Unholy Trinity: Tansy, Belladonna and Purple Hyacinth by Catherine Berry

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

Tansy

Cassandra Holloway sat across from her fiance’s mousy sister. Six months ago Cassandra was Emily Winston. Before that, Ariel Anderson, Sandra Bastion, and Maxine Brooks. She’d married and killed rich men with each identity.

Accepting a little posy, Cassandra inwardly sneered at the ugly, button blossomed weeds mixed with the flowers.

“It’s lovely,” she cooed, sipping her tea.

Cecily smiled. “Black-eyed Susan for justice. Yellow carnation for disdain. And tansy…”

Cassandra looked up sharply, shocked at the predatory hunger in Cecily’s eyes. The teacup slipped from nerveless fingers, her vision dimmed.

“Tansy,” Cecily finished, “means I declare war on you.”

Belladonna

A beautiful woman. A deadly poison.

Cassandra jerked awake, confused, head swimming. She was strapped down, heart galloping, muscles spasming beyond her control. Fear seeped in with the cold press of the metal table as a blurred figure leaned over her.

“I poisoned the tea,” Cecily St. Ange confessed, laughing brightly, as she patted Cassandra’s hand consolingly. “You were so busy hunting my brother, you never noticed the predator prowling beside him.

Cassandra gurgled wetly behind her gag, tears pooled in her ears.

“Don’t worry,” Cecily purred, scalpel glinting in the light, “it won’t be the poison that kills you.”

Purple Hyacinth

Cecily hummed along with the radio, voice muffled behind a ventilator. Thick rubber gloves protected her skin as she methodically dismembered the remains of Cassandra Holloway. Body parts disappeared into a sink of chemicals that was quickly becoming a flesh slurry. Small scraps of tissue and bone were set aside to be made into fertilizer.

The woman who planned to murder her brother, breaking his heart, would find a touch of redemption as nutrients for the flowers Cecily would give to him. She smiled. Daffodils for new beginnings and purple hyacinth.

Please forgive me.

A silent message from them both.

Catherine Berry

Catherine Berry lives in Michigan, sings with her dog, and loves potatoes.
 
Her work has been published in Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear and in the anthologies Trembling With Fear: Year 1 and Trembling With Fear: Year 2.
 
More of her work can be found at www.caterinaberyl.blogspot.com

Serial Killers: The Knowing. Part 1

Serial Killers are part of our Trembling With Fear line and are serialized stories which we’ll be publishing on an ongoing basis.

The Knowing. Part 1

Come to me, wayfarer. Come into me. Come inside.

No, I. . . I. . .

So lonely. So cold. Share my warmth.

Cold. Yes, I—I am cold.

Come closer. Give yourself.

Yes.

Oh, your heat. Oh, your heart. So sweet, so tart.

What is—what are—no, wait. Please, wait, I—

Sweet little fly. Sweet little soul.

No, please, not that—not my—soul

ohhhhhhhhh

***

In the rainy country of Hylomoria, far from the Ogre-beleaguered cities of the North, was a little town called Rooksnest. It was a simple but ancient settlement, at least by the standards of this perilous land where the lives of men were brutal and short. One of the secrets of its longevity was that it lay roughly between nowhere and nothing at all: no army would occupy it en route to any strategic locale, nor would any horde would go out of its way to pillage the place. A single muddy river and a single muddy road were the only inlets to Rooksnest; and up the latter, one windy eventide, a single muddy bard came ambling.

Variol of Sendroval had been away from home a long time. He was heading back South on business, but it wasn’t his nature to take a straight road. Thus he found himself on the path to this haunted hamlet as the thunder began to mutter overhead. On the outskirts of town, he passed a ruined old church of Gordash, and a strange smile crossed his face. He was older than he looked, and remembered a time when that name had been revered.

Like any bard, he headed straight for the first tavern he saw; but he didn’t even make it inside. Out in the village square, a dozen folk were gathered around a surprisingly ornate fountain, singing and sharing casks of drink. Variol drew the birch-carven flute that swung at his hip like a longsword, and wreathed himself in music as he approached. His notes blended neatly into theirs, and they made way for the flutesman as if they’d been expecting him for years.

A few dances and a few shared draughts from the wine-skin at his waist, and Variol was best of friends with everyone. “What’s your name, stranger?” bellowed a redbeard barrel-chested fellow with a scimitar.

“Variol the bard, and you?”

“Queldritch the soldier!” He hoisted a cask, and they drank to a fellowship that might last decades or minutes. Twenty years ago, Queldritch would have called himself “the warrior” with pride; but the War-God’s name was now spoken only with a sneer (or a sob).

“And what brings you this way, man of song?” asked a young lady with roses in her hair.

“On my way to Sendroval, to compete in a great tourney of the bards. It’s not for a few more weeks, so I thought I’d wander a bit from the thoroughfares.”

All voices rose in laughter. “Well then, you’re in the right place!” guffawed one old man, nearly toppling into the fountain. They steadied him, and he snatched the liquor-cask from an unwary hand and swigged. “Now let’s have another song, minstrel!”

A light rain began to fall, but none heeded it. Variol played, and the townsfolk sang, and Queldritch and another big man picked up sticks to mock-fight. Good spirits flowed, and torch-smoke rose to meet the rising storm as the sunlight disappeared. Then a ragged figure entered the circle of dancing light.

“Gods of Death and Hell,” said Queldritch. “Another one.”

The revelers recoiled. Gaunt was the newcomer, and the sockets of his eyes were doorways to the black between the stars. He reached out, drooling, his mouth forming senseless words, and stumbled to and fro like a traveler in a wilderness of nightmares. The rose-maiden shrieked, and the old man fainted. The others drew back in horror, but Variol merely stood. In his face was not dread, but sorrow.

“It’s Ulrig the smith, from Ettinsmoor,” Queldritch said. “He must have—must have strayed into the church last night.”

The ruined man shambled past them, unseeing, and wandered toward the edge of town.

“What church?” Variol demanded.

“The—the War-God’s church. It’s been abandoned ever since—you know.”

Oh, he knew.

“And why have no brave soldiers faced the thing in there?” the bard asked coolly.

The big man dropped his gaze. “Some did. None lived, nor died, but met the morn as ghouls like that poor smith. We tried to burn the church, but something—something made us stop.”

Variol exhaled. He’d seen such things before. Despite his reflexive ire, he realized it would take something other than steel to give a merry close to this grim tale. Sheathing his flute, he turned and headed back the way he’d come.

“Bard, don’t be a damn fool. Variol!”

As he walked, the poetry woke inside of him. He chanted:

Three deep slow bongs, the steeple’s song
That keeps a long night vigil here
O’er slain conclaves in rainswept graves
And saints’ stone glaives and granite spears.
The nave’s dark stained-glass cave, domain
Of ravens, faintly throbs with tears
Downflung from weeping-wrung cloud-heaps
Among the sleeping stars and spheres.

The rainfall intensified. The spire of the cracked and crumbled holy place drew near. It was time for the Knowing.

J.B. Toner

jJ.B. Toner studied Literature at Thomas More College and holds a black belt in Ohana Kilohana Kenpo-Jujitsu, he and his lovely wife have just had their first daughter, Ms. Sonya Magdalena Rose.

Trembling With Fear 11/03/2019

Welcome to Trembling With Fear. The clocks have gone back in the UK, Halloween has passed over and now there’s NaNoWriMo rearing its head again. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to consider it that much before now and suddenly here we are! After all the umming and aahing, I’ve decided to do it, mainly to work through an idea that’s been bugging me for a while and I just haven’t been able to do anything about it. It’s post-apocalyptic in setting but may actually be more of a thriller than a horror but who knows. I never plan and approach the month with only a vague idea but that’s the fun of this writing exercise, you are free to simply explore the possibilities, scratch that itch. If you’ve signed up at all, you will find me, under the name el_Stevie.

This week’s Tembling With Fear shines its own spotlight on POOP by Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger, now there’s an intro line I never thought I’d write, conjuring up all sorts of imagery! It is a story which could be read by a younger audience but is most definitely a fun read for all ages with a wonderful comeuppance for a brat. I actually worked with a student whose favourite word was ‘poop’, so this did ring true!

Art in Progress by Scarlet Berry is written in such a thoughtful, gentle – almost casual – tone that even with the horror it’s describing, it doesn’t feel horrific, in fact it just seems ‘right’ and that is scary. The final paragraph then jars against this, and you know this is most definitely ‘wrong’. A good use of tone to subvert horror by making it seem normal. And if we regard such behaviour as normal, then we should all be afraid.

Disclaimer by Kevin M. Folliard brings us a social platform of the future. And everyone ‘ll sign up without reading smallprint … could prove embarrassing. We have been warned and in such a realistic way.

Options by R. J. Meldrum is about smooth deliverance of the literally ‘killer’ last line. You don’t just write flash and plonk a twist at the end without thought, that is lazy writing. This isn’t. Each sentence builds the picture and then offers the revelation.

Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.

Steph

MORE BWAINS…MORE BWAINS…MORE UNHOLY TRINITIES FOR US TO FEED UPON!

There’s no better month to be Unholy than October—with its specters, ghosts, goblins, and who knows what lying beneath those decomposing leaves and wilted flowers. Yet our cauldron of Unholy Trinities is boiling dry—and we need more! More brains, more blood, more sinister characters and gloomy circumstances… more creepy chronicles from YOU!

The Unholy Trinity is a trio of three, 100-word drabbles that observe the same theme or follow a story line. We’ve received some super ones that tackle Trump, spiders, and symphonies…all written in fine style, some with more than a little humor and satire.

If you’re a regular drabbler, why not try writing an Unholy Trinity? UTs are excellent creative exercises if you’re looking to develop your writing style or you’re considering a foundation for a longer story. And I’m happy to provide feedback on your submission, or help you tweak it to get it just right.

So don’t be afraid…of Unholy Trinities! There are many things to be frightened of, but here’s your opportunity to share your take on them with the world. Feed us…feed us…FEED US!!

Best witches…Catherine

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

POOP by Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger

Charles Arthur Pennyton was seven years old, but more importantly, his favorite word was “poop.” He was completely obsessed with poop. 

He screamed it at his neighbors: “You stepped in poop!” Causing them to look at the bottoms of their shoes. Not finding anything, they’d frown fiercely at Charles Arthur.

Charles Arthur laughed. He liked to embarrass people.

He told it to his school bus driver: “You smell like poop!” Forcing Charles Arthur to sit alone, right behind the driver.

Charles Arthur didn’t mind. He liked being alone. 

He told it to the girl at school: “Your face looks like poop.” Prompting Amelia Bedora to knit together blonde eyebrows so perfect, Charles Arthur couldn’t help taunting her again and again. 

“Charles Arthur Pennyton,” Amelia Bedora finally said, tears spilling from her teal blue eyes, “one day you’re going to say those nasty things to the wrong person, and then you’ll really be sorry.”

Charles Arthur did not believe in consequences. 

Days later, Charles Arthur’s mother dragged him along with her to the grocery store. He normally hated going to the grocery store, because he was afraid of the old homeless woman who sat outside the entrance with a dirty grocery cart filled with junk. Her dirty grey cat always perched in the child’s seat, scowling down with mean yellow eyes. 

But on this day, Charles Arthur was prepared.

He approached the old homeless woman. He beamed with anticipation over the zinger he had just formulated from his almost-graduated car seat. He hauled back and spoke out in his clearest voice: “Your breath smells like poop because you eat your cat’s poop! You eat poop for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” He almost felt like taking a bow after such a masterpiece of wordplay. 

In fact, he did take a bow. But when he extended his arm to his imaginary audience, the old homeless woman grabbed it.

“You will regret what you said.” Her voice was a black abyss and her eyes were pure thunderclouds. She tightened her grasp Charles Arthur’s arm with sharp skeleton fingers, like she could tear off Charles Arthur’s skin and use his skin like a coat. 

Charles Arthur felt a chill rake up and down his whole body, and an army of goosebumps invade his skin. “Let go of me!” Charles Arthur couldn’t pull his arm away. 

“Mom!” Charles Arthur cried for her, but his mother was preoccupied by the cherry pies on sale near the store’s front entrance.  

“You will regret what you said,” the old woman repeated, slowly uncurling her fingers from Charles Arthur’s navy-blue blazer – his favorite blazer, with the round gold insignia on the left breast which made him feel official. The old woman reached forward and tapped the gold circle on Charles Arthur’s blazer and repeated a third time: “You will regret what you said.”

Charles Arthur sprinted into the store, finding his mother putting a cherry pie into her shopping cart. “Mommy, the old lady scared me!” Charles Arthur was near tears, and it had been a while since he had called his mother “Mommy.” She cradled an arm around her son’s shoulder. But when Charles Arthur turned back to accuse his offender, the old homeless woman and her cart – and her cat – were gone.

That night, Charles Arthur could not eat his dinner. Everything on his plate was rank and foul. “This food tastes like poop,” he declared.

“Please don’t talk like that,” his mother said. She tasted his food. “Your food is fine.” 

He tasted his mother’s food. “It’s nasty!” he wailed. He couldn’t eat anything.

Charles Arthur’s mother was worried. Her son always had a good appetite, even as a baby. He must be sick, she reasoned, deciding she would put him straight to bed. 

Charles Arthur was still hungry. Very hungry, in fact. “Could I try a piece of cherry pie?” He turned his best puppy dog gaze onto his mother. She clucked her tongue, but agreed to give him some pie, even including a dollop of sweet vanilla ice cream on top.

Charles Arthur could already smell the putrid odor as soon as his mother set down the plate. He used his spoon to scoop up a heaping helping of gooey cherries, flaky crust, and melty ice cream. He brought it to his lips. Maybe this just smells bad, he told himself. It looks so good. Maybe it doesn’t taste bad.

It tasted bad. He spat it out onto his plate and ran to his room.

Days clicked by and Charles Arthur could not eat. He cried. His mother cried. He could no longer eat chocolate pudding, or fried chicken, or pizza, or buttered noodles, or even drink water.

“Please drink it,” his mother begged.

Charles Arthur tried. He really tried. His stomach growled and growled but everything, absolutely everything, was inedible – only to him.

Charles Arthur asked his mother to take him with her to the grocery store. She agreed, hoping he could pick out some food that he could eat. But all Charles Arthur wanted was to find the old homeless woman, or even her grey cat. 

They were nowhere to be found. 

His mother took him to the hospital, where a nurse with bright purple scrubs hooked him up to an IV drip. A doctor came too, but when a week went by with Charles Arthur unable to eat or drink, the doctor and the nurse in the bright purple scrubs tried force feeding their patient. 

Charles Arthur screamed and bit the doctor. 

The doctor tasted like poop. 

Despite the hospital’s best efforts, Charles Arthur died. He was buried in his favorite navy-blue blazer, the one with the round gold insignia on the left breast. And eventually, when the worms tried to slither into Charles Arthur’s coffin to feast off his ripe dead body – they stopped short, their tiny worm brains not understanding why they couldn’t burrow inside.

The worms weren’t smart enough to realize that the entire coffin was filled with… 

Kelly Kurtzhals Geiger is a 6-time Daytime Emmy-nominated television producer and former standup comedian whose name and headshot still hang on the walls of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing her MA in English from California State University at Northridge. Kelly has published short stories in the anthologies Hell Comes to Hollywood II and Cemetery Riots, as well as The Northridge Review, and is an Affiliate Member of the HWA.

Find her on Twitter: twitter.com/kellykgeiger

Art In Progress

The snowflake floated softly through the air, slowly meandering until it landed gently on the scarlet stained snow. A headless body lay strewn nearby as if carelessly tossed away like an old candy wrapper. A trail of blood and footprints led to two large snowballs, stacked one on top of the other. The head completed the bizarre snowman, pieces of coal placed where eyes had been.

Harry stepped back to admire his work.  He decided that another head was needed to finish his masterpiece.  He hurried to check the tension of the wire stretched across the running trail and waited.

Scarlet Berry is a Yooper. She’s been married forty years to the same man and they raised four children together. She is a mystery wrapped up in a conundrum, and loves to laugh; both evilly and happily.

​Disclaimer

By downloading CHM, user agrees to all terms outlined in this service agreement. CHM forges neuropathways to simulate user’s subconscious desires and deliver an immersive virtual experience customized for individual users. User desires may be stored for marketing purposes, or altered to optimize the quality of euphoria. CHM reserves the right to optimize neural networks to ensure contentment. Conflict is strictly forbidden on the Central Hive Mind. User’s moral, social, political, and religious views and values are subject to approval and alteration to ensure compatibility with CHM’s corporate values. Hopes, dreams, and free will are trademarked property of CHM Corporation.

Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.

Author Website: www.KevinFolliard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kevinfolliard

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kmfollia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmfollia/

Options

The fly moved sluggishly. She poked at it, but it didn’t respond. Too cold. Dammit, she thought. If the weather was stopping the flies, then the bacteria wouldn’t be working either. So much for acting on impulse. She really should have waited until Spring to act.

An idea occurred to her. If the smallest organisms couldn’t help, then perhaps the bigger ones would. It would be a pain to dig it up, but she had to make sure a coyote could find it. Being eaten would work just as well as decomposition. She had to dispose of her husband somehow.

R. J. Meldrum is an author and academic.  Born in Scotland, he moved to Ontario, Canada in 2010.  He has had stories published by Sirens Call Publications, Horrified Press, Trembling with Fear, Darkhouse Books, Smoking Pen Press and James Ward Kirk Fiction.  He is an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/richard.meldrum.79

Website: http://wolfstarpublishing.com/meldrum/

https://twitter.com/RichardJMeldru1

Unholy Trinity: Circle of Unlife by Shawn M. Klimek

Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.

Dangerous

Gripping his daughter’s arm, Horace Banks watched through the front door peephole until her boyfriend had departed.

“I’m tired,” she complained.

“That’s because it’s almost morning!” He faced her, scowling. “And you look pale. Do you starve yourself to look thin for that fool?”

Karen pouted, rubbing her neck. “Henrik always says I should eat more, Dad. And he’s no fool.”

“Who else rides a motorcycle at night wearing all black and without a helmet, but a fool or someone with a death wish.”

She giggled.

“What’s funny?”

“Henrik just said the same thing about you waiting up for me.”

A Vampire’s Tail

Lewis watched as the mysterious figure he’d been following climbed a fire escape to enter an apartment building by a third story window. Once he was out of sight, he took out his phone to message Baxter.

“Patience has paid off,” he wrote.

“What do you mean?”

“I finally tracked the vampire to his lair!”

“At last! Be careful.”

“I will. Meet at dawn to finish him off?”

“With pleasure. Send me the address.”

Lewis texted the address.

“Meeting here is fine. I meant the lair address,” said Baxter.

Lewis’s hands shook as he responded.

“GET OUT NOW!” he wrote.

My Immortal Calendar

Miraculously, the hunter’s wooden stake had missed my heart. Only by superhuman will did I restrain my monstrous rage. Having sensed the heartbeats of an overwhelming mob of accomplices, it seemed wiser to play dead. My subterfuge was so convincing that they imprisoned me amongst the Christian saints.

The dirt on all sides of my crypt expands and contracts slightly with the passing seasons, causing the marble walls to creak. I cannot count days by this glacial rhythm, but I can measure the passing of idle centuries. My immortal calendar is an expanding crack in the slab above my head.

Shawn Klimek

Shawn M. Klimek is an award-winning author and poet credited with more than 100 publications. He lives in Illinois with his Air Force nurse wife and their adorable Maltese.  Find a complete index of his published works (plus bonus reads) at https://jotinthedark.blogspot.com/ and follow his ongoing writing adventures at https://facebook.com/shawnmklimekauthor/.

Trembling With Fear 10/27/2019

Writing is a game of swings and roundabouts and a chunk of this year saw very little in terms of return on my efforts although I was busy writing and submitting away in the background whilst congratulating and supporting others on their more visible successes. I will admit I found that hard, despite being genuinely pleased for them, because I allowed it to fan the flames of self-doubt and to make me think perhaps I was doing something wrong or simply wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that I knew I was writing different length pieces or subbing to other markets with distant closing dates or long response times, I still kept measuring myself against others and finding myself wanting. Now, however, I have seen some return, not just with a novella due out next year but also, alongside some other short stories, my first full pro-sale – I’m not allowed to say where for another week or so but I felt I had reached a defining moment in my career and the choices I made this year were the right ones. So to everyone out there who is building up their portfolio of work, often very quietly in the background and feeling little sense of achievement despite the stories they are creating, keep at it. You are laying solid foundations and you will reap the rewards. I daresay I will have other apparently ‘fallow’ months but they will not be empty, I will, like the rest of you, continue to create my own tales of darkness whilst keeping my fingers crossed they will one day see the light.

This week’s Tembling With Fear shines its own spotlight on Anima ex Nihilo by Andrew Johnston. Here is the resident neighbourhood grouch, the one who torments children and adults alike with his miserable outlook and grim nature. But was he what he seemed? Did he truly exist? Does the soul need a particular body to inhabit or can it slip out of one skin and into another? A cleverly constructed story highlighting how we can never really know someone or think we do but it turns out we have projected our own assumptions onto the individual.

Bloodlust by Nerisha Kemraj develops, initially, as an erotic drabble but, like most of the stories in TWF, it’s not what it appears. Wickedly done and I liked the touch of starting and finishing with a focus on the eyes.

Hungry by Belinda Brady brings us a zombie apocalypse. There has got to be an end for a person, zombie or otherwise, at some point. Here is just one tragic way to go.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream … by G.A. Miller brings the bogeyman to life. Death doesn’t kill the nightmare, sometimes it lets it walk.

Thank you to all, for writing and submitting to TWF.

Steph

Stephanie Ellis

Editor, Trembling With Fear

This week I spent a LOT of time trying to catch up on reading for stories and mentally preparing myself for the Halloween edition of Trembling With Fear. Whew. This is going to be tight, but it IS doable!

We’re currently looking to see if we can get an influx of drabble to help finish out the year (and beyond if possible!) If you’ve got something lying about, we’d be thrilled to see it sent in!

We’re also looking for more Unholy Trinities and Serials, but details on those will be listed out in the Halloween special.

Stuart Conover

Editor, Horror Tree

Anima Ex Nihilo by Andrew Johnston

The coroner and the cops had to muscle their way through a block party when Mardak finally kicked it. You’d never seen people so happy to hear that an old man had dropped dead, although maybe it wasn’t morbid joy so much as long overdue relief. Folks in that neighborhood feared Mardak about as much as the Authority, if you can believe that, and not just the little kids. Those people were smiling, and smiles were a real rare commodity in those days. People didn’t just break them out for any old occasion, only when it was special.

It wasn’t just the folks around the old man’s home who were pleased – the Authority were giddy. Now why would the big bad government want to put eyes on some anonymous old crank? Maybe he piqued their interest. Maybe, when we went down to that neighborhood and the really old folks talked about how they remember old man Mardak when they were kids, and he was old man Mardak even back then…well, it made us curious. Death is a capricious bastard, but it doesn’t miss someone for hundreds of years but for that person doing a little dodging, and anyone who’s dodged the reaping that long must be special.

We had Mardak called for a hoarder type, expected to find him holed up with the wreckage of some ill-remembered past, engulfed in his own haunted world. When we finally kicked in his door, all that greeted us were dust and shadows. If there were any ghosts, they stayed tucked away in the woodwork and didn’t come out to greet us. People told us about strange noises issuing up from the basement, but there were no accursed engines, or terrible altars, or unnatural creatures lurking about. But for the floors being relatively tidy, you’d think that no one had lived there since they built the damn place. The rumor among the people living there is that the place grew up around Mardak…hell, maybe they were right, the crazy plebes.

They’ve got Mardak on the slab, now, but it’s a different sort of puzzle. The coroner has no doubts as to how the guy died – every organ was flooded with the body’s own poisons or just so withered that it was a challenge merely to find it in Mardak’s body. The question is not why he died but why he was alive. “Better organs in a rotting corpse,” the coroner said, like Mardak was already dead and just didn’t know it. The Authority medical techs figure he should have cashed out a good thirty years ago, but our man says it’s longer than that. He figures that Mardak was dead for a long time before we found him, walking around with some outside power keeping that shell moving around, and we’ve got to find that power and stop it before someone really dangerous figures it out. He figures that we’re real lucky that Mardak restricted his evil deeds to scaring and tormenting the neighborhood kids.

As for me, I wonder if Mardak was ever even alive. I wonder if he was nothing but a beast of will, some vile entity that decided it wanted to exist and then, a second later, sprang into being. Which means that I’m not sure Mardak is dead, either, or that death is even a concept he understands. That withered corpse was never the man, just an artifice. I’ll tell the Authority that we’ve closed the case, but deep down I’m sure he’ll be back in another skin suit, slithering into some dark corner of the planet. He’ll be back, all right, back to unleash his special brand of madness on our orderly world.

Andrew Johnston

Born in rural western Kansas, Andrew Johnston discovered his Sinophilia while attending the University of Kansas. Subsequently, he has spent most of his adult life shuttling back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. He is currently based out of Hefei, Anhui province. He has published short fiction in Nature: Futures, Electric Spec and Mythic and will be featured in the upcoming Bad Dream Entertainment Horror/Humor Anthology. You can learn more about his projects at findthefabulist.com.

Bloodlust

He quivered at her touch, her eyes were full of promise, his full of lust. While tying him to the bedpost, her tongue danced across his bare body.

Reacting excitedly as she stripped naked, he ignored the ropes digging into his limbs. He was in heaven. He kissed eagerly, but she too, could not hold back… biting into his tongue – playfully at first, and then in one swift movement she ripped it off. 

Blood-curdling screams filled the sound-proof room. His eyes threatened to pop out of his skull as shadows danced around the candle-lit enclosure,while bloodlust glinted in hers.

Hungry

I search the house all over and find nothing. 

My stomach growls loudly, mad with hunger. 

The zombie apocalypse had seen the dead roaming the earth, eating anything with a pulse. Streets were empty, food scarce, human contact a memory. 

I stand in the kitchen, rubbing my forehead in frustration. Something drops to the floor. Blood drips down my cheek into my mouth. I pick the thing up from the floor and eat it. My hands dart back to my forehead, feverishly clawing for more. 

I was turned here and I’ll finally die here; by eating my rotting, infected brain.

Belinda Brady

Belinda is passionate about stories and after years of procrastinating, has finally turned her hand to writing them, with a preference for supernatural and thriller themes; her love of both often competing for her attention. She has had several stories published in a variety of publications, both online and in anthologies. Belinda lives in Australia with her family and has been known to enjoy the company of cats over people.

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream…

The funeral had been exhausting, but Angela couldn’t sleep. Her fears and questions about her future swirled through her mind, not allowing the rest she needed.

When the bedroom door opened and her husband walked in, she sat up, shaking her head in disbelief as she spoke.

“Walt, I… I just buried you.”

He slipped his shirt off, the Y shaped incision from his autopsy starkly contrasting his pale skin in the dim light from the streetlight outside. He leaned over and kissed her forehead with cold, dry lips, then whispered softly in her ear.

“You can’t kill the bogeyman…”

G.A. Miller

G.A. Miller is a new voice in the chorus of horror authors, drawing his ideas from every day, commonplace events that take unforeseen turns down dark corridors, often with horrific consequences. His work has been published in numerous anthologies from a variety of publishers, and he’s just released his first novella, “Spirit of the Dead”, now available at Amazon.

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