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

Two Poems

Papilio Enim Mortuum Puella

Wings smear face,
a gentle paste against coagulated flesh
embers taste too well.

Cooperative claws, branches of free-will,bloody girl
peripheral fingertips for the dead girl.

Crow conundrums molest the sky,
prefix for the butterfly
contempt for the grave,
burial entices nothing
whispers silk somethings
to favorite bones,
rest no more.


shaven amongst the well water
freshens fragile botherer,
lemon martyr

press the defining leper
leather skin,

Systematic discussion,
shoves input
fiery cranial suggestion,
your savior.

By Brittany Warren

Nesteled Within

burning stairs

The sequel to “Remnants”

Cries of joy and accomplishment rang out through the hazy forest filled with blackened tree trunks. Gil Aswegan stepped through ashen leaves towards the middle of the destruction and the remains of what had once been a three-story structure, the building little more than a smoldering foundation of cement.
“I know this place,” Jay Gavette said from behind, and Gil glanced back to see Jay and Randy walking up, both without their masks, fully accustomed to the stench of smoke.
“Housed all the psychos at the turn of the century. Remember we used to talk about coming out here to see it back when I was in school. You know, mark of bravery and all that shit.” He lit up a cigarette, eyes reddened from the smoke as he inhaled more into his lungs.
“Did you ever?” Randy asked him.
Jay snorted, shook his head. “Nah. Hey,” he hit Randy on the arm, “let’s check it out.”
“Might want to get back with the others,” Randy said, a man of protocol less because he liked abiding by the rules, and more out of fear he’d get fired if he didn’t.
“Christ, they can wait,” Jay said, and all three knew this was all Randy had been waiting for. Seventeen years had given Jay both seniority and an ability to get away with a lot of things, and so long as Randy could claim Jay had given the ok, he’d break any rule he wanted. Gil simply didn’t care enough to seek out the other firefighters gathering near the edge of the forest that had so recently been set aflame.
A few pieces of wood still glowed weakly as they stepped into the foundation. Randy discovered the stairs leading down and called the others over. Jay offered no hesitation, flashlight coming out as he approached. They walked single file into the darkness, into the oppressive smog, none of them using their masks even though they knew they should’ve. The haze made the darkness thicker, closer to them, their lights less capable of penetrating it.
They moved down a long hall of closed doors, each charred, the windows on them cracked and covered in soot. “Bet they had a lot of them down here in straightjackets,” Jay whispered. “Oho,” he said, stopping, light fixed on an object up ahead.
They gathered around the remains of a human, the body burned so badly only the skeleton remained covered in a few pieces of ravaged, cooked meat. “Think we found who’s to blame for the fire,” Jay said, but Gil found his gaze moving past the body to a faint flicker of light up ahead.
“Got something,” he whispered, pointed at the metal door pulled slightly open at the end of the hall.
Jay motioned for them to stay back as he pushed open the door to the ancient boiler room. Most of the metal had been rusted over, but aside from that, had been spared from the fires. They huddled around the candle still alit, hot wax running down the side, pooling on the cement.
Randy brought up his head. “You hear something,” he said, and Gil did hear it, had been hearing it, he thought, maybe even before they’d found the corpse.
Jay looked up as well and nodded with a straight face, his good charm oddly missing from his vacant gaze. The three of them walked in unison, tears streaming from badly irritated eyes, the aged bricks, rusted pipes, and softly waving cobwebs seen through a shimmer, until their lights found the hole in the brick wall.
It opened into what appeared to be a dirt ramp leading deeper into the ground. All three shut off their flashlights in unison. They journeyed down the dirt ramp for an indefinite amount of time, but at some point they reached a bottom, and at some point Gil could hear movement, could feel himself kneeling before something, could hear Jay’s startled laughter and Randy’s feverish crying, as well as the feeling of a wet, pulsing substance slipping across his tongue.
From there came the glaring sun and his hand in front of his eyes. Bennie, Gil’s boss, stared down at him, told him something.
Gil glanced around, eyes still weeping from the haze, the remains of the building not far to his left.
“You bite your tongue or something?” Bennie asked him.
Gil frowned, touched the liquid running down the side of his mouth. He stared at the red on his brown gloves. “Don’t know,” he said.
“We’re heading out.”
Gil pulled himself up and saw not far up ahead Jay and Randy walking away from the building without a word. As they trudged through the forest Gil caught sight of Jay looking back at him, and whatever good humor he normally saw in the man’s eyes was absent, replaced with something Gil couldn’t explain, but understood.
Gil had once joked that he thought his father must’ve beaten the ability to feel emotions out of him, and while a lot of the others would nod their understanding, they didn’t know a doctor had once confirmed the permanent damage to his brain.
“You seem even more withdrawn than normal,” Bennie told him. They sat in the break room, a TV on in the far corner ignored by those lost in a game of poker. The constant sound of jokes, of small talk, and regurgitations of the day’s events filled the room, along with the thin haze of cigarette and cigar smoke. Bennie’s aged, thin face leaned in closer, always more sympathetic than the others, looking for and heading off emotional trouble whenever possible.
“Tired,” Gil told him, attempted to smile, but his mind couldn’t even make his face fake emotion, and he couldn’t ignore an odd bubbling in his gut.
Bennie glanced back at the others and the bright glare of the overhead light before leaning in closer. “What’d you guys do today, anyways? I mean, you’re always quiet, sure, but what’s up with Jay? Hasn’t cracked a joke once since we left. Randy seems kind of skittish as well.”
Gil stared past his boss to Randy perched in a chair along the back wall, head jerking at almost every noise, one arm gripped tightly around his stomach. Through an open door along the wall Gill could see Jay, the middle aged man flipping slowly through a magazine while periodically glancing over the top at the others around the poker table, and just briefly, Gil could see that gaze shifting towards him, holding there for a few seconds, before dropping to the magazine.
“Don’t know what to tell you,” he answered. He couldn’t lie, not directly, the mere thought of it making his body flinch, feel the belt his father had whipped him with.
“I’m just trying to look after my men, ok, and today was stressful, but if there’s something else going on here let me know.”
“I know, Ben.”
Bennie held his eyes for five seconds before nodding and retreating to join the others. A few called to Jay, yelled for him to join the game, but Jay only stared back in silence, while from within the bathroom Gil could hear Randy throwing up.
The worst of it was the whispering, the words unfocused, too silent to understand, and as he watched Jay out of the corner of his eye, he could see the man’s head tilt up from time to time.
Randy emerged from the bathroom pale faced, sweating. “Christ, you sick man?” Bennie called to him.
“Think I’ll head on home,” Randy said, forced a weak smile. “Haven’t been feeling too well.”
“Go. Get out of here,” Bennie said.
Gil shifted his eyes to Jay, but the chair was empty. He walked hesitantly through the large, darkened garage, past the parked trucks, by disheveled equipment thrown haphazardly back after the day’s fight, towards the back windows and the parking lot lit by streetlights and a half moon.
He saw Randy get weakly into his car. As soon as the vehicle pulled from the parking lot another set of headlights sprung to life, and Jay’s blue Lumina glided quietly out of its parking spot. Gil saw the man’s face; lit only by the faint glow of his dashboard, eyes empty as they glanced Gil’s way before vanishing from the parking lot into the night.
His apartment contained no posters to mar the whitewashed walls. Uniform furniture purchased from the same magazine populated the place, the colors plain, uninteresting, like a show apartment, not a single hint of true personality found within its walls.
Lit by the hallway light spilling from his open front door and the soft glow of a streetlight filtered through half-closed blinds, Gil surveyed the room, feeling as if something was out of place. He cocked his head to the side; aware of a movement along the walls, almost like the paint was running, but when he drew closer it looked normal.
He shut the door but didn’t turn on the lights, stomach rumbling, and face glistening with light sweat. Somewhere in the past Randy cried in the darkness, and with the thought came the flicker of an image, as if he had turned his flashlight on just once in that dark room, but even when closing his eyes he couldn’t make the memory solidify.
He sat in a recliner and stared at the ceiling, unaware of how he’d gotten there, but it didn’t matter, because he stood in the bathroom with a candle glowing on the counter, flickering odd shadows across his reflection in the mirror. He searched aimlessly through the apartment for the source of the whispers; thinking he should feel afraid, feel something, brain squirming behind his eyes.
His bedroom looked larger in the darkness, the far wall and closed closet door stretching at least fifty feet away, and within the closet another fire crackled with life, threatened, something in Gil thought, to burn the apartment down, yet knowing this, he made no motion to move closer. Instead he stood on the third floor balcony overlooking the parking lot.
The moon shined brightly from directly above. He glanced at the time reading one a.m. before answering his cell phone.
“Randy’s dead,” the voice told him.
“I don’t know all the details yet. Just got the call about a half hour ago, but someone heard him shouting and found him with his stomach cut open. They think he did it to himself. Why would he do that? What happened today?”
Gil stood in the living room of Randy’s two-story house, the walls decorated by books, by two movie posters, and by smiling pictures of extended family. In the corner Randy rested his head against the wall, his eyes open and blank, the bloody knife still clutched tightly in dead fingers, his stomach a gaping chasm, nothing but darkness within it. More than darkness, Gil thought, leaning in closer, hearing the words floating from the ravaged flesh and the endless void just on the other side.
Randy no longer had his eyes, the sockets showing Gil the same unfathomable depths, tongue missing from the open mouth, entire body but an empty shell leading towards the black hole he had gouged in himself. The closer Gil leaned the more he saw something else at the heart of it, a light within the darkness, soft like a tiny flame, but it grew brighter, blinding him.
“Too bright?”
“It’s fine,” he said, took his bags from the counter of the convenience store, his stomach shrunken to a pea. Even before reaching his parked car he tore open the jerky and started devouring it. He held the keys in his hand when the revulsion overtook him, spilled stomach acid down his jaw, splashed against the side of his car.
“Randy’s dead,” he whispered, feeling the world snap into focus for the first time. The time told him three, bright numbers crawling from the phone, reaching with tiny red fingers towards him before he snapped the lid shut. He leaned forward, held his hands against his eyes, said, “Randy’s dead,” again. By the time he looked up the feeling had subsided, the world a haze outside his window.
He could recall pulling out of the parking lot, but when he stood in front of Jay’s door and saw the red splashed within the window, he had to look at his phone again, see the hour he’d lost. He reached for the knob but doubled over before he could turn it. The pain tore at his stomach, etched its way slowly into his brain, and made it pulse against his eyes as if trying to tear free.
The door opened for him. He walked knee deep through watery carpet, the ceiling dripping paint into his hair, while along the walls he saw the pictures watching him, Jay and his family in all of them, except when looking closer Gil could see the bloody corpses, their dead eyes fixed blindly through the frame, calling to him, pulling him closer. Gil stopped in front of one of them and stared at the two corpses spread over the thin, brown carpet in the living room. He wouldn’t let his eyes shift away until the frame extended and the image became reality.
Jay’s two daughters lay face up, the knife that had killed them discarded on the floor, while somewhere deeper in the building Gil could hear movement. He ignored the walls beginning to bleed, bit his tongue to erase the image, let him move clear headed into the kitchen where Jay’s wife, Emily, had been butchered.
“I heard about Randy,” Jay said, drew Gil’s attention to the staircase leading down to the basement. The older man stood in the opening, his fingers twitching at his side, clothes stained red.
“What’s going on with us?”
“You really here?”
“I…think so.”
Jay glanced behind him, brow tightening before he nodded, glanced back, motioned for Gil to follow him. They moved down stairs that stretched deep into the earth, but ended on the clean white carpet of the basement. Both men stood before the far wall where the abyss waited, carpet running like a waterfall into the void, the soft roar of it continually draining into nothingness all Gil could hear at first, almost unaware of Jay beside him until the man turned towards him.
“You hear the voice?”
Gil faintly could, but the words remained too soft, nothing but a faint babble. “I can’t understand them.”
“What do you see?” Jay asked, pointed towards the darkness, and towards the glowing flame at the center, clearly there, but just out of Gil’s sight, the image fuzzy. “I saw something similar in Randy, but I don’t know what it is.”
Jay fixed his gaze back on the void, his skin pale, shaking, sweat beading on his forehead. “I can see it clearly,” he whispered, “and I know what the voice is telling me. Randy heard it too, heard it better than me, and he almost didn’t even walk out of that place. Didn’t get far. All of us have been tainted, you know, even you.”
He pulled the gun from his waistband as he turned towards Gil with a faint, frightened smile plucking at his lips. “Wanted to kill you to make it easier. Just being closer to me tainted Emily and the girls, but you, you’re as damned as I am, maybe worse, but it won’t let me.” He brought up the gun to his forehead instead, eyes glancing towards the void. Gil could see the blood running through Jay’s lips, down his chin, and he looked towards the hazy image in the darkness, tried as hard as he could to discern the whispers, eyes closed to let them consume him.
The gunshot snapped his eyes open, made him bring up his hands to block out the light in the distance. Sunlight snuck through the dense, soot-covered trees, the air still wavering with recent smoke, burning Gil’s eyes and nose. His legs throbbed but continued to carry him across dark leaves towards the structure he’d left some fifteen hours earlier.
He had no flashlight this time as he descended down the blackened steps into a much deeper darkness. Low hanging lights creaked softly on rusted chains. He saw the abyss within Randy’s ravaged stomach and felt it inside himself, felt the distorted image at the center. It continued trying to speak to him, pulsed inside his damaged brain, emotions trying to rise to the surface of his thoughts.
Even in the darkness he could see the faint glow of the extinguished candle in front of the boiler. He moved past it, unable to see anything, yet still stopping as he approached the broken brick wall to kneel through it. He felt the dampness of the earth as he moved down the ramp. A kind of light began to glow up ahead, one similar to the epicenter of the darkness inside his stomach.
He fell to his knees before it and pressed his forehead against cool dirt. His adjusting vision allowed him to see only the faint outline of the massive creature nestled against the wall.
Hot liquid gushed from his mouth, down his chin, and he groped frantically at his shirt, pulling it open with a rip of fabric. He clawed at his stomach, saw the raw, bloody flesh left on Randy, but there was no pain when Gil’s fingers sunk into his skin as if it were water.
Out of focus images grabbed his thoughts, none of them clear enough to understand, only the hint of creatures, of violence, a timelessness to it that dwarfed his ability to comprehend, and through it all the garbled words grew louder. He felt as if his head burned, eyes being sucked into his skull, tongue a blackened, shriveled strip of skin.
From far away he heard himself scream when his fingers tore from his body and took with them all distortions. An awareness of breath returned first, lungs contracting rapidly. Hot air across his lips and the grainy dirt pressed against his sweaty face came next. Shaking fingers ran across the smooth skin of his exposed stomach. Deeper in the darkness he heard movement, chose not to let his eyes drift towards it as he pulled himself to his feet.
Right before he trudged up the dirt ramp he felt the whispered voice slip through his mind. It contained no words, but he felt within it a sense of gratitude for the child he had given it, one only his damaged brain had allowed him to birth, all those before him succumbing to the madness before it could come to existence.
He ran through the dark basement. Somewhere behind him lay a creature he’d help create, and he couldn’t say whether it had been malevolent or not, nor did he allow his mind to consider it, because if he tried the splintered remains of his memory began to repair themselves. Fear unfelt since the day his father had pinned him to the ground and beaten him unconscious came to him then, drove him faster, until he stood beneath the morning sun and inhaled the smoggy air.
He fell to his knees, shivering violently at the overwhelming emotions his newly repaired brain offered him, already wanting to return this horrible gift, and be embraced once more by the comfort his previous numbness had offered.

By Philip Roberts

A Brimstone Serenade backed by Crucified Nylon Figures

a loving figure at the base

caress the appendages

(whisper. whisper. “she wore high heelsheels

black patent, of course. of course, nylon seams with cuban heel.

on her right ankle she wore a rusty manacle to which

was attached a rusty chain – joining her to the aether, of course.

she fell backwards on the bed – the chain clanked on the black linoleum floor. the only think she was wearing were sheer black panties – her cunt lips were pouty. i played with my clitoris – good words. good words. blood is sperm ya know.”)

the waiting is the worst part

so much more painful

than anything she ever gave to her

back in time

away from time

on each side of her head, sea creatures whispered into her ear

slowly she opened her legs wide

fingered her purple wet labia

and counted the stars that dropped out of the cervix.

a whisper. many tiny voices under her breath.

the observers thought about her anatomy as their lips quivered

and the unattainable was further out now.

a single perfectly clear rivulet of moisture dribbled down and barely moistened the top

of her stocking. she licked the glass and vomited smoke. rebuilding dreams that

they held jealously. she forced their submission in a perverted vision.

Grafts are frequently used

well preserved skin slices and slurping as though she was enjoying

drinks from the wound and thrusts

Most starting to drive her crazy with

plasmatic imbibition

her heart rate slowed to match

Tears above the stocking tops. but not quite a huge orgasm

She remembered back to the transplanted skin

Video – crippled nostalgia for a certain time and place

Dreaming of death valley

By Peter Marra