Everyone’s Got Demons

It was shiny, silver plated probably, and hanging upside down. He
stared at the ornate crucifix and gagged at the smell of feces and
vomit. The boy couldn’t have been more than ten. He lay, mauled, on
the bed. His hands were tied behind his head and his parents hadn’t
come to the room in days. The priest had to inch closer just to check
that he was in fact still breathing. Blisters and sores spread over
his tiny starved body, ribs poking through the scabs.
“Joseph?” he inquired at the boy.
“Father Stanley, you shouldn’t drink so early in the morning, you know
how people talk.”
“Sometimes we do what we must to get through the day Joseph.”
“Do the little boys get you through the day Father? Is that why you’re
here looking at my body?”
“You know that’s not what I’m doing Joseph, and I know you’re only
saying these things because of your  . . . condition.”
“What is my condition? I’m bound to this bed and the rats tell me
they’re going to leave me here to starve out the demons.”
“We don’t know what to do with you my son. After Father O’Reilly’s
death we’ve been treating the matter with much greater care.”
“You sick fuck, tying a little boy to bed and watching him wither to
dust isn’t what I’d call ‘great care’, fucking prick.”
“Why did you kill Father O’Reilly Joseph?”
“Why do you eat Sister Blanche’s pussy every Tuesday? That cunt can’t taste good, or is it fresher because she claims she works for God?”
“That’s enough Joseph.”
“You know she fucks the whole clergy, after every one leaves she takes them one by one into the confessional booth . . . your confessional booth . . ”
“I SAID THAT’S ENOUGH JOSEPH!” Father Stanley stood up to the tiny boy, whose black shark eyes raged back at him.
“So touchy Lucas, control yourself! Oh I’ve forgotten, you don’t know control, do you? When you cut the heads off of stray cats you find outside your shit hole apartment, does it feel good, playing with another kind of pussy?”
“Fuck Joseph! How goddamn clichéd do you have to fucking be?” Father Stanley tossed his hands in the air and glared at the little tow headed creature. Probably from Southern Irish descent and a fucking brat at that. He’d been working on this case for going on 2 weeks after Joseph jumped on Father O’Reilly’s back and ran a straight razor over his throat.
“You forget yourself priest!” Joseph screamed back, his voice raising an octave.
“Joseph, what fucking demons do you have inside of you?”
“Baphomet, Verdelet, Nybras, Belial . . ”
“You honestly want me to believe that arch demons of hell are wasting their time with you?”
“Azazel, Malphas, Caym, Samael . . ”
“Please shut up Joseph.”
“Mephistopheles . .”
“JOSEPH! You are really starting to annoy the fuck out of me!”
“GIVE UP PRIEST!” Joseph convulsed on the bed, writhing and wriggling.
“Look you little fuck, Father O’Reilly was a friend of mine, which is the only damn fucking reason I’m here in the first place. You are a rotten little cock sucker and the only thing the last two weeks has shown me is that if any demons possess you they are the most annoying dickheads Satan has ever encountered!”
Father Stanley stood over the boy, who seemed relatively unmoved.
“This is your last chance Joseph.”
“For what foul fiend of God?!”
“To admit you are a fucking demented murderous liar, who killed my
friend because he chastised you at mass.”
“The demons have me now priest! I will admit no such thing!”
“Joseph, if you don’t fucking admit this to me right fucking now I will be forced to kill you.” Joseph’s face finally faltered as he seemed to be reasoning things out.
“YOU LIE PRIEST! YOU CANNOT KILL THE EVIL TRIAGE OF MY POWE—” Father Stanley stuck the silver knife deep into the child’s belly, turning it several times before he was satisfied.
“Well Joseph, I warned you.” Father Stanley collected his bags and headed down the stairs of the townhouse. Joseph’s idiot mother rushed to him, she had sworn this was a possession the moment Joseph started taking the lords name in vain and shouting about demons. She was a dumb hysterical woman with frizzy red hair, her husband might actually be a retard, Father Stanley didn’t know. Either way they were overly zealous Catholics and having a genuinely possessed son seemed the only thing that really got them wet and hard.
“Father!” Joseph’s mother exclaimed breathlessly at him. “I heard a commotion in the room! Is . . is Joseph. . . has Joseph had his exorcism? Is he our boy again?”
“No Mrs. Farley, I’m afraid your son has succumbed to the evils of hell fire and his soul will burn for all eternity. He is dead, threw himself at me in a demonic frenzy, in a moment of confusion I stabbed him with my sacred blade. I am very sorry I hope you understand.”
She stared at Father Stanley like a mentally deficient cow, her bovine jaw twitching slightly. “Dead?”
“Yes, you know demons, very relentless creatures. You do understand that because Joseph is a hell spawn we will not be able to bury him in consecrated ground, of course.”
“I . . .yes that seems about right. Will the paper do any article on it or something? A memorial?”
“I’m sure there’s a network or a magazine that would be more than excited to cover the happenings, maybe you’ll even get a made for TV movie out of it.”
“You think?”
“Who can say. Again I’m sorry for your loss, have a pleasant afternoon, please don’t ever call me again,” and with that Father Stanley walked out of the Farleys’ lives forever.

By Emily Smith-Miller


She was cold to the touch. I sat next to her at the bar and when I touched her arm to make a point about something she felt like a corpse. Her skin didn’t give when I lightly poked one of my stitched-up fingers on it. I looked at her, then, looked into her eyes as she looked into mine. She wasn’t dead, obviously. Her eyes were wide open and moving in their sockets, she was looking at me, I could see she was thinking something, but what I couldn’t tell. We ordered another round and she talked more. I listened. Her voice was becoming raspy from the alcohol.

I want out of here, she said, as if something had frightened her. I wondered if it was me. I know I can come off as scary to most but something in her eyes, her voice said otherwise. Besides, we had been at the bar for nearly three hours together. If I was scary at all I’m sure she would have left right off.

Your place, she said. I liked that about her, her assertiveness. I paid the tab and we left.

When she got in my car she smiled.

I like long black cars, she said. Are you a good driver?

I nodded then sped off. She smiled again. I noticed her in my side vision, which was better than most, but then again I’m not like most. Not at all.

It didn’t take long to get home. We got inside and she stood in the middle of the room. She looked like a queen ready for her coronation. Her hair was black but what I liked best was the white section in the middle of it. I stepped toward her, my large shoes plodding on the hardwood, then stopped a foot away. She looked up at me, all seven feet of me, and gave me a gaze with those eyes again, then reached up and touched my neck. Her skin still so cold as she fondled one of my bolts.

Like that? she spoke, her voice back to something less raspy. I nodded and lifted her from the floor. My grunts seemed to excite her.

What a man, she said, then gasped.

She knew it was the worst thing she could ever tell me.

By Jeff Callico

The Legacy and a Hot Pink Eddy

I was travelling on a train through Sweden, but the mountains flashing past me through the window reminded me of the Carpathians. Draculated and moody, the mist collecting at the tops of the trees where the shadows hung unseen in the dawn. I’d had some brandy and some meat pie. Liver and prunes heated with a bit of pate brisee. I felt I should be writing in my journal but my fingers felt like sticks of meat. Mutton. Rotted and gangrened mutton. I’d lost my passport somewhere in Munich, and had to hitch a ride with Bjorn, the delirious dentist who liked scraping his toenails with a dental pick and drilling holes in his own teeth for fun. We were quite the pair. He the society derelict inhaling a bit of rustic pleasure, and me, a bashful yet aggressive forbidden thing who’d forgotten herself somewhere during the last full moon. I was one of The Rapture’s leftovers, strutting my slayer shit like it was a courtesy not a curse.

I was a Van Helsing, so I said was my destiny, though I wasn’t sure whether knowing that was an inspiration, a victory, or just a stalemate between what I needed and what I desired. I’d been hunting for a while, and I took the dating rules seriously. I wasn’t just a heckler in a crowd of pork rinds, pop-corn blondes, and sperm donors. I was in it for real, but I needed bone marrow with deep roots, no Bella Lugosi knockoffs for me. That’s why I was running, chasing shadows around the world and back again with Dr. Dementia over there.

The last one was a disaster …

We’d met at one those meat packing warehouse raves. He was glowing in the strobe lights. Pale, handsome, his nails — painted black — shimmered like flickering stars. He pressed me up against the wall in the alley. He felt heavy and cold, colder than the wall, and he was eerily brazen, so I told him to shove it.

“I wanna Suck it and Fuck it,” he said when I kissed the frigid skin of his neck.

“Do what you will,” I told him. “I can’t stand you, and I don’t fucking care.”

He said he liked the wild ones and that I had “spirit.” Said I looked like I was worth a taste. Then he said he was a thousand years old as if it made any difference to me. It didn’t. I pulled out the three-foot stainless steel and African Mahogany stake I had hidden in my trench coat, and he just said, “Kinky, but what am I supposed to do with that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Fuck it, Suck it. Do what I tell you to do with it. You are my darkness. I love you, and I can’t deny you, but I won’t ever fucking say so.”

He fondled my tits. Pinched my nipples through my bra. Then forced his hand down my panties and grabbed my cunt. He said he wanted to Suck it and Fuck it again, whispered it, with hot spit on his lips, and I told him, “Do what everyone else expects you to do. I feel indifferent, and you care too damn much about your image to think for your fucking self.”

He backed up, threw his hands in the air, and then called me a tease and a bitch and a whore to which I replied quickly and without words. Thwump! A swift kick to his chest. A gurgling exhale, and the sound of a hammer against steel, echoing off the wet brick walls, left the moon with little recompense.

The boy looked surprised, his black eyeliner running down his face. He just kept saying, “Fuck fucking fuck,” while grabbing and tearing at his oozing chest.

“Nosferatu,” I screamed. “Fucking piece of maggot riddled shit.” That’s what he was, with a bad suit and a gold card, no less. I’m never wrong about these things. I bent over and smiled at him. “It’s wet, and dark, and cold, and you know it. Just like all the fucking promises you whispered to me when we met.”

It’s hollow, he replied. I’m hollow.

“And you are a miserable excuse of a monster.”

There isn’t enough of me
To fill the empty space
I thought I had left
For you.

After that, every time I saw a full moon, I would think of that night long ago. I would think of Milan in the spring and all the blood splatter everywhere.

Until now.

Now the dentist drills their teeth out for me so I can wear them around my neck. He’s not bad company, really, and he makes damn sure I never fall in love again.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner


What Makes Me Tick

I’m not your average girl
I don’t get turned on by clothes,
baby showers
weddings or nail polish
I prefer the darker side
I like dead things
ugliness, monsters and gore
sex offenders
serial killers
chalk outlines of human form
the sick
the twisted;
bring it on
it stokes my coals
and lights my pipe
masochism and knives
really get my motor running;
make me feel fucking alive
if beauty is only skin deep
then underneath
is where the darkness creeps
nice, pretty things are superficial
and never last…
I’m the type to flip over the shiniest coin
in search of grime on the other half
I like to piss on people’s parades
spike the lemonade
turn blue skies to gray
I’m not the nice, friendly girl-next-door
I don’t pick flowers
go to church
or watch sunsets—
I like fast and furious fucking
slaps, bites and death threats
choke me
knife me
kill me, better yet
imperfections and scars
aborted fetus in a jar,
these are just a few of my favorite things
so don’t offer me roses,
promise me the moon and the stars
or ply me with diamond rings–
only the ugly, dead,
and downright disgusting
can  truly make
my blood sing

By Cynthia Ruth Lewis

Burning Questions

Are you awake, Dennis? Dennis? Are you awake? Time to rise and…shine, Dennis!

Ah, there you are. Good morning, Dennis. How are you feeling today? Still a little sleepy? Yeah, well, you won’t be for long. Do you know what’s in your mouth, Dennis? Do you? Take a moment and try to figure it out. Don’t worry, take your time.

You can’t? Hmmm. Well, it’s a light bulb, Dennis. A fucking light bulb that’s hooked to a wire that’s hooked to a dimmer switch. And yes, the dimmer switch is right here, with us. Yes, it’s me and a couple of others who are watching you, Dennis. Right now, as you can tell, the bulb is not lit. But soon, Dennis, very very soon it will be. It’s a high-intensity bulb and it’s in your mouth. We strapped it there with some of that trusty Duct tape, along with your hands. But you already know that, don’t you. Of course you do.

Dennis? Are you listening, Dennis?


Ok, here is what we are going to do. We…well, I will ask you a series of questions. Dennis? Are you still listening? It is crucial that you are listening to what I am saying, Dennis. Dennis. Listen to me. Don’t fuck this up. If you fuck this up then you fuck yourself up. We don’t want that at all. We’re not in the business of fucking people up, Dennis. Okay? So listen well and you won’t get fucked up.

Okay then.

Each question I ask you will require a yes or a no answer. Obviously, Dennis, you cannot speak. That fucking bulb in your mouth and all. Yeah. I know. You’re scared as fuck, scared like a child who’s going to get his ass beat by some bully. Oh, Dennis, Dennis, Dennis. Let me assure you that getting your ass beat is far more preferable than what can potentially happen to you now. And we truly hope it doesn’t have to happen, Dennis. Honest! I mean, who in their right fucking mind wants to burn the inside of someone’s mouth with a fucking high-intensity light bulb? Do you think I do, Dennis? Do you?

I didn’t think so.


Shall we start? Are you ready, Dennis? Do you want to take a moment and prepare yourself? I would offer you a cigarette, or a…beer…or…something…but…well…you know.

All right. You look to be ready now. You know what to do.

Question number  one.

Is your name Dennis Pratt?


Question number  two.

Are you thirty-seven years old?

Okay, great. You’re doing fine thus far, Dennis. Uh,  Dennis Pratt, thirty-seven years old.

Question number three.

If a girl showed you her vagina in public, would you look at it?

Dennis? Did you hear the question? Dehhhhhhhh-nissssss?

Dennis. Don’t make me ask a question twice. That would not be good for you, trust me. I’ll let it go this time, but…

Again. If a girl showed you her va—

Okay, Dennis. Thank you. You are doing very well. I’m impressed. Keep it up.

Question number four.

Did you kill Ted Gunderson?

Dennis. Dennis, Dennis, Dennis, Dennis. You were doing so, so, so, so, so well!

I told you, Dennis. I told you the rules. How does it feel? Just warm? No pain yet?

Good. And again, we are not here to cause you pain. We only want the truth, Dennis. The light is warm now, but as you can probably figure out it will naturally get hotter. The glass will warm up considerably and your mouth will become very uncomfortable. You should have told us the truth, Dennis, then this would not have happened, now would it? That’s rhetorical, of course.


One thing I didn’t mention.

Once the bulb is lit, it cannot…will not be turned down.

So. Lies are no-no’s, Dennis. NO-NO’s! 

It must be burning a little by now.

On to more questions.

Question number five.

When you killed Ted Gunderson, did you place his body in the ground at 2386 Market Avenue, specifically directly behind the shed in the backyard?

Dennis! Fucking stop it! I guess you fucking want your tongue and gums to be burned to a crisp, is that it? Huh









I don’t know.

I really don’t know what I could have done. I tried to make things easy for you but all you could do was make things worse. It was easy, Dennis. Easy as pie. But no. You just sat there and burned your own mouth as we increased the intensity of that high-intensity bulb. Now look at you. Lips, tongue, everything burned, your face a mess of singed flesh. Did you really have to bite down on the fucking bulb, Dennis? Well, maybe I would have done the same thing, but really. What did you think would happen? Too bad for you.

Oh yes.

I completely forgot.

You’re dead.

Silly me.

By Jeff Callico

The Clown Who Smiles

The sun slid lazily downwards in the northwest, encroaching darkness spreading its tendrils across the midsummer sky. The road was near-empty of traffic, and Dean shrugged his shoulders as yet another car passed without stopping. At this rate they would never make it to Inverness. The roadside grit stung his nostrils as he stepped back on the greasy grass verge.

‘Why won’t these bastards stop?’ Gwyneth sounded as if she was close to tears.

 ‘They think we’re going to rob them or kill them.’

‘What?’ laughed Gwyneth, her nose-stud glinting beneath the darkness of her hair. ‘Bad things only happen to hitchhikers, never to drivers. Everyone knows that.’

‘Whatever,’ shrugged Dean. ‘We need to do something.’ He thought for a moment, then his eyes lit up with an idea. ‘I know,’ he said, in a burst of enthusiasm. ‘Why don’t you jump up and down in the road and wave your hands, like you’re in trouble?’

‘Okay,’ said Gwyneth, but with doubt lingering on her face. ‘What if they get mad, when they find out it’s a trick, and drive off?’

‘We don’t need to tell them it’s a trick. We just tell them we got into an argument with some nutter and that he chucked us out on the roadside.’

‘Right…’ muttered the girl, only half convinced.

A dull rumble in the distance interrupted their debate. Dean stepped back from the roadside, brushing back his lank brown hair. ‘I’ll stay out of sight,’ he said.

The noise grew louder, too loud for a car, or even a single lorry. A convoy thundered past, a circus procession without elephants, engine roar instead of music, going to town somewhere in the deathly still of the night. Dull lights hung open-eyed from the spider-arms of restrained rides, waltzers sat stacked up behind wooden ramps, grinning faces leered in spray-paint as they slid silently by. A cavalcade of lorries passed, each one carrying parts of an amusement ride in autopsied fragments, limbs poking skeletally into the night air or shrouded beneath tarpaulins. Bundled tents were piled up high like body bags, and then came the caravans, some brightly painted and others gleaming chrome in moonlight. Most were dirty with road-grime.         

After a few minutes, the convoy passed, leaving dust hanging in its wake.

 ‘We wouldn’t have got a lift anyway,’ mumbled Dean.

‘Look, there’s a minibus’ Gwyneth pointed along the road. A pair of headlights glared at them from the south, growing larger as they got closer. She jumped up and down, clapping her hands. ‘We’re saved!’  

‘Remember the plan,’ grinned Dean. ‘I’ll get back on the verge.’

Gwyneth staggered out into the headlight glow, waving her arms, and the vehicle slowed. It was a minibus, grimy with age and cobwebbed with rust. The window slid down.

Dean climbed up the verge and approached the passenger window. Then he laughed helplessly. The minibus was full of clowns.

‘What do you want,’ growled the nearside passenger, frowning at Gwyneth beneath the grease painted grin and two prongs of yellow hair. ‘Are you in trouble or something?’ He glared at Dean. ‘What’s so fucking funny?’

Dean laughed again. ‘Sorry,’ he giggled, ‘it’s just funny, clowns in a minibus. Shouldn’t you be in a little car or something?’

‘Shut up,’ hissed Gwyneth.

 ‘You think we dress like this all the time?’ grunted the passenger clown. ‘We’ve just been at a fucking stag night. Cash in hand, and no questions asked.’           

The tears poured from Dean’s eyes as he convulsed in hysterical laughter. ‘I’m … sorry …’ he wheezed. ‘It’s just … so fucking funny …’ He leaned on the minibus door for support. ‘Have you … got … big shoes on?’          

 The clown’s eyes blazed in anger and his hand jerked as the cigarette burned down to his fingers. ‘Fuck!’ he yelled, battering out the smoldering embers in a shower of sparks. ‘This shit is polyester!’

 That was too much for Dean, who burst out in a frenzy of uncontrollable giggles. It was also too much for the clown, who punched Dean in the face with a vicious right hook.

Dean slumped backwards, his lips split into a red grin. His head cracked wetly onto the tarmac and the look of shock fled from his eyes as blood flowed sluggishly from his nose and ears. Gwyneth screamed hopelessly into the silent night. The clown looked at the split knuckle on his outstretched fist with puzzlement on his face, as if it was a squirting flower that had malfunctioned.           

‘Shit!’ The clown looked down at Dean’s face, grinning vacantly up at them with blood-painted lips and nose, livid against his powder-pale face.  The youth was either dead or dying in silence. ‘What do we do now?’           

‘You’ve killed him, you daft cunt.’ Driver Clown was the most sober of the troupe, but not by much. ‘You’re going to fucking jail.’          

 ‘So are you, if you’re breathalyzed, you stupid bastard,’ hissed the passenger clown, now Killer Clown. 

 ‘We’re all screwed, man,’ said another clown, with green-dyed hair and a glazed expression. ‘We’ve got enough dope in here to fuck up a hospital and we’ll be dead if we lose it.’

 ‘Let’s get the fuck out of here then!’ Driver Clown grabbed the gearstick, but Killer Clown grabbed his arm.

‘What about her?’ Six pairs of eyes stared at the sobbing Gwyneth. ‘She’ll tell the police, and we’re not exactly hard to pick out in an identity parade.’

‘Why not kill her?’ The voice came from one of the backseats, a red-haired clown who looked like Queen Elizabeth the First. Vivienne Westwood flashed into Gwyneth’s frozen mind. ‘I’ve got a fuck-off sharp knife,’ he added, with a vicious grin.

Despite a murmur of disapproval from the passengers, that evil gleam of teeth broke the spell. Gwyneth turned and fled, running into the bleak blackness of the moorland.

‘Get her!’ yelled Killer Clown. The six clowns piled out of the front, side and back doors in a roar of clattering metal.

They didn’t have big shoes on.  They ran fast, capering in flapping clothing of all colors, white, red and harlequin patchwork. Psycho Clown was in the lead, grinning wildly in the moonlight, red hair wobbling, blade glinting in his hand.

Gwyneth ran for her life, breath hitching in her chest, her lungs clenching like fists as they sucked in acid-cold air. Ahead was a tree-line, looming in the darkness, and she was convinced she would be safe once hidden. She glanced back over her shoulder. The clowns had fallen back, out of breath, with Psycho Clown and the green-haired Dopey Clown in the lead. Killer Clown was bent over double, wheezing and coughing and Driver Clown was dashing back towards the minibus. She allowed herself a smile of relief, prompted by the adrenaline surge and the closeness of the forest.  I might just make it out of this… Then, her foot found a heather-hidden hole, and she fell sprawling forwards, mossy grass muffling her scream.

She struggled to her feet, but the clowns fell upon her. A wickedly-sharp knife flashed in the air and she closed her eyes in terror.

But the blade never fell.

She opened her eyes, slits at first, then one at a time.

Four powder-white faces glowered at her.

She tried to speak, but words would not come and her lips flapped silently like a landed fish.

‘Don’t kill her,’ said the green-haired Dopey Clown, gripping Psycho Clown’s knife-clenched wrist. ‘Just don’t kill her. We can’t do that.’

‘What else can we do,’ hissed the red-haired clown. ‘Let her fucking go? With her boyfriend dead back there?’

‘Maybe he isn’t dead,’ said the third clown, frowning beneath a frizz of white hair, peering through a pair of grandfatherly half-moon glasses.

‘Here comes the others,’ said the fourth clown, who was made up like a harlequin, his face a blank white oval with a single black teardrop. ‘It looks like they’ve been checking him over.’

The two other clowns, Driver Clown and Killer Clown, leaned over Gwyneth who shivered like a trapped rabbit.

‘He’s fucked,’ said Killer Clown. ‘The bastard definitely ain’t breathing.’

‘You’re fucked, you mean,’ said Driver Clown. ‘Why did you have to punch him anyway?’

‘The cunt nearly set my suit on fire,’ wailed Killer Clown. ‘I was provoked!’

‘We’re all fucked,’ said Dopey Clown. ‘We need to get out of here with the stash and before the cops breathalyze that twat.’ He nodded in the direction of Driver Clown.

‘What about her?’ Psycho Clown pointed at Gwyneth with his knife, his painted mouth curved downwards in outrage, eyes glinting in the moonlight. ‘We can’t just fucking leave her!’

‘Can we not just tie her to a tree?’ Granddad Clown looked mildly concerned behind his glasses, in contrast to the outrage pulsing from some of the other grease painted faces.

‘It’s the middle of fucking nowhere,’ said Dopey Clown. ‘You might as well bloody kill her!’

‘That shit only works in films, anyway,’ said Psycho Clown impatiently. ‘We can stab her, make it look like the boyfriend did it, and then they were hit by cars or something.’

‘We could take her with us.’

The words were lost in the argument which was spreading like a bushfire, flames crackling in the still night air, Psycho and Dopey arguing with the greatest passion.

‘We could take her with us.’ The harlequin spoke more loudly this time.

The others stopped to listen.

‘What do you mean?’

‘We’ve got enough dope to tranquilize her for months.’ There was something about his geisha-powdered face with the single teardrop, which chilled her to the core. ‘We could make her part of the act.’ His deep-black eyes locked with her own, and the true horror of his placid moonface lunacy pierced her mind. The dope will keep her smiling and we could make sure she never ever speaks again.’ He knelt down beside her. ‘Someone bring up some dope, and put that boy into the bus.’ He spoke in tones of gentle authority, turning towards Psycho Clown. ‘And give me your knife for a minute….’

The others held her arms and Dopey spiked her arm with a syringe. The tongue writhed like a slippery snake as the harlequin sliced through the root and the muffled screaming turned into an insane gargle as he turned her head gently to one side, allowing the blood to flow freely. He realigned the knife slightly and sliced up between her jaws, skin flaps hanging in the blade’s wake as she gurgled incoherently through her new grin. He propped her up gently on his lap, holding her as the heroin hit home.

She looked up at the moonlight, which shone on her pale face, and then her stare relaxed and she gurgled in contentment, the ragged wound of her mouth spreading wider, blood seeping around her lips and chin.

‘There,’ said the harlequin, with the slightest hint of a smile. ‘What a grin she’s got now.’

By Iain Paton


The Clipper, The Clown, and A Bag of Dark Dirty Things

He offered her a zombie cocktail, the suave motherfucker with his metro accent and his glassy-eyed laissez affair. I sat there and watched like it was a personal affront, burning the celo wrapper on my cigarette pack until it curled up into a blackened waxy ball I could flip at the waitress who’d been ignoring me for almost an hour. There will come a time when the illusion becomes real and you believe everything is grey cheese and fickle brain-eating amoebas warning us about the rat-pig rodent winter coming to a mass murder near you. I could kiss off all the criticism and consumer media, cause this new addiction I got falls just short of ear splitting ecstasy.

She was decked out in x-rated warning labels and firecrackers. She was as deadly as the switchblade strapped to her thigh. It made me jealous the way she toyed with proper Johns as if she were something, something other than what she was once, back in the dust bowl …

It was a season of extremes, seeing her here, a hitchhiker resurrection in hotel gift shop linens.

“New and Improved Ten-in-One Kootch” claimed the gargantuan sign over my head as the barker staked his claim with a red, orange, and white painted banner. We’d had the only show like it, but that was years ago, years best forgotten. I thought I’d seen the last of it, the last of her, but the sexy billboard off the interstate said otherwise. You’d think I would have learned by now that you never see the last of anything. Damn fancy-pants billboard advertisers! How do they know who you are? What you’re looking for? I hadn’t been on the circuit in years. Neither had she. She’d got tired of it all, the cheers and the jeers, the foul subtext, and all the creepy flophouse men. She’d got tired of being applauded with ignorance and vomit, so she made a bid and hit the dirt road in a turnip truck on it’s way to LA.

She’d had work done: liposuction, a little electrolysis, organic foods and herbal supplements. Throw in one silicone implant, a careful tuck, and a whole lot of clean living, and there she was, rubbin’ up against the beautiful people. Her days of walking with the dead were over, history, just a rotten childhood memory best left to the imagination of horror fiction writers and fetish freaks.

She had real style now, all capped teeth, kinky boots, and a shaved ass. She’d hit the majors. I settled farther into the shadows at the back of the room. Smoked my cigarette. I was used to it. The silence. The fear on their faces. No one ever looked directly at me, let alone looked me in the eye, no one except her. I missed her, and I hated the way the men looked at her. She’d finally figured out how much she was worth and had bid the gaffs a fond adieu for good.

She wasn’t just a sideshow anymore, she was an “act.” Things weren’t the same without her. I flipped open my tired old leather satchel. They were all rusty and dull. Everything was, until now. I might grow tired of watching her, someday, but for now, I’ll keep at it until she screams or begs me to stop.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner