by Matthew Wilson
“Richard killed his family last night,” Henry Arton said, turning the pages of his newspaper.
“The Benson lad?” Jennie stiffened, accidentally dropping her spoon. She cursed softly and got another from the kitchen drawer. “He was always so nice.”
Henry shrugged. It was old news. “Darn fool looked at the moon. After all the newsflashes, you’d figure some people would learn.”
“But it just seems so unbelievable, that it can make you go crazy like that.”
Henry opened his mouth to moan of youth’s folly, but snapped his lips together when Diana bounded downstairs. The subject was too macabre, and he’d promised not to speak of it around their daughter. He almost screamed when he saw she’d forgotten the golden rule of these dangerous times.
“Where your glasses?” he demanded.
“I can’t see with them on, Daddy.” Diana stopped skipping as she reached the bottom step and realized that a few smiles weren’t going to work. “All the windows are covered up.”
Continue reading Diana Falls
by David J. Rank
Gwen sealed her hazmat suit, the county humane society’s blue-and-red logo on each shoulder. She slid a ventilator over nose and mouth, secured goggles across her eyes, and tightened the suit’s hood around her face.
“Can you hear me?”
“Luke, I am your … mother.” Chloe breathed heavily through her ventilator. “We sound like Darth’s spinster aunts.”
“Funny.” Gwen pulled on her gloves. “Ready or not, in we go.”
Chloe shuddered within her hazmat gear.
They stood on the sagging front porch of the arthritic little house, as gray and rotted as an exposed corpse. Chloe unlocked the weather-blistered front door, shoving the cranky-hinged thing inward with a grunt.
Continue reading Cat Nip
’Tis the Season
by Max Booth III
The cat’s heart had been placed on the kitchen table a few hours before the Man in Red arrived. Flies hovered above it, amazed at their tasty discovery. The Man in Red was not annoyed by the bugs. He preferred their presence and their taste.
Beside the heart was a glass of warm milk.
The boy hid in the closet, watching through a crack in the door. The Man in Red moved through the living room, a hefty velvet bag thrown over his shoulders. Despite his massive weight, his feet made no sound as they strode across the hardwood floor.
The boy feared the Man in Red would notice the whites of his eyeballs, hiding in the darkness of the closet, but could not bring himself to close his eyes. He needed to see this, needed to know that the monster had taken the bait.
Continue reading ’Tis the Season
by Martin Chandler
He had the driest skin they had ever seen. He claimed to moisturize it several times a day, but his skin was dark and scaly and sucked the moisture out of anything. In many places, it was hard and cracked, and he worried obsessively that it would turn to stone if he didn’t keep up his daily lotion schedule.
Of course, his doctor dismissed this worry. “Skin can’t turn to stone,” she said. “At worst, it will flake off and expose a layer of skin underneath. The real question is: Why is it so dry? Do you work for a salt company? Or with sand?”
He didn’t, and told her so. She took some samples of his flaking skin to be analyzed, and prescribed him a topical corticosteroid. He left, feeling entirely unhelped and uncertain.
Continue reading Dry Skin
by John A. DeMember
Five and innocent, Johnny’s wiry frame hunkered down, just below the bed rails. His grandmother’s labored breathing pulsed like black-green waves, agitated to a froth and dying against the shore.
The light of the day, in its last gasps, slithered over the horizon. Like a burial shroud, a mute, gray darkness descended on the snow-covered landscape just beyond the foggy bay windows of the playroom. The room, once full of joy and sunlight—yellows and light browns—was now dark, shadowy, and filled with the smell of decay. The hushed conversations in the adjoining kitchen formed an interminable white noise.
A massive bed now dominated the room, and little Johnny played in the tent created by the blankets draped over his elderly grandmother. Entirely ignorant of the vicious cancer eating her alive, he felt certain she was asleep. She always slept.
Continue reading The Toe-Eater
by Julio Toro San Martin
What was the name? For the life of her, she couldn’t remember. She’d thought highly of the exhibit and the work of art, but now, funnily, couldn’t remember its name.
She knew it had been somewhere on exhibit in London before the war. Then, when the Nazi bombs started falling, it had been moved to a private collection outside the city.
At the end of the war, her husband had found it amid the ruins. Apparently, relocation hadn’t saved it from the bombs. After numerous thorough inquiries, no owner was found, so he had it shipped to the States.
Well, she wasn’t about to drop the conversation just because she couldn’t remember the name. Already, Alice had moved on to another topic, yet Mona wanted so much to show her the thing.
Continue reading Settled
The Eye Has It
by Mark Rookyard
The bedroom was like new. It even had that new room smell: freshly opened linen, barely-dry paint, and fluffy carpet. Alice had to come back now.
Matthew finished screwing the last hook in the wall. Would all this effort mean anything to her? There was only one way to find out. He just had to hang the mirror and the room would be done.
He checked the hook as the stepladder rocked beneath his feet. He wasn’t aware of the movement that caught the corner of his eye until he found himself looking at the source of it, just below shoulder height.
A human eye in the wall blinked at him, returning his stare.
Continue reading The Eye Has It
by Sierra July
Mud clogs my nostrils as I sink deeper and deeper into the bog. Sputtering, I manage to regain my footing, planting my squeaky sneakers on a slippery log hiding beneath several layers of mud. Frogs chirp in the distance like thousands of heartbeats performing a symphony. Fireflies drift by, lazy lanterns perfectly complementing the stars.
Instead of the night noises, the words that started this venture resonate within me.
“Listen here, Patricia.” My dad slurred his words through pain. “I need you to journey across the swamp to get our winter supplies. The Council only leaves the jackets, frozen meat, and medicine out for 48 hours, and I can’t get there with this busted leg.”
My dad pointed to his leg, still harnessed in a sling. The only flesh visible was his swollen red foot, which he was lucky to still have after the gator took a chunk out of his calf.
Continue reading Swamplands
by A. P. Sessler
William Burke playfully gnashed at the air with his new plastic teeth as he unwrapped a peanut butter cup. He licked the chocolate from the wrapper, then dropped it into the white plastic bag his mother held before him.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Welcome,” he said, noticing the odd sound of clapping canines as his jaws met. He removed the green plastic teeth just long enough to eat the candy, then placed them back in.
“Easy, Count Chomperla. If you eat too much candy, you’ll get a tummy ache,” Mr. Burke teased him.
“I’m not a vampire. It’s a magician’s cape!” William reminded his father.
“He was just joking,” said his mother. “Now go play with the other children.”
“Do I have to?” he whined.
“Yes. This is your Halloween party, and they’re your new neighbors.”
Continue reading Plastic Teeth
So Hungry, So Deep
by Daniel Powell
The man from the county was supposed to arrive by nine o’clock.
Joe stood at the window at ten minutes past nine. He brushed the drapes aside and found the gravel drive empty. Out on the highway, a tanker rumbled by, but other than that, life was what it always was: still and silent.
“No common courtesy these days,” he grumbled, heading into the kitchen to warm up his coffee. “Guess time’s not worth as much out here in the country.”
The young man eventually showed up, some 50 minutes after their scheduled appointment.
Continue reading So Hungry, So Deep