Tuesday 29 November 2011

MOTHER'S LOVE by Chad Rohrbacher

It's great to have Chad back with this top notch, hard-boiled tale...

Mother’s Love

Mom always said I would amount to something. 

I amounted to exactly 6 ft,168 pounds and 3 ounces not including clothes. When Willie cut off my digitus mínimus mánus, or commonly referred to as pinky finger, I might have amounted to less, but indiscernibly so. A person really never considers the beauty of a pinky until he no longer possesses it.

Willie was my wife’s brother who earned his nickname, Slacker, by selling dope and living off the girls he fucked. He fucked a lot of girls and lived pretty well. He amounted to about 6’4, 248 pounds of unadulterated muscle. 

Willie was not a nice guy. Cheryl, my wife, said so herself. She said it was the “juice”, but I thought there was more to it. His shocking blue eyes were a little closer together than the average person making him somehow predatory. He could enter a house and you’d never know. Scared us a few times like that. We’d be eating our mashed potatoes or whatever and he’d be standing in the doorway just staring at us like he was an entomologist watching the eating habits of some damn beetles. When we’d notice him and jump, he’d laugh and give Cheryl a hug, his huge paws draped over her shoulders.

Mom, Cheryl’s mom, was the only real mom I ever had. When I was 17, my father killed my mother then put a bullet under his chin with the family’s .38. I found the mess. It was awful. While one detective said she thought it was homicide, all the others assumed murder suicide. Case closed. I asked them why and they said, “shit happens, kid”. After that I was in counselling for about a year; that is, until the counsellor unexpectedly ran off with some newspaper editor from Reidsville. 

I started dating Cheryl in high school and her mom took pity on me and saved me from the foster care system. I was able to finish high school, and Cheryl and I were married right after. I took three years of pre-med at the local state college. Cheryl waited tables at Crawford’s Racks and Ribs where the girls wore pasties while serving cheap beer and bar b-queue to fat townies. I didn’t like her working there, but the money was putting me through school so I couldn’t bitch too much.

Mom said I’d be a doctor from the day I met her. Mom believed in me. She said a psychic in Harrison Village told her in no uncertain terms that her daughter would marry someone special. One of the only reasons mom said yes to the marriage was because I agreed I was going to be that man in the prophecy. If I lived through this, I’d have to find that psychic and give her a piece of my mind. 

I’ll admit it, when Willie took my thumb with his gardening snips, I almost passed out. I know he tried to get between the metacarpus and the palm, and I appreciated that, but it was just too hard to get in there with the thick blades. He put his massive frame down on the handles, his forearm muscles straining, and the snap of bone made my stomach lurch. It was the sound of it more than anything. 

I was probably down about, what, 10 grams. If not, blood loss would definitely put me there. What a mess.
A couple of hours before I found myself tied up in mom’s basement, a guy up at Crawford’s told Cheryl he’d seen me with some “hot little thing wearing a state T-shirt and painted on jeans”. Willie had me downstairs within about 30 minutes. 

“I’m telling you, Willie, I mean, shit, look at me, I didn’t have any hot little thing. Ever.”

Willie was pulling a piece of my flesh that got caught in the snips when he suddenly stopped what he was working on and cocked his head like a dog hearing a door knob rattle. “Ever?” he asked.

“Your sister, I mean, that, that goes without saying. She’s always been really hot.”

Willie was wearing a black mesh wife beater that showed off his sculpted frame, dark jeans, and Wolverine work boots, which made no sense since he didn’t work. Through the mesh I could see his freshly shaven pectorals and wondered just what kind of man actually did that. 

“Come on, man, I didn’t do anything with some other woman. I wouldn’t. Let’s go find the bastard that said this and get it straightened out.”

Willie wasn’t in the mood to talk, that was clear. He bent down and reached under a worn workbench that hadn’t been used since their father died 4 years ago. 

Willie slid a 40-pound bag of fertilizer to the front of the bench and opened it up. A stench like an overflowing factory farm filled the room. Willie reached both hands as if he was a chef, and then he seemed to clasp something inside and hauled it out. He wiped specks of fertilizer off the top of the package, and then set a kilo of coke on the workbench. Turning on the radio, Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition” emanated from the miniature speakers. 

Willie fished a pocketknife from his pocket then carefully cut a hole in the wrapping. Quickly he produced a gold plated metal straw from his other pocket, dipped it in the powder, and inhaled deeply. There was a half cough, a sniff, and an exuberant “yes”. I could see his neck vein pulsing as he leaned his head back letting whatever was still in his nose drain down the back off his throat.

“Willie, buddy,” I begged, “even if I did cheat, which I didn’t, why all this? It’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”

Willie opened a rusted toolbox from on top of the bench, grabbed something, and turned toward me.
“You took her years, her money, and more important my sister’s trust. Fuck, Oliver, you took my mama’s trust. How do you imagine the scales of justice would weigh that? A finger? A thumb? Maybe a hand?”

A human hand weighs about 300 grams, give or take. Trust is hard to measure. I knew for a long time scales of justice were not always balanced. That’s when I noticed he had a hatchet in his grip. It was something you would use for kindling or cutting small branches. It was something that could easily go through a man’s wrist. It was something I really didn’t want to see.

“You’re crazy,” I groaned trying to wiggle out of my bindings. Willie strode toward me, a gleam in his eye. A gleam I have recognized in my own at times. I was terrified.  He raised his hand above his head, striking a pose that reminded me of the Indians in the old westerns right before they killed the poor settlers.

“Sit still,” he said, “you don’t want me to miss and take half of your forearm.”

At that moment we heard a women’s commanding voice declare that Willie should drop his weapon. When I opened my eyes, Willie had already turned and was rushing toward the stairs.

Two loud pops didn’t stop him as he lurched forward. A third seemed to stun him and his body jerked back like he was zipped with a jolt of electricity. A fourth caused the hatchet to fall to the floor with a thud and a gasp of air leave his lips. He dropped to his knees, and then sprawled forward onto his face.

In front of him at the bottom of the steps was a beautiful woman, all 5’8 and 120 pounds of her. Her chest was heaving, and sweat dappled her forehead. She took her State T-shirt sleeve and wiped her face. Her hands were shaking.

“I’ve never been so glad to see you, Detective.” Hicks has been on me for years. She doesn’t leave me alone with her theories and bullshit. Even caught up with me earlier today on campus. Completely ruined my morning bagel.

“Looks like I owe you an apology.”

Detective Hicks kicked the hatchet away, and then checked Willie for a pulse. She holstered her weapon. She fumbled with my bindings for a while before getting me free. She smelled like Lilacs. Probably a Lilac scented deodorant; it worked great. 

“I’ve been telling you,” I grimaced holding my bloody hand, “I had nothing to do with my parents’ deaths or the counsellor’s disappearance.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“You said you owed me an apology.”

“We knew he was dealing,” she said looking at Willie’s body on the floor, his blood pooling on the concrete. 

“We just could never get anything on him; but this, we never guessed this.”

“Clearly,” I said looking for my digits hoping that a doctor would be able to sew them back on. “There’s coke over there.” I jutted my chin toward the workbench. My hand was throbbing.

“Why you, Oliver? Why’d he come after you?”

“Could I get an ambulance? Christ?”

Hicks called in for a bus while I tried not to pass out. 

“My guess Hicks, I’m just throwing out ideas here, he was an overprotective big brother. He never liked me, I mean, I practically invaded his house when I was 17, and married his sister, all while his mom went on me about being a doctor in the family. But you know the thing that really set him off?”

I heard sirens in the distance that was good because my adrenaline was dropping and the pain was hitting.
“Someone told him I met this ‘hot thing’ today.”

Her face blanched. “I, I was…”

“I know, trying to get under my skin. See if I would lose my cool, even though I didn’t have anything to lose my cool over. Ah, fuck you very much Detective.”

She looked at Willie’s body, then at my bloody hand.

“I guess I deserve that. For what it’s worth I am truly sorry.”

I nodded. 

For some reason, I really felt bad for Hicks. She looked so vulnerable, so innocent. Strangely it was the first time I ever hoped she’d find the counsellor, all 5’11, 176 pounds of her out in the woods just beyond Harrison Village.    

Chad Rohrbacher has had stories published at Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Pulp Engine. He blogs here: http://rohrbacher.com/

Tuesday 22 November 2011


Are you ready?

Lee Hughes has been away from TKnC for a while, and I for one have been patiently tapping my fingernails, counting the days, cracking my knuckles... And oh! - friend, horror writer extraordinaire and previous Horror Editor at Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers - is back.

Lee's writing style is unique; Clive Barkeresque with a demonic hard edge. If you're not familiar with Lee's work then I recommend his incredible series The Osseous Box which, by pure coincidence, can be read in entirety here on TKnC, starting with episode 1 - The Jesus People.

Lee has written a disturbing tale especially for you, Mirum Pubertatem - a special, longer length tale to herald the long awaited return of his writing which we just know you're going to enjoy. 


“You’ve got to be kidding me? Where’s Aunty Jane? Why can’t you do it?”

“Because, Aunty Jane has an appointment at the hospital today and someone has to sit with GeeGee.”

GeeGee was their name for Thomas’ great-grandmother, she’d been on the television when she’d hit the ton and ten mark, eight years previous.

Tommy had been five when he’d been forced to smile for the camera.

He got nothing from GeeGee, she didn’t even know who he was half of the time. And now he was going to have to sit with her, the human leaky-tap.

Tommy curled a lip. “Again, why can’t you do it?”

“Because I’m driving Aunty Jane, then going to have to wait for her. It’ll only be for a few hours.”

“What if I’ve got plans?”

“What plans?”

It was the summer holidays; the world was his oyster, only now he was at the grit stage.


Tommy said hello and plopped down on the sofa. GeeGee didn’t notice him. She was drooped in her chair and gawping at the television.

The news was on. The Prime Minister was jawing about the age that folks could retire, explaining that there wasn’t enough in the pot to let people retire at the current age. They were complaining that people were living longer yet they were coming down heavy on the bad things; less salt in food, fatty food taxes and making cigarettes and booze more expensive. Not doing those things could solve the problem.

“You watching this GeeGee?”

She was nearly deaf but caught some of his noise and looked. She didn’t say anything she just turned away.


Tommy wandered into the kitchen.

Food wise, there were Tupperware boxes filled with what looked like regurgitated puke and he lost his appetite.

She’d started drooling. He knew Aunty Jane usually went to work with a bit of bog-roll.

He pretended he hadn’t noticed and went for a piss instead.

Tommy admired his newest pube, it took the tally up to four. Every day less a boy, more of a man he thought. His voice was starting to break; it was the early stages so there weren’t too many words that came out sounding like an old door on rusty hinges.

He stopped in the doorway, GeeGee was sat where he’d left her only now she’d lifted a weathered hand to her mouth and was smearing spit about her face.

“GeeGee, you okay?”

She didn’t reply.

She dribbled some more and put her left hand to work at spreading the saliva about her dial and down her neck.

Tommy got his phone out and rang his mother.

No answer.

She’d turned it off.

“I’ll get you a towel.”

He tried to mop her slippery face but she pushed away his fussing hands.

“Fine, crack on.”

Once her face was fashioned with slobber she took her hair to the same task.

He dialed up his dad’s number instead.

His dad’s was a no go too. His dad was on the golf course and would have his turned off out of courtesy. Tommy was slipping it back into his pocket when it started to ring.

It was Steve.

“Hey, Steve.”

-What-up Dick-Lick, where are you?

“I’m babysitting my great-grandmother.”

-Ditch her, she won’t even know you’re gone.

Tommy watched as she lathered her hair with spittle.


-What do you mean, can’t?

“I don’t know she’s acting all weird.”

-She’s like two-hundred years old, of course she’s crazy.

“She’s a hundred and eighteen and I mean she is being proper weird. She’s covering herself in spit.”

-So, my gramps used to shit his pants and pretended he could speak Eskimo.

“This is a bit different.”

-Don’t see how, so you coming out, or not?

“I’ll catch up with you later.”


Steve hung up.

All thoughts of doing a bunk fled as he re-entered the living-room to find GeeGee topless with everything hanging south and running thick spit about her overly-ripened skin. He looked up fast and wished he hadn’t as he saw where she’d already toiled. The spit had dried a dull white, blurring her features like a veil.

It was too much.

He dashed from the room.

If he couldn’t reach his parents the next best thing was the warden. There was a panic pull-string in the bathroom for if she slipped.

He made for it.

The fear made him clumsy. He tripped over the coat-stand, his landing cushioned by his head.


Tommy opened his eyes and felt a throbbing deep in his skull. It took a moment to realize where he was. He touched where it hurt and his fingertips came back wet.

He staggered to the bathroom and dabbed at the spot with a flannel. It was more of a bump with a scrape than a cut proper. The emergency string was beside him. He reached for it before becoming unsure of what he actually saw.

He let go of the string.


He hadn’t dreamt it.

It was worse. She was naked with her clothes pooled beside her. Not an inch of skin was visible through the thick mucus sheeting.

Tommy fumbled for his phone, Steve was on speed-dial.

-Ha, knew it. Caved. Where shall I meet you?

“Come over here.”

-To your great-grandmother’s?


-Why’d I wanna do that?

“I need you to tell me I’m not going crazy.”

-What you’ve been having a sneaky grope, sicko!

“Just come over, please.”

-This better be worth it.


He opened the door to Steve.

“So, what’s the deal? What happened to your head? She hit you when you went for the bad touch?”

“Just come see.”

“This’d better be good.”

“I don’t know what it is.”

He led Steve into the living room.

Steve stopped and stared at the sight, for once lost for words, apart from.


Steve edged closer.

Tommy grabbed his arm; Steve shook it loose and moved further.

“She dead in there?” He’d made it to within a few feet of the chair.

“I have no idea, what should I do?”

Steve didn't look back. “You got something I can poke her with?”


“You phoned for an ambulance?”


Steve looked back and grinned. “You phoned me instead, what the fuck did you think I could do?”

“I dunno.”

“Let me poke her, see if she moves.”


“Then how’re we gonna know if she’s still alive?”

Steve had a point.

Tommy went and got the poker from beside the electric fire and handed it over.

Steve prodded her in the side.

The cocooned shape wriggled a little.

Steve summed up that. “She’s not dead.”

“Then what is she?”

Steve poked her again.

The form fidgeted some more.

“Haven’t the foggiest.” He scratched at his head. “This could be like some second puberty thing. Not many people have made it to her age. What if we’re just like the pupae stage, caterpillar like, that’d be sweet, get wings and be like a super-hero.”

“I don’t know why I phoned you. She’s just, just…”

“Wrapped up in a cocoon? Because that happens to everyone? It is cool though.” He gave GeeGee another jab and in return she gave a wriggle.

“What should I do?”

“What can you do? You’ll probably get on the telly, me too because I was here. Mum’s always said I’d get on the telly but she was probably thinking more of Crimewatch, this is just amazing. Mind if I?” He lifted the poker and jabbed the air.

“Yes I do.”

“You know what?”

“What?” Tommy was starting to sweat.

“Maybe you’ve got it too, you know, your grandmother lived to be nearly ninety before the bus thing. You could end up like this.” He prodded again without permission.

“Stop it and just shut up.”

“Then stop asking me questions.” Steve broke into a grin. “Your mum is gonna freak when she sees this…probably blame me too.” He got out his phone and switched the camera on. “This is gonna get so many hits on my YouTube channel, more than the video I put up of you busting your nuts on your handlebars.”

“This is not going on YouTube!”

Steve tooled with his phone for a few seconds. “Too late, uploading now.”

Tommy made for the phone.

Steve hoisted the poker. “Come on, this is huge!”

Tommy stopped trying for the poker, his jaw dropped slowly. “No that is huge!”

Steve turned and watched in awe as the surface of the cocoon shifted as whatever was within pulsated and grew, stretching the exterior like a fat-ass entrapped in lycra. He dropped the poker and started dialing a number.

Tommy nodded. “Good idea, you are calling the police, right?” The question came at the end as Steve had punched in more than three digits.

“Jack, he has to see this…”

“Steve, just call the fucking police, that…” He pointed at the still swelling cocoon. “That’s my GeeGee.”

“Not any…” He raised a forefinger. “Hey Jack, you know where Tommy’s great-grandmother lives?... It’s the old folk’s community…Yeah, just past the cemetery.” Steve laughed. “Just get here as quickly as you can…Remember the dead rabbit we found with the two heads?...Well, yeah, this one beats it hands down…His gram’s made herself a sort of cocoon, it’s freaky and she’s changing inside of it…I don’t know what into…I’m not fuckin’ with you. You’ll be sorry if you miss it…” Steve ended the call and looked to Tommy. “He’s on his way.”

“We need to call an adult.”

“What do you reckon they’d do? They’d probably take her away.”

“And get her some help.”

“Like a bit of bandaging, a course of antibiotics? More likely they’ll go at her with a scalpel and do experiments and shit.”

“Not GeeGee.”


Tommy scratched his head. He’d seen enough films to know what happens to freaks and oddities. Worst still, they might take him along for the ride for sharing the same D.N.A as her. “Think we should just wait and see what happens? She might be fine soon.”

Steve nodded gravely.

Though inside, he was laughing at talking Tommy into not calling anyone from the authorities.


The shrouded form became too big for the chair and spilled drunkenly to the floor. Steve took more footage from as many angles as he could muster.

Tommy felt like crying.

His hopes that GeeGee would emerge as her old self faded into the forgotten as the form became more and more a torment of the misshapen.

Tommy closed his ears to the commentary that Steve was adding to his anomalous documentary as the cocoon began to tear.

“Think we should help free her?” asked Tommy.

“You willing to get close to it?”

“Not very.”

Steve found resolve. “Be right back.” He headed out of the room.

“It’s gonna be okay GeeGee, we’re gonna help you out of there,” said Tommy.

Steve returned with a steak knife roughly taped to a broom handle. “This should do the trick, ready?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Too late now!” Was the war cry as he went to work on the membrane with the precision of an alcoholic surgeon going through the DTs.

Steve rent it open lengthways.

The thing within howled with surprise at its premature birthing.

Both of them took a step back.

Steve kept the makeshift tool leveled at the wailing form. “Don’t think we ought to have done that,” he conceded.

“Me, neither,” said Tommy, bolting for the door. Steve went for retreat in the same manner but a crooked and claw-ended fist reached out and grabbed his ankle with no intention of letting go.

Steve’s mouth contorted to an agape twist of agony.

Tommy spun at the doorway to see the scaled and gnarled hand tightening its grip. “GeeGee,” he ventured, although he knew it was no longer her.

Steve through the tears and the pain realized that the monstrosity wasn’t going to let go of his leg and started to jab at it with the business end of his broom.

The thing didn’t scream.

It tightened its grip until the ankle and the shin bone became more than mere brother and sister and became a mixture of the two.

Steve screeched.

None of the noises worked and he let go of his weapon and surrendered himself to the floor.

The thing sidled its way up Steve’s body, pausing at the knees to crumple them.

“Tommy. Help me Tommy!” Steve managed as the monstrosity's hands climbed higher and higher whilst providing ruination on their travels.

Tommy didn’t have a clue what to do. There was something still inside that tried to convince him that somewhere beneath the misshapen thing still lingered a GeeGee.

The creature’s crooked grip had made it north to Steve’s chest. The talons planted no flags of victory but continued north to the body’s summit.

It became too late for him to decide to go to his friend’s aid. All he could do was gawp at the hunched form and twisted legs. He was sure that there couldn’t be anything left of GeeGee, no little corner where she could have found solace.

A panting came from the creature’s maw, a loud drawing of breath as if it were about to submerge itself. It bit down into Steve’s throat. The sides of its mouth closed around the teeth making the bond air tight.

Any words of horror that Tommy had were left hanging by the vocal-chords on the gallows within his trachea.

The beast drank heartily.

Tommy watched as the rising of Steve’s chest began to slow and then stop. The beast refused to cease with its feeding. It reached down and clawed open Steve’s t-shirt and delved the hand in the front of the ribcage and tore it open revealing an inert heart.

Tommy expected it to rip free the static heart. Instead it almost gently wrapped its corrupt fingers about and around the muscle and began to massage it. Tommy could see from the thing's throat as it began to swallow again that it intended to literally bleed Steve’s body dry.

Tommy pissed himself. The only part of the act that surprised him was that he hadn’t let loose his bodily functions earlier, much earlier.

When there was nothing left to sup on it squeezed the heart until it burst.

It looked up at Tommy, who raised his hands and made begging noises.

It moved over the rug-of-a-body that had been Steve.

It almost looked human-like, yet at the same time, far from it. A creature drawn by the deranged hand of a narcotic-fuelled artist in the latter stages of syphilis showing his hatred for women through his designs.

Tommy found the eyes distracting. Angular and bulging, the pupils a perfect black that showed his own pathetic reflection, one that made him feel ashamed of his cowardice.

The eyes blinked slowly like shutters being drawn closed and opened once more at leisure.

The mouth drooped open, the notched teeth centre-stage. Mumbled words spilled like sewage from its blackened lips.

He recognized the cadence. It was similar to GeeGee's, though the tone was animalistic.

“More…” It moved closer still, hunched over, too tall for the ceiling of the room.

Tommy stood static.

It wanted more. It was asking for more and it was far from Dickensian.

“I haven’t got…”

The doorbell rang.

Tommy looked over towards the door.

It would be Jack.

Tommy looked back at the monster, then back at the door.


Papy, NON!


Nonna quello che sta succedendo a te?


Lee Hughes lives on the Isle of Man and has had short stories published about the web and also in print anthologies. He has a blog, but it’s been seldom used of late but it holds links to past stories and he may start using the blog more. Find the stories and more about him at -


Friday 18 November 2011

SCHOOL DAZE by Charlie Wade

Charlie's back with an absolute beaut...

School Daze

Jim could remember them all. Most people could. He had no special gift. Mr Clark had taught art. Miss Randall history but she left and the unfortunately named Mr Pratt took over. Mr Bunce taught chemistry, the boil on his nose unforgettable. All of them. He could remember every teacher he’d had.

Jim’s problem was the opposite.

Twenty years he’d been teaching himself. Twenty years. Sixty kids he’d taught each year. Some years he’d get the same classes, other years a different lot. He reckoned he’d taught over five hundred of the little shits altogether. Five hundred.

Problem was, they could remember him, just as he could remember his. But remembering them? No chance.

He remembered the problem kids. Jonny Briggs who head-butted walls and stabbed the younger kids with scissors. Jamie Trim who got the lab assistant pregnant. Sally Traynor who dealt drugs at a school disco. Bill Cessnar who’d thumped him when he marked his homework down. He remembered them.

It was the others.

The quiet ones.

Well, most of the quiet ones. The brainy ones he couldn’t forget. The Molly Parkin’s and Jeff Gringdale’s who sat quietly through lessons, learning instead of dossing. Mark Dingle, the school’s first Oxbridge graduate. He remembered him.

No, it was the others he couldn’t remember. The quiet ones who weren’t intelligent. The one’s who kept their heads down but had little to show for it. Just like the one opposite him now.

Just like him.

“So then, Mr Parkin,” said the man. “Anything you want to say to me yet?”

Jim licked his lips. The rough gag that’d been over his mouth for the past day had left his lips sore. Even though the gag had been removed, he doubted he could speak. He gave up screaming late last night. Only a dull muffled echo came out of the gag. His throat ached. He knew cords had been damaged.

The man chucked a glass of water at his face. Though cold, it burnt his dry and cracked skin. Trickling into his mouth and down his throat, he felt his stomach contort as a few drops hit it.

“Please,” he croaked.

“Mr Parkin, Mr Parkin. I never thought I’d hear you say please.”

Jim reckoned the man was mid-twenties. He’d have taught him ten to fifteen years ago. The face wasn’t familiar. Jim couldn’t even picture what year he’d been in, let alone who he was or what he’d done to deserve this.

“You still don’t remember me, do you?”

Jim nodded his head but knew it wasn’t believable.

“Who am I then?”

The man’s face turn red. Veins poked through his neck. Nostrils flared and eyes became pierced. Years of pent up anger was being released.

His captor turned to cellar’s tap and refilled the cup. Turning, he threw the cup at Jim. The metal cup smashed into his nose and eye. More water trickled down Jim’s face which he sucked in through cut lips.

“You ruined my fucking life and you don’t even remember me?”

His anger was growing. His hands shook as he picked up the bolt croppers that Jim had eyed on the floor. He waved the croppers in front as he walked forwards.

Jim racked his brain over and over. His mind went back to the school registers. If he thought hard enough he might be able to see the names written there. He picked a year, 1998, and tried to see the names.

Opening the bolt croppers, his captor slid the two blades either side of Jim’s little finger.

“Please.” Jim felt his throat cracking as he screamed. “Dave? Dave Westerman?”

“Dave Fucking Westerman. That twat. Is that who you think I am?”

His arms violently brought the cropper’s poles together. He heard the click as the blades met long before he felt the pain of losing his finger.

Blood squirted high as it pumped from his trussed up hands. As his captor picked up the blow torch and lit it. Jim finally realised what its purpose was: to stop the bleeding.

“That’s one wrong. A minus, Mr Parkin. Looks like you’ve got nine more goes. Now, who am I?”

Charlie Wade lives in Derbyshire, England and has written two unpublished books, a comedy spy thriller and a post credit crunch dystopia. He's had a few short stories published online places and his story, Pleading and Bleeding, will be in Out Of The Gutter Magazine issue 7. He blogs at 

Charlie's also got a couple of eBooks out... here.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

SHOOTING STARS by Graham Smith

Our friend Graham's back...

Shooting Stars

I nestled the butt of my Parker Hale M-85 against my shoulder and checked my range once more. I was perhaps half a degree off, so I adjusted the sights and peered once more through the telescopic sights.

Street artists were plying their public trade with gusto and aplomb. I could see jugglers, human statues and street dancers. A mime artist came into view pretending he was stuck behind a glass wall. God this guy was original! I’d never cared for mime artists. All that being stuck in a box or descending imaginary stairs bored me rigid and the stupid expressions on their faces were more nauseous than comical.

I lifted my aim to spot the flag blowing on the cinema’s roof. I used it to gauge the correction necessary for windage.

Some snipers modified their rifles. I had never been in favour of changing something so carefully crafted, so lovingly designed. The only concession I had made to my beloved rifle was the fitting of a sound suppressor which would also reduce muzzle flash.

I wasn’t concerned about the noise as the world would soon hear all about my intended victim’s death. My concern was with the telltale muzzle flash which would betray my position to all the bodyguards and security people at tonight’s première.

To further conceal my position I had retreated to the back of the room and was shooting from a prone position on top of a sturdy kitchen table. The open window I’d be shooting through would afford me two seconds to shoot the Hollywood starlet who’d mocked me all those years ago.
Two seconds was all I’d get and would be all I’d need. Second one would be spent identifying the target and drawing a bead on her temple. Second two was when I’d put the extra ounce on the trigger and send my bullet on its murderous way.
My rifle was as always loaded with just one bullet. I’d never needed a second shot and as the distance was only one hundred metres I knew I would not miss. Having just one bullet was my secret trademark. If they escaped my single bullet. I let them live.
I’d crafted a special bullet for this one. This was an area where I did modify. I trusted no one to make the alterations but myself. I had taken the round apart and had weighed out the powder to my own exact specifications. I wanted the bullet to mushroom on impact with her skull, to do the maximum amount of damage to her brain without coming out of the other side and hurting an innocent bystander.
I was always stringent with my preparations and the one rule I had in my career as an assassin was that I would never incur innocent casualties. This trait had nearly got me caught once or twice during high speed getaways but I held my stance rigidly.

I checked my watch. Seeing that she was due to arrive in a further five minutes I went into my pre-shoot routine. Stretching first legs and then arms into suppleness, I then flexed my fingers in the manner of a classical pianist preparing for a virtuoso performance.
My breathing was already under control but I used the routine as a way of relaxing my nerves and slowing my heartbeat so that breaths could be taken as shallowly as possible.
My apprentice looked across from the other window where he stood. His job was to act as my spotter and give me notice as to what my target was wearing and what colour her hair was today.
By the time my days work was done, I could guarantee her hair would be blood red in at least one place.
‘She’s here.’ There was an excited shrillness in his tone. I would have to work on that.
‘She’s wearing a luminous green dress. Three bodyguards who are all muscle and no skill. Christ, she looks good in that dress!’
I brought my eye slowly to the scope, willing him to concentrate and took in the view. Other celebs were making their way towards the red carpet. Waving, laughing and flashing some of the most expensive teeth known to man. The street artists were performing in the background but were largely being ignored by the stars who were more concerned with the paparazzi below me.
‘She’ll be in your sights in five, four, three, two, one.’ As the apprentice hit one, I saw Jessica in the flesh for the first time since she had publicly berated me for my impotence.
I centred the cross hairs on her head as she moved from left to right and then she stopped dead in her tracks. She waved to the mime artist and beckoned him over. I’d forgotten how she loved those silent freaks.
I re-acquired my target as her sudden stop had thrown off my tracking movement. Her bouncers had peeled away and I had a clear view of her. My finger tightened on the trigger and just before the bullet left my gun, her co-star who was also her latest beau leaned towards her so they could kiss for the amassed cameras. My bullet went so close to her that she must have felt its passage.
The mime artist was not so lucky. I saw the bullet hit him bang in the sternum. He clutched his chest, blood oozing between his fingers. His knees wobbled, eyes went blank and he fell theatrically. First to his knees and then face first onto the recently swept pavement.
And as for Jessica? Well she’d just laughed at the man dying in front of her, thinking it was all part of his act.
The irony was not lost on me. I’d just shot a mime artist with a silenced bullet and he got a round of applause as he died.

© Graham Smith 2011

Graham Smith is married with a six year old son. He lives at and manages The Mill Forge hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green. He has been a book reviewer for Crimesquad.com (http://www.crimesquad.com) for the last two years and he has recently been featured At The Bijou (http://at-the-bijou.blogspot.com/2011/11/november-goes-noir-at-bijou-presents_04.html) with his Noir debut.
He has only recently started writing short stories and when not working, reading or writing he enjoys spending time with family and socialising.

Sunday 6 November 2011


Hellicious Halloween ends as it began, with the chilling voice of J. Bramwell Slater.

We hope you've enjoyed this outstanding showcase of talent. The horror has been exquisite, divine, glorious... not to mention fun.

Huge thanks to all the writers that have taken part and to everyone that's taken the time to comment. Your feedback is genuinely appreciated by the authors and editors.

With no further ado, prepare your receptors, plump up your pleasure palette - this is...


Joshua looked on in horror as Hickson skilfully removed huge slabs of meat from the body lying on the table before him.

"This," he said, "is the best bit," holding up a darkened orb that resembled a heart.

It was the first time that Joshua had seen his employer behave this way but then, it was also his first experience of being an apprentice and being the only funeral directors for many miles meant that Brachs & Barton encountered a steady turnover of customers in that borough. 

Thomas Barton had died a few years earlier and Brachs had sought an apprentice to train up; to assist him with the work needed to prepare the deceased for internment. It wasn't a particularly pleasant job and he had struggled to tempt anyone in spite of the handsome salary he had been offering but Joshua was young, built like an ox and quite poor.

London was buoyant following the coronation of George V earlier that year, but work was still scarce. He was fortunate, in that: the job included a small room at the top of the house where he could live. In the beginning, he had been assigned to lesser duties such as tending the horses and dressing the departeds' faces for those who wished to offer their last respects but after some time, Hickson believed that he was ready to learn the process of presenting the cadavers in the gruesome and professional task that, until now, only he was proficient.

The rich aroma of bacon greeted Joshua as he arrived downstairs for work and he found Hickson merrily frying breakfast in the small kitchen at the back of the parlour where he lived.

"Breakfast lad? We have a busy day ahead of us and you'll need sustenance inside you for the tasks that I have in mind."

Joshua thanked him and sat at the small table in the centre of the room. Being of humble origins had meant that he was used to spending most of his time in a state of hunger so when his employer was offering the bonus of a free meal, how could he resist?

As Joshua devoured the plate before him, he wiped his chin and commented: "I needed that. I was starving."

"What do you know of hunger?" snarled Hickson as he poked at the embers in the fireplace. "Have you ever wished you could sleep just to escape the wringing ache in your gut, day after day?"

Joshua was taken aback by his outburst but thought no more of it and thanked him for the meal and all the while, Ratchet, Hickson's dog, barked around the legs of the table.

"Quiet, you hound! Be silent!" growled Hickson and taking a leash, fixed it to the animal's collar and lifted it a clear six inches from the floor until its barks became a husky yelp.

Joshua felt that he should say something, but his master's manner prevented him.

"I'll bloody teach you to behave like a gentleman's dog, you..." and without finishing, he dragged the animal across the floor and out into the yard beyond, where it returned to barking as he slammed the door behind him. Later that morning, a thin light shone across the tiled walls of the preparation room as Hickson prepared to treat the corpses and Joshua looked on, as his master began to slice away at the grey mass before him.

"First we must drain all the fluids, like this," he said and with a few skilful moves he had begun the lengthy process.

An odour, the likes of which Joshua had never encountered, filled his senses and he covered his nose with his sleeve as he coughed. Hickson laughed and looked back at his work.

"Take great heed lad, for these are the secrets of the craft and I am putting great store in you by imparting them."

However, Joshua was sure that what followed could not be part of the trade as Hickson produced a leather apron filled with butchery tools and began to dissect the various limbs of their muscle, placing the cuts neatly onto a marble slab to one side of the table. Disgust and revulsion bowled through his every vein as he watched this slaughterhouse madness and his mind retched at the anvil memory of his morning meal.

"Aye, It looks like what you are thinking but I am not suggesting you copy this part of the operation. This is for my own purposes," he said as he delved into the gut of the thing and removed first its liver and then the heart. After a while, there was a banquet of fresh meat arrayed on the block and Hickson reached into a store room for a bag of hay that he had taken from the stables. Stuffing it inside the skin, he stitched up the incisions and washed his hands.

"Now it is ready for the embalming fluid," he said, stepping closer to the trembling apprentice and punctuating his words with a blade, "but if you should ever tell of my passion for the 'corpus humanis', I shall find you; kill you and eat you as well. Mark my words well: An eye for an eye."

At the funeral the following day, Joshua single-handedly hauled the coffin from the back of the hearse and heaved it into the waiting arms of the pallbearers; the strongest of the deceased family, who took the casket through the stone arch and along the path. Only Hickson knew that the cabinet was heavy with the bricks that he had secreted in its lining.

"Will you not join me in the chapel Mr Brachs?" said Joshua.

Hickson took a hip flask from his waistcoat pocket and shrugged as he leaned against the coach. Joshua looked back at him downing the cheap gin and spitting at Ratchet who was barking at his feet and went inside the chapel. Sitting at the back of the congregation, he began to reason that the cause of Brachs & Barton's success was that his master, he suspected, was becoming greedy and had begun to murder his clientele - choosing only the ripest victims for his own, as he learned how the deceased had been 'struck down' by a vicious assailant 'at such a young age.'


That night, Joshua was awoken by bitterly arguing voices downstairs.

"I'll have my money from you one way or another, if it's the last thing I do," said a woman's voice.

"After what you did to me Gwendolyn? I can scarcely believe your impudence in the matter."

"You owe me alimony stretching back for months now. That child of yours needs shoes and clothes. Just how do you expect me to provide those?"

Ratchet was barking furiously as the two jousted their positions ever closer to conclusion.

"If you hadn't ruined my business, none of this would have happened."

"We all know what happened to Thomas and I'm sure that there are others who would be very keen to learn about your 'business' if I had the inclination to tell them. See that you have that money for me by Friday week," she said and Joshua heard the sound of the front door as she disappeared into the night.

For a long while afterwards, Hickson could be heard clattering about in the kitchen along with Ratchet's incessant barking which eventually came to a husky halt. The incident had troubled Joshua greatly and in the days that followed, the seeds of curiosity took hold and his resentment grew like vine, encircling every corner of his thoughts.

As the two of them rode back from a funeral a week later, he felt compelled to confront a question that had been foremost in his mind.

"What happened to Barton?"

Hickson thrashed the reins, snarling: "Don't ever let me hear you utter the name of that scoundrel in my presence!". Joshua steadied himself as the horses recoiled from the chastisement.

"Why?" bellowed Hickson into the wind, "Because he stole my wife whilst she was still heavy with my child and I will not speak of it again."

The following afternoon, Joshua was surprised to receive a visit from Gwendolyn who arrived without announcement when Hickson was out, having gone up to London on business.

"I'm afraid the master is not in, Ma'am."

"I know," she said, "it is you that I wish to speak with." Joshua showed her into the sitting room and sat, facing her.

"I suspect that you know of Hickson's practices, but before you deny it, let me say that: I am well aware of the extent of what happens between these walls." Joshua was stunned but she continued- "I have been extracting money from him for my silence but now I want more and I am prepared to pay you handsomely if you can assist me in …disposing of him, so that I may inherit his fortune."

Gwendolyn's empowering words echoed through the haunted corridors of Joshua's mind from that moment forward and as he went about his daily work the next day, he became resolute in the allegiance that her conspiracy had offered him. He didn't join Hickson for breakfast that morning, or any other that followed, as he had already begun to cook his own wicked recipe.

Having access to the bodies now provided him with the perfect opportunity to inject them with the embalming fluid before Hickson's intervention and this he did with furious intent. Each day he watched him devour the poisoned steak and he recalled Gwendolyn's carefully detailed instructions - His death would never be detected as it would be seen as a hazard of the job following his demise, she had told him - it seemed the perfect murder.

In the weeks that followed, Joshua saw the master descend from being an imposing and incumbent force within the household to being a frail and pathetic shadow and how he relished every passing signifier until the day that he finally died, without struggle, as he slept. Joshua was elated to discover him lying in his pit and was particularly energised after he had informed the authorities and began the process of preparation for the funeral but he had a final act of defiance to complete, for his own sanity.

As the body was lain on the table, he used the skills which had been imparted to him in removing the most select tissue which he later prepared as a feast for Ratchet. The dog gobbled the fresh meat with adoring enthusiasm as Joshua stood proudly in the kitchen feeling freed at last from the horrors he had learned to endure. Little did he know: the true implication of this pedantry gesture.


The minister spoke quietly in the autumnally muted cemetery the next day and his voice hung heavily on the pitiful few who were gathered there. Reciting the words of Job from his crow-black leather book, he gazed emptily at the darkened sky.

"Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery..."

"I need to speak with you Joshua," whispered Gwendolyn so slightly that her words were almost unspoken beneath her veil as she leaned toward him.

"Oh?" he mouthed. His hands clasped before him, tightened their grip.

"In the midst of life we are in death..."

"You have served me well, master Hepton, but I have a final task for you. My underwriters have attended to matters in my favour, as it is the building that is quite clearly the true extent of Hickson's wealth.

"...earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."

"Therefore, I need you to be absent for a few days. Consider it a compassionate sabbatical. Further, I would suggest that you find suitable lodgings as there might well be a significant 'accident' to the building."

Joshua's mind reeled like a sailor, freshly landed in port - such was the intoxication of her implications.

"Don't worry," she said, "I shall provide for you, for you have more than provided for me" and Joshua was sure that the vaguest smile played about her lips.

"...and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen."

That evening, in the still darkness of a cheap lodging house not far from the parlour, Joshua looked out across the rooftops and saw the crimson glow of flames engulfing the building. As the smell of the blaze was thick in the air, he felt the weight lifting from his heart into the night sky and the torment of such terrible deeds (and his own part in it all) peeled from his soul and drifted out to join the rank stench of evil. As he watched in the stillness of his contempt, Ratchet - the innocent animal he had saved from the catastrophe, with the taste for human flesh still on its tongue, snarled with him in its sight.


BIO: Scoot back to the very first story in the Hellicious Halloween showcase to read all about J. Bramwell Slater, in the bio that follows An Unquiet Slumber

Saturday 5 November 2011

THE FACE OF EVIL by Kevin G. Bufton

There is some fine, fine fiction coming out of the Liverpool zone at the moment, with Kevin G. Bufton joining clans with Luca Vesta and Anthony Cowin.

We are really pleased to welcome Kevin G. Bufton to TKnC with his Hellicious Halloween offering The Face of Evil. The writing has such a distinct style it would be a crime for this work not to be published. Besides, it contains one of my favourite mini-scenarios.

Better put the kids to bed before you read on... 

THE FACE OF EVIL by Kevin G. Bufton

Let me give you fair warning – this tale does not come with the ubiquitous happy ending that you have come to expect. Why should it? Happy endings are for the weak and the deluded, for those folk who think that everything will turn out right in the end.

Well think again.

I am sat here in the kitchen. Not my kitchen, you understand. Nothing in this house belongs to me...not yet. I'm assuming there's a house; I've never actually seen beyond the kitchen. I can't move but at least I can see and hear. I suppose I should be grateful for that, at least.

I was blind when they took me – those hateful sadists with their maniacal grins – blind and deaf. That I now find myself capable of sight and hearing would be nothing short of a miracle if it didn't come at so heavy a price. That small handful of wet dripping matter on the counter top. I can see it clear as day and I know what it is. It's a piece of my flesh. A piece of my face . Dear God, they just cut off a piece of my face and left it in front of me. It can't be a reminder. There is no way I will forget the feel of the knife piercing my skin and gouging into the soft meat behind it. What, then? A threat? I can't even move – what do they expect me to do?

I can feel a cold, sharp breeze coming from the air conditioning. It whistles through the gaping wound where my perfect nose used to be and it hurts so much. Where two nostrils used to sit, now there is is only one, the delicate strip dividing them crudely split with a blunt blade and tossed into the bin before my eyes. They were smiling whilst they did it, smiling and laughing and exchanging knowing looks as they took turns at my disfigurement.

My own smile is somewhat ragged. There is no mirror close enough for me to see, but I can feel the air moving against my lipless mouth. I have maybe a dozen teeth, all broken and malformed in one way or another, thanks to their heartless ministrations. It is not a mouth made for mirth, but I can do little else but smile – a butcher's knife saw to that. Cutting deep into my ravaged flesh the older of the two – the man – drew a searing incision from each corner right up the side of my face. Then the woman – presumably his wife – reached into the deep groove made by her partner and pulled out that which he had cut away.

“Ugh, it's all over my fingers,” she laughed. Laughed! She threw it down onto the kitchen counter and wiped her hands clean on the back of her jeans. That was the piece that I was looking at now, wet and glistening in the artificial light of the kitchen. This last torture seemed to have been enough for them, for now at least. They left the room hand in hand, the woman leaning against the man and giggling. The sound chilled me to my very core, like the soulless laughter of the damned, but not so much as what that brute of a man said as exited the room.

“The kids are going to love this one.”

Children? They have children? I wanted to feel sorry for them, brought into the world by these two monsters but I barely had enough sorrow for myself. Alone, unable to move, my face hacked to pieces for the pleasure of these sadists and their brood. I determined then, that I would make them pay. I would haunt their dreams and stalk their nightmares for the rest of their miserable lives until they descended, screaming into madness and the cold embrace of an early grave.

They would live in perpetual fear of the dark, in case they should come across my face in the shadows. Twisted, deformed and mutilated by their own hands, it was only fitting that it be the last thing they see.

The lights went out and the kitchen door opened. The man strode in, the leader of the pack, silhouetted against the light from the hall. Behind him, amorphous shapes writhed against the light, no doubt the rest of his devilish kin.

“Daddy'll only be a second, kids,” he said.

He was on me in an instant, peeling back the top of my head, where he had cracked it open with a cleaver hours before. I felt the air rush into the cavity and would have screamed, had I a tongue to give voice to it.

My tormentor drove his fist into my head, forcing an object into my gullet. There was a click and a sudden blazing heat as the inside of my head was consumed with fire. The pain was like nothing I had ever felt before and I wished that I would die.

The next moment it had subsided. I could still feel that burning, lodged deep inside of me, but it no longer hurt. If anything I felt rejuvenated. My senses were heightened and I could feel my strength returning. It may had been some hideous trick played upon me by my own mind, but I felt an enormous sense of power. I looked out through my new eyes and saw my face reflected on the wall in flickering tongues of fire.

Those narrow eyes, cruelly pointed at the top; a ghastly hole set beneath them in mockery of a nose and below that mouth – my mouth. Jagged teeth set in a permanent rictus grin, behind which burned a flame that would consume the world. This was power. I was the stuff of nightmares.

The children would come soon. They would look upon me and fear.

I sat, glowing in the darkness, and smiled.


BIO: Kevin G. Bufton is a father, husband and horror writer, in that approximate order. He lives in Birkenhead in the UK and is currently working on his first solo anthology. He blogs on an irregular basis at http://buftonsblog.wordpress.com