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Issue Three

JUNE 2013

Volume 1, Issue 3

Welcome to

Issue Three Dear Readers, It's been eight months since the conception of HelloHorror, five months since the first issue and three (if you count the original blog, since lost in the Tumblr archives) site redesigns. Our journal has already come a long way in a relatively short period, but we've got many new ideas in the works as well. In this, the third issue, we've placed a much stronger focus on our goal to be a publication focusing on the psychological aspects of horror. We hope this focus shines through in our selections, and we hope you'll read every last one and finish the issue yearning for more. We've got an impressive line up of writers; some exhibiting great skill despite their newness to the craft, and some offering masterful work that upholds their noteworthy credentials. We hope that you enjoy reading this issue as much as we've enjoyed creating it. Before you begin, I have one suggestion for you. Make sure your night light is plugged in before laying down tonight. You just might need it...

Brent E. Armour Editor in Chief


VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3 Rob Boffard is a full-time journalist, and writes feature stories for The Guardian newspaper, Wired Magazine and others. He recently started writing fiction, and has just had his second short story published. Jessica Bowers is an 18 year old high school senior living in Claxton, Georgia. She plans to start college in the fall, majoring in biology and minoring in creative writing. Her inspirations are Mary Shelley, Aldous Huxley, and of course, Stephen King. Writing has become a big part of her and she wishes to keep it alive in her adult life. Nate Burley was born in 1990 and raised in Toronto. He later graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University of King's College in Halifax where he studied English and Creative Writing. Nate currently resides back in Toronto, working at a restaurant by day and writing crazed manuscripts by night. Ignacio Carrion is a writer and designer living and working in Houston who hopes that Orwell is getting residuals. He is currently working on a novel in three parts inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Ignacio’s micro, During the Day He’s a Good Man, appears in the January 2013 issue of HelloHorror and his shorty story, Boy, appears in the June 2013 issue of HelloHorror.

Chris Castle is an English teacher in Greece. He has been published over 300 times and has been featured in various end of year and best of anthologies. He is currently writing a novel. His influences include Stephen King and Ray Carver. He can be reached for feedback at Chris has become a regular contributor to our Journal. Chris’ stories; “Grid”, “Slumber”, and “The last House on Vector Street” consecutively appear in the January, April and June issues of HelloHorror. Judith Dore is a writer, runner, guitar putzer, avid book lover, mother & alcoholic who has always found horror stories comforting. She has a degree in Journalism & Mass Communications from the University of NC in Chapel Hill and has worked in business writing, which is frightening in its own right. Judith lives in with her husband and son in upstate NY where she often can be found running through town while listening to scary stories on her iPod. A.A. Garrison is a twenty-nine-year-old man living in the mountains of North Carolina, USA. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of zines and anthologies, as well as the Pseudopod webcast. His horror novel, The End of Jack Cruz, is available from Montag Press. He blogs at

Lauren Hasty is a misplaced southerner of 30 years, currently residing too close to Baltimore, Maryland for her contentment. Having been in the business of writing as a hobby for over fifteen years, she's finally decided to look into this 'being published' business. So far, so good. Most of her inspiration comes from reading copious amounts of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, and listening to too much music when she should, in fact, be sleeping. Colin James has poems forthcoming in THE DELINQUENT and THUNKBOOK. He lives in Massachusetts. Katie Jones lives in Australia and spends her working days caring for people with a disability. During her free time she enjoys writing and reading whenever possible. She is currently working on a novel and a piece of writing called ‘Food for Thought’ has been selected for inclusion in Slaughter House: The Serial Killer Edition Anthology by Sirens Call Publications. You can contact Katie on twitter: @misskatejones89 or Jamie Kinn is a shadowy and formless being. Born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, it runs the website, Jamie Kinn’s Creepypasta Machine (, where it has written and published over 40 short horror stories over a period of 10 months. It has also been published in a smattering of literary journals, including Sanitarium Magazine and Dark Highlands. Jamie currently resides in Austin, TX where it is working on the first draft of its first novel, The Nemesis,

a story about a young girl whose anxieties take on a living, breathing form and attempt to destroy her life from the inside out. Dan Lee is a horror and strange fiction author in a small, Nashville adjacent town. His work has also appeared on, and in Dead Letters 2.1. He has an attempted web page at James Morris is a television writer in Los Angeles. He has written for such shows as “The Dead Zone”, “The 4400” and “Smallville.” Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a short story author and award-winning poet. She has work appearing or forthcoming in over two dozen venues, including Buzzy Mag, The Spirit of Poe, Underneath the Juniper Tree, the British Fantasy Society journal Dark Horizons, and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ prize anthology Encore. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association, vice president of the Denton Poets’ Assembly, and president of the North Branch Writers’ Critique Group. She also blogs for Writer Unboxed. You can visit her at






Charlie ran down the street, bare feet pounding the sidewalk. She’d stepped on so many sharp rocks and fragments of glass that she couldn’t feel anything but the pain any longer. Her feet felt slick and she was sure she was leaving pairs of crimson footsteps in her wake, bright as runway lights.

Every house she passed was deserted—no lights, boarded up and hollow inside. Empty carapace, the guts and blood having moved onto bigger and better things. She would find no help here.

A howling in the distance. They were gaining on her. Panicking, she turned toward one of the houses. A tall threestory thing, very dark and very inviting. She sprinted toward its rotten porch after a quick check to make sure she wasn’t, in fact, trailing any blood. She ran her feet through the grass just be sure. Up the wooden stairs. The door was locked and boarded up tight. She rattled the knob just in case. No luck. She tried the front windows—also locked.

She leapt over the side of the porch and ran around the perimeter, trying every window she came across. And then good fortune came in the form of a basement window on the back end of the house. It was open half an inch, like somebody had recently used it. Howling behind her, the excited jabber of voices off in the distance. She dug her fingers into the opening and shimmied through, headfirst, into the void.

She landed heavily on the concrete floor, sprang to her feet and then shut and locked the window behind her.

She squatted down in the dark, hiding amongst the molding boxes and spiders, and waited as the howling and the voices grew closer. She watched the shadows of feet pass by the window, heart pounding so hard that she thought she might cry out just to get it over with. ‘I’m in here!’ her mind screamed. ‘I’m in here! Just come in and kill me already!’ She closed her eyes and listened.

They circled the house for close to five minutes before giving up and moving on.

Their voices sounded frustrated, bloodthirsty as they faded away into the distance.

A long time passed. She waited and listened, but all she heard was silence. A cricket began to chirp on the opposite side of the basement.

Charlie sighed and, exhausted, settled into herself. She felt her head droop. Within minutes she’d fallen dead asleep.

When she awoke, hazy yellow sunlight was trickling through the windows. She was still alive.


She got to her feet, her entire body stiff and sore. But she ignored the pain, limping up the basement stairs. She came through into a kitchen with a battered table and a rusting refrigerator in the corner. Inside was a massive cooler filled with water—once ice, she was sure—sunken soda cans and a dozen bottles of booze. Next, she checked the cabinets and found a whole stockpile of canned food and piles of junk food. Whoever had put these here had done so recently. The dust was disturbed inside the cabinet but all the packages were clean. She pulled out a can of chili.

She found a can opener and a box of plastic spoons in the top drawer below the counter. She opened the can and retreated back into the basement.

She ate the chili in silence, standing beside one of the windows. She watched for any sign of movement, listened for any sound from the outside world. Nothing.

After she finished her food, she tossed the empty can on the ground and shimmied out through the window.

This part of town was even sadder looking in the daylight than it had seemed the night before. Sparse, dry weeds filled every lawn. Every house, every store was boarded and sagging; colourless paint flaking away under the hot summer sun. Plants poked out through smashed windows and the dead

eyes of mom-and-pop watched her with mistrust.


The abandoned area stretched about ten blocks in either direction. After that the buildings began to seem healthier, if still a little dilapidated. She saw people milling around far down the street, heard their voices carrying on the wind.

She turned on her heel and headed straight back to the house. She waited until the figures were out of sight before breaking out into a run.

The relative safety of the basement greeted her like a lover. She sank to the floor and held a hand to her chest. Definitely not safe out there.

Days passed. Charlie puttered around the house, eating occasionally, taking naps on the couch, on the one of the three beds upstairs, or curled up in the bathtub. She spent her nights in the basement, keeping her head up, listening for any sign of the dogs or their masters. When she had to go to the bathroom, she snuck into the bushes a few houses down and went there.

She found a couple of packs of cigarettes stashed away in the one of the drawers in the kitchen as well as a lighter. She sat on the back porch and tapped a cigarette out of the pack, lighting it while it dangled between her lips. She hadn’t smoked in years.

She listened to the silence surrounding the neighbourhood and closed her eyes. The screech of the crickets, but no cars. No voices. Just her and the wind and the bugs.

“Nice,” she said as the smoke poured from between her lips.

When it was dark and dead quiet, Charlie headed out into the streets. She moved through the rows and rows of empty houses, head down, creeping amongst the shadows. She headed north, toward the skyscrapers that dotted the horizon, toward life and light and civilization.

her on the cheek. She wasn’t here for that.

She turned to the girl’s closet and stripped naked, leaving her dirty rags lying on the carpet. She silently picked through her clothes: jeans, a bit snug; black tee shirt and a heather grey hoodie. She found a pair of tennis shoes and slid them on. They were tight but she didn’t mind. She only needed them for their appearance.

Like a whisper, she slipped out the window, into the night.

The clean clothes felt rough against her skin, made her realize just how grimy she really was underneath. How long it been since she’d taken a shower? Maybe when all of this was done, she’d sneak into somebody’s bathroom, or maybe just use the hose in their backyard.

A small apartment building. Groundlevel windows. She snuck around the outside, peering into each apartment, her back to the wall. She tested each window in turn, finally striking gold on the south end of the building. She opened it and slithered through. Dark inside. A girl asleep in her bed, late teens, not much older than Charlie herself.

The bright fluorescent lights overhead made her flesh squirm. She wanted to hide. She needed to hide. Too many eyes on her. Cameras watching her from hidden spots in the ceiling. She pulled her hood down lower on her face. Her hands clenched in her pockets, teeth gritted.

Charlie crept up to the bedside. The girl was very pretty. Short, auburn hair, long lashes and gentle eyelids. Charlie resisted the urge to reach out and touch

She came to the canned food and dropped rows and rows of them into the plastic basket looped through her arm. Soup and beans and fruit. It didn’t


She inhaled deep and then exhaled, watching the smoke curl from her mouth in coils of pearly fangs. Her lungs burned a little but she didn’t mind.

really matter. Just take it and get the hell out of there as soon as possible.


The plastic basket strained under the weight of the cans, but she hardly noticed. Through the rows of the 24hour pharmacy, past the hair dye and shampoo. She found a massive crate of bottled water and slung it under her arm. Turned around and came face-toface with an employee in a green polo. He stared at her, wide-eyed, slack-jawed, a price gun frozen in his hand. She looked down at herself, tiny thing carrying her weight in food and water with no apparent effort. She glanced away quickly and headed for the register. She felt his eyes on her back all the way down.

She dropped everything heavily on the counter before the cashier. The cashier paused, momentarily stunned, and then began to ring everything up, one-byone.

Charlie kept her head down, face pointed away. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest, her hands fidgeting, her gut squirming. Why was it taking this girl so long to ring up her shit? She felt like bolting, but she stayed glued to the spot, knowing anything she did, any action out of the ordinary, could bring the attention of the dogs down upon her.

Fly straight. Follow the rules, she told herself.

It took her a moment to realize that the cashier had her hand out, waiting for her money.

“Sorry,” Charlie mumbled and dug around in her pocket. She pulled out a couple grubby hundred dollar bills and handed them to her.

The cashier stared at them for a moment and then handed one of the bills back. She rooted around in the register and handed Charlie her change. Charlie stuffed the change and the hundred back into her pocket and effortlessly hoisted the bags of cans and the water crate into her arms.

She shuffled out the doors, perhaps a little too quickly, the curious eyes of the employees following her all the way out. They whispered to one another and exchanged confused shrugs.

She slunk into the house, weary from her night’s excursion, and dropped the food and the water into the kitchen. People exhausted her. Their cities, their cars, their dumb faces. Sometimes it was too much.

It was getting light outside, slowly but surely. The sky was progressing from milky black to a deep ultramarine, filling the room with its dim light.

She was feeling vulnerable and though the softness of the moldy beds upstairs

She plodded, stiff-legged, down the stairs and into the basement. There she found the darkest corner and curled up, hidden from the steadily brightening rays of light coming in through the windows. The concrete felt cool and dry against her skin. She drifted off into uneasy sleep.

Voices from upstairs pulled her out of oblivion. She sat up, startled and disoriented. It was still dark outside but now the feeble light was coming from the other side of the room. It took her a moment to realize that she’d slept through the entire day and it was now dusk. Why had she slept so long?

She froze at the sound of laughter coming through the ceiling above. It echoed around her, peeling back her skin, exposing raw fear.

There were people in the house.

She’d figured this would happen eventually, but she’d always held out the hope that she was wrong. That whoever had left behind all the food, the soda, the cigarettes and the booze, had gone away and was never coming back.

She laid stock still in the shadows and listened. Loud, obnoxious

voices. Boisterous. Young. There were six of them. Four boys and three girls. A crash and then more laughter. Another crash.

They were tearing the place apart.

Chest hammering, she got to her feet and crept up the stairs. Cautiously, she planted her ear to the door.

“Fucking hell—”

“Where’s my drink. Who took my—”

“Let’s go upstairs—” A giggle.

Another crash as someone shattered a chair against the ground. A shriek from one of the girls and more laughter.

She could hide. She could go back downstairs and hide and cover her ears to the noise and wait for them to go away. It was the sensible thing to do. But her heart kept hammering, beating her brain like a war drum. Her pupils dilated and her fingers ached. The first stages of bloodlust were upon her. This was her house now. Her fingers tensed, curling tighter. If she ignored them they would just come back. They


called to her, she knew she wouldn’t sleep easy unless she was somewhere dark and hidden.


would keep coming back until the place was destroyed. Then they would move on to the next house and then the next and the next. She liked this place— teeth growing white hot in the mouth— she liked it. It was her home.

The last, the most foolish of all, ran upstairs, cornering himself. She took her time with him, savouring his screams and his soft insides.

She’d promised herself that she wouldn’t kill again. She could survive on human food indefinitely. It left her a little weak but it kept her alive. Nothing was worth bringing the dogs and the hunters down on her head. Nothing—except this.

She sat on the back porch and watched the stars. She had ruined her new clothes already, bloodstained sleeves and chest.

This. This was worth killing for.

She plucked the cigarette from her mouth and exhaled. It stuck to her fingers, leaving a red honey fingerprint on its white paper. Now she felt foolish going out to buy all that food. She had enough in that house to last her a month as long as she stored it properly. Though in a pinch, a rancid carcass would serve her just fine.

She burst through the door. Six stunned faces, pale white in the candlelight. They turned to her in slow motion and she pounced on the one nearest to her. She reached out with her hands and caught him by the face, split his head in half with ease. He fell to the floor, arterial spray surrounding her like an aura. There were screams but it was too late. She heard her pulse in her ears, ecstatic, like the razor edge of an orgasm as she dug her fingers into the next throat and tore it out, lapping up the blood that poured out, black honey. They tried to run. She trapped two in a doorway and mashed their faces together, flattening both into an unrecognizable mess. Their skulls hooked one another and they fell together, gurgling. The next she caught as he bounded for the back door. She leapt on his back, tackling him to the ground. She chewed down the back of his neck, severing his spine with her needle teeth, chewed until his head lay limp, held only by a flap of skin and sinew.


The crickets chirped on around her and she sighed contentedly. The house was hers now. Its ownership had rightfully been passed. No one could deny that. It was her home.

At that thought she smiled and took another drag on her cigarette.






Adam’s hand is snaking its way into my swimsuit when he tells me I am naïve.

I think this is hilarious, but I neither laugh nor stop his hand’s journey. All of it feels good: the heat of the sun, his hand tracing the underside of my breast, the ridiculousness of his speech. My eyes are half-closed and I can feel the stretch of the muscles in my neck as I lean to my right to give Adam more leeway. I turn my face away from his increasingly heaving breath. It smells of cheap beer and I prefer the scent of the sun-baked seaweed and brine of the ocean. I can pretend he is someone else.

“Naïve, how?” I say this with an innocence I don’t feel. Adam chuckles, the tone meant to make me feel small. I want to pull away from him, but I don’t.

“Everything has a price,” he tells me. I slither a glance his way. His eyes are on my breasts, so he doesn’t see me watching him. I wonder how hard I’d have to kick him to knock him overboard. I imagine him flailing in the water, sputtering and indignant, and this makes me grin.

“Of course it does, silly,” I say.

“What I mean is, to get what you want in life, you have to sacrifice.” His hand slides lower, dips into my bellybutton then between my legs. He thinks he is being seductive.

“Mmmm,” I say. He takes this as encouragement and puts a finger inside me.

My eyes turn to the beach, about a hundred yards away from where the catamaran is anchored. The ocean is quiet at low tide. I’ve been vacationing in the crook of Cape Cod for most of my life. My family used to rent cottages here when I was younger, before they graduated to luxury condos, but I stopped staying at my parents’ place the summer I got my first job out of college. I prefer the freedom granted by my own resources.

I love this part of the beach, where the tide goes out for a mile and leaves pools to explore. I’ve never understood the attraction of Provincetown, where people go to play with artists and wannabes. Too many people with too much pretention. In fact, I can’t figure out why my parents chose this part of the Cape playground to hang – they usually choose places and things that reflect their superiority. Maybe they like feeling like bigger fish.

The sand dunes hide the roadway and the parking lot by the access beach, but I can still make out the opening where the fencing is awkwardly windtipped. I’ve been watching that spot for the better part of two hours, seeing families and other loudly outfitted vacationers passing through the gateway. No one I give two shits about.

I am sick of waiting.

Adam is kissing my neck, trying to nudge me backwards. I’m holding the guardrail with my back to him, and I’m not inclined to lose my view of the beach. I hear Adam’s frustration, but I also know that my resistance turns him on.

I toss my head from side to side, exhaling loudly. Buying time.

‘Fucking jackass’, I think, ‘Where is he? He said, he promised…’

‘No’, I remind myself, ‘he didn’t promise’.

The catamaran lurches, and I tilt my head to the side, away from Adam. He squeezes the tender flesh of my inner thigh. It hurts. I yank his hand away, but disguise my action as an excuse to kneel and steady myself. The water has become rocky.

I pretend not to see Adam’s look. It’s a disdain that’s become all too common lately. I’ve probably earned it, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

I point at the horizon, and he follows my lead. The inside of my mouth is bleeding a little. I have a habit of biting the inside of my cheek when nervous. The sore spot tastes metallic as I brush it with my tongue.

“Shit. Storm,” Adam says, fumbling to his feet and making his way to the captain’s chair. He turns the key, and the engine sputters.

I look back at the beach and see people collecting their towels and lounge chairs. A trio of children dancing


Adam and I have been coming to this part of East Dennis for the past three years. He bought the catamaran the first summer we spent together. I’m not a fan – I’d rather ride on something with sails and thought the commitment was stupid. Adam said that I needed to grow up and learn to take care of something besides myself.


“ring-around-the-rosy” while they keep an eye on the grey clouds in the distance. I wonder what the father figure tells them as he pulls their grasped hands apart, pointing skyward then back at the person I presume is his wife. I imagine the kids are miserable and that his wife’s face is pinched. But I have no proof that my observations are true. Just remnants of my own memories.

“A little help?” Adam says, that tone I hate at the fore. My teeth grind before I break a grin, turning at my waist to look flirtatiously his way. My dentist is going to shoot me next time I see him, I think, feeling where I’ve chipped enamel.

the tide moving in or both. The turbulent waves are hypnotizing.

I learned to swim in both the shallow waters of low tide and the chaos of high. I like aspects of both: the bobbling quiet beneath the water as fish skirt away from my inelegant strokes and the feel of sand and saltwater up my nose after I catch a particularly riotous wave inland. The only time I was frightened by the ocean was when I was a kid and a crab tweaked my toe. I was sure it was the sting of a jellyfish trying to consume me.

“Adam?” I say. I jump to my feet with excitement. “Adam!”

“Oh, it’ll pass,” I say. “What?” Adam grunts and goes back to trying to start the boat’s engine.

The dark clouds are moving away. Fleeting storms are normal this time of year, and I like waiting them out. I feel like I can breathe in the moments the danger slips away, like I’ve survived.

The water is still choppy. I don’t know if it’s because of the retreating storm or

I’m pointing again. Something solid is slicing through the cresting waves, something both frightening and charismatic. “That,” I say. I hop up and down with excitement, the way I sometimes did as a girl when I found something unusual in the tide pools.

Adam looks pissed until he sees what I have: a dorsal fin followed by a slightly smaller tailfin. He is tan, but I think the colour leaves his face.

“You suppose it’s a Great White?” I ask. The shark is maybe fifty feet away, and I can’t help leaning over the guardrail to get a closer look. I look from side to side to see if any other fins are visible. Just the one.

“Get back from there,” Adam says. I look over my shoulder at him, then back at the fin. It’s not doing anything, not headed our way, not headed towards the beach. It’s just swimming one way, then another. Seeking, hungry, traveling.

The cat’s engine turns over a few more times as Adam tries to get it going.

“Will you stop that?” I snap. I don’t normally lose my temper with Adam, but I can see that every time the engine sputters, the shark moves further away.

“Fucking bitch,” Adam responds, and I look at him. He’s looking at the steering wheel, disgust and fear in his countenance. I feel a spurt of discomfort deep in my stomach.

“What is it?”

“Just shut the fuck up!” he shouts. I taste my own blood again, stare at him one pulse longer, and then turn back to where I saw the shark. It’s no longer there.

A few minutes pass before I feel Adam’s hand on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you. It’s just that—” he pauses dramatically. My shoulder shrugs of its own accord as I look back at the empty beach and finless waters. “It’s just that one of the floaters is busted. And we’re out of gas.”

My shoulder twitches hard enough to dislodge Adam, and I stalk to the rear of the vehicle. I am not surprised by his disclosure. I’m only disappointed that I wasted my day.

“So we swim back,” I say reasonably.

“We can’t leave the cat!” Adam says. Of course his property is his first concern.

“I’m swimming back.”


“Holy fuck,” he says. He falls back into the captain’s chair, making me roll my eyes. “Fuck.”

I don’t even hold my breath as I plunge into the water, an impulse that amuses me even as my lungs protest. Bubbles tickle my face and waist, welcome and cleansing.


My shoulders lose their tension as I reach forward, towards the shore, towards where Brett is supposed to be. I’ve never had good technique, but the water assists me in pulling forward, away from the cat, my hair like a medusa halo, sensual along my propelling body.

When I need to surface for air, I realize that Adam has followed me. He splashes like an injured seal. I can’t judge how close he is, but I want distance between us, so I duck beneath the surface and kick my feet.

The tide is definitely coming in. I feel it both pushing and pulling me, the undertow growing, giving me less control. It feels different than the ocean of my youth.

I let my mind drift, feeling the flow of the water, letting it tell me how to move. I think about how clam diggers sought holes in the sand, how I never caught a single one, thwarted by their ability to scoot away just as I caught a glimpse of their ridged shells. How my sister and I

would run screaming from stranded horseshoe crabs, and of our reverence for marooned starfish.

One summer, I'd tried to make an aquarium of found snails and hermit crabs, only to have them stink of death a few days later. I didn't really know what to do with my acquisitions. My mother took me to the library, and I read all the books, but none helped me really understand what food they needed, or how I could get it. The kind of water that they needed to survive. I tried table salt and hot dogs.

Embarrassed by my failure, too ashamed to show my dad how badly I’d cared for my pets, I left their carcasses out in the front yard for the birds. When even the birds refused to eat them, I put their sad little bodies in the creek behind our house, hoping that they would find life somehow, there downstream, outside my bad influence. I was a silly creature, even then.

I ended up using the empty fish tank for my punk-haired Barbie to swim in. My mother bought me inflatable doll furniture, not the good kind that was made by Mattel but some ugly knock-off she found at a Kmart going out of business sale. I kind of hated her for it, but in the end I made good. Barbie had hermit crab shells for pets.

I breach the water to see Adam and a white belly full of teeth spraying above the waves. It’s pink and red and foamy. Adam’s screams are the same as when he had called the boat a bitch. A horrible giggle burbles in my gut. I think of hot dogs and saltwater.

The shore isn’t so far. I see a maroon Subaru peeking over one edge of the sand dunes. Brett. I stroke my right arm over my head, then my left. I ignore the crunching gurgle behind me. You’re late.

Time moves like water as I swim towards the beach. Even with the flood in my ears, nose and mouth, it’s too quiet.

My eyes have been closed. I don’t mind saltwater in my eyes, but I’ve not opened them at all. I am moving with purpose, so it takes me a few minutes to realize I’m not swimming alone.

It’s the bulk that strikes me, the sheer solidity and grace. My eyes sting a bit when I open them. The shark is

gorgeous. I feel like a clumsy fool swimming alongside him.

I’ve read that the eyes of a shark are dead, but this is untrue. Everything is contained in that blackness, all the colours, all the horror, all the joy, all the knowledge.

Those eyes tell me I am beautiful.

I am still pulling water with my palms as I regard the shark. A bit of debris is caught in his jagged teeth. I wonder about the taste of Drakkar Noir, copper and denim. He is almost close enough to touch.

My knees hit sand. I stand with a stumble. The shark is not far away. His belly must be brushing the sand, rough and uncomfortable. Yet his tail is unencumbered, swishing side to side. I am a bad judge of size, but he is maybe fifteen feet long.

When the ocean scared me, I’d stomped the shell of that crab until its claw waved sadly with the ebb of the water, its life gone. As I see my companion wagging his tail at me, I wonder what it would take to crush him. But a flood of love squashes my rage until I cannot


Sound travels strangely underwater. I hear Adam shrieking through Jell-O. It sounds like he is chewing on his own guts.

comprehend where it came from to begin with.

Water is dripping from my hair, and I suspect some tears may be mingled in with the rest of the saltwater. I shake it off; swiping defensively at my eyes, then turn away from the ocean. Over the dunes, I see that there is no Subaru.


The sand sticks on my feet, and I watch the seagulls scavenge the beach and feed on half-eaten bologna sandwiches. I think about swimming in the ocean again, soon.






It was Cassie May of 34 Orchid Street who saw the lights first. Her teeth were filmy with fresh vomit and her throat ached with the sting of stomach acid as she peered out at the strange sight atop the hill, at those fever yellow lights turning on and off, on and off. It wasn’t the nervous flicker of shoddy electricity, but a steady pattern of light and dark, as though someone was inside playing with a switch. ‘Peculiar’, Cassie thought, for she knew the abandoned old house had been boarded up at the front door and condemned after the neighbourhood complained about what an eye sore it was. In fact, they were tearing it down tomorrow morning, tearing it down and flattening the hill to build a playground for the kids or something.

Cassie stood in silent contemplation, the ominous beacon periodically flushing her face in the pallid, sickly hues of perpetual nausea, her pupils shrinking and dilating in a spell of hypnosis. Behind her the television babbled of nonsense and burst out with occasional track laughter, bathing the room in kaleidoscopic flashes of blue and white. Her mother was sprawled over the couch like a beached sea cow, gurgling in her sleep as if she were drowning. Her slab of an arm dangled over the edge where she held the remote in a dimply, swollen hand; and when it slipped out and clattered to the floor, Cassie didn’t hear a thing.

She was impelled toward the light, impelled without knowing why, and suddenly she found herself outside in the sticky night air, thoughtless as she crossed the cool, slimy asphalt with bare feet, as thoughtless as she’d been the

first time she’d stuck a pencil down her throat to spare herself all the sordidness she associated with digestion. In fact, not ten minutes earlier she’d been deep in the ritual of binge-barf-bed, or rather, the bulimic tendency that took her in a strangling hold after she’d accidentally seen her mother stark naked in all her gargantuan glory: a beluga whale shapeless and smothered in the flabby saddles of obesity. Cassie could never ever let herself turn into that; but she had to quell her hunger somehow. When the beast fell asleep, Cassie sat on the kitchen floor and gorged herself with all the salts and sweets and fats that were toxic during the day, then promptly purged it all in a gush of liquid heat and went to bed before the feeling of fullness wore off.

Tonight would have been no different, had she not seen that rhythmic flash of yellow when she went to turn off the TV. Her mouth rotten and sour and gasping for air, she clutched at the dry, shrubby grass and scrabbled up the hill, testing the limits of her atrophied muscles and brittle bones. She crested the hill with a final, strenuous effort and was distantly alarmed to see the front door of the house was ajar—shredded planks and rusty, twisted nails strewn across the threshold. On-off-on-off went the lights. Cassie stumbled over the rubble and went inside, thoughtless and languished.

Kurt Dailey of 38 Orchid Street caught a glimpse of the lights through the dirty slats of his blinds as he worked on his latest project: an intricate model of a

It was arduous work, but Kurt loved it. He was so engrossed in it that the days passed around him in meaningless patterns, for his blinds were always shut to shun the outside. His entire home was a workshop coated in sawdust and smelling of paint, equipped with heavy machinery and hundreds of tools that were tacked to the walls. He paid no mind to the neighbours when he cranked up his screaming metal blades in the middle of the night, for this was his world; this was his world alone and away from all them.

In the centre of the workshop was his cluttered worktable, bathing in the lamp that to Kurt was a holy spotlight. Presently he was using a tiny, homemade hammer to nail the chains of a miniature white swing into the ceiling of the porch. His hands were deft machines that worked independently of his body, trained by years and years of precise, surgical movements. In a jiff he had the swing secure, and with his careful, almost femininely dainty hands

he gave it a nudge and smiled to himself.

That was when he looked up and saw the lights, those obscenely flashing lights that’d been hindering his concentration all night. Who was out there doing that, pestering him during his work? Kurt shuffled over to the window in his slippers and filthy, splattered apron, separating the blinds with his dusty white hand. He peeked through the narrow slit into the world he so abhorred and saw there, in the house atop the hill, the lights blinking on and off, on and off. ‘Damn kids probably pulling a prank’, he thought, and returned to his work.

He tinkered for a moment with the wires sticking out from a slot in the back of his Victorian model, and then peered into his old bedroom at the glowing world he’d created there. It was a network of grand houses all interconnected by wire, and overlooking everything was a grey water tower that said Kurt’s Kingdom in bold blue letters. Nobody but Kurt lived in Kurt’s Kingdom, and that was just how he liked it. It was the place he began building after his beloved told him he was a worthless swine and moved to another man’s bed, leaving him to wither alone. The world had shut him out so many times that Kurt decided it was his turn to shut himself out. He made his own world, one empty of people and all their wretchedness. Here he was at peace; here he was King.

Soon this new model would have its place among the winding highways,


magnifying glass with a lamp directly overhead. The glorious structure of plaster and wood was like a beloved child. It was white with green shutters that opened and closed over real glass windows. The lawn was made of felt carpet and the driveway of small brown pebbles he glued on one by one. He’d fashioned tree skeletons out of small wooden sticks and dressed them with thin metal flakes for leaves, then dotted them all about the house like sentries. It’d taken him two months to build what could be destroyed in two minutes by a careless hand.


stained glass lakes and plaster hills; soon it would be all lit up as if everyone in the world were home. Soon, yes, but for now Kurt could not help but shuffle back to the window and behold that unremitting pattern of yellow and black, his bloodshot eyes cast and recast in a glare of deepening irritation.

That was it, gods blast it! He parted with his sanctum and hobbled toward the hill, planning to beat those stupid kids with his cane when he found the foolish lot of them. Like Cassie, he struggled to the top, and once there he was faced with the same obscurity at the threshold. To Kurt, it looked as someone had torn the wood and nails from the door with his bare hands, but he was nonetheless unfazed. Damn those kids, he thought again, clearing a path with his cane. Without hesitation, he too went in.

Janie Sanders of 36 Orchid Street was flustered when she realized the yellow flash coming through the window did not signal the arrival of her date in his car. No, it was just that stupid ugly house atop the hill having some kind of electrical malfunction, and the longer Janie sat there waiting and filing her fingernails, the more she wondered when the hell someone was going to get over there and do something about it before the whole town started in. She glanced sporadically at the window just to make sure it wasn’t him this time, and then resumed her feverish filing while she smoked. As she filed, she sprinkled yellow dust over the table already littered with cigarette butts and smeared ashes. Everything had to be perfect, right down to the fingernail.

Luke Harris was The One, and this Janie knew for certain. Literally everyone she’d ever dated had been The One; but she would deny it if anyone ever said so, for there had been quite a lot of them. The young and attractive Miss Janie Sanders had more love interests than she did IQ points; in fact, The One was actually The Many. Luke Harris was The One today; Anthony Benjamin would be The One tomorrow, and perhaps Nick Carleton would be The One next week. She was a girl with simple compulsions and simple goals, marking up every tree with her gaudy red lipstick and musky perfume, notching her bedpost in the very midst of the act.

If asked why she had taken so many lovers, Janie would say it was because she had nothing else. She’d flunked out of school because her brain had the learning capability of a rotten banana, for which her affluent Catholic parents had cut her off in disgrace. She worked a mediocre job and lived in a mediocre house, and were it not for the endless slew of men whispering their sweet nothings, Janie Sanders would be in the corner with six gallons of ice cream and a shovel, bawling her eyes out and eating her feelings.

When Janie got bored with The One, she had no trouble in biting his head off and sending him away with what she thought was agony and wounded manhood. She really thought they all loved her, that she kneaded them all like putty beneath her thumb, and that she left their hearts in fractions when she

Mr. Harris was extremely late, and as the dust and butts and ashes continued to gather, Janie began to fret. Maybe he got into an accident or maybe he forgot or maybe he got lost! After three hours without a call or a show, it was obvious that Luke wasn’t coming, and as much as Janie hated him, she hated herself more. Her fingers grew hot under the friction of her frustration and the skin was buffed away, making her bleed. She surprised herself with a yell and threw the emery board, backlashed by all the pain she tried to inflict on The One. And those lights! Those maddening, mocking lights! To hell with it all; she’d shut them off herself!

Janie stomped toward the hill, her heels clacking fiercely and the hem of her candy red dress rippling about her thighs. She slipped on the slick road and skinned both of her knees. She crawled the rest of the way up to those lights that mocked her and blamed them for everything. At last she rose at the top of the hill, bloody and bedaubed with dirt, cheap mascara running down her cheeks like ink. She smeared it with her hands like war paint, snarling and feral, and went inside.

Eli Sykes of 32 Orchid Street was drenched in a cold sweat, recovering from the violent throes of a horrific nightmare when the lights illuminated the cosmic patterns of his bedroom curtains. In his dream he was chased

by a polka-dotted clown with black beetle eyes and a serrated mouth dripping with liquid guts. Its laugh was like a wind-up toy and its big floppy red shoes squished as though they were full of water as it ran after Eli in fast forward, its crablike demon claws outstretched and clacking. Being mute since birth, Eli had been as unable to scream in the dream as he really was in real life, his throat squeaking like a clogged trumpet as the devil clown snatched him with its crab claws and lifted him face first into the jagged, acrid hole of its maw.

Eli sat upright, trembling with the aftershocks of his nightmare, dark hair sticking to his forehead in sweaty commas. The bubbly squishing sound reverberated in his mind as the little boy mopped his forehead with a pillowcase and breathed through his mouth, wishing a sound would come out, wishing he could cry for his mother. As usual nothing sounded but the ragged whisper of his breath. How he wished he could say just one word, any word! Even if that word was toilet, even if Eli was allowed to say it just once for his whole life, he would die the happiest person on Earth.

When he couldn’t answer with head or hand motions, Eli communicated with a whiteboard and marker. It was humiliating having to scribble out a response instead of speaking it, having to be afraid that the other person would get bored and leave after a few small exchanges, which they always did.


what they meant to her, and especially not now, now that Luke Harris was The One.

“Why can’t you talk?” kids at school would ask.

parted in childlike wonder as he gazed at the bizarre activity atop the hill.

“I’m mute,” Eli would write.

Eli didn’t even like to look at the house in the safety of full daylight, because he thought he could always sense some kind of grotesquely shaped shadow meandering past the grimy window, watching him. The house was, Eli felt with a certainty more acute than fact, the hiding place for the creatures of his nightmares; for the creatures of all the kids’ nightmares. When the kids of the neighbourhood had too many bad dreams, there wouldn’t be enough room for the monsters anymore, so they’d all come out and go into the kids’ houses instead. Eli’s throat tingled with the desire to whimper as he imagined the devil clown scraping its crab claws across his windowpane, laughing its dry, wind-up toy laugh and drooling shiny black blood.

“What’s that mean?”

“It means I can’t talk.”

“Why can’t you?”


“I just can’t.”

And that was always that. Eli couldn’t laugh with his friends—not that he had any—couldn’t sing along in music class, and couldn’t talk to the girl he thought was pretty without her abruptly turning away, whipping him with her long ponytail as she went. He grew to hate the other kids, and sometimes, he found himself wishing not that he could speak, but that all of them were mute like him.

When he lowered the pillow he saw the flashing lights with their steady tempo of on off, on off. The pattern calmed him from his fit, and watching them still, he put his feet on the floor, straightened his tiger-striped pajamas and went to the window. He peeled back the star curtains and climbed up onto the windowsill for a better look. Surprised in his silent way, he knelt there with his hands on the glass, his mouth half-

So what did the lights mean? Was somebody in there, fighting all the monsters, killing them with light? Eli didn’t think so. The ichor yellow flashes painted and repainted sunsets on his rosy cheeks, dazzling his tentative eyes and dying his curly dark hair a queasy green. The sudden enlightenment was brighter than the light itself! The monsters were beckoning to him, to all the kids to come and face them once and for all. This too Eli felt with that eminent certainty, the certainty more concrete than the fact that he had no voice.

He took a deep breath and swallowed it down in a painful gulp. Eli had to do it,

He got down from the windowsill and went to his closet, quickly locating his baseball bat and the umpire’s mask that’d belonged to his father: his weapon and armour. He slipped the mask over his face. It was too big for him and still reeked of chewing tobacco and old sweat, but these were the smells of his father and he felt safe behind the metal lattice. The bat itself was nearly as tall as he was, but he wielded it confidently with two hands and decided he’d better go before he lost his guts.

Eli left his room and hurriedly pattered to the front door in bare feet, for the narrow darkness of the hallway was scary enough and he didn’t want to get spooked already. He paused and held the doorknob, making sure he could hear his mother sleeping, and he very well could. Part of him almost wished that she wasn’t asleep and that she would catch him, but he forced the thought down with a fresh dose of courage and pushed himself out the door.

When he reached the top of the balding hill, Eli pulled the mask back halfway, cocking his head back to gaze at the house in full scope. The wood was warped and scarred, the white paint gone in patches and peeling away in long, moldy tendrils. The roof was mottled with rust and tangles of vines clung to it, shifting in the breeze like scraggly hair. These vines dominated the whole house like a malignant cancer. They held it in a net of thin, twisty fingers that were like black spider webs against the cloudy windows. A weathervane creaked and croaked somewhere high up, the severed caution tape billowed like yellow ribbons and the cattails whispered scratchily against the rough exterior. When Eli saw the door he thought the monsters had already escaped and were capering about the town, but he knew he should check for sure. His heart pounded like a crazed animal was trying to break out of his chest, but his face was stoic, docile, and silent. He went forward, one step at a time, his mask drawn and the bat firm against his chest.

Unlike the others, Eli could not bring himself to walk through the crooked door so easily. To Eli, this was more than just an hold house with flashing lights. To Eli it was an entity as ancient as the ages, a vessel for all the dark charms and wicked phantasms that tarnished gold, corrupted righteousness and made people seize up with fear. The way its giant shadow loomed over him and made him shiver on a hot summer night was a portent beyond what his fledgling mind could process. He just knew that when they


even if none of the other kids would ever be brave enough to come with him. More than anything, more than he wanted to have lots of friends and be a baseball star, Eli wanted to prove that being mute did not make him inept at everything he did, and this could be the only chance he ever got. He didn’t have to speak to the monsters; he just had to look at them with his eyes and hit them where it hurt. And even if he failed, he would fail knowing he’d been brave. Not your typical eight-year-old sentiment, but then again, Eli wasn’t your typical eight-year-old.


released upon all the people in some inexplicably awful way. Now he knew for sure that he had to do something about it; he had to go in and find the black heart of the evil and destroy it, whatever it was. He knew that when he walked inside he would never be the same again, and the poignant little boy was right, only in a way he never would have imagined even in his most vivid, violent nightmares. He went inside.

When Cassie May stepped inside, everything went pitch black. The lights were no longer flashing, and the only signs of existence coming from anywhere were the low hum of insects from outside and Cassie’s ragged, tinny breathing. To Cassie the whole world had gone dark, and she stood at the threshold in a daze, forgetting for almost a whole minute where she was. Then, out of the black, a light from a single room began to flash in the same pattern as the entire house had been flashing a moment prior. Shocked back to life by this, Cassie began to walk straight toward the light, letting the house swallow her whole, her skeletal feet barely sounding on the dusty planks of the floor.

As she drew nearer the light flashed faster, the harsh palpitations bashing her eyes like solid objects. The musty air scraped across her weak lungs like sandpaper as she advanced more swiftly toward the psychotic light, advancing because she was possessed by the unknown force that’d brought her here, that same force that made her throw out her internal organs night after night. When she was inches away from the open door, the light was flickering so

intensely that she could no longer tell the difference between light and dark. Hardly wondering what would happen when she did it, Cassie May of 34 Orchid Street stepped inside; stepped under the fever yellow glare of the Uglylights.

When Kurt Dailey hobbled inside a few minutes later, the house greeted him in an identical fashion. The lights went out all at once, marinating him in thick, almost solid darkness for a whole minute. Damn kids trying to scare him now. It seemed as if no light at all penetrated from the outside, like the house was surrounded by an invisible barrier. This struck Kurt as odd, but he dismissed it as soon as he saw new light coming from the room to his left.

He bolted toward it in his graceless, crippled gait, knowing he had the culprits now. The floorboards creaked in protest under his weight and his cane pounded them back in a series of dull, irregular thuds. The frantic lights cut right through his bitter old skull and exploded in his head like hot stars and comets, so he shielded his face with his arm and ambled blindly on, hitting the walls with his cane, disturbing ancient cobwebs and scolding imaginary delinquents.

The door locked behind him. He turned clumsily and twisted the knob a dozen times to no avail.

“Hey now, you kids just knock it off, ya hear?” he shouted in the dark.

Janie Sanders charged into the house like a burglar, and then decided she wasn’t so tough when the lights went out once again and stayed that way for too long. Well, that solves that, she thought. She would have walked out had she not seen from the tail of her eye the light begin to flash on her right side. She considered her options for a moment. If she went home right now, no doubt she would spend hours and hours crying herself to sleep. If she stayed here to investigate, she could distract herself for a while at least; she could take all her anger at being stood up out on whoever was screwing with these lights. Janie Sanders may have had a rotten fruit for a brain, but she still made the right choices for herself. Or at least, so she thought.

Janie took off toward the light with her heels thundering in the dank space, her eyes fluttering against the helter-skelter on-off, her hair dishevelled and her makeup smeared all over a face that quivered on the brink of lunacy. Nobody stood up Janie Sanders. Nobody.

When at last Eli Sykes passed over the threshold, the door swung shut behind him in a rush of cool dusty air, triggering the steady darkness yet once more. Frozen in place, Eli clutched the baseball bat in a sweaty grip, hopelessly clinging to the courage that’d fled him at the very last instant and finding there was nothing left of it, not even the tiniest

dreg. The darkness seemed infinite, and the silence was so dense that he felt it squeezing all around him, making his ears thrum like swollen veins. The air was peppered with dust particles that felt gritty in his open, wheezing mouth and tasted like stale crumbs. It was so utterly still that he felt the whole rigid structure around him was not a house at all, but a living creature holding its breath. He loathed himself for not bringing a flashlight. His pajamas were already saturated with the sweat of sheer terror and his eyes were bulging from the sockets, desperate for just a pinprick of light.

Like divine revelation, his prayers were answered. He could see a beam of light splashing and fading over the wall in front of him, the source of which he projected to be in the far right corner of the house. Eli spun the bat slowly in his hands, watching through his mask the diseased light as it danced and flirted with him upon the wall, scores of unspeakably large black bugs scuttling away in its glaring wake. The heart, whatever it may be, was there in that light, waiting for him. There was no turning back now. Armed with nothing but a wooden bat, Eli Sykes of 32 Orchid Street stumbled momentarily over the foot of a staircase, regained his balance and marched onward into the Uglylights.

The lights went out when Cassie May entered, to prevent her from seeing the room, and when they came back on she was presented with a carnival funhouse. The room was full of concave


Nobody heard him, not even Cassie who stood twenty feet away, trying to stifle a scream.


shapes. Here she was wider than a semi-truck; there she was but a sliver of white skin, thinner than a sheet of paper. Cassie spun round and round in a daze, for all the mirrors reflected upon each other into infinity, and in every direction she looked there was the disgusting dichotomy of fat Cassie and skinny Cassie, repeating and repeating forever. The whole paranoid obsession over her self-image was wrapped around her, and just when she thought it would pierce right through her, the lights went out again with a sound like a bowling ball hitting a concrete floor.

They came on with a whine of energy so high that Cassie could hardly hear it, and the lights were so unnaturally bright that she was temporarily blinded. Agony lanced through every square inch of her body as if she’d been ripped right out of her skin, and when the blue splotches faded from her eyes she saw that she really had been. The Uglylights had snatched her skin right off as if she could be unzipped, and what Cassie saw portrayed in the single mirror was the revelation of what’d been hiding underneath.

She was no longer Cassie May of 34 Orchid Street, but the free and exposed essence of that human being, the essence liberated by the Uglylights. She hadn’t been this aware of anything since she’d put her head in the toilet earlier that evening, and when the world snapped back to her in stunning clarity she was overwhelmed with the need to scream, stopping short only because she realized she was looking at herself.

Her hands were level with her abdomen but they were hidden, thrust inside the red, viscous tangle of entrails that’d been gouged out of her body but were still connected to the inside. They were boiling hot in her hands and she could feel them still thrumming with life, could feel something like tiny rodents squirming inside the slimy tubes of her intestines. She was slathered up to the shoulders in her own warm blood and there were speckles of it on her chest and cheeks. Her skin was but wrinkly parchment stretched over a wire frame, her face was puckered like an aged corpse and a dark, acrid fluid leaked from her rheumy eyes. Her hair fell out in brittle pieces like dried leaves.

What was almost worse was that she could see the empty sack of her old skin hanging on a hook like a coat, a ghoulish and hairless thing that gaped with black holes where her eyes and mouth and nose had been. A moment later the elastic suit crumbled into black dust as if it were a thousand years old.

This was the real Cassie May: a skeleton offering up her innards to anything that would relieve her of them and all their sordidness; a blighted victim of the Ultimate purge.

The room lit up with a sound like thunder, and the cantankerous old Kurt Dailey was flailing his cane like mad, so livid that he really thought the hard objects he was smiting were the misbehaved knees and skulls of Those

The dolls littered the floor in an ocean, rising up to the ceiling in an eerily identical wall of frilly pink dresses, white bonnets and marble eyes. These were his disciples; they were the perfect hollow, lifeless shells to inhabit his perfect hollow, lifeless world. The motionless eyes stared at him from every direction, never asking to be loved and never betraying him in wickedness; all of them just staring, staring.

As Kurt watched, backing up against the locked door in his small recess of clear space, the dolls amassed together as if they were but one living thing, forming a sheer wall before him of tinkling porcelain, a wall of people that couldn’t feel and couldn’t love, a wall of people that were only good for sitting there and staring at their owners while they slept. The wall broke and the dolls toppled over their King, drowning him in a sea of icy hands, flaxen hair and hard, ruby red lips. Surely he would die here encompassed by this army of dolls alive in their enormity, and as he wallowed beneath the unyielding pressure of their cold hard weight, their eyes still staring, staring, he wished he’d never been a King at all.

The lights went out and his lungs were relieved; he could feel nothing pressed against him now but the darkness. He scrambled over the floor and came clumsily to his feet, ready to fight the next wave of the supernatural, certain he would win this time. He was prepared for anything, anything but what he was about to see in the mirror. The Uglylights invaded him with an explosion of white-hot agony, tearing the layers between truth and lie as if they were as feeble as paper. Kurt Dailey crumpled to the floor, dazzled and blinded, and when at last he rose, he rose redefined; he rose as a piece of matter warped by an immutable action. He too was powerfully impelled to scream, but when he opened his plaster mouth his dry throat could do nothing but choke on its own dust. He was cocaine white from head to foot, his face blanched and lineless like a solid ghost. He was cloaked in motheaten green and gold robes that fit him like window curtains, and when he tore them open he saw that his pale body had no shape at all; it was a smooth, chalky mannequin with arms and legs attached at sharp, unnatural seams that cracked open and spilled plaster chunks and powder when he moved. Kurt was completely hollow on the inside; he could hear in his empty head the air whistling through his body. He tried again to scream but there were no lungs and no vocal cords, just an artificial mold full of black, empty space, a mold that was crumbling to nothing all the time. On his hairless head was a tarnished silver crown encrusted with plastic jewels, and in his hand his cane


pleas for mercy but breaking glass, he froze with the cane over his head as if it were as powerful as Thor’s hammer, wheezing as fat beads of sweat glimmered in his bushy white brows. He lowered the cane in the midst of his stupefaction and saw that he was standing in a pile of broken ivory hands and legs and faces, namely, the shattered remains of a million little porcelain dolls.

had become a scepter shaped like a half-burnt matchstick.


Statuesque he stood: the Hollow Man, the Leper, anything but Kurt Dailey. When he saw his molted skin dangling above him like a plastic bag, he reached up for it as if he could somehow slip back inside, only for his arm to snap off at the fissured shoulder and land in fractions. But the Hollow Man did not bleed; he did not feel a thing. The Hollow Man simply stood there, crooked and asymmetrical, empty of all the human things he hated so much.

Statuesque he stood: the King of Nothing.

When the lights went out on Janie Sanders, she huffed impatiently and kicked the locked door with her vinyl heel, regretting it immediately. She nursed her big toe with her thumb, her tongue lashing out indecencies made even more vulgar by her raspy cigarette voice. Her rotten banana brain had not at all grasped that something strange was happening to her; Janie just knew that she was all fired up and someone was going to pay.

And she would.

Suddenly Janie was presented with a row of young men dressed to the nines, their palms outstretched and beckoning for a dance. It would be wrong to

assume that any of them were handsome, for they had no faces at all, just canvases of blank skin from forehead to chin. Already dressed for the occasion, Janie found it impossible to deny these strapping, anonymous suitors, so she picked the fellow in the middle and let him take the lead.

Janie waltzed with The One, turning and dipping and swooning round and round the austere room as the others watched, clapping daintily at the grace they blindly witnessed. Janie’s chest swelled with egomania and she caressed her partner’s featureless face, indifferent that there was nothing actually there because The One never really had a face; The One was insignificant. The world was full of faceless, insignificant things that yielded before the grandiose Janie Sanders, better known as the centre of gravity and centripetal force and tides and seasons and all the other things that made the universe go on existing in perfect harmony. Nothing had a real face when it was compared to Janie Sanders, better known as God.

God giveth and God taketh away, and without warning Janie found herself alone in the dark once more, no longer twirling in the masquerade. The Uglylights smote her down with a hand of thunder and lightning, severing hideous lie from an even more hideous truth and replacing false divinity with genuine depravity. The flouncing God had been swatted from her self-inflated throne, never to return.

Her exoskeleton smashed into the wall with a grotesque crunch that was like stepping on a bag of aluminum cans, and without her control a bright red chemical spilled from two small holes in her face; a signal to let her brethren know she was in distress. The gas diffused throughout the room, dying the air in a rosy pink haze that looked like the colour of asphyxia. As she reeled back and reached up to inspect the damage, Janie knew, without any prior knowledge of how insects communicated, that she was seeing smells on top of everything else. Her manicured hands fluttered on the surface of her head in a spasm of panic, and when a bent, injured antenna brushed over the back of her hand, the truth was obvious to even an idiot of her caliber.

She whirled on her legs, faint and delirious, and as she turned she brought herself to face the mirror by chance. Thrown off equilibrium by her damaged feeler, Janie crawled toward it on her hands and bloody knees, and reflected in her eyes, two dozen Janies

crawled back at her, Janies only human from the neck down, Janies reborn with the green, alien head of a praying mantis.

Like the others before her, like anyone in the whole wide world would do, Janie Sanders opened her flytrap mouth and screamed. Out of the dry, cavernous hole came the rattling hiss of locusts and the noxious malodour of black licorice mixed with cigarettes. Brooding, Janie let her feelers flit across the mirror, feeling with her whole body the cool, perfect smoothness of the glass. She blinked over and over, hoping it was all just a mirage, coating her alien black eyes with a fresh layer of slime that could have been tears.

Even though she’d never been better than anybody, Janie had all her life thought her every minute action an expression of fine art. When things turned against her, she decided it was only because she was too good for them. She was too good for school and too good for her parents, but above all Janie was too good for The One. Now she could truly show The One mercy; now she could truly bite his head off and spare him the mortal anguish of living without her, for Janie Sanders was too good to live without.

But nothing, not even Janie Sanders, was too good for the Uglylights. Nothing was good at all.

Eli Sykes stood in the dark room with the bat drawn and his teeth bared,


When Janie came to her senses, she was no longer seeing the world through a sane, undivided angle. Her vision was scrambled two dozen different ways, like she was looking through the geometrical facets of a diamond. She blinked fervently to right herself, and what closed over her brand new eyes were not human eyelids but a translucent yellow film viscous with slime. She saw through two kaleidoscopes, tripping over her cheap heels and flailing her arms for balance, the world swimming around her in phantasmagorical patterns.


terrified beyond comprehension of how long he actually stood there in wait. He measured the seconds with his heartbeats, comforted only by the simple knowledge that they meant he was still alive. He was waiting for the lights, and when they came on he would find the black heart, the black heart with a rotten apple core, the black heart thrumming with the arrhythmia of disease. He would find it and he would kill it. He would squeeze it in his hands until it burst like confetti; he would tear through the sinewy pericardium with his teeth and gnaw through atria and ventricles and bicuspids until he held but a wasted sac. He would do it and he would fight every monster that tried to protect the heart, for the life force of the heart was the life force of all the monsters, of all the nightmares and of all the evil. Eli would destroy them all.

He waited until his own querulous heart felt like the only thing in the world that could make a sound, until it felt like the only thing that existed at all. His ears crackled as the pressure mounted in his head, the veins tightening under his skin like rigid tree branches and his lungs fluttering in his chest like spastic wings. The darkness was alive and it was watching him suffer, watching and waiting just like him, waiting for him to explode. Eli felt he really would; he felt as if he was being crushed and so he wilted to the floor and threw off the mask, clutching his damp dark curls with both hands, wishing he could split his skull right down the middle and let the terror burst from his brain, his sweet baby face contorted at the pinnacle of a silent scream.

When Eli opened his eyes again the lights were on, and he could see for himself that the black hearts and monsters that’d tortured his mind were all just childish delusions. He was surrounded by four walls that were dark and grimy as if scorched by flame. There was nothing in the room but a wooden pedestal. On top of it sat an old telephone with a curly cord and a turning dial with finger holes. The instant Eli laid eyes on it, the phone began to ring so violently it did a tap dance on its hook, braying so urgently that Eli knew it wouldn’t quit until he picked it up.

He stood up cautiously, his face blotched with heat and running with sweat, his hair sticking out at odds and ends like wild antennae. Slowly he approached, the shrill, piercing wail making his wide eyes rattle in their sockets. As his trembling hand hovered over the phone, he saw it wasn’t plugged in anywhere; the mysterious call was being transmitted through bare space. He laid his hand on the cool plastic, endured one more of those earsplitting shrieks, and whipped the phone up to his ear before he decided to chicken out.

Nothing but the sandy crackle of static greeted his ear and so he waited, his heavy breath condensing into hot fog on the receiver. Hello? Hello? HELLO? His throat fought for the word but it was like trying to catch air.

“Eli? Ain’t ya gonna say hello?”

In the brevity of a blink the Uglylights were upon him and glaring brighter than a supernova. The little clairvoyant felt them in ways the others could not, felt the Uglylights penetrate the soft shell of his soul and fill it not with the darkness that was the mere absence of light, but the tacky, putrid darkness that was tar and sludge. He felt his spirit drowning in the mire like a little bird, but what could he do except let it? The brightness was a nuclear fever that radiated in waves, illuminating every corner of his mind with the keenest dread. The Uglylights lingered inside with their omnipotent intensity until Eli just wanted to lie there and quit, until he just wanted to lie there and let them take everything they wanted. He did exactly that. Eli let the Uglylights soak up the pretense and leave him withered. Eli wasn’t a hero; he was a meek little mute boy stuck in the rusted armour of dead chivalry. Heroes didn’t exist, they told him. Nothing was good. Nothing at all.

The pain ebbed away in slow layers and Eli sat up. His eyes spun like pinwheels behind their lids, fizzling with blue stars, and his head pounded with an agony that harpooned to the very core of his thoughts. The world around him felt

muddled, its edges blurred and tinted like Eli was looking through lenses made of dirty water. Nothing was clean anymore, not even the air; everything hung suspended and heavy in the sticky perfume of a virulent haze. Everything was ugly.

Eli stood up, his muscles aching with permanent fever, his arms tattooed and scarred with the dark hieroglyphics of an ancient curse. He regarded these in silent awe, his bare, callused feet subconsciously stepping toward the mirror. Unlike the others, the thought of screaming did not so much as flit across his mind because he knew with the collected poignancy of all the frustration he’d ever felt that he would have been unable.

He was dressed in the silken white tunic of an ancient Greek. It was held together by a golden ring that hung on his right shoulder, a golden ring that Eli saw as worthless, tarnished metal. This wasn’t the first thing he noticed. The devil himself sat on Eli’s shoulders, a hairy, matted beast with two crescent-shaped, fleshy wings that twitched almost lifelessly in its filthy fur. It perched on him using two thin, misshapen legs that ended in scaly talons that danced for new ground whenever the boy moved. Its other two legs were stubby, hoofed limbs that dangled uselessly on the creature’s left side. In a small hairy arm that budded from its body without rhyme or reason, the beast held a curved metal horn that was mottled by age. Its mouth was a


It was a choked, guttural voice, like one of a drain clogged with mold, and it was chased through Eli’s ear canal, all around his body and into the innermost crevice of his soul by the dry wind-up toy laugh of the devil clown. Eli crippled up with a feeling like frostbite and threw the phone as hard as he could, watching the cradle slingshot forward and explode with a final jingle upon the wall. Then the lights went out.

that his brain felt trapped in a razor snare. The thing was faceless, but scattered in the tangled mess of its fur were dozens of beady black eyes that blinked in disarray.


The thing sat on his shoulders weightless and poised, settling into a position that was almost completely painless; as if it wanted to make sure its host was as comfortable as possible. As far as Eli could tell, it was benign; and despite its appearance, it seemed to cling to him not as a parasite but as an eternal companion. It was Eli’s creature; it was Eli’s friend. He felt it could hear him despite his silence; he felt they were both entities beyond the sphere of spoken language. Eli did not need to speak to know that he and his creature were the same, that they were unorthodox and misunderstood, that they needed the solace they’d found in one another. He reached up and patted its mangled mane, its wormy muscles coiling up against his touch, then slowly unravelling and beginning to relax.

Eli gently stroked the thing that’d once haunted the dark skies of some netherworld.

His mouth came open as if to laugh with excitement, and as it did, a harsh, warbling note came braying from the creature’s rusty horn. Eli’s jaw locked tightly in surprise; but in a glorious moment, he understood in jubilant, undeniable clarity. He opened his mouth, his lungs crushing up in all his

effort. The horn blared acrimony, bleating like a wounded sheep. Sounds! He was making sounds!

“Hello,” he mouthed, to which the creature issued a brassy dissonance. To Eli it sounded like a golden hymn. “HELLO! HELLO! HELLO!”

Eli’s face was plum purple, his tongue flapping with the energy behind his open mouth, his eyes rolled back in ecstasy and his branded arms flung out and clenched at the fists. In them he held the fervor of quintessential passion; in them he held his utmost gratefulness for the Uglylights. He thanked them for delivering him from the opaque veil that keeps us all so blissfully unaware. He thanked them because the Uglylights had made him beautiful.

The living siren sang its sour song and reached a fever-pitch; the woolly creature’s hellish wings all aflutter with the maelstrom of sheer sound. Fissures shot up the walls like lightning bolts but Eli did not relent; he yelled and yelled until his lungs were shriveled butterflies inside his chest. Yielding to his power, the door to the room burst open; all of the doors burst open and they were free.

Eli emerged into the misty night air and realized that he’d never been alone at all as he looked at the three next door

more companions to join him in his new diversion. He accepted them not because they were transformed like him but because they were the truth: the raw, exposed truth.

Lost and finally found, they all just wanted to go home now. Home to where, they weren’t sure, but Eli Sykes of 32 Orchid Street bravely led the way, marching and bleating his noble creed to worlds beyond worlds.


The demolition crew arrived the next day and found that there was nothing left of the house, not even the tiniest dreg.





Jackie squatted in the prison yard, drawing symbols in the dust.

He was gripping a stick between his thumb and forefinger, gently laying down circles and ciphers and codes. They'd become an endless spiral, swirling out from his feet. Sometimes he'd dig the stick deep into the dirt, gouging up little spits of earth. More often, he'd tap and tuck and tease until the fine details emerged.

He'd been drawing for nearly an hour, squatting on his haunches, the pain in his hips long forgotten. His tongue was sticking ever so slightly out of the left corner of his mouth, a little pink exclamation point on his dark skin. His chin jutted out, and he peered down at the symbols from under his glasses. Every so often, he'd slowly raise a dirtcaked finger and push them further up his nose, never taking his eyes from his work.

This was good news for the man walking towards him.

The other guys in the cell had named the man Ratbucket; he still didn't know why. He didn't question what the other guys in the cell said. When they told him that if he wanted to stay alive, he had to prove himself, he just nodded.

And when they said that to prove himself, he had to kill another prisoner, he'd nodded again. As far as Ratbucket was concerned, if you nodded at everything they said to you in prison, you got along just fine.

The problem, of course, was that he'd never actually killed anyone. He'd told the others he was in on a murder charge, even before he could stop himself, and they'd laughed and said that in that case, he'd have no trouble with the job. But as he approached the hunched figure doodling in the dust, he felt cold prickles on his spine that had nothing to do with the wind sweeping down from the Adirondack Mountains.

The toothbrush was in his hand. The head of the gang – a big sucker with one frozen eye named Marlin – had given it to him. It had been melted and filed and melted and filed again until it was a thin spike. Ratbucket held it cupped in his palm, with the spike lying along the inside of his wrist, his hand turned to keep it hidden from the screws. Sweat ran down his fingers, pooling in his palm.

He could feel Marlin's eyes on him from the other side of the yard. He could feel all their eyes on him. Nobody would miss Jackie, he told himself. He'd only been in here a day. Ratbucket had seen him come in yesterday, and the


son of a bitch had been whistling. He was walking down the damn aisle in front of the cells in those ridiculous glasses, holding his linen, whistling.

anticipated. He tumbled to the dirt, obliterating Jackie's work, a cloud of dust exploding around his body. His mouth was a shocked O.

‘Sure, sure, I can kill him’, Ratbucket thought. He deserves it. ‘Little punk. Lookit him.’

Jackie reappeared in front of him; right on the spot where he'd swung the spike down. Ratbucket stared. His mouth wanted to form words, but his brain simply wouldn't let it.

Jackie had begun humming. Something tuneless, whistling around his tongue and out the side of his mouth like steam. He was drawing the last symbol of the outermost circle, a delicate curlicue, tracing the shape in the ground, bending it around a rock. Almost there.

He didn't hear Ratbucket come up behind him. He didn't hear him rotate the spike so it jutted from his hand like a misshapen finger. He didn't even hear Ratbucket's breathing, which had become harsh and quick and shallow.

But he smelt Ratbucket's sweat. He felt the air behind him shift. He saw the light change ever so slightly. He kept working, putting the final touch on the symbol, a small dot above it in the dirt. He did this just as Ratbucket swung the spike down towards his shoulder blades, at which point he blinked out of existence. With no flesh to plunge into, Ratbucket's strike went a lot further than he'd

Jackie reached down and plucked the spike from Ratbucket's hand. He held it up to the light, as if studying it for imperfections. Then, in one movement, he reached down and slid it into Ratbucket's throat.

By now, the gang at the other end of the yard was screaming. They were running towards him, their faces shot through with anger and fear. Jackie stood up, pulling the spike with him, and blinked to a spot alongside one of them, a squat man with a greasy ponytail. Jackie caught him in the side, plunging the spike in and out like an assegai. He had started humming again.

The others froze, mid-stride, staring in horror. They tried to run, but Jackie simply moved with them, popping in and out of existence. Blood stained the dust black.

The bullet appeared in mid-air above Jackie, pointing down towards him, spinning gently. He'd frozen it with a look. He cocked his head to one side, and the bullet turned with it. A flick of his eyes, and it shot off, burying itself in the wall of the yard.

More guards appeared, boiling out of the doors to the cells, screaming for backup. They began firing. Jackie stopped their bullets, turning the air before him into a tableau of metal. He stared around him and, as one of the guards would tell the governor later that day, he seemed to be counting the number of dead.

month on the job – kept his gun steady, aiming it at Jackie's chest. Jackie looked at him, pulling the guard's eyes to his own. He blinked the last few steps, and the guard fell backwards on his ass, a tight gasp escaping his lips.

Jackie crouched down until he and the guard were face to face. A little slick of blood dotted the chest of his prison shirt, forming a pattern of its own. Casually, he reached forward and tugged the gun from the guard's grip. The guard's name was Mason and his eyes had grown wide as saucers. He licked his dry lips as Jackie turned the gun this way and that.

“Can you stop shooting at me, please?” said Jackie. It came out as a mumble.

Jackie stretched, raising his arms to the sky, his hands linked. The frozen bullets fell, clinking against each other. He tossed the spike onto the bullets, and then wandered towards the guards.

Without even realising it, Mason was nodding. Jackie gave him the most dazzling smile – it came out of nowhere and was, Mason would later tell his wife, like the smile of a child. He held out the gun, still grinning, gesturing at Mason to take it. Then he blinked back to the centre of the empty yard.

They stood, frozen, watching him approach. At the last moment, three of them broke, running for the cells and slamming the door behind them. But the youngest – a new recruit, his first

As Mason watched, Jackie cast around for his stick, inhaling a delighted breath when he spotted it. He crouched down again, and began to draw, sketching more symbols into the dust.


A guard in the tower had taken aim. He knew what he was seeing wasn't possible, but he knew his job, and he had a gun. He managed to line Jackie up in his sights – he'd paused after taking down the last gang member – and pulled the trigger.





Jackie squatted in the prison yard, drawing symbols in the dust.

He was gripping a stick between his thumb and forefinger, gently laying down circles and ciphers and codes. They'd become an endless spiral, swirling out from his feet. Sometimes he'd dig the stick deep into the dirt, gouging up little spits of earth. More often, he'd tap and tuck and tease until the fine details emerged.

He'd been drawing for nearly an hour, squatting on his haunches, the pain in his hips long forgotten. His tongue was sticking ever so slightly out of the left corner of his mouth, a little pink exclamation point on his dark skin. His chin jutted out, and he peered down at the symbols from under his glasses. Every so often, he'd slowly raise a dirtcaked finger and push them further up his nose, never taking his eyes from his work.

This was good news for the man walking towards him.

The other guys in the cell had named the man Ratbucket; he still didn't know why. He didn't question what the other guys in the cell said. When they told him that if he wanted to stay alive, he had to prove himself, he just nodded.

And when they said that to prove himself, he had to kill another prisoner, he'd nodded again. As far as Ratbucket was concerned, if you nodded at everything they said to you in prison, you got along just fine.

The problem, of course, was that he'd never actually killed anyone. He'd told the others he was in on a murder charge, even before he could stop himself, and they'd laughed and said that in that case, he'd have no trouble with the job. But as he approached the hunched figure doodling in the dust, he felt cold prickles on his spine that had nothing to do with the wind sweeping down from the Adirondack Mountains.

The toothbrush was in his hand. The head of the gang – a big sucker with one frozen eye named Marlin – had given it to him. It had been melted and filed and melted and filed again until it was a thin spike. Ratbucket held it cupped in his palm, with the spike lying along the inside of his wrist, his hand turned to keep it hidden from the screws. Sweat ran down his fingers, pooling in his palm.

He could feel Marlin's eyes on him from the other side of the yard. He could feel all their eyes on him. Nobody would miss Jackie, he told himself. He'd only been in here a day. Ratbucket had seen him come in yesterday, and the


son of a bitch had been whistling. He was walking down the damn aisle in front of the cells in those ridiculous glasses, holding his linen, whistling.

anticipated. He tumbled to the dirt, obliterating Jackie's work, a cloud of dust exploding around his body. His mouth was a shocked O.

‘Sure, sure, I can kill him’, Ratbucket thought. He deserves it. ‘Little punk. Lookit him.’

Jackie reappeared in front of him; right on the spot where he'd swung the spike down. Ratbucket stared. His mouth wanted to form words, but his brain simply wouldn't let it.

Jackie had begun humming. Something tuneless, whistling around his tongue and out the side of his mouth like steam. He was drawing the last symbol of the outermost circle, a delicate curlicue, tracing the shape in the ground, bending it around a rock. Almost there.

He didn't hear Ratbucket come up behind him. He didn't hear him rotate the spike so it jutted from his hand like a misshapen finger. He didn't even hear Ratbucket's breathing, which had become harsh and quick and shallow.

But he smelt Ratbucket's sweat. He felt the air behind him shift. He saw the light change ever so slightly. He kept working, putting the final touch on the symbol, a small dot above it in the dirt. He did this just as Ratbucket swung the spike down towards his shoulder blades, at which point he blinked out of existence. With no flesh to plunge into, Ratbucket's strike went a lot further than he'd

Jackie reached down and plucked the spike from Ratbucket's hand. He held it up to the light, as if studying it for imperfections. Then, in one movement, he reached down and slid it into Ratbucket's throat.

By now, the gang at the other end of the yard was screaming. They were running towards him, their faces shot through with anger and fear. Jackie stood up, pulling the spike with him, and blinked to a spot alongside one of them, a squat man with a greasy ponytail. Jackie caught him in the side, plunging the spike in and out like an assegai. He had started humming again.

The others froze, mid-stride, staring in horror. They tried to run, but Jackie simply moved with them, popping in and out of existence. Blood stained the dust black.

"I stole a candy bar once, Snickers, king-size," he confessed. His voice was uncannily even, given the circumstances. "I thought about my pretty cousin a couple times. Maybe a few."

The woman Adrian was speaking to, a mousy blonde in a pants suit, stared at him wordlessly, her eyes stupid with fear. She looked like someone who hadn't studied for a test, Adrian thought. He didn't know if she comprehended what he was saying, and she sure as hell wasn't a priest, but she'd have to do.

"I lied to get out of school, a few times," Adrian went on, shakily. "I looked up some dresses. Wore one once."

Before Adrian could say more, The Groper interrupted, storming the row of seats Adrian shared with the blonde.

The pervert wasted no time with the woman's chest, wearing a dazed smile that fell short of sinister. She jumped at first, but ultimately just let the freak do his thing, lank in her seat like a crash-

test dummy. Adrian swung out, but The Groper was already down the aisle, his flabby body moving in a weird, complex gait, like a skier in wedeln.

The Laugher continued his bizarre chant: "Ha-ha-hee ... ha-HEE ... HA! Ha, ha ... HA!" More terrified screams came in answer, but not from The Screamer; it seemed another was vying for the title.

Adrian stuttered, "I ... um ...", but he'd lost his rhythm. Damn.

After more mumbling, he at last confessed a love triangle involving his best friend's girl, which had culminated with the loss of his virginity, as it were. He had to abbreviate the story for reasons obvious, but it was off his chest, even if his audience was a makeshift priestess -- in coach, no less.

The woman showed no response but for a trembling bottom lip. A single, bulbous tear spilled down her left cheek. It clung to her jaw, and then dropped tacitly to the floor.

"A-may-zi-ing grace, how suh-weet thuh sound ...!"

The verse, sung in a high G and surprisingly in-key, cut through the din, relegating The Laugher and the Screamers to a byplay. Adrian couldn't


The Laugher was in the front of the fuselage, dominating the fracas. The Screamer came from further back, playing counterpoint. There was a beating sound, too, like a boxer at a punching bag. Adrian, seated in the middle of it all, couldn't hear himself talking.


tell where the hymn originated, or the sex of its source.

He periscoped his head from the seats, taking a cautious sweep of the cabin. It was total bedlam: baggage everywhere; people strewn about like their carryon; a forest of oxygen masks hanging like lynched men. The in-seat video screens played on, showing a laughing young girl. A balding man in an oxford shirt was attacking the next seat up, his face streaming crazy tears -- the beating noise Adrian had been hearing. Up the aisle, a heavy black woman in a sundress stood aloofly, arms hung at her sides, her candy-coloured lips in a crumpled figure-eight. She wailed in controlled bursts, somehow betraying the grotesque configuration of her mouth. She was one of the Screamers; challenger or incumbent, Adrian knew not which.

It was profound, how fast the place had been trashed. The announcement had come, what, thirty seconds ago?

"Good God," Adrian huffed, and then dropped back down.

He had thought up more sins to confess, when he was once more interrupted, this time by an insistent vibration tearing through the length of the plane. It silenced everyone for one heartbeat moment, much like a concert crowd hearing the first played note. Then it passed and all hell resumed breaking loose.

The Laugher, with Screamers One and Two, promptly returned to work, now joined by a Screamer Three, who sounded to be female and in first class. The Singer was a little slow on the uptake, but they eventually came around, jumping back in at ‘saved a wretch like me’.

Adrian ducked deep in his seat, feeling to be in a pinball machine. He somehow found it to keep talking. "There was this boy I knew, when I was a kid," he said almost casually, to the blonde woman. "Johnny Strassup, his name was. Nicest kid, just --"

Adrian hunched defensively as The Groper made another sudden pass, announced by the fwip of his jeans. With a morbidly cheeky expression, the man felt up women with remarkable dignity, as though he had every right to do so. He ignored the blonde, however, and Adrian picked up where he'd left off:

"So, Johnny Strassup, nicest kid, just kind of a loser, I guess." He waved away sweat. "But, some kids were making fun of him once, and --"

Adrian cut out again, now responding to a shock of activity in the aisle. Without prelude, the bald man who'd been beating the seat bolted up and tackled The Groper in one purposeful, electrified movement bespeaking rehearsal. Perhaps he'd become bored with the poor piece of furniture, perhaps

But this wasn't a movie. Dear God, it wasn't.

Now desperate to get it all out in time, Adrian twirled back to the shell-shocked woman and resumed his tale of hapless Johnny Strassup, now in fast-forward: "So, Johnny was a loser, and they were making fun of him and I saw it, and instead of doing anything, I joined them and made fun of him too and I've-felthorrible-about-it-ever-since-pleaseforgive-me-God -- !"

The fuselage canted forward, forebodingly, and Adrian's bowels churned, which he compared to the first incline of a roller coaster. Baggage avalanched through the aisles. Frantic noises erupted in chorus. The oxygen masks listed lazily, like dangled tentacles. The blonde moaned from her chest, that of an unhappy cat. Grasping for comfort, Adrian took her hand and kneaded it brutally in his own, probably more painful than soothing. The woman only closed her eyes, squeezing out tears.

As Adrian sat worrying the woman's hand, he caught a confused, flailing movement in his peripheral vision, what might've been a seizure in progress. He turned guardedly to his left, and there sat a Beast With Two Backs, its constituents a grimacing brunette stewardess and a heavyset blonde man with grapefruit-pink skin. The two coupled candidly from across the aisle, in some delinquent form of intercourse, both almost fully clothed, neither making the slightest attempt at pleasantries. The stewardess's trolley was overturned nearby, bleeding shrinkwrapped meals and tiny bottles of booze.

‘Won't be any phone call after that tryst’, Adrian had time to think, and he found himself biting back a laugh. It passed quickly.

The Laugher, however, made up for Adrian's abstinence, as if on cue: "HEEHEE-HAW! HA-ho-ho-HA-ha-ha ... HAHA-HA ...!"

Weeping. Interesting screams. A groan of commotion that could be anything. The Singer had at some point gone quiet, perhaps yielding to the other hysterical passengers, while the Screamers had now recruited the gist of the cabin.

Adrian was doing his best to tune out the calamity, when the sinking feeling returned, grew. Time was short, he knew, in the way you know a red light is about to change, or that she isn't just


he wanted to dispense some vigilante justice as his last fleshly act. Regardless, he wrestled the man to the floor and struck out, knocking The Groper a good one in the jaw. The Groper appeared utterly surprised, going from insouciant to outraged, as if he hadn't been squeezing every breast in sight. Watching the melee, Adrian thought it some absurd action movie.

late. Sensing this, he wrapped up his confession, now unloading The Big One:


"I told my ex I hated her, last year," he said, crying softly, shamelessly, like it was the most natural thing in the world. "Threw my ring down the toilet, tore up her pictures, said I never wanted to see her again." He looked due forward as he spoke, not really talking to the blonde, but not not talking to her, just talking to anyone. To the cabin at large. To the headrest in front of him. To the laughing girl on the in-flight movie. "I'm sorry, Beth. So, so sorry ..."

He continued playing with the mousy woman's hand, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, and he ignored The Laugher, the Screamers, the sparring men on the floor, the screwing couple at his flank and everything else. For now, it was only him and the hand.

He started to say more, then realized there was no more, he'd confessed it all and that felt good. He consigned himself to the seat and closed his eyes; keeping at the woman's dead hand, squeezing and ratcheting and teasing like they were lovers, and that was good, that was okay. The demented noises continued from everywhere, but that was okay, too, even beautiful -- all okay, let 'em scream, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Then the plane hit and the people went silent forever.




One millionth of me is spread unevenly beneath this cruddy felt robe. The rest can be negotiated. Why doesn't this wash? Could be my balcony has relocated itself internally. Implosion is not a death we weary contentedly contemplate. Fallacy should liven things up. Keep an eye on the rooftops! Let the week old egg rolls sustain us with simply the saltiest of brown blood.





Richard Keane waited in the empty house and thought about his life. For a moment he remembered his young wife, both aged eighteen, running up a seaside boardwalk, hand-in-hand. Old people looked on, disapproving, and Richard felt invincible as he gripped her hand tighter in his. That was the moment, when the time came, that he would hold onto, above all others.


The knock on the door was gentle and that surprised him. It was the apologetic tap of a neighbour, not a killer. ‘Yet’, Richard reflected as he pulled himself out of the chair, ‘what was the man on the other side of the door, if not both?’

“Hello, Mr. Keane,” The man said, waiting to be invited in. Richard nodded and stood back, waving him in. No scent came off him, which should have been peculiar but Richard felt was in perfect keeping with the man and his idea of him as a ghost. The two of them walked into the sparse room and again, the man waited to be offered the seat. Again, Richard waved his hand, almost finding humour in the ridiculous situation, before re-claiming his own seat.

“So, it’s time,” Richard said and felt his voice crack. He hated himself for the weakness, though was unsurprised at it. The man nodded solemnly and again, Richard was interested to see the compassion in his eyes. Richard had known what a killer looked like- all he had to do was look in a mirror- and yet, there was a kindness in this man, a

softness that just did not fit with his actions.

“It’s time,” the man said, looking around the room. The bottles were all emptied, the women now removed. Richard gazed after him, reflecting how dull vice could be after a time. For a moment he understood the concept of the idle rich.

“Will it be filmed, like the others?” Richard asked, feeling a sudden, bizarre need to tidy up the room, to make the place look presentable. He wondered if the man’s gentile ways were somehow infectious, like some sort of benign virus. Maybe, before his heart stopped, he might indulge in a little light dusting.

“Streamed only to The Owner and nothing else,” the man said, bringing his gaze back to Richard. “You have my word. The contract is binding, no exceptions.”

“How would I know anyway, right?” Richard shrugged, for a second feeling helpless and weak.

“I’d know,” the man said and the sudden flash of indignation in his eyes revealed the killer in him. Richard flinched but felt oddly reassured at the same time. His death would be a vile thing but only seen by a paying few and not the masses. He took solace in that, he realised. The sort of comfort only a man with a death sentence could take.

“You have my word,” the man said simply and nodded.

“So how do we do this?” Richard said, fidgeting in his chair. After six months of every available vice, he had become accustomed to the frenzied buzz of activity that sin brought. Now it had been drawn to a close, the silence and stillness haunted him. It felt as if he was present at his own wake, a time before his execution.

“The Owner has requested a gunshot but there are three over options available to you that he is prepared to accept.” The man paused and looked over to Richard, waiting to see if he wanted to hear the other choices.

“I’ll take the bullet,” Richard said as gruffly as he could manage. Inwardly, his stomach was beginning to dissolve. A sudden bolt of fear ran through him: he didn’t want to soil himself in front of anyone, even if it was only the man and The Owner.

“I want to be clean,” he blurted out and the man’s eyes again shifted into warm, kind orbs.

“I will provide the necessary tools to provide you leave with dignity intact,

Mr. Keane,” he said quietly. Richard nodded his thanks, wondering for a moment how he knew he meant his bodily functions and not some loftier, religious ideal. He laughed in spite of himself; no doubt The Owner had been watching his behaviour over the last six months and realised he was not a religious man.

“So how long do I have?” Richard asked, shuffling in his seat once more. It reminded him of the first time he’d sat inside an airplane, ignorant of how to even lock the seatbelt straps together. Eventually a man, a businessman, had done it for him, saving him the embarrassment of having to ask one of the pretty stewardesses. He had been twenty two and his life was still a bright, open thing. Two years until the mistakes and the consequences.

“The Owner would like it be conducted within the next hour, Mr. Keane. The broadcast dictates it so.” A little of the gentleness fell away from his eyes and Richard again swallowed hard. Dying time, a voice inside his head whispered.

“How does it feel for you?” Richard said and was surprised how it came out. He’d almost spat the words out at the man.

“I can’t talk about my own situation, Mr. Keane, as you well know,” he said, not unkindly. Richard realised he was trying not to antagonise him and to his surprise, it worked.


“I have your word?” Richard went on, needing that final seal of assurance that he knew only the man could provide.

“I just…” Richard thought for a moment what it was that was tapping away inside him, inside the blind fear and rage and panic. In a moment it struck him: it was absurdity.


“I just never imagined I’d be talking to the guy who was going to kill me,” he said, realising that this was the last itch that needed to be scratched in his brain.

“The world has changed since you and I were forming our ideals, Mr. Keane,” the man said and Richard nodded along, again only realising now that the two of them were roughly the same age. “Are you ready to be prepared?”

“Yes,” Richard said quietly, desperately trying to think of a way to prolong this, his last conversation on earth, but failing miserably. Instead, he allowed himself to be taken by the crook of his elbow and into the bedroom at the end of the corridor.

Richard Keane returned back to what he now thought of as his favourite chair and sat down. A final tumbler of whiskey was in his hand, his clothes changed and fitted with what was necessary. The man framed the small camera a few feet away and within a few seconds the red light appeared at the top left hand corner. Showtime, Richard thought miserably. The man looked up and Richard nodded.

“Are you, Richard Keane, ready to be inducted?” The man asked, his voice slightly more formal and unreal sounding.

“I am,” Richard said and swallowed the last of the whiskey.

“Richard Keane, the last member of the houses on Vector Street, has given his permission to be inducted into the files: Case 132, private channel AB/23.” Richard watched as the man spoke, his face free of the camera in order to be heard. Richard had been present to witness the other seven executions in the other seven houses: it had been part of the torture to know what was to become of each of them in the end.

The man stood to one side and carefully removed the revolver from his inside jacket pocket. As he aimed it, Richard looked away from the gun and to the red light that was glowing in the darkness of the room. He did not close his eyes and he did not beg. His eyes remained open and yet he still saw the image of a young woman, a promenade and outstretched fingers, before a faraway sound bellowed and brought his role in the broadcast to a close.







The world is wide and the wind is wild and I’ll live forever. So be wary, dear because I’ll be watching you.

Long after you flip this page for others more agreeable and have long forgotten my name and these words I’ll be very much watching like a painting with peephole eyes I am peering off the page while you’re so alone, convinced nothing but inanimate ink though I am seeping in your eyes lids and coursing through you like a laughing gas.

Do be deceived in private, believe I’ve been so simply closed and yet I’m here crouched in your mind and cloaked swimmingly in your soul – perusing your most intimate memories and disturbing fantasies –

my great cleverness pervades all of your petty borders, dissolves all of your paper barriers.

So look away all you will play nice music to ease your mind or chat mundanely with a confidant still I’ll be with you like a fly on your inside wall but yet a looker at your window watching, seeing you feel me there: while you stare into your mirror vanity while you collect a fresh towel from the linen closet while you’re perched solemnly on your porch during a distant lightning storm to ponder love; while you do whatever you do, my love I’ll be Mona-Lisa smiling all the while.

You will die with no mysteries resolved and I will live on. I will live on and I’ll be watching.






Smoke snaked lazily from his nostrils and up into the spinning chaos of the fan above him. The gentle grey stream began to corkscrew until it had become a violent tornado that crashed into the ceiling and spread out across the yellowed tiles. Strobing lights from the dance floor provided lighting for the growing storm as billiards cracked and thundered over his shoulder. It was a good night for a storm, he thought as the cherry of the cigarette blazed from his lips.

Across the dance floor’s teaming sea of sweating flesh was the bar and at the bar sat a girl. She was slender, barely of age with long red hair, freckled skin and perfect curves. Her lips were soft pink and pouting below a thin nose and mesmerizing green eyes. She was wrapped in a low cut dress that had come almost all the way up her thighs when she sat down. She was on her third drink of the evening and starting to feel tipsy. He knew. He was counting. Best of all she had come in alone.

He sipped down the last of the piss water that passed for beer and casually made his way across the dance floor. He swam through the ocean of hot, sweating bodies grinding against each other in the hope that their erratic gyrating would lead to another type of dance. It was a game he found amusing to watch but tedious to play. In

fluid, calculated manoeuvers he lowered himself into the seat beside the redhead and ordered another beer. She didn't seem to notice.

"Buy you a drink?" he asked.

She looked him up and down, shook her head and looked out at the dance floor.

"Sorry," she said dismissively. "I don't go for creeps that hit on me in strange bars."

"You're breaking my heart, darling," he laughed. "Haven't even heard what I'm after. It could change your life." He put his hand on her thigh.

"Get stuffed."

This one had some fire. He fought the grin tugging the corners of his mouth and looked back at the bar.

"Suits me," he said nonchalantly. "Don't normally give it up for scrawny little gingers, anyway."

"Sorry," she whispered. Her tongue flicked his ear lobe. "Maybe we could try this again? Somewhere a little more... private?"

"I know just the place."

He slipped his arm around her narrow waist and led her into the parking lot. They walked down the alley around the back of the bar. It was dark and secluded, far removed from the prying eyes of the other inebriates half naked and writhing inside. His free hand slid down to the switch blade in his pocket.

"Is it much farther?" she asked.

"Nah, baby, it’s right here."

He grabbed her by the throat and slammed her hard into the wall. The knife sprang out in a flash of silver and stopped just short of her verdant eyes. He made a shushing noise as he traced the tip of the knife softly down her neck and shoulders. He continued his tour along the curve of her breasts, her flat stomach and milky thighs. Slowly he brought the blade up under her skirt to cut her panties away from her only to find bare skin. He smiled, teeth bared as a hungry lion about to devour his prey.

The girl began to laugh. He repositioned the knife in his hand and thrust a single finger inside of her. Her laughter had grown from a light chuckle into a raucous chuckle.

"You think this is funny, bitch?"

"Sorry," she said, choked by the laughter. "I just can't help it. I love playing with my food."

Confused, the man looked up at the porcelain face of the girl he'd found in the bar. Her skin had shattered where her head had struck the wall. Her green eyes had become black mirrors reflecting his face in the inky abyss. Her smiling mouth was filled with rows of shark teeth whirring circles inside her


After a few minutes of listening to the repetitive thumping bass that passed for music she turned and looked at him. Her hand, fingernails painted a deep maroon slid between his legs. Her fingers rolled up along the teeth of his zipper and further to his belt buckle. She leaned up close, the scent of cheap booze and bargain perfume wafting to his nostrils as her breath blew on his neck and ear.

head. He tried to pull away but his hand was caught in a vice grip between her thighs.

"What are you?" Tears were streaming down his cheeks.


"Hungry." she answered.





Every time he moved, she could hear the grass dying, the beetles scurrying, the universe falling apart. This was what entropy looked like - like a vast beast, languid in its repose. Tigers look the same way.


"Where do you come from?" she asked, the thin, aristocratic line of her mouth sensual in its strictness - perhaps sensual because of that strictness.

One of his ears flicked. Overhead, a leaf separated from its branch, starting to fall to the ground. "You ask 'where', as if there were a particular place that I am from. If that is your mentality, we should stop this now. You will never learn."

Eyes as blue as deep holes in oceans ticked towards the leaf, then back to him. "You had to have come from somewhere," she observed, the pad of her thumb rubbing against the soft underside of her fingers. "Beings - even beings like you - don't just spring up out of nowhere."

Before her, he chuckled quietly; it was a rolling sound, avalanches and landslides giving way. Smoke poured from his mouth, little licks of fire teasing exposed teeth.

"Why not, girlchild? Why can beasts such as I not merely spring into existence? As a child, did you have a toy, an imaginary friend; something that

you believed with all your being was real? As you grew older, did you not sweep childish things away from you?"

Her brows drew a moment, for what he suggested...well, yes. She had had a doll, but - "Are you saying someone thought you up?"

His sides heaved a moment, clawed fingers flexing in the rot-soft dirt. Hadn't they been hooves a moment ago? "Yes and no," he answered, infuriatingly enigmatic. "That is...someones thought me up."

For a second, his head tipped upwards; hundreds, thousands of razor sharp tines lifted towards the sky. To her eyes, it seemed as if he could cut it open with those antlers.

"Have you ever seen a shooting star?" he asked. "Have you ever briefly wondered what they are? Where they come from?" His body shifted, vast mass crawling upwards in unnatural fashion, like a beast with no legs, vipers to offer apples to the innocent. It was mesmerizing. She did not entirely realize that not only had he stood, but was crawling her way, belly low as the dog asking for trust; belying true nature.

"That is where I am from," he purred, the snakes and worms pouring out of the volcanic pit of his mouth. "I am from where the stars die, child."


As that vast maw yawned there before her eyes, lit with the hell fires in his belly, she heard the last words she'd ever hear. "I am from where the worlds end."





Night had barely fallen when two hikers spotted a teenage boy running naked through the woods. He thrashed wildly, tumbling down the trails of Griffith Park, all limbs and urgency. Moments later, the angry spotlight of a police chopper circled the area until the teen fell in its cross hairs. He wasn’t more than twelve or thirteen, the hair around his sex a mere shadow of what it would become. The teen cut right, then left, trying to evade the light, but it was no use. Instead, he lost his footing and plunged down the hill, falling headfirst and rolling like the agony of defeat until he landed near a rotting stump. Scraped and dazed, the boy stood up only to find himself bathed in light from two squad cars.

He shivered like a frightened animal as flashlights blinded him from two silhouetted figures. They asked him questions he had trouble understanding. The boy refused to give his name, age or location of his parents. Not because he was streetwise and trying to stay out of trouble – just the opposite. The boy simply didn’t know his own name. Or, more exactly, couldn’t remember. But the boy’s obstinacy frustrated the officers and they ribbed him about his acne, lanky frame and exposed manhood, such as it was.

crossed into double-digits. Spending the night in the pen might scare him straight.

The Officer took the boy’s finger and rubbed it in ink, but his finger left no imprint. He repeated the procedure with the same result. On closer inspection, the Officer saw that the boy’s fingers were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Milky white and empty.

The Officer approached the bars of the cell. “You on any medication, son?”

The boy looked up, now clothed in a jumpsuit too large for his size. The pant bottoms touched the floor. His eyes like saucers. The words people spoke started to make sense. “No, sir.”

At least the kid had some manners. The Officer continued, “What were you running from out there?”

“Some kinda animals. They were chasing me. Like they were trying to trap me.”

“What kind of animals?” At the Wilcox police station, they shoved a small tube in his mouth and told him to blow on it. The Breathalyser came up negative. One Officer figured the kid had mental problems. Kids today were like monsters, running amok, their scheduled play dates and coddling, coming home to roost once they

“It was dark. They were growling. I didn’t get a good look.” The boy seemed genuinely scared. Maybe the Officer had pegged him wrong.

“If they were chasing you, why didn’t you stop for the police?”

“I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I just wanted to get away.”


“Why were you running in your birthday suit?” The Officer snickered. “Or did they eat your clothes?”

“Wish I knew.” He felt extremely embarrassed. Puberty was a minefield of confusion, drop-of-a-hat erections, and strange mating rituals to comprehend, but to share his privates in front of God and everyone? It was almost criminal.

“Any reason why you don’t have any fingerprints?”

“I don’t?”

“And if I remember my eighth-grade biology, that ain’t right.”

An hour later, the Officer came back with an older man who had come looking for the boy. From the head up, he was distinguished; long hair with a stripe of grey down the middle. But from the head down, he looked the part of a rushed shopper at the Salvation Army with clothes out-dated by a couple of decades. The Officer opened the cell. “Eh, kid. You’re free to go.”

“Thank you for your gratitude,” the older man said as he tipped his hat.

“Kids these days, huh?” And the Officer left them alone.

The older man knelt by the boy, meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry, Kevin. This wasn’t how the night was supposed to be. I promise to make it up to you.”

“Kevin? My name is Kevin?”

“There’s a lot to explain. I meant to prepare you better for your initiation. I should have given you this before. Here.”

“What’s gonna to happen to me?”

The Officer softened. “Honestly, kid. I don’t know.”

And the man slipped Kevin a piece of paper. Kevin looked it over, confused. “It’s just an address.”

“It’s a safe house where we meet. Keep it from now on. You’ll need it.” And the

“How do you know my name?”

The older man laughed. “Because I gave it to you. I’m your father.”

But Kevin felt he had never seen the man before in his life. And who knew if “Kevin” was his real name, anyway? Then again, the police wouldn’t have released him into the custody of this stranger unless there was some proof, right? But if he had a home, why would they need to go to a safe house? Real families had real homes. Kevin’s mind was filled with questions and everything boiled down to whether he trusted this man or not. Given his spare choices, he opted for trust. For now.

They exited the station, illuminated by the full moon, and walked towards a parked car. As they did, the older man affectionately placed his arm around Kevin. The sensation sent him reeling: who was this man and what did he want? Maybe the whole “father” thing was a ruse to get Kevin into the car where the older man could take advantage of him.

They were near the car now. The older man leaned in to open the door. “Don’t worry. This is a special time in your life. It’ll all make sense in a little while.”

Kevin hesitated.

“Kevin, what’s wrong?”

Kevin looked at the older gentlemen and the empty car seat. His instinct sent up alarm bells. This wasn’t right. This is how people got themselves killed.

“Kevin, there’s things you don’t yet understand. But I’m still your father. You need to do as I say.” And the older man tried to guide Kevin into the car.

“You’re not my father!” And Kevin tried to make a break for it, but the older man hung onto him, his grip surprisingly strong.

Kevin resisted, as they tangled on the street. “Help! Somebody help me!”

“Kevin, you don’t understand!” And the older man dragged Kevin towards the car.

“Get off me!” And with a burst of energy, Kevin broke free and pushed the older man away from him and into the street –

A screeching of tires and a sickening thud.


man began to escort Kevin down the hall.

A van stopped in the middle of the road. A musician channelling the 80’s got out of the car in a panic. He made his way towards the front of the van and stopped, dumbfounded. He turned to Kevin, scratching his head. “Man, I am too stoned for this.”

In front of the van, lying on the street next to some mismatched clothes was a dead wolf, the striking patch of grey turning red with blood.


None of this is real. It can’t be.

A car stopped in front of him. A teenage girl called out from the driver’s seat. “Get in.” Cops were starting to spill out of the station. The boy took one look at the girl, and void of any other escape, jumped in, slamming the door. She hit the gas and sped off, just another car on Sunset Blvd.

“Why are you helping me?” he asked.

“Let’s just say I’ve been where you are.” Her voice was soothing, but had a raspy, purring quality.

“I doubt it.” She was a bad driver but he didn’t care. He paid the road no attention, instead lost in her, the way her mouth moved, her tongue occasionally licking her lips, the way her breath made her chest swell. She turned to him. “Did you hear a thing I said?”

He quickly looked away. “Yeah. Of course.”

She shook her head, not buying his lie. “I said there’s a party I know of.”

He scoffed. “A party.”

“Well, where do you want to go?”

His mind drew a blank. He realized he had nowhere to go. “Forget it, let’s hit that party.”

Kevin wanted to ask any number of questions, but considering his experience with the opposite sex was just under nil, he figured it better to simply shut up.

He didn’t count the minutes it took to get to their destination. Time lost its meaning, as if he spent the ride in limbo; but even with its discomfort, he didn’t want it to end. He found it hard to relax in the presence of this girl, mentally starting and stopping conversations, but everything he contemplated sounded stupid. He wanted to tell her about tonight. As if she’d even believe it or worse – what if she did? What kind of freak will she think I am?

Instead, name?”





“Kevin. I think.” Idiot! He felt banging his head against windshield.

It was the same address.

like the

“You don’t know?” And she smiled.

“It’s a long story. How old are you, anyway?”

“Old enough to know how to drive, but young enough that it’s not legal.”

“What? Then whose car is this?”

He turned to Caitlyn. “Oh my God, you’re in on it.” He started hyperventilating. He wanted to run, but he was in the middle of nowhere, near an abandoned warehouse with the most beautiful creature in the world–

“Kevin, you need to relax.”

He felt his heart beating faster, the breaths growing shallower. He watched as Caitlyn moved towards him, her face appearing closer and closer, her lips zeroing in on his until they touched, her tongue like sandpaper. Her eyes – where had he seen them before? They were the last things he saw before passing out.

She gently placed a finger on his lips, shushing him. “Curiosity killed the cat. Here we are.”

They pulled up to a warehouse in the Fashion District. Not many cars parked out front and there wasn’t any music coming from inside. Metal bars covered the windows like steel spider webs. Didn’t look like any party house he’d ever heard of. He was startled when Caitlyn grabbed his hand and escorted him up the walkway.

As he got closer to the door, the numbers of the address seemed familiar. He pulled out the piece of paper the older man had given him.

He awoke on a bed to the sounds of eating. Banners stencilled with “Happy Birthday, Kevin!” were strewn across the room, along with colourful balloons and lit candles. About twenty people sat down eating and drinking family-style around a long, wooden picnic bench. They were mostly middle-aged with the exception of one or two elders, gumming their food. It certainly wasn’t a festive mood. Instead, a pallor of moroseness hung in the air.

Kevin moved, surprised that he wasn’t shackled or tied, which caused the bed


“Caitlyn. What about yours?”

to squeak underneath him. When it did, everyone looked his way – a mix of sadness and accusation. Then they turned back to eating.


He tried to piece together how he got inside; he thought briefly that he’d been poisoned or dosed, but realized, stupidly, he had been felled by a simple kiss. Sad, indeed.

Caitlyn sat among them and waved him over. “Come over, you must be starving.” Not wanting to irritate his kidnappers and secretly admitting that he was hungry, he stumbled over to the picnic table. The group made room for him and Kevin sat between two hairy men who slurped meat off the bone.

A bowl of he-knew-not-what sat in the middle of the bench. It looked like slop, a kind of giant proportioned steak tartar. He spooned a glob onto his paper plate. It stood unwavering, a mound of meat, festooned with sprinkles of pepper.

He took one bite and found it too gelatinous and fatty for his taste. But his tablemates seemed to suck it up like manna. A man with two different colours for eyes sat across from him, staring. “Don’t waste it,” he growled. “We honour the animal we eat.” Under such scrutiny, Kevin obeyed, shovelling the food into his mouth and swallowing quickly so as to reduce its taste. It was vile, filling his nose with a pungent iron scent. Where had he smelled this before? As he

chewed, he nearly cracked a tooth as he bit down on something hard.

Reaching into his mouth, he pulled out a finger: a human finger, its dirty fingernail still intact. He spit it out and looked across the table. Everyone stopped and gaped at his ill manners. He scanned everyone’s food. He hadn’t noticed them before – hell, who would have? Pieces of ear, tooth and toe littered his tablemate’s plates. He stood up and retched. When he looked at his tablemates, they were laughing – banging fists on the table, kneeling over with tears laughing. One of them picked up the finger he had spit out, put it in his mouth and sucked the marrow deliciously clean.

“…what’s wrong stammered.




Caitlyn rose, “Kevin, don’t be frightened. We’re not here to hurt you.”

“What is this? What kind of people are you?” He moved backwards, only to find his escape blocked by a wall.

“It’s just that. We’re not people.” She spoke calmly and without malice. “We’re werewolves. And so are you.”

Kevin was clearly no werewolf. And neither were these humans. Killers, maybe. Insane, certainly. But --

“Werewolves?” Just hearing the word roll off his tongue sounded ridiculous.

breast” to a young man, “We chased cats and sang under the moon.”

“I can understand why you don’t believe us. No one does during his or her first change. When you change into a human, you forget what it’s like to be normal.”

“No…I’m human…” was all Kevin could reply.

“Kevin, you can’t dangerous out there.”

leave. It’s


“Do I look like a werewolf to you?!”

Caitlyn ran in front of him, trying to comfort him. “Kevin, look at me. You know who I am. Maybe not in this form, but you know me. I’m part of your pack. We all are.”

Is that where he had recognized her eyes?

The man with the two distinct eyes spoke again, “I’m your cousin. I taught you how to kill a calf.” The elder who gummed his food, wiped his mouth. “I’m your great-grandfather. I watched you when you was a youngling.” All around the table, they each had quips on how they were related and their importance in his life. A woman, “You suckled at my

“But the stories…”

She continued: “The stories are all wrong. People don’t turn into werewolves during a full moon. Werewolves turn into people during a full moon. Just for one night. That’s why we have a safe house. Over the years, we’ve even acquired IDs, false birth records, things we need to survive in the outside world for the night.”

“And me?”

“It’s why you don’t remember anything before tonight. You’re thirteen. An adult now. This was your first time making the change.”

Kevin looked at the birthday banners. “This was a…birthday party?”

Caitlyn nodded. “It was supposed to be.”


Kevin looked to escape. The windows were barred. The door was locked. There were too many of them.

Caitlyn explained, “Only for the night.”

“And the man who said he was my father?”

Caitlyn looked to the other members at the table. They couldn’t meet Kevin’s eyes.

Kevin prodded, “Was he..?”


She nodded. That explained why the party wasn’t festive; they were grieving.

Caitlyn spoke again, breaking his attention. “Come back, Kevin and blow out your candles.” She motioned toward the table where thirteen candles encircled a bloody organ he was glad he couldn’t identify: a werewolf birthday cake. “It’s your favourite.”

He believed not a word. This was the work of a cult or conspiracy, his role still a mystery. He had no intention of staying to figure it out. Whatever the risks, he couldn’t just escape; he had to destroy them lest they kidnap or kill others like him. And if these things really considered themselves something other than human, then he would kill them like the dogs they were. He saw the alcohol, burning candles and flammable streamers crisscrossing the ceiling and knew what he had to do.

His escape had been easier than expected. They didn’t try to hurt him; they focused only on putting out the fire. And in the chaos that followed, he slipped out the front door. For good measure, he took a metal pipe and bashed the doorknob, sealing them inside.

And then he ran.

He looked back at the burning warehouse -- the fire engulfing the roof, the flames seeming to lick the sky, the sounds of howling and shrill animal cries piercing the night –

It’s just your imagination.

As the sun rose from the east, he felt the strangest sensation, as if his whole body were undergoing a primal vibration. The vibration intensified. His senses seemed alive; smells from near and far flooded his nostrils; his eyesight seemed more acute, colours and figures became sharper; and he had a sense of limberness and quickness on his feet. He lifted up his shirt, only to see thick swaths of hair emerging from under his pale skin.

He saw a large puddle on the ground, but thought better of seeing his reflection, too scared of what he might find.







You’ve always thought of forests as green, but all around you tonight seems blue. The darkened trunks of trees loom navy; the opalescent moon gleams bright through the sapphire leaves, makes your skin glow cerulean. The weight of your pack on your back is eager for its destination. You push aside cold, bony branches and shuffle through wet, whispering leaves fallen in clumps on the earth.

Finally, the clearing appears before you, almost unnaturally round, wide and empty but for the ancient, magnificent tree. Inhaling magic, you step into the circle, feel tall teal grass brush your calves. Hearing ropes groan – ropes only creak

if they’re weighted – you look up so high into the cobalt braches that your neck strains, and you spot them.

Hundreds of skeletons dangling by the neck, swaying beneath gnarled branches like demented wind chimes. Some glow pure, brilliant white, gleaming with inappropriate smiles in this sea of azures, but the old ones are browner, swing less... bones get lighter with time. The hairs on your neck dance in recognition of your fate. You pull out your rope and begin to climb.






In 1989 two lovers were said to have been buried together, after they both suffered from a drug overdose. It was either a tragic accident or a synchronized suicide. It happened on a hot summer night, when the teenage lovers decided to shoot a potent mixture of heroin into the veins of their arms. No one really understood why they would have used drugs to begin with, she was a Catholic girl, and her mother and father would always ensure she was going to be brought up in the way of the Lord. He was the son of a lawyer, intelligent and though he had no religious upbringing, he was said to be straight edge. He never drank or smoked and it was said they were both still virgins when they died.

But when they were found, lying intertwined on the girl’s bed; they had single injection sites on their skin, and one syringe that was the culprit in this case. For years people fantasised about how they would have ended it, would he inject her, or would she have injected him? Did he use his lips to clean away the bead of blood growing at the site where the needle perforated skin? No one would ever know. Some thought it romantic, like those famous lovers Romeo and Juliet; others saw it as simply a stupid mistake, and a total waste of life. Whatever they thought, the parents of the deceased combined the funerals, so that the two could rest together, and they were placed in the same plot. Rumour had it that they were placed in the same coffin, but no one really knew because the funeral service was private, only friends and close family friends were allowed to attend and say goodbye.

It was for this reason alone that a young man found himself pulling up to the old, abandoned cemetery, the headlights of his beaten up Commodore blasted rays of artificial light onto the mass of trees surrounding the path that led to where the rows of tombstones sat in silence. He opened the door and closed it with a slight thud, moving through the warm night slowly and quietly. The soles of his boots hit the gravel road and sent crunching noises into the still night. He wore jeans and a black t-shirt. There was no need to rug up. This warm night greeted him and he enjoyed the breeze that trickled through the fabric of his shirt. In his hand he clutched a single, compact spade that folded neatly away into the crook of his arm.

The path led him deeper into the rolling hills peppered with stones, some tombs held up ancient looking angels and their lifeless eyes glistened in the moonlight, sad expressions slowly eroding away after years of rain and summer heat. The silence of the night was unnerving and the man found himself glancing around his shoulder every once in a while, scanning the night. He moved off the gravel and onto the soil, he found himself sinking into soft, dry earth with every step he took, as though the ground beneath was attempting to suck him into its very core. He found himself bumping into old vases, sending the brittle glass shattering to the ground and slicing the silence with its sound.

Finally he came to a specific grave, a simple headstone marked the spot and the words engraved into the stone were faded and hard to decipher, he reached

A scuttling noise caught his attention and he whipped around, eyes wide and searching the stones around him, squinting into shadows, catching a glimpse of an oversized, wet looking cockroach as it squeezed it’s glistening body between the cracks of a tomb. The man shuddered, taking a deep breath and then leaping into the hole he’d dug, working continuously now, unable to stop himself. It felt like forever, and the sun began to creep over the horizon, the bright orb slowly rising up and shattering the darkness with vivid rays of orange, pink and red. The warbling of magpies resonated through the air, and the screeching of birds filled the trees. He had to work faster.

It wasn’t long before he heard the thump of the shovel hitting wood, and he threw the spade over the edge of the hole, it hit the mound of dirt with a dull plunk. On his hands and knees, he worked furiously to remove soil with his fingers, dirt spilled out of his cupped hands and slid through the cracks of his digits. Eventually the lid of a coffin was exposed, and the man frowned, this confirmed they were buried together. Gradually he pried the wood off the top, the brittle timber cracking and splintering in his hands, shards of needle fine embers slicing into his skin and burying deep into the flesh of his palms. The sun was higher now, exposing the contents within the coffin.

There they were, two skeletons with transparent, tissue paper skin clinging to the faces and limbs in some places, ivory coloured bones poked out beneath the decayed flesh. Embalming had preserved these two lovers relatively well. Their spines were curled slightly, as though they had been buried embracing each other, and the bones of their limbs were intertwined, you could not move one without causing the other skeleton to fall into a mass of bones. Their grinning skulls faced each other, the hollows of their orbital holes locked onto each other’s gaze. The smaller skeleton had a single gold band around its index finger, and a thin chain sat snugly inside of the ribcage of the larger skeleton, intertwined around the vertebras of its neck.

The man sat there, simply admiring the scene before him for a moment. Before reaching into the depths of his back pocket and sliding out his smart


out and rubbed the dirt and dry mud off the smooth surface, revealing the names underneath. James Tonkin and Cassie Meyers lay here, resting beneath the six feet of dirt and soil. Wearily he unfolded the spade, and began to set to work, thrusting it into the loose, dry soil before placing his weight onto the blade, driving down and scooping up chunks of dirt before throwing them into a pile onto the side. Perspiration gathered on his forehead and the biceps of his arms bulged as he worked, determined to get this done before the light came over the horizon. He soon found himself knee deep in earth, sinking deeper into the core of the ground below him. Jumping out, he landed onto the top soil, before pulling his sweat soaked shirt over his head and throwing it to the ground. It stuck to his skin, wet and slick, but once he was free, he glanced back at the hole and prepared himself for another crack at this digging, fixing his hair back into a tight bun before doing so.


phone. He knelt over the bodies, before snapping multiple photos, close ups of their skulls, and full length photographs of their bodies lying side by side. Then he slid his hands into the coffin and delicately removed the single band around the finger of one body, with shaky hands he managed to slide it off without interfering too much. Next he reached for the chain. His hands slid under the rib cage and he slowly gripped the ring before threading it through the spaces of the ribs, catching it in his free hand and undoing the latch around the skeletons neck. Flakes of dried skin began to fall off the chin of the skull as his hands brushed past.

The man pocketed these items, and then leaped and clawed his way out of the deep hole, the fabric of his jeans were filthy, and dirt poured out from the leg holes of his pants. He stood up, photographing the open grave and the headstone before working quickly to fill in the loose soil he’d dug up.

The man reached his car by the time the sun had settled higher into the sky, and the canary yellow sedan, with peeling paint and rust stains, slowly rolled out onto the road.

Once he was home, he entered the house and plonked himself down in front of his laptop, waiting impatiently as it came on. Sipping coke, he quickly uploaded the pictures he’d taken to various websites. One was a popular site that glamorised death and frequently showed pictures of dead humans in various stages of decay. The

other was his personal blog. He sat there for a few moments, in the glowing light of the monitor, as the comments began to roll in. And with a smirk on his face, he turned and set the rings on his desk, before crawling into bed exhausted.

He slept until the sun went down, then he finally rolled out of bed, long black hair matted with sweat. He moved his naked body towards the shower, turning on the water and washing the dirt and filth away, stained water drained into the plughole beneath him. Once he was finished he moved out and dried himself off, lightly towel drying his shoulder length hair, before pushing it into a messy bun and tying it back with elastic. He looked into the fogged up mirror, reaching out with his hands and applying messy, black eyeliner to his vivid, blue eyes. Glancing at his slim face, he checked his reflection, studying the high cheekbones. He wasn’t overly handsome, but he wasn’t too bad either. The five o’clock shadow on his chin and cheeks made him look older than his 21 years today.

Walking out, he dressed in loose black jeans and a tank top before sliding his wallet into the back of his pants, pulling on Dr Marten boots, grabbing the rings and leaving the house. He walked down the busy sidewalk, until he found himself at one of the local pubs he frequented, entering and setting down at the bar, ordering a beer.

The bartender smiled, handing over a cold Victoria Bitter, and collected his

Terry looked up, studying the lanky, tall man with a buzz cut, “Good thanks, Drew.”

“The band doesn’t start for another hour or so”, Drew said, leaning over the polished bar.

“It’s okay,” muttered Terry, “I was hoping to score a good meal before I really got tonight underway.”

“Alright, I’ll get you the usual.” said the bartender, heading off.

Terry ate a crispy chicken burger at one of the nearby tables, sipping multiple beers as he went. The band came in, carrying instruments and setting up in a small corner of the bar. The stage wasn’t much, and this place wasn’t glamorous. In fact, it was an old pub with stained wooden floor and graffiti in the toilets. But the crowd was coming through the doors, girls and boys adorned in black clothing, their eyes ringed with black eyeliner, some faces covered in glistening metal, all seeking to be unique yet looking the same.

A girl in a full length black dress took a seat opposite Terry as he pushed the plate aside, her long, black tresses fell messily around her face, and the canvas

of her face rippled into a smile, brown eyes twinkling.

“I’m glad you came,” Alice said, taking hold of the bottle in front of her and sipping at her Canadian Club, before setting the cold beverage back into the little wet ring on the table.

“I am too, should be a good night.” Terry remarked, watching the small room become filled with spectators. People were already lining up to see the band as they practiced a set.

The night went on. Terry was surrounded by people, but Alice was always beside him. Eventually they left the pub, walking out into the night air and standing on the sidewalk sucking on cigarettes. Curls of smoke left their mouths and drifted into the sky.

Terry reached into his pocket, producing a single, gold ring in his palm, “I’ve got something for you he said, smiling as he did so. Alice reached out, allowing him to slide the band onto her index finger, a knowing smile on her face.

“Is this...” her voice trailed off.

“Cassie Meyer’s ring, yes it is.” Terry whispered smugly, watching Alice’s face, her eyes wide and studying the gold jewellery.


money before speaking, “How’s it going Terry?” he asked the man, as he sipped the froth off the top of his beer.

“I can’t believe you actually did it.” She spoke softly, slightly awed by this.

“Well,” he paused before speaking again, “I knew you wanted it, you’ve always spoke of those two lovers. And look,” his hand went underneath the fabric of his shirt, revealing a ring dangling on a chain from his neck.


Alice’s eyes bulged, reaching forward she fingered the gold ring ever so gently with the tips of her fingers. “Forever lovers,” she whispered voice barely audible.

Terry leaned forward, and his lips met hers, gently caressing the soft, plump flesh of her mouth. She kissed him back, before finally pulling away, wide eyes locking onto his face. “Thank you.”

The two parted, and Terry headed back home, walking in the light provided by the street lamps above and smiling to himself. He went slowly, enjoying the darkness and the stars, his lips still curled into a grin as the kiss lingered there. When he slid the key into the lock of his door, he felt something caress the back of his neck. Crying out, he spun around, stray hairs freeing from the tie in his hair and settling around his shocked face.

There was nothing there. He reached back to touch the flesh of his neck and the skin was ice cold and slightly wet. He brought his fingers back and

close to his face, studying the thin film of moisture there. Frowning, eyebrows drawn close together he turned around and opened the door, locking it behind him and switching on the lights. The screen of his laptop was still on, and he walked over, settling down into the chair and focussing on the pictures of the two in the grave, the comments were endless. People were both impressed and enraged. Terry grinned and began to type furiously, hitting the keyboard hard as he went. He looked down, and noticed that there were flakes wedged between the keys, between his fingers he picked one out staring at it; it was dry and crumpled from his touch. Ignoring it, he typed on, before settling into bed, mind fuzzy and still drunk.

He awoke a couple of hours later, and rolled over and onto his stomach, but his face was pressing into something beneath him, it felt like crumbs on his pillow. He reached out lethargically, and switched on the lamp, only to discover the little flakes were not crumbs, but something else, transparent and light, they covered his pillow case like dandruff. He threw the pillow off the bed, stood up and made his way to the linen closet, grabbing another pillow case and peeling the used one off it before forcing the bulky pillow into its cover. Sleep came almost suddenly, and his slumber was peaceful.

Hours later the alarm buzzed in his room, and he moved to turn it off. Stepping out of bed and into the shower, he stood there as the water fell over him, wiping away at his body blindly before stepping out and drying himself off. As usual, he checked his

He pulled on clothes, and though it was hot he wore pants and a long sleeve top, hiding his skin, before placing a hat and sunglasses on his head, moving out into the day he headed off to work.

At the coffee shop, he served people, but he was forced to remove his hat and glasses. People gasped at the sight of his skin, and two hours after entering the workplace he had to check his reflection again; the bulging eyes and worried looks were too much for him to handle. Frantically he moved to the bathroom, staring at himself in the mirror, his hands clenched the basin until his knuckles were white. The skin was peeling off, bubbling and enlarging in places, while some of the flesh on his cheek bones was filled with holes. The meat looked necrotic, black and dead around the small caverns on his face. He backed away suddenly, as a large, dead chunk of flesh began to give way, revealing white slime and dark flesh underneath. He used his finger to prod at the hole, gathering mush onto his finger and inhaling the scent.

The stench was incredible, and his body heaved as gags ripped through his throat. The smell was nothing he had ever come across, something close to meat that had gone off in the heat of the summer, but a thousand times worse. He lifted his shirt and his pale skin seemed to be enlarged in places, his belly swollen and filled with something that could only be gas, discolouration speckled his flesh, blue, purple and white; he looked like the surface of a fine china plate.

And then his eyes locked onto the reflection of a band of gold hanging from his neck, he reached up with his fingers and tried to rip it off furiously. Agonising pain sped down his spine. He gripped it with both hands, ripping at the flimsy chain furiously, but it wouldn’t come off. His fingers searched blindly behind his head, moving through messy curls as he went, and searching for the latch, but the tips of his fingers prodded something odd and when he moved forward to inspect it. Twisting and pulling his collar down, the horror caused his eyes to bulge.

The skin at the back of his neck was swollen and raised; the thin chain disappeared into the flesh, as though it was growing out of his body. The entry point oozed cheese coloured puss, and the skin itself felt hard as stone.

Terry felt nothing but blind panic now, and he rushed out of the bathroom, bursting into the cafe’ and speeding out of the door. Customers yelled at him as he ran past, pushing and shoving his


reflection in the mirror. Terry’s eyes went wide and fear licked at his insides as he glimpsed himself. The person staring back at him looked like him, but something was different, the skin on his face was cracking in places, and the dry layers were literally peeling away from the flesh underneath like old paint. He desperately searched through his bathroom cupboard, grabbing moisturiser and slathering it onto his skin furiously. It was less noticeable this way, but the skin was still discoloured. He checked his body and the dandruff like flakes were everywhere.


way through the oncoming crowd. His feet hit the pavement and he took off, stumbling every once in a while, steadying himself and regaining balance as he zigzagged in and out of traffic, car horns blasting as the crazed man ran on. At one point, he tripped, chin hitting the concrete, pain radiated through his jaw, and as he pushed his face back from the pavement, his eyes locked onto a chunk of meat, the size of his fist that was stuck to the filthy concrete. Springing back up, he sprinted down an alley way, and rounded a corner, fists beating frantically on the front door of an old, weatherboard house.

The door opened, and Alice answered, a veil covering her face. She screamed at the sight of Terry, the flesh of half his bottom jaw was missing, and ivory coloured bone glistened before her, the row of his bottom teeth revealed to her eyes. She grabbed at his wrists, with her own hands and hung on tight, pulling him inside when she realised who he was. Terry looked down to find that the tips of her fingers were nothing but protruding bones, the flesh had split and peeled away.

He followed her inside and she slowly reached up and took off the veil, breathing slowly before turning to face him, her neck was almost bare, vertebra exposed here and there, and black, necrotic tissue was all that remained of most of her once beautiful face. Her bulging, brown eyes had sunk back into the sockets in her skull and her hair was coming out; bald patches speckled her skull on the right side of her head.

Tears welled in Alice’s eyes and rolled down her rotten flesh as she spoke, her voice raspy and crackling, barely audible, “What have you done?”

Terry looked away, staring at his palms, dry flesh clinging to nothing but tendons and bones, “I’m sorry, Alice.”

He sank to his knees, and his body shook, sobs echoed off the walls, the fabric of his clothes hung off him like sacks as he wasted away before her eyes. She knelt down beside him, lifting his head and studying the grotesque face before her, “I love you,” she said.

Alice leaned forward, gently kissing Terry, the flesh of her lips meshing with what was left of his, and the skin flaked and peeled as their mouths moved. When she pulled back, black gunk was smeared over the teeth that permanently smiled through Terry’s jaw. They held each other and silently waited. Their organs failed, as enzymes and bacteria caused membranes and walls to rapidly decay and their bodies were filled with a mixture of soup. Skin swelled and peeled, gas burst free of cracked flesh and the flies were drawn to the scent of decay. They held each other as their bodies became revolting mush and dry bones, blooming into flowers of grotesque remains.

When they were found, they were nothing but skeletons hidden under a pile of clothing, holding each other close, the smaller one wearing a ring on her finger, the larger one adorned with a


simple chain, an identical ring sitting inside its rib cage. Dental records confirmed their identity and the family of the deceased were notified. Two separate funerals took place over the next ten days and the lovers were buried apart.

BOY by


BOY by


The price of admission to their club is an answer to a question. The question is whispered to the candidate at the beginning of the evening. After dinner, when the coffee is being poured, he is obliged to answer. The men converse quietly; anticipating that they will have to stop talking soon to give the young man the floor. He’s standing next to the sofa. He’s very chilly and regrets not having chosen a spot next to the fireplace, if for nothing else, to add some color to the story. “Ok, it’s now or never,” he says to himself as he takes a deep breath. The custom is to repeat the question to the group and begin. He clears his throat and looks around the room, making eye contact with a few members but ignoring most.

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”

“I’ll tell you the worst thing I’ve ever seen and along the way I’ll also confess to the worst thing I’ve ever done.” He pauses to collect his thoughts and begins.

The summer was hot and boring. I am an only child, and so I was always left to my own devices. My father worked and was never around. Although my mother didn’t work, I don’t remember her at all

through that summer. It’s as though she disappeared until the day when much to my surprise, both my parents appeared to tell me that we were moving. I was eight.

There was a handful of kids my age on our street that would typically come by my house in the morning. One would look through the screen door to see me sitting on the couch watching TV. After he could see my mother wasn’t in the room, he would say, “Hey pussy, ready to go?”

“Yeah, fucker – give me a sec,” I would respond.

I’d put on my shoes and let myself out the back door to get my bike. I would ride it to the front of the house, joining the small group of boys, and we’d start our day.

One morning late in the summer we set out but didn’t stick to our normal route. I yelled to ask where we were headed. No one answered so I yelled again; this time making sure my voice was louder than the wind in our ears and punctuating the sentence with a curse word. David, who was just ahead of me, turned his head very quickly and yelled, “You’ll see!” Then turned and yelled


again for good measure, “But for now, just shut the fuck up.”

be our lookout. If Boy shows up, you need to sound the alarm.”

We rode for what seemed like forever though it couldn’t be too far. The newness of the route deceived me.

“Fuck that,” said Jason, “I’m coming with you guys.”

We ended the ride in front of a house that had clearly been a fine house about a million years ago. It stood abandoned, choked by an ancient wisteria vine that filled the air with a sweet, ripe scent that reminded me of an old lady. It was at the end of a dead-end street on a large lot, and it didn’t look like there were any neighbors nearby.

We left our bikes in the front yard, next to a gravel driveway and gathered.

“Boy told me about this place,” David said. He was the kid who had told me to shut the fuck up earlier.

“Bullshit,” Hank interrupted, “he didn’t tell you.”

“Well, OK,” David started again, correcting himself. “I heard him tell Patsy about it. He said he’d bring her here today so we better take a look and then leave. We don’t want to be here if he comes. Jason, you stay out here and

It was settled. We would explore the house as a group with no one on the lookout for Boy.

Boy had gotten his name when his brother David was just a baby. The story goes that David, never having said a word, pointed at his older brother and said, “Boy.” Their parents thought the baby was some kind of genius and decided on the spot that the elder brother would be called Boy from then on. Earlier that summer Boy had bragged about turning sixteen. He was big for his age and always smelled like onions. Though we all were, David, his brother, was especially afraid of him. It was as though Boy had decided to hate his brother from the moment David had pointed at him and made his first sound.

Boy had been with Patsy the last time I saw him. It’s clear to me now that the girl was mentally challenged but back then we all thought she was just dumb. And a slut. It was well known that Boy was having sex with her. I was on my way to the public swimming pool and wanted David to come with me. As I

gaze. That’s when I noticed something moving in the brush. I walked away from the other boys towards it and it took a little jump in my direction. While the other boys made their way into the house, I found a gray rabbit.

“Hey buddy,” he said to me, not knowing who I was, just knowing I was one of his brother’s friends. “I just fucked the slut. Her pussy was real good. How about I fuck you next? You want that?”

I bent over to touch the rabbit and started talking to it like I’ve seen people talk to babies. It must have been someone’s pet at some point because it didn’t try to get away. I had never been this close to a rabbit, much less touch one. I was just getting used to its very soft pelt when I heard one of the boys scream from inside the house. I was a good twenty feet away from the back door when they burst out of it. The first was Jason, then David, whose look seemed weirdly vacant, and who managed to wave me towards him as he turned to run. Then the other two.

In spite of the heat I shivered and kicked with both my legs at him, missing him completely but managing to get loose. “No, you fucking asshole,” I said as I got up and ran away from him to my bike. Once safely on my bike I turned to him and repeated myself for good measure, “You fucking asshole.” It was only then that I noticed Patsy had been standing well behind us on the sidewalk. Watching.

I had not factored running into Boy today. Suddenly I wished that Jason had agreed to be our lookout. But I wasn’t going to chicken out. I joined the rest of our small group as we made our way around the back of the house. I saw right away that Boy had been there. The back door was broken as were the windows, the broken glass mingling on the ground with the grass and weeds, shining brightly in spots as I shifted my

At the same time, I had gotten up to follow. Without realizing it, I had gathered the rabbit in my arms and, not knowing why they were all running, I followed suit and started to run towards my bike.

I had managed to make the corner when I felt something tug at my jeans. My body was lifted off the ground by the force and I flew through the air and back towards the house. I landed hard on the ground. I tried to break the landing with


knocked on his door, Boy snuck up behind me. He wrapped both his arms around me and lifted me up so his mouth was right next to my ear. I could smell his body odor which was familiar and foul and realized I couldn’t move.

my left arm and in the process dropped the rabbit. The rabbit scampered a few feet away from me as I realized that my arm hurt like nothing I had ever felt. I noticed the rabbit looking at me. I noticed the blood gathering around the small pebbles now embedded into the palm of my left hand and then I noticed Boy standing in front of me.


He looked down at me and smiled. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and his jeans weren’t zipped up. His pubic hair protruded from his pants as I tried not to look. It was the first time I had ever seen that.

“What’s this?” he asked looking down at the rabbit.

“I don’t know,” immediately stupid.




“You don’t know? What are you? A retard? Like Patsy?”

Patsy, by then, had also made her way out from the house. Her breasts were exposed, as she also didn’t have a shirt, but her shorts were on, if slightly offkilter. She looked over at me. Her face was bloody. Her eye swelling and her lip split. She’d been crying. She had not wiped her nose.

“Don’t worry about her, buddy, we’re trying something new today and she’s not quite used to it,” Boy said as he bent over and picked up the rabbit. “Is this yours?” he asked and smiled at me again.

“Yes,” I said, knowing that was not the right answer.

Boy’s response was to jut out his lower jaw and nod his head.

The other boys were all gone by then. I knew this because except for the breeze and a few distant birds, there was silence.

Boy held the rabbit close to his chest, then rocked it a bit as you would a baby. Then he kissed it. He looked at me, then looked at Patsy, then kissed the rabbit again. We were a summer triangle on the point of collapse.

Boy lowered himself to the gravel and reached behind him. From his back pocket he pulled out a switch blade. Patsy started making a guttural, pathetic sound that started as a “no” and swelled to a sob. I sat on the ground, guarding my arm, which I was sure was broken.

Reading my mind, he said, “It’s not over, not by a long shot.”

With the hand holding the rabbit he turned its body so that its head was opposite to where it had just been. The movement made the dirt underneath it mix with the blood. The track left a semicircle in front of the rabbit and Boy. Then he took the knife, now with clear access to the belly of the rabbit and sunk its tip into it. Without much effort, he cut down and up in a semi-circle through the rabbit’s stomach.

“Look,” he said, “she’s smiling at you.” BOY

Boy placed the rabbit in the center of the triangle and rolled it on its back. He pressed the button on the side of the knife, which immediately doubled its size with the blade now exposed. He made a point to show me the knife, slicing the air in front of him slowly, once then again, making an invisible “x”. Like the broken glass on the ground, it sparkled for a second. Then in a graceful movement, he lowered the knife to the neck of the rabbit and slit its throat. The rabbit had tried to get away the whole time but quickly quit moving. A small puddle of blood spilled and gathered beneath it, the red tint contrasting wildly with the gray of its fur and the white of the gravel.

The moment held us immobile. Then it was released.

“I’ll bet you think this is over, don’t you buddy?” Boy said to me.

I had no idea what he could mean.

“Don’t you?” he repeated.

Then I thought, Yeah, this should be over, but it’s not.

I stared at the rabbit, trying not to think about how quickly my arm was swelling. Trying not to think about the pain. Trying not to think about Patsy who was still saying, “No, no”.

Boy set the knife down next to the rabbit and then used both his hands to split the rabbit apart. He reached into it and pulled something out. They were tiny sacks that appeared to be strung together. He pulled and out they came from the belly of the rabbit. It took me a second to realize the rabbit had been pregnant. He dropped the string next to the dead rabbit with the last bit still in her. Then he got up and walked towards

me. I took a deep breath and I ran all the way home.


The worst thing I ever saw was what Boy did to that rabbit. The worst thing I ever did was not say anything about Patsy, until now.

He takes a deep breath. As he exhales, the group of men seems to take his cue and also breathe in the last of the evening. They will think about him later. They will think about the gray rabbit and about Boy and Patsy. They will come to the conclusion that they have new blood in their ranks.

Later that night, sleep is elusive as it’s been for the last couple of months. The insomnia started late in the summer when one night he had been dreaming about the day Boy killed the rabbit and, though he had never suffered from it, he realized he had been sleepwalking. He woke up in front of his bedroom window. He had been dreaming that Boy was standing outside in the middle of his backyard without a shirt and with jeans undone.

Sometimes the thing that goes bump in the night is the house settling. Sometimes it’s something else. Tonight

the bump wakes him and, thinking he is fully awake, he gets out of bed to look outside his window. Just as he thought, Boy is standing outside like he had in the dream. Boy is no longer sixteen. He is much older, almost old. He wears sunglasses even though it’s dark, and he is without a shirt. His body is ripped. He’s tattooed. He speaks and though he shouldn’t, he can hear the words as though Boy is whispering in his ear.

“That’s not the way the story really went, did it buddy? That’s not the way it ended.”

He turns away from the window and heads back to bed. If he is lucky he might be able to go back to sleep. If not, tomorrow will be a gray day.

No, that’s not the way the story ended. He thinks that maybe if he says it out lout, he can end the exorcism he started earlier in the evening. He addresses the bedroom and finishes the story, telling it not as himself, but as if he was the wisteria-choked house, or the old, scarred trees or some other witness.

After he killed the rabbit, Boy moved towards him, scooping him up in one movement. Patsy rushed over to get him

Boy took him to the living room of the house; there he had set up a pad for himself. He drank from an open beer bottle and held him down much like he had the rabbit just a few moments earlier. Boy unfastened the younger’s pants and pulled them down. The underwear he just ripped off.

Afterwards, he pulled his pants up with his one good arm and slipped out of the house afraid to wake Boy and almost tripping over Patsy who was by now just whimpering on the ground. Ignoring the pain, he took a few steps and stopped in front of the rabbit. The ants had already started to get to her. He bent over and picked up the string still sticking out from her stomach. He gently pushed each little sack back into her.

“Sorry,” he said to the rabbit and got up.

He didn’t run into anyone as he made his way home and when he got there, he walked directly to the couch and fell

asleep. He woke to his mother screaming, asking him what he had done to his arm.

Later that night, when he and his parents returned from the hospital, David stopped by. David didn’t ask about the cast. Instead, he shared the news: Patsy flipped out after they left the house and killed Boy. She took his knife and slit his throat, then made his stomach smile.


to let go but Boy easily backhanded her with his free hand. She fell on the ground and let out a now very audible cry. Boy carried him inside the house. He tried to get away but all Boy had to do was grip his arm, now fully swollen. The pain was too much to do anything else but concede.

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