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

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.

 

Flash Fiction – Torment

I’ve always known there was something different about my son. He was born special. Yes, yes I know all fathers say that, but this is different. My boy is a god and I’m not talking metaphorically.

I don’t mean that he’ll grow to be a music genius, that he’s a maths wiz, or that he could run in a touchdown before he’s even out of diapers. I mean that he’s a god, a deity and a terrifying one at that.

I’ve done my research and I’m well read on my ancient gods but I have no clue as to who my son is. We’ve called him Dylan. It wasn’t my choice, but he hasn’t objected…yet.

He’s insatiable: always wanting, always demanding. He laps up our worship, the tithes, and other offerings presented to him. He laps them up and he wants more. I buy him more toys, more books, more DVDs anything that will appease him. My wife says I spoil him and, if he were a normal child, I would have to agree with her. Yet, he isn’t and I am not. I’m doing this to protect us, to protect my wife. He needs sacrifices and more of them each day.

My wife has become his guardian. Whether she realises this consciously, I couldn’t say. She is by his side day and night, feeding him, changing him, worshiping him. There is nothing I can do about that. I tried to explain the truth to her but she thinks I’m being funny. If I press the matter, she says she hasn’t the time to look after two babies and vanishes once again into his nursery.

His nursery.

I won’t go in there if I can help it, not anymore and not alone. Do you know how creepy is it watching a little boy give a great oration to a room full of stuffed animals? Do you know how it feels to see a hundred pairs of glassy eyes fixed with adoration on a creature no taller than the coffee table? They sit in silence, awestruck by their great commander. They won’t remain still for long. I can feel it.

He started talking over a month ago. My wife thinks is funny: baby talk and babble. I know it for what it really is. I can hear every word. Each night, he whispers to me through the baby monitor. His new voice is nothing but hushed tones and static crackles but I can hear him. He tells me what he is, tells me what he’s planned for us, for this world. He wants to bathe once again in the reverence of his believers and the blood of the heretics. He wants a return to the old days, wants to rule the Earth. I don’t know why he tells me these things. Maybe he does so to torment me, maybe he’s toying with me. I’m not sure.

I can’t remember the last time I slept in the same bed as my wife but maybe that’s for the best now. I don’t think she’d understand why I keep a gun beneath my pillow. I don’t think she’ll understand what I need to do.

Flash Fiction Friday – Seeds

There was something stuck in the old book’s binding. At first glance, I thought it was just a mark – a printer’s stamp maybe, or a publisher’s brand. Only after closer inspection did I realise what it was. A single word, handwritten, in a vibrant emerald ink which glistened as though still wet. The word was “idea”.

It seemed odd that someone would write anything on a binding where no one could see it, more so that it was done with such care and in as ornate a style as this. I wouldn’t have seen it myself if I hadn’t dropped the volume – a treatise on the use of brainstorming to combat creative block – when retrieving it from my bookshelf. It’d fallen hard against the corner of my desk, cracking the spine, and spilling a handful of its dry, yellowing pages across the floor.

I gathered up the book and the fallen pages and set them on the desk beside my laptop. It was getting late and the light in the study wasn’t good. While examining the damage under the orange glow of an arched study lamp, I found it. I almost laughed when I read the word. If only finding an idea was that simple. Still, it was intriguing and before I knew it, my index finger was tracing the looping characters.

When I removed it, the finger came away wet. The skin at the tip was stained green. I cursed, checked the word for any smudging. Nothing. My relief caught in my throat. I decided that it was too late to attempt a repair on the book, so I switched off the light, closed the laptop and went to bed.

* * *

After breakfast, I sat down at my desk and inspected the book. The damage looked worse in the morning’s bright sun. Fractured lines appeared to radiate from the edges of its leather cover and along some of the loose pages. I tilting the book this way and that and the light caught in the cracks. Green ink, thick and wet, filled the valleys, drawing gossamer tendrils across the paper. I hadn’t noticed these before but couldn’t say with any confidence that they weren’t there before. Either way, it was beyond my abilities to repair and I set the book to one side with the intention of searching for a professional bookbinder. But before I could, the most wonderful idea struck me and I hurried to the laptop.

It wasn’t until mid-afternoon when I stopped writing. I sat back in the chair with a sense of achievement unlike anything I’d felt in a while. My fingers were sore and itching. I rubbed them absentmindedly on the cover of the book as I read the words on the screen.

Another idea popped into my head.

And then another. So many ideas, I could scarcely get them down on paper. I nudged the book during a bout of frantic scribbling. It fell open across the paper.

Green ink covered the pages. The fractal patterns had grown, shifted, looping themselves into more ornate words. They merged together, overwriting one another. Here and there I could make out a legible word: dark, contractor, harbour. I don’t know why but I reached up and touched one. A flash of imagery, a scene of a story, jolted through my head like lightning.

I recoiled with a shudder then tentatively touched a second and saw the crashing of waves, a seaside squall. All the ideas I could ever want or need were right at my fingertips, accessible through the gentlest of touches. What had I done to deserve such a gift?

I stared at my hands, at the green smudge still marring my index finger. It was no longer a smudge, but a word. The word was “idea”.

Kitty, Kitty

There’s something funny about that cat. It’s as if it knows exactly what I’m thinking. Always around for food and yet vanishes into the ether when it needs bathing, worming or grooming.

Food.

Talking about food, I really ought to feed it. It’s giving me that half-starved look again. Anthony Hopkins has nothing on this kitty.

Empty bowl.

I’m sure I fed it before, but I can’t have: the bowl’s empty.

Look at this stuff. How come the cat food costs five times more than what my groceries do? Why do we pay out so much for ‘scientific formula’ when the bloody thing’s more than happy to eat bugs?

Balanced diet.

I suppose that’s because it’s part of a balanced diet. Can’t be that balanced though, look at the size of it. That’s less ‘winter plumage’ and more seasonably plump. Balanced diet, my arse. Maybe I ought to take it to Doctor Shipiro, let him check it out.

No need.

I’m sure there’s no need though. It looks big but it seems to be acting alright. Maybe it’s just a big breed? Might be worth a trip to the vet though, just to be sure.

Expensive.

Saying that, a trip to the vets will set me back a pretty penny. How do they justify being so expensive? Costs me twenty just to get an appointment only for them to give me some cock-and-bull about worms. It’s as big as a car, how can it have worms? Thinking about it though, when was the last time I gave it a worming tablet?

Last week.

Might have been last week. Better not risk it. I don’t want an earful about poisoning the cat again, like that time I gave it cow’s milk.

‘You can’t give a cat cow’s milk,’ the wife’d said with a look that’d curdle blood. ‘Cats are lactose-intolerant.’ Bloody people-intolerant if you ask me. Little buggers seem to hate everything. This one in particular. It just spends all day staring at me from under the desk, plotting my demise. I’m sure that one day I’ll look down and find it knotting my laces together. It’s already tried to push me down the stairs more than once.

Bath.

To be fair I was trying to give it a bath at the time and I know they’re not exactly known for their love of the aquatic: fish excluded.

Fish? Food!

Talking about food, I really ought to feed it. I’m sure I’ve just fed it though. It’s even got food on its face. There’s gravy on the end of its…whiskers. Hmmm, little buggers just cleaned it off. I’m sure it was there before.

Erm…no food. Bowl empty.

But the bowl is empty and it can’t possibly have eaten a full bowl that fast…can it? Probably just thought I’d fed it ’cause I got the food out. Really, I’d forget my own head…

Good human.

What?

FFF – White(ish) Wedding

Shouts from the alley caught my attention. I signalled to Peterson that I was going to check it out.

‘It’ll be another vagrant,’ he said. ‘It’s always a vagrant and we always have to arrest them.’

‘Still,’ I smiled. ‘It’s warmer filling in paperwork back at the station than beating feet out here.’

He gave me another look but came anyway.

The shouts grew louder. I thought it was a fight, or a party. Sometimes, they’re one and the same thing on a Friday night.

The air in the alleyway had the bitter scent of rotten garbage, cloying and heavy. I retched when we passed an open dumpster full of half-decayed fish and hoped the air would clear the deeper in we went. The alley ran straight, behind a series of restaurants, before disappearing away at right angles. Unless there was a rose garden beyond the bend, I didn’t see the situation improving.

Peterson was right of course. We rounded the bend and came face to face with a bedraggled fellow wearing the unmistakable eau de toilet made popular by street sleepers the world over. He grinned when he saw us: yellowing teeth.

He shot a glance over the shoulder of his moth-eaten tuxedo at a set of three steel bins, arranged in a loose group.

‘The witnesses are here, my dear. Didn’t I tell you not to worry?’ It took me a moment to register that he was addressing the bin in the centre. He turned back to us. ‘Do come in. We’re just starting the speeches.’

I looked at Peterson who just shrugged. There’s nothing in Blackstone’s that covered this.

Our host took our dumbfounded stares as assent and continued: ‘friends, thank you all for being here to share this happy occasion. I knew from the moment I first met Justine that I loved her. She showed me nothing but kindness in my darkest hour and, despite knowing little about me, harboured me from the clutches of our diabolical mantis overlords. I was on the lam, an escaped convict and the only surviving Exterminator. She hid me from the reaches of their evil antennae. Now, sweet Justine, I can’t stop thinking about you. The faintest whiff of cabbage sends my heart racing. My one true love. My saviour. My everything.’

We watched him stoop, laying a wet kiss on the lid of the dustbin. I saw Peterson shuffle in…was that embarrassment? I glared at him, nodded towards Lover Boy. He stepped forward.

‘Sir?’ I started, but was cut off.

‘Does anyone else wish to propose a toast?’ Lover Boy asked.

A sound behind me, a clack clack clack like stiletto-heels, made me turn. I wished I hadn’t. The shadow of a six foot tall praying mantis loomed over me. The clicking must have been its mandibles. I felt a wet heat in the front of my trousers.

The mantis opened its mouthparts and in an almost human voice said: ‘oh, I’ll propose a toast alright.’

Fashionista

‘Fashion victim?!’ She screamed at the monitor. She’d read the article five times now. Her face growing a deeper shade of puce with every word. ‘How dare they call me a fashion victim?’

The monitor remained silent, only serving to infuriate her further.

She considered her options. The Facebook page identified both the magazine and the author as having local addresses. It wouldn’t be too much trouble to pay them a visit and demand their apologies in a public forum. However, the memory of the police cell and the horrible ‘occupant’ she was forced to share it with the last time was still fresh in her head. Why hadn’t THEY listened to her complaints and moved her to a private cell-suite like she’d asked?

She shook her head, gave a small shudder.

No, that wasn’t happening again.

What else?

A letter? Too slow. She’d be an old hag before she received a reply. I mean, really! How did people ever cope with snail mail?

Her eyes brightened a little when she spotted it there at the bottom of the page: an email address. It was beckoning her with its siren’s song. Not only could she get her apology but, when she did, she could send it to the press and demand it printing in the evening edition. There for everyone to see.

Fashion victim? She thought, I’ll show them who’s the fashion victim?

She could hardly contain herself waiting for the email to load. It was taking its time. She considered if the latest pink laptop would load faster; it would certainly go better with her laptop case. Silver was so last season and this one was just…bleugh!

The email opened.

Finally!

Her fingers were a blur across the keyboard.

Dear Pretentious Editor,

I am appalled at your Facebook article entitled “Fashion Victim: a red carpet saga”. You feature me prominently in not one, but two accompanying photographs. The article calls me the “Fashion Victim’s Fashion Victim”. I’ll have you know that my evening dress was personally stitched by Designer of the Year, Herr Mann. My jewellery was loaned to me by none other than the Crown Prince of Monaco.

Your tabloid-style rag is distasteful and I find the article’s author conceited. How dare she deem herself qualified to report on that level of sophistication? I, and Herr Mann, demand that any reference to me as a “fashion victim” be removed from your page and a full apology be issued in writing.

Yours,

Cynthia Le Croix

It was an age before the response was received, announcing itself with a quiet bing!

It read, simply:

Dear Miss Le Croix,

I find it funny that you call me conceited, after all, the subject of the photographs was the author of the article. Other than loitering in the background, you do not appear in any of them….