Sunday, November 28, 2010

Killing Field

by Brad Chacos

"He seemed like a decent enough guy," the neighbors said. Don't they always say that about killers?

They caught him eventually, in a sting operation. Only so many people, even hookers and junkies and street people, can be killed before Things Are Noticed. And they locked the man (if one can call him that) away for a hundred lifetimes, sentencing him to die the drawn-out gray death of boredom and certainty that his victims never had.

But they never found the bodies.

You may have noticed the field of wild roses outside of town, their petals drawn in on themselves, bright red and shivering in the autumn wind; once a month, when the moon is at its apex, they bloom in the cold, dark night, shedding dew like so many tears. And the smell... oh, the smell...


Brad Chacos is hairy fellow who inspects sapphire products for aerospace and semiconductor applications by day and scribbles down semi-readable fiction by night. He has both a short story and a non-fiction article appearing in upcoming issues of Withersin magazine and has been featured on Nanoism, a Twitter-fiction site.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Chronicles of Blackbriar

by Michael Colangelo

Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Francis of Assisi, Joseph, the Virgin Mary. These are the gilded portraits that hang from the walls inside Nana’s little apartment on Thanksgiving Day.

Blackbriar the Bear, Hamstring the Rabbit, Farmer Carrion – the names of the characters in the book tucked beneath little Peter’s arm, The Chronicles of Blackbriar. These are his personal heroes.

He just wants to read his book, but this is a family get together. They’re celebrating an important, and holy, occasion. Great Grandmother sits in an armchair unblinking. The others chat and hug and drink around her. The men go out on the balcony to smoke and chat some more.

Uncle Vince picks Peter up, grinning. He places him on his knee. Peter gets a quarter from Vince’s pocket and then he’s offered the cigar hanging from Vince’s mouth.

The smoke makes Peter cough and he doesn’t like it. Uncle Vince just laughs and laughs. His face turns red he laughs so hard.

He makes sure he tells Peter’s Mum and Dad that their kid likes cigars, just like he does. He makes sure to tell them that Peter is going to be just like him one day - a success.

Later on, after they eat dinner, Peter is tired. He rubs his eyes and sits on the couch while the adults move around him chatting and smoking and drinking some more. He’s trying to read his book but it’s so late that the colors in the pictures seem to smudge and the letters look all blurry.

The adults are ignoring him. They usually do. They’re here to talk about adult things with one another. But Uncle Vince, as always, comes to help Peter out. He sits down beside him on the couch and takes the book from his hands.

He digs out his reading glasses and holds the cover up to the light.

“What is this, Peter? A book about a bear?”

He opens up the book and begins to skim through the pages. Near the end he begins to nod in understanding. His brow furrows like he’s concentrating hard.

“Ah, so this bear. He goes to the farmer’s house for dinner? Even after his friend the rabbit warns him not to do it?”

Peter nods. He’s read the book before. He knows the ending. The last page of the book is a full page splash of Farmer Carrion and his wife all dressed up for a night on the town. The farmer’s wife is wearing what’s left of Blackbriar like a coat.

Uncle Vince turns serious. His face and his eyes grow very dark right before he leans over to whisper into Peter’s ear. His breath smells of strong liquor.

“This bear, Peter. You know why the lady’s wearing him at the end, right?”

Peter shakes his head.

“Because this Blackbriar’s some kind of motherfucker. That’s why. Farmer Carrion, he just wants to take his wife out for dinner. Poor bastard can’t afford to buy her nice things. Who can blame a guy for wanting the bear as a coat, eh?”

Peter shrugs and Uncle Vince gives a little laugh. Or maybe it’s a growl. Peter’s too tired. He can’t tell.

“But the bear, he’s just looking for a free meal. Some sort of handout. ‘Don’t be a motherfucker, Blackbriar’. That’s what this rabbit is really saying. I don’t think they’re really friends. Do you?”

Then Peter’s Mother is standing over them both. She snatches the book from his lap and takes Peter up in her arms.

“But we were reading,” Peter protests. He curls his head against her shoulder and then falls silent.

“We have to go, honey.” She strokes his hair and takes him away from Uncle Vince.

It’s later in the next year when Peter sees Uncle Vince again.

He’s sitting on the front lawn with his old book in front of him when his Dad pulls into the driveway. Behind him, a big black car with fins on it turns in and Uncle Vince gets out.

He’s carrying a baseball bat. They’re not about to play any baseball.

As Uncle Vince approaches, Dad turns to Peter and waves him off.

“Go inside, Peter. Uncle Vince and I need to talk.”

Peter runs inside. His mother runs outside. Peter runs upstairs and goes under the covers of his bed with his book.

He reads for the one hundredth time about the time that Hamstring got caught in the fox trap. Blackbriar happily gnaws his rabbit friend’s leg off to free him again.

Michael Colangelo is a writer from Toronto. Visit him at

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Insanity Vessel

by Harper Hull

Neil shook on the sofa, knees pulled up, toes curled, watching his Gran swat away imaginary insects and invisible bats across on the other side of the room. She is just sick, his Mom always told him, just sick in the mind, no need to be frightened. He was constantly frightened, though. Gran saw things all over the place that no-one else could see. Things that no-one else would ever want to see. Each evening, as his Mom made dinner in the kitchen, Neil had to sit with his Gran in the living room and keep an eye on her, just to make sure she didn't wander or fall.

Gran told him awful, awful things. He tried not to listen, he told himself she was just sick, but she frightened him none the less. She told him about the shiny white people that visited her in the night, appearing inside her frilly old-lady clothes that hung in her wardrobe, growing into them until their long, bent fingers crept from the sleeves and whispering terrible words to her with their flapping black lips and flicking blue tongues until morning came. She told him about the long, wriggling snakes with human faces and the tiny, dark, snapping creatures that slithered and ran through the patterns in the carpet and the wallpaper, surrounding her and trying to bite her. Most of all, though, she told him about the heads in the fireplace that came up in the crackling orange flames and gave her messages. Messages that never seemed to make any sense. Sometimes the messages were for other people, but those other people were always dead people. His Dad. His Granddad. The poor old blind lady who had lived next door. More than anything else she talked about, Gran's talking fire heads scared him.

Neil hoped that Gran would stay busy shooing away the invisible flying things all around her and not pay attention to the spitting fire tonight. Remember, he told himself over and over, she is just a sick old lady; her brain doesn't work properly anymore. He didn't mind her so much when she was just slapping thin air. It was almost funny to watch. Almost.

Suddenly and inevitably Gran stopped flapping around in her saggy cloth armchair and became still, focusing her watery eyes on the popping, jumping fire. Neil groaned a little and wrapped his arms around himself.

“Oh Neil, they're talking about you tonight! All of them are looking at you and talking.”

Neil forced himself to glance at the fire and, as usual, saw no speaking faces. His Gran was completely entranced in the flames, slowly nodding her head and cracking her thin, colorless lips. The stupid sickness, thought Neil again, her mind is broken. Remember!

“They say you're a bad boy, son. They say they see you doing things that a ten year old shouldn't be doing.” Without averting her gaze, Gran feebly lifted one arm and pointed towards him, wagging one finger.

Neil looked back to the fire, wide-eyed. He couldn't see anything except the dancing flames and the hot, blackened wood glowing and splitting as it fuelled the tiny inferno. He knew he hadn't been a bad boy, the fire heads were lying. Silly, he immediately scolded himself, there are no fire heads, no people in the grate it's just her sickness, remember that always!

“They say they're going to get you Neil. They're going to get you tonight when you're asleep.”
His Gran sounded unusually sad as she spoke. It pushed Neil past his breaking point and he jumped up and started walking towards the kitchen, to the safety of his Mom with her boiling vegetables, baking pie and roasting beef.

“They want you to know one last thing!” said his Gran, loudly now. “They say to tell you that I am not sick. They say I am not sick and my mind is not broken. Now why would they say that?”

Neil stopped dead in his tracks, legs like ice and face like fire, feeling his Adam's apple roll all the way down into his belly.


Harper Hull was born and raised in Northern England and now lives in South Carolina with his Dixie wife and 4 vicious dogs. He started writing fiction in 2009 after doing it corporately for too long and has a delightful cross-section of work scheduled to appear in 2010 with hopefully more to come. His favorite authors are Ballard, Bradbury, Tartt and McCarthy. You can track Harper online at

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Last Crunch of Autumn

by Patrick Rutigliano

Jamie Eisenberg was halfway down Crescent Avenue before the sight of his own breath stopped him cold. Jamie’s run had no real aim, only pleasure, but the weather simply wasn’t conducive to such activity.

Halloween was two weeks past and winter was already draining the color from the landscape. The days of snow forts and sledding had yet to arrive, and as the fire on the trees dulled and littered the streets with brown, he couldn’t help but feel as though he was in the heart of something dying.

Neither Shane nor Jacob wanted to venture from their homes that day, and now, Jamie was beginning to realize they had the right idea.

What the hell could he do out there? Most of the neighborhood’s overripe Jack-o’-lanterns were already smashed at the bottom of the quarry, and the cold demanded heavy coats and gloves that made sports more trouble than they were worth. All he could do was walk, and already a block from his house, he would have to do exactly that.

Turning the corner, Jamie stomped his way through a ridge of dead leaves on the side of the road. He hated them. Each footstep squelched, and not once did he hear the crunch of a proper autumn leaf. He took a moment to root through the debris with the toe of his sneaker before venturing on. Even the crickets were dormant.

Jamie knew the storm was to blame for most of it. The winds tore nearly all the remaining foliage from the branches, and the rain permeated the soil to the point of overflow. He could almost swear he felt the asphalt yielding underfoot.

Despite his mood, Jamie smiled as he reached Mr. Rutner’s house. The man was a neat-freak, and everything around his place looked immaculate even after the squall. He might be good for a little fun later that night if he could sneak out without waking his folks. There were still a few eggs left in his Mischief Night stash he was dying to make use of.

Jamie was nearly beside the next yard when he noticed the mound of color earlier obscured by Mr. Rutner’s hedges. The leaf pile looked tall enough to reach his waist, and even in the shadow of the greenery, Jamie could determine the quality of the leaves--dry, bright, and ready to be crushed by a falling body.

Jamie didn’t know why Mr. Rutner hadn’t bagged and hauled the leaves to the side of the road for pickup, but he didn’t care either. It might be a bit childish, but nobody was watching, and neither Shane nor Jacob was there to tease him.

Jamie took one final look around to ensure his privacy and made a beeline for the pile.

As he raced forward and leaped into the air, he got the strange impression that the mound already had an imprint at its center. It was large, child-size, and he wondered if one of his friends might be as immature as himself as he landed at its core.

For a moment, he lay there panting. The crunch he was expecting was absent, and the leaves his hands rested on around the rim of the imprint felt harder than they should. He tried to squash one in his palm and failed, yelping instead as he felt blood trickle through the slit across his glove.

The wound distracted him. Jamie did not notice the slight tremor in the mound until the borders were already swelling over his head. His scream was muffled as he again felt something sharp bite through his clothing. Sinking deeper into the maw of the thing, he finally heard a crunch.


Patrick Rutigliano resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana with his fiancée and a bloated collection of weird fiction. Since embarking on his writing career, Patrick's work has appeared in History is Dead, Monstrous, Northern Haunts, and Shroud Magazine #6. His stories are also slated to appear in numerous releases from both Library of the Living Dead Press and Library of Horror Press. Updates as to his progress and a full bibliography are available via