A couple weeks ago, THE NEW FLESH sat down with Brian Barnett, author of the new book 'State of the Dark', to discuss an interesting way to eliminate ignorance, brains-on-a-stick, and a fear of Corey Haim's 80's hair. This is what we found out...

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TNF: You are trapped in a room made entirely of brick with no windows or doors. All you have in the room with you is a book of matches, a broken television set, a pair of toenail clippers, and a fistful of feathers. How do you plan to get out?

BB: Well, thanks to my vast knowledge of improvised weapons thanks to watching MacGyver and Barney reruns, I would simply build a makeshift hydraulic drill and just burrow through the wall.

If, of course, the matches were wet (see, you didn’t think that I planned for that, did you?), then I would merely build a crude version of a teleportation device that would remove the bricks one by one and then rearrange them until the bricks formed a narrow pathway. Then I would disrespect whoever trapped me in the room by trampling all over his former feeble obstruction. Really? Are all the questions going to be this simple?

TNF: BOOM! Zombie Apocalypse is here! What three items do you toss in your pack?

BB: Okay, since I’ve been planning this for a long time, I thought it would be rather simple. But since you’ve given me the option to carry two additional things aside from what I was planning to carry originally – the zombies will not have a chance against me.

1: I’ll pack my cell phone, which would be loaded with phone numbers of all my crash-dummy friends. Together we would band together and mow a wide path through the shambling hoards that get in our way. Because, you see, crash dummies can live without food or water, and thanks to their fleshless bodies, they would draw little attention from the zombies.
2: I’ll pack a brain on a stick. Yes, almost any brain should do. Once the car runs out of fuel due to the lack of operational gas stations, I will need a mode of transportation. I think if I am able to string a group of semi-able-bodied zombies together, I can use them as a team of sled dogs, of sorts. I’ll merely strap them to the front of my car and dangle the brain stick ahead of them. Of course since all zombies travel at a relatively slow pace, I don’t have to worry about any attacks from the rear or sides. Even if they get close, my loyal crash-dummies will fend them off with their hard plastic limbs. Of course even if we do wreck, my crash-dummy friends will be just fine. Assuming I get injured, they will be able to lend me any false limbs that I may need.
3: Jimbo. Jimbo will be the name of my sawed-off shotgun. It will be engraved on the barrel so that it will be the last thing those grimy zombie fingers will grasp onto. You cannot go through and survive a zombie apocalypse without some awesome shotgun to zombie head action. Seriously, that’s what it’s all about folks. Otherwise you’re just kidding yourself. If you don’t explode a few decaying heads, other survivors will just laugh at you. Nobody wants to be laughed at in a zombie apocalypse.

TNF: Of the stories in your upcoming book, 'State of the Dark', which is your favorite and why?

BB: That’s tough. But I guess Dia de Los Muertos. That story just sort of flowed out of me. It’s very short and I wrote it as I listened to the song that inspired it – “Mucho Reverbo” by the Wet-Tones. It’s a great song and I saw the imagery of the story perfectly because of it.

TNF: Draw a picture of the coolest weapon not yet invented and explain its functions.

BB: This is an idea that I’ve been kicking around for a while:

The whole idea behind it is that it would end ignorance. Someone who is truly ignorant to the core pushes it and they simply disappear. Ignorance leads to hatred and most of the world’s ills. Perhaps a fool-proof plan to bring an end to ignorant people is the way to go? That’s my idea anyway. Only a truly ignorant person would want to push an ominous red button that beckons him or her to push it, right?

TNF: were you traumatized by any horror stories/movies as a child? Let's discuss...

BB: Yes! I remember being absolutely terrified of the movie adaptation of Dean Koontz’s Watchers. I have vivid memories of two different scenes that still come very easily to me. One scene is where a female police officer is lying dead with her eyes hanging out of her head. And the other a scene where a kid’s bloody pair of glasses are on a trail in the woods after he is killed off-screen. Now, I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I saw it, I just remember that I was really young. I kept telling my dad that I wasn’t afraid of the movie even though I was thoroughly terrified. Plus Cory Haim had a terrible case of 80s hair in that movie. That never helps anything. Now whenever I watch it, it doesn’t scare me. However I still have that foreboding hint of fear that creeps up, reminding me of how much it did scare me when I was little.

As far as stories are concerned, I’d have to say Chickamauga by Ambrose Bierce. That was the first real gut-wrenching story that I ever read. It is a story set in the Civil War about a young boy who is playing soldier. He falls asleep in the woods, not noticing that enemy soldiers have passed through the woods near his house. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I warn you that the ending will tear you apart inside.

TNF: What five words best describe your new book, 'State of the Dark'?


1: Shenanigans
2: Catharsis
3: Antelope
4: Rutabaga
5: Yawp


Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky.
To date, he has published over fifty stories since he began publishing in November 2008. He has been accepted by over twenty-five publications, online and in print, including several anthologies.

He was co-editor of the anthology “Toe Tags: 21 Spine-Tingling Tales from the Best New Authors of Horror” with William Pauley III.

For up-to-date news on Brian: http://merrilyhauntingfrankfort.blogspot.com/

Upcoming projects:

Assuming if all goes according to plan, State of the Dark should be available for purchase in early March, perhaps the first week. I’m currently rewriting a middle-school aged novella titled “Graveyard Scavenger Hunt”. I hope to shop it around to some agents as soon as I feel that it is ready. I have a few stories coming out in various anthologies in the next few months. I am writing a brand new novella revolving around a prohibition era detective who suddenly finds that the world is not as “normal” as he once thought it was.

For any updates on any of my projects, you may visit my blog. I update it whenever I have any new news: http://merrilyhauntingfrankfort.blogspot.com/

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Molly had loved her life. Money almost seemed to seek out and find them. Friends envied their high-rise apartment. The future looked as bright as the sun on a clear day. Then Mark had become paranoid and abusive. It was only a matter of time before he killed her. She pulled the trigger.

The man on the bed barely moved. He just went from sleeping to dead.

Molly needed a few seconds to gather herself. After all, it wasn’t every day that she murdered her husband. Once the nerves settled to a manageable level, she would place the gun next to him and scream. Then she would run out of the apartment crying that her husband had shot himself.

A second before she was going to place the gun, she heard someone clear their throat and turned to see a man in the open doorway. Doctor Phillips, a balding shrink who lived down the hall, looked at her dead husband and grinned. How could he make such an expression right now? Why had she had not heard him come in? Had the ringing in her ears from the gun blast been that loud?

Doctor Phillips surprised her further. "I’m going to help you, Molly."


"Just stand there, and I’ll take care of everything."

Footsteps clambered from the hall, bringing panic that nearly paralyzed her mind. Helplessness ruled her while someone ran through her apartment into her room.

Joe Ramsey, a tax lawyer, who also lived on their floor, looked at Doctor Phillips. "I heard a gunshot." He looked at the corpse, looked at Molly, and said, "Oh."

Joe, a strong-spirited man, would no doubt take action. Doctor Phillips spoke before he could.

"Not to worry, number seven. You remember seeing that masked man run down the hall, holding the very gun Molly is holding right now? He was of average height, but burly."

Joe stared at the doctor and kind of winced, like he thought a mad man stood before him. Then his countenance changed, as if he had just figured something out.

"Yeah," Joe said. "I remember that."

"Well," said the doctor. "He’s long gone now. Why don’t you go back to your apartment and wait for the police to arrive."

Joe hesitated, then said, "Yeah, that’s a good idea." He walked out, shaking his head.

The doctor’s smile gave Molly a sense of relief mixed with apprehensive confusion. "He’ll come around even more once the suggestions have had time to set in."

Seconds later, a woman came into the room. Felicity Bower, a surgeon who lived two doors down, gasped at the sight of Mark.

"Yes, number five," said Doctor Phillips. "You remember when you were walking through the parking garage last week and witnessed Mark being accosted by a man who threatened to kill him? You didn’t get a good look at the man’s face, but you noted that he was of average height and burly."

Felicity reacted in about the same way as Joe, except she took a little longer to come around to the realization. "Yes, I remember. That must be who shot Mark."

The doctor looked as if in thought. "It seems likely."

Other people came in and talked with Doctor Phillips. It was the same every time. The doctor would call them a number and then mention a memory kind of like it was a question. The person would always come around.

Doctor Phillips and Molly finally went to his apartment and waited.

"The police will be here soon," Doctor Phillips said. "I trust you’ve got the story down by now."

She nodded. The fearful parts of her mind couldn’t compete with a sense of relief. The abuse was finished, and it looked as if she would be consequence free.

"Thank you," she said.

Doctor Phillips smirked. "No. Thank you, my dear."

His words caught her off guard. Why he would thank her? She waited for elaboration that didn’t come. The doctor just went to a liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink.

"What do you mean?" she finally asked.

He stirred the beverage in his hand. "Your husband was a peaceful man. Never once hurt a soul, but he did make the mistake of confiding too much in the friendly shrink down the hall."

Doctor Phillips had called Mark a peaceful man, but Molly remembered otherwise. She whispered, "He hurt me."

Doctor Phillips chuckled. "No, he loved you very much. He told me about six months ago that he had taken out a huge life insurance policy, for which you are the sole benefactor. Of course, that would have been negated in the event of you being convicted of murder, or in the case of you successfully making it look like a suicide."

Thoughts seemed to move too fast. Tears formed and fell down her face. He was lying. He had to be. Mark hadn’t taken out life insurance. "No. He’d gone mad. He’d hit me. I killed him to protect myself."

The doctor laughed. "Did he hit you, or is that just what you remember?"

Molly tried to stop her spinning thoughts to focus. Had she missed something? She’d witnessed what Doctor Phillips could do, but at the same time, her memories were vivid and clear.

The doctor looked hard at her. "He told you about the policy, you know. It’s just that I helped you forget." He grinned. "Now you’ll receive that money and all else Mark has earned. You’ll fall in love with me, and we’ll get married. Then you’ll become depressed and commit suicide in a very public manner, but not before leaving all you have to me."

The memory of dropping the gun to the floor entered her mind. Could she get to it now? The doctor spoke before she could make her move.

"Enough of this sadistic baiting. You should be ready when the police get here. Isn’t that right, hypnosis subject number one. You remember . . ."

Copyright: © 2010 Joshua Scribner


Joshua Scribner is the author of the novels Mantis Nights, The Coma Lights and Nescata. His fiction won both second and fifth place in the 2008 Whispering Spirits Flash Fiction contest. Up to date information on his work can be found at joshuascribner.com. Joshua currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.

Wait a minute. What am I doing here?

Take a deep breath.

I stare into the mirror and am surprised at the image who stares back. Long blond hair. Wide green eyes. A face that doesn’t look at all like what I remember it to be. But as I touch my face, I see the reflection do the same.

What are you waiting for?
The woman in the mirror says. Don’t you remember why you came back here?

I shake my head no, and she looks at me like a dumb child. For all intents and purposes, that’s all she thinks of me. The way its always been.

Clutching the sink, I look down at my hands.

You need to finish cleaning up, she said.

There are still streaks of blood between my fingers, but much more is in the drain.
My dress, once white, looked as if some artist had spent the day throwing red paint at me.

It wasn’t paint, of course. I could smell it.

Shivering, I turned the water up, and reached for a towel, scrubbing my hands with frothy soap and hot water . I pulled my dress off and scrubbed in the shower.

The dress seemed to have absorbed most of it. There wasn’t much blood on my body.
Once I turned off the water, I could hear the television still blasting in the other room.

I put on a robe and stumbled into the hallway.

Wait a minute. What am I doing here?

I paused.

The walls in the hallway were blank. Not so much as a picture, and thankfully, not a mirror. I could feel her green eyes watching me. Threatening me to fuck up like I always do.

We are just bits of each other. But she seems intent….

On putting you in your place, she hissed.

The living room is a big and bright. A fireplace, a large television mounted on the wall, and a couch.

My husband is still, staring at the television screen.

He’s sitting on the couch, eyes wide. The game has been off for hours now, and I fumble for the remote, because he doesn’t like this show. The one where the girl begs the guy to chose her. When all along he’s snickering, because his choice has been made. She just doesn’t know it yet.

“Honey?” I said.

He turns to me slowly, blinking.

Of course, its impossible that he could do that now. I see the gash just beneath his
Adam’s apple.

My hands seem to have a memory of their own: the skillful arc I made as I came down with the knife at the base of his throat. Looking down, I could see the knife peaking out from under the sofa. Sterling caught the light and gleamed cruelly.

I shake my head, and squeeze my eyes shut.

When I open them, he’s not moving anymore. I see now that the blood is dry, cold, and turning black.

Don’t you remember what happened?
My reflection said, now staring down at me from the television screen. Her eyes are like cold flame. And her lips are twisted. She’s holding back her laughter.

I didn’t think you’d really do it, you little prissy bitch, she scolded. You always say I’m only a fucking voice in your head. You never listened to me before.

Copyright: © 2010 Lori Titus

Green Water Lullaby, Lori’s collection of short stories, is available for pre-order: http://www.sonar4publications.com/green.html

The man and the woman are trapped in the house.
The zombies are outside.
Aargh! the zombies are saying. Aargh!
The man and the woman don’t know what to do.
Maybe there are some guns in here, the man says.
They search the entire house. But they don’t find even a single gun. All they find is a knife, and it’s dull.
Crap, says the man. I’m out of ideas.
The basement, says the woman. Let’s hide!

The man and the woman run down into the basement. They lock the door and huddle in the dark.
Upstairs they hear crashing and bumping and breaking as the zombies invade the house.

What do we do now? the man says. Pretty soon they’re going to come through that door.
I don’t know, says the woman. Let’s think!
They think really hard for a while.
Finally, the man has an idea.
Let’s act like zombies! he says.
The two of them practice walking around the basement with their arms out.
Aargh! they are saying. Aargh!

Pretty soon the zombies come through the door. They fall down the stairs and stand up.
The man and the woman do their best zombie impersonations. They impersonate zombies for their lives.

The zombies mill about in the basement. So do the man and the woman.
Aargh! everyone’s saying. Aargh!
The man and the woman seem to have escaped notice.
Then the man suddenly starts to sing.

What are you doing? the woman screams. Are you insane? You’re going to get us both killed!
I don’t know! says the man. It just sort of overcame me! This whole thing is so sad and depressing!

Of course by now the zombies have noticed.
Run! says the woman. Run!
The two of them tear through the crowd toward the stairs, knocking aside zombies left and right.

Luckily the zombies are slow and poorly coordinated, so the man and woman make it from the house. They take off across the fields as fast as they can, with the zombies staggering after.

After many miles of running, the man and woman take a break. They are both gasping for breath.
What the hell happened back there? the woman says.
I told you, says the man. I don’t know!

When they make it to civilization, they tell everybody about the zombies.
Get lots of guns, the man says.
Yeah, says the woman, and stay out of the basement.
And most importantly, she adds, looking at the man, make sure you keep your mouths shut.

The man and the woman sit on the roof of a building and watch the war against the zombies unfold. The zombies are slaughtered-- the outcome’s never in doubt.
In fact, the whole thing’s a bit of an anticlimax.

That night the man and the woman are lying in bed.
I can’t believe we survived, the man says.
What were you singing? says the woman. I can’t remember.
Over the rainbow, says the man, and they laugh.
"Zombies: A Fable"
Copyright: © 2010 Ben Loory

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles, in a house on top of a hill. His fables and tales have appeared in Barrelhouse, Annalemma, Static Movement, Danse Macabre, Twelve Stories, Vestal Review, and more. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is currently seeking a home.

“Ah now Tilly, she don’t mean no harm.”

Robert held Tilly close. “Don’t cry now. She’ll take good care of you. You’ll see.”

He wiped the tears from her face.

“Go ahead. Do it.”

“Alright momma.” Robert stood up, unfastened his overalls and pulled off his underwear. He looked back at momma one last time before he climbed on top of his girl. He was glad he had a girl that wasn’t his sister or cousin or his momma like it used to be.

As he entered her he said, “Momma just wants her a normal grandbaby this time.”

Copyright: © 2009 Suzie Bradshaw

Originally published at Microhorror.com 2009

She assumed those girls would always hate her. During the entire month of September, they’d said only two words to her, the new girl from Somewhere Else.

“I’m Jackie,” she said during homeroom. “Just moved here in August. My dad has a restaurant on 46th Street.” The three of them stopped chatting and turned slightly in their seats, far enough to see her without losing eye contact with each other.

“How nice,” the thin one said. She turned back to the giggler with coffee-black hair, who gave a knowing glance to the smirker, who was fishing a Tiffany necklace out of the avalanche of her vee-neck. They went back to chatting.

Jackie was conscious of her Maine hands covered with scars from the lobster pots, and her coils of hair that had never seen the inside of an East Side salon. She felt like Medusa, replete with red snakes.

October wasn’t much better. She tried inviting them over to her house. They could never make it. She called on the cell. They weren’t answering. She joined all their clubs. They remained aloof.

But then they invited her to a party for Halloween.

“It’s to die for,” said the thin one.

“Come dressed-up,” said the giggler.

“Don’t be early,” said the vee-neck.

Jackie was amazed. She couldn’t believe her luck. She went out that day and got a costume. She was the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. She got her nails done and a nice coif.

“It’s a set-up, you know,” said Kate, her only real friend at school. “They invite you to a party, see? When you get there it’s over, see? No party. Nothing. What time did they tell you?”

“Ten o’clock,” Jackie said.

“That means it’s really seven.” Kate poked her. “Seven, get it? They hang out for a couple of hours then kick everybody out so they can hide and watch you schlep in.” Kate’s voice rose a half-notch and her eyes were misting. “Then when you’re good and stupid and think that maybe you got the wrong address or the wrong time or the wrong day, they come out of the bushes wearing those plastic glasses, the ones with the big nose and bushy eyebrows. They walk right up to you. ‘Is this the party you were expecting?’ one says, pointing to the other. They take turns. They keep saying it. Over and over.” The mist in Kate’s eyes overflowed down her cheeks. “It’s a barrel of laughs see? It’s a regular riot, see?”

She hugged Kate and took her home and told her she would see her tomorrow.

Nothing was going to stop Jackie. She got herself ready early and walked over to the party at nine-thirty. She was a lucky girl, she had to admit. Things in Maine had been perfect, with lots of quiet coves to sneak in and out of without anyone seeing. She could always drop her pots without attracting suspicion. With the move to New York, she wasn’t sure how things would work out. Now it looked like everything was going to be just fine.

When she got to the house, she was careful to go around back. It was dark and she clutched her shoulder bag tightly against her hip to keep it from jangling. There they were, sniggling. The thin one, the giggler, and the vee-neck, all dressed up like cheap call girls, hiding in the bushes with their glasses on. Jackie laughed. They were all late, late for an important date.

Moonlight glinted off the river not far from the house. Yes, she was a lucky girl. Her father owned a restaurant chock full of the tools of the trade. She had her pick of the very best. This wasn’t Maine, exactly, but it would do. It would do very nicely.

She took a deep breath and broke into a trot, skimming quietly along the grass on the balls of her feet. She picked up speed, almost upon the girls now, and reached into her bag and withdrew sharp steel.

She was going to the party. She would have ripping times in the dark.

"Going to the Party"
Copyright: © 2008 Robert Meade
Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to aHealthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.
"Going to the Party" originally published at Apollo's Lyre.

The famous novelist broke his fingers. Day one was Regret and Disbelief. Day Two was only Pain, but as he grew accustomed to the painkiller's fuzz and the dull routine of the hospital, so began his true torment.

It started as an itch inside his head. By Day Three the itch had become an ache, by Day Four a pain to rival his throbbing fingers, though this was a sensation the painkillers could not dull. On Day Five the pain became a voice.

"Why aren't you writing us?"

"It's my fingers," said the novelist, "they're broken."

"We made a deal."

"Pardon me?"

"We made a deal that if you'd write us out we'd make you rich and famous. You're letting us down, Mac."

"I'm sorry, I can't write. I can't type, can't pick up a pen -- I can't even wipe my own arse for heaven's sake!"


"Excuses! It's not as if I can do much about it."

"Pick up a pen. There's one by the bedside."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"It'll hurt. I might damage my fingers."

"The pain is dulled. We can dull it further." A fuzz more numbing than the doctor's drugs crawled over his skin. He clutched at the hospital bed-linen in reflex action, yet felt no pain. Soon even the linen's rough texture had faded to nothing. "Stop it, I can't feel anything."

"Good. Now pick up the pen."

The novelist reached out for it, but stopped short. "What about my fingers? I may not feel pain, but I could still hurt myself. Please -- you want me to heal don't you? You want me to write again? The doctor said I should be able to type in a few weeks. . ."

"Too long. Pick up the pen."

He reached out with the tips of his fingers bunched together by tape and bandage like a semi-naked sock puppet, and brushed them against the pen's hard plastic casing. He drew back. "I could dictate."

"Not acceptable. Pick it up."

He pushed his finger tips down onto the pen, but it skittered across the bedside table, span out off the edge, and clicked onto the floor.

"Get out of bed."

Lips pursed below a sweat mustache, the novelist got down on his hands and knees and tried again to pick up the pen. He fumbled, but pushed down hard before it could skid away. He managed to wedge the pen in his claw. Sweat stung his eyes and a sob stuck in his throat. His hospital gown fell around him exposing his backside.

His voice a whisper. "I have no paper."

Theirs a curse. "We don't care. Write us. Write us now!"

The novelist sat up, concentrating on keeping hold of the pen. Too scared to stand, he tried writing on his gown, but the ballpoint's nib scratched and bunched the fabric and left no mark.

"Write us now!"

The sob in his throat escaped his mouth in a parody of speech. He pulled up his gown to expose his thighs. The gathered cloth in his lap his final dignity, he began to write at his left knee.

"Oh yes. That feels so good, so gooood." The pen flowed well against his smooth skin, like writing on banana-skin, and before long both legs were text tattoos. Unmindful of the gown slipping away, chin pinned to his neck, he continued writing upside-down from crotch to collar bone.

When the nurses came they found him on the floor, clothed only in words, except for that last blank page across his back, with outstretched pen trembling in contorted frustration, and screaming:

"Write us now!"

"Write us now!"

"Write us now!"
"Write Us Now!"
Copyright: © 2010 Barry J. Northern
Barry J. Northern lives in Brighton, England with his wife, son, dog, and cat, who is getting old and has just lost one of her front teeth (say ah). He was inspired, no, forced, to write this story by his own subconscious after being too busy to write much for a few days recently. He's glad there was a laptop to hand. He has a few stories over at Flashes in the Dark, and blogs regularly at barryjnorthern.blogspot.com, which is also the home of his weekly podcast, Friday Fables.

A couple weeks ago, THE NEW FLESH sat down with Zombie-Man Eric S. Brown to discuss death, talking animals, and his new works. This is what we found out...

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TNF: Would you rather be burned to death, buried alive or slowly bleed to death by millions of paper cuts?

Eric: Uh, wow, what fun ways to die. Of the three, I think I am going to have to go with buried alive. I can't imagine the level of pain from hunger and such but maybe you could find a way to kill yourself in the coffin before it got too.

TNF: If you were a zombie and your victim’s brain was already eaten, which body part would you eat first?

Eric: Likely an arm or a leg. They would be easy to get to if you were fighting for the corpse with a bunch of other zombies and they have a good amount of meat on them.

TNF: What does your muse look like? And what does he/she/it use to beat you with?

Eric: My muse would be my wife, the most beautiful and stunning lady in the whole world. She's small but when she's mad her fury knows no bounds. She's also an excellent bouncing board for ideas and really helps me think through things if I need to talk about a project. She's also normal and doesn't really know about a lot about horror or SF so sometimes her ignorance of those fields gives her insights a diehard fan and veteran like me would never see. As to beating me, well, thank God, that hasn't happened yet, at least not with a weapon.

TNF: If you could talk to animals what’s the first thing you would ask them and which animal would you talk to first?

Eric: I would certainly talk to a cat first. I have loved cats all my life. I seem to have some kind of creepy connection with them. My first question would likely be to ask if I could join their club of regal coolness? Cats are like royalty, ya know?

TNF: If you were stranded on a deserted island and had one book with you, what book would it be?

Eric: The Bible. I am a Christian but I don't read it enough. Being cut off from work, my wife and family, and the local comic shop, would certainly force me to plow into it like I should be doing everyday anyway.

TNF: Is there a lot of carnage, torture and sex in your upcoming books Bigfoot War and The Human Experiment. Where can we get a copy?

Eric: Do you have to ask? I wrote them right? Yes, Bigfoot War is the bloodiest, most violent, highest body count (on a personal, up close level) I have ever written. It was loads of fun to write and you can see how writing zombies all these years helped to prepare me for it. Bigfoot was a childhood fear of mine living in a rural area and I think that fear really comes out in the books pages. The Human Experiment doesn't have as much carnage. It's a superhero/action book and an adventure you likely won't forget. It's main character, Agent Death, will be appearing again at the end of 2010 in another book called Anti-Heroes with a brand new novella about him and his team that picks up where The Human Experiment ends. Right now, I am working a new project entitled The Weaponer, which I just signed a contract on. It's my long awaited return to the zombie genre and a book so strange I can't really say anything about its plot without giving away more than I want to. Trust me though, if you enjoyed Season of Rot, The Weaponer will make your head spin with zombie goodness. In the meantime, while you're waiting on these new books to be released this year, I suggest that you could check out some of my works from 2009 such as Season of Rot which was nominated for a Dead Letter Award for zombie collection of the year or War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies which was a top ten finalist for best horror novel 2009 in the Preditor and Editor Awards. Both are fun reads and will prepare you for the five books coming this year.

TNF: Could you list your upcoming works for 2010?

Eric: Yes, as of now, first up is Tandems of Terror a brand new, 100,000+ word collection I did with John Grover from Library of Horror Press. It certainly has a good share of zombie tales in it but also includes SF horror tales, werewolves, and more. Bigfoot War will be released very shortly from Cocsom Entertainment and The Human Experiment will be out this summer from Altered Dimensions Press. In the Fall, Anti-Heroes, the continuation of The Human Experiment and featuring a brand new alien hero from David Dunwoody will be released from The Library of Science Fiction Press. And the year will conclude with THE WEAPONER, my return to full on, rotting, hungry hordes of undead, from Coscom Entertainment. I am also slated to be in numerous anthologies this year and even had the pleasure of writing a few introductions such as one of the upcoming Letters from the Dead anthology. In addition, I will be continuing my column on comics in Abandoned Towers Magazine and starting a new one in April/May for Morpheus Tales Magazine about my own life and experiences as a writer.

- - - - - END OF TRANSMISSION - - - - -

I seized Malia’s hand and sprinted toward the mouth of the tunnel. I ran ahead, dragging her behind, her feet catching on the pulsing membrane that served as a floor. Even as I ran, I felt the strain on my thighs as I sank in with each step. I erased everything except a single word. Run.

We drew nearer the entrance and the forest of tentacles thickened. I began to dodge and weave to avoid each drunkenly waiving limb, jerking Malia so her breath came as sobs. Her joints were delicate from long imprisonment, but I had no choice. I wondered, a distant academic wonder, if I’d need to reset the ball of her humerus into its shoulder socket when we made daylight. If we made it.

A feathery shriek and Malia stopped moving. I cursed my own mind for wandering.

“Marshall! No!” she begged. The pallor of her face spoke in green and grays of pain, exhaustion and sickness. She flailed her left leg against a tentacle and her fingernails bit into my skin.

I withdrew a knife from the sheath around my waist and swiftly scored the throbbing tentacle entwining her calf. Its blood oozed and sizzled on the blade, but thankfully, the grotesque limb loosened. I grabbed her waist, careful to avoid touching her with the disintegrating blade, and yanked her free.

Her ear fell against my mouth and I could smell her, her sick scent like spice cake and pepper. I wondered how ill she would become as I drew her farther and farther from her only source of survival. I wondered how much she was hiding behind her weary gray eyes. She was loathe to disappoint me, because she believed I’d come to rescue her for love. And I had, just not the love of her.

“We must go faster now,” I whispered. “The blood will run and the contractions will begin. You have to give me everything.” She didn’t respond in voice but I felt her push with greater determination into the pulpy floor. I tossed the knife away, which was by now eaten down to the hilt by acidity and we ran. Malia kept up with me for a while and the triangle of exit light expanded. We ran with a stream of gray Trangleblood oozing behind us, and promise of sweet reward drawing us on.

I had been six months in finding her, one of the snatched children alive and incubating a vaccine for the Trangle’s toxic spores. She was from a distant town, one on the opposite side of the mountain but had been desperate enough to believe I had come for her and her alone. It was the only way she’d risk the exit, the desperate dash we were making right now. In fact, it had taken me a week to convince her, every day of which I had silently cursed her for making Glorya wait. Glorya had waited long enough.

When I’d left the village, her pain had been growing slowly, like tendrils, infiltrating Glorya’s muscles, and every day was another of clinging by fingernails against it the toxin’s tide. This girl, Malia, brewed the antidote inside her sink and never had I held something so precious and hopeful in my hand.

We were within scent of free air, when the message was finally transferred to the rest of the wandering arms that an intruder was afoot. The tentacles shifted from aimless wave to systematic search. They still flailed, sightless and senseless, around the cavern but I sensed a subtle difference in their speed and direction. More often they explored inward, along the main corridor of the tunnel.

I increased the erratic pacing of our flight. We dodged and ducked. I yanked poor Malia high and low as searching tentacles grazed her face and arms. We detoured around thigh fat tentacles erupting from the floor, marginally missing the measured capture of their tips. Ironically, the organized search made it easier to calculate when and where each tentacle would pass, thus easier to evade.

Malia slowed. I willed her to keep going, saving all my breath for myself. She stumbled and fell with the weight of a body no longer alive. I tugged her arm, hoping, praying she’d rise. It was like tugging a tree branch or a shipping rope.

An electric terror surged up my spine but I couldn’t allow it to rule me. If Malia died, the antibodies surging through her bloodstream would congeal in her vessels within the hour and she would be nothing but the stiffening meat of someone else’s lost girl.

I ducked a searching tentacle and slung the girl’s dead weight over my shoulder so her matted hair hung down my back. She moaned, a desperate sound, but it was enough to propel me forward. We burst through the triangle of daylight. For the first time since I’d crawled inside the living mountain, I sucked in a hopeful breath. I imagined Glorya rising out of bed, pale and slender, with Malia’s antibodies pumping through her veins. It would be like we planned again, I knew it, and Malia, who hung like laundry folded over my shoulder was the key opening the way home.

My feet skittered on the talus littering the hillside. My knees, gone soft like heated tallow, folded long enough that, like a seaman trying to find his land legs, I stumbled. The weight on my shoulder pulled me forward and we finished the decent at a tumble.

I lifted my head, ears still ringing, and checked for Malia. She laid crumpled, two feel from me, her forehead opened up by a sharp stone on the talus field. Her eyelashes struggled to shed the running blood but breath still pushed in and out between her lips.

Never mind, I thought, hoisting her once again to my shoulders. Once we reach the village, she’ll be bled dry anyway.

Copyright: © 2010 Christie Isler
Christie Isler is a poet, writer and teacher in the Pacific Northwest. She has seen her short fiction published in online collections included Infinite Windows and Every Day Fiction. She has also published poetry in online and print collections. Christie makes her physical home outside of Seattle, Washington and her online home at thetriptakesyou.wordpress.com.

“Oh my God would you just look at this mess!” Bonnie Bluetooth screeched upon entering her son’s room. The bed was unmade. His clothes, along with fast-food bags, were tossed everywhere, half-empty soda cans covered his desk, dresser and nightstand. She gagged a little as the smell of dried ketchup and feet attacked her nose. “Benjamin would you just look at it!” she added, tip-toeing through the minefield of trash.

Benjamin rolled his glassy eyes then surveyed his domain. “Looks fine to me, mom,” he snapped-back, cocking a pierced eyebrow. He returned his attention to his computer, clicked the mouse and Avenged Sevenfold’s Bat Country blasted-out through the speakers.

Bonnie put her hands on her hips and began tapping her foot. She tilted her blond head and gave him the look.

Benjamin could feel his mom’s intense-blue eyes boring into the back of his head. He let out a pissed-off sigh and mumbled, “Okay, mom. I’ll clean it up in a minute.”

Bonnie nodded her head firmly. “Well hop to it, mister,” she said, straightening a wrinkle in her yellow sundress. She began to walk out of the room when a red stain by the closet caught her eyes. “What is this?”

“It’s nothing, mom!”

“Nothing?!” Bonnie rebuffed, voice raising. “It doesn’t look like nothing!” Her blue eyes meet his eyes. And the look made another appearance.

Benjamin lowered his head like a pouting dog. “Mom, really it… it’s nothing.”

“Well, I’ll just see about that!” Bonnie grabbed the doorknob.

“Mom!” Benjamin whined, getting up, face growing pale. “Don’t look in there!”

She extended her index finger on her free hand, and motioned for him to sit back down. He did but he sobbed; “Please don’t look in there, mom.”

Bonnie swung the door open swiftly. She gasped-for-air as she saw the body of

Benjamin’s best friend, Tyler, laying there in a pool of sticky blood.

“Oh! My! God!” Bonnie ranted, eyes flared. “How many times have I told you, Benjamin, that if you’re going to kill your friends to do it in the basement! There’s no carpet down there and the mess is always easier to clean!”

“Sorry, mom, I will the next time.” Benjamin gave her a shit-eating grin and added, “I promise.”

“Damn right you will!” she said, slamming the closet door. “Now, get this room cleaned up, then come downstairs for dinner. I’ve made your favorite tonight. Spaghetti with heart shaped meatballs.”

“Mmm, sounds good,” Benjamin moaned. “But what’s for dessert?”

“Dessert?!” Bonnie retorted, giving him the look again and opening the closet door once more. “After this mess that you did, you think that you’re going to get dessert?”

Benjamin’s face turned into a question mark. All he did was shrug his scrawny shoulders.

Bonnie shook her head somberly and said, “Oh my God! Teenagers now of days!”

"Oh My God"
Copyright: © 20010 Chad Case

Chad Case lives in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, with his wife, Melissa. He enjoys writing short horror fiction in his spare time. To date his works have been published on MicroHorror.com, The New Flesh Blogzine, Flashes In The Dark, Flashshot, and in the anthology: Toe Tags.

I’m looking for Linda. Have you seen her? She likes to spend her afternoons here reading magazines and drinking coffee. She says you guys have the best coffee in town. She...she...Ha. Haha! HAHAHA! HEE-HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Sorry about that. I had to shift the marbles. Cat’s Eyes to the right, Steelies to the left. That’s the way they work best. If they get bunched up in the middle they make me laugh. And it always seems to happen at the most inappropriate times. I laughed at Linda when she broke up with me. I was devastated, but I laughed anyway because the marbles had slipped. The Steelies were on the right that time. It’s hard to keep them on the correct sides because there’s moisture in there and it makes things shift.

But it’s not always bad. Sometimes things work out. Sometimes the marbles stay put and everything’s fine. Sometimes I go days without having to take my ball cap off and reach in there to rearrange them. It hurts when I poke around too much. Sometimes I touch the wrong spot and it makes me wet my pants. One time it happened on the bus. I got up at my stop and there was a big puddle on the seat. I think the Cat’s Eyes had slid to the back that time.

The worst pain I ever felt was the day I was eating hot peppers and I felt the Steelies shift. I took off my cap, and without washing the pepper juice off my hand first, I dipped my fingers through the hole in my skull. Once that juice hit my brain it was like my whole head went up in flames. I ran through the restaurant screaming and knocking tables over. It must have been a sight. Anyway, I grabbed the fire extinguisher off the wall and tried to spray my head with it but my aim was all off. So I handed it to this cook who was just standing there staring at me and I said, "Put the fire out!" But he just kept staring at the hole in my head with this stupid look on his face. I don’t eat there anymore. If they can’t help their customers, they don’t deserve my business.

So now I carry a spray bottle in my pocket in case that ever happens again. I keep hoping I’ll run into Linda somewhere so I can show her my spray bottle. Show her how smart I am. She’s the one who told me I’m crazy. But I ask you, would a crazy man know the proper way to situate these marbles? Would a psychopath have the mental capacity to understand why they work in the first place? Would a man of questionable cognition possess the capability to learn from his mistakes, to realize that vacuum cleaner parts don’t work, that the nuts and bolts, while roughly the same size as marbles, tend to get lodged between the skull and the frontal lobe, and sometimes even wedge themselves beneath the corpus collosum, causing me to… to… Parumph! Parumph! Parruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Sorry about that. Had to shift the marbles again. Now where was I? Where’s Linda?

Copyright: © 2010
Chris Reed

Chris Reed is the author of more than 50 short stories. His fiction has appeared in a variety of small press publications including Black Ink Horror, Chimeraworld 5, and the Cutting Block Press anthology, Tattered Souls: The Provocative Boundary of Fear. When not writing, he spends his time browsing thrift stores, eating pizza, and waiting for hockey fights to break out, sometimes simultaneously. He lives in Davison, MI, with his photographer wife and their two enigmatic children. VILE VISIONS, his first collection of fiction, is now available at his Web site: www.ChrisReedFiction.com.

"To the dead!" I toasted with Jason, my partner in pathology.

"Ah yes Joe, always and forever, to the best listeners in the world!"

We chinked our wine glasses at the end of the toast over a freshly carved woman who was brought into our morgue on the suspicion of foul play. The NYPD always liked my ways of cradling the dead’s essence, taking organ by seeping organ and studying it until I derived the answers they needed. I have been the coroner of New York City for eleven years already, and Jason had been my partner for ten of those years.

"Vino Rosso is not going to get the kicks in us tonight, Joe. Check this out," Jason said as he stuck his hand into his jacket pocket.

"What bag of tricks do you have tonight buddy?”" I asked him with an inquisitive grin.

My heart was ready to take on whatever drug he had in stock for us, after all it was tradition. As my scalpel cuts and splits the cooled flesh of the dead forming a dull crimson Y, we always dabble in strong drugs to enhance our experience; it was almost magical for us. Jason fumbled a tiny bag labeled with an ‘M’ from his breast pocket.

"Mushrooms, Joey. We are going to feast tonight."

"Mushrooms and wine, ha, I feel sixteen all over again!"

We ate the shriveled black things in one gulp. They looked like expired dog treats when passed over our poor little Celia’s dead body. She tested positive for date rape drugs, and was probably still swimming in that permanent high even in death. As Jason’s hand passed some crumbled remnants into mine, a dissevered piece fell and plopped into the stew of parted intestine, but I paid it no mind. I knew I’d just sew her up later with my best needle and thread and bag her body like the rest.

Immediately after ingesting the drugs, I felt the swirling in my head. An unconscious and noxious muscular blow from the abraded Japanese mushrooms smacked my brain hard. Jason’s green eyes glared from the fluorescent lights above like a cat at night. He reminded me then of his first encounter with the dead, uncomfortable but undyingly curious.

"Where did you buy these?" I asked him.

"Huh?" he said heavily dazed, "Oh, Canal Street. At one of those weird stands. The peddler woman said that if I wanted a good time, I should eat these. And that if I wanted to see things and really see life, that these were for me. I just assumed they were the best hallucinogenic around."

I nodded him off and then began my usual walk around the morgue. We touched the smooth metal surfaces, opened the pizza oven holders and shook cold hands with various dead. We walked over to jarred organs and watched as our faces went wild like carnival mirrors. I came to Celia’s heart, enlarged and fetid even with the cap closed. Her right coronary artery was black with decay; her mitral valve was a ruined and pulpous mess, lack of aortic blood flow the immediate cause of death.

Her pulmonary valve was spongy and deteriorated due to slabs of tobacco sludge at the base of her withered, grey lungs. I put the jar down took out the slimy sack of apex meat. My head still whirled and told me to give her back the one organ that the dead deserved the most, their love muscle. So I decided to do just that, but not without proper examination first to make sure I did not miss anything. I explored her chest cavity, the blood all settled at the bottom, not yet sucked out with our high powered vacuum.

"Skin temperature is up…strange, but not uncommon," I said to Jason.

He paid no mind to me, was twirling around in adolescent circles, entranced by the strange Japanese mushrooms. I believed the effect on me was waning as my stitching was exquisite. If she were alive she’d be left minimally scarred. Then I heard the thump like a dropped sack of potatoes, first one, and then two.

As Celia began to sit upright, her body gleaming in the fluorescent light, eyes hungry black caverns, I bolted out of the place for my life. But poor Jason stayed dancing with the dead in the room. And I still hope that he is.

"You Never Know"
Copyright: © 2009 Daniel Fabiani

Daniel Fabiani is a 22 year old kid from NYC with the accent to prove it! He loves all things horror and works in a hospital, witnessing horrific things and getting paid for it. He is a fanatic for cooking and romance languages and is also a wine lover. He writes existential horror and feels it is sewed to his soul. He is a self-proclaimed bookworm and is not afraid to show it. He is 4x published in SNM horror and has credits in New Flesh, Sex and Murder, Drops of Crimson, and microhorror. He has a new website and would love everyone to join it! Well at least look at it: http://danfabiani.webs.com

"You Never Know" originally published July 2009 at Microhorror.com.

When I was ten I liked reading by the fireplace until everyone else had gone to bed.

Then I’d switch the lights off and run up the stairs.

I’d climb them fast (two or three at a time), imagining cold clammy hands groping at my back.

Now I’m a hundred and six—or would have been if I hadn’t died twenty-three years ago.

I still like to read by the fireplace. It does nothing to keep my hands warm, but it does wonders for my heart—especially when the new kid flicks the lights off and dashes for the stairs.

"Cold Hands, Warm Heart"
Copyright: © 2010 Eugene Gramelis

Eugene Gramelis is a barrister and dark fiction writer from Sydney, Australia where he lives with his beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters. His fiction has appeared, or is scheduled to appear, in publications such as MicroHorror, Crime and Suspense Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, The Daily Tourniquet, Midnight Echo, Afterburn SF and The New Flesh. Please feel free to visit Eugene's official webpage: http://gramelis.blogspot.com

Cynthia sat on the cool concrete porch that was nestled between two shrubs that lined the front of her house. She leaned so that her elbows sat on her knees and then she rested her chin on her hands with a huff. She was bored.

Her eyes wandered over to her faded hopscotch squares that she had crudely etched onto the cracked driveway with blue and pink chalk two days ago. Just next to it, laid her jump-rope with its frayed ends that stuck out beyond its faded splintered plastic handles. She had hopped, skipped, and jumped to exhaustion over the past two days and she was sick of it.

She sighed and scanned the yard. Her pink bicycle with its tiny white training wheels lay on its side. Its shimmering tassels hung from the ends of its handlebars, blowing like fine hair in the gentle mid-summer breeze.

A tire swing hung listlessly in the old oak tree on the edge of the property. She had already tried to swing in it earlier, but it was filled with old rainwater and dead bugs. Cynthia hated bugs, even old dead ones.

She sat up straight and sighed again. Maybe there are some cartoons on, she hoped, maybe even Scooby! She pushed herself off the porch when heard a noisy engine from down the street that caught her interest.

Her daddy had told her sometime before that it was “that idiotic McKenzie boy trying to impress the Wiggins girl,” whatever that meant. His car was really loud and he liked to screech the tires when he went through the stop signs.

The roaring engine grew closer and louder. The noise hurt Cynthia’s ears. She saw his car as it came into view. It was a bright green color with orange stripes and small black tires that had silver spokes in their centers. It was ugly, she thought. Actually her daddy was the one who said that it was ugly, and that was good enough for her.

Cynthia held her ears as the car drew nearer. It was going very fast, much faster than the normal cars that drove past. She narrowed her eyes and angrily hoped that a tire would blow out. That might show “that idiot McKenzie boy,” as her daddy would call him.

Just then there was a loud explosion.

The car lunged forward. The remaining tires screeched loudly. The back end of the car slid sideways and then the car rolled. It rolled over and over until it hit the old oak tree. An explosion of glass showered into the yard. Finally the car lay still, and so did its driver.

The car had hit so hard that some of the water was shaken from the tire swing. Afterward it twisted rocked back and forth slowly like and oscillating pendulum. Cynthia wondered how many dead bugs might have been thrown from it. It might be fit for swinging now.

Cynthia’s mommy came running from out of the house. She screamed, “Oh my God!” and snatched Cynthia from the porch. She brought Cynthia back inside the house and distracted her with cartoons, Scooby in fact!

Sirens in the distance prompted several neighborhood dogs to howl. Cynthia always found that to be funny. Why did they howl? she wondered. Do they want to be ambulances too? Silly doggies.

Cynthia’s mommy dialed a number and ducked into the kitchen where Cynthia could not hear her.

“Howard,” she said with a shaky voice, “Cynthia’s done it again.”

“What? Who was it this time?” he asked incredulously.

“It was Derrick McKenzie. I didn’t see him, but I don’t think he’s in very good shape. It was a pretty bad mess.” She covered her mouth as if to hold back the rising sensation of nausea.

After a pause, Howard answered, “Okay, I’ll be right there.”

Howard hung up the phone and smiled warmly at the glass-framed picture of his little girl that sat prominently on his desk.

Who knew that she would be bestowed with such amazing telekinetic powers? With her youthful ignorance, he only has to load and point the gun and she inadvertently pulls the trigger. She does so every single time without fail. And now that the McKenzie boy has been taken care of, there might be a decent night’s sleep ahead.

Howard grabbed the keys out of his desk drawer and cheerfully thought of her future potential.

"Daddy's Girl"
Copyright: © 2010 Brian Barnett
Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky.

To date, he has published over fifty stories since he began publishing in November 2008. He has been accepted by over twenty-five publications, online and in print, including four anthologies.

He was co-editor of the anthology “Toe Tags: 21 Spine-Tingling Tales from the Best New Authors of Horror” with William Pauley III.

For up-to-date news on Brian: