A sister screams and points to the floor.  It is teeming with skittering, black bugs.  Everyone shrieks as the insects charge our naked bodies and scurry up our legs, eager to crawl inside our every orifice.  We all stampede from the house, while Zoe locks herself in her bedroom.  I don’t worry about her, surrounded by a plethora of voodoo tools.  Instead, I fret over what we’ve done—who we’ve picked a fight with. 

Hiding behind a Volkswagen with another sister, I watch the bugs untie Marsha and eat through the ropes.  Then, they scamper inside her chest, and her mutilated frame metamorphoses back into beautiful breasts.

“What the hell is she?”  I ask Jenny.

“Pure evil?”

“I thought she was a Christian.”

“Apparently, she ministers to the other side.”

I turn to Jenny.  “She doesn’t have a heart, but maybe she has a soul.” 

Jenny shrugs.  “My husband has a penis and no brain.”
I smile and flick a beetle off her shoulder.  “Only one way to know.  Black Soul Bitches unite.”

*          *          *

And we did, under the next full moon.  Unable to track Marsha by magical means, we decided to use ourselves as bait, circling skyclad on a lake cliff she’d been known to frequent.  Below, the water roared in turbulent splashes of cold spray that fanned over the granite crags.  Trees crooked in the wind like angry ogres, and dark clouds gusted overhead, as if something were chasing them too. 

Ducking against the elemental onslaught, we position a cedar box containing Lauren’s ashes in the middle of our sacred circle, hoping to trap Marsha Stein.  Once inside our consecrated space, Lauren’s spirit could possess Marsha’s body, and take her back into the Underworld from where she came. 

“Wait for my signal,” Zoe calls out.

Above, the tree limbs shift and matter, camouflaged by the rustle of foliage, materializes as a separate entity—Marsha Stein.  She looms over our circle wearing a grin that looks hungry enough to eat the world. 

“Look, Detroit’s pudgy little perverts are back,” she derides.  “How nice.”  Crouched on a branch, she swings her legs casually, as if unthreatened by us.

“We’re gonna take you down, Marsha,” a sister remarks.

She laughs.  “You already did—and failed.” 

In the distance, a buzzing sound nears, threatening in its aberration like a dark omen.

“Looks like you girls are going to need some bug spray,” Marsha giggles.

But it is too late.  A haze of bees storms our circle.  Shouts erupt as we all dodge the stinging assassins, with waggling mounds of flesh that defy gravity.  Sharp pain pierces into my back and legs, burning and itching with an unfathomable ache.  I shield my face to orient myself in Marsha’s sadistic tumult.

Zoe runs toward the chest.  “Now!”  she shouts over the ruckus. 

Jenny dives for the chest and flips the lid open.  A bright, blue light beams into the tempestuous sky above.  Marsha’s smirk twists into a grimace as she looks up from her perch.  Blue particles melt into black stars, and then swirl overhead like a tornado, sucking the bees into it. 

“Don’t look at it!”  Zoe hollers through the storm.  But I’m already engrossed by a red cloud mushrooming out.  Lightning cracks and then Marsha falls, like a traitor from hell, straight into the chest below.

“Shut the lid!”  I yell. 

We all lunge at the chest, a pileup of flesh pinning it secure, until Zoe can bolt it down with the lock.  

The winds quiet.  The sea calms.  And Marsha is nowhere in sight.  We all stand and retreat from the chest with outstretched hands, ready for the unpredictable.  The chest shudders and a nasally whine coons from inside. 

“The sea looks hungry to me,” Jenny says.  She shoves the chest toward the side of the cliff, and we all help her scoot the cedar box over the edge.  It splashes into the dark water, in massive ringed-waves.  One of the sisters passes a smoke in honor of our successful deed.

“That’s it,” Zoe says.  “She can’t escape that.”  Yet, no sooner than she spoke, a bright light zigzags across the sky.

“Oh, shit,” I think aloud.

“Marsha?”  Jenny says.

“No,” Zoe replies.  “It’s the cops—RUN!”

2010 © Erin Cole