SHROUD Version 1.01 - September 2010
The Digital Journal of Dark Fiction and Art
Premier Issue! D. HARLAN WILSON “The Bureau of Me” LITTLE EDSEL EINSTEIN A Hiram Grange Story
VICTORYA “Michael Ballantine Remembers His Name”
by Scott Christian Carr
CRAVEN PLACE a new Serialized Novel from
GRIMOIRES & TOMES
Book Reviews DEMENTIS MORTUUS Word Games for the Worst of Us
Scott Christian Carr’s
“SOMEONE OUGHTA SELL TICKETS…!”
Shroud Publishing www.shroudmagazine.com
Version 1.01 • September 2010
CONTENTS MICHAEL BALLANTINE REMEMBERS HIS NAME 3
Scott Christian Carr’s
SOMEONE OUGHTA SELL TICKETS …! DOWN & OUT IN RACHEL, NEVADA Part 1
THE BUREAU OF ME 12
D. Harlan Wilson
CLICK-THRU CLASSIFIEDS 24
Discover New Treasures!
LITTLE EDSEL EINSTEIN A Hiram Grange Story by Scott Christian Carr
GRIMOIRES & TOMES 28
A new serialized Novel from Richard Wright
DEMENTIS MORTUUS 34
Word Games for the Worst of Us Publisher Shroud Publishing LLC
Managing Editor Timothy P. Deal
121 Mason Rd. Milton, NH 03851
Art Director Danny Evarts
Copyright © 2010 by Shroud Publishing LLC. Individual works are © 2010 by their respective creators. All rights reserved.
Contributing Editors Scott Christian Carr Kevin Lucia
This publication is a result of hard work and creative effort. Enjoy it, and celebrate the possibility of all things.
www.shroudmagazine.com Cover Art: Detail from “Emily:Beauty” Fiber Construction by Danny Evarts
Michael Ballantine Remembers His Name T
he way the water drops from the shower head is like this: it forms, slowly, against the brown that he hopes are water stains. Molecule after molecule is pulled together. One hydrogen, two oxygens bond. Each minute element pools until it is too heavy and then it drops to tiles worn by water. Water drops through the day, through the week, through the centuries. A history of water droplets on the tiles of St. Ann’s. There’s the sound as it lands, but he doesn’t see the water hit the ground because he’s staring at the new drop forming. He thinks his hearing is out of synch again because he hears a drop as a new bead of water forms. He hears the sound just before the water falls and doesn’t quite equate it with the landing. He thinks it’s like the bad dubbing of a Japanese film. His name is Michael Ballantine, only he doesn’t know that right now. He knows that there is a new drop of water forming just as he hears the dull plop of the last one. He’s trying to figure it all out. He knows that his leg itches. There are bites. He counts them: Onetwothree, Onetwothree, onetwothree. Rows of three. Bites up his leg. He scratches and finds blood on his finger but doesn’t know why. An itch isn’t blood. An itch is an itch.
The man leads Michael to a room. Rows of cots. Rows of men scratching bites. Michael still hears the drops as they land. Rows of men shifting around in their clothes, in their shoes. Not really asleep, just there until the sun rises. Just there.
Michael is there. He thinks he recognizes this. He thinks he knows he’s at the shelter at St. Ann’s, only he doesn’t know the name. It could be any saint. He knows that right “They’re pretty bad in here.” A now, at this moment, a mosquito is voice. “Let me look at that for you.” feasting on his arm. Michael sees a man. “Here, sit “You know something’s wrong down.” Michael obeys, still listening when even in summer the shelters to the dull droplets etching away are flooded, don’t you buddy?” eternity, eroding the sanctity of St. Michael looks down at himself. Ann’s. The man rolls up Michael’s pant legs. He washes the bites. He He sees pants held up by a jump applies cool ointments, bandages. rope tied around his waist. He sees “We try to spray in here, but with shoes worn and with holes, scuffed new people every night. Well, you and tired. He feels the handles of his makeshift belt. Wood. Soft and know.” warm. He runs his fingers over the But Michael doesn’t know. He only knows that each time a water marks burned into them. droplet forms he hears the sound of it already landing.
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“Daddy! Daddy! That’s what I want for my birthday!” He thinks it’s a
memory. He thinks he sees a little girl in a yellow dress, black Mary Janes, staring into the window of a toy store and smiling at the sight of a handmade jump rope, not a plastic one he could buy for a dollar at any street bodega. He thinks he sees his reflection but the pants are clean. Shoes reflect the reflection. Maybe it’s not his memory. Maybe it’s someone else’s.
“You okay buddy? It’s just a few bites, they should heal in a couple days.” The man again. “Here, let’s get something into you. You’re probably just dehydrated. Nasty heat spell on top of everything else, isn’t it?” He moves Michael over to a little table. He brings him a bottle of water and a bagel. “I’m Rob, by the way. Nice to meet you buddy,” the man who isn’t Michael says. Michael sniffs the bagel. He hears a giggle. “Are you sure sweetie?” A voice, gentle.
“Yes mommy. Oh, it’s so perfect.” The squeeze in Michael’s hand. The memory that might be someone 3
else’s, might be a projection of any one of the men pretending to sleep while really trying to remember their names, to connect self with substance.
Sunlight streams through the windows and on to the not-reallysleeping men who turn as one, gummed eyes fighting to fully open, and watch morning sweep over the room. They shuffle to the door, murmur thanks as they take their breakfast from Rob and head out into the day while St. Ann’s begins to clean up the detritus of a glacier of homeless men. Michael thanks Rob when he leaves. He hears a voice, like glass on asphalt, and wonders if it’s his. “No problem buddy, see you tonight?” If Michael answers, neither man realizes it.
oon. There’s a shadow. It covers N Michael’s world. His eyes, closed against the light, closed in the
sleep of the damned, open at the shift. Before him, a man. “You know you can’t be outside tonight.” Michael lifts his head from his newspaper pillow, the ink from the morning’s story across his cheek. He feels a bug, a mosquito, its long proboscis already in his neck. His legs itch.
sees. Not the man’s face. What he hears is the crinkle of the paper. The man notices and drops it by Michael before walking away.
Night descends but Michael doesn’t realize this. He knows the light has changed again. He knows “Keep counting honey.” Of a it’s still hot. He’s sweating. Heat radiates from him. Mosquitoes bite woman. every uncovered piece of flesh. He “Twenty-seven, twenty-eight.” The knows he itches. Bites swell pink, not sound of little feet hitting the pave- that he can tell through the dirt that ment. Michael leans against the clings to him. Michael is at his home, side of the building and looks at the his grate just a few blocks from what headlines. The newspaper is loud, used to be his home. screaming. More found in Central “You have to get inside. Find a Park. More people, remains of peoshelter or something.” The voice ple. Blood. Fragments. Bone. Reportsounds tired. “They’re spraying ers are too unsure what is doing this tonight, come with me.” A hand to even give it a name. grabs Michael, the touch unexpected. “Faster!” A direct order. The dress Foreign. “It’s okay, I just have to rising and falling, rising and falling. get you to safety.” Michael looks The shoes hitting the pavement. The up. Policeman. This he knows. The staccato notes as each foot jumps uniform. The hat. The identifiers are and lands. He hears the clicks of the all there and click in his mind. shoes just as she’s in the air. “They’re spraying?” He thinks Michael goes for a walk. Every he hears his voice, glass on asphalt. corner the newspaper crying about He thinks it’s his voice. He doesn’t more body parts found. Every corner remember anymore. fear trapped in glass boxes, on Michael hears the drop hit his newsstand racks. The heat cascades shirt a second after it drips off his over Michael. He walks by a store nose. Sweat, beading. Salt. He licks and the television blares soundless his lips and tastes it. NaCl: one images through the window. Images sodium molecule and one chloride of crimson puddles, of crying pulling together to fall from his families. Faces contorted at the sight pores. He itches. Bites. Onetwothree, of gore and uncertainty. Animal? onetwothree. Rows of three. Men in Man? rows. Men in cots, turning. “Daddy, come with us to the park.” “The heats a bitch tonight, isn’t it? The jump rope dangling from the Sorry that the AC conked out.” Rob. hand of a child. The memory that Michael remembers the name. The may not be Michael’s assaulting his face. “But you guys can’t be on the senses. He smells her freshness, her street while they’re spraying for youth. He smells the floral scent of mosquitoes. That shit’ll kill you.” the woman beside her. Michael scratches. Eruptions on “Come on Michael, you can grade his skin. Rob leads him to the table. those papers tomorrow.” The “You doing okay today buddy?” woman. Her voice an invitation of dulcet coolness. It wraps itself Rob hands Michael a damp cloth. around him. He sees papers before “We can’t open the windows because him, a briefcase to his side. But of the spray,” he says. “Anyway, Michael can’t see his face, isn’t sure you’re safer inside.” “Daddy, twirl faster!” The voice of a girl.
“They’re spraying tonight. You all have to go inside,” the voice says. The voice that is not his own. Michael sits up. He is on a grate, his grate, his home. Michael doesn’t know that only a few blocks away is his real home. What was his real home. The place where he slept inside, on a bed. What he knows is that he needs another newspaper. That this man is telling him he’ll have to go inside again. The man hands Michael a couple dollars. “Get yourself something to eat, okay?” he says. “And remember, they’re spraying the area tonight.” The man is carrying a newspaper. This is what Michael it’s him he’s looking at. Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
“I really have to get these done honey.” The voice male, tender. The voice distant.
“Daddy, please come to the park 4
with us!” The girl dangling her jump rope, pleading. “Mommy said we can get ice cream.”
“Just bring me some back, okay sweetheart?” He kisses her forehead scowled with five-year old disdain.
five months now. I can’t believe they don’t even know what it is.” Rob talking. The body count rising. “It’s just feasting on us, you know?” Michael doesn’t want to know.
The jump rope with the real wood handles that soaked up her blood, her pain. “Where is she?” The yell. The collapse. The tears. “They said they’d bring me back ice cream.”
Michael stands outside Central Park. “No trespassers buddy.” The un pours through the buildings. badge. The blue. The identifiers. The Michael shades his eyes. Out- policeman. side is quiet with the scent of chemi“I’m sorry sir. Please, we need you Michael sees a newspaper on the cals. The scent of death. to come down to the station.” The table. The front page. The pictures. “Please Daddy, come to the park memory. Blood. He smells iron. He feels for the jump rope tied around his waist, with us?” “You okay buddy? You look a bit the soft wood, the names burnt in “I have too much to do tonight parched. The sun’s really killer today, the handles. honey. Tomorrow, okay?” isn’t it?” He hands Michael a bottle “You know we can engrave it Memories that might be Michael’s. of water. “Crazy thing, Central Park for you sir?” The clerk at the store, He fingers the jump rope handles, closed. Craziest damn thing.” smiling. “What’s your little girl’s the names burnt in each one. The tears, hot, streaming down name?” “Sir, is this your daughter’s?” The his face. Screams that he heard but “Well, sort of,” Rob says, slapping a mosquito on his arm. “I guess inside or out you end up food for something, don’t you?”
“Yeah, this thing’s been at it for
jump rope in a clear plastic bag. didn’t know where they came from.
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Guttural. Pictures at the station. A jump rope. A hand. A fingerprint.
“Please, please. Just let me see her.”
Michael takes the bottle and walks. He goes home. To the home he knows now. To the grate. He drinks. He scratches. He buys the paper. A list. That’s the front page. Names.
his face and wonders whose they are.
The jump rope handed back to “How many is it now?” A voice, Michael. glass on asphalt. Atrophying from The smell of blood and burning. lack of use. The smell of Michael’s flesh as the “It’s in the double-digits, that’s for soldering iron hit skin. sure.” The cop. Tired. Michael feels tears trickling down
He turns the page. Maps. The first two people, skipping rope in Sheep Meadow. Only Michael knows why they were there. Only Michael, who doesn’t want to remember, knows they went to skip rope and eat ice cream. Only he knows how his little girl’s favorite color was yellow and she liked the idea of purple bunnies. Only Michael knows how he met his wife. Only he knows who names one and two were.
goes to the first point on the map. To Sheep Meadow.
Michael hears the sound of his daughter’s feet landing. He sees his wife smile. It’s dusk, but the heat lingers. He grabs the jump rope around his waist. “Here,” he says. He kneels to the ground, sees the blood from the photos. He feels for the name.
“Juliette.” He says her name and begins to remember his own. He grabs the other handle. “Sonja.” His He fingers the jump rope tied wife. Michael stands up and stares around his waist. Names. at the map. He goes to the next spot “We can burn her name into the on the list, to Literary Walk, and handle for you.” The store clerk. says the names of the people that were found there. Michael walks to One handle his daughter. Balto, to Rumsey Playfield and Alice “I’m sorry sir, we can’t say what in Wonderland. He says names like happened but we’re doing all we can Brandon, like Odette, like Jadwiga. to find this thing.” The other handle, More maps. Belevedere Castle, He pronounces them as best he can his wife, a name he burnt in himself. victims three and six. Bethesda and with each name he comes closer Michael studies the names on Fountain. Literary Walk. Balto. Each to remembering who he is. With the list. The first two. His wife. His person a point in the park. Each one each life remembered he regains child. He doesn’t want to know, a meal. some of his own. doesn’t want to see they were part Finally darkness swallows the Sun melts into moon. Light drips of him. The other names, each one through the buildings as curtains city. The moon is a sliver that serves a life, each one a wife, a husband, a move, as clouds shift, as Michael to prove the existence of darkness, daughter. Even more names. John fights to forget. But their faces rush nothing more. Michael is at the last Does. Forgotten people remembered through his mind. Their voices. Their place on the map, the last name has only in their manner of death, only lives. This man, this man who fights been said. He struggles to see where because they were consumed by the to forget he’s Michael, he can’t deny he has to go. All the death, all the unknown. He tries to avoid looking their lives. He can no longer deny slaughtered, they all circle one place. at the list but his eyes always drift to their memory. The Ramble. He enters. the top. To his wife. The smell. He wonders why the He collects more newspapers. “Let me see her!” he screams. More stories. More people. More police haven’t noticed it. Acrid Detached, not him. Someone else. names. More bones found. More scents whirl around him. Death. The policeman talks but the words pieces. Never more than scraps. Blood. Decay. But still, Michael don’t come until later, until his lips More theories. More memories. walks further into the thickness of have long since stopped moving. the Ramble. “Mommy, if Daddy doesn’t come, “There’s isn’t much of her left to can I have his ice cream?” A little The heat intensifies. It grasps for see.” tongue sticking out at her father. A Michael, pulls at him. It squeezes his chest, slams into his face. Heat and giggle. The apologies. the smell of the dead. A plan. “We only know because of the There is a sound. Like steel on steel, fingerprint. Because she was Michael gathers the maps. He teeth on bone. registered.” walks. Michael. This man no longer Michael sees a beast feeding. It’s Because they fingerprinted their fighting to forget he was once like a man, only not. It’s humanity daughter in case something should Michael. He walks into the park, past with an asterisk beside it. He speaks. happen, insurance against a night- the police at every entrance. This mare.
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shadow of a man walks through and
“Why?” he asks. Voice like glass on
asphalt. Not used to speaking. There is no courage in Michael’s voice, but there is no fear either.
The beast stands. Hands uncurl into claws. Knees unbend to towering lengths. But the musculature remains human. The rest, the asterisk. “Why?” He asks again.
The beast yawns or silently growls, Michael can’t tell. Teeth like blades are revealed. Eyes of black frozen fire. Heat radiates and pushes against Michael, tests him. The smell of entrails hits him, tries to knock him over. The blood, pooling around the beast, around Michael. Standing there, before the beast, before the sinews that the sliver of moon highlights, standing in a pool of blood spreading from the body the beast is feeding on, Michael is not afraid. He remembers his wife. He remembers his daughter. He places his hand on the jump rope handles and remembers.
The way the blood drips from the beast is like this: It forms, slowly, slick and dark on the claws. Erythrocyte after erythrocyte bonding together until the weight is too much and it falls to the ground. It forms slick and dark on the teeth of the beast. Leukocyte by leukocyte pulls together until the weight is too much and it drips to the growing pool below. There’s the sound as it lands, empty, hollow. But Michael doesn’t see the blood land because he’s watching the droplets form. He doesn’t think his hearing is out of synch now. He understands what this means. “What are you?” he asks, his voice softer, a desire to speak.
The beast thrusts forward, steel “To devour.” The answer slices Michael, opens up a part of his mind. claws meeting the softness of Michael’s stomach. It lashes, crazed. “Your name.” Michael says. Michael continues to recite names. The beast is silent. A drop of blood He hears no sound but his voice. falls from its claws to the Earth. His knees buckle and he falls to the Michael hears the sound as it lands. ground. “Give me your name,” Michael “Give me your name! I demand demands. you tell me your name!”
“You will be next,” the beast says. “I am what I do,” the beast says. It But it doesn’t move forward. The moves its face, so close to human, so sliver of moon shines into the beast’s far from humanity, next to Michael’s. eyes. Feral energy greets it. The eyes glistening onyx. The mouth Michael grips the jump rope baring teeth able to grind bone. The handles so fiercely his knuckles turn hair matted in blood and viscera. white. But he doesn’t see that. He Michael hears droplets fall. He feels rain on his shoulders breaking the feels the names. “Sonja Ballantine,” Michael says. heat wave. “I am a devourer.”
“Juliette Ballantine.” The beast takes a step back. Michael is entranced with the power of their names, the power of memory, of lives lived. He thrusts each person at the beast, sure that it is important, that the beast must know the names of those it has killed. “Brandon Weeks, Jisup Kim.” Michael’s voice does not falter. He’s memorized all the names in the paper. With each name he speaks, he gains strength. “Give me your name!” he demands of the beast. “I will not,” it says.
“Daniel Velazquez, Chiu Lin. Give me your name.” “I will not!”
The air is stagnant. The beast breathing heavily. Michael feels the heat. Feels every open pore sweating. Salt. Urea. Water. All forming into droplets on Michael. “Tell me your name!”
“Michael Ballantine,” Michael says, laying claim to the life he forgot. “I am Michael Ballantine. My wife was Sonja Ballantine. My daughter Juliette.” He throws the names at the beast, but it’s too late. He feels his strength draining.
“And I am a devourer,” the beast says, it’s mouth opening. “Nothing more. I have no need of a name.” The beast bites down on Michael. Blood sprays. It joins the rain as it falls. There is no one to hear the sound of it landing but the beast, and he can’t hear through the sound of steel on steel, teeth on bone.
Victorya was named Miss Luna Landing runner-up 1969, Miss Garlic Festival 1977, and Miss Construed 1999. She also likes to make up her biographies. Victorya’s writings can be seen in Necrotic Tissue and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. That part’s true.
“No!” the beast roars. “I am your devourer,” the voice “Mary Reyes, Nike Anderson. hatred. The voice low and rumbling. Give me your name!” Michael feels The voice a blade cutting into each person come alive once more Michael. when he recites their name. He “Why are you here?” Michael’s thinks if only he can say the name voice stronger now, sure that it is he of the beast, he can contain its life speaking. as well. Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Dark fiction and horror in tasty bite-sized pieces Enjoy some of the most terrifying Bram Stoker Award nominated modern fiction on the market. Abominations
17 Spine-tingling Tales of Murderous Monsters
Expertly-crafted, never-before published tales of horrifying creatures, mythical beasts, and murderous monsters from some of the best voices in modern horror. With stories from John Teehan, Anna Lowther, Eric Christ, Rhonda Parrish, William Vogel, Tracie McBride, Mark Tullius, Kevin Lucia, Brandon Berntson, Jeff Parish, Lee Zumpe, Lon Prater, Lincoln Crisler, Gerard Houarner, R. Scott McCoy, Dave Dunwoody, and Richard Farnsworth. Edited by Timothy Deal.
Beneath the Surface 13 Shocking Tales of Terror
Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Anthology of 2008 Supernatural beings, Gothic settings, shadowy creatures, and atmospheric haunts tantalize and thrill in this collection of eerie and terrifying oldschool works of short fiction. Including works by Scott Christian Carr, Derek M. Fox, Scott William Carter, Malon Edwards, Ian Whates, J.T. Glover, Philip Roberts, Richard Wright, Justin McMahon, Efraim Z. Graves, Marie Brennan, Angeline Hawkes, and Jake Burrows.
100 Terrifying New England Tales
Much more than an anthology, this is an indispensable guidebook for your journey through the shadowy New England otherworld. 100 original tales of ghosts, creatures, mad men, and other horrifying mysteries, each told in the first person so that the reader can customize these treacherous tales in order to tantalize friends and terrify family. Profits from the sale of this book are donated to the American Cancer Society.
It’s 1997 and Joe Travis is still alive.
He’s waiting for us in Rachel, Nevada—population 98. A struggling trailer town baking on the edge of the desert, the closest outpost of civilian civilization to the fabled top-secret government military installation and alleged home to countless conspiracies, reverse-engineered alien technology, and downed flying saucers: Area 51.
Joe owns the Little A’Le’Inn, a repository of UFO information, declassified documents, flying saucer photos—a rumor mill and gathering place for starryeyed believers, saucer-seekers, ‘wannabes’ and abductees, conspiracy kooks and UFO tourists. And perhaps more importantly—it’s a bar & grill. Amidst the wild stories and dark conspiracy theories that swirl among the deepest, innermost circles of the UFO and alien abduction crowd, it’s rumored that Joe cooks a pretty mean ‘Out-of-This-World UFO burger.’ For no extra charge he’ll give you directions to the border of the Top Secret base. Our reservations are made—Joe is expecting us.
True Story. Scarier words, ne’er spoken … “The only ones for me are the mad ones,” wrote Kerouac, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” There’s a world of crazy out there … a fringe to be explored … Someone oughta sell tickets.
Down & Out in Rachel Nevada or,
“I Was Almost Killed At Area 51 and All I Got Is This Lousy Coffee Mug …” Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Screaming down Highway 375 (officially renamed ‘The E.T. Highway’ in 1996, a futile effort to promote tourism and redirect UFO seekers towards Rachel’s alien-themed businesses—both of them) the desolate, sun-baked tarmac cuts through a wide open desert of cactus, Joshua trees and free-roaming cattle. Just the two of us, me and Amy, on a road trip to beat all road trips: determined to visit every UFO hot spot, new age mecca, folkloric landmark, roadside curiosity and paranormal oddity that this country has hiding in its subcultural nooks and crannies …
Rachel sits in a long, low valley. Hills border the horizon to our right—there’s Tikaboo Peak and Whitesides Mountain and Freedom Ridge—the last bastions of free public land. Just out of sight, beyond those hills, lies the enigmatic Area 51. Dreamland. Also known as S4, The Pig Farm, Wonderland, Oz, Groom Lake, The Ranch … America’s most popular secret base. They say there’re flying saucers from another world kept there—UFOs that crashed in Roswell in 1947, or were shot down by Reagan’s secret Star Wars Program— spacecraft captured in covert interstellar wars by the Truman Administration—strange alien technology for which heartless Illuminati worldmasters routinely swap innocent runaway children and bovine blood with evil extraterrestrial intruders for purposes unknown ... In UFO circles, it’s whispered that there are deep—miles deep—underground tunnels in the desert below the base. 9
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS DOES NOT MEAN THE RIGHT TO LIE— … I WANT TO BELIEVE— … IMPEACH CLINTON AND HER HUSBAND TOO!— … You can have my gun: BULLETS FIRST!— … THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE … — … WE DON’T HAVE A TOWN DRUNK … WE ALL TAKE TURNS! Joe rants about bible thumpers and rednecks and the new world order and fags and vegans … He rants about New Yorkers and UFO seekers and abortionists and Nazis and polygamists and artists … No one is safe. The jukebox plays,
That aliens work there, live there—they’ve taken over, the conspiracists say. There’s a war raging, the rumor-mongers cry, beneath our feet and above our heads—underground and in our skies—and not hardly a one of us even realizes it …
No one’s allowed in, or even near the base—USE OF DEADLY FORCE IS AUTHORIZED warns a sign at the border—but people come to look anyway. Ever since Bob Lazar—freelance nuclear propulsion expert, selfproclaimed ‘explodaholic,’ and legal brothel owner— claimed to have been hired by the U.S. military to back-engineer nine alien spacecraft in the restricted Skunkworks compound, deep inside Area 51. Fearing for his life after being caught surreptitiously allowing friends to witness a test flight of the saucers, Bob went public with his story in 1989. And soon after, The Rachel Bar & Grill, under the paranormal entrepreneurialism of Joe Travis, was transformed into The Little A’Le’Inn. There’s a storm trapped in the valley. Distant flashes of lightning—dark clouds pour rain on Rachel and the Little A’Le’Inn. We’ll later learn that the storm has been trapped here for nearly a week, unable to surmount the hills to the southwest—unable, like so many others, to penetrate the secret facility that lies on the other side …
A reassuring sign out front reads “Earthlings Welcome”—a wooden replica of a flying saucer sits outside the bar and a papier-mâché E.T. head is perched atop the jukebox, just inside the door. Joe, a long-bearded 57-year-old former carpenter in a cowboy hat, is speaking loudly as we walk in—there’s no one else in the bar. Joe raves about hippies and yippies and yuppies and Jews … He rails against liberals and communists and lefties and democrats … Bumper stickers and UFO photos paper the walls:
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Unmarked helicopters, hovering … The lord is coming soon. Unmarked helicopters, hovering … They said it was a weather balloon …
Behind his bar, Joe is working himself into a frenzy. Weaving a dark tapestry implicating the One World Government, the United Nations, and the Democrats who are plotting to take away first our guns and then the rest of our civil liberties ... “The Clinton administration deliberately murdered Vince Foster and the occupants of the Waco compound! ” he declares as we take our seats at the bar. The juke continues,
But I know the truth, I know the whole shebang … “I KNOW why you’re here …” Joe fixes Amy and I with a sardonic, cock-eyed and paranoid glare. “For the ‘outta this world alien burger! ’” (To be continued …)
Scott Christian Carr has been a radio talk show host, editor of a flying saucer magazine, fishmonger, spelunker, journalist, TV producer, and author. In 1999, he was awarded The Hunter S. Thompson Award for Outstanding Journalism. But his most satisfying and rewarding job is that of “Dad.” He lives in a home once owned by George Hansburg (inventor of the pogo stick) on a secluded mountaintop in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife and two children. He writes every day. Visit him on the web at www.scottchristiancarr.com.
Someone Oughta Sell Tickets …!
continues in the next Digital Edition and in Issue 10 of Shroud Magazine 10
on Original Fiction from Shroud Publishing Maurice Broaddus
Devil’s Marionette Death comes for the cast and crew of the hit comedy TV Show Chocolate City, impacting not only their personal lives but the prospect of their show’s continued success. As each member sinks into their own past, and the spirits of those that came before, the tragedies continue. When your terror comes to claim you, who will it be? Nobody.
R. Scott McCoy
Deputy Sheriff Nick Ambrose can look into someone’s eyes and glimpse their guilt, to an extent. But when he and his brother take on a psychopathic killer, he gains something more: the ability to see, and devour, souls. Plagued by this terrifying new power, and by the spirits of both his brother and the butcher trapped inside his mind, he sets out to understand and control his new fate and to grapple with the shadowy auras he now sees all around. Can he command the darkness welling within, or will he become merely its vessel?
When the powers of an ancient malevolent creature invade a quiet suburban household, a young mother is forced into a pitched battle for the life of her child. A shocking and intelligent novella from veteran supernatural investigator, Cindy Little.
At Harlequin High School In 1986, Kelvin Fish is the oddball, the weird kid that no one will talk to, except for Patrick Beauchamp, who is determined to learn more. When Patrick’s curiosity leads him into a bizarre and tragic series of events, he gets much more than he bargained for.
Available now at www.shroudmagazine.com and at finer retailers everywhere.
D. Harlan Wilson
The Bureau of Me “Arise, devour much flesh.” —Book of Daniel
Irresolute, he picked the note up They marched into the office and announced that they were from and read it. the Bureau of Me. They wore black YOU HAVE BEEN sunglasses and black suits and CORDIALLY INVITED BY black ties. Stock g-men. They looked THE BUREAU OF ME serious, eusocial, despite guestHe turned the note over. Blank on friendly rictus grins. the backside. “Me,” intoned Curd, rolling the “Invited where?” asked Curd. But word around his mouth. “That they were gone. sounds familiar.” Mz. Hennington cut them off. Maneuvering pointed sweaterbreasts, she lunged forward like a dogpoet That night, at his apartment, he and tried to take them out at the Mz. Hennington’s knees. They dispatched her without rebandaged wounds, then fucked her gently, incident. from behind. Always from behind. Curd slipped his fingers around He came. He collapsed. the glock taped beneath his desk. They removed their sunglasses. “I could use a cold beer,” he said.
Affectedly. As if they were doing him a favor, or demonstrating that they possessed the efficacy to remove eyeware in a certain levelheaded way … They didn’t have irises. Scarlet pupils marked the round white eyes.
may or may not have been one of the earlier visitors, only he had on a cape, and he blurred in and out of focus. It wasn’t a misperception on Curd’s part; the man’s body produced the effekt. Out of focus, he looked like a mothman, sitting there with tattered, febrile wings loosely folded behind him. Curd couldn’t tell.
The man stood and released an electric chirrup. He adjusted his collar, walked to the front door and opened it. “You will not be invited again.” He added, “You drink [urword] beer.” He slammed the door behind him. The latch didn’t catch; the door creaked open and a trapezoid of sodium light extended across the room from the corridor.
He rolled out of bed and went to the Mz. Hennington came out wearing kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It was empty … The door closed like Curd’s signature velvet robe. It was much too big and heavy on her and a flyleaf. “You have been invited,” said a looked like an animal skin rug that she had draped over her shoulders. seething, torpid voice. “Cordially.” A breast hung free. “Who was that?” Curd pulled the trigger. Startled, Curd turned around and she said, knees buckling beneath the Click. almost fell over, forgetting to move weight of the garment. his feet. He made no effort to conceal “Shit. Shit.” “Crepuscular motherfucker.” Arms the guyparts. akimbo, Curd flexed his pectoral One of them leaned over and The man sat at the dinette table. He muscles. “Who else? The Bureau of placed a slip of paper on the desktop. He wasn’t standing that close to the took a sip of beer, made a face, and Me.” desk. Not within arm’s reach, at least. tossed the bottle across the floor. It In fact, he was on the other side of didn’t break. Bleeding suds, it spun the room. Curd suspected an optical into a corner and clanked against a illusion. There were only two viable swell of empties. Curd finished the drink and perps: him, or them. “Invited where, dipshit?” The man ordered another one. “I need to start
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taking existence more seriously,” he said. “I need to start existing more … properly.” The bartender nodded. “Is there a proper way to exist?”
Curd finished the drink and ordered another one. “Yes. No. I meant to say I need to start existing … better? Better.”
YOU HAVE BEEN CORDIALLY INVITED BY THE BUREAU OF ME Curd changed the channel.
man was stronger and faster than The bartender nodded. “Is there a “When the entrails explode, we Curd. Not a fair fight. But a fair better way to exist?” are reminded of the entrails. Seeing outcome, given the constituency of the players. Curd finished the drink and things incites mnemonic inscription. Where would we be without the eyeQuadrifoil jabs, scripts, perforaordered another one. balls? And the eyeballs are connected tions … smell of primevality … to the thinkballs. And the thinkballs Somebody beat him with are the proprietors of language. And something, somewhere, maybe in The city smelled like burnt hair, the thinkballs must be greased like the trunk of a car, maybe somewhere burnt oil, burnt iron. Machinery in mystic engines so as to most effek- else. He had to swallow his blood tively and fluidly unleash the slick- for a long time. He got used to it. He ruins. est verbiage. This is in accordance suspected he could live on a diet of Whenever he got too drunk, he with the laws of some genre science his blood, if put to the test. called his mother. Pay phones were fiction and horror splatterfare. The harder and harder to come by, but “This is how things progress,” a metallic aftertaste of everyday life eventually he found one. He touched voice said. “You start in one territory. and arterial sprays of hemoglobin a thumbscreen. He encoded the Then you move to another territory, do not disqualify the—” number. She answered. and you grow. And the people Curd changed the channel. who gladrag you grow. That is “I’m drunk, mom,” he told her. A smiling [ur-word]. Spitting image progression, [ur-word]. Growth at “Where are you?” she asked. of his high school geometry teacher, every starpoint on the constellation “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.” aside from the cavity in his neck that of eternity. It is a simple process.” exposed the striations, the cables, “Okay.” Thud. the strings. The mutant epiglottis … They fell silent. A spinner Time passed. The [ur-word] nodded perfunctorily thrummed by overhead. and said, “Look behind you.” Then they unzipped the sack and “Fuckerrr!” bawled Curd. Curd’s head turned on a pebbled took Curd out and blindfolded him “What happened?” said his mother. axis. There was a man in a flak and tied him to a metal chair.
He closed his eyes, compressed his lips. “Nothing. I gotta go.” “Okay. I love you.”
He hung up the phone and hailed a smartcab.
“I need to call my secretary,” he jacket chewing gum with pointed conviction, as if he had invented gum said. that morning and was still riding “Secretaries belie the cult of little the high. Red pupils danced out-of- men.” synch across expansive eyewhites. “I need to call my mom then,” he Curd said, “Can’t you dumbasses said. “I’m still shitfaced.” take a hint? I don’t wanna come to “You are sober as a stone god.” your goddamned party.”
“They say it’s unwise to indulge simultaneously in plastic and icevapor. A man might develop a greater affinity for one or the other, and then what? Holocaust. The merger of affordable merchandise and untoward evil.”
Curd tried to stand, to break free. No strength. He had been tied Curd didn’t go down easy. He loosely, too. He was disappointed ran around the place for awhile, in himself. “I don’t deserve it, but slamming into walls and pictures everybody gets one phone call. Lend and appliances while screaming me the arm of common courtesy.” out lines from old pulp b-movies, Somebody punched him in the passing them off as his own. But the
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The man collected him in a sack.
Crying out, he flipped over the table and kicked off its legs. He used The scene outside the window one of the legs to bash holes in the looked more like a CGI landscape walls. Clouds and flakes of plaster than a real vista. It might have been. sifted across the room. And then he screamed, a real A kind of prairie or savannah rolled away from his vantage point in every scream, a true and unbridled scream, foreseeable direction, extending to full-throttle, neck swelling into a the horizon. He spotted a few blue trunk of purple tightropes. Blood tarns and swamplike regions, and he vessels popped on the skin beneath saw a distant knoll or fell, but for the his eyes. He observed his forearm He awoke sitting upright, neck most part it was all grass and reeds and dared to slash it with a knife. straight, locked into position … But he only slashed the air, reveling bending in a diplomatic breeze. Effluvial light shone through a Curd tried to open the window. in the cutting noises. window beside the table. He blinked. It wouldn’t budge. He put his ear Curd waited for the tantrum to
nose. He tipped over backwards. Somebody kicked him in the ribs. Somebody else kicked him in the chin and he heard either a toe or his chin crack. Curd concluded it was the toe; rain-made curses and echoic hopfrogs followed him into unconsciousness.
from the table. There wasn’t even a door.
He had been served a plate of sunnysideup eggs and raw white bacon garnished with a rotten sprout of parsley. There was also a small glass of orange juice atop which had been placed a folded slip of paper. Sans utensils.
against the window. Dull fizzing sound. The ear grew cold. Hair stood on end.
Without thinking, he picked up a strip of bacon by the tail, tilted back his head, and slurped it into his mouth like an escargot. It hurt to chew—stabs of pain riddled his jawpiece. He spit the bacon onto the plate, confused and horrified that he had attempted to manhandle it. The room had red walls and smelled of fresh paint. Empty, aside
Tentatively he opened the slip of paper. It read: EATING PIGMEAT IS BAD FOR YOU He crumpled the note and threw it aside.
Squawking, he swiped the plate of food and the orange juice from the table and they smashed against a wall.
Growling, he lifted the chair over his head and slammed it against the floor. He dropped pistonlike elbows on the chair until it broke apart.
subside before throwing himself through the window. Daymares of rhymed poetry pageturned across his [über-word] as he fell, fell, fell …
… and landed on a dark, wet street. He fell on his side and knocked his head against the asphalt. Dizzy, he struggled to bring the world into focus … He rebuilt the world calculated squints of acuity.
“This is a bad one, Mom,” Curd spit into the phone, wiping cold bangs from his eyes. It had been raining all night. He felt like it had been raining his whole life. He recognized the melodrama in his emotional core. And he milked the core like a snapaxle. Static. Raindrops.
“Mom? Are you there?” “Yes, honey. I’m here.” “I’m hurt.”
“Really? How so?”
“I hurt my soul. My soul hurts.”
“The soul is disconnected from the body. It’s inside the body, but it does its own thing. Anyway you can’t feel it. It must be something else.” “Like what? My aorta?”
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“I’m not sure. Maybe. Unlikely, Despite extensive wounds, sores, though. We can’t really feel our bruises, and a sprained ankle, internal organs. They’re in there. But he forced himself to fuck Mz. they do their own thing, too.” Hennington. No foreplay. No lube. She looked at him over her shoulder, “Okay. I gotta go.” gazing purposefully into his eyes, “Be careful, now. Try not to drink so as he stared at her ass and conjured much.” images of medieval orgies and cheering crowds. “I always do.”
“I know,” Curd said coolly. “I’ve cum before. I’ll cum again.” “I know you will. Let’s try later.”
They slumped onto their backs and stared at the ceiling. They listened to the soft revolution of fan blades overhead. Curd lost himself in the intricacies of the apparatus’s He couldn’t cum. spinning turbine. Mz. Hennington “It’s all right,” said Mz. reached over and took him by the Hennington, the sinewy knobs of hand. They locked fingers and fell her spine accentuated by the room’s asleep.
“Good. I love you.”
He hung up the phone and hailed a smartcab.
Intermission baked firmament like an unmanned dirigible. Within the sphere, a swarm of dark stick figures moved across planks, up and down stairways, through an obstacle course of cryptic, technologized appliances with ................THE BUREAU OF ME.... antlike speed and precision. This activity slowed and accelerated at Long tendrils hung down from unidentifiable intervals, but it never the base of the sphere like roots, as stopped altogether, and it never if it were an eyeball that had been spiraled out of control. yanked from a socket and pinned Amid the tempestuously systemto the pewter corkboard of sky. atic bustle, centered like the eye of a Lightning raced up and down the hurricane, or the nucleus of an atom tendrils while a glowing, viscous whose electrons have gone rogue, a substance fell from their tips in man on a superscreen, peacefully hulking globs that exploded onto freeze-framed … The man possessed rooftops and streets, constantly an aura. Not a glow—if anything it imperiling traffic and insulting the was a darkness—but a signifier, a architecture of reality. Magellanic signifier—as if shrouded The Bureau of Me never stayed in in a filigreed metaphor that could one place. It drifted across the half- be touched, grasped, physically A pulsing, mirrored sphere hovered above the spires and smokestacks of the city like a Bad Idea. A wide holographic ribbon moved diagonally across its girth, showing the world its name:
experienced—as if the rays of history beamed from the straightedges of his cogworn flesh. Confronted with the spectacle of his presence, even the idle viewer couldn’t deny the simultaneous visions of heaven, hell, and nothingness that deathdanced like sugarplums in their heads. He might have held the promise of futurity in one hand, Armageddon in the other.
The footage was shot from a gutterhole as the man ambled down a sidewalk at dusk, fingers resting in the pockets of a black trench coat, head faintly downturned, shoulders pushed back. Above him, the cartoon sky. Beneath him, a short string of text that hastened across the screen. The text pulsed with light, cast there from his frame like a shadow of meaning.
ACT II It smelled like shit. No, something else. Roadkill. A corpse. An old corpse, one that’s been decomposing and rotting for months. Otherworldly stench. Beyond swinefunk. Impossible for the senses to negotiate. It hit Curd in waves as he apShroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
proached his office in a vociferous flow of foot traffic. Dryheaving, he looked around to see if there was a culprit, a dead elephant, an exploded sewage pump, something. Something big and bludgeoned. But there was nothing.
Outside the office entranceway, beneath a careborn gray awning, a brick wall oozed pus from a constellation of six apertures that resembled deep sex wounds. Curd studied the anomalies carefully. He sampled the pus and rubbed it in a 15
tiny circular motion with thumb and forefinger. Felt like snot, the way it coalesced into small, hard balls. He went inside. Mz. Hennington was writing something on a souped-up Admiral typewriter. She typed so fast Curd could almost see the sparks shooting from her knuckles as a flurry of cyphers darted across the VDT looming over the keys. He hung up his coat, stepped behind her, and placed a hand on the satin fabric of her shoulder. She froze.
creature, from steady, meek whimper to ardent, profound … screech. An inhuman screech. A static screech, emanating from his core, rattling the framework of his sensorium. He panicked, but not enough to call it quits. He finished the job before collapsing sharply onto his knees, pain shooting up his thighs, into his groin, and then he toppled over, head smashing into the floor as if flung there. The screech retreated, dimmed, culminated in a kind of soft monkchant. Then faded to zero.
already pronounced frustration and anxiety of drivers. Textbook civilization. What caught Curd’s eye was a pair of outrémen across the street. He could barely see them from his position, and he had to lean over and twist his neck to get a clearer look. He pressed his nose against the glass.
The outrémen wore standard exile-ready attire. One could have easily mistaken them for flâneurs at first glance, but careful observation The last thing Curd remembered revealed certain nuances and [White-knuckled spectators … was the taste of it. Putrid. Metallic, enhancements about their persons Skewered pianists hunched onto electric. that gave them away. They stood the blood-spattered keys in weird [Cryptoconchoidsiphonostomata.] about nine or ten feet apart, like two pieces … eyes scraped out.] gunslingers itching for a draw, eyes “Something’s wrong,” he said, round and loud, hands at hips with playing with a lock of her hair. fingers spread and trembling, thigh “There doesn’t seem to be anything She didn’t turn around. She sat wrong with you, Mr. Curd,” said the muscles flexing beneath the crylove fabric of their trousers … This went stiffly in her chair and replied, doctor. on for awhile—for nearly half a cup of “What’s wrong?” “Curd,” said Curd. coffee. Then the outrémen staggered “I don’t know. It’s bad, though. The doctor scrutinized a clipboard. towards one another, trading words. Baaad.” He took her by the arms, Curd couldn’t be sure if they were “Ah yes. There you are.” pulled her to her feet and ran his friendly or hostile, or even coherent, palms, slowly, with mild calculation, and on a few occasions the outrémen across the bridge of her ass. Mz. cried out and emitted haunting Hennington cocked her head. The coffee tasted good. Usually it growls. They moved forward in a Smirked. Curd kicked the chair tasted like diluted oil. But he actually broken lurch. Mild interest threaded aside and pulled up her skirt and detected a kind of nut or stuntnut into raw fascination when, for a yanked down her panties, throwing flavor, and the aftertaste was okay. moment, Curd suspected they might her off balance for a moment. She He sat by himself at a corner table merge, and kiss; their tilted faces broke a heel. Apologizing, Curd and looked out the window. He came closer, as if on rails, ensuring locked her elbows behind her back brought a newspaper with him, no other outcome than lips on lips. with the crowbar of his forearm, opened it to the business section, the He was about to exclaim, “They’re pushed her down onto the desktop, stock market subsection, and laid it going to kiss!” but instead he caught cheek to cherrywood, and fucked out in front of him so that he didn’t his breath, almost choking, feeling her. Slowly, tenderly, accomplishing look like a bum sitting there drinking like he had swallowed his Adam’s a fine rhythm. Then rough. coffee without purpose or interest in apple … [Atrum vir astrum procul vos tergo the goings-on of serious men. Calmly, the outrémen feasted on procerus fenestra.] one another. Outside a team of construction As he neared climax, something workers held up traffic. They seemed It began with a simple nip, a welled up in him, something other more interested in holding up traffic minuscule portion of flesh that the than the proverbial rich substance. than fixing the street; if they detected outréman on the left removed from A sound. A distant cry … for help? a vehicle would try to glide around the cheek of the outréman on the Possibly. Thrusting harder and them too quickly or aggressively, right. A thin curve of blood spouted harder, he glanced around the office, they piledrived a canny hole in the from the wound like water from looking for a source, an origin … vehicle’s path, sometimes railroading a drinking fountain. The injured And the sound evolved into another it, but usually just exacerbating the outréman paused philosophically, Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
contemplating what had happened, perhaps, but showing no sign of pain or suffering. He returned the blow tenfold. His mouth opened to an impossible angle, like the jaws of a reptile, and he took his assailant by the neck and chewed off half of his head … Quickly the encounter escalated. They consumed each other with increasing ferocity. Sometimes they devoured their own bodies; as one outréman worked on his partner’s intestines, for instance, his partner rolled up a sleeve and sunk prehistoric teeth into his arm like a chicken leg. And when their teeth fell out, they used their hands, gouging out handfuls of flesh, ripping off fingers and limbs. Even when they ceased to look human, curdled on the sidewalk in a heap of quivering tissue and gristle, odd tendrils
reached from the residue and lashed out, fighting to the bitter end.
Nobody noticed the gorefest; people passed by or sidestepped the outrémen as if they were dead signage. Curd turned his attention to the café. It was empty. Curd turned his attention to his coffee. It was full.
It took him several minutes to get shitfaced. He ordered a beer and a bottle of absinthe and drank them as fast as he could, pausing to burp, gag, and swab his mouth with a bar towel … Thoroughbred intoxication hit him like an uppercut and his shoulders dislocated. He
slouched over, dizzy, deranged, a certifiable asshole, pupils dilating and contracting, pupils swallowing his eyeballs, irises, whites and all …
“Mooom!!!” he cried into a pay phone. “Sergio? Is that you?” said a voice. “Moooooom!!!”
The line went dead.
He hung up the phone and hailed a smartcab, bellowing for a driver to pull over. “You’re still inside the bar,” said the bartender.
Everything was normal, more or less, except on those rare occasions when people imploded, flesh folding
“A bludgeoning celluloid rush of language and ideas served from an action-painter’s bucket of fluorescent spatter, D. Harlan Wilson’s Peckinpah is an incendiary gem and very probably the most extraordinary new novel you will read this year.”
- Alan Moore, Author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta & From Hell
AN ULTRAVIOLENT ROMANCE The latest irrealistic journey from D. HARLAN WILSON
Shroud Publishing Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
“D. Harlan Wilson’s latest romp of a book, Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance, proves that Wilson is either a genius or a madman, in all likelihood a crazed hybrid of both. A book that will delight Wilson’s fans and mortally shock the uninitiated.” - Eric Miles Williamson Author of Welcome to Oakland and East Bay Grease 17
into flesh, into a tertiary nodule, then disappearing into a vaporized bead of blood.
Curd bought a hot dog from a vending cart. No matter what happened, there were always hot dogs. He had lived on them as a child, partly because it was all his mother could afford. But he liked them. Then and now, hot dogs had always taken him away, allowed him to forget about the hardships, if only momentarily, of day after day after dayafterday …
Mz. Hennington fastened the bra. A deep line of cleavage sprung to life. Hurriedly she slipped on panties and hose and a lavender garter belt. “Aren’t you coming?”
Still facedown in the pillow, Curd muttered something inaudible. He continued muttering as Mz. Hennington yanked up and zipped a snug business skirt into place and buttoned a cream blouse to the nape of her cleavage. “I can’t hear you,” she said.
Curd rolled over, arms splayed out on the bed. In one hand he gripped the revolver firmly by the barrel. “I’m not going to work today.”
Mz. Hennington’s smooth white Wrapped in a damp towel, Mz. calf muscles flared as she stepped Hennington slid on gold-rimmed into sleek high heels. “I’m going to bifocals and went to the kitchen to work,” she repeated. get something to eat. She opened the “I’m never going to work again,” refrigerator. Stared inside. Closed said Curd. “I want to see if things the refrigerator. Opened the freezer. will get done and if I’ll still make Stared inside. Closed the freezer. money if I don’t do anything.” She went back to the bedroom.
“What’s with all the sausage?” she asked. “There’s, like, a million hot dogs in the fridge. And beer.”
Mz. Hennington sighed. “I’ll just have to do everything myself. I want a raise.”
“No,” Curd beckoned. “I don’t want you to go either. It’s an experiment. Curd lay in bed fingering a revolver. Come back to bed. Let’s just see what “Lips and assholes.” happens. Take your clothes off. Let’s “What?” stay here and see what happens. “Lips and assholes. Like I said.” Take your clothes off.” Mz. Hennington unwrapped the “But who will do the work? It’s towel and held her breasts in place only us. It’s only the two of us.” with a forearm as she bent over and “Maybe the work will do itself. Get picked up her bra. “I’m going to your ass over here. Please?” work.”
bad for you, right? Even water. And we’re made of water. So is the earth. Water, and magma.” A dull groan escaped the slash of her mouth. She leaned in and snapped her mandibles together.
“Cut it out.” Curd pushed her off the bed. She hit the floor hard. He turned onto his side and blinked at a portrait on the wall. It had been hanging there since he moved in. Former occupants left it behind; they nailed it to the wall with railroad spikes. Curd would have needed a crowbar to pry it off, and he had never gotten around to the job, even though he disliked the portrait. It was a Picasso. Authenticated and original, according to the label in the bottom corner of the frame. Title: “Pour Roby.” It was just a rudimentary sketch, a doodle of a face that the artist no doubt produced with a few flicks of the wrist. A squiggle of hair loomed over two swollen eyes, peering innocently to the left. The nose was a long, thin, semi-distorted U, and only an upper lip defined the mouth. One ovular curve for the chin and cheeks. And beneath the face, Picasso’s signature, slanted, and backwards, like a mirror image. The more Curd studied it, the more he hated it.
On the touchstone third attempt, Mz. Hennington made purchase, biting into Curd’s kidney region and claiming a chunk of flesh. Stringy and elastic, it came off like latex.
Blood left the wound in steady, Curd rolled onto his stomach. powerful surges. “That’s what hot dogs are made of,” he mumbled into a pillow. “Lips and “I could use a cold beer.” Curd took assholes. Residua. Detritus.” a sip of the beer in his hand. “Ahh.” In the dream, he’s a computer “Did you say Plotinus?” He sat up in bed and leaned against salesman … without clients. the leather headboard. “What?” Telephones are illegal. He must Mz. Hennington tried to bite him. “[Pleasure and distress, fear and travel from door to door, cold-calling courage, desire and aversion— He pushed her away. “Knock it off,” innocent homeowners … Most of the where is the seat of these affections he said. “I’m done. Maybe that’s the homeowners turn him away. The and experiences?]” problem. Maybe we’ve been having ones that let him in invariably want too much sex. Anything in excess is to buy a computer; they express this “[Idaho?]” Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
desire in high-pitched, enthusiastic tones. Just as an exchange is about to take place, however, he invariably lifts the product over his head and smashes it on the client. The client screams and begs for mercy. He continues to smash the client. He becomes familiar with the sound of cracking skulls and bones. But there is no blood. Blood is illegal … Then he stands on the edge of a long diving board that dips halfway into the deep end. No water in the pool. At the blue bottom is a pile of green seaweed. It glistens with moisture in the white sunlight … In his headspace, the quillbone of rhymed poetry …
The desktop was smooth and bogus. He had requested real wood, pine, but they sold him a plastic desk stained with fake wood finish. They told him it would be better this way since real wood didn’t last and had to be lacquered and relacquered all the time. “Plastic lasts forever,” they concluded.
DMV. Disgruntling Metaphysical Victimization. Careful strings and soft woodwinds. He imagined a clichéd pastoral landscape: placid green savannah, tall trees with leaves rustled by the breeze, blue dome of sky—a landscape hanging on the walls of countless motels … His eyelids weakened. Vague trace of a smile. His eyes closed. A metallic voice abruptly interrupted the music: “This program is brought to you by the Bureau of Me. Pardon the interruption. This is a test.” Rainbow of barcodes. Ringing noise.
He put his ear against the desktop. It resounded like a conch shell. Tall, DMV. Disgruntling Metaphysical distant waves broke against an Victimization. ivory shore. Curd sat in a plastic bucket seat Outside, thunder merged with waiting to renew license plates for turbines, exhaust pipes, the exigency a vehicle he never used and which of acceleration … He focused on the didn’t work. He wasn’t even sure he radio. Light Classical. An adagio. owned a vehicle anymore.
It began as a harmless yawn. Even Curd was surprised when the yawn, after reaching its ostensible peak, refused to diminish, to taper off and disappear, rendering his mouth the aggrieved slit worn by all occupants of the DMV. But the yawn grew wider, and larger, in synch with a lump in his throat that seemed to be expanding, worming its way up and out of his mouth. Furiously he tried to swallow the lump—image of an Adam’s apple twitching epileptically—but nothing could be done. He felt his jaws extend. He felt his teeth rattle in his gums. Momentarily he thought his jaw might snap backwards, like a mousetrap, and consume his head, unleashing a strangled, flailing tonguebeast. Such an absurdity was impossible, though, and Curd knew it, so he turned to the man sitting next to him, an unassuming migrant worker filling out an unassuming form, and buried the yawn in his chest.
Intermission Something wet splattered onto the linoleum floor of the DMV, spit there like a cosmic pinch of tobacco.
“In Time, Reality fails. It dries up like a mushroom in the sun, and we have no choice but to develop the Technology … There is an infinite spectrum of alternate realities. In the best realities, mankind approaches perfection, utopia, the epitome of Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
social rest and relaxation; in the worst, mankind is devolved, zombified, fiercely aggressive and murderous— if nothing else, estranged. We give mankind what he wants. Like the Engines of Night, Desire makes the world turn,” said a figure. “One man in the company of Selfhood. This is not an Ideal Grindhouse. This is the beginning of
Cellular Discord,” said a figure.
“And yet he is the Rub. The Idaho Reality threatens to consume Metaphysical Infinity. Without him, Paradise loses. With him, Paradise loses—but by a considerably lesser margin. As with everything, this is a matter of degrees and intensities. He must embrace the [ _______ ] within himself. He is, after all, entitled to 19
shit on the world, despite overt plebiscitary roots. His soul putrefies in the Dumpster of Immanence. He exhales stardust and doesn’t even know it,” said a figure. [This crucial and lengthy string of dialogue/exposition is garbled by a thousand insect shrieks.] “Consuming one’s flesh is an underrated act of attrition. One shouldn’t consider the prospect of
“Who did you say you are?” “It’s me. Me.”
“Me. That sounds familiar.” “Help me.”
“I don’t help people who don’t help themselves.”
“I’m not a person who helps himself. I’m your son.” “You don’t care.” “I care.”
“You won’t change.”
“I’ll change … I’ll try to change. Everybody changes. They have to. Otherwise they die.” “Goodbye.” “Don’t go.”
The line went dead.
“How did that make you feel?” “Not good. Baaad.” “Go on.”
“Whenever my mother left, to go grocery shopping or whatever, and I asked my father where she went, he told me she was dead. I cried like an asshole until she got home— every time. My father assured me his intentions weren’t vindictive. Rather, he wanted me to get used Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Certain Doom in these troubles times. Nor should one underestimate the Cluck; entire legions of meaning and innuendo reside within that beak-made commotion. The Idaho Reality awaits us like a nightmare in the closet. Yes. Man is a sublimely vast and menacing terra incognita. We must come to terms with this Machinery—the pistons, the cogs, the stickshifts—they point in one direction: Oblivion. Tomorrow I will
find a way to construct an omelet without the use of eggs. Today, however, I must harvest momentum. Soon I will close my eyes and it will be dark, ” said a figure.
Last words. THEN THE BRACKETS COLLAPSED, INNERVATING THE HUMAN AQUARIUM. Slowly the Bureau of Me glided across the sky.
the idea that my mother would die. An animal lurked past Curd. He Because one day she would die.” couldn’t tell what it was. A wolf? He paused. Contemplated. “I never It was starving, gray mottled skin got used to it.” taut against outsized ribs. Blood dripped onto the street from ragged jaws, from a long dead tongue that hung down like a leash. The animal Curd concluded that mankind was glanced up at Curd in passing, but it little more than a secretion. This was didn’t growl, and it didn’t stop. the conclusion that he always drew, no matter what happened to him. But he meant it now more than ever. Each time he drew the conclusion, She was taller than Curd, even however, he meant it more than the after she kicked off the heels, and last time, and he didn’t remember her legs were longer than the rest the first time he had drawn it. The of her body. He worried about it, at conclusion lacked a point of origin. first, but then realized that the height But there was no question that discrepancy wouldn’t be a problem its certainty grew progressively when she was on all fours. Dyed firmer and more secure with each red hair complimented an emerald realization. And yet, in all likelihood, green blazer she wore over a black barring death, he would draw the halter top and leather pants. Blue conclusion again, soon, very soon, eyes. Fake, offsized tits. Pencilthin and at that time its certainty would neck that made her head look bigger be more pronounced than the last than normal. But it was normal. time, which is to say, this time. Hence certainly was an Old Wives’ “Where are we?” she said, taking Tale. Hence mankind was not a off the blazer and draping it over a secretion, but something else. He foldout chair. She looked around the knew nothing. The clockwork of his room. Mattress in the corner. Empty intellect, his perception, his ability bag of potato chips beside it. Fifty to read the text of himself and the or so empty bottles of beer scattered pages on which his identity had across the floor. A few of the bottles been scribbled—it was a proverbial had been stacked into a clumsy bad joke. And he had never heard a pyramid. joke that made him laugh. They all Curd blinked. “Someplace safe,” seemed too contrived. he replied. 20
She tried to go down on him, “Is this terminal ambiguity any but he refuted her, noting the dire more quixotic than Death itself? intimacy of blowjobs vis-à-vis the Death: utterly ordinary and employment of the mouthpiece. commonplace, a daily occurrence He fucked her in the ass. He paid experienced by thousands. And yet cosmically mysterious. The her. She left. Unknown. It exists everywhere, Knock at the door. She had among everybody, between the forgotten her blazer. Opening a fresh cracks and interstices of day-to-day beer, he snatched the blazer and life. Every ten seconds, somebody quickstepped across the room and dies. Somebody just died within opened the door. ten miles of you. Drive down the It wasn’t her. It was somebody else. street and you’ll pass a building in which somebody just died. Death It was her. is hungry and Death is obese and “What is this, a joke? How’d you Death’s gutsack is bigger than change your clothes so fast?” the universe. All of the universes. She titled her head, widened her Reach out and It eludes you. Reach out and It embraces you. Context is eyes. She didn’t have irises. “Knock that shit off. This isn’t a the thing. Context—and desire.”
Superman comic. Superman is Clark Kent. Glasses and a combover aren’t enough to deceive real people.”
He wasn’t wearing glasses. And the red hair had been replaced by black hair cut like a motorcycle helmet. No discernible breasts. And he had on a kind of obscure full-body uniform that might have been cop or robber, depending on context. But it was the same face. Precisely the same face . . . although it possessed a chitinous quality, Curd noticed, more like rind than skin. “Fuck off,” said Curd.
In a synthetic voice, the man replied, “I am from the Bureau of Me.”
“The Bureau of Me? There’s only one me. Me.”
“My aorta hurts.”
“Can you feel your aorta?”
“When it hurts me I can.” He stroked his chest with a finger as if to massage the instrument.
“Can you tell me what you do for a living please?”
His hand unfolded onto his chest and he inhaled deeply. “I used to do something. I don’t do anything now. But I get paid. It was an experiment. It worked. I win. Winning is all that matters.”
“Yes. Yes. Winning is good. A vital human endeavor … Do you understand that you are under arrest, sir?” “If I say no, what happens next?”
“You have forgotten about me. “This.” Somebody boxed his ears. You have experienced a mnemonic “Then this.” Somebody hit him in the head with something hard and cataclysm. I am coming inside.” “I’ll kill you if you come in. I’ll kill rubber-coated. “Then things will get you if you don’t.” He took a swig of ugly.” Blood dribbled down his cheek and neck from the fresh wound on The bottle smashed against his face. his temple, pooling in the scrapes and scabs of older wounds. He could hear the blood go. It sounded like an
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anaconda slithering across tarmac. “Sir? Do you understand?”
“My answer is: No. My answer is: I don’t understand.”
Things got ugly. But not in the way that the arresting officer had hoped, envisioned, or planned on. Curd exploded on the cophouse with cephalopodic rage and efficiency. Bodies flapped across the room and smashed into walls and exploded through ceiling panels. Unscathed regulators drew their firearms, but they didn’t know why, even when limbs started coming off and the scene turned into a holocaust. Curd was too fast. He eluded detection with the same effortlessness that he eluded bullets. The regulators fired into the void, trading confused and terrified glances, until there was only one man left, crazed, screaming, firing a compact submachine ruger in every direction. Methodically he moved his feet in quick circles and he moved the handgun up and down for maximum coverage. He didn’t care what he hit or who he hit, as long as whatever was happening stopped happening. He went through six clips, loading and reloading in seconds, remembering his training … When he ran out of ammunition, there was a long pause during which he stopped screaming and surveyed the ruins of the cophouse and tried to process the grisly spectacle. He was studying a particularly unsettling piece of debris when he suffered an intracranial hemorrhage. For an instant he was able to watch the blood spew from his eye sockets.
Now he was really lost … Remember. Re-member. The reclamation of a lost member … memory … ember … He remembered the 21
night he found himself in St. Louis, somehow, at three in the morning, stumbling past one wrecked and rubbled brickhouse after another. Above him the mirror-plated Gateway Arch shone, flashed, and scintillated as it reflected the neon rays beamed into space by the knot of casino-fortresses beneath it. He had been drinking tequila, a substance he abused rarely given a slight neurological allergy to blue agave plants, tequila’s base ingredient. Two or three slammers rendered him a kind of disabled person; he lost the feeling in parts of his face, which slumped, and he altogether lost the ability to complete full sentences. That night he had slammed close to twenty shots of Quervo. The glut had produced the opposite effekt. Not only could he feel his face, it felt like another face had been superimposed on top, and he had Babylonian access to all of the nerve endings. Additionally, he spoke like a Julliard-trained actor; by the time he left the bar, nothing exited his mouth but crisply articulated soliloquies. He left with a girl, but she ducked into a transport hub during a particularly long and uninspiring soliloquy that plagiarized and tweaked Shakespearean rhetoric alongside select original words and phrases of his own … History wilted, died. Alone, he grew weary. The booze settled in, fatigue settled in. He stumbled beneath an abandoned scaffolding frame and meandered through a maze of iron tubes and clamps. Sidestepping outrémen and squatters, he tried to remember where he was, what street he was on. No use. But he kept moving forward, and eventually he had to lean against an underdone pillar of cement to catch his breath. He considered curling onto the ground and taking a quick nap. But if he fell asleep he would stay asleep. He had to get out, to get home, or a hotel. Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Metronomes of anxiety flooded his system, emanating from the tender pulse of a jugular. Somewhere … He got to a phone booth. Encoded a number.
Nobody picked up. The answering machine said, “You have reached [static screech]. I am not home right now. Please [static screech].” Dial tone.
It would have to suffice. He needed something to talk to. A dry hum was better than nothing. Metronomes of anxiety flooded his system, emanating from the tender pulse of a jugular.
“I feel real bad,” he said. “Real … bad.” He didn’t know what else to say. Time passed. The dial tone purred in his ear. The city stirred in the distance, dopplering, retreating into oblivion like fog at dusk … “I plan to stop drinking soon. I have a plan.” He cocked his head, tabulating the lie … “I miss my secretary. She was good at her job. I’m not just saying that … I’ve been making a concerted effort to see the good in people. And me. I’m a good person, deep down there.” He noticed his hand. The ghostwrite fingers, crooked and skeletal, with flayed cuticles, splintered nails, weird blue lines that looked more like circuit strings than desiccated veins. He moved the fingers across the shaft of the phone to make sure they still belonged to him … He looked up. The firelights of the booth coughed and flickered. “I don’t know what’s
wrong with me. Something’s wrong. But I can’t express it … I can’t say it … I wish the future didn’t happen all the time. It’s always happening. It’s always stealing the present and changing the past.” He started to cry … He blubbered inarticulately for a long time; soon he forgot what he was saying, or wanted to say … He sniffled. He caught his breath. “I gotta … go …… I [static screech].”
… wandered into an aborted carnival, striped tents expanding across the desert from a nuclear carousel. Gold beams impaled the rotting corpses of horses … Far overhead, static gondolas creaked weakly on loose, rusted cables.
Drained, he rested on a bench, knees cracking like dry twigs as he sat down … Sterterous breaths. Menacing heart palpitations. He closed his eyes and inhaled, exhaled … coughed and dryheaved … panted … moaned … spit up impossible quantities of substances too alien to reflect on. Afterwards he felt better. Then worse. The fibrillations of his heart produced one shockwave of anxiety and dread after another. He forced himself to stand. To walk. Motion deflecting the fear of death. 22
… wandered past a large wooden sign that said BEWARE PICKPOCKETS AND LOOSE WOMEN and found himself at the window of a foodstand. Beat. Beat. Beat … A long chalkboard menu hung over a grill of dried oil. Somebody had removed the burners. A few of the letters and numbers on the menu were smudged or wiped off, but he could still make out most of the items. Double Cheeseburger. Vinegar Fries. Cotton Candy … Purple Cow. Beat. Beat … He couldn’t believe it. Grape soda and vanilla ice cream. A simple drink. The greatest drink. He had never seen it for sale before, anywhere. Beat … His mother used to make Purple Cows for him. Only him. The neighborhood kids looked on in envy, pining for a hungry sip …
Noosphere … Fleeting embers of memory. Revised.
“To be impaled by the erect tendrils of Life. It is not easy. It inhibits attitude control. And it always leads to the same place: INFANCY.” Dull roar of thrusters …
With the sun at his back, baking the rotten skin, the landscape unfolded before him like a shadow of meaning. Architectures of flesh and foliage and technology retreated into the cracked earth, and he conjured images of himself, old and faded images, disavowed memories, still shots of white teeth, the dawn of laughter. Hair tousled by the breeze.
At some point his ear sealed over. The left ear. He could still hear out of it, if he concentrated. But the orifice was gone. And there was nothing to D. Harlan Wilson is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, cultural theorist, hear.
He tried not to look down. The sight of his torso, beach-weathered skin sucked against spine … a ghastly, He awoke in the front car of a insufferable image. And there was rollercoaster, cheek against concrete. a new hole. A skin ulcer. He might Seatbelt on. The vehicle lay on its have been a deflating balloon. Every side, on the ground. The husk of a slow step produced a flatulent noise, vast, dead centipede. emanating from the hip.
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It was hot and there was no wind and no clouds.
screenwriter, pseudobodybuilder, and associate professor of English at Wright State University-Lake Campus. His books include Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia, Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria, Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance, Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction, The Kafka Effekt, Stranger on the Loose, Pseudo-City and They Had Goat Heads. Find more at www.dharlanwilson.com.
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Sure, zombies are pretty scary. They stink. They want to eat your brains. They're terrible house guests. Who says zombies can't be fun, too? Don't they look kind of silly falling down and bumping into things? Sometimes they can even be cute. So, before you run away screaming for your lives, stop and appreciate the beauty of the undead. And remember …
It’s Okay To Be A ZOmbiE
Story by Nathaniel Lambert and Pictures by Danny Evarts
Available now at www.shroudmagazine.com
An Unchildren’s Book UnchildrensZone.com
Scott Christian Carr
LITTLE EDSEL EINSTEIN A Hiram Grange Story
Little Edsel Einstein is loving life. And Little Edsel Einstein thinks he’s very, very clever. He’s successfully avoided scorpions and sunburn. Ducked roaming choppers and patrolling cammo-dudes. Burrowed under barbwire electrified fence—carefully sidestepped buried motion detectors and electronic eyes. Navigated the maze of telescopic infrared nightvision surveillance … crossed the desert and penetrated the enigmatic, ultra-secret Area 51. But that’s not what makes him clever. Ha!
Who ever woulda thunk it? Einstein instead of Hitler … Edsel Einstein, the one and only (formerly one of twelve, and twelve of hundreds, thousands of failed Hitler-clone …)—the name-change, that’s what makes him clever …!
But now the Towers were gone and so were all of the Hitlers. Or nearly all the Hitlers—Edsel is the sole survivor. And Edsel goes by Einstein now.
And Little Edsel Einstein is laughing—loving life. Big time. He’s And Little Edsel Einstein is dog- hippie-flipping. tired. Exhausted. Beat—like Jack Hippie-flipping. Mixing magic Kerouac. Hot and sweaty and thirsty mushrooms with Methylenedioxyand drained … but he’s almost there. methamphetamine-‘X’—MDMA— Almost there—and laughing wildly for an overpowering ecstatic at the thought of the horrors beyond experience. A recipe for universal the gate and beneath the ground … love … The strange mix of natural Quick, he ducks into the service and synthetic designer psychotropics elevator shaft. Then down— is known to create a unique sense miles down, down, down to the of oneness with the universe—True secret underground tunnels—the fact. Only side effect: uncontrollable laboratories of Operation Mindfuck. hysterical laughter. The Boys under Area 51, brain-children Laughter fills the elevator. Bubbles of the most secret, subversive, up the miles-deep shaft. Spills out psychedelic experiments and into the acrid, restricted desert. operations ever conducted by man. Not the least of which had been the Little Edsel has changed quite a bit cloning of countless Hitlers in Echo Base beneath the Twin Towers … these past few years. More’n just his Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
name—his entire belief system. His way of life. His raison-d’etre. His new philosophy: A man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do!—and—Keep On Truckin’—and—Silly Rabbit, Trix Are For Kids!—Chase The Rainbow!— Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out—The Truth Is Out There!—and—God Is A Jewish Folk Singer … His new philosophy—after meeting the man who’d changed his life; who’d kidnapped him and tried to murder him; chained him to a basement pipe and assassinated his brothers; introduced him to the love of his life (Oh, Sadie, dear, dear Sadie …) before murdering her in cold blood before Edsel’s own tearful, helpless eyes … His new philosophy, already formulating in his brain as the UberNacht burned to the ground all around him … His new philosophy, gleaned from the actions of a dark, lanky ultra-violent alcoholic madman … His new philosophy: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em …! 25
Ayahuasca tourism—after fleeing to Mexico, losing himself in South America, drifting lazily down the river Tambopata into the soulful spirit realms of the aboriginal Machu Picchu, he’d lost himself and found himself. A desperate Hitler clone in search of salvation, enlightenment, remembering, forgetting and deliverance … True Fact: the psychoactive infusions and decoctions brewed from the Ayahuasca Banisteriopsis vine, the leaves of dimethyltryptamine ivy and various ethogenic plants, berries, yagé, tree bark, mosses and lichen is known to achieve a powerful trancelike state— followed by a divine cleansing of the body and mind that enables communication with sister spirits and grandmother ghosts, deceased relatives and ancient ancestors. In the spirit realm, under the Ayahuasca trance, Edsel made peace with his inner Adolph—forgave himself of his original—Nazi—sin … and upon awaking a new man in an old (replicated and re-used—cloned) body, Little Edsel Hitler took himself a new name, and realized that he had been given a gift by the ghosts—a mission. Delivered by his ancestors— the hows and whys didn’t matter, but the spirits had told him, without words and beyond any shadow of doubt, that he must go to the desert, that he must find The Boys at Operation Mindfuck … and that when he did, all would be made clear …
dyed bandana. Smoking a cigarette, slaving over its computer—three dimensional representations of as yet undiscovered mind-altering molecules dance across the screen … In the next room—a rhinestoned Elvis, chewing his lip, working a Rubik’s Cube … In the next, a clown sits crosslegged atop a larger-than-life toadstool—smoking a hookah and trying to tug and pull his way out of an increasingly tightening Chinese finger trap …
And, with relish, Little Edsel Einstein grips the knife, breaks into a run, barrels down the hallway toward the elevator—their only escape—now flanked by a dozen Area 51 Operation Mindfuck Boys …! And alongside his one-time nemesis, Little Edsel Einstein fully lives his newfound philosophy: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em …!
Another room and—holy Jesus— what can only be described as the Loch Ness Monster, looming over Scott Christian Carr is the author of and carefully rocking a baby’s Hiram Grange & the Twelve Little Hitlers. He is vacuum-sealed rebreather-bassinet … currently pushing his latest novel Believer out Bug-eyed little gray aliens worry over scattered pieces of a dismantled saucer, a few rooms down … Next room. Hiram Grange—tied to a chair.
into the world, and diving into his next: The First Time We Died. He is also hard at work on his next full-length novel foray into the scandalous misadventures of Hiram Grange, Hiram Grange in Al Qaeda’s Cave. Visit him at: www.scottchristiancarr.com.
Edsel strolls past, then slides to a halt. Pauses. Frowns. Moves on, then steps back—peeks again into the room. Shuffles his feet. Sighs. Takes a deep breath and opens the door …
“Quick!” Hiram strains against his ropes. “Untie me, chum! The Boys are distracted … I Googled up the Paris Hilton blowjob video—but I daresay they won’t be preoccupied for long—and this entire place is rigged to BLOW!” Hiram regards his unlikely savior carefully, from the nearperfect Frederick the Great hands now The elevator doors slide closed unbinding his ropes, to the perfectly behind him—Einstein’s laughter waxed one-third Hitler mustache to fills the subterranean homesick halls. the wild Einsteinian mop of wispy The place looks strangely familiar— hair—“Dear sir, don’t I know you from test-tube memories bubble deep in somewhere …? his brain. Long antiseptic hallways “Anywho, never mind that now! ” stretch out before him, cold steel- Hiram Grange shakes himself from reinforced doors lining their endless reverie. “Time is short—the clock is lengths … ticking—we’ll have to fight our way out! ” Behind the nearest door, through Hands now free, the ugly antihero the mesh-reinforced bullet-proof rubs his bulbous nose and reaches Plexiglas—a monkey in a diaper. Tie- both hands deep into his long coat.
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He draws two weapons—a massive Webley MK VI hand-cannon and a Pritchard bayonet. He hands the knife to Hitler.
For Further Forays into the Scandalous Misadventures of Hiram Grange, read the Series from Shroud Publishing, and check back in the next Shroud Digital Edition.
Shroud Publishing Presents ...
The Scandalous Misadventures of
“… a weird, disturbed, deeply troubled and darkly funny hero … way too much sick fun.” JONATHAN MABERRY
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5 Authors • 5 New Novellas with Artwork by
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WWW.HIRAMGRANGE.COM Follow Hiram on Twitter @HiramGrange
Grimoires & Tomes Book Kill the Dead
A Sandman Slim Novel
Richard Kadrey EOS
protect his human form. Enter Jimmy Stark.
At the same time, Drifters, a breed of zombie, begin to appear. One of the actresses for the Lucifer film-—Brigitte, a “Czech gypsy porn star zombie killer”—teams up with Stark to fight the walking dead.
I need to start the review of Together, with the help of a host of unique characters, Kill the Dead with something Stark and Brigitte must uncover who released the as basic as I loved this novel. zombie-drifters into the general public and prevent a Loved it. serious health outbreak, while protecting the Prince Now, I need you to stay with of Darkness, and keeping themselves alive before the me for the rest of the review. complete unraveling of humanity itself! Because, as you begin to read, Taut chapters. Quick, tart dialogue. Gritty noir writing. you may not fully believe the Kill the Dead is an engrossing read. It is both captivating above statement. But trust me. I will pull it off. and compelling. It has forced me to place an order for The extreme basic concept of Kadrey’s book the first book in the series, Sandman Slim, because I need continually forced comparison between Kill The Dead to know what happened before to lead Stark to where and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series—the similarities he is now! nagged. Where the main character in Kadrey’s novel — Thomas Phillips has Kasabian—a fully functioning head, just a head— Dresden has Bob, a spirit that lived inside a skull. Both Bob and Kasabian are limited to the homes of the main The Plea of Apollisian characters, are witty and a bit annoying, but also helpful Shane Moore and used as a sounding board, more or less—where they Skullvines Press tap resources to help their main characters solve puzzles. Shane Moore, retired While Dresden uses magic to operate a private eye police detective turned business out of his home, he continually encounters epic fantasy author, has vampires, ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., etc. Jimmy embarked on the ambitious Stark (aka Sandman Slim) is a nephilim (part angel, part Abyss Walker series with human), who uses magic, and works for the Vigil to help his first of many, The solve crimes that seem to include vampires, werewolves, Plea of Apollisian, through goblins and zombies. Skullvines Press. Both Dresden and Stark are similarly outlined and The book opens up among shaded in characters, and the story lines easily blur the gods of the land of between authors. However, and this is where I take you Terrigan. An exiled goddess of Mercy finds herself made back to my first sentence, I loved Kadrey’s novel. mortal, where she gives birth to a son. Her union with Stark, who was sent Downtown for eleven years— a human brings misfortune upon them both, as they Downtown being Hell—is searching for Mason, the are slaughtered. Lance, the orphan child of prophesy, evil man who sent him there. In the meantime, he has survives with an agenda of vengeance, hiding secret jobs to do. While doing work-for-hire for the Vigil to magical abilities. Together with his brawny swordsman keep the streets free and clear of monsters, he takes to friend, Jude, they travel the Terrigan countryside moonlighting. His new client is none other than the together against a backdrop of impending war between Devil himself. Lucifer. the human nation of Beykla and the dwarf nation of Lucifer is in town. A soul he owns is a movie producer. Stoneheart, seeking a translation for an ancient text. The A motion picture is going to be shot—detailing Lucifer’s narrative interweaves a myriad of characters: paladin existence. While on earth, Lucifer wants a bodyguard to Apollisian, for which the book is named, his comrades Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Grimoires & Tomes Book
Alexis the elf and a squire, the general dwarf Amerix, promising up-and-comer in the underworld who let his operations slip following the death of his wife. Proving an and Were-Rats along the way. apt pupil, Capac assists Theo in a number of enterprises The book moves quickly, and proves a light read with in their mutual hopes of attracting the attention of the an action-packed plot. Shane Moore enjoys exploring City’s criminal kingpin, The Cardinal. The two believe the language as he depicts scenes with great diligence. For the reader who enjoys epic fantasy movies, this is they are on the right track when they are sent a request a good choice, as the book evokes a cinematic feel in for a meeting by a gang lord with which The Cardinal is pacing and scenes, from the foolish thief who runs loosely allied. However, the meeting proves to be little across dinner tables to evade capture, to the evil King more than a pretense for an ambush.
Theo and his men are killed in the assault, but Capac survives the onslaught of gunfire only to be confronted by the assassins. Instead of being slaughtered, Capac is However, there is an emotional aspect lacking within not only identified but spared by the group’s leader, Ford the central characters that detracts from the whole. Tasso, at the request of none other than The Cardinal Lance is angry over the murder of his parents, but it ties himself as the consequence of a dream. Tasso, The Cardinal’s number two, immediately into his present actions as more of an afterthought. The reader who craves a more character-driven story may do escorts Capac to Party Central for a meeting with his boss. Capac isn’t sure what to expect, but it’s certainly well to seek elsewhere. — Martin Rose not the strange creature before him. Tall, emaciated, and surrounded by an assortment of strange puppets, he Procession of the Dead welcomes Capac into the fold. of Nalir who enjoys torturing his lackeys with smarmy self-satisfaction, to a dragon sprawled across his ancient treasure.
Nearly every character in Procession is not only wellwritten but genuinely memorable. The Cardinal is a monster of the first order that only becomes more A clever blend of crime inexplicable and terrifying as the story progresses, and story and supernatural fiction, Capac’s own psychological descent is a chiller. Shan Darren Shan’s Procession of keeps the story’s supernatural elements off the radar for the Dead provides a moody much of its length, subjecting both the protagonist and commentary on the influence reader to bouts of confusion as to whether some of the of power on the human events occurring are natural or not. It’s a pace that pays soul. Although the first book off, as Capac’s revelations slowly build the tension into in Shan’s series, The City, a final conflict that explores just how far a man is willing Procession stands well enough to go to fulfill his dreams. — Patrick Rutigliano on its own to be an engaging read. The fact that it’s the author’s debut adult novel after a slew of young adult works only makes the craft on display here all the more impressive. Darren Shan
Grand Central Publishing
Capac Raimi arrives in the City intent on starting a new life as a gangster under the tutelage of his Uncle Theo. Before he can find a cab, Capac is witness to an inexplicable rain shower. Covering a mere few feet in area, the storm seems somehow linked to a blind, robed man nearby, but there is no explanation of the event before he disappears into the gathering crowd. He soon finds his way into the care of his uncle, a once
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Expanded and additional reviews can be found in Shroud Magazine and at shroudmagazinebookreviews. blogspot.com. 29
Shroud Digital Edition â€˘ Version 1.01
Presenting Chapter One of a new serialized novel
Craven Place by
raven Place vomited Tanith through the front door. She tumbled into the morning greys, the wind catching her long black skirt and wrapping it tight around her legs. Her hair, beneath the same gale’s enthusiastic encouragement, became a wild and happy beast, half-blinding her as she fought to escape. With the expulsion of each breath she expected red mist to billow out from between her lips, so sure was she that the pain in her ragged lungs meant that blood was flowing.
She was not expected to get much further. There was no escaping the witch. Morgan was strong, and the light no longer caused her to beat so hasty a retreat as once it had. Tanith tried to forget the cause of that strength, the lives she had failed to save. Tears sprang to her eyes as she sprinted, dried instantly by the One traitor foot caught the other, rushing air. splashing her hard into the February Even in her terror, she slowed as muds. As quickly as that, she was stilled, and the adrenaline that had she reached the bottom of the field. rushed her along diluted in her veins. The scarecrow was conspicuous To stay there, the wind a violent lover through absence, bloating recent on her back, the slush soaking into memories that made her skin rise up in countless peaks and valleys. her chest, would be a blessed relief. No time to remember. No time to But time was passing, and they dwell. Time only to run, and pray for were coming. strength and guidance. Please, she thought, let me live. Behind her, Craven Place was now Sobbing with desperation, muscles a cancer shape in the background, quivering, she forced herself up from rough around the edges, crumbling the filth, and on. Fighting the storm, slightly beneath the weight of time. which insisted that the aluminium Tanith didn’t need to look with cattle gate she struggled against her eyes to know that the threat must remain closed, she heaved her continued. Intuition, and more way onto the fields. The footing was specialist senses sharpened over treacherous; arable land gone bad, years, told her that it was tracking untended and rebellious. It shifted her flight, and knew where to send beneath her steps, making her flight its mistress when she came hunting. clumsy, draining critical strength Climbing the low wall framing from her legs. Behind her, the front door banged furiously, an ironic the field, she approached the copse, applause that she had made it so far. realising too late her mistake in Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
choosing this direction. Morgan had every bit as much power in Hag’s Nook as Craven Place itself, perhaps even more. Too late to back away. She would go through, and on. Salvation would, must, lie on the far side. Her heart dancing a percussion on her ribs, she launched herself against tight-knit branches, bearing the scrapes and cuts, blinded by the twigs that whipped her face. On and through. Erupting from foliage, she found her balance before gravity could claim her again. Across the ground the ashes of the witch-fire still clung to stubborn earth, refusing to be snatched up by the winter storm. The morning birds refused to cluster for shelter here. Potent hate seeded the clearing, the copse’s black heart, with choking potency. She froze, brief clarity illuminating the scale of her error. The lower creatures knew well enough to give it wide berth, yet here she was, standing at a focal point of Morgan’s power. Was she out of her mind? Tired of watching and waiting, the trees about her leered in, skeletal, charcoal scratches against the reluctant morning light. Tanith felt their attention in her bones, retched at the malignant intensity with which she was scrutinised. 31
She trembled at the power being directed at her.
She was discovered. Intangible fingers caressed her mind, cold and irrefutable. She couldn’t move, her limbs no longer willing to journey at her command. They listened to another mistress now.
undergrowth, nervous birds began a tentative dawn song.
She might not wake at all.
anith awoke to light. The trees were dormant once more, and the clearing bathed in mid-morning sun. Two feet from her head, a The world pirouetted, the trees starling scoured the weed-ridden now dark figures dancing a dawn ground for post-storm pickings. She celebration at her capture. Sighing a sat up, wondering, then regretted the mocking gale-song, they lulled her sudden movement as the clearing through the fear she felt, encouraging flipped over. When it settled again, the gentle sleep she longed for. Tanith liking its new orientation better, fought with all the gifts she had been Tanith tried to make sense of her given, but her power was insufficient, unlikely survival. her mental defences unprepared for Hands to her head, she sought a the crippling weight of the witch. picture of what had happened after Fresh tears sprang to her eyes. The sustenance Morgan had drawn to she was put under. She should be wield this power came from those dead, an eternal servant of one who that Tanith had been unable to had taken much from her already, yet protect. Her own failures were being she still breathed of her own volition. used against her, and despair made Why? The clearing had claimed her. The witch had been summoned. She it harder to keep fighting. had been defenceless. Sleep, came the coaxing. Time has Sunlight brushed warmth over passed. We are here. Sleep. To struggle her damp skin, and she understood. is to feel pain. To know failure. To live She had outlasted the storm. The misery. So sleep. morning had cast it down. Though There was no blocking the voice Morgan could walk in the dim greys that was not a voice. Tanith tried of dawn, manifesting beneath true to hold truths close to her heart. To sunlight was still beyond her reach. know failure is to make success Even now though, Tanith could feel sweet. To live misery is to emerge the clearing stir hungrily. It sensed into joy. But what success was worth her awakening, and knew frustration. a failure that took the lives of those Though she did not feel the threat of in her care? What joy could erase the previous night, she was still in the misery she had allowed to befall peril. If Morgan could not attack her unto others? directly, there were more subtle tools None. Sleep. at her disposal. The lower beasts, Tanith’s exhausted body folded in weak of mind, were easily turned to the wind, slapping rudely against unnatural acts. the ground. She did not notice. She had lost her battle, and the witch would soon be upon her.
he cold sun tore apart the clouds. The storm collapsed as abruptly as it had begun. In the Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
passed out again she might not wake until dusk had stolen over North Wales and made Megan strong again.
She forced her whining muscles to complete what they had started, pushing herself up and preparing to flee. The storm clouds must have taken refuge in her own head, such was the dizzy fog that came with standing. She could not wait for it to pass. This was a second chance she would be unwise to waste. If she
Disorientated, she turned briefly on the spot, legs aching as she tried to pick out the way she had come into the clearing. The storm had pulled free so much foliage that it had masked any damage her own blundering flight may have caused, obscuring the clues which might help her choose a path away from Craven Place. In the end it was a random decision, and her faltering escape continued.
Pushing through bushes and trees, drained of the urgency that had powered her earlier that morning, the true force of her exhaustion sank into her. Now the whipping twigs caused tears to flow. The grabbing, snagging branches and thorns yanked her hair and clothes, summoning little cries of frustration. Hag’s Nook did not want her to leave. Stay, it coaxed, stay until dusk, and meet the hag. Seconds were long hours on her journey. The copse was barely fifty metres across, yet eternity passed as she struggled on.
Weeping, she continued, and breaking through a final tangle of thorns and weeds, she found the other side of Hag’s Nook. She half expected night to have fallen already, yet the morning sun still stroked the winter fields. With a shudder of relief she saw a shape on the horizon, and realised she had found her destination. On the coast road, squat and proud against the water, sat a church.
Without asking permission of her conscious mind, her legs broke into a sprint. She allowed them to, trying to discard the thought that haunted her. Behind Hag’s Nook lay Craven Place. Quiet now, it waited. Soon, she would have to return.
y the time she reached the to be exploited while it lasted. The church, following a grass track headstones around her were cracked running between two fields, her legs and crumbled, aged and worn. felt hollow, but she refused to rest The church was a square eroded until her task was complete, and she edifice, a squat shape speaking of had sought out whatever aid was the practicalities of worship on the available. Atlantic coast. There was solidity Approaching the gate to the there, comforting and strong. Tanith graveyard, she stumbled again, was certain that evil had never taking the skin from her knees in touched this place.
landing, but hope energised her, and she scrambled up with hardly a beat missed in her run. The gate was set into a high wall, lending the dead a rare privacy as they rotted. Tanith realised with alarm that she could hear nothing from the other side. It was Sunday morning, surely the busiest day for the sons of Christ?
Yet she was being watched. She was sure of it.
There were no signs of life, only ancient death, and her fluttering panic returned. If she could not take help back to Craven Place, then she had damned the souls of those she had already failed. Though she would return herself, she knew now Slowing, careful that her faltering that her power was nothing next to stride did not drop her again, she the rise of Morgan’s. Her soul would rested a hand on the gate. It occurred also be stolen, another tool for the to her that she was being watched, witch. the notion presenting itself to her She had to find help. awareness as fact. She knew not to Breaking into a trot, she approached discard the feeling. Since childhood, the alcove entrance to the church. her intuitions had developed into The porch was in the building’s something more, fine-tuning, exshadow, and the space of a second panding her awareness of the world around her, and those beyond. On took her from being warmed by the those few occasions when she had rich golden light of the sun, to being ignored her feelings, bad things had plunged into icy air. Though she happened, no more so than in the knew the chill to be physical rather last two days. If she felt watched, than spiritual, it felt like an omen. then there was a watcher. Fear Hope gone cold. squirted into her stomach. Her fears proved just. The door
Pushing hard, she opened the gate. Hinges grated with the wear of weather and abandonment, and she knew it was not in regular use. Tanith stifled her panic. There might be another entrance, better kept, which the flock and shepherds used.
was locked. With a sob, she hurled herself against the wood, smacking it with her fists until her arms felt they could no longer swing. The thuds were shallow, the oak of the door deep, but nobody inside could have failed to hear her battering Walking into the overgrown summons. A plaque beside the door graveyard, she embraced the peace confirmed what she had already and stillness around her, holding guessed. The church was no longer the moment and the relief that came in regular use. There was a telephone with it. Her body was taut with number through which a caretaker stress, her skin tight across her face could be contacted, but his was not and shoulders. Morgan had been the spiritual assistance she was so relentless, her assaults exhausting, desperate for. and she knew that any respite was And still, the watcher watched. Shroud Digital Edition • Version 1.01
Now there was true fear to be had in the knowledge, for if there were no holy men to cast curious eyes her way, no churchgoers to stare, then Morgan was the likely agent behind the intense gaze probing across her.
Unwilling to accept that the sanctuary she had hoped for was nothing more than old stone and long-decayed corpses, she ran back out into the graveyard proper.
‘Hello?’ she called out, staggering into the light. Why would her inner senses have drawn her to the church if there was no aid there? Why would she have felt the compulsion to flee this way? Exhausted, she shuffled past a headstone taller than her own diminutive five foot two, still calling, almost in tears from the sudden, crushing loneliness. ‘Hello! ’ ‘Hello.’
She span at the voice, gasping as the tattered half-man sitting behind the headstone reached up for her. (Craven Place continues in the next Shroud Digital Edition …)
Richard Wright is an author of strange dark fictions, currently living with his wife and daughter in New Delhi, India. His stories have been widely published in the United Kingdom and USA for over a decade, most recently in magazines and anthologies including Dark Wisdom, Withersin 3.2, Beneath the Surface, Shroud, Tattered Souls, Choices, Dark Faith, and the Doctor Who collection Short Trips: Re:Collections. Richard also authored the Hiram Grange & the Nymphs of Krakow, the fifth book in The Scandalous Misadventures of Hiram Grange.
For more on Richard, visit www. richardwright.org.
Dementis Mortuus Word Games for the Worst of Us Words by Victorya, Blanks by Danny Evarts INSTRUCTIONS: Without peeking at the story below, pick words to fill in the blanks in the word list based on the language parts shown. Or have friends pick (if they’re still living or can otherwise somehow communicate their answers). Then read the story aloud, putting each chosen word in its given space.
Note: If you don’t know the following parts of speech, your editors kindly recommend that you go back to school and get an education.
The Rejection Name of Person in Room
Mythical Creature (Plural)
Superlative Adjective (Ends in -est)
Person in Room
Thank you for your interest in Shroud Magazine. Unfortunately, we did not feel that your story, “Flying From Outer Space,” was a good fit for our publication. While your description of a/
it was a bit
was entertaining and
. Meanwhile, having the antagonist be a bi-polar
detailed, we felt
was just too
heteronormative for our tastes. You might also consider adding more spiked
verb ending In “Ing”
glands of one thousand Uranusian We thank you again and wish you the adverb
Mythical Creature (Plural) noun (Plural) Profession (Plural) Superlative Adjective
— these sell magazines, not so much
covered in the poisonous venom from the libidinal . of luck in placing this piece elsewhere.
The Shroud Team
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