Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Never Lasts Forever

by Jodi Lee

It was a night much like this one that I broke into the abandoned house over on Main Street—you know the one, don’t you—and met Old Lady Parker. At first, I thought she was a dusty old cobweb. All I could see of her was the top of her head, so I pushed it out of the way. I knew right away something was wrong, I mean, cobwebs aren’t heavy and they don’t clunk when they hit a wall.

She turned around, making this horrible groaning sound. Then she kinda sighed, and it sounded like a knife running over sand paper. I was trying to back out of the window, barely keeping my heart in my chest. I dropped my bag, and I guess the hammer must have landed on her foot because she squealed.

I didn’t stop to grab my stuff, I didn’t turn around to see if she’d come out of the house either—I just scrambled out of there and beat it. My heart didn’t stop racing for maybe an hour afterwards. Seriously, man, it was starting to hurt, it was beating so fast. Once it started to slow down though, I started getting mad. What the hell was that old woman doing down there, anyway? Think about it. The house wasn’t hers, had never been hers. She didn’t belong there any more than I did.

Stupid old bat. So, you know what?

Yeah… you’re right. I went back. I walked straight across the yard, up the stairs, and kicked—yes, kicked—the door in. I was going to show her who was boss. I was going to tell her off for being there, for blowing my break-in, for scaring the shorts off me. I barged into that house raring for a fight and I didn’t care if she was 80 years older than Adam, I was gonna get that fight.

You know what happened next, don’t you? You figured it out yet?

Well, I’ll tell you.

She wasn’t on the main floor. She was still down in the basement, still under the window where I’d first come across her. Old Lady Parker was leaning against the wall, still looking up at the window. I went up to her, grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. Man, all my tough words died in my throat, right then.

It wasn’t just the feel of her skin—that was all papery and dry and kinda crackled under my fingers—it was the whole package. Her hair was cobwebs. There was hair under ‘em but they were there. It was her face, man, her face was like—gone. I didn’t think I’d pushed her that hard. And her eyes. Dude, if you think I’ve got creepy eyes, you shoulda seen hers. They looked like a frog’s eyes. All tiny and sunken into the sockets.

That old bat, she smiled when she saw how freaked I was. She took my hand from her shoulder, and patted it. You know, like a grandma would? Then she laughed. You ain’t never heard something like that, man, or your hair would be the same color as mine.

I tried to pull my hand back, but she wouldn’t let go. Kinda like I’m holding yours, now. I can see you’re a bit freaked out yourself. Don’t worry…I’m almost done.

I had to close my eyes, because I couldn’t look at her anymore. I grabbed at her with my other hand, but it was like she wasn’t there at all. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. Well, not nothing, it sounded like a knife on sandpaper.

When I opened my eyes, Old Lady Parker was gone.

You know it’s wrong to break into houses, don’t you? Well, I learned my lesson, just as you’re learning yours now. This’ll just take a minute, man, then I’ll get out of here and you can…well, you’ll just stay here. I’d like to say I’m sorry, really I would. But, I’m not.

You’ll be okay. Someone will come along, eventually.

It never lasts forever.


Jodi Lee is editor in chief of LBF Books and The New Bedlam Project. Her writing has appeared in several recent anthologies as well as magazines on and offline for the past decade. She is currently working on two novels set in the fictional town of New Bedlam.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


by Roger Lord Zeck

Joel’s ancient blue Ford Escort climbed the empty hill road into cloud, which became thrashing rain.

The car sputtered…

‘Please, not again!’

…then died.

Joel reached into the glove compartment, pulled out the WD40, exposed the sparkplugs, and sprayed.

He tossed the aerosol back into the car and padded up the hillside into the woods to relieve himself. Springy undergrowth folded over his shoes as he walked.

Out of sight of the road, he let loose, and sighed: it had been two hours since his last stop.

He zipped up and made to turn. His ankles met resistance. He looked down.

Blackberry brambles encircled his lower legs.


He pulled free: thorns dug into his socks and skin.


He tramped back to the car, swearing: the undergrowth sprang around his feet, barbing his ankles.

He turned the motor. Despite the WD40, the engine was dead.

He pulled out his mobile.

‘Due to the weather,’ roadside assistance said, ‘we’re experiencing ninety-minute delays.’

Ignoring his drenched clothing, he wriggled till comfortable, then dozed off.


He awoke to rocking.

‘What the--?’

Brambles had wrapped cross-shaped about his car, like string round a parcel.

He tried opening a door: it was jammed.

The car lurched sideways, off the road.

‘Joel, out!’

But how?

He needed something to cut those brambles.

Like what? He wasn’t carrying anything sharp.

He flipped down the glove compartment, knowing he was wasting his time.

His car key? No. It was tubular, with no edges.

And anyway, with the electrics gone, he couldn’t get the window down.

Maybe if he smashed the windscreen, he could get a dagger-length shard to attack with?

Visions of cubed glass at accident scenes filled his head.

Maybe he could crawl out. There was enough space.

He positioned himself and started kicking.

It wouldn’t give. The angle was all wrong and simply bent back his foot.

The car creaked horribly: the roof buckled inwards.

‘Oh my God!’

The WD40!

He grabbed it and lashed out. The windshield opaqued and cracked like ice. His second blow sent glass clattering onto the bonnet.

The car had now bumped twenty meters up the hillside.

He clambered out. Glass bit into his palms, but he felt nothing.

Bramble wrapped round him immediately: he yanked free, thorns ripping into him, jumped off, and galloped towards the tarmac.

A two-metres-wide river of bramble stretched left and right between him and the road.

You can leap that, he thought.

He increased his speed.

The bramble twitched like spasming muscle; Joel’s scalp prickled.

His brain sent conflicting commands, split seconds apart:

Wait till you’re just one pace away, then jump;

No, jump earlier, it’s moving, it’ll get you;
Put extra power into the jump to give you height;

No, extra height will shorten the jump.

Panicking, he picked up speed. He jumped short, but with extra power.

The bramble flinched again, waited, then flicked up to meet him, grabbing his ankles.

He splattered face-down in mud as if he’d tripped on a kerbstone, sending glass deeper into his bleeding hands.

Bramble whipped round his calves and thighs, until he could not bend his legs.

He got onto his elbows, tried to propel himself forward, away.

In response, thorns dug into his flesh, piercing it.

He yelped with discomfort.

Then the bramble yanked him flat. He sank his fingers deep into the mud for anchorage, but the briar was stronger.

He grabbed at a branch lying on the ground, lifted it and lashed out. It made no difference.

He tried kicking, as though swimming the butterfly stroke, to see if he could shake himself free, but it was useless.

The brambles slinked round his arms, extracted his branch. Seconds later he was prostrate, spread-eagled, resembling an effigy made from barbed wire.

The lacerations began, then: thorns dug in, pulled, and sliced him into strips, as a chef might prepare beef for stroganoff.

He couldn’t struggle, couldn’t move. He could only gasp, knowing he was miles from the nearest human being, that he was going to die, and that the breakdown man, when he arrived, wouldn’t even find his car, let alone his remains.

Roger Lord Zeck writes speculative fiction. His work has appeared in, among other places, AlienSkin, and will feature in a 2009 Shroud Magazine anthology. His other job is teaching English in Korea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bad Meat

by Natalie L. Sin

Jenny Truman’s family watched in horror, their dinners untouched, as News Channel 3 showed a video of a cow herd slowly circling one of their own. Their eyes were red and leaking as their thick black tongues slathered and foamed in anticipation.

Suddenly the herd charged the fallen Holstein, who disappeared in a mass of heaving bovine flesh. The sounds of ripping skin and violently cracking bones turned Jenny off her hamburger casserole. An udder slammed into the camera, leaving a long streak of blood and trailing flesh across the lens. Jenny's mother pressed a napkin to her mouth and ran for the bathroom. Jenny’s father lamented how this would all impact the beef industry. Luckily, the Truman’s were in the poultry business.

Jenny was feeding the chickens the next day when she saw Mrs. Patchet. The older woman was walking across the field that separated the two family farms. Jenny didn't pay much attention at first; Mrs. Patchet often visited their farm to swap recipes and town gossip with Jenny's mother. As Mrs. Patchet got closer, Jenny saw she was carrying Mr. Patchet in her arms. She worried that Mr. Patchet was sick, or maybe had a heart attack. Then she noticed that his bottom half missing.

“Hogs got him,” Mrs. Patchet groaned over Jenny's screams.

“Bit me bad,” Mr. Patchet moaned in agreement.

His intestines trailed along the front of his wife’s dress like a kite tail. As Mrs. Patchet advanced across the yard with her husband, bits of him were jostled out and fell to the dirt with a wet smack. Jenny wanted to run, but all she could do was keep screaming. When she saw her father came running out of the house with his shotgun, she nearly cried from relief. With two quick blasts, the Patchets’ heads burst like melons loaded with firecrackers.

“Don’t look, honey,” Jenny's father soothed.

He wrapped his arms tight around her and turned Jenny's head away. She didn’t have the heart to tell him it was too late.

Everything went to Hell after that. After pigs, the disease started showing up in sheep. Before long, all the farm animals were infested and turning on humans. The whole country had to go vegetarian, which made Jenny real sore. At only twelve years old, she wasn’t ready to give up hotdogs at ball games or her Uncle Travis’s barbecued ribs. Her mother told her not to be so ungrateful.

“What are you crying about,” she scolded. “Would you rather have good people being turned into zombies just so you can have sausage with your pancakes?”

Jenny figured her mother was right, and tried to get used to things. Thanks to a government grant, her family started growing vegetables. It didn’t pay as well as raising chicken but it sure smelled better. After a year it didn’t even feel so strange to be eating burgers made of flax seed and beans.

That next spring Jenny sat on the front porch and admired the crops planted around the house. Her father had been doing a great job with them; Jenny had never seen anything come up so fast. Sometimes she could swear she heard them growing at night. The farm was sure to make good money this year, maybe even enough to get that new bike.

Jenny crossed her fingers for luck and took another bite of her cucumber sandwich. As she chewed, she watched her baby brother chase fireflies in the yard. Even without meat, he was soft with baby fat. Jenny noticed with growing interest how his pudgy legs jiggled as he raced after the flickering insects. Licking her lips, she pushed herself up and went after him...


Natalie L. Sin is a horror writer living in the Midwest. She has been published in numerous online and print publications, including Necrotic Tissue, Tales of the Zombie War, The Monsters Next Door, and the Northern Haunts anthology (Shroud Publishing). Look for more Sin in the upcoming Zombology II and Devil's Food anthologies. When not writing, She enjoys strong coffee, Hong Kong movies, and Korean boy bands.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In the Garden

L.R. Bonehill

The consultant called it pregnancy material and told her to expect more. Gave her a leaflet about a local support group and told her to go home and rest. Myra called it her baby and grieved.

She touched a hand to where the life had once been. She hadn’t felt it then, it was still too early, but she felt an undeniable and cold absence there now. Broken and hollow, it chilled her palm and fingertips. She held her hand against the small swell of her stomach and imagined there was still life inside her, still warmth and hope.

The coldness spread through her like ice shifting and stalling in her veins. She wanted to cry, but tears weren’t enough. Ragged, silent sounds shook her.

Afternoon sunlight filtered through the drawn curtains, motes of dust skipped and fell in the shadows. The yellow wallpaper hurt her eyes and her head thumped with a grey, creeping numbness.

She lay for hours, curled on the bed and finding no comfort. She couldn’t look at it again, not yet. A sharp tang of blood clung to her fingers and she could see dark stains in the gloom. Her mouth tasted bitter and metallic, like filaments of tarnished copper on her tongue.

Eventually she slept and found dreams of bones and decay.

The world was unreal when she woke, dark and insubstantial. Shadows twitched in the corners of the room. Her whole body buzzed as if a thousand flies twisted inside her and she was already dead and rotting from within.

She was still cold, still empty.

She fumbled in the bedside cabinet. Ray always kept a pack of Camel Lights and matchbooks from countless hotels and bars. There would be more once the conference finished at the weekend.

The match hissed as it struck. Myra watched it burn, felt the heat as the flame bit at her fingers. She struck another and lit the cigarette, drawing the smoke down deeply. The tip glowed amber in the darkness.

Myra held it above her stomach. It gave the pallor of her flesh a warm glow. She ground it down against her skin where it stung and burned. Teeth clenched, she relished the heat. She removed the cigarette and re-lit it with a fresh match. Brought it down again. Her skin tingled and prickled sharply.

The night outside was silent and soon she slept again. A fitful, feverish sleep with dreams of dirt and growth.

Dawn woke her; birds twittered in nearby trees. She was still cold, still empty.

Her legs felt unsteady as she walked to the bathroom. She pulled the cord; the light was harsh and sterile. Her reflection shuddered in the mirror as she bent down to the floor. The blood stained towel lay crumpled at the foot of the bath. She picked it up and unfurled the edges.

A small bloodied mass lay in the centre. Pulpy and unidentifiable. Myra reached out a finger and almost touched it. She shifted to kneel directly beneath the light and studied it closely. Head cocked, she turned the towel this way and that.

“A seed,” she said eventually. Her voice was small and lost.

She covered it again and headed down the stairs and towards the back door. Early morning light reached in through the frosted glass.

The air was crisp and fresh with a slight chill on the breeze.

Her garden flowered all year round; always had. Her fingers were green, not the red ingrained there now like strange nicotine stains.

The earth was damp with dew beneath her bare feet. The soil was rich and good as she dug deep with her hands. She could almost taste it. Her fingers snatched and clawed at the dirt as she made a hollow in the ground.

Her stomach burned and itched in small circles of pain. She was still cold, still empty; but not for much longer she thought.

Myra took the seed from the towel. It felt soft and sticky in her hands. She planted it and compacted the earth around it.

As the sun brought the first warmth to the day she sat back and waited for her seed to grow.


L.R. Bonehill never meant to hurt anyone all those years ago; he just wanted to play, that’s all. Drop by the boneyard at