The Testicle Drawer

She sat in the armchair with tears trickling down her face, biting her lip and wincing occasionally, whenever a sharp unwanted memory resurfaced and piercingly struck home once again with its cruel truth.
There should be grooves worn into my cheeks, she thought to herself, grooves to the bone for all the tears I have cried, I will never escape this pain, never.
She shut her eyes as tight as she could and shook her head for a few seconds, trying to dislodge his laughing face from inside her mind.
jars“I hate him!” she whispered to herself.
“I hate him so much, I can feel it running through my veins like liquid fire, my head buzzes with the intensity of the anger and disgust which fills my thoughts constantly.
But my chest, oh my poor chest, that is where the worst of it lives, all the pain, despair, loneliness and loss, yes I carry it around in my chest. It nests there around my broken heart, a heart once so innocent that all it wanted was to love.”
As she said the word love, her whisper changed first to a moan, then to a cry until it ended with a scream.
She looked around herself confused, with a grimace of pain distorting her tired features, shaking her head slowly and mouthing the word ‘No’ silently over and over again.
She slipped into a daydreamy trance for twenty minutes or so, until the sound of the village clock striking the hour brought her back to her senses.
“Where is he?” she whispered to herself as she looked slowly around the room with yearning, desperate eyes.
“Where is the evil bastard, why is he not here, why is this happening to me, how can this be happening, what went wrong, I just don’t understand anything anymore?
Look, there is the wooden floor which he sanded and varnished himself, there is the green stripe he painted along the skirting board and door frames; there are the wooden blinds that we went out and bought together in Redruth.
This is a graveyard of my marriage, I am living in a graveyard of misery, I cannot change it, how can I?
I cannot decorate, the thought of it sends me straight back to when we decorated it together, when we were happy, when life made sense.
I rot here, here is where I rot, this prison I built with him while blinded by love, little did I know that the home which I lavished my care and affection upon would soon repay me with indifferent looks from its heartless walls.”
She pulled a scrumpled tissue from her pocket and spat into it three times, as if she were trying to rid herself of some poison, then replacing the tissue back in her pocket, she raised her fist in anger and looked around the room silently crying, with her mouth half open, in perfect despair.
Her eyes fell upon an opened newspaper on the coffee table just in front of her; she reached forward and picked it up, along with a black pen from close by.
She placed the newspaper upon her lap and looked down at it, it was opened at the wedding page, there were thirteen photos of newlyweds but the grooms in twelve of the photos had been completely blacked out, she leaned forward with the pen and began to work on blacking out the
thirteenth groom, dot by dot.
As she pressed away patiently, she curled her lips into a sad smile and whispered,
“You poor, silly women, ah, thirteen more brought blindly to the slaughter, you will be broken apart and left for dead just as I was, there is no saving you now!”
Her thoughts flashed back to her own wedding day, she cringed, closed her eyes and stabbed at the newspaper with the pen, screaming as she did so.
She did not stop until she felt the tip of the pen sink into her left leg, then she calmed down quickly into a soft, regular shudder, leaned forward and put the pen and newspaper back on the coffee table.
Nothing makes much sense anymore, she thought to herself as she sat back in the chair, all my hopes and dreams came true yet only to fall to pieces right before my eyes, does nothing mean anything anymore, am I the only one alive who really means what they say when they make their vows?
Men, fickle, fickle, fickle, it is all but a game to them, no matter what you give them it is never enough, off they go filthy beasts, sex, sex, sex, digging through the slime and dirt for sex.
All your love betrayed, all your trust destroyed, every nice part of you laughed at and looked down upon as a weakness, you cannot win by playing fair, it is the cheaters who win every time because it never meant anything to them in the first place, lies, lies, pretty lies.
She fell asleep in the chair for a few hours but was woken up by a gnawing sound, it was one of the rats in the cage in the corner, she stood up and walked over to inspect.
“Ah, we have babies!” she said with delight as she looked into the cage.
There was a rat half curled upon the strips of toilet tissue in the corner of the cage with six or seven young around her belly and on the opposite side of the cage was a second rat, obviously the proud father, gnawing away happily on one of the bars of the cage.
“I’m so proud of you Alissia!” she said fondly to the mother rat, then she turned and walked to the fireplace.
The fire had already been made, it needed only a match to be struck to it, this she did, she stayed squatting for a minute or two watching the paper burn and the sticks catch light, then she stood up and walked out into the kitchen.
She reappeared shortly carrying a clear, plastic cereal container which she carried over to the rat cage, taking the lid off as she walked.
“Ah, my Alissia, you have finished with that thing chewing away in the corner, he has served his purpose now that the children are here, it is time for the thing to leave us!”
She opened the door of the cage, reached in and picked the male rat up by its tail, pulled it out of the cage and dropped it into the cereal container, quickly putting the lid on.
She walked to the fire and placed the cereal container in the middle of the fire, picked up the poker and pressed it down on top of the container.
“The things always jump around, the last one jumped so hard that the whole box came rolling out of the fire, ruining the rug but I have learnt, I have learnt!” she said to herself with a chuckle.
She watched as the rat squirmed around inside its trap, then a small hole appeared in the bottom and the container filled with smoke, there was a high pitched squeal and the whole container lost shape and melted into a ball around the burning body of the rodent.
Once she had tired of staring at the now diminished plastic container she replaced the poker on its stand, walked back to her chair and sat down.
After a few moments she glanced at the newspaper on the coffee table in front of her and cringed at the sight of the wedding page with the hole in it, she leaned forward in her seat and turned three or four pages to cover it.
When she had done this, she realized that she now had the personal section before her; she glanced down the column, tutting to herself as she saw the advertisements for tarot readings, soul mate introductions, massages etc, until something caught her eye.
It was the name of Alan and the message read,
Alan, looking for adult fun with women aged 18-35, discretion assured, followed by a phone number.
“Ah, a bastard, a sneaky little bastard!” she cursed aloud.
“Discretion assured, after married women for sport, you evil sod, wanting to break apart families for fun, oh you are the sickest of the sick, the sickest of the sick!”
She stood up, closed her eyes for a second and smiled, then walked to the bookcase, picked up a black marker pen off one of the shelf’s and sat down upon the floor.
There was a drawer at the bottom of the bookcase, she pulled out a chain from within her blouse and unlocked the drawer with the key attached to the chain.
She pulled the drawer open, grinning as she did so, inside the drawer were nine large pickle jars, each jar with a white label stuck to the top of it, all bearing the name of a man, except one.
She wrote the name of Alan upon this and then closed and locked the drawer, chuckling to herself in an almost insane way as she stood up and replaced the pen.
Into the kitchen she then went, returning shortly wearing her coat and putting her purse into one of her pockets, then taking a brush off the mantelpiece she set right her hair while repeating to herself,
“Fee, fie, foe, fum, fee, fie, foe, fum, fee, fie, foe, fum!”
Smiling, she went to the coffee table, ripped out the page with the personal column, walked happily to the front door, to enter the street, head to the phone box on the corner and phone up Alan.
By Paul Tristram

Espresso or Are These Beans Burnt? They Taste Burnt to Me.

They went to the same cafe every day. Sat there sipping the same lattes and reading the same books they had brought with them each and every time before. He always sat in the back of the room. She liked the window. Most afternoons, he wrote. She liked the way he held his pen. The way his writing looked effortless when she only ever struggled. She thought one day that he might look up at her in passing. She tried to order loud enough so that he could hear. She wanted it “Rich, and Thick, with lots of Sweet … Buttery … Foam.” She licked her lips, thought of licking him. He looked over at her. That was the second time in a month. Did he know what she was thinking? Did he want to suck that latte foam off her mouth? Did he want her, right there on the table with the barista watching?
bloody coffee
Yes … He did.

He’d always wanted her, wanted to dribble steaming hot milk on her stomach until it boiled her flesh inside out. He wanted to shove pastry up her ass with his leather-clad fist. He imagined her insides tasted gooey like sugary cream salted taffy left out in the sun. He smiled at her. Adjusted his pants. Went back to writing. He imagined her in just her lacey black panties. He had looked, once, and seen them when she crossed her legs. She wore those stockings, the kind with garters. He wanted to cut them off slow with the straight razor he had in his pocket, wanted to wrap them around her throat while he kissed her gasping red mouth. She was so sexy. He imagined she’d scream, slap his face. He imagined she wanted him like that, her chest flushed and heaving, glass breaking all around them. He could feel the sweat against the hair on his legs.


He wanted her, all of her — her meat, her organs, and her pretty blue eyes — and he wanted her to want him. Wanted her to beg for it until she couldn’t take it anymore.


He wanted those gorgeous latte covered lips, face down now, heels up later in the dumpster.

“Sir! … Do you need anything else?”

He put his pen down, took his glasses off, and wiped the sweat from the lenses. He looked over at her. She was still smiling at him.

“Yes,” he replied to the waiter. “Can I have some very hot milk? To go.”

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Skeleton Man

native“Alright boys and girls we’re a few miles out of Walpi Village. Couple of things we gotta go over before we get there.” Tim, the driver, spoke to his group of student teachers in the back as his Volkswagen Van bounced unforgivingly along the harsh mountain road.
“Tim, what is this our fourth time through this? Do we really need these little pep talks before every stop?” Said Chris, one of the student teachers. Chris wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to teach. He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to do anything. He was a trust fund baby, but his father insisted that he get a real job if he wanted to receive his fair share of the family fortune and teaching seemed an easy route to him.
“Look man, this is different. I don’t wanna freak you guys out but this place is way off the fuckin’ radar ya know? Like back to the Stone Age and shit. They don’t like outsiders and the only reason we’re going in is because the Reservation Council insisted we spend a week teaching these little feather heads about the outside world.”
Tim had been a high school biology teacher for a few years but his excessive use of the words “fuck” and “shit” along with his fondness for THC had him seeking employment elsewhere. Shortly after he “resigned” he signed up to work with the REA (Reservation Education Association), and truth be told he felt more comfortable there. College girls were much more legal than the ones in high school.
As Tim went through his spiel on the dos and don’ts of dealing with the Hopi Villagers the only one really paying attention was Megan Myers, Meg she preferred. Of the four student teachers, Meg was the only one that took this assignment seriously. It had been, after all, her idea that the group spent their last semester traveling around Arizona and teaching at various Hopi reservations.
Megan had two great passions in her life, volleyball and teaching. At first it was only volleyball. She’d been awarded a full athletic scholarship to Arizona State University and even been picked to play on the Olympic team in 2012. Unfortunately a few torn ligaments in her knee ended her volleyball career quite abruptly. Now she focused on her teaching. She wasn’t bitter. She viewed it as a new opportunity. A simple life of teaching high school history and coaching volleyball sounded just perfect to her. She took on the task of teaching with the same voracity that she had with volleyball. Always looking to go above and beyond what was expected of her, hence, the student teaching at Native American Reservations.
The rest of the group went along with Meg’s idea for different reasons. Quinn, Megan’s boyfriend, knew how passionate Meg could be and realized he didn’t have much of a choice. If he didn’t want to spend a whole semester away from his girlfriend then he would have to tag along. A fellow athlete, Quinn had shared Meg’s passion for sports, but not for teaching. He just wanted to coach baseball and have his summers free.
The only other girl, Ashley, had been Meg’s best friend since the two girls shared a dorm together freshman year. Ashley had developed a sort of unhealthy dependency on Meg. Hanging out with such a wholesome girl made her feel better about her less than wholesome lifestyle. Chris had come along because he wanted to get with Ashley and thought four months away from any frat boys or jocks might improve his chances. He was wrong.
As Tim pulled his van around a tight corner the students got their first glimpse of Walpi Village. They’d been doing this for about two months now and all the Hopi villages they’d visited had a sort of cultural blending theme. The men wore blue jeans and band T-shirts while they performed their traditional ceremonies. The pueblos had satellite dishes on their roofs. Walpi Village was nothing like that. As they crossed the stick fence that signified the border of the village, they felt as though they were stepping back in time. The first thing they noticed, since dusk was rapidly approaching, was that there was no electricity whatsoever. The only light came from the fires and torches that bathed the whole village in an orange glow.
As they pulled in and got unpacked they instantly saw what Tim was talking about. Most of the Hopi Villagers ignored them. Those that did acknowledge them did so with scowls. Tim talked with the village elder who pointed out where the group would be staying, two tents set up a good distance outside of the village. This was going to be a long week.

The next morning the group set to work. Chris and Ashley were in charge of the five to ten year old group while Quinn and Meg taught the older boys and girls of the village. There weren’t any children there over the age of sixteen.
The first thing Meg noticed about her group of students was how small it was, five students in total. Too small, even for a tiny village like Walpi. She judged based on the number of people she had seen the night before that about three quarters of the village’s population had kept their children at home that day. She understood. The Hopi people had their own traditions. She wasn’t there to force Western Civilization down anyone’s throats. She was only there to help.
“Ms. Myers,” one of her students asked her, “what’s it like out there-beyond the village? Is it better than here?”
“No, not better,” she responded. “Busier, but not better. There are a lot more people, all different kinds of people, all living together. People out there are always rushing. Everyone seems to be in a hurry all the time.” After thinking about it Meg could see the benefits of living a quiet secluded life up high in the mountains, although she was shocked to learn that many of the children had never left the village. “I think that’s enough for today kids. Why don’t you run on home?”
Megan began packing up her things when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see Cha’Tima, a sweet boy around the age of fifteen. Tall for his age, and a bit awkward, the pockmarks and pimples on his face showed he was having a difficult time going through puberty.
“I picked these for you this morning,” said Cha’Tima as he handed her a beautiful bouquet of purple and gold desert wildflowers.
“Thank you Cha’Tima! That was very sweet.”
“I just wanted to tell you…well I think…I think you’re very beautiful.” His cheeks flushed red and he ran off embarrassed. Megan was getting used to this. She never considered herself beautiful, cute maybe, but many of the boys on these reservations had never seen a white girl. She was something different, and whether she knew it or not she was very beautiful.

Despite the initial hostility towards the group, the people of Walpi Village were beginning to warm up to them. Each day more and more students joined the classes and on the fourth day they were all invited to witness a traditional Hopi ceremony.
“The Snake Dance,” said Meg. “Isn’t that what it’s called?”
“That’s right,” said Cha’Tima. “I’m impressed. I didn’t think anyone outside the Hopi tribe knew about the Snake Dance.” Meg just blushed and watched the ceremony begin. Cha’Tima explained, “We pray for rain and the snakes carry our prayers back to the gods.” It was a beautiful ceremony, if not a little unnerving. It started with a dance around a huge bonfire by the men of the village. They wore eagle-feathered headdresses and hand woven cotton blankets. After this the priests came out. There were four of them altogether, each carrying two rattlesnakes. The rattling of the snake’s tails added to the beat of the drums to create an almost hypnotic rhythm. The priests placed the snake’s heads into their open mouths as they continued to chant their prayer for rain. Meg was sure she was going to see someone die that night, but she didn’t dare interrupt. Tim, who was sitting next to the Chief with Ashley enjoying a long drag on the peace pipe, had specifically warned against this.
The ceremony was short, lasting only about an hour. Afterwards Meg went to look for Ashley but couldn’t find her anywhere.
“She went off with Tim, out into the desert,” said Chris. “What the hell is wrong with her going out there with a creep like Tim? He’s gotta be almost forty.”
“Dude, he’s early thirties at the most.”
“Shut up Quinn! Nobody asked you!”
Quinn was a big and overly proud. He didn’t like being talked to like that by anybody, much less a spoiled rotten little punk like Chris.
“Listen motherfucker, Ashley doesn’t want anything to do with you. She thinks your weird and she’s tired of you hitting on her.”
“I said shut up!” Chris pushed Quinn hard, but only moved his large frame back an inch or so. Quinn’s eyes went red. He balled his fists and was about to draw back when the uncomfortable silence was broken by a shrill scream.
“That sounded like Ashley!” said Meg.
“Masauwu.” Whispered one of the old priests sitting behind the group cross-legged on the dirt. Nobody seemed to notice him until he spoke.
“Masa-what? What’s he saying?” Quinn said to Cha’Tima.
“Masauwu, the Skeleton Man.” Cha’Tima replied. His eyes wandered out towards the sound of the scream.
“Who the fuck is the Skeleton Man?” asked Chris.
The old priest began to speak in the Hopi language. Cha’Tima translated.
“The Skeleton Man is the spirit of death. He guards the door to the fifth world. He watches over the Hopi people and, when called upon, takes vengeance upon their enemies.”
“Do you think she’s in danger?” Asked Meg.
“Only of catching the clap,” said Chris, still pouting.
“Chris, that’s Ashley out there!”
“Look Meg,” said Quinn, “as much as I hate to agree with Chris I think Ashley’s safe. If we went out there looking for them we’d just end up getting lost.”
“But that scream.“
“Haven’t you ever heard a coyote babe? They can sound an awful lot like a chick, especially a chick with a high-pitched voice like Ashley’s. I’m sure Tim and Ashley are right outside the village getting stoned right now.”
“I don’t know, something just doesn’t feel right.”
“Look, if they’re not back by tomorrow morning, which they will be, we can head out with a guide to look for them okay? Let’s just go to bed. Why don’t you come sleep with me tonight?”
“No, no I’ll be fine. I’m gonna wait up a little longer for Ashley.”
The disappointment on Quinn’s face was quite obvious. “Alright fine. Well g’nite sweetheart. I’m telling you everything’s fine.” Quinn kissed Meg on the forehead and trudged off to bed alone. Chris followed him shortly after. Meg waited up as long as she could for Ashley. She fell asleep next to the fire. When she awoke the next morning and checked around the village, Ashley and Tim were nowhere to be found.

Meg woke the boys and they agreed to go out and look for the missing members of their group. Cha’Tima agreed to be their guide.
“I know the land better than anybody I swear!” He said a little too enthusiastically. “I can help, really I can.” With none of the other villagers offering to help they really had no choice.
Cha’Tima took them out of the village and down the mountain trail. He took them through canyons, past dried up riverbeds, and into dark caves. The group must have traveled twenty square miles over the course of the day but they’d seen no sign of Ashley or Tim. By the end of the day they were thoroughly exhausted and beginning to lose hope.
“Something bad happened,” Meg said tearing up a little. “Something really bad happened. We need to get to a phone and call the cops.”
Quinn tried to calm her down, “Okay, well head back into town tonight. Who knows they might be back at the village by now.”
That’s when the group realized that they could see no sign of the village in any direction. They couldn’t see much of anything out in the desert.
“Cha’Tima, we want to head back now, which way is it?” said Meg.
“Umm…it’s North, I think, but I can’t see the stars.” Night was setting in quickly but heavy clouds covered the night sky.
“Quit messing around Geronimo, take us back.” Said Chris.
“I-I don’t know the way. I’m sorry Meg, I’m really sorry.”
“Oh that’s great. Look you little shit,” Chris now had Cha’Tima by his shirt collar. “I’m not spending the night out in this fucking desert. You better figure out which way home is real quick.”
Cha’Tima’s eye went wide with horror, but not because of Chris. He was staring at the two dark figures approaching the group.
“Oh my God, is that?”
Ashley and Tim shuffled towards the group out of the darkness. Their clothes were gone and their naked bodies were smeared with filth. Their heads hung low and they both appeared to be sobbing.
“Ashley, oh my God what happened?” Meg ran up to her friend.
“No! Stay away, stay away from me. He wants you too. He wants all of us!”
“Ashley what are you talking about? Who wants us? What happened to you?” Meg asked.
“Run! Get the fuck outta here! Just run away please!” Tim screamed at them through choked back tears. Despite their pleas Ashley and Tim kept shuffling, zombie-like, towards their friends.
“Looks like you guys had a good time together,” said Chris. “Timmy my man, don’t think for a second I won’t be reporting you for this. Good luck finding a new job buddy.”
Just then Tim lunged on Chris and grabbed him around the throat with one hand.
“Tim what the fuck!” Quinn shouted as he tried to pry Tim’s grasp off of Chris’ neck.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” Tim sobbed. “I can’t control it. I can’t control my body! Just run! Get outta here!”
Before Quinn could listen Tim’s other hand reached up and snatched onto Quinn’s throat. With inexplicable strength the stark naked Tim lifted the two men high into the air and started walking off with them.
Meg was frozen in place as she watched the scene unfold. When she finally found the nerve to turn her head she saw that Ashley was already on top of her. Tears streamed down Ashley’s face. She was sobbing and choking and apologizing to Meg over and over again. Her arm shot out like a bullet and she clutched Meg’s long blond hair tightly between her fingers. With a quick yank she pulled Meg to the ground and dragged her off in the same direction as Tim. Every nerve in Meg’s scalp shot out in fiery pain and she was certain the top of her head would come off at any second. She twisted and kicked to get free but it only increased her agony. Ashley’s grip was so strong! She continued to fight for what seemed like hours as Ashley dragged her body over the harsh desert terrain and finally into a cave dimly lit by torchlight.
Meg prayed for the sweet release of unconsciousness, but it never came. She felt every agonizing inch of her journey until Ashley finally released her grip and dropped Meg on the floor of a large circular chamber deep within the cave. Meg got up on her hands and knees and surveyed her surroundings. There was a large bonfire in the center of the chamber. Quinn and Chris lay at Tim’s feet, unconscious but still breathing. Around the fire stood more people, twelve altogether. They were naked and covered in grime, just like Ashley and Tim, but their bodies were emaciated husks. Nothing more than skin stretched tightly over bone. Their hair was long and thing and grey. Their eyes were yellow and bloodshot.
“I’m so hungry,” Meg heard one woman cry. “I’m so tired and so very hungry.”
How long have these people been like this? Meg thought to herself.
Meg saw the only exit to the chamber behind her, guarded by three more of the walking skeletons. A long dark shadow was coming down the ramp that led to the cave’s entrance.
“The Skeleton Man,” Meg said to herself as she prepared to meet the evil face to face. But it was not the Skeleton Man, nor any other beast. Strolling casually down the ramp was Cha’Tima. Not the awkward boy Meg had met at the village. This was a confident young man bearing a wicked grin.
“My dear, sweet, Meg. I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Cha’Tima, you…you did this?”
“Oh no. I’m just a servant. This is the work of Masauwu.”
“That’s just a story Cha’Tima. He’s not real—“
“He’s real!” Cha’Tima shouted. Suddenly his face went red with anger “You white people think our beliefs are just stories, stupid silly little Indians and their stupid silly little stories. Your race is too young, too polluted to remember the old ways, the ways of magic, but you’ll see. He should be here very soon.”
Meg wasn’t going to stick around to find out. She started to get up, but before she could get to her feet Tim’s body came over and put a knee on Meg’s chest. She gasped harshly, expelling all the air from her lungs.
“What’s the matter you little shit?” Tim shouted to Cha’Tima as he put his full weight on top of Meg. “You can’t fight your own battles?”
Cha’Tima shot Tim an angry look and before he could say another word both of Tim’s hands shot up to his face and his fingers dug into the soft flesh of his eyelids. He plucked out his own eyeballs and threw them on the floor of the cave. Tim screamed out in agony as the dark red liquid streamed out of his empty eye sockets.
“Quiet.” Cha’Tima said. “Masauwu comes.”
Tim’s body pulled its knee off of Meg’s chest and she gasped for air. She rolled over just in time to see the dark doorway open right in the middle of the bonfire. Out of the darkness emerged an enormous figure. With one great leap he came through the doorway and landed on the cavern floor. He stood before Meg, grey mottled skin stretched tightly over an enormous skeletal frame. He wore a simple leather loincloth and a tattered dingy rag was wrapped around his large head. Two deep crimson stains hinted at vacant eye sockets underneath. Wisps of silver hair grew out of his head in patches and fell in front of his face. This was the Skeleton Man.
Cha’Tima knelt down before him. “Masauwu, I have three more for you tonight.”
The Skeleton Man said nothing. With great strides he covered the distance over to where Quinn and Chris lay. Ashley and Tim picked the two men up by their shoulders and presented them to the Skeleton Man. Slowly, methodically, he unwrapped the bandage around his eyes. He placed a finger into each of his exposed eye sockets and when he pulled them out the tips were coated in a black tarlike substance. He inserted his bloody fingers into the boy’s mouths and unconsciously they swallowed. Their limp bodies suddenly became rigid, but their heads still hung loosely.
Then they came after Meg.
Meg sprang up, trying to get away, but the boys were on her too quickly. Their heads bounced around on limp necks and Meg was certain she heard something snap. They tackled Meg and held her fast on the ground, face up. She saw the tall gangly frame of the Skeleton Man standing over her, his long finger already coated in another batch of black blood. She tried to scream but the impact of hitting the ground had once again knocked all the air from her lungs.
“Masauwu, if I may,” Cha’Tima said humbly. “I have worked hard for you and I have but one simple request. Once you change this girl, let me have her, please. I will keep her in the village as my wife.”
The Skeleton Man, paused, seemingly thinking it over, then nodded in agreement.
“Thank you great spirit.”
Quinn and Chris forced their fingers into Meg’s mouth and pried her jaw open. The Skeleton Man’s hand hung above her face. With the black blood caked underneath a cracked brown fingernail he prepared to administer another batch of the poison. She felt it brush past her teeth and land upon her tongue. It had a texture like cottage cheese and tasted harsh and bitter like stomach acid. She twisted and wretched with all her might but it was no use. Eventually she swallowed the Skeleton Man’s blood.
Cha’Tima stood above her with a wicked grin. “Don’t worry Meg. You won’t have to live like the rest of these walking corpses. I’ll take care of you. I’ll feed you and bathe you and love your for as long as I live.” Then, as an after thought, “Of course once I die you’ll have to live like one of them, but until then be happy!”
Meg’s body rose, slowly. At first she said nothing, did nothing. Her head hung low, but when she raised it to look at Cha’Tima she was smiling. “You know, I have heard of the Skeleton Man before.” She started walking towards Cha’Tima and he started backing up. The smile vanished from his face. “How he is the protector of the Hopi people.” She kept walking towards him. “How he takes vengeance upon their enemies.” Closer and closer she came. “And most importantly how Masauwu cannot harm the Hopi people.” She stopped walking and stood inches away from Cha’Tima. “Do you know who told me these stories?” Meg leaned in and whispered in his ear. “My grandmother, a strong woman, a Hopi woman.” With that Meg stepped back and kicked Cha’Tima square in the chest sending him reeling backwards into the bonfire behind him.
A scream emerged from the flames as Cha’Tima tried to claw his way out of the fire. Pain flooded his mind and all rational thought was lost. He flayed around for several minutes, his cries becoming higher and higher until the fire melted his vocal chords. Shortly after that the flames took his life.
The Skeleton Man towered above Meg, looking indifferent. He glanced at here once before opening the doorway in the flames and walking through it. The corpses he controlled followed after him. Quinn and Chris were still unconscious, or maybe dead, Meg hoped they were. Tim followed them and last was Ashley. She turned her head as far around as she could and looked longingly at Meg before the doorway shut behind her. Deep down Meg knew there was nothing she could do for her friends.
Meg made her way out of the cave and wandered the desert for a day and a half, bloody and broken, before making it back to the village. She didn’t say a word to anyone, nor they to her. She simply got in the van and drove away.

By Adam McCully

Upstanding Citizen

The moment old lady Ambrose bent over to look in my basement window, I hit her in the back of the head with a hammer. I rolled her body up in a rug and took her to my place of business. My lovely machines would put an end to her venomous comments.

All of this began because of her scruffy little mutt. He thought my property was his own personal latrine. He barked at me incessantly, following along the fence line as I worked in my backyard during my days off. He dug under or nibbled through the fence several times a week to leave excrement on my back porch or in my garden. He was one of those small white dogs with the cute faces, button noses, and round eyes, a Westie, I think. Don’t let those sad eyes fool you. The dog was a constant anguish to my peace of mind, a little demon that intentionally tormented me. Mrs. Ambrose never corrected the dog’s behavior, never once told him to stop barking. I made a habit of scooping up the mutt’s fecal waste and tossing the offensive matter back over the fence. Let the widow Ambrose deal with the foul smell.

Last week the dog went missing. Now there’s no more barking, no more shitting on my lawn. The widow Ambrose had the nerve to come into my store and scream at me during business hours, in front of my customers.

“I know you did something to my dog, Glenn Meacham” she hollered, “You’re not going to get away with it. I’m going to the police.”

She stormed out of the store, slammed the door, and marched away. I shrugged my shoulders when my customers asked me about it. They all commented about her nasty disposition and several offered stories about unpleasant run-ins they had experienced with her around town, such as at the bank or in the diner. “She is a menace to the community,” Mrs. Chapman exclaimed.

I’ve been serving this community for twenty-five years as the village butcher. I knew the needs of my customers well; turkey in November, fresh ham over the Christmas holiday, Kielbasa at Easter time. What the community needed was to be rid of old lady Ambrose.

My store was divided into two parts. In the storefront I sold to customers. It portrayed a very pleasant atmosphere. The shop in the back was where I did all the real butcher work. Hooks, blades and industrial machines occupied the walls and floor spaces. People were squeamish; they would lose their appetite if they saw the preparations meat had to go through to make it presentable. I learned a long time ago, if a pig looks like a pig when you display it, it will not sell. Cut it into pork chops, a roast, bacon and deli slices, then customers would pay three times as much and it would be sold in a day.

I parked in the back lot, always empty at night. Under the veil of darkness, I let myself in through the shop door. I turned on one light only, to make sure it would not be noticed from the street. I started up the large meat-grinder, the X-2000. She’s a wonderful machine, fourteen-inch chopping plates, spinning in alternate directions, able to chop through the toughest meats – steer, bison, and deer meat. This lovely machine would grind up whole cows, bones and all, producing beautifully textured chop meat. Everything but the skull would be ground up. I had another machine to deal with that.

I unraveled the rug and set old lady Ambrose up in the entry tray. The tray was on an incline but I still needed a thick wooden staff to push the meat into the grinder. The grinder got up to speed – a deafening cacophony that shook the walls with its baritone vibrations. I began the task pushing her feet first into the machine. Suddenly, eyes opened and the old lady’s gnarled hands grasped the staff. I let go of the wooden stick and backed away, putting my hand over my mouth in shock and terror. She was still alive as her feet hit the grinding blades.

“Noooo,” she screamed.

It came out in such a terrified and panicked voice, the likes of which I had never heard before. I felt vomit hit the back of my throat. Shredded flesh and splintered bone stumps showed at her ankles where her feet had been only moments previously. This was too much. I wouldn’t do this to an animal; I would not grind them up while they were still alive. I had to kill her. She grabbed the side of the entry tray, pulling herself, in order to get away from the loud machine, which took on the resonance of a large growling demon. I grabbed the wooden staff and smashed her upside the head with it, hoping to at least knock her unconscious. Her grip on the tray let loose and her bloody stumps hit the grinding plates again. A shower of blood sprayed like a lawn sprinkler as her legs were chewed up by the machine.

She produced a shrill scream that pierced my skull and rattled the fillings in my teeth. That voice, that screeching voice was the same voice she used to complain about my prices in the store, the same voice she used when blaming the wait staff while sending back food at the diner, and the same voice she used when she entered my store to make unfounded accusations. I never wanted to hear that harsh voice again. I took the staff and placed it firmly on the woman’s shoulder. I pressed forward, feeding her body into the machine. It ground her up as blood showered my face, hands and clothes. She screamed louder and flailed her arms, trying to dislodge the staff and grab at anything that could pull her out of the monster‘s teeth. Her eyes bulged in her head and darted back and forth, searching for refuge. The X-2000 smiled at me as it chewed and chomped, happy about its meal. Eventually the screaming weakened and ended. Her eyes stopped moving and glazed over. It was just me and the X-2000 finishing another job, like on any other night.

I brought the head over to the Bone Meal Grinder and let it do its work as I set to the task of cleaning. In normal instances the blood would be drained from the animal before entering the grinder but there had been no time for formalities on this night. I hosed down the machinery and the blood vanished into the floor drains.

Summertime – warm weather, sunshine, pools opened, grills fired up – you gotta’ love it! Sheriff Brennan is coming by to question me on Monday. I can’t let it bother me on a glorious Saturday like this one. Today is the Annual Northwood Community Barbeque and Picnic. I sponsored the event this year, as I do every year. I always supply fresh hamburgers – two hundred patties this year. I had to work late several nights in order to get all the patties prepared. Volunteers from the firehouse are grilling them as we speak.

To my surprise, the widow’s little mutt came wandering out of the woods and through the park, most likely attracted by the smell of cooking food. I gave him a burger to eat. I told him to sit and he did. Maybe he’s not such a bad dog after all. He just needs a little structure in his life.

I’ll talk to the Sheriff on Monday. Whatever he wants to accuse me of – he’ll be hard pressed to prove anything without any evidence. If he makes too much noise about it, I‘ll take care of him. The X-2000 told me what to do. She always knows what to do.

Bobby Winston came strolling by with his mouth full of food, chugging it down with a beer. “Great burgers, Glenn,” he said. That’s right. Eat well, my friends and neighbors. Enjoy.

By Michael Thomas-Knight

please stand by (sniper therapy)

a riot at a massacre

a dreaming for a dreaming

walk a street stare down

sitting in a booth

existence pierced by lies

tasting Mexican witchcraft

agreed to the orgasm and passed out in exhaustion,

all the more certain

no more than a symbol

mirror mirror

she craved to annihilate death

it died to sanctify living

emotions mauled the car slowed down

a murderer was given a lift

(the weapons were hidden)

She was charmed by her sinister smile

And the lust of quiet eyes glowing in submission

recounted by a narrator accompanied

by music lying in state,

and i can become part of the western image.

morgan le fay smiles as she’s

tied down / marriage / blood / silence


where can i go



her magic stolen

another noted fear:

the wasp woman


heavy air

captured her

when he was walking in times square

near the sex shops

and the peep shows


show world

shiny new toys

a history of sex pain lust

lashed whipped screamed

in between her ears

girls behind grimy glass

a lust for something for the head

the curtain rising lowering


at the request of some tokens

staring at the geisha house

and the women blanked back

it was a scream’s juice that woke them up

a dance for the cat o’nine tails

just a break in my walls

just slight fears

just time enough to rest

she spies through the shivering window

a slow hazy darkness, a gentle touch

she will stay inside until the rains stop

9 days in succession

vibrating images pass quickly

(a deck of cards)

can’t run out

can’t walk away

a slow crawl in moist cold

she rolled onto her back

across the shiny moist concrete

buried by a sinking feeling

a stinging pain multiplication

the night screams as

electric bacterium – a dance

the cars drive away while

the women on the curb

sit down slowly.



wondering where the

autos have gone

they will return

to give her a ride

9 times suffocated.

9 times cut.

9 times in a blaze.

we’re all viewing

the pleasure syndicate

as they slam

the music score

and twist the toy box

some pets for play

a tv crew

had assembled their equipment on the street

arguing passionately with the audience

that they were rupturing in lieu of capturing

the “sexual academic research on souls”

cables connected

she was one of the silents

the director fondled his actresses

before they sewed his eyes shut

conditional upon his approval

time passage

afterwards they laughed

as they kicked his skull down the street

silent time.

she stopped watching the filming

as she was distracted by

a chorus of miniaturized characters

peering up from between the cracks

slowly chanting

a constantly changing


they were dressed in

rags reborn from

vestments /

spanish fly in their veins

lips bleeding from

excessive laughter

she received instructions to take them home

feed them and walk them daily

near the ocean

to insure vigorous growth

and spin the liturgy


and their hearts ring

a finale with the beasts

falling noises

and a sound we can’t discern

no recognition

resting in a basement

music from antique cartoons can be

heard in the room upstairs

from the crackle crackle of the tv

time to nap

but the stairs mock weariness

it’s a time for recognition and friendship

the 2 values that will be burned at the stake

hungry and unsatisfied

rolling with the brazenly violent

eyes rolled upwards no pupils just white just white

focus on big-screen televisions and shoot it out

the churches have a kill credo

creatures rotten with fur

tell me their life stories and


she smiles slowly as she realizes

the door is permanently locked and

she is stuck here

stuck with time and space

a magnum opus for the abandoned

a sniper therapy:

tension large

looming pleasure

watch it walk then

bury itself

deep inside the grass

the meadow bleeds violently

tender caresses have gone away forever



i lay down on the asphalt

the street was abandoned long time ago

a slit from roof to basement

on the exterior front

of the building

a home

became an institution

of fury

cracks hairline pleasure

gentle on my spine

right. there. is. perfect.

they’ll see everything.


countless hours of image washing

monitoring her development

wasteful so they said

if one should happen

a rapid change

feels good

uneasy in her pleasure

feigning arousal as the fabric

slipped slowly into

the fire

she sang silently to herself while

enjoying the sounds that surrounded


as they flexed in full sight

of the forbidden ones

all was buried beneath the water

all was blessed by mute priests

all were fingerless as always

finding new uses for their


a termed fertilization:

flagella and ovum

dancing to little richard

she started to weep

because she heard of a vagina

that had swallowed itself

leaving its lover

to count numbers randomly in the desert

while blindly burying a pulsating heart

left for the children to unearth at

a later date.

meanwhile she continued exploring the


a striking female

in transit

the pain and

the swim






watch it

walk it



because it buries itself

deep inside the grass

the backyard bleeds violently

tender caresses have gone away forever

a nicked straight razor remains

after all this time dressed in song

he lay down on

the asphalt of

the street that was

abandoned a long time ago

a 1 family house

heaves under

water overnight

she listed the diseases

caused by climate

the naughty dog sputtered

at the gunshots –

a home was evacuated

a slit from

roof to basement

windows gouged out

in the exterior front

of the building

a home

became fury

cracks of pleasure

gentle on his spine

they’re currently ramming

the poison

as it flows through

her tongue

out into the street

he was intrigued by the

tight-fitting white nylon

around her eyes

a voice not realized

as bullets were fired

to facilitate surgery

“i felt hands…”

By Peter Marra

My Dear Psycho

My Dear Psycho,bathtub

Strip me bear and lead me to the bath tub
naked and lay me

Slit my wrists, slit my throat and have
my deliciousness drain from me
and let it feed the sewers below.

Watch the light slowly leave my eyes,
as you hold me close in a lover’s
viscous bloody embrace.

Sing to me of your wanting,
Sing to me of your loss you hold
deep and dark as pitch that never
knew love.

My Dear Psycho,

Dip a finger or two into an open
wound that you so choose and
paint a caricature upon me of you.

Leave me smiling,
leave me bloody and blessed by your touch.
Leave me dead
In my own bathtub.

My dear Psycho.
By Philip Wardlow

The Rose Garden

The asphalt rolled under bare knees, the chopper rumbling underneath her. The helmet did little to stop her hair from flipping in 65 mile per hour gusts. Hearing only the guitar riff in her helmet, she distanced herself from the desert environment around her. Passing sonora cacti. Abandoned shacks. An occasional hill scorched with splintery shrub fingers.

When she thought of him, she accelerated. Each mile passed was a mile away.

Even in the blasted landscape around, she could only see the lush garden in her mind’s eye. His pissed off expression. How anyone could be pissed off in a rose garden amidst multi-colored blossoms, was beyond her. And she told him that.

“I’m fine,” was all he said.

So she asked him again, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I said I’m fine.”

It didn’t matter, he wouldn’t tell her. He wouldn’t tell her that in the outdoor freezer was the still freezing remains of her sister, just waiting to be discovered. He hadn’t expected her to check–she was supposed to be gone that night.
Feet. Remains. Hair. Packed in inhuman ways, like a brick of frozen flesh.

She didn’t scream. There was no reaction whatsoever. The horror put her in a transcendental meditative state. She was a fluffy cloud floating somewhere above her physical head. Her rational mind was completely detached and so it puzzled its way through it. They were fucking. She wanted to tell her, so he killed her. Chopped her up. Put her in a freezer.

Her rational mind also knew what was next. Her rational mind watched her grab the chef’s knife from the kitchen and stab the motherfucker in the chest as he slept. Her rational mind was surprised that the knife was stuck and couldn’t easily be pulled out and that he, instead of dying from the blow, erupted in pain and anger, thrashing her across the face with his arm.

He looked down, confusion wrenching his angered face, and tried to get at the knife, but she must have collapsed a lung, because he stumbled back, falling onto the bed again.

Putting her knee on his chest she yanked the blade out and stabbed him again, cutting her own hand in the process. She pulled out and struck again.

Her rational mind knew this was murder. So after he stopped struggling and passed the last of his breath, she took his motorcycle.

By the time Arizona came, the sun was up. And by the time the sun set, she saw Mexico. And when the sun was up again, her rational mind descended back into her body and she fell apart.

By Christopher Grey