Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Today’s Well-Dressed Mind Parasite is Wearing

by Jonathan Pinnock

“So, Mr Sampson,” I say, “I believe you had a question for me?”

“Well, yes.” The man pauses, looking at me in an odd way. “How do you do it? Yesterday, when we first met, I could have sworn you were short and fat. And yet today, you are tall and thin. You also seem to have grown a beard.”

“Oh dear,” I say, “And I thought we were going to have an interesting conversation.”

“I’m sorry?”

“What I mean,” I say, “Is that surely the question of how I do what I do is much less interesting than the question of what I could do with it? Or indeed why I would want to do it.”

He takes a while to parse this. Jesus, he really isn’t that bright at all. Could be cat food, this one.

“Yes,” he says, “But I really would like to see how you do it. Are you some kind of shape shifter?”

“Nah,” I say, “I just pick a different body each morning to suit the mood I’m in.”

He laughs. It’s an uneasy laugh. “You’re kidding. You mean, you just pick one off the rack, like choosing a shirt to wear?”

“Yeah, sort of,” I say, maintaining a straight face. Oh well, nothing for it. I pick up the remote control, and propel him gently towards the closet. I press a button and the doors glide open. There they all are, a couple of dozen bodies hanging from meat hooks. I press another button, and they begin to revolve slowly around. Sampson is transfixed.

“Take a pick,” I say.

“My God,” he says. “But ...”

“They’re in a state of suspended animation, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“But don’t the hooks ... hurt?”

Thanks for the cue, dickhead. I press the pause button and reach into my pocket. I plunge the hook into his back, pick him up with it and attach him, screaming and wriggling, to the end of the rack.

“Well, you tell me,” I say, “Do they?”

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, September 20, 2009


by Paul Milliken

It’s pretty amazing what a guy will do for a date.

Take Dan O’Leary: it’s Sunday, and the Patriots play a game at two. Any other Sunday he’d be at Davie’s, the best beef-and-beer joint in northern Massachusetts. But this time around, instead of slamming back a shot and placing bets, he’s…


Dan challenged Stacey with his best are-you-serious? sneer. She laughed, tossing a honey-blonde curl off her shoulder.

“Come on, Dan. One afternoon. You know there’s a cat-napper on the loose.”

Dan rolled his eyes. He’d seen the articles; residents in Upton Heights were panicked. Nobody knew what was happening, but Dan envisioned the ridiculous image of some idiot riding around in a van, sliding open the door and snatching cats off the street.

“Cats creep me out. My pop once told me all cats come from an underground city where they’re plotting mankind’s destruction. He was a drunk.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Stacey said dryly. “The neighborhood girl who usually checks on her is out of town. And Susu keeps trying to find ways to get outside.”

Dan and Stacey had worked in adjoining cubicles for nearly two months, answering phones in a computer help center. He liked her immediately; she had one of those smiles that transformed the entire landscape of her face, adding dimples and contours while showcasing luminous teeth and tight, glossy lips.

Stacey raised an eyebrow, upping the stakes: “I’ll make you supper afterwards.”

So now Dan’s sitting in Stacey’s living room, and Susu is watching him like he’s a TV dinner in the microwave. It’s unnerving; the cat is as daffy-looking as her name suggests, with an oversized head and a stubby tale obviously somehow truncated. Stacey had left with only one instruction:
“She loves to run out of the house when you open the front door. So don’t.”

Of course, an hour later, watching the ESPN pre-game breakdown while sipping one of Stacey’s puckering wine coolers, Dan’s already forgotten.


Everything happens so fast that Dan never even realizes nobody is at the door. He opens it, and suddenly Susu whooshes between his legs.


Dan bolts after her, leaving the door wide open. His socked feet slide over the marble-stoned walkway as he struggles to keep up with the little white puffball, which darts across the street. It dodges traffic and disappears down a large drainage opening under the curb.

Dan is less successful crossing the street, and after nearly causing a few fender-benders, he stops by the drain. There’s no way he’s reaching blindly into the darkness; he’s seen that movie about the man-eating rats. But there is a manhole in the sidewalk; opening it could at least give him an idea of how deep the cat is. The cover’s rusted over, and Dan grunts as he pulls on it; finally, just before giving up, it pops loose.


It’s definitely Susu; she doesn’t sound that far away. Dan quickly assesses the options; he can call the fire department and run the risk of Stacey arriving home to witness the debacle. Or, he can grab hold of the little rusty rungs and climb down just a few feet, enough to hopefully scare the cat back up through the drain.

I better get more than dinner, Dan thinks, taking the first few steps down into the hole. The air is hot and stifling, and smells like rotting milk. In the midst of taking a deep breath, one of the rungs wrenches loose; Dan’s hands slip away and he falls a short distance, finally landing on his ass.

It’s dark, but the light streaming in from above is enough that the white blur catches Dan’s attention. He turns his head, realizing he’s looking down a tunnel. Dan reaches into his pocket, pulling out his cell phone; the dim blue display light illuminates the passage just enough so that he can see Susu’s eyes reflected back.

“Here kitty…” he begins, stopped by the realization that there are other glowing eyes watching him. Dan struggles to his feet, almost tripping on the dozens of felines now winding around his legs. They begin meowing, all of them; Dan suddenly can’t feel anything except the slicing of claws up his arms and legs and Susu’s fat, stubby tale knocking against his face.

Paul Milliken is an award-winning journalist by day, horror enthusiast by night. His fiction has previously been published in Byzarium and the anthologies Chilling Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (PD Publishing) and Tainted: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (Strange Publications).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Regular

by Sanford Allen

He is the kind of regular no bartender wants. Bitter, belligerent, obnoxious.

He never gets his drink fast enough. It’s never strong enough.

He regularly spackles the bathroom with the contents of his stomach.

He flashes his cash in a vulgar show of status, but he never tips.

After tonight, he won’t be back.

I will smile as he slaps money on the bar, grunting and ogling my breasts.

I will watch him throw back his glass in one gulp. Just like he always does.

I will feign concern as he clutches his throat, gurgling, and drops to the floor.

I will savor the screams as his lips and tongue sizzle away—and lose the bottle before the ambulance and police arrive.

After tonight, he won’t be back.

Sanford Allen is a musician and former newspaper reporter from San Antonio, Texas. He gave up on journalism after he found out it’s more fun to tell lies than to uncover the truth. More than two dozen of his horror and dark fantasy stories have been featured in magazines, web publications and anthologies. His band, Boxcar Satan, recently released its fifth full-length CD. Visit him on the web at

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Little Problems

by Patricia Russo

It was just after eleven, and Gerard was outside having a cigarette. Two fifteen-minute breaks, they were supposed to get, but that shitstain Richardson always looked personally pained whenever Gerard grabbed his jacket. Richardson. A little man with little problems. That morning Carol had used a pencil instead of a pen when she initialed the timesheet, and Richardson was still riding her about it.

Since Richardson got pissy when people hung out in front of the store, Gerard walked to the end of the block, past a cell phone place with the same old special offers, a dollar store, a fast food joint, and a storefront of discount appliances. It was a discount sort of street. A discount sort of town.

Cloudy day. Moderate traffic. Friday tall on the horizon. Gerard lit his cigarette.

A car turned off the main street, heading west. Dark green Corolla, rolled-down windows, crumpled fender. Gerard wouldn’t have looked at it twice if he hadn’t heard a pop, and then the crunching of glass.

The car had run over a Snapple bottle. The driver slowed down momentarily, then continued on his way, leaving the shards where they lay.
It was nothing.

On the opposite corner, a man waited to cross. He looked down at the broken glass.

He was a thin man in his thirties, wearing a gray cord jacket and faded jeans.

Stepping off the curb, he bent down and gathered the biggest pieces of the broken bottle. There was no trash receptacle on his corner; the closest one stood a couple of feet from Gerard, next to the light pole. The man crossed the street with care, his hands cupped.

“Hey, yeah,” Gerard said, nodding. “That’s pretty dangerous.”

“Yes,” the man said. “Not just for tires. I was thinking about kids.” He dropped the glass into the trash bin, then brushed one palm over the other.


“Absolutely,” the man repeated. He glanced at Gerard.

Gerard smiled politely.

“Or, you know,” the man said. “Somebody could do this.” He showed Gerard his right hand. He pinched the skin at the base of his third finger, then cut it. There was no way he could have used a sliver of glass. He’d emptied his hands, brushed them off. The man continued the impossible incision, on and on to the wrist, and beyond, slicing the sleeve of his jacket so that it fell away, slicing the skin underneath, his movements as casual as if he were drawing a line with a crayon.

“It could happen,” the man said, drawing his line past the elbow, up to the tip of his shoulder. “You know. People get tempted.” He tugged on the skin, exposing bloodless gray flesh. A second later, red began to well. The man kept on cutting and tugging, until the skin of his arm hung down like a second bisected sleeve.

Gerard had dropped his cigarette. “What the fuck?”

“Only showing you.” The man raised his arm slightly. The whole of it was wet now; the crimson had a reflective sheen. Blood dripped onto his jeans, and onto the sidewalk, but not nearly as much as there should have.

Gerard backed away from the man; the cigarette lay, still burning, by the guy’s foot. But the distance between them was much too small. The other bridged it with a smile.

“Put it back on,” Gerard said, which was nonsense, which was ridiculous. “Why do you want to show me something like that for?”

“I thought I could.” The smile wavered. “You looked at me. We spoke. You sounded like you understood.”

“Understood what?”

The man was standing in front of him. Gerard couldn’t remember how he’d gotten turned around.

The red was very shiny.

The man looked away. “I thought I could talk to you. Sorry.”

The man’s arm dripped and dripped. Gerard’s head swam.

“I’m always making this mistake.” The man’s voice shook, but his face went still, except for a tremor in the corner of his mouth. “Sorry,” he said again. He touched Gerard lightly on the shoulder and walked away, up the street and gone, leaving Gerard lost in the shiny red, so bright and so shiny that he could hardly breathe.