Until now, I didn’t know how good I was with massages. I was half an hour into it, scrubbing the pads of my fingers around my boyfriend’s ribs and spine, squeezing his shoulder muscles, and rubbing up the sides of his neck with my hands about to give out. Then as I worked back down his ribs and spine he dragged on a moan and passed-out beneath me with a smile.

When his head snapped to the other side, I didn’t expect his bones to crumble in my fingers. The eagle tattooed on his back then rolled its eyes and let its tongue limp to one side of its beak. I didn’t know what to do, so I scratched the eagle behind its ear and felt jiggling fragments of spine as I continued to work the other hand around the jellied meat of his left lower back. At this point I noticed his fingers curling into his palms and blanching the skin before finally drawing blood. I didn’t think the worst of it until I worked my way back up. The back of his neck unzipped to the top of his head and his skull started to split, at which point I dismounted and grabbed for the phone.

He snapped his head back before I could dial any numbers and his neck sewed itself shut while bone and flesh took the time to return to form. Facing me with a lazy frown, he asked, “Why did you stop?"


"Crumble"

Copyright: © 2010 Edmund Colell
-------------------------------------









A dozen goblins riding vampire cats pursued Newt, the monster hunter, as he stumbled through the mist covered graveyard.

The goblins yelled, "Give us your delicious, luscious pickled eyeball! Give it to us!"

Newt looked over his shoulder to see how close they were and tripped over a grave marker. Springing to his feet, he found himself in front of the mausoleum his netherworld guide book had described.

He took out the pickle jar he was carrying which contained his eyeball. A hungry ghoul had gouged it out. He realized that monsters found hunters' eyeballs irresistible and that a pickled eyeball is a rare treat.

Seconds later, three goblins rode up and surrounded him.

"Give us your pickled eyeball or we'll kill you," said one of the goblins.

"Come and get it you creepy crawlies," he replied.

The goblins let out blood-curdling yells and tried to snatch the jar from his hand. He slugged two of the goblins and they fell off their cats unconscious.

The other goblin wrestled Newt to the ground, kicking and punching him, but he held tightly onto the jar. He screamed as the goblin sunk its serrated teeth into his hand. He dropped the jar and the goblin grabbed it.

"At last, I have the tasty pickled eyeball!" said the goblin and swallowed.

"Oh no you don't," yelled Newt as he lunged for it.

The goblin began to turn purple and grabbed its throat. Newt kicked the goblin in the gut and the eyeball flew out of its mouth.

As Newt caught it and put it back into the jar, he heard the goblin reinforcements coming. He took out his guide book and chanted an incantation from it. The doors shook violently then opened, revealing a black portal that made a giant sucking noise. Newt watched as the dozen screaming goblins and vampire cats were pulled into the portal. After they had all been sucked in, the noise ceased and the doors slammed shut.

Newt had rid the town of goblins, sending them back to the netherworld from which they had come. He collected his reward money from the town's mayor and headed to the other side of the planet with his eyeball safely in the pickle jar. He had heard that a bed and breakfast inn had a zombie problem.


"All n a Day's Work"

Copyright: © 2010 Linda Garnett
-------------------------------------

Linda Garnett is currently editing her first novel, a science fiction adventure. Her work has appeared in StoriesThatLift.com, Flashes In The Dark, The New Flesh, Static Movement and other publications. When she’s not writing, Linda profiles up and coming musicians on her blog http://musicofnote-lindag.blogspot.com/.






Headed north to Roseau, Minnesota, he pulled over upon seeing the hitchhiker. Her solid, muscular frame and long brown hair convinced him she was likely a Wisconsin farm girl.

“Where’ye headed?”

“Roseau — Forestry Service job.”

“Well get in then, I’m Jim. Got a name?”

“Eula.”

Testing that the door opened freely, she sat down. Driving off Jim mused, “sure ain’t a big talker, bit glum lookin’, mind you —” Shifting towards her with a ‘yunno you really want it’ look, he pulled up short before the Bowie knife she had drawn from an ankle sheath.

“Make like a clam and drive, Jim.”

After lunch alone at the Pine Bluff Diner she crossed Centre St. to the Forestry Office and addressed the woman at the desk:

“Trail clearing job still available?”

“Yes, think you can handle it? half the people this year have quit, most without notice.”

“Need the money. My family were loggers.”

“Well, officer Guldbranson will be the one to decide.” Turning, she shouted into the room behind her, “Hey, Jim!”

Eula cringed, glaring at Jim as he came out, sporting a crisp uniform and a grin.

“You’re hired.”

Informed of her responsibilities, she replied, “Fine.”

“Try anything again...” she added, glancing at her ankle sheath, “and I’ll gut you and leave you for the crows.”

“Yes, Miss Dangerous,” he replied smirking. “Monday, 6 o’clock. You’ll be working with Doug and Daphne, they’re pros. Pick up a uniform on the way out.”

*   *   *

Jim had driven them out to the Lost River State Forest and was to return at supper time. Weighted down with pick and shovel, chain-saws, a jerry-can of gas, nails to assemble a log bridge, and their lunches, they had had to bush-whack deep into the forest to reach their work site — Forestry Service policy allowed no motorized vehicles in the forest.

A couple of weeks of sweat, mosquitoes, clearing brush, along with hauling and assembling logs for the bridge in knee-deep mud had brought the trio closer. Noise in the bush near their work site — possibly bears — convinced Jim to supply them with an old bolt action .303 he’d gotten up in Canada. Picking it up, Eula smoothly worked the bolt, inserted a cartridge, closed the breech and, bracing herself, took a branch off a nearby tree — Doug and Daphne elected her gun-bearer.

The weather had changed. Dark clouds, a fog-dense atmosphere and a pervasive grey twilight reigned. Whatever was out there had failed to be driven away by warning shots. A putrid smell would occasionally waft through the forest suggesting a nearby bear-kill. On one such occasion Daphne thought she’d seen a tall, emaciated and very elderly man dodging quickly through the undergrowth. When a couple of members of the crew across the ridge went AWOL, and the noises and furtive shadows grew more frequent, the three agreed to work in closer proximity, one always carrying the rifle.

An uneventful week of clear weather left the trio feeling somewhat relieved — they would see the summer through and collect full pay.

Early August brought more hot, rainy, overcast weather. Upon shifting their work to a section of trail buried in an inextricably tangle of splintered regrowth brought on by a spring ice-storm, the noise in the bush and the stench had recurred. Daphne and Doug decided to find out once and for all what was going on. They would take the rifle, Eula would stay put, chain saws and a double-bitted axe would deter any potential intruder.

Drawing her watch along with a handful of .303 shells from her pocket, Eula realized she’d been waiting over three hours. The wind had shifted and the rain had stopped, but the stench had worsened. The axe and smallest chainsaw in hand, she first headed for the pickup point, but a flitting shadow of a man up the trail sent her instinctively back — worse case she’d cross the ridge and join the other team. She felt the need to move stealthily, keeping trees and brush between her and the vague, shadowy threat. The stench worsened as she climbed a ridge from the crest of which several immense firs trees had fallen and their leafy crowns come to rest together on a rocky outcrop. The emaciated man appeared, rapidly climbing the hill, but she knew better than to draw his attention. On a ledge above the fallen trees, the stench suddenly hit her: on a ledge below, among the fir boughs, were bodies, piled like cord-wood, some well advanced in putrefaction, others — Daphne, Doug — fresh, all clearly missing substantial portions of flesh.

Dropping axe and chainsaw, Eula picked up the discarded rifle, and loaded a fresh shell. Something stirred in the foliage surrounding the bodies. A loathsome, emaciated semblance of a man crept up towards her, pausing for a large morsel from its larder. The momentary mesmerism of its glowing eyes, and her gut-wrenching disgust were overcome by an overpowering anger. She fired at it, round after round, the bolt singeing her hand when she finally expended the last round — it only tumbled down among the fir branches to rise again, climbing even faster. The shells spent, she reached for the axe, and swinging it over her head let it fly. The vile creature howled, temporarily pinned to a tree trunk. Picking up the chainsaw she grasped the pull-handle, released it, and instead uncapped the gas tank and poured out all but a couple of ounces over the stone and fir boughs. Then she yanked hard, the chainsaw sputtered, then caught. The creature had yet to free itself. She leaned down and ground the blade into the rock, and was blown back as the fuel ignited and flames spread rapidly to the resinous branches. Then she ran.

Putting Eula on the bus a week later, Jim informed her: “That hillside ain’t nothing but cinders, just as well, between you and me — the cops wouldn’t buy your story, the wendigo ain’t been seen here since the 20s. Now, take care of yourself.”


"Larder"

Copyright: © 2010 Georges Dodds

-------------------------------------

Published in strong competitors to The New Flesh like International Agrophysics and Estudos de Literatura Oral, Georges Dodds has until recently kept his weird writing under mouldy cerements. His recent genre activities include textual resurrection for a publisher of Gothic novels, unearthing and presenting in an e-library some thematic precursors of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, translating early French science-fiction to English, and preparing a collection of American dime-novelist William Murray Graydon's earliest adventure stories. Georges and his 3-species family (4 with the goldfish), lives in a former bus garage, on the now relocated site of an18th century cemetery -- so far tilling the garden hasn't revealed its past.







Always learn to question your realities, for many they contain dual meanings.

This was the message I'd found carved in my beloved wife's stomach in the year of 1985. I woke up early that morning to take a hot, tranquil piss and I was in extraordinarily high spirits until I noticed a man--a goddamn Frenchman, of all people!--with this malnourished looking pencil-thin mustache of his and victorian-era sideburns carving words into my wife Beth's stomach.

I cursed the sonofabitch like any good, straight shooting American would and took a swing for the frog bastard's throat but he'd been too quick for me--dodging, then kicking me in the nuts and then diving off the goddamn balcony on to this weird little pink-colored communist-style moe pad vehicle he had semi-hidden in the half-shaded alley of my soul/heart/mind.

"Goddamn Frenchman!" I yelled indignantly out the window, shaking my right-hand fist.

Beth did not die outright. She asked me How could you? I said "Dear--how could I what?" She said you must really be going crazy honey--you used my stomach as a goddamn flesh-chalkboard.

"'Flesh Chalkboard,'" I repeated her.

And then I laughed at her whimsy.

"Hahaha--babe, you're all right!"

And then she gurgled some--it was a funny noise, like similar to what you might hear gargling Listerine in the morning or at night.

And then she died.

"Hey kids, come in here!" I yelled merrily toward Trish ad Robbie's rooms. "Your mother has just expired--bring me the goddamn polaroid!"

In walked Trish.

"Dad," she says, eyeing her mother's corpse, the dark crimson writing deep in her flesh. Unimpressed. She said, "That's cool, really."

I was hurt. She stabbed me, figuratively speaking, deeper than that deranged Frenchman had carved Beth. But at least he had been kind enough to have stabbed her fatally, and have her put out of her misery... My daughter's words will haunt me the rest of my life.

"You really dislike it, Trish? T-R-I-S-H."

I show her my pearly-whites as I verbally spell out her name. "That's not very nice! The Frenchman had gone through an awful lot of goddamn trouble for you!"

Trish stared at me mundanely, uninterested. I was going to rebuke her some more for her terrible, barnlike manners when I heard a moe pad outside. I was thoroughly well-prepared for the Frenchman. But it was not he. No. This time around it was the goddamn Matthews boy.

Trish said, while dabbing makeup on to her face "It's okay--daddy. It is only my date."

"Date?" I said. "Why, it's morning time!

On my day we'd go on dates at nigh--"

"Sorry, daddy, gotta run." Trish had cut me off, kissing my cheek. Again, you have got to understand: this was 1985. Not 2010.

My heart was beginning to sink like the goddamn Titanic, boy, let me tell you! And all those unfortunate victims--you see, like Beth, they were put out of their miseries. So it wasn't as cruel. The glacier, just like the Frenchman, was no killer. Merely the cataylst.

Trish was by no means a stupid girl. She knew I had intended this gruesome scene to be a heart-warming family moment. (When life gives you tomoatoes, make pizza.) But she did not appreciate it. Arrogant bitch...

I'd started to slink away toward Robbie's room. But after only a few steps Trish said something to me. The second she said "Daddy" I had started to feel important again.

"Yes, honey?"

"Don't you think you should call the coroner and the police? Mom's gonna start to stink and decay before we know it. And the Frenchman is still at large.

Don't you think he should be stopped before perpetrating more evil like this on our country and society?"

"Yes, Kitten, of course," I assured her as I kissed her sweet-smelling forehead. "Go anywhere you want. Just be back before midnight."

I peered out the balcony window. And I saw my beautiful fourteen-year-old daughter mount the purple moe pad, her hands tightly clutching the Matthews boy's stomach.

Off they sped.

They reminded me of Beth and I.  Two decades ago.

I dialed 9-11 and told the operator the whole story--about the Frenchman killing the wife, then kicking me in the balls, and then leaping out my balcony window and landing deftly on to his little communist contraption.

Before the police's arrival I had myself a good cry... And a damn good martini. For good measure, I put some of Beth's blood in it. "For old time's sake," I'd said out loud. I then sagged to the carpet-floor.

What is the meaning to this, I thought--the Frenchman was trying to tell me something. His methods were a bit drastic, yes, but at least we were communicating. Or at least trying to. At least the Frenchman tried to communicate with me, unlike my children. But. What. Was. The. Meaning?

Dear God--I can still hear Robbie snoring. After all that commotion. That boy could sleep through a trainwreck if he wanted to, I thought bitterly. I hope to hell he doesn't, after waking and seeing the Frenchman's handiwork feel the need to criticize it. The Frenchman hates criticism. The sister, I suspect, has bruised his ego severely enough today. But the boy better not follow suit. If he does, the Frenchman might have a twelve-gauge waiting for him as a response...

The cops' arrival was ten minutes later. I offered them each a cup of coffee but they declined, saying, "No thank you, Mr. Brakenridge. We have enough energy. Really, we do."

Those words hit me like music. And I thought we'd get along fine. For years.

Sergeant Martinez and his deputy pushed me to the floor. Martinez had this goddamn shiny thirty-eight pistol trained at my head. His face: really red. And pale. Irish or Scottish extraction, definitely. But not Mexican. Not even remotely Spanish...

I asked him, as they were handcuffing me if he had been adopted.

That question was the only thing that mattered to me, at the time.

"Sergeant Martinez--Sergeant Martinez!"

But he acted like he couldn't hear me. Or worse, like the bastard wouldn't even dignify my question with an acknowledgement.

"Mr. Brakenridge. You are under arrest... You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say will be--"
"For what," I talked over his voice, repeating the question three times in a row.

But he kept reading me the goddamn Miranda.

Until he finally answered my question.

"For pretending to be a goddam Frenchman."



"1985"

Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow

-------------------------------------


Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.






Eula was last person I’d expected to meet in the small Pennsylvania college town of Sheshequin where I was spending a week helping a friend paint his house. I did a double-take upon seeing her in the plaid skirt and crisp white blouse of the town’s small private college, but her lazy eye convinced me it was her.

“What the hell are you doing here, and what’s with the get-up?” I blurted out.

Eyeing me with wry amusement, she then took on a more serious expression. Her mom’s rapid decline and their land’s expropriation by the Power Authority had left her motherless and homeless, if comfortable. My uncle, thankful for the service she had rendered his son, had seen to it that nothing impeded her admittance to the college’s self-directed studies programme.

“How you findin’ school?” I asked -- “bit of a change for Miss Grizzly Adams?” I added, rather untactfully.

“Dunno when to make like a clam, do ya? I get by. School’s got a tract o’ bush just for me,” she said sarcastically, “out that way, on the Susquehanna shore,” she pointed. Our conversation was interrupted as a police car went screaming off in that very direction.

We agreed to meet the next day, but upon reading the morning paper’s headline, “State Worker Assaulted in Forest Reserve,” I was serious concerned. I gave Eula a big hug when she arrived outside my friend’s place.

“I was worried,” I said sheepishly and showed her the newspaper. “It doesn’t seem the police have much to go on. ‘...woman working overnight at new USFS Research Facility...dozed off...woke up to find herself in the hands of an intruder.’”

“If they’d have given a damn about the forest, they wouldn’t have dug that ugly trench across it to run water and power out there. I’ll pick you up at five, we’ll go have a look.”

I would have argued but she’d already left.

A little after five a battered F-150 pulled up, and there was Eula as I remembered her: work boots, heavy canvas shorts, a worn T-shirt, and sweat-stained ball-cap. We drove out to the forest. The contrast between the forest’s leaf cover and the newly grass-covered soil along the trench was obvious. Ignoring the “Do Not Enter. Crime Scene” signs we approached the building. A single broad-leaved plant had grown up among the grass near a pile of stony fill. Eula looked at it carefully.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Shouldn’t be here,” replied Eula, looking puzzled, “shouldn’t be here at all, worn river stones in this spot, sand and silt everywhere else.”

“What’s not right?”

“Mandragora...shouldn’t be here, and those stones should be in a river bed”

“You mean like Mandrake root, like Mandrake the Magician?”

Eula sighed and added, “Let me deal with it.”

Two mornings later Eula rapped at my friends door. She looked haggard, strangely dejected. Her legs and face were scratched.

“What the hell happened to you?”

“Spent the night in the forest, should’ve known better and asked you to come.”

“You didn’t get hurt by...you didn’t go out there alone! did you?”

“Things didn’t get that far, least ways I don’t reckon so, I just dunno.”

Opening a book and pointing, she said, “read!”




“Mandrake, Range limited to Europe...”

“So what’s it doin’ out there? Now look at this.”

“‘Map of the Susquehanna River 1835’ and one from 1911, so what’s that tell me?”

“Here’s the forest, here’s the building — 1835— the land was a swampy low-lying ox-bow, see? now, 1911, the channel’s shifted, the ox-bow’s been buried in silt by the 1904 flood.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Look at the first book, where do mandrake’s grow?” she pointed to a passage.

“Hmmm, ‘Crossroads, under gallows’...oh c’mon you don’t believe this crap, do you? Besides there’s no crossroads, no gallows.”

“Haven’t figured that out, but I’ll damn sure let you know when I do...c’mon, let’s go,” she indicated her truck.

The rear of the truck was heaped with fresh earth. We got out to the woods. Turning the truck around, Eula backed it roughly all the way to the building. Getting out I noticed the mandrake had been torn up. Getting closer I saw Eula’s boot tracks, the imprint of her knees where she’d torn up the plant and a dark stain beside the wilted plant. I looked at her questioningly, but “made like a clam” — Eula was crying. She pushed me away, adding, “cover the ground, especially there,” wincing perceptibly as she pointed to the wilted mandrake.

I spent a couple of hours making sure everything was covered.

“I’m all for landscaping the place, but what was wrong with the ground here? Where’s this dirt from?”

“They’re excavating behind the church new rectory. It’s a hunch, just a hunch, just pray it works -- just pray,” and she collapsed to the forest floor. I took her in my arms, put her in the cab and took the wheel. I left her with her roommate, telling her I’d come by the next morning to see Eula.

The next day, unable to track Eula down, I reluctantly left. Anytime I got in touch with my friend I’d ask if he’d seen her or if any other incidents had occurred -- none had. A couple of months later I heard Eula had been hospitalized for acute ergot poisoning, but had pulled through. Odd though, she’d never struck me as a druggie. I tried to contact her at the college but she had apparently dropped out.

A couple of weeks later I received an envelope with no return address and a Buffalo, NY postmark containing pages photocopied from a book, but no message. It was an account of the reprisals led by Col. Hartley following the Battle of the Wyoming. A diary entry dated Sept. 14, 1778, related that a soldier who had ‘dishonoured’ three settlers’ daughters was summarily hung where the Sheshequin Path reached the swampy shore of the Susquehanna.


"Soiled"

Copyright: © 2010 Georges Dodds

-------------------------------------

Published in strong competitors to The New Flesh like International Agrophysics and Estudos de Literatura Oral, Georges Dodds has until recently kept his weird writing under mouldy cerements. His recent genre activities include textual resurrection for a publisher of Gothic novels, unearthing and presenting in an e-library some thematic precursors of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, translating early French science-fiction to English, and preparing a collection of American dime-novelist William Murray Graydon's earliest adventure stories. Georges and his 3-species family (4 with the goldfish), lives in a former bus garage, on the now relocated site of an18th century cemetery -- so far tilling the garden hasn't revealed its past.









Hector the Cyclops took the giant’s door into Harley Street Fine Gentlemen’s Accoutrements. The owner, Dabney, looked up and called out, "Good morning! How may I help you, sir?"

“I want a formal suit for Saturday night, the works,” the Cyclops said, towering over Dabney.

“Yes indeed, let me get your measurements, sir.” Dabney motioned Hector toward the ladder, which Dabney scurried up. In a few minutes the measurements were taken and colors for the tie, vest and cummerbund were selected.

“Anything else, sir?” Dabney asked. “If you have the means for it, might I recommend an eye?” as he pointed to the jars behind the double-locked grate on the back wall. A sign overhead read “Security Deposit Required.”

“An eye? I fancy that violet one,” Hector said. His mechanical eye had many superior features to a natural eye, including helping immensely in forecasting the future for his Masters. But for a formal family occasion like his brother’s wedding, only the real thing would do.

“Ah, the Elizabeth Taylor model. Excellent choice,” Dabney said. “You do realize these are extremely expensive sir, taking months to grow from cells derived from the original person. I would need a substantial security deposit. Non-refundable for late return.”

“Damn, I only have enough for the outfit,” the Cyclops said. He kept looking at the eye.

"Well, perhaps your mechanical eye? I hate to ask it, but it is more than enough to cover the cost of the Liz Taylor. We will take excellent care of your own. You will have it back Monday morning when you return.” Dabney gave his best close-the-deal smile.

“Alright. Fetch me the eye.”

Dabney pulled a gold key from around his neck and unlocked the grate. Pickle jars full of eyes filled the case, the perfect salinity of the brine maintaining them in prime condition. He scooped out the eye with the violet iris into a cup.

“Here you are sir,” pressing the cup into the Cyclops' outstretched hand. Hector arranged the eye into position for insertion with eye pliers.

With the other hand, Hector popped out the mechanical eye, whose socket made a sucking noise as it emerged. Dabney wiped the eye on a towel and locked it in the safe.

Hector spread his eyelids and jammed in the purple eye. He blinked to settle it, and smiled for the first time.

“Perhaps a monocle for the final touch?” Dabney suggested, offering him a fine gold and enamel one.

“Excellent! My family will be thrilled!“ Hector said.

“Pleased to be of service, sir. Now if we can complete the financial transaction? Will that be cash, check, or credit card?” Dabney asked.


*   *  *

The lavish wedding was matched with an equally lavish reception with champagne fountains in every corner. Hector was the hit of the soiree with his astonishing purple eye. Some of Ms. Taylor’s sex appeal seemed to have rubbed off on him. He almost had to beat the women off with his cane, including the bride, much to his brother’s jealous dismay.

The festivities extended through the weekend until the revelers finally collapsed. The deadline slipped past Hector in his drunken daze as Monday came and went.

Dabney rejoiced that the hugely valuable mechanical eye was his. The clothing, eye and other items must be repossessed however. He looked up the address and got out the mini-cart, then caught the locomoter across town to the Cyclop Quarters. He found Hector’s home and rang the bell. After a long wait, slow and heavy footsteps approached.

“What do you want?” Hector said in a very grumpy voice.

“I’m here to collect the clothes and the eye, sir. You are a day late. Normally there is a penalty of losing a digit per day, but I decided not to enforce that clause, too messy,” Dabney said.

“Bloody hell, can’t you leave me in peace? My head is splitting!

“I’m sorry for that sir. But I’m afraid I must trouble you for the items, if you could be so kind.”

“Well wait then, dammit, I’ll get them,” Hector said, closing the door.

Dabney scanned the area for places to hide in case the Cyclops turned nasty. Clients sometimes did that, throwing items or hitting him on the head with their shoes.

Hector threw open the door. Clothing pelted Dabney and shoes bounced around him. The monocle followed and lastly the cane. Dabney bundled them into the cart.

“Now sir, the last item, the eye if you please.”

Hector popped it out and held it towards Dabney. “Give me my own eye.”

“One moment sir, let me put this one away first.”

Dabney put the violet eye in a small pickle jar and tucked it in his pocket.

“I’m afraid I don’t have your eye with me, sir. You forfeited it when you were a day late returning your items, sir.”

The Cyclops roared, “What do you mean forfeited! You little weasel! Give me back that eye then, you slimy worm, before I squash you like a bug! Then I’ll come tear down your shop and get my work eye back!”

“I’m afraid you have no legal grounds to do that sir. I would hate to have to sic my dragons on you,” Dabney yelled as he hauled the cart around the corner as fast as he could go. He kept looking over his shoulder at the blind Cyclops screaming and cursing behind him, stumbling over the curbs. Dabney put on a real burst of speed when he saw the Cyclops pull up a lamppost and sail it like a javelin in his direction.

Dabney reached the locomoter link and boarded. He called out, “You see, sir, the Contract reads ‘Consequences for late return will result in the forfeiture of all collateral, loss of one digit a day, and an eye for an eye’. So may I wish you a good day, sir. ”

As the locomoter started up he shouted, “Next time, sir, do read the fine print!”


"An Eye for an Eye"

Copyright: © 2010 Lin Neiswender

----------------------------------

Lin Neiswender is a retired computer programmer turned flash fictionista who lives in Central Florida. She dabbles in collage, tarot, Sheltland Sheepdogs, and poetry. Her stories have appeared online and in several anthologies.






So, there we were. Camped out there in the middle of the goddamn desert, dog-tired after a full day of wandering around looking for the enemy in any cave or hole we were unlucky enough to come across. Dozens of fucking caves, a couple empty villages, not one goddamn spook in any one of ‘em. We were getting restless, cagey, we had all this built up energy and day after day there was no fucking release. Just wandering in the desert, getting more and more disparate and god-fuckingly tired every minute.

See, we’d been trained from day one to find the enemy and eliminate the enemy. Seek and destroy, get out that anger. We knew what they did and it was our job to make ‘em pay. And for a while there, we did. We had a few months of good and proper seek and fuckin’ destroy. We were taught the philosophy that there are no innocents in a warzone. And brother, this whole fuckin’ country was a warzone. Basically, we thought we had it made. It looked like endless days of finding nests of these fuckers, shakin’ ‘em up, mowin’ ‘em down, lettin’ the world know that we will not be fucked with.

It was good to have an outlet.

But times changed. It looked like the enemy dried up some. We did our job a little too well. And then we got the call from up top that me and a couple of my boys were being sent out into the fuckin’ wastelands to look for any rogue factions or recruiting areas or some such shit. Fuck, we were basically just looking for targets. Doing what we were trained to. Find the enemy. Destroy the enemy. We were good at that. Real fuckin’ good. There’s a couple of villages back there in the warzone who’d tell you that if they were still capable of pushing the fuckin’ breath out to make the words.

And that was that. Day after day of not one fuckin’ glimpse of the enemy and our blood was fuckin’ boiling. It’s like breaking an addiction, going that long without killing after having it pounded into your fuckin’ head ‘til it’s like a second-fuckin’-nature. When you’re that good at killing, you start to feel like it’s your obligation to yourself and your creator.

Shit…

So there we were, camped out there in the middle of the goddamn desert, exhausted and going crazy from that goddamn urge in our bloodstreams. No sounds around us for miles and miles, no caves, no tunnels, no holes in the ground. We figured it was ad good a place as any to set up camp and get some rest for the first time in a few days.
I’ll tell you though, it almost felt like being back home before wartime. Me and the boys all laying out under the stars in our standard-issue sleeping bags, talking shit and passing around one of the bottles we took from some town back in the thick of it. We talked about the battles, we talked about home, we talked about our respective girls.

Really, we just talked about stupid shit that held no honest meaning or consequence for any of us since, and we all knew this, at that point there weren’t many real emotions left in us.

That’s when we heard it.

We were all having a fake laugh about something no longer relevant, and when we stopped laughing we still heard someone makin’ noise. I don’t think we had ever been that fast to grab our weapons and face whatever the fuck was out there.

But we waited, and we watched. We might’ve been killers, but stupid mistakes had been made before that resulted in the death of some of our own. So we waited for this babbling fucker to show himself.

And out of the dark, here comes this sandnigger with his arms outstretched, wearing a white robe that I could swear was shining and some kind of glowing headdress, babbling a mile-a-minute in Arabic or somethin’.

We figured the fucker had a bomb strapped to him under that robe, and we didn’t even want to think about what made that headdress glow. Shit, we didn’t really have the opportunity to think about it. As soon as we saw that it was a sandnigger comin’ at us, instinct kicked in and we did as we were trained.

I would be a fucking liar if I was to say that after all that time waiting it didn’t feel great.

We emptied our goddamn weapons into that fucker and he stopped glowing real quick. After he fell, we went and checked out the body and we had ourselves a good laugh when we saw that we had somehow put a single bullet through the center of each hand and foot. He had a real peaceful look on his face though, what was left of it. Kind of like he’d been here before…

Goddamn…

And we were slappin’ each other on the back, riding the adrenaline, and the sky fuckin’ opened up. Like a huge white crack across the night. We saw that and we fuckin’ took off to a good vantage point.

Four horsemen came riding out. Four tired looking figures, riding tired looking horses. And pulled behind them in a funerary chariot was a beautiful Anti-Christ in an impeccable suit.

He left the chariot and looked down on the guy we’d killed. The Anti-Christ shook his sweet head and gathered the corpse up into the chariot’s elongated back.

They took off back into the white. The sky sealed up piss-yellow and faded back to the dark and the stars.

A voice like a chorus of burning pipe-organs said, “There is nothing left to try.”

Things haven’t been the same since.



"All the Same"

Copyright: © 2010 Josh Myers

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Josh Myers has spent the past three years selling hot sauce in New Hope, Pa.  He lives in Lambertville, NJ where he spends his time alternately reading whatever he can and griping about the state of things.






It’s very easy to kidnap somebody. I know. I did it, and got away with it.

It wasn’t done for ransom, political reasons, or rape. Hell, I’m extremely wealthy, apolitical, and get serviced regularly by a bevy of acrobatic call girls.

I did it to get satisfaction for receiving eight, preprinted, nondescript, 3 x 4 inch, generic, reject slips from those bastards at Hollybird Publishing.

I’d sent them magnificent novella manuscripts. Eight in four years. And they didn’t have the damn decency to type or write a single word on their rejections. The preprinted rejection slips they stuffed into my self-addressed stamped envelopes were barely legible. And they all said the same thing about my novellas not meeting their current needs. Damn jerks!

Before I even dreamed of kidnapping, I was pretty happy-go-lucky. Money does that. At thirty-six, I’d seen it all, been everywhere, and done it all, with one exception: I’d never written a best seller. It shouldn’t have mattered. But one day, walking into a huge library, I noticed the mountain of books. Not a single one bore my name. The thought bugged me.

As new books were added to library shelves, my frustration increased. To relieve my distress, I wrote eight, sci-fi western novellas. Masterpieces. Followed every rule of fiction. My opening sentences had gripping hooks, the kind that knock your drawers off. My descriptions were divinely inspired. The dialog was crisp, dynamic, incredibly moving.

Self-publish or use the vanity press? Nope. Anybody can do that. I wanted my creations to bubble to the top by their sheer magnificence. I wanted to inspire and change readers’ lives.

But all I got were crummy reject slips.

Enough! I’d make them pay. Principle was involved. I made a plan.

First, I added a 40 x 50 foot, luxury bedroom and bath to my estate. Installed every convenience.

Then, a few calls to Hollybird identified Ms Victoria Chubbs the Editor-in-Chief. I paid triple the going rate for a private investigator who’d keep secrets. I learned where Chubbs lived, dined, and shopped. White Plains, New York. Tavern on the Green. Macy’s. But, she’d bought groceries at Wal-Mart, ten Sundays in a row.

That’s where I snatched her.

I locked her in the new bedroom.

When the chloroform wore off, she panicked. “Where am I? What’s going on? I wanna go home.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” I said gently over the intercom. “The bar’s full. Snacks are behind the bar. You’ll get gourmet meals. All your needs will be met scrupulously and respectfully. I’m not a rapist, or insane.”

“Please let me go.”

“After you complete certain tasks, I promise to release you unharmed, with twenty thousand dollars in your handbag. Make yourself at home. Look around. You’ll never rest your head in a more sumptuous room, and enjoy better food. Wait until you see the bathroom. Think of this as a vacation. A working vacation.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“In the desk are eight manuscripts. Each bears a rejection slip from Hollybird. Read all the manuscripts and write in longhand why they were rejected. Make suggestions for improvement. That’s all. Just that.”

“You gotta be kidding.”

“Nope. Dinner is at 7:00. Coq Au Vin. I’ll serve it through the dumbwaiter by the bar. Meanwhile, have a drink to settle your nerves.”

She looked around warily. Hopefully the fabulous surroundings and the vodka she poured would help calm her.

The surveillance camera showed her heading for the bathroom.

“I guess you’re gonna watch,” she said.

“The bathroom’s surveillance-free. I’m not a voyeur.”

Later, she ran her hand down the beautiful marble columns and exquisite tapestries. She examined paintings, and toyed with the satellite radio. She watched CNN on wide-screen, high-definition TV.

After dinner, she opened the first manuscript.

“Are you there?” she called.

“Yep.”

“I guess I have to say everything is just peachy, or else you’ll-”

“I won’t harm you. I’ll accept your honest opinion. Let the chips fall.”

“This opening line is…well…unsatisfactory, ‘It was a dark and stormy night when Brace Brute, the ambidextrous, bi-sexual, Martian sheriff half-galloped toward the groveling town of Destiny, heading for the Bucket of Blood saloon, knowing that buried beneath was the Ark of the Covenant.’”

“Write down why you think it’s bad.”

She scribbled.

“This description doesn’t work. ‘His nose dribbled like the anus of a horse with diarrhea.’ It’ll turn your readers off. Makes me wanna puke.”

“Don’t’ tell me everything. Write it all down.”

Four days later, all eight manuscripts had been critiqued.

After feasting on Boef de l’Orange de Mandarin, she complained of dizziness.

“A sedative was in your espresso. When you awake, you’ll be near a pay phone. Hang on to your purse; I’ve put twenty thousand dollars inside. When you return to Hollybird, burn those miserable preprinted reject slips. Henceforth, make your readers and editors handwrite comments on all rejections. Show some respect for writers.”

“But, we get hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts every day.”

“Find a way to do it. And sign them yourself. Oh, and I wanna see faster turnaround, too. Unless you’d like to return here for an extended vacation.”

She shook her head and passed out.

At midnight, I took her to a park, then called 911.

I read her critiques. What a bitch! She wouldn’t know talent if it bit her in the ass.

Four months later, I sent a fabulous 500-page pirate story to Hollybird Publishing.

After three weeks, a two-page rejection letter arrived signed by Victoria Chubbs. Her highfalutin words said my story stank.

Originally against the idea, I decided to self-published the pirate story. It was too good to leave unpublished. I donated copies to all the libraries in town. It looks good on the shelves.

I’m bored with writing.

I think I’ll compose a symphony.


"The Bastards of Hollybird"

Copyright: © 2010 Michael A. Kechula

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Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His stories have been published by 128 magazines and 36 anthologies. He’s won first place in 10 contests and placed in 8 others. He’s authored three books of flash fiction, micro-fiction, and short stories: The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales; A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales; I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance. eBook versions available at http://www.booksforabuck.com/ and http://www.fictionwise.com/ Paperbacks available at http://www.amazon.com/.






"No Arlene. Absolutely not. I will not permit any butcher knives inside this residence--period."

Arlene was not happy. The Bernsteins were coming over for dinner on Friday evening. Arlene had promised them "the greatest pot roast ever"--her mother had shown her how to make the best, she told them, and they seemed to take her word at face value.

But now. Because of Glenn's silly little phobia Arlene would not be able to cook the Bernsteins their promised meal.

This was not right.

For years Arlene had begged Glenn to go see a psychiatrist. But to no avail. "I am not comfortable talking about this to anybody, Arlene--yourself included. So will you please just drop it?"

But, like many strong-willed, take-charge personalities Arlene could not just "drop it."

Not at least before receiving the infallible counsel of Pastor Williams.

And his command was in Arlene's favor. Glenn had no other choice, but to go see a shrink. His wife's asking was one thing, but a direct edict from his spiritual shepherd was quite another.

To Glenn's delight the doctor was understandingly quiet. And sympathetic.

And at the end of the first session two men dressed in white did not rustle him away off the couch and into a straight-jacket. Always a grand way to end a session, Glenn smiled to himself, while exiting the musty corridor leading to the parking lot.

After the second visit came Dr. Grossman's verdict.

"You suffer from OCD--Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."

"You mean I'm crazy?"

"Mr Stromwell. Many suffer the afflicition and, I assure you," he said, taking a semi-deep breath, "they are not insane."

"I don't believe it. You mean like the folk on reality TV that hoard junk? I don't do that. Our home is spotlessly clean."

"Oh, Mr. Stromwell," Dr. Grossman gave a hearty, elitist laugh. "That is just one of several types of the disorder."

"Really?" Glenn was interested.

"Oh, yes. Many different forms.

Many, many many. Hand-washers.

Checkers. Pure-O--Pure OCD. H-OCD--which compels straight men and women to question their own sexual orientation," he said with a smile. "And of course you got your hoarders."

"What the hell am I?"

"You suffer from Harm OCD. It is not as uncommon as you believe it to be, Mr. Stromwell. Terrible, intrusive thoughts permeate your mind. Until you fear you will act upon them.

And herein lies the ultimate irony: you never will."

"So...I'm not a psychopath in bloom?"

"Hahaha--a psychopath. No, no young man. You are but a man--a man with dangerously low serotonin and an overactive Basal Ganglia."

Doctor Grossman stood up. He was taller than he looked sitting down and had a scraggly salt-and-pepper-colored beard.

He handed Glenn a handful of paper. "Here is some literature. And here is a prescription for Paxil. Take it regularly, as directed.


*   *   *

Friday evening. Now. The kids are playing video games with the Bernstein children.

Arlene and Mrs. Bernstein are engaged in happy conversation. Even Glenn pretended he was interested in whatever it was Mr. Bernstein was animatedly talking about.

Stove-bell rings

"Well," Arlene said happily.

"I think it is time we all eat."

She returned with two oven mitts shielding her hands and a pot containing a strong-smelling meat.

Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein glossed over the "great smell" and what a splendid cook Arlene was--even though this was their first time over for supper and they hadn't taken so much as a bite yet.

"Kids!" Mr. Bernstein shouted authoritatively in the direction of the den. "It's time we say Grace--get yer little butts over here!"

That annoyed Glenn.

Little legs scampered to the kiddie table.

To Glenn's further annoyance, Mr. Bernstein takes it upon himself to say Grace.

"Our Dear Heavenly Father," Tom Bernstein said theatrically. "Thank you for this delicious food you have so kindly and generously bestowed upon us..."

Bernstein. What an arrogant SOB. He could have been a pharisee, Glenn thought.

"...and Lord, please thank you for my three beautiful children, my job, and my wife--"

Glenn had had enough. He opened his eyes and gazed down the other end of the table as Bernstein was still saying his prayer, his eyes shut tight.

No! Don't you look at that butcher knife--no, Goddamn it, look at it!

That's what Dr. Grossman said.

Exposure therapy. The anxiety eventually will subside...

Still he stared at the big, shiny-bristling butcher knife as the tedious prayer continued. And thought.

Boy-oh-boy. I'd love to use that on my wife and kids--no, I wouldn't!

It's wrong to use it! Please. Lord.

Forgive me my wicked, compulsive thoughts and for praying over a prayer--if the latter's even a sin...

The prayer was now over. And Mr. Bernstein was staring bitterly at Glenn.

Glenn caught on.

"Hey Glenn," he said, pointing the giant butcher knife at him.

"Better get over here...else I'll carve ya like a turkey!"

Everybody in the adult and kiddie table laughed boisteriously at Tom Bernstein's lame joke, except Glenn, who smiled only vaguely.

5 A.M. Saturday. A full bladder goaded Glenn out of bed and into the bathroom. As he returned to the bed he noticed a thick dampness, then, turning on the light, only to see his worst fears realized.

Sprinting to the other rooms now.

There's Josh! Still asleep. Unscatched.

But Nicole! More running. Running.

Running.

She was crouched behind her bed, shaking and frightened.

"Daddy," she said, gripping her doll. "What was that scream?

Did somebody try to break in?

Is Mommy and Josh O.K.?

"They are," he assured her. "Just an earthquake. Hide under your bed for ten minutes, then I'll check back in on you."

"I love you, Daddy."

"Love you too, Sweetheart."

Glenn walked calmly to the masterbedroom now, shutting his door--lest the children see the ungodly mess inside...

Calm. He picked up the telephone and speed-dialed Dr. Grossman's office. An answering machine greeted him.

"Hi. Dr. Grossman. I just called to tell you you misdiagnosed me--and that I demand a refund."

He yanked the phone card from the wall violently and then slit his own wrists.
 
 
"A Misdiagnosis"

Copyright: © 2010 Jack Bristow
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Jack Bristow graduated Long Ridge Writer's Group in 2009. He lives in New Mexico. His next short story, "Our Bus Driver, Fred" can be read in the upcoming issue Thirteen of Cantaraville: An International PDF Literary Quarterly.








In the basement
Down the hall
I keep a door, a secret wall

At the stroke of midnight,
When the rats come out to play
Its where I like to steal away

In a pot
Thick as steel
I keep a healthy
Delectable meal

Tongue of hunchback
Finger of girl
Lock of hair
Pig’s tail whirl

All are magic
All are fun
I like them all
Every one

The most magic of all
You may want to know
Is not of earlobe nor of toe

It is my eye
Kept in a jar
Pickled no less
I have no scar

If you’re ever in town
Late at night

Swing your old limbs in
I won’t bite

We’ll drink some tea
We’ll play a game of sneak
You shall hide and I will seek

Hide behind that secret hall,
Down in the basement
Behind the wall.

Now shush…
This won’t hurt much
No not at all.


"Play With Me"

Copyright: © 2010 Jodi MacArthur

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Jodi MacArthur has resorted to digging in the make believe cellar under her house. She thinks this is a good place to stow her eyeball collection. To learn where X marks the spot visit www.jodimacarthur.blogspot.com






I moved three times to get away from Joey. But somehow he discovered where I was.

I dreaded the idea of moving again to avoid that psycho bastard. He thought I was his reincarnated wife. When I didn’t respond to his amorous advances, he threatened me.

A restraining order didn’t discourage him. I moved to another city.

I was tired of running. If only there was a way to spot Joey sneaking up on me, I could bash his skull.

Then I got an idea. I went to an auto parts store and bought a rear view mirror. I mounted it on my head, but it kept falling off. Next, I strapped it to my shoulder, but I still couldn’t stabilize the damn thing. It was even worse on my buttocks.

Terribly discouraged, I saw an advertisement that offered hope: “Body Mod, a specialist in body modifications, announces a new facility in Chicago.”

The ad included several testimonials. One in particular caught my eye: it showed a picture of a man with three arms. His testimonial said, “Now I can do almost twice the work. My company is so pleased with my increased performance, they gave me a huge raise. Now I can make more widgets than ever. And when I play baseball, I never miss a catch. Thanks, Bod-Mod."

I made an appointment.

“How can we help you?” asked a Body Modification Designer.

I told her about Crazy Joey and my fears. When she proposed a fantastic resolution, I signed a contract and underwent surgery.

After my recovery, Joey tried to jump me from behind while I was walking my dog at night in the park. They buried him a couple days later.

Absolutely delighted with my new abilities, I decided to go into business for myself. I became so successful, I wrote Bod Mod a testimonial, which they’ve included in their latest TV ads.

The ads show me with a bald spot on the back of my head. An eye sits in the center. As the camera zooms in on my new eye, I smile and say: “I’m Lisa Snerd. I sure love my third eye. It's changed my life. I’m now a successful detective with a seven-figure income. I can do far more surveillance than any of my competitors. My caseload is ten times the national average since Bod Mod added the extra eye to my head.”

Then I approach the Chief Surgeon of Bod Mod and say, “Thanks for including little extras, like making a special floppy hat with a slit in the back. It’s very stylish.”

At that moment the camera zooms to show the hat.

“Plus this hat helps me see everything that’s going on behind me without anyone noticing. And a very special thanks for installing .30 caliber, sawed-off machine guns in both shoulder blades. Now I don’t fear anybody, including terrorists. I’ll be back next year for another modification. I love you guys. You’re the best!”


"Crazy Joey"

Copyright: © 2010 Michael A. Kechula

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Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His stories have been published by 128 magazines and 36 anthologies. He’s won first place in 10 contests and placed in 8 others. He’s authored three books of flash fiction, micro-fiction, and short stories: The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales; A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales; I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance. eBook versions available at http://www.booksforabuck.com/ and http://www.fictionwise.com/ Paperbacks available at http://www.amazon.com/.






My cousin Syd, who smoked pot, attended happenings and had a different girl every week was, my parents’ opinion notwithstanding, the coolest of the cool. We’d taken his wreck of a car to his dad’s cottage some ways out from a small town in the foothills. He’d brought along Blaze, a thirty-something tourist from Brittany he’d met at a cafĂ© downtown.

When Blaze came into the kitchen the next morning with nothing on but an open blouse, her appearance suggesting chastity was not her top concern. Syd good-naturedly suggested I “give her a smack on the bum...an’ tell her she’s ba—d!” She was rather flat-chested, wiry and seemingly nervously on the alert. Notwithstanding that she was European, she seemed remarkably hairy — a fine tawny duvet covering all but her hands.

The stifling heat led Syd to suggest we bring along some food, walk over to the falls — a mere ten foot drop on the nearby creek — and maybe camp out overnight. We’d have to ask permission from the Graysons, a family that’d lived out here with no modern amenities since God knows when. Emerging onto a small gravelly plateau, we wove between the rusting car hulks behind a house seemingly held together by tin beverage signs. Upon explaining our presence, we were invited in by an older woman.

“Lands’ sake Eula, come in here an’ give these folk sumthin’ to drink. Altogether too much larnin’ that one, puttin’ on airs — hummph! but she do keep us goin,’ collectin’ and dryin’ medicine plants like her granny was wont to.”

We sat down around a table in the middle of a worn-out linoleum floor. Wearing a worn flour bag shirt and some thready denim shorts, Eula entered, hesitated, and then deliberately crossed herself before putting down a coil of barb-wire and a tobacco can of nails. “Mornin’folks,” she said with hardly an accent. Squeaking and gurgling from the hand-pump by the sink preceded the arrival of a full pitcher of water and some glasses.

Syd, chatted with Eula’s mother, while Blaze looked around uncomfortably. Drawing my attention, Eula whispered, “Come with me.” I followed her to a shed behind the house, admiring her thickly braided auburn hair, darkly tanned skin and heavy-set muscular body. Picking up a finely perforated pill box strung on a lace, she filled it with leaves selected from a bundle of dried plants. As she hung it ’round my neck, I noticed she bore a lovely aroma of fresh sweat and the outdoors.

“It’ll keep away the ‘skeeters, an’ — other varmints.”

It was only close up that I noticed her lazy eye. I winced involuntarily — one eye watching me while the other looked elsewhere was rather unnerving. Embarrassed, I added awkwardly, “Sorry about your...eh — and thanks for the bug repellent,” She turned away, running her forearm across her eyes, then turned back and handed me a short-handled axe, “Tough ground to hammer in tent pegs.”

Blaze was so anxious to reach the falls that she repeatedly ran ahead, then back to Syd, only to report that we still weren’t there yet. Having arrived, Syd and I set up camp below the falls, while Blaze, suffering from the heat, immediately entered the water. After some time under the falls we all felt refreshed. We cooked up some steaks over an open fire and potatoes in the coals. By the time we’d eaten and cleaned up it had cooled considerably. When, with a couple hours daylight to spare, Syd and Blaze wandered off upstream, I thought nothing of it, well, nothing beyond what I pictured them doing.

Eula’s mosquito repellent didn’t work, so when twilight darkened into night, I retired to bed, rather unconcerned about Syd and Blaze —they were adults after all. The next morning having brought neither Syd nor Blaze, I wandered down to the Graysons. Eula was outside the shed.

“Seen Syd or Blaze?” I asked, “they walked off from camp last night and aren’t back yet —wouldn’t put it past Syd to be pulling a prank.”

“God’s mercy, no!” she exclaimed. Stuffing her pockets with some change she handed me a small bottle of water and a shard from an old mirror. “Take — let’s go — the axe? — never mind — camp.”

When I asked her what the hell she was up to, she just ran faster. I caught up with her at camp, where she’d just picked up the axe.

“Jesus, girl, what the f—”

She replied angrily, “Never take his name in vain, not now, not ever! Come.”

Hours of breakneck bushwhacking through everything from alder bogs to close-set spruces brought us to a narrow ledge. Eula made a sign to be quiet. How she’d trailed them I haven’t a clue. Syd lay below, among the bracken, naked, lacerated and barely breathing. A tawny wolf lay languidly in a cleft in the hillside. A strong scent of blood and chestnut blossoms pervaded the place. Below its tail, the wolf’s haunches were glistening.

“Bottle,” Eula whispered. She poured out a stream across the great tawny wolf’s lair. Shifting, it growled. Eula, oddly, seemed to be intent on sharpening the axe against a large coin. Turning to the wolf she cried, “neither mercy for you, nor your whelps. In nomine patris, filii...” She sprang forward swinging the axe, but stumbling only struck the beast a glancing blow and fell prone. It howled eerily, now standing erect just above her throat. How the idea arose I don’t know, but rushing up I drove the old mirror shard in beneath its shoulder, and it shuddered in its death throes.

While Eula was slipping old dimes under its eyelids, and cutting open its womb to place a dollar piece within, she recited a series of Ave Marias. I managed, with my lacerated hands, to bring Syd out of his stupor and get him on his feet.

Our return was uneventful, our actions neither heralded nor condemned, for no one ever did come looking for Blaze.


"Syd's Vicious Lover"

Copyright: © 2010 Georges Dodds

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Published in strong competitors to The New Flesh like International Agrophysics and Estudos de Literatura Oral, Georges Dodds has until recently kept his weird writing under mouldy cerements. His recent genre activities include textual resurrection for a publisher of Gothic novels, unearthing and presenting in an e-library some thematic precursors of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, translating early French science-fiction to English, and preparing a collection of American dime-novelist William Murray Graydon's earliest adventure stories. Georges and his 3-species family (4 with the goldfish), lives in a former bus garage, on the now relocated site of an18th century cemetery -- so far tilling the garden hasn't revealed its past.