THE FIRST THING I HEARD THAT NIGHT was an annoying tap- tap- tap, as my head lay on the pillow.
I guessed it was some fucker knocking on my door, that ludicrous ‘I know it’s late, so I don’t want to be too loud, but I want to wake you’ type of knock. I opened my eyes to see a flitting black blur of a- shit!- a bird? or even a bat? Heart racing, I leapt out of bed, and fumbled for the light switch. The illuminated room showed a small black moth- no bigger than the palm of my hand- flapping manically against my bedroom wall; it seemed to want to bypass the going around and, quite pathetically instead, just go straight through it. Why not just go out the way you came in, idiot? Actually, how did you get in?
I’m not getting any sleep till I get that fucker. So I opened the window, grabbed a magazine and thought I’d start with the wafting option. I took huge, theatrical waves with the magazine, hoping to blow it away from the light bulb it had suddenly decided to dance around. Nothing– it didn’t move it. Not a damn inch. In actual fact I was probably helping the li’l devil to get his groove on, because it just seemed to excite him more, and he kept moving, bopping and getting down, totally at my expense, as I stood there naked, bringing a copy of FHM up and down, for absolutely no reason.
So, it’s time for some baseball is it? Rounders- cricket- whatever. I rolled up the mag and took a random swing: Miles away, I need to get on his level. I looked around for my computer stool, moved it under the light and got up. My first hit- YES!- got him, and he span in a downward spiral till he pitifully hit the floor without a sound. However- my body decided to unbalance, and therefore, I followed him.
THE LAST THING I HEARD THAT NIGHT was the sound of an agonising, bone-crunching crack, as my head hit the floor and my neck snapped.
When they finally caught me – trying to dissect my seventeenth victim – they knew that the standard punishment protocol wouldn’t be enough. For I was special and I needed something special. They kept me caged for most of the time, with usually two or three guards staring at me from behind the criss-cross window, and fantasising about all the things they would want to do to me. Nothing was painful enough. Nothing would last long enough.
I heard the state judge actually wretched as he was read a list of my crimes – to each one I had confessed, supplying every detail I could remember – which was all of them. When he took the case to his seniors in the Department for Justice, they agreed that I wasn’t fit to stand trial and I should be sentenced immediately. The truth was it was they who weren’t fit to stand the trial – I had been rehearsing my performances in my cell, practicing and labouring over each and every word. They had even given the guards ear plugs to stop them from hearing the disgusting details.
After three weeks I got word from my lawyer – via letter, I might add – that they had turned to an “outside consultant” to find an appropriate way of dealing with me. They didn’t want to execute me, they wanted me to experience hell on earth. This consultant was a horror writer, unpublished, relatively unknown, but whose imagination was left to find a solution to this predicament.
Eventually, the keys jangled and the heavy door lock snapped open and in stepped a gaggle of riot guards and the prison warden. They chained me, cloaked and bagged me up and carried me on a stretcher out into the long hallway and into a waiting prison van outside. I felt the undulations and vibrations of the rough tarmac as I was rolled outside. I inhaled violently against inside of the body bag to suck in the fresh air one last time. I was sure they were going to torture me, maybe even crucify me.
We drove for nine hours straight.
It was dark when we arrived, the cool night air smelled sweet and the insects triumphantly announced my arrival – filling the darkness with a hiss of excitement. I was known throughout all species. I was the devil on earth.
They laid me down on the muddy ground and unzipped the body bag, hauled off my hood and unblocked my chains before stepping away. “What is this?” I asked.
“Hell. You’re in Hell. A Hell we have created just for you,” snarled the warden.
I clambered to my feet and arched my back to take into view the house. A decrepit, old wooden house shrouded in dying oak trees which pre-dated the industrial revolution. The paint was peeling off the walls, panels of wood splintered open here and there. I laughed and stepped inside.
“What’s in here?” I asked as they followed me – going nowhere further than the porch. The warden looked anxiously at the ground and then the horror writer – whom I presumed was the older guy with the beard and the glasses.
“A monster.” He answered. And with that they shut the door.
I gazed across the darkened hallway, allowing my eyes to adjust to the poor light. I saw dozens of darkened figures staring back at me. I stumbled over to the wall and groped for a light switch and found none. Eventually, I found an oil lamp with matches and brought light to the room. I held it up to see the dark figures staring back at me were mine. I laughed. I was the monster they were referring to. I broke every mirror in the house. Punching, kicking and head-butting with grotesque delight. When I was done I slept, giddy from the rage, on the floor in the back room.
The next morning I awoke to find every mirror had been replaced. I shouted out insults to the men watching outside. And once again I broke every mirror in the house.
They promised me that the monster would come, and with time, it did. After four nights I began to go insane. My bloodied, scab-crusted, evil reflection found me in every room, round every corner. I smashed and begged them to stop. Each of my seventeen victims tortured me with eyes each day.
But not their eyes. Mine.
Richard David Lawman is the chief Writer/ Director/ Producer of ‘The Putty In Your Hands’ production company. He can be found and contacted at http://richarddavidlawman.com/ and http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/richard-lawman/24/966/182
The enormity of it all was overwhelming, stifling and petrifying, all at the same time, yeah, sounds dramatic I know. To feel like this is hard work, it’s not something you would choose and if you could take a pill to make it disappear, believe me you would. I lay on the warm damp grass down near the stream where I often played as a child. It had been many years since I had visited this spot, because since then I had kept well away- for good and bad.
Although the sound of the water was soothing, it also reminded me of darker days, days I had spent many years trying to forget. The area had not changed at all over the decades; I still recognised it all. Unlike other areas nearby there had been no development, this was due to the ground being so unstable, no developer, no matter how determined, would ever try to build on this.
Why had I come back here? Well that would take a lot of explaining, but I will try and be as brief as I can.
My accomplices have all gone now, mostly through drink drugs and –ahem- their behaviour.
Time passes– moving rubbish from the flats I once lived in, the store room must be emptied. Because of the humidity I can feel sweat beading across the top of my head. I reach the lift just in time to see it shut, I wait. Time passes– thinking, pondering, dare I say (I am) dreaming?
I have always wanted to go back twenty years (and down twenty metres), before this and that (mainly that), before I made decisions I now deeply regret.
Lying on the damp grass, I thought I heard the body beneath me move.
David Partington is a well respected ceramicist and artist whose work can be seen at http://partingtonspots.tumblr.com/ He can be contacted through http://www.facebook.com/partingtons.pots
One wall full of knives, another full of guns; Sam tentatively reached out to a silver pistol, that had took his interest, and-
Sam swung round to greet the figure who had, obviously, opened the study’s door very, very quietly.
‘I’m Sam, the reporter who… you must be Mr… Dean?’
Sam scrambled for words for which he felt more confident about, when writing them on paper or keying them into a lap-top.
‘I’m Dean, yes.’ He smiled. ‘You’re a gun fan?’
‘God, no. Hate them, hate them. I mean…’ Now, in Sam’s head the story was fucked and there was no way back. Grab Lydia from the front room and get gone, and try to keep the mouth almighty shut in the meantime.
Dean stared at the speech mangling journo.
‘Don’t worry. Many people don’t like guns. Probably have good reason too- in the wrong hands… and all that.’
Dean backed up to the open door and placed his arm out to invite Sam into the other room.
‘Shall we start the interview?’
Sam uttered not and took Dean’s offer as a fresh start.
Lydia was eyeing up a series of Rorschach inkblots upon the front room’s wall. ‘These are fascinating, but is it me, do they all look like…?’
‘Lydia,’ Sam almost panted, ‘shall we get to it.’
Dean made himself comfortable in an Edwardian-era chair.
‘Well then…fire away.’ Dean winked at Sam.
Sam started to feel calmer, this was his second story for ‘Enquiring @The Edge’ Magazine, but this one was the biggie and he was beginning to feel the pressure. Silly really but Sam’s nerves always kicked in at the wrong time. And the right time. Actually, any time.
‘So, Mr Dean you are a collector of urban legends, modern myths as it were, when did this interest start?’ Sam’s confidence was building incrementally, and his damp brow started to feel less so.
‘Well, first I’m actually a doctor of science. I have doctorates and PhD’s in many fields including ontology, cryptozoology and demonology.’
Lydia turned away and smirked.
Sam tried to show no reaction but he heard someone say ‘oh!’ and then he realised it was him.
‘Does that shock?
Sam shook his head in a state of confusion, nether agreeing nor disagreeing. ‘Well it’s just that our story is about your work as a story-teller and collector of tales, not the fact they could be…’
Sam turned to Lydia, who had got up and started to wander; she took in the ink blots on the wall again, so Dean couldn’t see the smile plastered on her face that she just couldn’t shake off.
‘So- what if I had proof, proof of things that are ‘other’, things that can’t be explained? In my den, my collection is not just of aesthetic value, but also evidentially.’
Sam stared at his notes, and then ignored what he’d prepared, working on instinct. ‘So in the back room-there are many weapons can you tell me- is that another collection or are they actually used?’
‘Why do you ask? You know the answer.’
Lydia was checking the room for the best angle for a photo, a view to get the whole gothic ambience in, when Dean’s question peeked her curiosity.
‘What? What does that mean?’
Sam blinked feverishly at Lydia.
‘Sam? Are you..?’ She winced.
Sam breathed in heavily for luck. ‘Because there is no dust upon the guns, unlike the rest of the room; so… You either polish them obsessively or…’
‘Or..?’ Dean’s eyes widened.
‘They are in constant use.’
And with that he brought a pistol up from his dressing gown pocket and pulled back the hammer.
‘What is going on here?’ Now Lydia joined in with Sam’s nerves.
Mr Dean’s eyes deadlocked on Lydia’s. ‘Sam’s not here to report on my collection, he’s here to finish it.’
And with these words, Dean got up from his chair and stood by the blood red curtains opposite him.
‘Yes, Sam, time to show your friend, partner, lover who you really are!’
Lydia grabbed her head in confusion and panic- ‘How the hell do you know all about us?’
Dean opened a single curtain with one quick, dramatic flourish, like a Phantom at an Opera, to show a perfectly round, glowing full moon.
‘Your sweating and strange disposition has nothing to do with nerves but what you are inside- what’s trying to get out!’
‘What are you talking about?’ screamed Sam, as the backs of his hands started to blister till they bled and his lips went into spasm.
Dean cocked his head to the side, in great curiosity. ‘Oh- don’t tell me you don’t know? You don’t know what you are? Oh, how delicious, you must wake in the most ludicrous situations with nothing but blood and guilt.’
Sam stood from his chair and begged at Dean, ‘What do you know about me? Can you help?’ His neck started to incrementally lengthen and he opened his mouth to let out an unholy scream but instead a wolf’s snout came through, not stopping until Sam’s flesh ripped in two and the remnants of his skin- like an abandoned suit- hit the floor.
Without a thought Dean aimed at the beast and shot through its heart with an easy aim. He moved swiftly to it, as it slumped, twitching upon his expensively carpeted floor. From beneath his a gown he uncovered a pure silver blade- crescent shaped- and with a swift cleave he took off the creature’s head.
Lydia stood in silence, mouth a gape, almost fearful to make any kind of noise or speak. Dean stood up, triumphant, holding the wolf’s head in one hand and the gun in the other.
‘What did I say,’ Dean snorted with laughter, ‘these things exist, but no-one would believe me. That’s why my den’s collection stays a private one… for now.’
‘C-c-c-ollection? What….?’ All Lydia could manage was a stammer and half a question- not much for a person’s final words.
He dismissively shot Lydia dead, and walked to the back of the room. In front of him lay a wall of books, he pulled out a tome named ‘The Urban Dead: Myths, Legends and their Reality,’ and the wall opened inwards, like a huge door. Lights ahead lit up, one by one, like an airport runway coming to life. The room was the length of two garages, and as he walked along admiring his life’s work, the wall panels were aesthetically busy with bizarre and peculiar objet d’art.
-A bloodied hook for a hand.
-Gleaming white fangs beneath a German film poster.
-A foetus in a jar, its cyclopean eye glaring out at nothing in particular.
– A leather-bound manuscript with the word ‘Franken’ scrawled upon it.
– Photos of a thin, slender-man in a children’s playground.
-A green haired clown’s mask encrusted in blood.
– A doll- like figure with fairy wings pinned up like a collected butterfly.
And then space for his latest acquisition. He placed the hairy head on a nearby table and rubbed his hands together, enjoying the oily feel of the blood that covered them. With his fingers in V’s, he spread ruby red camouflage beneath his eyes, never taking his sight off the severed creature.
He winked at it, almost expecting a response.
‘I’ll huff and I’ll puff… and I’ll blow your house down.’ He let the words echo, and then linger for a moment, before confidently stating to his room of dead freaks:
‘And so continues the hunt.’
The valley stretched out before her, it had been a long time since she had walked up the now crumbling asphalt road, time had gone quickly for all around her. For her, time had stood still. A reflection of the past reflected in the deep dark pool that had formed in the valley over the passing years. Once heavy industry, mills, coal smelting, hot hard work had been prevalent here. Now the valley was a peaceful oasis with desperate developers hungry to encapsulate the area with modern atrocities, designed only for the wealthy.
Looking back, had it been a life worth living, was it a waste? A waste of time, effort, tears and undoing of the mind. What had really been achieved? It’s hard to say, who would judge? God?!
What if she didn’t believe? Did it still matter? Or is it up to her and her alone to judge her life and how she had muddled through?
She saw it clearly now, the past that is, not the present and not the future, purely the past. Living there was easier, in fact she had no choice. Others travelled through like tourist, only stopping for minutes or maybe a few hours. She couldn’t travel, not yet, not until she let go.
Love had once been the most important desire in the world, the love of friends, and somebody special, somebody to share the future with. Without them, the future would have to wait. She swallowed the smooth white pills with a gulp of fizzy water. The valley slowly drained of water as if she was drinking the time away. Darkness fell, then all was quiet. She may wake again but for now, she was in no hurry.
David Partington is a well respected ceramicist and artist whose work can be seen at http://partingtonspots.tumblr.com/ He can be contacted through http://www.facebook.com/partingtons.pots
It was so dark, so very dark and the carriage could do nothing, but push against the storm, as it lugged its way up the deserted, country road…
‘Shit, shit, shit, I’m over describing, over compensating-’ Stephen squeezed his eyes together before the outburst ‘- because I have no fuckin’ idea where I’m going with this story!’
Tick, tick, tick- two days till deadline.
Meet Stephen Fulcher, Horror Impresario, creator of the ‘The Rattling Bones’ series of books, that have been made into a billion dollar movie franchise, action figures, comics, jewellery, toiletries. At the time he signed the contract he whimsically pronounced: ’Who’d want to wipe their arse on a disembodied corpse?’ but here he is a millionaire writer; or more specifically a burn out millionaire writer, in his penthouse suite, in front of one and a half thousand pounds of technology with absolutely no ideas for a three page short story.
‘It was so very dark? What is this shit? Where am I going with it? And why am I banging my head on my desk? Will that help with the blood flow? Maybe give me an idea or two?’
Remembering his agent’s words “it has to be violent, gory and offensive- pure Stephen Fulcher,” he stood up in temper as if he was going to a running jump out of the window.
‘What does that even mean? Pure… me? Can I not write about love, laying in fields of buttercups, young sexual folly and what it means to be alive, instead of… well…. dead?’
Stephen smirked at such a story being submitted to an anthology titled- Wake The Dead and Kill Them Again.
‘Faye, my already rather pissed off agent, wouldn’t see the funny side at all.’ Then a knock at the door- firm and repetitive- broke his concentration.
Stephen looked at his watch- 12:01 a.m.
Tick, tick, tick- one day till deadline.
‘What the- must be one of the other residents wanting some such nonsense.’
He opened the door to a tall, thin man dressed all in black, finished ever so smartly with a top hat and cane.
‘Hello? Can I help you,’ Stephen croaked. (Damn Marlboro-gotta quit, gotta quit.)
The man smiled. It was warm, trustworthy, that of a favourite uncle from your childhood. Stephen didn’t like it, or him, one little bit.
‘Howdy-doo? My name is Mr Aloysius Smart and I’ve heard you’re having a bit of a problem.’
‘I’m sorry? Are you the building’s handy man or something?’
‘No, no- although I am handy to have around, y’see, I’m an ideas man and I’ve heard you’re in need of my help.’ The way Mr Smart spoke was rhythmic; the words seemed to dance upon his tongue, and he let them out with great relish.
‘Oh,’ a bemused Stephen replied.
And with that the stranger sauntered into the apartment.
Stephen threw his hands in the air. ‘Excuse me but what the f—‘
‘Mr Fulcher-I know you’re trying to get a story finished and you now have one day to do it in. So I’m here to help you complete the task. It’s all quite simple and straightforward.’
Stephen clicked the fingers on both of his hands in a playful rhythm.
‘Ah! Faye sent you. I spoke to her earlier but she didn’t mention- fuck- who am I to question some help.’
Mr Smart placed his hat and cane upon the sofa, grabbed a stool from the open kitchen and sat himself next to Stephen’s old wooden chair at the computer.
‘C’mon, Mr Fulcher, you only have my services till dusk, so shall we…?’
Stephen stared at the blank, whiteness of the open document.
‘I came not a moment too soon then.’
Without looking at anything but his own nimble fingers on the keyboard, Mr Aloysius Smart tapped with delicate speed as if he was reciting a concerto beamed from another place, and he was a mere lightning rod there to channel what had already been divinely decided on. When he finished he let out a short gasp like he had surprised himself with the speed or content of the document.
‘There Mr Fulcher, I’m sure that will suffice.’
Stephen sat and read Smart’s words. At first he smiled, then grimaced, then his eyes fell into thin slits as if he was having trouble with the size of the typeface. Then he turned his head slowly to the window overlooking the city. He did so with a kind of hesitation- no- like he was having trouble with his neck muscles working correctly and…
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Mr Smart calmly and, softly to the ear, but with an insincere kindness that hid trouble.
‘I…’ Stephen began.
Then a trickle of blood, like a black tear, started from his left eye taking a quick path down his face and dropping onto the clean, sheer white collar of his shirt. This seemed- if anyone was to view this situation in retrospect- like a warning of what was to come, as the floodgates (as it were) were now open and blood rushed unrelentingly from his eye sockets. The blood, with its force, pushed out his eyes and they made a literal POP POP sound , and that was when Stephen decided on his inevitable outburst.
‘Agghh! For God’s sake, no, no what have you written?’
Mr Aloysius Smart picked up his cane and hat, put the former under his arm and the latter upon his head and tutted.
‘Oh Mr Fulcher, what did I tell you? I’m an ideas man; so, what you get from me are ideas, but I didn’t say they were always going to be good ideas.’
Stephen went into spasm and fell off his chair clutching his stomach. He heaved and black bile started to leave his mouth.
‘Oh dear, it seems you have also soiled yourself. That just will not do.’
Smart looked around the room with nothing but a slight curiosity.
‘Oh, I nearly forgot.’
He made himself comfortable before the computer and typed up another storm, with five minutes he was done and hit the final key with a theatrical flourish to celebrate.
‘There we go-Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,’ he slyly grinned, ‘I’m not letting one lousy critic, like you Mr Fulcher, be the only one to judge my work- let’s see what everyone else thinks of it.’
He switched the screen off and breathed out in triumph, as if he had shut a rather good book on a final fulfilling denouement.
The dead body of Stephen lay curled up like a dry, old twig upon his bloodied carpet.
‘Toodle-pip, Mr Fulcher. I’ll show myself out.’
Mr Smart slipped out of the front door and made his way down the hallway. As he walked, in grotesque stereo and with gruesome synchronicity: screams, hollers and animal-like yelps emanated from behind the many closed doors. As he hit the elevator and pressed the button for the ground floor, he bumped his cane repeatedly with excitement, upon the lift floor.
‘Well if everyone liked that, wait till they see my next idea.’
The doors closed slowly, as did Mr Smart’s eyes as he smiled wistfully to himself.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————————JJ Breech is the Curator/ Editor/ OversEEr of bizarrEEye Creative Community. He writes @ the UNSEEN & the OBSCENE blog (amongst other places) and has had an interest in Horror and the Fantastique from an early age, when he saw An American Werewolf In London, and realised that’s exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up!
An adolescent teenager put his shirt away in the cupboard; the kettle clicked delightfully in the kitchen below; the tea bags waited in their porcelain grave, thirsty for the monsoon; the cat skulked about the rosebush in the garden; the father picked his nose and flicked it onto the wall behind the TV, and then, nothing happened.
The hairs on her head parted, the nit comb dived in and tore through, looking for the offending white dots; her mother bit her tongue in concentration; the dishes slowly dried; the chicken defrosted on the windowsill, and then, nothing happened.
A middle-aged man suddenly became aware of how old he was, sat in a traffic jam, the blurry red and yellow lights leaving fluorescent stamps on the vision of his mind; his wife sobbed tenderly in the bathroom, a piss-stained strip of plastic carrying an uncompromising truth; their daughter stared into the blinding light of her laptop, her history essay due in a week, she heard a knock at the door, and then, nothing happened.
Some screwed up paper dropped to the floor of the bus, he could see in the rain-soaked reflection of the windows, the young man was in debt; a disappointed builder, laid-off for the third time in his life, noticed his laces were undone just having left the train station toilets; an African lady chuckled to herself as she couldn’t decided between orange, mango, apple, kiwi; an old man farted in the queue in Tesco and no one pretended to hear except the young boy who proclaimed, “Errrr! It smells of poo!”; a strawberry yoghurt balanced precariously on a worktop edge, and then, nothing happened.
Nothing happened in the hallways of a recently derelict office block; or the on the cobblestone back alley behind Allen’s Fried Chicken; or inside the cupboard under the stairs. Coats continued calmly clinging to pegs, tins of paint proudly perch on shelves in the garage; that bit of wire you’ve been saving for when you might need it, remains lodged annoyingly in the cutlery drawer; the curtains hang, not quite straight; rain uneventfully drizzles; and the air is filled with the sound of soft sighs from simple people wrapped in a blanket of boredom, because nothing is happening.
And then, suddenly rising up, descending in some places, filling the faces of children with fright, and the reflections of those forgotten puddles in the street with colour, distracting peaceful fisherman at the lodge from the sunset, giving people who barely meet something to divert them from the barren landscape of their conversation, casting a deep shadow which is boring its way into the ground and steadily marching towards us, producing that dull, distant groan which sounds like it comes from a Hollywood movie, and breaking the pathetic dullness of this ordinary Thursday evening, something happened.