It was a day when the light seemed to shimmer at the edge of buildings and the wild spirit of nature beckoned you from the undergrowth.

I was driving to meet some friends deep in the countryside and feeling hungry I decided to stop for lunch. I found myself meandering through a stretch of road that was banked on both sides by hills and suddenly came upon the inn.

The glow in the windows welcomed me and I parked the car and went inside.

I stood below the dark beams and inhaled a smell I will never forget. Someone had been boiling oranges and sugar.

That was when I saw her.

She appeared at the doorway wearing a long gown and ushered me into the dining room which was decked with silver and a fine array of foods. The entire room was lit by candles.

‘Please make yourself comfortable’, she said, ‘I will bring some wine.’

She had a radiance about her and her skin seemed pale blue and her eyes were of some unnatural colour I could not define.

‘May I see the menu?’, I said.

‘The food is set and ready to eat, you won’t be disappointed.’

Her voice came from far away, as if something other than her throat was producing it, and I waited for her to return.

When she did she bent and poured some ruby red wine into my crystal glass and I sipped it and watched as she sat next to me.

I ate the meat which was rich and tender and watched her slow carnivalesque movements, as she dipped her head slowly to raise the food to her mouth. It seemed the product of some rehearsal, as if she was unfamiliar with the act of eating.

‘We have been here for many years’, she said, ‘and passing travellers such as yourself often stop. They never forget the delicacies we serve.’

‘Do you always eat with your guests?’, I said.

She looked at me with curiosity.

‘Of course.’

‘You have an excellent chef.’

‘He has always been here, we have our own lambs which we butcher with pride, their tiny screams are like a morning song.’

‘I wasn’t aware there were lambs in these parts.’

‘Their flesh is sweet and easily rent.’

As I put fork to pink meat I caught a movement at her shoulder.

Some black shape seemed to wriggle there and vanish as I turned my eyes in her direction.

I became lulled by the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway, a soporific sound that brought with it an attendant unease, as if some soothing metronome were working a narcotic into my brain.

I struggled with sleepiness as she left the room and returned a few minutes later.

My hostess leant forward and loosened the top of her gown, revealing a portion of soft white flesh before placing on the table an array of small plump ducks and pigeons which she began to prod and poke with her fork, a drop of spittle on her lip.

I’m sure I heard one of them issue a shriek before it happened.

I looked at her and again saw a movement at her shoulder.

Something was moving inside her ear, a black leg was poking out of it and it was curling like a tendril in search of light.

I watched her as she continued cutting the meat with an obsessive glare in her face.

And the leg reached out and touched her cheek. It was followed by another and then the plump body of a large black spider wrestled itself from inside her head.

It crawled down her face and dropped into the food, scuttling away across the tablecloth.

And still she continued cutting.

Now another spider left her head followed by a swarm of moths that flew into the room and bombed the candles.

I stood and began to leave when she laid a hand on my arm and I felt ice.

I looked into her eyes and saw beneath their translucent surface the moving shapes of a thousand insects. And she seemed as empty as a shell, her skull no more than powder.

The table was full of rotting meat and worms and maggots were wriggling across the tablecloth and through its holes. It was moving with their coiled and creeping bodies.

I tried to pull away but she was strong. Despair made me cruel.

Picking up a candle holder I pressed it against her face and watched as her hair ignited and she exploded into a fireball, running shrieking from the room, her dress and body in flames.

I left.

As I was passing through the doorway into the open air she grabbed my legs and I dragged her out of there, across the gravel path and watched her dress ride up and her legs begin to cut and tear to nothing and issue no blood. Her skin seemed to tear like a pus-filled wound, small bits of gravel lodged in there and oozing fluid.

She was holding on tight.

Over by the well in the yard was a rusty spade and I picked this up and hit her across the head. It came away with the first blow.

The sight was nauseating and her body began to decay before my eyes.

I ran from there and the stench and got in my car.

I started the engine and drove back into the deep countryside.

In my rear view mirror I caught a final glimpse of a burnt out building with no roof.

"The Inn"

Copyright: © 2010 Richard Godwin


Richard Godwin writes dark crime fiction, and he lets it slip the net like wash into horror.

His work has appeared in many publications, places like A Twist Of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine, as well as in two anthologies. His story 'Pike N Flytrap' is in this Fall's issue of Needle Magazine, his story 'Face Off' is in the latest Crime Factory, issue #5. His play ‘The Cure-All’ has been produced on the London stage. All his stories and poetry can be found at his blog here

His first crime novel ‘Apostle Rising’ is about to be published and will be released for sale onto the market on March 10th 2011. Use the link to watch a video ad of it.

I see 'em out there. Lots of 'em. I love 'em.

Faces. Innumerable, beautiful faces. Yellow faces, chocolate faces, red faces. Beautiful faces of milky-white European descent...

See, this is my workplace, the Trapsdale City's Corner's Office is where I look at all these beautiful faces, and fall in love with 'em. Each and everyone one I want.

Little Bob pops up out of my right shirtpocket today, Wednesday. Little Bob is the only other living thing here. A mouse. My friend.

"Who should I date tonight, lil' bob?" I ask 'em, pointing at our two newest prospects/arrivals: Mrs. Williams, 34, killed by a hit-an-run driver while she was out walking her chow. Or, or!" I point to a much older lady lying on the slab: "Mrs. Karen Brunswick?"

We decide on Mrs. Karen Brunswick.

I run towards the front door and put up my "Sorry, I have gone out to lunch. Be back in forty-minutes [Smiley face]" sign.

Forty minutes, I think. Plenty a time for Mrs. Karen Brunswick and me to get properly and intimately acquainted.

"Yessir," I think a-loud, in my Southern drawl, "plenty a time. But actually, I only got thirty minutes. Thirty ta wine and dine with Mrs. Brunswick and then ten at least to haul her ass back up stairs from the basement and then back on to the slab."

"Well, sir," I discuss the matter with lil' Bob. "We got ten minutes ta get the lovely Mrs. Karen Brunswick," God rest her pretty lil' soul," I say, takin' off my Stetson cowboy hat, "back on her slab. "The police is gonna come with her daughter to indentify her in forty."

"What happened to Mrs. Karen Brunswick?" Bob asks me.

"Don't'cha remember?"

"No." (little Bob, sonofabitch he is, comes from a very elitist family an' brags about it, what with his formal words an' whatnot.)

"Mugged an' raped on Delaware Street. The most rotten, indesirable sonofabitchin' side of town. Filled with Godless junkies, pimps an' whores. But, but as you can see, facially, at least, Mrs. Karen Brunswick's still quite visually stunnin'."

"I see," my rodent-friend retorts.

"Well, what're ya waiting fer? Gimme a hand."

We, that is, Lil' Bob and me, gentlemens (despite of our differing levels a education) to the last tote Mrs. Karen Brunswick up off the cold slab and on to a fancy-lookin chair you'd see in on of 'em first class, five-star Italian restaurants.

"Lay come stai, Senoria Brunswick," I ask 'er.

But she don't say nothin'.

"Here you are, Mrs Brunswick, I hope you like ripple, 'cause that's all we have," I snicker, snicker. I pour in her glass, then into mine. A quarter-glass full, each.

Tense, I ain't used to being around such prudish women, I try to break the silence, by saying "Yer necklace looks purty. Good thing 'em thugs didn't steal it from ya. You're very lucky."

No response. She just sits there ignorantly, with 'er mouth gaped widely open.

She might just be very self-concious. An' shy," I encourage myself. I'll try my best to remember not'ta comment on that giant exit-wound hole in the back a 'er head...

She finally starts talkin'. About things. God. An' Grocery store shoppin. And finally Vietnam. Her son'd died in the war. I tell her how I'm against the military draft. Unfortunately, she disagrees. She tells me, "I believe firmly in the draft. If you're young, ablebodied and eighteen. Why shouldn't you? I say you owe it to you country!"

I sag.

Now Mrs. Brunswick's loses all 'er beauty. And her entire face is beginnin' to look like one gigantic, ugly exit wound. It's because a people like hers mentality that I was sent off to that Goddamn war. Against my own will.

I begin to lose my appetite--along with any former desire I might'a had to lick Mrs. Brunswick's face.

The police arrive with Mrs. Brunswick's daughter an hour later. Pretty young thing. Brown eyes. Yellow hair. She reacts just like all of 'em--friends an' family members a murder victims, that is. First the sheet's slowly removed, family-member/loved one screams then nods head gravely.

That's what happens today. That's the way it always happens.

As the police an' the bereaved daughter leaves, Lil' Bob, always knowin' how to cheer me up, pops out a my pocket again an' tells me 'xactly what it is I need'ta hear.

"Why so glum? There's still Mrs. Williams."

"Yes, indeed." I says.


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.

The full moon flickered through the tall conifers, partially illuminating an old unnamed trail, casting unearthly shadows on the forest floor. This was a thick ancient forest stretching several miles in all directions. A person could easily become lost or fall off a cliff if they weren’t careful. There had been several vicious assaults and murders in recent years so most travelers avoided the area.

A man named Roman, a bear of a man, crashed through the bramble trying to stay on the trail in the intermittent light. At six foot four and strong as an ox, he wasn’t afraid of very much. And because he didn’t enjoy the company of others he often chose to wander the forest at night believing he could avoid people. He relished his time alone in this forest, taking in the beauty of the night while others would panic at the slightest sound.

As he strode forward something caught his eye: a hare, grazing about forty feet in front of him. He silently reached for his bow and pulled an arrow from the quiver. He crept towards the hare, trying to find a clear shot. The hare seemed oblivious but Roman knew this wouldn’t be easy. In a moment of carelessness, Roman’s stepped on a dead branch, cracking it in two. He looked up and the hare was gone. He cursed under his breath. He was hungry and still had several miles left to get back to his home. He took the last sip of water from his flask. Nothing left.

He continued on, stopping periodically to listen to the forest and its creatures. He could hear bullfrogs in the swamp to the West and several wolves howling a few miles away to the East. The wolves didn’t concern him; if anything, their ruckus might drive some deer into his intended path. He had once ambushed and tackled a deer when he was half his age. His father, also a big man, was very proud of his son that day.

Passing a babbling brook, Roman bent down and cupped some water in both hands. He smelled it first but decided against taking a drink. The water was thought to be poisoned in this area. Roman didn’t always believe these tales but he figured he could handle his thirst till he got back home.

As he neared a large Oak tree, he could make out the shape of an owl sitting on a dead branch. Suddenly, a man jumped out from behind the tree, flashing a knife in Roman’s face.

“Ye’ll wish you hadn’t done that laddy” roared Roman. The man swung the knife menacingly as Roman ducked and veered out of his assailant’s way. Roman picked up a rock, threatening the man with it.

“Yeeve got a knife but I’ve taken down worse people than you!” Undeterred, the man continued swinging the knife but Roman was too quick for him. He backed up against the oak hoping the assailant would make a mistake. Just then, the blade got stuck on the tree trunk. Not wasting a moment, Roman pulled the knife from the tree, wheeled around and plunged it into the man’s back, puncturing his left lung. The man dropped to the ground. Roman finished him off, smashing his head with the rock. It was over in an instant. The man would later bleed to death, alone by the oak, becoming the subject of yet another dark tale from the cursed forest.

Several minutes later, Roman came out of the forest, and entered a clearing. As he walked along the path a man approached him. “Roman is that you?”

“Aye it is, Thomas. What ye been up to on this dark moonlit evening, hmmn?”

“Natasha and I were listening to the wolves. We could hear them clearly tonight. It’s such a timeless experience. Don’t you think?

“Timeless indeed.”

“Hey, if you are interested, she made a roast this afternoon so come on over. We got plenty.”

“Thanks friend Thomas but I think I’ll order me a pizza. And I don’t want to miss any of the hockey game. It’s almost 7 and Montreal is still in the playoffs. Have a good evening.”

“Ok. Take care, Roman. Maybe next time.”


Copyright: © 2010 David Darragh Binks

David Darragh Binks lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife, Anna and big grey cat, Calpurnia. He presently (and grudgingly) works for the federal government but only to pay the mortgage on his little bungalow in leafy Riverview Park. He hopes to live long enough to retire one day, move to a creepy old house in the country and write horror full time.

I discovered I was gay on my 13th Birthday. The strippers my father kindly hired did very little for me. It was the short, sweaty balding man (employed to protect the strippers) that set my loins aflame. The instant I experienced those feelings of same-sex desire, my socks constricted around my feet. My toenails shattered and my bones grew compromised. My confused mother had to cut them off with an arrowhead.

The weeks that followed were spent in bed, lost in fantasy, while my feet healed. The intoxicating visage of the short balding man danced in my dreams, arousing me in myriad new ways. Experiments with masturbation to this point had only skirted around the edges of possibility. Now, with an erection the size of Oprah, I was ready to dive into the deep end of masturbation. I was familiar with the concept of semen and, not wanting to sully my porcelain chest, sought a receptacle. Lifelessly by my bed laid a limp sports sock. I slid it over my member like a furry condom and conjured the sweaty balding man in all his erotic grandeur. Upon first plaintive tug, the sock constricted around me, choking my penis harder than any masturbatory hand ever could. I squealed in abject pain, trying my best to remove the sock. The sensation of a thousand fire ants bit into my shaft and refused to let go. The screams summoned my panicked mother into the bedroom. My screams were soon matched my hers as we both watched the sock soak with penile blood. With my mind occupied solely by pain, the sweaty balding man eventually left my thoughts. At that moment, the sock released its grip, leaving my skinned member bloody and weeping in its wake.

It was now apparent that socks disliked me, and I knew why. For whatever reason, socks weren’t made to accept homosexuality. I discussed the problem with my parents, both of whom were very supportive. My mother helped me find some support groups, which resulted in some of the best friends a person could ask for. Buoyed by a mutual desire to eradicate sock homophobia, we took to the streets, with the eventual aim of targeting the sock manufacturers themselves.

The swell of support we received was heartening. We carried grisly placards wherever we went that showed the grim reality of pulped feet and stripped genitals. We used shock as strategy without shame. This was a reality we were forced to endure and the world needed to know. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, no matter how morally suspect they are. This freedom of belief shouldn’t extend to life’s inanimate necessities.

After many years of campaigning, several leading members of our group, myself included, were eventually granted audience with a man called The Sock Wizard. The Sock Wizard was the man ultimately responsible for every sock in existence. He was responsible for the homophobia. He was responsible for the pain wrought.

The Sock Wizard was clearly riddled with anxiety as he sat to face us. We were expecting a tyrant only to be presented with a scared, snivelling, admittedly arousing, man. Our group exhaled with collective relief before commencing our discussion. Within minutes, The Sock Wizard was in apologetic tears. Over a warm cup of cocoa, we comforted him, allowing him to unload his obvious burden.

Yes, it was true… Socks were made with an innate homophobia, he eventually admitted. It turns out this homophobia was the result of an error. The Sock Wizard had filled out a vital piece of paperwork incorrectly, resulting in the mess we were in now. When asked if the error could be fixed, he muttered something about his pride before showing us his naked, damaged feet.

"Homophobic Socks"
Copyright: © 2010 Matthew Revert
Matthew Revert is an Australian author of weird fiction.  He is the author of the book A MILLION VERSIONS OF RIGHT, available here.


Congratulations to Lily Childs for winning the 'Eye in a Pickle Jar' contest!  Lily has won paperback copies of the TOE TAGS 2: BLOOD & BIZARRO anthology, DOOM MAGNETIC! by William Pauley III, and STATE OF THE DARK by Brian Barnett!

To all of the other participants: we had a hell of a lot of great stories for this contest!  Thank you all so much for you submissions!  And Brian and I would also like to thank all of the readers/voters - you all are awesome!  :)

Until next time...

Keep it weird.


A reinforced steel case containing test tubes, a machined spinning device and a tiny silver burner arrived on my overloaded desk.

“For murder,” the instructions read. “Just add water.”

I’d agreed to meet a man in an upmarket bistro in the smartest part of town, the sort of place that makes a morgue look like Grand Central Station. When I entered Le Bar Du Marche holding the steel case Quigley was sitting with his head in his hands.

“Is it illegal?” he asked. “To drink in your own home? To smoke in your own back garden? To play with your own son?”

I told him that none of those activities were illegal. I placed my name card on the bar.

“Marlowe,” I said. “I reunite people no matter what.”

Quigley smiled, “You’re the man!”

I ordered him a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne.

“Vintage blanc de blancs,” said Quigley holding up the slender glass. “My favourite.”

An hour later I was asking plenty of barmen if they’d seen a broad called Mandy Quilligoti. They’d all seen Mandy and when I tracked her down to the Blue Banana she was sitting cross-legged and blowing on her nails.

“Quigley?” she said. “This ain’t good.”

“Who said anything about good?”

I told her about Quigley’s Bugatti Veyron, the Enzo Ferrari, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, the encyclopaedic knowledge of foreign taxation, the hot coals, the mock electric chair, the Endangered Species Eating Club, his lunchtime routine in his favourite watering hole.

“So Quigley did alright,” she said lighting up.

“He wants the boy.”

“Guess you know about the boy.”

I opened the reinforced steel case and assembled the spinner and the silver burner on the bar.

“For murder,” I said. “I just add water.”

The barman delivered a full glass. Mandy Quilligoti stubbed out her cigarette and turned up her wrists.

Much later outside Le Bar Du Marche my mind was wrung out like a gravedigger’s rag. The place hadn’t changed since I last dropped by. Quigley was conducting operations centre stage and two goons clutching laptops at the bar laughed like coyotes. I sat down beside them and nudged the reddest one.

“He tells this one every day.”

“And who the hell are you?”

“Every single day,” I said slamming the reinforced steel case on the bar. “Now beat it.”

I opened the case and the two goons stared. The result of my spadework crawled out onto Le Bar Du Marche’s sterile bar, the embryo, the bruised fruit, and Quigley liked what he saw. He liked it very much.

"For Murder, Just Add Water"

Copyright: © 2010 Ian D Smith

Part I

(with love and regards to the late Bill Hicks)

Kevin walked deep into the woods with the baggie of mushrooms his friends had given him in hopes of experiencing a spiritual awakening like so many others had. He’d heard the stories and he wanted in on the fun.

He picked a good spot where he felt he could be one with nature, sat down, and commenced to what he believed would be a profound spiritual experience.

Kevin shut his eyes and let the effect take hold. When he opened his eyes, the woods around him had vanished and from the sky came a huge, indescribable object. Seven beams of light emanated from what must have been the center of the craft, and a calming voice began to speak from within Kevin’s head.

“Do not be afraid,” the voice said, “there is nothing to fear. There is never anything to fear. All matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. And we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death. What we think of as life is merely a dream. And we are but the imaginations of ourselves.”

Kevin’s eyes grew wide, and he was filled with a feeling of joy, knowing he was hearing an incredibly advanced being who knew the secrets of existence.

The voice in his head continued:

“We are all God, and we are all children of God. And God’s love is unconditional. There is never any reason to be afraid or to worry. Ever."

Tears ran from Kevin’s face.

“Is this all true, O great one?” Kevin asked, “Am I simply a vibration in the collective consciousness of God?"

The craft shifted in the air.

The voice in Kevin’s head said, “Nah, just fucking with you.”

A hole appeared on the huge craft. A mass of tentacles launched out, grabbed Kevin, and pulled him inside. The hole sealed up, and the object vanished into the sky.

Part II

A group of friends was sitting around in a forest clearing, discussing the different experiences they’d had on psychedelic drugs.

“I looked into the loving eye of God and saw my true self reflected,” said one.

“I danced on beams of pure energy with Buddha and Jesus.”

“The earth opened up and I felt Mother Nature at the core, Her eternal love emanating within and without everyone and everything on the planet,” said another.

“I was kidnapped by extra-dimensional beings and impregnated with the spawn of Cthulhu,” said Kevin.

"An Awakening"

Copyright: © 2010 Josh Myers


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.

“Brother Reynolds, by your own account, you deem worthy of your passenger’s seat a drug-crazed teenage girl who emerges on a back road in the dead of night, and then of the occupancy of your bed in the Jesuit Residence?”

“Why Monsignor, it’s not at all like that.”

“Bring her in, we shall question her together.”

A young woman, darkly tanned and solidly built, but with a downcast expression entered clothed in an alb.

“Reverend Father, would it please you, I would make confession. It has been close to a year since I...”

Glancing at Brother Reynolds, the monsignor added: “Proceed, but first, your name, my child.”

“Eula, Eula Grayson, reverend father.”

Her humble beginnings, and recent ordeals quickly told, Eula paused to tearfully beg forgiveness.

“You shall learn that there is always hope for the repentant sinner, continue...”

“But, father, have I not committed a mortal sin, how can hope...?”

“All in good time, child, all in good time, now tell me how you met Brother Reynolds.”

“Well, father, when I left Roseau, I thought to hitchhike down to some cousins in Texas, for they’d not have heard anything of...” she paused, and wiped her eyes.

“Go on.”

“Leaving the bus in Rippey, IA, I headed for the closest diner. Holding the door for a gaunt, elderly man who paused breathless at the threshold, I followed him in. A paper bag he was carrying fell to the ground, scattering some leaves. Picking them up, I said: ‘Got bronchitis bad, eh? Jimsonweed'll take care of it, but you gotta be powerful careful, that stuff can kill ya.’

“His eyes perked up. ‘Where’d’ya learn o’ the Devil’s Trumpet?’

“‘Grammy, she taught me of the medicines grew natural-like ‘round the fields an’ woods — not much for doctor’s pills, she was.’

“Moving over to a booth we began talking over our meals.

“‘Sadie, that were my wife, never put no faith in momma’s medicines, called ‘er an ol’ witch, but Lillie, like me, she’d follow momma inter the hollers where the bloodroot an’ maidenhair grew. Sadie’d get awful angry at Lillie — she were a fey one, just like you — my Lillie’d stay home and make up my soothin’ syrup, ‘stead o’ have boys a-courtin’ her at the barn dances. Sadie said it weren’t natural.’

“When the miner’s lung had got real bad, Sadie’d left, taking their daughter — no goodbyes, no explanation. He’d traced them up north and found them in a mining town, Angus, Iowa — dead of the fever. ‘Left me dyin’ ’mongst the coal pits of Kentucky, just to die ’mongst those of Iowa, ha, ha ha!’ he said, with a cackling laugh interrupted by his coughing.

“When I told him I wasn’t sure about Texas, he offered me free room and board if I’d take care of him ’til the spring — I hesitated. Sure, I’d had a bad streak with men, but somehow I felt comfortable around him, and nobody else wanted me.

“‘No offence don’t look like you eat much, I don’t wanna impose on your hospitality, I got money if you need some.’

“‘Don’t you fret none, miss...,’ he said, placing a gold Half Eagle on the bill. “We left and we followed the Des Moines and Ft. Dodge Railroad right-of-way into Angus. The place was mostly a ghost town, but he’d made a home for himself in the old Climax Coal Co. offices.

“‘Found a gambler’s hidden stash fixin’ up the place next door,’ he explained, handing me another half eagle. ‘Out back, take care — thar’s a coal pit, where they put those what died of the fever an' some quicklime — cover’s done rotted away.’

“He showed me a room with a cot and a couple of old linen chests. A simple kitchen — water pump, wood stove, a well-stocked pantry, and a roughly-made table — separated our rooms. That’s how it was the few weeks I was there.

“He was quickly wasting away, larger doses of jimsonweed making his speech erratic, but not doing much for his breathing — at these times he’d insist that Lillie would come to him before his time came.

“It’d been raining for a couple of days. A peek outside, showed everything to be soaked — even the old mine shaft had begun spilling over. The humidity made breathing unbearable for him. A large dose of the jimsonweed had put him into an uneasy sleep. Breathing in powdered leaves all day had made me dizzy — I laid down.

“Waking, I saw the chests in my room were open — a girl — was it me? — at the kitchen table — no maybe it wasn’t — would I be wearing such antiquated garb? But I felt wet — I was in my room wasn’t I? Wet, soaking — but her dress left no spots on the dusty floor. Bracing myself in the doorway — no wait, against the table — I crushed a handful of green nightshade fruit and a head of poppy in half a glass of bourbon — ‘not a healthy drink at all, at all,’ I thought. Straining it into his cup she headed for his room, and I followed — well he was calling for me wasn’t he? ‘Lillie, Lillie!’ Kneeling by his bed she said ‘Papa, drink this papa, momma’s waitin’ for you outside, an’ we can all be together.’ I left her with him, his smile told me it would soon be over.

“I stumbled to the table and drank some bourbon, but it only worsened my dizziness, and that sobbing, was that in my head? that sobbing from his room — was I back there? — what door had I gone through? — wait, it was raining. I just kept going — Lillie would be alone now, she would take care of everything. I walked and walked looking for some light. A light from a house...then there it was, and it was getting closer, ha! the whole damn house was coming to me, with two shiny windows — and there he was — Brother Reynolds.”

"Heavy Breathing"

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.

Vote for your favorite 'Eye in a Pickle Jar' story!

You've read them all... now vote for your favorite!

Polls close at 11:59 PM Friday November 19th.  Winner will be announced on Saturday morning (the 20th)!  Good luck to all of the contenders!

I don’t remember how Eula and I ended up lab partners in freshman Zoology. She was a ‘special status’ student -- no, I don’t mean like the cripples back from ‘Nam -- something conferred on her by the Jesuit higher-ups at Creighton. Her farm-bred build, long hair, attractively filled out white blouse and knee-length skirt, was marred by an unsettling crooked eye. A pretty girl otherwise, she clearly wasn’t one of those vacuous blondes in college to find a husband -- besides she was a brunette. Sitting down at the lab bench, a thick stapled document slipped from her binder.

Picking it up, I read, “Changing Interpretations of the Werewolf. A comparison of S. Baring-Gould’s ‘The Book of Werewolves,’ M. Summers’ ‘The Werewolf,’ and L. Illis’ ‘On Porphyria and the Ætiology of Werewolves’ -- by Eula Grayson,”

“Here -- Sweet Pea,” I said, handing her back the paper. “Werewolves, ooooh...scary...Grrr! I’m Lon Chaney!” I said mockingly

“Jim, when you don’t know squat, just make like a clam, an’ we’ll get along just peachy.”

“Just in to the KMTV news desk...Missing A-dorm girls victims of Omaha werewolf!”

Her thumb and fingers closing together she replied: “The clam? I don’t see the clam...Like that creepy Marsh guy, spoutin’ off ’bout the ‘transcendent but unspeakable wisdom of the Elder Ones’ -- reckon he coulda done it -- ’nother boy what don’t know when to make like a bivalve. That’s a joke there, Jim.” Taking on the expression of a doting mother and pinching my cheek she added, “you can laugh -- yesss you can.”

I glared at her, but grudgingly respected her for meeting my sarcasm with disdain rather than tears.

*   *   *

Meeting a couple of days later to complete a lab report, she mentioned that Marsh had been expelled.

“Met him outside his residence... said he was headed home -- some coastal town in Massachusetts -- wantin’ me to come along. Told him weren’t no earthly chance of that. Flipped me his dorm-room key, he did, and said, ‘take anything you want, see you soon.’”

“Choice guy, kinda like Jim Morrison’s evil twin -- smelled like a lizard-king, too...leastways the lizard part.”

“Sure did. He’d corner me in the dining hall and ramble on about some far-out cosmic traveller trapped on the sea-bottom -- flattering me how I was healthier and smarter than other girls; them only fit as ‘psychic fodder,’ me to be the ‘vessel of its offspring.’ Like, no way man! Besides, I reckon that creature wasn’t no farther than his pants.”

“Yeah, sounds that way. So, did you check it out?”

“You know I can’t just wander into the men’s residence.”

“Well, Sweet Pea, I can get you in...”

*   *   *

I was climbing the stairs behind Eula, frankly entranced by the view, when some ditzy blonde chick I’d seen in English Lit came spastically careening down, blood oozing from her glassy bugged-out eyes, mumbling, ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea...’”

“Wow man, some seriously bad trip! We’ll call the campus police,” I reassured Eula, who’d turned white as a ghost.

The call made, we reached Marsh’s door, to find it ajar. Scattered on the floor, what at first glance looked like a bunch of starfish, turned out to be star-shaped stones. Others remained stacked in a semi-circular interlocking enclosure from which the ground-glass specimen jar now laying on the floor had obviously been hastily withdrawn. What liquid remained bathed what appeared to be five or six eyeballs, each including a length of optic nerve. Cringing, I read a crumbling “United States Naval War College Collection, Newport, R.I.” label: “Spores with emerging germ tubes, identification tentative, recovery following detonation of depth charges, Innsmouth (MA) harbour. May 12, 1923.”

Somewhat recovered, Eula had been reading over my shoulder. Suddenly, forcing back a gag reflex, she pointed first to the jar and then to the stripped down bed and floor beside it, each bearing a greyish-white sphere on a shredded stalk. “These aren’t, but those...those are her eyes.” She staggered over and wrapped them up in a handkerchief.

“Sweet Pea, you shouldn’t stay here,” I said.

“Mercy mild, but it’s hot,” she said, utterly ignoring me and unbuttoning her blouse. “Unngh,” she grunted in a lascivious manner, “listen up Jim...I start doin’ anything stupid -- anything, get this,” she said, plucking one of the items from the jar, “get this the hell away from me, back in the jar, and surround it with the... with the stones. Mercy, but it’s hot.”

The stalked sphere having rested in her hand a moment, she began to slide her free hand over herself in a way I knew was wrong, but just the thought of -- I hesitated. Writhing she spoke in a husky tone, “The sea, the sea of stars, the sea of foam, it envelops me...oh, mercy, mercy, it’s froth washes over me, into me, his froth...his seed, promised I am, promised, oh! could I but see him...” It was enough, with one hand I wrestled it from her and threw it in the jar; with the other I slapped her hard, back and forth, snapping her out of her glazed expression. She fell to her knees and began to hiccough-cry. I followed her instructions. Between sobs she whispered, “Merciful Jesus, preserve me in my hour of temptation and have mercy on those who were weak,” and then began to chant “Pater noster, qui es in caelis...”

Some time later we cleared out, packing the jar in its stone jacket in an old ammunition box Marsh had left in the closet, the books and a couple of extra stones being relegated to a shopping bag. That night we -- wrung out as she was, the little trooper insisted on seeing it done -- went over on Dodge Street, and buried the box under where they were preparing to pour the foundation for the new First National Bank Center.

"Offerings to the Sea"

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.

I have a story to tell. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to listen. In a way, it’s all that I have left, my story that is, and all I could ask for is someone to hear it. So please, light a candle, pour a cup of tea, and open your mind because what I’m going to tell you will be difficult to believe. I wouldn’t believe it myself if it weren’t happening to me.

Oh you caught that didn’t you? Happening to me, as in present tense, as in I’m currently enduring my unfortunate situation as opposed to my telling about it in retrospect.

So here’s my tale. I promise to keep it short, since I don’t have much time left.

I am a writer, of sorts, wallowing in the dense purgatory others of my creative ilk are generally stuck in. I used to muse to myself (and others when the mood suited me) that it was my curse, my affliction, to assign my thoughts and dreams (and nightmares) to paper. It is a hollow occupation fraught with critical barbs from both editors and readers alike. Believe me when I tell you how disheartening it can be when something that you had poured your heart and soul into is dismissed as merely another fragment of poor writing technique or lackluster character development.

Anyway, I am a writer. Speculative fiction is my forte, particularly dark fiction with heavy slants towards horror and science fiction. I suppose I gravitated towards my literary idols so to speak: Lovecraft, Beirce, Derleth, ect.

Approximately six months ago I started to pen a rather unique tale concerning a young man who accidentally stumbles upon a dusty old book while rummaging through the attic space of his newly acquired house. He uncovers a curious looking box, and when he opens it he discovers the tome. And after safely procuring the item, he delves into its contents with relish.

But he could hardly make heads or toes of the frayed, yellowed pages within, nor glean any useful information from them. It seemed the book was written in some bizarre, nearly indecipherable language, slightly similar to Latin, but much more primitive. Certain passages seemed to be penned by something other than human hands.

The dark implications that the book presented were not lost on the young man, so he decided to abolish it to where he had originally uncovered it from. And when the book was resting back in its long-forgotten space the young man tired mightily to move on with his life.

Pardon me for a moment. I had a nagging thought that the door was not properly bolted. I can hear them outside the room you know. They grunt and scrape up against the door, their foul odor seeping through the cracks and into the room, tainting my senses with their loathsomeness.

Again I am distracted. I apologize. I must hurry however or my most unfortunate tale will never be heard.

So, as I was saying, the young man goes about his life, putting his unusual discovery behind him. But the book would not be denied. It did not want to be forgotten. It lodged itself firmly within the young man’s mind, refusing to be cast aside, demanding to be acknowledged.

I fear my time is nearly up. The barrier between myself and the frightening impossibility pursuing me is approaching its breaking point. The hinges bend within their notches. The frame splinters. The door bulges from unnatural pressure. Something is trying mightily to gain entry and I, like the door itself, am powerless to stop it. I know the book is behind it somehow, which is why I suppose I chose to write a story about it. It was a fascinating subject, (although a very dangerous one), and I just couldn’t resist using it.

But the price was very high indeed.

With each passing minute I can actually sense another piece of my past slipping away, being extracted from me by the book. Soon I fear what is left of my past shall catch up with me and then…

There are other versions of myself outside the door. Each dark moment in my life, my past, has somehow been ensnared by the book and distorted to monstrous proportions, obvious in intent and determined to find me. The book is using my past to reach me. Exactly why I cannot answer, but what I am fairly certain of is that when it does catch up to me I will simply be no more. After all, what is a man other than the sum of his experiences, his memories, his past?

The door is buckling. The hinges coming apart. I can hear the…the things growing violently impatient. The book is commanding their movements.

You see, as you may well have guessed by now, I was the young man in my story. I was the one who made that terrible discovery. I wrote a non-fiction piece and laced it with fiction, I suppose to cushion those bad memories I had from that experience.

I imagine I also wrote it so my ordeal could be heard, understood by someone, anyone, who would listen to it. I do not wish to be remembered as a lunatic.

And now that you’ve heard it you can see the predicament I’m in. Surely you’ll understand, and I hope, believe.

Have I mentioned that you look strangely familiar to me?

I know! Approximately six months ago. The pen and paper in your…your hand are dead giveaways. I should have guessed. I didn’t recognize you at first due to those fangs. They must be quite a nuisance, jutting out of your mouth as they do. And those eyes. Red does become me somewhat I must admit.

How appropriate for one to meet their fate at the hands, or should I say the claws, of oneself.

"The Man With No Past"

Copyright: © 2010 Rick McQuiston

Rick McQuiston is a forty-two year-old father of two who loves anything horror related. He's had over 200 publications so far and recently started his first novel, a zombie tale tentatively titled TO SEE AS A GOD SEES. He's written four anthology books and one book of novellas, which are available on Lulu and Amazon. He's also a guest author each year at Memphis Junior High School, and am editing and contributing to an anthology of Michigan authors called MICHIGAN MADMEN. His website is .

“Congratulations,” said the voice on Harry’s phone. “You won third prize in our Birthday Boy contest.”

“But I didn’t enter any contests.”

“You didn’t have to. Our company’s computer selected your name from thousands of American men whose birthday is today.”

“What’s the name of your company?”


“Never heard of you.”

“I’m surprised, considering we’re a multi-billion dollar company with stores throughout America.”

“So what did I win?” Harry asked.

“One of our delightful pet zombies. It does everything dogs, cats, and birds can do. It comes with a rotary switch and keyboard embedded in its back. If you want it to be a canary, just turn the switch to the bird setting. When a light blinks on the keyboard, type the word canary. Your pet zombie will start hopping around and warbling like a canary. If you get tired of having a canary around, you can turn the switch to one of dozens of dog and cat breeds. On the other hand, if you just want it to be a zombie, don't touch any of the switches.”

“I have a dog. What do you suggest I do with it when my pet zombie arrives?”

“Throw it in the trash, feed it to your new pet, or trade it in for a discount on a bag of our wonderful zombie food pellets which are chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and putrefaction retardants.”

“What's putrefaction?”

“Rotting of skin and body organs. Our pet zombies are inoculated and coated with shellac to keep their rot rate to a minimum. However, to keep your pet zombie fresh and supple, just feed it one food pellet a day. By the way, if you let the zombie eat your dog, you won’t have to feed it for a whole week.”

Ignoring the comment about his dog, Harry asked, “How much is a bag of food pellets?”

“A dollar for three month’s worth. So, where would you like us to deliver your prize?”

Harry gave his address.

“Congratulations once again. I’m sure you’ll just love your new pet.”

“Wait a minute,” Harry said. “Don’t zombies eat human brains?”

“Not the ones we sell. On the other hand, in the extremely rare situation where there’s a slight malfunction, and one bites your skull open while you’re sleeping, we stock blood-and-brains stain remover for your pillow case. Comes in a spray can. So, have you decided what you’ll do with your dog now that it’s obsolete?”

“Yeah. I’ll feed it to the zombie.”

“Ah, a most humane decision. We’ll bring a container shaped like a zombie food pellet when we deliver your prize. Just put your dog inside, and feed the pellet to the zombie. But we need to know the size of your dog so we can bring the right container. ”

“It’s a tiny, teacup poodle.”

When Harry hung up, he picked up his doggie, Honeybun, looked into her loving, sparkling eyes, and said, “You’ve been a pretty good pet. But it costs two dollars a week to feed you. You just ain’t cost effective anymore, considering these terrible economic times.”

Thinking she was being praised, Honey Bun wagged her tail and licked her beloved master’s hand
*   *   *

Honeybun thought she was playing a new, exciting game when Harry pushed her into a container shaped like a zombie food pellet, and handed it to his new, salivating pet.

"Third Prize"

Copyright: © 2010 Michael A. Kechula


Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer.  His stories have been published by 129 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  and    Paperbacks available at

Mushrooms—the item that first made Bridget suspicious of her stepmother’s list, for edible mushrooms grew all about their house in the forest.

Cigarettes (Marlboro Reds), which triggered Bridget’s comment to her stepmother, “Why should I pick these up for you when my father once asked you not to smoke around me?”

Chocolate milk. This Bridget’s stepmother added to the list with the remark, “Maybe if I let you get your little girl drink you’ll let me buy my cigarettes.”

Tampons, which could also be of use to Bridget, who was a tall, crimson-haired beauty at the age of 19.

Large heavy duty garbage bags (preferably black). These caused Bridget to wonder as she started from the house into a shadowy autumn forest colored in yellows, oranges, and reds.

Tomato sauce—something Bridget’s deceased mother would have made instead of bought, and something Bridget considered making only to remind her father that her stepmother was a terrible substitute for the woman they’d lost to cancer.

Garlic. Bridget wished she already possessed some cloves—or even a necklace of them—when she saw the shadowy, hooded figure lumbering toward her on the leafy path.

Salt. Bridget spotted the word as she glanced down at the list to avoid eye contact with the stranger, who passed her and continued in the direction of the house.

Red wine, which caused Bridget to think of her zealous boyfriend, and his pleading with her at the local tavern the night before: “Why live with that witch of a stepmom and your delusional old dad when you can move to a university town with me?”

Drano. This Bridget thought of at the edge of the village, where she passed the little scummy pond in which her stepmother often swam naked.

Oysters. Bridget was going to stop by her father’s butcher shop and ask him about the necessity of these when she noticed a CLOSED sign hanging from the front window.

Carrots, which Bridget was depositing into a plastic bag as the grocer neared and said, “I seem to remember your mother wearing that same flower print dress when she was alive.”

A can of cooking spray. Bridget bagged this item herself rather than respond to the comment from the grocer’s wife: “Live with your father too long, sweetie, and you’ll go stale.”

Dark chocolate Kisses, some of which Bridget ate as she hurried back to the house, worrying about the whereabouts of her father.

Two onions. Chopping these always brought on tears for Bridget, but today she cried after seeing that the hooded man at the kitchen table was her father, and that he was missing both of his eyeballs.

A can of mixed nuts, which rattled when Bridget dropped the grocery bags and screamed at her sneering stepmother, “What have you done with his eyes?”

A bottle of bleach. This Bridget tripped over after her father picked up his butcher knife from the kitchen table and stomped toward her.

Flour. The bag burst open as Bridget fell shrieking to the floor, and her blood soon mixed with the white powder.

Apples (any color). Bridget’s stepmother looked from her obedient husband to the oven, which contained a tray full of Bridget’s cooking remains, and said, “I don’t understand how that girl could forget the apples."

"Grocery List" 

Copyright: © 2010 David Massengill


David Massengill doesn't cook.  His short stories and works of flash fiction have appeared in various literary journals, including Word Riot, 3 A.M. Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Tainted Tea, Flashes in the Dark, and MicroHorror, among others.  His Web site is

What’s that ya say, Mr. Case? Ya wanna know how I lost my left eye? Well, plop ya ass in that seat and I’ll tell ya!

It seemed like it was just yesterday, Mr. Case, I remember it well. It happened four, maybe five years ago. No. Wait. It was eight years ago. I remember it now because that’s the year I lost my Jezebel.

Oh, don’t be sorry, Mr. Case. Jezebel was just my ol’ smell hound. And the bitch would still be alive today if she’d listened to me. I told her not to get into my neighbor’s stash of weed. That he’d do sumthing ‘bout it and he did. But that’s another story for another day, Mr. Case. You wanted to know what happened to my left eye.

I was staggering through the meadow over there, Mr. Case, when I heard a sharp whistling noise. The kinda noise that a jet makes when it’s cutting through the sky. I looked up quickly and seen a silver, circular object that looked like a saucer plate.

That’s right, Mr. Case. A UFO. A U fucking F O! I couldn’t believe it. I damn near dropped my bottle of Turkey. Wild Turkey whiskey that is, Mr. Case. I want ya to be clear on that. I don’t want your readers thinking I was out there that day with a bottle shoved up a Turkey’s ass! Hell, they’d think I was one crazy son-of-a-smell-hound.

Anyfuckingway, this damn UFO landed right in front of me, crushing all of my apple trees and tearing the shit out of my field. It seemed like forever, Mr. Case, but the thing finally opened up and out walked these two gray figures. Ugliest mothers, I’d ever seen! They approached me slowly and my asshole tightened!

Don’t laugh, Mr. Case, I never understood why aliens traveled zillions of miles just to stick sumthing up our asses! But that’s not what they wanted anyfuckingway. One of ‘em introduced himself as CJ452. Bastard even shook my hand, and I’ll tell ya this, Mr. Case: it was like shaking hands with spaghetti. I offered him a drink and he took a little swig, but I don’t think he cared for it. Then CJ452 told me that he, and his cohort, were from the planet Orjay and was in search of human eyeballs … brown human eyeballs. CJ452 said that they were a delicacy on their home planet. Kinda like fish eggs here on Earth.

Caviar! Yea, that’s what they’re called, Mr. Case. Ever eat any? Eh, me neither.

Anyfuckingway, old CJ452, and his silent friend, leered at me, and I almost pissed myself. I stood there frozen as CJ452’s finger twisted like a corkscrew and then that… that… that damn, fucking alien jammed it in my left eye and yanked it out. It didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would, Mr. Case. It hurt more than I could’ve ever imagined!

What’s that ya say, Mr. Case? My right eye is blue. Yea, I know that, been looking at it in the mirror for sum seventy-five years now. Oh, you don’t believe my story, do you? But what if I told ya I had that disease that makes one eye a different color from the other. Heterochromia, I think it’s called. Oh, ya still have doubts, Mr. Case. Well, why don’t ya turn those brown eyes of yours around? Because CJ452 and his silent friend are right behind ya and they look like they’re hungry.

"Damn, Fucking Aliens"

Copyright: © 2010 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 has been published, or are forthcoming, on, The New Flesh Blogzine, Flashes In The Dark, Flashshot, and in the anthologies: Toe Tags, Long Live The New Flesh: Year One and Daily Flash 2011 and Daily Bites of Flesh: 365 Days of Flash Fiction. You can also find out more about him at

I hold my sister's mottled and battered baby. There is a smear of blood on the tiny girl's forehead, her fists crumpled up like boxing gloves.

Sandra jostles me, trying to get a clamp to Kate's surgeon.

The baby gasps.

Someone in the corridor screams as security tries to manage the sudden flow of injured, and the surge of arriving families. Again I'm startled by how quickly after a wreck parents and husbands can make it to the ER.

Sandra grabs my shoulder. "Incubator," she says through her mask. "Deborah?"

I look, but I don't see it for a moment. I'm not used to these plastic bubbles in theater.

"Please Deborah," Sandra says, putting her hand on my arm.

"Sutures, quickly," Dr Ravi says.

"Let me have her," Sandra says, adjusting Kate’s respirator and passing the sutures. "Don't make me pry her from you." She begins prying at my arms anyway. "What are you even doing in here, Debs? Go home."

I turn to the incubator, see the big lid, the tubes and tank below. I reach out and put the baby girl onto the mattress.

"Where's the cart?" Ravi shouts.

Sandra tapes monitors to the child's chest, wipes away some of the blood, then closes the lid. "Go home," she says. "You're not any use here."

"What would I do at home?"

"Fine, wait in the hall."

I look at the maelstrom of people beyond the window. A truck crushed four cars in the tunnel. Half the city has come out. Nobody can separate those who can be reassured from the others. I'm not stepping into a mob. I have all the reassurance I need here.

"She's twenty-nine weeks," I say. I stare at the baby. So miniscule, so nearly formed. I look again at Kate. Her face is torn and taped. They work on her chest. I had bandaged her arm, but I think she'll lose it. One of her legs will be lost too. When she came in I saw the shin strung on at the knee by a few white ligaments.

"Deborah," Sandra says. "Out." She's in charge here. She's handing Ravi instruments. They're not interested in legs or arms, they just need to stem the flow of blood in her abdomen. Fumbling, I screw the oxygen to the incubator, but the girl is too early, I know.

"Dammit, Debs, you're not helping," Sandra says.

I can see Ravi slowing his work.

"Security," Sandra shouts.

Dr Miller darts in. He leans over my sister's body, discusses things with Ravi, who continues to work with Sandra. I barely hear anything, but the tone is enough. Miller turns to the incubator.

"Security," Sandra shouts again. She swabs for Ravi.

Miller lifts the incubator lid and puts his stethoscope on Kate's child's chest.

A security man slips in and grabs my arm. I don't move.

Miller listens for a moment and his head drops.

*   *   *

When I was twelve and Kate fifteen, blackbirds nested in the branches of the tall oak outside her attic room. She'd convinced Mom and Dad to let her convert the tiny space into a bedroom so that she no longer had to share with me.

Kate watched the birds hatch their brood. One day Kate's six-month old cat, Shambles, leapt across to the branch while the adult birds were out hunting. The cat took a hatchling, but slipped when Kate screamed. Bird and cat tumbled to the ground.

From the kitchen I heard the thump, out on the front walk. I was there before Kate. I did't know how a cat could land wrong, but Shambles lay bleeding and dying there on the concrete. The hatchling flapped, struggling, with just the last whispers of life in it. Shambles mewled, his eyes glassy, and I had to sniff back tears. I heard Kate pounding down the stairs, still screaming.

Then Shambles shivered and died, his body softening. The adult blackbirds clucked in the branches above.

"Deborah," Kate yelled from the steps.

I picked up the fledgling and put my hand on Shambles, stroking his soft grey fur. I was crying. Kate squealed beside me, falling to her knees.

I know what I did, though I didn't know I could. I took the last puff of life from the dying bird and passed it to Shambles. It was a little bit of magic, like something from one of my library books. The fledgling died in my hand and Shambles lifted his head.

Kate gathered him up, and Mom drove them to the vet, while I sat on the porch step with the dead chick in my hand listening to the birds chirrup and tweet in the tree, feeding their surviving babies. I sat on the step until long after dark.

*   *   *

"Call it," Miller says. Then he turns to Ravi. "Can I assist?"

I pull away from the security man.

"We've got others," Ravi says. "There's too much bleeding."

"Okay," Miller says.

The incubator lid is still open. I step over and lift my sister's child.

"Clear the theater," Sandra says. "We've got others." She pulls her mask down and comes to me. "I'll give you a minute," she says. She reaches up with a clean sponge and wipes my eyes.

"Wait," I say.

This baby girl is still clinging, and though she is very early I know she can make it.

"It's been called," Sandra says.

"Make him check again," I say. How can I do this to my sister? How can I chose between them? I put my hand on Kate's whole but bloody arm and I know what she wants, and she gives it freely, lets me pass it to the child.

"Come on," Sandra says.

The girl's thin heart lurches, once, then again and I hand her to Sandra. "Please," I say, not able to look away from Kate's damaged face. "Please just check again."

I hand the baby over and hear Sandra say "Oh my," then, "Doctor!"

Kate's face is serene.


Copyright: © 2010 Sean Monaghan


Sean Monaghan's stories have appeared in print and online in numerous publications. His science fiction novel The Rotated" is serialized at Infinite Windows. More information at his website