This story was first published in Innsmouth FreePress 2009.
Baby Rhyme Time.
Youngsters Enjoy Initiation at Innsmouth Public Library.
Thirty babies and toddlers, ranging from the age of two weeks (well done, Mrs Beatrice Draggers) to two years, attended the first Baby Rhyme Time at the Innsmouth Public Library this week.
Miss Marberly Phillipson, Head of Juvenile Development Services, said, “I am delighted to see so many little ones here today. One simply cannot introduce a child early enough to the magic of the written word.”
The youngsters enjoyed some traditional rhythms and were introduced to a few songs that are unique to our own Innsmouth region.
“It is amazing what children of this age can understand.” continued Miss Phillipson.“Some of the youngsters appeared to have an almost instinctive grasp of our traditional songs.”
The youngsters enjoyed several stories read by Miss Phillipson including That’s Not My Dhole and the perennial picture-book favourite The Very, Very Sleepy Octopus. As a special treat Miss Phillipson had adapted some of the Innsmouth’s most treasured books to suit the tastes of the children.
“We have a wonderful heritage here in Innsmouth,” continued Miss Phillipson. “It is our duty to pass it on to the little ones. I have adapted some of our special books to suit a child’s understanding. But it is important to retain the integrity of the original. I believe it is a mistake, a serious mistake, to allow the message of our texts to be weakened. Children, especially the children of Innsmouth understand more than many outsiders might imagine. Children love books, and while I’m not advocating we allow youngsters direct access to our esoteric sections, I believe that the messages we instil at an early age will a lasting effect on our future – on all our futures.”
Mrs Alison Transents, mother of Archibald (age 18 months) couldn’t agree more, “When Miss Phillipson brought out her special story book, I had to hold little Archie back. It’s as if he recognized some of the characters in the story. He particularly enjoyed the illustrations.”
Miss Phillipson is a strong advocate of early learning. “It is my aim to get every child into the public library. I was amazed when I saw some of the children, who could barely speak, grasping the harmonics of some of our more complex chants. With simple repetition and constant reinforcement in the home, there is no doubt that these children will be adept in our traditions by school age.”
Perhaps surprising, one of the most popular songs was spoken in a traditional language. Some parents may find some the following extract challenging!
“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.’
Miss Phillipson, who is something of an adept herself in these matters, will be glad to assist parents in mastering the correct pronunciation of this rhyme (interested readers may like to attend Miss Phillipson’s Manuscript Sessions – An Easy and Fun Introduction to the Ancient held every on alternate Thursday evenings at the library).
“Of course, parents might prefer my English translation,” laughed Miss Phillipson. “It is not a literal translation, but I believe it captures the essence of the original.”
Miss Phillipson has kindly allowed us to reproduce her translation for use in the home environment.Peek-a-boo, Ancient One Great Old One of the sea. In R’yleh Deep and silent. Awaken me. Awaken me. Awaken me. Hiding still. Peek-a-boo! You see me. You see me. You see me.
Mr Barnabas Wright, Director of Innsmouth’s Leisure Services, attended the first Baby Rhyme Time. He fully supports the library’s initiative, “I believe we are reviving some of Innsmouth’s most ancient traditions. These fragments of text have been passed down to us through the ages. It is gratifying to think of countless generations of mothers singing these same words to their children. These chants have a timeless appeal. That is why they have survived – and will always live on.”
Mrs Vernonic Nahastra mother of Mirabelle (8 months) certainly agrees, “I would never have thought to bring Mirabelle to the library at such an early age. But you should have seen her little face light up when she heard the rhymes. It was almost as if she understood every word. I shall be definitely including Miss Phillipson’s chants in our bedtime routine.”
“We have some very exceptional history here at Innsmouth,” commented Miss Phillipson. “Knowledge can be instilled in even the youngest child. It is my duty and my privilege to pass on our special legacy to these innocents.”
And to judge by the cries of delight when Miss Phillipson led the special chanting, I think the youngsters of Innsmouth are very pleased about that!
Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the past for future inspiration or on her blog: http://deborahwalkersbibliography.blogspot.com/ Her stories have appeared in Nature’s Futures, Cosmos and Daily Science Fiction and The Year’s Best SF 18.
He watched the people crowd St. Mark’s Square—the locals, the wandering musicians, and the tourists. He knew them all, had observed them for over three centuries. Seldom did any of them take the time to notice him, though, perched on the highest pinnacle, teetering at the very edge of the red-tiled roof of the cathedral.
His curiosity intense, he often contemplated what would happen if he could release his angel-like wings mounted at his stoned sides? What if he were to come burrowing from his mount, with his sharp horned head? What if his boned claws at the ends of his thin arms were to. . . ?
Only a dream over the years as he basked in the sun-drenched skies or felt the needled pinpricks of rain pierce his naked body.
When Father Mario ordered the cleaning and polishing of the copper dome of the cathedral, a man by the name of Giopillato took notice of the ornate sculptures, the intricate paintings, and, of course, the artistry of the numerous gargoyles atop the roof. An amateur photographer, he pulled his camera out of his back pocket. He angled his lens to get side views, back views, snapping shots of each of the gargoyles. Then, he got out his chisel and got to work scraping and picking the grime from the gargoyle at the very peak of the cathedral.
That’s when the horn-headed gargoyle heard a chipping from near his base. He felt a slight breeze on his back, a warm breath on his neck, a pair of large, sweaty palms shove hard on his shoulders. His carved wings released from his sides, the point of his horn plummeted downward. The crowds in the square pointed upward at him, screaming. The locals deserted their lunches on the wrought-iron tables and ran for cover. The wandering musicians threw their clarinets, piccolos, and violins onto the sidewalk, sounds of banging and crashing like an orchestra tuning up for a performance. The tourists dropped their parcels of souvenirs, in their haste to seek shelter.
And there at the base of the Doric column in the square, a shadow cast, much like that of an eagle but with a much wider wing spin. A small boy ran out from one of the shops to the gargoyle’s side. He picked up the broken granite horn and attempted to restore it to the top of the gargoyle’s head. The young child let some of the coral sand sift through his fingers onto the monster’s cracked wing. The boy shielded his eyes from the sun and peered upward at the pinnacle of the cathedral. “Look Mommy.”
The boy’s mother came out from hiding and stood in the shadow with her son. She, too, looked toward the cathedral’s roof. “Come along, son. One of those ugly monsters up there,” she said, as she pointed to the other gargoyles, “must have fallen. I can see part of its tail. Good thing no one was crushed by its weight. God forbid.”
“But Mom, listen. . . .”
“Come along now, I said. Don’t be foolish.” She shoved her son across the square.
There in the blackened shadows next to the gargoyle’s elf-eared head, a scratchy voice came from its opened mouth. “Sometimes things are better left as they are,” it said, as a trickle of blood ran unnoticed across St. Mark’s Square.
Delphine expresses her love of writing in the words of John Steinbeck, “I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.” Delphine has had numerous short stories published, several in anthologies. Her latest can be found in the anthology Ugly Babies 2. When not writing, she teaches English. More info can be found on her website: delphineboswell.com.
This story was first published in Lovecraft E-Zine 2011.
I stood in front of the temple entrance. It was unlike any building I’d ever seen. Instead of straight lines, the facade was cascade of spirals carved out of the face of the mountain, in pale rose stone. The entrance was a dark and open mouth, cool and inviting.
“This is ancient Cas-hal-Min,” said Jemplim. “Quite deserted for thousands of years.”
“It’s so very beautiful,” I replied. The temple was decorated with the statues of women. In Europe we called them the stone mothers, women with fertile-ripe bodies, breasts and stomachs and thighs. Instead of faces, these desert statues had ropes of carved vines, or, perhaps, featureless snakes. I pointed to the statues flanking the temple’s entrance. “You call them the Mi-Zar, the ancient mothers, don’t you?”
Jemplim frowned at my in-elegant use of his dialect, and I smiled. After all these months, he had not gotten used to the sound of accent. Jemplim spoke beautifully cultured English. It pained him to hear me mangle his native tongue. But out of politeness he allowed me to practice the language. English seemed out of place here, it felt too modern. It was better to speak the old language of the desert.
I heard music, dream-like, evocative and familiar.
“Elizabeth do you hear that?” asked Jemplim. “The wind brings music.”
I heard the music, in the far distance, as sound carried on the desert wind, a mirage of sound reflected over the sand.
“We should be going now,” said Jemplim. He touched my arm, gently and gestured to the jeep.
Jemplim was native to this land. I’d hired him six months ago to be my guide. Over the course of our search, we’d become close. Close enough, almost, to forget why I’d come here. I regretted what I had to do. Jemplim was a good man. I was going to hurt him. “No, Jemplim,” I said quietly. “I’m going inside the temple.”
“You can’t,” he said. A look of panic flooded his face. “You gave me your word.”
“I’m sorry, but did you really think I’d come this far and no further?”
“No,” he said. “I wouldn’t allow it, Elizabeth.”
I’d promised that once we set foot in the courtyard, I wouldn’t attempt to enter the temple. Taboo he told me; sealed over with curses; it would be disrespectful to the dead to set foot in such a place; the temple was old and decayed and it would be dangerous to step inside. He’d given me many reasons why I shouldn’t enter the temple–but not the true one.
I took a couple of steps towards the temple entrance. When he grabbed my arm, it surprised me. He was such a gentle man. I’d never seen him raise his hand, against any creature.
“I’m begging you, Elizabeth. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Jemplim, I do know, and if you try and stop me, you know what will happen.” Already the heat shimmered in front of the stone Mi-Zar guardians. They trembled.
“This temple is the resting place of something old, something that should remain alone.”
The wind floated through the courtyard, bright-scented with the smell of desert musk.
“I know that, Jemplim.”
“You know? You lied to me?”
I nodded. “I know what’s in the temple. She waits for me.”
“Do you think that the old one will give you your child back, and that you will be happy, again? Elizabeth, she is not what you think.”
“I didn’t know that you knew, about my children,” I said. I thought that I’d been so clever, so discreet.
“It seems that we have both been withholding the truth. Elizabeth,” said Jemplim. “When a woman seeks this city, it is the first thing that we think of. We made enquiries. I know that you lost your children. But I’d hoped that your story was true. I convinced myself that you were looking only for knowledge, not for the gifts of the mother.”
“Why did you bring me here, Jemplim?”
“You would have found the way. When she calls to a woman, they find the way.” He stared into my face. “And, I did not want you to be alone at this time.” He stroked my throat. “The stone mother will not give you back your children, Elizabeth.”
“She will.” She had made the promise in my dreams. That’s why I’d travelled across the world to find her.
“She will not. She will give you something that looks like them, sounds and thinks like them, but underneath there will be something other, something old, and strange born in the distant skies. The things that are waiting to be born, Elizabeth. The women of my family know this. The times of bitterness have taught them. That is why she’s reaching out, to others.”
“You have no choice, Jemplim.” I kissed him, gently lightly as a mother would kiss a child. “Go back to your tribe. We’ll make our own way, or perhaps we will stay. This temple has been deserted for too long.”
“If I go, I’ll bring the men of my tribe to kill the creatures that come out of the temple. They will not be your children, and we will not endure such things to live.”
“You will try, Jemplim, I never excepted anything less of you.”
He stared at me, trying to read the language in my face. But he never truly understood me, we came together a little ways. But no further.
I tried to take another step, but Jemplim held me tightly. The stone guardian turned her head towards us, the stone tentacles beginning to unwind.
I did not think that a man could make such a desolate cry.
Jemplim left me.
I continued my journey, to tread the path, so many other mothers, had trod before. My children. Nothing would keep me from them.
The stone mother knew that, she understood the language of my heart, and old and alien as she was, I would speak to her. And if my children helped the old mother bring her own children to life, then what of it? I understood her. We spoke the same language.
The full moon looked down on Harry Templar from the night sky above as he sat shivering on the wooden bench in the old cemetery. He surveyed his surroundings. The place was empty, he had no one for company but the dead.
It was 2 AM and he was waiting for Linda.
She had phoned him half an hour ago and as always he had agreed to meet her. Why she had chosen this god forsaken place though…..he couldn’t understand.
She’d probably take advantage of their friendship as always. Every time she had a problem she whistled and inevitably he would come running. She’d been doing it for years, ever since they were kids.
He lit up a cigarette, striking the match just above the B on Billy Wilders Headstone.. He guessed Billy wouldn’t mind too much, he died from TB in 1893.
As he pulled his thick coat tightly against himself and took a large hit of nicotine he saw something moving in the distance, something far blacker than the darkness of the night surrounding it.
Must be a cat he thought, not much else it could be, it was larger than a rat, which pleased him. He hated rats. Ever since he was made to dissect one in the biology class at school. That had been years ago but ever since then any animal resembling a rodent in any way, shape or form, dragged him back through time to that day in the classroom. It was the smell he remembered most vividly, the horrible sweet rotten meat smell that emanated from the dead animal when he made his first and only sweeping incision with the scalpel, it was as sharp as a scythe.
One cuts all he managed, the combination of the pink flesh and the smell had made him throw up on the back of the girl sitting at the table in front.
He shivered at the memory and concentrated on finishing the rest of his cigarette.
Then he saw another dark shadow, larger this time, he caught the moonlight glinting in its eyes as it scarpered behind an ornate carving of an angel.
“What the fuck!”
Im having a flash back he thought, I shouldn’t have dropped all that acid all those years ago.
He rubbed his eyes and looked towards the angel.
She just knelt there, hands clasped together silently praying to the night sky above.
Quite a creepy looking figure he thought to himself as he blew a smoke ring into the air
Then, she stood up and turned her head towards him. He watched as the eyelids opened and blood red tears streamed down her alabaster face.
He tried to stand up but his legs had turned to jelly.
Then the black shape reappeared, he could see what it was now, It was a huge raven. It perched on the angels shoulder and made a hideous sound.
He could feel and hear his heart beating in his chest, the pounding was getting louder and louder.
His legs still wouldn’t work, he rubbed them, frantically trying to get rid of the numbness, it was no use, they felt like they didn’t belong to him anymore.
He watched as the statue, with the ever present raven got closer and closer.
He watched as the blood flowing from her eyes started forming bright red gothic letters.
N then E…….. He watched the word form. NEVERMORE.
He woke up to bright sunlight, it took him a few seconds to find his bearings.
“You’d fallen asleep and you were mumbling, looked like you were having a nightmare.”
He sat up on the bench in the country church yard and glanced over at the statue of the angel.
He shivered and looked at the book at his side.
The Complete Works of E.A.Poe.
He tossed it in the bin at the side of the bench.
“That’s the last time Im reading that shit!”
Steve Christie’s author webpage can be found at http://about.me/stevechristieauthor.
The shining eyes of a cat in a darkened alley are orange omens meant to ward off familiar spirits. So I am told by the corner mystic sniffling heavy between crystal ball examinations. From the likes of him I’d say the ball is the only thing of value he owns. His clothes are rags the Salvation Army would reject. His smell, well, cats don’t hang around because of transcendental wisdom.
I keep my distance and respect. His death predictions are uncanny. As if the Devil himself were relaying the information. The street wanderers are spooked, and I mean, really spooked. Drug dealers think he’s a narc and curse his arcane ramblings as police propaganda created to scare business away. And business is down—down big time. Ever since his smelly combat boots stepped on their turf. Holy revenge was the only option to save face. Their Mac-10′s ready to erase any fool standing against the flow of dead presidents. But after two dealers were found sliced in pieces in an abandoned railroad car, the businessmen have easily concluded the mystic must be an undercover agent. They keep their distance and respect. His death predictions are uncanny.
Cities are too modern in philosophy for any thinking person to believe in magic of whatever shade or shape. Yet since his arrival people believe, people believe in Big Juju, serious Hoodoo, yes even, straight up painted Voodoo. Mystic man shuns those asking for tomorrow’s lottery number. Says the spirit world would punish his abuse of second sight. I don’t get it. He predicts death, that’s all right. Predicting a couple of numbers to help some miserable idiot live on more than choke sandwiches and bug juice—no, that’ll upset the spirit world! If you ask me this spirit world doesn’t sound any more charitable than the concrete world. The Devil’s probably laughing raw red butt off right now. It figures. Someone’s always having a party at our expense.
Jakey stopped by this evening. Jakey’s the local filthy junkie with needle marks in his groin area. The arm and leg veins have all collapsed and surrendered. I figured he was trying bum money off me as usual. But tonight it was something else. Some information. He didn’t even want money for it. Jakey heard that “Dr. Crystal,” that’s what everyone calls the mystic, predicted my death late tonight.
I wasn’t impressed, but Jakey was whiter than the garbage he mainlines into his sweaty testicles. He was covered in sweat and jittery like a fish flopping on a pier deck. I was about to hand him a few bucks for old time’s sake when he just bolted down the hall babbling about magic and madness. Poor puke-brain punk, Jakey is due to hit by a speeding truck. And I’ll almost miss him.
It’s high time to pay this devil dork a visit. Got my own business to keep. No time to spare on whacked out gonejobs on a mission from Hell or wherever their mother once spread her legs. I’ll just bounce this bum’s head with few swings of lead pipe—and bam! —he’ll have a different outlook on my future.
Who could blame me? I’ve been fairly decent to these night crawling semi-conscious communists out here. I never hurt an innocent one. If I can use the term “innocent.” Certainly never robbed one. I just complete my contracts and go about my life in peace of mind. My services are much appreciated. Go ask the police. Bullet here, bullet there, dangerous boneheads dead everywhere. All they have to do is clean up and go back to the station to file a report. At the end of the day they can rely on their fat pensions and fatter wives. I’m a public servant no different than that of a mayor. Except I’m honest about my agenda.
A few droplets of blood running out of nose don’t frighten me. This has happened before. When the weather changes I bleed a bit. An old war injury I’d rather not talk about. I know what you’re thinking—the Hex is on. Nothing couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m nearing his corner and decided to do a drive by and get it done with permanently. Police will blame some lame gang bangers and that will be that.
So I’m a little dizzy. Ever since I changed cigarette brands this happens once in a while. Really nothing to be concerned about. I piss on predictions and wipe my ass with horoscopes. I just pop an aspirin and headache all gone. See, nothing to it. These stomach cramps are obvious reminders that I must stop slamming down Chili Dogs faster Haitian hookers. A few anti-acid tabs always do the trick. And my leg tremors are part of that old war injury I’d rather not talk about.
I wish I could breathe a bit better this evening. I should of never switched cigarette brands. These new fangled filters are not helping at all. There he is! The mystic jerk with a prediction. I’m gonna make one right now. A dirty worthless bum got his head pumped full of lead, news at eleven. Let’s see him predict that! Phony sack of bird crap!
Ah, Hell, there’s always another night. My vision is still a bit blurry. I’ll drive on home and spit out this blood. You’d think after all the cash I gave the dentist he’d get my teeth right. Really tired, but I’m strong, strong enough to keep open these eyes until I hit the sack. I’ll take out the garbage later. I just need to sleep before I swerve this wheel into that large building over there…right there….right over there…….
Mark Antony Rossi’s poetry, criticism and fiction have been published by The Antigonish Review, Bareback Magazine, Black Heart Review, Collages & Bricolages, Cerebrus, Death Throes, Ethical Specacle, Deep South Journal, Flash Fiction,The Magill Review, Japanophile, Purple Patch, Slugfish,The Journal of Poetry Therapy. He currently writes a weekly science humor column for The Magill Review. His website can be found at http://markantonyrossi.jigsy.com
Sylvester found the manuscript at four am on a Sunday, while vomiting between trashcans in an alley. At first, it just looked like a soiled and crumpled square of cardboard, but as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve, the playwright noticed writing on its stained surface. He fished it out and shook it, opening the cracked cover to inspect the title page.
The King in Yellow. A play in two parts.
He’d never heard of it. The copyright page was blank, and the script seemed to bear no author. Sylvester laughed at his luck. The local theater awaited the arrival of his latest script. He could not stall them any longer, and the advance was long-since drunk away. But this, this soggy and stained script, might be his salvation.
He took it back to his apartment and hunched over his laptop, carefully transcribing the miracle manuscript. The words blurred on the page as he read, bleeding from letter-shaped wounds, hiding behind dark constellations of mold and waves of water damage.
The first act was solid, if a touch antiquated, and Sylvester barely gave it a second thought as he updated the lines.
But the second act. The second act pulled him in as a drowning man’s screams draw in seawater. Once he began typing, Sylvester found he could not stop, even when his hands began to cramp and ache. He finished his work as the sun rose, capping it off with a new title page and byline.
The Golden Monarch, by Sylvester Manheim.
As soon as he hit save, Sylvester collapsed from exhaustion and fell into a world of dreams that mirrored the play so closely, he was sure he had slipped right through the pages and into another world. Sylvester did not wake until noon, when the theater director called, demanding the whereabouts of his play. He had been dreading that call for weeks, but now he happily informed the director that both he and the script would be there within the hour.
Sylvester arrived at the theater and stood by as the director read his play. A light slowly grew in the man’s eyes, and sweat bloomed on his forehead, until at last, he set the manuscript down and proclaimed it brilliant.
Sylvester’s life was a blur of dream and rush as the play came together, though he never again read the script once it passed into the director’s hands.
Opening night, word of mouth packed the house. He smiled as the curtain came up, and Cassilda and Camilla entered from opposite ends of the stage, his lines pouring from their perfect mouths, their hands extending toward each other, then to the audience. The first act flowed marvelously, the words as comfortable and welcoming as an old friend returned home from war.
But then, act two began.
The backdrop shimmered and rippled as if viewed through a heat wave, and out from that disturbance shuffled a hunched and grotesque figure, its face covered by a blank white mask, its costume an arrangement of tattered yellow cloth.
Sylvester had written no such character. He turned to the director to demand an answer, but the man’s shocked expression told him everything. He did not know this stranger either.
The actresses did not stop or falter in their recitations, but they cringed and twitched away from the figure like worms on hot pavement.
The hunched figure came to the very edge of the stage, straightened, and uttered just one word. “Attend.”
Sylvester’s eyes were drawn to it. He heard the audience shifting as every patron sat forward in their seats, spellbound.
The figure raised its hands toward the mask, and the audience released a collective moan of horror at the sight of its pale and writhing skin. The flesh glistened and moved, as if thousands of thready worms burrowed beneath its surface. The theater went silent as the King removed his mask.
No one had the power to look away.
No one had the power to blink.
The collective screams of the audience could be heard from a block away in all directions, but when the police arrived, not a soul stirred. The seats were filled with bodies that breathed in unison, but didn’t speak or blink, or show any signs of awareness. All that remained were husks, exhaling together with a sound like waves lapping a distant shore.
The only evidence recovered was a blank white mask abandoned on stage, the inside of which was smeared with an unidentifiable, stinking jelly.
Shenoa lives in Southern California and writes whatever catches her fancy, from horror to erotica and anything in between. Say hello on twitter @ShenoaSays or become a fan at www.facebook.com/sbcbfiction
Eight year old Jamaska left his elementary school at three o’clock. His ten year old sister met him outside.
“Hi, Jamayka,” he called. “Race you!”
He started running. Jamayka ran after him. She was bigger and stronger, but she didn’t catch him. Perhaps she simply enjoyed the moments that she could spend with her brother. They ran through the bright, cold November afternoon. Jamaska led her toward the waterfront.
“Mommy doesn’t want me coming down here!” She called to him.
“Daddy lets me,” he boasted. “Can’t catch me!”
The sun went behind a cloud.
Jamaska stopped on the sidewalk at the edge of the harbor. The air stank of rotting fish. The offshore lighthouse blinked at them, first with a white lens, then with a red. Jamayka caught up with him.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
“I want to go home with you,” he said.
“You’ll have to ask Dad.”
A bubble surfaced out on the harbor. The children went still. A second bubble rose, this time several yards nearer. A third bubble broke closer still. Jamayka grabbed her brother’s hand.
They ran away from the harbor, and up the hill, toward Jamayka’s house. The sun emerged from the cloud. Mommy’s neighbors were raking leaves in their yard. They called greetings to the children. Jamaska and Jamayka ran in through the gate, and up to the front door. Mommy was waiting for them. She hugged Jamaska, and cried.
“Can he stay for dinner?” Jamayka asked.
Mommy said, “Call your father, Jamaska. If he says yes, we’d love for you to stay.”
Mommy and Jamayka went into the kitchen. Jamaska called home from Mommy’s living room. Daddy answered.
“Where are you, Jamaska?”
“At Mommy’s. Can I stay for dinner?”
“My Wife has your dinner ready, here. She’s made your favorite, sausage penne.”
“That’s not my favorite!”
“Jamaska, she’s spent hours laboring on this meal. She’s trying very hard to be a mother to you.”
“She’s not–please, can I stay? I miss Jamayka.”
Daddy sighed. “It has been hard for you, being separated from your sister. All right, you can stay.”
“Thank you, Daddy.” He ran into the kitchen. “Hooray, I can stay!”
Mommy smiled. “You’re in luck, I’ve made sausage penne tonight.”
“That’s my favorite!”
After dinner, he played with his sister. The sun went down. The telephone rang. Mommy answered it.
“Hello. Yes, he’s finished dinner. You know how he loves sausage penne.” She was quiet for a minute, listening. Daddy’s small, loud voice jabbered from the receiver. Mommy offered the telephone to Jamaska. “Your father wants to speak to you.”
He went to the telephone. “Yes, Daddy?”
“You lied to me.”
Jamaska said nothing.
“Damn it, why can’t you give her a chance?”
“She’s not my mother!” Jamaska screamed. “I hate her!”
Daddy’s voice became mean. “She is your mother, now. Come home.”
The line went dead. Jamaska hung up the telephone.
“Mommy, I want to live here.”
Mommy was weeping, tears running down her cheeks, and dripping off her chin. “I wish you could, but you’ve got to do what your father says.”
Jamaska said his good-byes. When he was outside in the dark, he let himself sob. He walked down the hill. The night deepened. The smell of the harbor rose into town. His neighborhood had no streetlights. His front gate was fallen from its hinges. He waded through the rotting leaves in his yard, and went into his house. His father was waiting for him.
“You do anything that you can think of to break my wife’s heart!” Daddy screamed. “I am sick of it. She is a part of your family now. Accept that, Jamaska.”
Jamaska was weeping and wailing.
Daddy sighed in disgust. “Go to bed. She’ll be up to say good-night.”
“No, Daddy, no!”
Jamaska went upstairs. He brushed his teeth, and changed into his pajamas. He got into his bed, and turned off the lights. His night-light turned itself on.
He was trembling.
Heavy tapping came up the stairs. The sound came down the hall. Then, she filled his doorway. She entered his room. She came to his bedside. She had six crab-like legs. Her head looked like a giant oyster shell, with a single red eye waving on top. Her gaping mouth was lined with crocodile teeth. Worm-like tentacles hung from her chin, draping her potato-shaped body. Her belly labored in the air. In the middle of her belly there was a hole, which was loudly sucking itself. Jamaska did not look there. He would never look there.
She reached out a tentacle, and adjusted his blanket.
Her voice gurgled, “Would you like a bedtime story?”
Stanley B. Webb is a retired auto worker. Although he has been writing monster fiction for nearly fifty years, he has begun working as a writer only recently. He is also a collector of monster fiction and movies, with a preference for giant creatures. He discovered H.P. Lovecraft as a teenager, and found inspiration in works such as “From Beyond,” and, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”Stanley has a flash story, “Shades,” in the 2013 Halloween contest on the website Microhorror. He also appears in the Christmas-themed horror anthology, “When Red Snow Melts,” published by Horror Novel Revues.Stanley lives with his wife and son in Pulaski, New York. When not writing, he participates in the local artist’s community. His works include driftwood sculptures, and stained glass windows.
The zombie looked up guiltily, hiding the cigarette in the cup of his hand. Then he realised the greeting had emanated from a small child, standing in the shadow of the fire escape stairs. He brought the cigarette back up to his lips and took a long draft. He nodded a greeting to the boy as he slowly exhaled. His audience stared in unembarrassed fascination.
“My mum says smoking is slow death.”
The zombie shrugged.
“I’m in no hurry.”
“She says only silly people smoke.”
“Yes, and she says if she ever catches me, she’ll knock me into next week.”
“She sounds a treasure. Why don’t you go back to her?”
“I’m seven,” said the boy, as though that were a complete rebuttal of the zombie’s suggestion.
“You want to make it to eight?” said the zombie. The boy nodded. “Then go back to your mum.”
“Mum’s not here.”
“No, I can see that.”
“Mum’s gone out with Uncle Jack. He’s not my real dad.”
“Really? I bet he’s disappointed.”
“My real dad lives in Wales. I go and visit him sometimes.”
“I don’t suppose you could go visit him now?”
“No, it’s a long way away, and it takes all day on the train, and I’m only seven.”
“Look, you shouldn’t be out on your own, kid. Who are you meant to be with?”
“My sister, only she’s talking to some boys, and she’s pretending I’m not there, so I’m pretending I’m not there either, so I’m here. Why do you look like that?”
The boy waved his hand in front of his face.
“You know, all white and green and funny looking.”
“Just a general tip to take with you through life, kid. Don’t make personal comments about people that are bigger than you, not if you want to see nine.”
“No, but why do you look like that?”
“I’m a zombie.”
The boy nodded and looked around the alley, as though he’d never seen the backs of buildings before. Then he turned back to the zombie and said, “What’s a zombie?”
“One of the undead.”
“What’s one of the undead?”
“I don’t know. Someone who was dead, and now’s alive. Walks around eating little boys’ brains.”
“Uncle Jack says if I had a brain I’d be a vegetable.”
“Really? He sounds a wonderful father figure. So he reckons you don’t have any brains?” The boy shrugged. “Oh well, I guess a snack is out of the question then. Didn’t your mum tell you not to talk to strangers?”
“Yes. Do you eat anybody’s brains, or just little boys’?”
“I don’t know. Anyone’s I suppose, them being in such short supply. Seriously kid, you need to go back to your sister before you get into trouble.”
“Would you eat a man’s brain too?”
“Would you eat Uncle Jack’s?”
The zombie shook his head and dropped the cigarette onto the ground. “You don’t get on with your Uncle Jack?” he said, grinding the cigarette out under his foot.
“He’s okay, I suppose,” said the little boy. “I mean, sometimes he shouts if I don’t do what I’m told.”
“Oh, but I bet that hardly ever happens, you not doing what you’re told.”
“Sometimes. But Mum says it’s because he’s not used to children, but Dad is, so maybe if you ate Uncle Jack’s brains, then Mum would let Dad come back.”
The zombie looked away from the boy, towards the other end of the alley, as though searching for something. After a moment he coughed and turned back.
“Look, I’ll tell you what. I’ll put him on my shopping list, okay? And if the supermarket runs out of brains, I’ll see what I can do. No promises, mind, and it might take a long time, but you just hang on there, okay? Come on.” He held out his hand, and the little boy took it. They turned and walked towards the front of the building. They had taken a few steps when a young girl rushed across the entrance of the alley, saw the boy and skidded to a stop.
“Jason, you little toerag, where have you been? When Mum finds out about this she’ll skin you alive!”
She marched into the alley.
“That’s my sister,” said Jason.
“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed,” said the zombie.
“You are so in….” Her eyes finally managed to shout over the panic-fuelled anger of her brain and her mouth formed a large ‘O’ as she registered what was holding Jason’s hand.
“Seven-year-olds need a lot of looking after,” said the zombie.
“Yeah, you’re telling me.”
“No,” said the zombie, still holding Jason’s hand. “I mean they need a lot of looking after. They get bored easily, they like exploring, they’ll talk to strangers without a second thought. That’s why your mum put him in the care of his seventeen-year-old sister.”
“Fifteen,” said the girl.
The zombie took in the makeup and the clothes.
“Really? Right, fifteen-year-old sister. Because fifteen-year-old sisters can be trusted to look after him, and not get distracted by, oh, I don’t know, boys who think she’s seventeen. Probably best for everyone if his mum doesn’t get to hear, I expect.”
He held Jason’s hand out, and his sister took it.
“So, you big Michael Jackson fans?”
The girl shrugged. “He was all right. It’s somewhere to go for an afternoon.”
The zombie jumped back and held his arms out straight in front of him. He la-la’d the intro to Thriller and treated the pair to a jerky dance. After a few bars he spun, pointed a finger at Jason and winked.
“The front doors must be open by now. Enjoy the show.”
Then he turned and walked back through the stage door.
Bob Simms is an IT trainer by day, but it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. He was bitten by the writing bug in the Autumn of 2006 and is now totally addicted. He lives in the UK with his wife. His wish for the future is that other people would find him as funny as he thinks himself.
His debut novel – The Young Demonkeeper – reached the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2011
Catch up with all his books at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bob-Simms/e/B004HQG246/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
(The UK is that little theme park off of the coast of Europe.)
“All I wanted was a hot dog,” Leesa wailed. She looked at the mound of ingredients; mac-n-cheese, cooked bananas, cashews, pineapple, sprouts, on an oversized bun, searching for a meat-filled tube. She then turned to the boy beside her. “Is there a hot dog anywhere in this?” After sliding the orange jacket sleeve up, she poked a finger at the cheesy mess.
“’Course there is.” The boy beamed and brushed dirty-blonde hair out of his eyes. “They’re called Zombiedogs. Aren’t they spastic?”
Zombies. Leesa shivered
“I’m Michael.” He wiped his right hand on the leg of his jeans and stuck it out. “Call me Mikie. My paw said you ain’t been here but a few days.”
Seventy-one hours ago, Leesa had escaped the Zombie infestation, coming to this promised asylum. She envisioned the hordes of undead stumbling through the streets, heard the yowl of hunger that came when they’d cornered a meal, and smelled the putrid scent of fecal matter as perforated bowels evacuated onto the piss covered heated asphalt. Steam rose. Blinking away the horror, she looked at Mikie before turning her attention back to the hot dog.
“I could eat these every day,” Mikie said. “I think it’d be cool to see zombie up close. You know, live. Don’t you?”
Mikie’s words were about to earn him a reprimand when Leesa saw child-like eyes hidden beneath the bill of a brown ball cap, the team name long faded.
He couldn’t be more than 12, she thought probably never left this town.
The bright orange backpack he’d slung over his shoulder in a rush to show her the school playground and where to get the world’s best hot dogs, looked new. His shoes were well worn. He wasn’t thin or obese. His chin, devoid of facial hair.
“You’ve got to see the new video game they just released. ‘Shoot ‘em Dead, in the Head.’ Kinda rhymes, right? If they come out this far, I’m gonna be ready. My paw bought me a six-shooter and my maw shown me how to wield a meat cleaver like they do on the pig farm.”
His face turned serious and Leesa saw worry on his face.
“Think they’ll come out this far?”
This far? She lifted an eyebrow. What would stop them?
The epidemic remained sequestered to a few large cities. So the government claimed. Leesa knew it was only a matter of time before those hopes were smashed along with a few political zombie heads.
“’Couple guys who useda live in the city came up with the idea for these.” Mikie lifted the bun. “Hot dogs covered in stuff that looks like it coulda fallin off a body. This one’s called Chewed Heart. Yours is Carnivorous Flesh. They have humus and pineapples on some of them. A few have sauerkraut and spinach. Next time I’m gonna try one with Vienna sausages. They look like gnarled fingers.”
Bile burned Leesa’s throat as she swallowed. Stepping away from the food-truck hearse, she tripped over the curb, walked toward the schoolyard, and sat hard on a swing. The stench of overcooked meat filled the area accompanied by the sound of the swing eerily screeching.
“Ever seen a real zombie?” Mikie asked with the enthusiasm only a novice could muster.
He stuffed the entire dog, massive mound of disgust, into his mouth smearing the bloody sauce across his arm.
Leesa felt her color drain.
“Too many.” She looked to an angry scratch on her thumb, unsure of when or how she’d acquired it. Three days ago, it was almost healed.
“Have you seen anyone turn?” A twinkle glistened in his eyes. He put his fingers, one by one, in his mouth and sucked the clinging ooze left from his Chewed Heart, pulling each out with a sharp pop. Mixed with the pink of a strawberry and the yellowish mush of banana was the green string from celery.
Averting her eyes, Leesa focused on his red shoes. Her Papi’s face went from red, to green, to grey as the virus claimed host. The image brought her to her feet. Leesa pressed the Carnivorous Flesh at Mikie and crammed her hands deep into the front pocket of her jeans. Feeling the rush of adrenalin, she turned in circles searching for some place near. Safe. Somewhere to hide. She had been in their grasps before and was convinced she could sense the undead-approach of reanimated-hungry-humans fixated on a next meal.
Her stomach protested loudly.
“I saw one,” a voice yelled from across the street. “It was wearing jeans and an orange jacket.”
Leesa looked at Mikie’s backpack, then to the jacket, she’d “borrowed.”
A dog bawled at the end of a lead the man held. “Popeye can smell them a mile away.” He patted Popeye’s hind end as the dog pulled him forward, nose twitching as they came closer.
Mikie shifted foot to foot.
“What about the Brown’s ball cap. My cap.” A hunched old man a few feet behind leaned heavily on a cane clenched in his hand. “’Stole that cap from my truck.”
The sheriff Leesa met yesterday followed the two, man and dog. He carried a shotgun that looked like the Winchester her grandfather kept.
Mikie snatched the cap from his head and stuck it on Leesa’s blonde curls before she could stop him.
“I can’t be caught theif’n again,” he said.
He turned to run and the sheriff lifted the rifle, “Hold it right there.”
Leesa brushed cold sweet from her brow. When she pulled her hand down, in the encroaching darkness, it looked grey.
“We need you to come with us.” The old man tapped his cane in the direction of Leesa and Mikie. “No one wants you to get hurt.”
The dog barked frantically. The man reached for Mikie’s arm. Before Leesa could move, his words, “She woulda turned you boy,” hit. Less than a second later, pellets penetrated her skull and the blast of shotgun echoed into the night.
Lori Fetters Lopez is an author, military wife, mother of three, sister, dog owner, friend, and postal worker. Her completed works include a series of six young adult fantasy, one thriller and one Romantic suspense novel, as well a handful of short stories.
Kanon slipped his lock picks into the wooden trunk on the floor with practiced ease. He worked them back and forth, his tongue edging into the corner of his mouth.
“This place is just so normal looking,” Getty walked around the small, private library, his breastplate glittering in the lamplight, a small axe with a head like a tear drop in one hand.
“What’d you expect, gargoyles and black cats?” Kanon paused, withdrew the picks, and tied his long, black hair out of the way.
“I mean, it’s a wizard’s house. I guess I just thought it would be more wizardy, is all. I’ve seen this guy out. He’s the real deal: cowl, black robes, staff with a ball on top. You sure he’s not coming back tonight?” Getty continued to pace the room, lips pursed, blonde eyebrows knit together.
“Relax. He’s not coming back. I got it on good authority from his housekeeper, that pretty girl from the inn a few weeks back. She was quite, um, vocal.” Kanon smirked and gave him a look, but Getty didn’t seem to get it. He shrugged and reinserted his picks. “A shame I haven’t seen her since. What are you wearing, anyway? You look ridiculous.”
“What, this? Protection. You know, just in case.” Getty knocked once on the metal chest piece, walked to the heavy desk against the wall, and slumped into the large, padded chair behind it.
“Protection?” Kanon scoffed. “You know wizards can boil your blood, strike you blind, freeze you solid, all kinds of other stuff, right? That is not going to save you.” He shook his head and chuckled.
Getty sulked in the chair, and tested the sharpness of the axe with his thumb. He grimaced and stuck the digit in his mouth.
“C’mon, kid, don’t take it so hard. I’m just joking.” Kanon leaned down to the chest and pressed an ear to it, adjusted a pick a quarter turn.
The kid began pulling open the drawers to the desk.
“Careful, you idiot!” Kanon snapped, eyes wide.
“You said there weren’t any traps.” Getty retorted.
“Not in the room! I didn’t go checking the desk, did I? You wanna get killed?” He had figured the kid was too young for a job like this, but there was no one else.
“Well, we’re alive. No traps.” He rolled his eyes and began rummaging around in the drawers. Kanon thought to argue, but he went back to concentrating on the lock instead.
“What is this?” Getty’s tone was low, equal parts wonder and revulsion. He began pulling items from the drawers. Vials of different colored sand. Lye pellets. Small, clay jars. Preserved bat wings in a tight bundle. A set of silver flensing knives. A skeletal hand. A pair of eyeballs in a dish. A stunted fetus floating in a jar. A book bound in the flesh of a screaming, human face.
Kanon wasn’t paying attention. He could feel the tension in the picks. His tongue pressed so hard into his lips that it popped out of his mouth. He gave one last, small twist and the chest opened with a deep, metallic click. Within, four small, obsidian gems glinted up at him in the dull lamplight, carved into grinning skulls. A focus for necromancy, he knew.
The walls of the library slid upwards in four places, revealing small, dark recesses like closets between the shelves. Low, guttural moans rumbled from within. Human shapes stood in the darkness, swaying unsteadily on their feet. The stench of puke and rot rolled out as the zombies staggered into the room in tandem. Their clothes were brown, bloodstained, tattered, their faces were rotting shadows, unrecognizable in the gloom.
Getty made a good show of it. His face went green, his eyes like saucers of milk, but he advanced on them. He brought the axe down on the one in front of him. A swift, downward chop, the blade buried itself deep into the zombie’s skull with a heavy sound. The thing went down in a heap, dragging the axe out of the boy’s hand as it went. He grasped for the weapon, but the zombie behind him had already closed in. It grabbed onto the back of his breastplate, throwing an arm around his upper chest.
Kanon was much quicker. He was already most of the way to the door by the time the things stumbled from their hiding places, but he was not fast enough. One of them had lunged, fallen, and caught his foot with an outstretched hand. He yelped, was dragged to the floor. He rolled over as he was pulled backwards across the rug. He could see greasy hair framing a face he knew. The housekeeper was dead, lips crusted and black, eyes clouded by a milky film. She drooled a long stream of yellow bile, and sank her teeth into his ankle. He screamed, doubled over towards her, slipped a hand into his boot, and buried the knife hidden there into her forehead with a flick of his wrist. She let go of him. He scrambled to his feet, staggered to the door, and cast one backward glance into the room.
Getty was pinned against the bookshelves, one of the zombies holding him fast from behind. Another grasped at him from the front, hands scraping at the breastplate. He looked across the room at Kanon in shock, eyes wide and pleading.
“Sorry, kid.” Kanon limped from the house as fast as he could. He made it to the road before his ankle began to burn, to the village before his head began to swim and his vision to blur, and all the way back to the inn before the hunger took him and the world went dark.
Adam Bunnell is a prototypical English teacher/writer with a love for fantasy and horror. He hates onions, sentence fragments, and blatant hypocrisy. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his lovely wife and photogenic tabby cat.