Perfect

Such a nice girl she was, her favorite black dress with long straps, all that cleavage he liked, especially when she didn’t wear a bra. She told him she dressed just for him, her breasts all his, her sex his to own. And he did own it, just like she wanted him to, sometimes begging for it when he held out.

Sure, they met at a bar. She was a regular there and he had come on business. They hit it off soon and he found himself making arrangements more often, the jet fares adding up, but fuck if he cared. She was fiery and he liked it, how she’d tell him just how she felt about something, anything, and didn’t give a fuck what he thought, even if he disagreed or took offense. “Fuck you,” she’d say, and that would incite him; they’d attack each other with near rage and end up spooning.

She was perfect, he always thought.

Really.

He lost count of the stabs as he plunged the knife in her like a machine that chops up meat. He used her lace red panties to sop up her blood, the smell of it making him want to keep stabbing her, even though there really was nothing left to stab. She was now mangled beyond human recognition. He had stabbed her face, her eyes, her skull, her neck, her chest, her abdomen, her arms and hands and legs and feet – and then had turned her over and stabbed everywhere else that remained, so much virgin flesh ready for his blade. He saved her pussy for last and shoved the knife straight in, just like he imagined that cock she fucked it with so many times, thinking he never knew. Well, he knew. He caught her in the act itself. There was likely more than one cock. The lover was able to escape but he would get him later. She was the culprit, that lying mouth of hers, the same mouth that sucked so much cock behind his back. He slammed the knife in her now worthless cunt and twisted it around, fucking her, scraping inside her and spurting so much blood. Her panties were soaked soon enough. When he finished he filled them with parts of her cut-up flesh. She was now bloodied meat, and her panties, the same ones that fucking lover slid off of her, were just a flesh bag. Her face was horrid; it didn’t look like a face. He couldn’t find that mouth of hers now but just guessed where it had been, then stuffed the filled panties into her skull, part of which was cracked by his raging knife. He stood up and surveyed what he had done to her.

Such a nice girl she was.

By Jeff Callico

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Eating Out

Her orgasm was exploding through her body when he wrenched her arm back at a 90 degree angle, causing her to shriek out in pain and ecstasy. The same hand that had guided her to the dark bedroom of this warehouse apartment, somewhere on the far side of the city, now splintered her humerus. It was like breaking a matchstick with your thumb. Tossed from the bed, she realized that while her body flew across the room, her arm had been left behind in the claw of her lover. She screamed.

She tasted cheap, he thought, her pussy wasn’t even washed, it smacked of sweat and feminine odor. He hadn’t had something tasty in so long, upper class, delightful, clean. He supposed that was just because of the money, they always wanted money, he never had enough. There were some habits that seemed to be using it all up, he glared down at the brown paper bag disgustedly, and made a sour face. The things one needs to stay alive. She was pretty though. Her ass was nicer than he’d had in a couple of weeks, very juicy, very tender. But he wanted something that didn’t taste like garbage. Fuck women, they needed to take better care of themselves if they were going to whore around like that.

“How long has she been dead?”

“You’re late, asshole.”

“I had to pick something up on my way over, took longer than I thought it would, you want to answer me?”

“Not really.”

“Fuck you, Fitz, and your fucking filthy Irish twat.”

“Oh I love it when you talk dirty, Rich! Some crack head found her or something, scared the bitch out of her fucking mind. I’d say she’s been dead a little over a day, the bugs have already started to get at her, or what’s left of her.”

They looked down at the half devoured body of sweet Jane Doe, right arm ripped off, leg looked gnawed off, her breast had been torn through like a package of hamburger and her face was about as relevant as steak tenderloin. The elephant in the room was clearly the gaping hole in her midsection that extended to her pelvis, just jagged teeth marks, deep wounds like claw marks and chewed organs. She was a goddamn entree.

“So, is it just me, or does it look like she’s been fuckin’ eaten, Fitz?”

“Yep.”

“Any animals in the area do that?”

“Nope.”

“Am I dealing with something seriously fucked?”

“Yep. This little treat was not just mutilated on a massive level, she was definitely eaten. Forensics found some stuff to indicate there was another person with her when this happened. I don’t know what to tell you, man. I mean it gives a whole new meaning to being eaten out, ha!”

“Shut up, Fitz.”

Rich went over the report a few times before he began feeling nauseous. The pictures were enough to make a normal man queasy, but reading the description over and over again, ‘torn out liver, partial uterus, severe facial lacerations, missing limbs, 8 feet of missing small intestine . . .” he ran to the toilet. Puking chunks of a Reuben sandwich from earlier and some unidentifiable stomach contents, Rich leaned back against his beige tiled bathroom wall that reflected sick in the fluorescent light. The bathroom had always reminded him of motels that charged by the hour, and have so much cum on the walls and floor, in the illumination of a black light one would instantly go blind. He wobbled to the scratchy olive sofa and pulled out the contents of the brown bag. Soon he felt better, he felt the color returning to his face, and his stomach settled. You do what you can to live, he thought, leaning back into the couch and letting sleep overtake him. Dreams are monsters, ripping through his skin, tearing pieces of flesh from his face, shredding through his torso and scooping out organs like a melon baller. The monster smiles with big canines oozing blood. They have teeth, big teeth, big bad teeth that smell awful, they smell like, they smell like . . . like a toasted Reuben sandwich? Rich jumped awake at the ringing phone by his head and damn near yanked the receiver out of the jack.

“What the fuck?”

“Well it’s good to hear your voice too, dick.”

“Fitz, what the hell time is it?”

“Almost four, doesn’t matter, I found something on that chick. Meet me at the office.”

Shaken by his dream and still not feeling well, Rich wasn’t in the mood for Fitz’s bullshit. He was surviving on little to no sleep and the brown paper bags were the only thing keeping him sane. He arrived at the office finding it hard to swallow. Fitz was in the lab looking pleased with himself; he was standing over a couple of slides and some computer printouts.

“You’ll never guess what the fuck we’re dealing with, because I sure as hell don’t know, but there is a human being involved in this mess. I don’t know if he’s a fucked up cannibal or what the hell, but it’s a man, and I know exactly how to find him.”

“Alright, let’s hear it.”

“Ok get this, our girl was a regular at the club she was reportedly seen leaving, and the bartender got a good look at the guy who picked her up that night, even talked to him a bit.”

“So what, you saw that body, she could’ve easily hooked up with some asshole and then gotten mauled by whatever after the fact.”

“Oh I know, which is where these babies come in.”

Fitz pointed to some blood slides and smiled knowingly.

“They were found at the crime scene, apparently our man heaved a little after chowing down. Most of the mess was the girl, but some of the blood and tissue didn’t match her. Turns out it’s fucking baboon’s heart! This guy is eating raw baboon’s heart! There’s only one butcher shop in the city that sells something that fucked up! And my guess is whatever description we get from the bartender will match that of the butc—”

Smash! The computer keyboard collided with Fitz’s face just as his theory was reaching its climax. He had been talking so adamantly he didn’t notice Rich unhook the hardware. Rich gathered the slides and samples, along with the printouts of the information Fitz had uncovered. It made Rich cringe slightly that Fitz had figured out the baboon hearts, his little brown bag secret. They staved off the urge to hunt and kill as his kind was supposed to. Well, Fitz will just have to be the main course tonight.

Fitz regained consciousness when the meat hook was placed between his shoulder blades, paralyzing him. He dangled there for several moments screaming before Rich came into view, moving between large sides of hanging beef ribs.

“Rich . .  . I . . aaaahh . . .FUCK!”

Fitz whimpered in pain, but the hook in his back made it too difficult to speak. Rich began sniffing the air, becoming excited at the scent of fear and blood. The image of his friend, a live slab of helpless slaughter, speeded the transformation. Standing naked beneath the speechless Fitz, Rich’s fingers lengthened first, extending into claws, followed by the morphing jaws that became fuller and protruded out while the skin stretched for transformation. His back legs adjusted and rapid hair began sprouting over his body until finally, Fitz stared down at a monstrous wolf-like creature. Rich sat back on his hind legs and then lunged viciously at Fitz, ripping the hook straight through his back. He ate hungrily, devouring his manhood and lower half in the first moments. By the time Rich was done, there was nothing remotely definable about his friend, he crunched the bones and made himself eat every piece of evidence that could identify Fitz as a human being.

Rich counted out the hundred dollar bills he’d taken from Fitz’s apartment and withdrawn from his bank account – he had always been so trusting with him. He licked his lips at the thought of consuming his friend’s kidneys. He could still taste Fitz’s distinct flavor of whiskey and Irish Spring bar soap lingering on the tip of his taste buds. He held a toothpick between his teeth, offhandedly picking bits of gristle from some of the more difficult molar areas. Rich needed something to wash Fitz down with and he knew just the thing.

Her name was May and she was a soft-skinned society girl who had been dancing provocatively at one of the high end clubs on the west side. Her breasts were round and only a little small, but everything was forgiven when Rich had slid off her panties and taken his first lick of delicate top shelf pussy. Wet and fragrant, May was a spring day of sensual eroticism. She was refined and her elegant flesh needed only minor pressure to break the surface. Once Rich smelled the spilled blue blood, his frenzied beast burst forth and he began eating her out for real. Her moans turned quickly to screams which he ceased with a sharp snap of his jaws around her slender neck. Fitz had been dinner;  now May was dessert, no more baboon hearts for Rich, not when the blood tasted so good. He let out a blissful howl and disappeared like his victim’s ingested corpses.

By Emily Smith-Miller

Flies

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

The laboratory was sweltering. The greenhouse-glazed windows were sealed, and an extractor fan from the fume-cupboard was not meant to double as an air-conditioning unit.

‘Go on, open the window.’

‘Not a chance.  If there’s a leakage or anything, then we’re fucked.’

‘What can go wrong?’

‘I don’t know. Why don’t you open it?’

‘I can’t reach. Go on, help me out here. I’m a woman, for God’s sake.

Helpless and defenceless…’

‘Hah! There’s nothing helpless about you. God help any man who crosses your path on a Friday night.’

‘Go on… I’ll go out with you this Friday. I promise…you can reach the latch.’

‘Oh… okay then.’

The window slid up and a brief blast of cool air relieved the oppressive heat.

‘See…. isn’t that better?’

‘Are we still on for Friday?’

‘It’s a date, lover boy.’

He stretched out in the chair, pushing it back onto two legs. The
chair legs slid back with a screech and man and chair fell backwards
with a crash. The shattering of broken glass echoed an instant later.

‘What the fuck….’

‘You clumsy idiot! Better not do that on Friday.’

‘What was in that jar? The one on the bench?’

‘Don’t know. Just a couple of flies.’

‘Thank God for that.’

 The housefly’s life cycle can last as little as ten days. In a year, a single pair of Musca domestica can breed ten generations, over a trillion insects if the full breeding potential is realised. The male mounts the female from
behind and they fuck
 for a few seconds.


 There was thunder in the air. She opened the living-room window to clear the stifling air. A couple of flies buzzed lazily into the room.
There wasn’t a newspaper lying around. ‘Shit!’ She trudged into the
kitchen in search of insecticide spray, reaching under the kitchen
sink. A rusty can was wedged towards the back. She shook it as she
walked back into the living room, listening to the liquid slosh
inside. Then her mouth plopped open.

The living room was full of flies. They circled and buzzed in a
sandstorm swirl, in the centre of the room. Then they swooped on her.

Daylight was blotted out in an instant as swarming blackness engulfed her, seeking moist caverns and flesh, bristly legs probing into nostrils and a gagging flood of crackling blackness forced its way into her mouth and gullet, coating her tongue with a dusty insect putrescence.

‘Gaa…..gaggg..’ Bile rose in her throat and met a sea of chitin
crawling downwards as she choked. Her hands flailed blindly and she staggered around in a frantic daze, grainy forms scraping her eyeballs as they sought the delicate pink tissues at the corner of her eyes, crawling into her ears and filling her brain with a dull drone.

The small forms were crushed and crunched as she stumbled out of the house and into the street, retching and choking, trailing a cloud of flies behind her black-swarmed face and hair. She collapsed to the ground and, as blows shook her body and the flies departed, daylight returned just to fade into darkness once more as numbing shock overtook her mind.

The voices crept in through the haze of sedation.

‘She’s dehydrated and in shock. Other than that, she’s okay.’

‘How old is she?’

‘Forty-five.’

‘Bloody hell. She looks seventy.’

‘That’s no surprise after what she went through.’

‘What caused the swarm of flies?’

‘We’re not sure. Possibly an electromagnetic disturbance, because of the thunderstorm, or maybe the heat. The entomologists at the
university are looking into it. They’ve got an ongoing research
programme anyway.’

‘What injuries did she suffer?’

‘It was mainly shock, dehydration and asphyxiation. Some neighbours beat at her with towels, like they were putting out a fire, and that seemed to drive the insects away. She’s got abrasions to the soft tissues in her mouth, nostrils and throat, and on her corneas. We had to irrigate the cavities to wash out the dead insects and eggs, so there will be some lingering swelling, maxillofacial pain and tinnitus.’

‘Eggs? They laid eggs in her?’

‘That’s what they do. But they normally wait until the host is dead.
You can sometimes see them in the corners of the eyes of corpses, like creamy clusters.’

‘Were they cleaned out as well? The eggs?’

‘Yes.’ A pause. ‘There’s only so far you can go, down the oesophagus.

Peristalsis will carry any residual matter down to the stomach, for
digestion.’

‘Yuk.’ Laughter. ‘Fly eggs for lunch.’

‘Very funny. It’s time to go. There’s a group of students due shortly.’

Each female fly can lay around 500 eggs, in batches of up to 150.
Within a day, these will hatch into maggots, between 3mm and 9mm in length. The maggots live for at least a week and feed on organic material.

She didn’t feel well.

‘Are you not eating today, Mrs Brooks?’ The auxiliary nurse looked at her with concern. ‘You need to get your strength back if you’re being discharged tomorrow.’

‘No,’ muttered Mrs Brooks. ‘I really don’t feel up to it.’ The tray
lay untouched on the bed’s swing-table.

‘What’s the matter?’ Nurse Yeboah’s  rich African accent, warm smile and formal manner were usually reassuring. ‘I can call for the sister, or a doctor, if you wish.’ She pulled back the curtain with a brisk swish.

‘I don’t know…’ She couldn’t explain it, but waves of nausea were
pulsing from her stomach, abdomen and all through her body, behind her eyes, up her spine and into the base of her skull. Flecks fluttered in front of her vision and her tongue was thick with mucus.

Suddenly she convulsed and heaved, jerking on the bed, her mouth wide open in a retching grimace, the tendons in her red-flushed neck stretched to breaking point as she grabbed the side-rail of the bed.

Nurse Yeboah reached for the emergency call button, but froze in horror.

Floods of bloody maggots spewed from Mrs Brooks’s mouth. They writhed frantically in the dark-red soup of bloodclots, bile, and pus. The woman heaved and retched, but there was no end to the flow and they burst across the bed and spread across the ward floor in a sea of larval gore. Mrs Brooks collapsed like a string-cut puppet and slumped forward across the bed, sighing with what was either relief or a death-rattle. A crimson fountain soaked the bedsheets in a bloody wash, flooding onto the floor and around the writhing maggots.

Nurse Yeboah’s mouth hung open in a silent scream. She leaned forward to turn over Mrs Brooks, gagging at the sour-copper stench of blood and bile.  Then she screamed out loud, as the other patients on the ward stared across in horror.

The face of Mrs Brooks was swollen beyond recognition. Frantic maggots crawled from the corners of  her eyes, one after the other, plopping onto the blood-washed floor. They slid eagerly from her nostrils, and dropped from her ears, large creamy maggots oozing lazily from between her gore-flecked lips. Then, in a sudden spasm, she jerked back into life, heaving retching with a growing wail of agony.

But the sound was insect, not human. A flow of glossy pupal fragments was followed by a swarm of buzzing flies, freshly hatched from their flesh-warm confinement. The dull buzz grew to a roar as the cloud burst into the still air of the hospital ward. Hundreds of black forms darted around the ward, seeking shocked-open mouths, terrified eyes and moist nostrils, to begin the cycle all over again.

By Iain Paton
http://blackdogstories.wordpress.com/

A Vulgar Display of Power

Rain was pounding the windscreen hard. The wipers were going so fast, Jodie thought they were going to snap and fly off somewhere.  She hadn’t realized how drunk she actually was until she got into the car. The tequila shooters had been a bad idea. A real bad idea. Her pick-up was swerving recklessly between lanes on the road, some drivers sounding their frustration with their horn. Fortunately, the traffic was fairly light and there wasn’t a cop car in sight.

Her French husband, Jacques, had been continually harassing her when she was in the bar, bombarding her with text messages and phone calls. She’d ignored them for a couple of hours, but as the alcohol took hold, she figured she’d let him stew for long enough. I mean, what kind of douche bag tells Jodie what to do? She’s the type of girl that can do whatever the fuck she likes. She takes no orders from anyone, at least that’s what she told her best friend, Christine, as the two of them licked salt from their clenched fists.

‘Yeah, he actually told me that I need to clean up after Muffin. That’s a man’s job. I don’t want to clean up Muffin’s doo-doos. They stink!’ Jodie said, throwing her head back as the tequila nosedived into her willing mouth.

‘Like OMG Jodie.  Who does he think he is?’ Christine replied in her Californian airhead accent. ‘What a total dick.’

Jodie pictured Muffin; her pedigree Chihuahua and her pride and joy. She liked to dress him up in different clothes, sometimes to match what she was wearing. She smiled warmly as the bartender refilled their shot glasses. ‘Yeah, you’re right. He is a total dick. That’s why I’ve been screwing around on him.’

‘What? Ohh Emmm Geee. Who with?’ Christine asked her.

‘You know his friend Phil? The guy he works with?’

Christine nodded her head slowly, her jaw agape. Jodie smiled naughtily at her. ‘Yeah, him.’

‘Like, I’m so jealous. He’s such a hottie.’

‘I know, he has a body to absolutely die for. He puts Jacques to shame in the bedroom. We nearly got caught last week.’ Christine’s eyes widened as Jodie continued.

‘Jacques was meant to be staying late for some business meeting, so I called Phil and he came over. Then, later on when we were doing it for like, the fifth time, Phil heard the door opening downstairs. Thank God he heard it over all of my screaming,’ Jodie said, stifling a laugh. ‘It was Jacques. He came up to the bedroom and I was lying on the bed naked, and had to pretend I was doing it for him. Waiting for him to come home. Phil rolled out from under the bed and blew me a kiss while Jacques was standing there unaware.’

The girls continued drinking for a few hours. Jacques was still texting Jodie, in hope that she would come home and forgive him. After all, it was her 30th birthday.

A few hours passed. Jodie and Christine were well and truly drunk. They were sitting in a booth opposite the bar and were deciding on what song to put on the jukebox next, when Jodie received yet another text message.

I’m so sorry. Please come home. It’s your birthday and I’ve made a nice meal for you. Jac xoxo

‘Ugh. Jacques just text me again. I’m gonna have to go home; he’s made me a romantic meal for my birthday – woo-hooooo!’, Jodie said, sarcasm oozing from her words. Christine was so wasted she didn’t even argue, instead she sat on a stool, her short skirt not keeping much from the imagination, chatting to a cute guy working at the bar.

Jodie stumbled out to her car after saying her goodbyes, annoyed that Jacques had ruined her evening.

The rain started to calm as she neared the house. She stopped the pick-up truck at the momentous gates to their beautiful mansion, and clicked the button connected to her key chain. After they opened, she drove up and parked beside the garage.

She made her way inside the house, trying to get in from the drizzly rain, stumbling a few times in the process.

Something was different. The house was dark – very dark. Jodie felt the walls, searching for a light switch, but unable to find one. She staggered through the corridor, eventually making it to the dining room.

There were candles scattered all around the large table, the flames standing still and bright. Jodie noticed there was a large, silver display tray sitting peacefully behind the candles. The lid was still firmly on top of it, beautifully reflecting the candlelight around the entire room. A bottle of Cristal champagne sat beside the silver tray, hundreds of little droplets of condensation

‘Hello, my dear,’ whispered Jacques, walking from behind her. She jumped with fright and let out a little shriek.  He leant in and kissed her gently on the neck. He was carrying two plates, one in each hand. He placed them gently on the wonderfully decorated table, as he took his place.

‘Please, sit down’, he said to her, beckoning with his eyes. It smelled delicious, she thought, inhaling deeply into her nostrils. She did as she was told, for once, and sat down at the table.

Jacques had made her favourite meal; sautéed garlic potatoes, creamed cabbage, and venison with a red wine jus. The champagne opened with a pop, some of its contents leaking down the sides of the bottle. Jacques’ willing tongue licked up the expensive dregs.

He sat for a moment and watched his wife pick up the small slithers of venison with her fork and place them gently into her mouth.

The meat was mind blowing; Jodie’s eyes had closed with the pure ecstasy of the flavour. It was so juicy and tender, literally melting in her mouth.

The married couple didn’t exchange words throughout dinner. In her drunken state, Jodie quickly finished what was on her plate, stopping only a few times to gulp some of the Cristal champagne from her glass.  ‘I take it you enjoyed your meal?’ Jacques asked her, tilting his champagne glass slightly.

‘Yes. It was delicious’, she replied, wiping her mouth with the linen napkin. ‘That’s probably the only thing you’re good at; cooking.’ She grinned at him, her eyes fixated on his. He returned the smile, maintaining eye contact.

‘Where’s my little baby Muffin?’ Jodie asked him, breaking the awkward silence.

With this, Jacques let out a cackle. She glanced at him as he lowered his glass to the table. He grinned like a Cheshire cat, his perfect teeth glinting in the candlelight. ‘You tell me, my dear. How did he taste?’

‘WHAT?!’ Jodie shouted, quickly awakening from her drunken stupor. Jacques was now laughing uncontrollably. ‘I got you back, whore!’, he said unable to wipe the grin from his face. ‘Muffin?’ Jodie whispered, gradually realising what Jacques had told her. She glanced down at her empty plate. This is some kind of sick joke, she thought. It must be.

‘And now,’ Jacques said, standing from the table, ‘the pièce de résistance!’ He placed his hand on the silver tray.

Jodie leaned forward and saw her misshapen face in the reflection, feeling the alcohol turn against her. As she did so, Jacques swiftly lifted the lid, exposing Muffin’s boiled and hacked cadaver. The smell was what made the contents of Jodie’s stomach explode from her lipstick smudged lips. Vomit spilled over the table, little pieces of dinner floating around, dripping from the table onto her lap, spoiling her expensive skirt. When the heaving ceased, Jodie wiped tears from her eyes and picked up a piece of Muffin’s acid soaked flesh. ‘You bastard!’ she screamed, throwing it toward Jacques.

Only, he wasn’t there.

Where is he, she thought, turning her head around in confusion.

Jacques allowed her to turn her beautiful face toward him, giving her enough time to see the hammer as it smashed into the side of her head, caving it in marvellously.

By Conor Mckee

In the Other Bedroom

The staircase winded up around the side of the old building, rusted metal steps rattling beneath them, taking them further up above the grungy alley below. In front of her the building owner pulled out a large, overloaded key chain and brought them to a stop in front of the wooden door.

The man reminded Sherri just a bit of her father. He had a similar blue-collar demeanor about him, the fingers he used to remove a padlock thick and callused from laboring in the shoe repair store below the apartment he opened up for her. He smiled and gestured for her to enter first, his teeth a bit yellowed from too many years smoking she suspected, just as his gut bulged a bit from just as many years drinking.

“Is that the only lock?” she asked, gesturing towards the padlock he’d pulled loose, only capable of being put in place if someone was already on the outside of the door.

He glanced down, frowned, and said, “No, just put it up when no one is renting. There’s a lock in the knob as well.”

She stepped into the furnished living room. The aged sofa and dining table looked old in a rather beaten down, dreary kind of way, lacking any sense of antique or elegance. The brown, shaggy carpet was frayed, nearly rubbed flat in certain places, the wooden floor beneath it all but visible. Water stains lined the once white walls, and up above the plaster slumped down.

The stove and refrigerator faired just a bit better than the living room, still marked with rust, but not overtaken by it. The entire kitchen consisted of a square corner of the living room.

“Bedroom is this way,” the owner said, gestured for her to follow. He turned on a light to a long, narrow hallway ending in two doors: one to the bathroom and one to the bedroom. The bathroom was all but a closet with a toilet, sink, and faucet built high up on the wall, a brown drain in the middle of the floor.

The bedroom matched the rest of the apartment, and Sherri was glad she didn’t suffer from any kind of claustrophobia, or else she figured she would’ve already run from the place.

The location was what brought her there, her new employer just up the street in the busy downtown district, so densely packed only the daring few bothered to drive down those streets. If she kept her current place uptown she had at least an hour and a half drive to get to work, if not longer, and as awful as the apartment looked, the promise of a five minute walk sounded too pleasant.

“I’ll take it,” she told him. The owner smiled, nodded, and led them back down the hall towards the living room.

Sherri paused halfway down it and tilted her head towards the patch of brighter white on the wall in the shape of a door. “What is this?” she asked.

The man stopped, glanced over. “Second bedroom, but I sealed it off. Use it for storage, and I’ve got a ladder in the main shop leading up to a hole I cut in the floor. Rarely ever use it these days, so you don’t have to worry about me stomping around.”

Sherri took a step closer to the patch, almost thought she heard the sound of movement on the other side, faint but clear, but when she turned to ask the owner he’d already continued on to the living room, had the contract in his hand. Sherri hurried up to him.

“Thought I heard something in there,” she said.

The man glanced up at her, then towards the hallway. “Shouldn’t be any mice. Place might not look the prettiest, but I keep things sanitary and spray when needed. I’ll have to check the storage. Like I said, been awhile since I’ve been in there. You need a pen?” He gestured towards her with the contract.

Had the man not resembled her father so much she might’ve let the apprehension overwhelm her. It wasn’t just the sounds, but the place itself, so old in an almost seedy kind of way, a dark, filthy alley her only view whenever she’d open the door.

But the owner’s smile seemed to reassure her. “I’ve got one,” she said. She took a pen out of her purse and signed on all the lines he told her to.

****

She had been afraid in the weeks before moving in that the noise of the city would be too much for her to take, but on her first night she understood how well the walls of that old building protected her. Stepping into the apartment seemed to seal her off from the rest of the world, for better or for worse. Though she appreciated the quiet when it came time to go to sleep for the night, in that first week she found herself staying out later and later to avoid too much time inside the apartment.

The new city acted as a convenient excuse to be out, offering her countless streets filled with something new to find. When she did force herself to return home she did her best to keep in touch with the friends and family she’d left behind to gain her new job. She had her laptop open, looking for any new details about her mother’s garden, when the scratching drew her eyes off the screen and towards the hallway.

She sat on the couch, sunken low, the springs ruined, eyes wide as she stared down the hallway. She’d heard light thumping during the day just once since moving, and assumed it was the owner checking out the storage area. She hadn’t seen him since, nor asked him about the mice.

She set the laptop down and walked towards the hallway and the patch of fresher paint marking the closed door. It wasn’t just scratching, she didn’t think, but more like rubbing, and the image popped into her head of a hand rubbing along the other side of the wall.

She pressed her own hand against the wall and the sound stopped. Leaning in closer, Sherri moved her ear towards the wall, blocking out all other sound, aware of the sound of her own heartbeat picking up in preparation.

Feet moved on the other side, shuffling along, the sound clear for just a few seconds before it ended and left her frozen.

Her own feet slid as silently as they could across the floor towards the front door. Not a single sound came from her until she had the front door open and stepped out into the balmy summer night. The stink of the trash from the alley below drifted up to her.

The owner had given her his number in case anything broke down, and she dialed it then, phone pressed firmly against her ear, her front door still open so she could see if anything happened. Cool air drifted out through the open door while the phone rang endlessly. Thoughts of hotels and the potential costs added themselves up in her mind, nearly convinced she would have to eat the costs when the voice cut off the ringing.

“Hello?”

“Mr. Shofner?”

“Sherri? It’s close to eleven. Something busted?”

“I heard a sound from the sealed bedroom. I heard something walking around in there.”

A pause on the other end as she heard what she assumed was the man sitting up in bed. “Walking around?”

“I’m positive.”

“Couldn’t have been a person. Room is sealed aside from the trapdoor, and nothing worth stealing in there. Hell, if a homeless man broke into the shop, I doubt he’d trap himself in an old, sealed bedroom for some sleep. Besides, I’ve got an alarm system on my store. I’d know if someone broke in. Look, I found some droppings on the floor in there; don’t know how old they are, so there might be some mice. I’ll stay on top of it and get an exterminator if I have to. Don’t you worry.”

His tone sounded so certain, so calm in the face of her paranoia, and standing on the outer landing with the sounds of the city drifting towards her, and the empty apartment in front, she let her fear diminish.

“Must’ve just been mice,” she said, slumped back against the railing, her right hand running through her hair. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

“Think nothing of it. I’ll look into the pest problem tomorrow. I’m going to get off and get some sleep. Might want to do the same yourself.”

“I will, thank you.”

She stepped back into the well-lit apartment and closed the door behind her. She stood motionless, listening for anything, but nothing stirred. Slowly she returned to the closed doorway, pressing her ear completely against the wall, but still couldn’t hear a thing, and after a minute of trying, gave up and returned to her computer. She shut the machine down.

“You do need sleep,” she told herself, and followed the suggestion.

****

No sound or movement woke her just after three in the morning. She lifted herself up, eyes only half open, and saw the shining red numbers on the nightstand. The pillows welcomed her back, her eyes slipping closed again, but her bladder stopped the desired sleep from taking her away.

For a few minutes she sat with her eyes open, weighing whether she thought she would be able to ignore it, before finally deciding it would be best to just get it over with.

She didn’t bother with the lamp given how short the trip was. The bathroom light blinded her; eyes closed through the bulk of it until she had flushed and pulled herself back up. Only then did she let her eyes open a bit more, fixed on the ground, and saw the dirty footprint on the tiled floor.

For a second her mind didn’t react, too sluggish with sleep to grasp what she stared at, the information clawing its way into her consciousness. Her breath hitched when she understood what she stared at, half of another footprint visible at the edge of the open door leading to the carpeted hallway.

Sherri left the bathroom light on as she stepped out into the hallway to stare at the doorway torn open halfway down the hall. It had happened from the inside, the plaster covering the floor, bits of it still hanging loose, no light visible from within the opening the destruction had created.

All sounds ceased, not even her own breathing or heartbeat heard as she listened. From deep within that other room she could faintly her something, but the sound was too silent to distinguish what.

She slipped as silently as she could into her bedroom and pulled on a pair of pants and a shirt. She’d left her phone in the living room, thinking nothing of it at the time, and now she had no choice but to walk down the hallway to get out of the apartment. She didn’t even have her keys to potentially use as a makeshift weapon.

The light was still on in the bathroom, the only light, and Sherri left it on, but didn’t turn on the hallway light, not wanting to alert the intruder any more than she already had. Stopped outside her bedroom she listened again, but could still only hear that same, faint sound. Her mind offered her too many possibilities, too many things that could go wrong as she stared into the darkness, at the long stretch of black leading to the living room.

She worked up all the courage she had and ran. She resisted the urge to close her eyes as she hurried down the hallway, towards the exposed, open doorway, almost seeing a shape dart out from the darkness to grab hold of her. Nothing did, no attacker to stop her from reaching the front door and grabbing at the knob.

Her entire body thrust against the door, shoved it inward, but it resisted, held against her push and left her trapped inside. Panic crawled up her throat, squirmed in her stomach, and pricked the hairs on the back of her neck. She turned the knob and shoved as hard as she could. Something metal rattled on the other side, kept her from getting out, and she saw in her mind the padlock the owner had given to her.

Her cell phone and laptop had vanished from the coffee table. She let her eyes sweep across the dark living room, searching, but they were gone, taken by the same person who had sealed her in.

A terrible urge to scream almost erupted from her. No cries for help would matter, and that knowledge kept them at bay, left her body numb and her fingers trembling.

She turned on the lamp beside her. Alerting whoever lurked in the other bedroom didn’t seem to matter anymore. In the kitchen she grabbed an edged steak knife, the closet thing to a weapon she had in the place.

Though she loathed the thought of walking into that bedroom, she hated even more the tension of waiting, the sense of helplessness it filled her with.

The hallway light brightened the apartment even more, emphasized the darkness in the open doorway littered with the remains of the wall. She stepped up to the threshold and stared in at the bare, aged room on the other end, the walls brick, and a form hunched low on the floor.

Nothing lunged at her as she stepped over the debris into the bedroom, her knife up. A nude, emaciated man sat against the wall, his legs pulled up, arms wrapped around them, face buried in the knees. He had long hair, probably once blonde, but now brown with dirt, the hair draped over the knees. Thin cuts and bruises covered the bulk of the body, and the man rocked gently back and forth, a soft almost sobbing coming from him as he moved.

No part of Sherri could grasp what she witnessed, her knife still raised, but less certain about using it, trying to understand what had happened.

She had to struggle to get any words to form in her dry mouth, forced to swallow twice before she could utter anything. “Hello?” she said, and at the sound of her voice the man’s rocking stopped.

His head lifted up, hair parting to let her see his face, the eyes he locked on her so bloodshot they appeared almost entirely red. He lifted his face further up from his knees, and Sherri saw the bottom half. His jaw and tongue were gone, nothing below his nose but ragged, scarred tissue dipping into his neck. She jolted back at the sight, the knife firmly back up as the man pulled himself from the floor.

The warped flesh around where the jaw had been stretched further down, like a cut twisting through his chest, and where his heart was she saw a much deeper wound.

Something rattled in the living room, drew Sherri’s attention, and as soon as she looked away the emaciated man charged towards her.

He uttered a low, wailing cry as he moved, a string of red-tinged saliva flowing from the hole where his mouth had once been. He crashed into her, his dirty fingers groping for her face, trying to reach into her mouth, and she tasted the foul skin just briefly as she jerked her head back.

The knife raked across his exposed stomach and he jerked back from the pain, gave her a chance to squirm out from under him. When he lunged against she thrust the tip of the blade into his right palm, splashed his blood on the dusty wood flooring.

His hands tried to latch onto her legs as she pulled herself up and ran for the door. She managed to jerk her legs free, but her feet caught against a larger chunk of plaster, sent her face first into the floor, dazed her momentarily. Before she could begin to rise she saw the man lunge for her again, this time crawling on top of her, deformed face leaning in closer to hers. She could hear the sickening sound of air sucking in and out of the hole in the throat.

She brought the knife back up, swung it towards him, but he grabbed her wrist before she could cut into him. He wrenched the blade from her hand and pulled himself up. Closer to the hallway, Sherri had a better view of the deformed man, aware he was older than she’d first thought, deep wrinkles around his eyes, and she saw as well he was crying as he stared down at her.

Before she could move he lifted the knife to his own throat and tore through the skin, moaning loudly as he twisted it. He stumbled back from her onto the floor, the knife slipping from his hand, but his fist tightened, brought up the blade again, and dug it into himself.

Sherri pulled herself up and watched the red gush out of the body, stream across the floor, the body jerking with spasms, but before it slumped dead she saw the man’s hand move towards the blood running from him. He smeared his fingers through the red, forming disjointed letters, his hand slowing with each one, struggling to finish the message, and going limp before the final word could be written, but Sherri recognized the Thank You he had been attempting to say.

The door in the living room thumped open. She fell to her knees to grab the knife out of the dead man’s fingers.

She turned, trapped in the bedroom, and watched the owner’s face appear from the hallway, still so much like her father, adding some additional perversion to the grin he gave her.

“Don’t come near me,” she screamed.

He winced noticeably at her words, left eye twitching. “I hate a raised voice,” he said. “Voice like that should be earned, not taken for granted.” He spoke in a low tone, the grin more in his eyes than his mouth.

“You kept him here?” she said, disbelieving, the confidence in the man’s face taking away her own.

“His time has passed.” He moved towards her, ignored the knife she had raised. She lunged forward, aimed for his chest, but he grabbed her hand before she could hope to get him, crushed down on the fingers so hard the knife fell from them, clattered on the floor at her feet.

She screamed in pain, her back pressed against the wall, and before the cry could even end his hand was somehow already grabbing hold of her mouth, the owner’s body too fast, jerking forward, mouth grinning wide again.

Behind him the lights clicked off, left the two in total darkness, yet Sherri could swear she saw some faint glow, letting her barely see the outline of the owner’s face as something came over it. In the darkness she couldn’t say if the face truly changed, if it warped into something else, something other than human, because she understood she wanted to believe he wasn’t human, to believe no person could do his as his fingers crawled further into her and held her mouth opened wide.

“No screams,” he said.

She offered him the only act of defiance she knew and screamed as loud as she could into the darkness as his hand jerked downward, and took her jaw with it.

By Philip M. Roberts

http://www.philipmroberts.com

Me, You . . . and They

I drink the sound of you
Begging
In the darkness.
Begging for what I’ve given,
And for what you’ve taken
From me,
And I pray now
For the silence
To overtake
Your blackened heart.

You didn’t know that’s what I was writing on that piece of parchment stained with your blood. Things have been a blur lately, all emotions, anger, and don’t touch me because I’ll scream. It wasn’t the first piece of parchment I’d burned and buried under the light of the full moon, but it would be the last. The last words I would never speak to you.

“You clumsy fucking worthless piece of shit!” was not the only peevish and pedantic phrase you used to scream into my face after a long night of booze and pills and dangling your cock at every skanky twat working the freeway. Your dinner was cold. You didn’t like the way I vacuumed the carpet or cooked your special meat. I had forgotten to record your favorite program, or maybe I’d simply bought the wrong kind of beer.You liked to call it an intervention, when you humbled me with your fist. Said it would make me a better lady, wife, and someday — mother. Said the discipline would save my soul from the voodoo spirits that had borne me out of some trailer trash womb, but it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t. It was simply your way of justifying the use of all the angry words you had become addicted to.

I didn’t have to listen, though.

I had this place I liked to hide whenever you got in one of your moods and decided to kick start a marital uprising. I liked to go there when it was dark and snow covered. I prayed there, sobbed there, and bled there. In the dirt on the floor, I would scratch things down in inches of minutia and then straightaway cross them out. I would leave pieces  of myself in the corners — dissected thoughts and bits of hair and fingernails mixed with mud and saliva. I’ve piled up the worry stones over the years, on the stoop and up in the eves. I’d even wrote and re-wrote your obituary and passed the judgements I wasn’t entitled to pass, but nothing ever happened. Nothing good, anyway. Just dark, and cold, and quiet. Maybe it was like they said, when the  shadows came to me hollow-eyed in the misty dawn. Maybe I wasn’t soulful enough, hungry enough, wilful enough … to leave the memories well enough alone, but I wouldn’t stop trying. Praying of them. Begging mercy of them.

I took your hair and fingernails while you slept. Scraped your semen from my bloody bludgeoned cunt when you finally said you’d had enough. I’d even collected your fallen eyelashes when I pretended I loved you and kissed you softly, and your spit when, in anger, it hit my face. I stood in the circle, called the watchtowers, and drew down the moon a thousand times since we took our vows. Since then I vowed to put you in your grave. I thought I might try arsenic and old lace. It grew wild and beautiful in the abandoned field behind our house. That’s when they first came to me, when I was barefoot, gathering weeds in the wood. They said they wanted the meat, but I didn’t know what they meant by that. Just the meat — no hair, no bone, no gristle. Only meat. So I made offerings: rats, chickens, even your dog. Gutted it with my bare hands in the mid-day sun, but I got nothing in return, except a beating — from you.

Until now.

I went to the shed, you see. Even though you told me not to, ever. I found your “things” and wondered how many you’d tortured before me. I couldn’t remember you ever being this quiet when I put the claw hammer in your skull. Couldn’t remember you being this heavy when you lay on top of me, or that your skin was this tough. I was clumsy, like you always said, hacking away at you until the sun was set and the crickets had started chirping in the field. I lit a candle with my bloodied hands and just stared at your meat in the flickering light. You looked different to me then. I could finally see a softness in your glistening sinews.

They came for you that night, finally. After all the years and all my tears, they came, clicking and clawing their way out of the shadows to gnaw upon your rotted meat. They were hungry and waiting … for me.

I would never starve them like you did.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

Ponder That Pedicure

You’ve seen the adverts for the fish that eat feet; they only gnaw the skin, just a layer or two.  Just enough to give a person feet that look as if they’d never been walked on.  I’d like feet like that, I would, especially with it being sandal season and my heels having cracks you could wedge a coin in.  But the idea of fish consuming me, tasting me, wriggling against my skin… it gives me the shivers.

“They are sterile, madam.  No diseases.  And all our clients ever feel is the smallest of tickles, nothing more.  They have such tiny mouths, just a few flakes is a mouthful.  All they would eat is the dead layer on top.  One treatment is enough for most clients, but those with more stubborn calluses may benefit from another visit.”

The manager had tried to persuade me of his salon’s safety, but I had to pay attention to the prickles behind my knees and the cool breath of fear on the back of my neck.  We agreed on the seaweed soak instead, with him performing the final pedicure afterwards.  He’d stay late as a favour to such a long standing client.

It was warm to start with, wonderfully so.

He pottered about the place, checking windows and re-stocking cupboards, closing the blinds to keep out the night.  Drowsing in the chair, I thought about my To Do list for the party I was catering this weekend.  ‘Veggie Tables’ was providing meat-free cuisine for a wedding reception and although I knew the forty head meal was ready and waiting for me to heat and serve up tomorrow, I liked to run through the logistics in free moments, just to ease my mind.  Cheesecakes and jellies were already in the fridge, I used seaweed extract to make them set.  Sitting in a soporific slouch, I knew how they felt.

The lights were on low, and the seat was so comfortable I felt almost as though I was drifting away.  My body was going to sleep, my mind drowsing, and all I could hear was the boiler gurgling upstairs.  The heating must have been on full blast because I was getting hotter and hotter, and starting to feel sticky with sweat.  Or something.

I tried to rouse myself, stir out of the chair, open my eyes and my mouth, call to the manager to cool things down.

But I couldn’t.

With enormous effort I managed to stick my tongue just a tiny bit between my lips.  Ugh, something tasted salty, foul… and slightly familiar.  Something from the kitchen, maybe.  Something I’d worked with a lot.

My right eye opened, just a crack, but all I could see was brown.  My nose felt funny, and soon every breath I took was filtered through fuzz.

As it moved within, I heard someone at my shoulder, tormenting me as my ears filled with new growth.

“If you’d stuck with the fish, there would be no revenge.”

My chest laboured, lungs filling, solidifying.

“Plants give us the very air we breathe; they like it when we eat the animals.”

My hair shifted as the seaweed spread across my scalp, creeping through my careful curls,

“Better that than eating them…”

setting my poor body, gone to jelly in the chair.

By Gill Hoffs