A.M. Coffee

Satan in my coffee

on a Tuesday morning

riding shotgun

to work with Bob

and his cat-Black,

in a white Chevy truck

black coffee

I need cream

to make it brown

and sugar,

lot’s of sugar

to kill the strength

to calm the storm

brewing earlier in my

roach infested coffee pot

‘they lay eggs, you know’

Bob says to me

the cat hisses

it despises roaches like dogs

particularly the one

crawling out from my thermos

By Devlin De La Chapa


Goat Food




She owned a goat and the neighbors knew it. She kept it in her backyard and would feed it in the mornings. Sometimes the neighbors watched when she fed it. The fence around her yard was low and they could see everything.

 One morning she came outside naked. The neighbors were watching her through a slit in their curtains. She was naked and carried a pail to feed the goat. They watched as she fed it, the goat’s mouth in the pail, the naked girl feeding the goat. They watched her, saw her smile as she looked down at the feeding goat. It was right there between her legs, eating from the pail. The neighbors kept watching.

 When the goat finished feeding, the girl set down the pail and stood there. She grabbed the goat’s horns and stepped closer. She spread her legs a little and the goat started sniffing her. She reached with one hand and grabbed some leftover food from the pail and shoved it inside her. The goat kept sniffing, then flicked its tongue at her, getting it inside her, getting at the food she had there.

 The neighbors couldn’t believe what they were seeing. She grabbed the goat’s horns and pulled the head closer. They could tell she was excited by the goat licking her, eating its food from her. She had now become goat food and from the look on her face as they watched through the slit she was going to be addicted, so they made a point of watching out for her in the mornings when she got off on her goat.

After several mornings of this, they noticed that the goat seemed to be more ravenous when he ate the food from her. He sometimes would buck his back legs and lunge at her, his horns at her exposed belly, naked as she was. They watched and watched, morning after morning, until one day she didn’t bring the pail, just herself. She grabbed the horns and shoved herself on the goat’s mouth. The goat lunged at her, sticking its nose in her, its mouth and tongue appearing to devour her. It kicked its back legs hard and knocked her down, eating at her, even though there was no food in her; she had become its food and it was eating, eating, eating her, not just licking like before but biting her and pulling her flesh apart, sticking its horns in her and thrashing her open, cracking bones. The neighbors couldn’t move from the slit, couldn’t say anything, they could hardly think, hardly even breathe. Their hearts were racing as they stood at the window and watched through the slit as the goat ate her, tore her belly open and devoured her insides until its fur turned from white to red.

 The neighbors did nothing, even though they knew they should. They should do something.

 But what?

By Jeff Callico

Just Take the Edge Off

warm black milk in a red glass

goes down slowly with a slight gagging

while the buzz light flickers at full throttle

preliminary thoughts

she spoke about the grimy window

that she used to look through

while wishing that her naked feet were

massaged by cool sand in the evening

framed by the constant weak

murmurs of the ocean lecturing her

behind her back

behind her back

turn around look at it

if she could only perform

a vivisection and reclaim what they had taken

then she would be a success

a tight furry creature oozing mucous

capturing the electric light never returning it.

in manhattan

life proceeded as prescribed

lying spread eagled in a red brick circle

nails through palms

nails through feet

acid dipped arteries

memories drift then

 slide back in as thin-lipped razors

a mildewed structured

marble markers behind wrought iron

turn your face against the stone

turn her face against the stone

feel the cool licks below

lie in light that’s

colored by stained glass

clasp each other’s hands

lie in wait

waiting for them to arrive

By Peter Marra


Graveyard Trash

She lived on the edge, the edge of the cemetery, that is. Their trailer was silver and ostentatious, an eyesore for the dead. Her mother put pink flamingos in the square of fake yard that they could call their own, along with other kitschy things reserved for parks designed to house such living quarters. They even had a fake white picket fence that just stuck in the ground, giving their mobile home a comical mimicry of traditional establishments. She was no less strange than the locale of her portable prison. Watery grey eyes rimmed with heavy liner, fried black hair from her mother having curled the locks at temperatures too high and leaving them to sizzle, and thin anemic translucent skin caked in powder. Sadly, Mona  fit in perfectly with her surroundings: a trailer park on the verge of death, graveyard trash. Her mother was a shrill woman who dressed in low-cut blouses and gave ‘it’ away to anyone who would lower her bills, buy her a meal, give her a ride, lend her $10 or to simply fix the crapper of their tin palace. She was a cliche before she even opened her mouth. Lipstick on the teeth, bleached hair with the roots spiking through, chain smoking Virginia Slims and wearing tight polyester leggings that rode up into a grotesque cameltoe. Mona never had a chance.

They encouraged her to make friends when she was little, socialize with the other kids, but even children can smell second-hand smoke and burning garbage. She was left alone as a child, wearing oddly fitting thrift store clothes and severely disturbing the teachers with pictures of funerals and open caskets. It was no surprise that she started working at the mortuary next to the cemetery when she turned fourteen. Mr. Grieves, the owner, was possibly her only friend. Kids would hiss obscene things at Mona during class and at lunch: “Did Grievesey touch your cunt and make you moan MOAN-A? Did you give him a handy in the back with all the dead bodies? Do you give your pussy to old Grieves like your mom throws her snatch at every dick in town? Is that how you got the job MOAN-A? Did you show him your little titties and let him cum in ratty hair? Is that why it’s so frizzy, all of Grieves’ cum sticking it together?” She never said anything, to any of them. She just ate cheap white bread sandwiches with peanut butter on them. She couldn’t even afford the jelly.

One day Mona didn’t walk to school, she didn’t ride the bus. Instead she pulled up in a sinisterly sleek 1959 hearse Cadillac. When she stepped out of the car Mona’s hair was full and straight, richly black and beautiful. Her translucent skin seemed to have turned from sickly to a more fine porcelain, and her typically wet eyes were bright and sharp. She was wearing a stylish red pencil dress, which hugged the curves no one had ever seen under the ill-fitted hand-me-downs she usually sported, and her legs stretched long and lean in a smart pair of shiny stilettos. Her carnivorously crimson mouth looked as though she had perfectly applied a coat of fresh blood to her sensuous lips. Mona was a bombshell.

“I wanna make you moan Mona!” several boys shouted at her as she stepped confidently across the high school quad. The teachers did double takes when Mona’s clear voice rang out in class with a sultry “here” at roll call. The girls who usually tortured her during her lunch hour couldn’t even see her through the throng of suitors crowded around the cafeteria table. Lacey Sullivan, grade A twat and life long terrorizer, finally approached her with haughty disdain in the hallway, blocking her path.
“What happened to you MOAN-A, finally start sucking dick like your mom to earn some extra cash? Or did you make a deal with the devil?”
Mona smiled sweetly.”I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough, bitch.” She let the last word roll off her tongue in an evil foreboding way that actually left Lacey speechless

That night there was a party in the graveyard. A Mona party. A party that no one at Westwoods High School would ever consider missing. Their favorite object of torment had turned into Betty Paige over night and was rocking the headstones with three kegs and a live band — what fucktard was going to scratch that off the social event list?

The mouth breathers started spilling in when dark settled over the cemetery, yowling and yelling their battle cries for beer and booze. Tromping through the soft burial ground littering plastic red cups in their wake, while willing breasts were groped by horny hands. The band played on. They danced and fucked and drank, a sinner’s ball of hedonistic overkill. Topless girls played hide and seek behind grave markers, and football studs did keg stands only to spew their foamy guts on Randall Newman’s final resting place. No one saw Mona. Some said they’d talked to her at the beginning of the evening, she’d given them a red cup and pointed them at the keg. A few boys claimed they’d fucked her behind her trailer while she touched her toes. Several girls insisted that Mona was now, and always had been, one of their closest friends and that she was planning something spectacular for the end of the evening. Everyone lost their minds, and passed out on the cemetery carpet of well tended grass.

A pair of slick black high heels entered the graveyard gate and tiptoed over a multitude of unconscious teenage bodies.
“Do you think this enough?” Mona asked with laughter in her voice. “It’s most of the senior class and a couple of randoms.” The deep sharp laugh of a much older man came from the shadows behind her.
“Yes, my dear, I think this is probably enough.” Mr. Grieves emerged at her side with a wide grin and a handsome face. “Well,” he said. “Now the fun part.”

Mona and Mr. Grieves dragged the limp bodies of her classmates into rows. Grieves smiled as Mona went around to each of them and cut open their shirts, painting a large pentagram on all of their chests. While she made the initial preparations, Grieves began uncovering a series of open graves. The party had taken place no more than a fifty yards away from roughly a hundred gaping holes.                                                                                                                                                               “I have everything set up just the way you showed me,” Mona beamed up at him, licking blood off her fingers.
“You did so good, my love, my pet, my apprentice . . . they look so lovely all lined up like lambs for the slaughter. Are you ready for the finale?” Grieves seemed to be getting younger by the moment; wrinkles were smoothing themselves, and his face appeared to have passed from its forties into its thirties in the time it had taken the couple to complete their mutual tasks.
“Now remember, my darling, you must perform the ritual on each of them the same way you did on our first victim the other night.”
“Fucking cunt deserved what she got.” Mona heaved under her breath and spat in anger at the sacred ground.
“There, there, pet, is that any way to speak about your dear departed mother?” Mona grimaced and removed a scathing blade from a sheath around her inner thigh.
“Time to play kiddies,” she oozed, walking towards her first victim.

“Lacey, oh Lacey!” she cooed at her blonde childhood tormentor. “Time to wake up!” She drew her hand back and slapped her hard across the face. Lacey’s eyes fluttered open as she attempted to focus on the images before her.
“Wha-what? M-m-mona?”
“I told you you’d learn my secret soon enough bitch!” With swift downward strokes Mona sliced the pentagram through Lacey’s supple belly. She barely had time to squeal before Mona slit her throat and began collecting sweet human nectar from the welling red flower. With a full vial of fresh young blood, she performed the last step of the ritual: cutting up under the ribs and removing her full heart muscle. She dug her nails through Lacey’s tender fleshy entrance and felt her life force still fluttering and warm on her fingertips. Once the heart was secure in Mona’s hands she took the first ripe bite before passing it on to Grieves. Mona moved on to get to work on the rest of her graduating class, their bodies lined up ready for ritual sacrifice. Bellies full with aortic juices, the pair rolled the bodies of their massacre into the dug up graves and patted the dirt on the final hole just as the sun began to peek over the horizon, leaking oranges and pinks into the skyline.

“Congratulations to all our seniors,” Mona giggled, her mouth stained with dried blood that had run down her pointed chin. Mr. Grieves, looking like a young Hollywood actor with fresh youthful skin, circled his arms around her waist and clamped his teeth lovingly on her throat, gnawing at her savory skin.
“My dear,” he whispered. “It is time for us to make our getaway.” Mona grabbed a large molotov cocktail she’d fixed earlier from a nearby headstone and walked to the border of her cemetery. She watched the flame twist and lick hungrily as she placed it next to the gasoline soaked rag.  Then she smashed the thing through the open door of her trailer hell.
“Burn, my lovely.”

By Emily Smith-Miller

White Handkerchiefs

white handkerchiefs with

stains that she and i don’t talk about anymore

but it’s an implied

secret that we smile about occasionally.

brick stacked

upon broken brick

upon glass bottles


black. naked.

silhouettes lightly touch

before evaporating

moans escape as

a gaseous existence

timed to the slight keyboard sounds

of the surf organ sleaze


she wanted to cry in joy again

we gave each other fantasy and

a criticism construction

built slowly that collapsed


forever hers

forever mine

back to whispers

back to silence

about the documents

entitled the standards of care


as a symbol to her

the other species found the problem

her legs squeezed together

her nerves removed

her sinews dissected

heart set aflame and

sacrificed to the sun god


as she was disturbed

by the naked walls

as she was disturbed

by the non-stop sounds

constantly arousing her

then ending when she slid free

her hands free

then she stung


a serious tone as

she was sucked by the institute into

a black waltz

that left him watching


eyes surrounded

by pearls

fucked by the color spectrum

with blue as she permitted

her tics grew steadily

as she feasted on flesh

from the physicians that slowly

castrated themselves as she



waiting for the surgeon as she squeezed

then rubbed her face across the danger

as the exhaust kicked into overdrive


“your screen is blank”

By Peter Marra


A Vulgar Display of Power

Rain was pounding the windscreen hard. The wipers were going so fast, Jodie thought they were going to snap and fly off somewhere.  She hadn’t realized how drunk she actually was until she got into the car. The tequila shooters had been a bad idea. A real bad idea. Her pick-up was swerving recklessly between lanes on the road, some drivers sounding their frustration with their horn. Fortunately, the traffic was fairly light and there wasn’t a cop car in sight.

Her French husband, Jacques, had been continually harassing her when she was in the bar, bombarding her with text messages and phone calls. She’d ignored them for a couple of hours, but as the alcohol took hold, she figured she’d let him stew for long enough. I mean, what kind of douche bag tells Jodie what to do? She’s the type of girl that can do whatever the fuck she likes. She takes no orders from anyone, at least that’s what she told her best friend, Christine, as the two of them licked salt from their clenched fists.

‘Yeah, he actually told me that I need to clean up after Muffin. That’s a man’s job. I don’t want to clean up Muffin’s doo-doos. They stink!’ Jodie said, throwing her head back as the tequila nosedived into her willing mouth.

‘Like OMG Jodie.  Who does he think he is?’ Christine replied in her Californian airhead accent. ‘What a total dick.’

Jodie pictured Muffin; her pedigree Chihuahua and her pride and joy. She liked to dress him up in different clothes, sometimes to match what she was wearing. She smiled warmly as the bartender refilled their shot glasses. ‘Yeah, you’re right. He is a total dick. That’s why I’ve been screwing around on him.’

‘What? Ohh Emmm Geee. Who with?’ Christine asked her.

‘You know his friend Phil? The guy he works with?’

Christine nodded her head slowly, her jaw agape. Jodie smiled naughtily at her. ‘Yeah, him.’

‘Like, I’m so jealous. He’s such a hottie.’

‘I know, he has a body to absolutely die for. He puts Jacques to shame in the bedroom. We nearly got caught last week.’ Christine’s eyes widened as Jodie continued.

‘Jacques was meant to be staying late for some business meeting, so I called Phil and he came over. Then, later on when we were doing it for like, the fifth time, Phil heard the door opening downstairs. Thank God he heard it over all of my screaming,’ Jodie said, stifling a laugh. ‘It was Jacques. He came up to the bedroom and I was lying on the bed naked, and had to pretend I was doing it for him. Waiting for him to come home. Phil rolled out from under the bed and blew me a kiss while Jacques was standing there unaware.’

The girls continued drinking for a few hours. Jacques was still texting Jodie, in hope that she would come home and forgive him. After all, it was her 30th birthday.

A few hours passed. Jodie and Christine were well and truly drunk. They were sitting in a booth opposite the bar and were deciding on what song to put on the jukebox next, when Jodie received yet another text message.

I’m so sorry. Please come home. It’s your birthday and I’ve made a nice meal for you. Jac xoxo

‘Ugh. Jacques just text me again. I’m gonna have to go home; he’s made me a romantic meal for my birthday – woo-hooooo!’, Jodie said, sarcasm oozing from her words. Christine was so wasted she didn’t even argue, instead she sat on a stool, her short skirt not keeping much from the imagination, chatting to a cute guy working at the bar.

Jodie stumbled out to her car after saying her goodbyes, annoyed that Jacques had ruined her evening.

The rain started to calm as she neared the house. She stopped the pick-up truck at the momentous gates to their beautiful mansion, and clicked the button connected to her key chain. After they opened, she drove up and parked beside the garage.

She made her way inside the house, trying to get in from the drizzly rain, stumbling a few times in the process.

Something was different. The house was dark – very dark. Jodie felt the walls, searching for a light switch, but unable to find one. She staggered through the corridor, eventually making it to the dining room.

There were candles scattered all around the large table, the flames standing still and bright. Jodie noticed there was a large, silver display tray sitting peacefully behind the candles. The lid was still firmly on top of it, beautifully reflecting the candlelight around the entire room. A bottle of Cristal champagne sat beside the silver tray, hundreds of little droplets of condensation

‘Hello, my dear,’ whispered Jacques, walking from behind her. She jumped with fright and let out a little shriek.  He leant in and kissed her gently on the neck. He was carrying two plates, one in each hand. He placed them gently on the wonderfully decorated table, as he took his place.

‘Please, sit down’, he said to her, beckoning with his eyes. It smelled delicious, she thought, inhaling deeply into her nostrils. She did as she was told, for once, and sat down at the table.

Jacques had made her favourite meal; sautéed garlic potatoes, creamed cabbage, and venison with a red wine jus. The champagne opened with a pop, some of its contents leaking down the sides of the bottle. Jacques’ willing tongue licked up the expensive dregs.

He sat for a moment and watched his wife pick up the small slithers of venison with her fork and place them gently into her mouth.

The meat was mind blowing; Jodie’s eyes had closed with the pure ecstasy of the flavour. It was so juicy and tender, literally melting in her mouth.

The married couple didn’t exchange words throughout dinner. In her drunken state, Jodie quickly finished what was on her plate, stopping only a few times to gulp some of the Cristal champagne from her glass.  ‘I take it you enjoyed your meal?’ Jacques asked her, tilting his champagne glass slightly.

‘Yes. It was delicious’, she replied, wiping her mouth with the linen napkin. ‘That’s probably the only thing you’re good at; cooking.’ She grinned at him, her eyes fixated on his. He returned the smile, maintaining eye contact.

‘Where’s my little baby Muffin?’ Jodie asked him, breaking the awkward silence.

With this, Jacques let out a cackle. She glanced at him as he lowered his glass to the table. He grinned like a Cheshire cat, his perfect teeth glinting in the candlelight. ‘You tell me, my dear. How did he taste?’

‘WHAT?!’ Jodie shouted, quickly awakening from her drunken stupor. Jacques was now laughing uncontrollably. ‘I got you back, whore!’, he said unable to wipe the grin from his face. ‘Muffin?’ Jodie whispered, gradually realising what Jacques had told her. She glanced down at her empty plate. This is some kind of sick joke, she thought. It must be.

‘And now,’ Jacques said, standing from the table, ‘the pièce de résistance!’ He placed his hand on the silver tray.

Jodie leaned forward and saw her misshapen face in the reflection, feeling the alcohol turn against her. As she did so, Jacques swiftly lifted the lid, exposing Muffin’s boiled and hacked cadaver. The smell was what made the contents of Jodie’s stomach explode from her lipstick smudged lips. Vomit spilled over the table, little pieces of dinner floating around, dripping from the table onto her lap, spoiling her expensive skirt. When the heaving ceased, Jodie wiped tears from her eyes and picked up a piece of Muffin’s acid soaked flesh. ‘You bastard!’ she screamed, throwing it toward Jacques.

Only, he wasn’t there.

Where is he, she thought, turning her head around in confusion.

Jacques allowed her to turn her beautiful face toward him, giving her enough time to see the hammer as it smashed into the side of her head, caving it in marvellously.

By Conor Mckee

In the Other Bedroom

The staircase winded up around the side of the old building, rusted metal steps rattling beneath them, taking them further up above the grungy alley below. In front of her the building owner pulled out a large, overloaded key chain and brought them to a stop in front of the wooden door.

The man reminded Sherri just a bit of her father. He had a similar blue-collar demeanor about him, the fingers he used to remove a padlock thick and callused from laboring in the shoe repair store below the apartment he opened up for her. He smiled and gestured for her to enter first, his teeth a bit yellowed from too many years smoking she suspected, just as his gut bulged a bit from just as many years drinking.

“Is that the only lock?” she asked, gesturing towards the padlock he’d pulled loose, only capable of being put in place if someone was already on the outside of the door.

He glanced down, frowned, and said, “No, just put it up when no one is renting. There’s a lock in the knob as well.”

She stepped into the furnished living room. The aged sofa and dining table looked old in a rather beaten down, dreary kind of way, lacking any sense of antique or elegance. The brown, shaggy carpet was frayed, nearly rubbed flat in certain places, the wooden floor beneath it all but visible. Water stains lined the once white walls, and up above the plaster slumped down.

The stove and refrigerator faired just a bit better than the living room, still marked with rust, but not overtaken by it. The entire kitchen consisted of a square corner of the living room.

“Bedroom is this way,” the owner said, gestured for her to follow. He turned on a light to a long, narrow hallway ending in two doors: one to the bathroom and one to the bedroom. The bathroom was all but a closet with a toilet, sink, and faucet built high up on the wall, a brown drain in the middle of the floor.

The bedroom matched the rest of the apartment, and Sherri was glad she didn’t suffer from any kind of claustrophobia, or else she figured she would’ve already run from the place.

The location was what brought her there, her new employer just up the street in the busy downtown district, so densely packed only the daring few bothered to drive down those streets. If she kept her current place uptown she had at least an hour and a half drive to get to work, if not longer, and as awful as the apartment looked, the promise of a five minute walk sounded too pleasant.

“I’ll take it,” she told him. The owner smiled, nodded, and led them back down the hall towards the living room.

Sherri paused halfway down it and tilted her head towards the patch of brighter white on the wall in the shape of a door. “What is this?” she asked.

The man stopped, glanced over. “Second bedroom, but I sealed it off. Use it for storage, and I’ve got a ladder in the main shop leading up to a hole I cut in the floor. Rarely ever use it these days, so you don’t have to worry about me stomping around.”

Sherri took a step closer to the patch, almost thought she heard the sound of movement on the other side, faint but clear, but when she turned to ask the owner he’d already continued on to the living room, had the contract in his hand. Sherri hurried up to him.

“Thought I heard something in there,” she said.

The man glanced up at her, then towards the hallway. “Shouldn’t be any mice. Place might not look the prettiest, but I keep things sanitary and spray when needed. I’ll have to check the storage. Like I said, been awhile since I’ve been in there. You need a pen?” He gestured towards her with the contract.

Had the man not resembled her father so much she might’ve let the apprehension overwhelm her. It wasn’t just the sounds, but the place itself, so old in an almost seedy kind of way, a dark, filthy alley her only view whenever she’d open the door.

But the owner’s smile seemed to reassure her. “I’ve got one,” she said. She took a pen out of her purse and signed on all the lines he told her to.


She had been afraid in the weeks before moving in that the noise of the city would be too much for her to take, but on her first night she understood how well the walls of that old building protected her. Stepping into the apartment seemed to seal her off from the rest of the world, for better or for worse. Though she appreciated the quiet when it came time to go to sleep for the night, in that first week she found herself staying out later and later to avoid too much time inside the apartment.

The new city acted as a convenient excuse to be out, offering her countless streets filled with something new to find. When she did force herself to return home she did her best to keep in touch with the friends and family she’d left behind to gain her new job. She had her laptop open, looking for any new details about her mother’s garden, when the scratching drew her eyes off the screen and towards the hallway.

She sat on the couch, sunken low, the springs ruined, eyes wide as she stared down the hallway. She’d heard light thumping during the day just once since moving, and assumed it was the owner checking out the storage area. She hadn’t seen him since, nor asked him about the mice.

She set the laptop down and walked towards the hallway and the patch of fresher paint marking the closed door. It wasn’t just scratching, she didn’t think, but more like rubbing, and the image popped into her head of a hand rubbing along the other side of the wall.

She pressed her own hand against the wall and the sound stopped. Leaning in closer, Sherri moved her ear towards the wall, blocking out all other sound, aware of the sound of her own heartbeat picking up in preparation.

Feet moved on the other side, shuffling along, the sound clear for just a few seconds before it ended and left her frozen.

Her own feet slid as silently as they could across the floor towards the front door. Not a single sound came from her until she had the front door open and stepped out into the balmy summer night. The stink of the trash from the alley below drifted up to her.

The owner had given her his number in case anything broke down, and she dialed it then, phone pressed firmly against her ear, her front door still open so she could see if anything happened. Cool air drifted out through the open door while the phone rang endlessly. Thoughts of hotels and the potential costs added themselves up in her mind, nearly convinced she would have to eat the costs when the voice cut off the ringing.


“Mr. Shofner?”

“Sherri? It’s close to eleven. Something busted?”

“I heard a sound from the sealed bedroom. I heard something walking around in there.”

A pause on the other end as she heard what she assumed was the man sitting up in bed. “Walking around?”

“I’m positive.”

“Couldn’t have been a person. Room is sealed aside from the trapdoor, and nothing worth stealing in there. Hell, if a homeless man broke into the shop, I doubt he’d trap himself in an old, sealed bedroom for some sleep. Besides, I’ve got an alarm system on my store. I’d know if someone broke in. Look, I found some droppings on the floor in there; don’t know how old they are, so there might be some mice. I’ll stay on top of it and get an exterminator if I have to. Don’t you worry.”

His tone sounded so certain, so calm in the face of her paranoia, and standing on the outer landing with the sounds of the city drifting towards her, and the empty apartment in front, she let her fear diminish.

“Must’ve just been mice,” she said, slumped back against the railing, her right hand running through her hair. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Think nothing of it. I’ll look into the pest problem tomorrow. I’m going to get off and get some sleep. Might want to do the same yourself.”

“I will, thank you.”

She stepped back into the well-lit apartment and closed the door behind her. She stood motionless, listening for anything, but nothing stirred. Slowly she returned to the closed doorway, pressing her ear completely against the wall, but still couldn’t hear a thing, and after a minute of trying, gave up and returned to her computer. She shut the machine down.

“You do need sleep,” she told herself, and followed the suggestion.


No sound or movement woke her just after three in the morning. She lifted herself up, eyes only half open, and saw the shining red numbers on the nightstand. The pillows welcomed her back, her eyes slipping closed again, but her bladder stopped the desired sleep from taking her away.

For a few minutes she sat with her eyes open, weighing whether she thought she would be able to ignore it, before finally deciding it would be best to just get it over with.

She didn’t bother with the lamp given how short the trip was. The bathroom light blinded her; eyes closed through the bulk of it until she had flushed and pulled herself back up. Only then did she let her eyes open a bit more, fixed on the ground, and saw the dirty footprint on the tiled floor.

For a second her mind didn’t react, too sluggish with sleep to grasp what she stared at, the information clawing its way into her consciousness. Her breath hitched when she understood what she stared at, half of another footprint visible at the edge of the open door leading to the carpeted hallway.

Sherri left the bathroom light on as she stepped out into the hallway to stare at the doorway torn open halfway down the hall. It had happened from the inside, the plaster covering the floor, bits of it still hanging loose, no light visible from within the opening the destruction had created.

All sounds ceased, not even her own breathing or heartbeat heard as she listened. From deep within that other room she could faintly her something, but the sound was too silent to distinguish what.

She slipped as silently as she could into her bedroom and pulled on a pair of pants and a shirt. She’d left her phone in the living room, thinking nothing of it at the time, and now she had no choice but to walk down the hallway to get out of the apartment. She didn’t even have her keys to potentially use as a makeshift weapon.

The light was still on in the bathroom, the only light, and Sherri left it on, but didn’t turn on the hallway light, not wanting to alert the intruder any more than she already had. Stopped outside her bedroom she listened again, but could still only hear that same, faint sound. Her mind offered her too many possibilities, too many things that could go wrong as she stared into the darkness, at the long stretch of black leading to the living room.

She worked up all the courage she had and ran. She resisted the urge to close her eyes as she hurried down the hallway, towards the exposed, open doorway, almost seeing a shape dart out from the darkness to grab hold of her. Nothing did, no attacker to stop her from reaching the front door and grabbing at the knob.

Her entire body thrust against the door, shoved it inward, but it resisted, held against her push and left her trapped inside. Panic crawled up her throat, squirmed in her stomach, and pricked the hairs on the back of her neck. She turned the knob and shoved as hard as she could. Something metal rattled on the other side, kept her from getting out, and she saw in her mind the padlock the owner had given to her.

Her cell phone and laptop had vanished from the coffee table. She let her eyes sweep across the dark living room, searching, but they were gone, taken by the same person who had sealed her in.

A terrible urge to scream almost erupted from her. No cries for help would matter, and that knowledge kept them at bay, left her body numb and her fingers trembling.

She turned on the lamp beside her. Alerting whoever lurked in the other bedroom didn’t seem to matter anymore. In the kitchen she grabbed an edged steak knife, the closet thing to a weapon she had in the place.

Though she loathed the thought of walking into that bedroom, she hated even more the tension of waiting, the sense of helplessness it filled her with.

The hallway light brightened the apartment even more, emphasized the darkness in the open doorway littered with the remains of the wall. She stepped up to the threshold and stared in at the bare, aged room on the other end, the walls brick, and a form hunched low on the floor.

Nothing lunged at her as she stepped over the debris into the bedroom, her knife up. A nude, emaciated man sat against the wall, his legs pulled up, arms wrapped around them, face buried in the knees. He had long hair, probably once blonde, but now brown with dirt, the hair draped over the knees. Thin cuts and bruises covered the bulk of the body, and the man rocked gently back and forth, a soft almost sobbing coming from him as he moved.

No part of Sherri could grasp what she witnessed, her knife still raised, but less certain about using it, trying to understand what had happened.

She had to struggle to get any words to form in her dry mouth, forced to swallow twice before she could utter anything. “Hello?” she said, and at the sound of her voice the man’s rocking stopped.

His head lifted up, hair parting to let her see his face, the eyes he locked on her so bloodshot they appeared almost entirely red. He lifted his face further up from his knees, and Sherri saw the bottom half. His jaw and tongue were gone, nothing below his nose but ragged, scarred tissue dipping into his neck. She jolted back at the sight, the knife firmly back up as the man pulled himself from the floor.

The warped flesh around where the jaw had been stretched further down, like a cut twisting through his chest, and where his heart was she saw a much deeper wound.

Something rattled in the living room, drew Sherri’s attention, and as soon as she looked away the emaciated man charged towards her.

He uttered a low, wailing cry as he moved, a string of red-tinged saliva flowing from the hole where his mouth had once been. He crashed into her, his dirty fingers groping for her face, trying to reach into her mouth, and she tasted the foul skin just briefly as she jerked her head back.

The knife raked across his exposed stomach and he jerked back from the pain, gave her a chance to squirm out from under him. When he lunged against she thrust the tip of the blade into his right palm, splashed his blood on the dusty wood flooring.

His hands tried to latch onto her legs as she pulled herself up and ran for the door. She managed to jerk her legs free, but her feet caught against a larger chunk of plaster, sent her face first into the floor, dazed her momentarily. Before she could begin to rise she saw the man lunge for her again, this time crawling on top of her, deformed face leaning in closer to hers. She could hear the sickening sound of air sucking in and out of the hole in the throat.

She brought the knife back up, swung it towards him, but he grabbed her wrist before she could cut into him. He wrenched the blade from her hand and pulled himself up. Closer to the hallway, Sherri had a better view of the deformed man, aware he was older than she’d first thought, deep wrinkles around his eyes, and she saw as well he was crying as he stared down at her.

Before she could move he lifted the knife to his own throat and tore through the skin, moaning loudly as he twisted it. He stumbled back from her onto the floor, the knife slipping from his hand, but his fist tightened, brought up the blade again, and dug it into himself.

Sherri pulled herself up and watched the red gush out of the body, stream across the floor, the body jerking with spasms, but before it slumped dead she saw the man’s hand move towards the blood running from him. He smeared his fingers through the red, forming disjointed letters, his hand slowing with each one, struggling to finish the message, and going limp before the final word could be written, but Sherri recognized the Thank You he had been attempting to say.

The door in the living room thumped open. She fell to her knees to grab the knife out of the dead man’s fingers.

She turned, trapped in the bedroom, and watched the owner’s face appear from the hallway, still so much like her father, adding some additional perversion to the grin he gave her.

“Don’t come near me,” she screamed.

He winced noticeably at her words, left eye twitching. “I hate a raised voice,” he said. “Voice like that should be earned, not taken for granted.” He spoke in a low tone, the grin more in his eyes than his mouth.

“You kept him here?” she said, disbelieving, the confidence in the man’s face taking away her own.

“His time has passed.” He moved towards her, ignored the knife she had raised. She lunged forward, aimed for his chest, but he grabbed her hand before she could hope to get him, crushed down on the fingers so hard the knife fell from them, clattered on the floor at her feet.

She screamed in pain, her back pressed against the wall, and before the cry could even end his hand was somehow already grabbing hold of her mouth, the owner’s body too fast, jerking forward, mouth grinning wide again.

Behind him the lights clicked off, left the two in total darkness, yet Sherri could swear she saw some faint glow, letting her barely see the outline of the owner’s face as something came over it. In the darkness she couldn’t say if the face truly changed, if it warped into something else, something other than human, because she understood she wanted to believe he wasn’t human, to believe no person could do his as his fingers crawled further into her and held her mouth opened wide.

“No screams,” he said.

She offered him the only act of defiance she knew and screamed as loud as she could into the darkness as his hand jerked downward, and took her jaw with it.

By Philip M. Roberts