They held him down and wired his hands behind him, the wire cutting tight into his meaty wrists, then stood him up and blindfolded him then marched him into their vehicle and drove him away. He was in some wooded lot but now they were taking him somewhere else, where he didn’t know, couldn’t know, had no chance of seeing where, all he knew was that they were driving and he was being driven with wired wrists and blinded eyes.

At least they didn’t gag his mouth.

“Where are you—”

The smack made him feel its sting, numbing his jaw. He couldn’t tell if it was really a smack or a punch but it hurt so bad he couldn’t speak. He wanted to know where they were taking him of course but now it didn’t matter because he knew that in less than an hour he would be dead anyway. At least that’s what they said before when they wired his hands.

In what seemed just a few minutes the vehicle stopped. He heard shuffling feet but no voices. Then a door opened and he felt angry hands grab at his arms and yank him up and move him. He stumbled on something then felt what he guessed was pavement. He sensed the presence of one of them close to him but wasn’t sure if it was the vehicle or something else.

Then he heard what struck terror all through him.


The sounds of passing vehicles emanated from somewhere. He felt himself being moved, walking forward. The sounds seemed to get closer. They seemed to be coming from below his range of hearing.

I’m on an overpass.

He heard a vehicle pass nearby, then another, but the continuous sounds confirmed it.

I’m standing on an overpass. They’re going to throw me off.

Suddenly he felt something being wrapped around him. Something that felt like a rope, or maybe a longer wire. He felt them putting it under his arms and tightening it around his chest. Someone was behind him pulling at it, getting it tighter, now too tight. It constricted him, but he could still breathe well enough. But it was too tight, it cut into his flesh, moreso than the wire on his wrists.

Someone pulled at his hair from behind and yanked his head back. The traffic seemed to get louder in his ears. Someone spoke from his left.

“You had many chances. We gave you so many chances to tell us but you refused. You signed your own death wish.”

The pain in his chest became more intense as he felt himself being moved again, but only a few steps until he felt something solid against his hips. Hands from both sides lifted him sideways, to his right, and he felt the solid thing on his shoulder and legs and hip. Hands pushed his feet forward and then he felt himself drop. Whatever it was they tied tightly around him cut deeper into the flesh of his chest and back, against his armpits. The pain was excruciating and his mind raced, realizing that he was being lowered into the sound of all that traffic, which was no doubt an expressway during rush hour.

The air was cool and he felt a breeze on his face, but it did nothing to diminish the pain. The sound of the traffic, the passing vehicles, got closer. He began to focus on his feet, knowing that soon he would feel something strike against them, and hard. It would be the top of a semi more than likely and maybe the impact would crack his feet right off. A semi going 70 miles an hour could do that, he thought. He instinctively bent his knees to raise his feet up but then he thought that would be even worse if his knees and legs got it so he straightened them out again and tried to think of something else, anything else, which was hard to do when you’re being lowered into oncoming traffic, all those vehicles rushing to get to work or wherever the fuck they were going, and then suddenly blowing their horns since they’re seeing you now, you, a body hanging off an overpass, your eyes blinded by some wrap, the cars and the trucks and campers and motorcycles not seeming to slow down but instead speeding up, why would they do that, shouldn’t they be stopping, but no, they can’t just stop, there are hundreds of them, they can’t stop, you’re not some ornament on a tree or some landmark they need to look at, you’re just a body hanging from an overpass and that fucking semi just took off your feet and you’re swinging around and being lowered even further, right in the path of a Winnebago and BAM it bashes against your chest and those wires cut into your ribs, you feel as if they’re gonna cut you in half but they don’t, you’re just bashed by another one and you see that your legs are deformed and lower you go so that you’re level with the oncoming traffic, a little break in it but that’s no relief since your ribs are cracked and there’s blood dripping out of your legs where your feet were and BAM right in the fucking head another one hit, it hit the wire that hangs you there too, and you’re catapulted around and back so that you’re struck by yet another one, and now it’s all black and you can’t feel much now, can’t see that your intestines are hanging out of your bloodied torso, those wires still slicing through you as if you’re a block of cheese, but soon it’ll be over, soon you’ll be splattered on the fucking freeway like a deer and you’ll be a carcass, bashed open like a human pinata, all those cars and trucks and whatever else swerving to miss hitting you, their drivers unaware at first of what’s in the road, maybe it is a deer but no it’s a fucking person, oh my fucking god, it’s a person and then you’re done, you’re history, everything’s over, there’s blood and guts and brain matter and limbs in the road, your torso and head are all that remain intact, they’re still lovers, they still love each other so much but they died together, your head cracked in half but still connected to the neck, the neck still connected to the shoulders, but what bloody mayhem of a mess you are now, you’re just a dead thing in pieces that had been hanging from an overpass. That’s really all you are.

By Jeff Callico

The Game

It was the game. This is how we played.

 You wanna be a warrior bitch? Well we’re stuck in this together, we have to  hunt as a team, we have to fuck as a team, we have to go down like a team. It seemed like a whack job to me but no one was ranking too high on the sanity charts in this fucking warehouse. If you got bit you were taken back and whoever your team was had to deal with you, take responsibility for you.

 Sara got bit, she was heaving and sweating, putting on the battle gear, muttering ‘cunts’ under her breath. ‘Fuck you Sara,’ I said. I didn’t want to die on her bitch ass account, because she couldn’t figure out how to keep biters off of her. Yeah she could move fast but she got in tight spots all the time. She was weak, and we all knew it was only a matter of time before this was going to happen.

We were holed up in a warehouse . . . yeah, it was fucking stocked warehouse, food, water, tools, clothes, and lingerie. Cons, the self-proclaimed leader of our band of refugees, thought it only fair for the women to put on the skimpiest lingerie and the highest heels when battling a lost team member. In his mind we were gladiators, should be able to fight with the most unfair advantages, and with the most skin exposed for possible flesh wounds. Because, to Cons, we fucked up, our team fucked up and Sara was turning into a flesh ripper because of our fucking negligence, so death better be breathing down our goddamn necks.

Tory hit me with one of her heels between the shoulder blades, ‘You were on Sara watch, Ella, now we’re all in this shit.’ I snarled at her and recoiled. I knew it was my fault and as Sara started drooling blood and foaming at the mouth I knew I might be fucked. No one had my back. They were gonna fucking throw me at her. I slid on assless pink hot pants and a matching pink leather bra strap. My heels were well beyond 6 inches of clear plastic, picked out by my caring team members, you know the kind preferred by strippers and straight up hookers. Sara was wearing something equally garish with peach zombie nipples poking out from her now crooked electric blue bra top. The other girls dressed accordingly in thongs and babydoll nighties with stilettos strapped firmly on. They were back up. I was the team leader, I was going in, hand to hand. I had to snap her fucking neck.

‘Alright bitches’ Cons said from one of the warehouse platforms. ‘We lost my baby girl Sara today and you can bet one of you puntas is gonna put her down like a family dog, or get what you deserve and die trying.’ He paused with a glaring eye at me, but I just flicked my red hair. It really wasn’t my fault he was banging the cum slut who couldn’t go for a simple weapons run without getting her goddamn arm bit by a stray. Fuck. I’d survived in a convenient store alone with a dull hatchet longer than she’d stayed alive with us.

Now she was frothing and now she was ready to go. As if she knew I was the target, that little cunt charged right at me, my ‘team’ didn’t even have to guide her in my direction. She bowled me over with her snapping dead breath rotting right in my face. Pressing my forearm against her throat I kept her at bay, but she was getting stronger the longer she was dead, the less her muscles reacted to human feelings. I managed to wedge my enormous plastic heel in her pubic bone and kick her off, back into the cement warehouse wall. The girls whooped, Cons grimaced. He really wanted Sara to rip my scalp open. But I had her now, disorientated against the wall. I made my move and lunged ready to go for the final spinal snap. Right as I reached in and twisted Sara’s spindly neck that’s when I felt it, the incisors raking against my arm. Breaking skin. Biting, hard. Sara fell at my feet. No one said a word. It was still and quiet, then a click as Tory took the safety off her gun.

‘No,’ Cons said. ‘Let me.’

By Emily Smith-Miller

To Free Yourself

 I’m sitting in the kitchen sink.

 Some rags, twisted and corded like sundried snakes, sit beside me and I’d like it if one of them was long enough so I could string it to the light fixture on the ceiling, hang myself and get this charade over with, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t do that to the kids.  Not that I haven’t thought about it.  Not that Duane would miss me a whole lot.  He keeps telling me I’ve let myself go to hell.

 “Why don’t you take those damn wedding pictures down?  Aren’t you ashamed when people come over and wonder who that is?”

I don’t know how I got here.  They say no little girl imagines herself growing up being a prostitute.  No one dreams of being homeless.  I sure didn’t figure on ending up this way, as this version of me.  Yeah, I guess this is me: Darlene Rosemary Schadle Hockaday.

How did I even get in this sink?  Blackout?  My butt’s so big that I’m stuck now.  Kids are fishing with their daddy.  When Duane gets back he’ll probably keel over from laughing.  Bet he’ll say, “I’ma leave you there till you lose enough weight to free yourself.  How’s that for a homemade diet?”

Duane thinks he’s witty, a card, thinks I don’t know about Lila and the reasons why he started trimming his beard and nose hair.  The poem I found broke my heart, not because it was about her, but because it was beautiful.

Don’t think I can’t see you there, Mr. Butcher Block with your black-handled knives.  I do.  I know I could grab the longest and shove it through my chest and be on my way home to meet my maker or the other guy that runs the hot springs.

Come to think of it, I will have me one of those knives.  It’s a stretch—it’s always a stretch when you’re my size—but I reach over and get a big blade.  I don’t even think about it, just set to work right quick because I know if I hesitate I’ll plumb chicken out.

My housecoat rips apart easily, like toilet paper.  It’s the meat around my hips that gives me fits, that hurts like hell, but even still I’m committed.  The blood comes in rivers.  I don’t care.  I wince.  I slice and saw.  When I’m done there’s a real mess to clean, yet it feels good in a queer sort of way, having freed myself.

By Len Kuntz

Margaritas and Razor Blades: After Five Porno for Skeptics

Tonight I am meeting a man who calls himself Oblivion. It’s not really a date, and I am not exactly sure what I am going to say to him, if I need to say anything to him at all. I wasn’t afraid in so many unsaid words, but I was reticent, as one should be when one is finally going to get to look into the black hard gaze of the man who plans to leverage your soul. He was a collector: vomit, hair, toenail clippings, even menstrual blood. This time he said he wanted bone right down to the marrow. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go that far, but he’d called it in, and so I didn’t really have a choice. I put some lipstick on my cigarette while he just watched me cross and uncross my leather-clad legs. We sat like that for hours before anything was said, before the terms of our arrangement were acknowledged, which he did so by showing his mettle. The hard edge caught in my eye as the grubby bar light glinted off it when he pulled it out of the little black satchel at his feet along with a pair of florescent orange nitrile gloves. “For the cavity search,” he said with a platinum grin. Didn’t want to just spring it on me like that, but his internet connection had gone down last night before we’d had a chance to finish our little chat. The thread had just gone dead, and I thought that was how it was supposed to be. “No contact,” he’d typed as his last words. People are strange when it comes to what they think they own. I’d always thought what I possessed was mine, in a physical sense. I didn’t believe that anymore. The first time we met, he’d reshuffled my thoughts on all this with a butane torch and a nail gun. He was going to save me from myself so that I didn’t just end up a body inside a suitcase tossed in swamp one day. “Did you bring it?” he asked, and I handed him the plastic baggie of leftover motel soap. He wanted to know that I was clean, wanted to see my pubic hair stuck to the crusted-over lather. He would use it to wash the blood off his gloves later. The first couple of times, I felt a little disappointed that he wouldn’t touch me without the gloves, but he said he never took anything for granted. He didn’t want to taint me with his scent or his flesh. “I don’t want to love you or rape you,” he said. “I simply want to slit your fucking throat.”

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

But I Thought You Loved Me

I liked it when you said the thought of killing
someone got you hot that it gave you an instant
hard-on and it made me so wet and I couldn’t get
you inside me fast enough I had to have you
thrusting that knife into me and give me everything
you’ve got just the feel of your cock in my pussy and
your breath on my neck and your hands on my tits
fingers pinching my nipples so hard I could scream
and the thought of you taking a human life bringing me
thismuchclosertocumming and your hands were on my
neck around my neck and squeezing like a fucking boa
constrictor and then when they got tighter and tighter
I realized how serious you were about killing someone
only I had no idea at all that it
was me

By Cynthia Ruth Lewis

Two by Valentina Cano

Firebird in Captivity

These works of fire you dangle

above me are losing their ashy feathers.

The crinkling edges bend and wave

in the sighing light.

You shake your head like a towel,

giving me dryness and warmth

as I dance on cushions throughout

our empty rooms.


The table catches quick fire.

I think it’s the first that cradles the heat

as the chairs crackle around,

a gaggle of woodchips flapping away.

You wave your arm like trimmed wings

and feed the flames invisible seeds.

I swing my ax of hair

and laugh as it sizzles like meat.



With a tail whip

the fire created a trench between us

a quickening thread of angry particles.

I bent as the heat brushed

my face with its fins,

and you paced in front of me

as if the air was clawing inside you.

This is bad, I know.

Your ruffled hair,

 shadowed by smoke,

is no longer a wonder for me.

I cannot find myself shining

under your cellophane skin.

We have spread apart,

gaunt as fish hooks,

dripping blood from a toothed fight,

eyes like creatures from the deep.

By Valentina Cano


Dissection Karma

SCOTT DRAGGED THE BURLAP SACK ACROSS THE COLD, concrete  floor of the basement, slipped on a pair of powder-less medical gloves, untied it and slid her out. He picked her up, set her atop the long stainless-steel table, peeled off her tiger-printed skirt and strapped her down. He slipped on a clear plastic poncho, a clear plastic butcher’s apron and a matching clear-plastic mask. He walked over to the small wooden table on the opposite side of the room, unrolled the curl of black leather and admired the tools laid out before him. Meat cleaver, scalpel, corkscrew, suction hose, forceps, sewing needles and a roll of fishing line.

            Everything had been prepped and ready for this day as if it were the coronation of a new beginning. It’d been like this every night he brought a woman home; this raven-haired beauty laid out in front of him wasn’t the first. There had been others like her, others who’d taken their beauty for granted and used it for other purposes like one night stands and the free drinks that led on him like Darcy Cross the high school sweetheart who’d gotten his help on a history test and promised him a wild night but all she did was leave him high and dry. He would’ve given her his life and now that one little moment was the culmination of his actions both past and present. Since then, he vowed to eradicate everyone one of them until they got his message, understood his reason.

            Tonight’s victim had been flirting with the bartender of a cowboy-themed bar. He had to make sure he was working the floors tonight so that he could spike her Pina Colada and tell her he was taking her home. The fact that she had believed him, a stranger, made him think she would’ve went home with anybody if it hadn’t been him. She would’ve been out in no time. Dead before the guy had a chance to come.

            He scanned every part of her, ran his fingers through her shoulder length dark hair, across her forehead, followed the contour of her nose and then the rest of her face. Pale mounds of blue-veined bosom sat on her chest, topped off by dark-brown areolas; a neatly-shaven patch shaped like a shovelhead was located between nicely-shapen legs. No wonder all the boys wanted her. She could have any guy she wanted and he was honored to have been chosen.

            He patted her stomach with one gloved hand and picked up the meat cleaver and the scalpel with his other. He admired the scalpel in the downward glare of a bare light bulb, watching it wink like a chrome bumper in sunlight. He pressed the scalpel into the left side of her abdomen and guided the blade across, splitting the skin. A long river of blood seeped out but with one straight sweep of the suction hose and there was no problem.

            Smiling, Scott pinched the wounds on both sides and peeled back the folds of pale skin. This was what he wanted the most. The intestines, liver, kidneys were all just a masterpiece of perfection; the cogs of a time bomb ready to explode under the throes of wild passionate—and regrettable—sex. To him, it was the core of a nocturnal predator stalking the night in search of innocent and defenseless prey. He would make sure that no other man would feel his pain.      

            First, he removed the liver and dropped it into the little metal bucket at the foot of the table. He’d given that bucket its own name: The Gut Bucket. The bucket had been cleaned out this morning even though it wasn’t dirty but precaution led to perfection and cleanliness led to Godliness. He didn’t want to get sick while he was working, did he? Even the smallest infection, even a minor cold for that fact, would delay his work and take him days to recuperate from.

            To lighten the mood, he hit the PLAY button on his stereo system and waited for the CD to load. When it did, Level 42 came on with “Something About You”.

            He took out the intestines—all sixty feet of it and dropped it into The Gut Bucket like a long dead snake. Then, he removed the kidney and dropped that on top of the intestines. All of them would be burned, right along with the mischievous beauty these blood suckers harbored. It was the only way to cleanse their bodies and release them from their Botox prisons. He reached over and let his fingers glide down her face again.

            “I’m ready to carry you away to a brand new—.”

         He reached over for the meat cleaver and came up empty. He was sure he’d brought it over to the table with him but now he needed it. They wouldn’t know it was him unless he cut off her feet and burned the stubs closed so the wounds wouldn’t heal.              

         A blinking light caught his attention from the corner of his left eyes. When he turned around, his mouth fell open with awe. He took off the mask to make sure his mind hadn’t been playing with him and was sad to believe that it wasn’t. The coil of intestines that he’d dropped into The Gut Bucket had spilled out, stretched itself across the cold concrete floor and wrapped itself around the handle of the meat cleaver. The intestines coiled back like a rattlesnake, ready to strike; the blade glinted under the lamp, throwing ghosts of light across the fractured red brick walls. He tried to move but found it difficult; his muscles were paralyzed with horror.

            At least I tried, Scott thought as the intestines snapped toward him like a whip and buried the meat cleaver into the top of his clean-shaven skull.

By Brian J. Smith

Scoop of Clotted Cream with Bugs

In an open grave, he piled his leftovers on top of one another, according to skin color and hairstyle. Five and then three and then five. It’d been quick, each and every one of them. Bam! with a bullet, several to be exact. Sometimes he used a rusty old lawnmower blade, and sometimes he just used his bare hands, but this time … this time he hammered his love and faithfulness into her skull one adoring stroke of pure rebar steel after another. An owl sat still on the streetlight just outside the window, watching his feckless temper tantrum mature into justified hatred and rage as the light of the moon meandered across the wet cobblestone driveway. He hoped the damn bird would shit on her sports car. Yeah, they’d argued. She called it a chat while she pranced around the room like a gypsy peacock all double entendres and accusations. He didn’t like her smell anymore — some fancy expensive French shit she shoved up her cunt every day — and now he was going to crack her fucking skull open and eat her hairy, beige brain. She was tainted like all the others. Full of herself. He didn’t think so at first, when he kissed her and she didn’t scream, but then a month or so into it, she started talking back, acting above it all. He just wanted things on equal terms. What’s so bad about that? Why does someone have to be smarter, or more good looking, or more successful than another. Maybe it was him. Maybe he was getting a little more out of it each time. Getting a little better than himself, more disciplined, less eager. He looked at himself in the mirror, liked what he saw. He was definitely gaining weight; that was for sure.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Sky Is Always Falling

Luke took Patti way out into the desert because he wanted to talk. But in hindsight, he probably wanted to trap her a bit too until she told him what he wanted to hear. Even that was dishonest. Everything was always dishonest. And so it was like that. Same way it had always been between the two of them, really.

      It was dark on the evening when they watched the comet fall from the sky. It was dark, but clear and cold out in the desert. Everything looked and felt sharp and focused like perfect cuts of crystal or ice.

      They were sitting on the downed tailgate of Luke’s pickup truck with a couple of blankets and a case of beer. He’d been trying to talk it out with Patti for days and he thought that maybe bringing her out to look at the stars might help his case.

      It didn’t seem to be working. That was, until a comet came by and gave him some hope. It was a lucky break and he saw his opening. So he spoke up: “That shooting star was just for us.”

      But Patti just pulled the flannel coat she wore tighter around her body. It was like she just felt colder and she went for a beer from the half-empty box. “Didn’t look like one to me.”

      They sat together in the dark quiet like that for a little longer. When she spoke again he thought that she’d be talking about them. But she wasn’t.

      “Something moving in the dark over there, Luke.”

      Maybe she had better eyesight or hearing than he did, because he sensed nothing. But there were dogs and coyotes on the outskirts of town, so he thought that maybe he should scare the animal away. Nobody needed to be bitten by a sick animal. Not that night.

      He hopped down off the tailgate and went to the glove box at the front of the truck. There he found his revolver, so he tucked it down the front of his pants and went out into the dark with his pen flashlight to find out what it was that Patti saw out there.

      The weak halo of light provided by the pen light wasn’t helping much. He could catch sight of a piece of scrub or a rock in its beam up close, but pointed further away and it would be eaten by the night.

      Then he heard an indistinct noise that could have been anything. He shone the light ineffectually in its direction only to be confronted with more darkness.

     He untucked the .38 just to be safe and thought about going back to Patti and the truck. He could tell her anything really. It was just a stray that ran the moment he put the flashlight on it. There were problems with lying to her of course. It was one of the big reasons that they were out there in the first place, his lies.

      He stood in the dark and thought it over. He heard no more sound though, so he felt like a complete dummy. Moments later he was moving back towards the truck and thinking over the lines he was about to utter as not to kill the moment.

      But when he got back to the truck he realized that something had been out there in the darkness all along. There was a giant insect, multi-legged and segmented. Its carapace was dun-colored like the desert rocks. Three mandibles jutted from its front end like the prongs of a jagged trident.

      What it was doing to Patti was equally unimaginable, and Luke could barely comprehend its appearance or its unwholesome action. He had the gun, but he was so stunned that he raised the pen light and shone it upon the undulating spines across its back instead of shooting it.

      It seemed to sense the light that fell across its back, and almost immediately uncoiled itself from Patti’s limp body to slither out of the truck bed and vanish back into the dark desert.

      It left behind a foul scent like most insects did when they felt threatened. Only it was a larger and more powerful one, not unlike the bug itself.

      Eventually, he dropped his light and fired one shot into the night in the direction of the S-marks left behind in the gritty sand. Then he dropped the gun too and went to see if Patti was okay. She was still alive, but she was not okay.

      It had cut through all of her clothing so that she lay naked in a pile of razor-sliced tatters. So delicate and clean were the cuts that it looked like someone had done it with an X-Acto knife. There wasn’t a scratch on the freckled skin of her upper body.

      Her lower half was a different story altogether. It had penetrated her and not gently. Worse, it had left something behind. A piece of itself still protruded from between her legs. It was long and made of the same thick carapace that covered the insect-thing’s back.

      He didn’t want to move her, and found that he couldn’t touch her. So he fumbled with his keys and got back into the truck.

      He drove both as quickly and as slowly as he could. That made no sense to him, but not much made sense to him anymore, all of a sudden. He wished he’d never brought them so far off the highway into the dark. The desert floor was rough and it made for a jarring drive back to the asphalt.

      When he reached the highway, things were smoother. He drove as quickly as he could to get back into town.

      He parked crooked at the entrance to the hospital emergency ward. It was a roundabout where only the ambulances were supposed to stop, but that didn’t matter much to Luke. Neither did his bad parking job.

      A couple of paramedics, a security guard, and some other people from the lobby came outside to see what the commotion was all about. They discovered him standing at the back of the truck alone.

      He looked towards the group of concerned hospital staff and they watched him with apprehensive curiosity.

      “The tailgate’s still down. I forgot the tailgate.”

      If he’d been a stronger man, or perhaps one who’d been more successful and fortunate in his life; and if the series of events leading up to this event had not been a series of let downs and mundane failures, especially with women, then the gun that was still jammed into his jeans pocket might not have ever occurred to him.

      He had lost Patti over and over again. This time it was probable that he had lost her for good. It was time to man up, in other words, to the way things really should’ve been.

      Before they could reach him, he took his pistol from his pocket and put the barrel in his mouth. Then he shot himself with the gun.

      But Luke couldn’t do that right either, because he didn’t die. The bullet missed his brain and instead exited through his face, destroying it in the process. And he fell to the parking lot asphalt just as they got to him. Not in time to stop it.

      He was alive. He wasn’t okay.

      And so it was like that.


      In the days that followed he was mostly unconscious. When he was awake he was struck with an agonizing and infinite headache. His whole skull felt like an open wound that was threatening to burst and spill forth from the bandages wound tightly around his skull.

      After a long while, the pain and the headache remained, but the bouts of unconsciousness began to fade. As soon as he could communicate with hand gestures, he requested more drugs and they complied.

      This didn’t actually help with anything. It just made everything seem a little more blurry and a little less focused than before. The pain remained the same.

      It only subsided when they told him that they had found Patti in a ditch along the stretch of highway where he’d lost her.

      The news was grim. There was a coma involved and some other concerns. She was still alive though, and it was almost enough for him.

      They didn’t know what to do with her most obvious and grievous injury. If they removed it, she would die. The doctors told him that when he asked. They told him that she probably wouldn’t make it and it was really only a matter of time before they took her off of life support.

      He wasn’t very mobile, especially with his head injury. But he was still determined to see her before she would be gone forever. Maybe, he thought, he would be able to stroke her smooth hand or her soft hair one last time – whisper something nice too. That was, if the bandages would allow him to form the words.

      So he wobbled from his bed and used his IV drip to support himself. He wheeled crooked down the hallway until he arrived at the door to her room.

      Here, he paused for a moment. Maybe it was because he was savoring the moment of truth that awaited him behind the door. Or maybe he was trying to think of what he was going to tell her.

      But no, these were lies too. His pause was only for fear of the honesty his decision would result in. It was honesty that was coming much too late. He went inside, anyway, and flicked on the lights.

      The fluorescents strobed into existence and revealed that he was much, much too late. Patti was dead. Her corpse lay sprawling with her top half twisting from the bed to the floor. Her legs were still inside and tangled in the hospital sheets. It was like she’d tried to get out of bed and died in the process.

      There was a splash pattern of blood and gore that seemed exploded across the floor from the place where she lay. Her stomach and chest cavity had disintegrated. And there were things moving along the floor tile towards him. Hundreds of sleek and wet centipede-type insects, miniature replicas of the thing they’d encountered in the desert.

      He closed the door and watched the antenna-like feelers protrude from the crack at the bottom, like they were still trying to get at him.

      He limped back down the hallway to his room and climbed back into bed. It was better forgotten than dealt with. He let the drugs do their work and soon he found himself in a fitful sleep. He was in the middle of a nightmare where the bugs fell endlessly from the night sky.

      In the morning when his sleep wore off, he was momentarily confused by both his rattling headache and the dregs of his slumber to believe that all of it had been a dream. But he knew it wasn’t true when he saw one of the insect-things from the night before slide across the tiled floor to vanish into the hydraulics of his hospital bed.

      He pushed all of the buttons on the console beside his bed. All of them, and the bed undulated beneath him until its mechanisms caught and crushed the thing hiding inside of them with a crunching sound. Some liquid, green and foul-smelling, sprayed the wall beside him to slowly eat away at the drywall like acid.

      If they’d escaped from Patti’s room, then they would be everywhere and there would be more of them. As much as it pained him to move, he knew that he would need to escape the hospital before they did something terrible to him.

      He got up and used the rolling IV drip as a crutch again to help him with walking. Out in the hallway at the foot of the elevators, there was the corpse of a security guard. The things that had come from Patti were swarming him and they were chewing at his flesh. They were eating him and Luke could have sworn he saw them growing before his eyes as they ripsawed through the body.

      Instead of walking down the hallway in the opposite direction of the carnage, he found himself captivated by the scene at hand. It was, after all, a life form that existed only by preying on other life forms. There was no horseshit and no bullshit here. These things had no reason to be honest or lie. They only needed to fuck and feed. It was mesmerizing.

      When they were done with the dead guard and he’d been reduced to little more than a pile of red bones and a miasma of entrails, the bugs dispersed. Thankfully, none of them came his way.

      He saw the guard’s pistol where it lay among his remains, so Luke hobbled towards the corpse and picked it up again. He bet if he shot himself in the head again that it might just work. Second time was the charm, and all.

      But he looked at the corpse at his feet and thought about Patti being dead too. There wasn’t a whole lot that was appealing about it. Worse, he didn’t want to be prey. He didn’t want to prey on himself or on anybody else for that matter. That was for the bugs. But he still needed to get out before he became lunch too.

      He got into the elevator and took it down to the hospital lobby. The floor was empty and quiet, but it didn’t alarm him as it was so early in the morning. There was no one at the front reception. There was no insect brood either, though. So he walked right through the doors and stepped into the parking lot.

      The early morning sky was on fire. It should have been dark outside but the empty street glowed in a luminous bath of scintillating green hues. And there were comets. All the comets that Luke could possibly ever want or need further lit the sky against its shifting green backdrop.

      The shooting stars held a different meaning to him now.

And he was going to need a lot more guns.

      He started to walk tipsy and wheeled his IV stand down the street, only because there was nothing to shoot at. The worst part of it was the fact that his painkilling drugs were beginning to wear off. That meant that he was going to be up for some explosive head pain and it would probably be so bad as to incapacitate him.

      If it was some sort of alien invasion, and it sure looked like it was, he needed to find some help or some way to get the word out before it was too late. This line of thinking seemed odd to him though, now that it was actually happening and it wasn’t just in some movie he’d watched a thousand times before.

      Surely the police or the military or the government already knew what was happening and they would deal with it. Luke? He decided that he would just have to get to safety before everything came falling apart around him or he passed out from the pain.

      He worked at the radio station as a custodian, which wasn’t too far from the hospital. It had a punch code lock so he wouldn’t need his keys to get inside. If he applied some willpower to it and ignored both the skies overhead and the drone in his head, he thought he might be able to make it there and get inside safely.

      When he reached the street where he could see the building that housed the radio station, he was blocked by one of the insects – one of the big ones – and it coiled around a little VW that was parked to the curb.

      The weight of the thing’s bulky armor had crushed the hood of the vehicle and cracked its windshield. Inside, barely visible beneath the bug, Luke could see that people were trapped.

      There was a steady sound like punching holes in sheet metal as something hard and pointed shot from its underbelly to pierce the car roof at a steady rhythm. It was the same kind of protrusion that the one from the desert had left inside of Patti.

      As he took aim with his pistol, he became acutely aware that he wasn’t shooting it to save the woman in the car. It made him feel even worse than he already did to think that if he didn’t have the weapon at all, and a mad drive to kill the insects anyhow, he likely would have kept right on moving towards the radio station.

      He pulled the trigger and hoped for the best. There were a shower of sparks from the creature as the bullet ricocheted away off its carapace. The bullet didn’t kill it. It didn’t even look to Luke like the bullet had hurt it. But the thing was obviously disturbed enough by the shot, and it slithered from the car to disappear crawling down a side street.

      He made it over to the car door but she’d kept it locked. When he leaned over to peer inside she shook her head at him and mouthed the word “no” very seriously. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was still scared, even though he had chased away the menace.

      He realized then that with his gun and his IV drip and hospital gown, he must have looked as terrifying to her as the bug looked. Not to mention the fact that his head was a giant patchwork of bloodied bandages.

      So what was he going to do? She was going to stay locked in that car for the next alien bug that showed up. He turned and walked away, continuing towards the radio station. When he got there, he managed to remember the code, punch it into the lock console, get inside, and re-lock the doors.

      Moments later, his head turned into a twisted explosion of unmedicated agony as the last of the drugs wore off. He fell to the floor in a fit of passing out and suffered the same nightmare as he always did. He was safe from the insects, but not really.

      He woke later. The pain was still in his head and roaring, but not enough to squeeze the consciousness out of him anymore.

      Someone was banging on the door above him, calling to be let in.

      He bet that it was the woman from the car, and that she didn’t even know that he was inside, but rather she’d just ran to the nearest building in a final panic. Either way, he didn’t want to let her in. She should have trusted him earlier. It was a branch of honesty and he didn’t need to let anybody who might be trouble inside of the radio station with him.

      So he stayed perfectly still where he had slumped down the wall upon passing out. Sure enough, she left shortly thereafter and he got to his feet and went deeper into the building.

      By the time on the clock and the fact that the station was still empty so late in the morning, he could tell that whatever carnage was going on outside had reached full tilt and that nobody was going to make it into work for that day.

      He went into the radio booth and powered up the system. From here he supposed that he could broadcast for help, or organize the people of the town into some semblance of a resistance in order to match their alien invaders.

      But it wasn’t a movie, was it? And there was really very little that he had to offer humanity.

      Giant insects were falling from the sky. They were here to lay eggs in some people and then have their hatchling babies eat everybody else alive. And they were bulletproof.

      Luke? What did he have besides a permanent disfigurement, a dead best girl, a splitting headache, and a handgun that couldn’t kill anything?

      His eyes wandered across the radio booth to the stacks and stacks of records that lined the walls. The station had long ago switched out systems, but he thought that he could dig out the old equipment and everything would still work okay. He knew where it all was and how to set up and operate it.

      When he was finished dragging everything out and setting it up, it was well past the afternoon. Occasionally, he heard people at the station doors clamoring to get inside. These, he ignored. He had already made a decision, after all.

      Once everything was set up, he went to the first stack of records to pick the first record starting with ‘A’. ABBA – but it didn’t seem like such a bad choice that day. Nothing did.

      He spun the record and started broadcasting. He guessed that there was enough food to last him two or three days at best, and he had tap water until that stopped working too. Then he had three days after that, probably.

      It wasn’t a lot of time and he probably wouldn’t get from A – Z before something bad happened to him. But that was okay. He was fine with that.

      There was a motivational poster that someone had tacked to the wall inside the radio booth. It had a funny, cute picture of some frolicking kittens with a caption below reading ‘Honesty – the best policy’.

      He had his first chuckle in a long, long time and then tossed the handgun into the wastebasket.

      Then he settled in to listen to the sound of the music and imagine the sounds of the screams from outside.

      He slept eventually.

He did not dream of insects.

By Michael R. Colangelo

Blood Dream

She woke after three a.m. tasting something in her throat. At first she couldn’t tell what it was but when she got up and went to bathroom mirror she opened her mouth wide and saw red on her tongue. Blood? she thought, why the fuck? And then she remembered the dream she was having. Her dreams usually involved sex, or some sexual theme at least. They all were strange, and this one had been no exception. It seemed to have started with her in some field toward dusk. She spoke the words “Show me your dick” but no one was around who had a dick, with the exception of a goat that was standing and staring at her in the left periphery. Goats had dicks but she wasn’t speaking to the goat. She guessed she wasn’t speaking to anyone in the dream, only that her instruction to see a dick was given for no reason at all, as if she were merely wishing to see one. Well, she had seen many dicks in her life, that’s for sure. Then she woke to that horrid taste in her throat and now here she was, standing in front of a mirror at an hour of the dead looking at her tongue and tasting blood. She wasn’t sick with something, hadn’t had any symptoms before now, so again, What the fuck? She swished some water in her mouth and gargled, then spat it out, the water reddened by her blood. The taste gone, she returned to bed, hoping to return also to the dream, but doubted she would. When she woke in mid-dream she rarely got back in bed with it, instead entering a different fuck session or sexual escapade she didn’t know the meaning behind. And this dream had nothing to do with blood, did it? No. The goat wasn’t bloody, she didn’t remember bleeding in the dream, no blood anywhere. She thought of going to her doctor but that would be dumb as fuck. What would she tell him? That she asked to see a penis and no one was there except a fucking goat and that she woke up and tasted blood in her  throat? Right. Well it would be the truth, but still. What the fuck would he say in response? He’d probably send her to some shrink or some shit like that and that would be fucking costly and ultimately useless. Maybe the blood was a fluke, maybe there was something else in the dream she didn’t notice. Now she couldn’t remember anything else about it. Field, dick, goat. No fucking blood. Next time she’d ask to see something else.

By Jeff Callico