Mocha Memoirs Press is pleased to bring you this year's submissions for the Women In Horror Month Flash Fiction Contest! Authors were asked to submit horror stories of less than 1000 words that featured a female protagonist. We had over twenty submissions and each one is more bone-chilling than the last! So read to your heart's content!

Voting is NOW OPEN!!!  Use the form below to vote for your favorite of the TOP TEN!!

**The following stories have ADULT content. Not for readers under 18!**
** Stories have been edited for formatting only.**

Ann Woke to Voices by Rachel A. Brune

Ann woke to voices. Which was strange.

The whispers came through an expensive wireless speaker, tinny behind a wall of static.

Before she was fully awake, she could piece together a few words out of the flow. Once her eyes opened and she focused on her blinking alarm, all she could make out was a rasping cough of white noise.

As always, Ann woke with a headache. The morning routine took her about as long as it took for her generic coffee to finish dripping into the carafe. The coffee went into the green Thermos, clouded by just enough half-and-half to turn the liquid a rich caramel color, but no sugar. Ann unhooked her wireless speaker from the charger and headed out the door.

Slamming the door on the Chevy Cavalier was out of the question. Mistreated, and it would fall right off. Not that Ann would mind the breeze, but someone would probably steal the radio. She plugged the phone into the tape deck converter and hit shuffle for the twenty-minute drive to the train. She wondered what she had downloaded that would come out like static.

* * *
Ann’s boss was the heroine of a chick lit novel. She had a framed copy of cover in her office, modestly positioned on the far wall, to the back of any potential visitor. It was signed by the author, a student intern from NYU who had spent a summer at the office, and watched the woman’s apartment twice, once while she spent the weekend in the Hamptons and the other while she attended a conference on Cape Cod.

Ann didn’t particularly care for the genre but she had read the book anyway, mostly perusing it to see if she had shown up anywhere. This summer’s intern didn’t look like he had any novels hidden inside him. He was dressed painfully fashionably, sketching ideas in a small, unlined notebook. He spoke some foreign language Ann couldn’t understand even if every word was English, with names she wouldn’t recognize if fame injected itself into her cheeks like Botox.

Ann wasn’t fashionable. She wasn’t vintage, she wasn’t college, she wasn’t hippie, she wasn’t executive, she wasn’t much of anything. She shopped at Kmart or Target or H&M, buying clothes in her size that never really fit. She had once gone into Lord and Taylor’s and tried on a fabulous dress suit. It fit perfectly, and she loved its soft folds and delicate hang, but she preferred to eat and pay rent, so she regretfully handed the suit back to the over-helpful saleswoman and left the store.

Ann plugged her phone in a charger, and her ear buds in the appropriate receptacles where they remained all day.

Ann’s boss liked the slides but not the first, sixth, eleventh and twelfth. Ann revised them and emailed the presentation to her boss. It caught on the virus scanner, then the spellchecker, finally vanishing off the screen. The static returned.

She twisted the ear bud jack. The clicks still plagued the end of the song; Ann swiped her playlist to move ahead.

The sound separated. The static pulsed—long crescendo and two smaller beats. Slow, fast-fast. Ann took out the ear buds. She restarted her phone, waiting for the device to reset itself. Swigged warm coffee straight from the Thermos and caught her chin in the palm of her hand before it dripped on her sweater. The air conditioner blasted and she kept the sweater at the office to wear when it penetrated. It bore the battle scars of previous Thermos swigs.

Static blasted into the open office. Ann fumbled with her phone, trying to lower the volume. She plugged the ear buds back in, ignoring the looks, and the static settled down to a low hum. Slow. Fast-fast.

Ann put her phone into her bag and passed the rest of the day in silence, except for a brief conversation with the fashionable intern, in which she realized he was another college student bound for greener pastures where men and women dressed better and wrote fashionable novels.

Ann didn’t listen to anything on the train ride home. From her bag, she imagined she could feel the static. Slow. Fast-fast.

It was a weeknight. Nothing was scheduled. Ann was halfway through a Michael Connelly novel. She read through dinner and left the book on her bed while she showered, the place marked with a takeout menu from the restaurant she had ordered the teriyaki chicken. She hated bending the spine of books, even paperbacks, and tried not to get them all greasy and fingerprinted.

Showered, combed, powdered and lotioned, Ann restarted the phone, turned on her music app, and connected the phone to her wireless speaker. She thumbed through various options and checked the alarm to make sure it was set for the correct time and playlist. She chose an album of soft jazz to fall asleep to, picked up her book.

A small light on her bedside table cast a small yellow glare. It was a Wal-Mart special and had cost less than ten dollars. It was black with a bendable arm and a switch in the base.

Three chapters from the end, Ann closed the book. She placed it on the table and clicked the light. Her eyes and mind started to drift shut.

In the speaker, a soft static glow began. Ann groaned mentally and pulled the blanket over her head. Crackling, the white noise broke through and obliterated a clarinet solo. Slow.

Defeated, Ann threw her blanket away, sweating slightly, listening to the speaker pulse in the peculiar three-count pattern. Fast-fast.

The static paused, resolved. A breath drew. “Please. Help me.”

Ann gave the phone to her sister. She sold the speaker on eBay. She used the money to buy a new alarm clock and a pair of jeans from Lord & Taylor that were her size and fit.

Nothing strange ever really happened again.

And Da' Bitch Came Back by Acquanetta M. Sproule

 (Originally Published May 24, 2011 on http://flashesinthedark.com)

The pain from the first head shot was so excruciating that MoXambeeqwa jumped clean out of her skin!  So, she didn’t much feel the second bullet, or the third.

Or, the fourth.

Terrence was nothing if not -thorough…

“You dogs meet me at my mom’s in 60,” Terrence dba Boss Ice, told his boys.

She’d been the only one Terrence had let call him by his given name, which had given MoXambeeqwa more than a little status in the ‘hood.

Until he’d gotten tired of her, and she hadn’t had the good sense to take the hints, and step aside voluntarily.

“What if we ain’t-finished- by then?” asked Clown Boy.  The rest of the pack backgrounding a hyena chorus.

“Be finished.”

Terrence walked out of the door. The pack’s chittering grew. MoXambeeqwa watched, only for second, then fled outside, phasing through the time-ravaged wall. She floated backward over the rickety porch, the astral glow surrounding her including colors for which she had no names.

It occurred to her that she was a lot less upset about having just been murdered than she might have thought she’d be. Dying, she decided, was so much more stressful than being dead.

Realization of movement roused her. Dilapidated houses, hoopties, weed-filled yards and the faces of world-worn folk trained past her. Only habit turned her in the direction she was traveling, which happened to be in the same direction that Terrence was leisurely pedaling.

A matter of interest. But not much.

Terrence wheeled through an alley, expertly dodging debris.  He slowed enough to toss a small, plastic bag into the liquor store’s dumpster, then cruised on. Soon, he pulled into his mom’s front yard, leaning the bike, unchained, against the house.

Once inside, he slammed the door through MoXambeeqwa, pausing momentarily to scan the perpetually spotless living room for any errant dust flecks. “I’m hungry,” he told the reed-thin woman trembling there, as he strode into the kitchen.

“I’m almost through fixin’ dinner, Boss Ice,” she told him, avoiding eye contact.


MoXambeeqwa felt more than a twinge of annoyance.  She’d never liked how Terrence treated his mother and had frequently told him so. Nobody should be terrified of their own child, in their own home. “W-w-would you like something to hold you?”

“No, I want you to have my dinner ready when I come in,” Terrence told her, quietly. MoXambeeqwa had never heard Terrence raise his voice. He never had to.
“Boss Ice,” said a small voice, “Can we come in?”

“Yeah.  Sit down and keep quiet.”

Terrence’s three younger brothers silently entered the kitchen, took their assigned places, sat very, very still. Hovering behind the eldest of the three, MoXambeeqwa noted that her aura had settled into a throbbing ember-red. Apparently, Terrence noted it, too. He looked over the head of his eldest-younger brother, locking glares with MoXambeeqwa.

“You bein’ dead don’t bother me none.”

Fury blasted away the last of her lassitude! She jammed one ghostly fist on one ghostly hip, cocked her shakin’ finger into the ready position! Terrence twisted his lips into a rare smirk, then gasped! He twisted right, grabbing at his spindly mother! But, she scrambled past him and, yanking his eldest-younger brother from his own chair, huddling with him in the kitchen corner furthest from Terrence! While reveling in Terrence’s distress, the oddest idea popped into MoXambeeqwa’s mind. Couldn’t hurt, she told herself, seein’ as how I’m already dead! She reached into Boss Ice’s chest, grabbed the blade his mother had so obligingly jammed into his back and jerked the whole butcher knife completely out through his front!

Loud, raucous laughter interspersed with pounding and kicking on the front door distracted her. “BOSS ICE!  WE HERE!  SEND DA’BITCH TO LET US IN!”

“Kah-lown Boy…!” MoXambeequa willed the front door open, waited until the whole pack had trooped in, slammed it shut! She took a moment to knock off the phone receiver and psychically punch nine-one-one, before wafting the blood-coated knife handle over to Clown Boy’s palm and, clamping his fingers around it, pounced him on the rest of the recently late Terrence’s former pack!

Might as well, she thought, smugly, be thorough…

Hag by Marcia Wilson


Lia’s Gran wasn’t like other grandmothers.  She kept three black cats “for good luck” and spun their underfur into yarn to knit caps for her grandkids. She set out milk at Halloween. She didn’t worry about Lia falling out of a tree or crossing the street or burning herself, debudding the goats.  “You have sense,” she’d say, and that was that.

But she was afraid of something, bone-deep.  It wasn’t there in the summer when everything was hot and bright and sun-burned. They laughed and put up the harvest and midwifed the last kiddings. She cooked large, heavy feasts and they slept under the stars by the hot spring. Lia liked that.  Her normal bed was under the stairs, just like Harry Potter, which was sort of fantastic and her friends were jealous, but they, like everyone else, had windows for starlight and breezes in their bedrooms.  She wasn’t even allowed to open her door when she slept. When she outgrew the space she was promised her Mom’s old bedroom.

Then the week before school started, it happened. They were pulling paste tomatoes and the north wind hissed; sparrows blew over the jungled-garden, chirruping.  Five, ten, fifty of them, and when their shadows hit, Gran went pale.  Her smile died, curling inward like a burning leaf. Lia smelled something sweet in the air, like licorice.

No more sleep-outs until spring. Lia asked why. “When you’re older.” Lia didn’t know how long that would be. “When you’re grown.” That wasn’t much better. “Go feed the dog.”

She pouted to bed early, so for once she woke up in the middle of the night and there was a slip of light under her door. Gran didn’t like light at night. Lia held her breath and sat up, squinting through the old ironplate keyhole.

Gran was awake, not in her squeaky rocker, but the old corner pew.  She was knitting cats-wool yarn by the light of a dark candle. The click-click-click of needles mixed with the apple branches in the leaflit wind.  The cats coiled around her feet, circling the hems of her jeans.

Lia smelled the sweetness again, candy-like and cloying. She sat up a long time, waiting for something to happen. Nothing ever did. Gran never stopped knitting once. She and the cats never stopped staring out the window.


“You live in a church; how normal can she be?” Cousin Bob answered Lia’s question with a question.

“Shush.” Jaycee smacked her brother aback of his head. The teachers weren’t watching. “It’s just her way, Lia.  Mom said she’s been like this since her sister was killed.”

Lia didn’t know about a sister.  The family wasn’t one for photo albums.  They never hung on to more than a handful of framed pictures or certificates. The dead weren’t mentioned; they had no names.

“She was a kid when it happened.  Yanked right out of the bedroom window.” Jaycee shrugged. “They found her bones in a cave. Gnawed all bloody by animals. It’s why they moved to America.”

 “Why?” Bob persisted.

 Jaycee sighed.  “Because she was a twin.  They were afraid she’d be stolen too.”


 Jaycee smacked him again.  “Dummy.  The old-timers think twins are the same person.”

 “That’s dumb.”

 Jaycee ignored him.  “Mom says not to talk about it.  But that’s part of the reason why she lives in that old church.  Great-grandad bought it when they moved here; it was gonna be torn down. They weren’t gonna deconsecreate it or anything!”

“Deconsecrate, dummy.”

“You’re a dummy.”

 Lia couldn’t see why anyone would tear down a good stone church and she said so.

 “People would go there for the hot spring instead of the hospital.  The doctors didn’t like it.”  Jaycee winced as the wind rattled leaves against the window.  “Ugh.  Summer’s over. Time of the Hag.”

 “Fall’s in two weeks, dope.”

 “When the birds flock, summer’s dead.” Jaycee sang in his face: “Heron Croak, burn the Oast, Yellow Oak, Hag Woak.”

 “We’re not in Scotland!”

 “We’re still McKinleys.  Doesn’t matter where you live.”

 Bob grabbed her cats-wool hat and took off running.  Jaycee followed shrieking.  They both got detention. No more answers.  No more questions.


 Lia was young and curious and bored. She set her watch to beep at odd hours of the night—just once, volume low. She would turn it off and sit up, look through the keyhole. She did it four weeks straight. From midnight onward, Gran was up knitting with the cats. At dawn, she’d unravel the knitting and re-ball it into the basket.


 Lia came home from school on a half-day to find Gran sound asleep.  That answered why they were eating out of the crockpot and bread-maker, and how she could sit up all night.


Days were cooling off. The trees aged to gold. Lia was still thinking and watching. It was always that same window, night after night.  It didn’t fit with the others; it was new, modern, and a casement with side-hinges. Gran kept a billhook over it. Finally, Lia gave up.

She rose at four am and opened the door.  Gran’s eyes went wide but she didn’t speak. Lia sat down, Gran between her and the window. She waited with her bare toes tucked under her gown. A cat crawled in her lap. It wouldn’t purr.  None of them purred. She heard the apple trees click. Behind them: a long, low scrape. A tap like a heavy walking-stick. A shuffling in the new-fallen leaves.

 Lia opened her mouth to breathe.  Sweet candy-scent flooded her tongue and down her throat. And the smell of iron.

Blood. Old, stiff blood.

This close to the casement, she heard the goats bawling from the barn, stamping their little hooves.  The Pyrenees barked once, his warning call. “Don’t worry.” Gran whispered.  “She isn’t hunting for animals.”

“Then what does she hunt?” Lia hadn’t meant to ask it out loud. 

Gran finally looked away from the window. To Lia. Then Lia knew.


The Final Exhibit by Ross Baxter

Martha Largo pulled slowly into the empty parking lot, cutting across the vacant spaces to park up by the entrance to the dilapidated building where a figure she assumed was Emily Grant stood waiting. She switched off the engine, scanning her surroundings before getting out of the car. It did not look promising; an old and seemingly abandoned industrial unit in a part of the city long overdue for redevelopment. Grant looked even less promising; wild unkempt hair, scruffy jeans and a dishevelled t-shirt which looked ancient. It was not the look one would expect from someone wanting to pitch a funding idea for a new museum. She gave a long sigh before locking the car, resigned to having her time wasted but without any other option but meet her.

“Emily Grant?” Largo inquired guardedly.

“Yes,” Grant replied with a thin smile. “Finally, you deem me worth a visit.”

“It’s the policy of the City Council to visit every funding request, but it can take some time,” explained Largo unenthusiastically.

“That’s what they told me five years ago when I applied the first time,” said Grant bitterly. “The Council said then that the project had merit but refused to give me any funding. They said there could be no missing pieces in a museum that purported to contain a specimen of every land mammal in North America.”

Largo glanced down at her paperwork. “The Complete Museum of North American Land Mammals.”

“No,” Grant corrected chidingly. “It’s The Columbia Complete Museum of Every North American Land Mammal Species.”

Largo regarded her uncertainly, wondering if she was trying to be droll. It seemed she wasn’t.

“It’s a magnificent collection, more than worthy of funding,” Grant gushed with pride. “Follow me and I’ll show you.”

She turned towards the battered heavy doors of the building, both faced with metal to prevent intruders. The doors opened with an effort, the hinges groaning with the weight of the steel sheathing, and Grant stepped thorough into the darkness beyond. Largo hesitated, and then with a shrug followed into the dim foyer.

“Any lights?” Largo asked.

She was answered by a torch beam which transfixed her with its brightness. Grant handed her a second torch.

“The power company turned off the electricity when I couldn’t pay the bills,” Grant muttered bitterly. “This is the foyer, where the tills and gift shop will be.”

Largo shone the torch around, the light picking out discarded empty cases on the damp and litter strewn floor. The place had a peculiar smell, a distinct odour she could distinguish from the background reek of damp and decay.

“Can’t we discuss this in your office?” asked Largo.

“I don’t have one,” Grant snapped dismissively. “It’s the specimens that are the important thing; they’re the key that sets this museum apart.”

“The specimens are here already? There must be hundreds, surely?”

“There are exactly four hundred and twenty four species of North American land mammals,” replied Grant. “I’ve personally found, shipped and preserved each one on display here. I’ll show you.”

Grant moved towards another set of doors, lithely stepping around the piles of detritus. Largo followed with caution, lighting her way with the flashlight to pass through the door Grant held open. She was unprepared for both the stench and sight that met her. The warehouse beyond was dimly illuminated by daylight filtered through once transparent skylights in the roof above. Now filthy and stained, the skylights let little light in, but the diffuse light was enough for her to make out legions of statuesque animals, lifeless shapes posed in contrived and un-natural postures. Bears, bison, and wolves stood side by side with hordes of other specimens; Largo stared dumbfounded as she her eyes adjusted to the gloom.

“I knew you’d be impressed,” Grant gloated, “you being of American Indian blood and all.”

“Impressed is not the word,” answered Largo. “Where did you get them all from?”

“It’s taken me years to put the collection together; travelling the country piecing it together by hunting, trapping, using road-kill and traders. It cost me a fortune, including losing my husband and family.”

Largo stepped forward towards the nearest exhibit, her eyes straining in the murk to make out the detail as she kept the flashlight trained on the uneven floor. She stopped and brought the beam up to illuminate the animal, some sort of anteater. The sight made her gasp and she quickly stepped backwards as the light showed putrid black and rotting flesh, flecked with wriggling white maggots.

“What the hell?” Largo uttered, gagging as she turned back to Grant.

“That’s an anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla,” Grant answered, as if to a child who should know better.

“I can see that!” Largo shot back with disgust, her eyes fixed on a couple of maggots wriggling in the animal’s snout. “But it’s rotting away, it’s just a jigged up mouldering carcass!”

 “It is not!” cried Grant. “I’ve perfected my own method of preservation using formaldehyde. I soak them in it to keep them supple and lifelike.”

 Largo now understood what the clawing stench was. “There is no way the City is going to fund this charnel house.”

 “They promised me they’d reconsider the funding as long as I had an example of every North American mammal!” Grant yelled angrily. “I now have only one missing piece.”

“What’s that?” asked Largo, holding a handkerchief over her nose to block the disgusting stench.

 “Native American,” she hissed, lashing out with a rusty claw-hammer.

Largo turned just as she struck. The blow caught her in the temple and sent her crashing to the filthy floor, blood spurting from the fatal wound.”

“Finally: the missing centre-piece!” Grant shrieked in ecstasy.


What the Dollhouse Said by Karen Bovenmeyer

This story was originally published in Devilfish Review and reprinted in Evil Girlfriend Media Shorts. Some time this year it will be produced in audio form on the Pseudopod horror podcast.

Eleanor gets on the bus in uneven pigtails and a faded dress. Don’t sit by me, new girl, I think. Billy pokes me with a pencil, but sees her quick. Coyote boys always see what’s vulnerable and trembling, and she probably knows that, because she sits behind the driver.

Things we find out about Eleanor: a bunch of teenagers live in her house and she cries during Animal Kingdom because she has a pet rabbit named Ralphie. Coyotes can’t resist tears—they are merciless. I feel real sorry for Eleanor, even though she keeps them all, especially Billy, away from me.

She cries more than I think anyone can, at first, but she is the only kid who visits the dollhouse. I don’t know how it got there. It looks like it grew by accident in the root knuckles of a wide old apple tree on the edge of the playground. It smells strongly of cats, like my aunt’s house, and is white as antlers. It twists like grandma’s fingers, but the spines and knobs come together to make something that looks like a dollhouse just the same, with an open door, windows, and a steeple roof. There is always a small animal rotting there, tufts of fur missing.

At first, Eleanor seems scared of it like the rest of us. The coyote girls (they move in packs too) tell her she smells like Goodwill. The coyote boys throw gum or capless markers that leave black splotches on her clothes. She finds out quick that when the coyote boys are chasing her, they won’t come close to the dollhouse.

I feel sorry for her, watching her cower away from it, yet close enough to the dollhouse to keep back the coyotes. But, even in her apple-root circle, she is my shield. With her on the playground to taunt, I’m forgotten. They are held apart, Eleanor and the circling coyotes, but I know it won’t last. The apples grow red and heavy on the boughs, and coyotes are smart hunters.

She stops crying eventually. Even when Billy pulls the wings off a fly during times-tables, Eleanor doesn’t cry anymore. When he smashes it across her spelling test, she hands it in with guts smeared across d_e_f_i_n_a_t_e_l_y. Her face is stone.

She spends every recess at the dollhouse, closer and closer. I see her with her ear pressed against the open attic window, like it was telling her secrets. The coyote girls avoid her. Maybe coyote girls are smarter than coyote boys.

When the apples get big and start to fall, Billy sees how many bruises he can cause when the recess teacher isn’t looking. Since unafraid-Eleanor isn’t as much fun anymore, and, really, nobody is safe when the apples are ripe, I brace myself. When Billy nails somebody else in the face with an apple, the recess teacher takes a bloody nose to the nurse. No one’s surprised when Billy throws an apple at Eleanor. The other coyotes join the game and throw apples at her and the dollhouse, laughing.

Eleanor protects the dollhouse with her body. Apples pelt it and her with dull thuds. I think she’ll start crying again, but she doesn’t. The coyote boys run out of ammunition. Apples are scattered all around the dollhouse and Eleanor, and there are no more in reach of anybody else.

Eleanor stands up.

That look is only for the coyote boys. All the color flows down out of her face, like she is horn or bone. Her eyes and mouth look like the empty holes of the dollhouse.

Billy picks up a rock. The other coyotes pick up rocks too. I know Eleanor isn’t going to move or give in or duck. They are going to hit her with rocks while the teacher is gone.

I grab Billy’s wrist. “Stop,” I say.

He pushes me down. I cover my head, but Eleanor steps out from under the apple tree. She touches Billy’s shoulder, lifts up on her tiptoes, and whispers in his ear. Billy’s head tilts toward her, as if to hear her better. He makes a choking sound. Then he runs from her, tears on his cheeks, sobs floating in the air behind him.

The coyote boys look at each other. Eleanor looks at them, no expression at all on her blank-paper face. They drop the rocks and run. There is only me and Eleanor and a dead rabbit under the drooping apple boughs. She holds her doll-like hand out to me, white, empty, alone.

I take it.

The coyotes leave us alone now, Eleanor, and me. We never cry. We spend our time at the dollhouse, listening.


The Picture of Mr. Lemmer by Luna DeMasi

That picture.

That picture.

That damn picture.

I never expected something like this would happen when I took this job. The library had only female employees, and nobody ever seemed to venture into the lonely basement where I was stationed. The idea that I would be in a lovesick rush to get to work everyday didn’t seem feasible…yet, it happened.

The historical collection was a hodgepodge-y mess; the library director had not a clue as to what lied in the dusty, neglected boxes that had been donated throughout the years, but it didn’t stop her from accepting every single one of them, like a crazy cat lady. Were they filled with valuable relics from days gone by, or historically irrelevant crap from somebody’s attic? It was my job to put on a pair of white gloves find out.

I battled rusty staples, I wrestled ninety-year old pictures away from the black construction paper they were glue to, and I warred with antique picture frames, my tetanus shot being my only armor. My shifts were sometimes boring, sometimes terrifying, sometimes relaxing…but there was never a real bite of excitement.

…Not until the day I found that picture.

It was of a school teacher in town, dated nineteen-twenty-two; he didn’t appear to be much older than myself. Grown-out, dark, wavy hair that was pushed back, though still possessed a wildness to it; gentle, genuine eyes that practically smiled at you, shielded by round, flattering glasses; that wide grin of a person who is happily fulfilling his dreams. The shorter stature he had only made him seem more put-together than he already was, and the light-colored suit he wore was sweet and charming.

Something inside of me fluttered — something I hadn’t felt move in a long time…something I’d forgotten was even there. My eyes were glued so hard to the image that it took all that I had to flip it over.

Mr. Peter Lemmer.

After gawking at the picture for, oh, just long enough for me to feel guilty about not doing any work, I moved on to the other materials, making note of where I put the picture. Once work was through, I swung by the grocer, came home, cooked dinner, tried to watch some television with the cat, took a shower, and finally went to bed…but, no matter what I did, he was on my mind the entire time.

Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, all I could think of was Mr. Lemmer.

'I wonder if I should track him down,’ I thought.

 Excitement bubbled in my stomach, beneath the rhythmic kneading of my cat’s paws.

‘Sure, he’d be an old man, but…at least I’d get some closure.’ I furrowed my brow. ‘Wait, how old would he be? Say he’s around about…twenty-five in the picture, and it was taken in nineteen-twenty-two…’

“One-hundred and eighteen. Shit.” Running my hand over my cat’s fur, I sighed. “Crushing on a dead guy.”

Maybe it was because of some kind of funky past-life thing, maybe it was because I had no life, maybe it was because I hadn’t gotten laid in nearly two years — I don’t know what it was, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t turn my thoughts away from Mr. Lemmer. I would allocate a few minutes each shift to try to learn more about him: I found out he taught fifth grade, where he’d lived, that he wasn’t married and had no children. Single, beautiful, independent…of course he’d be dead. That’s just my kind of luck.

…Or so I thought.

“Hello?” A timid voice called from behind me. With a start, I turned around; there was a woman, maybe in her forties, peeking through the doorway.

Laying a hand on my chest, I smiled at her. “Hi, there.”

She smiled back. “Sorry if I scared you, but I’m looking for the history librarian?”

I stared at her for a long moment, trying to comprehend the fact that a patron was actually trying to use the collection I’d been piecing together. “…Really? I mean—“ I shook my head. “Sorry. Right. That’d be me. How may I help you?”

Taking a few tentative steps closer, she held her pocketbook with both hands in front of her. “Hi. I’m Darlene, and I was just…wondering if you’d help me research the history of my house.”

Blink, blink. “Sure. What kind of information are you looking for?”

Bringing her sheepish gaze to the floor, she shrugged. “Who lived there before…if anything strange has ever happened there…that kind of thing.”

I grinned. “What, are you being haunted, or something?”

Dead silence.

“Maybe I should go—“

I jumped to my feet. “No, no! I’m totally cool with that sort of thing!”

She breathed a relieved sigh out of an equally relieved smile. “Oh, thank God! I thought you'd think I was crazy, or something.”

“Nah. Keeps things interesting.” I giggled. “So, what’s the address?”

She came closer. “Five-twenty-five Grunald.”

Mr. Lemmer’s house.

Darlene and I clicked quickly, and before I knew it, we were in her house, along with some books from the library about ghosts. And that’s how I found myself, alone in her attic, where she’d heard constant footsteps at night ever since she’d moved in.

Not knowing quite what to do, I lit a candle and sat on my knees.

“Peter Lemmer…I’m calling out to you. Make a sound if you can hear me.”


“Listen,” I tried to reason with thin air, “I think you’re super cute and have a huge crush on you, but you’re scaring Darlene. Why don’t you come haunt me, instead? I could use the company.”

Apparently, I knew not what I asked.

That was the first night I heard the footsteps, pacing outside of my room. And I’ve been hearing them ever since.

Oh, that picture.

That picture.

That damn picture.


Lingering Shadows by Tom Olbert

Police lights flashing in the chill, lingering mist of the pre-dawn hour as an eviscerated human corpse hung like a gutted piñata.

Detective Inspector Laura Travers cursed, unable to light a damned fag as the rain started again.  She rubbed her eyes, her head throbbing with a hangover.  “What’ve we got?” she asked wearily, her throat raw and scratchy, the flashbulbs annoyingly painful in the darkness.

"Same as the others, guv,” D.C. Brandon said, opening his umbrella and holding it over her.  “‘Hobb’s Butcher’ at work again.”

Her stomach turned every time she heard that idiotic name the damn tabloids had given this serial killer.  “The victim was female?” she asked as the forensics team got to work getting what was left of the corpse down from where it had been hung up like a side of beef.

“Right, guv.  Gwen Collins.  Mid-thirties, just like the others.  Pattern’s the same.  The coroners still can’t I.D. the weapon.  Damn mess, as you can see.  Like a wild animal, only worse.  You’d swear he eats out their hearts.”

“And, his M.O.?”

 “‘Seems he lures them…real charmer, our lad…then, he…”

“Displays them like trophies, I know.”  The chill, stinking air did nothing to clear her head.  Cold.  Cold as they zipped…it…into the bag.  No longer recognizable as a human being.  Not the woman it had been a few short hours ago.  Just cold meat for the freezer.  Men all around telling morbid jokes.  Just cold meat.  No trace of the loneliness, the fear, the want.  The happiness and dreams she might once have known.  No, not even a face.  He hadn’t left her even that, damn him.  Nothing but dead meat, for that’s all he’d wanted the world to remember of her.

“Have a report on my desk at nine, Brandon,” she said as she walked towards her car, holding back the tears.


He wears a different face for each of his victims, she thought.  He became what you needed him to be.  That was the bait.  He tempted, he lured, he fed the fantasy, preying on loneliness like a murdering pervert luring children with candy.  She knew where to find him.  In her own loneliness.

She didn’t have long to wait, as she sat there at the bar in the half darkness, nursing a gin and pretending to get drunk.  He found her soon enough.  He slipped out of the crowd, zeroing in on her like a shark smelling blood.  Like a dark shadow forming out of the brackish waters of her memories, he appeared, a handsome specter made of dream and want.

“May I buy you a drink?” he asked in a tone soft and smooth as silk, his dark eyes sparkling, a predatory smile spreading across his swarthy, handsome face.  She actually marveled at how an evil so pure intermingled so flawlessly into every fantasy she’d ever nursed and tasted.  The part of her mind trained as a detective realized if she’d tried to describe him to a police artist, she couldn’t.  He was just a dream.  Every dream, woven together into a mask.  She shivered as he touched her hand.  His eyes smoldered like hot coals, yet his touch was cold as ice.

“My place?” she whispered, her heart throbbing.

His smile grew, his teeth glistening as he kissed her hand.  Cold.  Cold as death.


The alley behind the pub was where he made his move, as she’d expected him to.  As he’d done with Gwen Collins and all the others before.  Laura turned in the darkness, feeling an icy wave of coldness caress her back.  His eyes glowed red in the darkness.  His laughter was like leather scraping across jagged bone.  He hungered for her heart.  He hungered greedily for her soul.  Her breath quickened.

He rose, like a dark wave.  Like a black talon, his darkness clutched at her heart.  She slipped the blade out of her sleeve.  The antique athame her old gran had given her.  Let your fire flow through the blade, the old woman had told her.  And, the evil will find no darkness left for it to hide in.  She lunged, cutting deep.  He screamed in rage, and struck back, his claws slashing deep.  She fell back, wounded, and bleeding.  He came, slowly, growling hungrily.  Her heart raced as he drew closer.  He hid behind a parade of masks, a swirl of dark memories flashing through her mind.  Her father’s face, cruel and angry as he’d beaten her.  The anger in her boyfriend’s face as he’d beaten her.  Her next boyfriend…with him, she’d fought back.  She’d struck harder and harder, letting her anger flow, until the bastard bled.

She raged now as she slashed and slashed, cutting deeper and deeper, her anger flowing outward through the blade.  His human guise fell away, as shadow before fire.  His…its…true form emerged.  Razor sharp claws and rows of curved fangs in a leathery, almost serpentine form.  Leathery wings unfurled.  In ages gone, had they called its kind Incubus?  Had warlocks conjured it from dark pits below, feeding on the hatred of men and the fear of women?  It came only when its lies were believed, and feasted on the hearts of its victims, only when they empowered it with their fear.  She would fear no more.  She stabbed and stabbed into its dark heart, a shriek like the wails of the damned curdling her blood and sinking to her marrow.

And then, it was gone.  She sighed in exhaustion and sank to her knees, covered in her own blood as the knife slipped from her numbed fingers.  She looked up into the silver moon, the night wind sighing and caressing her.


Devil’s Spawn by Diane Arelle

Mary dragged the dark haired child along the wooded path.

“Come on!”  She snapped at the preteen. “We have to get home before dark. Devil does his work after sundown.”

The child whimpered and tried to pull from her grip.

Mary turned, faced the small girl and flinched once again when she saw the mixed breeding in the small heart shaped face. Tainting the races, a sure sign of the Dark Prince’s work.   She frowned at this orphan she’d just taken in and thought, luckily I’m here to save the marked children.  “Come, on, Angela 14, stop fighting. I’m saving you.”

“The child yanked at the hands that held her and said in a weepy voice, “My mommy named me Melissa.”

Mary took in a deep breath, shocked by the defiance this demon’s spawn was displaying. She let go of the girl’s wrist and smacked her across the face so hard her hand stung. The child staggered backwards then fell and Mary felt satisfaction ease her pained hand. “Your Mommy left you because you're cursed by the Devil. You were born out of wedlock and are doomed to burn in Hell. Now stop that damned crying. I’m going to save your soul even if your body is befouled by evil.”

Not like that last one. That redheaded spawn was older and proved to be unsalvageable.  Mary shuddered at the very memory of it. That green fire right outside her house and the Devil himself stealing Angela 13 away.  It had shaken her so badly she waited a year to find another soul to save.

The sun was setting when they broke through to the small clearing with the shabby cabin in the center.  “Here’s a bucket, fill it with water in the stream we just passed and don’t even think about running away.  These woods are full of monsters after dark.”

She watched the girl take the bucket and smiled.  All any of them need is some good healthy fear to set them on the road to salvation.  Then she frowned and mumbled, “All except that one with the devil’s kiss.”

She remembered when she started saving children.  The first had been her step-sister Angie. They’d had different fathers, but only Mary’s had been a daddy. She’d drowned her in the stream when Angie was eight. Oh how Momma had cried about the accident and prayed for the dead girl’s soul.

That was when Mary realized her calling, to save as many souls as she could. A few of her Angelas had run off, but they’d had Satan beaten out of them before they left. She glanced over at the unmarked graves on the edge of the clearing and nodded at the souls she had managed to save.

The girl came back, struggling to carry the heavy bucket.

“That’s good, Angela 14. Now come here.” She stood by a tiny lean-to on the side of the cabin.  She grabbed the girl, pushed up the long tattered skirt and snapped a locked chain around the small ankle.

“This is your room. You got a fresh straw bed and a bible.”

“But, but, it’s dark. I’m scared. Why can’t I come in with you?” The child wailed, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Because I don’t let any of the Devil’s spawn cross my threshold. Never let the darkness into my home. My soul is clean and I aim to keep it that way.”

“Please, I promise to be a good Angela!” Melissa begged falling to her knees.

Mary snickered, smacked the girl for good measure and turned away.

To be blinded by a huge flash of green fire.  She stepped back gasping in terror. That light! Angela 13 had disappeared into that pillar of fire a year ago.

And now as her vision returned there was Angela 13 standing before her dressed in a rich emerald green gown, she shook back her long, thick, red hair. The Devil’s kiss, that birth mark of evil, on her cheek was glowing.

“I was right, you are the spawn of the Devil.  I saw him take you last year. I watched from the window. Damned, you were damned, unable to be saved!”

“You mean murdered, not saved.” Angela 13 said, her voice dripping with contempt. “But to you they are the same of course, murder means salvation to you.  And I’m not the Devil’s Spawn. I’m his wife. He chose me with a kiss when I was born.”

The little girl was screaming and the redhead looked at her. “There, there child. My name is Glory. Come here to me.”

She snapped her fingers and the chain dropped to the ground.  The little girl ran to her and hugged her waist. “You have your name back, Melissa. You can be my child, if you’d like. I promise to love you and care for you.”

Mary was edging away. “Mary, my husband, Lucifer, and I have decided to repay the favors you have spent your life bestowing on innocent, helpless, young girls and we have decided to have you live with us as well.”

Mary’s eyes widened as she watched the handsome man walk out from the flames. He took Glory’s hand and kissed the birthmark on her cheek. “Yes, come join us. We have a special place we made just for you, right near our place, you know, because we can’t have your tainted soul crossing our threshold, now can we?”

Mary stood frozen to the spot, unable to respond, unable to push away the evil facing her, smiling at her. She mouthed the word nononono but no sound escaped. Glory kissed Lucifer back, her smile growing impossibly wide as she nodded to him.

 In response, he snapped his fingers and the pillar of fire widened and engulfed Mary. She struggled and inhaled deeply as if to ward off the light, but all she could do with her endless breath was scream and scream with the burning pain that would go on forever.


Servant Girl Annihilator by Robert Perret

It was the fever that saved me.  I had been up every few hours getting a clean cloth from the linen closet to lay, wet and cold, across the Lady’s forehead.  I had been there, in the dark, running my hands along the shelves, when I heard the sigh of the back door opening, followed by the gentle thud of large feet placed softly.  The servants were well practiced in passing silently through the house, and likely to use the pantry window besides, for any midnight assignations, of which there were a few.  The Family had no need to be quiet, of course.  I knew immediately who it was, what was happening.  There was a monster prowling the streets of Austin after dark.  They said he was eight feet tall and carried a great tree felling axe with a blade on each end, so he could spin it like a thresher.  They said he wore an old lady's’ dress and a bonnet, as if that would disguise such a behemoth.  They said he slaughtered entire households in their beds, save one.  He’d pick a girl that caught his eye and he’s let her run.  He’d play with her, out there in the dark, a vicious game of hide and seek.  They called him the Servant Girl Annihilator.

I heard him walk to the cook’s room.  Her and her girl right off the kitchen.  There were two wet thuds and then silence for a minute.  It felt like my heart was beating in my neck.  I was trapped upstairs, the only way down taking me right into his path.  For a moment I thought of running to the other side of the house, to wake the Lady and Sir, but I feared they would be too slow to wake from sleep, to act.  The Annihilator was a force of nature, an unstoppable killer.  I wouldn’t trust my life to anyone else.  I’d been given this chance, hadn’t I?  Been awake, hidden, to hear him?  That meant something.  It had to.  He was on the stairs now, clump, clump, clump.  He was dreadful slow, like he was walking underwater.  He was at the top of the stairs now, pausing to decide which way to go.  To one side was rich blue wallpaper, patterned with stripes and trefoils, leading under a small chandelier to a finely finished oak door with a brass knob.  To the other was bare wall and floor, leading past the linen closet and the storeroom and finally to the open doorway of our bedroom.  Myself and three other housegirls shared this room, nothing but four cots and a few pegs upon which we might hang a lantern, or our dresses.  The Lady never came into our room, but Sir did on occasion.  Any fool could see who was where.

I watched through the hinged crack of the doorway as the Annihilator turned towards the servant’s quarters.  Ponderous still, he moved like he was eight feet tall, but looking at the wall behind him he seemed like he was barely taller than me.  As he passed his face was caught in the moonlight for just a moment.  I knew the face of human cruelty and this was not it.  His expression was blank, almost tranquil, but those eyes, marbled white, revolted me.  They were the eyes of a blind man but they burned with an unholy intensity.  Slowly he plodded by on stiff legs.  He wore no dress, but simply the dark roughspun clothes of a field laborer.  As he passed he moved into view of the partially open door I was hiding behind.  He had no axe but rather held a great curved knife like those used for clearing brush.  In his belt was tucked a number of sharp object, like thick crochet needles.  Maybe railroad spikes?  As he moved into the bedroom I wanted to scream a warning but my voice was trapped down below my frantically beating heart still caught in my throat.  Again, the slow, methodical wet thuds.

I bolted from my hiding place and into the Lady and Sir’s bedroom.  I knew Sir kept a rifle at hand.  As the slow footsteps moved back down the hallway toward us I raised the gun and cocked the hammer.  Sir snored loudly.  The Lady stirred in her sleep.

“Girl, is that you? It is about time,” she hissed.  “Am I meant to suffer under a stale rag all night?”

The Annihilator pushed open the door and seemed to be looking past the scene before him, almost as if he were seeing through the walls the ranch outside.  I noticed then the fetish dangling at his neck, a leather pouch decorated with feathers and inscribed with a strange symbol.  I sighted it, like a pheasant, like my father had taught me back on the farm of my childhood.

“Answer me, girl!”

The air whistled as the scythe lashed out, The Lady was finally quiet, as a red line dripped from her neck.  She twitched upright for a few moments, and then the Annihilator drove one of his needles into her eye.  I backed into the far corner, the rifle wavering in my hands.  Sir finally awoke from his noisy slumber.

“What’s all this, then?” he grumbled.  He had started to climb out of bed but froze when he saw the Annihilator, his eyes drifted down to the red mass that had been the Lady.

“Damn you to Hell!” he cried as he grasped at the spot where his rifle had been propped.  He looked at his empty hands in confusion, and then seemed to notice me in the corner, crouching, hugging the weapon he was searching for.  The Annihilator brought his blade down upon the man. Finally I pulled the trigger and watched the stiff figure topple over onto the bed between his final victims.  I felt a wave of relief and then guilt.  I hadn’t hesitated to pull the trigger, had I?  What would that make me?


Flightless Rats by James Dorr


"They used to be bats, you know.  That was before they lost their wings."

"I beg your pardon?"

It was going to be one of those kinds of conversations.

"The story goes," the man persisted, "that when Noah built the ark, he sent invitations to the bats, but that they refused. 'Why should we ride on your smelly old boat?' they said.  'Even if there is a flood, we can just fly over it.'"

Aimée had already decided she didn't care for this story.  She gritted her teeth, although discreetly, keeping her lips closed.  That was the problem with chance assignations, even as late as the Nineteenth Century, basically just meeting up with someone in Jackson Square listening to the music on a hot summer's night, then crossing Decatur Street to the levee to walk by the river.  But other than him having told you his name, you never really knew who you were with.

She tried to smile at him, again discreetly.  To get him to gaze at her face, her eyes, in the flickering white light that spilled onto the river, but to no avail.      

"After the rains stopped -- it stormed for forty whole days and nights -- the bats, thoroughly exhausted from fighting the wind, landed on the ark anyway.  But Noah confronted them.  'You'll have to get off,' he said.  'I gave your space to a different couple, one that was more grateful.  There's no room left for you.  After all, you had your chance, but you didn't want it.'"

Aimée's first thought when she had picked him out from the crowd had been that he was formally dressed, as well as good looking.  As was she, in a low-backed, deep blue gown that, with her black hair, blended into the darkness, contrasting with the whiteness of her shoulders and face.  Such a man, she had thought, must surely have led an interesting life, one she could find herself interested in too.  But instead he insisted on telling this story.

"The bats begged Noah.  'We've changed our minds,' they said, dropping to their knees and kissing the man's feet.  'Please, Noah,' they cried, 'we'll do anything you ask of us in return.'

"So Noah took pity.  'There's still no place for you, but here's what you must do.  First remove your wings and cast them overboard into the water.  The ark is overloaded already and can't take on even that much extra weight.  Then when you've done that, you must go in the hold and find some out of the way place to sleep in the bilge, some crack or cranny beneath the floor where the baggage is stored.  As for food, you must forage that for yourselves from whatever the other animals discard.'

"The bats agreed, removing their wings as Noah had said, and slinking below decks."

By now Aimée had risen from the bench she had selected, taking the man with her.  She knew herself that patience was not one of her best virtues.  They wandered slowly, together, downriver.

"And that," the man said, "is why the rats are as they are today.  Wingless, of course, but skulking in shadows.  Seeking dark places.  Sly thieves of whatsoever opportunity brings them.  Feared, hated by honest men.  Killed when they can be caught."

Aimée shuddered at that.  Perhaps due to a sudden breeze from the Mississippi?  She recalled a time when she was on a boat, as big as an ark, pressed in its hold with dozens of young women, just like her, or at least so eventually.  She had, in fact, had to kill another in France to steal her passport, to come to New Orleans.  But that had been a long time ago.

While as for this man -- who now seemed so shallow. . . . 

"But aren't there still bats?" she asked.  "I mean you see them sometimes in the night, flying against the moon -- just as we spotted that rat before.  Or did Noah relent and give some their wings back?"

"No," the man replied.  By now they had progressed past the French Market, away from the newly installed gas streetlights, following the river's bend.  "These aren't real bats, just bat-like creatures.  To help keep what really happened a secret.  And then, of course, there are such other things as flying foxes."

Aimée persisted, though.  "But I have heard there are all kinds of bats.  Some from places like South America where, perhaps, the Flood didn't reach.  Even some bats, they say, that feed on people's blood.  What of these kinds of bats?"

The man laughed at that.  They had entered by now a place of darkness, past the main docks, a place of quiet lighted only by the moon.  "Legends," he told her.  "These are just stories to frighten schoolchildren.  These aren't about real happenings, like in the Bible."

"I see," Aimée said, turning slowly from him, "but aren't there some things that aren't told in the Bible, or even hinted of?  Some things not even in Bible stories?"  Momentarily she let her wings unfurl, giving him one glance, then had them fold back into her bare shoulders.  Whirling back, she sank her teeth in his throat.

She took his purse too, when she had finished, rolling his drained corpse into the river.  He had been wealthy, as she had surmised, and she, not so long ago having been widowed, her husband -- as had the ones before -- having succumbed to age, had really been looking for a new companion.

But not one who bored her.


The Whistler by N.O.A. Rawle

Addie O’Brien had been making tea to take to her mother’s workshop when the tanker came into view. Always an awesome sight, she had abandoned the kettle and dashed out to the basement steps to watch the spectacle, a move that saved her life. She lived in one of the hovels that had been a respectable terrace before the drought. Having followed the tanker to the city, the Anapa bombardment began.

Addy dragged herself up from where she had been thrown down to survey the destruction. One of the alien craft had been hit and now toxic smoke billowed across the rubble strewn street, lethally mixing with the dusty desert winds. Tenements had been razed and nothing recognizable remained above ground level. The few straggling wraiths that stumbled along in shock, soon dropped where they stood, choking on the poisonous fumes from the explosions. She choked back her tears.

A hundred yards away something golden glinted in the light of the tracers, in another barrage of pink haze she discerned an alien figure emerging. It rose up out of the carcass of the ship like a god from the aether. A full ten feet in height it towered above what was left of the city, its dog-like snout sniffed the air, its pointed ears twitched, alert for sound.

“Anapa.” Addy barely whispered the word under her breath but regretted it immediately. The tall alien froze, its ears perked up further.

Cursing silently, she eased herself back down into the ruins of the tenement basement, through the window as the door was blocked by rubble, her back against the wall, the blasted window to her left. A shard of mirrored glass still clung to the wall, from here she could glimpse outside.

In the ancient scripts, the glyphs prophesized the Anapa’s return; the age-old race were greedy for blood sport and liked to pick over the remains of dying races.

“Acantina fits that bill alright. But those are just stories, aren’t they? What else? Think!” Facts could save her, but historical facts had always eluded her at school, that’s why she’d chosen to apprentice at her mother’s workshop.

Her breath rasping in her lungs and her chest tightening, Addie tried to calm her panic, breathe within the constraints of her corseted dress. When her hands began to turn blue, she realized it was the fumes, not panic that was leeching her oxygen. Wrestling in her satchel she found the mask she wore against the desert dust storms and pulled it over her head.

“Foolish woman,” she chided herself for not having thought of it earlier. Her chest relaxed a little and she was glad her mother was so insistent about equipment maintenance.

Of course, her breath came louder through the filters, making her more conspicuous, sweat trickled in rivers down her back.

“Need a weapon or I’m done for.” The remains of the parlour provided none but broken glass.

 It wasn’t long before the Anapa came into view; reflected in the shard of mirror, its booted feet paused outside, it sniffed audibly.

“Fi, fi foe, fum I smell the blood of Acantiun.” Grit crunched under its feet as it descended the steps. Addie’s heart pounded fit to bursting.

“Be ye alive, I’ll have thee bled.”

It paused outside the basement window. Addie slid along the wall, snatching up a shard of glass as she went.

“Animate thy corpse to share my bed.” It laughed then, a high sctratching sound like a hiccough.

Cursing the fullness of her skirts as they snagged on the furniture, she bunched up the ruffles and petticoats and secured them just above knee length so that she could maneuver in the tight spaces. If she could just dash along the narrow hall that led to the kitchen, then she would have a better array of weapons with which to defend herself.

 The long legged creature stepped into full view before she reached the door.

 “There you are, little rat.” It slid through the jagged hole that had once been the window and Addie dived for the door. The Anapa was quicker and grabbed the back of her skirts which still hung to the floor.

 “Trapped little rat.”

It smiled, bearing long canine teeth, saliva dripping from its chin. Addie whimpered as it pulled her towards it; hand over hand, gathering her petticoats in its fists.

“Never!” Hacking out with the glass shard, first at the Anapa’s gauntlets and then at her own garments shredding them significantly, Addie ripped herself free of the alien’s grip. She wrenched open the door and dashed into the kitchen where the kettle was miraculously still warming on the range. She left it there. Boiling water might be thrown at an assailant. Grabbing whatever knives and heavy objects she could find, Addie took up a position opposite the door. This would be a fight to the death and she intended to win.

“Cornered rat!” it drooled as it came through the door, stripping off its gauntlets, sharp claws bared for attack.

She threw two of the heaviest knives in quick succession, the first bounced off the wall but the second caught the creature on the shoulder. It let out a howl of rage before tugging the blade from its flesh and discarding it.

“Blood for blood, little rat.”

The shrill whistle of the kettle startled them as it shot out a jet of steam. Addie charged with the largest meat cleaver, burying it in the neck of the alien canine and retreated before it lashed out. As the steam spluttered and the whistle went beyond the range of human hearing, the Anapa threw back its head; ears flat along its back and let out a blood curdling howl before crumpling dead at her feet.

It was then that Addie remembered something more the scripts wrote; Anapa hunt in pairs.


Staying by Myriah Strozykowski

It’s happening again. She roused and opened one eye, groggily lifting her head to listen.


You’re just nervous, hearing things. She waited. Not a sound. With a sigh of relief, she’d just started to lower her head back to her pillow when—

Thump. Creak. Thump.

She shot up in bed, instantly awake, every hair on her body standing on end. There it was again.

Thump. Creak. Thump.

Despite the urge to pull the covers over her head, she forced herself to rise. She slid to the side of the bed and lowered her feet to the cold floor, all the while hearing the creak of the floorboards downstairs.

They’re back.

She shuddered but tried not to cry out, tried not to make a sound as she crept to her bedroom door.

Thump. Thump. Thump. The sound of footsteps.

She lived alone; there shouldn’t be any footsteps, but there they were, and in the near-silence of the house, they sounded thunderous. She bit her lip and pressed her ear to the door.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

He was walking from the front hall… into the… Yes, he was in the dining room now.

Thump. Thump. Thump. A pause. Thump. Thump. The kitchen.


“Wait!” She sprang back from the door in terror. That one had come from the stairs! There were two of them this time! Clambering backwards, she almost screamed when something banged into the back of her knees, but it was just the mattress.  She scrambled onto the bed as the footsteps made their way up the stairs.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She had to fight to stop the fear from paralyzing her.

Thud. Thud. Pause.

She counted in her head. He was halfway up. Would hiding do any good?  Could she hide from them this time?

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She had to make a decision, had to do something. Frantically, she slid down over the other side of the mattress, folding herself into the narrow space between the bed and the wall.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. He’d reached the top step. She held her breath, waiting for the next sound, but nothing. Silence. What was he doing?

Her head started to buzz.  Her pulse pounded until she worried she wouldn’t be able to hear him over the sound of the blood roaring in her ears. Had he gone? Had she been granted a reprieve?

But no.

When she was sure she couldn’t take another second, when she was certain that crying out and giving herself away would be preferable to this interminable uncertainty, she heard him turn and take a step toward her door. Trembling, she squeezed her eyes shut, fighting back tears, and tried to think what to do.

Thud… Thud… Thud…

He was almost there.


He was coming for her.


She had to do something. She would not let them terrorize her like this, not in her own home!


The footsteps stopped. He was right outside the door. She peeked up over the edge of the bed. Watching. Waiting. The door knob jiggled. Had she locked it? It started to turn.

Apparently not.

Never taking her eyes from the slowly rotating door handle, she snaked her hand up the side of the nightstand.  Groping blindly in desperation, she felt her hairbrush, a pillow bottle, her reading glasses… Nothing of use, no weapons, nothing with which to defend herself. She was out of time. The door swung open on silent hinges. A black figure filled the doorway, almost blocking the weak light from the hallway, his features obscured by shadows.

She felt a shudder pass through her entire body, had to consciously stop herself from passing out from the terror. The figure stood there, unmoving. He seemed to be surveying the room.  After what felt like minutes, she gathered her courage and rocketed to her feet. On the way up, she grabbed a random object from the nightstand and flung it wildly before dropping back down to her hiding place to watch.

The glass of water she’d thrown smashed into the wall beside his head, shards of glass flying everywhere as water rained down. He jumped and she was somewhat gratified to see him falter and take a step backwards. He quickly seemed to regain control, however, and squared his shoulders.


His voice was deep, but quiet. She covered her ears against it.

“Emily,” he repeated, louder this time.

She would not listen.  She would not listen.

“Emily,” he said her name a third time. “You do not belong here.  This is not your home any long—“

At this, she felt a rush of rage rising up inside her. Not her home any longer?!

She rose and this time snatched up at the lamp.  With a yank, she pulled the cord from the wall and flung the light directly at his head. He ducked just in time and it flew over him to crash to the hall floor. She heard him gasp. He was afraid. The tables had turned. He had no power over her. She was no longer scared, she was furious.

How dare they? How dare HE?!

He tried one last time, but his voice quavered.

“You do not belong here! You must leave! THE POWER OF CHRI—“

She called upon her rage, her fright, the unfairness of it all and, with all her strength, she summoned her force from across the room to slam the door shut, bashing him in the face, knocking him to the ground, cutting him off mid-sentence in a yelp of pain and terror.

She heard a muffled curse from behind the closed door, heard him scramble to his feet, heard his footsteps fleeing down the stairs as he called to his partner that they had to get out of there.

Heard, with a frisson of satisfaction, the front door slam behind them, and knew she had driven them away yet again.

This was her home. She was staying.


Hell on Earth by Carrie Martin

When a massive solar flare devoured Earth’s ozone layer, it wasn’t just ultraviolet rays that broke through. The gateway between life and death itself was destroyed, and the demons clawed out of the darkness, screeching and swooping down, lost souls seeping after them.
Now our island is a wasteland of decaying forests, burnt-out vehicles, dust and angry ghosts—and that’s just the daytime. You don’t want to go out there at night. For the few of us that remain, holed-up in this lonely fire hall, it’s only a matter of what will kill us first: starvation, suicide, or them.

The two-way radio goes off in my hand, broadcasting Trent’s panicked voice amid the static: “Open the door!”

I’ve been sat in a fire truck, waiting for his call, and I drop the radio, fly at the door, unlock and shove it open. The sun is sinking in a blinding glow across the ocean’s cloudy horizon, Trent’s silhouette coming at me, clothes flapping, unravelling at his head. And a brown medicine bottle, catching the light, in his hand—he must have rummaged through a hundred houses to find it.

Hope stings my eyes with tears. If we can just save Cassie’s leg, just one good thing.

But the sun is dropping too fast, the darkness is coming. Dust kicks into wicked columns. Fleshy, spiderweb wings flutter in strobe-like snatches, and the wretched screeching begins.

Trent’s made it up the driveway but there’s a demon at his back, slowing its giant bony mass mid-flight, preparing to breathe its fiery hell.

I grab the nearest thing and toss an axe, tumbling, high over Trent’s head. It cuts into the demon’s shoulder with a sickening thump, and the scream that erupts brings me to my knees. Trent cowers, covering his ears, losing the medicine bottle in the process, and it rolls down the drive, down, down, into the gutter.

I step outside, but there’s a hand on my shoulder, pulling me back. “Kaya,” says Nancy, “you can’t go out there.”

And she’s right, it’s suicide. “The antibiotics, he dropped them,” I say.

Nancy’s husband, Wes, darts between us with his hunting rifle, and lines up a shot at the squirming demon.

“Run, Trent!” Nancy and I yell together as he scrambles to his feet.

The demon removes the axe in a spray of blood that coats Trent’s back, and hurls it at us, its eyes bitter and blood-red, its mouth stretched impossibly wide with twisted, knife-sharp teeth. We jump aside, narrowly missing the axe as it stabs into the doorframe.

Trent’s at the bottom step when the demon’s clawed feet shoot forward to snag his shirt and drag him upward, swaying left and right. Trent looks at me with his brown eyes, eyes that say “another time, another place, we could have had something good.”

Eyes resigned to their fate. Wes can’t find a safe shot, can’t waste any bullets, and Trent is utterly helpless.

“Lock the door!” says Trent; the last brave gesture he’ll ever make, as he’s carried away in a blur of veins and wings and wrinkled skin, into the dead forest.

Wes lowers his gun, signifying our defeat. Nancy takes my hand as Trent is torn apart, screaming, screaming, not a thing we can do to save him...followed by a terrible silence.

Then Trent’s severed, blood-soaked leg comes scuttling across the driveway.

Stifling rage I yank the axe from the doorframe, and Wes takes care of the door. I’m too angry to cry. We’ve lost so many people, so many; doomed to roam the Earth forevermore, seen but unseen and mad with despair.

Only seven of us remain.

Molly and her teenage-son Jack hover on the stairs, and we return to the bunkroom in silence. Cassie’s lying in a top bunk, bandaged leg propped on pillows, and she’s gotten worse: deathly pale and the sheets are drenched. The sound of her weeping kills me. Tim places a damp cloth on her forehead, strokes her wet hair, and shakes his head at us, his mouth pulled into a grim line behind his grey beard.

So Trent died for nothing. Cassie’s going to lose her leg. Eleven years old and she’s going to lose her fucking leg.

I’m so sick of this nightmare. What are we holding on for? The pump truck’s half empty. We could drive out of here by daylight, but where would we go? Cities, strip malls, gas stations, boats in harbours...they’re all toast.

And so are we now the demons know we’re here.

I’ve got to finish what Trent began, buy Cassie some time. Fighting is all we have left.

I pull everyone into the hallway and explain my plan. We argue back and forth in hushed voices, but ultimately agree. While they round-up extinguishers, flares and guns, I slide down the fire-pole and get into gear.

The sky is a dark blue-black through the window, and the demons are circling in hungry swarms, their high-pitched sound rattling the pane.

I clamber into the truck, an extinguisher sitting in the passenger seat. The others standby with their weapons. I give the signal with my gloved hand, the garage door slides open, and they take position as I hit the gas.

I’m off, veering onto dusty ground. A gunshot fires. Something lands heavily on the roof above me. I slam on the break, propelling a demon over the windshield. Then I’m outside, extinguisher-pin pulled, searching for the bottle in a haze of sulphurous red smoke—there it is, footsteps away.

Heat blasts the back of my suit, fire licks my arms. I swivel round and squeeze cold gas at the attacking demon, and it jerks back, choking, and drops. More gunshots. I’ve got Cassie’s medicine, but when I look up, the fire hall is crawling with demons, alight with the devil’s fiery fingers.

Six ghosts stare out the blazing windows at me.

I retreat to the truck, race down the empty road to nowhere, and pray for a miracle.


Tibet by Josh LaMore

I’d begun thinking that it wasn’t too late; that Tibet was still an option. I had convinced myself that I wanted to go because it would be different. But we all know better and see more clearly in hindsite. There was another reason I thought of Tibet; a reason I didn’t want to believe.

At the time I was “in-between careers.” I’d pick up odd jobs on craigslist, sometimes helping move a couch; posting flyers around the neighborhood; or working at some sort of call center selling sham, cure-all health products. But more often than not, the jobs ended up being excuses for guys to whip out their manhood and either beg or try to force me into sexual exchange.

It’s not that I was willing to have sex with these freaks. I was just willing to be exposed to their perversions in order to report them and collect settlement money to keep me from broke. I didn’t care what they tried or showed me. I had seen it all and although none of it was flattering, it didn’t have an effect on me. It’s all the same shit.

Some defense lawyers said I had “a charming scheme.” But despite my scheming, they wanted these creeps off the streets just as bad as I did, at least I lead the court to believe that that was my agenda. Really, it was money. I mean, come on, who in their right mind would do this kind of thing because they wanted to?

Desperation. It’s what lead me to think again of Tibet, as I walked the 30 blocks from the apartment to the precinct. It was the fifth time they had called in in the past two weeks for a line up. I had recently snapped a picture of a perv on my phone, which he smashed to bits after breaking a bottle over my head. I had escaped, but that fuck was still out there, and my rent was still past due. I thought maybe they had finally found him.

Tibet, I had thought. I could work on a farm in exchange for food and housing. That was all I really needed. At least farmwork was honorable and enriched people’s--- breaks screech.

My eyes open in the back of a car. The backseat ripped out. My hands and feet tied. A rag forced and duct taped in my mouth.

I know the driver.

How long had he followed me? How many times had I walked past him when I crossed the interstate on my way to the precinct, thinking of ways to better my situation?

There are only two choices: become a victim, or take away his satisfaction and swallow the rag, leaving him a dead body. I close my eyes and think of Tibet.


Pickman’s Model by Jason Ellis

Though I only first spoke with Heloise Pickman at the showing, I had known of her for a few weeks before as the ratty, pale, disheveled girl who always slunk late into the studio.  Thankfully, she had the good grace to sit in the back, behind the other twenty artists fanned around me, the model, so as not to create too much commotion at least.   This was by no means my first nude sitting, so I wasn’t at all nervous – in fact, I had rather grown to love the momentary freedom they afforded me, being so bare under the heat of the lights while the artists assessed my form! – but despite my awareness of all the women around me, each using her preferred medium and tools, Heloise, at the shadowy, outer belt of the room, barely registered to me at all.
In fact, I paid no more than a passing aggravation at her tardiness, until the night of the showing when, I am ashamed to say, it was with much indignation and anger that I sought her out.  You see, the showing was the artists’.  It was intended as something of a recital to celebrate the end of the womens’ art course.  But the subject of the recital was primarily to have been me:  my figure and forms, as interpreted by these amateurs.   In my mind, this particular point was more than simply theoretical.  It was a matter of contractual rigor. As a stepping stone toward my wider modeling career, my agent had been quite specific with the gallery administrator that all works on display should be of myself and no other.

It was much to my chagrin then to find in a passing remark that Heloise had chosen a piece other than my sitting to display at the showing.  Upon hearing this, I sought her out immediately.  This was significantly harder than expected because, though the showing was sparsely attended, Heloise’s allotted space was discretely nestled close to the rear.

In fact, upon rounding a corner, I found her quite unexpectedly.  Standing waifish, mismatched, and ungroomed, I half was struck with the impression she was a corpse, floating languidly at the ocean floor.

Upon seeing her displayed work, my anger evaporated, and then coalesced again into something unexpected.  I was captivated and disturbed.  It was a large water color, brightly pink and white and gorgeous, of a singular wall in a girl’s bedroom.   In the middle of the painting at the center of the wall, a curiously small black door, out of all scale with the rest of the painting, malignantly radiated darkness outward.  Beneath the door knob, Heloise had painted a keyhole, yellow, as if some light were passing through from the other side.  On a small placard hung nearby was written, “Heloise Pickman:  Self-Portrait.”   While I examined the piece, Heloise stood beside her painting, occasionally rocking as if by the whims of some imperceptible breeze.

“It’s . . . odd,” I told her.  But I felt bad for that, and so added, “But lovely.”

“Thanks,” Heloise replied dryly.  Her voice was like the sound of falling leaves.

We stood quiet for several beats as my annoyance at her reclaimed some of its steam.

“I believe all the pieces here are supposed to be from my sitting though, weren’t they?” I asked her, attempting politeness in my tone.

“Yes, ma’am,” she said, “but Mother said that no one would want to see the portrait I made of you.”

“Did it not turn out well?” I asked, “Not accurate?”

“No . . .,” she said, as if drifting away.  “It’s quite accurate, but Mother said it wasn’t right to share it yet.”

“Mmmhmm,” I replied, looking back to her painting.  “If this is your self-portrait, where are you?” I asked.

“I’m the door, I think,” Heloise told me sadly.  We spoke no more.

When I found out she had hung herself the following day, it wasn’t a shock.  We didn’t know each other and the few words we had shared were scant.  But, as the days passed by, my thoughts wouldn’t focus on my modeling or my career.  Instead, they drifted repeatedly back to Heloise’s Self-Portrait.  I made contacts to purchase it.

When it arrived at my home, I gingerly unwrapped the paper from it and leaned it against my bedroom wall until I could find it a proper, permanent home.  For a moment, the thought to burn it overcame me but I did not.  Hours later, the delivery men returned apologetically.  They had forgotten another part of the shipment, they said, handing me a large art portfolio.   On my couch, I slowly removed the contents of the portfolio to find Heloise’s collected drawings and sketches.

Her vision overwhelmed me.  Such monstrosities that words cannot begin to express.  Strange half-things, great jabbles and heaps of mounded human flesh in various states of becomingment or deconstruction.  Almost human forms, amphibious and winged abortions of logic that churned the stomach and all sense abhorred!  And always issuing, tumbling, spilling forth from the door in her self-portrait!

Finally, at the back of the folder was a small packet of art board and cover sheet labelled, “Nude Model Figure.”  Lifting the sheet, my eyes met upon Heloise’s portrait of me – Heloise’s twisted vision applied to me.  My own body with another beneath, fragmented and bulging.  My breasts become great animal teets, sagging and spilt across my form.  Words failed me then as now!

God help me, overcome, I flung the papers across the room and fainted.   I have not awakened still.

Heloise! Poor Heloise!  I see now with your eyes, these forms; half people all around me!  In the mirror, I see my true self.  The true self of us all.  In the “Self-Portrait,” I see the face now, pushing through to be freed.

The glamour of this world is thin and failing and Mother waits on the other side of the door.

The door is my self-portrait too.


Diabolique by Tracy Vincent

Police tape blocked off the entire intersection. There were police cars everywhere and the coroner’s van. Detective Olivia Wyatt hated this part of her job. It wasn’t the death of the Jane Doe, but the manner in which she died, evidenced by her entrails strewn across the pavement and wrapped around the crosswalk pole.
CSI had already started their job while the coroner was waiting for the detectives to finish examining the scene before he started his job. This was the tenth such homicide this month, and the month was only half over. In a city of over four million, ten deaths in a month is nothing, but these deaths were all tied together. Their murderer was one sadistic bastard.

“Frankie, do we have ID on this JD?” she asked the city cop who arrived first at the scene.

“Yeah, her purse is over there with her shoes. CSI has already gone through it and we got Diego on locating her next of kin. Yanno, Detective, it’s like we got our own Jack the Ripper. Only he’s targeting the rich and stupid.” Frankie laughed at what he must have thought was a funny joke.

“Thanks, Frankie.” She made her way to the victim’s belongings, taking stock of the contents of her handbag, noting that there was a cocktail napkin for a nightclub inside.

“Diego, do we know anything about this Club Diabolique? I don’t think I’ve heard of it,” she said pointing to the napkin with her pen.

“It’s some high end club down on 181st Street, about three blocks down that way,” he said as he pointed East. “Supposedly, it’s so exclusive that in order to get in, you have to have a special card or something. I’m not sure, it’s fairly new.”

“Hmm, interesting. Look into the club once you’ve notified her next of kin.” He nodded as he walked away to make a phone call.

Olivia knew that all the victims were rich, single women all between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-five, and killed within five blocks of one another. Worst of all, they were killed in the exact same manner. They were stabbed repeatedly and gutted, their innards strewn about. There were never any witnesses and the call to police was by the same person, immediately after the kill.  This woman was still warm when Officer Frankie got here.

Olivia made her way over to Diego as he finished his call. Tapping him on his shoulder to get his attention, she said, “I’m headed to the precinct to see if we can nail this perp and stop all this insanity. The mayor is calling for heads to roll, and if we don’t wrap this up soon, those heads will be ours.”

The office didn’t reveal any secrets either.  Although, Diego did find another missing piece to the puzzle, the women were all at the club the night they were murdered.

The doorman at the club immediately opened the door for Olivia when she walked up. She thought it odd, but maybe they informed him to expect her. She didn’t look like their typical clientele if the victims were any benchmark.

As she wove her way through the gyrating crowd, the pulsing music vibrated her entire body. The DJ was building the tension in the room and the crowd was responding blindly to his subliminal messages. That combined with the lights, alcohol, and who knew what drugs, made this club a hotbed of bad choices and morning walks of shame.

At the bar in the back of club, Olivia waited for the bartender to take her order. He set a drink in front of her instead.  She must have had a questioning look on her face, because he just grinned and said, “A little something to loosen you up, boss.”

 “I’m not your boss.”

“Okay,” he said with a wink and a smirk.

Olivia turned away from him and scanned the crowd while sipping her drink. There had to be something or someone here that should be able to shed some light on the case.  She glanced up at the railing on the balcony level and she met the eyes of the most handsome man she’d ever seen.

She looked back to the crowd then to the railing again, and he was gone.  Just as she finished her drink, he was by her side ordering her another drink.

“Not your usual scene tonight?” he said in her ear.

“Not really. I’ve heard some wonderful things about this club so I thought I’d check it out.” She glanced at him from the corner of her eye, and took up the drink placed in front of her.

“Hmmm, interesting. See anything you like tonight?” He trailed his finger up and down her arm.

“Sure,” she said as she turned toward him. “Are you here often?”

His grin turned wicked and he leaned in, “I’m here most days, but I’m sure you know that already.”

Olivia arched her eyebrow at him. She decided to play his game and continued sipping her drink. He flirted and chatted her up about several of the other patrons. Olivia never noticed that her glass never emptied, nor that he never drank a drop. So when he suggested that they leave the party and head somewhere else, she left with him.

When she woke, Olivia’s head hurt and her body ached. She was home so at least she didn’t have to do the walk of shame. Her memory after leaving the club was practically non-existent. Maybe he did the walk of shame, she couldn’t really remember.

She turned the TV on to the local news channel. Olivia caught the mention of another homicide last night as she reached her bathroom; this one was different. It was a man.

Olivia flipped on the light, glanced at herself in the mirror. She took in her blood soaked hair and face and screamed.


Groundhog by Kenya Moss-Dyme

Fucking liars.

With one, she shared a mother; with the other, she shared a bed. But they betrayed her in the worst possible way – and they would pay, oh, yes, they would pay.

Smile at me, go ahead and ask me about my day as you try to throw me off the scent. But I can smell the guilt and deceit coming out of your pores – or should I say – between your filthy legs!

My loving husband: come and kiss me on my cheek like you’re happy to see me. I’ve trembled a thousand times under your hands on my body but tonight you will tremble under mine.

My dear sister: pick up your eyes from the floor – my face is up here! That’s right, you ARE a fledgling actress, but tonight will be your final curtain call.

Alana paused at the mirror in the foyer to give them time to adjust their clothing. She frowned and plucked two crisp dead leaves from her blonde-tipped locs, adding them to the pile on the small table beneath the mirror.

“What would you guys like for dinner?” She asked, kicking off her pumps.

Keyon’s eyes moved nervously between Alana’s stockinged feet and the deepening red stains in the carpet by the chair.

“Whatever you decide is fine, Constance mumbled without looking up from the pages of a magazine she’d selected from the sofa table.

“Chicken it is.” Alana breezed through the kitchen and into the garage where she peeled away a small pill case taped beneath the fuse box. Humming softly, she began preparing the meal. Never let them see you sweat! After fixing the plates, she turned her back to the living room and crushed a small white capsule into the potatoes on each of their plates.

She’d considered many ways to make them pay for their crime, from disabling the furnace to ensure a carbon monoxide leak, to triggering a house explosion, both of which would be perfect scenarios since she herself would be out of town. But ultimately, her profession provided her with the perfect weapon of destruction in the form of a convenient little pill. – cyanide. She’d dispose of the bodies and then make the “discovery” that the two had simply ran off together.  Never fuck with a chemist.

“Dinner’s ready,” she called out sweetly, taking her seat at the end of the dining table so she could watch them devour their last meal.

The treacherous pair shuffled over and took their usual seats at the table.

“I need your share of the rent today, sis,” Alana said, narrowing her eyes at Constance as she took a bite of her food. “Yesterday was the first.”

“I got it, don’t worry – you’ll get it,” Constance sighed and rolled her eyes.

Stay calm, it’ll be over soon. “By the way, I have to drive some drug samples to Ohio after dinner. I missed the courier so I’ll do it myself – will you two be okay here while I’m away?” Of course you will.

Keyon cleared his throat. “Well, I mean, I guess – we’ll manage, we always do.”

You always do IT, you mean!

“I’ve got some lines to rehearse anyway,” replied Constance, shooting Keyon a side glance that was unmistakably full of secrets. Alana cringed and resisted the urge to leap across the table.

“I need hot sauce,” Keyon said around a mouthful of chicken.

The legs of his chair scraped loudly across the floor as Keyon pushed away from the table and passed behind Alana on his way to the kitchen. She opened her mouth to fuss about the scuff marks when Constance suddenly turned sideways and slammed her hand on the table.

“Do it! Do it!” Constance screamed, pounding the table with her fist.

Alana heard the swish of rough fabric and caught the quick flash of the belt as it dropped past her face and tightened against her neck. Fear and confusion took over as Constance taunted her and she struggled to understand what was taking place. Keyon pushed his knee into the back of her chair and pulled harder until he felt a soft pop; Alana’s body went limp.

Constance jumped out of her chair and leaned her weight on her elbows to stare at her sister’s lifeless body crumpled on the floor.

“That’s your rent, bitch!” she spat vehemently. She looked up at Keyon and forced a reassuring smile. “Don’t look so worried – we’re safe now. Let’s get rid of her and start practicing our alibis so you can report her missing.”

Together, they carried Alana to the backyard and tossed her into the hole dug earlier. Keyon emptied a carton of lime over her body to mask the scent of death and they both shoveled dirt back into the hole until she was covered.

Out of breath, they returned to the house and devoured the dinner lovingly prepared by Alana. Murder had a way of revving up the appetite.

"One thing I’ll miss about her – she sure could cook!” Keyon mumbled over a hearty belch and dropped his fork loudly onto the empty plate just as his throat began to close.

“I can cook just as good as—.“ Constance stopped mid-sentence and clawed at her stomach as she fell out of her chair, spewing the bloody contents of her stomach across the carpet.

The lovers locked eyes as they lay convulsing on the floor until death thankfully ended their torture.


Alana stumbled barefoot around the side of the house and into the front door. Fucking liars, she thought as she stopped to look at herself in the mirror. She picked a dry leaf from her locs and laid it on the foyer table before entering the living room to greet her disloyal family.

“What would you guys like for dinner?” She asked, kicking off her heels at the door.

“Whatever you choose,” replied Constance, using the tip of her shoe to dab curiously at a red stain in the carpet.


Quiana’s Nightmare by Katara Johnson

“My dear daughter, your powers cannot stop me.” Quiana gasped as she awakened in a cold sweat, clutching her indigo charm necklace that her mother, Patrice, had given her. Her heart beat so hard and fast, she felt it in her throat. The nightmares were back. Her dreams began with laughter with her older sister; then she would be alone in an eerily familiar house, with a cloaked figure walking towards her. His presence instilled fear in her but, at the same time, there was a familiarity to this foreboding figure as well. During each encounter the hulking presence would shout “I’ll find you!”

One night, as her dreams became more frightening. She saw the hooded figure talking to a woman. They argued and the hooded figure lifted the woman by the neck, strangling her. Quiana crept closer to the couple. To her surprise, the woman looked like an older version of herself. The hoodie fell from the cloaked man. He appeared to be a regular guy but his eyes turned crimson; his hands were claws. He yelled, “You can’t hide her from me!”

The figure glared at Quiana and yelled, “I’ll find you!” He threw the woman toward the dresser, where her neck twisted in such a way she appeared dead.

Quiana remembered - her screaming awakened everyone in the house. For two weeks Quiana was a nervous wreck jumping at every loud sound. Her mother told her not to worry. Her mom gave her the indigo necklace she was now clutching. Her mother said, “This will help you have peaceful dreams.” Quiana’s nightmares gradually disappeared.

Now in her mid-twenties the nightmares were back.

While out shopping, her sister, Serenity, asked, “Quiana, you’re losing weight? You seem troubled.”

“I’m having the nightmares again.”

Serenity said, “I told Momma to tell you the truth.” Quiana looked dumb-founded. “When both Momma and Aunt Trina were young their Aunt taught them an ancient power passed down through the family line for decades. When Trina became pregnant Momma noticed she became paranoid and edgy. One day she gave Momma a box with letters, pictures, charms and other valuables including the necklace you are wearing. She made Momma promise to keep it in a safe place until her unborn child was an adult.”

Quiana was beginning to understand. Serenity pulled out an old shoe box from her shopping bag and gave it to Quiana. “Aunt Trina left this for you. In those letters I believe she reveals the identity of your father and possible ways to stop him.”

“Is Tr -trina, what happened to Aunt Trina?” Quiana stuttered. Serenity tearfully explained, “When you were a baby, Trina left you with Momma while she went out of town. A few days later, Mom found Trina on the floor, dead.”

“Someone strangled her,” finished Quiana.

“You knew?”

“That’s what my nightmares have been about.” Quiana had put all the pieces together.

The next day, Serenity and Quiana met at their mother’s house. “Serenity you told her everything!” Patrice snapped. “Momma, she’s having those awful nightmares.” sighed Serenity.

“Her charmed necklace doesn’t work no more?”

“No, your simple charm necklace isn’t strong enough to stop me!” A cavernous voice bellowed. Serenity and Patrice shuddered and turned toward the voice. The dream demon who had hunted their family for the past 24 years, in his human form, resembled a handsome cinnamon colored man in his thirties.

“Raymond you may have stopped Trina but your reign of terror ends now!” In one motion, Patrice pushed Serenity a few feet behind her, and with the flick of her other hand Raymond went flying backwards into the wall where pictures frames came crashing to the floor. Raymond now had a deep wound on the side of his chest and his eyes were slowly turning red and other parts of his body were beginning to transform.

“Trina was stronger and I destroyed her.” He laughed spitting out blood.

“You underestimated my family. You may have tricked Trina into falling in love with you, but, you misunderstood a mother’s love for her child.” With the flick of her other hand she sent Raymond hurling into the chair again. Another larger damaging wound appeared on the left side of his chest. With each exertion, her breathing weakened. In a flash, Raymond was right in front of her, and he raised her in the air, his hand around her throat.

"My powers don’t tire me out. Looks like Trina forgot to tell you that.” Though struggling with breathing, she still gave Raymond a defiant glare.

"Where’s she?” Raymond snarled.

“I’m right here.” Quiana replied standing in the doorway. With the slightest movement of her hand, she inflicted a hole in Raymond’s chest and he somersaulted out through the back door. Patrice fell to the floor catching her breath. Quiana helped her onto her feet.

"Serenity, Mom, stay inside.”

“Your eyes are glowing red!” Patrice said in surprise.

"Yes, I got that from my dead-beat dad.” Quiana started for the backyard. Raymond was struggling to recover after Quiana’s last blow. He was surprised how strong she became over a short period of time.

“My dear daughter, your powers cannot stop me. Join me, I’ll show you powers that are beyond this world and I will not hide anything from you like your Aunt did.”

“Really Dad?” She spat. Quiana started transforming to the smaller version of the demon she was battling. “You killed my biological mother. With a flick of her hand his right arm snapped. “Those nightmares made me believe I was going insane,” with a flick of her other hand his left arm snapped. “Momma tried to protect me from you,” Quiana now raised a terrified Raymond into the air. “But you are right about one thing; Trina didn’t tell Mom how to destroy you.” Quiana went on to say “She told me the only way to destroy a dream demon is by the hands of another dream demon. You are dismissed!”


Mama Lorra by Joanna Gonzalez

My nails gnawed my shins and my crouched body made no will to move. The door was locked, the floor cracked. My body burned through the mattress waiting for the next moments.

 Mama Lorra’s slender finger stirred the cold tea sitting on the table since morning. Her lips were fine lines on a blank paper. The side of her face had soft crow’s feet gently forming as if old age had been looming for an eternity. Marble skin and piercing nails.  Her probing eyes were violet, sometimes black under certain light. Motionless, long hair like a shawl draped over a lifeless lamp. Her face seemed pointy as a whole but every individual feature - cheeks, chin, eyebrows, and nose - was halfway delicate upon deep scrutiny. Her entire hand was almost inside the cup, her palm vividly brushing the ceramic. I imagined being small, sitting on the rim of the cup listening to the tea rumbling as waves.

There were stories. The woman with a slit throat, cut ear, missing a finger, and pulled by the sea. Her body was found but no killer. A young man burned in a car. A couple hung in their living room. Bodies, but no killer.

Mama Lorra smiled at me. Her gait was silent, as if she was walking on a layer of satin bed sheets. The screams from downstairs started again, maybe they were constant echoes vibrating in my temples that never went silent. I stare at her face and my grainy thoughts fly to her ears and become moths in the room. Reassured once more, I was a daughter to her devotion. She trusted me; I trusted her. It wouldn’t be long, the sounds beneath my feet.

Bodies - I knew of their killers. The woman found at sea, slit and deserted by her sister for poisoning her husband. The young man ignited by the girl he raped. The frenzied couple left fastened to a noose by the father of the boy they had kidnapped and killed.

My brother, my friend, my half - I have your murderer, slowly losing blood underneath my room in a lonely basement where time doesn’t count itself. Everyday I went to slice a new opening on his skin, everyday. Mama Lorra was there, she helped a sister, a girl, a father, she helped me. We needed her. Us, the children orphaned by loss, gathered and nursed by motherly arms. She finds the culprits of our pain and we rid them from our lives, from this earth.

The basement grows silent. Mama Lorra waits by the door as I finally recline in my bed. My head rests on the pillow, relieved, and I think about the times she hummed for me so I could sleep at night. 


The Damned by Melissa McArthur

“Where are we going?” the girl asked, laughing as he steered her down a dark side street. She held onto his arm, strong under the thin cotton of his dress shirt, and probably wished she had chosen lower heels. His suit jacket was draped over her shoulders, the hem of the coat longer than her dress. She’d obviously not intended to spend much of the evening outside.

“We’re following the lights. When they’ve all gone, we’ll be there,” he said, his voice carrying in tendrils on the night air like a puff of smoke. He pointed at the fractured neon reflected off the wet pavement. “Almost there. Come on.” He put his arm around her waist and pulled her toward him. The corner of the flyer stuck out of the back pocket of his pants, and I smiled.

I shouldn’t have followed them, but I did.

I’d approached him at the bar a few hours before. She’d gone to “powder her nose” and I’d sidled up next to him. “Hey, handsome. Got plans later?” I’d asked. He’d glanced over his shoulder toward the ladies’ room and started to speak. I put a finger to his lips. “Bring your girl. We could all have some fun.” I’d winked at him and slid my hand across his chest as I tucked the flyer into his breast pocket. He’d just stared at me, like a hungry man stares at his only meal. “Don’t be late. You’ll miss the fun.”

I slid off the bar stool and disappeared into the crowd as his girl returned, freshly lipsticked and smelling of the bathroom’s antibacterial soap. At least she’s clean, I thought as I moved through the pulsing crowd toward the door.

I’d waited in the shadows outside the bar for the couple to emerge. I should have laid more traps, made more connections. My master would be angry if I was wrong about them. But I was sure. My heart leapt as I saw them turn down the alley toward the master’s lair. And I’d followed, silent and unseen, quite the opposite of the sparkling clop-trap hanging onto the man’s arm.

“This is it,” he said, stopping in front of the lair. “229 L’Esche.”

“This is what?” she asked. “Where are we?”

“The hottest nightclub in the city, according to this—” He pulled the flyer out of his back pocket and handed it to her.

“It’s too dark to read,” she complained. “Can't we just go to O’Malley’s?”

“Trust me, babe.” He knocked four times, once firmly and then three taps in rapid succession, just as written on the flyer.

I smiled. I’d rolled the dice and brought down the house.

The door swung inward and green light spilled out into the alley. The couple disappeared inside.

I raced to the fire escape, a rusted death trap barely bolted to the ancient brick, and sprung up onto the first landing. I was getting better! I could bypass the ladder entirely now.

 I took the steps three at a time, silent except for the creaking of the metal under my weight. I ducked into the open window and landed in a crouch on the wooden floor. I cursed at the sound my knee made when it touched the floor. He’d surely heard it.

“Come.” The voice roared in my head and I clawed at my temples.

“Yes, Master,” I whispered, knowing he’d hear me no matter how quiet I was.

The youngest of the troupe, it was now my job to scout for food. Master did not like my methods. The others said it would get me killed. That’s not such a bad fate when you’re already one of the damned.


Thin Ice by Marcia Colette

I glanced at the sign stuck on the edge of the lake that read “Thin ice. Danger.” I clutched my old bones as if to stave off the frigid temperatures. At least a foot of snow blanketed the area and more was lightly falling. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to deter the brave or the stupid.

Laughter echoed from the far end of the lake where a man, his two children, and a dog were playing. They didn’t venture out this far, but it was enough. A pack of teenagers were even closer to the sign.

“Hey!” I waved them down from a couple hundred feet and pointed at the sign. “You shouldn’t be out there. It’s a bad idea.”

The man stopped and stared, but the teens continued to bounce the puck back and for the between their hockey sticks.

“Didn’t you hear me?” I watched each careful step as I approached them, repeating my warning for them to leave.

“Piss off, old woman.” The redhead laughed with his friends and skated even further out onto the surface. “This lake is always off limits.”

“Yeah,” his friend said. “You don’t own it.”

“No, but I care about your safety,” I lied. The little hooligans. They had absolutely no home training.

The man with his children stopped playing on their section of the ice and stared. He motioned for his children to head toward the shore. “I’m sorry, ma’am. We didn’t mean any harm.”

“Of course not,” I replied. “But the ice is very thin.”

“Oh? We didn’t realize that with the sign being way over there.”

“Most don’t, I’m afraid. That’s why I police this lake. People have been known to fall through from time to time and their bodies are never recovered. I don’t want to scare you or your children, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

He half-smiled. “Point well taken. Anyway, I need to get these two home or their mother will kill me.”

I glanced at both of his children. They smiled back. Such well-behaved children, they were. Unlike those other miscreants.

I nodded to him. “They’re forecasting another snowstorm tonight. Perhaps, you should try again tomorrow. Maybe you’ll be lucky and can skate a little longer. Does that sound good?”

He glanced at his children. “What do you guys think?”

“Yeah!” They said in unison.

“But what about those guys?” He pointed at the teens. “You want me to see if I can rustle them up so they won’t bother you?”

  I shook my head. “It’s okay. I’ll keep an eye on them just in case.”

 "Okay, then. The name is Gerard Waters, by the way.”

 "Ilannaq. It’s Inuit for friend.”

The Waters family said goodbye as they headed back up the snowbank to their car. Their dog remained behind for a moment, staring the foolish skaters. He barked once as if to ward them off as well, but they continued their insolence. The man whistled for his dog to return to the car. When they left, I turned my attention back to the lake, glaring at the trespassers.

“You boys will get hurt, if you don’t do as I say.” I kept my arms crossed as I headed back toward my home where a warm fire awaited.

The third one who hadn’t say anything until now had flashed his middle finger. They laughed and continued playing.

Sighing, I shook my head. The impudent punks.

I had snuggled right in front of my fireplace with a book about ancient civilizations when the first scream echoed through the thick pines surrounding my small cabin. Sighing, laid the book down, wrapped my shawl around my shoulders, and opened the front door.

Through the trees, I noticed the boys tripping and falling, screaming in terror as they tried to make their way back to the shore.

I stepped just inside the house, slipped on my boots and jacket. I made sure my hat and mittens were in place before I left the house again. All the while, they were shrieking. I tried to warn them, but they wouldn’t listen. It was too late.

The teens continued to scramble away from the unseen force that had emerged from the hole in the center of the ice. I’d move the sign to that part of the lake tomorrow.

One boy fell. When he turned over, the front of his coat slashed open with two deep wounds that leaked blood onto the snow. The boy gasped in horror right before his head tore off his shoulders.

The middle-finger boy reached the SUV first. His body flew over the hood of the vehicle and he landed in the snow. When he got to his feet, his leg snapped at an unnatural angle. Surprisingly, he was still standing. The invisible monster slammed him into the snow. The only thing sticking up was part of his bloody, sinewy rib cage.

The redhead finally noticed my watching in the distance and started running toward me.

“Help me!” He shouted.

I smirked. “Piss off, young man.”

He stopped and stared. “What?”

“Those are words to die by. Your words to be exact.”

The enormous, transparent snake grabbed him by the back of his legs, tossed him up the air and caught him between her sharp teeth. I shook my head as he choked on his blood and died.

It was a good thing there was going to be a storm tonight. The Tizheruk hated cleaning up her mess.


Uki had one more dish to stack in the dishwasher when she heard Gerard’s footfalls behind her. As he hugged her from behind, a moan slipped from his mouth. Uki looked forward to whatever he had planned tonight.

“We saw your mother, today,” he confessed. “She didn’t seem like the monster you made her out to be.”

 Her body went rigid.  The plate slipped from her fingers and shattered onto the floor. There was a reason why her name meant survivor.


Funky Chick by Grace Hopkins

My breath fogged out in front of my face as soon as the car door opened. The cold rolled in like a thief, stealing the warmth around me. I wrapped my arms around my body tightly in an attempt to hold in body heat. I slipped my phone in my purse, and clutched it close to my side. The car horn beeped after I closed the door and hit the lock button. I turned and almost ran into a young girl.

The poor pitiful thing couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old. She had long messy brown hair, purple glasses, a purple t-shirt that said Funky Chick, and a black pair of shorts. In her arms she held about a dozen different photographs in frames. “Hi,” she said, with a big smile, “Could you help me?”

I looked around and the parking lot, other than my little blue sedan was empty. Focusing on the girl, “Okay. Where are your parents?”

“Great!” she pushed the frames in my arms, unloading half the load. “Come on follow me.”

She ran off into the forest beyond. The cold bit into my hands, but I had to jog to try and keep up with her. “Wait. Hold on. Where are you going?”

She didn’t answer, but kept running, stopping every so often to look back at me so I wouldn’t lose her. I chased her for what seemed like five minutes. Where she had finally stopped, she turned and placed the framed photographs on the ground. She would put one down, take another from her arms, look at it then turn in a circle and sit it down. I caught up with her, panting. “Sweetie. I don’t know what this is about, but it’s the dead of winter. You shouldn’t be out here in shorts and a t-shirt especially without a jacket.”

Her eyes found me. “I can’t go home unless you help me.”

“I will help you. Just tell me your name and we can walk back to my car. We’ll find your parents.”

The girl just smiled, “I’m Christina, but you have to help me so I can go home.” The girl wasn’t making any sense. She had resumed placing the pictures on the ground. Finally paying attention I looked at the photographs. Each one was a different child. Some boys, some girls, all of different ages and races.

At that moment my phone rang in my purse. I sat the photographs down to dig into my purse, intending to call the police to help Christina when I was done. My son’s daycare’s number blazed on my phone screen. I slide my finger across and said, “Hello.”

“Hello. Is this Mrs. Wyborne?” asked the frantic voice on the other end.

My heart pounded in my ears as fear flooded my bloodstream, “Yes.”

“This is Miss Elizabeth from Salem Sunshine. Um, Mrs. Wyborne, John is missing.”

“What?” I screamed, feeling as if I had been kicked in the stomach.

“We don’t know where he is. He’s just vanished. We’ve called the police. They’re on their way.”

 "I’m coming. I’m coming.” My finger pressed the end button. I spun around, Christina was nowhere around. “Christina! Christina where are you?” There was no answer. Anger rose in me like lightening. I didn’t have time for this, my son was missing! “Christina!” I yelled again, this time more forceful. My shoe hit one of the photos which skidded down a little embankment and landed at the end of a small hill. I swore and went after it. It had slipped underneath something. I bent down to pick it up, but it caught on something. I pulled harder and a section of the hill came lose. Letting go of the picture I pulled at it, trying to find what was underneath. A hunk of wood pulled away. I rolled it to the side. There just inside my eyes were drawn to my three year old son like glue. Lying on his stomach with his hands under his head as if sleeping. “John!” I cried, tears in my eyes and lifted him out of the whole. His little body was cold, but his breathe came out in a cloud. Tears fell down my face as I buried them in his chest, “Thank you god.” He was unconscious, but he was alive. Looking deeper into the whole I stumbled away, suppressing a cry. Skeletons, at least ten, littered the whole that my son was in. I jumped to my feet, John in my arms, and the photographs were gone. I looked back into the hole at the skeleton with the purple Funky Chick shirt and said, “Thank you Christina. I’ll get you home.”



  1. I read all of these stories. There are some great ones in there!

    1. There are a lot of great ones. I don't envy the judges having to find the top ten!!

  2. For those curious as to what "Flightless Rats," marked as a "Reprint," was reprinted from, it was T. Gene Davis's Speculative Blog (since renamed Free Science Fiction) on January 12 2015.

  3. This is very cool. Some very creepy and some just full of surprises. Kudos to you all