The Art of Man

To the uninitiated, this large round box in front of me looks like any other normal hat box, circa 1960’s or maybe late 1950’s – somewhere in that era. It’s basically pink with black trim and its size is actually broader than most.  In gold leaf, across its lid, in the finest example of calligraphy I have ever seen, is the name, sans quotes, “McAullie’s”.

Each day I see a lot of vintage items; mostly crap – but some collectible, and others highly valuable.  My state initiated concurrent community service sentences with the “Thrift Shoppes of America” is not only helping clear my record of some gross misunderstandings, but this experience has also touched in me a desire for a new trade – that of ‘treasure agent’. I’ve traded in toys, rare books, some apparel – vintage and contemporary – on the internet.  I recognize this box as coming from a stylish, upscale Boston clothier that went bust during the disco era.  Today, their hats, gloves, scarves, purses and hose sell like gold to vintage clothing collectors and wanna-be fashionistas.

Why this box alone, empty, in this condition could easily fetch $600.00.  A true find. By working the backroom, and this by far is the most advantageous aspect of this job, there are any number of places – nooks, crannies, out of the way corners, gaps between sorting counters, niches, crevices – where one can hide things until one’s shift is over.  Everyone does it to some manner and degree: some as pickers for dealers who regularly frequent this establishment, others for their own collections and some for their own pockets.

There’s no surveillance system in this place: that was dismantled and pawned by an ex-employee three years ago.  There’s no inventory since most of the people who work here can’t count or spell.  And above all, it takes just too much time and effort.  The bottom-line is the management here is hopelessly transient and lax.

This branch of the chain is nestled comfortably in an extremely poor and crime ridden neighborhood, so the corporate brass can’t even conceive that anything of any real value could ever come through this collection center.

Yeah, right.

The box is heavy: well-balanced – but heavy, like it contains a World War I military helmet, instead of a feathery hat. Since no one’s around, or even cares, I undue the satin straps and peek into my trove.

There’s a rock-hard column of sorts swathed in bubble wrap covering gauze surrounded by Styrofoam peanuts to prevent any breakage or movement.   I’m thinking Japanese bronze or jade statuary; maybe a fine porcelain vase or antique glass — but as I continue to unwrap I find this is not so.  In all my days —sober, drunk, drug-induced, and of course, all depending upon my biorhythmic chart – I can honestly say I never saw a real, severed human head – until today. Swimming in formaldehyde she looks all of nineteen, a brunette with striking features.

She’s a real looker with the most piercing green eyes and inviting pouty mouth; a real a baby-faced stunner.

 Ingenious, but clearly someone made a big mistake…

And this is exactly what he told me hours later when I was leaving work for home with my treasure stashed in my gym bag.  He was beside himself, nervous and frustrated; a simple looking portly man about fifty, five foot five with short cropped, graying brown hair, wire rim glasses and a sparse unkept facial growth.   His clothes are neat but rather uninspiring, just like the man himself. 

So he tells me he donated the wrong box.

I tell him he shouldn’t worry because I’m the only one who viewed its contents and I certainly wasn’t dropping a dime on anyone.  In fact, I planned on keeping the head as sort of a 3-D pin-up for my living room entertainment center. 

No, I don’t have a wife or girlfriend, and yes, I do live alone.

Relieved he says, “I’ll make it up to you.  Return my medical specimen.  Keep the hat box and as an added reward you can even take your pick of fifteen pieces of women’s intimate apparel and accessories from my collection.”  

I’m intrigued and readily accept. 

We walk. Not being a judgmental person, I could care less how he came into his stuff.  In fact, I‘m the kind of guy whose creed is to never impose my biases and preconceived prejudices on another. 

We progress right to his walk-up, some eight blocks south. And what a fine, grayish brown three floor brick walk-up it is.  I venture to guess 1910 but he politely corrects me to say this row of sixteen was erected in 1881. 

It’s a quiet neighborhood, even though many of the natives are sitting on stoops and milling around.   These denizens appear to be older than the 19th century architecture itself.

It figures that on a warm day that we’re climbing to the inevitable top floor.  My new friend begins explaining: “This apartment actually belonged to my parents. And it was my father’s parents’ before them.  I’m fortunate that a glorious little thing called rent control coupled with the ease in filling out a certificate of demise allows me to retain my family home and house my vast collection of “Femininalia”.  

My guess is he’s unmarried and unattached as well.

Oh what a spacious and well-appointed design marvel opens up before me.  As I cross the threshold, I’m stepping back in time to the height of the Victorian era.   Everything in sight –all of the furniture, fixtures, glass, china, all of the rugs, doilies, antimacassars and rows upon rows of books and periodicals – is authentically from that era.

As I take my host’s tour from the foyer through the living room and down the hall, I’m more and more impressed with the architecture – the carved moldings, the frescoed ceilings, the marbled fireplaces and crystal chandeliers – until we enter the first bedroom.  All four walls are hidden behind barrister cases, lined up perfectly from floor to ceiling, even blocking the windows – wherever they may be.  And each and every case is packed with jars – the same cylinder jars as the one from the hat box.  Moving closer, I make out heads, hands, feet, patches of flesh with tattoos – some ornate and some simply cute.  None of the faces I can see have the slightest wrinkle; most are strikingly pretty in some way or innocently angelic.  In all, I’d say the sum of these parts would make up about forty young women.

I feel the color draining from my body, but I can’t turn to face him.  I’m so mesmerized by the tantalizing museum in front of me.  

Scratchy, crackling noises start; must be from that old victrola in the living room.  He’s left me alone and I didn’t notice.  The music ratchets up, ‘You’ve got the cutest little baby face…’ 

“I’ve used their bones to make birdhouses.  Those are in the next room.  And in the next room after that, I’ve created some couture fashions out of their skins – and a few lampshades too.”

Again, I’m not one prone to making judgments – but now I’m having some difficulty.

“Let me offer you a brandy.  Don’t worry,” he chuckles, “it is store bought and not a bodily fluid.”

With that, I blindly reach back, still staring forward.  It was then he brought the hatchet down across and through my wrist, severing my hand.  And as I lay on the linoleum floor – yes linoleum in a Victorian – bleeding I could vaguely make out his form standing over me, screaming “I have a disease!  I have a disease!  I have a disease!” as he smashes my skull in. 

By Joseph J. Patchen

Revenge is Sweet

He liked to believe this was normal. Maybe so he could justify himself in his own mind. Yet he knew this was abnormal and strange. No one was compelled to do these things if they weren’t insane, he knew this was true. Yet they didn’t understand him. They couldn’t see past the thick framed glasses and the goofy smile. Since he couldn’t do romantic he had decided a long time ago he could do creepy.

He loved the look of horror on Sarah-Louise’s face when he had butchered her precious cat. That pretentious wench never insulted his shabby clothes again. He had enjoyed the look on Yasmina Davies face when she had found that her three dogs were hanging from trees with their entrails spilled upon the ground.

He enjoyed the fact that he had power over them, he adored that it twitched and clawed at their minds until they couldn’t take it any longer. It gave them just a taste of the horror he had to live through each and every day.

His father was a drunk butcher with a temper, he had killed Kim’s mother in a drunken rage involving a knife and sheer force then buried her in the backyard like a dog.

Kim killed his father that day and buried him in the backyard, taking precious care not to preserve any dignity when he smashed the old man’s face in with a shovel. The taste of blood was salty like iron and he found that he had a likening for it. There was a thrill in taking the life away from someone — their most prized position torn from them by his hand. It was a power unlike any other.

“Violence begets violence,” his teacher had said. Then she had watched as he was mercilessly beaten up by the jocks of his grade. She had done nothing to help him, she had even laughed as if she hadn’t cared that it were him that was getting beat up. She told him that he needed to ‘man up’. She had been his second victim, he had made it look like an accident. The police had thought it was a suicide.

He had gotten away with murder ever since then, becoming meaner and cleverer with each kill. The thrill of it was something he never tired of, but nothing he had to admit had compared to his first taste of blood. It was a compulsion to best that first kill that drove him harder than anything else. He always made sure they deserved death — he never killed anyone that didn’t deserve it. They all brought it upon themselves.

That night the wind howled banshee cries through the trees that swayed under the forceful hand of the zephyr, and the moon shone a bright amber through misty clouds. It was thirteen degrees out with a wind chill that made it bitterly cold to spend even a second exposed to the elements.

Yet this was the night he had to go out. He made sure that he was properly dressed before heading out the door. He knew that his girlfriend was cheating on him. He actually liked that she was, tonight he would be able to kill two for the price of one. He thought that the ecstasy might elevate his pleasure in the deed.

The slut was laying on the couch with her other ‘man’. Mae’s brown eyes opened wide when she noticed him standing there. “Kim!” she screeched. “It’s not what it looks like, I swear.”

“Save it, Mae, you’re screwing him.” He walked straight over to the lover and shot him in the head. Mae screamed like a frightened child. He snickered. She was covered in the man’s blood. He watched as she struggled beneath the weight of her dead lover. It was clear that she wanted to run, but couldn’t. She was trapped like a bird locked in a death match with a cat, there was no escaping for her. “Get up, you whore.”

“Kim, please,” Mae pleaded, her eyes shining with tears. “Please don’t hurt me.”

It was cute that she thought he could be reasoned with, or pathetic. He couldn’t decide which. Maybe both.

He pried the dead body off of her and then slapped her hard across the face. “I SAID GET UP!” he roared.

“I’m sorry,” she blanched, putting a hand to her cheek. “Kim, don’t be angry. Please don’t be. I’m so sorry.”

“Shut up,” he hissed.

“You’re a creep,” she snapped.

He backhanded her. “I said shut up.”

He started by stabbing her in the abdomen. She let out a gut wrenching cry like a gutted pig squealing before its death. “You’re weak,” he sneered, slicing shallowly at her throat so that she could feel the pain without dying just yet. He wanted to have some fun first. She struggled piteously against him, but it was of no use he was stronger than her. Then she bit him. “You filthy whore!” he snarled, as she staggered towards the door. He slammed the back of the gun into her skull.

Mae cried out as she fell to the ground, bleeding. “I’ll do anything you want, Kim, please just don’t kill me,” she sobbed.

“It’s too late for that,” he sneered. “Much to late.” He then stabbed at her this time, making sure to hit a vital artery in her throat. She choked up her own blood, and he smirked as she tried to talk — yet all she could do was gurgle on her own blood. He watched as the life drained from her eyes.

He then took care to stage the crime scene as if her lover brutally attacked her before she managed to get one shot off. He then left without disturbing a thing as if he had never been there.

Revenge was sweet. 

By Linda M. Crate

Finger Fun

He sliced her fingers off before he shaved her head. She screamed louder with each finger being severed, the tiny room they were in like a tomb but not. Her screams were so loud that when he got to her middle finger, the longest one, he thought he would go deaf from her piercing shrieks of pain, the dull knife he purposely used to cut through bone in a more difficult manner, thus causing the pain to be more than merely excruciating.

No, he didn’t know her. She was a stranger he saw at the subway station near Cranford and 10th. She looked nice, he thought, so he brought her home and got her into this tiny room – he couldn’t remember how exactly. Something he must have said, the way he said it? Anyway, here she was, here was her blood, all over the little table. Here were her pseudo-deafening screams in his ears as he finished with the middle appendage and continued on to the ringless ring finger. The thumb had been surprisingly easy. He would look that up later.

When she yelped at the next cut he smacked her mouth but that didn’t shut her up. She just screamed louder, pulling the other hand against the wire that restricted it to the chair, her bare, kicking feet useless against him.
The pinky, of course, was a cinch. Snip, it went. She had slender pinkies. He liked them.

He liked her, too.

Her left hand waited, tied behind her. He got up and smacked her mouth again, then tied her bleeding right hand with another wire, untied the left and slammed on the table, holding it until he sat again.

She stopped screaming but he knew it would start up again soon as he held the dull, bloody knife in front of her face and grinned. He was having fun at this. He always had fun with the fingers.

She spewed some of her spit in his face as he pinned her left hand down, the fingers bloodless for now. He noticed how the wire had cut her wrist already. So what. It was the fingers he wanted. Five down, five to go. Nothing to be left but two bloody stumps she could punch him with. He liked that too. All her blood on him.

She would finally be rendered useless when the blood ran out.

Until then he had work to do.

Blood can always wait.

By Jeff Callico

Burning Questions

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

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

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

Dennis? Are you listening, Dennis?


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

Okay then.

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

I didn’t think so.


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

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

Question number  one.

Is your name Dennis Pratt?


Question number  two.

Are you thirty-seven years old?

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

Question number three.

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

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

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

Again. If a girl showed you her va—

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

Question number four.

Did you kill Ted Gunderson?

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

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

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


One thing I didn’t mention.

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

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

It must be burning a little by now.

On to more questions.

Question number five.

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

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









I don’t know.

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

Oh yes.

I completely forgot.

You’re dead.

Silly me.

By Jeff Callico

The Clown Who Smiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Shut up,’ hissed Gwyneth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the blade never fell.

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

Four powder-white faces glowered at her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We could take her with us.’

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

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

The others stopped to listen.

‘What do you mean?’

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

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

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

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

By Iain Paton

The Cursed

She was breathing deeply now as her bones started to crack and she couldn’t help but think this could have all been avoided, somehow, if she wasn’t a lustful creature eager for the fuck.

Cal loved her softly and with tender hands, cradling her breast in his large bed as they watched horror movies and she moaned. Her back would arch and would invite the pleasure that always made her bounce a little higher, her copper mane elegantly tossed in the moment. She was bored and in want of adventure, touring the ashy back alleys that smelled of rotted meat and sour milk, vomit and spilled urine. She longed for dirty needles and the thrill of driving while she could hardly see through blurred intoxication. Prostitutes with rich red lips and torn thigh high stockings, held up with safety pins. The pimps screaming their product advertisements to the gentlemen clientel who drove slow enough, you knew they were looking for tight place for their dick to fit. The tame touches of Cal were none of these temptations.

She left him after that final good-bye in the embrace of shortened sighs. She loved him, yes she did love him like she had never loved any man who ran fingers through her tangled mass of red hair, pulling slightly, but not enough to hurt. The first time she slapped him during their love-making he threw her off, but she jumped back like a ravenous beast determined to dominate. Perhaps the wild creature was always lurking in her shadows, just beneath the surface, the first
layer of epidermis. Cal knew it, she thought, that’s why he tried so persistently to subdue and assure her of safety, but he knew that she didn’t want that. He must have known. So she left. She wrote a note while he slept that expressed her regret at the mode of this dismissal and explained that a face to face good-bye would be too difficult. She took her leave and disappeared into that powdery night.

Something answered her then and there, the instant, it seemed, when her heels clicked down on to the path for lost souls. She was invited in the half-moon light by a man who loomed handsome and cringeworthy. She took the proposition to follow him into maelstrom and the steps of hell paved with all her restless dreams. In a warehouse club with androgynous patrons, suckling each other in a sinister way, they drank real absinthe. Lit the match and sugar, let it fall in the poison, gulp it down. The first desperate kiss was a horror show of mutilation and massacre. They enacted the seven deadly sins upon each other: lusting for the flesh, glutting themselves on feasts of orgy, pridefully denying their enjoyment, greedily satisfying their pleasure crusade, exacting wrath of the fury with violent thrusts and turns, coveting each other’s orgasms, and slothfully wallowing in passion spent. She did not know who he was, the being that ripped her flesh like tissue paper and raped her body with anger and desire, but she allowed him to violate her, with a green cloud of fairies thick in the air, she surrendered.

There was no love. Only torment and abandon. Only fierce threats of unparalleled mayhem and disaster. She was succumbing quickly to the world of drugs and sin, no longer looking in the mirror at her terrorized face. Those lips of hers were spilt at the seams and her eyes black and yellow. Bruises in the shape of finger marks held definition around her throat, and the moon was not yet full. Sleep was a taunting deception, a fickle whore with no sense of accountability. It teased her. When she found herself at its door, almost completely engulfed, the madness began. There were bodies everywhere, disemboweled, missing faces and limbs, throats torn out, blood drained. Demons with yellow eyes feasted on their organs and hissed her name ‘Delilah‘. She woke up screaming every time.

The moon was a swollen belly, he began to change. He inhaled more drugs and fed her as many different varieties as he could find. Delilah would cry every time she heard his heavy motorcycle boots on the stairs. The small room they slept in had a dirty futon mattress on the floor with a single lamp and cupboard bathroom. They went to the warehouse clubs every night, dining on liquor and some kind of rare meat. He would dance to saturated drum and bass beats and lick the face of a fresh girl. She should have noticed what was happening, but she didn’t.

On the night of the pregnant moon, she felt particularly feverish, so much so that when he came home and touched her she didn’t even flinch. He smiled, a rare thing, and said under hot breath, “Tonight baby, you look beautiful tonight. I’m going out, you have to stay in.” She turned over, laying on her stomach and moaned. “Why . . .” But he was gone, a spectre dissolving into foggy themes of blood shed and injection sites. The window of their flat was small but when she looked up that bright orb seared her flesh and she began screaming. Her hands began to stretch into something like grotesque paws, she fell to her knees gasping for air as she felt the skin and tissue tearing and rehealing into an animal form and her body coated itself with dense red fur. Delilah’s snout protruded and her ears pricked; she was a very large, very beautiful and terrifying wolf. She broke down the apartment door and her night of unbridled chaos began.

The man was sitting by a garbage can holding himself close, trying to keep out the desperate cold that was seeping in through the torn overcoat. Something in the night made his hair stand on end and sent a sharp shiver through his bones, it was not the chill air. He smelled her before he saw her. That deep animal musk of wild unnatural desire and woman’s floral perfume, her scent was intoxicating and absolutely frightening. Like smelling a match and gasoline together, you know the fire will burn everything. He attempted to stand but she was in front of him before he’d even moved an inch. Her ivory teeth gleaming sharp in the moonlight, glistening with hungry saliva. She ripped out his throat as he opened it to scream and the blood fell hot on her muzzle. She buried her face in his belly and began to consume the meat of her first kill, swallowing the smaller organs whole, gnawing on the ribcage, tearing the meat off in strips. When there was nothing much left of him she gave a grim howl, the howl none of god’s creature could raise, its mournful treachery was an octave of annihilation. She bounded out for more blood.

Delilah woke up naked in the grass. Her face was caked in dried blood and a half eaten mongrel lay nestled beside her. Confused and scared shitless, she leapt up and began running towards what she imagined was the apartment. Lucky for her they lived in a decrepit neighborhood where a naked woman sprinting at dawn did not catch much attention. She darted up the stairs to their flat and was surprised to see a fresh door in place of the one she somehow remembered tearing down. Turning the handle cautiously while covering her breast with her other hand, she stepped into the dim room. He spun harshly and grabbed her. At first she thought he was going to rip her own throat out with those still sharp-looking teeth but instead he smiled exuberantly. “How was your first night?”
“Wha . .what?” she stammered.
“Any hot kills?”
“Whats . . .going on . .?” she was starting to cry now remembering the man in the alley and several others she’d butchered under the light of the full moon.
“You are like me now. A wolf. A killer.”
“I’m not a killer!” she screamed violently and pushed him off with more force than she knew possible. He flew across the room and his eyes caught a yellow gleam, the black hair falling dangerously in his face. “What is this? How could you do this to me?!”
“Shut up bitch and be grateful I don’t rip your fucking throat out for that little stunt.”
“Tell me what the fuck is happening, what the fuck is this shit Adrian!”
“I didn’t know if you’d actually been infected,” he said with a simmering voice, anger still radiating through the syllables.
“I knew last night when you looked sick that there was a good chance it had taken, and that you’d become one.”
“One what?” she almost whispered.
“What the fuck do you think?” he spat at her. “Clearly you’re too fucking dumb to understand the gift you now have and the power that comes with it.”
“You’ve turned me into a fucking monster!” she grabbed a dress from the floor and ran out the door.

Delilah sped through the broken glass and hypodermic needles littering the streets of unwanted lovers, and she didn’t care. She thought of Cal and his soft warm hands. Regret. She had thought that was only a word for people with weak souls, but here she was thinking about the impulsive mistake she’d made, wondering how this lunacy had happened. She realized half way through trying to puzzle it out that it must have been their carnal lust, the biting and blood-letting that spread his infection to her body. She looked down at her slender form and felt a solid ache for mundane. This was a sentence, a curse, a lifelong stigma, and she realized she couldn’t even think the word for herself without wincing: werewolf. She was a killer, a predator, an evil fucking bitch. Her normal life, or any hope that she might have had of one day having a normal life was now shattered, like the beer bottles she walked through, shiny amber fragments glittering as the tear drops of her demolished existence. He had done it. He had known what he was when he brought her that night to his sex den. Had he smelled the anxious weakness of a girl still in love but searching for something surreal? He must have, because he picked her out of nothing and led her to this. She hadn’t noticed that she had begun to run hard towards a particular destination. When the door opened he seemed unphased by her appearance and simply opened his arms.

Cal was silent after she told him of the painful life she’d been living, the dreary delinquent warehouse with its drugs and fiend music, Adrian and his wretched curse, her bitter change, the events that followed and the brutal aftermath of learning her future. “I don’t think he’ll come after me,” she ended.
“I’ll kill him,” Cal stated gently.
“I don’t think you can kill him.”
“I can fucking find a way to kill him.”
“Don’t kill him.”
“Why the fuck not?!”
“Because I may need him one day.”
“What the fuck for?”
“To tell me about what I am now.” Cal held his breath, rage filling
his usually placid face.
“We’ll get through this,” he said.
“I can’t ask you to be involved anymore.”
“I’m dangerous. I couldn’t live or let myself live if I knew I was responsible for something awful happening to you.”
“You’re not alone D, I’m here and I’m not leaving. Nothing you can say will make me leave you. I don’t care what you are, I don’t care about the mistakes you didn’t know you were making. I will help you and I will keep you safe.” He looked at her with deathly serious and merciful eyes. She fell into his arms and was soothed. Maybe there could be life after this curse after all. If Cal wasn’t going to give up on her, she couldn’t let him down by giving up on herself. Suddenly a frigid breeze swept through the room and she all at once felt his presence, his ever watchful presence: Adrian, that leering face, those yellow eyes. She wouldn’t kill him . . . unless she had to.

By Emily Smith-Miller


“You’re gonna what?”

“You heard me, you’re not fucking deaf are you?”

She told him she was going to cut off his dick when they finished their meal. He had prepared the steak himself, and when she came over they sat down to eat  and talk about their day. It was like any other day, but when she told him she was going to cut off his dick, everything changed.

“What are you talking about?” he laughed, forking another bite-sized piece of meat and lifting it to his mouth. He halted it when she spoke.

“Just what I said, Tom. I’m going to cut your dick off and there’s no way you’re going to stop me.”

Tom looked at the morsel on his fork, the redness in the middle, the way he liked steak, medium rare with a little blood still in it. He looked up at her and stuck the meat in his mouth and chewed, slowly, his eyes set on hers. She said nothing in return, just stared back; she had finished her plate, so she waited for him to do the same. Then the mayhem would begin.

He finished chewing and set his fork beside his plate, which still had leftover food in it, some corn and mashed potatoes, a couple of still unforked cuts of steak.

“Cynthia,” he said, trying to force a smile but failing, “I don’t know why you’re saying this, I mean, what…are you unhappy about something, was there something I did wrong, I mean…what…tell me what you mean, I really don’t understand what—“

“Tom. Shut the fuck up. Are you done? With your food? Which, by the way, was lousy as fuck. The steak sucks ass just like you do. I ate it all just to be polite, what my mother taught me to do when people invite you over for dinner, even if they’re total assfucks. And yes, Tom, you are a fucking assfuck. Do you understand what I’m saying, Tom? I spent all day thinking about this, believe me. Like, do I really want to cut his dick off? Do I? Does he qualify? Is he material? Like the others were?”

Tom gaped at “the others” – he stared at her and said nothing.

She continued as if she were speaking about a shopping day at the mall. “Really, Tom, there was a moment or two when I thought against it. I was like, well, if I cut off Tom’s dick then he can’t fuck me like he wants, he can’t get that fucking cock inside me anymore and oh my god what would he do then? Because as you know, Tom, that’s why I’m even with you, right? That’s why we’re together. So you can fuck me and make me lousy steak dinners and take me to movies that suck so much fucking ass they smell worse than yours when you shove your cock in my mouth. So yeah, before I came over tonight I decided you were finished. Well, I guess the better phrase would be I was finished. And I am, Tom. Finished. With my lousy fucking meal you so kindly made and with you. It’s time, Tom. Your dick will soon be severed and your blood will match the steak’s. Except of course you have human blood and not that of a cow. But for all practical purposes, Tom, you are a cow. Moo for me. C’mon, Tom, I’m serious! Moo for me! I wanna hear you fucking MOO!”

He couldn’t speak, much less verbalize what she wanted. She grabbed her fork and stabbed his cheek, reaching across the table, which was large enough for two, and stabbed him, the fork tines leaving four marks inches from his left eye. Tom grabbed his face and screamed and she forked his other cheek. She crawled up on the table and grabbed his hair and stabbed the fork in his neck, but not deep enough to cause arterial damage, just enough to make him paralyzed with fear and pain and shock. She knocked him backwards then, pouncing on top of his chest, the fork in her fisted hand, then stabbed his hands as he tried to grab at her. She stabbed hands and arms until he stopped the grabbing then stabbed his chest repeatedly. She tore his shirt open, buttons flung to the side, pinging on the hardwood, and stabbed him some more until he was in a deep enough state of shock that he couldn’t move.

“Tom,” she said, her tone mild, as if speaking to a child. “You should have known I would do this. I guess you’re not very perceptive, are you? All those times I didn’t laugh at your stupid fucking jokes, the way I would sneer at you in response. Yeah, and what about meeting your batshit crazy mother? Huh? Remember that? Yeah, of course you do. How she leered at me when I told her about my life – which she fucking asked me to talk about! – and how she took your side against me when you said I could do better? Um, Tom? What the fuck did you even mean by BETTER? I’ve been doing fine, thank you, so fuck better and fuck you and fuck your fucking mother! Fucking whore bitch cunt!”

Tom was breathing but the pain she had administered still had him rendered speechless, unable to speak intelligible words. He just lay there, his pants coming off by her hands, the bloodied fork beside his right calf, just out of his reach.

She got his pants all the way off and yanked down his boxers, a pair of blue and green striped ones she also abhorred: those colors made her sick for some reason. Maybe they reminded her of the sea, which was the one thing she would never enter. Fuck, even a swimming pool struck fear in her.

She had kept the steak knife she had used when they ate. She grabbed it from a rear jeans pocket and placed the serrated blade against his limp cock, pulling it straight up with the other hand and holding it still as she spoke again.

“Tom. Are you listening, Tom? I know you are, you fucking cunt. You fucking mama’s boy who can do no wrong, even if you killed somebody on the street or some shit. Your mama would take your side on that too, wouldn’t she? Well, I’m really tired of talking, Tom, and even more tired of you.”

She cut into his cock, which caused Tom to jolt and scream. He again tried to grab at her with his forked hands, the pain in them suddenly more excruciating now that he had been thrust into a higher state of consciousness, but she pushed the knife in deeper, sawing the serrated edge back and forth, cutting into the flesh of his cock, her other hand pulling at it harder, stretching it, cutting deeper, blood spurting and oozing onto her hands and his balls, the blade red with his blood, which she smiled at as she kept up the cutting of his cock, until finally, through all his screams and failed grabbing with his flailing hands, all his writhing and kicking with his legs, every attempt to make her stop a miserable and pathetic try, he fell silent and motionless but wasn’t dead. She could see his forked chest rising and falling, rising and falling, his mouth still agape, as if he were listening to her at the table, her words carefully considered and arranged just the right way for her purposes.

She held his dripping cock in her hands, severed as it was, and stood. She shook his cock like a wet rag, draining it until it dripped no more. She wrapped it in some napkins, some of them the ones he had used during the meal. His blood from where it had been still seeped out; his entire groin was a huge red mass. She studied his grimaced face for a moment then turned and walked out, dropping his severed penis in her purse.

When she got home, she prepared his cock with the proper preservative procedures, then opened the safe and counted: Twelve. Eight more to go and I’ll be done.    

By Jeff Callico