Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Fall of Azaliel and Lorcas

by Michael Stone

“Hell is no place for angels,” whimpers Lorcas as the Bottle’s wheels judder over churned ice. Claws rake our brass-panelled flanks and rocks bounce off the glass portholes.

“We are quite safe in here, brother.” I utter an incantation, the holy fire in the centre of the curved floor flickers and the Bottle surges forward. “The warding prayers of the Principalities will keep us from harm.”

Despite the heat that forces us to wear nothing more than loincloths, Lorcas’ teeth are chattering. “I—I’m sorry, Azaliel. It’s just that—”

“It’s your first reconnaissance, I know.” We are careering down the snowy slopes of Hell in a small brass cylinder mounted horizontally on wagon wheels. The view through the fore porthole is of a frozen wasteland under a blood-red sky. Through the aft porthole the tracks of the Bottle curve to the near horizon. “It can be daunting,” I admit.

But unlike Lorcas I am untroubled. Our Divine Duty is to patrol the borderlands and occasionally, like now, penetrate the outskirts of Hell to gather information. This is my thirteenth mission and the Bottle—designed by seraphim, assembled by cherubim, blessed by principalities and crewed by two angels—is more than a match for the teeth and talons of our opposite number. The enemy horde could impede our progress in any number of ways, but these are stupid creatures with strange protuberances and obscene dangly bits. They do naught but throw themselves at our landship, then howl and shake in our wake.

Wishing to take advantage of a gentler gradient to our right, I close my eyes and say the Prayer of Realignment. Even through my eyelids I detect a change in the holy fire.


“One moment, I need to say the Prayer of Recalibration.”


I open my eyes. “Really, Lorcas, I—” The reproach sticks in my throat when I see his raised hand. His fingers and nails have turned a deep cherry red.

His voice wavers. “What does it mean?”

I scan the welds and joints of our vessel, searching for a crack or fault. “We’ve been breached, Lorcas. Sin has touched you.”

He moans, curls up and hugs his knees.

I shout the incantation for the Bottle to reverse at full tilt. “I must get us back to the Celestial City before the contamination takes hold.” I examine myself for changes as the Bottle jounces over the uneven ground, and find none.

Bodies impact on the hull without and demon bones crack. Within, the incandescent flame throws hard shadows on the cylinder walls.

Just as we are nearing the crest (I can see blades of grass poking through the snow!), Lorcas shoots into a standing position. Arms spread, he stares at his midriff. His breathing is ragged. “I—I felt something down there.” Before I can reply his loincloth falls away to reveal something growing in the fork of his legs.

“Sin has touched you!” It is all I can say, so profound is my shock. But my shock is nothing compared to when a thin stream of yellow fluid courses from the wyrm.

“Aaaggghh!” he cries. “What’s it doing?”

The peal of a thousand tiny bells caresses my ears as the fluid rings on brass panels. In another time and place I might have relished the sweet tinkling sound, but here and now my mind is on other things. “You’re putting out the holy fire!”

I grab his loincloth and try to stem the flow from the demon appendage, to no avail: the flame is extinguished.

The Bottle slows, creaks to a standstill.

The wind whistles through the chassis.

Neither of us dares to breathe.

Then Lorcas points to the fore porthole, to where a scaly horde is storming towards us. A new word pops into my head. I haven’t heard it before and I wonder if it signals that, like Lorcas, I have been contaminated.

“Fuck,” I utter miserably.

The demons pound on the hull and soon we are freewheeling into Hell.

Lorcas and I are sealed in the Bottle until rescue arrives, but I fear it may be too late for him. There is a sly cast to his eye and the angle of his hips is all wrong when he tries to stand in the rocking, bouncing cylinder. The fattening wyrm between his legs appears to hold a deep fascination for him, and when I tell him to leave it alone he regards my body with a crooked smile.

I don’t understand.

My poor brother Lorcas.


Michael Stone was born in 1966 in what is widely acknowledged as the fairest city of all England. Which is Stoke-on-Trent, as if you didn’t know! He still lives there with his wife and daughter and has no intention of ever leaving. Why would he when it’s so fair?

Mike’s work has appeared in numerous organs. Most recently Dunesteef, Dred, Pseudopod, Triangulation, TQR and The Beast Within. In 2008 Baysgarth Publications published Fourtold, a collection of his novellas with a foreword by award-winning fantasist Garry Kilworth. It’s reached the preliminary ballot of the Stoker Awards, a fact which pleases him greatly.

Mike’s website is at and he has a Live Journal—username “mylefteye”. His journal is widely acknowledged as the fairest on the Web.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Clearing the Air

by Bill West
free horror fiction

Martha sprinkles a generous amount of bicarbonate of soda into the bottom of the large plastic box, scoops the whole disgusting mess in on top of it and snaps shut the blue air-tight lid. After a few months in the cupboard-under-the-stairs the vile smell will be gone for good. Bicarbonate of soda is great for eliminating smells.

She picks up his horrid pipe and ashtray and drops them into the kitchen bin. The lemon coloured rubber gloves snap as she pulls them off her hands. She folds and smoothes them and puts them with the mop and bucket, scrubbing brush, disinfectant, dusters and forest glade scented polish into the utility cupboard.

The kitchen looks immaculate, everything spick-and-span. Surfaces gleam with lemony freshness. Even the blood down the back of the kitchen chair, on the table and across the floor is scrubbed clean away and disinfected. His clothes are laundered, mothballed and bagged ready to go to the charity shop. The meat is shrink-wrapped and labeled, stacked in uniform rows in the freezer.

A pot of brawn bubbles on the stove.

It isn't as if he hadn't seen the same programs as she had; about what tobacco does to your lungs. And now she knew for certain, confirmed it with her own eyes. All that horrid black gunk that had made such a terrible mess when it belched out and splattered the front of her second best housecoat. More disgusting than she had ever imagined. Well, she had to check, confirm her suspicions. If only he'd listened to her. Hadn't she warned him every day for thirty years of their married life, every time he lit up?

Smoking kills!


Bill West always wanted to be a mortuary technician but when he failed the interview he took a job in IT instead. He's met a lot of odd people working in IT.

Bill lives in a remote part of rural Shropshire, UK. He likes to explore ancient ruins, which is where he found his wife. He has two sons who tell him they are a) a Rock Star and b) an Avant-garde Film Maker. He suspects they may be either confused or exagerating as he has never heard of them.

Over the past five years Bill's Flash Fictions have been published in a wide variety of print and on-line e-zines and been included in a number of anthologies. See further details of his work at his website,


A special recipe for brawn from Bill West:

How to cook brawn:

1. Cut the cheeks and ears off the head and place everything in a large saucepan of boiling water. Simmer for 24 hours then leave it to cool in its cooking liquor.

2. Drain and remove all the meat from the head. Chop the meat finely and transfer to a bowl.

3. Add fennel, carrot and shallots.

4. Stir in herbs, season with celery salt.

5. Put bay leaves in a serving bowl and spoon the meat onto the leaves.

6. Drizzle lemon juice over the meat then ladle in the cooking liquid. Refrigerate overnight until set, then serve.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anniversary Feast

by Jonathan Pinnock
free horror fiction

Jake filled the glasses from the still and set them down on the console. Strictly speaking, this was breaking enough of the company’s rules to earn him instant dismissal. But there wasn’t anyone in a position to do that within several parsecs, so he reckoned he was probably safe.

And besides, this was a special occasion.

“Well, here’s to another ten years, eh?” he said, taking a slug from his glass. Whew. This was powerful stuff.

“And then two more to landfall,” said Gary, downing his in one go before handing his glass out for a refill. “Some trip. Y’know, sometimes I wish I was one of those bastards snoozing away in the hold.”

“You’re kidding?”

Gary laughed. “Yeah, I’m kidding. Wouldn’t want anyone pissing about with me when I was asleep.”

Jake smiled. It was true. You got bored on a trip like this. Let’s face it, being an Ark Pilot wasn’t exactly a demanding job. The only qualification you needed was to be so pathologically in debt that the only way to save your family was to take a one-way trip into deep space.

But, man, was it dull.

The face painting had got out of hand. When you’ve got a hold full of colonists in suspended animation, it’s just so tempting to take a magic marker and draw the odd moustache on a face or two. But if there are two of you, it gets competitive. And it wasn’t long before the entire hold got to look like a practice session for a Kabuki make-up class. That was going to take some cleaning up before they got to their destination.

And if the truth were told, they’d both fooled around with some of the women as well. Just a bit of a fondle, nothing more. Although Jake wondered about Gary. Sometimes, he had an odd look to him when he came back from the hold.

“So what’s for supper?” said Jake. It was Gary’s turn to be in charge of the catering.

Gary looked thoughtful. “I fancy something a bit different. Not the usual freeze-dried shit. I think we deserve something real tonight. Some proper meat.”

Jake raised an eyebrow. “Like where are we going to get hold of that, man? Pardon me for being a bit thick, but I don’t recall passing a flock of interstellar sheep lately.”

Gary smiled. Jake knew that smile. It meant that Gary had had one of his ideas.

“Remember that fire in bay 12?” said Gary.


“Remember the smell? The burning flesh? Bit like pork?”

Jake stared at Gary.

“I like pork,” said Gary.

“Well, I’m not allowed to eat it,” said Jake.

“Bet your rabbi didn’t mention what I’m thinking of,” said Gary. “And are you going to fill up my glass or not?”


“Well, what d’you think?” said Gary, picking his teeth.

“What do I think?” said Jake. “Well, I’m just wondering how many of those fuckers they’ll miss. I mean, how many people d’you really need to build a colony?”


Jonathan Pinnock was born in Bedfordshire, England, and - despite having so far visited over forty other countries - has failed to relocate any further away than the next-door county of Hertfordshire. He is married with two children, several cats and a 1961 Ami Continental jukebox. His work has won several prizes, shortlistings and longlistings, and he has been published in such diverse publications as Smokebox, Every Day Fiction and Necrotic Tissue. His unimaginatively-titled yet moderately interesting website may be found at

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm Keeping it Light

by Mercedes M. Yardley
free horror fiction

Keep it light, you say.

Keep it light? You want a story about death. You want me to write something about a girl that lived, but not for very long, and died, and it was tragic. What do you mean, “keep it light”?

Keep it light, you say again.

Okay, so here it goes. Once upon a time, there was a dead girl.

She didn’t start out dead, you tell me. Revise that.

All right. Once upon a time there was a dead girl, but she was technically alive before she was dead. She could eat. She could breathe. She loved things and people, and they loved her, but really that wasn’t good enough, now was it? Not good enough to keep her alive.

You’re getting bitter. Watch it, you tell me.

I take a deep breath. I start over.

Once upon a time—

You already said that part, you say. And really, I could kill you. I just could. And the irony of that almost makes me smile, but not quite, so I just say:

In the beginning, there was—

I don’t like that at all, you say, and you’re nearly shouting now.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Let me try this one more time.

Do it right, you warn me.

I look you dead in the eyes, and I say, There was a girl, and she was beautiful. She was born and she lived and then she died, and it was unfair. Nobody could believe it, and we all said things that were meant to be comforting, like ‘it must be her time’ and ‘at least we were able to enjoy her, if only briefly’. But I loved this girl, and I hoped that she loved me, and even if I had to do crazy, horrible things to pass over and be with her, I would do it. And I did, and my family cried, but here I am, and she and I will be together forever. And we lived—

Happily ever after, you say.

Yes. Happily ever after.

I like that story, you tell me. You snuggle up to me, and I close my eyes and try to forget about this place, the thing that I had to do to be here.

I’m glad you’re here, you say to me. I was lonely without you.

I was lonely without you, too, but somehow that doesn’t really seem like the thing for me to say anymore.


Mercedes M. Yardley writes on a laptop that is undeniably broken. She has a special affinity for sharks and red lipstick, (but not sharks in red lipstick) and always covers her eyes during the gory parts. You can see a list of publishing credits at