Monthly Archives: March 2014

Uber-Death Translator by Chris Benton

I was trying to warm my bony ass upon a cold drift-wood stool at the Fat Pelican, when Megan walked in wearing a delicate black dress that the sea wind wouldn’t dare tear off.  Megan was more than a Pelican confessor, she was a colleague; she never gave a breathing fuck about the addictions, physical afflictions or mental illnesses of parents, she was only wanting, waiting, even panting for the moronic miracles of two, maybe four students that could be possibly snared within the terminal web of her passion. I was fascinated by her, more than fascinated; I was madly in love with her, and I’d only known her for nine gestating months before the tragedy.

She sat beside me with a fleeting glance. Most of the denizens were standing, screaming about what had happened, perfectly oblivious of us. I didn’t know what to say to her, but she said it for me.

“Hey David, wow, this shit is growing some serious wings.”

“Yeah, some of it,” I said.

“You know all of it,” she told me, and she was right.

“I’m sorry Meg.”

“Why the fuck are you sorry? I wasn’t even there.”

“I know, but I already heard about Julian’s diary.”

“Wow, that was fast, I never even get a chance to fucking read it. Mae, give me a shot of Old Crow, with a red Bud chaser.”

Mae was fast and Megan was faster, swallowing the sad marriage within a minute. She slowly unhooked her hair and her long red mane began to burn through the dim, doomed space; a blessed lantern lighting the drunken darkness, giving migraines to the bitter Mermen and failed fathers flanking us.

Megan lit a Salem, and I couldn’t help brooding upon her brand. I never knew she smoked. I never smelled it. I nodded and she proffered one. I quit smoking two years ago, but when she lit it for me I felt the smooth arms of hell welcoming me home once more.

“David, it’s men like you that created telepathy.”

“My silence was always notoriously transparent.”

“Is that why your wife left you?”

You sagacious little slut, I nearly said, instead I raised my shot glass. “Cheers.”

“That was a cunt thing to say David, I’m sorry.” She palmed my right hand, which was clenched on the bar’s scarred skin. Her own skin was cool, clammy and so terribly tender, a small biography of lifelong, relentless terror. My dick stirred with the sudden intimacy. She was probably still fucking with me; she was smoking Salem’s for Chrissakes. Who the fuck knew what other casually cruel spells she had in store for my bony ass? As far as I felt, my heart was just another chew-toy, like Julian’s.

“When did you first fuck him?” Not why, but when, it was a ninety yard fucking pass of a question. Try catching that one, my darkly damaged beloved.

“I didn’t first fuck him, I sucked his cock,” she said, before ordering another round for both of us. She lit another Salem and added, “It was the coldest cock I’ve ever tasted. I sucked it long and hard for nearly twenty minutes, even breaking a sweat. It still tasted like a fudge sickle. And he didn’t even come, which bummed me out; cold heart, cold cock, minus the cold cum, the formula shall remain tragically incomplete.”

She caught the ball alright, and tore it to pieces with her teeth. I downed my shot of Old Crow and it swam coldly down my throat, into my belly, forever failing to be warmed.

“So what did he say about me?”

“What do you mean?”

“David, bullshit does not become you. One of your strong suits, that and your gigantically sad fucking eyes. I swear, you have the baby black holes of a molested child. Did your Aunt ever suck your cock?”

“Yes, I read it.”

“And???”

“He loved you.”

“More than you do?”

“Maybe, in a more distorted way.”

“So you are in love with me.” She lipped another Salem and pushed the pack towards me like a malign passport. I took another, of course. “Distorted,” she echoed, “What a disgusting fucking word.” She lit her cigarette and buried any remaining disgust in smoke. I decided to bare my soul, what was left of it anyway.

“Yeah, Meg, I fell for you the first time I met you during lunch break, you were theorizing about the lonely orgasms of Flannery O’Connor, and my heart has been a fucking hostage ever since.”

“That’s nice, David, why didn’t you wine and dine me? Separation still too fresh?”

“Maybe. Perhaps I’m a fucking coward; perhaps Julian is the true romantic.”

“Was, you wannabe amputee. What exactly did he say about me, what do your dirty little cookie-jar-hands remember?”

Ok, she wanted it, so I gave it: “December 17th, 2012, My English teacher Megan Winnow is a profoundly sad little woman, yet her urine burns brighter than memory. Megan shall be my long companion, and I shall be her Uber-Death Translator, she will never be afraid before the shivering turn, our brains are impervious to pain and our hearts are impervious to hell.”

“His last entry,” she said. She gazed into her empty shot glass like a gorgon and when Mae asked if she needed another she turned Mae into stone. Like the clockwork of all ruined lives, the TV’s over the bar were suddenly wearing her face, her smile, a smile so bright it drank the whole, hacked apart purgatory of the Pelican for ten timeless seconds. After her smile were the even brighter smiles of her dead, and the face of Julian, Julian the true romantic, Julian who knew the hidden temperatures of Megan’s mind and body, Julian, the Iceman never cometh, Julian, the Uber-Death Translator.

Megan finished her beer in the cathode silence; the frail, black flower of her dress had withered into seaweed from the thousand putrid thoughts around us. She smiled at me, not the blinding network smile that held all our ravaged souls rapt, a smile that spoke again of another Megan beyond her bitter words that terrible distances bred. She kissed me, laying this memory on my tongue, and left forever without paying.

CHRIS PROFILE PICBio:  Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina where he still resides until his parole. His stories are lingering at A TWIST OF NOIR, PLOTS WITH GUNS, THRILLER’S KILLER’S ‘N’ CHILLERS, THRILLS, KILLS ‘N’ CHAOS, BLACKHEART NOIR, CRIME FACTORY, AND SHOTGUN HONEY He can be found on Facebook…

4 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

Buckets In Southwark by Lily Childs

Cold wrists and a cold heart that barely dared beat, lest he think her willing. She let it tremble – he wasn’t here today and for that she was truly grateful.

They peppered every spare space in the poorly-lit basement. She’d given up trying to count them because whenever he came down and did what he did to their tiny corpses, he’d throw them back into the room afterwards, discarding them, forgetting them until the next time he got the urge. Some lay at her broken feet now, gazing at nothing; once demure.

The tears came again. Incarcerated without the need for chains in a hovel of her own stupidity. “Look at you,” her friends had said. “You’re gorgeous. Why would you want to look like someone else, especially her?” And they spoke her name with such malice, such disgust… she should have listened.

Outside, a thin mist of snow swirled in widdershins along the streets of Southwark, whipping around ankles and stinging pink faces. Walkers slid and laughed in some kind of wonder.

It should have been magical, but the winter weather brought no joy to the basement, instead a new fear poked insidious fingers at its resident. The only light to penetrate the square room came from the small, grubby window below pavement level. When that became obscured with freezing flakes the basement would be plunged into a murky darkness. The waiting, the dread of hearing his lumbering footsteps on the stairway would be magnified. At least with a little light there were distractions, albeit pitiful, but to be blind in this place of torture…

And then there was the noise from the streets; voices bantering, buses roaring past too fast. The snow would insulate her against those sounds. All she’d be able to hear would be muffled mouths, crunching feet, tyres spitting sludge.

He didn’t come that night.

Nor the next.

She slept right through, starving and exhausted, not caring if she crossed over into death’s cold embrace.

A dull yellow hue greeted her when she finally awoke, drowning the basement in a weak shade of sulphur, jaundicing her skin and that of all the little corpses. She realised she could still see.

An inch, two inches of snow carpeted the pavement above, but the window was completely clear, save for a spattering of white along the bottom frame. She shivered beneath the rough blanket and watched as her breath crystallised before dissipating up, up, up toward the street and the great outdoors.

It’s stealing my warmth.

She understood. Any heat produced by her emaciated body, any breath rasping from her lungs was escaping through that thin, single pane of glass. It was enough to melt the snow before it settled.

So that was it; the end. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, walk or take a pee without help – and now even her breath was not her own. She felt her gut judder as a familiar wail of despair began to grow. When it came out, it was a skinny whisper, as skinny as she.

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah, what the hell was it?”

“Sounded like a fox.”

“Too high-pitched. Anyway, it came from down there. There’s no garden, just a basement by the looks of it.”

Naked limbs hit the floor. Heads twisted on half-broken necks as they tumbled in a pile of wild hair, the expressions on their faces unmoving. She picked one up and threw it at the window. It missed by several feet.

“Help. Help me. Help me.”

Two pairs of black-booted feet shuffled and stamped in the snow outside on the pavement but by some miracle did not wander off.

“Hey!” she tried calling again.

Nothing.

She grabbed more of her silent companions and aimed them at the wall like fleshy darts. Weak. She was too weak. Every muscle, every sinew screamed in her wasted body as she twisted around in the bed, dragging her useless feet over the bare mattress. The new position gave her a mildly better view of the pavement and she jumped as two purple buckets dropped to the ground beside the feet above, to the jovial sound of laughter. She looked down at her own bucket on the bare floorboards, brimming with stinking waste. From nowhere a rage of adrenalin burst its way into her blood and she screamed again, a whistling, shrill banshee call that failed to penetrate the lively chat of the charity collectors outside her window. With one last cry and a double lunge at the glass, she gave up.

The world fell silent.

She couldn’t see them but the two young men on the pavement looked at one another, and turned. One crouched down to stare through the small opening in the building behind him. He reached forward to wipe the filth-speckled glass.

“What is it? What can you see?”

“It’s dark man, but it looks like… fuckin’ freaky. There’s dolls, millions of broken dolls, all over the place. And, oh. Oh Jesus.”

She didn’t hear them break in. The copper that skidded on rubber limbs snapped his wrist as he went down, his colleagues tripping over his back.

“Get up, idiot. Leeson; call for back-up and an ambulance.”

Breath in her face; old coffee and stale smokes, but not booze or the reek of loose teeth in rotting gums she’d become so accustomed to.

“Look at the state of her, guv. She must have been here for ages. Can’t have been dead long though.”

Sighs all round; what a waste.

“Ah shit. Look at this.” A clang of metal sliding on metal.

She can’t speak and she can’t move but she knows what they’ve found behind the curtain that hangs from the rafters.

His bath.

“Don’t touch anything. What…? I can’t even work out what I’m seeing here.”

Behind the policeman the corpse began to hiss from the bed. The copper turned to stare, eyes bulging in disbelief at the bubbles spilling from the mouth. Dead, but not dead.

It spoke.

“Blood, and piss, and white fire from his… his…”

“She’s alive! Leeson; where’s that ambulance?” He bent over the life-sized, shrivelled Barbie doll on the bed. Her eyebrows appeared permanently arched on the high, white forehead, topped by a mop of greasy brown hair studded with wilting platinum extensions.  Sharp cheekbones, clearly chiselled by a surgeon’s knife, poked out from her face with no meat in the sallow space below. But it was her whispering mouth that chilled him as it chattered on with lips tattooed in an everlasting pink smile.

*

The ambulance bluesed and twosed away, carrying a clumsy constable and a nameless girl who’d only ever wanted a slice of the plastic pie, to be perfect, to be wanted.

Across the street, pacing the apartment where he lived with his trophy wife, Ken removed his false teeth and tongued the gaps in his gums. They’d take his collection away, he knew it. But after buying that last live one from an ad back in the summer, it had kind of ruined the thrill anyway. Smelly. Wriggling in the bath, objecting to his manipulations and penetrations… that’s why he’d not been back for a few days now.

No matter; he had spares.

He opened the door to his bedroom and struggled to wade through the heads and torsos that spilled over his brogues. His wife was in here somewhere; he could do with some company.

lily-childsBio:  Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction, horror and twisted crime. She lives on the south coast of England, a stone’s throw from the sea. Lily has been published many times in anthologies and collections, most recently in The Bestiarum Vocabulum, Fresh Fear and Bones. Her own collection, Cabaret of Dread is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon. Lily is currently completing her first novel, a supernatural horror. Find out more on her blog, The Feardom at http://lilychildsfeardom.blogspot.com

 

9 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction

Cold Black Earth by Paul J. Garth

Only other time I buried something on this land I was seventeen years old. My daddy had a couple head of cattle struck rabid. We shot them where they stood and after, I spent the whole day with him digging a hole wide and deep before using the tractor to push their bodies in. He covered them in diesel and we burned them.

Tried to tell Emma and Jack that story once, how animals can get sick on a farm. It was just after their mother died and I couldn’t think of another way to explain what cancer was. Don’t think they understood though. Kid’s don’t know about the bad in the world. You try to hide it, though. Because that’s what a father is supposed to do.

But sometimes the bad finds them anyway.

Jack was the first to notice she’d gone quiet. Come up to me one night. Said, “Daddy, I think Emma’s gone deaf.”

I laughed. Told him that girls that age are strange.

“She’ll be back to fine,” I said. “Promise.”

But when they’re truth, thoughts don’t run. And Jack was right. Emma’d been acting different.

Almost May, she should have been talking about summer things she wanted to do. But she hardly spoke at all. Didn’t see her friends. Didn’t go to Church or even watch TV.

One night I went to her room and opened the door. Emma was curled up tight, asleep. She looked peaceful to me and I wondered if maybe I was crazy, that nothing was wrong.

But then I saw the walls.

All the posters of that boy band she liked were gone, little shreds of them still stuck with tape to the walls. Photos of me and Jack and her mother turned over on her dresser. All the old stuffed animals she’d put in the closet a couple years ago were out now, lined along the sides of her bed.

I knew then. I was missing something bad.

***

Next day I kept her home from school. We sat around the kitchen table. Me staring into my cup of coffee, unable look her in the eye.

Then I started to to ask questions.

The answers were slow to come, but when they did, tears came with them.

She begged me not to tell. Said it was her fault. That she wasn’t right with God. And all the while, I sat there, ready to kill. Shocked.

“I wish mom was here,” she said.

I reached over. Took her hand in mine. “I do too.”

***

Yesterday, after I drove Emma and Jack into Omaha and put them on a plane to my brother, I called Kirby and asked if he could help me with some work. Told him I was finally ready to get some of my wife’s things out of the house.

He said he was happy to help.

Kirby Westin’s been in my life going on around twenty years. I can remember the first time I saw him. Short kid in glasses wearing a white dress shirt with a cross hung by a leather strap across his chest. Thought to myself he was asking for an ass-kicking.

Miracle he didn’t get one. Somehow he fell in with me and my friends. He was all right. Mostly normal. But sometimes when we’d be drinking beers in the back of my daddy’s pickup he’d start going on about his favorite stories from the Bible and we’d have to tell him to hush. Like I said. Mostly normal.

He pulled up around noon.

I waved. Put down my beer. Stood up on the porch. We started walking towards the barn.

He was smiling. “Gotta say, Frank, I think it’s good you’re finally moving on.”

“Bout time we all do,” I said.

The doors of the barn were open and we walked in together. I stood back while he walked to the piles of boxes I’d laid out. He lifted one. Said, “Doesn’t feel like there’s much in here.”

I smiled. Turned. Went to the corner and reached under the tarp spread over the workbench.

Don’t think the bastard even saw me pick it up.

I ran to him quick and put the axe in his skull as hard as I could.

Kirby fell on his knees. Like he was praying. Right then I remembered that kid in glasses telling his favorite Bible stories. How I’d worried about him. But then I remembered him telling those same stories to my kids in Sunday School. How he was mostly normal. How I’d trusted him all those times he asked if Emma could stay late Sunday and help clean up.

I brought the axe down again. Into the base of his neck. Deeper this time. And when I dug it out I swung again.

I hacked at Kirby ’til I couldn’t feel anything. When I was done, I wrapped him in a tarp and drove him out to a far corner of my field, to the hole I’d dug the night before.

As I lifted him out of the truck bed, I thought that with some luck, Emma might believe me. I’d promised her I wouldn’t hurt him. That we were only going to talk. I supposed she might believe Kirby’d gotten scared and run off.

I prayed she’d believe it. Promised I’d make it up to her.

I started to bury Kirby, thinking all along, while I threw that cold black earth down on him, about my children. About them down with my brother in Tennessee and how, now that they were gone, I didn’t think I could bear to bring them back to this. But then I thought better of it. In the bed of the truck, I had a ten gallon of gas.

Down in the hole, I doused Kirby with the diesel fuel just the way I was taught.

Like my daddy said, when something that bad comes around, it has to be burned.

547893_10101565112525948_1151289348_nBio:  Paul J. Garth is the writer of numerous short stories. Others can be found at Shotgun Honey and in the forthcoming collection, “Badlands: Trouble in the Heartland”. He is perpetually in transit between Nebraska and Texas and can be found online by following @pauljgarth

6 Comments

Filed under Flash Fiction