Thirteen Week Streak – Week Three: Belly Rotters

Thirteen Week Streak – Week Three: Belly Rotters

Peter’s stomach gave an audible gurgle. He clutched at his sides and moaned.

“Seriously, why you insist on eating those things?” Wendy, his wife, said. “Food stand dogs are probably the worst thing ever. They always make you sick.”

“I’m not sick,” he insisted. “I just need to…” He swallowed hard and jerked a thumb toward a row of green Portaloos running the edge of the festival area. The gurgling gave way to the first ripple of cramps and Peter was moving, not even pausing to catch his wife’s reply.

While he’d never admit that Wendy was right, it was true festival hot dogs never failed to give him a terrible stomach, though it hadn’t been as bad as this before.

But they’re so goddamn tasty.

He crossed the field at close to a sprint, rounded the side of the chemical toilet…and ran straight into the biggest line he’d seen in all his years of attending the event. How had he not noticed it before? Sixteen deep at its shortest point and every face in it as creased and contorted with pain as his.

Another groan — half in exasperation, half in response to the twisting pain — escaped him. Doubting his ability to hold himself together long enough to take his turn, he checked around for ‘alternatives’. The closest option, some distance away to his right, was a small copse of trees just inside the perimeter fence. The next set of toilets, however, were back at the gate where he’d entered nearly an hour earlier.

Why did I eat that dog?

His stomach muscles tightened like someone had flicked him hard in the gut with a gigantic rubber band. He wouldn’t make it anywhere else, better to wait in line and hope it moved quickly.

Trying to ignore the sharp pains growing in intensity and frequency, he joined the queue behind a teenage girl. The girl — nineteen, blonde, and wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes — fidgeted awkwardly in place, swaying gently side-to-side. Like Peter, she too held her stomach.

“Did you…did you have the hot dogs too?” he asked her, trying to keep his voice light and his mind off the growing dread at the seemingly stalled line.

She nodded her head but didn’t face him. Peter could hear the churning contents in her guts. She gave a little sob.

“Not sure they were all that fresh this year,” he continued, playing down the sudden, rotting smell that filled the air between them.

She whirled around as though struck. Her eyes streaked with bloodshot veins. Black blood oozed over thin parted lips and down the front of her t-shirt.

Behind the girl, others turned to face his way. Teeth bared, eyes dark with ruptured capillaries. Peter saw one, a guy with a top knot, snatch at a young woman passing by and bite her cheek, tearing away a lump of flesh.

Christ, what was in those dogs? he thought…and felt blood rise up his throat.

Thirteen Week Streak – Week Two: The Route to the Path to the Way of Requited Love

Thirteen Week Streak – Week Two: The Route to the Path to the Way of Requited Love

I know exactly why you are here. You are a seeker of meaning, a seeker of The Answer. Well, just down that path, no more than an hour’s walk from here, you will encounter a fork in the road that does not appear on any map. You will know it by the gentle fragrance of jasmine petals and the attentive stares of three black cats (if you reach the standing stone, you’ve gone too far).

While I strongly caution against taking the right fork, I know I will be ignored. So tread carefully, and ensure you take three flowers with you (I cannot help you to choose which three, but choose wisely).

Once you are committed in this endeavour, stick tight to the trail. Do not hesitate in your step for more than a moment, do not slip, trip, or stumble on any stone or errant branch you may find in your way, and never EVER stray from the path.

At the Man of Leaves, you must take seven short steps to your left and whisper the name of your mother’s eldest sibling into the North Wind’s coat tails. The departing wind will howl back in anguish the exact hour of your death, but take care not listen, or you will be permitted no further.

Present your first flower to the Man of Leaves and he will point you in the direction of the second leg of your journey. He is full of lies and not to be trusted. Still, take the route he indicates, but do so only with backwards steps. Do not allow your gaze to stray from his variegated face until the protective shadow of the Great Oak dulls the hue of your fine clothes.

From high in the branches above you, you will hear the laughter of squirrels (ignore their mocking tones for who frets over the opinions of rodents). It is to them you must offer your second tribute. If they approve of your choice of flower, they will call forth the Rooted Worm to bear you to the edge of the forest upon its elasticated spine. If they do not…well, you will soon find that out for yourself.

Should your nerve hold strong and your desire remain unwavering, you will find yourself on the edge of a wildflower meadow and at the centre, a house — your own house. This is not the time for idling for the person within is the one you have sought from your very first step, the sole purpose of this voyage. They will stand, eager, in the doorway, awaiting your return and your decision. It is to this person, and this person alone, you should make your final tribute: the last plucked flower, and your unconditional devotion.

Thirteen Week Streak – Week One: A Return to Swollen Seas

Thirteen Week Streak – Week One: A Return to Swollen Seas

Detective David McAddam pressed his thumbs into the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Alright, let’s hear it again for clarity. What happened on that boat?”

Sandra Dennis swallowed the last of her cold coffee and sat back on the hard plastic chair. “How many times—?”

“As many as it takes,” the detective said.

Sandra rolled her eyes. “She went home.”

“Went home? What do you mean by ‘went home’?”

“Back to her people. What do you think I mean?”

McAddam’s head throbbed. It’d been a long shift, even before the call to the Tobermory Ferry Terminal, and there wasn’t yet an end in sight. He leaned forward and rested his arms on the small table that separated him from the slight woman.

“Just take me through what happened, please.”

“Fine. We’d always wanted to see the whales, the girls and me. Sure, we’ve seen them at Sea World but it’s not really the same thing, is it? Anyway, Molly, the red-head that’s dating Susie, heard that we could hire a boat here to take us out to see the minkes. So we hopped the ferry from Drimnin and found the captain.”

“How many of you were on the Mainlander?”

“Seven. The six of us and Captain James.”

“And what time did you leave port?”

“We were due to leave around nine-thirty, but there was a problem with the engine so we didn’t get underway until after ten.”

“Tell me what happened to Aoife Roane?”

Sandra looked down at the dregs in her cup. “Can I get more coffee?”

“Later. When we’re finished.”

“Fine,” she huffed. “Aoife’s always been a strange sort. She loves the sea and the sea creatures, but always got real sad when we’d visit the aquariums and parks. I don’t think she liked seeing them cooped up like that.”

“I heard there was an argument on deck between Aoife and…Janet.”

“You could call it that. They’d quarrelled a few times already. On the ferry coming over, Aoife called Janet cruel and begged to be let home. She seemed really keen to wear a tatty, faux seal-skin coat, but Janet refused. Horrible thing stank of fish.”

“And the argument on the Mainlander?”

“Yeah, pretty much the same. Molly didn’t see what the fuss was all about and told Janet just to give her the bloody coat. It got pretty heated and, in the end, Susie tore the thing from Janet’s grasp and draped it over Aoife’s shoulders.

“I’d never seen anyone so happy to wear a smelly rag before, but Aoife was practically beaming. She took a turn around the deck before leaning over the side. We tried to stop her but she was already slipping. The coat wrapped around her like a wet suit as she fell, enveloped her from head to toe until she looked just like a seal herself. She bobbed once upon the surface of the water, barked, and then vanished.

“I’ll not forget Janet’s wail: ‘Selkie.’”

thirteen week streak

Chris Musgrave’s Las Vegas Adventure

So I did a thing and it’s appearing in this thing. Just go read it already.

StarkLight Press

chris musgrave1.jpg

Chris Musgrave joins StarkLight Press from the U.K, where his wry wit and skilled pen combine to make excellent fiction. His prompts for Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones were 1940s, Las Vegas, and a Magic Doorway. His gripping story, Pest Control, is excerpted here:

‘Why don’t you tell me why I’m here, Mr Powers. How can I be of service to you this evening?’

‘Well, Mr St.–‘ I give him a look. ‘Paddy, we’ve got a little…’ He waves a hand in tight circles, searching for the right word. ‘…Pest problem and I’m told you’re the man who knows how to deal with it. Quietly.’

I lean in closer and lower my voice. ‘What kind of pest?’ I ask. ‘Ogre under your covered bridge? They’re a troublesome bunch o’ buggers them, but mostly harmless. Bean sidhe hogging the cabaret stage?’

‘Dragons. We have dragons.’

Twin-Dragons.jpg

You can read all about…

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Update

For those of you not already in the know, Sarcastic Muse is back up and running after an unscheduled hiatus.

We have a new and exciting line up of features starting this year and a few pretty awesome announcements to boot. So head over there and check us out, follow the page and, for the more adventurous amongst you, maybe even drop us a comment or two. We’re all very nice. Except for Amanda — Amanda collects fingernails (sometimes she even takes them off the finger).

New Year, New Me? Yeah, Right!

New Year, New Me? Yeah, Right!

Wow, look at this place. It’s so…dusty and neglected. I can’t believe I spent so long away.

Suppose I should start with Happy New Year, Everybody!

Right, now that’s out of the way, here’s the thing. I’ve spent the last year trying to find focus: on my writing, on my time management, on a whole heap of things. I’ve been out there testing the mind-boggling realms of social media (see time management) and interacting with many of you on various other sites and I’ve come to realise that this here, this is my home. This is the place where it all started and so, if you’ll have me back, I’m proud to be here.

I can’t guarantee I’ll post as often as I used to, but I will post, probably on a monthly basis for now. I have high hopes for 2016, if certain people can restrain themselves a little longer and not let loose a global apocalypse — you know who you are. So buckle up and stay tuned for new announcements here and on The Sarcastic Muse.

On that note, you may want to get yourselves over there too. We’ve just released a free writing tracker for 2016 to help with those word count goals.

Writing Resolutions

The Sarcastic Muse

It’s the most wonderful time…burp…hic!

Melly…Memmy…Happy Christmas, readers. It’s that time of year again. The kids are full of sugar, the turkey is a charred mess in the bin, and the local pizza parlour is cooking dinner.

“What are you going to do with all this spare time?” I hear you ask. I hope it was you; I may have had too much Christmas Juice.

Anyway…I’m going to write, of course. Thank you for asking.

If anybody has ever felt the need, or the urge, to write, then what better time to start than in the new year.

Most of us make our resolutions around this time – some of them even last as long as the 2nd January – and setting a writing goal should be at the forefront of every writer’s mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old hat or a willing amateur, we all benefit from…

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Writing 101 – Conflict

The Sarcastic Muse

Conflict (c) Robyn LaRue 2014

Conflict is drama if Hollywood is to be believed. It is the root of all adventure, the spice in all romance, and the gut-wrenching horror in all…well, horror. Without conflict, ours stories wouldn’t really go anywhere. There would be nothing to disrupt the status quo of a character’s life and no reason to follow them further than the first page. We would invest nothing more in them than a passing glimpse, maybe even a mutual nod, before they vanished from our lives and our libraries forever.

A story without conflict is just an account of someone’s day and unless that person is the President of the USA, or some other make believe creature, that’s going to make for some pretty boring reading. Actually, it’d still be touch and go even then unless there was the threat of nuclear war or a crack team of North Korean…

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Horror-Off Week 2 – Weaver

In the cavernous space at the centre of reality, there sits a spider. A monolithic creature of a size beyond the inspired imaginations of mankind. It works tirelessly: weaving, moulding, repairing. Each one of its countess eyes is fixated upon an individual thread amongst the immeasurable mass of silken threads which spread out from its web, connecting seamlessly to the fabric of the world.

The spider never sleeps, never eats. It balances effortlessly on the points of six barbed feet, while two pull, coax, plait and alter the very course of human endeavour. Here, a glassy, black eye spies the frayed edge of an international conflict. There, its silk glands tie a chord which binds a husband to his wife – a union of untold happiness and fecund coupling.

The world spider, the world weaver, carries out its duties without guidance and without any hint of intelligent design. The only pattern is the one emblazoned deep within its arachnoid mind. The spider will entertain no favours. It has no concept of clemency. It is incapable of judgement.

And yet…

A barely developed chord beneath its thorax gives a twitch. Those monstrous eyes rotate to, align with, and come to focus on the source. A garden spider, distant kin of the great weaver, struggles with futility against its bonds. Icy steel grips its sides painfully. Clawed feet scratch and tear at its prison, seeking purchase, seeking escape. The looming silhouettes of its tormentors can be heard to jostle and goad one another with childish dares.

‘Rip its legs off,’ one cries out.

‘I wanna see what a spider’s guts look like?’ says the other.

The steel presses tighter against its body and the little spider chitters in an inaudible cry of anguish. Its mouth-parts knock and rub together in a pain. The weaver rocks on six legs. It gently lifts and caress its brethren’s life-chord with the remaining pair. The line is too taut; nicks and frayed strands are already evident along its length. The weaver hangs its great head in a solemn apology. It cannot bear to look as the tweezers clamp further and the tiny life is lost. It simply winds the severed strand back into itself and continues to weave.

And yet…

One eye, one giant orb of obsidian glass, refuses to turn away from the tormentors. It remains fixed: ever vigilant. It watches them grow. It watches them hunt. Soon, even spiders are not prey enough for these creatures and the insects give way to rats, to cats, to dogs. They scour back alleys and wastelands for animals to torture and dissect.

Another eye twitches and joins the first in its vigil, then a third, then a forth. The weaver’s attention shifts lazily. It lifts the weave, grips it between sharp mandible jaws. Its mouthparts brush delicately at the threads connecting the tormentors to the world weave. The caress stirs ripples that are felt throughout time. Like sonar, the ripples resonate down the length of the threads. The dissonance tingles in a feedback built of vibration; a map of their life-path. A map of smooth lines, random turns, and intertwined lives.

It shudders. A knot.

Impossible.

The tormentors, no longer boys, but men lead a small child away from her mother.

It waits. The line in its mouth grows taut, frays at the edges.

 


This week’s Prompt:  The lives of many are intertwined.

Weaver is dedicated to grammar Nazi…genius and fellow Muse, Michelle Mueller, who has an irrational love of spiders and all things creepy-crawly.

If you liked this, check out Amanda’s Horror-Off Flash Fiction here. If you didn’t like this, check out Amanda’s post anyway or check us both out over at The Sarcastic Muse


If you would like to join in on the Horror-Off Flash Fiction Challenge,  these are the rules:

  1. You don’t talk about Horror-Off
  2. Stories must be flash fiction (1K words or less)
  3. Stories must have conflict, character, and resolution
  4. Stories should be in the horror/fantasy/sci-fi/spec fic genre
  5. Prompts are to be posted on the Flash Fiction blog post (post or link to your FF submission in the comment section below )
  6. This is just for fun and scares, so don’t expect any prizes.
  7. You don’t talk about Horror-Off… except when you talk about it

Flash Fiction Friday – Nature Vs. Nurture

In your lifetime, you’ve walked past thirty-six murderers. Isn’t that astounding? Thirty-six murderers. I’ll bet every one of them looked you up and down, maybe gave you a little smile, all the while fantasising about butchering you in as many ways as will make your head spin.

They can be very creative creatures, murderers. Some prefer knives, others use their hands, and others still dream of methods you would never even think possible. It’s frightening really.

While you are living your life in blissful ignorance, someone somewhere is enjoying the thrill of the hunt. Someone is breaking into another’s house or snatching an unsuspecting victim from the street. The really malicious, and there are a few, lure you to them. The skill that must take. You have to give them a little credit for that. One minute you’re laughing at the possibility of taking advantage of an infirm gent who just wants the best deal on his car; the next you’re bound and gagged in his basement. There’s a kind of irony in that, don’t you think?

People fascinate me. What makes one person become a doctor or a lawyer and another relish in the joy of extinguishing a life? Ever heard of the old nature versus nurture debate? I’m no expert but I’ve heard enough evidence to suggest it could go either way. Not convinced about the influence of videogames though. If videogames warped our minds, we’d all be running around gravity-defying landscapes collecting gold rings and saving woodland creatures. Amaright?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! What is it that makes one human being want to kill another? Why are some of us hardwired to violence? How do killers choose their victims? How do they refine their technique? So many questions and so little time. I suppose no one will ever know for certain, not even them.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that, in your life to date, you’ve walked past thirty-six murderers. I can’t let you make that thirty-seven.


Okay. I’d first like to say thanks to all of you who have been patient with the lack of activity on this page. I experienced some….technical difficulties…in reality…my reality…anywho, this is my first post in far too long and the first of many which will form part of the Horror-Off Challenge set by fellow Sarcastic Muse inmate, Amanda Headlee. As soon as she posts her response, I’ll be sure to add a link. In the meantime, you can enjoy her work here and over at Sarcastic Muse.

If anybody else is interested in participating, we will be posting a prompt a week and would love to see what you make of it. This week’s prompt, chosen by Amanda, is:

“Within your lifetime, you’ve walked past thirty-six murderers.”

Thanks for reading.