Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beside Himself

by Joe Nazare

Forget that heals-all-wounds nonsense--time for him to expedite matters. He can't bear any longer to just let such grotesquerie be.

So, thrumming with impatience, he extends his right index, and with his left hand picks up the smallest of the tools lying atop the butcher block. He clamps the tweezers to his blueberry-shaded nail, the concentrated bruising of his fingertip making him think of a well-fed tick squashed under a microscope slide. In its protracted death throes, the nail has pinched inward into the shape of a miniature seashell, but naturally he has no intention of holding the thing up to his ear afterward.

Plugging the tip of his tongue into his gums, he tugs at his blighted digit. The fingernail pulls forward slightly before rebounding into place. He tries again, and again, but on the third try the tweezers slip off, etching a hairline white scratch on the nail. Frustration rattles in the base of his throat as he tosses aside the useless tool.

So close. The taunting words echo in his head. He grabs the pair of slip-joint pliers and applies them to the task at hand. Like the lips of the most unyielding pistachio, the fingernail offers only a few millimeters of airspace between itself and flesh, but the pliers' bulkier pincers nonetheless manage to find a grip.

He steels himself with a quick series of snorts, then jerks the pliers back hard as he can. A dull ache radiates down his finger and seemingly right into his forearm. The nail feels like it has grown tendrils, and for a moment he wonders if in tearing free it will yank a trail of ligaments out through his fingertip--the physical equivalent of some magician's handkerchief trick. He pulls on the nail regardless, relentless, and after several tormenting seconds finally succeeds in the extraction. The nail un-suctions itself from his fingertip and drops clattering to the butcher block.

He pays scant attention to the pearly nub of new growth on his right index, focusing instead on the brittle relic just removed. Slit-eyed, he picks up and turns over the unfastened nail. The blue-black grue caked to its underbelly looks like what you might find inside an old tin of shoe polish.

Another moment of intrigued scrutiny, and then he pivots and limps across the basement, into the corner occupied by the cyanotic clay effigy. This inert reflection of himself, painstakingly dusted with his own dead skin. It stands grinning at him through an imperfectly aligned set of grayed teeth. He splits his sunken mouth into a smile as he presses the fingernail into place at the tip of a crooked index. The transplant accomplished, he turns and scurries back to the butcher block.

So close, he tells himself again. Spurred by the sudden, unmistakable crack of knuckles off to his left, he seizes and raises his trusty ball-peen hammer.

And gets started on his right thumb.


Joe Nazare holds a Ph.D. in English from New York University; his academic work focuses on the genres of science fiction and horror. He has sold stories and poems to such magazines and anthologies as Shroud, Pseudopod, Harvest Hill, Damnation Books, Champagne Shivers, Death in Common, and Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rare Steaks, Black and Blue

by Rachel Green

Luisa browsed the menu again. She'd been ecstatic last June when she'd found this exclusive little steak house tucked into an alley off Manhattan's East 67th Street. Bored with the standard fare of beef, buffalo and venison, the restaurant promised gastronomic riches. Tattooed waiters and waitresses of several nationalities catered for the high-class clientele.

She'd picked and chosen for the first few visits. It was expensive but the rarity of springbok, kangaroo, giraffe and zebra was worth the expense. She was more methodical after that, working her way through the menu one visit at a time, every steak cook black-and-blue, just how she liked it, with sauces on the side, never on the meat.

After thirty visits her palate was jaded and she sat at her customary booth flicking listlessly through the menu. Peter, the only waiter still working there since she'd found the place, stood poised with his pencil and pad. "I want something different," she said, "something really unusual."

"I know just the thing," Peter said. "A chef's special, Yes?"

She smiled and handed back the menu. "That sounds divine."

It took a little longer to prepare but every morsel was worth the wait. Tempted as she was, she left the strip of fat and the edge of skin.

She'd recognised the tattoo.


Rachel Green is a forty-something writer from Derbyshire, England. She lives with her two partners and three dogs. She was the regional winner of the Undiscovered Authors 2007 and her novel An Ungodly Child was published in 2008. When not writing, Rachel walks her three dogs, potters in the garden and drinks copious amounts of tea. Her website acts as a portal to her daily-updated blogs

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Flash Cards for the Blind

by Kurt Newton

These are not your average 4x6s. Instead of an equation on one side, a solution on the other, these thin rectangles are virtually featureless. They look more like opaque panes of glass...without the sharp edges, of course. That would be cruel.

(You fidget slightly. I know the feeling. Trust is a difficult commodity nowadays...rare in its purest form.)

"Then how do they work?"

(Your eyes stare past me. Though blind, they appear eager, open to new experiences.)

Well, they work the way a window works, only instead of using the sensory organ designed for sight, it uses something much more intimate: touch. It is the reason I am wearing these specially designed gloves. Just the slightest skin-to-surface contact induces a chemical transference that affects the region of the brain responsible for perception. Touching is seeing.

"What will I see?"

(A smile graces the corner of your mouth. It informs me I have chosen well.)

Ah, that's the beauty. It is entirely up to you. The mystics say if you stare at your reflection long enough your true essence will eventually reveal itself. Perhaps you will see your own death. Perhaps you will witness the torture of the innocent, or the savagery of nature, or the oppressive immensity of the universe. Perhaps you will be whisked away to a place unknown, a place forbidden, a place where your darkest fears dwell. A place where truth lies bound and screaming.

(You swallow your last naïve notion. Your fingers tremble as I place the first card in your hands.)

"And my blindness will be cured by doing this?"

Yes. But you will wish it hadn't.


Kurt Newton lives as a recluse in the woods of northeast Connecticut. He has been spotted on his plot of land harvesting grubs from rotted logs, setting tripwires for small animals and drinking from fresh water streams. He uses wood pulp and dried viscera to make the paper on which he writes his stories. He drives a black Ford Focus.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Un Ultimo Hombre Lobo

by Adam Blomquist

“Action,” yelled the fat man standing behind the camera.

Maria, the gorgeous Italian, pushed the intricate Gothic candelabra into Molina’s face.

“Closer,” said the director.

Molina frothed at the mouth and growled at the young actress. The film was a period piece so Maria wore a corset that threatened to suffocate her with her own cleavage. She backed Molina as far into the corner as he could go. The film was shooting on location in an ancient castle on the coast of Portugal, and the stone wall felt pleasantly cool against Molina’s back.

“Closer, try to burn him,” cried the director.

Molina stayed in character even though he could now smell burnt hair. The prosthetic fur on his face was beginning to go up in flames.

“Cut, cut,” he slapped the cameraman on the shoulder. “Molina, what the hell are you doing? Where is the anguish we discussed? I expected more from the supposed master of monsters,” Marques wagged a dark stubby finger in Molina’s face who allowed himself to stay a bit in character and bared his fangs at the director.

“I’m sorry, it’s your film, we’ll do it again,” Molina said with no sincerity in his voice.

“Forget it, we’re losing daylight as it is,” Marques said. Why the director was shooting a scene with a werewolf that needed daylight was beyond Molina, and he laughed at the director’s ignorance. Marques did not take notice and turned his attention to the girl.

“And you, where is your fire? Where,” Marques asked. Molina couldn’t help but scoff at the pomposity in his voice. The director was wasting his time anyway. The girl spoke absolutely no Spanish and her translator had failed to show up to work today.

In fact, much of the crew had quit in recent days. Molina looked around the set and took a quick roll call. Inside the chamber there were only the two actors, the cameraman, Marques and a production assistant who had been promoted to a soundman for the day.

“Don’t yell at her, she’s doing the best she can,” Molina’s public persona was that of the perfect gentleman, and he had attained that persona by actually being a perfect gentleman. Maria had no idea what the two Spanish men were arguing about, but she knew that Molina was on her side. He gave her a wink and watched her blush.

“Grazie,” she said.

Marques looked over at the impromptu soundman, who was leaning on the boom microphone as a cane. The director started histrionically pulling at his balding scalp and cursing under his breath. In his excitement he yelled that the day was wrapped and then stormed off the set.

The remaining crew members began to strike all the equipment and pack it back in the truck for the night. Molina went back to his trailer and began to gingerly remove his makeup. He needed the makeup artist in order to apply it but he had mastered the art of taking the pieces off himself without damaging them. It was a lengthy process and he began to let his mind wander to Maria.

He then took out the fake dentures and his mind turned to that toad of a director. Dusk was finally complete and he could see the full moon outside his trailer window. He ran his tongue over his teeth. The actor laughed to himself as his real fangs started to elongate and sharpen. Hair began to sprout on his arms. I think it’s time for Marques to retire, we don’t need him. And anyway, I’ve always wanted to direct, he thought to himself. Maybe I’ll try some Italian for dessert.


Adam Blomquist was raised on a steady diet of candy corn, rock 'n roll, classic literature and horror movies. This mix severely warped his brain. He currently attends Boston University where he studies English and Film. You can find his blog and more of his work at and in the pages of Shroud Magazine issue #7.