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

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 and is on Twitter: @AJHumpage

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

Monday 29 October 2012

THE PERFECT WIFE by Allan Watson

To perpetuate your horror happiness we bring you the second of the two joint runner up stories in one night! 

This time Allan Watson bids you welcome to his world, and invites you to share The Perfect Wife.

Allan first graced TK'n'C's stage back in June with his wicked tale The Red Devil; when I saw his name in the list of competition entrants I hoped his story would tickle me as much as the last one. I wasn't disappointed - and neither were my fellow editors.

THE PERFECT WIFE by Allan Watson

You can find anything on the internet these days. Web pages with lists of household cleaning products that, when combined with plant food and a glass jar full of nails, transform into lethal bombs. Experts who’ll happily show you the ten most reliable ways to commit suicide. League tables (with starred rankings) informing the browser which plane crashes yielded the highest number of fatalities. There are sites out there in darkest cyberspace whose only purpose is to educate the public on the best ways to amputate their own toes, groom children, inject heroin, or even grow their own anthrax spores. But what I was looking for was something more specialised. I wanted to create the perfect wife.

I already had a wife called Clara and she was nice enough, a slim brunette with better than average legs. But there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? Clara’s voice for instance. There was something definitely shrill and shrewish in her tone when she nagged. Howard, when are you going to get a decent job? Howard, remember to clean the shower. Howard, when was the last time you cut those horrible toe-nails? Yes, indeed. Definitely room for improvement.

What I needed was an on-line e-Grimoire, something that would instruct me on how to make her more docile, more compliant, and much less lippy. I’d read about this Italian Count from the Middle-Ages who was supposed to have murdered his five wives and brought them back to life as obedient, servile companions, happy to indulge his every whim and need. But I had no idea how to accomplish this. I spent weeks checking through hundreds of websites dealing with black magic and necromancy but most of them were either written by deluded cranks or over-imaginative teenagers. I then posted requests on likely-looking message boards and chat-rooms and finally got a reply from someone called Baal666. He asked me lots of questions, probably to find out if I was serious or not, then finally sent me a link to a page on a website called Necrobyte.

Sure enough, what I needed was right there on the screen and I wrote everything down with a feverish, shaking hand. And just as well I did, because the web site crashed my computer after five minutes. It didn’t just wipe the hard-drive, it somehow made my motherboard catch fire and caused my monitor to implode in a shower of blue sparks. But I had what I needed and all I had to do was carefully follow the instructions. The first step, of course, was to murder my wife. I did this by crushing a handful of sleeping pills and putting them into the warm milk Clara drank every night before going to bed. Once she was snoozing well and good, I taped her hands to the headboard, tied a plastic bag around her head, and simply waited until she suffocated.

The next stage I won’t go into too much detail over. It involved dumping Clara in the bath, cutting her open, draining away the blood, then removing all those eel-like, blue and purple innards normally best kept away from the light of day. When the job was complete I did as the instructions said and stuffed Clara full of sawdust, goose-feathers and horse-hair, then stitched her up with thick black twine. My needlework isn’t so good and a trail of sawdust kept leaking out when I moved her back into the spare room, so I used superglue to fix the troublesome loose seams.

Then came the anointing with unguents. The list of ingredients looked initially daunting, but the author had appended an alternative list of essential oils containing things like sweet almond, juniper, magnesium, and marjoram, all easily obtainable from the Body Shop. These had to be heated to a certain temperature, then mixed in a certain order with a scattering of graveyard dirt before being rubbed over my dead wife’s skin. The standard arcane mumbo-jumbo stuff was involved here, chanted incantations, burning candles and waving my hands in the air to create pentagrams and inverted triangles. The whole operation lasted three whole hours but finally everything was done. Except for one omission. There was the small matter of spilling my own blood as a tribute to Lucifer, but I thought that was just a touch too theatrical.

I got myself a stiff drink and enjoyed just sitting there admiring my new, much-improved, perfect wife. There was no animation at that point – the e-Grimoire claimed it would be at least two full days before she was back on her feet and ready to do some cooking and cleaning. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t put her to other uses. Putting on some smoochy Michael Buble music, I hauled her up and whirled her around the room. She didn’t weigh much to start with, but now filled with only sawdust, feathers, and horse-hair she practically weighed nothing at all. It amused me to think how much she would have hated this. Clara was one of the few women in creation who hated dancing. Every time we went to a party it would always be me urging her to get up and shake her stuff, but she never did. As I swung her up and down in time to the music I nuzzled my mouth close to Clara’s ear, telling her how much I loved her and how beautiful she looked. Then with one last graceful pirouette I swept her off to bed.

Making love that night with Clara was like nothing I had experienced before. We did things the old Clara would never have consented to. Dirty things, sick even. And not once did she mutter a word of complaint. I loved the sharp contrast between the burning rage in my groin as it ground into her own cool, vapid sex. When I was spent, I carried her back to the spare room, sat her in a chair and wished her goodnight.

The following day I left her much to her own devices. I slept late and only visited the spare room once to anoint her with the oils as per the instructions for the ritual. I wondered how much of the old Clara would survive. Would she be capable of normal speech? Would I have to teach her how to cook and use the vacuum cleaner? I hoped not as my own cooking wasn’t up to much and cleaning has never been one of my strong points. I did however have to get rid of the unwanted offal I’d removed from Clara. These sweetbreads I tied in plastic bin liners and then spent a large part of the day driving around town, dropping them off at various locations. I was dog-tired when I returned home, and after eating a cheese sandwich for dinner I went to bed alone.

I awoke in the middle of the night to find Clara lying beside me. I switched on the bedside lamp, excited by the possibility of her early reanimation, but she just lay there stiff and unresponsive, her skin cold and dry to the touch. When I tried speaking to her, asking how she was feeling, she stubbornly remained silent. Too tired to puzzle it out, I switched off the light, made diffident love to her, and fell into a dreamless sleep. In the morning her side of the bed was empty, but on the bedside table there was a note that simply said, ‘Tonight xx’.

I checked through the ritual’s instructions again but it never mentioned anything about intermittent reanimation. Then again, I imagine everyone reacted differently to coming back from the dead. In the back of my mind I worried slightly that my omission of a blood sacrifice to Lucifer may have brought about some yet unknown side-effects, but it was too late to do anything about it. I made frequent trips to the spare room that day hoping to catch Clara by surprise, but each time I entered the room she was in the exactly the same position where I’d left her in the chair. I made a few small repairs to the stitching on her torso where some of the black twine had worked loose and I brushed off a small pool of sawdust and feathers that had gathered in her lap before applying the oils. The pungent scent which at first had smelled (and tasted) mysterious and exotic was now cloying and sickly.

After another makeshift meal of cheese sandwiches and a bottle of beer, I decided to make a special effort for Clara’s return to the living. I took a long soak in the bath before shaving and liberally spraying myself with after-shave she had given me at Xmas. In the bedroom I put on a clean shirt and dressed in my best suit, then nipped out to the supermarket to buy a bunch of wilting roses and a budget priced bottle of champagne. The flowers went into a vase and the champagne into an ice bucket. I stoked up the hi-fi with Michael Buble and sat back to await my perfect wife.

After two hours I had finished off the champagne and the music had long since come to an end. Even the roses seemed to have visibly wilted a few more degrees. I was on the point of dozing off when I heard the sound of bumps and muted crashes coming from the spare room down the hall. I sat up straight and listened carefully as Clara took her first fledgling steps into her new life. The bumps and bangs continued for ten minutes before I finally heard the spare room door open and soft slithering footsteps approach the lounge.

Clara eventually came stumbling into view and I almost burst out laughing at her clumsy attempts to dress herself. She’d pulled on a cardigan back to front with her bra twisted over the top, as well as an old pair of paint-splattered jeans that she only kept for gardening or decorating. The laughter stuck in my throat however when she lurched to within a few feet of me and I noticed she was carrying a small valise with badly packed garments leaking out the sides.

‘Clara, where on earth do you think you’re going?’ I asked.

Her pale face contorted into a ghost of a bitter smile. ‘I’m leaving you, Howard’ she slurred.

That was when I noticed what she was holding in her other hand. It seemed that before Clara had slid into my bed the night before, she’d also made a trip to the kitchen. Clutched between her pale fingers was a long, serrated carving knife.

Before I could react, she had thrust the knife into my chest causing me to tip over the chair and knock over the vase of roses as I crashed to the floor. As I lay there watching my life-blood spread across the carpet to revitalise the petals of the half-dead blooms, I realised I was paying that blood tribute to Lucifer after all. Then, faintly through the harshly hissing static filling my head, I heard the crooning of Michael Buble start up again. Slowly, oh so slowly, I managed to turn my head a few inches and saw a wondrous sight.

Clara was dancing.


Bio: Allan Watson is a writer whose work leans towards the dark and disturbing realms of the fiction spectrum. He is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories.


Just three days until Halloween, and here is the first joint runner-up story in the Thrillers Killers 'n' Chillers Halloween Horror competition, The Granny Farmer by Lee Hughes.

It's great to see Lee's work on the circuit again; his unique interpretations and insights always make for terrifying horror, with a twist of humour that is all his own. 

When I judged all the stories, I scribbled notes on the manuscripts as I went through. On The Granny Farmer, I wrote a single word 'Superb'. I'm sure you'll agree...


Will Bennett's hand shook as he pulled out the bottle of scotch. He gulped it down fast and poured another, his hand a little steadier. He cried a little, drank a little more. Four-hundred grand, it'd only started out as a twenty-thousand pound loan for some gambling debts he'd racked up. He'd lost that too. In-between the cash losses he'd lost his wife, his home, everything and was still left with a debt that kept getting bigger and bigger until the lender had sent some heavies around to his premises to let him know that the next step was the breaking of bones. Those goons had just left. Will drained his glass and went to the window. He couldn't call it a shop any more, there was no stock, no money to buy anything with, collectors had black-marked him and the landlord was working on eviction. 

The phone rang, he ignored it. After the dozenth ring it was clear they weren't going to give up. He lifted the receiver.


“Bennett's Antiques?”


“You probably don't remember me but you use to act as an agent for my late husband, George Milliner.”

Yeah, he remembered George Milliner, he hadn't been in touch for nearly a decade, long before everything had turned to shit. 

“What can I do for you Mrs. Milliner?”

“Before he passed he wished for me to sell off his collections to ensure I needn't worry about finances.”

Will was about to tell her that there wasn't much he could do due to his predicament. Then he thought better of it, an opportunity like this would never come around again. “Sure, when would you like me to come around?”

“Whenever is convenient.”

“Later on this afternoon?”

“That'd be great, thanks.”

Will hung up the phone and made another quick call to let the 'man' know that he was going to be good for the cash.


Seeing the large house again brought back memories of when he was a new face to the game, but one that was earning a hell of a reputation for getting decent prices for collectors. Now he was in his late forties and whiskey ridden.

He rang the bell and waited. He'd only met Mrs. Milliner a couple of times and those had been fleeting. She opened the door and smiled. The ten years hadn't been too rough on her, then again ageing never seemed to have the same effect on the rich as it did the poor. 

“Glad you could come at such short notice.”

She stepped back to let Will pass.

“Would you like a drink, Mr. Bennett?”

“I'd love one, call me Will.”

“Then I'm Lydia. Tea, coffee, something stronger?”

“A scotch would do the trick.”

“I'll show you through to the sitting-room whilst I fix it for you.”

That was another thing he liked about the elite rich class, drink-driving never seemed to be frowned upon.


He mooched about the room, recognising a few of the items. 

“Mrs. Milliner, sorry, Lydia, which items were you thinking of selling?”

“All of them, apart from a few trinkets that mean the most to me. This old house is just too big for me on my own.”

Granny-Farming was one of the worst things you could do in the antiques business. Ripping off vulnerable old widows was frowned upon in any business, but sometimes, it was either rules or legs that had to be broken. He took a big gulp of his drink leaving it practically empty in the hopes that Mrs. Milliner offered to refresh it. 

“Well, if it's okay with you I'll have a look around, make some notes on a few items, work out some evaluations for the auctions.”

“Of course, I'll get you another drink.”


As he wandered he made two sets of notes, one with a low price to show Lydia, the second with the real price it would fetch. He'd only had a gander through half of the house and his figures showed he could skim enough to pay back his debt and still have a bit left over.

He was holding a rather fabulous large Italian Maiolica twin-handled vase up to the light. Six-hundred and fifty quid to her and a healthy two-grand for his hip pocket. As he was setting it down he heard a polite cough from behind him.  He turned and Lydia was there with a decent two thumbs worth of scotch in his glass.

She passed him the glass. “Do you think you'll have trouble selling the items?”

“It won't be an overnight thing, but I can get a lot of the items on the go and then we'll stagger the rest over the next month or so, don't want to flood the market, does that sound all right to you?”

“What's another couple of months - I've lived here practically all my life.”

He took another gulp. The scotch really was top of the range stuff, made a nice change from the gut-rot he'd had to drink of late. He tried to say something else but his tongue was asleep in his mouth and wouldn't rouse. He made a couple of noises that could have been vowels as the room began to spin, the floor tilted and he fell towards the ceiling as everything went dark.


His head was pounding, no hangover had ever felt as bad as this and his mouth was as dry as Ghandi's flip-flop. He tried to think where he was. It was becoming a habit waking up some place he shouldn't.  He remembered, it was one of the rooms in the late George Milliner's house. He recalled the events leading up to the darkness. He'd been looking at antiques, drinking good scotch galore and then the room spinning. He tried to sit up. His arms wouldn't move, they were behind him and bound. He groaned, had he been arrested?

“Hello?” he called, dry and raspy. “Mrs. Milliner?”

He was surprised when he gained an answer. “Coming, be there in a minute.”

He wiggled his way around so he could see the door. It was open a good few inches. The gap between door and jamb became filled with Mrs. Milliner. Her body and features became whole as she pushed open the door. She was smiling.

“Will, I hope I can still call you that after what's happened?”


“Leaving you sprawled on the floor like litter. I'm just not as strong as I used to be, otherwise I'd have lifted you up onto the chaise longue. All I could do was put on the restraints and leave you where you were until you came to.”

“The police?”

“Oh, they can't help you.”

He wasn't expecting them to help him. “I'm not following.”

“It's been six years since my husband’s illness began. We soon learned that no amount of money can fix some things. This...” she showed him what looked like a carved bone. “and another like it were the last things he ever bought. Do you recognise it?” 

She wafted it closer to his face but Will was still stumped, he'd never seen anything like it. There was nothing flashy about it, ornate yes, not ivory, just plain old bone, long and carved. Looked as though it might have had the marrow removed as there were stoppers in either end. He quickly evaluated it and reckoned he wouldn't pay over a tenner for one.

She answered for him. “It's a Soul-Bone, shamans use them to capture souls at death, stops the spirits of evil-doers from returning to cause bedlam. George bought them from a shaman, I thought George was a bigger crackpot than the seller. Funny how things turn out.” She wiggled the Soul-Bone. “I used this as George performed his death-rattle. Sucked his soul right up into it.”

“Huh?” His new favourite word.

“Open wide, Papa's got a brand new bag.” 

She tore out one of the stoppers and jammed the rim of the bone to his lips and twisted making his lips bleed. She applied more pressure, driving the bone against his teeth. Will kept them clamped. Lydia pinched his nose and bided her time. With a gasp his mouth opened far enough and she thrust the bone in deep, past his gag-reflex and a little bit more to boot. She unstopped the other end and blew like it was a trumpet. She sank back onto the deep shag and panted. Patting her pockets, trying to find her angina spray. The struggle had taken everything out of her.

She sprayed under her tongue and watched as Will Bennett convulsed on her carpet, spraying spittle that landed and sank into the weave.

Whatever electricity was arcing through him and causing him to fit subsided and the body went still. Her heart was calming, she went over to the static body on hands and knees.

She reached out and gently shook his shoulder. He opened his eyes and focused. He opened his mouth and exhaled, the breath misty in the air and rancid as rot. “Liddy?”

Her eyes widened and her mouth cracked into a grin. “Georgie!” She hugged him and his face worked itself into a grin much like a foot trying on a new shoe, testing it for roominess. “Your turn.”


George plied his wife with drugs, enough to overdose a horse and waited. Her pulse slowed, wavered and ground to a halt. He lifted the bone to her lips and began to gently suck. Once hopeful he'd captured her essence he put the stoppers in. His wife's body was dead, he closed her eyes with his fingertips.

There was no mourning to be done.

It was just dead meat.

He went to where Liddy had left the cleaning girl unconscious. He hadn't been sure that his wife would be capable of these tasks, he was glad he'd been proven wrong. He was young again, late forties, but that was better than late sixties and on the fade. In a few minutes he would have his wife back and she would no longer be sixty, she'd be young and strong again. George was looking forward to taking his new wife for a sexual spin.


He watched her eyes open and a smile rise like the tide upon her face.



“We did it.”

“We did.”

Liddy let him help her stand. They stood for a long moment eyeing each other up. George broke the silence first. “This is going to take some time to get used to.”

“I'd like to stretch my new legs.” She ended with a giggle and a twirl.


It seemed sunnier outside as they held hands and walked down the steps towards the sprawling lawns. The sound of a vehicle travelling fast up their gravelled road cause them to pause and turn. A white transit van was hurtling towards the house. It came to a screeching halt, spitting up gravel in every direction. The side door slid open and two men jumped out, both in boiler-suits and balaclavas.

“What in the hell?” demanded George. The two men were armed, one with a pick-axe handle, the other a sawed-off shotgun. The goon with the pick-axe struck George in the guts with it.

“Cheers for the tip-off Will. Mr. Grady says, 'Thank you' but he'll take it from here. Dave, do the do.”

The goon with the shotgun pointed and let off a shot that took away half of George's head. Liddy screamed. The second barrel cut that short as her insides flowered through her blouse.

“Let's load the van up, it's gonna take us a few trips.”


Bio: Lee Hughes likes to write but can be a right lazy bastard.