Sunday 29 January 2012

EVIL MOON by S. K. Adams

It's our pleasure to welcome S. K. Adams to TK'n' C with his wicked début horror tale.

Evil Moon

Gary McKinley lay upon the bed in a foetal position. Sleep was beyond him, he longed for that empty dreamless void to claim him; yet consciousness remained his jailor, dangling him over a chasm of jagged memories, ever the puppet master and torturer of troubled minds. There was no hope of escape from the night that stretched endlessly before him.

Squeaking treads of heavy soled footwear approached along the corridor beyond Gary’s room; a momentary respite from the crushing loneliness gnawing at his soul. Through the lighted crack beneath the door of his room, he saw movement. The feet came to a stop outside. He closed his eyes, heard the flick of a switch. Red tinged light filtered through his eyelids. The switch flicked again. Darkness returned and the footsteps moved on.

Gary sighed, rolling over onto his back, rubber sheets creaking beneath him. Every fifteen minutes they checked on him. Suicide watch; it baffled him why they bothered. He could be dead in less than a minute if he put his mind to it.  He was not afraid to die, not really, but he didn’t believe anything came afterwards - and that did frighten him. He tried to fix his thoughts on something comforting. There was only Bella.

Most days he was happy to wake up next to her. He missed her so very much. She was the only girl for him. With his eyes shut, he could almost sense her there beside him. He could touch her warm soft skin, feel her moonbeam breath, her long flowing limbs entwined with his; the familiar morning after funk of intimacy. Gary’s breath began to slow. Between the sheets, he felt the first stirrings of passion. Rising, focusing the blood, focusing the moon?

The moon. Gary’s eyes snapped open, his arms and legs spread wide like a new-born baby afraid of falling.

“Oh Christ, not now, not here,” he said through gritted teeth.

In here, in the loony bin, the mad house, in Hill Crest Asylum the lines were definitely blurring. The full moon was rising, and Gary felt its pull as he had all the other times - but this time he wouldn’t be able to outrun it. In this place, it would overtake him for sure.

An ache in his bladder needed remedying. The tiled floor was cold under Gary’s feet as he padded over to the ensuite bathroom. You couldn’t clean the stains out of carpet, he mused. At least the tiles weren’t red. He remembered a painting of Nelson’s flagship, the decks painted red to disguise the blood. He had spent time in police cells where they still practiced that form of camouflage. Images of blood filled Gary’s head. He could smell it now; it was everywhere, like hot rusty metal.

Gary flicked on the light in the bathroom; an extractor fan in the ceiling began to hum. He tottered over to the toilet, lowered the lid, pulled down his boxer shorts and sat; wincing as a fiery pain flared in his guts. He forced his still swollen penis down into the bowl. At least he wouldn’t fall so far should he pass out, he thought as he gingerly allowed his bladder to let go. When it came, the flow felt like razor blades dipped in dry ice forcing their way out of him.

The effort of passing water made Gary nauseous, his skin clammy. He tried to focus on his surroundings. No windows, just a shower, hand basin and the toilet he sat on. All stark and depressingly sterile. On the grey walls, a notice warning of the penalties for drug taking, a large red panic button and over the basin, a mirror. He got to his feet. Out of habit he glanced down at the bowl. The water was crimson. Somewhere outside in the night the full moon had risen.

Gary staggered to the basin and turned on the cold tap; he cupped water in his hands and splashed it onto his face. He rested his hands upon the basin and tried to control his breathing. Slowly he looked up into the mirror. The face that glared back at him was not his own. It was the face of the moon, twisted and leering down at Gary from an apocalyptic sky.

“Peek-a-boo, I see you,” said the moon. “You look like shit. Why are you hiding in that little room, Gary?”

Gary watched in horror as the face of the moon expanded to fill the mirror until just one terrible eye peered in at him, as if he were a specimen in a jar.

“You killed her Gary.”

Gary’s hands turned white as his grip on the basin tightened.

“No, you’re a liar. Bella is waiting for me, and she’ll be there when they let me go home. Please... go away; I just want to be alone.” 

The moon’s mouth cracked open, flakes that could have been the size of mountains sheared off and fell to earth as a quake of laughter shook the bathroom. Gary flinched from the sound as cracks appeared in the walls and plaster dust dropped from the ceiling.

"Bella isn't at home, Gary. You killed her because I told you to."

“Fuck off! You don’t exist,” Gary screamed at the top of his voice.

“Oh but I do, Gary, I really do… otherwise, could I do this?”

Gary felt a sudden sharp pain in his chest, like a bony finger inserting itself under his ribcage, twisting and poking his gall bladder… forcing its way into his lung and dragging a jagged fingernail over the muscle of his heart. He cried aloud begging for the pain to stop. Like a man impaled upon a spike he felt helpless against such excruciating agony. Gary collapsed to the bathroom floor, curling into a tight ball. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the pain stopped and the reflux began.

Gary crawled across the floor and peered into the toilet bowl as acid rose into his throat, stringy lengths of saliva dripped from his open mouth as his stomach began to spasm. He belched louder than he could ever remember doing in his life. The smell reminded him of a dead cat he had once found in a hedge when he was a child -  road kill, left to rot in the summer sun for at least a week. He remembered the maggots crawling inside the cat's rib cage and the fat lazy bluebottles buzzing. But mostly it was the smell of decomposing flesh that made him want to heave his guts. Something rose up inside him forcing a heavy lump into his throat. White spots danced in his eyes, he could not catch his breath.
With one final agonising spasm, Gary’s mouth yawned open, giving birth to something small and furry that plopped into the toilet bowl and floated there, slowly rolling in the bloody water.

“Do you recognise him, Gary?” asked the moon. “Your little Siamese gerbil, Firkin. You killed him for me when you were ten years old, skewered him with your mother’s knitting needles remember? I was very impressed; I keep all your gifts to me, Gary. Bella is here too; would you like me to send you a reminder? An ear maybe or an eyeball, she has lovely brown eyes doesn’t she, Gary.”

Ever so slowly, Gary pulled himself up from the floor, adrenalin flooded through every fibre of his body. It was not a red mist that descended, but an avalanche. He slipped his fingers under the porcelain lid of the toilet cistern and picked it up.

“I won’t be your fucking puppet anymore,” he screamed at the moon. He raised the heavy lid above his head and brought it crashing down onto the surface of the mirror. To his disgust the mirror did not shatter, a safety feature of your modern day Asylum, but it did fragment, giving the illusion of a hundred evil moon faces seen through the eyes of a fly.

The mirror may not have shattered but the porcelain lid had, sending shards flying in all directions. A dull ache drew Gary’s attention to where a jagged white splinter protruded from his thigh.

“Oh that looks nasty buddy, better call for help or you’re a dead man,” said the myriad faces of his tormenter.

“Yeah, well fuck you; I’d rather be dead.”

Gary slipped a trembling hand around the shard and pulled it out. It tore through the femoral artery. Blood spurted in a high arc as he staggered backwards, splashing the grey walls. His eyes focused on the panic button but it was too late, already he was falling into darkness.

It took three men to force open the bathroom door. Gary’s body had fallen against it. Suicide was a messy business and involved plenty of paperwork. The attending doctor was new to the job. The claustrophobic bathroom newly painted in Gary’s lifeblood made him feel a little queasy. He had to sit down on the toilet and take a few breaths before he could continue the examination. When he stood, he absentmindedly flushed the remains of Firkin the Siamese gerbil away without anybody ever knowing it had been there.

 BioS.K. Adams is a forty something fledgling author writing short stories and poetry. So far he has had two short stories published. [Until today! Ed] He prefers to write about the darker side of life. Most of what he writes comes under the heading of Speculative Fiction. More often than not there is a vein of dark humor running through his stories.

Friday 27 January 2012

CATTLE CALL by Terry White

Terry returns in style with...

Cattle Call

Freddie Arbogast had no more doubts now.  When the call came, he was giddy with relief.  It was like dropping his gear after a forced march.  He had arrived back at two a.m. from his second pizza delivery shift and saw the red blinking light of the message recorder.  A young woman’s voice with that irritating California lilt said he was to report downtown in front of the Radisson lobby at five in the morning.  He was told to shave closely, wear a dark business suit and would be given instructions and told what to do when he got there.

Expecting something like this, Freddie had already provided himself with three inexpensive suits from Goodwill—blue, charcoal gray, and beige—and had made the same alterations in all three including the darts in the back that would allow him to wear his holster without drawing attention.

Freddie’s cab dropped him off at quarter to five in front of the hotel.  A beefeater opened the door.  He hadn’t slept and his eyes were scratchy.  His heart hammered in his ribs.  A film of sweat lacquered his brow and his armpits were dripping from tension. The temperature was in the seventies with the suffocating mugginess of Lake Erie certain to make things unbearable by noon.  A one-minute walk-on might not happen until late at night. 

By five, people were milling about like hungry sheep.  Freddie held himself in check with a pasted-on smile and tried not to seem out of place in case somebody was watching via the hotel’s CCTV system.  By five-forty, one of the assistant lackeys herded them all into a dozen SUV rentals and they were driven to the Warehouse District. A different lackey showed up and divided them into groups; when the cue was given, he said, they were to walk toward the camera, on a tracking dolly in front of Arturo’s on the corner of West Sixth.  They were not ever to look at the camera. He repeated these instructions with emphasis on not looking at the actors heading opposite them.  

Freddie was soaked in perspiration from listening to this self-important minion rattle on.  His guts seemed twisted into a pretzel, he had an urge to take a dump, and ants crawled under his skin.  He could no longer hear the words the imbecile was speaking.   

An hour went by, then two.  A dozen times Freddie felt himself on the verge of blowing a rod, ripping off his clothes and running down the empty streets, gibbering.  It was unbearable. Amazingly, no one noticed the volcanic pressure boiling up inside him.  A tall black man in sunglasses stepped out of the restaurant and looked around for a moment, frowned and fixed his beret.  His shaved head glistened when he removed his beret and Freddie recognized him as one of the four stars in town.  

At four, Freddie’s group was signalled to begin walking down the street.  He manoeuvred to get himself near the back and when the cue was flashed across the street, they headed toward the restaurant at the pace explained that morning.  Each man and woman was given a prop—umbrellas, attaché cases, laptops—“accoutrement of the workaday professional,” as that little creep director had tediously explained a million times.

As the group passed the restaurant, Freddie peeled off, a wingman on his own mission, and headed directly up the steps of Arturo’s.  He heard a loud voice amplified by a megaphone scream: “Cut!  Cut!  Where the hell’s that guy think he’s going?” 

Freddie ignored him and everything else.  Sound coalesced to a tinny buzz in his head.  His vision contracted like a hi-beam on what was directly in front of him.  

His heart bumped in his chest:  Where were they?  The Fate Sisters made it easy.  The four big celebrities were isolated at a table in the center of the restaurant with all the other tables pushed back.  Waiters or actors playing waiters hovered nearby.  Three cameras triangulated on the table. Two couples having an unreal meal.  A last supper . . . 

Freddie removed his Baby Desert Eagle from his holster and shot the older female in the back just as she was raising a cup to her lips.  The .45 ACP round blew a grapefruit-sized hole coming out her chest and spattered the young beauty opposite her with a face full of red matter.  Her carefully made-up face was instantly stippled with red freckles while tissue debris and bone fragments dotted her coiffed hair.  Before she could form her pretty mouth into a scream, the famous tall black man stood up.  Freddie shot him just below the Adam’s apple and he somersaulted backwards.
Time had stopped now.  No sounds at all, which didn’t surprise Freddie because he had experienced the same thing during those terrifying firefights in Afghanistan.  

Freddie held the gun on the bespattered young star, hesitated, and then shot the second male lead instead as he tried to scramble under the table.  Freddie suddenly forgot his name.  He was a typical Hollywood pretty boy with his good looks and buffed body.  The third shot scored a neat wound channel through the scalp and blew off a piece of skull cap.

The starlet’s eyes were glazed over in shock.  His fourth shot took her in the right cheek and punched through her brain before exiting with a thwacking sound into the table behind her.  

Freddie, now firm master of his destiny, looked down at the havoc he alone had created like a god.  Time stood still.  He could feel everything in the flood of adrenalin surging through him.  Suddenly, the air around him seemed to ripple, sending him signals: danger, movement from the corners.  The big bodies of the security men and bodyguards smashed into him a second later; they drove him face-first into the gleaming parquet floor.  It was like being dragged beneath the chassis of a speeding car.

While they mauled him on the floor and snarled into his face, spitting curses.  Freddie felt his elbow snap and a bone crack in his ribs.  One hard kick to his face put his lights out. Before he drifted into that black whirlpool rushing toward him, he smiled through cracked teeth and bloody lips.  Freddie wondered what his new body would look like when he emerged once again into the world in his terrible reincarnation.

Terry White lives in Northeast Ohio and has been publishing noir and hardboiled fiction for several years. Among his recent publications are stories in Yellow Mama, A Twist of Noir, Sex and Murder and “The Dog Returneth to His Vomit,” archived in TKnC. “The Frotteur in the Dark” was named one of the 6 Best Of stories for 2009 by 10,000 Tons of Black Ink.

An excerpt from Terry's first novel, featuring the P.I. Thomas Haftmann (Grand Mal, 2011) can be read here

Friday 20 January 2012

PREDATOR/PREY by Leon Steelgrave

Leon's debut TKnC chiller will have you looking over your shoulder... Yes - YOU.


Picture a singles bar. You don’t need to know its name or location, we are all familiar with these types of cattle market and no greater definition of the club is required.

The woman is tall, sinuous and beautiful, in a cold sort of fashion. She moves with the primeval grace of a great cat, for that is what she is - a hunter.

‘Will she pick me?’ you wonder. The answer is, of course, no. You are too tall or too short, too thin or too fat. Your gender is wrong, unsuited to the direction in which her sexuality is swinging this evening. The capricious favours of her bed will not be yours tonight. You instinctively know this to be true.

The man, sipping a Gin and Tonic at the bar, is equally suave. The dark intelligence in his eyes shows that he is more than equal to the woman’s lust. If such a thing were possible, one suspects that his desire may run even deeper than hers does. But surely no one is that carnal?

Their eyes lock, a stream of unspoken dialogue passes between them, then they close in for the kill. You watch, a little ashamed of your voyeuristic behaviour. It’s not as though you couldn’t find a trap of your own. God knows you could have your pick of any of the people in this sleazy den. The night is still young and you have plenty of time to try a few moves of your own. In the meantime, you might as well enjoy the floorshow.

Their interaction fascinates you. You’ve seen all the tricks before, but rarely performed with such intensity. The woman accepts a drink form the man and giggles (that laugh’s much too young for her) as she dips a finger with an exquisitely manicured nail in the clear liquor. She traces her finger around the rim to produce a single, ringing note. Whenever she looks at him it is through lowered lashes, showing him deference and hinting that she is willing to surrender herself into his power.

The man smiles in return (I bet he’s sucking in that gut) and reaches across to retrieve an ashtray from the bar, his hand brushes against her breast seemingly by accident. The woman remains ice-maiden cool. Yes, you can touch me but it’s going to take far more sophistication than that to win the game.

She asks for a cigarette and he obliges. When she leans forward to accept a light she is careful to show off her breasts to their full advantage. The movement causes her to lose her balance on the high barstool and she reaches out, her hand grabbing the man’s thigh. It lingers there a fraction too long to be purely accidental or decent.

‘Hi. I couldn’t help noticing you were sitting alone. I don’t wanna to be presumptuous, but you look kinda lonely. Perhaps you need a friend?’

The voice makes you turn, your anger flares momentarily at this interruption to your enjoyment of the floorshow. You smile; this suitor is rather attractive. A sense of irony makes your smile wider, for it would seem that you are now the prey. Your uninvited guest takes this as a sign of acceptance and sits nervously beside you.

The man returns his lighter to his pocket with a well-practised movement. His eyes never stray from the woman during the operation. He is thinking that it is all too easy. The prey is naïve and falsely confident in its abilities. It is a pity there is no greater sport to be found.

The woman exhales and carefully crosses her legs, showing the maximum possible amount of thigh. Her thoughts run in a similar vein to that of the man. She is picking up overconfidence and an excess of ego. It lends a rank odour to the air around her and makes her savour the thought of destroying both confidence and ego.

You offer a drink, conversation, but your attention is rarely focused on your conquest. The man and woman at the bar continue to fascinate you. They draw your attention from your partner at every given opportunity. Your inattention does not go unnoticed, but you gloss over it with saccharin pleasantries. Then the man and woman are moving, weaving through the crowds, heading for the exit. Shocked by your own actions, you find yourself on your feet, mumbling feeble apologies about some forgotten prior appointment. You hustle your way across the room without a backward glance. Your limbs feel stiff and leaden. Perhaps you’re getting old? Ha!

You give the cloakroom girl your ticket and wait impatiently for her to find your jacket. Each second of delay decreases your chances of being able to pick up their trail. Though what you intend to do when you find them you do not know. Will you follow them home to his or her apartment? Will you wait afterwards and follow whoever leaves to their abode. If you do, what then? This is madness. You have clearly lost your mind.

‘Hey, buddy, are you gonna to take your coat or are you just gonna stand and stare all night?’ the girl grouses. Glaring at her impertinence, you snatch your jacket and hurry out onto the street.

Outside it is dark and cold drizzle is falling, making the sidewalk slick underfoot. Despite the weather the street is relatively crowded. You walk a few paces to your left, your head weaving from side to side like a cobra getting ready to strike its prey. You turn on your heel with a silent curse and head back to the right. Something catches your eye. Is it them? Yes. Necking in the harsh sodium glow of the streetlights. You slow down and will them to go on so you can continue to follow them. Your breathing is harsh and you’re surprised to find yourself sweating heavily despite the chill night air. Perhaps you’re coming down with a virus? Maybe that’s the source of your madness?

They disengage and move off down the street. Your heart skips a beat when they pause at the edge of the road, if they should hail a cab you’ll have no chance of following them. But no, they are waiting for a break in the traffic. Your heart slows - it’s all right - you can continue your pursuit.

They cross the road and step into a garbage-strewn alley that stinks of urine. It makes you apprehensive to find yourself in the city’s seedy guts, but you can’t seem to stop yourself from following them. You have embarked on a journey of self-discovery from which there is no turning back.

A hand grasps your ankle and you cry out. The old derelict stares at you with bloodshot eyes as you hurry past. With luck, they will not have heard you.

From the alley to a viaduct beneath the road and then back to another alleyway, you follow them until they arrive outside a cheap motel, the kind that rents rooms by the hour. Not that you are familiar with such places.

You watch them through the glass doors of the reception as they check in. Your wheezing breath reminds you of an elderly relative whom you watched sicken and die. You ask yourself what you should do now the hunt is over. You’re fevered. You really should go home now that there is no more to see. Yes. Go home, back to your warm, comforting and safe little life.

Taking your own advice, you are just about to turn away when a light illuminates one of the downstairs windows. The blind rolls up and the woman stands framed before you. You watch as the man, now naked, comes up behind her and grabs the straps of her dress. His muscles ripple as he tears the fabric into ribbons, which hang about her waist. Her breasts rise and fall in rhythm with her quick, shallow breaths.

The man is strong and handsome. The woman is firm and beautiful. How you crave to feel one set of that ripe flesh against your own, and how you envy them. Ensnared, you continue to watch as the man tears the remaining scraps of fabric from the woman and steps in closer, to encircle her from behind. She shudders. The muscles in her thighs and belly ripple.

You’re sweating heavier than ever and each breath burns like fire as you struggle to draw oxygen into your starved lungs. You ignore your growing malaise and continue to watch.

The woman’s breasts flatten against the glass as the man forces her against it. Her palms and spread fingers press against the window as she braces herself. With horror you realise she is staring straight at you, just like the man who, with fingers knotted in her hair, looks over her shoulder. Their eyes seem to ask if this is what you came to see. You don’t know. You’ve been struck mute. A growing sense of dizziness threatens to rip you from consciousness. You stare in terror at your wrinkled, liver spotted hands and scream silently in fear and incomprehension. Your vision dims and the last thing you ever feel is the sickening lurch in the pit of your stomach as you fall.

The woman sighed. ‘Was it good for you, darling? Such a gorgeously filthy id, I feel quite bloated.’

‘Yes, I knew the moment I felt those eyes watching us in the bar that we’d found the one. Almost too easy. This city’s full of the desperate and the needy. But we’re only doing to them what they do to themselves.’


Bio: Raised and educated in what he describes as a town of narrow streets and even narrower minds, Leon Steelgrave was afforded plenty of opportunity to hone his acerbic wit. If he never looked back, he certainly spent a lot of time looking inward, a practice that has stood him in good stead, not least in his writing career.

White Vampyre, his first work of fiction, was originally published as a Print On Demand paperback by in the USA in 2003. Out of print for a number of years, he recently issued a revised version via Kindle Direct Publishing. Two sequels are currently in preparation along with a police procedural, A Pauper’s Shroud, and a collection of early short stories.

Web Site:

Thursday 12 January 2012

TEDDY IN THE TREE by Wayne A. Conaway

Wayne debuts in style with this chiller... 

Teddy in the Tree

It wasn’t fair.  Stan had just finished his summer school classes for the day, and now all his friends were leaving.

“C’mon,” he said.  “Let’s go on the zip line.”  They had stolen rope and a block-and-tackle from a railroad yard, and hung it in the woods behind their housing development.

“We did that all morning,” said his friend Mike.  “We’re going to the movies now. Come with us.”

Stan was flat broke but too proud to admit it.  “Nah. I wanna go on the zip line. Is there anyone still there?”

Mike laughed.  “No one in the woods except Teddy the Retard-o.”

And they left, leaving Stan alone.  A squirrel chittered at him from a tree at the edge of the woods.  He picked up some smooth rocks and threw them at the squirrel.  The squirrel quickly vanished.  

“Stupid summer school!” he muttered.  If he hadn’t flunked two classes last year, he wouldn’t have to go to school this summer.  Maybe he’d have a summer job, and plenty of cash to go to the movies whenever he wanted.

But Teddy was back there.  Stan and his friends had been stealing Teddy’s lunch money since the second grade.

“Time to pay up, Teddy,” he said.  And he entered the woods.


It took Stan so long to find Teddy that he was afraid that the retard-o had left.  But there he was, sitting high up in a sycamore tree, at least fifteen feet above the ground.  If Teddy wasn’t wearing his usual red shirt, Stan might not have found him at all.

The sycamore was a good climbing tree, but it was hard to get to.  There was a huge bramble, taller than he was, on one side of the tree.

Stan called to Teddy, but he didn’t respond.  Well, Teddy was weird.  He wasn’t really retarded, but he has a disease called Asperg-something.  It made Teddy really, really concentrate hard on some things.  Other things he ignored, even important things.   For instance, Teddy didn’t seem to care about money, and gave his up without arguing.

When Stan finally reached the crotch of the tree where Teddy was, he saw that Teddy was concentrating on some bugs.  Teddy loved bugs.

Stan, puffing slightly from his climb, was about to demand Teddy’s money when he noticed that Teddy had his pipe with him. 

Teddy loved bugs so much that he carried around a kit for collecting them.  They wouldn’t let him bring it to school, but he carried it everywhere else. Teddy had a magnifying glass, and a bug book for identifying bugs, and little plastic jars for storing bugs in.  And he had a long, narrow length of aluminium pipe, sharpened at one end.

Teddy liked to stick the pipe in an ant hole, and watch the ants crawl up the pipe.  He’d look at the ants with his magnifying glass as they crawled out of the end of the pipe.  The ants always seemed to be confused when they reached the end of the pipe.  Sometimes Teddy used the sharp end of the pipe to dig into rotten wood, where he would usually find disgusting grubs and things.

Today Teddy had a big piece of sycamore bark in one hand.  There were some kind of egg cases on the underside of the bark.  He used the sharp end of his pipe to scrape one of them off the bark and into one of the plastic jars.  

“What’cha got there, Teddy?” Stan asked.  Not that Stan cared.  Teddy didn’t answer; he didn’t even look up from his work.

Stan wasn’t afraid of Teddy the Retard-o, but he wasn’t about to demand money from him when he had his long, sharp pipe in his hand.  He decided to wait until Teddy put the pipe away.

The two of them leaned on separate branches, almost close enough to touch.  Stan looked around the tree.  Once you looked carefully, you could see bugs everywhere.  Ants crawled up and down the tree.  Beetles, too.

Stan looked down.  At his feet, the two big branches met, forming a small depression.  The depression – almost like a bowl – was filled with rainwater.  And flying around the surface of the water were bugs.  Then something bit his neck.  He slapped at it, and found a crushed mosquito in his palm.

“Skeeters!”  Stan shouted.  “They’re not supposed to bite during the day!”

Teddy finally looked up.  As usual, he didn’t look Stan in the eye.  Teddy didn’t look anybody in the eye.

“No,” he said.  “There are lots of different types of mosquitoes.  Lots and lots. This type is the tree-hole mosquito. It bites during the day.”

Teddy was always tapping something: his fingers, his hands, his feet.  Now he was tapping the tip of his pipe on the tree.  

Stan was getting impatient.  He wanted money for the movies, and all Teddy could do was talk about bugs and wave his pipe around.  “I’ll show you what I think of your tree fulla bugs,’ he said.

He unzipped his fly and started peeing into the puddle of mosquitoes.

And suddenly, Stan noticed that Teddy’s pipe was sticking out of his side.  He stopped peeing.  His blood was spewing out of the end of the pipe like a faucet.  He felt weak, and leaned back against the thick branch.

Stan slid down the branch a little, until one foot was in the puddle of pee and mosquitoes.  He was kind of wedged in, and it kept him from falling out of the tree.

Teddy looked at Stan like he was just another bug.  A confused ant, maybe.

Then Teddy reached over and grabbed the pipe.  He twisted it so that the stream of Stan’s blood went into the mosquito puddle.  “Mosquitoes eat blood, not pee,” he said.

After a few minutes, Stan started peeing again.  This time his pee was red with blood.  

When the blood stopped coming out of the pipe, Teddy was pretty sure Stan was dead.  

Teddy had been to a funeral once, and recalled that people talked about God when someone died.  

Teddy was happy that he knew a quote about God.  He pronounced some of the hard words carefully:

When somebody asked the scientist J.B.S. Hal-dane what he’d learned about God, he said that God has “an in-or-din-ate fondness for beetles.”

Getting a good grip on his pipe, Teddy gave Stan a push.  The pipe slid out easily.  Stan fell into the center of the bramble, completely obscured by the growth.  Disturbed by the impact, a riot of insects flew, hopped, and crawled out of the bramble.

Leaning out over the bramble, Teddy whispered, “The beetles are gonna love you, Stan.”

A beetle crawled on the tree limb.  He looked at it and identified it.  “Carrion beetle. Go eat.” Teddy flicked it into the bramble, where Stan fell.  

Teddy packed his insect kit into his backpack.  Then he climbed down from the tree.

Teddy stopped by the stream, to wash the blood off.  Then he went home for dinner.

Wayne A. Conaway has co-written nine books and authored many articles and essays.  He has twice been president of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group (  He blogs at

Tuesday 10 January 2012

P+E Readers' Poll... last day of voting...

The 'Best of 2011' polls close at midnight tonight (Jan.10th).

There's still time to cast your votes for TKnC here...

...and for our horror Editor, Lily Childs, here...

...David Barber's TKnC story, Best Mates and Lovers was nominated in the short story section - vote here...

...and my 'fun' adult short, Supper Time, is up for best horror...

... and help children read by voting for OFF THE RECORD charity anthology here...

Congrats to all the nominees, and thanks for your continued support.

Crime Dude,
Col Bury

Sunday 8 January 2012

MAN MEAT by Angela Sargenti

A tasty soujourn into the land of knitters and critters with the inimitable words of Angie Sargenti.

Man Meat

I guess I’m man meat now.

Yeah, me.

Can you believe it?

Well, let me tell you how it all went down.

There I was just walking down the street, not bothering a soul, when this weird-looking guy came up to me. Well, I never watch the news, so how was I supposed to know?

How was I supposed to know about the outbreak?

I never was too smart, I guess, nor too good-looking, but I do kind of like this new look of mine.

Gives me character.

And what the hell?

I didn’t need that damned ear anyhow.

Hurt like a mother, though, having it off like that. And I would’ve thought a person would bleed to death just from that, but no.

I didn’t even go deaf on that side.

Just makes it harder to figure out where the sounds are coming from, is all.

So there I am just standing there, my hand over the gaping hole in the side of my head. I’m looking at him and he’s looking at me while he chews up my ear. And he probably would’ve come after me again if he wasn’t so busy trying to figure out what to do about my earring.

He couldn’t chew it, I guess.

The post kept getting stuck in his gums.

Damnedest thing I ever saw, except for my ear hanging out of his mouth.

It finally occurred to me maybe I ought to start running or something. Then I remembered about the knitting needles I had in my bag.

See, I was on my way to this knitting class I was taking. Me and a lot of other overweight, homely girls, and a couple of old ladies, too.

Hell, wasn’t like any of us was getting laid any time soon, so what else was there to do? And if that zombie bastard didn’t like the earring post in his gums, he sure as shitwouldn’t like what I did next.

It was real fun, though.

Satisfying, if you know what I mean.

And by the way?

All those crappy old Hollywood movies?

They’re right.

You can kill them if you can wipe out their brains.

I tried ramming them knitting needles down his throat a few times, but he still moved and flopped around, so I gave him a few jabs in the eyes, figuring at least I could slow him down some if I blinded him.

Slowed him down, my ass.

Dropped him is what I did.

I looked around, but I didn’t see any more of them in the street, so I figured maybe it was a good time to take it on the toes and forget about that knitting class for the day.

When I got there, I turned on the TV.


There it was, on all the major channels. The usual bone-headed nonsense.

I swear, this government can’t find its ass with both hands.

I started feeling kind of funny and all, but the bleeding petered out, so I had me a good look in the mirror.

“That’s gonna to leave a mark,” I told my reflection.

It don’t hurt a lick, though.

At least, not after that initial blast of pain, and even that’s nothing to be scared of. I mean, I broke my ankle once (that’s what I get for trying to prance around in high heels) and that hurt way more than this.

I am gonna wash this dried blood off me, though. No sense getting it all over my furniture. And maybe after that I’ll go pour me a nice big glass of whiskey and call it a day.

Makes me wonder, though.

Do zombies have sex?

I mean, they’re ugly as hell, so they can’t be too picky, can they?

All I have to do now is get past their stinking breath and I’ll be in business.

Man meat.

Can you believe it?

Someone finally wants me, for chrissakes.

Yeah, me.



Bio: Angie is the author of the zombie blog After Old Joe, and is currently working on her next novel. She's penned dozens of erotic and horror stories and has written for Leo DeGraunce, Every Night Erotica, Oysters & Chocolate, For The Girls, and others. Her most recent work, “Snow White,” was published in Best Bondage Erotica 2012 under her pen name, AR Shannon. You can find her zombie blog at and her erotica website at She also invites followers on twitter, @angiesargenti

Thursday 5 January 2012


Joe's back, and hits the new year running with this beaut...

Another Man's 

“He’s just a skeezy old man that sells junk,” Geiger says, sifting through scraps of foil in the candlelight, “what do you care?”
            “I don’t.”
            “Then shut the fuck up.”
            It’s just me and Geiger in the condemned church off 22nd and Mission.  Geiger used to sell meth to the decrepit priest who held the lease.  The priest ain’t around anymore.
            It’s dark inside the church.  We got some butane candles in spread-out clumps, a mattress we dragged in from the street.
            “And who’s that young boy he’s always got with him?” Geiger asks, inspecting each piece of tin foil.  “Little fucker with the squinty eyes?”
            “Well, a dime bag says the old man’s diddling Donnie.  Which makes him a skeezy old man pervert, too.”  Geiger finds a scrap with a nugget left, smiles, his fleshy mouth filled with brown nubs.  “You told him about the furniture, right?”
     “I told him.  But I don’t want to hurt anyone.”  Last week I asked the old man if he wanted to look at some furniture my mom is supposedly getting rid of. 
            “Christ,” Geiger says, “you sound like a fucking after-school special.” 
     Geiger sticks the straw in his mouth, puts flame to foil, sucks in a big hit, his long shadow cast like a racked ghoul against the broken-down altar.  “Stop being such a pussy and hit this.” 
     He passes me the foil.  I take to it like a starved rat to rotten alley fruit.
            On Saturday, me and Geiger are back at the flea market off Bayshore.  It’s early.  The sun is up but you can’t see it.  A wall of fog has rolled off the ocean, blotting it out.  It’s usually foggy and cold this time of year but today is worse than usual.
     The flea market is where me and Geiger do most of our business.  Most of the vendors are tweakers too, taking meth to stay up all night and dumpster dive across the city.  You’d be amazed at what people throw out.  Electronics that only need a new plug or fuse.  Sometimes you can really score, like vintage train sets or old-time cigarette lighters like the kind my granddad used to have.  His was silver and shaped like a genie’s lamp.  He brought it home from the war.  He said it was a fair trade, since the Koreans took his leg.  I took the lighter when I left Kentucky.  I don’t feel bad about too much of the stuff I done.  I feel bad about that.
    A lot of the vendors make what they sell—knitted hats and gloves, pottery.  Geiger says it’s all shit, but I think some of it’s pretty cool.  Like what the old man does.  He collects roadkill, boils their heads, bleaches off the fur and turns the hides into bracelets, the skull fragments into jewelry.  The old man sells other shit, too, like furniture and lamps.  But I like the jewelry best.  Sometimes I help the old man and Donnie load the trailer.  The old man don’t like Geiger.  Once Geiger tried to sell him shit, and the old man called him a parasite.  The old man might be the only seller here who doesn’t do meth.
   A couple weeks back the old man gave me a bracelet and necklace.  Didn’t want no money for it or nothing.  I got my fingers wrapped around the necklace now.  I play with things when I get nervous.
   “Stop daydreaming and pay attention,” Geiger says.  “I want to be sure he’s got the same size roll as last time.”
   We’re walking around the flea market now, keeping an eye on the old man and Donnie.  I don’t like Donnie much.  He looks inbred.  You’d think he was twelve, he’s so small, but when you get up close you can see he has whiskers.  He’s a weirdo.  Last Saturday when I was helping him and the old man, Donnie kept singing these little kid songs, nursery rhymes my mom used to sing me before she got killed.  Except when he was done, he’d say this fucked-up shit that ain’t true.  Like, “You know what ‘London Bridge’ is really about?  It’s about burying dead bodies.”  Or “‘Ring around the Rosy’ is about kids dying from the plague.”  Creepy ass shit. 
   I still feel bad about what we’re planning to do.  But you can’t argue with Geiger.  He’s about ten years older, and about 50 lbs. heavier, and he’s got a temper.  I once seen him almost kill a man at this crumbly old house on the hill above the hospital, bashed his head with a toaster.
  We go seller to seller.  No one seems to be buying today.  All we sell is a teenager, that’s half an eight ball, and some lousy quarter bags.
  “It’s OK,” Geiger says. 
  Because we’ve seen the old man whip out his roll.  There’s more cash than last week. 
  Everyone is packing up, loading the racks of clothes and TVs nobody bought into the backs of trailers.  It’s a sad sight.  Maybe Geiger’s right and this is all nothing but a bunch of junk. 
  “Do your thing,” Geiger whispers.
  I ask the old man if he still wants to look at the furniture.  Very much, he says, then glowers over his shoulder at Geiger, off in the distance. 
  “I don’t know why you hang around with that trash,” the old man says.   
  I shrug.  Sometimes I don’t know either.
  I hoist the last box, slide it across the trailer’s wood paneling.  The inside of the trailer stinks like somebody died.  You can see nasty red-brown stains from all the roadkill they scoop up.
  All I have to do is get the old man to go inside an abandoned house on Potrero Hill for the furniture.  Geiger says he’ll take care of the rest. 
  The three of us climb in the cab.  The old man tells Donnie to give me a sandwich.
  “Looks like you could use something to eat,” the old man says, kindly.
  I am pretty hungry. 
  The old man passes me a soda.  “Something to drink too.”
  My mouth is so dry, I chug the whole thing in one long gulp. 
  The streetlights look like fuzzy halos in the fog, zipping taillights on the overpass ahead like tracers racing between invisible stars... 
  It’s the last thing I remember.
  I come to with a terrific headache, my bones and muscles stretched, like after football games in the winter back home in Kentucky.  My eyes don’t work so good, too crusted and swollen.  Through a haze of orange light, I can make out the outline of a cow hanging next to me about to be butchered. 
  I’m having a hard time breathing.  My hands are over my head, ropes around my wrists.  It feels like my shoulders are being ripped from the socket.
  I start to shiver so hard I almost spasm.  It feels like I will break my own back.  Now I understand why I am so cold.  I don’t have any clothes on. 
  Something groans beside me.  It’s not a cow.  I look over and see Geiger strung up and naked too, his head slumped.  I whisper his name but he don’t answer.  I can see where his skin’s been pulled off his back and ribs in long strips, like straps of jerky to be dried. 
  “Geiger,” I say again, but not too loud ’cause I don’t want the old man or Donnie to hear me.  But Geiger don’t wake up.  Whatever the old man put in that soda bottle, he must’ve put twice as much into Geiger. 
  I gotta think.  But I never been too good at that.
  Someone fiddles outside with the padlock.  I shut my eyes and pretend to be asleep.
  “Open your eyes, boy,” I hear the old man say with a groan as he climbs into the trailer.  “I know you’re awake.  I can hear you outside.”
  I open my eyes, and there’s the old man dressed like a butcher, heavy canvas apron, rawhide gloves.  He’s holding a big tin bucket in one hand, a plastic jug in the other.  Donnie stands beside him, rat-faced and giddy.
  Now Geiger screams, feeling the pain of having been skinned alive. 
  “And you can stop that screaming,” the old man says.  “Ain’t nobody can hear you.”
  Geiger rocks back and forth, snorting snot, which bubbles out his nose and mouth.  He gives up and starts whimpering.  He reminds me of one of those coyotes we’d trap on the farm. You hear coyotes in the wild baying all the time, but they don’t sound like they do when they get trapped.  In the wild, coyotes sound strong, dangerous.  When they’re trapped, they act docile, cowardly.  They really will chew off their own paw if you let them.  When you go to finish them off, they don’t bare their teeth or growl at you.  They’re meek as a house collie.  I once seen a coyote lick my granddad’s boot just like a pet dog.  Before he put the shotgun between his eyes.
  “Ain’t so tough now, are you?” the old man says to Geiger.  “I know what you were planning to do, take my money.”
  I look down at Donnie, who returns a devil’s grin.  He must’ve followed us back to the church one night, eavesdropped as we made plans, the sneaky little weasel.
  The old man reaches into the bucket, pulls out a hacksaw, which he passes to Donnie, and a box cutter.  The old man slides the razor blade out, stepping in my direction.
  “Please,” I say.  “It wasn’t my idea.”
  He shakes the box cutter at me.  “But you was gonna do it just the same, weren’t you?  You wasn’t gonna stop him.  Makes you just as bad.  Maybe even worse.  ’Cause you know better.”
  The trailer doors are open into the black night.  There is nothing to see out there, just the cold fog drifting like aimless ghosts cursed to wander the ends of the earth.
  The old man stands in front of Geiger, who keeps blubbering.
  “You think I’m just an old man who sells junk,” the old man says, to no one in particular.
  “No, I don’t,” I say.
  “It’s OK,” the old man says.  “I do dabble in junk.  And you and your friend here are the garbage.”
  The old man thrusts the box cutter into Geiger’s stomach, sticks and sticks, yanks it up like he’s gutting a sow, bloody entrails slopping on the floor.  Geiger convulses but doesn’t die right away.
  I try to break free, fight against the restraints.  It’s useless.
  The old man walks behind Geiger and slits his throat.  Hot blood spurts, gushes, until it’s nothing but a trickle. 
  Donnie brings over a stool, cuts Geiger down.  He empties the jug into the bucket, turning his head to avoid the fumes, and even from where I hang, I can feel the toxic acid singeing my nose hairs.  Donnie picks up the hacksaw, and starts sawing away.  First the fingers, then the hands, then the arms, and so on, dropping each part in the bucket, bleaching off the flesh.
  And I understand.  The blood stains on the floor.  The leather bracelet on my wrist and bone necklace around my neck.  None of it came from any roadkill.
The old man drags the stool in front of me, straddles it.  “I come across garbage like you two all the time,” the old man says, wiping the blood from the razor on his canvas apron.  “In fact, I seek it out.  I collect it.  I take scum and vermin, the refuse and waste that serve no good purpose, and I make it useful again.  I strip away the ugly parts, make something beautiful.”  He waggles the razor in front of me.  “Because you know what they say.  One man’s trash…”

Joe's work has appeared in Big Bridge, Bryant Literary Review, the Connecticut Review, Dark Sky, Fringe, Hobart, Opium, Thuglit, and Word Riot, among others. He produces Lip Service West, a gritty true story reading series in Oakland, CA.