Tuesday 25 December 2012


If you don't fancy a scary one, then have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & a Prosperous New Year... to all our contributors and readers.

All the best,
The Editors.

Ps. Subs back open on January 1st 2013. 

Tuesday 18 December 2012


TK'n'C is pleased to welcome Gary with this hardboiled piece...


Harry The Rat gave the job to that dick, Primo. Yeah, I was still on the payroll for the piss-peanuts The Rat paid, but an assigned hit paid big bucks - what the crap-head straight world called an incentive bonus.

The Rat kept Primo around because he was big, stupid and knew how to act like a real bodyguard - like my ass. Primo was one of those jack-offs who was mean, not tough for shit. The kind who actually enjoyed offing a mark for the sadistic high from the last seconds of terror and gore.

The deal had a helluva hitch. The Rat had a chick on the payroll, Mary, if you can swallow that alias shit. Red hair, beautiful blue eyes, with legs all the way to the floor. She was The Rat's pussy deal. She'd also done a couple of hits. Blew the suckers away like quail hunting in Nebraska . You look that good, no problem walking up on the mark.

Rufus Freeman, dude who ran a pawnshop on Troost, had been hosing Mary - at least The Rat thought so. Funny about some guys. In The Rat's mind, Freeman had to go, but good pussy is hard to find - especially the kind with legs that good. So Mary earned a pass. But Freeman was a dead man and that mope Primo got the contract.

Big problem: I'd had a little of ol' Mary - twice actually in the front seat of her 'Vette. I figured the combinations. I was in deep shit. In this damned business, a man does what he has to do. So I figured I better watch and play the whole symphony by ear.

Freeman's Pawn stayed open until 10 P.M. - damned cold and dark in January. Freeman had a habit of sending home the hired help around nine, opening a nice window of time. Primo liked to use a blade, but he was way too chickenshit to take on an old boy like Freeman with a knife.

The Rat was impatient. He'd insist Primo do the job ASAP. So I only hadda sit on Freeman's two nights before, sure as hell, I spotted Primo in his Lexus parked a block down. At just past ten, Freeman flicked out the lights, fumbled with the front door and stepped between snowplow drifts to cross Troost to his Cadillac in the bitter, north wind.

Primo, like a true dumb bastard he was, whipped the Lexus beside Freeman at mid-street and gave him four in the midsection with that .45 he loved so much. Freeman went down like a wet towel.

Then, She appeared. Even the long trench-coat couldn't hide those legs. Primo had stepped out of the Lexus to put a finale in Freeman's head. From behind a snow-heap, Mary swayed off the curb and put five in Primo with that little S&W she carried. He hit the pavement, dead as last Easter's ham.
Well, what the hell. I cranked my ride and was beside her in seconds. 

She started to run, but when she recognized my mug, she stopped and whipped up one of those million dollar, toothy smiles. "We mustn't leave loose ends, she said softly." 

She was right. Primo must have also visited the front seat of her 'Vette, I figured. Freeman probably hadn't, but I by God had. 

I capped her between those lovely eyes. Her head exploded like a bursting watermelon, the force knocking her ten feet, the S&W skidding across the deserted street. I started back to The Rat's. One more in his brain, if he had one, would take care of business.

Survival, that's all it is in the end. Mary lay sprawled on the pavement. "Sorry baby," I looked back. "But even good pussy ain't really that hard to find."

Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over sixty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He's been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and is currently retired. Clifton has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.

Monday 26 November 2012

THE STAIN By Harris Tobias

The Stain
I never would have noticed the stain if Lynn hadn’t walked out on me. When she left, I went into a deep funk and, drinking even more than usual, lay around the house staring at the ceiling from one horizontal position or another. I wasn’t used to being alone. The house seemed so empty without her presence, singing or weeping depending on her mood. And our daughter, my little Sharon, where is my little girl?

I don’t blame her for leaving. I’m not the easiest person to live with. I slipped into a kind of gray zone laying on the bed staring at nothing. That’s how I first noticed the stain. A rusty brown blob with no color and no apparent shape. I watched it for hours. After a couple of days, the stain took on a shape I recognized. Sort of like a baseball diamond. I could, if I tried hard enough, make out the pitcher’s mound and the evenly spaced bases. It reminded me of that time I threatened Lynn with a bat. I was drunk, of course. I never would have actually hit her with it but I could see she was terrified. I did manage to bust up the furniture some and those two lamps her mother gave us. I was awful sorry the next day. Lynn took me back. Good old Lynn.

A couple of days later, the stain took on the aspect of a face, a man’s face, but I couldn’t place it until I noticed the cap. A policeman’s cap complete with badge and everything. I could even make out the badge number—387. It was the face of that young cop who came to the door that time I was so high on booze and pills I could barely stand. I must have taken a swing at him because I woke up in a cell in restraints. That was a bad time and I’m sorry I scared you, honey. You bailed me out yet again. I hardly deserved such loyalty.

The stain grows larger. There must be a leak somewheres though it hasn’t rained in weeks. Today the stain looks like a woman, a very unhappy woman. I can see her sad face. The tears streaming down her cheeks, her hair a tousled mess eyes pleading for me to stop. But I don’t stop, do I? I hit you to make you stop crying. I slap your tears away. I strike our daughter, my precious little girl. And what was it you did to make me so angry? I can’t remember. I am always angry.

I fall asleep staring at the stain. It is definitely bigger now and the color is turning from a rusty brown to a kind of greenish brown. My mind struggles to make a picture of the new shape. It is sinuous and complex. At first I think it’s you standing in the doorway our daughter behind your back. You are shielding her from my fury but that is not it. Then it snaps into focus. It is a dragon, its coils wrapped around its victim, a man, his head inside the dragon’s mouth. Whoever it is is being devoured. Somehow I know it is me. I am being devoured.

As I stare transfixed, the stain detaches itself from the ceiling. Is this a hallucination? When is the last time I had something to eat or drink? I’m sure I’m hallucinating. It’s so real, it’s almost funny. I try to laugh. But my mouth is too dry. I try to scream but whatever sound I manage to make is muffled by the dragon’s moist and toothy maw.

Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of several novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other obscure publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/

Thursday 15 November 2012

MELTDOWN by Les Morris

TKnC welcomes Les with this tale about one man pushed too far…


The silver BMW crept slowly up and down the seemingly endless lines of cars.  The driver’s head swivelled like it was mounted on a screw thread as he searched for that elusive parking space.
Martin Nicholson had pulled into the car park fifteen minutes earlier and, so far, there was no sign of anyone driving off.  It was ten thirty, his meeting was at eleven.  He’d give it five more minutes and then look somewhere else.  The morning was bright and crisp and the sun was beginning to burn off the early morning spring mist.  He felt good and was looking forward to meeting the sales director for the first time, if only he could find a space.
A middle-aged woman appeared in the car park, this was his chance.  He drove round to where the woman was opening the door of a red hatchback and waited.  She certainly took her time but, eventually, she drove away and Martin claimed his prize.  He’d managed to find a parking space in only twenty minutes. He decided that today was going to be a good day, donned his jacket, picked up his briefcase and locked the car.
He was tall and thin with dark brown hair that was beginning to grey around the temples. His expensive looking suit, briefcase and mobile phone made him look every inch the successful businessman as he strode across the car park towards the office.  Reaching the pedestrian crossing in front of the office block’s main entrance he stopped and waited for the lights to change.  Looking up at the imposing structure, seemingly built entirely of glass, he thought back over the last two months.
He had been unemployed for eighteen months.  Both of his credit cards were up to their limit, he couldn’t even afford the minimum repayment each month.  The building society was about to repossess his house and his wife had been threatening to leave him if he didn't do something to sort the situation out soon.  That was when he saw the advert in the local newspaper.  A pensions and life assurance company were looking for salesmen to join their team.  The wage wasn't great but it was a lot more than his benefits.  He sent off his CV, attended two assessment days and, to his surprise, was taken on to start immediately.  Things were starting to look up.  His first few weeks were filled with paperwork, various courses and learning the ropes.  Now he was ready to meet the big boss.The green man lit up and he crossed to the other side of the busy road.  Entering the air-conditioned office building he looked around for reception.  A girl in her early twenties sat behind a chrome and plastic desk.  The clear perspex sign above her head said "Enquiries" in white etched letters.  He approached and waited for her to finish the phone call she’d taken as he entered the building.  As she replaced the handset he gave his most charming smile.  "My name's Martin Nicholson, I'm here to see Mr Peterson."
She returned his smile. "The lift behind you will take you to the tenth floor; Mr Peterson's office is straight in front of you."
He turned and headed for the lift she had pointed to.   
Entering the lift he pressed button ten and listened to the monotonous piped music for a short while until the doors opened and a disembodied voice announced, "Tenth floor."
The office Martin emerged into was light and airy.  There was lots of chrome and plastic with natural light flooding in from every angle.  Just in front of the lift was a desk similar to reception.  With a row of five seats along one side, it reminded him of a doctor’s waiting room.  Beyond the desk was a double, natural wooden door.  Mr Peterson's office he presumed.  He approached the woman sitting behind the desk and, once again, gave his most charming smile.  "Martin Nicholson, I'm here to see Mr Peterson."
"Take a seat Mr Nicholson and I'll let him know you're here."
He sat on one of the five seats and tried not to look too nervous.    As he was examining his fingernails for what seemed like the hundredth time, the wooden doors beyond the desk burst open and a man stormed out of the office and headed towards the lift.  After pressing the call button three or four times he impatiently turned towards the stairs. 
"Mr Peterson will see you now."
Nicholson jumped out of his seat.  He was nervous to start with and that certainly hadn't helped.  He wiped his clammy palms on his jacket, picked up his briefcase and headed for the doors.
"Come in."
The voice was loud, authorative.  He didn't knock.  He walked in.  The inside of the room was a complete contrast to the decor outside.  Lots of leather and dark wood panelling made it look like the library of a grand country house.  This was the office of a man who considered himself better than everyone else.
On one side of the room was a large aquarium stocked with all manner of brightly coloured tropical fish; the other was taken up by a bookshelf and drinks cabinet.  Opposite the door was a huge mahogany desk.  Sitting behind the desk, in a green leather swivel chair, was the company’s sales director.  Peterson had grey hair and a red face.  He was overweight with a red face and, by the looks of him, not too many years away from a heart attack.
"Have a seat, Martin."
"Thank you, Mr Peterson."  He put down his briefcase and sat on the edge of the smaller, red leather seat.  “I just want to say how much I’m enjoying my job.  I’ve been looking forward to meeting you since...”
Peterson cut in, "Look Martin, I won't insult you by beating about the bush.  I'm sure you'll appreciate it if I just come straight to the point."
Nicholson could feel his stomach churning.  He didn't like the sound of this.
"The company hasn’t had a very good year.  Profits are down, and in the current financial climate, our shareholders want to see costs cut."
He started to panic.  He could feel the sweat on his back and he wiped away a bead that was running down his face.    
"We've been told that we have to streamline our department and, as you've only been with us two months...."
He was starting to breathe heavily and his heart was pounding.
"...I'm afraid I'll have to let you go."
The words felt like steel talons ripping into his chest.  The air rushed from his lungs and he started to feel faint as his heart was squeezed by an invisible hand.  "I need this job."  His voice was quiet, faltering.
"We all need our jobs Martin.  I'm sure you'll find something else and, of course, if you need a reference..."
"No!"  The word exploded from him, punctuated by his fists slamming onto the desk.  His eyes were wide and his breath rasping, spittle beginning to froth at the corners of his mouth.  “I’ve seen the financial reports.  You got a bonus that was twice my salary, cut that back.”
"My bonus this year was a lot lower than last year.  We’ve all got to tighten our belts.”
Nicholson looked at him with utter contempt. “You have no idea.”
“I think you should leave now, Martin.  Try and get a grip of yourself.  Things aren't as bad as they seem."
Nicholson stood up, slowly turned and headed for the door.
"Martin, you've forgotten your briefcase."
"Keep it.”  He threw open the doors, walked through the outer office and pressed the call button for the lift.  It seemed an age before it arrived but he was determined not to look back.  The doors opened and he stepped in.  As the doors closed behind him he sank to his knees as tears of frustration and rage ran down his face.
With his job gone and the economy wrecked, his house would be repossessed, the credit card companies would be chasing him for payments and, worse of all, his wife would follow through on her threat to leave him and take their son with her.  His marriage was in trouble already but, he feared, this would be the last straw.
The lift doors opened on the ground floor and he slowly got to his feet.  A woman, about to enter the lift, backed off and stood aside as he headed for the exit.
Back out on the street he needed a drink.  Stopping only to buy a half bottle of vodka, he headed straight to the nearest pub.
"Double vodka."  Nicholson’s head was spinning as he sat on the barstool.
"You look like you've had some bed news."  The barman poured the drink and placed it on the bar.  "You want a mixer in that?"
Nicholson threw twenty pounds onto the bar before emptying his glass.  The clear liquid burned as it ran down his throat.  He removed his tie and unbuttoned his collar. "Same again, only this time top it up with tonic."
         "You’re in a bad way, mate, you should take it easy."  The barman placed the glass of vodka and tonic on the bar and took the twenty pound note.
Nicholson walked over to a table in the corner by the front window and sat down.  He placed his head in his hands and tried to think.
"You forgot your change, mate."
The barman put the change onto the table but Nicholson was in a world of his own.  What was he going to do?  Where was he going to find another job quickly enough to dig himself out of the hole he had fallen into? 
The car, he still had the keys to his company car.  He drained his glass and left the bar.
He arrived back at the car and opened the door.  Throwing the bottle he had bought onto the passenger seat, he climbed in and turned the engine over.  If he went home and acted as though nothing had happened then he could at least fool his wife for a couple of days.  Maybe sell the car and get some money to tide them over until he found another job. 
Peterson appeared at the door to the office and walked over to the car park.  He had a reserved slot, of course.  His brand new range rover glinted in the sun.  He threw his briefcase onto the back seat and climbed in.  As Peterson drove away, Nicholson decided to follow him.
Exiting the car park, he pulled in behind the Range Rover.  He followed as close as he dare as they drove through the city and out into the suburbs.  The houses became larger and more expensive the further they went.  The four-wheel drive slowed and pulled into the driveway of a particularly large and expensive looking detached house.  Nicholson stopped at the kerb and watched his former boss park next to an identical car, his and hers Range Rovers, very nice.
An attractive woman, in her late forties, and two teenage girls came out of the house to welcome Peterson home.  He had everything that Nicholson didn’t.  He had a large house, two nice cars, a loving family and, most of all, a job.  People like him didn’t understand what it was like living on next to no money.  What it felt like to be unable to pay bills or provide for your family.
He was staring, intently, at the family reunion when the woman looked over and pointed at him.  Peterson, recognising him, started walking down the driveway.
“Nicholson...What is it?  Nicholson!”
He was aware that he was revving the engine loudly as the man approached the car.  Peterson stopped suddenly, sensing a threat.  Nicholson released the clutch, the wheels spun and smoked as he sped away.
Driving towards the motorway, his head was full of bad thoughts of how wrong everything had gone.  He didn't see the lights change to red.  Driving straight across the junction, he clipped another car and almost ran down a young girl on a crossing.  He tried to brake but the damage had already been done.  Over the limit and in no state to be driving, he kept going.  He couldn't afford to be breathalysed now on top of everything else.
Hearing a siren in the distance he panicked, weaving through the traffic and accelerating.  Joining the motorway he couldn't see any flashing lights.  It wasn't far to his house, perhaps if his luck held out...
Then he spotted it, a police Volvo about two hundred yards behind him.  Keep calm, stick to the speed limit and they will just go past.  The car’s blue lights came on, maybe it wasn't him they wanted, keep calm, keep calm.  The Volvo pulled in behind him, there was no doubt now.  He floored the accelerator.  If he could put some traffic between them he could come off at the next exit and lay low for a few hours, report the car stolen or deny moving it from the car park.
He was getting desperate now; he knew he didn't stand a chance of losing the police.  No job and now he was going to lose his licence at least, probably end up in prison.  His world was collapsing around him.
Reaching over to the passenger seat he picked up the bottle of vodka, opened it and took a long drink.  There was only one thing he could do.
He pushed the car to 110mph but the police were still gaining on him, he didn't have long.  The junction was just ahead.  He veered sharply left and onto the slip road.  He wasn’t worried about the other traffic and sped straight across the roundabout, through a red light without stopping and caused a pile up as three cars slammed on their brakes to avoid him.
With the sound of horns blaring behind him Nicholson zigzagged his way through the busy traffic.  Blue lights flashing, the police car’s siren wailed but Nicholson wasn’t stopping now.  He went straight through another red light, then another, across a mini roundabout and turned left into an industrial estate.  He sideswiped a parked car as he took the sharp bend at forty.  Two more turns and, with the police car still behind him, he turned into the dead end at the far side of the estate, the side that bordered the dual carriageway.  His only option now was to ditch the car and run.
The police car screeched to a halt as Nicholson slammed into the chain link fence at the end of the road.  Shaken and bleeding from a gash on his forehead he kicked open the door of the BMW.  The first policeman from the patrol car grabbed him but Nicholson was too fast.  Driving the point of his elbow backwards into the man’s face he dropped him to the floor with blood streaming from his broken nose.
Climbing onto the bonnet of the car, he vaulted the fence as the second policeman tried to grab his legs.  He landed heavily and scrambled up the grass bank.  On the other side of the dual carriageway was a housing estate, a rabbit warren of back yards, gardens and alleyways for him to hide in.  He could rest for a while and think. 
He jumped over the crash barrier and stumbled onto the road.  The driver of the truck would later tell police that he did his best to brake and swerve but it was too late.  Any luck that Nicholson had left had run out.  He had nowhere to go.
At Martin Nicholson’s funeral he was described as a hard working and loving family man.  The police report said that he had suffered some kind of breakdown and acted totally out of character.  His death was a tragic accident. 
His former employers sent a wreath but there was nothing from Peterson.  He didn’t attend or even send a card.  After all, he wasn’t to blame; everyone was suffering because of the financial crisis. Weren’t they?

It was while Les Morris was at school in Cumbria that, inspired and encouraged by his English teacher, he developed a lifelong love of books and made his first attempts to create his own stories. At 16 he left school and spent most of the 80s and 90s in the Royal Navy where reading and writing helped pass the long, often boring, days and nights at sea. Since then, he has worked in many industries but always continued to write when time allowed. More recently he started to concentrate on writing thrillers and had a short story, "Blood on Their Hands", published in Matt Hilton's anthology "ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1". He is currently working on completing a trilogy of stories involving the same character. He lives in Cumbria with his wife and children. http://lesmorris.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday 31 October 2012

LOST SOLES by Angel Zapata

Whilst Halloween creeps and glides, when children roam the streets seeking sustenance for their eternal hunger and our ancestors extend spectral fingers into our memories and souls - something dark... something dangerous awaits. 

Lost Soles by TK'n'C friend, horror writer and poet, Angel Zapata will chill you to the bone. Here is insanity. Here is love. Here lies what horror fiction is made of.

Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers is proud to give you the winning story in our Halloween Horror Competition 2012.

LOST SOLES by Angel Zapata

The loud bang woke Daniel from a deep sleep. It had fallen from the shelf again. He crawled out of bed, wandered into the hallway, and lifted his prize shoe. He examined it for any further damage. The heel was still broken in the same place and there didn’t appear to be any scuffing on the old bloodstains. 

His wife, Josephine had left him because his morbid collection continued to grow and overtake every surface in their home. But he hadn’t minded. She had never been interested in what made him happy. 

Daniel repositioned the leather pump. He placed it between the half-melted tennis shoe and the pink house slipper with the bullet hole. 

He began acquiring the footwear of accident and murder victims simply by chance. 

His pug, Lightning had taken ill one night in March. He was barely breathing. Daniel had panicked on his way to the vet. Ignoring stop signs, he kept his foot jammed on the accelerator. He crossed Newmantown Road going eighty in a forty-five mile per hour zone. The oncoming driver, a young woman, barely had time to avoid him before she swerved, overturned her vehicle, and died holding a broken tree branch through her chest. 

Daniel hadn’t slowed down. 

“Lightning’s gonna have to stay a couple of days,” Doctor Burke told him. “Gotta say, I don’t think he would have made it if you hadn’t rushed him in.” The older man smiled and removed his thick glasses. “You saved your dog’s life.” 

On his way home, Daniel stopped at the scene of the accident. The body had been removed and the minivan carted away. Car debris was scattered everywhere and torn police tape flapped wildly from a privacy fence post. Guilt threatened to surface, but he quickly pushed it back down. It was an unfortunate event, nothing more. 

As he opened the door of his SUV, he noticed what appeared to be the victim’s black pump lying in the lifeless grass at his feet. It was caked in dry blood and brown leaves. He felt compelled to take it. 

Later at home, after his wife fell asleep, he snuck down to the garage and popped the trunk. For some unknown reason, he licked the shoe’s filthy instep. It wasn’t a sexual act. Daniel just needed to taste the memory of the woman who’d worn it. He wept there alone, the shoe on his face like an oxygen mask. 

The following Friday, he bought some screws and plastic anchors to install his first display shelf. He ordered a police band radio online and spent most of his weeknights and weekends scanning for tragedy. All of his trophies were stolen from crime scenes and emergency room red bags. In the span of a month, he obtained a crushed work boot at an industrial accident site; a masticated sneaker from an illegal dogfight pit; and a tan deck shoe shredded by a boat propeller.

Occasionally, he’d find the Cracker Jack surprise of a toe hidden inside one of his treasured collectibles. He preserved these in a custom-made silver box. 

In June, there was a preschool fire across town. There were reports of several children trapped in a classroom coat closet. 

Daniel returned home covered in soot and ash. 

“Something’s wrong with you, Danny.” Josephine watched him remove his recent acquisition from a wrinkled paper bag. “Can’t you see that?” 

“What are you talking about?” He lifted the smoke-stained toddler shoe by its Velcro strap and set it inside a glass curio case. “I feel great.” 

“I can’t take much more of this.” She was crying, pointing at the walls. “Our home is becoming a house of horrors.” 

Daniel sat down on the couch and stared at his wife’s feet. “Nice shoes.” 

Josephine took Lightning and moved in with her brother’s family the following day. 

Daniel cried for his dog.

The next few months were slow. The authorities had received an anonymous tip that vandals were stealing items belonging to crime scene victims. Local hospitals tightened security. Daniel was forced to lay low and wait. 

He attempted to maintain a level of normalcy and continued to work as an advertising account executive, but it became increasingly difficult. His relationships and interaction with colleagues suffered a gradual deterioration. Whenever he was around other people, he would stare at their feet and conjure up perverse scenarios of pedal mutilation. 

They accepted his resignation in late September. 

There wasn’t much money left in his savings account, but the house and car were paid for, and he cancelled the majority of unnecessary utility services. 

Most of his time was spent cataloguing his collection and listening to the police scanner. 

On October thirtieth, a young woman was discovered naked and unconscious in a downtown alley by the Hindshaw Hotel. The rape suspect had not been apprehended. Detectives had spent several hours searching the area for evidence.

The following evening, Halloween night, Daniel arrived at the alleyway’s entrance dressed as a vampire. On the sidewalk, a fat princess and a scrawny goblin looked up from their shopping bags of treats and waved at him. 

He flashed them his plastic fangs. 

The bright beam of his heavy-duty flashlight sent roaches and rats scurrying along the narrow passageway. He rummaged within and beside the green dumpsters, but found no discarded clothing or shoes. 

“Damn!” He threw an empty beer bottle against the wall, then scrunched down, defeated, near the broken glass. He switched off his light. 

Five minutes of silence were interrupted by muffled screams. Two shadows entered the alley at Daniel’s right. One was dragging the other. 

“Shut your mouth, bitch,” the male voice hissed. He threw the woman to the ground. “Damn, it’s gonna feel so good inside you.” 

Daniel pressed himself further into concealment. He pulled his costume’s cape over his head. 

“No cop’s gonna guess I’d come back and do it again in the same mutha-fuckin’ place.” The man tore the woman’s dress off. 

Daniel couldn’t make out any of the man’s facial features, but estimated his black Converse at roughly a size eleven. 

“I don’t mind if you squirm.” The rapist pulled out a knife and cut the woman’s bra between her breasts. She struggled, but he flipped her and pushed her head down onto the concrete. 

Daniel slowly rose to his feet. 

The rapist sucked in a breath and tugged at the woman’s panties. “Here comes the monster.” 

“The monster is already here,” Daniel said behind him and split the bastard’s skull with his flashlight. The man crumpled to the side. Daniel straddled him and beat him until his brains poured out. 

The woman’s eyes were bruised and swollen. She was barely conscious, but moaned in fear when Daniel touched her. 

“Don’t worry,” he told her gently, “I won’t hurt you.” He untied his cape and draped it over her. 

He located the knife and used it to leave a message.

The November first news article stated the woman was in serious, but stable condition at an undisclosed location. The suspected rapist was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities were seeking a third party in connection to the incident who may or may not have been able to shed light on some of the questions they had. 

There was no mention of the words Daniel had carved into the man’s back or his missing running shoes. 


Time crept by. 

Christmas week granted him the gift of a charred Santa boot plucked from a chimney flue.

Shortly after New Year’s, Daniel was served with divorce papers. Josephine had claimed emotional damage. He set them aside and focused his energy on the task at hand. 

A trip to a local fashion museum exposed him to a world of shoes he sought to possess. He was really hoping to stumble upon something rare, yet realized a Lancashire clog or medieval turn-shoe reproduction would be an impossible find. 

His kept his fingers crossed. It didn’t improve his luck. 

During the Easter holiday, he encountered something strange. At some point in the wee hours of morning, he would hear footsteps in his dark home. Sometimes they clicked or shuffled, squeaked or swished; but regardless, he was alone in the house and it shouldn’t have been possible. 

He grabbed the baseball bat he kept propped on the side of his headboard and slowly opened the bedroom door. No intruder was found roaming the halls or hidden in closets. The only evidence he could confirm as real was the shoe lying on the floor. Often, it was recovered in a different room, one he hadn’t placed it in. It was almost as if that particular woman’s shoe had been walking about on its own. 

Over the next week, he installed several closed circuit cameras throughout the house and locked himself in a bedroom aglow with stacked monitors. 

In late March, on the last night of his life, he was reading the paper at his desk when that same loud bang startled him. 

Toward the bottom left monitor screen, there was a woman standing in the dark hallway. Her back was to the camera. Black hair fell to her shoulders and the hem of her black dress reached the floor. She slowly bent down, lifted the black pump from the floor, and dropped it again. 

“I knew it,” Daniel seethed. “Damn you, Josephine.”  Eager to confront his soon-to-be ex-wife, he swung open the bedroom door and switched on the light. 

The hallway was deserted. 

“Josephine?” His voice was barely audible. “Are you fuckin’ with me?” 


With his heart racing, he searched the house. The locks on all the windows and doors were secure. 

On his way back through the hallway, he picked up the leather pump. It had belonged to that minivan woman whose death he’d caused. Something told him it wasn’t a coincidence. 

“Maybe you’ve come back to settle the score, huh?” He sneered and flicked off the hall light. 

His home erupted in maniacal laughter. 

Daniel spun at the doorway, screamed, and dropped the black pump. A woman hobbled in the darkness. One foot tiptoed inaudibly as the other clacked against the laminate flooring. 

“Shit!” Daniel toppled backwards and jerked himself through the bedroom door. “I didn’t mean for you to die.” 

The woman paused before her fallen shoe. She raised the hem of her dress, extended her leg, and stuffed her cold, dead foot inside. She stood there, swollen in shadows, and snapped her teeth. 

“Sweet Jesus.” Above Daniel’s head, the light bulbs in the ceiling fan flickered into blackness. From behind him, cold hands slid around his neck. “I’m so sorry,” he sobbed. 

The woman began to squeeze the air from his lungs. 

In his final moments, Daniel looked down at the Converse on his feet and wondered what had possessed him to wear the shoes of a rapist. 


After the funeral, Josephine and her boyfriend, Trey gathered all the shoes Daniel had collected. They piled them into a rusted oil drum and burned them with gasoline in his backyard. 

“Your ex was one sick bastard.” Trey tossed his cigarette butt into the flames. “I mean, stealing from the dead?” 

“I can’t imagine.” Josephine shrugged her shoulders and shivered. “Danny must have really gone insane.” 

“You think he hurt anyone?” Trey wrapped his arms around her. 

“I don’t know.” Josephine broke away from him. “Let’s just get out of here.” 

They drove back to their apartment in silence. Josephine was plagued with visions of horror. She just couldn’t understand how Daniel did that to himself. 

The official report listed it as death by airway obstruction. Daniel had choked to death. But beside his corpse, an empty silver box had lain open. And very few people knew what was removed from Daniel’s body. 

“Toes,” the medical examiner had revealed. “His throat was filled with the mummified toes of a dozen different feet.”


Bio: Angel Zapata knows he’ll one day wear dead man’s shoes, but he’s in no hurry to try them on. Recently published fiction and poetry can be read at Every Day Poets, Bewildering Stories, MicroHorror, The Bradburyesque Quarterly, Devilfish Review, Mused, Microw, and From the Depths at Haunted Waters Press. Visit him at http://arageofangel.blogspot.com.

Tuesday 30 October 2012


A J Humpage terrifies me - on a regular basis, or at least her incredible fiction does. Her Halloween Horror offering, Gabriel's Reflection captured all the TK'n'C editors' imaginations and made it to first runner-up position in this year's competition.

AJ has an uncanny way of touching our vulnerable spots, feeding our fears and making us face reality. Human horror or supernatural; Gabriel's Reflection will leave you asking questions.


The last ribbons of sunlight dipped behind the trees in the distance, winked with sensual allure between twisted, gnarled branches lining the roadside and reflected across Gabriel Henshaw’s worn face. 

He kept a steady hand on the steering wheel and speed dialled his wife.

The road ahead stretched far into the distance.  Wheat fields to his left wavered in the breeze and seemed to beckon the approaching darkness. To his right, a raft of bright yellow rape soaked up the remaining shards of sunlight.

The line rang out.

Gabe always rang to let Amy know if he was running late from work because she didn’t like to start dinner without him.

‘Hey,’ he said, when she answered. ‘Sorry love, the meeting overran.  I’m on my way home.

‘That’s okay.  I’m just starting dinner,’ she said.

‘I’ll be twenty minutes, max.’

‘Good, I’ll have a glass of red waiting for you.’   

He smiled, popped the phone back in his pocket.  A rusty hue crept across his face and coloured his eyes; the last of the sunlight inked the sky, which had darkened considerably in the few moments he’d been talking to his wife, and now a deep unearthly red tint pressed against the landscape.  Fresh air grazed his skin through the open window.

Up ahead, Gabe noticed a car parked near the verge, the hood up. Normally he would have stopped to help, but he was overly late and he just wanted to get home to Amy.   
He noticed the car was a Range Rover, like his own car. He peered at the figure hunched over the engine, caught a glimpse of a man dressed in a smart dark suit, although he couldn’t make out the driver’s features. 
Gabe didn’t stop and continued driving.        

He pondered the speed of the fading light, flicked the headlights on.

Coiled, eerie shapes of trees drifted in and out of view as the lights grazed across them, while the grey-tinted road slowly unravelled before him.

He’d never known the darkness to descend so quickly, especially when not more than ten minutes ago the sun had brightened the landscape.

He eased down on his speed. The road ahead curved.         
Gabe knew the roads well; he travelled along them every day to and from work. He knew each bend, each dip and incline, and yet the encroaching darkness seemed to make them appear quite different from daylight and he failed to recognise the road ahead.  It curved into a sharp bend before eventually straightening.  Large trees on either side of the road formed an enclosed, narrow space.    

He felt the fractious trickle of adrenaline in his guts, didn’t recognise this stretch of road.

The tree-lined avenue continued for some time until the car eventually emerged from the cover of the trees. The darkness seemed heavier now and pressed against the windows, the hint of light all but gone in the space of a few minutes. He must have made a wrong turn somewhere.

He pulled over, stopped the car and retrieved the phone from his shirt pocket. He flicked through the call log. He’d made the call to his wife at 8.05pm. He glanced at the time on the dashboard.

It was 8.10pm.   

An earthy, deciduous scent laced the air. Darkness pressed against him, eager and intrusive, and from somewhere he heard the hum of an approaching car.

He looked in the rear view mirror, saw lights in the distance. They grew brighter as they edged closer, at speed.  Gabe recognised the shape - a Range Rover like the one he’d seen moments earlier by the roadside.

His eyes twitched.  The lights grazed across the inside of the car, blurred his vision. Then passed.  He watched as the car raced ahead into the distance.

Curious, he tried following the Range Rover, but it easily accelerated away from him and vanished into the thickening maw.
A spot of rain spattered against the windscreen, distracted him. Then another. And another. 

The rain came fast then, grew heavier and blurred into one to warp the windscreen into a shimmering vision, like heat rising.

He switched on the windscreen wipers, raced through the gloom, until distorted, coloured reflections broke through the darkness ahead of him and he hit the brakes.

It was the Range Rover.

Adrenaline squirted into his stomach; apprehension raced up his throat, but he tried to push it back into the pit of his stomach.

The large 4 x 4 pulled away again, continued forward at a steady pace, as though teasing Gabe. 

He then noticed the license plate. He blinked as though caught in a momentary camera flash; eyes dilated as though soaking up the blackness around him. 

Skin drained to white.

He had not imagined it. Couldn’t believe it.

The car in front had the same license plate as Gabe’s car.

He stared in strained disbelief. He followed the car until it reached an intersection. After a momentary pause, the car moved forward and turned completely around so that it was facing Gabe.

Through his rain streaked windscreen he saw the contours of a face appearing through the dark, glaring back at him.

Gabe watched; skin pulsed. He reached for his phone.

The car approached.  The driver faced Gabe.  Smiled.  But it was humourless and black and forged with a demented sheen.

Gabe dropped the phone, felt his insides spasm. The man in the Range Rover had the same dark eyes, same expression, same square jaw line and same dark hair as Gabe.

Same car, same clothes. Same face.  Everything, the same. 
A reflection.

Gabe was staring at himself.

His heart stuttered. Stomach and guts contracted, almost pushing the fear through his anus. ‘Christ...’

The black car vanished into the burgeoning darkness, curtained by the rain.

He leaned forward, found the phone and dialled his wife. His mouth felt like the bottom of a sandpit.  ‘Amy, you won’t believe what just happened to me.  I just seen myself, I swear to God, it was me.’

‘Gabe, what are you talking about?’

‘I just saw myself driving my car, it was me, and he smiled right at me. I swear to God.’

‘Gabe, calm down. What exactly do you mean?’

‘I saw me. Driving my car, like a reflection, only it wasn’t a reflection, he was real, solid.’

Amy’s voice sounded rational in his ear.  ‘You sound tired, Gabe.’       

‘But it was me. I saw me.’

‘You think you did,’ she said. ‘The mind plays tricks when we’re tired. You probably saw someone who looks almost like you.’

‘But I know what I saw. The car had the exact same license plate. Explain that.’

‘It sounds like you’ve had a tiring day. Sometimes we see things that aren’t there.’ 

A pause.  Then, ‘He was a doppelganger. That’s supposed to be a bad omen isn’t it?  I mean really bad...’

‘You don’t believe that rubbish do you?  It was someone who looks a bit like you.  Now calm down, okay? Tell me all about it when you get home. Just relax and drive carefully.’

Her words drifted into the sullen silence.  ‘Okay...’ He hung up, sat quite still for a moment, contemplated what he’d seen, or thought he’d seen.  Maybe Amy was right, he was tired, perhaps his mind was mocking him with insolent concision.

He breathed deep, glanced at the road sign to his left, just visible through the murk. His expression drooped.  He saw that he was not lost at all, but merely two miles from home.

Frustrated, he accelerated away into the darkness.

* * *

Ochre streetlights highlighted the rain.

He slipped the key into the lock, opened the front door.  He stepped inside. Shadows instantly retreated.

Dinner smelled good.

He closed the door. Slow footsteps crept across the tiled floor. His shadow slithered into the kitchen.  
Amy turned from the counter. ‘There’s a glass of wine on the counter. You Okay? You sounded so anxious on the phone.  You must have seen someone who was the spitting image of you.’

‘I did.’  He lifted the wine glass, sniffed the aroma.

‘Dinner won’t be long, then you can tell me all about it,’ she said, turning back to the julienne carrots. ‘We all have someone that looks like us, so don’t worry about that urban myth about seeing your doppelganger.  Honestly, Gabe, don’t believe that mumbo jumbo.’

‘You don’t believe it’s true?’ he asked, voice strangely detached.

‘No, seeing your double doesn’t mean you die, Gabe.’

He moved across the kitchen towards her. Silent. Like a malignant shadow oozing from the fabric of the umbra. 

He stopped at the knife stand, lifted the fillet knife.  ‘No more working late for me...’

She chided away his words, didn’t look up. ‘You always say that.’

‘I mean it. It’s time for a change.’ He edged closer to her, sniffed her scent and touched her waist.  He dropped his voice to a barely audible rasp. ‘I’ve waited a long time for this. A very long time. And now I want enjoy my new life.’

She half turned.  ‘What new life?’

His eyes solidified.  ‘The one your husband gave to me.’ 

‘What, I-’

The blade found its way under her jaw and sliced through her skin and oesophagus in a clean, hard, powerful thrust.  A raspy gasp of air rattled from deep within her lungs, drowned in the velvety blood spilling from the gash like an overflowing cup.

Amy’s blood warmed his fingers as she dribbled.  Her pulse pumped hard beneath her skin, veins swelled and slithered with panic.

She struggled in his grip, but then wilted quickly against his strength.

He pushed down on the blade and sawed through muscle and tendon. Her eyes rolled in her sockets as pain scratched across her nerves; mouth contorted and rippled in a silent scream, arms dangled, limp.

The blade reached her spine, rubbed against the bone.  He pulled her partially severed head from her shoulders, tore the skin.

She twitched in his arms, mouth moved with invisible words.  Frightened eyes still moved.

He smiled at her, but it was an empty, emotionless gesture.  He let go and she dropped to the floor, her head flopping down across her chest by a thin sliver of muscle.

She watched her blood spill across the floor, then saw him admire his reflection in the window.

He removed his blood sodden coat, straightened his tie and then left the kitchen before the finality of her blackness descended.

* * *

Droplets splashed onto Gabe’s alabaster face and raced down his cheek, but he couldn’t feel it; he couldn’t feel the coolness against his skin. The rain drummed softly against his torso, muffled against his soaked shirt.

A flash of light brightened the scene momentarily. A wrecked car; mangled metal wrapped around a tree stump, windows shattered. Thunder rolled through churning clouds.

Another flash.

Gabe had no recollection of slewing the car across the road and colliding with the tree, nor the tremendous force that had punctured his head.

The only thing he knew right then was the raw, stricken fear clawing at him. He had reached up, felt the strange shape of his skull. He realised with frightening clarity that the force of impact had partially smashed his head and now he cradled the remains of his brain as the minutes of oblivion approached.

He felt a peculiar kind of warmth inch across his chest and shoulders, didn’t know what it was, he couldn’t see.

He wanted to scream, but couldn’t. He wanted to stop his blood spilling out across the road, but couldn’t. The rain smothered his last moments.

And despite his shattered head, his only thought was of the man he’d seen: Himself.

Another flash ripped across the landscape. The clouds rumbled.

Gabe realised then, just before the blackness came, what the terrible omen of seeing his double truly meant. His wife had been wrong.  Everyone had a doppelganger.  A true reflection.  Gabe had seen his.

And death always followed.


Bio: A J Humpage has short stories and poetry published in anthologies like 6 Sentences, Pill Hill Press, Static Movement and many e-zines. She dispenses writing advice at http://allwritefictionadvice.blogspot.com and is on Twitter: @AJHumpage

Her first novel, Blood of the Father, is available on Amazon Kindle.