The beautiful, well-dressed woman clipped a small microphone on the lapel of her silver blazer. Adjusted her large, perky breasts and signaled that she was ready to go.

A large man, wearing a shirt that read: On The Air or Bust, shook his bald head and yelled, “We’re on in ten seconds, people!” He jumped behind a camera and held up four fingers, then three, then two, then he pointed at the woman.

“Good evening, viewers,” she said, smiling with a huge set of bleached white teeth. “I am Liana Cowan and on tonight’s episode of Terror Entertainment, I am pleased to be joined by critically acclaimed horror book novelist, Malcolm McMurray.” She turned her attention to Malcolm. He sat slumped over with his elbows resting on his knees.

“Mr. McMurray,” Liana continued, “you told me before we went on the air tonight, that you have some news for your legion of fans.”

“Yes,” Malcolm replied, sitting back in the chair. “I’m retiring.”

Liana chuckled. “But Mr. McMurray, you are only in your mid-thirties, and might I add, one of the best-selling authors of our time…” she crinkled her brow. “Don’t you think that retiring might be a little premature?”

“No,” Malcolm answered, loosing his tie. “The stories have just stopped flowing.”

“Stopped flowing?” Liana questioned.

“Yes,” Malcolm said. “You see, the stories I’ve written used to come to me without resistance. They just popped into my head like a lazy thought that wanted to be wrote. Now,” he frowned, “they’ve stopped coming to me. They’ve stopped… flowing. My newer stories are nothing more than resurrected old ones. A mirror copy if you read between the lines. It’s like my head is fighting off new thoughts and new ideas.”

“So, Mr. McMurray what are your plans for the future?”

“Killing,” Malcolm answered slyly.

Liana’s mouth flew open, but no words came out. She looked at her producer. He rubbed his smooth head, and shrugged his beefy shoulders. “Go with it,” he whispered.

“Okay, Mr. McMurray,” Liana said with a weak and shaky voice. “Who are you going to kill?”

“Everyone,” Malcolm answered. “Everyone that I can.”

This must be a joke, Liana thought. “Well,” she laughed, placing her hand on Malcolm’s knee. "Where are you going to start?”

“With you,” Malcolm said, jumping out of his seat and pulling a long, sharp knife out of an inner pocket. He grabbed Liana’s red hair and tilted her head back. Exposing her long, vulnerable throat. Then he took the blade and slit it from ear to ear. Blood shot out of the jugular veins like fireworks on the forth of July.

“Oh shit!” the producer exclaimed, running to Liana’s aid. He clasped a thick hand over Liana’s wound and yelled, “Someone call an ambulance!”

Malcolm grabbed the large man by his forehead, and turned him toward the camera. “Here’s your million dollar shot,” Malcolm whispered into his ear, and slit one of his double chins. Then threw him to the floor. Malcolm turned the camera to a thin, completely-shocked woman holding a cup of coffee and said, “Your turn.”

She screamed as Malcolm lunged at her, and pulled her to the camera. He slit her throat, and dropped her to the blood-covered floor. He breathed deeply and looked into the camera.

“The stories might’ve stopped flowing,” Malcolm said, licking the blade. “But the blood never will.”

"The Stories Have Stopped Flowing"
Copyright: © 2009 Chad Case

The cop vomited when he turned on his flashlight and looked inside the Lexus. When he gained his composure, he called his Sergeant.

“Sarge, you ain’t gonna believe this. I stopped a car that was speeding and weaving on Highway 35. I figured a DUI. But when I looked inside, I saw a freakin’ headless body in the driver’s seat with its hands on the steering wheel--as if it was driving the car. It was wearing a cop’s uniform. And if that ain’t weird enough, there’s a decapitated head in the passenger seat. I swear the damn thing smirked at me.”

“Forget it, Walsh.”

“Whadda ya mean?”

“Just walk away from it.”

“I don’t get it. This is the weirdest thing I ever saw. An obvious crime, and you want me to walk away? Shouldn’t I at least call a towing service?”

“You won’t have to. And if you did, they’d only laugh at you.”

“Sergeant Harding,” said Walsh, “I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but I don’t think this is the time to joke around. There’s a dead cop in the car's driver seat. He’s been decapitated. Besides our department, and the FBI, it sounds like something Homeland Security might be very interested in.”

“Walsh, under normal circumstances, I’d dispatch a whole bunch of patrol cars and detectives to the scene. But take my word for it, I’d only be wasting my time. Just get back into your patrol car and move on. It’s the Highway 35 Monster. It shows up every five years. Didn’t anybody ever tell you about it when you joined the force?”

“No. You mean it’s some kind of ghost?”

“That’s what some call it. By the way, how long have you been there?”

“About five minutes."

“Better leave right away. Wait. Look inside again to check the cop’s badge number. Then get the hell outta there. Once you leave, call in the number to me. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get in your car and floor it.”

Walsh went back to the Lexus and checked the badge.

He jumped when a voice said, “You could have asked me for my badge number. I would’ve told you.”

“Who said that?” Walsh asked with a shaky voice.

“Me,” said the head. “Why don’t you get in the car and join us for a nice little drive to the cemetery.”

Walsh never ran so fast. Within seconds his car was doing 80.

Trembling all over, he kept saying to himself, “It didn’t happen….it didn’t happen…it didn’t happen.”

Then he remembered the Sergeant wanted the body’s badge number. He called and gave it.

“That badge used to belong to Bill Jones,” said Harding. “He disappeared five years ago. I’ll tell the Captain you found his, uh, body--or whatever it was. He'll understand. He believes in ghosts. Good thing you got out of there when you did.”


“The legend says if you stay long enough or answer any questions the head asks, you end up headless and driving the car five years from now. Did the head ask you any questions?”


“Like what?”

“It said, 'Why don’t you get in the car and join us for a nice little drive to the cemetery.'”

“Hmm. I wonder what it asked Bill Jones. He musta stopped the same car five years ago when he disappeared. I guess he was dumb enough to answer.”

“Are there any other legends I should know about that you guys forgot to tell me when I joined the force?”

“Yeah. There’s one more. But it’s so off-the-wall and horrible, I don’t even want to mention it,” said Harding.

Walsh had such terrifying dreams that night and for weeks afterward, he was unable to perform his duties properly. He kept seeing his headless body in the Lexus, driving down Highway 35. Even worse, he saw himself talking to his decapitated head on the seat next to him. Visits to the police psychiatrist didn’t help.

Two months later, he resigned. Soon afterward, the nightmares stopped, and his anxieties dissipated.

But now he faced another problem: the economic turndown made jobs extremely difficult to find. Desperate to put beans on the table, Walsh felt extremely lucky to find a job selling balloons at the zoo. He couldn’t understand why hundreds of people hadn’t lined up to get the job, especially since it paid twenty dollars an hour plus commissions.

But then nobody ever told him the legend about the balloon seller and the ghost of the escaped gorilla.

"Highway 35"
Copyright: © 2009 Michael A. Kechula

Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in eight contests and placed in seven others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 114 magazines and 30 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at and Paperback available at

Ginger Westin held up two glass vials in her hand. One of the clear tubes was filled with shimmering blue liquid. The other flask contained a bubbling dark red fluid.

“Now, Bill. There are two kinds of smarts in this world. There’s book smart and then there’s people smart. So which one do you want?” Ginger asked.

Bill stared at the vials with a glazed expression across his features. He opened his mouth and a thick torrent of drool fell from his lips while he emitted a low moan.

“Uh, Dr. Westin?” Warren asked.

“What is it, Warren?” Ginger inquired.

“Maybe we should, uh… put his brain back in first and then ask him.” Warren said.

“Good idea. Shove it back in. We don’t want it to dry out like last time.” Ginger said.

"The Answer to a Rhetorical Question"
Copyright: © 2009 Amanda Lawrence Auverigne
Amanda Lawrence Auverigne is a university student who writes dark fiction. "The Answer to a Rhetorical Question" is one of her tales. Please visit Amanda's website at

There was no sound. Everything seemed to be rapt in absolute silence.Things were a bit blurry, but Dwayne was able to make out large, fuzzy shapes. Were they trucks? Yes, it seemed so. Large trucks drove by slowly.

A blurry boot stepped across and something tugged at his hair. It was a man in a uniform. He made a disgusted face and then darkness enveloped everything with a faint smell of plastic.
Dwayne woke suddenly. It was only a dream! His heart raced and sweat trickled down his face.

Then he realized, too late, that he was behind a steering wheel.
He panicked and then jerked the wheel violently to avoid a stopped vehicle in front of him.

For a split second, hundreds of thoughts coursed through his mind. How did I get here? Why am I driving? Why am I not wearing a seatbelt? Why am I in my underwear?

His stomach dropped as he saw a large truck barreling towards him. A moment ago, he had overcorrected and had swerved into the oncoming lane. Now he was face-to-face with a monstrous diesel truck with MACK in its grill.

A loud horn blared and startled him awake.

Again, he was behind a steering wheel. Again, he jerked it to avoid a car that had stopped in front of him. Again, he was in the path of a massive barreling truck.

This time, however, there was a true impact.

His tiny car was sent spinning toward the edge of the road. He semi-consciously tried to steer his way out of the violent spin, yet his arms would not react properly. He had realized that he had been leaning against the door just as it opened, sending him towards a guardrail.

With a violent ‘clang’ he finally settled silently on the gravely shoulder of the highway.

He felt very cold.

His eyes darted from left to right. His mind was swimming. Had I been sleepwalking again? Why can’t I move? Why am I so cold? How am I so low to the ground and yet my view remains upright? Was I in an accident? I want to go home!

His eyes caught something in his peripheral view. It was a bloody, beheaded and shirtless body, draped over a guardrail – his body.

Slowly, his senses dulled as terror began to settle in.
He could vaguely make out the sound of shouting men who lit road flares and wore orange vests over their black uniforms. An ambulance pulled into view. Radio squelches and sirens combined and then dulled away.

His hearing faded almost entirely. He could only hear slight thumps (doors closing? Guns firing?) and what sounded like flowing water (a river? Blood? A river of blood?). They were strange ambient sounds that he was not accustomed to hearing.

They were frightening.

His eye-sight began to fail. The edges of his sight blackened and threatened to close out all light as the darkness crept slowly over everything. He could see vague, gray, blurry images of vehicles as they passed very slowly.

A man passed with a black plastic bag and then stepped out of view.

An angry looking man (a policeman?) looked as if he shouted at rubber-neckers and directed them to move on. What could they be looking at, thought Dwayne, me? Are they looking at me?

Then a black boot stepped into view. Something tugged at Dwayne’s hair and he seemed to feel a sudden floating sensation. The man that had passed Dwayne earlier, the one who carried the plastic bag, made eye contact with Dwayne and then snarled with a disgusted expression.

Then Dwayne’s eyesight must have failed. A coolness slipped over his head and everything went black. He smelled the faint traces of plastic just before his consciousness faded and he slipped into oblivion.

"Sleepy Head"
Copyright: © 2009 Brian Barnett
Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky. To date, he has published over thirty-five stories since he began publishing in November 2008. He has been published by, Static Movement, The Monsters Next Door, Sonar4 Ezine, Blood Moon Rising, Flashshot, Flashes in the Dark, Dark Fire Fiction, Burst Fiction, The Daily Tourniquet, Yellow Mama, The Lesser Flamingo, and The Short Humour Site.

Pink goo in a vat, oozing into the empty corridors of the mould as the scientist tilts and pours. Not thick, just a layer to coat the base. The process will do the rest.

Leave in a dark damp place to rise, like bread dough with added yeast. DNA begins to fizz; fermenting juices bubble and hiss. Slowly the mould fills, goo becomes jelly becomes flesh and muscle and bone. Machine whirrs and clacks, stamping the paper pattern across the top. Snip, snip, scissors on dotted line, dressmaking for dolls: a dancing chorus line of paper dolls, joined at finger and toe and hip. The scientist cuts again, once, twice, six times, and the dolls are disparate. Dormant and lacking in life until he applies the spark, then air gulps into newly-inflated lungs. Blood pumps, awareness awakes, uncertain eyes open on bare white walls and gleaming chrome.

Flex of tentacles: a satisfied shrug. Another successful batch of humans for the laboratories and mines.

Copyright: © 2009 Fiona Glass

Fiona Glass writes darkly humorous fiction from a pointy house in Birmingham (the original one in the UK). She's recently had stories published by Mslexia, Byker Books, Ink Sweat & Tears, Flash Me Magazine and The Pygmy Giant, amongst others. You can find her online at

The members of the planet Xandau gather for another Friday night hour of interstellar television. The dozen inhabitants of the flat, island-sized world slump into barca loungers quietly stolen from pawn shops during their last visit to planet earth and halfheartedly debate which show to watch. They have four options, being that there are five inhabited planets in the known universe including their own (on which filming people is strictly prohibited -- the Xandans are fierce defenders of their personal privacy). As usual they quickly opt for So You Still Want To Rock, currently the premiere show in the universe. The shows from Xypo, Mando, and Yerbo are informative and interesting and all, but they lack the flair and excitement of real-life rockumentaries from planet Earth.

The show opens in the middle of a concert by Unholy Trinity, an aging heavy-metal trio from Cleveland, who are thrashing about on stage in tight fitting spandex outfits that strain to contain the musicians expanding girth. The band is less physically nimble than they were during their snort-coke-off-chicks-tits heyday, but they still rock just as hard. The Xandans cheer the return of their favorite dysfunctional band. During the last episode they watched in disbelief as Craig, the goateed guitarist with crazy eyes, spit on audience members while dodging airborne beer bottles. The concert audience wasn’t yet privy to the news of Craig’s nasty divorce, in which he lost three homes to a groupie who, two months earlier, had left him and moved on to Chuck, the bassist. The tension between the two musicians had been heading into overdrive for a few weeks, and the Xandans had watched each messy backstage altercation with awe and bemusement. When Craig secretly took a leak in Chuck’s pre-show bottle of Jim Beam the Xandans stared at the screen, completely bewildered. Having no such thing as art or artists on their staid planet, the befuddled Xandans had no way to understand these people. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t enjoy watching them.

The image on the screen zooms past Craig and lands on Rob, the drummer, who is pounding a drum with monstrous sticks as if he’s trying to kill a prizewinning fish on a bass boat. The Xandans roar approval. Rob has quickly become their favorite member after last week’s profile of the percussionist’s history with the group. The flashback was quite amusing, for viewers at least:

Rob had decided once again, after another futile stint in rehab, to get out of LA and the band for good. Both were killing him, as was his second wife Loretta, so he fled the city with a twenty-two year old he’d met in rehab and snuck off to Oregon to grow Christmas trees. He knew almost nothing about forestry or agriculture, but the scene sounded clean and peaceful, a far cry from the late nights, booze, and strangers the rock world had plunged him into. And how hard could it be, really, to plant trees?

When Craig and Chuck finally tracked him down, Rob was living in a special-ed school bus surrounded by thin, dying evergreens and subsisting on a diet of roadkill and wild mushrooms. The twenty-two year old was nowhere to be found and the struggling tree farm was littered with garbage bags full of stinking trash. The locals were circulating a rumor that Rob was cooking meth to sell to local teenagers, and the word in town was that people were getting ready to do something about the situation. Craig and Chuck loaded Rob into their van with the Arizona sunset mural and got him out of there pronto. No one wanted a repeat of Rob’s incident in Bulgaria, where leather-clad, unfriendly mobsters accustomed to protection payments had chased him off with guns and death threats and then taken possession of his new recording studio.

The Xandans watch in awe as Rob’s arms fly around his drum set, the sticks a blur in the smoky nightclub air. The noise from the drums and the cheering crowd builds into a roar. Suddenly, Rob stops playing and raises his hands towards the lights in a touchdown sign of victory. He’s back, he’s bad, he’s done with silviculture, and he knows it. When the crowd erupts Rob whips his hands forward, sending the huge chunks of wood toward the audience. One sails over Craig’s head but the second crashes into the back of Chuck’s head, slamming his mouth into the microphone.

Chuck spins, lifts the instrument strap over his head, and slams his base onto the stage. He breaks into a sprint, races toward the back of the stage, and dives into Rob, wiping out the drum set. As drums roll across the stage, the two start pulling hair and throwing punches.

The Xandans break into raucous laughter and cheer the combatants on the screen. They love these humans that call themselves artists. They’re so entertaining yet oh so serious, unaware that their lives are meant to be messy and confusing. That, the Xandans realize, is where their art comes from, and without it there’d be no art. Like on Xandau, where everyone lives a neat and clean existence with no strife but plenty of boredom.

"Checking In"
Copyright: © 2009 Thomas Sullivan
Thomas Sullivan's writing has appeared in Whispers Of Wickedness, Word Riot, and Underground Voices, among others. His comic memoir Life In The Slow Lane is forthcoming from Uncial Press in Fall, 2009.

Michael MacRuddy was punching my brother again and there was nothing I could do to help. I was too small, my arms too thin and feeble. Barry was bleeding from a cut over his eye and there were some other kids standing around chanting the names. "Barry, Barry," and "Mikey Masher, Mikey Masher," like it was television.

Every day Michael picked a different kid to beat up on. Barry once told me that Michael's punches were like the piledriver they use at building sites to compact the earth before laying foundations. Barry's chest gets compacted until it's a mottled pigskin black.

Mom called the school one time and Michael got a two day suspension. Most parents don't call because most kids just shut up, keep their shirts on so their folks can't see their damaged torsos. Michael pounded Barry almost to dust the day after the suspension. Barry didn't tell Mom then. He had trouble breathing for a few days, his ribs were so sore and he could hardly lift his backpack. That was when I first started digging my hole.

Marble Heights Elementary backed onto a national forest. Five thousand acres of Ponderosa pine inhabited by owls and cougar. There were mountain bike trails ground into the earth, and stone outcrops and faded and tattered orienteering markers.

Mom had long ago given up on the garden and let Mr Tarbin do all the yardwork, so the tools from our shed were never used. I took the old spade and started digging in the forest, in a clearing by a rotting, fallen tree, amongst the grasses and ferns.

I knew it would take a while, with my weak pencil arms, but I had the time. Most days I would see Michael picking on some kid, but most days my hole became a little bigger.

I would cover the hole with sedge and pine branches each time I left, but before I covered it I would lie down on the freshly turned earth to check the size and depth.

I started wearing one of my Dad's old motorcycling rings, with a big skull on it. I kept the ring in my pocket while we were in school.

Some nights Dad would call from Indianapolis or Tampa or somewhere in Maine and ask how we were doing. Then we'd go watch TV while Mom yelled at him. He never sent her any money. Barry would put his arm around my shoulder while Mom yelled.

"It's gonna be all right," I said.

"Sure, Tony."

"Michael won't beat up on you anymore."

"Sure. When we go to junior high, he'll just be another little bully. The big kids won't let him get away with it."

"Yeah," I said, knowing that Michael wasn't going to make it through the summer.

"You're getting bigger." He squeezed my arm. "Must be some kind of growth spurt."

"Mmm." My arms were thicker now from all the digging. The hole was three feet deep now. I had cut down an old pair of Dad's overalls to keep my clothes from getting filthy. Mom would ask.

Soon after I stood in the hole and it came up to my eyes I knew it was time. Only a couple of days later Michael decided that it was Barry's turn again.

Some kids were waiting after school, as usual, expecting something to happen. As Barry and I walked out the gate, Michael pitched down from the cinderblocks and grabbed him in a headlock.

Before he could land any blows on Barry's chest, I took a slug at Michael's face. My fist connected and Dad's ring tore Michael's skin, gouging a line of red across his cheek.

Michael howled and dropped my brother. I was surprised at how effective the blow had been. My hand stung, especially the knuckle where the ring had dug back, but I felt hyped and my brain was racing.

Barry got to his feet as Michael staggered back. Michael looked at me with black furious eyes.

I dropped my bag and fled.

"You little fuck." Michael screamed after me.

"Tony?" Barry called.

I glanced back. Michael was holding his face, but then he dropped his hand and sprinted after me. Some of the kids started following.

I only had about thirty yards head start, but I knew exactly where I was going.

"Tony!" Barry hollered.

I flipped myself over the fence, back to the school field and kept running for the forest. I didn't look back again. It would only slow me down and if he caught me I wouldn't be able to make any difference.

In the trees, the heady scent of pine rushed through me. Birds fluttered out of the brush ahead, launching themselves with squawks into the forest.

I could hear the kids shouting and coming after. Barry was still calling my name.

I came to the grave.

First I cleared it off, then grabbed up the spade. I looked behind me and Michael was right there, still moving fast. I swung the spade and caught him under the arm. His momentum carried him over and he twisted into the hole. While he lay crumpled on his side, moaning and bleeding, the first kids arrived.

With all the others there, and my brother, nothing went quite like I'd expected or planned. I had been going to heap the earth on top of him, but with him cut and groaning like that we all just stood staring. Later it turned out that the spade had dislocated his shoulder and torn through muscles and tendons and arteries. Specialists tried to fix it but the arm turned grey and died while still attached. I got in a lot of trouble, but Michael MacRuddy couldn't beat up on anyone anymore.

"While He Lay Crumpled"
Copyright: © 2009 Sean Monaghan
Sean Monaghan loves the smell of forests and enjoys walks in the abandoned plantation pines disappearing into the expanding dunes at the beach near his hometown. Sean has recent stories in Static Movement and Flashes In The Dark. He tutors in creative writing and works in a busy public library. More information about Sean and his writing at his website –

“Are you sure we can trust him?” asked the dwarf called Wyatt.

“Yes, I walked with him to meet you,” replied the dwarf called Yan. “We traveled a dangerous route, and what is in his pocket drove many creatures away.”

“Yes, but the path to the Sword of Light is the most treacherous in the world.”

“You speak the truth, but we must press on. We must have the sword or our kind will forever hide underground, and our children will never dwell in the light.”

They both watched ahead, where the the dwarf called Gard boldly entered the forest.

Wyatt stopped Yan. “Why does he not show us what he has?”

Yan raised a finger and spoke pedantically. “The wizard who gave it to him has not even laid eyes on it. It endangers all who stare at it, except for the wielder. Now, let’s not get far from him. The forest is too dangerous without his protection.”

They followed Gard into the woods. Within minutes, growls came from their side, and there was rustling in the trees.

“Avert your eyes!” shouted Gard back to them.

They did.

The growling and rustling continued, until it sounded as if an attack was imminent. Then there was the yelping of large dogs, followed by the sounds of retreat.

“You may look now,” said Gard.

They did. Gard, who had never been admired and had been mocked when he set out on a quest to find magic to save the dwarves, turned resolutely and moved swiftly. They followed.

More creatures attacked in the forest, and they too were repelled. Each time, Wyatt and Yan waited with their eyes closed.

Then they were onto a lake, where they found a floating log. They found sticks, and Wyatt and Yan paddled as Gard sat still at the log’s front.

A creature showed itself. Its scaly body moved in curls in and out of the water.

“Avert your eyes!” commanded Gard. “I will deal with the giant snake!”

They obeyed. Seconds later, the creature screamed as if in pain or great fear. They were left bobbing, gripping to the log in the creature’s wake.

“Open your eyes,” said Gard, and they did.

There were more vile monsters to be driven away in the lake, then they were onto Stone Mountain.

“I am afraid,” said Wyatt. “There is only one type of entity that lives here, and the only thing it fears is a certain dragon, and I’m sure Gard doesn’t have that in his pocket.”

“But he has been true to this point, and we must have the sword.”

They moved upward, and then the part of the mountain they were on shook. They hung on, and when the rumbling ceased, a massive creature glared down at them.

Gard didn’t have to tell them to close their eyes this time. It was a natural reaction to a stone monster’s attack.

The stone monster’s guttural sound may have been the most frightened they’d heard yet. When the scream was gone and the surface of the mountain no longer shook, they were left with the sound of Gard’s gloating.

“Run, you coward! Run and tell all your friends that dwarves will soon rule the world!”

They reached the peak of the mountain and started down the other side. What was next was a level field of grass. Across the field stood the tower that contained the sword.

“According to legend, there is only one beast left,” said Yan.

“Yes, the one even stone monsters fear.”

“They say it has diamond claws and diamond teeth to cut through the stone.”

“Yes. I’ve heard the legends. They say it even . . .”

Wyatt stopped. It all made sense now.

“Where did you get them!” he shouted at Gard. “Who was the wizard?”
Gard stopped. He looked back at them with a bold expression. “His name was Likehearst.”

“Likehearst! You fool! He’s an enemy of dwarves.”

“He told me he has changed his ways. And hasn’t that been proven? Have I not thwarted all attacks?”

Wyatt laughed, but he wasn’t overjoyed. “Tell me, are they diamonds? Are they oval shaped? If you look closely at them, can you see a tiny speck in their center?”

Just then, Gard turned from them. He brought something from his pocket, inspected it for a few seconds then returned it to the keeping place.

“How did you know?”

Just then, there was a mighty roar, and a beast came from the tower.

Wyatt laughed once more and said, “The dragon lays diamond eggs. No creature would dare risk harming them, and no wise creature would be caught with them in his possession.”

Gard actually turned and showed them to the beast. It didn’t turn back.
"Inside Gard's Pocket"
Copyright: © 2009 Joshua Scribner
Joshua Scribner is the author of the forthcoming Mantis series, as well as the novels The Coma Lights and Nescata. He's published over 100 pieces of short fiction. Up to date information of his work can be found at

Joe and Bill were watching Monday Night Football when somebody knocked on the door.

Opening the door, Joe was startled to see a huge gorilla in a delivery uniform. Next to him was a purple refrigerator wrapped in yellow ribbon and topped with a big bow.

“Sign here,” said the gorilla.

“Who’s it from,” Joe asked.

“I don’t know. There’s a card attached.”

Pulling the card from the refrigerator, Joe opened it and read aloud. “A Gift Just For You.” The card was unsigned.

“Where do you want this thing?”

“Put it in the kitchen.”

The gorilla grabbed the refrigerator, slung it under his arm, and carried it into Joe’s kitchen.

“Thanks,” Joe said.

The gorilla put out his hand, and waited. When Joe gave him five dollars, the gorilla threw the money, roared ferociously, and jumped up and down.

Bill ran into the kitchen. “Give him a banana before he tears your place apart!”

Grabbing two bananas, Joe offered them to the gorilla.

The animal stopped his tantrum immediately. Grabbing the bananas, he said, “Have a nice day.” A second later, he was gone.

“What the hell was that all about?” Joe asked.

“Blame it on outsourcing,” Bill said. “Consider yourself lucky it spoke English.” Then he added, “Geez, I never saw a purple refrigerator before. Where’d it come from?”

“I don’t know. Whoever sent it didn’t sign the card. I’m gonna open it. If somebody was nice enough to buy me a gift like this, maybe they were nice enough to put something valuable inside.”

Joe cut the ribbon, and opened the refrigerator. Instead of shelves, he found a second door inside made of old, weathered wood. Mounted on the door was a red flashing neon sign that said: KELLY’S BAR.

Astonished, Joe opened the wooden door. Suddenly, the apartment was flooded with loud music, raucous laughter, and the odor of stale beer.

“Sounds like somebody’s having one helluva party in there.”

“Let me have a look,” said Bill. “There’s nothing to see. It’s pitch black inside.”

A voice rang out from inside the bar. “Close the damn door! You’re lettin’ flies in!”

Startled, Joe slammed the door shut.

“Don’t open it again!” Bill hollered. “It could be the doorway to Hell.”

“How can that be Hell when everybody’s having such a great time?”

The wooden door flew open on it’s own. A woman’s voice called, “Hey, Handsome. Come inside and join the party. I’ll buy you a beer.”

“Did you hear that?” Joe asked. “She sounds hot. Hey, if a babe wants to buy me a beer, I sure ain’t gonna disappoint her.”

“Don’t go!” Bill said. “She could be one of them hags I heard about on a spooky talk show. They look great for a while, then when you’re in their clutches, they turn into ugly, man-eating monsters.”

“That’s bull. I’m going in.” Bill jumped in front of the door. “I swear, if you try to go in there, I’ll bust your head.”

“Move away or you’re a dead man!” Joe yelled.

Suddenly, Kelly's door swung outward with such force it knocked Bill over. Huge pointed claws reached out, grabbed his ankles, and yanked him into the darkness.

Though Joe tried to save Bill, he wasn’t quick enough. The door slammed in his face. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t open it. He ran to the garage, grabbed a sledgehammer, and slammed the wooden door with all his might. But he didn’t even make a dent.

Dialing 911, he hollered, “Help! This is an emergency! Something weird just pulled my friend inside a refrigerator. And I can’t get the door open.”

“Is it a purple refrigerator?”

“Was it delivered by a gorilla?”


While the operator said, “I’ll hafta put you on hold—-the same thing’s happening all over town,” sharp claws grabbed Joe’s ankles and pulled him into the darkness.

"The Wooden Door"
Copyright: © 2009 Michael A. Kechula
Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in eight contests and placed in seven others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 114 magazines and 30 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at and Paperback available at

As the sun’s blaze of luminance crested over the outer edge of Jupiter, Manny thought that he had never seen a more beautiful sight in all of his life. Throughout his travels through space, he had seen many wondrous sights, but this was by far his favorite. Most of the time staring out into space is quite boring. Much like looking into the night sky, but this was unparalleled with anything he had ever seen before. He needed something good in his life with what had been going on. Then he heard it: the howling.
Since their arrival in the orbit of Jupiter, Manny and his crew sporadically heard a loud pitch sound. It almost sounded like a wolf baby crying. It was then that Manny realized that the sound always began the second they were on the dark side of Jupiter. He wondered if something could actually be living down there in the mass of swirling gas clouds. Something that did not like the dark. He was shocked out of his deep train of thought by a sound behind him.
“Captain, I just found Ensign Williams dead sir. He appears to have died from some sort of a trauma to his head.”
“Damn it lieutenant! All right, put him in sick bay with the rest of them. How close is Ensign Eagle to getting our systems back online?”
“I’m not sure, sir, but he has to be almost finished. I spoke with him over an hour ago, and he told me that he needed only about another hour to restore the system.”
The mission had been nothing but hell since they had first heard the howling from the dark side of Jupiter. First, the systems unexpectedly went down, and then crew members were being found dead. The only survivors at this point were Manny, Lieutenant Bacon, and Ensign Eagle. All of the others had perished from strange occurrences. All Manny wanted was to get the systems back online and get the hell away from this godforsaken planet.
The excitement he had once felt for this mission was astounding. He had been personally selected to captain the mission to Jupiter and lead the research of the Great Red Spot. It was a fact finding mission beyond anything that had even been documented by history, and he, Manuel Ortega, was selected to be the leader of this groundbreaking adventure. Now he wished he hadn’t.
The howling increased. It was enough to drive a man crazy. What could be making that horrible shrill from the depths of the gas giant? How could anything be living down there? And what connection did the howling have to do with his crew’s mysterious deaths? He heard a noise behind him and turned around.
“Oh, Ensign Eagle. Are we back online yet?” he asked as he saw the engineer walking toward him.
“Yes sir, we are, but I’m afraid that it’s not going to do you any good,” the Ensign answered.
“What are you talking about, Ensign? Explain yourself!”
“You see, you won’t be coming back to Earth with me,” he responded.
“How dare you speak to a commanding officer like that! What you are saying to me is mutinous! I will have Lieutenant Bacon lock you up in the brig for that comment!” Manny screamed at him.
“That will be sort of hard for the Lieu to accomplish as I just got done smashing his head in back in the infirmary. It squashed like an over-ripe grapefruit. It was beautiful.”.
“It’s been you? You’ve been doing this? But why?” Manny questioned.
“Because when I get back to Earth, I’m set for life. As the only survivor to a mission gone horribly wrong, I’ll be renowned as a national hero. I’ll be showered with fame and fortune. Back when I was on Earth, I used to get a thrill out of strangling a hooker on occasion. I loved the sensation of watching the fear in those stupid bitches’ eyes as they realized that they were going to die. It was exhilarating! But now I found something even more thrilling. There’s nothing like killing someone while you’re in space!”
“You’re insane,” Manny responded. “So you turned the systems offline and murdered the crew. What are you going to do when they find the bodies after you return to Earth?”
“There won’t be any bodies because I’m going to vacuum them out through the airlock. I’ve got plenty of time to cover my tracks. It’s a long trip home.”
“And what about the howling? What is it?” Manny asked.
“I have no idea,” Ensign Eagle told him. “I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I care about is watching your face as I do this!”
Ensign Eagle suddenly lifted a large metal tool into the air and slammed it down with great force toward Manny’s head. Manny tried to block the blow with his arms, but he only partially thwarted the attack. He felt the bones in his forearm shatter as the metal rod crashed into him. The impact knocked him out of his seat and onto the ground where Ensign Eagle proceeded to stand over him and repeatedly hit him with the makeshift weapon. He felt the life being pulled away from him and all he heard was the howling as his mind faded to black. The howling on the dark side of Jupiter.

"The Dark Side of Jupiter"
Copyright: © 2009 B. A. Sans
B. A. Sans writes for both adults and children. His work has been published in numerous literary magazines such as Boston Literary, Necrotic Tissue, and Stories for Children Magazine. He has also written two adult novels and two middle grade novels for which he is currently searching for representation.

The girls sat all together in a corner of the yard, bumping their eighth month bellies and drinking the crisp cool of the grass as a curative against late August. A light breeze tricked seedpods into buzzes and rattles reminiscent of the cicadas of the east, but thinner, because the dry air suckled from until they hung from their baked stalks like rattles in waiting for the issue of those four ripe bellies in their midst.

“Do you remember what it was you used to do? Before all of this?” Beth, always the most self-centered, if there can be a contest of self-centered among pregnant women, stirred up the dialogue so she might reminisce about pre-Law at the University. She’d discovered her earlier life to be much more thrilling in repetition than in experience.

“I used to do photography,” Marie told them. “I imagined I’d take a class, to learn about the lenses and filters and all those developing fluids.” She shrugged her shoulders in that dismissive way, like branches shaking snow off.

“What would you photograph?” Rachel asked. She possessed this endearing quality of projecting genuine intrigue, when she asked, she really, truly wanted to know, in this case, exactly what Marie would have photographed in a life once removed from them. A life, irrelevant.

“Oh,” Marie sighed. “Did you ever see those framed pictures people sold at markets and craft? You know, of colored sunsets and bees rooting in flowers?”

“You wanted to be a craft fair vendor?” Beth smoothed out her eyebrow to nose wrinkle a breath after she felt it. Marie, prone to prone to tears, might take offense.

“No, but I wanted to take the pictures, you know, like a hobby. I could get someone else to run the booth, yes?”

“Not a lot of money in that. Especially if you had to pay the guy to work the booth.” Beth enjoyed considering all the details. That’s what she imagined she would have done at a law firm. She would have been the one who analyzed the scene, like a detective, and extracted the prize detail that delineated between accident and murder. “But anyway, you wouldn’t be allowed to develop the photos now. Too many chemicals.”

And there lay the truth of their lives. After the Collapse, it was as if they endured a retroactive punishment for their chemical dependence. All chemicals, all substances needing human refinement, were eliminated. This of course, precipitated the second and third collapses, like aftershocks of a quake. The evolutionary biologists, recovered from their throes of mourning, raised the cry of evolutionary bottleneck and species reinvention. Women of decimated populations were encouraged to procreate, at the state’s expense. The rational being that, if the initial Biological Collapse hadn’t killed them, any woman who managed a chemical free pregnancy would be birthing a new race of men.

Sociologists were the next to ride the grief cycle to curiosity. The deaths and the terror, followed so closely by a new and provocative hope, appeared to rattle monogamy to shambles. Girls and women everywhere were sprouting rounded bellies like a survival cry and thronging together into state sponsored housing. Many knew nothing of their pollinators except they’d survived, and that, as always, was sexy enough.

Isis, the fourth in their ripening quartet, drifted out of the conversation. The quietest of the four and the eldest by several years, she grew inside her, not just a child but also a tuberous guilt for her sliver of participation in the raging chemical industry. Secretly, she cherished memories of chemical formulas, reactions and titrations that shifted like magic from one color to another, the brilliant crystals that rose from murky liquids like mountain ranges forced from invisible plates. Her worries got drunk on awe and failed understanding. How did it all go so wrong so fast? She looked out past their trimmed patch of green, along the ornamentals they’d gathered together for their sitting garden and out into the fields of grass, grass, grass. All wind pollinated and hardy.

“Do you remember bees?” she asked the girls, her little bevy of bellies.

“I was stung once by a hornet,” Marie volunteered. “They’re nasty beasts. They’re one I’m glad is gone.”

“No, Marie, bees. Honey bees, bumble bees. Do you remember honey?” Isis said the word, like a vocal sigh. Erotic, sweet, salivating honey.

“I had a boyfriend who liked baklava from the Greek deli by our apartment,” Rachel said. “It oozed honey, like comb. It was so sweet my throat would ache.” She smiled, recalling an ache not unpleasant. “He was Greek, too,” she added, stretching out her smile that slipped as she caught a ripple of muscle across her belly. The girls leaned in to steady her.

Beth allowed the sororal pause for a few breaths then drew the conversation back to her. “One man I saw, he was in medical school, he told me honey had antibacterial properties. That’s why the sugars kept so long. He said honey was good for the skin. Once, he brought the honey bear into the bedroom.” Here she giggled at the amber memory of sweet and salty, slow summer skin. “We stuck to the sheets,” she admitted.

Marie absently licked her lips. Isis stroked her own memory of honey, better preserved internally, and of bees hanging like pendants on Vermont clover in July.

The breeze stirred up again, the cool impartial wind that could not be nailed down but carried the breath of procreation on it where ever it went. Stuck in the alluring memory of those sweet, singular bees, none thought to give thanks for their last great remaining pollinator.

"The Girls Who Followed Bees" Copyright: © 2009 Christie Isler
Christie Isler is a poet, writer, musician, and teacher in the Pacific Northwest. She writes prose and poetry and has seen work published in several online collections. Her affection for science fiction and fantasy began in childhood with Ray Bradbury and Ursula LeGuin and has yet to let up. Christie makes her home outside of Seattle, Washington.

Jessica felt the heft of the blade in her hand, pleased with the balance. She stashed it in the leather sheath strapped to her thigh, in plain view. Her act of defiance marked her as a hunter, not one of the sheep. The promise of a confrontation hung in the air. Good. Bring it on.

Tales of the Overlords filled her bedtime stories as a child, living in the communes, raised by the sheep. She’d lost her parents as a babe during those months of conflict, twenty years ago. The swaths of destruction in the city beyond lay fallow, silent graveyards attesting to the absolute power of the diabolical soldiers. The bleats of mourning for missed conveniences had been her education about the world of yesterday. Let them lament what they’d lost; it had been their world, not hers.

The raiders had left enough infrastructure in place to subsist in a rudimentary fashion, even improving it on some levels, from what she’d been told. No one wanted for food or clothing. And if they were forced to reside in groups, what of it? Jessica didn’t see the allure of living by oneself. The old ones were crazy anyway, wanting what they no longer had.

A few of the Overlords remained, determined to hold that which they’d so brutally taken. Their two species were quite similar; at a glance, the Overlords could blend in well. What set them apart were the uniforms they were so fond of wearing. That attitude of superiority sparked a budding hatred in Jessica as she grew up, convincing her to become a hunter.

The assholes could be killed, just as any mortal man. A swift plunge of steel in a well-chosen spot would silence the organs that kept them breathing. Only death would stop the advance of their tyranny. Let the sheep huddle in the safety of their comfortable cages. She, and other hunters like her, would liberate the planet…or die trying.

Stealth brought Jessica up behind a lone Overlord, taking his ease in the sunshine behind a building…sunshine forbidden to the sheep, because of the anti-congregation laws. She withdrew her blade with the slightest whisper of sound, the snick of leather just loud enough for a casual turn in her direction. The thrust held true, his eyes widened then closed forever.

Jessica pocketed his uniform patch to add to her growing collection of souvenirs. Perhaps she wouldn’t kill the next one as quickly, have a conversation with him instead. She’d been wondering for some time now as to where their home world was located and what ‘United Federation of Earth’ meant.

"Hunter" Copyright: © 2009 Laura Eno
Laura Eno ( lives in Florida with her husband. She has written two YA fantasy novels and a paranormal romance, but lately has felt compelled to write in the dark fantasy/horror genre. Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Twisted Dreams, The Monsters Next Door, Flashes in the Dark, 10Flash, and MicroHorror.

I’m dead.

Face down in the waves of San Francisco Bay. I imagine a shark will come along and eat me, but I don’t care.

I wonder when my body will start to rot, if my arms and legs will fall off. The thought resonates inside my head, but I don’t feel anything.

I drift with the current, probably out to sea. Shapes cloaked in darkness undulate beneath me. They are coming. Why should I care? Bits of flotsam drift past my open eyes: a silvery gum wrapper; something that looks like sewage, brown and irregular; a plastic bottle, half-empty or half-full. The thought of being a half-empty sort of guy seems funny in a twisted way.
The past few months have been nothing but misery. She blamed me for everything: the relationship, or lack of one, as she liked to say. Living together didn’t count in her book, even though we both had agreed that we were exclusive with one another. She stopped dropping hints about getting married over a year ago; then she beat me over the head with it. I couldn’t do it, not again, not yet.

She leaned back on her pillows and scowled when I told her how much I cared for her. “Words are cheap,” she said. “You need to shit or get off the pot.”

“I hate that expression.”

“Too bad. Marry me or I’ll leave.”

She didn’t come home the next night or the night after. Her car was gone and she had taken a small bag, having left while I pretended to search for a job. She hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye. I should have seen it coming. What I didn’t know was why she put up with a loser like me. I never told her that I loved her.

I'm dead, I think. She’ll know how much I love her when she finds out I jumped from the bay bridge.

The half-empty bottle tumbles into watery darkness and disappears. Will I sink? What if my body is never found? Will she even care? I know she loves me. I know it, and I want her to know that I love her, too.

Strands of toilet paper swirl around me; clods of crap cloud the water; the unmistakable silhouette of a shark glides through the murk. A silver-dollar sized eye glares as it passes. The current is flowing into the bay. I should have checked the tide charts before jumping, but I was so distraught.

Something bumps me. A jaw with rows of razor teeth slashes past my face followed by the slender gray torpedo shape of a shark undulating into the depths. Wooden crates, garbage bags, bits of tree limbs, and toilet paper—gobs and gobs of toilet paper curl around me.

The flotsam-filled sea churns, and something breaks free. A cloud of red fills the water. My God! The shark is eating me! Its black eyes stare like dead glass marbles as its jaws clamp and thrash on my mangled leg—hit again and another piece, the bloody stump of my arm, swings past my eyes. I don’t feel anything; nevertheless, to witness my own dismemberment, I want to scream, the raw throat ripping sensation tearing my esophagus to shreds. I want my heart to pound, each pulse like a hammer striking iron, reverberating, blood throbbing in my neck—but nothing registers except the numbness of dead meat.

I tumble through murk, a forest of shit and yellow-brown clumps. A dismembered Barbie head bobs beneath the waves.

Then I see her. Her dead eyes glazed over with filth from the bay, her flesh, pale and gray, her head swinging with the waves on the gore-filled remains of her torso. The green dress, the one I always liked, hangs in shreds from her neck.

Why did you do it? I wasn’t worth it. The urge to kill myself burns inside me…again.

A crab crawls from between her parted lips, a smile. She must know that I jumped for her. God, let her know it.

My words weren’t cheap. I love you.

"Words Are Never Enough" Copyright: © 2009 Tom Beck

The blood still dripped from the windowsill. Soon the shadows would obscure it completely. No one would be the wiser then. The deed would be lost, not to be discovered until morning. By then, he would have his alibi ready, no longer thinking about the satisfaction that came from rending flesh, nor the pleasure derived from hearing the pop and crunch of bones.

Indeed, by morning he might not even remember this night. That was his way, after all. The morning light would hit his face, showing an innocent composure. But tonight… tonight he still recalled everything that had transpired.

It wasn’t his fault, not really anyway. They shouldn’t have led him to it, shouldn’t have given him the opening to such temptation. They knew what acts he was capable of, but chose to ignore his inner nature, believing that he had been rehabilitated by the docile life forced upon him. In the morning they would discover the truth. This might be his last night of freedom.

He saw the moon rise now. The light spilled across the windowsill, hitting the blood stains. The dark blotches stood out on the carpet to his eyes, but they wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone else…not until daybreak anyway.

What should he do with his last night of freedom? Run? Look for more trouble? No, he finally decided. He was too weary for that. He would just sleep and wait for the morning. Whatever accusations came his way wouldn’t really belong to him anyway. They knew his nature. It was their fault. They shouldn’t have left the damn bird sitting on the windowsill in the first place. What did they expect a cat to do?

"The Windowsill"
Copyright: © 2009 Laura Eno
Laura Eno ( lives in Florida with her husband. She has written two YA fantasy novels and a paranormal romance, but lately has felt compelled to write in the dark fantasy/horror genre. Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Twisted Dreams, The Monsters Next Door, Flashes in the Dark, 10Flash, and MicroHorror.

Downhearted and dejected, Harvey walked into the police station. He knew the moment he told them what he’d done, they’d book him. The trial would be swift. The jury would find him guilty. And he’d be executed for his horrible crime. He shuddered. But deep inside he knew it was the right thing to do. No sense trying to hide it.
“I’m the one who did it. I’m guilty,” he said to the Desk Sergeant, eyes downcast.

“What did you do?”

“I killed her.”
“Her who?” the Sergeant asked roughly, pressing a button under his desk to alert detectives.

“The woman without the red dress.”

“Where's the body?” the cop asked glancing at last night’s list of major crimes.

“I don’t remember.”

It had been a rare night: no murders had been listed on the Detroit Police Blotter.

“What’s your name?”

“Harvey Clutch.”

“Your address and phone number?”

Harvey gave both, then added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. But I get such overwhelming urges. Aren’t you going to read me my rights?”

“Not today. We skip it every other day. Gives citizens a break. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll call you as soon as we find the body. Did you say she wasn’t in a green dress?”

“No. Red. Found it in my bed next to me when I woke up. Empty. I mean she wasn’t in it.”

“I see. You humped her and then she left without her dress.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Raped her fifteen times.”

A side door opened. “I’m Detective Hobs,” said a nasty-looking brute. “Need to talk to me, do you?”

The Sergeant winked. “No need. He just confessed to rape and murder. I’ve taken his statement. He’s guilty as sin. I just told him to go home until we find the body. You know, the woman who was murdered last night? The one without her red dress?”

“Oh her. Well, we just got in a new bunch of stiffs. All women. One of them didn’t have a red dress. They’re still dusting her thingee for prints. Soon as we find your prints on the body, we’ll call you. Can you get here within fifteen minutes after we call? Or will you need to eat first?”

“Oh no. I snack quite often during the day. Diabetic. I’ll be down here right after you call.”

“OK,” said Hobs. “Meanwhile, don’t skip town. We’ll be watching the busses, trains, and airports.”

“Oh, I won’t try to run.”

“OK, then,” said the Sergeant. “I’ll see you as soon as we get a make on your prints. Probably in a couple hours.”

“Should I pack a little bag before I come in?”

“Nah. We have everything here. The best brands. We’ll take good care of you.”

“That’s very thoughtful. I don’t deserve it. I’m guilty, you know?”

“Yep. I know. And we’re gonna throw the book at you.”

“Thanks. I deserve it. OK. I’ll see you later.”

“Bye-Bye,” said the Sergeant.

“Toodle-oo,” said the detective.

When Harvey left, they pissed their pants laughing.

The Sarge added Harvey’s name and general description to their list of obsessive confessors.

Such nice guys, Harvey said to himself. It’s gratifying to see my tax dollars at work.

Back in his basement apartment, Harvey removed the red dress from his bed, put it on a hangar, and hung it in a closet. Then, using a black marking pen, he wrote “PEOPLE’S EXHIBIT NO. 1,” on a 3 x 5 card and stapled it to the dress.

Popping a Coke can, he tried to remember where he’d stashed her body. He checked the park for freshly dug holes on his way home. Didn’t see any. He was certain he put her behind the oak tree. The one with all the initials carved into the trunk. Or had he been dreaming?

She wasn’t in the oven, or the clothes dryer. Not in the bathtub, either.

That’s odd. I thought there was a woman here last night. Or was that a dream?

When he checked under his bed he saw her decapitated head and the rest of her body. He also found the flexible straw through which he’d slowly swigged her blood. It looked reusable, so he rinsed it and left it out to dry.

Grabbing another 3 x 5 card, he carefully wrote, “PEOPLE’S EXHIBIT NO. 2,” and stapled it to her pallid cheek. “PEOPLE’S EXHIBIT NO. 3,” was stapled to her groin. The one he’d bounced on so joyously after her decapitation. Fifteen times. Three times more than the last one. The one without the blue dress.

"The Woman Without The Red Dress"
Copyright: © 2009 Michael A. Kechula
Michael A. Kechula is a retired tech writer. His fiction has won first place in eight contests and placed in seven others. He’s also won Editor’s Choice awards four times. His stories have been published by 114 magazines and 30 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, India, Scotland, and US. He’s authored a book of flash and micro-fiction stories: “A Full Deck of Zombies--61 Speculative Fiction Tales.” eBook available at and Paperback available at

There is something inside my shadow. I can feel it when I move, see it when I turn my head and watch my inky doppelganger dance along the pavement behind me. It should mirror my movements, but it doesn't. Not completely.

It twitches and jerks when it thinks I'm not looking. It oozes out and reaches across the ground when I'm standing still. It's not the movement of light changing its form, though most people I've mentioned it to give that explanation, right before taking another step back from me.
There's something in there, and I don't know what it is.

That morning, just weeks ago, the sun was out, uncovered, blasting the city with the full strength of its rays. My shadow and I were on our daily walk. I was hot, tired, covered in sweat. I ducked into a convenience store to buy a bottle of water. As I sat on a painted metal bench outside, cooking myself in the sun, I saw my shadow pool out from underneath me and surround a dead bird on the sidewalk. A moment later, the shadow was back in its proper place and the bird was nowhere to be found.

I tried to ignore it, pretend I didn't actually see it, but the sight of the black pool dampening and dissolving the corpse's feathers proved to be too much. It had burned its way into my brain and nothing I could force myself to think about would be strong enough to erase it.

On my way home I passed a playground. In the middle of the day, in the full swing of summer, not a single monkey bar or tee ball field was empty. Children and parents crowded the benches and grassy expanses shoulder to shoulder, cheering and talking amongst themselves.

A boy, not more than five, crawled to the top of a jungle gym, spreading his arms wide and yelling for his mother to watch him. He seemed to be directing his tiny voice at a dark-haired woman whose head was turned in concentration to what a man beside her was saying. She didn't appear to hear the little voice calling for her.

The child's footing wasn't secure. Perhaps the rusty metal bars were still slick with summer morning dew. His little feet slid out from under him, his arms grappling for a hold, his face bouncing with a loud crack as it connected on its way down to the ground.

A moment of pure silence, and then blood, sticky and slow like syrup, pooling around his face, seeping into the sand. Children stopped what they were doing, adults stared, and the dark-haired woman, now paying attention, began to scream.

I felt a rustling below and behind me, a darkness creeping out from the blur I cast onto the sidewalk. It was moving, not towards any bird or insect nestled in the grass but slowly, without alerting the distracted crowd, towards the cluster of children. Towards the jungle gym.

I felt bile rising, stinging my throat. I took a step back. It resisted, still crawling towards where the motionless boy lay, where his mother held him in blood-stained arms and screamed for an ambulance.

I ran, leaving the playground behind with as much speed as I could force into my legs, and made for my home. As I fled, I turned back to make sure my shadow was following. It roiled like an angry sea, grasping at the concrete and grass, trying to force me to stop. In those moments I did not care if anyone saw or questioned. I only wanted to get away.

I raced up my steps and unlocked the door, throwing myself into the house. I flipped every switch I could reach and sat in the middle of my kitchen floor, where the light was strongest. My shadow was forced to reduce itself to a fraction of what it had been outside, and the small blot on the floor slid furiously about my ankles. When it had calmed some, I crawled to the refrigerator, reached inside the meat drawer and tore apart a slice of aging lunchmeat I knew I wouldn't be eating. I tossed the pieces into my shadow, and they disappeared one by one.

I cannot go outside anymore. I cannot mix with people, with pets, with wildlife. I am now sequestered in the house, relying on grocery deliveries left on my doorstep, until whatever it is inside my shadow disappears or dies.

It's not me, but it hides where only I can see it, and it's hungry.

"The Rogue"
Copyright: © 2009 Jessica Brown
Jessica Brown is a thirty-year-old fan of horror and dark fantasy whose work has been featured in Shadow Feast, The Nocturnal Lyric, Bloodfetish, Horrotica, MicroHorror, Flashes in the Dark and The Harrow. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and can be found at

The sound of dried leaves crunching underfoot was soothing for Sandra. There was no better season than autumn for a walk, she thought. She had decided to go back to Cove Spring City Park. She had not been there in several years. She thought a change in scenery would be refreshing.

Sandra had taken the longest trail on the map. She remembered walking it when the park first opened a few years ago. It was not overly strenuous, just invigorating.

The trees were growing bare. A breeze brought down another swirling swarm of colorful leaves. A stray fawn darted up the hillside. Sandra was in a state of bliss. Nature was her drug.

About a quarter of a mile into the trail, she noticed a new pathway - at least new to her. It looked crude and narrow. It was probably a deer path, she thought. She had just passed it when she heard a faint sound. It was a sound that one does not expect to hear in the wilderness. It was the sound of a crying baby.

Sandra quickly took the narrow path. She followed the sound as best she could over the crunching leaves. The vegetation grew thicker and the pathway virtually disappeared behind her. She was wading through hip-deep grass and weeds.

The trees seemed to envelope her. She could not see the trail any longer, but the sound of the baby’s cries drew her further into the woods. As the cry grew louder, her search grew more frantic. Finally, in the deep underbrush, she found a small blue bundle.

She picked it up and tried to console it by rocking it in her arms as she gently pulled the blanket from its face. As soon as she uncovered its face, she stood breathlessly horrified at the sight of it.

Instead of pink chubby cheeks, she found leathery, yellow skin. Its red, bulging eyes burned into hers. Its nose was similar to a bat’s - it was upturned and had two slits for nostrils. Upon seeing her, the creature screeched and then smiled, revealing several rows of jagged teeth.

The tree limbs came alive with movement. The grass rustled and swayed all around her. Suddenly a swarm of creatures, similar to the abomination in her arms, latched onto her. Her muffled screams filled the autumn breeze. Their trap had worked flawlessly, as always.

"The Good Samaritan"
Copyright: © 2009 Brian Barnett
Brian Barnett lives with his wife, Stephanie, and son, Michael, in Frankfort, Kentucky. To date, he has published over thirty-five stories since he began publishing in November 2008. He has been published by, Static Movement, The Monsters Next Door, Sonar4 Ezine, Blood Moon Rising, Flashshot, Flashes in the Dark, Dark Fire Fiction, Burst Fiction, The Daily Tourniquet, Yellow Mama, The Lesser Flamingo, and The Short Humour Site.

I had a migraine that day. A terrible, terrible migraine. My brain was a ticking time bomb that would never explode. It just kept ticking and ticking and ticking.

Tick, tick, tick.

The origin of the pain seemed to be the five sections of vertebrae that lay between my neck and shoulders. I took a hot shower thinking somehow it could stop the pain. I lay in the tub and let the water pour down on me from above, soaking into and pruning my skin. I was an old man then, so I don’t know what that makes me now.

Then the pain kicked and ripped apart my brain. I felt the prying fingers of a fucking ape! The bastard was spreading apart the deep folds of my brain looking for mites, lice or any other vermin that may be living down inside. Pain radiated from the bones in my neck like a thousand volts of electricity! I reacted quickly and took a hold of my head with both hands. I twisted my skull with a violent rage! I was going to kill that fucking ape! But then I heard it.


I heard the terrible sound of vertebrae slipping, shifting, snapping. Then the world went dark.
Blindness wasn’t the only thing that furious pop brought me that day, it also paralyzed my entire body. Every nerve inside of me shut off, like I had blown a goddamn fuse. From that day on I’ve been nothing but a lump.

A Spanish woman named Penelope takes care of me. She was sent by the goddamn government to spy on me! I didn’t file my taxes for the year 1978 and they’ve been following me ever since. She steals from me! I can hear her quietly going through my things and the jingle-jangle of her oversized purse as she scrambles for the door. That whore! She feeds me too much! I am a fat bloated pig now because of her! Every bit of 500 pounds! She’s trying to kill me!

In the twenty years that I’ve been this fucking lump of flesh and bone, I have nearly forgotten the beauty of the world. Colors have faded from memory; I can only truly remember the colors purple and red. Penelope may as well be tooth or nail, I would never know the difference.

Sometimes she leaves me here alone when she thinks I am asleep. When the house is empty, I can hear for miles. I can hear children playing at a playground a block away. I can hear neighbors walking their dogs. But today there is none of that.

It’s storming. I’m not talking about a little rain, I’m talking about the types of storms that hurricanes are made of!

Thunder booms and shakes the foundation of my home. For a split second the vibrations allow me to move again! The thunder sends a shock so powerful through my body that my muscles actually contract! I wait for the next crack of the whip. The next booming thunder is twice as effective as the one before! My neck slings forward like a catapult, landing face first on my pillowy chest.

With all of the excitement of moving, I hardly notice my breathing is limited, sucking in tufts of skin more than air. A third cracking thunder hurls my body forward and sends me tumbling to the floor below, my neck folding under.

In these last few seconds of life I am happy, finally remembering all the colors of the world.

"The Lump"
Copyright: © 2009 William Pauley III