Under the Papadome (a #31ShortHorrors tale)

 

 

Copyright 2016 Shannon Cooper, available as a free download at Smashwords

“Go go GO!” boomed the uniformed woman through the megaphone. Women and children climbed onto the trains headed north. Flashes of saris glinted in the oppressive sun. Children on hips, on shoulders, in long hand-holding chains followed Ammas and Chinnammas and Periammas, so many Aunties, as far as the eye could see. Miles of long black braids, some with jasmine flowers tied in, some hidden beneath veils or chadors or hijabs or the occasional niqab or the even less occasional burka, all these braids drifted up three steps to the trains.

All trains with women and children headed north to Nepal or Bhutan, the safest neighbors reachable on land.

“Mind the gap! Watch your step! Keep moving please! Kindly keep hold of your children!” another uniformed woman in a beige chador ushered hundreds of women and children onto the great ship. Cruise liners waited in queues at each major port of India. Chennai and Ennore were packed with women giving the sign of the cross, as was Tuticorin. Mangalore and Kochi on the west coast, all the way up to Kandla, were full of new arrivals, shouts, wails, directions in twenty-two Indian languages, as well as English, French, Japanese. Each port had a centralized Lost Children’s Center for those thumbis separated from their mothers and aunties during the evacuation. Ships in east coast ports headed for Malaysia, Singapore, and as far away as Japan. Ships on the west coast flowed around The Cape of Good Hope and north to Namibia, or further north to Europe.

The cities emptied first, then the countryside. Entire villages were emptied of women and children, loaded into lorries by uniformed women who spoke the local dialects. They were given fresh curries, clean water, and reading materials to pass the time on the long, rough rides over dirt tracks back to the cities.

The menfolk in both the cities and rural areas were supervised and interrogated by armed soldiers and psychologists, professional profilers, and criminal investigators. After their interviews, they were separated by result: Guilty, or Not Guilty. The Guilty were permitted to stay in their homes, the Not Guilty were transported to or through the cities on lorries and buses, and loaded onto trains northward, or ships outward.

In this way, the entire country of India was prepared for its dissociation from independent statehood. The complete evacuation took six painstaking months.

 

Ready for Phase Two, Julie, Shannon whispered in her sister’s head.

Got it, Julie answered.

India’s public transportation system was shut down. The ports and airports were closed. The men remaining in India were put to work transforming schools, factories, and hospitals into prisons. Those who fell ill were kept in hospital beds until they either recovered or died. Those who died were cremated in a Prototype.

Three months later, the population of Guilty had dropped by ten percent, and the efficacy of the Prototype had been demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt.

 

Phase Three is a go, Julie murmured.

Yesssss, Shannon hissed, this is the part we’ve been waiting for! she squeaked in glee. You have your Reapers?

I have Isabel and Chris. I figured better to keep the mother and her psycho kid together, Julie cast a sideways glance at her helpers.

Good thought. I’ll go pick up Ian and Steven and meet you in Geneva, Shannon answered.

Still dying at the thought of Geneva. You are a sick twisted bitch! Julie giggled.

 

 

 

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Drop

Not all who fall from cliffs or planes

Or diving boards, or bridges

Will waken before hitting ground

Or hurling into ditches

 

You may find yourself most terrified

By the very notion

Of hitting terra firma

Before waking from the motion

 

I assure you though, dear dreamer

Some sleepers just don’t waken

The lucky ones recount nightmares

The rest are ours for training.

 

Ian Stephenson, awaken

From your six foot fall!

Apologies for that rope burn

Too bad your neck is mauled.

 

No, you weren’t descending

through a dreamworld flight

Your feet really did touch the ground

With gravity and might!

 

So happy to have you aboard

Our mission sets adrift

As soon as your co-travelers

Fall from their nightmare cliffs.

 

A medium did see you,

Your fall was apprehended

But only decades later

Was your exit comprehended.

 

Leeds and Uni led you here

From Edinburgh’s stains,

Too much, too soon, grown into man

You returned, but few had stayed.

 

You will not be lonely long,

Your brother follows soon,

The medium has yet to see

Your mum alongside you.

 

If you’re curious to know

The whereabouts of dad

He’s hanging in, with some new kin

(That pun was very bad.)

 

We seem callous, we seem too cold

Millenia we’ve been here

Awaiting our new army

Our empathy has smeared.

 

Now with your arrival

Our preparations met

More falling stars, our nightmare frauds,

No waking saves this set.

 

Don’t fret, don’t cry, don’t wail or moan

Your purpose is most dear

A war is soon upon us

Our weapon: our engineer.

 

 

 

 

Plunge

 

There is a certain type of child

Whose ears don’t hear, but shake

He doesn’t see the future or

Connect the dots he makes.

 

This child is named Precocious

Or Monster, Brat, or Heathen

This particular Scot lad

Was Christopher Stephenson.

 

Always with his fingers in the sauce

His feet would dance

Unfortunately one field trip from school

Cost him his pants.

 

He also lost his shirt and jacket

No shoes found on his feet

For Christopher was horsing round

The crags at Arthur’s Seat.

 

Like his brother years before him

Gravity showed Chris

The laws of physics yet unbroken

He fell down the abyss.

 

Don’t whimper, cry, or moan, young man

You kinda had this coming

Never list’ning as your teachers

Begged “Eyes open, danger’s looming!”

 

No matter your cause of death

We’re happy you are here

Your brother Ian needs a minion

He’s feeding off your fear.

 

As you will feed from next week’s dead

The energy abides

Until it is transferred to armies

Ruthless and unkind.

 

Our army grows voluminous

And structured every night

We’ll soon be prepped to take in

All the souls who’ve taken flight.

 

It’s quite a monumental task

Gathering up the lost

Administratively a mess

Traceability’s aghast.

 

We do our best to sort them out

But soon the plagues commence

We’re training new ranks thoroughly

War’s coming, no pretense.

 

So here’s your snack and here’s your drink

It’s transparent but familiar

OJ and saltine crackers

Brain tricks to ease your nerves.

 

Your mum will be here shortly

To fight beside her sons

Don’t worry, she’ll feel better

Once she’s arms’ reach of her loves.

 

Ian’s here to take you on

Tour of facilities

I have no doubt you’ll be impressed

With our capabilities.

 

You weren’t made of iron

Oh, Christopher the Scot

Soul’s energy is concentrated

While your body rots.

 

But that’s the way it works here

You’ll soon be comfortable

Bombastic, hyperactive

You’ve joined our Great Round Table.

 

 

 

 

Collapse

 

Who have we here to join us new,

A fresh-faced smiling lady?

It’s so unusual to see

Such joy in those we bade here.

 

Ah, you’re Isabel of broken heart,

Two sons you lost hard-felt

One fell from disobedience

And the other from his belt.

 

Quite right then, please sign on this line,

We’ll get your papers sorted.

Christopher’s right over there,

And Ian’s busy morphing.

 

Notice your kids don’t appear

The same as they did living

What you see is energy

Your memories are serving

 

Now look here mum

We need your help to organize and lead

This bright young troupe of new Grim Reapers

They’re so eager to please

 

No sorry, your husband isn’t here

And won’t be for decades

He carried on among those walking

He sings your accolades.

 

You will have the pleasure

Of escorting him from life

At his appointed exit point

He’ll be relieved to see his wife.

 

This is the part of our harsh job

That bothers us the least

Reuniting families

Fills our energies with peace.

 

We hope you have enjoyed your brief

Introduction to this realm

It can be discombobulating

Adjusting to this form.

 

Once you get accustomed to

Your disembodied essence

I think you will enjoy the freedom

Of empyreal presence.

 

 

 

 

Dive

 

Another fall, a swan-dive leap,

One more purposeful concession

Choices turned to standing orders

The pain was dulled in blind obsession.

 

Steven Davidson, before me

Another kid from round the way

Torn out of your childhood home

Bent and twisted that desperate day.

 

I knew you well and often, lad,

A first-rate compatriot and friend

You disappeared first from the street

And then your body chose its end.

 

Nightmare wakened someplace new

Not in bed, on floor, or loo

Brown sugar and ice to wake the bore

Then your body hit the floor.

 

Now forever young we run

This army gathers up the dead

To save that energy from Else

Eventually rebuild The End.

 

The war is coming, my old mate

Grim Reapers have singular fates,

Prevent the theft of human crux

Recycle it and save the race.

 

Ian, Christopher

Isabel, Steven

Our top new recruits are leading

The charge gathering newly dead

The coming plagues and wars and dread

Human kind is teetering

Soon to fall yet skittering

Knowing what will save them yet

They demand to make no move

To save themselves, instead they bet

On future generations’ work

Uninterested, unvested perks

These lazy humans, ungrateful jerks

At any rate, we save their souls

To save the species, regenerate

Smarter experiment, see the data

Humans 3.0 in beta.

 

A light breeze traveled over two white women as they sipped drinks on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues. Izumi served Japanese fusion faire, but these two classy broads ordered sandwiches and fries from room service and tromped their meals to the roof, past the open-mouthed maître d, and claimed a four-top table with a view of the lake. Servers gave them wide berth, subconsciously or otherwise. The air around them hot-coal-shimmered, and the empty chairs appeared to be occupied by a vacuum. Not a Hoover, that would be ridiculous. A vacuum in terms of anti-matter, an absolute lack of air and molecules. When human eyes fell upon this nothingness, literally nothing registered. No photons were returned to the viewers’ lenses.

The ladies with their supercurly otherworldly hair chomped fries and talked with their hands. They seemed to address the voided places as often as they addressed each other. The air around them swirled and whorled and warmed as their volume increased. Servers absconded their shifts, shuffled downstairs and into the break room. The maître d scurried about cleaning up as other patrons became aware of the weirdness and left before their checks arrived.

Business apparently concluded, they raised their drinks to each other, and then to the voids around them, and chugged. With a lilt of the wind, they vanished.

 

Shailesh Nayak woke up in a cold sweat with a cold gun in the center of his forehead. They yanked him out of bed and threw beige trousers and a white short-sleeved button-down shirt at his chest. Four more, six more guns pointed at various places of his body. He pissed himself as a large barrel poked him in the back and shoved him out his Candyland apartment door.

Mid-day in New Delhi. One hundred twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit. A soldier pointed Shailesh towards a pile of thick cement bricks.

“Move those from here to there,” the soldier pointed towards a low half-built wall. Shailesh and his potbelly and stick-thin legs hauled bricks until he fainted from dehydration. They dumped him in the hospital and unnecessarily chained him to the bed.

Reapers circled above the chimney of the Prototype. An hour later a Guilty one emptied the ashes from the Prototype into a bin. Another worker wheeled the bin of heavy, dense gray-white powder across the street to an empty lot. There it was spread on the ground until it covered every pebble, several inches of heavy whiteness, almost snow like. Peaceful.

 

No small irony that the Indian Police Force comprised the most physically unfit of all the Guilty ones in India. They dropped like flies when deprived of their insulin. More and more fields were layered in thick powder. The wind kicked up dust storms, the rains caused mudslides, but nothing could move that white powder once it was spread.

 

The cement block tower of public housing in Edinburgh was gray as the sky. The clouds were low above, the graffiti rose impossibly high on the six-story low-rise building. A landing ran along the front of each floor, hanging off the side of the building like haphazardly hung laundry. Metal stairs crisscrossed the ends of the building, connected each landing to the next, and to the ground.

Shannon Burnsem sidestepped a passed out skinny blond figure wearing torn jeans and a filthy hoodie on her way up the metal stairs. She pried open the third door of the second floor landing with a crowbar. The sitting room was small, dark, cramped with piles of magazines and takeout cartons. It reeked of cigarette and marijuana smoke, and something more bitter.

Her target was prone on a ratty plaid sofa. A rubber tourniquet lay on the floor. Shannon crossed the room in three steps and grabbed her target by the back of the neck. Her sneaker slipped on something that squelched and she glanced down: a used condom. A pile of them, like twisted disembodied tentacles, shiny and slick. Her eyes rose to the white brick in a plastic bag on the end table. All this passed in and out of her consciousness as she lifted the addict straight up from the sofa and boxed her ears. The addict’s eyes wavered, opened, red webbed, rimmed in pink.

EulbYvi

Evi Bluy

Yuli

 

Bev Yuli spat at Shannon and the droplets vaporized as they approached, then blew back and burned Bev’s eyes, acid. She roared and clawed at her captor but couldn’t make contact. She bicycle kicked her feet in the air but couldn’t land a blow. Finally, she slumped, dead weight in Shannon’s grip. Her chin-length greasy gray-brown hair fell in strands in her face. The flannel fabric between Bev’s shoulders and Shannon’s palms singed but didn’t catch fire.

She still alive? Ian asked. Shannon nodded.

Damn. She wasn’t even scared. I’m still hungry, complained Steven.

“You’ll have your chance, guys,” Shannon whispered to the voids. “There’s one on the landing you can grab on your way out.” She picked Bev up and slung her over one shoulder like a bag of potatoes. Her face brightened.

“Let’s go to India!”

At the bottom of the stairs, an ambulance wailed in the distance, grew louder as it approached. The Reapers grinned at each other and floated behind Shannon to the back of the building. The kids on the street corner at the end of the block saw the fire, and the homeless drunks warming their hands over it. They looked at each other, puzzled. When they looked again, there was nothing to see. Literally.

 

 

Damien got up as the doorbell rang, and Cornelia set the table and poured water into crystal tumblers. He opened the door to a busty pale woman with huge curly hair; a red, white, and blue visor tried desperately to contain her hair and failed. He took the pizza and did a double take behind her, nothing in the muggy Florida dusk, odd, that. He handed over a twenty-dollar bill and she pushed the two-liter of soda towards him.

“Thanks, but I don’t remember ordering this?” he muttered.

“Complimentary,” Julie Hurtsthings answered and turned on her heel back to the maroon Corolla. He stared after her, watched her leave. Ignored the see-saw jolt in his gut.

Back in the dining room, he waved the soda towards Cornelia, waggled his eyebrows. She sighed and shook her head, emptied the water glasses, refilled them with soda. As they ate, they talked politics, like they did every night. As they ate, they both developed indigestion. And sore throats. And fevers. And finally, explosive diarrhea.

Julie let herself in the front door and made her way towards the smell. “Just a snack, you two, we need them to get to India with hearts beating,” she admonished Isabel and Christopher. They sighed and each chose a victim. Isabel chose Cornelia, immersed the woman’s head in void, and consumed. When she backed off, Cornelia had a coughing fit that brought on more shit. Christopher cloaked Damien’s face and ingested, sucked, absorbed. A sharp jolt of energy from Isabel made Christopher recoil, and he released Damien back to the cold linoleum.

“Good save,” Julie nodded towards Isabel.

Damn kid, never listens, admonished Isabel.

Julie first lifted Damien over her shoulder, then picked up Cornelia by the hair.

A cause was never determined on the explosion that destroyed the small ranch home in Winter Haven, Florida.

 

It was unseasonably warm in San Francisco one bright December day when Twitter went down. And stayed down. Worldwide. It just… disappeared. The employees found themselves in non-Twitter jobs, as they always had. The CEO was on vacation in Aruba. The servers didn’t exist. The accounts, followers, DMs, joke formats, in-fighting, hashtags, Twitter-famous… none existed. And never had. No one remembered Twitter, although the historic events influenced by the social media platform remained intact. A four-inch thick coating of heavy white dust covered a million square kilometers of Indian jungle.

 

Justin Bieber and the members of Maryland-based Freeman family were dumped on the moist vinyl tiled floor in Mumbai. They were coming to, slowly. Biebs was already stoned and drunk when Julie arrived to pluck him from a Superbowl party. Julie and Shannon together ambushed the Freeman family after church services one Sunday, collared and tied them to each other.

“I got a certificate for ya, Papa Freeman,” snarked Shannon. “My certificate says ‘this bitch can pull a ziptie like nobody’s fucking business.’”

Papa Freeman started to speak, then stopped as he noticed Shannon’s hair smoldering.

Meanwhile, Justin writhed in a corner of the room, vomited a puddle, and rolled in abdominal agony. Shannon and Julie looked at each other.

“I don’t think pukehair is gonna catch on, pal,” Julie laughed. “In fact, you’re lucky you didn’t get eaten by that shark you jumped.” She giggled and elbowed Shannon, “C’mon, let’s go round up the rest, I’m getting bored.”

 

Heather and Kateea rolled and bumped across the wet linoleum floor. Super awkward considering they were tied together back to back, and their bottled red and yellow hair was tied together, their wrists and ankles bound to each other’s with a complicated system of ropes and pulleys. They skidded to a stop with Heather on top, facing the ceiling, and Kateea’s round face smushed into the slimy floor.

Heather unleashed a loud set of curses and thrashed against the bindings. Kateea groaned into the floor as her piggybacked partner rolled and whined. A pulley was grinding into her spine and her head was repeatedly bashed into the floor. She gathered all her strength and used Heather’s flailing momentum to flip herself over, rolling the redhead beneath her. She relaxed her puffy, soft body on top of Heather’s wiry gangly one, and Heather whined piteously into the slimy vinyl floor.

“Will… (huff) you… (puff)… shut… (gasp)… the fuck… (pant)… UP?!?” Kateea screamed. “What the hell happened? Where are we?” she moaned.

“I can’t breathe! Get off me you damned cow!” Heather muttered into the floor. Kateea bore down with her shoulders and upper body against Heather, using her legs for leverage. Heather groaned and thrashed. Kateea relented and rolled them to their sides.

“What the fuck, who are you?” Heather gasped. They traded names. They talked. Then they understood. Each woman broke out in a cold sweat, realizing the reason for their capture, and assuming the end was in sight and would be ugly to behold.

A series of clangs and doors slamming grew closer and louder. The sharp click click click of stilettos pierced the silence as Kateea and Heather waited. The metal door slammed open and bounced off the concrete block wall. Kateea’s eyes popped as she recognized a face. She squinted, tried to make out what it was around this person’s body, or wasn’t? She looked and looked but couldn’t register anything.

So hungry, moaned Steven.

Me too, agreed Ian.

Shannon walked over to Kateea and looked her in the eyes. Tears leaked down Kateea’s cheek, down and over and off the tip of her nose as she lay on her side. Shannon’s hair smoldered and floated around her like a halo.

“You’ve interfered for the last time,” Shannon glowered down at the blond. Her eyes glowed greener as her anger rose, and Kateea felt a burning in her throat and gut as goose bumps rose on her neck.

Heather tried to wrench her head around to see, and plowed Kateea’s face into the floor.

“Look at me, Kateea. LOOK AT ME!” Shannon roared. Kateea’s face whipped towards her captor. Her eyes widened and she pissed herself.

Shannon looked to her left and right. “Ian, you may feed now.”

Heather felt the warm wetness on her own pants and let loose a string of curses. Shannon click-clicked around the pair to face the redheaded til-now stranger. Heather’s face was flushed, hair greasy at the sides of her face, dark roots betrayed the cheap brassy bottle dye job. She thrashed some more and emitted a guttural growl.

Steven waited patiently at Shannon’s side, and behind her, and the other side. His form had grown as he fed, and he was an efficacious Reaper.

She is not fearful, she is full of hate and vengefulness and selfishness, he noted.

“Correct. She is not smart enough to be afraid. She is lacking self-awareness, yet utterly facetious and ingenuous. She will make a very filling meal, enough for two of you, once she has been flipped,” Shannon answered.

“Come, I will show you how to flip the truly evil amongst humans. There will be plenty more arriving soon, and you cannot consume them as they are, they must know righteous fear first.”

Steven made to shake his head and then remembered he had none. He smirked instead. What is wrong with her? Why is she so thoroughly terrible?

“Psychopath.”

They unchained the women from each other and Shannon logrolled Kateea across the room and pushed her through the large metal door into a long, grey concrete hallway. The cheap fluorescent lights hummed and flickered.

“What are you going to do to me, Shannon?” Kateea whimpered.

Shannon shook her head, her hair floated around her. “Not sure yet. I’m really just not sure.” She turned on her heel and re-entered the room, the door slammed shut with a clunk. Kateea stared up at the ceiling and tried to ignore her warm, wet trousers and the ropes digging into her joints. She closed her eyes and screamed until her throat bled.

Mmm, delicious, thought Ian.

Back inside the room, Heather had maneuvered her body up against a wall and was grunting, trying to find the leverage to pull herself into a sitting position. Shannon strode across the room and placed the tip of her stiletto heel in the center of Heather’s spine, kicked her down to the floor, prone. Heather’s hands were secured behind her back, tight so that her shoulder blades extended upwards.

“Do you know who I am?” Shannon asked. Her hair burned and smoldered and floated around her. The temperature of the room increased by half again. Beads of sweat ran down the sides of Heather’s face. Steven expanded his form, displacing the breathable air.

“DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!” Shannon roared. Heather looked up at her and shook her head. “Look at me carefully,” Shannon’s voice flowed like honey. Heather’s dull grey-blue eyes started at Shannon’s black spike-heeled knee boots, travelled up her denim-clad legs, noted the muerto skull on her black tank top, stopped at the tattoo on the left side of her chest. Let us unite, it said, over the shield and family crest. Shannon’s chest didn’t move, didn’t rise and fall with breath.

Heather studied Shannon’s face, avoided her eyes. Finally, she met the green glowing gaze. Immediately nauseous, Heather bent, retched up water, bile, dry heaves for a good five full minutes. Steven’s form expanded further.

Now? He asked.

“Patience,” Shannon whispered.

She untied Heather’s bindings, ropes, pulleys. Commanded her to lie on the floor. With a foot to each side of Heather’s waist, Shan bent down, stroked Heather’s cheekbones with her index fingers. The smell of burning flesh filled Heather’s nostrils. She touched her eyelashes, burnt them off. Heather whimpered.

“Why are you doing this to me?” she whined.

“Because you deserve it,” Shannon replied.

Shannon ran her fingers through Heather’s thin wispy hair, it fell out in bunches. She touched the scalp, left deep pockets of melted skin, melted into the skull in places. She ran her hands down Heather’s bare arms, trails of scabs and blood in her fingertips’ wakes. Heather thrashed but Shannon held her gaze, paralyzed her.

“Raise your hands,” Shannon commanded. Heather obeyed. Shannon intertwined her fingers with Heather’s and Heather wailed in pain. Thick webs between her fingers formed, inflamed and lesioned.

“I didn’t do anything to you!” Heather whined.

Shannon shook her head. “Will you ever learn? This will continue until you can demonstrate you have learned.”

“And then what?”

“That is for me to know, and you to find out.”

Shannon ran her hands over Heather’s body reiki-style, melting and fusing the fibers of the cotton-poly t-shirt to her skin. She fused her tight jeans to her legs, and dipped her index finger between Heather’s thighs as she trembled. Unbearable heat consumed her pelvis and hips. Holding Heather’s eye contact, she touched her between the folds of her labia, seared her clitoris and the nerves from the external organ up into the interior of her body, rendering it a dead organ. She cauterized her urethra, vagina, and anus with her middle finger, then fused her labia together. Finally, she placed one hand on the instep of each foot, and they swelled and swelled and burst her sneaker laces. After melting the rubber soles of the sneakers to the soles of Heather’s feet, Shannon stood up.

“Stand up,” Shannon commanded.

“I can’t,” Heather petulantly replied.

“You will stand,” Shannon commanded. Heather stood. Her skin crackled and dripped blood and intracellular fluid and pus. She sobbed and licked her dry lips.

“Did you learn?” Shannon asked again.

“I learned you’re a bitch, a psycho cunt who needs therapy,” Heather said with a bitter laugh. She spat at Shannon.

“Ah, so you do remember. Unfortunately for you, you have a lot to learn.” Shannon leaned in and kissed Heather’s chapped, crusty lips. When she pulled back, Heather’s lips were melted together, a sickly pink line drawn above her burnt and blistered chin. She screamed through her nose.

Shannon’s face shifted slightly. She spoke to the nothingness behind her shoulder. “You may have a snack, but there’s not enough for a meal yet. Tomorrow there will be a feast.”

Steven set to feeding as Shannon lifted Heather by the neck and walked lightly out of the room, past Kateea lying in the hall, to the end of the corridor. She opened the last door on the right and entered.

The room reeked of body odor, piss, shit, and old semen. The worst criminals of the world’s prison systems were held here without restraints, food, water, or toilet facilities. A group of men were gang-raping one inmate in a corner. A knot of women were busy gnawing off a school headmaster’s penis. A trio sang old Russian drinking songs in a circle on the floor, rocking back and forth, hugging their knees. It was a cacophony Heather had never experienced.

She tapped Shannon on the shoulder and looked at her with pleading eyes. She pointed to her ears.

Shannon shook her head. “No. You will never learn if you don’t listen. Goodbye.”

And like that, she and the Reaper were absent. Not gone in a puff of smoke, not up in flames. They just un-existed.

Heather turned to the room as a group of men approached her. She shut her eyes and thought back, thought of Scotland.

 

An hour later, Kateea’s interrogation ended similarly, without so many burns. Her mouth and vulva were melted closed, but the rest of her body had escaped Shannon’s volcanic touch. Her eyes darted around the prison room after Shannon deposited her, and she met Heather’s eyes with a gasp. A French woman noticed Kateea’s reaction and buccal condition, and took her by the elbow to the knot of women who had relieved the pedophile of his dick.

Blood poured from Heather’s crotch and mouth as inmate after inmate sought her openings. Upon tearing her lips apart, they found her teeth and gums gone. Her swollen tissues had overtaken her fingernails. There were three men in her vagina and anus, and two in her mouth. She vomited semen, and choked on it until they picked up her head and cleaned out her mouth. One man managed to stick his pencil-thin cock in her ear. When he came it felt like the warm olive oil her mother had poured in her ear when she’d had infections as a child. She prayed for death to take her. I don’t deserve this. That bitch should be here, not me.

Shannon shook her head. This might take more than a day. Oh well. On to the next loser.

 

Donald Trump, Tim Cook, and Christopher A. Sinclair disembarked Trump’s private jet in Mumbai. They were ushered into the private wing of the airport and served drinks in the executive lounge as they awaited their limousine. A porter arrived in the doorway to escort them to their car.

Once inside the car, they passed out. Out, cold. When they came to, Trump, Cook, and Sinclair each had the cold, hot end of a gun on his forehead. They were led from the vehicle to the prison, stripped, searched, and dumped into the main prison hold. They looked at each other, speechless. They looked at the soldiers who had brought them in. They looked at the inmates. Trump looked Kateea up and down, his eyebrows raised up and down, his hair raised up and down. Tim Cook noticed the headmaster with his hands on his crotch, trying to stem the bleeding. The gaze of Christopher A. Sinclair, the CEO of Mattel Toy Company, roamed around the room, settled on the woman on the floor with one, two, three, whatever, how many cocks in her? She looked like one of his Barbies that had gone through the high heat cycle in the clothes dryer. Missing patches of hair, broken, melted, burnt in places, she stared blankly at the ceiling.

Several burly men approached Trump as he made his way towards Kateea. He held his hand up, just a moment gentlemen, as he approached. He tapped her on the shoulder, she turned. Her eyes opened wide and so did his as he noticed her fused lips. She noted his reaction and she shrugged, turned away, back to someone else’s conversation.

Trump was lifted by the shoulders and hauled to a distant corner of the room. They inspected him up and down. No burn marks. Cook and Sinclair were similarly deposited on the floor next to Trump. Julie Hurtsthings’ marks were slowly revealing themselves on the trio’s torsos, necks, and spreading down their limbs. Blue-grey webs spread under their skin as her poison made its way through their bloodstreams from its absorption point in their small intestines.

“The drrrannnks, ze plaaaaane,” slurred Trump. The other two slumped on the floor. A fleeting image of the flight attendant whose ass he’d rubbed as she bent over to deliver his Tanqueray and tonic, he’d watched her bodacious tits as she set the sweating glass down on a cocktail napkin on his table. I’d like a sip of those too, he’d said.

Tim Cook’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. In his mind’s eye he replayed how he’d slipped his hand between Julie’s legs and caressed her upper thigh when she refreshed his coffee. Her muscles had flexed and his boner had been evident in his track pants. He’d waggled his eyebrows at her. Her face had been deadpan, set in stone. Smile, sweetheart, he’d admonished. I bet it’s not often you get touched by a rich man.

Christopher Sinclair drooled. He watched the spreading pattern underneath the skin on his legs. Formication took over his toes and spread upward. He scratched and clawed at the invisible insects to no avail. As his testicles and cock swelled with the poison, the memory of asking the flight attendant if she enjoyed anal flashed before him. I got a toy I’d love to give you, baby, as he poked where he approximated her asshole to be, it’s a perfect fit every time, guaranteed.

Donald Trump’s poison took full effect first. His tongue swelled fat and protruded from of his mouth. He fought for air around it as solidified and darkened to a shiny hard ebony. His spine straightened and the vertebrae fused, but his limbs remained limp and lifeless. The men surrounding the trio elbowed each other and smirked. Grey tears spilled from Donald’s eyes, and his famous coif, now greasy and stringy with sweat, was plastered to his scalp.

One inmate, Larry, extended a fingertip and touched the tip of Donald’s hard black tongue. Larry looked at Donald’s eyes. “Can you taste anything, man?” Donald nodded. Larry ran his index finger up and down the topside of the tongue. Saliva leaked from the corners of Donald’s mouth. Larry put a few grains of salt on the front side area of the tongue.

“What’s that?” Larry asked.

“Thalt,” Donald replied.

Larry’s smile split his face and he grinned wide. “Yous guys know who this is, right?” he addressed the group. “It’s Donald fucking Trump, man, with a fucking tasting dildo for a tongue.”

“Dude, Julie got a hold o’ yous. And now we get ta holdja,” snickered another inmate, Darryl. He started un-doing his jeans but Larry put a hand up.

“I’mma go first, man,” he said, and Darryl rebuttoned himself. Larry dragged Trump a couple feet to the wall and dropped his pants. With his ass in Trump’s face, he let go an enormous wet fart that elicited more tears from Donald. Then he slowly, carefully, spread his asscheeks and guided Donald’s 3.5” tongue girth into his moist anus.

“Do it, man. Pump my ass,” Larry said over his shoulder. “Do it or I’ll do it for you.” Trump’s head was too heavy now to nod or shake, he was paralyzed, grey as a statue. “Fine, I’ll do it mahself, I ain’t proud,” muttered Larry. And that was how Donald Trump learned to tongue-fuck poor blue-collar inmates in the ass and taste the shit he’d been feeding them over the airwaves for decades.

Tim Cook’s face went utterly slack. Drool and mucus dropped from his mouth and nose, tears flooded his cheeks. He was unable to swallow. He pissed and shat himself. Every orifice released body fluids in, on, or under his body. Wax poured from his ears. His body writhed of its own accord and finally stopped when it had contorted into a position of that of a woman in stirrups. He breathed hard, gusts of mist puffed into the air from his mouth as he panted, like a human fog machine. His mouth formed words but none were intelligible. His Adam’s apple twitched and swelled to the size of a grapefruit on his neck, compressed his trachea. Something in his stomach rolled, and mass peristalsis pushed everything he’d ingested in the last week onto the concrete floor.

Darryl nudged Tim with a foot. No reaction, no movement. He nudged him again. Tim’s eyes rolled over to meet Darryl’s. Darryl chuckled. “I guess we been bestowed a mighty fine gift here, fellas,” he looked around the group. Some were already stroking their hard cocks over their filthy jeans. Another Darryl already had his shirt off and wrapped around his forehead, and danced from foot to foot with anticipation as he stared at Tim’s pus-exuding ears.

“Ok, ok, pencil-dick, have first crack,” giggled Darryl to Another Darryl. In one swift move Another Darryl had his pants down to his knees, hard dick in his hand, and he shoved it into Tim’s right ear in one swift thrust.

“Oh fuck gotdamn yeah!” Another Darryl moaned as he pumped, one hand on Tim’s chin and the other on his forehead. His hips sped up, as did his breathing, but then slowed as he pulled all the way out then re-entered. “Fuck man, I ain’t never felt pussy like this, like it’s custom made, man!” Another Darryl slowly pressed himself in and out of Tim’s ear.

“I knew we’d find an app for you yet, bruh!” hollered Larry as he bobbed back and forth on Donald’s tongue, his own hard dick in his hand.

Three more inmates approached Tim and Another Darryl beckoned them, sure guys, join the fun, plenty to go ‘round. Soon one was seated on Tim’s stomach, settled down on his swollen cock, and another pressed himself into Tim’s ass, cradled Tim’s elephantine testes in his hand. The third prisoner jockeyed for position with Another Darryl and forced his cock into Tim’s slackened mouth. As the men pumped and thrust, small whimpering sounds escaped Tim’s mouth and the man in his anus felt Tim’s balls tighten.

“He’s gonna blow, bro, be ready,” he tapped the man riding Tim’s cock. He nodded and bounced harder as he wanked himself. The man in his ass squeezed Tim’s testicles and Tim came hard with a grunt, and each man thrust harder until all were spent, either in or on Tim. And that was how Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, learned how to get raped from multiple directions and fucking enjoy it.

Christopher A. Sinclair was all but forgotten as he writhed and rolled on the floor. Instead of the grey hue to other two had taken on, Christopher’s skin was pink and red, streaked with open sores and blood and blisters. He had layers of skin underneath his fingernails as he scratched at himself. He tried in vain to reach his back but could only rub himself on the concrete block wall.

Sinclair cried out, wailed for someone to help him and the piteous sound bounced off the bare concrete walls. His acid tears burned tracks in his cheeks that itched. The imaginary (?) spiders in his ears buzzed with party spirit. His fingernails finally dislodged and fell off, embedded in the skin of his thighs. He tried using his toenails to scratch at their opposing legs, but those soon fell out too. The skin between his fingers grew together, his hands stiffened into half-fists, thumbs curled to make an ‘O’ of each hand. His muscles straightened and solidified until only his neck turned ninety degrees left or right, his arms would only raise up or down, not outward. His ankle and foot bones fused tight, his toes grew together, and his hip and knee joints would only bend one direction: backward. His hair molded to his scalp. His face became immobile, his mouth a horrified ‘O’ for perpetuity. His urethra melted closed, his turgid penis doomed to its present state forever.

The ladies who had chewed off the pedophile’s cock made their way over to Sinclair. They circled him like vultures, looked him up and down. Kateea poked him in the arm, then dug in her pocket for a tissue, used it to knock off a scab on his nose. It didn’t bleed. He feels like plastic, she thought.

“Look at him,” Carol said. “He looks like a male blow-up doll.”

One that’s seen better days, thought Kateea.

Carol squatted on her heels, poked at his dick. Squinted as it weebled, wobbled, and didn’t fall down. She cackled and lifted her multi-layered gypsy skirts up as she stood and walked, one foot on each side of Sinclair’s legs. As she started to sink down, Kateea waved her arms wildly. She pointed at his dick, then her eyes. Look! She tried to scream. Carol bent down to more closely inspect the solid dick.

“Huh. No hole,” she noted, then broke out in belly laughs. “Ohhh hell. That Julie. She knows her punishments! This douchecanoe can’t cum!” she wiped giggle tears from her eyes. The she plopped down on Sinclair’s dick and rode it like a bronco. He squinted and tensed, abs apparent, nipples erect. Carol orgasmed on him, and he did not. Tears in his glassy eyes. Each of the ladies in Carol’s gang took a turn, Kateea even relented and rode him reverse cowgirl after wiping off his dick with a tissue.

When the ladies were finished, Darryl and Larry and their group waltzed over to check out this last guy of the trio of weird that arrived that afternoon. Evening. Morning. No one knew what time it was, since there were no clocks or windows in the room. After jamming various penises in Sinclair’s stiff ‘O’ hands and mouth, they all concluded that their new arrivals must definitely be some sort of gift for their good behavior. And that was how Christopher A. Sinclair, CEO of Mattel learned how broken equipment leads to unfulfilling toys.

A working toilet stall might have been a better gift, thought Kateea.

Isabel the Reaper hovered, watched, waited.

The inmates knew of the Nothingness that accompanied Julie Hurtsthings and Shannon Burnsem, but refrained from addressing it (them?) and avoided the area they perceived the Reapers to inhabit. They whispered amongst each other as to what those areas might be, where are they, is it a weird door to a different universe, a portal of some sort?

Chris the Reaper joined his Mother-ish Reaper in the prison room. He surrounded Christopher Sinclair, studied his eyes. Only anger here. He checked on Donald Trump: just bitterness and hate. Tim Cook? Any hope for a snack with this guy? Ooooo! Chris fed from Tim as Isabel watched. She had a snack as well. Sinclair fell into a deep sleep, covered in his own goo and the goo of others.

Heather lay on the floor in a puddle of congealed sticky body fluids. Ian and Steven hovered nearby, wondering what it was going to take to flip her, make her comprehend all the damage she’d caused to the people of her reality, the purposefully broken relationships for her own enjoyment. She seemed to have loved no one but herself, and took great pleasure in making others miserable by devious deeds and mind games. What would it take to make her see the consequences of her actions, and to also feel shame for them? What would it take to make Heather feel fear?

Shannon called the Reapers and Julie to her side in the sun’s corona. “Let me explain the problems we’re facing,” she said softly as she waved towards Earth.

 

 

 

Paradox, Elucidated

 

One makes the assumption that two entities are separate, the immovable object and the unstoppable force. Both entities are immovable and unstoppable, by virtue of their singular capability; furthermore, there is no both, there is but one.

 

Love is unbreakable, unstoppable

Not the sword or the shield, but both

Not the fox or the hound, but both

The rock and the wind together.

 

Not creation and destruction, but transference

The energy of love travels and transforms and builds and destroys

Love does and is all

Love is action and inaction, creation and destruction

And most of all

Elucidation

Love teaches and teases and tortures and tends

Inanimate, intangible

Love’s corporeal effects on body and mind

Measureable with numbers

Immeasureable, unquantifiable in words

And yet we try.

 

Epic love drives epic pain and one surrounds the other

Is consumed, and then reborn

 

Teumessian fox and the hound Laelaps,

Static stars, or are they?

When Zeus realized his mistake,

He created another, as stars are not static by the very nature of the beasts

The energy in stars is the energy of love, one and the same

Always changing, born, reborn, reborn again

We are all stardust

 

Those who feel love’s flip side stronger

Hatred

Send love’s destructive energy through the world

Without the light and logic

The yin and yang

The balance shifted, the pendulum swings

Overswings, overcompensates, as it always does

Energy is neither created or destroyed, only transferred

Love is hate is love, each side of the pendulum

 

There are those lacking balance, those broken and who

Cannot connote each side

The pendulum base is built off kilter

They feed off hatred, even happy, cheerful

Only in misery

Disturbing the universal balance, and so must be transferred

To feed the Reaping force

The harbingers of peace when Earth’s spinning slows at last

 

Time is man-made, relative to all physical forces, those relative to each other

Infinite as the universe and its mates are infinite

No artificial markers, no start or finish

 

The Reapers see and feel the depth of human pain and love

And restore the balance of the planet, as their creation in imbalance

Calms the pendulum sway

 

As the mother loves her inmate child

As a lover saves her heart

As a son may leave his father soon

None can drive apart

Unstoppable force, immoveable object

The fox and hound alive

Together, flaming, moving

Love cannot be overpowered, halted

Permanently altered

T’is not the nature of the force

It dominates all energies

Universal shield and sword.

 

 

 

 

Julie nodded in agreement and the Reapers considered. Their un-masses intermingled and conferred, back and forth, a swirling lack of matter in the face of the sun. They returned to face the Torture Twins.

We have a plan.

Julie and Shannon nodded to each other, and they all returned to Earth’s surface. India. Slightly cooler than the surface of the sun. Just.

The Prototype overheated as a third Duggar was placed inside, so he had to be extricated. Josh lie hogtied on the bubbling Mumbai asphalt with a ball gag in his mouth. Two men in beige uniforms sprayed down the Prototype with fire extinguishers, then walked off into the distance for a smoke.

“Ya think maybe putting them in the Prototype still alive is causing it to overheat like this?” the tall one asked the short one.

“Nah. I think it’s just overworked in general. It works, we know it works. We’re just using it as a stopgap so the piles don’t get too big and stinky before the Main Unit is activated,” answered the small one with a confident nod.

“Timeline on that?” the tall one asked and nodded towards the smoking machine.

“Next week it goes online,” the short one replied through a puff of grey Marlboro smoke. “Next week is the beginning of the end, and the beginning of the beginning.”

“The hell, bro. It’s too hot for that deep shit out here. You be steamin’ soon,” the tall one punched the other in the arm. They walked back to the unit.

Josh wiggled and whined through the gag as the short man emptied the Prototype’s ash tray, and the tall one opened the lightweight metal lid and poked around the insides with a stick, clearing debris. Satisfied, he let the lid fall open completely and turned towards Josh.

“Batter up, bro,” he smirked.

Tears formed in Josh’s eyes as the tall one removed the ballgag. “Please don’t, please,” he begged. A chill washed over the Prototype and three men. The sun was still at full peak, the wind was still.

The short man straightened and asked the absence, “Need a moment?” He tiled his head, listening for nothing but the answer inside his mind, yet the physical habit stood.

You need not wait for us, came the answer. We are and shall continue feasting.

The men in beige nodded to nothing in particular. The tall one hoisted Josh upwards by the elbows, and the short one hooked his arms under Josh’s sweaty knees. On a count of three they swung him up towards the top of the Prototype, manage to get his head and shoulders in it, but the rest of his body was bent over the side. Gurgles echoed off the metal chamber as Josh’s back broke and the sharp metal edge sliced into his skin. The tall man pushed Josh’s ass up and over the side.

Steam and sizzling sounds escaped the chamber as Josh’s sweat evaporated and his skin stuck to the metal sides of the Prototype. He looked up into the blue, blue sky. No clouds, no birds, no noise. Then, the creaking of metal on metal, and the sky went black.

Powder was falling through a baseball-sized hole near the top of the chamber. It shimmered like silver glitter in the darkness. Josh breathed it in as the fired was lit beneath him. Powder coated his hot face, ears, eyelashes, skin. It got in his eyes but his hands were still tied behind his back, so he could only squint them shut. It filled his ears and nose and pores, it clogged his urethra and slinked its way around his body, penetrated his anus. Josh took a deep breath, a searing, deep breath, and the powder found its way not only into his lungs, but also into his esophagus.

Reapers surrounded the Prototype and the men in beige waited for the “complete” signal on the Prototype instrument panel. Smoke escaped its long metal chimney as residues and ash funneled off a bend in the pipe, into the ash tray.

I am STUFFED, exclaimed a Reaper.

That was AMAZING, squealed another.

It’s interesting how much more scared they are when they cook from the inside out, as opposed to the outside in, said the first.

Interesting, delicious, and filling, the second sighed. When’s snacktime?

 

Shannon returned to the prison and plucked Heather up by the neck out of a puddle of fluids on the cement. Heather flailed and kicked but she was too weak to land anything.

“We’re going to take a wee holiday, won’t that be fun?” Shannon smiled down at her prisoner.

“Fuck you, bitch,” came the reply.

“Tut tut, such bad manners,” Shannon shook her head.

Their first stop was the past. A Scottish lounge. As past Heather and a gentleman relaxed on a settee, current Heather watched with wide eyes. Past Heather came on to the gentleman. He was confused, sad, mortified. Shannon froze the scene, touched a finger to the man’s forehead, withdrew it, glowing, and touched current Heather’s blistered forehead. She doubled over in pain.

Another stop, a year later. A sister’s pain and heartbreak at losing her fiancé to past Heather’s flirtation.

More stops, thousands of them. Into the future, the far far future. All the pain Heather’s descendants caused others, their children’s victims, their children’s children’s victims.

Finally, Heather broke. Reapers gorged themselves on her shame and agony, as Heather looked up at Shannon.

“Why?”

“Your narcissistic and psychopathological side was hereditary. The pain you created in your lifetime was multiplied over thousands of generations. And now you feel every single instance,” Shannon replied.

Millions of Reapers were born.

 

When the Talktalk.net internet provider of the United Kingdom began outsourcing most of its helpdesk utilities to India, its customers’ outrage was audible and palpable.

Talktalk executives to a corporate jet to Thailand and rented a primary school’s worth of young boys for a week.

When the outsourcing idea failed and revenue plummeted due to completely foreseeable terrible Indian customer service, the Talktalk board of directors was chided and soaked in layers of “We Told You So” by both its customer base and the British media.

Talktalk executives organized a smaller outing in Amsterdam for themselves and accidentally transmitted HIV to a number of other drug addicts. The prostitutes they hired were smart enough to get them high or drunk to the point they couldn’t perform.

When Talktalk.net got hacked and bank accounts were compromised and emptied, a criminal investigation was launched.

Talktalk executives gathered on the CEO’s private yacht for a little R&R in the Canary Islands. Julie Hurtsthings was there to greet them as their personal Captain. Oddly, each linen-suited, camel-sandaled, hair-plugged man on the boat developed some sort of illness. Each had a different symptom profile. One presented with a fever, and incredibly itchy raised rash. Another developed hemorrhagic fever and cold sweats. A third suffered boils and woody warts all over his body, especially around each orifice.

They pleaded with the Captain to turn the boat around and take them home, and she did. They went the long way. Bad weather and such.

Emptiness swirled above the yacht as trainee Reapers learned to feed from easy gifts. As the trip lengthened, the cell phone batteries died one by one (“Why would there be a USB port on a yacht? And why you even askin’ me? It’s your yacht!” Julie barked at the CEO.)

Finally, the yacht arrived in Mumbai with its starving and dying, as well as with its well-fed and well-trained passengers. The sick were rolled off the boat on gurneys and trucked in ambulances directly to New Delhi. The Reapers and Julie stayed in Mumbai.

The Torture Twins embraced each other in the reception area of the Mumbai Main Holding Facility. Their grins and the cheerful flames that passed through them left dark chalky burn marks on the floor where they stood. Two masses of long curly hair defied gravity and floated around them, smoldering and sparking at the tips. The Reapers looked on with respectful interest.

“We DID it! We finally flipped that whore!” Shannon squeaked.

“You’re shitting me! You figured out a way to flip Heather?” Julie’s eyes widened. “What did it take?”

“Only a mind injection of each pure component of each emotion her behavior elicited in her victims. It took some time,” Shannon looked at the floor, then the ceiling, then the floor again.

Julie raised one eyebrow. “How much time?”

“Ten thousand years,” Shannon blurted. “But it was SO fucking worth it. Look at our crew!” The space was un-filled with Reapers, they swirled every corridor, filled every crack and crevice. “We have a blanket of them over every major city in India now. I told you that bitch would be the motherload. Her hate, along with her own selfishness, ran so deep, that the flip side was nearly pure peace.”

“I cannot believe this. You had to inject her while time traveling? How tired are you?” Julie giggled.

“I know, right? At least now that she’s flipped, it will take just as much, if not more effort, to flip her back,” she shook her head and brushed embers from her shoulders. “Not that she’ll have the chance. I’m running on adrenaline, if I’m honest,” Shannon nodded. “Let’s get a drink and some cheesy fries.”

The sisters exited the front door arm in arm into the now cool stillness of Mumbai. The dense presence of the Reapers displaced the humidity and most of the air itself from ground level. As they walked, they shimmered, and in the distance, they disappeared in a mirage of heat.

 

“Ok, who’s left?” Julie mumbled through a steak fry with gravy. Ian, Christopher, David, and Isabel, their personal reapers, swirled around them, as newer Reapers formed another circle beyond them. The perimeter of antimatter was so thick, the maître d didn’t even realize the Torture Twins had returned to his rooftop dining space in Switzerland.

“Well, let’s see,” Shannon said after washing down a wad of nacho cheese coated curly fries with a swig of Diet Coke. “We need to round up the rest of the Western problematic folks, but we can do that at the convention.”

Julie nodded.

“And that last online corporation, the one that ruins families,” Shannon went on, “and finally, the piece de resistance.”

Julie raised one eyebrow.

You know,” Shannon murmured.

“Ohhhhhhhh, right, yes, duh,” Julie’s head bobbed with the realization.

A warm late spring breeze blew over the terrace, ruffled the other patrons napkins and hair. Julie and Shannon tucked into spicy pizza and sipped cool margaritas. Julie gazed at Lake Geneva, blue and peaceful, rimmed with greenery. Her hair sparked.

“Soon,” said Shannon gently, “soon.”

 

Three Boeing 777-200 airplanes touched down lightly at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Even with the presence of the Reapers, July in New Delhi was a scorching affair. Uniformed soldiers moved slowly through the streets, the animals which roamed freely in the city rested in the shade of the buildings, insects didn’t bother buzzing, not even mosquitoes. Coupled with the decrease in automobile emissions, the new aridity of the atmosphere was too sudden for many local creatures to navigate easily.

When The Donald failed to show at the GOP National Convention that summer in Houston, tongues wagged and hair whipped but no one panicked. None of the Bush family members arrived at their scheduled time, and eyes widened. The Koch brothers were marked as no-shows, and the murmuring started. Rush Limbaugh disappeared during a pee break from his radio broadcast, and people freaked the fuck out.

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association stood at the podium. He waved his hands in a sit-down, settle-down motion and shouted for quiet. The conventioneers’ roar decreased in a downstairs-slinky manner: quiet, quieter, quiet-as-it-was-going-to-get.

A red dot wandered near Wayne’s receding hairline as he adjusted the microphone. The air grew empty as Reapers filled the Brown Convention Center. Uniformed soldiers stood just outside each exit with a hand on the door.

BAM! Wayne’s brains flew out the backside of his head under his ear, painted the wooden planks as he collapsed. Shiny, dark blood oozed from under the shards of bone around the exit wound, pink bits of brain matter spattered behind him. Wet cotton candy pieces on the ground at a county fair.

The conventioneers rushed the exits, pushing and pulling and trampling each other. Cameras and tripods went flying, people tripped over scattered electrical cords and took their own short thudded flights. CSPAN tried desperately to keep up with the action but in a fit of frustration, the director shut everything down and directed his employees to “stay safe and get the hell out of here.”

The stillness of the air grew. Reapers feasted. The temperature dropped, water vapor disappeared as red-white-and-blue stripes pummeled stars and sequins in search of safety.

“Go go GO!” boomed the uniformed woman through the megaphone. The irony was not lost on her as she directed this reverse cattle-drive and she smirked to her colleague. The conventioneers were directed down ramps into Greyhound buses. Each passenger was searched and relieved of his personal firearms. One old white guy was surprised to see he was still armed when asked for his weapon.

“Oh, here you go my dear,” he said wearily.

Houston felt a dry heat for the first time ever.

 

It looked for all the world like the Dallas Cowboys football stadium. Prisoners from holding facilities all over India were trucked to New Delhi and marched in single file lines into the building. The Kolkata group consisted mostly of corrupt Asian businessmen and politicians. The Tuticorin group held the African dictators and religious extremists who tried in vain to push Sharia law throughout the continent, as well as the African slaveholders whose workforce was comprised of children working in the mines. Western politicians, right-wing extremists, gang leaders, Facebook executives, and clergy perverts arrived from Mumbai. The European and Roman Catholic launderers of souls and services rolled in on the train from Chennai. Soon, the arena was filled shoulder to shoulder with the worst the world had to offer in terms of humanity.

“You’re our special guests,” Shannon announced to the prison cell holding Trump, Heather, Kateea, Sinclair, Cook, and friends. “You are the lucky audience members chosen to witness how we’re cleaning up after the terrible mess you made.” Heather, seated on a cinder block, couldn’t stop shuddering long enough to keep a steady gaze on Shannon. Kateea wept, and the others just stood, or sat, staring at the smoky women whose hair floated.

“Line up, assholes,” Julie yelled. “NOW!” she screeched as the prisoners shuffled. Fifty people limped, crawled, or scooted into a queue that snaked around the room. Reapers filled the air and settled in on each side of the line. Julie led the droopy mass through the metal doors; Shannon watched closely from the back of the line. The group followed Julie down the immense cement hallway, up a long metal fire-escape stairway, through a large metal double door. In the bright sunlight, the prisoners’ eyes grew wide as they crossed a metal catwalk several stories off the ground.

The catwalk ended at a narrow steel door in the dome of the incinerator. Julie opened it, and raised her arm to indicate the prisoners should turn left once inside. By the time the entire group was accounted for, the queue reached all around the perimeter of the dome. Single file, they lined up on the balcony around the dome, and looked down into the base. The floor level of the dome was swarming with people, shoulder to shoulder, looking around expectantly. The only thing separating the prisoners on the balcony from those on the floor was a thick transparent plastic wall.

Trump leaned his forehead on the window and searched the crowd. There was Mike Pence, his Vice Presidential running mate. There was Soros, there was Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh’s shiny scalp. The Koch brothers were down there. A group of white men looked up and pointed at Trump. He waved weakly and looked away.

“What are we doing here?” the pedophile demanded.

“You are going to watch us begin to save the world,” replied Julie. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, her hair stood on end and sparked the air. She placed her palms on the wall behind the onlookers. On the opposite side of the dome, Shannon flipped a switch, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and made contact with the Dome.

Fine, silver dust fell from the ceiling of the dome, so faint at first that it could have been simply dust particulates, a mist. But it kept falling, thicker now, and faster, covering the crowd. Even as they wiped their eyes and blew their noses, the powder invaded the prisoners, into every pore and orifice. Some people scratched at it, coughed, tried to spit it out, but it was immediately replaced.

“What’s happening to them?” Sinclair asked.

“They’re suffocating?” mumbled an inmate.

“No, I don’t think so,” Sinclair replied.

Reapers filled the dome and feasted on the prisoners’ fear and anxiety. Julie and Shannon followed their movements by the paths they cut in the powdery cloud above.

The Torture Twins’ hair was on fire now, bright blue and white in the top of the dome. The heat from their hands penetrated the dome walls and traveled to the floor, before rising into the air and igniting the powdery dust. Prisoners slumped, fell, or stood stone still as the heat made the powder combust within each prisoner. Reapers multiplied and gorged themselves on fear. Eyeballs melted out of faces, tongues burst aflame, hair was reduced to ash, and the contents of the prisoners’ bodies were incinerated from the inside out.

Those on the balcony didn’t realize the internal combustion of their counterparts until the outer shells of each inmate finally caught on fire. Each one erupted in white-hot flame; some exploded in a shower of ash. After ten minutes, the floor of the dome was covered in a three-foot-thick layer of grayish white ash. Julie and Shannon straightened up from the dome walls, brushed their hands off, and brushed the ash off their shoulders. Shannon stretched and cracked her neck, Julie reached down and touched her toes.

“So, who’s next?” asked Julie.

Another several thousand were herded into the dome, and the prisoners on the balcony watched the process repeat. Isabel, Christopher, Ian, and Steven flitted back and forth around the balcony, snacking as the audience came to terms with their own finality. After the third group, Heather raised a hand.

“Are we just going to watch thousands of innocent people die? What’s going on?”

Shannon appeared behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. Heather jumped, startled.

“What makes you think these people are innocent?” Shannon asked, her voice hoarse with anger and smoke. “Are you innocent?” Shannon waved an arm at the queue, “Are any of your compadres innocent?” Heather’s eyes went to the floor.

“Surely you remember the lessons our little holiday taught you?” Shannon said as she raised Heather’s chin to make eye contact. Her eyes flashed red and green, as Heather’s pupils dilated. Her scarred face bobbed a small yes.

So, do you want to finish them off today, and take care of final business tomorrow? Julie asked inside Shannon’s head.

Shannon looked around. The Reaper legion had multiplied itself several times over within the dome, and was still hungry, judging from the vibrations in her skin. I think we can just finish the whole lot today, and get started on the spreading tomorrow. The sooner we get this planet back to basics, the better, she answered. Julie nodded in agreement and turned to face the queue of prisoners on the balcony.

“Batter up, motherfuckers!” she squealed and giggled.

Shannon laughed heartily on the other side of the dome. “Vámonos, assholes,” she hollered and led the group down a long ramp towards the floor.

Trump and friends balked, but Larry, Darryl, and the Other Darryl grabbed them by the armpits and shoved them along. The queue trudged down, down, down along the sides of the dome, the smell of sulfur and carbon growing in their noses. Kateea gagged and retched.

About 10 feet from the base of the dome, Shannon opened a portal in the plastic with a wave of her hand. The edges glimmered in and out of reality. Heather gave Shannon a look of remorse, but her only reply was a jerk of her head towards the portal. Resigned, Heather stepped through and sank into the ash. Another thirty or so inmates disappeared into the dome, and Shannon faced Kateea.

“You don’t have to do this,” Kateea begged through her torn-open mouth. “You have no idea how sorry I am! Please! Don’t make me die like this!” She grabbed onto Shannon’s shoulders and tried to shake her, pulled away instantly as her palms caught fire. Kateea screamed and collapsed, so Shannon picked her up and hurled her through the portal. She sank into the ash.

The prisoners shuffled about through the ash in the shallower areas, kicking it up into the air as Reapers swarmed them. The Torture Twins gave the Reapers a bit more time to feed before releasing the fine silver dust upon the crowd. Within fifteen minutes, the depth of the ash had grown to fifteen feet deep.

Ready to release the Kracken? Julie asked. Shannon smirked.

Excellent name, I like that a lot, she replied. Better even than codename Satan.

Shannon nodded and said aloud, “Yeah, I want to get this overwith, but, I want to watch, so let’s clean out the dome first.”

A portion of the wall of the dome slid open, and the opposite side of the floor tilted upward. Ash fell through the open door into a rail car below. Thousands of cars on hundreds of freight trains were filled with gray-white powder by the time the dome was empty.

Reapers filled the open sky for miles around.

A perfectly human white woman walked into the New Delhi airport arrivals area, her curly brown hair bound in a tight braid down her back. She wore a hot pink chudithar and brown sandals, and carried an army green canvas messenger bag. She ran to her husband as he walked through the security checkpoint and hugged him hard, kissed him harder.

“You’re finally here!” she whispered into his ear. He smiled back and adjusted his luggage. The woman hailed an autorickshaw and the couple climbed in. She gave the driver the address of the dome and grabbed her husband’s hand tightly in her own.

“Wait til you see this!” she exclaimed, “It’s a once in a lifetime kinda thing!”

He snickered at his wife’s excitement but indulged her in this side trip on the way to his mother’s house. Little did he know his mother had already been on this side trip. The autorickshaw putt-putted to a stop at the dome and the couple piled out. The husband asked the driver to wait but his wife interrupted, suggested they could just hire another one when they were done with the tour. The driver smiled and nodded at her lavish tip while her husband frowned.

The woman fairly skipped ahead of her husband up to the main visitor entrance and yanked the door open, waving him in with a “come one, hurry up slowpoke!” He followed her into the cool darkness of the dome, which, to his eyes, appeared to be a complete recreation of the Dallas Cowboys football stadium. Julie Hurtsthings appeared before the couple, hair calmed into a ponytail, eyes calmed to normal blue.

“Are you ready to start your tour?” she chirped, absently touching her tour guide nametag. The couple nodded and Julie led them through the facility. The kiosks, the snack bars, the betting machines, the trivia machines, the locker rooms, the executive box areas, and finally, the gift shop.

“We always exit through the gift shop,” Julie winked.

The husband sighed. “Of course you do,” he harrumphed. “Gotta make that extra buck.”

“Ooooh can I buy this?” the wife held up a snow globe with the dome inside. She shook it and silver glitter rained down on the scene.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he answered, “We’re not buying souvenirs of this place. Come on, we gotta get going,” he grumbled and grabbed her hand, pulled her towards the door marked “Exit” and slammed it open.

He stepped onto the astroturf and his mouth fell open in surprise. He looked around: the field was marked for American football, the giant screen television hung from the roof, and seating for a hundred thousand spectators surrounded him. He turned in a wide circle, taking it all in.

He looked back to his wife and recoiled.

“Who the hell are you?” he shouted. “Where’s my wife?”

A woman stood before him, her green eyes glowing. Her curly hair floated high in the air, sparking at random. Black boots, jeans, a black tank top with the muerto skull on it. She held out her hand, something shiny dangled from it. He took it.

His wife’s thali, her Indian marriage necklace.

“Where’s my WIFE?!” he demanded.

“I’m right here,” Shannon replied. “I’ve always been here, I will always be here,” she answered, calm. Her voice was melted butter.

The man began to sweat; he pulled at the collar of his shirt. He looked around, his eyes widened. He stood on a cement floor in the middle of an empty domed building. No executive boxes, no snack bars, no fan seating, no giant television, no astroturf. Just him, and this woman claiming to be his wife, in the middle of a huge empty building.

“Welcome to the Papadome,” Shannon said.

“Papadome,” he repeated. “You mean papadum? Like, the snack?” his forehead creased in confusion.

“Figure that out all by yourself, did ya?” Shannon smirked.

His hands reached for her, she took a step back.

“You have destroyed enough. You destroyed my human mind with your demands to conform and be a ‘reasonable wife.’ You destroyed my dreams when you wouldn’t permit me to write. In fact, you said ‘fiction is stupid, why you wasting your time with this?’ Remember when you said that?” she asked.

He nodded. Not so long ago.

“I did what you wanted, but it changed me. The anger and frustration changed me,” she said. “This,” she swept her hands over her body, up to her head, “this is what you did. You made me into this, with your selfishness and your demands.”

“I didn’t mean…” he started but she cut him off.

“Yeah, I know. You didn’t mean to. Nobody ever does ‘mean to,’” she used finger quotes. “But you were a shit spouse. You never supported me, never respected me, in fact, you tore me down every chance you got. You took what you wanted, with no thought to what I might want.”

“What do you want?” he asked. “Tell me, I’ll do anything, I swear!”

“Too late for that idea to pop into your head. It’s too late, this is who I am now, and you are still who you are. It’s done.” And she vanished.

From high above the dome floor, two glowing women watched and waited on the balcony. Reapers twirled and tossed in the air above the man. He turned in circle after circle, looking for a way out. Finally, he sat down on the cement, his head in his hands. Sobs wracked his body as he passed the golden thali from one hand to the other.

Fine silver dust drifted down from above. It covered the man’s balding, sweaty head, infiltrated his nose, irritated his eyes, made him cough. He stood up and raised his face to the ceiling. Finding no source, he pulled his shirt up over his head to protect his face, but still, the powder found its way in.

Ready? Julie looked at her sister.

Shannon nodded and placed her palms on the dome wall.

Isabel and Christopher feasted on the man’s fear as his heart spontaneously combusted and he collapsed. His intestines churned and burned, his brain and eyeballs melted and leaked from his head. Finally, his body caught fire. It burned itself out inside two minutes.

That’s odd, thought Julie. Shannon faced her, and Julie nodded to the dome floor. Both women cocked their heads to one side, tried to make sense of what they saw.

An immense pile of ash lay in the center of the dome floor. Enough ash to account for ten people. They stood looking at the pile for a few minutes, then Shannon turned to Julie.

“He had the fear of ten people, always trying to control everything everyone did and thought and said,” she whispered. Julie nodded her understanding.

Outside, New Delhi was cool with Reapers as the sun set.

 

Over the next decade, The Torture Twins worked on resetting Earth to its healthier, natural state. With the assistance of a worldwide population of generous, empathetic people, a new world order was established. The ashes of Earth’s rapists in their many forms were used to rehabilitate deforested areas, filter polluted rivers, and mop up industrial waste disasters. The Reapers’ presence was maintained until consistent, reasonable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide could be achieved. Fossil fuels were abandoned, nuclear weapons were dismantled, and prisons were renovated as schools.

During what would become known as The Great Peace, scientists and artists developed a New Rennaissance. With the sun and wind’s energy harnessed, the planet had plenty of energy and food. Vulnerable species recovered their steady-state populations, and throughout the world, animals were no longer used as human food.

Although the people begged Julie and Shannon to teach them telepathy, the Torture Twins denied this request, and wisely so. The Papadome was still in use, albeit rarely, when a human could not be rehabilitated. Eventually, the Reapers returned to their own universe via the black hole in the Milky Way.

In the rooftop restaurant Izumi, two women with floating curly hair sat at an open air table, gazing at Lake Geneva. They ate pizza and drank Diet Coke.

“So, how long you think we can maintain this?” Shannon asked.

“Indefinitely, as long as the Papadome is there and we can get in touch with the Reapers,” Julie replied. Shannon nodded. “You ok with the eastern hemisphere?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine with it,” Shannon replied. “West side doing ok?”

Julie shrugged, “Easy peasy. Just let me know if you get bored and wanna trade.” Shannon grinned.

“I might pay a visit to the Reapers, look around, see if anything else needs sorted out,” she said.

“Anything else?” Julie raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. “Ok, I know you get bored, I’ll hold down the fort,” she said with a wink.

“Thanks sis,” Shannon raised her glass to toast. They clinked, and Shannon downed her drink in one gulp.

She stood and swirled a hand in the air, opened a portal. Its boundaries shimmered in the light breeze. “See you on the flip side,” Shannon winked and stepped through.

The maître d approached Julie with a phone and a confused look on his face.

“Hello?” Julie answered.

“Hi, this is The Kracken, may I speak with Shannon?”

“Oh, you just missed her,” Julie replied, biting her lip.

An exasperated sigh. “Of course I did. Alright, will you please let her know I popped in to see how things are going?”

“Sure thing, whenever I see her again…” Julie trailed off and ate a cheesy fry.

Julie hung up the phone. In the distance, a long tentacle slapped the surface of Lake Geneva and disappeared in the foam.

 

 

The Aardvark and the Alien Goldmine (a #31ShortHorrors Tale)

Chapter 1

 

“This is stupid,” complained the aardvark, Steve.

The alien shrugged and tugged on Steve’s leash towards another termite mound. Its tentacles reached nearly to the ground and made a gentle swooshing sound as they waved against each other as it bounced forward. It was a medium sized Smark, a soldier. It didn’t have guns or anything, but the lasers it could emit from the tips of its tentacles were pretty cool.

Steve thought so, anyway, til the damn thing lasered HIM.

“Dick move,” thought Steve as he fell over sideways, paralyzed.

So anyway, here was Steve on a red bungie cord leash, being dragged and nudged to one termite mound, then another, then another. Finally the alien seemed satisfied with Steve’s skillset demonstration, and led him towards the rocket.

You don’t see a lot of spaceship-rocket-types of things in the African savannah. The aliens had used Wikipedia to determine the safest landing zone within a stone’s throw of their target. They had also used Wikipedia to find a creature capable of extracting things from under the ground. What Wikipedia hadn’t been able to tell them, however, was that their creature of interest had a whiny attitude and a filthy mouth. And could be incredibly rude. And was gassy.

The alien swooshed Steve up the ramp into the rocket. It was tall and cylindrical, like the one Bugs Bunny rode in Loony Tunes, not round and wide like in E.T. Steve was annoyed. This was not gonna be a comfy ride. He grunted and whined. He farted. The alien zapped him with a tentacle.

“Oww!” Steve squealed, “Asshole!”

The elevator trembled and the pair rose silently through the dark tunnel of the rocket. Tiny lights of various colors blinked on and off in the cool darkness. The door slid open and the alien swooshed out. Steve stuck his snout out first, tested the air. The door slide closed and caught him. And didn’t let go.

Steve’s day had started out normal enough. Sleeping. Because that’s what aardvarks do during the day. And he was just there in his den, minding his own business, having a snooze, when the long slimy cold tentacles had reached down through the tunnel and wrapped around his neck. His exit from his den, sideways through the narrow tunnel, nearly choked and woken from sleep, now counted as his least favorite way to start a day.

Steve was ruminating on this as he waited for someone to open the goddamn elevator door and release his nose. Someone was sure happy to take their fucking time.

“Hello? Little help over here?” he snorfled. The alien turned and tentacle-faced itself. A different tentacle stretched out and tapped the elevator button. The door slid open again and Steve swaggered out with as much swagger as an aardvark with a sore nose can muster.

“So, bro, what’s the dealio?” he asked as he plopped down on the floor. The alien pointed to the window, and presumably the sky beyond. Its large glassy eyes, all four of them, were evenly spaced around its headlump, so it was hard to tell where it was actually looking.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I’m not an idiot. We’re in a rocket, I kinda figured we were gonna take off,” Steve muttered. “Ok, Slimy Guy, surprise me. I love surprises.” Steve rolled his eyes and put his head down on his paws to take a nap.

Tentacles placed on a large flat screen built into the console pressed various places in seemingly random order. The mothership received a message:

SUBJECT ACQUIRED.

SUBJECT SKILLSET DEEMED APPROPRIATE.

SUBJECT IS A BIT OF A DICKWAD.

EOM

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Steve woke up on fire. His head popped up and he looked around frantically. He couldn’t smell anything charred, and the end of his snout was dripping in the humidity. He stuck his tongue out to the air.

“Friggin’ tropical here,” Steve harrumphed, and hauled himself to his feet. He looked around the open, wide room, windows on each wall, stars and planets beyond. Were they moving? Maybe? How do you set anchor in space?

“Yoo-hoo? Anybody home? Yo, Slimy Guy!” he called out. He slipped and slid on the slimy floor. The rocket was docked in the middle of the room, its bay door still open. He walked around to the opposite side of the rocket. A mass of interwined, crawling, continuously moving tentacles greeted him. One of the pile stretch straight up into the air and pointed its tip at Steve.

“Hey bro, hands up, don’t shoot!” Steve shouted and hit the deck. The laser missed and burned a hole in the rocket’s side just about where his head had been. Steve closed his eyes tight and waited for death.

He waited.

And listened.

And waited some more.

Silence.

Steve opened one eye.

A Smark approached him, swoosh, swoosh. Steve’s eye followed it. It seemed larger than the alien who’d aardvark-napped him from Earth, but that could have been his view askew from his position on the floor. One of the Smark’s eyes examined Steve from snout to tail. A tentacle moved toward his nose, slowly, like a snake testing the air for dinner. The tip of it booped him on the snout, then entered his nostril.

Steve sat up and back, snorfling and snuffling, tears, his two front paws over his snout. Lord, the smell. Like sewage and gasoline and week-old diapers. Gross. The aardvark was backed up against the hull of the rocket in the middle of the mothership. The tentacle advanced farther and farther up his snout, icy slime nearly reaching his face. Steve’s eyes blinked wide as the rest of the Smark clan moved in. There was only one way out.

Steve cut the cheese.

Hard.

It was more of a shart than a pure fart, and the sulfur smell combined with the misty emission caused the Smarks’ tentacles to curl up in disgust. They blinked their membranous eyelids and bounced away, some wiping their tentacles on the floor or on other Smarks to remove the light brown residue of Steve’s gas.

The Smarks huddled up. Tentacles swarmed and rolled and reached and coiled around the pack. A long purple tentacle rose in the air, stabbing at it decisively. Another tentacle rose and pulled it down. Laser shots were fired and all the Smarks collapsed onto the floor. A wobbly, gelatinous pile of writhing tentacles quivered this way and that as the Smarks argued over whether or not Steve was worth the hassle.

They decided to give it one more shot. Mostly for fuel economy. The mothership was closer to the target planet than it was to Earth, and they would need to refuel soon. Plus, driving back through the asteroid belt to reach Earth was really rough on the old mpg.

Steve watched the pile argue from his now-warm spot on the smooth floor. His tummy rumbled. The aardvark’s brow knit in consternation. What the hell was he gonna eat? He hadn’t see Slimy Guy pack any termites from home in a cooler.

“Guys?” he ventured, somewhat louder than a whisper. “Guys?” he asked, a bit louder. “GUYS!” he screech-growled, because aardvarks aren’t really the hollering type. “Got anything to eat? Termites? Ants? Cheetos? And I’m thirsty, where’s the bar?”

He could swear he saw the soldier Smark that hustled him on board roll at least one of his three visible eyes. Steve hauled himself up to all fours and shambled over to him. He stuck his tongue out to a tentacle and got a smart rap on the head.

“Sliiiimyyyyy, I’m hunnnngryyyyy! And when I get hungry, I get gas. We don’t wanna go through that nastiness again, do we?” Steve looked up at the Smark with his best aardvark-cum-puppy dog eyes.

The Smark seemed to sigh, then shrug, then slowly bounced across the room to a large wall of cabinets. He pulled open a door, which lit its compartment, and coiled around a thick metal cylinder. He removed it from the alien fridge and twisted off the top.

“Earthworms? You’re giving me earthworms?!” Steve squeaked. “What am I, a trout?” The Smark yanked it from Steve’s grasp and tossed it back in the fridge. He removed another cylinder and opened it.

“Lightning bugs? Come oooooonnnn, mannnn, we were JUST there! You didn’t think to get take-out of the shit I actually eat?” Steve whined. The Smark growled and tossed the cylinder back, handed Steve a third.

“Ahhh, this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! Termite Tenderness! Yassss, come to Daddy mah precioussss,” snarled Steve as he flopped down to slurp out his snack. The Smark tentacle-palmed himself and bounced away to another alien somewhat removed from the group.

Soldier Smark’s tentacles pressed an elaborate pattern on the other Smark’s headlump, leaving suction cup marks on its jello-y skin.

YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST LABELLED THAT SHIT WE BROUGHT FROM EARTH. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN IT EXPIRES.

The other Smark closed its eye membranes and pressed a pattern upon Soldier Smark’s headlump.

SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD BE SO PERSNICKETY. WIKIPEDIA JUST SAID SMALL INSECTS. ANYWAY, LAND HO.

It pointed a tentacle out the window and sure as shit stinks, a reddish orange planet grew in the window as the mothership approached. Tiny specs of light jumped up into its atmosphere from the ground. Laser war. Or maybe just laser tag. It was tough to tell from that altitude.

Soldier Smark returned to where Steve had flopped and was licking the remaining termites from the bottom of the metal cylinder. It pointed a tentacle to the window; Steve’s eyes followed it.

“You brought me to fucking Mars? Are you serious, bro? Dude, this planet is so overrated,” Steve sighed, then belched. It was a big one, and all the slimy headlumps popped up in unison.

“S’cuse me,” Steve muttered, and raised his leg to piss on the wall.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

The mothership landed amongst heavy enemy fire and took a beating. Its round hull pockmarked with shrapnel and deflected laser bombs, its thick windows were blasted out, hanging in shards from their frames.

The rocket inside the mothership was in decent enough shape, however. The Smarks re-fueled it from the mothership’s emergency supply and all crammed inside. Steve’s face was mushed up against the tiny portal window, his fur was plastered in Smark slime as he perched atop a tower of bobbling soggy Smarks. The heavily laden rocket burst up through the top bay door of the mothership and out into the dark Martian sky.

Safely docked on the other side of the planet, Soldier Smark re-affixed the bungee cord collar and leash to Steve’s neck and led him, rather, dragged him out the rocket’s sliding door into a long, well-lit hallway. The chrome-like walls, ceiling, and floors reflected every photon, and Steve squinted in the brightness. He coughed up a loogie and spat. The floor magically absorbed the mucus into itself.

“What the hell?” Steve asked up at Soldier Smark. Soldier appeared to shrug, his whole body bumped up and down once, tentacles bouncing from the movement. The pair slippy-slid (Steve) and bobbed down the hallway that never seemed to end. Steve looked around, they were the only creatures present, at least that he could recognize as a creature. If that floor was sentient it was getting a hell of an upskirt view.

Finally they reached an arched opening in the wall. Soldier Smark entered, and Steve lagged back, passively protesting. A tug on the leash and a threat of a tentacle tip convinced him to cross the threshold into a bar.

A cantina-style bar.

Modeled after the bar in Star Wars.

The Smarks did love them some Wikipedia.

There were only two types of beings in this bar, however, the Smarks being one, and aardvark being the other. There were no chairs, just tall tables ringed by Smarks of various sizes, and a long metal bar lined with Smarks in various conversations. Soldier Smark swayed up to the bar and wrapped a tentacle around a tall pitcher of dark brown liquid with thick beige foam on top.

The Smark tending bar reached out to Soldier and impressed a series of light taps to its headlump. Soldier appeared to nod, and blinked slowly with all four eyes. He returned a message via his own suction cupped-tentacles upon the bartender’s head.

WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY. FINALLY GET THE CREATURE WIKIPEDIA SAID WE NEEDED, IT STINKS AND HAS AN ATTITUDE, THEN THAT IDIOT RODNEY LANDED US IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REBEL ENCAMPMENT. DOES HE NOT HAVE GOOGLE MAPS? FOR FUCK’S SAKE. ANOTHER PITCHER WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE, PLEASE.

Soldier Smark tipped the pitcher upside down into a hole underneath the drape of tentacles. Shaking out the last drop, he returned the pitcher to the bar and let out a teensy baby burp.

“Dude, you’re turning red,” Steve nudged Soldier. Soldier blinked one eye slowly at him as he reached for his second pitcher. He dumped that into his mouthhole as well, and tapped on the bar. Another pitcher appeared shortly. By the time Soldier had downed its third pitcher, it was bright red from top to tentacle tip. It burped another baby belch, and Steve smelled something familiar.

Something he’d smelled in a human village during big football games.

He stuck out his tongue and tested the air.

Alcohol.

He squinted at the lever the bartender pulled over and over again.

Guinness.

Steve pulled on a tentacle. “Dude, can I get a bowl of water or something? Or are you too busy getting shitfaced to treat your prisoner with some compassion?” The Smark waved at the bartender, pressed a message on its headlump. The bartender returned with a bowl of water and a bowl of writhing, crawling creatures that only stayed in the bowl because its chrome-ish walls were too slippery to climb.

“Thanks, man!” Steve exclaimed and settled in to nosh. The insectoid creatures were sweet and salty, and very crunchy, a little scratchy going down Steve’s throat. He wasn’t going to complain, though. He licked both bowls clean and looked up.

Soldier Smark was a deep crimson by now, his tentacles swayed one way and his gelatinous body swayed the other. He looked down at Steve, his body heaved in an alien sigh, and gave a gentle tug on the leash. They wound their way through the crowd to an exit on the opposite side of the room they’d entered.

Another chrome hallway, more narrow and with a lower ceiling than the first. As they traveled, the walls seemed to close in, until they moved in single file across the cold gleaming floor. Steve stared at the now-burgundy tentacles ahead of him. Was the Smark getting shorter?

The walls continued to close in on the pair and then Steve realized the ceiling was also lowering. Finally, the hallway was no larger than the boundaries of Steve’s body, and then smaller still, until Steve was well and truly stuck. The leash kept pulling, and he kept resisting. One lone, large, shiny Smark eye blinked back at him.

Startled, Steve squeaked. He squeaked and squealed harder as he felt a tentacle slide between his forelegs, then his back legs. Another tentacle slid over his head and down his back, two more slid down each side of him, squeezing between his body and the cold solid walls. Steve crouched silently and shivered as he felt his fur turn cold and wet with Smark slime. He dry-heaved from the smell but fought the urge to hurl because the current stench plus puke stench would have equaled certain death.

The tentacles retracted and Steve felt himself once again dragged down the hall. He gave up resisting and allowed his body to slip and slide behind his impossibly stretched-out captor.

Then, they fell.

Into nothingness.

They fell and fell, nothing but the air wooshing against them. Steve couldn’t see Soldier Smark, but the slight tug of the leash now and again let him know they were still connected.

A light below them grew bigger. Orange and red like the sun, like the very planet they were visiting, its heat escalated until Steve thought his fur would ignite. He glanced over at the Smark and his eyes grew wide. The Smark had returned to its original purplish-pink shade and was now a spherical, glistening teardrop shape not far below him. One eye opened towards Steve, blinked, and closed again.

They landed on something that slowed their descent but did not stop it. The net finally stopped stretching just as the flames of the fireball licked up towards Steve’s tail. The net returned to its natural state, bringing the pair upward, level with a narrow catwalk that ringed the room. There was a guardrail on the platform, Steve noted, wondering how the mushy mass of the Smarks could possibly move across it without falling into the fiery pit below.

Soldier Smark uncoiled from its protective sphere and reached three tentacles towards Steve. Stunned, Steve just laid there and allowed the Smark to pick him up and cradle him like a human baby as the rest of its tentacles pulled them across the net and climbed up to the catwalk.

Soldier Smark looked at Steve, and Steve met its gaze. The Smark put Steve down on the catwalk (oddly cold cement?) but held onto Steve’s leash. Steve didn’t really mind; he figured the Smark didn’t want to end up in the fireball any more than he did.

Soldier Smark wrapped a tentacle around the guardrail and leaned its headlump over the side. Steve stuck his head over the side, between the cement and the lower bar of the rail.

They both hurled up their lunch. The fireball popped and sputtered as it absorbed their squick.

Soldier Smark leaned back against the wall and slid down it into a gelatinous puddle. Steve echoed the movement. They both closed their eyes. Steve felt a tentacle on top of his head, petting him. He nudged another tentacle with his snout and slid his head under it.

And then he farted.

 

 

Magical Fairy Aardvark with Gold-Studded Wings Who Lives in a Giant Peach at the Center of the Earth

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Soldier Smark released what could be only considered a heavy sigh and hauled himself up while leaning against the wall, coating the wall in slime. Steve hauled himself up and followed the tug of his leash. They inched their way along the catwalk into a low stone corridor that ramped further downward. Gas torches licked the damp walls of the passageway, placed there by non-Smarks eons ago. Steve flicked his tongue, metal, copper tinged, ammonia, sulfur. He shivered and withdrew his tongue.

The damp air grew dry, then hot, then an orange glow wavered larger with each step. Soldier Smark and Steve emerged into a large cave, stalagmites and stalactites glowed orange with firelight, and swaying, glistening gelatinous bodies circled a large pit. Tentacles entwined amongst them and an electrical charge travelled from the outside of the spiral to the inner, largest Smark.

Soldier Smark took up position at the tail end of the spiral, gently unleashed Steve, and wrapped a cold, wet tentacle around his abdomen. Soldier lifted Steve high above his headlump and passed him to the left, to the next Smark in the endless spiral line. A deep rumble began in the center of the spiral, and travelled outward as Steve made his slimy way inward.

Ohhh-eee-ohhhh, Ohhh-OOOHHHHH-Ohhh

Ohhh-eee-ohhhh, Ohhh-OOOHHHHH-Ohhh

Pass the smoochie to the left hand side

Ohhh-eee-ohhhh, Ohhh-OOOHHHHH-Ohhh

 

“What the hell is a smoochie?” Steve hollered above the roar.

“You are The Smoochie,” boomed the inner, largest Smark. “Prophesied by the presence of your enormous smoochie tongue, able to dig and divine a path to riches. ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE!”

Steve facepawed himself. “Oh my friggin’ gawd. You guys MUST be kidding?” he squealed as he floated along the boingy tentacles.

ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE

ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE

 

The chorus rose again, filled the cavern as Steve was passed to the last, largest Smark. Steve risked a glance down, then squeezed his eyes shut. His tongue shot out for a quick air test, his brow furrowed, and his tongue dipped back inside.

The hail, he only had a moment to think before he was hurtled down, down, down, again.

Another stomach-swallowing decent against gravity, into the bright white hot heat. Another fall into oblivion, billions of miles from the African savannah with its lovely tall termite mounds. Another sick moment, wondering what the hell he’d done to deserve such a bizarre and unimaginable death, for Chrissake, he was just an aardvark. An aardvark named Steve. Smoochie Steve. Seriously?

As Steve fell, the white hot core of the planet approached, but his fur didn’t burn, his whiskers remained intact, and his nose didn’t crack from the heat. The core increased in size, big as the sun, big as the moon, big as the Earth itself, until Steve landed with a boing! And another boing! And three smaller boings. He lay flat on his stomach, legs splayed out, slime dripping from his fur onto the soft, fuzzy surface of the landing zone.

Steve kept his eyes closed as he stretched one foreleg, the other, and each back leg. He took a deep breath in and out. He blinked open one eye, then the other. He flicked his tongue.

No way. No fuckin’ way, dude.

He flicked his tongue out again, tested the air, tested the surface.

You gotta be kiddin’ me.

A PEACH?!

Steve got to his feet, and shook mightily. Slime sprayed a large Rorschach print over the ground. He remembered losing his lunch earlier, and began to nibble, then snorf straight down into the peach. He dug and dug and ate a line straight down to the pit. As he sucked the sweet meat away from the pit, his tongue discovered a jagged crack.

Suddenly, the pit trembled beneath his feet. The crack widened and Steve hopped to get all four paws on one sliver of pit, but it mattered little as the pit surface crumbled beneath him and he fell once again.

Steve sat up and slow-blinked. “Dad?”

A low rumble of thunder progressed to a guffaw, and increased in pitch to a giggle, then rasping for breath.

The largest aardvark Steve had ever seen sat before him, relaxed, still chuckling. Its silver-studded wings curled around its back haunches. The metal points gleamed in the glow of the peach.

“Ah, my child,” the aardvark rumbled in an easy Jamaican accent, “I am not your father, although our kind are all children of The Golden One.”

Steve shook his head. “I don’t understand?”

“Of course you don’t, and you were never meant to,” the Silver One explained. “Your captors, in their weakness and greed to fuel their own planet, have mistakenly chosen my planet in which to search for the limitless energy.”

“But what am I doing here?” Steve sputtered.

“The Smarks are searching for the Ultimate Power Source, because their world has disintegrated under the stress of unlimited production without investment,” the Silver One muttered. “The Golden One they search for, the Source of Ultimate Power, is billions of light years from here, residing amongst The Endless.”

“Uh, question?” Steve started. The Silver One nodded.

“Why are you living in a peach pit in the center of Mars?” Steve asked breathlessly.

The Silver One grinned. “We Founders of Existence each reside in a paradise of our own construction,” he explained. “I love peaches, and I choose to live here. It just so happens your captors the Smarks placed entirely too much faith in Wikipedia, which has many source faults and errors in its citations, especially in those articles regarding unproven hypotheses of the genesis of the Universe.”

Steve shook his head. “You mean…”

The Silver One nodded, “Yes, just because it’s on the Internet, does not make it true.”

Steve stifled a giggle, but didn’t succeed after he met The Silver One’s eyes and laughter. The Aardvark Grande and Aardvark Tall had a long, healthy gigglefit before silver-studded wings stretched and beat against the hot, moist air, carrying both in tight circles up, up, and out, past the spiral of onlooking Smarks, up, up through the volcanic vent in the crust of Mars.

They landed on the surface of Mars, next to an escape pod. The Silver One tapped at the controls, muttered a few words to Steve, and stepped back. Steve pulled a lever and WHOOOOOOSHHHHHHH the pod took off and threw ten Gs at Steve, and he promptly passed out.

The Silver One turned back to face the horde of writhing, slimy, tentacled Smarks.

“This is not the aardvark you are looking for,” he said in a deep low tone that resonated through the very membranes of the Smarks. “Now leave this planet, and you attack the next world, make sure you find secondary sources for your information.”

And with a flick of his mile-long tongue and a gleam of his wings, the Magical Fairy Aardvark with Silver-studded Wings disappeared down the volcano mouth.

The Smarks looked back and forth at each other. Soldier Smark looked at his Apple watch on one tentacle, and smacked the Smark next to him hard on the headlump with another tentacle.

“It says right here,” Soldier frantically pressed the message on the other’s headlump, “citation needed.”

He turned away and poked on his watch again. “Hey, 4chan says The Golden One might be over in the Andromeda Galaxy. Load up!”

 

(copyright 2016, Shannon Cooper; smashwords downloadable coming soon)

 

Milky Sprite! (A Rather Unusual Fable)

MilkySpriteCover

Chapter 1

Introduction

 Hello, my name is Anthony, and usually I would give you all the background to this story, right…? Wrong. Because Jack and the Beanstalk is sooooooo famous, I decided I will start you from where I want to.

AB!

Chapter 2

Meet Milky Sprite!

 

“Man, I wish I could have gone on an adventure too!” Milky White thought.

Milky White had just been sold back to Jack’s family, and Jack had told her about his adventure versus the humongous giant. [1]

And since Milky White wasn’t giving the family any milk, they settled on a different name, Milky Sprite. They changed White to Sprite because she started taking a diet. Every meal is Sprite, that’s right, all she did was drink soda. But soon enough she got tired of being left out.

[1] Somehow Milky White/Sprite understood English, from the diet she started taking.

Chapter 3

Watch Out Jack!

 

“FEE FI FO FUM I WILL GET THAT OLD CHUM, THEN I SHALL BOAST AND PUT HIM ON ROAST!” yelled the (Ahhhhhhhhh!) giant’s brother.

“Jack, how do we fix thisssssssss?” Jack’s mom yelled. “Our farm has been destroyed!” she yelled again.

There it was, Milky Sprite, running (or what looked to be running because of all the calories she had from all that Sprite she drank), she hit the giant as hard as she could, before Jack got to respond to his mother. Jack and his mother celebrated, and they would not get threatened for the rest of their lives.

Lesson: A cow that doesn’t give milk can be useful in other ways!

 The End

 

The Aardvark and the Alien Goldmines

ICYMI, here’s part 1

Part 2

Steve woke up on fire. His head popped up and he looked around frantically. He couldn’t smell anything charred, and the end of his snout was dripping in the humidity. He stuck his tongue out to the air.

“Friggin’ tropical here,” Steve harrumphed, and hauled himself to his feet. He walked out of the rocket and looked around the open, wide room, windows on each wall, stars and planets beyond. Were they moving? Maybe? How do you set anchor in space?

“Yoo-hoo? Anybody home? Yo, Slimy Guy!” he called out. He slipped and slid on the slimy floor. The rocket was docked in the middle of the room, its bay door still open. He walked around to the opposite side of the rocket. A mass of interwined, crawling, continuously moving tentacles greeted him. One of the pile stretch straight up into the air and pointed its tip at Steve.

“Hey bro, hands up, don’t shoot!” Steve shouted and hit the deck. The laser missed and burned a hole in the rocket’s side just about where his head had been. Steve closed his eyes tight and waited for death.

He waited.

And listened.

And waited some more.

Silence.

Steve opened one eye.

A Smark approached him, swoosh, swoosh. Steve’s eye followed it. It seemed larger than the alien who’d aardvark-napped him from Earth, but that could have been his view askew from his position on the floor. One of the Smark’s eyes examined Steve from snout to tail. A tentacle moved toward his nose, slowly, like a snake testing the air for dinner. The tip of it booped him on the snout, then entered his nostril.

Steve sat up and back, snorfling and snuffling, tears, his two front paws over his snout. Lord, the smell. Like sewage and gasoline and week-old diapers. Gross. The aardvark was backed up against the hull of the rocket in the middle of the mothership. The tentacle advanced farther and farther up his snout, icy slime nearly reaching his face. Steve’s eyes blinked wide as the rest of the Smark clan moved in. There was only one way out.

Steve cut the cheese.

Hard.

It was more of a shart than a pure fart, and the sulfur smell combined with the misty emission caused the Smarks’ tentacles to curl up in disgust. They blinked their membranous eyelids and bounced away, some wiping their tentacles on the floor or other Smarks to remove the light brown residue of Steve’s gas.

The Smarks huddled up. Tentacles swarmed and rolled and reached and coiled around the pack. A long purple tentacle rose in the air, stabbing at it decisively. Another tentacle rose and pulled it down. Laser shots were fired and all the Smarks collapsed onto the floor. A wobbly, gelatinous pile of writhing tentacles quivered this way and that as the Smarks argued over whether or not Steve was worth the hassle.

They decided to give it one more shot. Mostly for fuel economy. The mothership was closer to the target planet than it was to Earth, and they would need to refuel soon. Plus, driving back through the asteroid belt to reach Earth was really rough on the old mpg.

Steve watched the pile argue from his now-warm spot on the smooth floor. His tummy rumbled. The aardvark’s brow knit in consternation. What the hell was he gonna eat? He hadn’t see Slimy Guy pack any termites from home in a cooler.

“Guys?” he ventured, somewhat louder than a whisper. “Guys?” he asked, a bit louder. “GUYS!” he screech-growled, because aardvarks aren’t really the hollering type. “Got anything to eat? Termites? Ants? Cheetos? And I’m thirsty, where’s the bar?”

He could swear he saw the soldier Smark that hustled him on board roll at least one of his three visible eyes. Steve hauled himself up to all fours and shambled over to him. He stuck his tongue out to a tentacle and got a smart rap on the head.

“Sliiiimyyyyy, I’m hunnnngryyyyy! And when I get hungry, I get gas. We don’t wanna go through that nastiness again, do we?” Steve looked up at the Smark with his best aardvark-cum-puppy dog eyes.

The Smark seemed to sigh, then shrug, then slowly bounced across the room to a large wall of cabinets. He pulled open a door which lit its compartment, and coiled around a thick metal cylinder. He removed it from the alien fridge and twisted off the top.

“Earthworms? You’re giving me earthworms?!” Steve squeaked. “What am I, a trout?” The Smark yanked it from Steve’s grasp and tossed it back in the fridge. He removed another cylinder and opened it.

“Lightning bugs? Come oooooonnnn, mannnn, we were JUST there! You didn’t think to get take-out of the shit I actually eat?” Steve whined. The Smark growled and tossed the cylinder back, handed Steve a third.

“Ahhh, this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! Termite Tenderness! Yassss, come to Daddy mah precioussss,” snarled Steve as he flopped down to slurp out his snack. The Smark tentacle-palmed himself and bounced away to another alien somewhat removed from the group.

Soldier Smark’s tentacles pressed an elaborate pattern on the other Smark’s headlump, leaving suction cup marks on its jello-y skin.

YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST LABELLED THAT SHIT WE BROUGHT FROM EARTH. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN IT EXPIRES.

The other Smark closed its eye membranes and pressed a pattern upon Soldier Smark’s headlump.

SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD BE SO PERSNICKETY. WIKIPEDIA JUST SAID SMALL CRAWLY THINGS. ANYWAY, LAND HO.

It pointed a tentacle out the window and sure as shit stinks, a reddish orange planet grew in the window as the mothership approached. Tiny specs of light jumped up into its atmosphere from the ground. Laser war. Or maybe just laser tag. It was tough to tell from that altitude.

Soldier Smark returned to where Steve had flopped and was licking the remaining termites from the bottom of the metal cylinder. It pointed a tentacle to the window, Steve’s eyes followed it.

“You brought me to fucking Mars? Are you serious, bro? Dude, this planet is so overrated,” Steve sighed, then belched. It was a big one, and all the slimy headlumps popped up in unison.

“S’cuse me,” Steve muttered, and raised his leg to piss on the wall.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Tinker (a #31ShortHorrors tale)

Marva’s fingertips trailed over the drawer fronts on the plastic cabinets that held her husband’s screws, nails, bolts, nuts, and other assorted bits. The wirecutters were hanging on the pegboard next to the ball peen hammer, under the regular hammer. A chalk outline traced where each tool should hang correctly.

She hosed the pegboard down and watched the water drip drip in a trail to the drain cover in the center of the smooth garage floor. Lining the garage walls were orderly sets of cabinets, countertops, and shelving, a chef’s dream kitchen, if said chef whipped up repaired Ferraris or Baby Benzs for dessert each night. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Almost.

A tilt of her head, the whir of an electric motor, the flick of an outside light. Marva raced out a side door and into her own kitchen.

Mickey was at the kitchen table working on his times tables. Mona was practicing a spelling list. The twins worked quietly, mouthing answers to themselves. Then, on an invisible cue, they traded schoolwork. Halving their homework time was a system they developed and perfected throughout second grade; now in third grade, they were masters of efficiency. Marva kissed the top of Mona’s blonde hair and gave Mickey a playful tug on the earlobe as she rushed to turn off the oven.

The roast was burnt. Charred. Dead. No longer alive. Not edible to even Eddie the Great Dane. He whimpered and lumbered back to his cushy bed near Mickey’s feet. The side door clicked and everyone jumped. Even Eddie.

“Honey, you’re home early!” Marva sang.

“What’s that goddawful – what the HELL, Marva? I just fixed that oven!” he snarled.

“Yes, I didn’t realize you’d fixed it,” Marva whispered. “I had used it on the old settings.”

The family sat in stony silence around the gleaming mahogany dining room table. Mickey and Mona ate two rolls each and picked at their vegetables. Their dad smirked at the meat as he ate four rolls and the rest of the cheesy broccoli. Marva pushed broccoli around her plate. Eddie lay at her feet in solidarity.

“Why don’t you have some roast, Mother?” her husband sneered.

“Afraid I don’t have much of an appetite,” she answered, her voice catching.

“Oh? You haven’t even TRIED IT,” he roared, rising from his chair and crossing the space between them in three strides. He slide the platter of blackness across the table, knocking Marva’s own plate on the floor. The platter skidded to a halt and the grease at the bottom took more time halting, stopping only at Marva’s blouse. She gasped.

He put his hand on the back of her head. “Kids, what do we always say about food we’re unfamiliar with?” his wide false grin aimed at the children.

“Try it, you might like it,” they answered in robotic monotone, staring into their plates.

“Yes, DEAR. TRY IT, you might LIKE it,” Father demanded. He shoved Marva’s face down onto the sharp, solid roast. She’d gulped air like she was ready to deep-sea dive, but he pounded it out of her. Again and again, he crashed her head into the roast. She felt the blood drip drip down her face before she felt her skin split open under her eyelid, across and under her nose, and just under her eyebrow. Her lip split open, the upper frenulum slit, black char lined her teeth and flaked off her skin in bits. Loud explosions of light, blue, green red, then purple, covered her vision. Three, four, eight, finally, times he slammed her head into the roast.

The meat, finally tenderized, lay in three large, solid chunks on the china platter, which was split in half. Marva had fainted sometime between blows three and six. When Father let go of her head, she fell like a sack of potatoes out of the chair. Eddie whined and licked her face. The children’s tears drip dripped down their cheeks, off the tips of their chins.

“Dismissed,” Father panted. Mickey and Mona bolted from their highbacked dining chairs and ran hand in hand up the center hallway stairs.

Another Christmas, another family photograph missing Marva. Another extra Rubbermaid barrel at the curbside, ostensibly filled with wrapping paper and boxes and frustration-free packaging. This year the raccoons snatched at the lid. Neighborhood dogs whined at it, knocked it over. The garbage men cursed the house and the scattered ceramic shards that lay about the overturned barrel when they arrived.

New Year’s Eve. A chance to start again. A chance to get everything right.

Marva stood gingerly, leaned against her bed, finding her balance. Sitter booked, check. Pizza ordered, check. She walked slowly to her closet, a hand on the wall for balance. The door slid open, and she pulled out a heavy clothes hanger covered in plastic, and a pink shoe box from the upper shelf. The plastic lifted up and over, floated to the carpet. She spread the dress out on the divet.

Siren red, strapless, sweetheart neckline, red sequins everywhere, a shower of them cascading between the bust. Marva took a long, hot shower, placed cool gel packs on her eyes, and dried her hair. Theatre makeup tonight.

She checked her form in the mirror. Veronica Lake curl. Purple full length gloves. Red stilettos. Dress down to there, slit up to there.

Ready for a fresh start. She spritzed on Chanel No 5 and carefully went downstairs to answer the door.

The pizza guy’s eyes nearly fell out of his head but popped right back into focus with his hundred dollar tip.

The sitter, “Va va VOOM Mrs. O! Lookit YOU! Ready to paint the town red!” the teenager squealed. The children chimed in.

“Ok now kids, be good for Stacy, hm? You can watch the ball drop but then it’s straight to bed!” she smiled and kissed the tops of their heads. “Remember, Mommy loves you more than life itself. Happy New Year!” and Marva fell into her kids’ group hug.

Stilettoes on the concrete, tap tap tap. Fingernails on the workshop window, tap tap tap. Knuckles on the workshop door, rap rap rap.

Her husband’s eyes, wide.

“I, I didn’t make plans, tonight… I thought you were still…” he stuttered.

“Recovering?” she purred. “I’m feeling much better now.” She trailed her gloved fingers from his white starched shirt collar down to his belt. “I thought maybe we could stay in?” she whispered. “Have our own little … celebration?”

“Um, sure, ok,” he mumbled. “Let me just wash my hands, I was…”

“Tinkering,” Marva finished for him.

“Yeah,” he said weakly, and vanished to the shadows.

A faucet on, then off, drip drip.

He walked back to the middle of the shop floor, to the drain. The lights dimmed, then out, click click.

“Honey?” he called out to the darkness.

Hands on his shoulders, she was behind him, kneading his neck, the tops of his arms, all the way down to his wrists. She pulled them slowly, massaging his palms, until zip pop, the zip tie was in place.

A kitchen chair banged at the backs of his knees. He as obliged, due his lack of balance, to sit down. Zip pop zip pop, two more zip ties around his ankles, to the chair.

“Honey, what is this?” he called weakly.

“Hmmm. What is this, indeed?” she answered from the darkness. A fluorescent shop light trained on the top of his head, pointed out where exactly his hair was thinning. Sweat from his temples, drip drip.

She sauntered from the shadows. The electric door opener was in her hand. She stood next to him and aimed it at the door. It rose, smooth and quiet as silk. His Lamborghini parked just outside.

Marva placed the remote starter in her husband’s right hand. “Go ahead,” she spoke gently, “try it.”

Click click.

BOOM!

Red, orange, yellow enveloped his face as he watched his favorite and best toy blasted to shards.

“Oops. I must have forgotten to tell you I fixed it,” Marva purred. “You should have used the new settings. One click, not two.”

“Bu bu but you didn’t TELL me!” he gasped. She smiled, touched her cheek, still visibly swollen.

She stood before him, ripped his shirt open at the buttons. Removed her gloves in one long, languid move after another, draped them over his shoulders. He could smell her. She lowered the garage door click click.

He looked her over, hair to stiletto. Eye caught on the slit in her dress, where it stopped at her hip. She watched him watch her.

“Remember the last time we made love?” she purred, bent over at the waist before him. He stared at her cleavage and nodded. “And remember what you did that you said you were certain I would enjoy?”

His face darkened. Her doctor had had a lot of statements about safe words and biting and how one shouldn’t bite one’s spouse’s nipples off.

Marva held the wirecutters in her hand now. She moved toward him, straddled his thighs, and settled down on his lap, slowly. As she moved, her dress didn’t keep up, and what would have been a nip-slip ended up as a smooth, bald breast slip, the light brown of her areola above her dress, no nub to top it. Marva rotated her hips on her husband’s lap, felt him harden beneath her crotch.

“I’m certain you will like this, it’s all the rage in the newest clubs,” she purred, “and it won’t it be nice for us to be married, a truly matching pair?”

She pressed the cold metal of the wire cutters to his chest with one hand, unbuckled, unbuttoned, and unzipped his trousers with the other. Released his hard cock from his boxers. “It’s been so long, I’m not sure I remember how to do this,” she whispered as she rose up.

His breath trembled.

She sank down on him and as she did, the blood ran drip drip down his front, into her dress and he cried out in pain, agony, ecstasy as she rode him and cut, every so slightly, a million tiny slits, until his nipple hung by a slender strip of skin.

She sat still on him, letting him rest, not letting him cum. She bent down, took the nub between her teeth, and pulled, spit it into the darkness of the garage. He opened his eyes, whimpered, looked down at her now-rotating hips and groaned. As he got closer, she snipped and cut and slit again, with the same result.

As she spit the second nipple across the room, she raised herself up off of his dick and looked at him. Blood poured down his front, over his trousers, onto the floor. His turgid, purple prick aimed skyward like a beacon. His red, blotchy, sweaty head lolled to one side. She disappeared tap tap into the darkness and then reappeared with one hand behind her back.

Marva slapped him hard. “Wake up, you bastard. Wake the fuck up.” He came to, and watched her wrap one cold hand around his flagging dick. She pumped, and he whimpered, “Please don’t.”

“Why not? Do you really mean you don’t like this? I was sure you would like it. As sure as you were sure that I would like it so many times.” She pumped faster and his dick got longer, harder, the veins stuck out.

“Please don’t, I don’t want this, you can’t do this,” he panted.

“I can tell from the way you’re breathing you must like it. Otherwise your cock wouldn’t be hard,” she said, words ice in his spine. “You know you want it, you know it feels good baby, just give in to it.”

She pumped him harder, kneeled down between his knees, her face inches from his cock, the heat of her tongue on the wet head of it. His hips bucked and his balls tightened, he felt the cum surging forth, and he cried out as the pipecutter closed around the based of his turgid dick and clack clack closed. In one motion, she stood, tossed the pipe cutter on the concrete floor (clang clang), and dangled his still spasming penis in front of his face.

“You know you loved it, otherwise you wouldn’t be breathing that hard.”

Drip drip down the garage floor drain. Thump thump, the bag into the trunk of the car. Splish splash, into the ocean. Chomp chomp, the Northern Great Whites had a surprise midnight snack off the coast of Cape Cod.

 

The Lion, and the Witch in the Wardrobe (a #31ShortHorrors tale)

Boston, Massachusetts, has always been a magical place.

There once was a witch who lived in a wardrobe. It was cozy and warm. She had a soft nest in the back corner, bordered by work boots, lined with old blankets. Above her, threadbare winter coats hung, casting off duck and goose feathers every once in a while. The witch, whose name was Lucille, had a pet rat named Honkers, who fetched the occasional snack for her from the kitchen.

The wardrobe itself was in the back corner of little Bobby’s bedroom, on the third floor of the house 333 West 3rd Street in Boston, Massachusetts. The street was narrow and old, and although this particular house was not narrow, it was old. Each house on the street was ancient as the city itself, and each was home to a magical creature. Bobby’s house had Lucille, the neighbors next door had a werewolf, the folks across the street had an elf. All of the old houses had enchanted protectors that had travelled with the original inhabitants hundreds of years ago.

As is common in old cities, Boston was undergoing something of a construction revival, and many of the original structures were being torn down and replaced with highrise condominiums. With each razed property, its magical protector evaporated in a puff of smoke. Because they were bound to their structures, only the whispers of pigeons and crows carried the news of loss from home to home across the city.

One bright winter morning, a dumpster was deposited in front of 333 West Third Street. It blocked the sidewalk on Bobby’s way to school, causing him to climb wayyyy up the snow bank and slide down the other side. Lucille heard the racket outside and sent Honkers to investigate. He returned breathless, but with a packet of saltines.

“What are we going to do? What are we going to do?” Lucille wrung her hands. “I don’t want to go up in a puff of smoke!” Honkers crawled into her lap and nestled in the crook of her elbow. Lucille stroked her pet’s fur and did her deep breathing exercises. Then she consulted her spell book.

She read all day until Bobby returned from school. She helped him with his homework. After his light switched off for the night, she read by the glow of the streetlights. She consulted crows and pigeons and a long-travelled hawk. She had deep discussions with Moon and Sun, Wind and Rain. Among all the oracles and wisdom, the only solution to be found was that most magical of transformations, that of changing the human heart.

Dawn approached, and she retreated to her wardrobe to develop her plan.

Lucille worked within and outside the physical world. When the family arrived home that night, their eyes were drawn to the details of the house: ornate woodwork, the curved banister, the grain of the hardwood floors. The sweet whistle of the old teakettle on the even older stove of the unremodeled small kitchen. The pocket door between the kitchen and the dining room. It was amazing what a difference a simple tilt of the electric lights could make in the illumination of a house.

Bobby sniffed the air as he walked in his front door. Cookies? Hmm chocolate chip? He set his bookbag down on a kitchen chair and peeked into the kitchen. His nose had not deceived him. Still warm, even hours after his mom must have left for work. He grabbed a plate, a glass of milk, and sat down at the dining room table to do his homework.

Bobby’s mom gave pause a moment at her front door. She squinted, tilted her head. Pulled two letters out of the old iron post box. The front door… ? She walked up to it, pressed her cheek against it. Warm. Not “Oh my God the house is on fire!” warm. Just, warm. She looked up at the doorknocker. Had that lion always looked so kindly? Had he always glowed?

Bobby’s dad parked his car at the curb and stepped gingerly around the dumpster on the front walk. Something, a black thing, whirred in his peripheral vision, drew it up towards the roof of his house. The chimney was smoking gentle puffs, the lights were on, music filled the cold clear winter evening air. He walked inside, his palm on the door handle longer than usual.

He looked around. Bobby was in the front parlor, assembling a jigsaw puzzle. His wife was just setting the final dishes on the table for supper. Chicken soup, by the smell of it. Fresh rolls.

At the end of the week, Friday evening, supper had been cleared. The dumpster still stood empty on the front walk. Bobby sat on the old sofa in the parlor under a new blanket – I found it in the bottom of my wardrobe – reading a comic book. His mother was at the other end of the sofa, sharing his new blanket, knitting a pink bonnet to accompany the pink sweater she’d just completed. His dad sunk into the recliner, catching up with the day’s news on a tablet computer. The ancient radio that the previous owners left was on, sputtered play by play of the Celtics game. The radiators clicked and sizzled.

Lucille did not let down her guard.

Monday, an architect banged the lion’s doorknocker. The lion growled. Bobby’s father opened the door, stepped aside as the tall dapper man walked in and appraised the space. He followed Bobby’s dad around the house and made notes on a legal pad. Another bathroom, clear out the attic and create a walk-up loft, open up the kitchen, skylights… stainless steel appliances, granite countertops are all the rage, yanno… open floor plan, master suite…

The pocket door pinched the architect’s pinky finger and refused to let go. Lucille, at the top of the stairs, raised an eyebrow at it, and the door relented. As they walked out, a floorboard popped and the architect tripped, flailed, and overturned the hall table as he crashed to the floor. Bobby’s dad helped the man up and escorted him out the front, as he did, he searched for whatever it was the architect could have tripped over, and found nothing. He looked around the parlor, the hall, up the staircase. Wistful? Sad?

He patted the doorknocker as he turned to leave, it was warm. Did it purr? He stroked around the outside of it, felt it vibrate. Huh, never noticed that feature before. Must be some old-fashioned technology? He stroked under the lion’s chin. The lion smiled, low vibrations filled his fingertips. He furrowed his brow, puzzled, then turned abruptly and left for work.

Thursday morning, Bobby’s mother stepped from her hot shower into the warm, muggy bathroom. She glanced at the bleach bottle and realized she hadn’t needed to spray for mold in several weeks. Not everyone is that lucky, especially in an old house, she thought. The mirror cleared up quickly and she applied her makeup, did her hair. Not even hotel bathrooms dry out this quick, she thought.

Saturday morning, the contractors arrived at 333 West 3rd Street, Boston, Massachusetts. A dump truck, a crane, and an excavator arrived to take up residence on most of the street, outlined by small orange cones, like chalk drawings around dead bodies. The beep beep beep of a bulldozer as it backed into place. Crows circled above. Bobby rubbed his eyes and sat up in bed.

He looked around quickly, scrambled out of bed to the window. His nose pressed against the thick swirled glass. He turned and ran, then skidded to the stairs, slid down the banister. His parents were at the open door, inside the threshold, talking to a tall, thick man in a bright yellow construction helmet and orange vest. Cold wind ripped through the open doorway. The sheers fussed over the windows in the parlor.

“We … we need some more time,” Bobby’s mother said to the contractor.

“Ma’am, we’re contracted for this property for a certain job, on certain days. If we don’t start today, we can’t finish on time, and that backs up our entire schedule. If we don’t start today, I can’t even guarantee we can do this job this year,” he answered. He tapped his clipboard and addressed Bobby’s dad. “I’ll give you fifteen minutes to make a decision.”

Bobby’s dad shut the door and turned to his wife. “Hon, I thought we had this all figured out? We have the drawings and plans,” he took her hands in his, “we were going to make this our dream home.”

She looked up him, tears welled in her eyes. “I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t tear this house down. I don’t know why, I just can’t. It feels like we’re killing something.” Tears dripped down her cheeks.

Bobby stood behind them, gripping the curved, warm banister. He rubbed his chin on it. Lucille crept to the top of the stairs. With Honkers peeking out from his perch on her shoulder, she peered round the edge of the wall.

“Mom, don’t let Daddy tear the house down, please?” he hugged the warm smooth wood of the banister. “I like it the way it is. It’s safe like this. If they poke holes in it,” he pointed at the crew outside the parlor window, “it won’t be safe anymore. It won’t be warm.”

Bobby’s dad took his mom into a hug, waved to Bobby to join them. Bobby looked up at the sun carved into the woodwork above the front door, smiling down at him. The window sheers fluttered gently. The glass doorknob twinkled in the bright winter morning light. Vibrations in the floor tickled the soles of their feet through their shoes.

“Feels like purring,” Bobby’s mother murmured.

“I thought you wanted to have the new place done before the baby comes?” Bobby’s dad asked into his wife’s hair.

“I want the baby and Bobby to have a home. This feels like home,” she said into the soft fabric of his t-shirt. “This. Not some light beige, sanitized flat space. This,” she kept on, “this feels like a home.”

Her husband sighed into her hair and nodded, let go of her and his son. He opened the door, looked at the lion, his eye level. The lion met his gaze. He put his index finger to the lion’s mouth, felt the vibrations, a warm breath. “I get it, Watchman, I get it,” he whispered. The lion winked at him.

One by one, the gargantuan yellow construction vehicles abandoned West 3rd Street, beepbeepbeep by beepbeepbeep. One by one, crows lifted from the roof of 333 West 3rd Street, Boston, Massachusetts, to spread the news of how this small battle was won. One by one, a candle, a cigarette lighter, a reading light alit in the topmost window of each home across Boston where the news had spread.

And that is how the Watchman Lion, along with the Witch and her pet rat in the wardrobe, saved the magic of Boston by finding what humans prize most: the feeling of home.