Monthly Archives: October 2013

Issue #10: The Little Magazine of Magnificent Monsters

Analytical psychology

I sit around and mentally poke my gray matter, trying to come up with new ideas for magazine themes. I write them all down and put them aside for a day or two, like a vintner who has picked fresh grapes off the vine. I return to these ideas in due time and see which ones have ripened and which ones have grown so spoiled a cockroach would gag on them.

One of the recent choice fruits was the idea for a Steampunk-Plus-Monsters issue. I mean, I liked the idea, and I hoped that the writers who find this little magazine on Duotropes, or from the web would would like it, too.

They did.

I received some very good stories for this issue.

I hope readers of The Were-Traveler will like them, too.

Issue #10: The Little Magazine of Magnificent Monsters

A Tinker’s Damn, by K.R. Smith (flash)

The Innocence Machine, by Rhonda Eikamp (drabble)

The Silver Scarab, by Dana Wright (short story)

The Mission, by Iulian Ionescu (micro-fiction)

The Main Attraction, by Reed Beebe (drabble)

The Samson Museum, by Matthew Pegg (micro-fiction)

Sparks and Dark, by Kate Morrow (flash)

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A Tinker’s Damn, by K.R. Smith

© Vladislav Ociacia - Fotolia.com

© Vladislav Ociacia – Fotolia.com

Detective Myers stood next to the body lying in the garage, scanning the area for any clue as to what had happened. Finding the only thing unusual to be the bloody corpse stretched out on the concrete floor, he turned to the medical examiner inspecting the deceased and asked, “Do you have any idea on the cause of death?”

“Not yet. His name’s Edgar Winthrop. He’s the homeowner here, or was—along with his wife. She found him just like this. There are a lot of puncture marks and small cuts on the body, but I’m not sure what sort of weapon might do this. Looks like there was a struggle, though. Lots of swelling. I’ll be able to tell more once I get him downtown.”

“Yeah, great,” Myers mumbled. “Can’t say I’ve seen anything like this before. Nothing better than starting the day off with a mystery. Let me know as soon as you get something.”

“Grayson?” he said, turning to his plain-clothes sergeant. “Check out the shed, the shrubbery, the back of the property. See if you can dig up anything. And take plenty of pictures.”

“Got it,” Grayson replied, pulling out a small camera and checking the settings before striding away.

Myers walked over to a couple of uniformed policemen and told them to start a door-to-door check of the neighborhood to determine if there were any witnesses or if someone had noticed anything out of the ordinary that afternoon. They nodded, and then proceeded down the driveway to the street.

With the crime scene in process, he walked back toward the house to where the deceased’s wife, Mrs. Winthrop, sat in a lawn chair just out of sight of the tragedy. She was an unremarkable gray-haired woman, perhaps seventy years of age, appearing as if she could be anyone’s grandmother in her flowered housedress and white shoes.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Myers said to her in a matter-of-fact manner. “I was wondering if you were up to answering a few questions.”

“I’ll try,” she said, dabbing a handkerchief to her eyes.

“You found your husband just as he is now? In the garage workshop?”

“Yes. He was lying on the floor, bleeding from all those cuts.” She paused for a moment before continuing. “I knew he was dead the moment I saw him,” she said while trying to hold back her emotions.

“Do you know what he was doing in there?”

“Edgar had bought these models of insects and such he’d found at an estate sale. You know, spiders, scorpions, centipedes. He was trying to clean them up a bit.”

“Models of bugs?” Myers asked incredulously. “I didn’t see anything like that in there. Did you take them out of the workshop?”

“No. I certainly wouldn’t have done that. They were awful, and so dreadfully real looking. I didn’t want them in the house. I can’t believe anyone would steal those horrible things.”

“Can you describe them?”

“They were engraved like grotesque little knick-knacks, all very fancy, and looked quite old. I think they were made of iron because they had rusted. They were much bigger than in real life, though, and rather heavy.

“Were they valuable?”

“I can’t imagine how,” she replied, holding the handkerchief to her nose. “I mean they were just old decorations, I guess, if you could call them that. Some of them, you know, had a sort of wind-up key on the top, but they wouldn’t turn. Maybe they made a noise at one time. He only paid a few dollars for them. And like I said, they were all rusty. Is this really important? I mean, someone’s murdered my husband!”

“It’s hard to say, Mrs. Winthrop. I know this is difficult for you, but I need to find out what was going on here. Why did he buy something like that?”

“Oh, he was always picking up some useless bit of junk to tinker with. He loved going to flea markets and estate sales. He was very handy, you see. He could fix anything,” she added as she fought back tears. “It was a hobby, I guess. They were in that wooden box.”

“The box on the workbench?”

“Yes, the one with the odd writing on it.”

“I’d better get Grayson to take a picture of that,” he said, turning to look around for his sergeant. The detective called out a couple times, but there was no reply. “I wonder where he’s gotten to now?” he muttered. “Anyway,” he said, returning his attention to Mrs. Winthrop, “when was the last time you talked to your husband?”

“It was about two o’clock, I think, or maybe a little later. I—I’m not exactly sure.”

“And he was alright at that time?”

“Yes. He was working on the models.”

“So he was in his workshop when you saw him?”

“Yes.”

“Did you see anyone else around—anyone that looked suspicious?”

“No.”

“Why did you go out there?” he asked, continuing to check for Grayson.

“Edgar had called to me, and I came out to the workshop from the house to see what he wanted. He thought some of the parts of the models might be movable, but they were very old, you see, and rusted. We keep a small bottle of oil in the pantry, you know, for squeaky hinges and such. He had asked me to bring it out to him. I guess he didn’t have any in the workshop.”

“And you did that?”

“Yes, and then I went back inside. He just wanted to put a drop of oil on them, that’s all,” she said, holding the handkerchief to face, sobbing. “After a while I went back out to see if he needed anything else, and he was dead.”

Myers grabbed an officer that was walking past and whispered, “See if you can find Grayson, will you? I don’t know where the hell he disappeared to, and I need him back here.”

“All he wanted was a drop of oil,” she said looking up at Myers through her tears. “That’s not important, is it? Just a drop of oil?”

~~~

K. R. Smith is a full-time Information Technology Specialist and a part-time writer, frustrated by his inability to get any meaningful programming code to rhyme and still function properly. While mainly interested in writing short stories of the horror genre, he occasionally delves into poetry, songwriting, and the visual arts. His escapades may be followed by reading his blog at www.theworldofkrsmith.com.

The Innocence Machine, by Rhonda Eikamp

This trembling of the ground – you know what this means. The crash of saplings ripped apart out there in the murk of the forest. The hunter shoves you back, lifts his axe, but you say, “No,” and then the steel wolf bursts into view, venting steam. Tall as the cabin, fangs longer than your arm. Through the maw you can see Grandma at the controls, spit flying.

“Run, Red!” she cries. “I won’t let him violate you!”

“I’m twenty-one, Grandma!” you moan as fangs descend upon the hunter. “I’m a consenting adult!”

Too late. You’ll have to start looking again.

~~~

I’m originally from Texas and live in Germany. Stories of mine have appeared in Daily Science Fiction and The Colored Lens. When I’m not writing fiction, I translate German legal texts into English, which messes with my mind more than I’d like to admit.

The Silver Scarab, by Dana Wright

© theogott - Fotolia.com

© theogott – Fotolia.com

“I hate it.” Desi looked at the tiny metallic scarab and barely stifled a shiver. It was almost Halloween and the costume shop was cleaned out. Getting something together for a Steampunk themed party was a little more challenging than she had figured. Throwing a sheet over her head and strapping some gears around her waist was beginning to sound better and better. The stench of sweat permeated the darkened room and for a moment, Desi felt the constricting sensation of not being able to breathe. The thought of one of the moldy old costumes touching her flesh made her skin crawl.

The gaunt eyes of the sales person followed her, eyes lighting up as she moved toward the next rack of costumes. God, he was creeping her out more than the creepy old coats and Marie Antoinette dresses. Freak.

Her friend and counterpart in crime, Margo picked up the white robes and grinned. “Look! Steampunk Egyptian!”

The giant silvery scarab on the head piece stared at her. It’s beady little bejeweled eyes glinted in the half light of the room and she felt slightly ill. She hated bugs. Hated them. Desi shuddered and turned to look another rack. Anything to get away from that thing. “No way.”

“It’s part of the costume, you idiot.” Margo looked at her and snorted. “Egyptian Princess, you know?” She twirled around, letting the full effect of the diaphanous robes take effect. “You can practically see through them.” Desi laughed and waggled her eyebrows. “Come on spoil sport. If you even want Charles to look at you, you have to wear something hot.”

“I’m not wearing a giant freaky bug on my forehead.” Desi pulled out a witch costume and smiled. The barely there skirt and lavender and black tights would cling to every curve she had. It was perfect. “What do you think of this one? I could find some gears to strap on a broom and I’m all set.”

Margo rolled her eyes. “That is the lamest idea I’ve ever heard. Get in there and try it on. Now. Hurry up. I still need to find my costume and the store is closing in a half hour.” Her grin was infectious, the brightness of her smile dazzling against the olive tones of her skin.

“Alright.” Desi snatched the cursed thing from Margo’s hand and stalked off into the dressing room. “I’m only doing this under protest.” And because I want to get the hell out of here, she thought to herself.

“Just do it. God!”

Desi grumbled, slamming the door to the changing room. Stupid party. Why did she ever agree to go? Because Charles will be there. That’s why. She quickly disrobed, shucking her jeans and tossing her tee shirt on the bench. Unhooking the white robes, she searched for the snaps but didn’t find any. Odd. Her eyes scanned the folds of fabric and found where they separated and pulled them apart. Slipping the dress over her head, she yanked the costume down over her curves snugly, smiling at the image. Margo was right. It was sexy. All she needed was the headpiece to complete the outfit. It would be simple, but the best costumes were. Besides, she wanted Charles to be looking at her assets, not a costume. She angled her head, leaning slightly toward the mirror. Pulling the elastic band out of her hair, she let the waves of ebony curls tumble down her back. Looking into the mirror, her lips curved into an inviting smile. Nice. Charles wouldn’t stand a chance.

The silver scarab gleamed in the half light of the dressing room, all clockwork springs and menacing simplicity. It was a hideous thing. Desi’s hand shook as she picked up the headpiece and slid it over her head. Catching her finger on a sharp point near the scarab’s head, she winced, drawing back a bloody finger. “Ouch!”

“You okay in there? Get a move on!”

“Alright! I’m coming.” Desi stuck her finger in her mouth and eyed the headpiece with loathing. Something about the thing set her off. She didn’t know what, but it gave her the willies. Movement out of the corner of Desi’s eyes dragged them back to the mirror and she froze. What was that? The scarab sat on her forehead, surrounded by silver and lapis stones. It was just a stupid metal bug stuck on a headband. So why did it look like it had just moved? Icy numbness crawled up Desi’s back as she gazed at her image in the glass. The scarab had been facing upwards. Now it was pointing to the side. Desi stared harder, her breath caught in her throat. The cool metal resting on her forehead felt hot against her flesh.

“What the Hell?” she whispered. “No way.”

The bejeweled eyes seemed to bore into hers through the glass. Desi watched in horror as the creature began to twitch. Metallic gears hummed to life. The smear of blood near the tip of the pinchers was an invitation; an awakening. Its mechanical jaws opened and closed in anticipation. Desi screamed.

“Oh God.” Desi pulled the headband off with a disgusted snarl, flinging it to the floor. The scarab thrummed. Popping off the band, it landing on the carpet, the sound of metal gears reverberating in the small enclosed space. It’s beady eyes focused on their prey, lunging for her in a violent burst of energy. Clicking and whirring, the creature flew at her, a mechanical nightmare from Desi’s darkest fears. She screamed again, scrambling to get away. Her feet couldn’t move fast enough. The flimsy sandals caught on the long cotton fabric of the gown and she fell, twisted in the folds of the costume.

“What are you doing in there?” Margo’s voice echoed through the door.

Desi tried to crawl, but the thing was upon her, all mechanical legs and gnashing pinchers. “No!” She screamed as she fell, face forward. The creature crept up the back of her leg. Desi tried to shake it off, but it was unstoppable. The fabric of the gown ripped, a loud tearing sound filling the small room. Desi clawed at the door, her screams turning to whimpers. “No!” Desi sobbed, her hand fumbling on the changing room door in her panic. Twisting it with all of her might, she fell onto the carpet in front of her friend, shaking. Fear turned her mind to jelly as the creature began to burrow into her soft living flesh.

“Desi! Oh my God!” Margo grabbed a satin covered costume shoe, batting at the mechanical bug. Sending it flying, Margo tossed the satin slipper and picked up a combat boot and began to smash the scarab. The mechanical sounds of clicking and whirring began to slow, as a high pitched cry echoed in the darkened room.

Margo helped Desi climb to her feet. “Jesus. What was that?”

“It was the scarab. On the costume.” Desi’s voice shook. “Get it off me. Get it off!”

Margo pulled the dress over Desi’s head, leaving her in her bra and panties. She reached to grab her clothes but Desi shook her head.

“No. Let’s go. I don’t care.”

“Where the hell is the manager?”

“Margo! Get me out of here. It doesn’t matter.” Desi stared at the mechanical bug on the carpet, not trusting that it was really out of commission.

“The hell it doesn’t. That thing tried to kill you.”

Desi watched helplessly as Margo stalked back to the dressing room and retrieved her purse and clothes. “Margo. Hurry.” Eyes never leaving the scarab on the carpet, she thought she saw it twitch. “Oh God! It moved!”

“It did not. I crushed the holy fucking crap out of it. Now come on. We’re leaving.” Margo thrust Desi’s clothes and purse into her arms and steered her to the door. “No guy is worth this hon. We’ll do mail order.”

“Excuse me ladies.” The cadaverous form of the sales clerk appeared, blocking their path to the door. His face took on a vicious expression as his hollowed out eyes met Desi’s. Two scarabs crawled out from beneath his suit coat, clicking and whirring to life. “I believe you forgot part of your costumes.”

~~~

Dana Wright has always had a fascination with things that go bump in the night. She is often found  playing at local bookstores,  trying not to maim herself with crochet hooks or knitting needles, watching monster movies with her husband and furry kids or blogging about books. More commonly, she is chained to her computers, writing like a woman possessed. She was a contributing author toSiren’s Call E-zine in their “Women In Horror” issue in February 2013, a contributing author to the Potatoes Anthology Wonderstruck Anthology, Shifters: A Charity Anthology and the Roms, Bombs and Zoms Anthology due in late 2013 from Evil Girlfriend Media.  Dana also reviews music forMuzikreviews.com  and has been a contributing writer to Pagan LivingEternal Haunted Summer and Fabricoh Magazine.

Follow Dana’s reviews: Twitter: @dana19018 or on her website at http://danawrightwordscribe.wordpress.com/.

The Mission, by Iulian Ionescu

He releases the locking mechanism on his helmet, still smiling, happy to be the first man to set foot on Mars, at least the first in millions of years, as the recent unmanned exploration missions hinted when they revealed the presence of strange artifacts, ten to twenty feet below the planet’s surface, and not foreign artifacts, but common tools and weapons, all buried under layers of volcanic ash, trapped between walls of lost civilizations that somehow made their way over hundreds of thousands of miles, so he accepted this mission, hoping to answer the question: ‘was it man or other aliens that visited Mars in the past?’, but now that he is finally here, he knows he won’t be able to prove anything, not soon, not tomorrow, not ever, not with these fifty foot sharp-toothed worms suddenly spawning from the drilling wells, swirling around him in tight circles, which made dying from lack of oxygen a dignified option compared to being digested in the belly of a giant metal caterpillar.

~~~

Iulian Ionescu was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, where he earned his Bachelor’s in Finance. He moved to the US during 2001, and became a CPA. He’s an aspiring sci/fi and fantasy writer and lives in New Jersey with his wife and son. He blogs at www.fantasyscroll.com and www.iulianionescu.com.

The Main Attraction, by Reed Beebe

Ten years after her ascension, the Queen decreed that a celebration occur at the Palace to mark the anniversary. After all, under the Queen’s rule, the world had been conquered. Science flourished. Her subjects lived in a wondrous age, and the Queen had organized a grand event to showcase those wonders.

Antennae quivered and mandibles trembled as the attendees’ compound eyes took in the sights of airships and automatons. Hind-wings fluttered when attendees stood before the main attraction, a giant clockwork replica of that extinct creature known as Man, its moving brass feet evoking everyone’s sympathy for their ancient ancestors.

~~~

Reed Beebe writes fiction and poetry in Kansas City, Missouri. His stories have been published by The Were-TravelerFlashes in the Dark, and Fever Dreams.

The Samson Museum, by Matthew Pegg

© DM7 - Fotolia.com

© DM7 – Fotolia.com

The Samson Museum is hidden within a remote wing of the Royal Hospital in Greenwich. Old and new sit in uneasy juxtaposition: oak panelling, dark with the patina of decades, ice white LED lighting. Cabinets and specimen jars contain bleached animal and human remains, biological curiosities collected by Sir George Shadrach Samson (1846-1921). Their innermost workings are exposed to the scientific eye, nerve, bone, epidermis, marrow.

New and most lowly museum assistant Simon gazes at the specimens fascinated.

His superiors, Miss Coult, Mr Valentine, Mr Hudson, are detached, cool, aloof and capable. He finds them intimidating, longs to be like them.

In the second week he notices the locked room, the private collection, not for public display.

“Can I see?” he summons up the courage to ask.

“Later,” says Mr Valentine and flares his right nostril.

In the tenth week they give in, hand him the key.

What’s so special?

Behind the door are the wonders: fairies pinned like butterflies, the devil’s hoof print, a bottled ghost. He is rapt. The world should know he thinks.

He sees the mahogany cabinet by the door. Inside, on a shelf, something coiled in a jar. Simon looks closer. The cockatrice opens its jewelled eye.

He looks round again. Now he sees stitches, paint, shabby fairground artifice. The mermaid is stuffed with newspaper, the fairies are cut outs, the demon skull, papier-mâché. No wonders here after all.

He leaves the room, locks the door behind him, returns the key.

In the months and years that follow Simon becomes detached, cool, aloof and capable. Perhaps it is better if there are no dragons. His superiors nod their approval. The false cockatrice did not turn them to stone, but made them stone of heart.

~~~

Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. He writes fiction and plays. His last play ‘Escaping Alice’ was produced by York Theatre Royal in 2012 and he is working on his first novel.

In the past Matthew worked as an actor, director, graphic designer, and teacher. He lives in a small village and fosters cats for the RSPCA, some of which have refused to be re-homed and stuck around.

Sparks and Dark, by Kate Morrow

The walls of the warehouse were blackened by the desert sun. On the outside, they were baked too hot to touch. The inside was better, but the smell was stale and red. The blood and sweat of the ones who had been here before me.

“I don’t want to,” I said. I’d been saying it for months, as my eighteenth birthday had crept closer. I’d shouted it at dawn, when they’d come to collect me. I’d whispered it into my mother’s hair as she’d hugged me goodbye. Her answering smile had been an empty thing.

“Rite of passage,” Samuel said. “Everyone has to build.”

At his heels, Samuel’s steel-made dog snapped its metal teeth, forcing me further inside the warehouse.

Our town was small, and Samuel was our only collector. He’d been smiling at me for months, means smiles, because everyone knew that I didn’t want to build.

“I don’t have it,” I said. “The spark, Samuel. There’s no spark in my head, no companion waiting to be made. Just…black. Dark.”

“Your companion won’t run without the spark.”

“I know. I know, so let me out. There’s no point to this.”

I tried to push past. His dog blocked the door and snarled, steam curling from his nostrils

“Law,” Samuel sang out, and a wide smile stretched his face. “Sorry, sweet girl. It’s the law. Can’t let you out without a running companion. Nobody wants an unstable in our tiny town, right.”

“But I don’t have-“

“Then you’d better get used to metal walls,” Samuel said, and then stepped out and slammed the door. A second later, the steel bolt sealed it shut.

#

The first day I stained the ground with sweat. As the sun climbed higher, the walls grew hotter and the air grew thinner and I struggled to stay calm. The water that Samuel shoved through the tiny hatch in the door barely lasted past noon.

The second day, I cried. Thick and miserable tears because it was so hot and I couldn’t breathe.

The third day, I screamed. Scratched at the walls and then at my skin because at least there the marks showed.

In the far corner of the warehouse, the stacks and stacks of steel plates lay quiet, waiting to be shaped by a light that I didn’t have.

#

My father’s companion was a fox. He had pointy little teeth that my father had made out of sharpened spikes of metal. My mother’s companion was a rabbit. She creaked when she hopped, because Mom was never very good about giving her the oil that she needed.

Jagged scrapes and scratches decorated the rabbit’s legs and back. One of her ears was permanently dented. This was all because my father’s fox like to chase the rabbit around the yard. To catch her and rip away with those sharpened teeth.

“Make it stop,” I always said.

My dad laughed, he always laughed, and tucked my mother under his arm.

“They’re just playing,” he said. “It’s in a fox’s nature to hunt, he can’t help it.” He laughed again and gave Mom a little shake. “Blame your mother. She’s the one who built such a tempting little companion.”

The inside of my throat went hot and tight, it always did. My hands clenched. But Mom just smiled up at my father, sweet and warm, and missed the sound of the rabbit shaking so hard that her steel plates clacked together.

#

At the end of the first week, Samuel opened the door and stepped inside the warehouse. He found me in the far right corner, because there were shadows there, and the walls only left red marks on my back instead of blisters.

He stepped on the clumps of my hair that I’d sawed off with a sharpened metal edge the day before, because I couldn’t stand the weight of it on my shoulders. Samuel’s mouth pursed with disgust and he kicked them aside. His dog went snapping after them.

“You know what I didn’t do during my building?” he asked. “Sit in a corner and cry.”

“There’s no spark,” I said and the words felt familiar by now. They’d started off as an explanation, and then become a plea.

“Yes, only dark, you said. Listen, just build a butterfly or a kitten or something, okay? I’m sure you can manage that. Don’t you want that? A nice, soft build that some boy’s companion will notice and chase?”

“Like prey.”

Samuel rolled his eyes towards the ceiling and said, “Save me from the girls that read.”

His dog steamed out a sound that might have been agreement.

“You’ve got two more weeks,” Samuel said and started back towards the door. “And then I’m reporting you as unstable. Better find that spark, sweet girl. I’m sure my puppy would love to play with whatever you come up with.”

He laughed as he locked me in again. The heat made my anger bigger, made it huge.

Inside my head, the darkness shifted.

There was still no spark, but the mass of black that I’d always mistaken for the absence of light rolled and stretched and pressed against my skull, impossibly big.

“Oh,” I said, and smiled.

#

Samuel didn’t return at the end of the second week, but I didn’t notice. I built. I stained the steel with blood and sweat and burned the air even hotter with my torch, but it all felt unimportant now. I built, and when I ran out of the neat little metal plates they provided, I used my tools to rip it from the floor. The metal there was weaker than the walls and when I tore it free I let the desert in.

I built until there was barely any space. I squeezed myself against an un-shadowed corner and didn’t even feel the blisters on my back. And when I finished I dropped my tools and stroked a hand down my companion’s face. There was no spark for me to give, but there was darkness, a giant darkness ready to be poured.

Beneath my hand, the metal stretched and steamed.

#

At the beginning of the third week, I banged scratched and battered hands against the door. Samuel opened it right away, because I hadn’t done that since the very first week.

“I built,” I said, and smiled.

“Got a kitten for me?” Samuel asked and stepped inside.

He stumbled. Because the floor was uneven; I’d let the desert in. His dog whined and skipped back, his steel paws shaking.

Out of the shadows, my companion moved.

Samuel screamed.

~~~

Kate Morrow resides in San Antonio. When she needs a break from beating her face against a keyboard, she rules her classroom with an iron fist. Her work has been seen in the “Sheepshead Review”, although she considers her elementary school book review of “Harry Potter” her proudest publication credit. Kate can also be found on Twitter as MKate04. Follow for updates on both writing and the creation of her secret werewolf student army.