Friday 28 January 2011

HEAD BANGER By Angela R. Sargenti

Head Banger 
My name is Daphne, like the maiden who transformed herself into a tree before they could rape her.
I didn’t have time to become a tree before I was raped, but I turned into something, all right.
A head banger.
A knee knocker.
A sap (the beating kind.)
A spike-ball off a sweetgum tree, only bigger and made of steel.
It’s fall now.
The trees are left bare and shivering, like I was, and the police have long since stopped trying to solve my case.
It’s as if the whole thing never even happened.
I know where they go, though. I know where they hang out, at some filthy heavy metal club on the south side.
I think it’s time to go clubbing.
Ms. Sargenti is the author of the zombie blog, After Old Joe at and writes erotica under her own name and her pen name, AR Shannon. Her most recent story, entitled Shrimp was published on Every Night Erotica.

POWER OF ONE By Logan Branjord

Power of One

The floor of the boat reeked like stale fish and seaweed. Scales stuck to Scott’s lips as the gangsters wrapped his ankles in chain links. On one leg he felt the frost melting off the links, but on the other, he felt nothing.
“You don’t have to kill me, I can pay you!” Scott said, trying to hide hysteria. “Whatever Hector paid, I can double it. What’s more, I can disappear so you’ll get his money too!”
“Shut it!” The man in the burgundy vest said sending a sharp boot to Scott’s temple. “We know better than to play with Hector. Think we want to end up like you?”
Scott knew they were right. He wouldn’t have done any different if he was on the other side of the chains. They wrapped his legs so tight he could feel a tingling sensation where the one leg had gone numb. The other was numb a long time ago.
“Alright, anything you gotta say? Better to get this over with.”
“I…I…let’s fake like you’re throwing me in. Then we’ll get to my place and I can advance twenty grand for you guys. Twenty grand each! How does that sound?” Scott’s voice shook as he spoke.
“Just like a guy to waste his last words trying to make a deal. Alright then, let’s do it.”
One man had Scott’s legs and the other man grabbed him painfully by the wrists, which were tied together. Scott made himself heavy by sticking his butt out. He wiggled until the first man dropped his legs. Scott kicked at him, but the man in the vest grabbed his legs again and hoisted him up.
“Stop! I’ll pay you!” Scott screamed. He felt their hands release him as he flew over the edge of the fishing boat and into the water.
The chains dragged him down fast as frigid river water engulfed him. Scott felt his body become stiff and accidentally blew out a portion of his air struggling against the chains.
He kicked with his legs and twisted his wrists to try to get himself untied. Cold water drained his strength. He didn’t know if he’d be able to get loose even at full strength.
Scott hooked his foot around his other foot and slid off his leg. For the first time, he was glad for his handicap. Scott’s prosthetic leg came out from the chains and with the tension relieved, his living leg came out easily.
He swam outward with his leg and wriggled his wrists. Ever since a child he’d been able to fold his hands and escape toy handcuffs and things of that sort. He could swim fine but once he broke the surface he needed to deal with the gangsters. Hands would be…well…handy for that.
With a skin-scraping yank, he got his hands apart. Scott noticed that his prosthetic leg had floated up to the moonlit plane of the water now. The gangsters would know that he had a fake leg and possibly look for him to surface.
Scott heard the boat start. The sound of the propeller Johnson motor churning was unbelievably loud to a person with his ears in the water. His muscles tightened up like rubber bands. This was his last chance.
He burst out of the water with one arm propping him on the ledge of the boat and saw the man in the vest standing upright looking right at him. Scott took a handful of his ill-styled vest and pulled him into the water.
The gangster shrieked with surprise and hit the water headfirst. If Scott had any luck, the man’s clothes would weigh him down and hypothermia would set in. Scott rolled into the boat and was immediately stepped on by the driver. The driver pinned him by the neck with his boot but Scott grabbed his other leg—for this man was unlucky enough to have two of those—and yanked it out.
The back of his head hit the lip of the boat. This gave Scott time to stand up and lean against the Captain’s chair. With one leg he didn’t have the balance or leverage to punch down at the guy so he took the throttle handle and pushed it all the way forward.
A chunky sound came from the prop, as if he were driving the fishing boat through a shallow weed bed or some muck. The boat shot forward, sitting him into the chair and making the driver who was still in the boat stumble again. Now Scott realized he had propped the man in the vest. His body glimmered in the moonlight atop the black water behind the wake of the boat.
A fillet knife was wedged between the windshield and the dashboard of the boat. Scott took it and swung wildly at the man in the boat with him. One cut went deep across his forearms with which he tried to block. The man jumped back and made fists. Scott yanked the steering wheel and sent him staggering. He took another swing and missed.
The gangster eyed Scott and his blood stained knife and rather than face another wound, he jumped overboard in fright.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Preditors & Editors Poll... update...

Well, with less than two days of voting to go, the clock is ticking, and we're extremely proud to say that out of the 51 nominated fictionzines for 2010, Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers is a very respectable joint 3rd at the moment. You can vote for your fave up to midnight on January 26th here.

Also, I'm both stunned and ecstatic, that from the 31 zine editors on the list, I sit, unbelievably, in 2nd place. There are many truly deserving editors of some cracking ezines to choose from - cast your vote here.

Browsing through the categories I spotted many of my online friends, especially in the short story sections... Paul D. Brazill, Anthony Cowin and Jodi MacArthur, to name a few. If you have time, have a nosey here, and for the current standings go here.

Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to show your support.



Let's give Tony a warm TKnC welcome on his debut...

Stupid Bastard

“He shot a man in Reno you know”, proclaimed Dean Dobie, the man responsible for the sudden increase in gun crime on the east coast.

“Why?” pondered Tommy Rich, the young gun charged with the prospect of assassinating Leroy Brown, the most dangerous killer the mob had ever dared hire.

“I don’t know, apparently he just wanted to watch him die”. These words made the daunting task facing Tommy even more unachievable, after all if Joe the Bull and Sammy Sims were unable to kill him what chance did he stand? Still he knew that to kill Leroy would be the only way he could become a made man. More importantly it would provide him with the respect he felt he deserved, all those years dealing dope and coke downtown would finally be paid off.

“Why you want him dead Mr Dobie?” asked Tommy, with the idea firmly rooted in him that if he was going to die he may as well find out the reasons why.

“As I’ve said before, he killed Ben and then proceeded to fuck the Don’s wife”.

“Oh yeah” replied Tommy.“

Now get up there and good luck, you pull this off and the family will get you anything you want”

“Thanks Mr Dobie”. Tommy got out of the car and entered the block of flats where Leroy was staying. Before he pressed the elevator button he made sure his gun was loaded, ensuring that he didn’t make the same mistake Sammy Sims did.

Leroy sat in the darkness of his hotel room with his gun pointing at the door, waiting for the next poor schmuck the Don sent. The others were so easy for Leroy to kill that he almost felt sorry for them. Almost being the key word in that phrase.

“All this for some stupid kid” muttered Leroy, disgusted with the thought that the Don had put his own wife and son before him. After all he had killed dozens if not hundreds of people for the man and this was the thanks he got? Fatigue was starting to set in on Leroy and he knew that he couldn’t keep awake all the time; soon he would have to go on the offensive and strike the Don at his home. As he slipped into a dream, he knew that if someone was to arrive now that they would probably be able to kill him.

Dean Dobie sat in the car gently prodding at the bandage covering his ear. Leroy had shot it off when Dobie had attempted to kill him. He was the one who had caught Leroy with the Dons wife but before he could call for help or even get his hand on the trigger of his gun, Leroy had already shot him. Dobie was aware of the fact that the only reason he didn’t have a bullet in his brain is that Leroy was distracted when he had burst in on him.

After all he had seen first hand how dangerous Leroy was; he remembered when he had first accompanied him on a job. It was to kill a soldier of the family called John Myra, who had grown too big for his own shoes and was taking a larger slice of the profits then he was entitled to.

They arrived at his house in the middle of night only to find that John was expecting them with a couple of his friends there to outnumber the duo. Dobie had managed to kill one or two of them but really it was Leroy who was carrying out the killing. He had managed to kill about seven or eight of them without wasting a bullet.

Just as it looked as if he had the drop on Myra, he had run out of bullets. Myra shot his last bullet directly into Leroy’s shoulder. Leroy didn’t even flinch.

He calmly walked up to Myra and grabbed his ears causing them to bleed before pulling out a knife that he kept in his back pocket. Leroy then proceeded to earn the pay check that the Don was going to pay him.

As they left the house Dobie asked Leroy whether he needed to take him to the family doctor. The fact that Leroy just laughed at this question had made Dobie feel uneasy. To say that he didn’t envy Tommy Richs job of having to kill the man was an understatement.

Tommy stepped out of the elevator and looked up and down the corridor to check if there where any people hanging around. After confirming that there was no one around he pulled out his gun and slowly made his way to Leroy’s room number.

“Just be calm” Tommy whispered to himself, “he probably isn’t even expecting you”.

These words just served to make Tommy even more nauseous and he had to stop and lean against the wall just to stop himself from being sick. He briefly considered running out of the hotel and making his way to Mexico to start a new life but he knew that if he done that, the Don would find him and kill him. He walked a bit further down the corridor before reaching Leroy’s room.

He recited his plan to himself “right Tommy, all you need to do is bash the door down and fire a couple of shots into the room and then pray to Allah, God, Brahman or any other Gods who are listening that you’ve killed him”. He took three deep breaths before attempting to shoulder barge the door down.

BANG. The noise woke Leroy and he fired a stream of bullets at the door only to find that it hadn’t even opened. He opened the door only to see a boy no older than twenty clutching his shoulder, lying on the floor.

“You stupid bastard” laughed Leroy. The boy had broke his shoulder trying to barge the door open. Leroy then cocked his gun and put a bullet into the kid’s brain.

Tony Deans is a young writer originally from London UK. His previous short story “The Ballad of Jimmy Jazz” can be found at All Due Respect Magazine. He is currently writing more stories full of seventies musical references.

Monday 24 January 2011


Welcome to Antarctica

For the past couple weeks I've had this nagging suspicion that my girlfriend is cheating on me; my absolute worst nightmare. Every time the dirty bitch of a thought creeps into my mind I push it away as the product of an overactive imagination; a paranoia common to anyone who has ever been in a relationship. A lot of times though, and in my parents case even, a paranoia that turns out to be a frigid reality. The definition of hell on earth, if hell was cold as shit, like Antarctica. I’m scared shitless of how I’d react in that situation.

“Alex, Chloe’s on the phone,” Mom yelled from the kitchen.

My train of thought interrupted and momentarily forgotten, I ran for the phone as a child runs for presents on Christmas morning.

“Hey, what’s up?” I inquired eagerly, and somewhat out of breath.

“Hey, Alex. Can I come over?” Chloe asked in her typically angelic tone, although unusually monotone.

“Yea, right now?”

“Uh-huh, I’ll be there in fifteen.”

“Okay, bye. Love ya.”


Back on the train, I pondered the pros and cons of asking her straight up. If she hadn’t been cheating she’d be extremely pissed and offended at my lack of trust in her, and the foundation of our relationship would surely be brought into question. If she had, well, she’d probably deny it and the same shit would happen as if she didn’t; a definite no win situation.

The doorbell rang followed by the sound of moms footsteps as she opened the door for Chloe, and asked annoyingly as always, “Hi honey, how are you?”

“I’m fine Mom. How are you?” Chloe replied as always, but not annoyingly.

“I’m good. Alex is in his room.”

“Alright, thanks Mom,” said Chloe, already to my bedroom door.

Just as she pushed the door open and turned to close it I realized she didn’t say she loved me when we got off the phone. Definitely not good. Then the look on her face when she turned back around and walked towards the computer chair, and the fact that she went for the chair instead of my bed like she always did; this is definitely not good.

Heart in my throat and trying to pretend nothing was wrong I asked, “How were your classes?”

“Good,” she said in a tone like a dagger through my heart. She never talked like this.

“That’s good,” I said. “Something wrong?”

“Why would you say that, Alex?” She asked, as if I was somehow to blame for what I knew was coming.

“I dunno, you just seem, umm, you’re acting funny.”


“Yea, funny. Like something’s on your mind.”

We sat in silence a minute, maybe less, though it seemed like a year. Her face frozen like an opera mask except her eyes staring straight up with her arms crossed which I’ve learned over the years is her way of displaying frustration. Out of nowhere, she began balling her eyes out. I got up to comfort her but she held her arm out as if to signal me to sit back down, so I did.

“Chloe, what’s wrong?” I questioned desperately. “Did I do something wrong? What the hell happened?”

“Alex,” she sobbed. “Please don’t hate me.”

I fucking knew it.

“What? Why would I hate you? I love you Chloe.”

“You won’t,” she cried. “I fucked Simon!”

Simon! My best fucking friend! No matter who it was would be just as bad, but fucking Simon?

“You what?” I yelled. “You fucked my best friend?”

“Alex, I’m so sorry. I love you and I wanna be with you. Please forgive me,” she mumbled and sobbed.

“Just once?” I asked as if it mattered, and for some reason it did.

“No,” she mumbled. “For the last year.”

My thoughts shifted towards Antarctica; freezing cold hell on earth. It was freezing outside, so I opened the window. If I was gonna be in hell, I wanted to really feel it. Then my thoughts shifted again, like an epiphany, to my brand new fixed-blade Gerber knife. And Chloe. And Simon. I felt calm.

“Okay, Chloe. Give me a second to calm down. I’m gonna go to the bathroom and just calm down.”

As she sat there crying I grabbed the phone and opened my door. In the bathroom I called Simon, who lived only a block away, and asked him to come play some video games with me, and as always, he said yes.

Back in my room, as Chloe held her disgusting face in her hands, sobbing like a little bitch, I nonchalantly opened the top drawer of my bureau and pulled my brand new knife out of the leather sheath it came in. I sat back down on my bed and slid the knife under my pillow without her noticing, and I waited. Mom never let me know when Simon was here, so any minute now he’d open my bedroom door and walk right in.

He walked right in, “Hey Alex,” he greeted me without noticing Chloe, as if he hadn’t been fucking my girlfriend for the last year, closing the door behind him. “Your mom told me to tell you she’ll be right back, she’s going to get some groceries.”

Finally noticing Chloe with a look of shock he said, “Oh, hi Chloe.”

She didn’t respond.

He looked at me, confused, and asked, “What’s going on? Why is she crying?”

I grinned, “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me?”


“I said why don’t you tell me what’s going on, Simon.”

“What are you talking about?” He asked, frustrated.

“If there’s anyone here who should be frustrated, it's me.”

All the while Chloe sat there, crying like a little bitch, and for no reason; if anyone should be crying, it’s me. And I did. I started crying, and I grabbed the knife from under my pillow.

“Alex, what the fuck are you doing?” Simon asked, serious as a funeral.

“No Simon, the question is who the fuck are you fucking?” I yelled as I lunged at him with the knife, stabbing him in the leg; blood squirting all over the place.

“Aleeeexxxx! Ahhhh!” He screamed. “I’m sorry! I wanted to tell you I just didn’t want to..”

Chloe screamed and ran for the door, and in one swift motion I pulled the knife from Simons leg and shoved it into hers. She shrieked and fell to the floor hilariously, like a rag doll, almost directly on top of Simon; their blood mixing like the streams of urine when two drunks piss standing right next to each other.

“I don’t give a fuck what you want or don’t want anymore, friend!” I said, reminding myself of a movie character of the devil in human form.

I smiled as they screamed. “Now, we’re gonna have a threesome!” I whispered deviously as I plunged the knife into my own leg, making sure to hit a main artery, and I did judging by the amount of blood rushing out like water through a freshly broken dam. I fell right on top of them.

I grabbed the knife again and stabbed them both a few more times to make sure we’d all slowly bleed out together, and they screamed in terror. Slowly their screaming lowered, as if someone was turning down the volume of a horror movie until it finally went completely mute. They were still alive, though.

I looked at the open window to the freezing cold night beyond, and realized I could see my own breath.

“Welcome to Antarctica,” I said, smiling. “Freezing cold hell on earth.”

I heard the roar of my mothers engine as she pulled into the driveway, and then it died.

And so did we.

Edward and Lily's First Date by Jim Harrington

Edward and Lily's First Date

Edward eyed Lily from the bailiff’s desk as her long fingers captured the District Attorney's closing statement. Edward had nicknamed her Little Miss Echo, because, as the court reporter, the only time Lily spoke was to repeat witness testimony. She’d first appeared in Judge Franklin’s courtroom on Monday, wearing a pale green pantsuit - one similar to what she had on now - that complemented her short, red hair. For Edward, it was love at first sight. Seeing no ring on her finger, he’d asked her out the second day of the trial. She'd declined. Undaunted, Edward continued his pursuit and finally succeeded. He and Lily had a date for lunch as soon as the judge adjourned the morning session.

Edward placed a hand on Lily's back as they entered Le Petite Cafe, a broad smile on his face. The word little described her perfectly, Edward thought. She was no bigger than a sapling; and except for the scar bisecting her right eyebrow, her face was flawless.

“I'm so glad you decided to have lunch with me,” Edward said.

“I'm so glad you decided to have lunch with me,” Lily replied.

Edward smiled and placed the maroon napkin in his lap.

The waiter asked them what they'd like to drink.

“I'll have an iced tea, please,” Edward said.

“And you, ma'am?” the waiter asked.

“I'll have an iced tea, please.”

At first, Edward thought her funny; but when she ordered exactly the same lunch, he began to wonder if she knew about his nickname for her and was teasing him.

“Do you ever say anything original?” Edward continued to smile.

Lily unwrapped her napkin and spread it in her lap. She kept her eyes down and didn't respond.

“Come on. I know there's an original thought in that pretty little noggin.” He tapped his forehead.

The waiter delivered their drinks and a basket of breads.

Edward bounced his heels on the carpet and waited for a reply.

Lily bit into a slice of cornbread and sipped her tea. She patted her lips with the napkin and returned it to her lap.

Edward placed his hands on his thighs and squeezed. The smile vacated his face. Enough is enough. He leaned forward and spoke so the nearby diners wouldn't hear him.

"What's wrong? Don't bailiffs make enough money? Am I not handsome enough?"

Lily raised her eyes and hesitated before leaning closer. "Not handsome enough," she whispered.

Edward's face turned red. He threw his napkin on the table. Still leaning forward he said, "Why you little." He looked around and then back at Lily.

“You should be careful what you say.” He inched closer until their noses almost touched. “You're not the first one who's insulted me, and the others never did it again. I saw to that.”

“Really?” Lily stared back. "What'd you do, take them to a hotel room and strangle them?"

Edward's body tensed, more blood rushed to his head. He reached for Lily's arm. She jerked it away.

"Isn't that what you did to the others, Edward?"

"How...?" He sat up and snatched the napkin off the table. "I'm afraid the stress from the trial has gotten to you, my dear. Let's just finish lunch."

"I believe you're the one stressed out by all that rejection." Lily kept her eyes on Edward and reached into her jacket pocket. "You've been a person of interest ever since a maid found number three." She showed Edward a detective's shield and nodded toward the small counter. Edward looked up. A man wearing a gray suit and blue striped tie nonchalantly saluted. In her other hand, Lily held a recording device between her thumb and finger. "And unlike the first two, you left DNA samples. She must have really made you mad for you to get so careless."

"I know all the cops in this district," Edward said.

"I'm on loan from the 38th."

"What about the trial? Won't your little deception set the perp free?"

"I served as a court reporter for five years. The judge and both attorneys knew what was going on."

Edward grabbed Lily by the wrist with one hand and reached for the recorder with the other.

The detective rushed from the counter to the table and pulled Edward away.

“You bitch,” Edward said. “I'll get you for this.”

“I doubt it,” the partner said, “but she will see you in court.”

“Yea, see you in court,” Lily said, as the detective pushed Edward out of the restaurant.

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. In addition to Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers his stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Offensive, Weirdyear, Flashshot and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”

Thursday 20 January 2011

SMALL GREEN THINGS by Chris Allinotte

Small Green Things

Patrick stared at the small green orbs on the table, and had the uncomfortable feeling they were staring back at him. They looked like some distant cousin to a Swedish meatball, if it had thrown up on itself and then been left on the shelf of the fridge for three weeks. 

The odour coming off the things was equally repellent. They reeked of muddy, rotten plants more appropriate to a bog than a red Formica kitchen table. They were leaning against a limp mound of pasta that looked forlorn at the unwanted contact.  Steam was coming off them, making the air waver slightly just above the plate, like stink-lines in a cartoon.  Patrick yelled to the next room where his wife Andrea was assembling a new bookcase using only her wits and the enclosed Allen wrench. 

“Honey, what’s this on the table?”

“What do you think it is Patrick? It’s dinner.  Actually it’s your dinner.  No, on second thought, it’s what’s left of the dinner I made to be ready an hour and a half ago, because you didn’t inform me you’d be going for beers after work, and coming home late. In fact …” She continued, on a roll now, but her tone didn’t change much, so Patrick assumed she’d finish this last bit and go on with her tinkering.  Still though, he had a rather pressing question that needed an answer.

“Really Andrea, what is this stuff?”  Patrick’s tone was incredulous, but annoyance wasn’t far away either.  His wife often would start a fight to get out of admitting fault, and the food on the table was definitely someone’s fault.

“Jesus, Patrick, it’s not bad enough you’re late, you’re going to insult me too?”  Andrea’s response was quick, and the hurt in her voice made him feel immediately guilty. “It’s spaghetti and meatballs, you jerk.  What does it look like?  If you don’t want to eat the … goddamn it, it’s the unfinished side again. Look, just don’t eat it.  Go back to the bar with your buddies.”

“No. No, it’s fine really Andy, I’m going to eat it,” said Patrick.

“It … just looked like something new is all.”  And it certainly doesn’t look like spaghetti and fucking meatballs, he finished to himself.    

“Eat us,” the things seemed to say, “Come on Patrick.  You’re hungry.  Have a bite to eat.”  He must have been hallucinating, because the voices seemed real to him.  They spoke again, and their voices were heavy and wet, like bubbles in a swamp, repeating, “Eat us Patrick.”

Andrea wasn’t paying attention anymore, having gone back to swearing at her assembly project.  Looking closer at the plate, He thought there was less pasta now.  Were the meatballs eating the spaghetti? Ugh, he thought.  Andy was a wonderful wife, but she’d never be  a great cook.

Without warning, a feeling gripped him that he was going to eat them. Oddly enough, Patrick was reminded me of the last time he was on a diet.  He’d spend the whole day deliberately avoiding snacks and sweets, and yet by three-thirty he’d find himself feeding quarters into the candy machine, and pushing F8, for the three-pack of jumbo chocolate chip cookies.  It was like being on auto-pilot.

Patrick's thoughts came back to the present, only to find the first glob was inches from his lips.  He could already taste the foulness at the back of his throat, as its odour preceded it.  Patrick turned his head, and took a deep breath, meaning to choke the thing down quickly.  

Why? something in his mind screamed, Why are you eating it at all?  Patrick opened his mouth, keeping his lungs locked tightly around the last gasp of air, when he suddenly noticed something new.  

There was another smell coming in on top of the marsh plant stink, a succulent, greasy tang.  Patrick let his breath out in a whoof, and gave a proper sniff, just to verify what he suspected, and he was proved right.  This disgusting looking blob of muck now smelled almost exactly like Dirty Roy’s Firehouse chicken wings.  

It wasn't possible, but the tangy, spicy scent was overpowering.  Patrick sucked back a small runner of drool, as his tongue and taste buds aligned at the thought of crispy orange drumettes soaked with Roy's secret pepper sauce.

Without giving him another opportunity to act, the green thing pulsed once in Patrick's hand. Powerless to resist, his hand moved on its own, cramming the foulness into his mouth.
He swallowed.

It was clear at once that the enticing aroma had been a ruse.  It tasted like the foot of a drowning victim, dipped in shit.   Despite its wet appearance, all the moisture seemed to have left his mouth in an instant, and Patrick was left gasping through a throat lined with fine, mouldy powder.  His stomach was in agony,  It clenched and roiled in protest, and there was a sensation of exceptional dryness – as if the thing had sucked up all the stomach juice as well. It made vomiting the thing back up an impossibility -- not for lack of trying.  Patrick's knuckles turned white as he gripped the table and dry-heaved.  Andrea no doubt took the noises as a final criticism of her culinary skills, as the sound of the TV got louder.  

And then Patrick ate the other two.
Spots swam in front of his eyes.  In extreme discomfort, he welcomed the sensation. Yes – please, let me pass out, he thought, let me not be feeling this.  Seconds later though, the spots disappeared, and he became conscious of the changes happening within.  The green orbs were growing, distending his stomach as they swelled.  At the same time, Patrick felt a horrible tearing, probing sensation.  The things had grown tendrils and were exploring his insides, looking for somewhere strong to take root. He went to his knees, doubling up with pain.
From the other room Andy's voice drifted through the haze of intense pain.

“Shit!" she cried, "They never give you the right number of screws. Never!"  Patrick could hear her crossing the room; his hearing had become exceptionally keen.  "I’m going out to the hardware store Patrick." said Andrea, "See you later – if you’ve survived, that is.” And then, slightly lower, “Jerk.”  
The door banged shut and Patrick was alone with his invaders.
The feeling as roots spread out, searching and coiling around intestines was more than he could bear.   He gave vent to one long continuous scream, which devolved into sobbing for it to please, please make it stop.

One thick tendril wound its way up the back of his throat, being careful not to choke him, and continued up into the sinus cavity, where it went rigid, jamming itself into his brain, and Patrick knew no more.


When she arrived home, Andrea was in a fouler mood than when she’d left.  It turned out that not one of the major “do-it-yourself” stores carried the unique, hex-head bolts that she needed to complete her new genuine black-walnut-veneer Entertainment Center.

She’d gone to three stores, and after hearing, “You’ll have to go back to where you bought it” She’d given up, on the verge of screaming.

The screen door that Patrick hadn't fixed yet banged open loudly on its broken hinge.  She stormed inside.  Her immediate plans were a cold beer and the last half of “Survivors who Think They Can Dance”.  When she gained the kitchen, she stopped in her tracks.  Patrick was still sitting at the kitchen table, staring at an empty plate.

“So you choked it down, huh?”  She didn’t want to be so angry with him, but sometimes he just pushed her buttons. “Well? How was it?”

Patrick turned his head as if it was on a slow-motion swivel, and at last he met her eyes.  His mouth opened a little, and after a too-long pause, he said “Good.”  It sounded like he was speaking through a particularly hoarse throat, so it came out more as a croak than anything.

Something was deeply wrong with him, and Andrea felt the majority of her anger dissipate in an instant.  “Patrick? Are you alright?”

His gaze never wavered.  He stared at her intently with eyes that seemed dull to her, his jaw dropped open long enough to make the sound, “Good,” again. 

 “No, Patrick, I don’t think you are.”  She moved toward the table.  If he was sick, it would be on her again, to drag him, kicking and screaming to the doctor.  They were so not ready for kids. 

She moved to his side, and he turned to look at her.  Again, the movement was slow, and delayed, like he was moving through sludge.  She felt his forehead.  It wasn’t just cool, it was positively cold.  “I don’t know what’s going on Patrick, but I don’t like it.  You sound like you’re getting a bad cold.  Let me see your throat.”
As soon as she’d said it, she wanted to un-say it.  She didn’t want to see his throat.  This close, she saw into those dull eyes, and was shocked to see something moving -- swimming -- in his pupils.  His jaw gaped open, and kept opening long past the limits of what was normal.  She saw his tongue, darker than it should be, waggling in the dark.

She had time to scream once, and then a massive cluster of tendrils vomited forth from his mouth, wrapping themselves around her head, throat, and chest.  They sought entry, and before long found it. She tried to cry out again, with a closed mouth, but to no avail. The tendrils were persistent, and they found what they were looking for.


When Andrea awoke, she found Patrick waiting.  They were blissful once more.  They would never fight again, or annoy one another with sarcasm and cynicism.  They were one.  They were one with the Everything.  The Everything would bring its bliss to this world, and the plants would reclaim the planet from the meat-things.

Patrick said, “Good.”
Andrea replied, “Good.” 

As they left the house, and moved off into the night, the only trace of their presence that remained was three small, oddly textured green orbs on a plain white ceramic plain ceramic dish, calling out to any who could hear, “Eat me.”

Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto, Canada, with his wife and children.

His work has been featured in many places online, and recently in the anthologies "Novus Creatura" and "Creepy Things".  You can check out more about Chris' stories at his blog

Tuesday 18 January 2011

REST STOP by Harris Tobias

Rest Stop

Four hooded Klansmen dragged the screaming woman out of her shack. Their leader motioned for the others to bind her wrists. The year was 1949 and the place was a lonely spot a mile from the small town of Doyline, Louisiana. Her crime was...well, there was no crime, not really. Unless being old, black and eccentric constituted criminal behavior. Apparently in the Jim Crow South at that time, it did.

Mama Ju was an old black woman, superstitious to a fault, given to herbs and spells and conjurin’ her potions that cured the sick and brought peace to the lovelorn. Her acts aroused the fears, or were they jealousies of her white neighbors who thought of her as a witch. Three hundred years after the hysteria at Salem, things hadn’t changed all that much. Being accused a witch in the rural south in 1949 brought out the same fear born of ignorance that burned those poor souls so long ago. As always, the Klan was there to help. People called her a witch, but what did that mean? People say all kinds of stuff, that doesn’t make them true.

The hooded leader tossed a rope over a branch of the big oak tree. A great living oak bearded with Spanish moss, it dwarfed the old woman’s shack and swallowed half the sky. He’d already tied a noose at one end. The old woman screamed and fought like the devil, but she could not match the three big men.

“You leave me be, Hal Boggs. Don’t think I don’t know you even with your bed sheet on. And you, Didi Kane, I knew you as a baby. Cured your fevers more’n once.”

The men paid her no heed.

If her words affected them, their masks hid any expression of guilt or dismay from the others. The men dragged her under the big oak and slipped the noose over her head. She was a tiny, skinny thing built more like a bird than a woman but she had a strength that belied her stature and her eyes held a fire that commanded respect. She set that fierce gaze upon her tormentors.

“A curse on you. A curse on all of you,” Mama Ju snarled. “I tell you to your faces you will rue this act. By all the saints and spirits I tell you your seed will not flourish on this Earth. Your issue will be poisoned and you will harvest only pain from your children.”

She might have said more, but Boggs had heard enough. He pulled the rope taught and together the four men pulled mama Ju off the ground, her feet twitched and jiggled a little flutter and then lay still. If she wasn’t a witch in her long years as a healer, she was one when she died. Mama Ju’s curse entered the ears of those ignorant young men and took up residence, sleeping and growing into a malevolent thing. 

By all accounts, Anthony Timms was the luckiest of the four. He never married and died young. He came back from a short stint in the Navy a broken man. No one knew the reason for his less than honorable discharge but there were rumors aplenty.

Homosexuality was the whispered cause and in a town like Doyline that was tantamount to a death sentence. Timms shrugged off the gossip with the aid of cheap wine and diet pills. He was a familiar sight on the streets of Doyline where he panhandled and slept it off in the park or the drunk-tank. He was bitter and unhappy. His brief engagement as the town drunk was cut short by the wheels of a Southern Pacific freight train that sliced the passed out Timms in half. Never having married, it can be said he avoided the curse entirely, but none of the others saw it quite that way.

The remaining three Klansmen, Hal Boggs, Didi Kane and Errol Haverstraw lived on and while they never again spoke of Mama Ju, they never forgot her words either. Despite the curse’s dire predictions of poisoned fruit and the end of their lines, all three young men went on to marry local girls and raise children after a fashion.

Errol Haverstraw, the youngest of the three, spent a few blissful months with his young bride before the Army drafted him for Korea. Before he left he managed to plant his seed. Juliann struggled with her pregnancy while Errol struggled with the North Koreans at the Battle of Bloody Ridge. He stepped on a mine and blew away his legs and his baby making equipment. Juliann got the news and immediately went into labor giving birth to a baby girl three months pre-mature. The baby was given oxygen and died from oxygen toxicity.

The post partum depression proved too much for Juliann’s fragile condition and she killed herself a few days before Errol returned home. Errol spent his remaining years in the dubious care of the Veteran’s Administration wondering what might have been.

Didi Kane escaped the draft but couldn’t escape his bad luck. He married Terry Short and settled down in Doyline working for Terry’s family’s construction business. He learned to operate heavy equipment and made a good living excavating basements and grading roads. He fathered three children with Terry and, from the outside, life looked pretty good. The Kanes enjoyed all the trappings of success—a fine house, swimming pool, nice cars, private schools for the children. Sure they had their problems, what couple doesn’t? They fought about inconsequential things. He drank and lost his temper. After one noisy fight, Didi stormed out of the house and accidentally ran over his daughter who was playing in the driveway. A year later, Terry and their youngest son were killed in a traffic accident on route 261 when a semi, hauling cattle, lost its brakes. Their last child, a boy of eleven was attacked and killed by a neighbor’s Rottwielers. Kane responded to the tragedy by shooting the dogs and the neighbors. He spent the rest of his life in prison replaying the events of that day.

Long before Didi Kane flipped out and shot his neighbors, Hal Boggs was convinced that the curse was real. As soon as he was able he moved his pregnant wife, Lulu, as far away from Doyline as he could get. The Boggs’ moved to Seattle, WA, where Hal got into real estate and made quite a success of himself. Lulu and Hal had just one child, Hal Jr., due to problems with Lulu’s ovaries they considered themselves lucky to have that. The boy grew up smart and strong and privileged. Since he was an only child he was spoiled and indulged. They poured all their hopes and dreams into the boy. Hal jr. was an exceptional child, a fine athlete and scholar, he was their pride and joy.

As the years passed, Hal Sr. began to relax. He found religion and tried to be a better person. When he thought about his past and the awful things he’d done, he felt sorry and prayed for forgiveness. As he aged, he re-invented himself into a crusader against injustice changing both his politics and his racist ideas. He gave generously to charities that benefited black causes and made sure his son embraced the same ideas. He went about as far as a man could in reversing the course of his life and atoning for his racist past.

Hal Jr. grew into a fine young man. He graduated from college with honors and a young woman he asked to be his bride. Hal and Lulu were ecstatic about the thought of grandchildren. The future looked sunny, Hal was sure he’d beaten the curse. The past was buried and forgotten just like Mama Ju. That terrible night under the big tree was a dim memory, which he never spoke of and never thought of.

The world had changed in the 25 years since the lynching—the civil rights movement, the interstate system, jet travel, a man on the moon. There was no place for witches, curses and all that mumbo jumbo.

Hal Jr. got married the summer he graduated from college and before starting medical school. For their honeymoon, the young couple decided on a road trip to New Orleans. They took their time driving through Northern California and South to see the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas then drifting East to Louisiana. The trip was leisurely and the young couple were happy and in love. When they crossed into Louisiana something happened to change the mood of the journey.

Call it fate or happenstance, call it destiny or the power of a dying woman’s words, but the trip across Louisiana brought Hal Jr. and Francis Boggs East on Interstate 20 to a rest stop just outside of Doyline. Hal knew that his father had grown up there but he had never seen the place. He had little interest in the town but thought he and Francis might drive through and tell the old man what they saw. Francis had been driving when the Boggs’s pulled in to use the rest room. The couple got out and stretched. It was a beautiful morning.

Francis went off in search of the ladies room and Hal Jr. walked around getting the kinks out of his back. He looked around and saw the tree, a magnificent old oak spreading its shade over the picnic area. He stood frozen staring at that tree and knew what he had to do. It was a compulsion, it locked his protesting rational mind in a box and took over his will. He went back to the car and found a length of rope in the trunk. He walked stiffly toward the tree his hands fashioning a slipknot of their own accord. He climbed up on the picnic table and tied the rope to a low branch. People at neighboring tables stopped their chatter and watched in disbelief as the handsome young man slipped the noose around his neck and, without the slightest hesitation, jumped from the table. Francis exited the lady’s room and looked around. When what she saw finally registered she gasped and ran to the dangling man.

Harris Tobias was raised by robots disguised as New Yorkers. Despite an awkward childhood he learned to read and write. To date Mr. Tobias has published two detective novels, The Greer Agency and A Felony of Birds, to critical acclaim. In addition he has published short stories in Down in the Dirt Magazine, Literal Translations, Electric Flash and Ray Gun Revival. He currently lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

MEDIUM RARE by Dean Owen

Let's give Dean a warm TKnC welcome on his first ever 'published' story...

Medium Rare

They were talking about the time down in Florida when gastronomy was considered to be the domain of women and homosexuals. But not anymore. The two men were sitting in a room, shooting the breeze, talking about cooking. Nothing strange in that.

“All them shows on cable,” Harlan Watts was saying, “and how many of ‘em got woman cooks presenting?”

“I figure not many,” McClintock said.

“Bunch a ball breakers nowadays, Mac, all them TV chefs. Commercial kitchen ain’t no place for pussies or pussy. Got to be a hard ass to survive,” Harlan said.

“The steak, Harlan, you was talking about cooking your steak.”

“See, there I go digressing again. That’s the problem for a man in my situation, too much damn time on his hands.”

“Tell me how you fix the sauce,” McClintock said.

“Sauce comes later. First you sweat the onions,” Harlan said. “Chop ‘em up tight on the board then fire up the range.”

“You use red or green onions?”

“Don’t matter either ways. Just pour in the oil, heat up the pan and fry ‘em off real good.”

McClintock paced the small room, impatient. “You put the steak in the pan next?”

“Nope. You turn up the pan real hot for that part, but not yet. First you gonna be adding in chopped garlic. I figure a good size clove’s about right - without spoiling the bedtime fun you got planned with that good lady wife of yours.” The grin danced over Harlan’s nail-point eyes like the devil on hell’s hot coals.

This got McClintock’s frowning beneath his dark toupee. “Best you leave her out of this, Harlan.” It was a suggestion, not an order.

Harlan gave a languid shrug. “Whatever you say, boss.” He sat back with that dopey, half-stupefied, dreamy look. “Now where was I at?”

“About to put the steak in the pan, the onions and garlic part just about done.”

Harlan Watts wriggled in his seat, a little constricted but still able to move with relative freedom. Harlan sitting there in his Sunday best, his bony frame stuck in a cheap polyester suit, pale green like a stagnant swamp, the grimy shirt collar two sizes too big on his scrawny neck, his pockmarked face clean shaven, like his head. It had to be the first time in twenty odd years his face hadn’t been covered with lank greasy hair.

Harlan said, “You gotta be real careful not to burn them onions though,” shaking his head, jutting his bottom lip. “That’s a cardinal sin for sure. Take your eye off ‘em even for a second, they’re gonna burn to a crisp, smoke the place out.”

“So after you sweat them, you let them sit then turn the heat in the pan right up, right?”

Harlan said nothing.

McClintock glanced at his watch. “We’re running short of time here, Harlan.”

“Well, it ain’t as if I got to be any place pressing right now, is it?”

They could hear activity beyond the steel door. The click of several footsteps and as many muted voices approaching.

McClintock ignored it. “Tell me about cooking the steak. I can almost taste it. And what about the sauce. I need to know about that sauce, Harlan.”

“Sure you do, Mac. Next you take that big ol’ hunk of rump and sear it right there in the pan. Flash her good both sides to seal the flesh then take the heat back down low. Hear that little bitch squeal and stiffen as it gets the life blasted out of it, but on the inside she’s still all raw and bloody. And don’t be worrying about what folks say about all that blood containing piss and steroids and all. Man, I consumed much worse in my time.”

Beyond the door the voices grew louder. The footsteps stopped. A huge key clanked in a heavy lock.

McClintock was anxious. He paced the room faster, his brow shining with sweat. He wiped the back of his palm across it. “The sauce,” McClintock hissed in Harlan’s ear, desperate. “I need to know about the sauce.”

Harlan Watts glanced round the room and said in a matter of fact tone, “You flip the rump once. Takes about three minutes either side. Let it rest a couple minutes then you’re done. End of story.”

McClintock waited for him to continue. But Harlan was studying his fingernails painted black. Nothing more to say.

McClintock was confused. “What about the sauce?” he shouted. “You have to explain how you make the sauce, damn it.”

Harlan glanced up at him. “There’s certain secrets a man’s gotta take to his grave, Mac, my special sauce being one of ‘em.”

“No, Harlan, you can’t do this to me, not again!”

Harlan let out a chuckle. “Why, what y’all gonna do, Mac, kill me?”

The steel door clanged and squawked open on tortured hinges, reverberating off the stark white walls. The footfalls clicked loud and echoed as people entered the room. A medical examiner followed by a priest and Harlan’s lawyer in her black mini-dress and heels for the expectant cameras outside, then several reporters and police officers and prison wardens from Florida’s Starke prison, one holding synthetic sponges soaked in saline, another clasping a black hood.

Harlan Watts smiled up at the congregation and rattled his shackled hands against the oak arms of the electric chair. “Don’t worry, folks, I ain’t going no place real soon, unless you count hell as being on the list.”

“Oh, you’re going straight to hell all right.” The chief of police stared down at him.

Harlan grinned up at him. There was a second’s pause. Then Harlan lurched forward in a violent motion, his wrists jerking wildly against the manacles. They splintered against the oak. The chief stumbled backward, his composure momentarily shattered.

His eyes dancing to the devil’s tune, Harlan smacked his lips twice in succession. “Don’t worry, Chief, I ain’t fixing on eating your fat ass. Not now, not ever.”

The chair to which Harlan was strapped was rigged with a cable leading to an electrical box behind the chair. McClintock acknowledged the grim nods of the men and placed a hand on Harlan Watt’s shoulder, gently patting it. The wardens fitted Harlan with electrodes, attaching the conductive saline sponges, one on the head, one on the leg, creating a direct current. Then Mac stepped over to the electrical box, his hand hovering over the switch.

Harlan said over his shoulder, “Don’t worry, Mac. I won’t take it personal. I know y’all only doing your job.”

The priest, a solemn man with white hair, said, “The other alternative is still available, Harlan.”

“Now you know I can’t stand needles, padre. Besides, I figure I should fry for my crimes. Only seems fair and decent that a man who fried and ate all them women, bit by itty bitty little bit should go the same way. And y’all feel free to chow down on a piece of my electrocuted ass when you’re done here. In fact I insist on it.”

An officer rolled the black hood down over Harlan’s head, the convicted cannibal killer still talking in muffled tones as the priest muttered the last rites and crossed himself.

“Medium rare was the way I liked it best,” Harlan said and roared laughter, the hood sucking back and forth into his mouth.

They were the last words he ever spoke.

There was a pause. Then the police Chief gave McClintock a sober nod. McClintock thought about that sauce he’d never gotten to hearing about and threw the switch. There was a dry rasping sound as current crackled through the room and two thousand volts raced through Harlan Watts’ body.

It jerked in spasms as tiny wisps of smoke and brief flames rose and fanned from both sides of the hood.

And then he slumped down into the chair, his head in the hood dipped to his chest. When the medical examiner pronounced him dead there was a collective sigh of relief from everybody.

Everybody except McClintock.

Because he knew Harlan had taken with him the recipe for the sauce. The same sauce Harlan would prepare and serve with his victims’ body parts, cooking them medium rare. Which didn’t help Mac any because Mac was fixing on taking up where Harlan had left off ten years ago.

Commercial kitchen ain’t no place for pussies or pussy. No place in the kitchen for women anymore. Mac disagreed. He furtively eyed Harlan’s tearful young lawyer in the black mini-dress and heels. Daintily dabbing big alligator tears with a tissue. He decided he’d make up the sauce recipe as he went along. Maybe try a few combinations.

Oh yeah, Mac figured a woman’s place was still in the kitchen all right, only not in front of the range, but on the range, sweating over heat, and screaming and squealing and sizzling with onions and garlic. Pan fried. Medium rare.

Dean Owen is a Brit currently living in Sydney, Australia. Nothing previously published, but had two partial thriller manuscripts considered by a top literary agency, and in 1992 another agent wrote some favourable comments on his Mills & Boon submission, before rejecting it. Soon after, Dean gave up the romance lark to concentrate on crime and thrillers.

Friday 14 January 2011

'P&E Readers Poll, Best Ezine 2010'... TKnC nominated, plus, one of our editors!

I felt a tad awkward about this, so held back until I'd spoken to the man whose brainchild TKnC was - Matt. However, being a true gent he gave his blessing, as someone kindly nominated me (Col) in the 'best editor' poll. TKnC, sure... but ME...?

Anyway, voting is open until January 26th 2011. If you wanna vote for us - or any of the other fine sites listed, including A Twist Of Noir & Pulp Metal Mag', plus loads of cool horror sites - go here...

And if you really think I was last year's best e-zine editor (then keep taking the tablets!) - you can vote here for your choice...

You have to scroll down a tad to reach the list and you do have to verify each vote with your email address, but 'Critters Workshop', who run the poll, is a trustworthy site and doesn't send spam.

Thanks to the person who nominated us.

A somewhat humbled, Col

Thursday 13 January 2011

DERANGING WHIRL by Willie Nunnery

TKnC welcomes debutant, Willie...

Deranging Whirl

Silence blankets the stuffy church, as the last few people search for open seats. Pews are packed. Adorned in a long purple robe with gold embroidery vined throughout, the young Pastor Thomas stands at his alter, eyes scanning a full congregation, all of them dressed in black and the old men, the barbershop crooners—who tell stories of dancing to nickelled jukeboxes until the moon became a memory—have feathers in their hats, strapped in with red ribbons, and the mothers rock their babies, left, right, right, left. A glossy grand piano falls deeper into a minor key that seems to shiver with each vibration and echo.

Pastor Thomas looks down at the open casket that stretches across the church’s patterned tiles and he doesn’t even give a blink. Before he begins, the pastor lets off a soft unnoticed sigh. He says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here at the saddest of times, a funeral, that of Mr. Richard Smith.”
The words come out like a performance. Not the kind rehearsed at home in front of a mirror. But lines memorized through practice. Cadences and expressions and inflections, perfected. Only the name changed.


Marcel opened the basement door. Shades of black given from a single lightbulb hanging overhead draped the room. Their faces, only outlines. Skin and features surrounded by empty nothing. Pac boomed from a buried speaker. Marcel could feel the rattling bass pounding an incessant rhythm that ran in and out of sync with his heart’s frenetic thumps and smells of weed and stale sex and lingering cigarillo smoke came in currents from somewhere close to the center. Dusty T.V. flickered white light, fuzzing static.

“Who’s that at the door?” yelled a Lou Reeded monotone through the music’s dark.

“My name’s Marcel. I’m here looking for Milo.”

A tall figure wearing jeans and an oversized blue hoodie with a silver Nike sign plastered across the chest, stepped forward, out from the lightlessness, like a nightmare’s slow beginning formed in the middle some psychopath’s starved midnight struggle, and he stood underneath the lone bulb and for a short inhaled space seemed to be the room’s only occupant.

“I’m Milo. You the Marcel my boys been telling me about, then?”

From his throat Marcel took a quiet gulp and said, “Yeah. I’m him.”

All went hush.

Milo’s eyes held an intense blankness, as though they’d seen too much too early in life and were now immune. He stood distinctly in the foreground, a general, battle-tested, the gold cross dangling from around his neck inscribed with dates and names important for reasons known by no one else, and the logo-less baseball cap on top his head, washed to a lighter shade and again an even lighter after that and the wounds and the tattoos on his skin, all of these, in their own ways, medals and badges, behind him seeped in shadow, his army, numbers invisible, unknown, standing all times ready.

“And you sure you wanna be a part of this?” he said.

Marcel nodded his head.

“Yeah. Yeah I do.”

In that room, single bulb, reducing to stuttered flashes of light, Marcel could no longer move.

Milo began, “Well okay then, if you want in, I’ll tell you how it’s gonna be.”

Out of the a rectangle window in the basement’s wall, Marcel could see the pawn shop that he bought his first bike from, a rusty red frame that squeaked whenever pedaled, next to that a small dimly lit bar, windows cracked, doors opened, where whiskey and gin tales moved in half mumbled yells, next to that, a liquor store, never closed, neon sign burnt out, and next to that, the dingy burger joint he’d worked at since freshman year paying him still the same minimum wage. All of it, so close, a slivered world.

Marcel went back to Milo’s monotoned voice, “You gonna have to do something big, my man, real big.“

Marcel leaned into the remaining light, where Milo’s face floated seemingly bodiless in the room’s stalking darkness.

“You gonna have to get rid of some of them. So we know you can. That you not afraid.”


Days later Marcel walked home with his friend Alex, like they’d done every day since middle school. Cars passed by with two-toned sweeps and the wind was light. Above, the sun hung suspended, a magnified ball of glow sneaking in through the clouds.
Marcel was wearing a black and red Jordan jersey. One of the ‘L’s starting to
unstitch. A pair of faded blue jeans with small holes above the knees. Alex was dressed in a spotless white tee-shirt and jeans torn around the ankles.

“You wind up talking with Milo and his people?”

Marcel looked over to Alex. He remembered that he’d told Alex about Milo the week before and nodded his head once up and down. Wavering quiet followed, a minute without talk.

Then Alex said, “What about school and college and stuff?”

Marcel just looked at him with this slight half smile. “You know I’m not goin’ to any college.”

Alex wiped his nose against his sleeve. It felt now to be them two alone, walking isolated on a narrowed cement island. Everything else gone. Just the sidewalk in front.

“So what you gonna go to some college, Harvard or something like that?” Marcel said.

“Yeah, my Uncle Rich said he’d pay for me to go somewhere. He’s really been helpin’ me and Mom out since Dad passed.”

“He must got a lot of money?”

“Not really, he’s just one of those types of guys who really cares and stuff. Like truly.”

“I ever met him?”

“Might’ve. He owns a little antique shop a few blocks down.”

“Antique shop,” Marcel gives of something between a cough and laughter. “No I don’t think I’d know him.”

Picking up a little bit, the breeze started to rush from side to side, swaying across their faces.

“What you plan to do if you not goin’ to college?”

With a grave exhale, Marcel repeated the question. “What am I planning to do?”
They both stopped walking. “I’m gonna do whatever, man. I’m gonna do whatever.”

Then, without anything else, Marcel lifted up the jersey and there was the gun, clutching against his waist. Alex’s eyes widened as though in a muted scream. Marcel didn’t say a word. Gazing at his friend, he just held up the jersey’s thick fabric and their eyes met only once, maybe twice and each of them knew something should have and needed to be said. Still, both spoke nothing.


It happened on a street corner. Three of them there talking about last night’s game or, maybe, a girl or some song. Marcel in the car’s passenger seat staring through the fogged windowpane. Nothing, nobody else around.

“There they are,” said Milo sitting driver’s side.

Marcel looked and he waited for that combination of guts and insanity and timing to meet in some sort of subtle balance. The three stood in a crescent shape. They started to move, only a couple steps.

“Now,” said Milo. “Now.”

Marcel got out of the car, gun gripping his side. Taking long blind strides, he headed towards them, like a nameless ghost with nowhere left to haunt. One of the three glanced over. For a second, eyes aligned—wanders caught before the storm. Marcel’s hand reached for the gun.

The first two bullets rung hollow and travelled through the same skull. Marcel watched as, with a stumbling dance, one of the boys faded to the ground. Lost in that deranging whirl, the dull thud of bone on concrete was unheard, though.

Back-stepping towards the car, Marcel continued letting the bullets hurl. This is when the gun seemed to take over and he became just an outlet almost. Everything fell to a slower feel, as though a button had been pressed and all the shots sounded like one single noise phasing in and out of tune and not one of the boys bothered to shoot back but just let their last inhales and exhales decay.

Then it ended. Screeched to a stop. Jarringly, like a hypnotist’s finger snap. The gun had run empty. No more bullets. Marcel put it back at his waist. Against his skin, it was hot and caused goosebumps to go up and down his body. He got in the car. Milo’s right foot pushed the ignition. They sped away.

Behind, the entire street was left silent. Red splotches turned deeper red, purple even, on the gray sidewalk. Blood matted to hair. Clothing stuck to expanding stains. Four of them laid, strewn out. The three boys and an old man with patches of graying hair on each side of his head, nothing on the top.

Hearing the noise, this man had taken a few steps outside of his little antique shop to see what was happening. Immediately, he felt a strike hit his chest and another after that and without wanting to, he dropped to his knees. Then over onto his side. He looked for where they came from. Saw this tall skinny boy firing shot after shot, left arm bobbing with each fire-cracking explosion. It was there, at some point, on that cracked cement, realizing that the ninth inning’s third out had been thrown and that every swing he’d taken before had been aimed at over the balconies and that more than a good share had gone, the man thought, eyelids shutting and a closed mouth half grin finding its way onto his face, “Maybe. Maybe, I should’ve stayed inside”.

When the police came with the white chalk and the yellow tape, he was gone, just like the other three and Marcel was already far somewhere else sitting speechless as Milo’s passenger and the sun was starting to slide towards the horizon’s calm infinity, escaping to the world’s other side and giving way to a different colored sky.


Pastor Thomas continues, “Mr. Richard Smith was an important man to all he came in contact with. He was a family man having raised two fine sons, David and Kyle, and a beautiful daughter, Isabella. Not only was he a good father, he was good to everyone of those around him, always willing to help any individual in finding a better life.
Next to his mom, Marcel sits in the pew. She is motionless, looking straight ahead. It’s because of her, he is there. She insisted they go. A few rows up he sees Alex, head in hands.

“He was a self-made man, a college graduate, a founder and an owner of his own business, an antique store. It was there that Mr. Richard Smith focussed on those who needed to be hired and as many can attest, he cared both about the people who worked for him and the people who shopped and traded in his store,” Pastor Thomas says. “And it was there, at his life’s passion, that he was struck by two stray bullets, but folks, I’m here to say that his life, it was never astray and now our beloved Mr. Richard Smith, he rests in a place better than this one,” the pastor finishes letting his final phrases crescendo.

A woman with graying black hair and a pair of round glasses with thick lenses and a red frame yells hallelujah and from the back, someone else screams amen and arms move every direction in the air.

Eventually, the ceremony settles into its own pace. Steady and somber. People speak and sit down. Family, friends.

At the end, all of them line up to get one more look. As he moves closer, Marcel feels a cold emptiness circulate under his skin. His steps, small. Two people are between him and that gleaming maple coffin. Now one. He looks down. All in a single moment, the fact and its weight springs on him and squeezes tight and doesn’t let go. This man, he killed. Marcel takes a deep breath. Releases exhale. Through the church, his eyes roam from face to face. Dressed in a clean white suit, the body, extended below.

A minute goes by. Marcel’s eyes still roam. Suddenly, they stop. He sees Alex. Alex is looking at him and only at him and there are no tears in Alex’s eyes. There’s nothing. Just an unblinking look of knowing and this stare seems to span a slice of forever, a fragment of the unending. Then finally, desperate to escape the clawing gaze of those two deep pupils and without another thought, Marcel shifts his head the other way, turns his body and follows those in front of him out through the church’s high wooden doors.

Willie Nunnery was born in Madison, Wisconsin and has lived there his entire life. His work has appeared in The North Central Review, The Flash Fiction Offensive and Postcard Shorts. His poetry has been in Mad Swirl, Yes Poetry, and Verse Wisconsin. Currently, he is a creative writing student at Concordia University St. Paul.