Sunday, November 29, 2009


by Aurelio Rico Lopez III

She laughed at his jokes a little too loudly. She laughed at them a little too much. It was sickening.

I poured her another glass of wine.

“Aren’t you having any, Robert?” Danny asked.

“No, thanks. Ulcers.”

Janice reached over and stroked my cheek. “Are you all right, baby?”

I pulled away, literally revolted by her touch. I felt like someone had just slapped me on the face with a dead fish. “Doctor says I’ll be fine.”

“Ulcers? That sucks, man,” Danny said. He sipped his wine and sighed. “Got to hand it to you. This is good stuff.”

I smiled. “I’m glad you like it, Danny.”

Danny Gleason, the writer. When I first met him six years ago, he was peddling his short stories to the small presses. His second book Noose was receiving great reviews. No doubt, sales would surpass those of his first novel. Critics were already calling him the next Stephen King.

He was good-looking and in his mid-thirties. He worked out regularly and had the facial features of a young Harrison Ford. It wasn’t uncommon for Danny to sleep with one of his “avid fans” after a book signing. Women were always throwing themselves at him. We used to joke about it. It was funny.

Before he began sleeping with Janice.

I should have seen it coming. Janice was an attractive woman, and years of working behind a desk as an editor hadn’t exactly done wonders for my physique.

I had my suspicions, of course. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to them. There were nights when Janice came home late. When I asked her where she’d been, she’d say she’d been shopping with her girlfriends even though she clearly hadn’t bought a thing. Then there was a time I came home and found both of them in the living room. Danny said he had dropped by to discuss his new book.

The thought that I was just being paranoid had crossed my mind. But all doubts were erased when I woke up in the middle of the night to find Janice gone. Figuring she probably went to the kitchen for a drink, I got out of bed and went to my study at the end of the hall. That’s when I heard her on the phone.

‘I have to see you again, Danny. No, he’s asleep. Of course, I’m sure. I can’t stand us being apart like this. It’s driving me crazy. I miss you. I miss the way you feel inside me.’

I went back to the bedroom and sobbed quietly. Sweet Janice. What have you done to us?

“Hey, Robert!”


Danny smiled. “I was asking how the new book is coming along.”

I managed a smile of my own. “It’s going to make a killing, Danny.”

He laughed and turned to Janice. “See? That’s what I love about your husband, Jan. He has such a way with words.”

They both laughed. I felt like an outsider. I pushed my chair back and stood up. “Please excuse me. I think I’d better go to bed. I’m sorry, Danny. Is it all right if I leave you two?”

Janice was quick to answer. “Oh, sure, honey. You go right ahead and get some rest. I’ll take care of the dishes.”

“Thanks again for inviting me to dinner, Robert,” Danny said, getting up. “It was delicious. I’ll stop by your office next week, okay? We’ll have lunch.”

Danny Gleason, snake in the grass.

Instead of going upstairs to the bedroom, I went to the living room and sat on the sofa.
In the dining room, Danny cracked another joke, and they both laughed.

One of the perks of being an editor is the stacks of manuscripts you’re required to read–mysteries, science fiction, horror, non-fiction. Over the years, I had amassed a wealth of knowledge on a wide array of topics–guns, cars, botany, wildlife, computers, cultures, history, wine.

And poisons.

Keep laughing, bastards. Keep laughing.

I sat in the dark and listened. And listened.

Until the laughter stopped.

Aurelio Rico Lopez III is a self-diagnosed scribble junkie from Iloilo City, Philippines. His work has appeared in various venues such as Mythic Delirium, Star*Line, Sybil’s Garage, The Horror Express, Dark Animus, Goblin Fruit, Scifaikuest, Kaleidotrope, Tales of the Talisman, Electric Velocipede, Black Petals, and elsewhere. He is also the author of the chapbooks Jolts and Shocks (Sam’s Dot Publishing.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


by Pat Moran

I can hear them eating, under my bed.

The bones smacking and popping, blood pooling at the base of the headboard.

When they first came to the neighborhood, there was little notice. The sleepy homes with their precisely manicured lawns and gleaming SUV’s were left unaware by the slowly creeping darkness.

At first it was just small pets – Hamsters, Guinea Pigs and the like.

Mickey Drapes found the crumpled remains of his ferret, Ferguson, shoved into his mighty mouse pillowcase. Sandy Figgins didn’t speak a word for a week because of the placement of her puppy’s face on the ceiling. When she finally spoke, it took four teachers to get her to stop screaming. “They are going to kill us all!” she screamed, her voice horse with fear, “They are coming!” She passed out, cracking her head on the floor.

As more and more pets disappeared, the PTA called an emergency meeting. With no suspects other than their precious children, the parents began to panic. They said the violence was a manifestation of ADD, video games and Japanese cartoons. The Consensus decision was a communal silence and to not acknowledge anything was wrong. Positive encouragement and sugar cereal.

But it was too late.

Jacob Reese disappeared on Tuesday morning.

His mother found the bed torn apart, the word “They” painted in blood on the wall, a streak of blood leading under the bed.

I knew Jacob. He lived across the street. I could see his light from my window.

Susan Johnson, the clerk at the county library, was found in a pile outside the drop box. Martin Forster, the deli owner, was identified only by his dental charts. Both with the word “They” splattered on the wall. They both lived at the end of my street.

“They” became a whisper at the edge of each wide-eyed schoolyard conversation, a darted glance to those in the check out line at the grocery store, the silence at every dinner table.
After each death, the darkness swelled a little more. Every inch of the neighborhood seemed to be enveloped in the swooning blackness.

One by one the houses would empty. The Richardson’s on Monday, the Marcus’s on Tuesday… the entire west side of the street was vacant by the weekend.

Classes had to combine as less and less students came to school. In the end, there were five of us. Two third graders, a fat second grader, my sister and myself. We spent the majority of the day staring at our feet, waiting for the teacher to come. The teachers never came.

“They” finally came for us, the only lit house on the block, after dinner on a Thursday. The ripping noises from my sister’s room… The stifled screams from my parents… No one would come. No one would help. The blood seeped under their doors, turning my socks a sticky pink.
I can hear them eating, under my bed. The bones smacking and popping.

“They” had come.

Pat Moran is a writer from Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in journals such as Apparatus Magazine, 4and20 Poetry, Defenestration, Poor Mojo's Almanac(K) and many more.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Chin Chair

by Paul Newton

I can’t sleep. Jeremy took the last of my pills. That’s why I’m sat here on the edge of my bed, staring at my mother’s rocker, counting twos.


Somebody told me counting to two would eventually bore you to sleep; I should have took the pills Jeremy swallowed.

Jeremy Stephens was a pain in the ass, which is ok if he was the sort of pain in the ass you could keep at arm’s length; dirty-looks-across-the-street kind of thing or completely blank if happenstance brought you shoulder to shoulder, but no, Jeremy was the worst kind of pain in the ass. He was the kind that was also my best friend.

He first came into my life during second grade—some thirty years ago— halfway through Mrs. Carlton’s English class, and I saw it immediately.

The Chin Chair.

Are you familiar with The Chin Chair? It’s a strange phenomenon. No, that’s the wrong word, more of a charismatic power, a talent or a gift. I wasn’t aware it existed until Jeremy walked into that classroom all those years ago, all black hair, blue eyes and confidence.

I know all about it now, though.

Mrs. Carlton led Jeremy through the aisle of desks towards the empty seat beside me, and as she did so, like toppling dominoes, each kid he passed—one after the other—raised their elbows upon the desk, clasped their hands together, rested their chins in the upturned palms and gazed, glassy eyed, at the new arrival.

The Chin Chair.

Over the years we got along famously. He always had interesting tales to tell, casting charms upon his listeners until slowly they’d assume the obvious position, and drown in awe and wonder. When he’d finished his latest story, or left their presence, they would shake themselves like a wet dog, or a victim of a vaudeville hypnotist.

Women flocked to him, of course. Maybe that was one of the reasons I hung around Jeremy for such a long time; picking up his cast-offs whilst they were still under his spell, using them for a night or two until they got bored to resume the search for whatever it was I couldn’t give them.

The Chin Chair.

After university we went our separate ways. I went into banking and eventually consulting, making a fortune in the process, bought a beach front property, got married, had a son.
Jeremy left the country to travel the world, and after receiving one or two postcards we eventually lost contact. It’s the way life works I suppose. I got on with things, and never thought of him again…

…Until a couple of days ago that is, when he knocked on my door.

He was forty-two years old yet he didn’t seem to have changed a bit. I surprised myself by being so overwhelmed. Tears and hugs and stories of his adventures took us well into the night. He asked if he could stay for a while so he could find his feet and get settled. What could I say? He was my closest friend after all.

My wife loved him at first sight of course…

The Chin Chair.

He took my son fishing, hiking, karting and….

The Chin Chair.

I know he didn’t know how he did it but it had to end soon. I had to approach him, to reason with him, man-to-man, friend-to-friend; my very future was at stake.

So we sat down together—and over a few cans of lager came to a solution. We should have done it years before when I think about it now.

Removing Jeremy’s head from his body was quite easy. The sleeping pills I mixed with the beer rendered him immobile and the new blade I put on the hacksaw made light work of the decapitation. The fleshy bits were a nuisance but a little research on the Internet about bleaching animal bones sorted out that problem.

So there he sits on my mother’s rocker—Chin on Chair—opposite my bed staring at me with those wide black sockets as I relate to him the stories of my day.

Staring at me as I sit on the edge of my bed.

Elbows on knees, hands held together, chin on…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Exquisite Beauty of Death

by Mercedes M. Yardley

She was so beautiful, all dandelion fluff hair and white skin. But she bled from her eyes, and it was most disconcerting, although Allen tried not to show it.

“What?” she asked him one day. It was a normal Tuesday afternoon, and she had sequestered herself under a pastel umbrella. Blood ran from her eyes and down her face like painful tears. It soaked into her white scarf.

“N-nothing,” he said. He tried not to stare.

“Do I…do I have something on my face?” She reached a hesitant white mittened hand, tentatively dabbed beside her mouth. Blood smeared across her cheek in an artistic swoop. “I had pancakes for breakfast. Did I make a mess with the syrup?” She blushed delicately. “Sometimes I make a mess with the syrup.”

Allen’s lips twitched up. “No, you don’t have syrup on your face.”

“Is it my hair then? I can’t get it to do anything in this weather.”

Her light hair was fighting its white knitted hat. It tried its very best to stand on end, floating about her face like water.

He smiled fully, then. “No, it isn’t your hair.”

She turned her eyes to him, big beautiful gray eyes that were wide like a child’s. She blinked and two more bloody tears pooled and ran down her cheeks, mimicking the rain. “Then what is it? Why are you looking at me?” she asked. Her curiosity was endearing.

“I think that I like you,” Allen said. She smiled back, and he continued. “There’s just…something about you.”

“There is. I can call the lightning.”

He smiled and she laughed.

“You think that I’m kidding, don’t you?” she said.

Allen shrugged. “I’m not really sure what to think.”

She stood on tiptoe, kissed his cheek. Her felt the warmth of her lips and the blood that she left behind.

“I’d like you to stay with me for a while,” she said.

“Yes,” he agreed, and she cried tears of joy.

He also came to realize that she cried tears of pain and tears of sorrow. There were tears of frustration and tears of anger. Those were the most bitter and the most torrential, and they stained the couch and the carpet and the warm gray blanket that she wrapped herself in. And she could, indeed, call the lightning. A man was struck while running away after a rape. A family was killed while picnicking in the rain.

“Sometimes I can’t control my aim,” she said, and sighed.

Allen loved her, and love can hurt, as he soon found out. He shyly opened his hands to show her a lovely diamond ring that somehow reminded him of a butterfly, and she threw her arms around him and sobbed.

“Oh, I want to, I want to, but if we marry, you shall die,” she cried, and there were tears and tears and tears. He nearly drowned in them.

Until one day she came out of the room wearing the ring on her finger.

“I think yes,” she said, and Allen spun her around.

Blood crimsoned her wedding dress. They stood in a pool of it, and when he kissed his bride, she ran her fingers through his hair, making it stiff and sticky.

“I love you,” he said. Already he was faint. He dropped into an empty chair.

“I love you, too,” she said, and kissed him again. He felt his heart pumping, but in vain, for there was no longer any blood to circulate. She had cried it all out.

“Don’t be sad,” he told her. She tried to hold him, but he slid to the ground. “Now I understand why you cry.”

“Oh, Allen,” she whispered. “I tried. They told me to take you and I wanted so badly for you to live. I want you to be with me forever.” Blood leaked out of her eyes and touched her lips.

Allen smiled as his eyes closed.

“There’s something that I have wanted to tell you,” he said, “from the very moment that we first met.”

“What is that, my love?”

“I never understood why everybody fears death so. You are so beautiful.”

And she cried.


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

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lacey's Kisses

by Felicity Dowker

Everyone agreed that it was the worst sort of tragedy.

Lacey Kensington was five years old when a drunk driver veered up onto the kerb and slammed into her tiny body one bright afternoon. The impact jerked Lacey’s hand out of her mother’s and threw her clean over to the other side of the road. Kendra Kensington watched with horrified eyes as her little daughter slammed into the pavement and lay unmoving in a growing pool of blood, both legs sticking out at crazed angles. Ignoring the slurred apologies of the driver (who didn’t seem to know where he was), Kendra ran across the road, desperate to reach Lacey. She knew if she could just lay her hands on the girl and beg her to sit up, to speak, to plant one of her sweet soft kisses on her mother’s cheek, Lacey would be alright.

But the air was thick sludge around her, and as she struggled to move through it, each moment agonizingly slow, Kendra was filled with the sudden certainty that Lacey would never gift her with a warm wet kiss ever again.

She didn’t know it, but she was screaming even before she saw the gaping hole in Lacey’s head.


Five long months in hospital followed, plugged into an IV drip, a respirator, a catheter, a colostomy bag, and riddled with wires and monitors. There was not much of the little girl left in Lacey. She had become a skeletal old woman, her diminutive form pitiful under the stark white sheets and fluorescent glare. Her skull bore a visible crater from the fracture she’d sustained, and her legs were twisted beyond recognition. Their healing had been slow and problematic, plagued by recurring infections. Her sunken eyes were perpetually closed, ringed in garish yellow. The only sound in the bare room was the whoosh-beep, whoosh-beep of the respirator and heart monitor. Kendra heard that noise in her sleep; not that she got much sleep these days.

Every time she dangled on the brink of slumber, she heard the shriek of brakes, the squeal of tyres, and the grisly whump as the car hit Lacey’s body and plunged them both into an endless waking nightmare.

My baby. My darling, precious, poor tiny baby. Look what’s become of you. It’s beyond unfair. It’s…evil. Do you blame me? Sometimes in my dreams, you tell me it’s my fault. I should have seen the car coming. I should have saved you. But I didn’t.

Kendra kept a photo of Lacey from Before propped on her steel bedhead, so that when it became too overwhelmingly terrible and she wanted to run sobbing from the sarcophagal room, she could look at the picture and remember who the ravaged creature in the bed used to be. A plump girl with curly blonde hair and an impish grin twinkled at Kendra from the photo, all blue eyes and small white teeth.

You used to tell me I was your best friend in the whole world. You used to tell me you loved me THIS much. You used to crawl into bed with me in the morning and smother my face with your kisses. I’d give anything for one of your kisses, Lacey, my cherub, my angel, my wee one. Please, darling. Come back from where ever you’ve gone. Come back and give mummy a kiss. Just one last kiss.

Kendra’s tears fell on the parched wasteland of Lacey’s face like desert rain.


A strange sort of suicide. Kendra was found sitting next to Lacey’s hospital bed, face buried in the blankets. Her blue lips hinted at asphyxiation, and the autopsy backed up their story. She’d been alone when she died; the nurse had been just outside at her desk all night, and could vouch that nobody entered or left the room. Ms. Kensington must have simply put her head down in the bedding and held her face there until the last breath was smothered from her body, the nurse said.

Lacey, though still unconscious, was smiling. Her lips, dry and pale for so long, were red and swollen. She seemed suddenly healthier, and there was speculation she might wake up—alas, too late for her mother to see.

Everyone agreed it was the worst sort of tragedy.


Felicity Dowker is a 28 year old Australian writer with a husband, two young children, and a not-so-hidden feminist and atheist critique nestled in much of her work--especially the flash pieces, for some reason. Quite a few people have been foolhardy enough to publish her short stories, and she has one limited edition chapbook. For ramblings, news and a bibliography, go to but enter, stranger, at your riske; here there be Tygers.