Home Sweet Home- Amélia Cognet

Home sweet home…Alice thought numbly as she lowered the last box to the decrepit wooden floor. The place was modest, old, and would need some work. Surely she could handle it. At least, she was free of him, that controlling, possessive maniac.

            Alice stood there, trying to convince herself that being alone in this silent, dusty apartment was a good thing, then began unpacking. She didn’t own much and would need to buy some furniture, but she could do this the next day.

She decided to take her kitchen utensils out, settling the porcelain teapot her mom had bought for her onto the counter, hoping the space would feel cozy this way. As she worked, she noticed a thick smell floating around her. Scrunching up her nose, Alice looked around herself to find the possible source. She turned to the sink and bent over it, squinting at the dark pipe. Maybe something had rotten inside. She crouched to open the cupboard under the sink. The doors moved a little but something inside seemed to block them shut.

            Weird.

            She could worry about it later. For now she wanted to do as much work as she could, eager to find a sense of comfort before dark. She headed to her small bedroom and put fresh sheets on the bare mattress lying on the floor, then rose to her feet and admired her work. It still looked pitiful but at least it was clean.

A floorboard groaned. Alice froze in place, unease settling in her guts, straining to listen.

Don’t be stupid, you’re just scared to be alone, that’s it.

The apartment was quiet. It must have been the wood relaxing after the hot day.

She snatched her purse with a clammy hand and hurried outside, craving the fresh air. She’d seen a few fast food places on her drive here. Alice locked the door behind herself and exited the building on weak legs.

When she came back holding a bag of Chinese food, she felt refreshed and soothed. Being alone would take some time getting used to, especially for the scaredy cat she was, but it was better than living with a mad man. Alice unlocked the front door and was assaulted by that musky smell again. She clasped a hand over her mouth and winced, looking around the living room.

Something was off. Out of place. Alice’s heart picked up the pace as she tried to figure out what, then her eyes fixed on the boxes against the opposite wall. She could swear she hadn’t come around to open them yet, but there they were, their flaps bent outward, as though someone had pulled them open. Alice approached the boxes and leaned over, then sniffed. It reeked. Faint, greasy stains dotted the cardboard.

A shuffling sound made her freeze. It was so brief she almost missed it. On edge, Alice rushed to her right and burst into the kitchen, listening. The musky smell still lingered but nothing seemed out of place.

She settled the bag of Chinese food onto the small counter, no longer hungry, and checked into the bedroom and the bathroom, the back of her shirt damp with sweat, each time expecting someone to jump at her. The apartment was empty and silent. Alice hurried back to the front door to lock it with a shaky hand. She couldn’t keep herself from staring through the peephole, certain she would see him standing on the other side. But the hallway was empty, of course.

He’s not here, Alice. He hasn’t followed you and he hasn’t been in your apartment.

Paranoia was making her imagine things. The noise she’d heard had come from outside, surely, and she had opened the boxes herself and simply didn’t remember it.

The evening passed in a flash and Alice squirmed under the sheets and lay in the dark, staring at the gray rectangle painted by moonshine on the opposite wall.

Despite the crushing fatigue, Alice couldn’t sleep. It was like sleeping in a stranger’s house. She’d been uncomfortable during the day already, but now the place felt disturbing, grim, and unwelcoming, as though it didn’t want her. It made her skin crawl. Her sudden solitude weighed on her, crushing her chest as her eyes burned. Her mind raced and swirled for a while until she succumbed to a disturbed slumber.

A stench tickled her nose and pulled her out of her doze. The same musky and thick smell of sweat and dirt coming from the kitchen and coating the boxes in the living room. Nausea rose through her as she stirred and rolled onto her back. The odor lingered, overpowering and suffocating. Alice opened her eyes.

A dark shape stood at the foot of the mattress. Alice’s stomach dropped and a shiver crawled down her spine. A scream crept through her throat but died before it could escape her mouth.

The shape swayed slowly, letting out a ragged breath. Its hair stuck on end and its fists looked like they were clenched tightly.

I’m dreaming. This is a nightmare. It’s not him.

“Mine…” the hoarse voice whispered.

This snapped Alice out of her torpor and the scream finally escaped her mouth. The humanoid shape seemed to shrink under the noise. It staggered then shot out of the room in a flash.

Alice listened to panicked footsteps running away from the bedroom, her body drenched in cold sweat. She reached for her phone and pressed the button. Her chest tightened painfully. She’d forgotten to charge it and the batterie had died.

“Shit, shit, shit!”

Something broke in the kitchen, making her cry out in surprise. A heavy silence fell over the apartment. She listened, shaking, her blood pulsing in her ears, her nerves raw. Whoever the man was, he hadn’t left the apartment. She needed to reach the front door and get out. Fast.

She looked around herself and her heart sank. There wasn’t even an acceptable makeshift weapon within reach. Most of her things were still packed in the living room. She rose on cotton legs and tip-toed to the living room.

Just get to the door and run.

Alice crept out of the small corridor and peeked inside the kitchen to her left. The room was dark, but the thin strands of moonlight glowing through the window lit the shattered porcelain pieces scattered on the floor.

The smell wafted around her, making her gag. Something was out of place here. Something else than the broken teapot. The knot in Alice’s stomach tightened as she understood what.

One of the cupboard doors under the sink stood open. Her breath caught and her heart leaped in her throat. Did he come from there? Was he hiding in there this whole time?

“My… home…”

The cupboard door slammed shut. Alice stumbled back, her chest tight, and a hand clasped over her mouth.

There’s a man in my cupboard.

The front door was within reach, no one stood in her way, but Alice stayed there, rooted to the floor. The man hadn’t attacked her. She had lived with a violent man, and the one hiding in the closet was different. He was scared. Her legs moved on their own as she approached the kitchen and turned the lights on. The bag of Chinese food had been opened, and what used to contain Chow Mein now stood open and empty.

Alice walked on feet that felt like bricks and crouched in front of the cupboard. She raised a shaky hand and wrenched it open. She jerked backward and shuffled away frantically, heart pounding, staring at the person curled up under the sink. The wild, dark eyes surrounded by deep creases looked back at her, the disheveled hair framing an old woman’s grime-coated face.

“My home,” she said, her voice rasping. She reached for the doors with greasy hands and pulled them shut.

#

            “Home sweet home.” Alice smiled as she looked around her furnished living room. Sunlight poured through the windows, warming her exposed skin. The place looked clean and cozy and warm, and after days of cleaning she had finally gotten rid of the ambient stench.

            She headed to the kitchen and brewed some tea in the brand new teapot. She missed the old one, but this one was objectively prettier. Once her cup was ready, Alice sat at her small kitchen table and opened a bag of chocolate chip cookies. The scrunching sound of the wrapper would draw her out, surely.

            A smile stretched Alice’s lips as one of the doors under the sink opened a crack, letting a clean hand peek out. She leaned over and dropped a few cookies in the upward facing palm, glimpsing the sparkle of dark eyes for half a second. The hand full of cookies disappeared as the other one reached out, frozen in mid-air expectantly.

            “Nuh-uh. If you want tea, you’ll have to get out. You’ll make a mess in there.”

            The hand retreated and the door shut slowly, delicately. Alice let out a small chuckle and sipped the warm beverage.

            She’d told her she could sleep on the couch at night, but she liked it in there. She probably felt safe, the way Alice did now. Alice had wanted her independency and freedom, but the idea of living alone had filled her with dread.

            She was never really alone though, was she?

Women of Horror Part 1

These are a few woman I found. Each one is talented and unique.

L’Erin Ogle 

Let’s take a look at L’Erin:

L’Erin is a writer, ER nurse, and mother living in Kansas. She loves scary movies, scary books, and all things that go bump in the night. She has stories available at Psuedopod, Daily Science Fiction, Syntax & Salt, Metaphorosis, and Vastarien. She is hard at work fighting COVID but hopes soon she’ll be able to focus back on storytelling.

The Interview:

1. Was the publishing process hard?

Once I got past the rejection part, the publishing process was pretty easy. Morris Allen at Metaphorosis bought my first story, and then four others, and he was a dream to work with. Helpful and specific with rewrites, gave advice easily, and very pleasant. Contracts were pretty standard and easy to read and payment was always prompt. I have heard nightmare stories from others, but I haven’t had any problems.

2. What is your favorite piece you have had published?

My favorite piece is “The Girl Who Ate Galaxies,” published at Syntax & Salt.

3. What gives you inspiration?

Inspiration starts for me as the good old what if—What if there was a house full of dead girls hellbent on revenge? What if the hunger for love turned into devouring any&everything? What if dead girls came back to life and they brought something dark with them? I’m a write as you go writer—often the story tells itself.

4. What advice do you have to people who want their work published?

My advice for those trying to get published is—know your markets and who you are submitting to. Send everything in Shunn manuscript format unless directed otherwise. Take feedback and criticism as a plus—if an agent or editor took the time to comment, it’s because they saw promise either in the piece or the prose. And know rejection is just a part of life.

5. How do you feel women are represented in horror? Do you think it should change?

I think women are finding stronger representation in horror, both as creators and as characters. I grew up on Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St, Halloween in grade school. Scream and the sequels in high school. Not the fiercest of female leads, not ALWAYS helpless, but close. And the dirty girls always got offed first. One of my favorite recent horror flicks is the Descent, which is composed of some bad ass women, a complete opposite of the movies I grew up on, and one of the first I remember focusing just on women. I grew up loving and devouring Stephen King. But as I’ve aged, I’ve struggled with finding strong female characters in his works. I liked Vic McQueen in NOS4A2 by his son a lot, though. I can tell you two of my stories snapped up by female editors did not fare well with the first publications I had sent them too—they received some criticism that were exactly what the others loved about them. There’s always the difference between markets and the readers of that publication. Most of my work features a female protagonist that’s pretty pissed off (write what you know, I suppose) and I have found those are a bit harder to sell. 

I’d always love to see more women in horror, more horror geared towards women, stronger characters. I love Gillian Flynn’s work—I’d consider Gone Girl and Sharp Objects horrifying. It used to be the women in horror movies were crazy, or slutty, or stupid, or vulgar. The one sweet virginal character was always the heroine. What I love about Camille from Sharp Objects and Amy from Gone Girl is yes, indeed, they were disturbed, but they were fully fledged characters, multi dimensional. I love seeing how women, both as heroines and villains, have evolved and become much more complicated and complex. I don’t think it should change so much as keep evolving.

6. Tell us about an experience you’ve had as a writer, good or bad. Something to show new writers what the field is like. 

My first sale was to Morris Allen, at Metaphorosis. He asked for a rewrite of “Nobody’s Daughter and the Tree of Life”. I had been submitting to Metaphorosis regularly—for two reasons other than liking the stories. The turnaround was 1-3 days, and Morris gave personalized rejections for every submission. The rewrite process was excruciating. I’d never worked with an editor or anyone on a rewrite before—so Morris had to explain things like line breaks, proper spacing, etc to me. He has the patience of a saint, that’s for sure. I’ve sold him several more stories as well as been published in a couple of anthologies he edited. It’s been a great experience. C.C. Findlay, former editor of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction was also such a great source of feedback and kind words. And one story I wrote, “The Girls Who Ate Galaxies”, was snapped up by Syntax&Salt team who showed me it was ok to keep writing angry, broken female protagonists and not hold back.

The joy of one acceptance can make up for a thousand rejections in one thrilling e-mail.

Links:

Memory Drive by L’Erin Ogle – literally stories

Timelines by L’Erin Ogle – Syntax & Salt Magazine

The Girls Who Come Back Are Made of Metal and Glass – L’Erin Ogle

PseudoPod 651: The Coven of Dead Girls

The Girl Who Ate Galaxies by L’Erin Ogle 

Mean Streak – L’Erin Ogle – Metaphorosis Magazine 

Personal thoughts:

L’Erin is so nice and fun to work with. She is a very good writer and is working hard being an ER nurse. You can link to most of her work with the links above or go to her page: L’Erin Ogle – Writing in the Dark About the Dark. Please check her out and give her support.


Kriss Orlea 

A little inside to who Kriss is: 

Kristina Orlea is a geek that writes horror, silly children’s stories, poetry, and is an amateur artist. As a writer and a poet she has been sharing her love for the art since 2000. She has been a featured guest speaker for National Poetry Month and Women Writing for a Change’s VDAY celebration.

Kristina shares her life with her husband Josh and their son Zack. The three reside outside of Cincinnati along with five cats, two German Shepherds, and an incredibly angry vacuum cleaner.

The interview:

1. Was the publishing process hard?

Self publishing is fairly easy. Amazon does make it very user friendly but there are some things (like formatting) that does require trial and error. Which is fine cause if gave me a chance to understand some of what is required that I might not have learned has a publishing house taken the lead.

2. What is your favorite piece you have had published?

My favorite piece published? Hmm, I’d have to say my first poetry book “Thoughts of Chaos & Desire”. Something about your first, ya know.

3. What gives you inspiration?

I’m a writer and an artist- so I find inspiration in pretty much everything. I once wrote a short story based on an elderly woman I saw at a grocery store.

4. What advice do you have to people who want their work published?

My advice to people looking to publish is get ready for rejection. Expect it. Plan for it. 

But, never stop trying!

If you’re looking to self publish – never stop learning. Ask for advice and feedback from friends and colleagues. Be open to criticism but don’t let it define you.

5. How do you feel women are represented in horror? Do you think it should change?

I feel like with most things, women can be underrepresented. For so long women were viewed in horror as such – “Oh sure, you can be sexy, scream like a banshee, and be the virgin still alive; but write the story? No you’re talking nonsense.”

But I feel like a lot has changed and more and more women are busting through that veil and writing, directing, and acting in kick ass horror. 

Representation matters. So as long as women keep writing and supporting each other, it can only get better!

6. Tell us about an experience you’ve had as a writer, good or bad. Something to show new writers what the field is like. 

One of the coolest things for me has been hearing my work made into an audio adaptation for a podcast. The addition of music and voice bundled with my words was definitely an exhilarating experience. 

Writing a creepy piece of horror that now exists as an audio production that can infiltrate the ears of people is really freaking cool!

Links to her work:

Out of the Madness – Welcome to my cabinet of curiosities! I hope you find something that captures your eye or possibly your soul.

Personal thoughts:

Kriss has an extremely fun personality. I can tell from the few conversations we’ve had and just reading her website. She has three works on amazon: Thoughts of Chaos and Desire, Thoughts of Love and Truth, and The Darkness Within: Everyone Has a Story…  All of which are free on Kindle Unlimited or if you don’t have that, they are all under $2.00. Please check her out! She is so cool! I love her already!


Rachel Weaver

About Rachel:

Rachel Weaver is a 23 year old Minnesota resident that has enjoyed the horror genre since the age of 5. When she’s not being seen watching Hereditary for the 100th time or scrolling through her Shudder account, she could be found writing at coffee shops, thinking about theater with her boyfriend or playing with her two cats. She has been an aspiring writer since finding her niche with horror writing at the start of the pandemic. She posts weekly on her Wattpad account when she has time and is thinking about hitting up CreepyPasta at some point. Happy Haunts guys and ghouls 👌

The Interview:

1. How do you feel women are represented in horror? Do you think it should change?

I feel like since the 70’s it’s been decent representation. Protagonists like Nancy from Nightmare on Elm Street and Lori from Halloween are Prime examples. I don’t think it should change from the films I’ve seen. 

2. Tell us about an experience you’ve had as a writer, good or bad. Something to show new writers what the field is like. 

I haven’t had a lot of bad experiences as a writer; my best advice is to always be open to constructive criticism. I wrote a short horror play when I was in college in 2017 and a cast member told me that the dialogue was crappy, but I took it with a grain of salt.

3. What made you want to write?

Really good movies and escapism, or finding a place where I can be happy. 

4. What is your favorite piece you have written?

Monstro Therapy. A short play starring classic movie monsters like Dracula and Wolfman. 

5. What gives you inspiration?

My boyfriend, who always encourages me to write. 

6. What advice do you have to people who want to start writing?

If you want to start writing, do it often and keep going till you find a style. It took me a few years to figure out my style but it’s so worth it!

Links:

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wattpad.com%2Fuser%2Frcweaver-16%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR2vkXURAhpnW9TYXzfxjld8TyuEDQnhT2dOYcS1YrgDMkSvoqZCSFY-PiE&h=AT1kkb–azgbWRrmKgKoxshEYt1DPZmzp6pFSQQeeZZpmzoaNZUjrGbEdkgmB09YY5KL4xmuP8R7jqJ2xXYVggUTZzmmMnGPm5-gJe0iz5gcnDMJZ_NxOvjVPcl8OKS4t0fWgR4-MMOPpvx2_dG2 

Personal Thoughts:

Rachel is a personal friend of mine so i might be a little biased. She is super cool and creative! I love her work and her ideas. So check her out and support this cool woman of horror.


Shelby Scott

Bio:

Shelby Scott is from Southern California and currently lives in Los Angeles. Her favorite past times are writing and cooking. 

The Interview:

1. What’s your favorite story you have written or read that will or has been on the podcast.

My favorite story I’ve written is probably Nuclear Flight. I thought of it when I was actually on a plane and I completely terrified myself at the idea of “what if we just can’t land? Where do we go?”

2. What made you decide to do a podcast?

I really wanted to get my own work out into the world, and I wanted to combine my love of ASMR and horror. I thought it might be something a few people might be interested in, and come to find out almost 3 years later, there are way more people than I thought there would be who are into falling asleep to horror stories.

3. What gives you inspiration?

The world around me. My stories are usually pretty rooted in normal everyday things. Like grocery stores, airplane flights, and dealing with aging loved ones. Things that we deal with often enough that I want my stories to be a sort of thought in the back of your mind. I aspire to write stories that really stick with you and sneak up on you long after you’ve heard or read them.

4. What advice do you have for new writers and new podcasters?

To new writers, I like the advice that Stephen King once gave about putting your finished work away for 2 weeks without looking at it, so when you read it again it feels like reading someone else’s work. You catch a lot more plot holes and mistakes that way. My own personal advice is to read your work aloud. It gives you a different perspective and it’s a good way to catch if you’ve used the same words or phrasing over and over again, and it’s easier to see if you have any dragging and unnecessary parts of your narrative that can be edited out.

To new podcasters, I say treat your first episode like the first pancake. Throw it out. Or at least don’t upload it. Do an entire test episode from start to finish, full length. Take that and learn and let people you know and trust give you constructive criticism. Also make sure your sound is as professional sounding as possible. You don’t need fancy equipment, but research the equipment you do have to make the most out of it. If you sound like you’re recording into a tin can in an echoey bathroom people are going to turn it off after a few minutes.

5.How do you feel women are represented in horror? Do you think it should change?

I think it’s getting better, but I have seen things within the horror podcast world that concerns me. More than once I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter people expressing that they refuse to listen to female hosted podcasts because “women have annoying voices”. It’s a really gross deep-rooted misogynistic view and I really hope the fact that more and more women are beginning to rise up in the podcast world will change that!

Links:

Scare You To Sleep: Podcast 

Personal Thoughts:

Shelby’s voice is great and when you hear it on the podcast its just magic. She really brings the characters to life. She is so nice to work with and I’m really glad I got the chance to do this! So please listen to the podcast and see what I’m saying!!

Descent – Mark Gilmore

Today we have a guest writer from England! Isn’t that the coolest? Growing up in Tennessee I never thought I’d work with someone from that far away, but here we are! So please enjoy this creepy tale from Mark Gilmore.


First a little about Mark:

My name is Mark Gilmore. I am from Liverpool, England, home of the best football team. I am 47 years young and love to read and write stories. I have been writing properly now for the last twelve months. I started writing back in 1994, with my first story, Pallida Mors. I wrote a few more before life stepped in and I was sporadic in writing. I joined a writers group in early 2000’s but still nothing arose from it. I did write a few more stories, non-horror ones as well. Again life stepped in and I didn’t write anything for years. Though it was there inside, a burning irritation that something was missing.

I decided to give it another go. I went beck to college and gained my English GCSE. I re-read then re-wrote my old stories hopefully improving them. My life then went off on a tangent for the better. I met someone new and through her encouragement I joined another writers group. These were instrumental in helping me over come my lack of confidence. With their help I wrote some more stories; which I put together and self-published a book. I am still learning the craft and will still be learning for the foreseeable future.


Descent

The sun rose into the cloudless azure heavens. Birds sang and danced gracefully across the sky. The day was beautiful, alluring, and enchanting. It was all you could ever wish for on a summer’s morning.

All he needed to top it off was a steaming cup of tea. 

This was the first thought Craig had as he lay in bed. He was staring at the window which was a bright white square. He didn’t want to move but today is the day. Today he is going to turn a corner. Today he was going to get that spark back and do some work. He was going to finish his manuscript and get it sent to the editors.

So with renewed vitality, he climbed out of bed. He pulled on his dressing gown with a bit more vigor than required. Craig more-or-less strutted down the stairs. He swaggered into the kitchen, picked up the kettle, and went to fill it up.

Craig turned the tap on. A little dribble of water came out. Deep in the pipes, a gurgle could be heard traveling towards him making its way out. Once it reached the tap there was splutter and a spatter before brown sludge erupted from the faucet.  

The disappointment was an understatement. Craig could feel the sunny disposition draining from his body like sugar dissolving in hot water. He looked at the horrible thick sludge sitting in the sink. It was a putrescent, filthy, pestilence slithering down the drain. 

‘For fuck’s sake!’ He slammed the kettle down.

All work for the day was forgotten. He knew the manuscript was not getting handled today. He will get it out but it will sit on the table untouched. Every once in a while he will look at it. That is the only attention it will receive.

He managed to drag himself upstairs to get dressed. It was a meager attempt at fighting the dreaming melancholy. It helped a little, not enough to dispel the emotions. After pottering around the house for half the day he was fed up. The water still hadn’t come on and he needed a Cup of tea, milk was not quite doing it for him.

Craig decided to go out for a walk. There may be a café open or a shop.

The air is still, no breeze disturbed the heat that was stifling. Craig was walking down the lanes which were usually busy with cars especially on summer’s day like this one. Today people had other ideas. The roads were empty. Then he saw why. 

Up ahead was roadworks. They had closed it down to one lane with traffic lights. He could see it was United Utilities were doing the work. That was not true. There were no workmen to be seen. A van was parked on the grass verge; it was dark and silent. Craig should have left there and then, and carried on with his walk. There was a nagging question burning in the back of his mind; where are the workmen?

There were plastic barriers around a hole in the riad. There was a little digger idling next to the hole looking abandoned. The whole site had the same feeling to it.

I should leave, he thought. This has nothing to do with me.

But that hole was so much bigger than it needed to be. Not that Craig had any idea how big the hole should be, or for that matter what they were working on. All he knew was that the water was off in the area and it was not a good day to have no cold water. These workers should be trying to get the water supply up and running as fast as they could. That was not the case here, these workers were non-existent.

People just don’t care enough these days. Probably buggered off for some dinner. Come back two hours later and pack up and go home. Fuckin’ twats.

He had turned to go home. He wasn’t in the mood for a walk now. The day was ruined. He needed to crawl back into bed and forget it had ever happened. He noticed on the tarmac oil had been spilled. He leaned over the barrier for a closer look. 

Again he should have run home screaming. Instead, he squeezed through a gap in the barriers. This is how he saw the pool of blood dribbling down into the dark mouth of the hole.

Craig carefully hunched down and peered into the pit. As he pulled his mobile out of his pocket he noticed it was a sinkhole.

 The road had collapsed and one of the workers had hurt themselves. They must have taken him to the hospital and that’s why no one was working here. I feel shitty now. I need to call the authorities. 

Craig stood up intending to call the police, ambulance, and fire brigade, all three if they would come. The scream stopped him.

The scream echoed from deep in the bowels of the earth. It rolled out like distant thunder across the sky. Craig jumped, lost his balance. His foot slipped on the dry rubble. He flailed his arms to no avail. He was falling. Craig landed on his back in the middle of the pool of blood. 

‘Ooomph.’ The air whooshed out of his lungs. 

He could feel the warm blood seeping through his shirt. He told himself it was warm from the sun and not because it was fresh. Craig slid down into the bowels of darkness.

Craig’s yell echoed off the chamber as he slid deeper and deeper. Darkness swallowed him like the whale swallowing Jonah.

There was a break in the tarmac where it went to a vertical drop. Craig was scrambling to stop himself. The momentum had got hold of him there was no stopping now. Craig hit it. It ripped the skin from his back. His screech rang out as his blood flowed, seconds later he landed at the bottom in a heap of agony. 

He unfurled from the fetal position with yelps of pain. Craig looked up into the bright blue sky, a few clouds had formed now as the day cooled into mid-afternoon. 

The screams still echoed out from the tunnels. Someone shouting indistinctly, before more screams.

‘Is someone down here?’ Craig shouted.

It went deathly quiet. Then a groan drifted out of the darkness. Craig had taken a couple of steps from the wall and could see a high-vis vest on the floor. He started to make his way towards it. 

‘No!’ he whispered stopping himself. ‘This is what got you down here in the first place. You know curiosity killed Craig.’ He thought he had stopped but when he looked down at his feet they were still moving. Too late he was at the vest.

It was darker than dark. His eyes were not adjusting as quickly as they should. He read somewhere that if you closed your eyes for 30 seconds they will adapt to the surroundings. Craig could not keep his closed for more than 5 seconds because of the noises drifting out to him. The screaming and groaning were scaring him. 

He closed his eyes and managed 10 seconds; it helped a lot. He grabbed the man’s shoulder and turned him over. There was a squelch as the body flopped onto its back. Craig screamed; he could not stop screaming.

The man had no face, no features at all, just a mess of flesh and bone. His throat was torn out, as was his chest. The intestines were strewn across the ground. There were bits of lungs and liver and kidneys, the whole of the man’s insides was now on the outside. 

Craig scrambled back to the opening. He had to get out of here. The ground was dry making footholds non-existent. The pain in his back made it harder. The groaning was getting louder.

Craig turned around. In the dark, he could see glittering orbs floating in the air. They were coming towards him. He needed his mobile. He patted his pockets knowing it was not in them. The mobile was sitting on the edge about twelve feet above his head. It was buzzing. He could see the name Alice on the screen. 

‘Fuck! Alice? Alice?’ He shouted. ‘Shit! Am I fuckin Alice now falling down the fuckin rabbit hole?’ 

The groaning was practically on top of him. 

He leaned back against the tarmac wall and hissed in pain. He had nowhere to go. He couldn’t climb out and he could venture into the tunnels. He had no idea where they went or a light. 

Then he saw them. Five or six men shuffling out of the darkness. They were the missing workmen.

‘Am I glad to see you,’ he said. ‘Is there a way out down there?’

Craig could see the one in the lead was dragging his foot. Now that must hurt. My back stings like fuck but that must be a killer. The foot was pointing in towards his other foot. It looked like the ankle had snapped off at the bone. They were all covered in blood. Their clothes were drenched with the stuff. They were inches from Craig.

Craig had never punched anyone since he was in school. He was not sure he could even do it until it was done. His fist went slamming into the face of the man. He was surprised to see it not stop at the nose, the fist shattered the bones of the skull and kept going into the brains. 

He pulled it out with a squelch. Craig couldn’t take his eyes off the blood and brains as they dripped off his hand. He was stunned. There was a thump as the body fell to the floor. He had forgotten all about the other men closing in around him.

It was too late; their fingers were clawing at his flesh. Craig screamed as the digits dug into his flesh and started to rip it from his bones. The five of them fell on top of Craig. With their hands and teeth, they began to tear him apart. His screams died as one of them sank its teeth into his throat and ripped it from his body.

Craig lay forgotten on the ground in pieces. The five of them turned to the wall and started to climb. Their fingers dug into the tarmac easily. Inch by inch they climbed closer and closer to the dying sunlight.

Share With Me- Jaime Villarreal

Another guest writer. Woot Woot!

A word from our writer:

I’m Jaime Villarreal. I’m an aspiring screenwriter and writer of short stories. Some of my stories are featured in Killer Nashville Magazine. I’m currently working on my first novel, a unique tale of horror.
Thank you for this opportunity

Here is my short story titled: SHARE WITH ME
Enjoy!


Her name is Clarissa. She never told me. I read it on her name tag. She works at the gas station on the corner. Every time I walk in there to buy gum, she offers me a unique smile. One that has meaning behind it. Maybe there’s something that she wants to share with me. What could it be? No one ever smiles at me like that. It makes me want to know everything about her. Even, if it kills me.

I step through the door of my favorite bookstore. The bell jingles overhead, announcing my entrance.

“Hello,” the clerk says. “Welcome to Crawling’s.”

I come here at least once a week to browse through art books. The clerk acts like she’s never seen me before. Clarissa recognizes me. She doesn’t say anything, but at least, she recognizes me. I should reach over this counter and strangle her until she passes out. Then, she’d recognize me. She’d never forget my face, that’s for sure.

“Is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?” asks the clerk.

“Magic,” I reply. “Books on magic.”

“Magic tricks.” She points toward the middle of the store. “Third aisle. On your left. Can’t miss it.”

“No,” I reiterate. “Real magic.”

“Real magic?” The look on her face is one of arrogance, not inquiry.

I’m thirty years old. Why would I want to start learning magic tricks? I want the good stuff. I want to cast spells. Sure, magic tricks might keep a girl intrigued for a minute, but I want magic that will make her open up to me. Share things with me.

“Voodoo,” I say, hoping the bimbo gets the hint. “Curses. That sort of thing.”

“Occult Philosophy,” she says, rolling her eyes. She points toward the back of the store. “Last aisle. Entire section on the right. Knock yourself out.”

Before long, I find exactly what I’m looking for and take the book home. I don’t have all the required materials to make this thing. It’s called an all-seeing poppet, a tiny doll made of black and red yarn with crimson beads for eyes. It’s pathetic when I finish, but it will have to do. I don’t have much time. The spell calls for a full moon and that’s tonight.

I enter the gas station. I’m met with that same unique smile. I pay for my gum and hand the all-seeing poppet to Clarissa.

“What’s this?” she asks, raising a brow.

“A gift,” I reply. “A good luck charm.”

“It’s cute.”

“Glad you think so.”

“Not sure what to say.” She shrugs with her palms turned up. “Thank you.”

“It’s just a little something to remember me by.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” I turn to walk out.

Later that night below a crisp full moon, I completed the spell from the book and hung myself in the backyard. It was a few days before they found my body.

Clarissa has me hanging from her rear view mirror now. I was hoping it’d be a necklace. She still thinks I’m cute. She looks at me with that same beautiful smile and shares with me her dreams.

Old Flame – Rachel Weaver

We have another guest writer!! Yay!

Rachel Weaver is a 23 year old Minnesota resident that has enjoyed the horror genre since the age of 5. When she’s not being seen watching Hereditary for the 100th time or scrolling through her Shudder account, she could be found writing at coffee shops, thinking about theater with her boyfriend or playing with her two cats. She has been an aspiring writer since finding her niche with horror writing at the start of the pandemic. She posts weekly on her Wattpad account when she has time and is thinking about hitting up CreepyPasta at some point. Happy Haunts guys and ghouls 👌

He had not seen her since they had left high school. Yet here she was now. Standing on
the other side of the railroad tracks that acted as borders around Jonathan’s town.
Jonathan stared in awe and confusion at the beautiful woman also known as Jeanette
Peters. She was, as his classmates called her, a knock out. She had a perfectly proportioned face
which came complete with a small nose, perfect sized, plump lips, high cheekbones, and large
icy blue eyes so sharp it can slice a man in two. A man like Jonathan Druthers.


And they had.

Looking at Jeanette didn’t fill Jonathon’s stomach with fluttering monarchs and dandelion
wishes, but rather with pins and needles.


Jeanette was part of the “popular crowd” back in the days when Jonathan had to submit to
an obnoxiously loud bell and carry absurd amounts of reading material wherever he went. But,
Jeanette only added to Jonathon’s pain in high school. She would join in with the others when
they mocked and bullied Jonathan.


When Jonathan tried to confess his love to Jeanette, recounting how close they were
when they were children living on the same block, she shot him with those penetrating eyes and
just walked away with a jock wrapping his buff arm her skinny waist.

One event stuck with out in his mind the most. Like a sore thumb throbbing from a
hammer being dropped upon it. It was the day when he almost died because of Jeanette.
He tried so hard to suppress the memory, to let it past as he so often did with many of his past
teenage antics. But, he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
Staring into Jeanette’s icy gaze, the memory flashed through his mind.

He was only 16, desperate for friends, and had an ass wider than the Grand Canyon.
Jon winced. Just thinking about his former size was enough to make him sick with dread.
It was a crisp fall day, and Jon was bombarded by a couple of Jeanette’s henchmen, also known
as a couple of jocks, that asked him where he was going and that they would keep him company
along the way.

There was a lot of things wrong with Jonathan at that time, but being dumb was not one
of them. He knew all too well that this would either end with a bloody nose or some kind of
bruise. He was some kind of walking punching bag to these guys and he just accepted that.
He accepted that he was what everyone said he was.

Nothing.

Everything else was just a blur to Jonathan, but what his mind couldn’t recall, his senses
could.

He tasted the salty, iron sensation of blood in his mouth. He felt the scars on his thighs
and stomach burn intensely than ever before. Even after twenty years, the scars still stung and
throbbed from time to time. Whoever said that scars healed over time was so full of it.
The worst thing to come over him though was the ringing in his ears. His Tinnitus was
acting up though there wasn’t a loud sound anywhere near him.

But now, locking his eyes with Jeanette, he felt everything. It was her. I was all her fault.

“What!?”, he shouted, a little hoarse and wary, “what do you want!?”

Jeanette didn’t move. Her eyes still staring.

Then she grinned. Which unsettled Jonathan. Her grin was enough to make even the most
ferocious creature turn tail and run.

He shook off his trance once more and moved closer to her, parking himself on the other
side of the train tracks.

“I don’t understand.”, he muttered, starting to shake, “you’re not suppose to be here.” For
the first time since he first spotted her, he noticed that Jeanette’s feet were hovering over the
ground, defying the law of gravity.

“I killed you.” He said at last, “I killed you so many years ago. How is this possible.”
Jeanette still said nothing. After a few moments of silence, a laugh started to rise from the depths
of her stomach to finally out of her mouth, making Jonathon fall back on the tracks. He let out a
yell of pain, screaming out for help that would be miles away from where he laid. His ears ringed
louder than ever before, making it impossible to hear anything else but the high pitched rings. He
tried to get up but he couldn’t move a muscle. He was paralyzed to the tracks as if he was tied to
them. He felt constricted to them more as Jeanette floated to him.

Jonathan started to cry. Ugly cry. Hollering and pleading for Jeanette’s forgiveness. Until
she was looking down at him, her gaze figuratively slamming his jaws shut. His smile had grown
wider. Unnaturally wider. So wide that it’d make the Cheshire cat swivel up and hide out of sheer
terror.

All Jonathon could still hear was the ringing coming from his own ears. But he felt
something. He felt the train tracks shiver and vibrate, making his scars burn and his heart raced.
He knew… he knew a train was coming.

Jeanette knew, too, as she turn her head to glance at the oncoming monstrosity making
the tracks batter Jonathon’s back more.

She turned her head back to Jonathan sharply. At the same time, Jonathon’s ears stopped
ringing. Now all he heard was the train and his heavy breathing.

He knew he didn’t have much time, so quickly spit out all that he could think to say.

“I’m sorry”, he said, whimpering.

Jeanette’s expression was blank until she finally said, “I’m not.” Then she vanished,
leaving Jonathan as the train rushed in

I’m not dead – Shawn Moreau

Today we have a special guest writer!! I’m so excited. His work is very well done and very interesting.

I am not dead.I used to think of that as a good thing. I remember, whenever I was having a bad day, or if I was just in a bad mood, I used to close my eyes and remind myself that it could be worse. I used to remind myself that I wasn’t dead.Back then I believed that death was the worst thing that could happen to a person. I actually believed that.Now I say the same words, every morning when I wake up. I am not dead. And I weep.Or maybe I don’t. I guess it depends on how you define the word. If weeping is an action of the soul, a deep and bitter howling of the mind, if weeping is an emotional pit, then I weep. If weeping is the actual physical process of crying and wailing, then I don’t.I can’t.

“Good Morning, Mr. Moreau.” It’s the nurse with the freckles, Amelia. She’s my favorite, she talks to me while she works. The only other person who talks to me anymore is an old preacher who comes by about once a month and reads a chapter out of the Bible before moving on to the next room. Amelia opens the curtains letting the morning sun in, then gets to work. She checks me over for any changes, switches out bags here and there, all the while telling me about her date with her boyfriend the night before. I try to focus on her words, immerse myself in the moment. I know what comes next, and the only peace I can give myself is in blocking that knowledge from my mind, pushing it away. Or at least try to. Eventually she picks up my chart and looks at it, shaking her head. “Still with the samples. I swear, Mr. Moreau, as long as we’ve been doing this, the doctor probably has more of you bagged up in his lab than in this room.” It isn’t the first time she’s told that joke, but I’d laugh if I could. It’s probably true. Every morning for the last four years the nurses have been taking samples from me. Hair, saliva, urine, blood, skin. From what Amelia’s told me, and from what I’ve overheard, there are five other patients who have the same treatment as me. All from the same doctor. It’s an odd treatment, according to everyone who works here, but he’s an odd man. A genius, they say, but an odd man. So they follow his instructions. After all, why would a doctor give his patient a treatment he didn’t need? They even say he’s had some success. I don’t know how that can be, but sometimes I dream. . . After she collects the samples, the treatment begins. In my head I’m shouting. Screaming. Jumping off the bed and racing towards the door. In the real world, I lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling as she rubs an alcohol swab over the inside of my arm, and prepares the first injection. It feels like someone started a fire beneath my skin. The liquid spreads through my body, and I feel every second of it. The world becomes hazy and the pain is so intense that for a while I can’t feel anything else. I can’t see, or hear, or smell, or taste. The entire world is burning, and for a brief moment I believe, as I do every morning, that this time they went to far, and I’m finally dead. It isn’t until the second injection that I know I’m wrong. The second injection feels, for lack of a better word, heavy. My muscles cramp under the strain and my limbs ache, like they’re being dragged down, through the bed, through the floor, down into the sewers. For the first few seconds the experience is only mildly unpleasant, like lying under a pillow while a fat man sits on top. Then the medicine reaches my organs. My heart is the first to be effected. Suddenly I can feel it, beating in my chest. But each beat sends out a tremor, and the blows become more and more painful, like my heart is trying to beat its way down through my back and out of me. I am surprised that I am not bouncing off the bed. Next I feel it in my lungs. Amelia doesn’t seem to notice any change in me, but I feel as though I am being smothered. I know that air is entering my lungs, but I gain no relief from it. The world seems to spin above me. I pray for oblivion, but nobody answers me. Then the drug reaches my stomach and bowels, causing them to cramp uncontrollably. When the pain recedes enough for me to see the world again, Amelia is gone, and I feel a sense of overwhelming relief. Until I realize that I can taste chalk. They put the pills back into my routine. I try to shudder, but am no more capable of that than jumping out the window and flying to safety.

The best definition of success that I ever heard was from a girl I dated back in my school days. She used to say that success was when you made enough money doing what you enjoyed doing, to live the way you enjoyed living. By that definition, I was a success by the time I was twenty. It just happened that the way I enjoyed living only required me to have a running van and enough food to get by on, and what I enjoyed doing amounted to playing the guitar a few hours a day on a street corner for change.  I also bought and sold some weed, when I could afford to, and didn’t end up smoking it all, myself .I told myself I wasn’t going to do that forever, that I’d eventually get a band, start picking up gigs, or maybe find some rich girl to shack up with somewhere. Honestly, though, even then I didn’t think those were likely, I just didn’t see any point to aspiring to the life my parents had lived. Nine to five jobs, thankless bosses, all so I could have kids who I’d never get to see. So I aspired to the unlikely and didn’t care much if it ever happened. Even a blind squirrel occasionally grabs a nut, and one day I did run into a bit of good fortune. A guy I shared some weed with told me about a bar just outside of town that had an open mic night, and let the bands that kept the crowds happy have a few free beers while they were performing. It was a short enough drive that the beers covered the gas, and the girls that came in were mostly from a nearby college, which made them young enough to still be into broke musicians. It was my own, personal nirvana. Until the night of the accident. “Play that ‘July Sunrise’ song.” The bartender, a cute brunette with big boobs pushed another beer across the counter to me. I’d been trying to get into her pants for months, but she was impervious to my charms. Or maybe she was just into girls. She flirted with anyone who hit on her, but I never saw her go home with anyone. As I climbed back onto the stage, it occurred to me to wonder if she really liked my music, or if she was just sending me up so I’d stop hitting on her. Not that it mattered, every time she put me on stage, I had a fresh beer in my hand, and that was all it took to keep me happy. I strummed idly for a few seconds, took a drink of my beer, and started up the song. “Streets waver in the heat, and I’m sweating out the beat, another long and painful day in July. Praying for some wind, or some shade I can hide in, but all I feel is a burning in reply. ”The bar was almost empty. Not counting me and the bartender there were all of three people in a place that usually fit a hundred. It was spring break and most of the kids were gone, but since open mic doesn’t cost management anything but a few drinks, they kept it on the schedule. I didn’t much care about the how and why of it. What little money I’d had that morning was still in my pocket, and my head was buzzing like a mason jar full of flies. I finished up ‘July Sunrise’ and moved into, ‘Ode to a Girl I Barely Remember’ giving the bartender a sly wink. A few lines in, the door opened and two men walked in. They weren’t regulars, and they weren’t college students. As drunk as I was, they still seemed out of place. For starters, they were too old for the bar. At twenty seven, I was usually one of the oldest people in the room. These two were in their forties, at least. Both were bald. Not balding, and not with close cut hair. They were completely bald. They were both dressed in button down shirts, and slacks. But the thing that made them stand out the most was the way they moved. Well, not how they moved, but how they moved together. Sometimes when I’m playing in front of a large enough group, when the music is loud enough, and I’m on my game, sometimes I’ll see people moving in rhythm. It isn’t dancing, exactly, they walk, or they take a drink of their beer, or they talk, but they do it in rhythm with my music, unwittingly they take my music and embrace it, let it guide, not what they do, but how they do it.It was like that with the two men who came in, except that they weren’t moving in my time. It was like they were both listening to something that I couldn’t hear, and every step, every motion, was in time with that beat. I wouldn’t have noticed it if one of them had come in alone, but with both of them in the room, I couldn’t help but see it. They moved slowly towards the front counter, pausing as they approached the other patrons, their noses flaring, then moving on. At the counter the brunette smiled and asked them what they wanted. One of the men answered, the other leaned forward, his nose flaring briefly. The girl’s smile faded, though I wasn’t sure if it was something that was said, or the sniffing that bothered her. After a few seconds she nodded politely and poured each man a beer. I had planned to keep going for a few another song or two, since I still had half of my drink left, but from the girl’s expression I thought she might appreciate a knight in shining armor coming to her rescue. I hopped off the stage, almost twisting my ankle when I landed, and headed for the bar. “Hey, beautiful, don’t suppose I can get this topped off?” I said, ignoring the two bald men as completely as I could manage. They didn’t return the favor. Instead one of them leaned in, inhaling deeply, but instead of leaning back, as he had with everyone else, he leaned closer and sniffed again. I glowered at the man, but he took no notice of my aggravation, instead, turning his attention to his companion, and smiling. The friend turned his attention to me and grinned. “That was a great piece you were just playing. Let me buy you a drink.” I’ve never been the kind to turn down a free drink, no matter where it’s coming from. After that drink, the bald man bought me another. We talked. We talked about where I was from, and how I lived, and how many friends I had. We talked about my family, and my blood type. Every few questions we would pause, just long enough for them to buy me another round, and then there were more questions. The night became a blur. I do remember that the bald men left before I did. And I remember that, try as I might, I couldn’t talk the bartender into letting me spend the night with her. I also know that at some point in the night I decided that I wasn’t too drunk to drive. The exact order of the events and how much time separated them I can only guess at, but there is one memory that stands out, one very distinct image that is ingrained in my mind for all eternity. I remember headlights coming towards me, fast. And behind those headlights, just barely visible, I remember seeing what appeared to be the top of two bald heads inside of whatever was about to hit me. And then I woke up. In the hospital. I was alone. I was paralyzed. Not dead yet. That’s what I told myself I wasn’t dead, and as long as I wasn’t dead, there was hope. As long as I wasn’t dead there were things to look forward to. As long as I wasn’t dead, I could know that things weren’t as bad as they could be. Because I could be dead. Nurses came and went, checking on me. I tried to signal them, tried to get their attention by blinking, or twitching a finger, or sheer force of will. All to no end. Then I met the doctor. He moved oddly, I thought. It was like he was trying too hard. It was like he had only recently gotten his body, like he was thinking about each motion, mimicking what he’d seen, not simply moving, the way people do. And he was bald. Completely bald. Like the men I’d met at the bar. Then he touched me. I hadn’t thought about it when the nurses were taking their samples and measurements, the fact that I could still feel, but I thought about it when he touched me. I thought about it because he felt so wrong. His skin was too stiff, not like skin, but a glove made to look like skin. As he took his measurements his eyes caught mine, and in an instant I knew. I knew that he knew. He wasn’t looking into the eyes of someone he thought was a vegetable, he was looking into the eyes of a human being. He was looking into the eyes of a desperate, miserable man, and he was pleased. He was enjoying my suffering. He hated me. Truly hated me. If I could have moved I would have torn away from his touch, I would have run from the room. But I couldn’t. The next day the injections started. Such pain. I’d never known that kind of pain. I’d been beaten before, I’d been in accidents and come down with diseases that made me pray for death. I’d suffered before that day, or at least I thought I had. The injections were more than I could handle, more than I could think about. I went mad. I know I did. The world twisted around me, the meaning of everything changed. I left my body, or at least convinced myself that I had. Floating through the world, tethered to my body by a thread. The universe compressed into the size of a small hospital room, and my pain became a billion supernovas. My mouth became a black hole, swallowing my screams before they could leave me. I don’t know how long I lay there, curled up in the comfort of madness, it could have been hours, or days. Eventually I returned to myself. Though when the next morning came and another series of injections coursed through my veins, I regretted my sanity. It didn’t take me long to start hating the nurses. I knew they didn’t know what they were doing, but it was hard to care about that when I was suffering such agonies at their hands. But as much as I hated them, I hated the doctor a thousand times more. And I feared him with equal measure. If I’d known what was still in store for me, I would have feared him more.

The chalky taste fades in about an hour, and as soon as it’s gone I try to convince myself that it wasn’t there at all. That I was mistaken. I don’t believe it. I never believe it. I just want to.My first year in the hospital, I passed the time by counting the holes in the tile over my head. I named them. I made up stories about them, lineages and relationships, affairs and wars, treaties and betrayals. I calculated a rough estimate of the number of holes in all of the tiles in my room. I named them. I made up songs about them and sang them over and over again. My second year in the hospital, I decided to relive my life. All the parts I could remember, in as vivid of detail as I could manage. Sadly, I hadn’t paid much attention to my life, and the alcohol and drugs had wiped away a lot, I could only come up with enough memories for eight and a half months. After that, I switched to the Zen approach. I try to live in the moment as completely as I can. I try to focus on each second, each ticking of the clock, and see that instant as an eternity to itself. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s Zen or not; I didn’t learn much about eastern philosophy before I got turned into a vegetable, and I can’t exactly go looking it up now. Anyhow, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. They wait until night to come. I don’t know if it takes that long for the chalky tasting medicine to take effect, or if the night nurse is the only one who’s in on it, but they always wait until night. Then they come. Two of them. The doctor and his assistant. Both smell odd, and both are bald. They unplug me from my machines and take me down the hall to the elevator. I try to focus on the sounds from the rooms that we pass. Mostly there are snores. Sometimes I hear patients muttering. Sometimes moaning. Then we’re in the elevator, descending. Descending. I swear, it gets hotter as we go, like we’re falling into the bowels of hell. Actually, it isn’t heat, it’s fear. Terror. Eventually we stop, and they pull me out of the elevator and down the hall. The heat disappears as they drag me into the operating room. Actually, it’s the morgue. I know because of the smell. And the cold. And because once, after they pulled the lamp over me, but just before they turned it on, I could see bodies reflected in it. They strip off my clothes and lay me on an icy table. Then they begin. Cutting. They cut into me. Into my stomach. Precise cuts, always in the same place, they slice me open, and I try to scream. Try to throw myself off the cold metal square. I feel the knives slicing into me, cold, hard, invasive things, violating the core of my being. It goes on. And on. And when I think it cannot possibly go on any longer, that they must have sliced every nerve, and severed every part of me an inch at a time, they cut some more. I wish I could pass out from the pain. I wish I could block it out, or meditate my way to some kind of peaceful oblivion. But I can’t. Eventually, though, they do finish, and both men set down their blades. That’s when the assistant disappears from view. I can hear him, still in the room. He walks to something close by, a refrigerator, I think, which he opens. And then he returns. He has a metal container. Stainless steel, and covered in ice, though the assistant holds it with his bare hands, unconcerned with the cold .The doctor removes the top and reaches in, digging through whatever is inside for a few seconds before removing a slimy, squishy ball. He sets it on the table and digs through the container again. He pulls out six of the disgusting, grayish green things before closing the container back up. The assistant returns it to wherever he got it, and then makes his way back over to me. The cutting felt like a violation, like a brutal assault. Somehow, what they do next feels worse. The slimy things that they put into me don’t technically hurt, but they feel wrong. It’s like having your arm twisted, and contorted into an unnatural position, then forced to stay that way, only it’s happening inside my body. Organs shifting, being pushed aside, as a slimy substance slips into my blood. I’m not simply violated, I am corrupted. I am unclean. When the last of the things is placed in me, they sew me back up. They sew those things into me. Back in my room I try to count the holes in the ceiling. I try to pick at memories from my youth. I try to live in the moment. I try everything to distract myself from the things inside of me. The things that grow, with each passing day. The things that move about inside of me. The things that I can feel slowly nibbling at me. I sleep in short, restless bursts, dreaming monsters crawling through my stomach, out of my mouth. Dreaming of animals ripping their way out of me. Sometimes they devour me. Sometimes they just leave, and I lay, helpless in bed, as nurses come and go, checking my pulse, and taking samples, ignoring the gore pouring, endlessly, out of me. Then one of the things inside of me twists, or bites down, and I wake up. The next morning Amelia comes in again. Smiling, chatting, checking up on me, making sure I don’t have any bed sores, telling me about the guy she met last night. I try to listen, but can’t. The corruption inside of me is growing, feeding on me, tainting me. Then she gives me my shots. The things inside of me like the shots. They’re always more active afterwards. Always hungrier. This isn’t the first batch that I’ve had inside of me, and I can’t help but wonder how I’ve survived so many of them feeding on me. Perhaps my paralysis helps. Perhaps my body is better able to handle the internal damage because so little else is happening. Or perhaps that’s what the shots are for. Or the chalky taste. Or maybe this was all a dream, maybe I was really in a coma and everything that was happening to me was a delusion brought about by endless self loathing. No. I didn’t hate myself that much. I didn’t hate anyone that much. It’s easy to lose track of time when you can’t move, can’t communicate, when your days are a blur of routine. But when you have things inside of you, when you have parasites lodged between your organs, slowly devouring you, you start to pay attention to the passage of days. One month. That was how long they left those things in me. Thirty days, exactly. I used the tiles on the ceiling to count down my time. There were four tiles directly over my head. Four tiles, each tile with four corners, that made sixteen. The first sixteen days were one corner of a tile. The tiles made up one large rectangle, a rectangle with four corners. Sixteen plus four made twenty. The rectangle had three vertical bars in it, one on each side, and one on the middle, it also had three horizontal bars in it, one on each side and one in the middle. Twenty plus six made twenty six. Then there were the four tiles. Twenty six plus four made thirty. Thirty days. Every day, after my injections, when the things inside of me were most active, when they were hungriest, I would count off my thirty days. I would count how many had passed, and how many were left. Front to back. Back to front. I calculated the number of hours I had endured this time. I calculated the number of hours I had left. The number of minutes. The number of seconds. I double checked my math. Thirty days. Twenty nine. Twenty eight. Amelia got moved to a different shift, and I got a surly old crone who talked to the equipment more than me, and even then, only to curse at it. Seventeen. Sixteen. An old man down the hall from me died in the middle of the night. His heart gave out, according to the nurses. I envy him. I spend the next several days trying to stress my heart out, trying to make it crash. Eleven. Ten. Nine. The priest who comes by to read to us has gotten to revelations. It’s a very visual book. I can practically see it, as he’s reading. For a few seconds, I can almost forget the things crawling around inside of me. Then one of them takes a bite. Three. Two. One. They come for me again. I know what’s coming, the cutting, the agony, but it’s a price I’ll willingly pay to get these things out of me. Through the hall, down the elevator, into the morgue. I’m eager, this time, looking forward to the pain. They cut me open, and I almost black out. The eggs that were in me have hatched, or molted, or something. The things they pull out of me look more like spiders, but with extra legs. The doctor and his assistant handle them carefully. Lovingly. They move them off of me and into something nearby. One of the dead bodies, I think. I hear a crunching sound as the creatures begin to eat their new host with reckless abandon. I want to throw up. The doctor and his assistant pause, looking down at me. I wish they’d get on with it. The sewing isn’t pleasant, but once it’s over I’m back to plain old ordinary misery again. I look forward to that. “He won’t be able to handle another batch.” The doctor says .I’m surprised. They never talk. “He might be able to handle three.” The assistant argues. “No.” The doctor shakes his head and pokes at something inside of me. “He’s done.” Done? Am I done? Will they finally let me die? The assistant nods and moves out of my view. The doctor leans in, pulling a pen light which he uses to check my eyes. “Time for your miracle cure, Mr. Moreau.” Cure? I stare at him, confused. He can’t cure me. With everything I know, with everything they’ve done to me, he can’t risk me living. He can’t. . .The assistant steps back into view. There’s something on his shoulder. It looks like the things they’ve pulled out of me, but larger. A giant spider with many limbs. But they aren’t limbs, not like a humans. Not even like a spider. They’re tentacles. Long, thin things. The creature slithers down the assistant’s arm and into the gaping hole in me. The corruption I’ve felt before, the tainted feeling at having the young creatures in me is nothing next to this. Even paralyzed I can feel my body reacting, twitching, trying to reject the thing. To no avail. It climbs into me, and its tentacles stretch out, slithering throughout my body, everywhere, out to my limbs, to my head. I feel things cracking inside of me, bones breaking, muscle tearing, as this thing, this creature, makes room for itself. The last tentacle, the slowest of the bunch, slithers along my spine, along the inside. It climbs up, and up. My body spasms as it climbs through my spine, and into my brain. The two men watch, faces expressionless. Finally the doctor reaches down, pulling my skin back into place and begins sewing me back together. As he does, I move. My hand raises up in front of me, and my head turns to look at it. My fingers curl into a fist, then uncurl. But it isn’t me moving them .It isn’t me. I sit up. No. Not me. It sits up, the thing wearing me sits up, and looks around. “Do you know who you are?” The Doctor asks. The thing wearing me opens my mouth, then closes it. I can feel something happening in my brain. Not physically, the brain doesn’t have any nerves, but I can feel. . . something. The thing wearing me opens my mouth again, using me like a puppet, its slimy tentacles manipulating my body from the inside in a way that makes me feel ill. “Moreau.” The thing says.“ Good.” The doctor pats his shoulder. “Lay back down. We need to take you back to your room. Tomorrow night we’ll practice more.” The thing wearing me lies back down and closes its eyes. I scream in my mind. I howl, and grind my teeth, I weep. In my mind. The thing wearing me takes no notice. The thing wearing me. It can’t do this to me. It can’t. It can’t use my body while I’m still in it .I’m not dead! I’m NOT DEAD!

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