Channel Zero

 

 

 

 

 

a madness love
births a massacre pleasure
 
cracked television sets display
wire cages deep deep inside
watching the figures flicker flicker
 
fingers touch the screen
glossing over her faces hidden between the panes
 
dried blood on the glass and she’s clutching the cage sides
 
shake the clouds away
shake the clouds away
 
her high heels crush stamen
so she can drink the fluid
so she can lie down on asphalt
with her skin stretching enjoying
multiple slick surges
and perforations of capillaries drawn into her
deep inside
 
the electric shock of the walls 
i watch intently as
the moon spins to the left and the
dust comes to rest
 
turning dials
to control the electric corset
a vinyl flash
 
enjoying a taste of mars on the electric farm

By Peter Marra

www.angelferox.com

A Kosher Buisness

Michael slid the stocking up his leg, it was a slim leg, white and feminine, even for an adult male. He liked his legs so much better sheathed in nylons, they were smoother and their contour was womanly. He admired himself in the full length mirror of his hotel room, the knee length red dress, his black bob wig, delicate make up and those long legs which he prided himself on. They were the element that made his masculine self pass for a female, many a fella had mistaken him for a true woman, and he loved passing.
 
Michael was not a homosexual, he was married with two adolescent children, Kara and Luke. This business trip was just a chance to let his hair down, so to speak. He would go out to the darkened bars and enjoy the glances he received, some favorable, some . . . not so favorable. He went by Michelle in this city, Michelle my belle. Michael hoisted his posh leather purse onto his rather broad shoulder, and slipped his rather large feet into size 12 heels. One last glance at himself gave him the confidence he needed to step out into the night, and claim his identity.
 
The first bar he entered was swaying with popular dance beats, and Michael felt his hips start to swing. He had a couple of johns join him in his rhythmic elation, most were unaware of his true self, tucked safely back between his legs. Others looked as though they knew something was a miss but couldn’t exactly place the truth of their unease. After several rounds of two stepping with a handsome burly creature, Michael felt a certain pressure. The man had an erection and was pressing himself deeper into ‘Michelle’. Michael attempted to pull back but the man seemed determined to fuck.
“Baby,” the big man crooned. “Why are you being such a prude?”
He smelled of strong scotch and beer, obviously the man was drenched in alcohol and the fumes could send him into a fiery blaze if anyone struck a match too close.
“I-I just need some air,” Michael answered in the falsetto he adopted for his late night role. He pushed the big man back and hurried towards the exit, he felt the stirring eyes follow him as he departed. Once outside, Michael breathed a sigh of relief, he enjoyed his ruse, up to a certain point. A hand gripped his shoulder tightly and Michael was turned around to face the muscle of his dance partner bearing down heavily on him.
“Where the fuck you going, bitch?”
“I told you I needed some air,” Michael said firmly pulling himself out of the man’s grasp. The open palm hit Michael suddenly, like a golem jumping up from the sewer. His wig went flying. The man stared at Michael, a look of disgust welling on his face, a look that was soon replaced by sheer anger.
“You fucking queer faggot, what the fuck are you doin’ at this bar! Dancing with a fucking straight man?!” he shouted. “You trying to get my dick boy!”
Michael knew what would happen now: this neanderthal would pummel the shit out of him in the dark street. He would leave him bloody and broken, and Michael would have to explain that to his wife, he didn’t want to do that, he didn’t want any of that. As the fist reached out for Michael’s face, Michael stabbed him square in the gut with his foldable Kershaw blade, the same one he used for field dressing deer. The man slumped down and he let him fall.
 
Michael bent over and picked up his disheveled wig from the sidewalk. Then he stepped in the road and hailed down a yellow cab. He hoisted the big man up and pushed him in the back.
“7th Ave and 19th street.” The cabbie nodded, and gave a backwards glance at the bent over guest. “The big man had a little much to drink tonight,” Michael answered his questioning gaze with a sweet lithe voice.
 
They arrived at the back entrance of Michael’s hotel and he dragged the man out of the car, then paid the driver. He hauled the bull over to the dark alley and leaned him against the brick wall. Michael hit him square across the face, causing a rousing reaction from his victim.
“You slimy son of a bitch,” Michael breathed in hushed rage. “Can’t a girl go out dancing without some mother fucking redneck fuck trying to stick his dick in her?”
“Mmmherm . . .”
“I didn’t think so,” Michael plunged the blade into the man’s groin this time, eliciting a shrill squeal from the severed testosterone. He stabbed him again and again in the thick of his belly. He ran the blade across his face and drove it into his meaty forearms. Michael wasn’t sure if the man was quite dead yet but he decided to get to work anyway. He pulled out a roll of saran wrap from his purse and placed it next to the body. Michael decided he would take the choice cuts first: a big hunk of belly meat. He sawed off the flesh with his handy blade and wrapped it in the plastic. Then he started cutting off a piece of the inner thigh, which had already been slightly mutilated and tenderized by the stabbing. Michael went about the body making his selections until he had 7 different pieces of plastic wrapped meat. He reached into his handbag again and pulled out a folded paper grocery sack, he placed his parcels inside. He withdrew several wet naps, from the chasm that is every woman’s purse, to clean himself with. Looking at himself in his compact mirror, Michael decided he was more than passing and the excitement of the kill had given his face a healthy flush. He smiled at himself and strolled through the front door of the hotel.
 
Michael’s flight was the next morning and he was more than ready to leave. He was sure someone would be discovering his handy work right about the time he was walking to his gate, the chunks of man meat carefully skinned and re-wrapped in his carry on bag. They looked like inconspicuous slices of pork. Later that night he would cook dinner for his family, and they would all marvel at the wonderful cuts of meat he picked up on his business trip, praising his expert culinary skills, and asking for seconds. Michael just smiled, loving his secret life as Michelle, the humble cannibal.

By Emily Smith-Miller

Flesh

Rage, and then more of the same but stronger. He felt it, felt it like the blood rushing through his veins. It was more than a clichéd raging current, it was a murderous intent on exacting a revenge so brutal it could be considered legally justified.
 
“Don’t,” said the voice of his victim. But he was the victim, not this useless skeletal frame wrapped in flesh. It was all about him and no one else.
 
“I will,” he replied. “You know I will. You’ve known this as long as you can remember. Do you remember?”
 
The flesh nodded.
 
“Well, then. Swallow the knife.” He pulled the flesh’s tongue out with spiked tongs, placed the tip of the blade against it, an oozing of blood beginning. The flesh winced, the flesh gurgled, the tongue of the flesh bled more profusely.
 
“Slowly,” he told the flesh, “swallow it slowly and it will hurt less at first. The pain won’t truly begin until it cuts the back of your throat.”
 
The tip disappeared into the now muted gurgle of the flesh. Soon the revenge would find its release.
 
He could tell the flesh wanted to talk but the knife was too deep, there was too much blood, the gurgling was choking the flesh into a red-faced cadaver. “What is it?” he cooed, as if to a small child whimpering about not getting candy. “What do you really want?” He pushed the knife in further, felt a splatter on his cheek, just under his right eye. The blood of the flesh was spurting out, he felt the hands of the flesh (oh how smooth they were) grabbing at him, the nails of those fingers so sharp, just like he wanted them. They were raking, clawing. He wanted them to draw his own blood.
 
“There, there,” he went on, the knife moving deeper by increments. “Doesn’t that taste so good?”
 
The flesh was dead, or at least appeared to be. Yet the fingers, the nails, still clawed their message of I Don’t Want To Die. Or was it something else? Yes, it was. The flesh was raking its message of I HATE YOU FOR KILLING ME.
 
“Now, now,” he said, smelling blood but unsure of whose, “you love the taste of revenge.”
 
If only flesh could talk.

By Jeff Callico

Girl Risks a Psycho

a pale white figure etched
on the cavern wall beneath.
a figure that gazes steadily as we
sit on the wet ground.
outside the animals
twist, then spin rapidly.
 
moisture drips
from the ceiling and bats come to rest.
she removes the eyes with opera-gloved hands 
 
a surgical precision
she comes from
that part of the woods
where a wet sneer is functional.
a confession of shame is a pleasure.
 
the  doctor  kept talking
but wouldn’t end
the doors in his eyes
ate me chewed it up
it was gone the doors in
his heart a craving to pierce his lungs
set him aflame
they recommended the treatment and the victims
crushed under anvils
smug fucker eviscerated clad in webs
blud gone all dry
 
a simple use for a room:
naked longing and the operation was scheduled.
a headline laughs for the profane.
i want to be there – across- away –
in los angeles where it’s 3 a.m.
hide away at the ranch.
 
lumps of pain.
take him and throw him into the highway.
let the tires complete him
sliced diced asphalt justice
roll over 1-2-3
the throb spurt spilling on the road.
smile.

By Peter Marra

www.angelferox.com

A Bad Friday

We would have examined the bodies sooner if it weren’t for all the blood and random internal organs spread around the floor. It appears every ounce and each drop that is the human essence has been spilled and spread evenly – so evenly from wall to wall there isn’t even space between the walls and door.

I’ve been the primary on a number of scenes, but this is all of them wrapped into one. As the uniforms taped back the gawkers; I continue my investigation through a window. I’ve been able to squeeze up against the great bay window facing the street by standing on a milk crate between the house and the shrubs, nuzzling my right eyeball and cheek against the divided pane. 

Despite the sun’s glare on this clean, crisp day, I spy a modestly decorated model of suburbia awash with a family dissected and turned inside-out. 

We force our way in through a back door, at the kitchen, where the floor is cleanest and the largest pieces of body lie; neatly aligned side by side, seemingly, according to height and age—husband, wife, eldest son, eldest daughter, middle son, middle daughter and youngest son.

Their severed heads, standing on neck stumps, are placed between their feet – looking back at me, the door and their own bodies – minus eyeballs and eyelids.

They’re nude. Their arms are cut loose at the shoulders and carefully arranged on their chests with palms down, up where their hearts would be. Their torsos too are cut loose just above the pelvis and quartered. The trails of blood and organ spread outward from the kitchen: first to the adjacent dining room; then through the ironically named living room and down the hall to a bedroom. The stench is as overwhelming as the sight. I excuse several patrolmen and detectives so their puke won’t taint the scene.

A canvas reveals it’s been three days since anyone reported seeing a member of the family, and yet the medical examiner’s gut tells him they’ve been dead and dissected for at least six. 

The bedrooms appear undisturbed. The bathroom adjacent to a closet and the kitchen is where the cutting was done: chainsaw, knives and tweezers are all taken into evidence.
 
What we can’t find is the family’s youngest child, a daughter; age five according to neighbors who say they last saw her sitting alone in the backyard, approximately seventy-two hours ago.

We put out the Amber Alert and scour the basement; orderly and clean.

We extend the perimeter to include the neighboring yards in search of a doll, a shoe, a piece of clothing or even, dare I say, her body. But nothing; not a footprint, a broken twig or a bent blade of grass turn up.

Inside we continue our search for clues. No discernible footprints, no fingerprints. The DNA tests are going to be a mess. No forced entry. No broken furniture or glass. All the art and plants adorning the walls, hang straight amidst some splatter.

We find a hatch tucked inconspicuously in the ceiling of a closet in the master bedroom; overlooking shelves buried full of hat boxes, shoe boxes and one metal box containing a loaded .38.

We’re detectives. We have to look. I pull the rope and drop the hatch. Drying, sticky blood glows against the dust on the steps. My partner and I draw our guns. 

A long sliver of chain dangles down below the opening, about six or seven inches or so. I make my way up, avoiding the blood.  I can yank the chain, light the space and who knows – maybe get a shot off at the killer if he’s here.

My partner reminds me it would be difficult for the killer to have barricaded himself in the attic. But after what I’ve seen today, logic doesn’t dictate.
 
The light is brighter than I expected, like the day dawned early. Of course, we’ve been here all night and the contrast may simply be masking reality.

The blood stops at the top step: none on the floor of the attic, just dust and boxes. And a muffled sound – a song. Like any song for the alphabet or for counting, taught to and sung by little children in playgrounds everywhere.
 
But here the song is coming from a little girl, innocently and melodically. Our little girl, our missing child is alive. We make our way to the other end of the attic, towards that head of long, straggly blonde hair. She doesn’t notice us. She’s sitting, hunching over a circle drawn in the thick attic dust, engrossed in a game of marbles. 

I turn her around and look into her angelic face. She drops the marbles from her right hand. The tiny orbs independently clunk to the floor and roll away from out shadows and into the light: varnished hard and perfectly round these are the missing eyeballs of her parents and siblings.

By Joseph J. Patchen

Sweetwater, TX

The chainsaw felt heavy in her hands, of course it would, it was a nice piece of machinery. She smelled like Vicks. She rubbed the stuff on her chest and under her nose, it helped her asthmatic self breathe, but also masked her natural scent. She huffed in the methanol fumes and started walking towards the courthouse. At 3 AM the building was abandoned, except for some sleepy eyed night watchman, she practically strolled in the front door. It only took two well-placed hits to fell the drowsy guard, she tied him up and put him in a janitorial closet. Her combat boots clicked on the marble stairs and she let the chainsaw drag just enough to make it screech. She felt like all those lunatics in every horror movie she’d ever seen, somehow it made sense, after all that had happened. She propped herself up in the mayor’s chair, it was big and leather, obviously, it was made for a man’s man, someone who went hunting and hung deer heads on his den wall. When he walked into his office 4 hours later, she would be a misplaced sight in that hulking seat, especially with the chainsaw resting on her thighs.

Four days earlier Victoria Cahill might have been mistaken for any other alternative 20 something, working her way through life at the local Goodwill, placing the threadbare jackets on racks and organizing used sports equipment into large piles, next to abandoned VHS tapes and VCRs. Victoria’s peroxide hair with awkward DIY multicolored highlights, was almost as ridiculous as the collection of assorted buttons she’d covered her matte blue work vest in: “I’m with stupid,” “Kiss me I’m pregnant,” “My Cat Eats Balls,”. . . ect. She was as clichéd as the morons she hated. She smoked Camel Crush cigarettes, because she liked a little menthol kick, and she secretly carried her inhaler everywhere with her because she couldn’t actually take in oxygen without wheezing most of the time. But asthma wasn’t bad ass. She was bad ass, in her fucking imagination. Victoria would scan items and look carefully at the assholes in her line, buying second hand massagers or a rare decent piece of vinyl. She would look at them, and think about what the consequences would be if she pulled out the cash drawer and slammed it into their bland faces. There wasn’t even a good reason for wanting to beat the shit out of everyone who came in to browse the discards of the world, she just wanted to do it, just to shake things up. Sometimes when things were slow she’d look at the vintage pornography they had in the curtained back room  and masturbate out of boredom. That was life in Sweetwater, TX, something like a Norman Rockwell painting with trailers and rednecks.

Victoria went to work that Tuesday like every other stupid work day, late and half dressed. Her torn, faded black  Misfits shirt was holding on by the hinge of a safety pin and her skirt was fastened with the same utensil. She had on a duck taped pair of ratty combat boots and about ten different necklaces, all a lovely contrast to her Goodwill sales vest. She approached the door and pulled to open it, the thing wouldn’t budge. Someone had locked it, or no one had shown up at 7 to unlock it. That was strange in itself, Jim was opening, he loved this job more than jacking off to head shots of Bea Arthur, and he was always early. Victoria pulled out her key and let herself in. The lights were on, but the store was quiet and the hair on Victoria’s arms started to prickle.

“Jim!” she shouted through the racks of merchandise. After several minutes when no one answered her calls, she started heading towards the employee office at the back of the building. A few of the fluorescent lights flickered over the sports equipment, giving off an unsettling strobe affect. It was half past 9 and there was no reason Jim should have turned on the lights but left the store unopened. Victoria caught sight of a bag of rusty golf clubs and quickly selected one with the biggest head. The spastic lights sputtered above her as she lifted the club in a defensive position, ready to swing at anyone or anything who wasn’t Jim. Creeping towards the office, she noticed a series of dark stains flashing in the dimming light. They could have been anything, but she had a nagging feeling that they weren’t just some spilled condiment or beverage. A low moan escaped from the back room making her jump and she could see a shadow tracing the wall of the corridor to her right. It was hunched and moving strangely.  Just as she motioned forward to peer more closely at the intruder, her phone started blaring “Guns of Brixton”. The shadow was suddenly upright and moving quickly in her direction. Victoria made a b-line for the exit, clutching the golf club tightly. She nearly swung the thing through the store window, but managed instead to punch out the front door with minimal damage. Once she had sprinted a couple hundred yards away, and was thoroughly suffocating on her own lungs, she finally stopped to whip out her inhaler. The phone started shrieking again, making her wince, she picked it up this time with an annoyed growl.

“Hello?!”

“Vic!” her boyfriend Max’s voice echoed over the line, which was coated with slight static.

“Max, what the fuck! You know I’m at work right now, er or I’m supposed to be at work.”

“You’re not at work?” he asked in a concerned, insistent voice.

“No, something weird was going on over there. The doors were locked but the lights were on. I couldn’t find Jim, but someone was definitely there. I was about to see who, when you fucking called me and got the dude’s attention. I had to haul ass out of there!”

“Thank god your safe Vic!”

“What’s going on Max?” The words were barely out of her mouth before someone grabbed her shoulder.

Victoria spun on heel, wielding her weapon at something that could not be called a man. His face, or where his face had probably once been was just melted flesh and eye sockets, a gaping nose hole and tearing teeth. The face looked like it was still melting as it bent towards Victoria in slow motion and started chomping and clawing. She hit it over the back of the head, and it fell to the ground and started crawling towards her. She was caught off guard by its appearance, the twisted bubbles of skin, looking like a plastic burn victim of childhood doll torment. But Vic couldn’t stop herself now, she was beating it in the back of the head as it still struggled to move. She realized it was bleeding out the ear holes and that a gray matter started to leak from the top of its skull, she kept pounding though, bringing the club down over and over and over, until there was nothing but mush in the concrete. Victoria stumbled back from the thing, clenching the grip on her tool. She collapsed to her knees and noticed now that there was blood all over her hands and flecked across her face and hair. Scrambling on the pavement, she found the phone she’d dropped when her assailant grabbed her. Max was still shouting on the other line.

“VICTORIA!” he screamed over the receiver.

“Max, I-I-uh-I just killed something, I don’t know someone, I don’t know something. Max, what the FUCK is going on!”

“Oh my god Vicky! I heard something going on in the background, I didn’t know what was happening, are you alright?”

“No, I’m very fucking far from alright Max, what in-the-fucking-hell-fucking-fuck-is-going-on!”

“Where are you, baby?”

“I’m somewhere down the street from the Goodwill, in like a side alley or something. That thing must’ve followed me out of the store . . .”

“Stay where you are, I’m on my way.”

“Max what’s-” Max had already hung up the phone.

Victoria sat in the alley, a few feet away from the mutilated creature she’d just beat the brains out of. She pulled her pale legs close to her chest and felt like this was all wrong, or maybe it was all right. She’d been watching horror movies since she was a kid, she was a professed zombie expert, and she felt like a bad ass in her head, even though she had been puffing on her inhaler like it was a cherried joint. She just killed some kind of minion of the undead, she told herself, it was not a person, it was a science experiment gone wrong. But how? This was fucking fantasy, this did not happen, not to her, not to anyone. This was some fucking Romero shit, and it was going down in Sweetwater, Texas.

Max pulled up in his old red Jeep Grand Cherokee. He opened the passenger side door and she jumped in without so much as a word. They drove in silence for a few minutes before Victoria felt that she was about to explode.

“Max, what the fuck. We’re in like a fucking horror comic. I just brained a zombie, what the hell is happening?”

“It wasn’t a zombie, or I don’t know it wasn’t like a fucking Romero and shit zombie, maybe Return of the Living Dead type zombie. But it’s just something really fucked up.”

“What do you mean ‘it’s just something really fucked up’, what are you talking about, why aren’t you telling me!”

“Look, you know my dad works at the courthouse, with like the mayor and all that shit, right?”

“Yeah . . .”

“Ok well yesterday he comes home all fucking freaked out, grabs my grandpa’s old shotgun, loads it up, tells my mom to bolt the doors, has me and my sister piling food and shit in the basement, and doesn’t say a fucking word about why. This morning he finally cracks, starts talking about some kind of bullshit plan that the mayor had, that’s gone total bat shit FUBAR. He’s basically mumbling incomprehensible gibberish and I had to smack him pretty fucking hard to get him out of it. He told me that there was this vaccination, this test batch, that one of the mayor’s bio scientist friends has come to him with. The mayor is up for re-election, but it’s more than that, they start talking about this thing taking him all the way to the White House, you know some political pull, from a fucking conspiracy movie. They couldn’t get the FDA on board to start testing the vaccine on humans though, so apparently the mayor held a conference yesterday, a conference that he did not attend, and he dosed the whole fucking bunch of people with the shit. That’s all my dad said, but from his reaction something’s gone fucking seriously wrong. The news started reporting strange attacks from ‘deformed individuals’ this morning, right around the time you went to work. That’s why I called you.”

Victoria was quiet, she had thought about all of this before, obviously not in a real life scenario, but to herself in like a horror movie kind of way. She’d always suspected the government would do shit like this to them one day or another, I mean fuck they released influenza on the fucking subway system just to see what would happen. They tested acid on unknowing soldiers to find out the affects. They were a bunch of crack pot giants pulling the wings off of flies and burning ants with a magnifying glass, of course their insects were actually people in a small trailer trash town like this.

“This is fucking insane Max,” she finally said.

“You don’t think I know that, Vic?”

“Is it contagious?”

“Jesus, Victoria, we’re not in a horror movie! How am I supposed to know that?”

“Well you’re dad sure seems to know a lot about this, let’s go ask him,” she answered in a calculated voice.

“My dad?! Vic, what the . . . what the fuck!”

“Max! We’re going to your house!” She jerked the wheel in his hands forcing him to make a right turn on the next street. Max pulled free from her grasp, but kept the car steering towards her ‘requested’ destination.

The house looked deserted, there were boards on the windows, the cars had been moved in front of the garage, forming a blockade,  the door was reinforced with a steel cage bolted to the outside.

“Holy fuck, Max,” Victoria whispered. “When did your family go fucking survivalist psycho?”

“I told you, my dad came home yesterday and he just started putting this shit up. I’m not even sure if he slept at all.”

“So this is for real.”

“Yeah, it’s for real.”

Max guided Victoria into the steel cage, which he had to unlock from the inside in order to get to the front entrance. It looked like a shark cage, she didn’t even know where the hell you would find something like this in Sweetwater. Mr. Dixon must have been preparing for something like this for a while. Victoria had no idea what Max’s dad’s job actually was, she remembered he’d been a scientist for a bit when they were little, but now he held some kind of environmental lobbyist position at the courthouse. Assisting counsel with certain ecologically impacting projects, or anything that could potentially influence a biological crisis. It was all Japanese to her. When they walked into the house, the overwhelming smell of gunpowder smacked them in the face. The place appeared abandoned, the furniture had been toppled over to create a make shift barricade between the front door and the back of the house. No sign of life emerged.

“Mom!” Max shouted with a touch of worried inflection. “Brandy!”

No one answered.

“DAD, where are you!?” Max’s voice continued to rise until it was almost a shriek of panic. Victoria took his hand and squeezed. Then Mrs. Dixon emerged, covered in blood, holding a shotgun.

“M-mom,” Max faltered. “Mom, what’s happened, are you alright?” He rushed to her.

“Max!” she sobbed dropping the gun and embracing her son. “Max, your father . . . he attacked us!”

“What?! Where’s dad, mom?”

“He’s in the basement, so is Brandy,” she whispered the last part.

Max ran to the top of the basement stairs and let out an emotion ripping sob, Victoria saw him hit his knees and begin to cry. She looked at Mrs. Dixon, who stared blankly ahead, then turned to face her.

“Victoria,” she said pointedly. “You have blood in your hair. Would you like a towel?”

Victoria stared at the woman who was clearly covered in her husband and daughter’s blood and said,

“Sure, Mrs. Dixon.”

Max came away from the basement, a new look of hardened resolution on his face. He took his mother by the shoulders and shook her hard.

“What happened mom!?” he demanded. She looked at him sternly, then broke down into choking breaths and stifled whimpers.

“Yo-your father, he had become obsessed, turning the house inside out. He wouldn’t tell me everything, but I kept asking. Eventually he told me about the vaccine and the trouble with the people who had escaped from that conference the mayor organized. He told me everything, then he started acting strangely. His, his eyes started to roll back in his head, and he started foaming, you know like rabies foaming? at the mouth. Brandy, she went to help him. She thought he was having a stroke, and I rushed upstairs to call 911. Then I heard her scream.” Mrs. Dixon went quiet, and her eyes started to unfocus again, Max clapped his hands in her face and she looked up at him. “It was terrible Max, your father, he bit Brandy in the throat. He was . . . he was eating her. Then he came at me, but I had grandpa’s shotgun. It only took the one bullet. Pop!” she said. “Right in his face.” She was quiet again, though, Victoria noted a hint of pride evident in Mrs. Dixon for the act of recently killing her husband.

Victoria pulled Max away from his distraught mother, and hugged him close.

“Max, this is serious, we need to get out of here,” she said.

“And go where Vic?”

“We need to contact someone, the CDC or fuck I don’t know, the troops!”

“The fucking troops! Vic are you fucked in the head!?! You watch more horror movies than anyone I know, what happens when they call in the troops, the cavalry?”

“They nuke the town and blame a power plant explosion.”

“Bingo.”

“But you said, earlier, that we weren’t in a movie, Max. This is real.”

“You know, I don’t think I can handle real just yet, Vic. Horror movie, I can handle horror movie.” She nodded at him, understanding the implication of reality in this situation. Victoria flicked on the TV, Max said there had been news reports going on about the attacks and she wanted to get an update. The screen was static on several local stations, then she picked up a state feed. The well pressed woman seemed non-plussed as she was reading out an update on the terror in Sweetwater:

‘Today in Sweetwater, Texas, local officials have been dealing with a group of people who were unknowingly exposed to a large dose of radioactive material, during a routine geological dig. Apparently 47 individuals came in contact with a Radium mine, causing malformation and bouts of erratic insanity. Those involved began terrorizing the town of Sweetwater Texas earlier this morning, apparently the radiation mutated their brain chemistry causing them to react violently against the townspeople. The Mayor has been covering the unfortunate events over the last hour, he indicated that the incident had been contained and that those 47 in question had been detained. Whether or not they will recover is hazy. Roughly a dozen others were injured by the crazed individuals. The town is now returning to normal and Mayor Rooney is to thank for such quick and decisive actions. Thank you Mayor Rooney, back to you Roger.’

“You’re fucking kidding me,” Victoria spit.

“No,” Max answered. “I don’t think she is.”

“Max, there were people with melted fucking faces walking around trying to eat people!”

“And I think that can all be explained by some sort of geological field trip gone awry.”

“But your . . Dad!”

“Vic! I know! But they’re going to believe what’s easiest to believe!” Mrs. Dixon took Max by the shoulder and her face collided with his throat, tearing heartily through his esophagus and arteries. Max started gurgling blood in an attempt to scream, but Mrs. Dixon had always taken very good care of her teeth and they worked fast to dislodge her son’s neck.

Victoria fell backwards away from the sight of her boyfriend being eaten by his own mother. She was scuttling across the carpet, panting in terror, when her elbow met the twenty-two Mrs. Dixon had been toting earlier. It took Victoria a moment to raise the rifle at Max’s mom and pull out a clean shot, rupturing her cranium, leaving her twitching next to Max’s lifeless body.

“Holy shit,” she muttered, looking at all the blood spreading out before her. How the fuck? Mr. Dixon, he could’ve been exposed to the vaccine at any time, but Mrs. Dixon? how had she become a part of this? How did she turn? How was this spread? Victoria looked at Max, he was dead, as dead as a fucking doornail, then she turned her eyes to Mrs. Dixon. She moved her body over with the shotgun and began to examine her a little more closely. That’s when she found what she was looking for: a large human shaped bite in her arm. This was classic zombie, even if it wasn’t exactly zombie. “I should have fucking known,” she said to herself. “Fucking bites.” She looked at the massacred bodies of her boyfriend and best friend and that of his family. This wasn’t a horror movie, this was a simple fucking case of some douche bag looking to get his slimy fingers into a more influential pie. This whole family had been slaughtered with one man’s insidious actions. It made Victoria very fucking angry. She picked up the shotgun and headed for the shark cage front door.

 For the next day Victoria went out at night, hunting the stragglers from the mayor’s experiment. She broke into a local store that carried ammo and hardware, filling a big black bag with some fun tools. She’d never really thought about breaking the law before, not like this, but suddenly nothing seemed to matter the way it used to. She learned that the mayor had put all the ‘exposed’ out of their misery, but he didn’t know what was happening to those poor bastards who’d survived their bites and not reported them. It took her about two nights, but she managed to clean out the town as best as she could figure, ridding it of the last few creatures. Max’s family’s death was blamed on the same radiation bullshit as everything else. It was probably the late night memorials that kept coming on for the ‘victims of the Sweetwater Tragedy’ that finally snapped little Victoria. Or maybe it was braining that first zombie, watching her boyfriend have his throat torn out, or knowing that there was really only one person to blame for everything. Maybe that was why she packed her shit and picked up that big beautiful chainsaw and headed towards the courthouse at 3 AM.

 They would say it was a madman, the one who hacked the mayor into neat pieces and stacked him on his own desk. They would say a lot of things, like how the radiation might still be leaking from somewhere, creating maniacs out of regular everyday citizens. The news would cover the event for a while, but no suspect would turn up. The video cameras had all been smashed, the archives destroyed. There was no one with a motive, the cops would insist fervently. Children were kept in at night, and parents spoke in hushed voices about moving to another city. Then they would stop by their local Goodwill and that punk girl who rang up things so slowly would give them a big toothy smile, she never smiled before, but now she did, she smiled like all the chaos that occurred since the incident was just a part of her precious plan. And maybe it was. From now on people moved quickly away from that girl though, because there was something not quite right about her.

By Emily Smith-Miller

Remnants

Buried deep within the woods of New Hampshire stood the dilapidated remains of what had once been a home for the deranged and mentally ill. The owner of the establishment claimed a financial burden led to its eventual closure around 1910, and while society had crept ever closer to its forgotten walls, a four mile block of undeveloped forest still hid it from the world.

     Nathan and Lance Kearsley emerged from the thick forest of tall pine trees to stand before this relic, its thirty front windows peering vacantly at their approach. The dirt road that had once led to the structure had long succumbed to the elements, and neither had been prepared for the two-mile hike they’d been forced to endure, their faces red and their legs sore.

     In the early morning sunlight they stood to stare at the faded brown wood, at the portion of the roof that had caved in on the three-story structure, most of its windows shattered.

     “What are the odds it’s even going to be here anymore,” Lance asked his brother, his disagreement well known and often repeated even before this excursion.

     “Probably won’t be, but what harm is there in checking?” Nathan shot back tersely.

     As they approached the building Lance slipped the gun from his waist, eyeing the open windows along the first floor.

     Neither had planned for the hike, but they had known they’d have a large, empty building to explore, and both removed their flashlights and let the beams illuminate the front hallway. Directly across from them they could see what might’ve once been a welcome area, a few shattered chairs strewn over the floor.

     The light from the open windows lit only the smallest part of the building, the size of the structure enough to ensure they had only their own, artificial light to guide them.

     Nathan didn’t appear to hesitate at all before delving deeper into the building, not even armed, Lance mused. A sense of youth came to Lance then, feeling like the children the two had once been, Nathan never shy about seeking out various dark holes to dig his way through, his younger brother Lance always just a few steps behind him.

     They trudged down a long hallway of floating cobwebs, musty air, and large cracks running through concrete walls, until they caught sight of the office up ahead. Piles of folders and papers were still scattered across tables, the paper yellowed and dust covered. Most of the cabinets were all but rusted shut, but a few solid tugs wrenched a few of them open enough for Nathan to kneel down and sort through the papers.

     “I think I might’ve found something,” Nathan called out excitedly. “Says here room three fourteen.”

     “Third floor?” Lance asked.

     “I’d imagine.”

     “This place looks like its barely standing as it is.” He pointed his flashlight at the bloated, water stained plaster on the ceiling. “I wouldn’t trust the stairs.”

     Nathan moved closer, his face softening, shifting, Lance knew, into the almost parent he had become when their parents had been stolen from them at such an early age, and Nathan alone had been left to raise the both of them in their journey in and out of constant foster homes. “It took us three months to find out about this place. If we don’t check then what was the point?”

     “Took you three months,” he said, received only a stern frown in return. Lance didn’t argue further only because he knew the futility of it. “I think I saw some stairs near the front,” he relented.

     Before reaching the end of the long hallway back to the front they both paused at the sound of a large crash to their right. Just behind them they could see the partially open door where the echo repeated itself. Nathan moved forward and pulled it open.

     Lance inched close enough to see the cement stairs leading down into darkness too deep for their flashlights to fully penetrate. Something else was done there as well, he knew, and could see the tension in his brother for the first time. The footsteps were clear, but they weren’t necessarily coming closer. They had a random quality to them, like a drunken man pacing aimlessly.

     Tense silence followed them until they stood in the faint sunlight from the front windows, the staircase leading up just to their left, and Nathan whispered, “Guess it’s a good thing you brought the gun.”

     Lance couldn’t help but smile at the statement, as close as Nathan ever got to admitting he’d been wrong.

     The aged, wooden steps looked thick enough to support their weight, and didn’t bend downward when Nathan started up them. Both used the handrail to steady themselves as they ascended into the dark, dusty air. The day outside hadn’t been hot, but inside the archaic structure Lance felt the sweat beading, the stink of decay clogging his nose.

     On the third floor they passed over frayed carpet that might’ve once been red, down constant rows of closed doors, until they finally stopped before the back wall and the door to room 314, the name Albert Kearsley directly beneath it.

     The room contained the remains of a bed, a desk along the wall, and a single broken chair. Two pictures were taped to the wall, but both were too faded to see in the limited lighting they had provided by the grungy window across from them. Nathan immediately knelt before the desk and started pulling open the drawers.

     “Finally,” he said, and removed the old notebook, held it up for Lance to see, before flipping through its pages.

     “How much can you read?” Lance asked, attention on the hallway they’d passed through, unable, even in the moment of the find, to care about it or the past it represented.

     “A lot of it is faded, but I think I can make out a few names. God, just looking at all these pages, who knows how long it took him to put it together?” He looked over at Lance, smiling, holding the next and largest link he’d been searching for in his attempt to study their genealogy, a quest he’d first conjured over fifteen years prior while the two huddled together in a stranger’s home, their own past beyond their parents all but a mystery. Lance had followed behind as Nathan eventually traced their lineage to Albert and learned about his own obsession over a hundred years ago with the very same thing. They’d heard of his eventual end in this very building just before both the institute closed, and Albert passed away, his possessions never removed due to lack of interest.

     A sharp crack of wood brought both of them to attention. Lance stepped out of the room and shined his light down the dark hall of closed doors, but he couldn’t even see as far as the staircase.

     “It’s an old structure,” Nathan whispered beside him, but before the words were finished they could hear shuffling feet, the dry wheeze of aged breathing, until the faint image of the man became visible on the far end of the flashlight’s beam. He stopped there, barely seen, long hair obscuring most of his face. They could see the dirty rags on his body, the odd coloration to his hands held tightly by his side. He took another step forward, body hunched, movements jerky, erratic, and he stopped again, but they could see his head rise, Lance’s gun rising with it.

     A thick, throaty sound preceded the man’s words, his voice unaccustomed to speech. “Finally came for it, did ya?” he whispered, the words just barely heard, and Nathan glanced down at the old notebook in his hand, confused.

     “Couldn’t be referring to this,” he said to his brother.

     “We don’t want any trouble from you,” Lance yelled back, flashlight and gun held close to each other, aimed at the man.

     “It’s mine now,” the man said, voice growing louder. “Can’t have it. I need it. Not yours to take.”

     “I don’t know what you’re referring to,” Nathan said, “but we don’t have any interest in taking anything from you.”

     “He’s,” Lance began, but couldn’t finish the words before the man started running towards them, his long hair flying back from his face, revealing the deformed nature of his eyes, of his mouth, the image only partially glimpsed in the shifting beam of the flashlight and the bursts of gunshots echoing through the narrow hallway.

     Lance couldn’t say how many bullets the bum took, his chest exploding red as he struck the carpet with a brief spasm before going still. “You had to,” Nathan was saying, but Lance didn’t hear, because he understood it somehow wasn’t over even before the bum lurched upward, pausing on his feet, allowing both beams of light to hold him for those first few seconds.

     It appeared to Lance that the skin around the man’s eyes had been torn open, the flesh split apart, and while the eyes themselves weren’t actually larger, they were so discolored they blended with the raw skin around them. Two protrusions grew from the man’s face, one on the side of his forehead, and the other out of his right cheek. The skin was pulled taut around them, stretching out the skin on the rest of his face, adding even more to the deformed image.

     His body appeared to be no better, more long protrusions attempting to tear out of him, a few of them visible through the hole in his ragged shirt where the bullet had struck. Lance could see the red, gaping holes, but the man showed no sign of pain, smiling at them instead, both blood and saliva streaming down the side of his cracked lips.

     “It’s made me too strong for that,” he whispered.

     The man moved before Lance could fire. Strong hands grabbed hold of his shirt, pulled him closer to the warped face, and then thrust him backwards, towards the wall, some part of him aware of the cracking wood as his body passed through it. The sunlight blinded him, senses overloaded by the swirling colors, the rush of air against his body.

     He almost passed out when he struck, though not because of any severe pain. Rather his mind assumed his own death, and came close to delivering unconsciousness in its place, but the thought of his brother kept him alert, made him pull himself up from the thick grass he’d landed in.

     Up above he saw the hole he had torn. “Nathan!” he screamed to the building, voice rolling through the forest, but his brother didn’t answer him. His first step let him know the extent of his injuries. His back and neck felt sore, face etched with tiny cuts, but otherwise he felt nothing life threatening, the wood having been so aged it gave way easily enough to spare him serious harm.

     Before he could reach the entrance the new reality he found himself in asserted itself, reminding him what he’d seen, what he’d watched the creature live through. The thing wasn’t human, or at least it didn’t fit Lance’s concept of what a human was, but his mind didn’t stumble over the information. His entire life had been built around quickly adjusting to the rapid changes each day might bring him.

     Perhaps the creature had already killed Nathan, a thought Lance found he couldn’t fathom, Nathan the only constant his life had ever known.

     Even before reaching the entrance he heard the crash of a door slamming open, heard the scuffling of feet up ahead, somewhere in the darkness. He had the choice between journeying back up or assuming the creature had taken his brother into the lower depths. All he knew for certain was that the thing had hurried into the basement, and so Lance ran to the open door, hoping he hadn’t chosen the wrong path. Though he felt the same fear he had before when staring into the darkness his flashlight couldn’t fully dispel, the thought of Nathan being dragged by that creature down the steps drove him on.

     He emerged into a large room with four doors, dried leaves scattered about beside rusted tools, broken down furniture, and other assorted objects. One door had been torn from the hinges, probably quite some time ago, and through it the same sound of movement drifted to him, showed him his path. He once again found himself moving through a hall of constant doors, but now they were closer together, a window on each showing him the padded cells within. Rusted light fixtures hung so low they nearly struck his head. The beam of his light swung wildly across the darkness as he ran.

     Up ahead his light fixed on a closed door, larger than the others, the flicker of firelight visible beneath it. His run slowed, face slick, mouth dry, and stomach coiled tightly. Numb fingers reached towards the handle, but paused right before touching it, aware of the presence somewhere in the darkness behind him, but not in time.

     Thin fingers tipped with long nails grabbed hold of his shirt, yanked him so hard the flashlight clattered to the floor a second before he struck the ground himself, the gun thankfully still in his grip.

     In the faint glow of the fallen light he saw the deformed face moving towards him, mouth opening wider than it should’ve been able to, literally tearing bloody holes in the skin. Two shots tore into the man’s chest before the fist almost dislocated Lance’s jaw.

     “Not yours to take,” the man screamed with a warped voice, eyes growing wider as a fist came down again, tore loose a flap of skin on Lance’s forehead. His left eye clamped shut when the blood poured into it, but he could still see well enough to bring up the gun, something the man no longer feared, grabbing hold of Lance’s throat rather than tear the gun away from him.

     One bullet clipped the side of the man’s head, detonating his right eye, while the other seared away most of the neck. The boney fingers at Lance’s throat immediately loosened. He heard the change in the bum’s breathing, the pain in the cry he emitted as he stumbled back.

     Three more bullets, Lance thought as he pulled himself upright. The bum tried to crawl away from him, towards the large metal door, fingernails tearing off at the forced he used to pull himself forward. Lance could see the spasms of both pain and tears in the man’s body. He aimed the gun carefully before putting a single bullet into the man’s spine.

     Still the man moved, legs dead weight as his arms groped forward. Lance moved around him to pick up the flashlight, shine it in the bum’s bloody, weeping face, a long string of red mucus pouring from his nose, mixing with the wet remains of what had once been an eye.

     “Where’s my brother,” he whispered, unable to speak any louder his throat burned so badly.

     The bum didn’t appear to listen, still groping uselessly forward, deformed face contorted into a look of desperation. “Just another bite,” he gurgled. “He’ll bring me back. Need another bite. One more bite.”

     Lance glanced over his shoulder at the closed door before rising up and turning towards it. He should’ve dealt with the bum first, he knew, put a final bullet through the head, but something else made him pull open the thick door. Behind him the bum continued to mumble, lost to the world, no longer seeing anything as Lance stepped into the dimly lit boiler room, a small campfire near the door the only source of light.

     A broken furnace comprised the bulk of the wall in front of him, but the room continued deeper, around the rusted metal, his flashlight running slowly over the spider webs, the dead, mutilated rats, until finally ending on a massive hole torn through what had once been a bricked over wall.

     Even before reaching the hole the hint of whispers began to echo through his mind, to drive him onward, his flashlight’s narrow beam the only thing letting him see through the shattered brick wall.

     His hand, along with the flashlight, fell to his side. He didn’t want to shine it directly at the thing glistening at the bottom of a long, dirt ramp. He thought this thing might’ve once been larger, but the destruction to it was clear, its flesh cut away, still wet and pulsing organs quivering with only vague life.

     Perhaps the bum had once thought it just another odd animal of some sort. Had he tried to kill it first before cutting off portions to eat? Lance doubted he’d ever know, nor did he want to know, not even willing to shine his light directly at it, to confirm anything about the abomination before him. The thought of Nathan made him turn from the room with wide, dead eyes, the arguments from their youth returning, only now Nathan wasn’t around to tell Lance he was wrong to ignore the past and the mysteries of life.

     He realized as well the whispers had ended along with whatever drove him to glance at the monstrosity. He felt as if it had reached out to him, only to dislike what it had found, and left him to go on his way.

     Closer to the boiler he found rows of kerosene bottles. He took a few of them with him when he returned to the injured bum, still groping uselessly for the door, only a few inches of progress made. “Just another,” the bum wheezed, and Lance wondered how long this man had been here, devouring his bizarre food, body warping more and more with every meal.

     He emptied one of the bottles over the man, smiled fiercely at the man’s flailing, but he didn’t light a fire just yet, moving past the bum instead, out of the darkness of the basement, and up those stairs towards Albert’s room.

     Though brutal, Lance honestly believed his brother’s death had been swift. Blood splashed the walls near Albert’s room, Nathan’s entire chest all but torn open, his lifeless eyes still staring blankly at the ceiling, the blood splattered book in his grip. Even if Lance had gone up the stairs first Nathan would’ve been dead, and he took a bit of comfort in this fact. Lance forced himself to look directly into Nathan’s eyes before reaching down to pick up the book.

     He left his brother that way, descending to the front hallway, seeing for just a second the place as it might’ve once been, its walls clean, a man sitting behind the counter as Albert stepped through the door for the first time, unaware his future relatives would stand in the very same spot, that one of them would die, just as he had died, within these walls.

     Lance doused the walls with kerosene before holding his lighter to Albert’s book and setting it aflame. He hurried from the quickly growing flames, across the thick grass, only pausing when he’d reached the outer wall of trees. He waited to see the smoke billow through the windows, to see the flames crawl up the aged wood; maybe listen for the final cries of what had once been a man. He didn’t hear anything but the crackle of burning wood.

     Would the fires put an end to whatever existed in the bowels of the structure? Had it been there on the day Albert checked in, or had no one known of its existence until the man stumbled across it?

     Those were questions Nathan would’ve surely asked, and done his best to answer. Lance turned away from the pyre and started the long journey back to his car.

By Philip Roberts

www.philipmroberts.com