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with regret for all the things she’d had to sacrifice including her marriage in order to finally be a mother she’d had to rid her life of everything that filled it in order to stop feeling so empty inside it’s time mummy her unborn thought and she knew he was right she circled his mind like a satellite sentience sensing his intent from afar without fully comprehending it there was a faint hissing noise coming from far away rising imperceptibly in volume the louder it got the more it sounded like someone wheezing and struggling for breath Rose knew what it was it was the sound of her former existence breathing its last the sheets beneath her began to change in consistency Corson in from crumpled cotton to finely pressed linen she was aware of for objects approaching the bed as if from a great distance each with a trajectory that ended on a different corner as they got closer Rose saw they were carved wooden posts a canopy with a tapestry on its underside to send it upon the bed as if from a steep height Rose was filled with a sense of deja vu as if she had dreamed all this many times before only it wasn’t quite something she’d already seen so much is something she’d already lost as though her former life and everything she’d been experiencing until now was a distant memory that had returned briefly to taunt her with everything she’d forsaken Rose looked around her at the four-poster bed and the oak paneled room filled with obscene art she never seen its lewd furnishings or the magical symbols dogged in blood on the walls and formed an ash on the floor however she knew exactly where she was it begins thought the life within her womb and though he had yet to leave her body Rose had never felt more distant from him nor more afraid nine Rose heads of the tapestry on the canopy sometimes as she lay on her back and looked up at it she liked to imagine how it was woven reconstructing its composition she would picture the weaver working the threads of the weft back and forth through the warp working their way up and along the tapestry until it was done it was a good way to keep her mind off what was happening to her the obscenity and errata sysm of the image were long since lost on her she’d been staring up at it for such a length of time it had lost its power to shock even so arose had no idea how long she’d been on the bed trapped by the horror in her womb all she knew was the endless carnage she had to endure she may have been there months but it felt more like years she thought often of Stanley and how they’d parted she wondered about the lengths to which he’d gone to find her had he been is out of his mind as Peter Rose wondered if Peter would have been so desperate to find Bethany if he’d known where it would lead him she scratched at her leg the blood coating her thighs was dried and flaking making her raw skin itch pints and pints of it had poured out of her this time the sheets and mattress had absorbed it all drank it down until there was hardly a faded stain left the bed always devoured it Rose had come to believe that was how it fed there was often cartilage or shreds of torn flesh in the blood one time Rose saw an eyeball with the optic nerve still attached she had screamed then and beaten her fists against the distended skin of her huge stomach but it did no good it didn’t stop him nothing could stop him once the blood had been fully absorbed by the bed the whole process generally started again knowing what was going to happen next didn’t make it any easier on Rose she gripped the bed sheets and ground her teeth the muscles in her calves nodded as her toes curled into her feet she’d come to hate the waiting worse than all the other indignities she had to suffer the child within her wanted to be fed and a true mother will do anything go to any lengths to take care of her child roses child did not draw sustenance from an umbilical cord nor from her dry and sagging breasts her unborn wanted vengeance to suckle at the teat of the eternal tea onus rose neither ate nor drank anymore whatever was in her womb was doing that for both of them though her term was long overdue he refused to leave her her body was his to do with as he pleased now his hideous appetites kept her alive even though she did not share them the flesh along Rose’s stomach began to Ripple a violent tremor made its way across the whole of her midriff this was how it usually started Rose felt once again the immense internal pressure that came with the process the skin around her midsection began to stretch and grow

out of all proportion as something pushed its way up from inside her Rose groaned and screamed an outline of shoulders and the back of an adult head could be clearly seen beneath the skin where it came from how it appeared and grew so quickly Rose had no idea all she knew was the sudden unbearable pain as her womb expanded well past its breaking point her intestines and other internal organs shifted to accommodate the immense new bulk with an agony that was beyond roses power to express she simply had to bear it to endure the intrusion of this fully grown human form or it had no natural right to be sometimes she could tell whether it was Peter or Bethany she could catch a stray thought and identify it in the same way she perceived her unborn child’s brooding mind usually she was only aware of their terror terror and the dawning realization that they were trapped inside an impossibly small space a space that should be the beginning of life but was now the site of endless endless death trapped with a tiny vicious creature they had wronged to whom they had promised life but brought only death and double-cross a tiny vicious creature with impossibly sharp teeth and claws and an insatiable need to be redressed there screams and please did them no good the contract was watertight they were lawyers they should have known there was no escape they were to be punished over and over and over again Stanley had been right roses womb was an instrument of revenge the emptiness the filled rose made it so easy for people to get inside her and when they did something deep within her always died author’s story note I’m not as on repear especially not when it comes to horror I don’t worry whether zombies run or sham Bowl or talk nor do I worry about being labeled a horror writer I don’t try and pretend I write weird or dark fiction so my mother won’t be ashamed to mention my work at her weekly sewing circle when I see the word horror on a book or a film I think yes I’ll probably like this so I’m happy to have the label on my own work that said a lot of my work is a mash-up of genres I don’t do this consciously it’s just that other genres seem to creep into my stories more or less organically the following novella is a mash-up of subgenres namely quiet horror erotic horror and given that this is a hardcore anthology extreme horror each sub-genre tries to do something a little different with horror I’m generalizing here but quiet horror tends to make you uneasy erotic horror aims to turn you on while it scares you an extreme horror wants you to lose your lunch by mashing them up I was curious to see if I could subvert the genres a little rather than relying on the atmosphere of quiet horror to unnerve you for instance I wanted to see if I could use the erotic element to do that or even to outright repulse you I’ll leave you to decide how successful I was bed of crimson joy comes from a what-if moment we live next door to wonderful older people who often look after our house when were away as we were leaving for one vacation my mind started to wander in a strange direction as you might imagine this happens to me a lot a direction that deeply disturbed me and one that I couldn’t get out of my head in fact it proved to be so disturbing that I thought hmm there’s probably a story here six drafts and some 15,000 words later it seems I was right please subscribe Adam Caesar uploaded one month ago hey guys melody here and this is my first of what I hope to be many videos we’re in a typical webcam medium shot the girl on screen is attractive but not the most attractive we’ve seen and that’s okay because she’s got stiff competition we do watch a lot of videos and once she watches a few more herself some tutorials on proper lighting the difference between T and Phil a couple of the makeup how to’s then maybe she will rank among the most beautiful I’m new to this whole thing but I see that the surefire way to get likes and subscribers is to livestream myself playing video games but and I hate to break this to you internets but I’m not a gamer unless phone games count no my content is going to be she scrunches up her nose in a way that can only be described as self-aware it’s a

calculated movement calculated food we are all in agreement that the nose crunch is undeniably adorable yes her first video isn’t of the highest quality but this is a girl who knows what she’s doing this channel will get more interesting it’s definitely worth sticking around for the remaining two minutes and 34 seconds of her first video well I actually don’t know what the content on my channel is going to be and I’m hoping that maybe you guys could help me decide leave me a comment and slap a like on this video to help me get some views but before you leave let me tell you a little bit about myself she begins a list counting off her attributes on her fingers like she’s only got the 10 the list goes she’s 18 she doesn’t say where she’s living now but she’ll be attending Rutgers in the fall that gives us a general location if she’s going away for college but not too far away melody bliss her channel name isn’t her real name no dahhh her interests include music classical music actually she was first chair violin in high school and hopes to continue the instrument in college volleyball and watching bad TV with her friends and that’s not an editorializing on our part she actually calls it bad TV which is a level of self-reflection that many young women do not possess especially young women who post cell phone videos of themselves online she has two dogs which is boring but she also has a hermit crab that she got at the boardwalk two years ago she seems proud she’s been able to keep him alive this long he’s molted three times she tells us we’re not sure what that means but her enthusiasm is quirky and adorable that word again and already on brand but there’s a big clue in that hermit crab discussion because she called going to the beach going down the shore that means we’ve successfully triangulated her to the tri-state area probably Philly or South Jersey melody signs off as most of them do with a plea to subscribe to her channel so we subscribe uploaded three weeks ago hey guys did you miss me she’s back very few young vloggers stick to a schedule some never even make a second video forgetting about that silly dream of internet stardom after their first video fails to break fifty views but this girl she’s got moxie we’re all in agreement their moxie and a black eye she’s tried to hide the injury with concealer but she must not have watched a tutorial on that either the bruise is glaringly apparent whatever happened to her I must have happened not soon after she recorded her last video because the mark has already begun to heal there’s a thin Crescent of discoloration against the bridge of her nose that’s brownish instead of a dark attractive her makeup technique is no better but she’s learned some video production tricks this video has a custom thumbnail also the lighting and framing is world’s better this is quality content so I got a few responses to the last video some comments and I thought I’d go through and address some of them we all lean a little bit closer to our screens adhering this it doesn’t matter the size of the screen even if we’re watching on a phone and could more easily lift the screen closer to us we still lean forward because maybe she’s going to address our questions directly maybe she’s going to say our name the request I received the most was if I could play you all something on my violin and maybe I will if we can get my page to 100 subscribers by next week but I don’t think I’m feeling up to it today she touches the side of her face with the bruise but doesn’t address it directly melody you’re holding out on us how did you hurt your eye we all want to know and then there were some comments that were she pauses searching for the words and by this point her trademark cutie pie way let’s call them rude she looks deeper into the camera I’ve had to delete many of them sorry pervs this is a family show she smiles changing the subject switching gears with an almost audible click as her smile brightens there was one other common viewer request that I think I can give you all the hook up with she reaches both hands under the frame and our collective hearts leap because not only can we see a little further down her shirt but she comes back up holding a fish tank an empty fish tank with a fog of condensation on the sides and clean wrap over the lid you all wanted to meet Pablo the hermit crab and he wants to meet you she removes the lid lifts out a

pathetic little creature in an oversized shell she places Pablo flat on one hand a few seconds elapsed as she waits silently for him to poke his antennae under a shell he tastes the air then pops as I stock and legs Alton makes a beeline for the edge of her hand nope you’re not allowed to play outside of your cage buddy she says not to us but to the small land crab well that’s Pablo I feed him pellet food i order online mostly but occasionally I’ll chop him up some fresh vegetables or give him some peanut butter but that’s just on special occasions right Pablo see she says in Pablo’s voice the choice of language and accent coming from this white girl is problematic then she drops the little critter back into his cage if you all want to get your own crabs I’ve linked some good care instructions down in the description be sure to check those out because there’s a lot more to taking care of Hermes than just the wire cage they give you at the beach deep breath here comes the plea if you want to see more of me or Pablo please like this video then hit the subscribe button I’ll see you here next week and maybe even play you a song if we hit our goal remember I’m still not sure what this whole thing is so any suggestions are appreciated we hit like then we prepare our comments uploaded two weeks ago melody doesn’t say anything to kick off her latest video there’s 10 seconds of silence her staring at the camera with her mouth closed around something the pose is like she’s holding her breath underwater puffing her cheeks out the bruise is still there barely but still there some slight discoloration that only serves to make melody look tired not battered then she opens her mouth and Pablo crawls out over her tongue and plops into her waiting hands and melodies much improved lighting his shell glistens but other than the sheen of spit Pablo seems none the worse for wear he cleans off one antenna with the smaller front claw then melody begins laughing an embarrassed but unrestrained outpouring of can you believe I just did that coming from many other youtubers the laughter would read a self-conscious and cloying but on melody it’s endearing I watched a video that explains you have 15 to 20 seconds to capture your audience’s attention she holds Pablo up to the camera so we can see that yes he is indeed okay maybe a little bewildered but it’s hard to read any emotion in his tiny black eyes do I have your attention yes she does the video then cuts to a bumper it’s a simple fading in and out of Melody’s name but when we cut back to her there’s also an annotation that pops up on the side of the screen and pleura Duss to subscribe she has come so far so fast learned so much without her cheeks puffed out to hold her pet inside her mouth it’s becoming apparent that melody has lost some weight since posting her first video two weeks ago she doesn’t mention it but we can see that the line where her neck meets her chin is a little sharper her cheeks are less full but it looks good on her accentuates the dimple on her left side you could lose a penny in that thing we all sigh when she smiles wide enough to flash the dimple we like her better this way we’ll tell her so in the comments I’m sure many of you know by now but we did reach our subscriber goal so I’m going to play you a song at the end of this video but first I wanted to put a question out there what are your essential dorm room items I like just this morning found out that I’m going to be in freshman housing in a double which means that I’m going to have a roommate I hope she’s cool so on my list I’ve already got Christmas lights collapsible hamper and flip-flops for the showers she exhales inhales she’s getting better at talking to the camera but still needs to work on pacing but I’m sure that there’s a ton of stuff I’m not thinking of leave me a list give me some life hacks we can all think of a few suggestions we take our eyes off melody for a moment and look around the frame at what else we can see in her bedroom there’s a pile of laundry that she maybe doesn’t realize the cameras picked up because on top of that pile is a little pink bra moving on she says leaving a slightly awkward pause in instead of editing it out as she seems to have done in her previous two uploads which are so tight she’s not getting lazy she’s too allowing herself to appear more human less processed we approve a few of you had noticed that I have a black eye and wanted to know what happened I guess I’m not as good with makeup as I thought or here all very perceptive dimpled smile but no nothing scandalous that’s just

what happens sometimes on the court the volleyball court I’m not like being abused or anything my videos aren’t a cry for help or something just want to reach out then there is an edit no pause and in the next setup more zoomed out melody has her violin resting under her chin I read somewhere that videos over six minutes don’t do well so this is going to have to be a quick song she says and begins to play beginning with the down stroke a deep sound there’s a little bit of echo in her bedroom but she has the camera far enough from the instrument that there’s no feedback we alternate between watching her hands as she plays and watching that pink bra she’s quite talented the song isn’t mopey but it’s not joyous either it’s neutral fast without being particularly invigorating that’s all for this week she says ending mid-song it would seem she tells us to LIKE and subscribe and share we are left wanting more uploaded a week ago a knife garbage bags the heavy-duty kind condoms all sizes a shovel she says reading off a list you guys are hilarious but those aren’t the kind of dorm room supplies I was talking about God between this week and last week she must have lost 15 pounds the bumper cuts back in after she’s done talking she’s got this starting with a hook thing down to a science who wouldn’t want to keep watching not us she’s rearranged her bedroom we can no longer see the pile of clothes or the bra she’s moved a bookshelf to the edge of her desk and put Pablo’s cage on top of the shelf so we can see him in there clinging to a knotted length of driftwood got a lot of comments on last week’s video also got a lot of hate for my trick with Pablo some people called an animal cruelty some called it just plain gray but you know what I say no what do you say eff the haters eff them right in the ear it’s like she can hear our applause from the other side of time and the Internet because she pauses to let her bold stand against the haters sit for a moment yeah eff them eff those but those people are in the minority so thanks to all my viewers who left me comments of support and for those of you looking for me to do something bigger and crazier all I have to say is stay tuned she almost almost said fans instead of viewers the hesitation was microscopic but we all felt it we detected that wriggling diva larva the diva that we’ve planted deep inside the bass of melody skull the diva seed she longs to call us her fans wants us to tear at the hem of her garment wants us to tear each other apart but she won’t get it not yet as of this video we are a united front there’s been no indication as to what the content of this video will be and there’s less than a minute left to it hardly time for another song or stupid Petric what are you going to show us melody is this even a full episode a measly two minutes is supposed to be our weekly fix we are unimpressed today I today I it’s like she’s stuck but then we noticed the drip that streaks down below her left nostril there’s a watery red line drawn above her lip she’s gotten a nosebleed but she doesn’t cut the camera instead she covers it with one bent finger trying to stop her the nostril with a knuckle and keeps talking that’s all the time I’ve got for today check back soon for something really spectacular keep those comments coming in and make sure that you like and subscribe if you haven’t already before the video ends she gives us viewers a quick wave not with her free hand but with the one she’s been using to staunch the blood the flow has trickled down from the knuckle of her pointer finger down so that it drips off the end of her pinky it’s like she’s made of marble and in the middle of a Roman fountain the water pumping from her a dark red her wave is such a quick motion that the blood forms a fan the video cuts off right when the spatter Pepper’s the side of her desk the bookshelf and Pablos tank getting only a two-minute video seemed like a rip off at first but we’ve watched it collectively five thousand times by this point a mere three hours after it was uploaded we pay special attention to that last twenty seconds trying to map out where all the droplets of melody bliss will fall uploaded just now we were beginning to suspect melody may have an eating disorder or suspect that

she takes comments on the internet way too seriously we feel that she’s done what she swore she would never do she’s let the haters get the better of her ironically she’s grown an immense audience in a short amount of time we hope that she knows that this type of success is atypical we’ve never seen anything quite like it it’s not like she has millions of views she hasn’t gone viral but it’s fair to say that she’s got two cult audience no that’s not a pun at the start of this video freshly uploaded but we all get to it at the same time because we’ve all set up to be sent email alerts whenever melody bliss posts a new video we’re all praying that she gets help maybe once she gets to Rutgers visits their dining hall she’ll put on the Freshman Fifteen and all will be right with the world if she pulls out of this tailspin then we’ll have her to internet a door and internet whisperer – for many years to come we’ll be with her when she gets a lucrative sponsorship deal Laura writes a coffee table book or marries a Hollywood star who’s actually famous but then she speaks for the first time in this video and it seems pretty clear that none of those things will come to pass hey guys melody here just a quick video I made about something I’ve been getting asked about and have wanted to talk about her speech is halting labored even she’s not annoyed just tired and unable to concentrate on the words that she’s so clearly reading off her computer monitor they aren’t good words we’d be able to tell she was reading from the slight tennis match back and forth of her eyes but then she makes it more obvious by squinting at a few words first I want to say that I appreciate those of you who’ve reached out to ask if I am sick she golf’s in bold defiance of what she’s about to say no I am NOT ill and I am NOT sick in the head either I do not have an eating disorder but I have been on a diet she swallows hard gets wistful some are used to be such a fun time but I guess this is what growing ups about because I’m so she searches for the word she’s either going off-book or she’s lost her place stressed I’ve become stressed I mean I used to worry about tests but when I asked for dorm room tips and got to talking to some of you about your college experiences it got me caught in a kind of cycle we don’t notice it until now but the lid is off Pablo’s cage and he doesn’t appear to be inside I spent all day worrying about every little detail the future is terrifying y’all that last bit isn’t a southern ism it’s more of a youthful borrowing of urban slaying and it feels like it’s meant as a joke but we aren’t laughing Oh melody we really did believe in you maybe it’s not too late we all think nearly at the same time all across the country the english-speaking globe really because melody even has a small but fierce following in Germany who knew not melody because she doesn’t seem to know how to check her analytics at least she hasn’t given any indication that she does it’s not too late if we all go into the Commons right now even before this video is finished and we all write one nice thing one thing about melody that makes us happy makes us proud to be a part of her community her subscribers and yes her fans you’re the best melody OMG hair so cute today there’s some kind of sound we’re missing action as we type but we must press submit on our new comments more Pablo love him the sound again you need closet organizers they’re lifesavers in a dorm the sound is a smack can you shoot a video on how you do your makeup you kill yourself oh we all recoil at the dingus among us who felt the need to write that last comment we bristle as a collective organism but a few bad apples by the time we all scroll back up after typing out our positivity Pablo’s on screen cute little Pablo if melody keeps making videos one of us is going to have to make Pablo his own Twitter account where he can share cute memes and aphorisms we wouldn’t want any money in exchange for doing something like that we just want melody to acknowledge what a nice gesture it is Pablo looks troubled he’s crawling across the desk searching out a place to hide and he finds it in Melody’s hair her chestnut curls are so wide and well-kept that Pablo is able to use one of them as an impromptu cave Melody’s hair has fallen across her desk pushed her keyboard away apparently bumping the camera to a lower

vantage she’s performed a literal head desk but it’s only once the blood begins to spread the salty blackness of it chasing Pablo out of his hiding spot so he slips off the desk we hope to land unharmed on the carpet that we realized that those smacks we heard were repeated head desks putting her face down onto the desk and into a kitchen knife that melody has held horizontally not vertically like would make more sense the flat of the blade is flush with the particle board of her dezq the sharp part is embedded in Melody’s forehead it’s sad and she’s unresponsive but the thing we all marvel at is how did she manage to get this video uploaded there must be a program or function for it that we’ve never heard of maybe a Google Chrome extension amazing melody went from a nobody to a seasoned expert in less than one month now well there’s nothing more for us to see here the video is over the pool of blood from the gashes in her skull spread as far as it’s going to go the video ends we unsubscribe authors story note please subscribe was solicited by Jack Van trie editor of splatter punk magazine it’s the third story of mine he’s purchased and I thank him for continually publishing my work and Randy and Cheryl for reprinting it my books have moments of extreme violence but mostly I think that my long work is too goofy and/or tamed to be considered hardcore in any real capacity I’m happy to have a respected editor telling me to cut loose and short fiction even if the results are sometimes more sad punk than splatter punk I wrote please subscribe while trying to get my own YouTube channel off the ground as of writing this it’s still going if you want to see my dumb face talk about movies and books clearly the story is not autobiographical but while researching the scene and what it takes to gain subscribers / view traction I found myself asking why would anyone want to put themselves out there like this and more importantly who the hell is supposed to be the audience for vloggers the answers I arrived at are probably depressing and slightly confused bacne Tim Miller Jerry Hey working in a factory he’d been a material handler for almost three years and it sucked some guys loved it he would admit any day of the week he liked driving the forklift well most of the times sometimes unloading trucks and having to place loads into super high places was the worst he couldn’t see where the was one time a skid got caught on something as he pulled the forks out the skid came with it and two 55-gallon drums of cleaning solution came crashing to the floor fortunately no one was standing nearby or if they’d have been killed since that incident he was much more careful half the time he didn’t even know what was in most of the barrels they all had hazmat labels on them that was all he needed to know not to mention they always smelled something awful even when they were sealed his eyes watered just from the odor when possible he wore a respirator when hauling the things around but that wasn’t always an option they took too long to put on and usually didn’t help sometimes they made it all worse trapping the odor inside totally nasty it always felt like fire was going up his nose at least what he figured fire going up his nose would feel like as actual fire had never physically gone up his nose one day they received a shipment of some especially strange-looking barrels these were green drums stacked on to a skid that didn’t have any hazmat labels not that it mattered to Jerry and these would go on to another loft on the far side of the warehouse unfortunately they would have to go on the very top Jerry’s least favorite as he wouldn’t be able to see what he was doing had to play it by feel he lifted the skid and elevated the forks as he backed away from the truck he drove to the loft and raised the forks as high as they would go once it was raised up he tilted the forks backwards slightly to get a good angle when something tripped on to him first it got onto his helmet then it came down faster until it was pouring down in a steady pour Jerry yelled as he undid his seat belt and jumped out of the seat he made it out but not before a bunch of the oohs hit the back of his collar and ran down his back and was warm and gooey whatever it was Jerry what the hell are you doing Carl called out as he ran over

Carl was the plant supervisor those barrels are leaking that got all over me look Jerry turned around he hadn’t seen what the actual substance was but could hear Carl gasping Jesus what is that Carl asked I don’t know the driver had the MSDS for it there were no hazmat stickers on it does it hurt no what’s wrong nothing man if it doesn’t hurt just go home maybe get it checked out if it bothers you that is all green and sticky looking what about the forklift just leave it I’ll have someone take care of it get out of here Jerry nodded and headed home he could feel the sticky substance along his back but still hadn’t seen it when he got home he stripped out of his work clothes and held up his shirt where he saw the green sludge for the first time the entire back side of his shirt was covered in it what the he climbed into the shower and began to rinse off whatever the substance on his back was hadn’t bothered him at all until the water hit it the second the water touched his back his whole body burned he screamed and jumped away his white-hot pain shot through his entire backside holy he jumped up and down almost slipping and falling but keeping his balance after grabbing the rail he stepped out of the shower and towel off the burning in his back continued but subsided slowly looking at himself in the mirror he cranked his head around to see what his back looked like the green goo was gone but his back was bright red as if it were badly sunburned the pain was gone by the time he tailed off and dressed however he did suddenly feel exhausted Jerry climbed in and pulled up the covers before he knew it he was sound asleep when he awoke his back was throbbing climbing out of bed he headed into the bathroom to look at his back again this time he almost threw up at the sight his back was covered in bright red pimples hundreds of them clustered together some of them had whiteheads already others were just red and puffy what the he said to his reflection he needed to go have it checked out but also needed to get to work he was already running late he couldn’t let something as simple as a breakout cost him his job his plant only allowed three sick days a year and all were unpaid carefully he pulled on his shirt before he finished dressing once his boots were laced up he headed out to work most of the day had been uneventful typical loading and unloading of various trucks no one mentioned the strange barrels and leaked the day before he wanted to ask his boss just what was in there but Karl had been tied up in meetings all morning Gerry was relieved when the lunch bell sounded he climbed out of the forklift and headed to the break area when someone from behind startled him holy the guy yelled Gerry turned around to find his coworker Mike standing behind him looking horrified what’s wrong dude your back is all wet what the Mike took a step closer God and it stinks Gerry reached over his shoulder feeling along the back of his shirt and sure enough it was completely saturated but with what Jesus Christ Gerry said out of panic he began to remove his shirt right there his co-workers in the break area looked on horrified and confused as he pulled his shirt all the way off what the another coworker yelled a female worker screamed as people started backing away from him Gerry felt something running down his back he ran into the bathroom to look in the mirror when he saw it he screamed himself his entire back was covered in huge yellow zits many of which had burst greenish yellow puffs used all down his back some falling off in large clumps siren sounded as Jerry stepped out of the bathroom there was an ambulance pulling up outside two paramedics came in a guy and a girl both carrying medical bags and wearing rubber gloves are you the one with the fluid discharge the male medic asked I guess so I’m not sure what’s going on Jerry turned around oh my god the female medic said any idea what caused this some spilled on me yesterday from a barrel I was unloading I have no idea what it was and no one will tell me I

woke up today I’ll broke out now it’s like this the male medic stuck his finger into one of the holes in his back more greenish syrup boozed from the opening the medic held his finger up to his nose and took a sniff smells like acid he said does it hurt not really did you just stick your finger in there no let’s get you on the ambulance the woman said before grabbing a blanket and throwing it over his shoulders he hoped once they got to the hospital they could figure out what it was except as they were walking out Jerry noticed several of his co-workers faces were covered in red and yellow zits some didn’t notice but others were looking at each other and freaking out the medics looked at each other as the girl finally spoke up I think we need to quarantine the whole plan she said including us are you serious the guy asked yes I’m serious look at this everyone is getting whatever this guy has Jerry’s face and arms began to itch he reached up and felt thick bumps all over his cheeks and forehead looking at the medics their faces were breaking out as well none of the current breakouts were as bad as his back except he was about to be in worse condition than everyone else the other employees began screaming at him as the paramedics looked on what did you do to us what the is wrong with you you infected all of us or we turn into zombies Jerry tried to back away as they closed in on him I didn’t do anything to you one of the barrels spilled on me seriously I woke up all broken out I just thought it was a rash then at lunch my back looks like this I had no idea I didn’t know some of them were holding various tools in their hands one man he didn’t know approached his face had gone from red and puffy to yellow and greasy looking it was covered with white heads that were throbbing and ready to burst he stood inches from Jerry you did this to me he said now I’m gonna kill you the man lifted a hammer and reared back before he could swing Jerry punched him in the face as his fist connected dozens of zits on the man’s face popped at once yellow pus and fluid splattered onto Jerry’s face and into his mouth it tasted salty as he gagged trying to keep from throwing up the man fell to the ground and looked up he looked as if his face was melting off the entire right side of his face was covered in yellow clumps of pus and sludge the other’s faces began turning yellow as well when the man’s face began using yellow slime they all attacked Jerry at once he swung in every direction as many jumped onto his back one person grabbed him in a chokehold but he was able to slip free as greasy puffs lubricated his face and neck the entire mob thought like mad as theirs its continued popping and squirting they rolled and hustled around in a huge pool of greenish yellow sludge one man shoved another man’s face into a puddle of pus holding him down until the man drowned Jerry felt someone thrust an entire hand and an opening in his back the person’s hand fished around as if it were looking for something as more slime boozed from the opening Jerry broke away to sea it was the female medic he couldn’t even make out her face under all the pus that caked her hair to the side of her head as huge clumps fell from her face her eyes were wild eyed as she screamed and jumped at Jerry digging her nails into his face being his flesh and Zitz free bloody paw stripped down his face and nose as he tumbled backward hitting his head on the floor and knocking him unconscious when he awoke he was lying in a hospital bed looking around he saw the room was dark and there was plastic lining the walls someone stood over him wearing a fully encapsulated hazmat suit Jerry glad you finally woke up the robotic voice from the suit said what’s going on where am I I’m dr. Cole you’re at the CDC in our special quarantine unit you had quite an ordeal I guess I thought it was just a nightmare I had this really bad acne on my back and everyone at work got it too and attacked me it was so gross and freaky I’m afraid that was no dream it all happened you were exposed to some rare bacteria that caused the breakout it also causes temporary dementia and paranoia yeah I noticed what was in that barrel that stuff that fell on me that barrel contained the actual pus from another set of victims I’m not sure why it wasn’t marked the fluid itself contains some valuable

properties what does that mean do you have a cure for it cure no I think you’re mistaken we are harvesting it this stuff can be easily weaponized it is very potent and you of all the victims seem to have an endless supply what yes that’s what all the tubes hooked who you are Jerry looked at himself and for the first time he noticed dozens of tubes connected to his back arms and legs what is all this Jerry asked think of it like this you are one giant Slurpee so we have several people with straws hooked up to you to make sure we don’t miss or lose a single drop just a few ounces of that stuff is worth a fortune you can’t do this I’m not the Pentagon is I just work here sorry kid don’t worry though I left you some DVDs to keep your company during your stay the doctor held up a box containing a bunch of movies that looked like they just came from the Walmart bargain bin I think they have piranha shark vs. bug NATO in there that’s a good one anyway here you go I’ll be back in a few hours to check on you as the doctor turned and walked away he knocked on a steel door that made a hissing sound as it was unsealed the doc stepped through and the steel door slammed shut Jerry looked around and flung the box of DVDs across the room he tried to climb out of bed but the tubes kept him in place they had been surgically embedded into his skin panic began to set in as the reality of his situation hit he’d spend the rest of his life in this place as a one-man pus factory for the government you can’t do this he screamed let me go you can’t do this tears ran down his face as he looked at the ground he caught sight of one of the DVDs it was called attack of the puss monster he threw his head back and laughed once the laughter started he couldn’t stop it he laughed hysterically at the irony of the whole thing attack of the puss monster he was the puss monster but that gave him an idea he reached back and began tugging at the tubes despite the pain he’d ripped one free chunks of skin and pus dripped from it as he pulled on the next one when the doctor came back he was in for a big surprise a surprise from the real-life possum on stir the of Bruce Campbell Krista Carmen no bottom pond might have had a bottom but as far as the three clammy and restless individuals that sat in the idling car by its banks knew it very well might not the cold sweats and body aches would not assail them for much longer the lankier of the two males divvied up the wax baggies of brown powder and each in turn began their own sacred ritual of preparation it only took seconds for the first of the three to realize a key element was missing from their assorted paraphernalia dammit the stock email said does anyone have a water bottle there was no reply as each of the three check to the space around their feet and the nearest cup holder now what the lone female asked we can’t hit a gas station we need to stay off the roads for a while someone may have seen us leave that house there was murmured agreement from the two men followed by a morose silence the lanky man broke the quiet with a snort of derision the shit’s fried our brains he said we’re sitting next to a lake complaining about not having any water to shoot up with it’s not a lake it’s a pond the woman said technically it’s not even a pond it’s an estuary and we can’t use that water because it’s brackish the stouter man sounded matter-of-fact what’s brackish mean that it’s dirty please I’ve seen you use the water from the tank of a gas station toilet 30 should be the least of your worries this from the woman no not dirty brackish it means it’s half freshwater half salt we can’t shoot that it might mess with our bodies electrolyte levels or something now the stocky man sounded less sure of himself the lanky man opened the car door he reached for an empty Dunkin Donuts cup discarded on the floor of the passenger seat removed the lid and looked suspiciously into its depths

shrugging he started for the pond Swedish or I didn’t just get away with a B&E and buy dope from the shittiest dealer in town to let a little salt water stop me it’s only half salt anyways he called over his shoulder the woman in the stout man watched him creep toward the water’s edge he folded his tall frame in half and scooped a cup full of water into the styrofoam he did this in the light of a moon so close it seemed to be perched atop the hill that loomed over no bottom pond a luminous cherry on top of a black forest cake the first full moon to rise on Christmas in 40 years had occurred the night before a Christmas miracle the woman had said sarcastically as they listened to a radio talk show host lament the previous night’s fog cover on their way to shore road in the house they’d been casing most of the past week the upscale home had yielded extensive reserves of jewelry cash and three guns there’d been a safe but they had no use for a safe they only took what they could trade quickly and easily to their dealer and Pablo had no interest in safes the lunar display of December 26th happened to be free from a smothering blanket of fog as the woman watched the tall man return she noticed that in the bright moonlight the water’s surface had a strange Sparkle – it was almost phosphorescent in the gleam parts of the pond were the shiny black oil slick of water and moonlight she’d expect having spent her whole life in the seaside town she’d seemed water undulating under the moon enough times for the site to be commonplace but no bottom pond seemed greenish in its radiance and seemed not to steam as much as gurgle like the stew in a witch’s cauldron she forgot her inquisitiveness over the appearance of the water when the passenger door slammed shut three syringe tips plunged greedily into the captured pond water transporting water from cup to three waiting spoons mysticism Rhode Island was a small town the population was reduced by half in the winter and the heroin dealers had been tapped into the same pipelines in and out of the closest major cities for decades the three longtime users expected the same cut and purity of dope they’d had both the previous day and on the occasion of their first use subsequently no lighter flicked on to form dancing shadows on the car walls no butane fueled flame burned prospective toxins out of the contents of their spoons spoons that had shed the innocence of their kitchen days for something more sinister they each shot up one two three and each fell into that first nod of euphoria a scarecrow short of Dorothy and her friends in the poppy field at the same time that legions of fish were rising to the vaporous surface of no bottom pond dead and already beginning to putrefy small boils began to pop up under the skin of the three beings in the car the tall man thought he’d injected a hot shot while the woman jerked out of her nod and wild agitation to inspect the tip of her needle convinced she’d given herself cotton fever by neglecting to free the point from q-tip remanence both of them were wrong the mutations occurred quickly and the changes were profound when the transformation was complete the three beings were no longer satisfied with the heroin that flowed through their veins they were hungry from more hungry in a way that made every torturous withdrawal symptom or harrowing mental craving of the past seemed like a petty annoyance a mere itch that could go without being scratched two hours earlier a local scientist named Craig Silas stood on a dip of watch Hill Road a dark silhouette overlooking the river that rushed into no bottom pond Craig worked at a nearby pharmaceutical company and the previous year had snuck a project home to his basement laboratory to continue his work free from the oversight and ethical regulations of his employer in the wake of a countrywide opiate epidemic big pharma had sufficient incentive to develop an opioid free painkiller eliminating the potential for abuse and addiction Craig had stumbled on an unanticipated side effect of the compound he’d been studying and upon bringing his research home further unlocked the potential of the drug characteristics included superhuman strength laser point focus and a complete inability to feel pain Craig spent weeks hypothesizing on the drug seemingly limitless prospects until he descended the basement stairs one morning to find one of the pink-eyed lab rats feasting on his cage mates brains

it seemed that with every possibility of experiencing pain eliminated the rats behavior had morphed into something much more ominous and much more deadly after driving up and down the streets of mysticism with the concoction swishing around a large vat in his trunk Craig noticed that the adjacent River ran under the road and into a wide Inlet theorizing that the body of water before him was the equivalent of a dead-end street he pulled on to the narrow shoulder and muscled the VAT on to the guardrail before another car could appear Craig Silas had left no bottom pond ten miles behind him by the time his miracle drug had seeped into the ponds ecosystem and was home in his favorite armchair with his feet up by the time the first transformations began to occur sophisticated cognition already reduced to animalistic compulsion the three addicts who had become fiends of a different nature were barely able to recall the chain of events that had led them to their last high brought to the utmost intensity by the unorthodox mixture of heroin and pawn dispersed opiate free analgesic but they were able to recall enough to know what they needed to do to feed the hunger that gnawed at their insides like so many of Silas’s lab rats and so they began to move car Chea watched the spray of blood waterfall through the front door of the cabin and grabbed Kitts arm that was awesome she cheered the arm grabbing escalating to arm slapping she turned to face her boyfriend how much time is left she asked him card just watch it I’m not messing with it again it’s 30 minutes long like all the other episodes this appeased cart Jia enough to watch the last 10 minutes in silence she twirled a ringlet of cherry coke colored hair around blood-red fingernails when the show was over she turns to kid again and eager to hear his opinion on the latest installment well KITT said they definitely set us up for an epic showdown at the cabin agreed cart Jia paused I wish there was more than 10 episodes that was a good one though buckets of blood a mischievous smile turned up the corners of her lips twisted gory and hilarious KITT said the dead cop put her fists through the campers skulls and turned them into corpse pub it’s let’s be serious the other characters only exists to complement ash to give the directors a springboard for Ash’s amazing one-liners and so we can see some different weapons brandished against the Deadites cuz you know it can’t all be about Ash’s chainsaw arm and boomstick she mimed obliterating KITT with a shotgun blast to the face and snickered also did I tell you that ash her sorry Bruce Campbell wrote an autobiography a few years back called if Chin’s could kill it gave her a look that conveyed both incredulity and reverence and broke into a hearty chuckle no doubt visualizing the b-list movie actor signature square chin are you kidding me that’s amazing you need to get that book he gestured to two bookshelves flanking the television which still rolled the blood spattered credits for the show car Chea nodded with enthusiasm but did not return to regard the bookshelves pointing instead to the two vinyl pop characters facing off from their respective posts atop surround sound speakers the superbly detailed plastic ash and an army of Darkness dead-eyed had been Christmas gifts from her mother the previous morning though she didn’t share her daughter’s love for horror car Chia’s mother nuke archaea and KITT harbored a cultish enthusiasm for ash and all things evil dead from the campy originals to the 2013 remake and now the new original series she had wrapped the figurines knowing it would bring appreciative smiles to their faces instead of that wobbly speaker a hardcover copy of if Chin’s could kill could be many ashes battleground in the fight against evil cart gia said kit surveyed the current set up displaying their action figures smiled and got to his feet your cute babe I love that you love blood and guts as much as I do kids stretched his six-foot-three frame toward the ceiling and let out a groan but the party’s over I have to get to work I can’t believe you agreed to work the night after Christmas Garcia said she tried to Pelt woody on claimed her features instead although to be honest you will miss a beat and will be asleep in 15 minutes after you leave as kit dragged himself up the stairs to change cart Gaea heard a muffled chime and

realized she was sitting on her phone a preview of the text message scrolled across the screen Carr Chia’s friend Laura had written better lock your door Laura did well as an emergency room nurse working as an independent contractor in different hospitals from Hartford to Boston she vacationed often and had just returned that morning from her fourth trip to st. John’s since the year began car chia thumbed at the screen until she could see the rest of the message and its entirety at read better lock your door because my house just got broken into a fat worm of fear speared itself between the layers of car cheese intestines there had been numerous reports of break-ins and mysticism over the last month and Laura lived less than a mile from the riverfront honk Archean KITT rented her fingers jerking in furious spasms cart Gaea texted Laura back were you home are you ok what did they take as she waited for Laura’s reply KITT trudged back down the stairs he was able to read the worry on her face with a single glance what is it he asked Laura and Seth’s house got broken into I asked her what they took and if they were home she hasn’t answered me yet the concern on kits face mixed with anger with a grim head shake he reached out to pull her off the couch no way this isn’t happening no way I get switched to the night shift a month before the worst string of burglaries this town’s ever seen follow me but why where are we going Cartier asked him her attention split between his grip on her forearm and her phone announcing a newly arrived message KITT gestured up the stairs but let go of her so she could navigate to her text message app she read silently her brow creased then raised her eyes to meet Kitts she said they were out getting drinks and they came home to a broken window in the living room they’d been on vacation for the past week so someone obviously anticipated an empty house they took jewelry cash some other valuables car Chea tried to trail off effectively as if this was the extent of stolen goods and what else when she didn’t answer he said what else did they take car Chea three guns were missing she said knowing this information would fan kits anger and apprehension into a full-blown blaze motivated a new kit took her hand and resumed their ascent in the guest bedroom he retrieved a lockbox from an opaque fronted entertainment stand I would never forgive myself if something happened to you I know you’re going to protest but agree to it for my sake he pulled a handgun from the box and spun the cylinder counting bullets KITT car Chea objected please just come here so I can give you a quick refresher on how to KITT she was about to insist on an end to this surreal conversation instead Carty aside and took the gun from Kitts hands showing him that she remembered how to wield the weapon properly cocking the hammer and adopting a shooter stance you’ve dragged me to the range a hundred times I know what I’m doing well enough to defend myself if it came to it KITT nodded but he seemed distracted she uncocked the gun and returned it to the box spinning on her heel for the hall she stopped short when she heard the scrape of something much larger being unearthed from the closet without turning she said KITT I do not need the shotgun to be within arm’s reach when I go to bed tonight end of discussion torn between car Chia’s obvious intention to refuse the shotgun and his need to be assured of her safety KITT placed the shotgun on top of the stand fine he said but I’m leaving it here just in case the revolver is going on your nightstand and that’s also not open for discussion whatever cart gia said believing that the house was impregnable drive safe please and try to have a good night at work cart Jia let KITT lead her into their bedroom saying nothing as he placed the revolver on a paper back two feet from where she was to lay her head down on the pillow he kissed her goodnight and turned off the bedside lamp and cart gia listened to his footsteps on the stairs as she nestled beneath the covers fewer than 15 minutes after he departed she was sound asleep a noise woke her what sounded like the skeletal finger of a winter dead tree tapping on a window she sat up disoriented had KITT forgotten something perhaps his badge or the food she’d packed for him to eat on his break she groped for her cell found the button to illuminate the screen 10:45 KITT would be 45 minutes into an hour-long commute so it wouldn’t be him tapping she

strained to catch the sound again but it had stopped cart Jia sunk down onto the pillow drawing the comforter up to her neck then groaned she flung the comforter back forcing herself to bear the cold Trek to the bathroom before returning to sleep halfway there the tapping began again kar Chia froze there in the hallway equally removed from both the revolver and the shotgun KITT had set out for her protection vulnerable in her bare feet with full bladder and panic fluttering in her brain like a moth trapped in a lantern the details of the nearby Brae in came roaring back having been temporarily stolen by the Fugue of sleep as she stood rooted in paralysis her rational mind attempted to quell her fears reading from the familiar script all terrified Souls call upon in times of need it’s nothing it’s just the wind there’s a perfectly good explanation for this repeating those words with the same tenacity as a drowning swimmer flailing for a rescue buoy she started down the stairs in the dark car Chia’s bare feet sunk into the shag carpet as she crossed the living room to the big picture window on the right struggling to see in the all-encompassing blackness wondering why the moon refused to aid her in her endeavor cursing the peaks and Gables of the houses roofline she moved from the window to the front door whacking her hip on the corner of the heavy oak desk in her blindness and switched on the outdoor floodlights slowly giving the desk a wider berth she crept to the right so focused on the great free expanse of the window that she didn’t notice the shadow stretched across the ground in front of her a hapless civilian had become possessed by the Kandarian demon and turned into a Deadite or at least this was the only explanation that occurred to Katya when she came face to face with the diseased looking monstrosity separated from her by only a half inch of glass for one breathless moment cart gia thought she was dreaming or perhaps had slipped on the stairs and knocked herself out and was now subject to some trauma induced hallucination then the demon thing cocked its head to one side and emitted a guttural chuffing noise and cart gia knew that somehow what she was seeing was real she may have stood staring into the black pits of the creatures eyes a creature who had once been a tall lanky human until kit returned home from work the next morning but the spell was broken when the now inhuman things arm shot out as if from a cannon smashing through the six-foot-tall windowpane with no more effort than a man punching his hand through a piece of paper Carr Chia did not think not in any conscious deliberate manner she ran to the stairs on reflex sprinting up them two at a time her body knowing where it was taking her seeing her destination in her mind as clearly as an earlier scene from Evil Dead though it defied logic though an hour ago it had seemed impossible she had to get to the revolver if she wanted to survive as she flew down the hall for the bedroom she had the wherewithal to dart her arm into the bathroom and flip the switch the overhead fixture just bright enough to allow a Halfmoon of light to spill into the hallway it took all of kar Chiu’s willpower not to shut and lock the bedroom door behind her but knowing how easily the thing had infiltrated the ground-floor she knew it would behoove her to leave the door open and see it coming rather than be ignorant to its diabolical design she grabbed the gun from the nightstand and slid along the front wall of the bedroom she molded her hands to fit around the butt and what she hoped was a relaxed position never choke your gun the range attendant had told her that’s a surefire way to hit everything but your target and crouched by the closet the thinnest rectangle of hallway visible from her spot on the floor the sound of footsteps shuffle dragged up the stairs after her was interrupted by a second downstairs window imploding and then horribly a third car Tia wanted to curse she wanted to scream or cry or curl up in the fetal position on the floor instead she pulled the hammer back prayed for consistency squinted one eye and kept perfectly quiet the thing made it to the top of the stairs and turned the corner the hallway was short and cart Jia had a clear shot but forced herself to hold fire the thing took a long lumbering step than another it was wearing jeans and a plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up and as it stepped into the crescent of light filtering out of

the bathroom cart Jia saw strange marks on its forearms the thing moved forward again the first shot shocked cart Joe with its loudness and she realized she’d never experienced gunfire firsthand without protective earmuffs she recovered quickly as she had to concentrating on readying a second shot despite the knowledge that the thing hadn’t been halted or even slowed in its pursuit she’d hit it three inches below the chest a mark devoid of any major organs karte gia figured this could be why the creature was still on its feet but she had a sneaking suspicion that it was not the only thing spurring the demon forward cart gia hid the creature again in the shoulder and again clipping its neck spurts of blood exploding from the torn flesh and again another shot to the stomach still it stopped toward her so cart gia took a deep breath and held it steadying her hands and her gaze and aimed for its right kneecap she hit a dead center and the things legs seemed to fold backward threatening to topple the creature ass over teakettle but it would not go down before it could fully right itself she aimed for the left kneecap another direct hit and when the things jeans tore and knee shattered kar Chia thought she saw a substantial fragment of bone go catapulting through the air like a haphazardly thrown frisbee again the creature stayed on its feet it had considered the possibility of a break in serious enough to warrant planting the revolver by her bedside but not serious enough to provide her with extra bullets the thing had swayed like a drunken sorority girl in two high heels but when it took another step hesitant but advancing all the same cart Ian knew she had to enact Plan B before she could change her mind she rushed at the thing with calculated strides coming to a stop before she reached the end of the damage patterned runner she bent before the creature loath to take her eyes off it even for a moment and took the corner of the rug up in her fingers she knew she couldn’t yank the runner hard enough to accomplish her end goal of toppling the creature over the banister and initiating a free fall all to the ground floor below but she hoped to knock it off its feet enough to start that process luck was on her side however and the creature had already begun to fall off balance so that when she yanked the runner with a throaty grunt its back was already pressed against the banister and the upward movement of the rug functioned to throw the creatures legs up and over its head and a graceless backflip over the railing it fell the distance of 14 hardwood steps and crashed to the floor below flipping on the hall like cart gia leaned over and peered into the abyss the thing had already gotten up and was placing one splintered but still operational leg on to the bottom step you have got to be kidding me kar Chia said out loud a scuttling back from the edge and heading for the guest bedroom kar Chia had only fired the shotgun on one prior occasion and even then she’d almost passed on the opportunity preferring to refine her technique with the handgun before she exited the bedroom she slipped her feet into a pair of red Victoria’s Secret slippers the left foot embroidered with the word naughty and white stitching and the right with the word nice it occurred to her that it would be immeasurably easier to fight Deadites without a full bladder so she walked to the bathroom to relieve herself pointing the shotgun at an opening in the banister rails as she did counting herself lucky when she heard what sounded like a scuffle amongst the creatures at the bottom of the stairs delaying their climb she declined to flush not sure if the noise would send their zombie like brains into a frenzy and stood at the threshold of the passage to the stairs what would ash do she thought she looked down at her feet time to put the naughty foot forward she said forcing a half grin and stepped her left foot out into the hallway kar Chia marched down the stairs beholding the scene below her and cocked the shotgun there were three creatures as she’d guessed from the equal number of shattered windows and they appeared more akin to Deadites than she’d have thought possible apart from being on the set of ash vs. Evil Dead they appeared to be under heard by pain but incapable of reason and they were unable to begin their onslaught of the second floor because they couldn’t decide amongst the three of them who was going to go up first Carr Chia helped them out by blowing the arm off the shorter stocky man on the left who looked down to regard the blood and sinew hanging from his shoulder with serene detachment the thing to the right of the tall creature had been female in its human form and car chia made the mistake of pulling the trigger as she

moved down another step throwing off her aim and catching the sheathing in the upper portion of the skull blowing off the top half of its scalp and rocking the things head back on its neck the head snapped back to its original position car Chia recalled the catchphrase of the popular children’s toy that refused to be bowled over weebles wobble but they don’t fall down with dark amusement she wondered if anyone had tried to knock a weevil down with a double-barrel shotgun cart gia told herself to focus on this next shot she aimed for the center of the tall ones head and in her nervousness whispered to herself boom the shot was absolute in its devastation the shell forging a hole in the things skull like the point of a pastry bag digging through a jelly filled donut cart gia was ecstatic to see that with its brain dislodged and projected somewhere into her living room the dead eyed thing was finally incapable of pursuit so that’s it she thought although they don’t appear human they can be killed as such the Necronomicon proposed three specific ways to release a possessed soul a live burial bodily dismemberment or purification by fire thinking that she liked her house and would rather not burn it to the ground and that time did not permit the digging of two graves and frozen soil Carcieri cocked the shotgun wistfully she pictured Ash’s chainsaw hand bodily dismemberment would be a hell of a lot easier with her hero’s weapon of choice than by the excruciating ly slow process of fortuitous shotgun hits but beggars can’t be choosers oblivious to the flecks of blood and brain matter peppering her body kar Chia closed the distance between her and the two evil things still standing needing to make it to the front door she had to descend the stairs low enough to shoot the creatures sideways preferably one to the right and one to the left getting within arm’s reach of the things was not her idea of a good time but neither was wasting two barrels of the shotgun into anywhere but their heads kar Chia had properly determined the direction the things would be propelled in but she wasn’t lucky enough to replicate the angle of her shot to the taller creatures head though the things were knocked to the floor and out of her path they were reanimating quicker than she would have liked grabbing her car keys from their hook wishing she had time to find a coat cart gia fled into the cold night and only her slippers t-shirt and sweatpants the ash gray shirt darkened in several places with the demon things blood ten steps down the front walkway and the moon made a glorious reappearance lighting Cartier’s path to the garage and keeping her from tripping on a bizarre pile of items laid out at the base of a driveway allowing one second for Tereus inspection car gia stooped and beheld the needles spoons and a random Dunkin Donuts cup of what appeared to be coffee tainted water then the water hissed geysering from the cup in an angry spout and she really did her first interpretation creased junkies are the infected victims of a science experiment gone wrong she said as she jogged for the garage either way no thanks the garage door groaned in protest his cart gia flung it open she unlocked the jeeps doors with a terse beep praying the noise was not enough to attract the evil things she surveyed the driveway and as much of the yard as was visible nothing came for her hopping into the car thinking she could be at the police station in less than five minutes hoping this was quick enough to bring back reinforcements before the creatures could abandon her place for somewhere else she threw the car into reverse and prepared to back up the stout male thing and the lone female one took up the entirety of her rear view mirror I don’t think so Garcia said and flooded the gas the things disappeared under the Jeep and cart gia flinched as she registered the sounds of splitting flesh and crunching bone it sounded like someone had thrown a cantaloupe on the pavement from six stories up then there was quiet cart gia sat in the driver’s seat feeling her skin slide over the leather under its coating of gore she had time for one profound exhalation before a figure blotted out the moonlight streaming through the passenger side window as she regarded the reanimated corpse woman with horror the driver’s door opened and car teal was pulled out of the Jeep by a pair of rough hands inserted under her armpits at the last second before her legs had fully past the frame of the vehicle she found purchase and launched herself backward the thing hit the pavement again with a wet thump and cart gia managed to disentangle herself from its clutches the house was too far so she

ran for the garage hoping to find a pair of gardening shears instead her headlights illuminated a beautiful sight the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen she said a silent apology for ever nagging kit about cleaning out the garage packed full with junk from previous tenants and sprinted for the chainsaw she flipped the start switch in place to the saw on the dusty floor gripping the handle bar with her left hand here goes everything she said and pulled the starter rope like she’d seen her father kit and ash all do on numerous occasions the salt popped but did not start dammit she yelled as she watched the first of the possessed things which after its run in with her Jeep had lost even a passing resemblance to a living human approach the mouth of the garage she jimmied a black lever on one side and tried the starter rope again the saw came to life with a deafening Rumble car Chea had been a vegetarian for eight years so the extent of her experience with chopping flesh was limited by the time she’d finished a violent vertical memmer meant of the stout man she was so thoroughly covered in blood that she did not imagine the second creatures vivisection could be any worse it was coming for her the female and though cart Jia almost slipped in the lake of blood that covered the two-car garage from wall to wall she was ready for it I must say you’re taller than chuckles over there so this could take a while cart Jia told the demon thing cart Jia missed the creatures hellish reply under the unforgiving tremors of the chainsaw headlights announced the approach of a vehicle drenched from head to foot with an unfathomable amount of blood car Tia was not curious as to the identity of the driver until the car passed the entrance to no bottom pond Road and started down the driveway why being a film of blood from around her eyes she was surprised to see kits Volkswagen nearing the carnage when the car turned slightly and illuminated the blood covered spectra that was cart Jia kit through the car in park and was at her side in seconds what the hell what the his hands grasped her shoulders and he surveyed her wildly looking for a wound it’s okay it’s not my blood cart Jia told him she gestured behind her we’re four halves equaled two bodies hips jaw dropped he was uncapable of speech I’ll explain everything but we should probably call the police at some point I think they either took some sort of recreational drug that turned out to be far from recreational or were infected with something that turned them into zombies or Deadites she said these last words hesitantly as if despite the very concrete evidence of chaos behind her kit would think she’d lost her mind at the mention of the purportedly fictional Walking Dead Jesus I can’t believe this I’m so glad you’re alright I pulled into the lot at work and said what the hell am i doing the night after the holiday the night our friends get robbed I shouldn’t have left you I should have been here for you so I called in sick from the parking lot and came home you should have called me car Chea no you should have called the police right away moved past the point of revulsion decart Gia’s blood saturated state kit pulled her into a savage embrace she let him hug her still a bit shell-shocked then stepped back and took it all in the gore packed into her jeeps tire treads winked in the moonlight the dismembered bodies glistened and wide pools of blood near the still purring chainsaw the pile of syringes and infected water sat in the foreground of the houses smashed windows the house itself a looming skull with its two front teeth knocked out her eyes came back to settle on KITT and she smiled there was no time to call anyone I didn’t have much in the way of options didn’t really have time to come up with a plan I had to rely on myself I guess and on my own tenacity with a little inspiration from a certain groovy guy she paused wiped a smear of blood from under her cheek and continued but the important thing is that I am okay and that you came back for me now come here and give me some sugar baby authors story note what’s not to love about the king of groovy a longtime fan of the Evil Dead franchise a fun evening of binge watching stars ash vs. Evil Dead last December was interrupted by the chilling news that my good friends house had been broken into and several firearms stolen on the heels of this unfortunate text message exchange my now husband cheerily announced all right time for work and promptly left me to embark on his normal shift the

nightshift alone overactive imagination whirring I lay in bed and contemplated how I would go about stopping a band of burglars should they choose to break into my place next the opioid epidemic had long been gaining traction in the New England region I call home and I theorized that the individuals breaking into homes to steal potable items like jewelry and guns were doing so to fund drug habits Christmas 2015 concluded with a blazing full moon I have commenced with many a story from a single strange or striking image and the image of a trio of heroin addicts setting up their next round of shots on the banks of the brackish water inlet across the street from my apartment illuminated by the hazy moonlight seemed as good a starting point as any like an action sequence right out of the Evil Dead my bloody descriptions of dismembering eviscerating and decapitating Deadites were so campy and so cathartic they seemed to take on a life of their own I was thrilled when the editor of corner bar Magazine felt similarly and published tgw LBC in the Austral blot issue of March 2016 and even more thrilled when Bruce Campbell himself retweeted my announcement of publication now the story is having new life breathed into it by year’s best hardcore horror vol 2 and there’s just one thing left to say hail to the king baby the implant Brian Smith awareness of something wrong dawn slowly for John Stark that morning he awoke with what felt like an ordinary stiff neck the kind that occasionally resulted from sleeping with his head turned at a bad angle that he awoke lying flat on his back as his eyes fluttered open didn’t matter he’d been having some restless nights lately and might have shifted sleeping positions any number of times between bedtime and sunrise he was groggy at first and felt little motivation to do anything about the discomfort he was feeling as his consciousness continued its slow lethargic returned from dreamland when his head was a little clearer he would raise himself up a bit maybe double fold the top pillow for added cushioning and wedge it carefully against the sore area then a bit later he’d get up and take some Tylenol that should take care of things in those first moments though he was content to simply lie there as he attempted to hold on to fragments of the sex dream he’d been having prior to waking in the dream he’d been kidnapped by a gang of beautiful and glamorous FEMA criminals the babes lived a double life working as fashion models during the day and committing elaborate heists at night they took him to their mansion and forced him to be their sex slave he felt like he’d been probably the most amazing dream of all time but who was already breaking apart the few remembered fragments growing fuzzier with each passing moment soon he suspected he wouldn’t remember it at all bummer in a few more moments his eyes opened wider as the grogginess continued to clear he remembered the basic premise of the amazing dream the little beyond that just one or two fleeting images with the return the full consciousness almost complete he rose up some double folded the pillow beneath his head and tried to get comfortable it was then he began to realize he was dealing with something more than an ordinary stiff neck shifting position did nothing to alleviate the ache instead it heightened awareness of the hard center of discomfort he tried twisting his neck to see if this was some kind of kink that could be worked out but all this resulted in was a sharp jab of pain he felt all the way down to his toes frowning he lifted up his head and slipped a hand beneath his neck to probe gingerly at the knot of discomfort his breath caught in his throat and his heart did a little shudder as his fingertips skidded over the hard round lump protruding from the flesh just beneath the base of his skull John sat bolt upright and probed at the object with a little less delicacy this resulted in additional jabs of pain but he couldn’t help himself there was something sticking out of his neck that didn’t belong there an alarming development to say the least any pain he was feeling from the stings that resulted from each poke of the object was overridden by other concerns primary among them being a single basic question what the is this thing sticking out of my neck it did not feel like a natural object the impression was a good thing in the sense that if accurate it ruled out the sudden

protrusion of a long developing malignant tumor the measure of relief this insight afforded him was not insignificant but it was swept aside by the lingering mystery of what the clearly foreign object embedded in his neck actually was he was able to discern the basic shape of the thing with a bit more gentle probing and was an almost perfectly round knob and felt like it was about half the size of his thumb he tried pulling at it slightly but this resulted in a jolt of pain sharper than any of the previous jabs he was breathing heavily and his heart was beating faster as he tossed aside the blanket covering his body got out of bed and hurried out to the bathroom down the hall the bathroom door had a tendency to stick in the frame after shouldering it open he traipsed across the small space on legs turning more rubbery by the moment he stopped at the sink and peered at his reflection in the mirror above it John knew what he had to do but he was reluctant there was something in his neck that shouldn’t be there it hadn’t been there when he’d gone to bed that he knew for a fact he’d gone to bed stone sober just as he had every night for the last five years following his fifth and final DUI arrest he’d been in full possession of his senses until lights out no question about it so again what the he lingered there and frozen terror a moment longer knowing he needed to visually appraise whatever it was until he did that he couldn’t even begin to figure out what the thing in his neck really was or how to remove it and yet a very frightened part of him didn’t want to see it was in fact terrified at the very idea whatever this thing was someone else had put it there or something else aliens maybe the idea was ridiculous on the surface he’d always scoffed at tales of alien abductions and experiments treating the stories with the same disdain he felt for kooky conspiracy theories only now with this goddamn thing stuck in his neck it was hard to discount any of the wild possible he’d once treated with such contempt I’ve got to do this he muttered his voice too loud in the otherwise empty room I’ve got no choice he turned to his side craned his neck around and lifted up the little Scrabble of dark hair at the nape of his neck the object protruding from his neck was pretty much as he’d envisioned it from his initial tactile examination except that the hard knob was a shade of light blue rather than the dark brown or black he’d expected leaning over the sink he put his head as close as he could to the mirror his eyes swiveling and straining in their sockets as he tried hard to get the best possible view of the thing he still couldn’t tell whether it was made of metal or some other hard material with the fingers of his other hand he pressed down as hard as he could on a patch of flesh adjacent to the protrusion hoping for a glimpse of the part of the object that was actually inside his flesh this resulted in a series of minor stings that were bearable and nothing compared to the sharper jabs that came when he applied direct pressure to the object by doing this he was able to catch a brief glimpse of something silver attached to the bottom of the blue knob he was only able to observe it for a few seconds before the stinging sensations became more than he could tolerate though minor at first they became steadily more intense the longer he pressed down on the flesh adjacent to the object he took his hand away from his neck and let out of breath a rod or bolt of some sort apparently made of metal had been inserted in his neck while he slept now this had been accomplished without waking him or causing excruciating pain he did not know he stared at his reflection and wondered what to do get it out now well that was easier said than done wasn’t it the object was deeply and firmly embedded in his flesh removing it would require a significant amount of force judging by the jabs of pain triggered by simple prods of the exterior knob any attempt at removal would likely result in waves of mind-bending agony there was also the issue of the placement of the object to consider it was lodged dangerous close to critical areas such as his brainstem and spine by trying to forcibly extract in he might inadvertently caused some kind of debilitating and irreversible damage John nodded still staring at his reflection what he needed was the help of medical professionals on the other hand what if his wildest imaginings were true and the object in his neck was some weird piece of alien technology once this was determined to be the case he might be taken into custody by the

military and shipped off to area 51 or some other secret place from which he might never return where he once might have dismissed such a notion as paranoid and absurd and now seemed all too plausible John Stark really didn’t want to spend the rest of his life locked away in a secret underground laboratory he also didn’t much relish the prospect of doing nothing and leaving himself at the mercy of whoever had implanted the object regardless of whether those responsible were actual creatures from somewhere beyond Earth or some sinister and equally mysterious earthbound organization several more minutes of thinking it over resulted in no revelatory insights but he did come to a conclusion about what he needed to do next he shuffled back to his bedroom grabbed his phone from the nightstand and called Mike Carter Mike was his oldest and most trusted friend they’d known each other since elementary school they’d been through thick and thin together John had been best man at both of Mike’s weddings Mike had bailed him out of jail a couple times back when he was still drinking and getting into trouble his old friend might not have a solution for him but he might be able to steer him in the right direction as far as what course of action to take that initial conversation was brief John didn’t want to tell the full story over the phone because it would make him sound crazy Mike would think he’d suddenly started drinking again which would be a logical enough deduction to make – the visual evidence instead John kept it simple effectively imparting a sense of urgency and direness in just a few terse sentences Mike said he’d be right over he got to John’s house inside of 15 minutes at first he expressed the expected skepticism when John told him what had happened and his suspicions about the skepticism faded however when John showed his friend the object embedded in his neck and invited him to press down on the flesh adjacent to it in order to glimpse the silver bolt they were in John’s living room at that point the morning light spilling in from the sliding glass doors overlooking the patio and the large leaf scattered backyard was muted the day overcast and drizzly only a single lamp was on in the living room the semi gloom imbued the moment with the disquieting sense of the funeral Mike drew a hand across his mouth and scratched at his jaw maybe you’re not paranoid after all John let out a shudder e breath and nodded in an emphatic way damn right I’m not that thing is there it’s weird but it’s real and I wanted the out of me what the hell do I do Mike took his hand away from his mouth there’s only one thing you can do John’s brow furrowed in confusion and what would that be Mike smiled for the first time John experienced a mild tingle of trepidation where Mike was concerned there was something in that tight little smile that was not at all friendly but surely that was just more paranoia right Mike reached inside his jacket and took out an automatic pistol what you need to do John is put this gun in your mouth and wedge the sight up against your soft palate once it is firmly in place squeeze the trigger John laughs tile being nervously this had to be a joke only it didn’t seem like a joke and the gun was very real this isn’t funny Mike nodded unfortunately for you John I’m not attempting to elicit a humorous reaction John flinched but did not retreat as Mike approached him and pressed the gun into his right hand forcing him to curl his fingers around the grip of the pistol once the gun was securely within Jon’s grip Mike moved back several steps glanced briefly at the SmartWatch strapped around his hairy wrist and shifted his gaze back to John his tone was Stern and devoid of even the slightest trace of mirth as he said put the gun in your mouth John John glanced at the gun he tried willing his fingers to uncurl and allow the ugly weapon to fall to the floor instead the gun came to his mouth then it went inside his mouth and in another moment the sight was wedged painfully against his soft palate he trembled and whimpered and longed to yank the gun away but he just stood there powerless no longer in control of his own actions Mike’s expression remains mostly emotionless but there was a small hint of smug satisfaction at the corners of his mouth you are probably wondering how this is happening and you’re probably wondering why your best friend since childhood is

compelling you to do this John could not nod he just whimpered some more his bladder loosened in a flood of piss-stained the crotch of his briefs Mike’s nose crinkled slightly and distaste the answer is simple I’m not your best friend in fact before I walked through your front door a few minutes ago you’d never met me before everything you know about our history together is fiction it is an elaborate tale woven into the code of the implant in your neck which was not put there by little green men since you’re about to die and take the secret to your grave there’s no harm in telling you that it’s an experimental mind-control device developed by rogue elements of your own government for whom I work I’ll be it in a necessarily secret capacity now he smiled again more broadly than before you know our tax dollars at work John couldn’t believe any of this it was crazy he’d shared so much of his life with this guy countless things that were an integral part of the fabric of his existence no way could those things all be products of computer code mic side you don’t believe me John managed to mutter the word no no it was muffled by the barrel of the gun device Mike said his tone turning more precise as he pitched his voice louder psycho read and directive one wipe the moment the word wipe was spoken John knew he was staring at a stranger everything the man had said was true the truth about his life came back in an instant he was a lonely broken-down alcoholic he had no friends none that were still alive anyway tears spilled down his face his heart thought it painfully in his chest Mike cleared his throat straightened his tie and said I’ll take the device with me when I leave the angle of the shot about to split your head wide open should he raise any evidence of its insertion the gun is registered in your name yes I know you’ve never owned a gun before we’ve arranged everything all the paperwork in the suicide note you were compelled to write before device insertion last night please John managed the tears filling faster and hotter down his face zones Mike ignored the plea and said your country thanks you for your service in your contribution to our ongoing mind-control studies John screamed he glared at his hand tried again to regain control over his body and pull out the gun to no avail device Mike said again speaking in that loud clear tone and program John’s forefinger began to squeeze the trigger he managed one last muffled scream the last thing he saw before the bullet blew out the back of his head were the unforgiving soulless eyes of the stranger which were faultlessly observant and appraising to the end father of dread Matthew chavin no one knew what possessed them to do it an unusually powerful spirit of iconoclasm perhaps maybe they’d hope to purge the land of idols yet still mitigate the world’s outrage unlike when the Taliban dynamited the buddhas at Hazaras at still it is hard to imagine how sane men capable of all the necessary calculations could have arrived at such a solution the Great Sphinx of Giza was a 200-ton monolith it was extracted intact by the most exacting and expensive stratagems and placed upon a massive iron float this was then ferried for more than a hundred miles down the Nile requiring constant dredging and causing frequent deadly mishaps finally it was towed out beyond the breakers of razzle bar only to be cut loose and left to drift away to do all this in a time of war with limited resources in the world falling down around them it was one of the maddest undertakings in the history of the human species and yet they did it then when the pride of the Pharaohs was a vanishing speck on the waves when the engineers had been dismissed when the baffled soldiers had been debriefed and sent back to the front the planners of the feet those inscrutable midwives took cyanide and put pistols under their chins both measures in tandem and spoke no more no one knew why they did that either the Sphinx once liberated moved steadily

west it was seen from the island of Krait from the shores of Tripoli and two nice fast Malta and Mallorca it drifted a pace and like a key guided by an unseen hand found its way to the Strait of Gibraltar on a night when the waves tilted blackly against the coastline and crimson lightning lanced the cadaverous skies this progeny of the ancient world slipped through into the cold heaving wilds of the Atlantic the Australians attempted a recovery but were thwarted by a sudden squall the Russians tried for it and lost two of their ships and 59 men in a terrible freak collision bad weather and bad luck attended it like grim handmaidens and in the turmoil of those years the errant beast of Jesus ceased to be Khalsa Libre and became instead of baleful sign of the times Mariners told stories how it lingered over the graves of the Titanic and the Athenian venture as if hunting the souls of the dead how it dwelt among strange currents and mysterious swells and eerie so vacuous glows how it was notoriously hard to sneak up on how even at a distance it’s dead gaze tended to settle upon the lookout and how that man who first spied it was changed by his misfortune troubled in his sleep anxious in his work a good bet to meet with a bad end at length of the Sphinx became what it must have been to its conscripted builders and wretched supplicants of old a monster a dire and unaccountable thing rampant upon the earth the more he tried not to look the more Walter became convinced that the man loitering in the hall beneath the yellow tympanum of the resurrection was looking at him true the light was bad at least for a reading room the green lamps and their vine shaped Art Nouveau sconces hummed and flickered on a pinched current and the high couple of windows admitted only a lawn LED in daylight it was also true that Walter was prone to miss read visual cues just the other day he’d been parking his car in the dim catacombs under the Woolworth Building and had mistaken if only for an instant a standard poodle in the neighboring Cadillac for an old woman grinning fox fangs at him it had given him a serious jolt not just that such a thing could be but that it could be out driving around other people in the same situation might have laughed but Walter didn’t his history in conjunction with certain recent developments made laughter quite out of the question in any case he was being watched the gaunt elderly gentleman for a herringbone vest and had an overcoat draped about his shoulders like a cape and was definitely watching him he held a tabloid newspaper in his lap but his eyes kept creeping up from the page and with a sly angling of the head their gaze consistently tacked to Walter there was something intense something unhealthy about that gaze Walter wasn’t sure but he thought the faint brittle clicks he heard from all the way across the room where the man’s teeth grinding Walter looked the other way and saw with some relief that murine had returned he got up and walked over to the help desk she was a comb Leigh young woman with a glass eye a stylish bob in a wry manner she looked up and smiled mr. Church Maureen how do we do with that list she placed a stack of books and paper sleeves on the counter in front of him an index card with a list of titles taped to the top oh but one she and toned gravely that one’s checked out and her library voice dropped even lower and between you and me mr. Church I hear the Department of Homeland Security is after it section 215 of the Patriot Act don’t worry I kept your name off the query list he adjusted his glasses and scanned the card tabbing pensively with his index finger of course they don’t tell us why they wanted there’s a rumor her voice cut to a whisper that OBL had a copy on him when they you know she made a subtle shooting gesture and rolled her good eye the glass one stared straight ahead they’re worried about coats mad Arabs bombing the subways I say marine hmm do you see the man sitting in the hall back there you’re eleven thirty on the bench she craned her neck yes do you suppose he’s all right she looked again has he been there for long well he seems to be well there he goes Walter looked the man was walking down the hall tapping about him with a long cane and drawing glances from a group of uniformed grade

schoolers coming the other way my god said Marine have you seen this hmm he looked down at the newspaper she turned around for his inspection the headline read five arrested and plot to dynamite ancient treasure and surmounted an image familiar by now of a dark silhouette against the Manhattan skyline at Battery Park three months and 17 days ago Walter had been standing with a crowd of several thousand pressed against the rail with a front row view of the harbor he’d seen it emerge from the dense fog that lay on the water immense and impassive blackened by the sea gliding along on its iron bed beneath screaming throngs of birds a gasp went through the crowd and a few starkly isolated shouts rang out as the Great Beast of Giza came fully into view six thousand miles it had traveled dreaming upon the illimitable deep Walter had the unnerving impression that it was looking right at him the harbormaster’s were ready and had sent tugs to guide its passage but their exertions did little to persuade 200 tons of limestone fraida dinner sure of its own volition it headed toward the mouth of the Hudson and finally came to rest about a thousand yards off Governors Island from Walters Vantage its sculpt about the fog dimmed skirts of Lady Liberty like some bastard offspring come to ransom its legacy a helicopter circled above it Walter began to feel dizzy he turned and shouldered his way through the crowd as these went by he found himself increasingly taken with the strange brute charisma of the thing in this he was not alone almost immediately tourists started coming by the boatload boarding the iron platform with ladders ropes Rams whatever they could use some of these immediately stripped naked and crawled fawning Lea over its outstretched paws or kissed the stone or feigned to suckle at its encouraging others to take pictures others tagged it with spray paint or chiseled souvenir fragments to keep or to sell still others tried to scale the limestone shelves carry us and slick with sea grime as they were many fell and shattered their bones or banged off the lip of a barge and were drowned this toll continued until one morning at dawn when a squadron of Harbor police took the platform and beat the pilgrims back into their boats from then on a regular guard of men in riot gear stood ready to discourage further encroachment a semblance of normalcy returned Walter’s approach was rather the opposite of the enthusiasts it was distance not closeness that he sought the distance to comprehend the breadth circumstances the space to discover the truth that he believed had always been humanity’s best response to plague to calamity to war and genocide it still was the best way to shake the irrational feeling that he Walter Church at 52 was living in somebody’s nightmare Joey Church dangled his legs over the stage in the Rockaway High Auditorium long curly hair veiled his face he was sixteen and good-looking with a leading role in the school play a play ostensibly written by Joey Church he had his grades locked up for the semester and visions of being the next Edward Norton or Robert Downey he didn’t give a fishtail about some 5,000 year old piece of crap rotting in the harbor Joey Church was the real deal the Sphinx of Rockaway High ok people bring it in miss Ortega wrapped her clipboard and settled in a swirl of skirts and perfume on the stage next to Joey a little close for his liking he’d considered her hot at one point like really hot but recently her bohemian style and gypsy camp manners had struck him more like sloppy affectation a lot of things were disappointing him lately though he mostly kept those sour impressions to himself apart from his sister and maybe Fox Chrissy there was no one he felt like confiding in we open exactly one week from tonight said miss Ortega and some of you still don’t have your lines down that makes my brain bleed and hallucinate little green gnomes eating you alive but I know it’s no use calling you out here you know who you are you know what to do a few guilty groans and murmurs answered her get it done maiya culpa MS OH maiya culpa wailed clay wider ski swooning dramatically Fox jiggled his wrists over clay and Joey screwed up his lips to keep from grinning now a few of you have asked to have your lines cut down normally I just give you a straight answer like no or hell no but since the

playwright is sitting right here on his gifted little tookus she jabbed a painted nail at Joey there were some appreciative chuckles and unknowing smirk from a sister I guess he’s your daddy mr. Church you have those chops under review yes ma’am I need you a ruling by tomorrow please be kind to your fellow thespians some of those lines are pretty ornate but keep the Book of the Dead stuff I’ll murder you if you chuck that okay questions No get out go home and practice Joey was popular with the drama kids but not in general the only time he liked attention was when he was onstage if he’d known his father’s batshit script would actually win the contest and become the school’s fall production he might have turned in his own work instead the one about the Garden of Eden reality show now here he was playing the Sphinx and some kind of baroque schizoid cross between Oedipus and The Wizard of Oz which was cool sort of better than clomping around in cowboy boots singing about corn or watching clay wider skis puck odeon fairy dust on the other hand some of the dreams he’d been having made him feel like a stranger to himself they weren’t just the usual What’s My Line dreams but not exactly screaming nightmares either more like really dark immoral fantasies his backpack was in the first or second row of seats he was sure but now he didn’t see it he walked along scanning the rows and jumped when Fox Crees he slapped him on the back hey whoa you okay fine why you look a little I don’t know still in character nah he smiled I’m all right what’s up we rollin yeah well me and Ally was gonna catch a cab over to Forest Park check out their sculpture she’s been on about nah yo I can’t promise mom’s I pick up the dry-cleaning they closed in two hours oh right then there was a pregnant pause and Joey realized he’d declined a non invitation ah Joey son you know me and Alli been spending time and I hope that’s okay with you cuz you know I never disrespect her and nothing right naw no it’s cool yo just be good you know don’t get lost out there nah ha sure we’ll be careful I’ll have a home by 10:10 Fox Brown what like eight Joey held the glare for a good three seconds before Fox saw a crack and they both broke into laughs son out of here man they slapped hands and Fox retreated quickly down the aisle Alison was waiting at the door in blue Joey a kiss then they were gone and Joey stood in the empty auditorium he looked to his left as if by magic his backpack was there second seat in practically under his nose he shook his head as he shouldered it Foxen alley huh he figured he ought to be happy who did he trust more than Fox just felt kind of weird he was almost to the door when something made him look back the auditorium was empty looked empty felt empty but something had just rippled the curtains he felt like he had dreamed this moment like he was dreaming it he shrugged off the shiver that ran down his neck Riis long his bag and bang through the door it Moltres fellowshipped had dried up almost six weeks ago the university had lost entry when his work took a turn into what they politely referred to as more speculative territory now from his tiny Garret in Upper Manhattan he worked on borrowed time and borrowed money with all the English tenacity his father had bequeathed him he wanted to see the thing through and make his mark and at 52 it felt like a losing prospect still if you can fill the unforgiving minute it was Friday his day of rest his day to stop off at the cloisters to tarry amongst the herb gardens and translated monasteries of his beloved Europe his intellectual Eden usually he meditated on the unicorn tapestries those marvellous mingling zuv pagan and Christian heritage today he found himself in a different gallery contemplating in illumination the procession of the flagellants from the Duke of berry spells earth the men in this delicate rendering for wide brimmed black hats and white gowns that clung precariously to their hips they walked in stately ranks two abreast two in the foreground were on hands and knees receiving lashes from to others in masks of white cloth walter marveled first at the hand that could do this second at

the rather blatant homoerotic ism one of the men was whipping himself with one hand and caressing himself the other and finally that an act of self debasement should be rendered with such superlative grace he felt a kinship with these men who in their time in their peculiar folly had also believed their efforts were holding up the heavens holding back the darkness of course the real scene must have been somewhat less picturesque naked fanatics beating themselves bloody in the street more like Goya had painted it his eyes drifted up to the Anguilla Forum dragon either swimming in the bared abstract of the sky or else impaled on one of the cross standards the latter would imply a horrible blasphemy would it not the fiend crucified in place of Christ Walter felt ill the room turned about him in the Verner Abul air of the place grew musty and closed like a tomb the next thing he knew he was out in the corridor vomiting against the wall people murmured and a guards radio crackled shamefaced and retching Walter went for the first exit he saw and staggered out on to a stone landing overlooking a river the river once called the Hudson was now called something else some terrible name he couldn’t remember couldn’t pronounce god he groaned mopping his sweaty face he wished that he could vomit it all and get it out of him this muck of accumulated knowledge this tired unclean store he looked again there was no sanctuary the sky was a leprous purple and red every saturated cloud was an evil floating brain the river was a lamentable afterbirth it drained away in the shadow of the Jersey Palisades which Walter understood to now be serving as execution grounds yo your pops is a genius yo it was a cold blustery afternoon and Canarsie Pierre was almost deserted just the way they liked it the three of them had taken over a bench looking out over the water and passing a bottle of citrus mad dog the sauce was just a tune up for the real road show do to start any minute now in an hour they wouldn’t even remember they drunk it genius Fox repeated leafing through the pages of the script kind of up though like that part where the sphinx marries Edie to his mother and his father comes back from the dead that’s pretty 7:30 yo but I like it like Shakespeare on shrooms yo yeah whatever muttered Joey you didn’t have to live with him what’s he like s Valli you never talked about him Alison was Joey stepsister her own father was a jolly Puerto Rican Stephen dower who lived in the Bay View projects just ten minutes walk away dark skin and crystal blue eyes made her a fetching study in contrasts no less so than her Catholic faith and penchant for boys and drugs Joey was not especially tough but he decided at a young age that he was willing to go to prison for her sake most guys understood the and acted accordingly Joey she said Jojo you and home bro those caps kicking in he looked at her huh I asked you what your old man is like Oh professor kiss maximum / chode I don’t know imagine growing up in the London Natural History Museum he took the bottle took a swig with weekends at the circus shrooms tastes like garbage muttered Fox picking at his teeth give me some skis easy Oh Joey took the bag of Skittles placed one in his open hand one he placed another too he reached into the bag and placed a third three then hit Fox his hand from below and sent the candy flying out of here aha you glory hole mugger Fox’s punches hooked into Joey’s back and shoulder as he laughed here bitch take him he shoved the candy into Fox’s hands and wing to hook of his own ok ok said Ally the English history part again I mean I know that part tell us about the circus Joey sighed looking up the shoreline the wind riffled the court grass and made the salt flats shimmer with Fanning textures of light the marshes were dying here little more every year no one knew why for some reason he thought of that thing floating in the adjacent harbour like a big rotting tooth that thing he didn’t give a about that one was that what his father’s loopy play was about some kind of wack job allegory he hoped it was something like that and nod the circus he said after a long silence was

him going through my mint condition alien vs. predator comics with a red sharpie saying he finally figured it out the reason for the Holocaust he looked over and met their blank stares that’s right the Holocaust the one in Europe you probably thought it was Hitler spawn huh he shook his head that man had predator Fox burst out laughing Ali looked sad he’s nuts continued Joey he’s been a whole year in a loony bin that’s why mom’s got custody oh and he cheated on her with his research assistant Brian shouted Fox belting it over the water like a war cry and Ally gave into a saddened mirth as she stroked her stepbrothers back god damn I’m feeling it said Fox use feeling it mm-hmm lil bit come on let’s run through it he lept up brandishing the script you’re the Sphynx daddy’s taking a dirt nap mama what’s up with that ass he pulled Ali off the bench and she laughed slapping his hands away Spinks your line now you two go ahead to Joey I’m gonna sit for a minute Fox shrugged and followed Ali over to the rail the Sun was going down in a red bath to the west and the bay made a rippling blood purple backdrop to their rehearsal the mushrooms were indeed kicking in his body felt like a thing apart a suit of crawling alien armor a busy Android housing his brain the edges of his vision unraveled and reknit with seamless fluidity and Fox had ally in his arms and Joey knew it was just the scene playing out but it was as if he had to mines the one frightened of the other frightened at the anger the resentment the jealousy that flowed up from secret poisoned Wells and flooded his entire body the wind in the trees became a throaty roar in the Hassocks bristled like great hogs and rut he watched his best friend kiss his sister not a stage kiss a real kiss she was letting him and somehow these two minds one of Rage one of Terror abided with him like Sun and Moon behind an impassive face of stone a face that gave nothing away a face that could look for 5,000 years upon the wretched fate of the world and never once blink I used to be afraid I was losing my mind dr. edison @id owlish man with a goatee silvering hair and a habit of chewing his nails in session did not reply he smoothed his note paper and waited as if for something more noteworthy take these pills for instance Walter reached into his jacket and produced the bottle with his name on it he set it on the table between them you hear that hear that exactly quiet is a choir of church mice Edison’s forehead wrinkled at night I can hear them crawling around in there oh yes if I hold it by my ear I can almost count them by the he scared his fingers on the table top or if I hold it up to the light I can see their shadows crawling up the sides open it they’re just lying there little blue pills looking so very innocent and I take one I do I tell myself that the one I take will make the other settle down and behave I see do you Walter was quiet for a moment stroking his chin then he reached into his pocket Edison tensed ever so slightly doctor have a look at this will you he took out a newspaper and spread it on the table pointing to an article in the lower left-hand corner he read aloud city breaks ground on audacious new building purpose unknown did you hear about this they killed three people at the opening ceremony volunteers they said Club them like fish right in front of the cameras cut their throats and mixed their blood with the mortar now does that not seem a tad atavistic to you it’s upsets you Walter side for once doctor please consider that my reaction may be immaterial it only occurs to me that we didn’t used to do these things or rather we did a very very long time ago and now our sensibilities are in regress he leaned back and rubbed his eyes as edison jotted a note I used to be afraid I was losing my mind doctor but now I fear it’s much worse than that Edinson glanced at his watch yes I know Walter rose and gathered his things the pills the newspaper we might try you on a different medication perhaps doctor pardon me but how did you come by that

painting Edison turned to look at the enormous oil behind his chair oh you know I don’t remember do you like it it showed a medieval Hall an ape-like creature seated at a table lit with candles wearing a crown devouring the naked corpse of a man a rain of cherry blossoms pink confetti fell over the courtyard covering scattered weapons and fallen soldiers this was the final scene the aftermath of a great battle in the background in imposing replicas of the lincoln memorial glowered blindly its gouged eyes wept blood and King Laius slumped at Lincoln’s knees awaiting his resurrection there was a shout a puff of smoke and Joey entered stage left in headdress beard wings and pendulums jeweled breasts the arts department had outdone themselves the groan of metal horns and the beat of drum sounded from the speakers the house lights went dark and black lights flooded the stage making the set glow and drip neon color gods and surviving mortals alike reeled in awe he wanted to be away everything about this was fake and ridiculous and he wished he really could strangle his fellow thespians especially this right here daughter of orthis father of destiny take us into your house you have made us victorious now make us one flesh Marius Oedipus behold thy mother my sister you which you tread upon the law of heaven and earth look how these divinities and powers hide their eyes for shame at thy brazen words these gods and powers are hypocrites unrivaled born of incest everyone the gods staggered and groaned this woman is my mother I and mother to us all shall the star of heaven lack her consort I say again marry us marry you I’ll rip your answer my riddle and be you Wed answer false and be you dead a seeping tide of green light crept over the stage and hidden fans stirred the banners agreed asked I in tones Joey his voice reverberant through the speakers and your first enemy and your last friend know me I make you forget me I unmake you I am in your hand but look I surround you what is my name the King looked down at his sword at the field at his slain father your name the living and the immortal host leaned in to hear is death no death is only step forth and be married King Oedipus Fox Creasy took Queen Jocasta Alison Santiago in his arms and kissed her fiercely Mazel Tov shouted a dead soldier clay water ski and everyone laughed Fox Alison the gods even miss Ortega in the front row all but one Walter sat on the pier at Liberty State Park sipping black tea with cane sugar and watching a fiery orange dawn break over the Manhattan skyline for the moment he was content if he could separate the world and its troubles from his troubled perception of the world then he could take his problems with him when he went he just had to take things in stride and focus he took the last drink of tea a cold damp wind was blowing off the water and he turned his collar up as he walked to the edge of the pier the Sphinx had drifted considerably in the last few days further into the mouth of the old Hudson this the easternmost pier by the old crr train shed in Liberty State Park was the closest point of land word approached at less than a hundred yards it was also the closed Walter had been to it close enough to hear the racket of the birds and read some of the graffiti that covered its lower flanks if he could bring himself to read that junk that is to harbor police were manning the barge one pissing over the side while the other pointed his finger at Walter and mimes shooting him Walter paid them no mind he stepped behind a brace of coin-operated binoculars fed his quarters through the slot and stooped to look the shutter clattered open and he saw before him a frozen waste with snaking ribbons of ice blown by the constant wind the Sphinx was exactly the same size but now icebound minus the guards and bearded with hoary icicles behind it the metropolis that had once been lower Manhattan was going

down under a mountainous glacier the skyscrapers gathered in its embrace like broken toys tipping into one another their steel girders distended like burst ribs through the failing concrete behind the incessant scrolling blast all was still all except one moving shadow a black thing with long jointed legs climbing the white ruin of the Chrysler Building Walter thought of the pill bottle on his table at home and the strange seeds that a notion of time would bring to hideous flower he straightened and blinked into the Sun the position of the Sphinx was the same exactly so perhaps what the bino showed was not the future but a radically different now was it possible that two such parallel realities could mingle could the madness of a single man be the conduit for their association but that would mean he wasn’t mad would it not he was feeling confused again he walked back to the bench and sat down lightheaded missing his tea he took out his map and marked the position of the binoculars he took out his morning paper and scanned the headlines the border closing ceremony at the Lincoln Tunnel had turned violent three dead 20 injured several landmarks had been rechristened with names he didn’t dare read even in his head and there was an editorial calling for a number of prominent people to be arrests didn’t chemically mummified the weatherman predicted snow by the end of the week mr. Church hmm yes can I have a word please Walter glanced up at the elderly woman in the droopy cotton hat and aviator glasses sitting next to him I’m sorry do I know you not exactly you may have seen me around you can call me Terry he looked again more carefully there was something familiar about her the gaunt frame and bushy eyebrows her jaw moved and her teeth clashed loudly in her mouth from the library that’s right I was hoping this little chat wouldn’t be necessary but you’re very persistent I’m sorry said Walter but you were just differently last time I change she said frequently and in any way I can it keeps me on the outskirts out of his dreams more or less I’m sorry I’m not sure I understand mr. Church time may be extremely short what would it take to convince you to forget this whole thing and go back to your old studies my well you see what if I told you it could save your life your sanity what if I told you that forgetting certain things you may have noticed is absolutely your only hope Walter could think of no reply the woman Terri removed her glasses and the tiny pinpoint pupils of her eyes bored into his take it from someone who knows mr Church someone who’s been around that thing on the water isn’t just a statue it’s the Ark of his dreams how many people meet those eyes every day a thousand more the sensible ones feel a shiver and look away but you don’t have the shiver gene you look back you take notice you become involved he is dreaming of you mr. Church dreaming through you he can reach right through your heart and touch the ones you love perhaps he already has what are you talking about snapped Walter whose dream who the bloody hell sent you what do you know I know she said with such sudden ferocity that Walter drew back a little I know well enough not to speak that name I know how dangerous this conversation is for both of her whole body jerked and went rigid her eyes rolled up into her head and her jaw worked frantically The Clash of teeth was so loud it sounded like she was chewing rocks this spell lasted for several seconds and then she slumped out of it took a breath and put on her glasses as if nothing happened our obsessions take us far afield she said gaining her feet and letting her phoning Kane deploy when mr. Church was the last time you checked in on your son Joey is it she walked quickly away tapping around her and muttering something that might have been a prayer have you seen him held yes I was in the bathroom and I came out of the stall and swear to God there was this face in the mirror nah-uh I don’t know how to describe it

it was hey said Joey the girls one dressed as the Delphic Oracle the other as the cat goddess best that stopped talking and looked at him what’s that about Oh said the Oracle we’re talking about the Sphinx it’s totally going around Bethenny saw it and clay saw it and now this loopy bitch here says she saw it too I did see it it was so tripped out they say you only see it for a second and it changes your whole world perspective have you seen the Sphinx Joey that Stetz tone was suggestive the girls tittered no said Joey in a cold flat voice and their smiles dropped away he got up and walked out of the green room there was a bathroom right next door but it was full of geeks and he wanted solitude he walked the length of the hall and turned into the deserted East Wing of the school Oh Fox Creasy he’s a foxy one shut up think he’s foxed his way into her crease yet who is that have his foxy red rocket in her by the end of the month what do you want to bet he grabbed his hair and fists and squeezed shut the up you’re not me the boys room was empty he flipped the switch and the lights flickered on on the mirror above the sink some wit had scrawled in black marker with an arrow pointing up and above that a Pharaoh’s headdress with beard lopsided tits and outlined eyes framing his reflection they even knew how tall he was his stage makeup a pale bass blue lipstick and imitation cold darkening his eyes made him look like a painted corpse a zombie clown fleshing out the crude cartoon he skinned back his blue lips and grinned at himself then hit the water and started splashing his face remember three years ago remember vodka summer home alone summer how you two played how you remember what it felt like to put your hand down her pants how she shivered how she looked at you you’re just gonna let her forget oh god damn you he left the water running as he banged into the stall and fumbled with a zipper his sprang up hard as a steel rivet and found his wet hand he swallowed and breathed remembering that day drawing his whole self from that memory there no sister by blood the words a mantra no sister just just Ally he whispered her name as he came splattering the toilet wall he opened his eyes and a rich narcotic blast of endorphins and guilt rolled through him he snatched some toilet paper and cleaned himself up he stepped out of the stall and grimaced at his slinking ghoulish reflection the half washed makeup smeared down his face how could he have let this happen more than anything he hated and feared the stigma of his father’s madness the trace of it in him the knowledge that he was likely genetically marked and yet here he was courting it taking it to the ball acting out his father’s artfully scripted insanity wanting his sister hating his best friend but what then he would drop out quit go away everyone would think he was batshit that he’d caught the family bug but it let them he’d be saving the best part of himself Joey he spun around he was alone the voice had come from the hall not in his head he was sure Joey he opened the door and peered out the hallway was empty but what was that he started walking something way way down at the southeast end was going around the corner he quickened his pace almost running to the end of the hall he turned the corner and saw the door to the gym was open it was dark inside he stepped through the door get out of there hello don’t speak to it someone in here run the face the pale oval face with the Placid smile and sparkling black eyes floated out of the darkness at midcourt at first it was just a face but as he walked to it his heart knocking in his chest his breath coming in shallow little sips the rest began to take shape that smile of perfect serenity that doting and generous men Joey had said with a voice lake dribbled honey let’s have a word shall we Walter’s TV dinner tasted bad tonight worse than usual as if it had been thawed left to turn and then refrozen to seal and that little gift of decay he stopped eating halfway through pressed the mute button on nightly news and picked up the telephone it had been so long he couldn’t remember the number until his thumb was on the keypad and then he knew it by touch the

little code of sequential beeps unlocked something him a darkroom painted in sad shadows where he had spent far too much time already as he waited for her to answer his tired gaze took in the room cold radiator bookshelf liquor cabinet with French and Latin volumes crammed between the bottles old singer sewing table he used as a writing desk these things were the same that was something the TV was showing a handheld shot of a home interior cluttered and rundown zooming in on a blood-soaked sofa with the caption horror at Red Hook it seemed the news was positively Chuck full of Horrors these days hello Amanda it’s um it’s Walt Walter hi is everything okay the words stuck in his throat he shook his head Walter fine he blurted I just um well I know this is a bit how do you do and out of the blue but I was wondering how Joseph is doing oh he’s fine he wanted me to thank you for the play the play the one you sent him to use father of destiny or something like that he told me the school is actually putting it on I am afraid I don’t are you sure that was the message you don’t remember he told me you said it was the best thing you’ve ever written look I win Amanda when did I give him this play July August sorry Walter I don’t remember but they’re opening tonight I can’t make it I have to work but you should go if you have the time I will said Walter I certainly will I’m sorry Walter I have to go not at all i but The Clique told him she was gone Walter glanced over at his pill bottle silent for now he unmuted the news apparently there had been a string of disappearances along the East River mysterious drownings no bodies he watched the cockroach preen its antennae under the radiator like an intruder through an unlocked window a terrible icy premonition crept in through the back of his mind he knew in that moment that something dreadful had happened was happening was about to happen he can reach right through your heart and touch the ones you love he got up and walked out the door leaving the TV on heading for the stairs his car was parked three blocks away and by the time he reached the street he was running opening night at Rockaway High and the audience had been promised something unique so far the father of Destiny had delivered there’d been laughs shrieks cheers a few indignant walkouts the better to eat out the lames but miss Ortega watching from the balcony hadn’t counted a single yawn the scene were Oedipus rescued his mother from the House of the Dead by weighing his heart against a feather and matching wits with a baboon had been a great cell really drawing them in they had that blissfully mesmerised look that audiences get when a show really starts to score their eyes were drinking in the story primed for the big showdown with Laius on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial it was like bringing a dream to life cast and living flesh and for once she had no regrets about her career at least a small part of her wanted to track down Joey Church at the after party and jump his precious bones if Joey brooding in the darkness back stage in full Sphinx regalia looked like death it might be assumed he was getting into character it was just Joey and Alison now the rest of the spare cast had been drafted into one of the armies she wore a shimmering gown of blue gossamer and pearls selected to make her eyes pop in the black light it gave her a fierce numinous beauty she was pacing the wing pricking her thumbs with her fingernails and mounting her lines Joey’s eyes followed her the only part of him that moved where is my mother summon her Fox’s command from the stage meant her big scene with him and Laius was coming up suddenly she ran to where Joey was standing and hooked him around the neck she nuzzled his shoulder mindful of his may and whispered I love you Joe thanks for being so cool brother she started to go for her entrance but his hand shot out and caught her wrist uh-huh Joey what don’t go out there he hissed his eyes brimming with sudden intensity what what are you please ally the play it it’s bad there are secret lines my father wrote ally it doesn’t end how you think it

does hey hey Joey let go please don’t go I can’t stop it if you do I love you Ali please we can go we can leave right now and be together we can hey crazy let go his grip faltered and she snatched her hand back for a moment she saw the deep pain in his eyes but only for a moment before it hardened into a flat nothing gaze a dead gaze she shrank from it and practically ran for the light of the stage and Fox’s outstretched hand the scene unfolded with crackling aplomb Ali was rattled at first but managed to find her stride within a few lines once or twice she glanced back at the wing and thought she saw her brother back there his eyes at least glimmering in the shadows the battle raged around her and she was Jocasta again her passions torn between her husband and her son and anxious moreover for that part of her that defied them both the secret smuggled heart of a woman and then it was over Laius lay dead at a piss Fox victorious drew her close and kissed her in front of gods and men and left her breathless and dazed the drums and the metal horn sounded and the theater went dark all eyes looked to the winged Ali Jocasta looked and her mind broken – for what now tuck the stage with heavy thump and shuffling dragged aglow and ghastly in the cold blue light what taxidermists nightmare what unnatural abuse of form what desecration of life what dread ancient now cast its shadow on the audience and fixed them they’re screaming shocked what now addressed the Bloodless face of the king with a voice that blew the speakers out and sent a wave of despairing groans through the onlookers speak the daughter of orthis sputtered the King helpless to stop the words from forming father take us but make us marry us answer my riddle the eyes of the king refused pleaded begged to be reprieved but he had no power to refuse what was written and trembling he replied I asked what is my name your name whispered the unmade King tears streaming down his face his death no I am the one who dreams a million leagues below death death is only the beginning you will see I will show you you are mine it reached for them to code of them and they screamed louder than all the rest if not is long Walter got out in front of Rockaway High Auditorium leaving his car to idle in the street people in disheveled eveningwear were trickling out of the entrance like poisoned bees from Iraq they tripped over their own feet searched the ground with blasted vacuity or tilted strange grins to the starless sky one dusky woman in voluminous skirts looked up at Walter as he hurried past her scooped out eye-sockets weeping blood he fought his way through the door down the dark hallway full of gibbering reeling reaching forms and threw open the auditorium doors the air was thick syrupy with death full of mutters and groans and half articulate lamentations what remained of the audience rolled and swayed in the murk of the reflected stage lights a man traced invisible signs in the air a woman clawed at her naked breasts while a mass of tentacles wriggled from her mouth a teenage girl held up a toddler with a broken neck like an offering all of these were but shadows who stewards to the towering horror of the stage Joseph he screamed over the willful den son it heard it looked up from it’s abominable Labor’s and turned its gore slathered face to him it pawned the ruined bodies father it said in a voice dredged from the gutters of Hell behold your work no no no chanted Walter the last and only word he would ever know or speak again no no no father I am born no no in no behold your son author story note the title of the story comes from the Arabic name for the Sphinx of Giza boo al Hall which is commonly translated as the dreadful one but literally means father of dread like the

Sphinx it is a found artifact as good title so often are this was originally written as a Lovecraftian mythos story for the Cthulhu lies dreaming anthology by ghostwood books obviously the ancient world is fertile soil for this sort of thing and the figure of the Sphinx allowed me to draw on a convergence of Greek and Egyptian mythology the Greek world was never a totally closed cosmological horizon like those of the monotheistic religions before the Olympian gods there were the Titans and before them there were more shadowy figures like chaos and Gaia arising out of primeval darkness the Greeks aw and trembling before the fates and the Furies the spiraling obsessions with space and time there majestically dark Theater with its origins and primitive rites all fit very well with the mythos tradition and the Egyptians well read the Book of the Dead baboons feeding human hearts to crocodiles monotheistic religion came along and suppressed what dark irrational currents and paganism it could not incorporate the psychological law says that when darkness is repressed it loses its virtue of Bali singing against light and becomes absolute evil absolute other in alien consciousness waiting for its chance to revenge itself upon the waking world that I think is the psychological core of Lovecraft’s best work and what I was aiming for here on this side of bloodletting Stephanie my DaVinci the hands of a severed poet I often think about what it would be like to cut off my hands to have two stumps that plop and bang rather than fingers that glide over keys make words and tell stories I wonder if people would listen to me if I went silent if they would make poetry with my mute remains inside of me she bleeds there’s a monster in my veins her name is my own and she bubbles and bleeds tries to convince me to let her out to let her play sometimes I make an incision just enough to give her a taste but still she cries still she screams screams pleas of amputation cries operas of pain brushing with blood the walls in my room were white but everything in my mind was red red like the cherries I ain’t read like the pomegranate juice that dripped down my chin I liked red like the way it stained my teeth the way it complimented my gums when I brushed my teeth with the mornings blood oedipal solutions I wasn’t happy the world was ugly and I didn’t like what I saw what I was forced to look at everyday outside it was bright it hurt to be alive hurt to watch but I felt better when I took out my eyes because then the world went dark then I could see postmarked to pain my body has 555 cuts on its skin each made with love each May with careful consideration for I myself am a mailbox of suffering learn my address post marked your hate mail send it straight to my heart this is who I am I’m made for it 555 slots for sorrow I can take it dating my death weapon knives are what I know what I trust they don’t fail me they don’t walk away in fact they’re slim metal bodies are the best lovers I’ve known dependable efficient consistent their foreplay is torture their penetration is climax when I them I bleed when we make love they write notes on my back make me bleed make me hiss I wanted to pierce my ears so I took a needle and shoved it through my lobes they barely bled except for a drop or two so I pierced my nose when that didn’t bleed I took scissors and cut out a section of my tongue I swallowed the cube of flesh muscle hissed breaths human pin cushion the spikes hugged me in my body drawer in my metal casket and I was the Iron Maiden the girl who slept with the thorns and dressed herself in holes my skin polka dotted and infected beat shades of red and pink I dressed my wounds with the tears I laughed I cried

my blood away arsonist lullaby father fire sings me my lullaby his voice burning the world as he lulls me to dream with ashes tucks me in with flames when I drift off to sleep there is a match in my hand when I wake up in the morning there’s destruction on my breath I am his death Phoenix his Redemption dark roast she cried hard into her coffee when she wanted to mix the cream and sugar and silently wept into her mug when she took her caffeine black the trick to a strong cup was the amount of suffering she put into it if her heart wasn’t black enough the dark roast never came out right electrocution junkie the hurricane screamed itself raw with its booming voice and electric words and the girl took each strike each hit as her ragdoll body was flung side to side beaten and bloody near the front door of her mind she’d come around always did most women were made for madness she was made for storms commit them to memory there’s a code to this trade a set of rules that I follow rules that keep me on schedule that prevent me from making mistakes I never take trophies have no need for reminders I commit each detail every name every taste every article of clothing to memory I know I’ll never forget my girls he’s between my legs I cut his name into my thighs with a piece of broken glass from the bottle I knocked off the desk when he walked away he was the only man I saw when I spread my legs so I marked him in flesh in memory for how he still me even though he’s gone my vagina is a zombie I don’t bleed like a normal woman because I’m not a normal woman every 28 days I hemorrhage until I die a lifetime of death served by the slit between my legs I have the ax wound that never heals the river that always runs red my vagina is a zombie a reanimated gore machine my men don’t bring roses if I had to choose between lovers I would choose the one who scares me the one who makes my heart beat fast out of fear I need a partner is going to bring an axe to the bedroom every once in a while I like a man who knows how to make me scream blood Maps I puked razor blades and knives threw up needles and a pair of shears and still my body takes the abuse still it begs for more more cuts and incisions more holes and puncture wounds when will the blood Maps that I’ve drawn in scars be enough when will those pictures lead me to recovery red is my favorite color there’s something about the color red that gives me peace that lets me open my lungs and breathe abreast soaked all my clothes and wine and I suck on veins for breakfast lunch and dinner happily starving and scarlet cynically crying in carmine Jackson Pollock revisited I smiled when I read the headlines they saw me for who I was a visionary a connoisseur of culture a philosophy of art I wanted to capture the idea of rebirth silence the notion of death it was sacrifice Expressionism in blood I laid down my paint my body’s a canvas of organized chaos shoot to kill I’m a visual learner a Pinterest picturesque plotter I don’t see people for who they really are until I see them through my camera lens and once I snapped their picture once I commit to a subject they’re imprinted in my brain a face forever hanging in my gallery a mental collage of pre inflicted pain the map of our relationship I am many things in this life but I’ll forever be the cartographer of your scars you’re my canvas my journal of pain and every time I look at you I look at the map of our relationship trace it back to where it started to the first mark to where our love story began family tradition

the machete has been in the family for ages passed down generation after generation but it’s been shadow sleeping retired too long the blooms of rusts called to me the decade old blood stains weep and it makes me a nostalgic for the good old days when pleading filled the night and Grandpa laughed himself to sleep dirty laundry I wet the bed until I was thirteen mother made me sleep in my mess refusing me clean sheets denying me comfort until I learned to stop but I didn’t stop and my mother hated me now my sheets look different they’re practically soaking in all the red I think mother would maybe love me now sleeping with the enemy there’s an abandoned house that I go to sometimes to sleep with the man who broke my heart one time I took an axe with me I wondered what I have stopped swinging if he apologized if he repeatedly begged me to stay I’m not sure but the body next to me is baffled to guillotine giggles most of the time their last words are prayers prayers or maybe confessions every once in a while an apology or two but this one this one just giggled giggled until the blade dropped until his head hit the ground and even then I swear he was laughing smiling as he rolled and rolled around beneath the floorboards it’s cliche and it’s PO but it makes me happy that I get to walk over your grave every day that I get to trap you like you trapped me but unlike the story your murder doesn’t drive me mad for it’s the phantom beating of your heart that allows me to sleep to dream my week old sex doll it’s been a few weeks and he’s losing the color in his cheeks I added some blush to help him come back some foundation to take out the bloated hue and if I squint he looks just like his old self again only this time more sophisticated more debonair the sex has never been better stalk stalk prey it’s waking up in the morning and knowing but your soon to be victim as having for breakfast it’s knowing his favorite pub to visit on Wednesday nights just like it’s studying his approach to picking up girls it’s dyeing your hair black because you know he prefers brunettes to blondes it’s obsession practice a Widow’s skill becoming the butcher at first I refused to believe that I did it that I was capable how could I be so stupid I needed to go back to try again I’ve waited all my life for their bodies and now their dismemberment disgusted me I was a hack a butcher they deserved better I needed more practice the executioner’s diary murder is a game but when I take the players to my basement my secret chamber of penance of retribution there’s no God waiting for them it’s just me me and my notebook an executioner with a plan i scribble their sins and poetic eulogies tell them to close their eyes to count to ten carry out confessional the man at the counter looked at me strange he asked if I was planning on killing someone and I smiled as I looked down at the rope in the gasoline at the shovel and the nails I told him not today and he laughed as he handed me my receipt tomorrow is another day psychodrama there’s an unspoken competition between psychos a silent battle that’s similar to the fights of most teenage boys everyone wants their knife to be bigger than their friends and in the end most of them just lied to impress the others to live out a fantasy see in fact most of them have barely even killed the tailor I’ve been watching you and I can see that you’re the type of person I could wear your skin it’s soft subtle more enticing every time you walk past me I find myself mentally sizing your chest counting the inches between your shoulders the centimeters between your

thighs you’re going to be a perfect fit under water wardrobe my wardrobe is a pair of cement shoes and a pocket full of change I should have listened a fish sucks on my nose but you can’t see my tears not in this garbage heap of an ocean where bodies decompose and all my prayers are wet I would have preferred the severed horse head self-cannibalism last night I dreamt that I didn’t have any legs that I pulled my half severed corpse around the apartment like a zombie when my stomach started to growl when I made it to the refrigerator there were two legs of meat on the shelf thighs were always my favorite even when they were my own oral fixation sometimes I think about eating my teeth but I’m not a dentist so I’m not sure how to extract them so they won’t lose their gritty taste I called around but no professional would willingly remove 32 healthy fangs so I ripped them out myself my blood acted as a nice Merlot with my meal diamonds are a girl’s best friend the rain sounded like diamonds falling against my window I opened the door and walked outside eager to bathe in the crystal waters but the droplets cut my skin like sharpened teardrops the gems dug their way inside me and I stood there shining like a fallen star as I bled rubies over the yard feeding the garden I noticed a new flower in my garden yesterday it was purple and yellow and it smelled like lilac and honeysuckle when I bent down to touch it it bit me each pedal full of a hundred mouths and a thousand teeth I smiled and fed my garden my blood turning its yellows to oranges my girlfriend wanted to scissor my girlfriend wanted to scissor so I took off her pants and pushed the blades of her slit she screamed and she always screamed when she liked it so I kept pumping her full of metal until she came and waves of cherry and tears afterwards she slept like a baby I wore her out blood bath the sky rained cherry sized droplets that stabbed my eyes when I woke up this morning I slept outside because I liked the coldness of the ground it chilled the heat running through my body and the red clouds that hung above me made me thankful that I wasn’t the only one painted crimson that day women are taught to be silent he told me we couldn’t talk for two months and I nodded my head bit my lip I went in my bedroom and opened the wooden box I kept on my dresser I took out the needle and I sued my lips together so I could practice being silent because effort is attractive in relationships the angels are gone nighttime is the worst my demon speak loudest then convincing my heart that I’m alone while my mind battles to tell me I’m in good company but the truth is my angels left long ago they dragged me into the sea like Annabel Lee and every night I jump off of cliffs when I sleep phantom pain sometimes I like to imagine that I’m dead that no one can see me here that the pain I feel is akin to an amputees agony over a phantom limb I try to imagine myself without a heart try to become a sociopath in the off hours when the world is asleep and I’m still living the new flesh it’s cold in my apartment tonight but that’s what happens when you take off your skin suit you freeze you shake tremble it’s therapeutic hydrotherapy without the water I tore it all off a week ago threw it in the trash since then I haven’t touched anyone and most importantly no one has touched me my soul belongs in hell there’s a distance that goes beyond miles and my mind wanders lost highways and offroad sites while I look for you even though I already know where you are if the devil’s game a crossroads and I sell my soul for a chance at love even though I’ve damned myself to hell twice before the punishment of abstinence my body is a festival of sin that’s why he won’t touch me he knows that I am walking filth a culmination of lust and regret my flesh tortured with invisible scars weeps under the blankets

at night I wrapped my arms around my chest every time he doesn’t touch me the devil laughs whatever helps you sleep at night every night at 2:37 a.m. I walk outside my apartment complex naked and I stand in the middle of the road and scream I scream loud enough to wake up my neighbours long enough that my voice goes horse one time I almost got hit by a car I slept better than usual that night girls watch themselves cry when I cry I like to watch myself in the mirror to see if I look pretty sometimes I look tragic and beautiful while the mascara runs down my face and my cheeks turn red other times I look ugly defeated so I practice so I cry every day until I get it for you homemade bottle full of voodoo there’s a bottle of red wine that sits on my shelf buried behind books I read it’s filled with pins and needles with rosemary and sage I sealed it with the wax that I dripped from a lit red candle as I whispered wishes and prayers curses and hate I like knowing it’s there I do not when I wake up in the morning I hear your voice telling me all the words I’ve been waiting to hear you tell me you’re sorry that you should have tried harder loved more but my tongue is sandpaper and I choke on the marriage proposal that I’ve been practicing in my bedroom every night name-calling is body trauma i scratch words on my arms to remind me of Who I am monster child victim I look at them every day while I stand naked in front of the mirror wondering how to dress my pain my identity is my body but my body is a canvas of your words speak kindly to me the other me I disassociate when it gets dark my hide takes over my Jekyll and I myself become a different person this other girl she’s better her eyes are dead her lips blue but she is confident unafraid I like her more than the version of myself that walks during the day I wish it was night that night on repeat I try to sleep but the nightmares come faster than usual a drink valerian root and my tea rub lavender on my temples nothing helps I can still see the house still feel your breath sometimes when God is feeling exceptionally cruel I can hear your voice as if you’re sitting right next to me inside my desk drawer I keep a notebook of all my bad memories it helps me write poetry and it keeps the pain fresh makes the hurt still feel real as if I could ever fake it and I’ve noticed Slate Lee that it’s dangerously full so I make a notebook of blessings instead God laughed I threw it away I 71 North I drive until my head starts to shake until my eyes twitch until I see the dead girl on the side of the road it’s 1:00 a.m. I’ve been going for two and a half hours but she’s been here much longer than me usually she watches me drive by tonight she extends her hand a eulogy for myself not yet dead this is me telling you goodbye this is me leaving this is me walking away saying farewell wishing you the best as you move on with life except this isn’t me disappearing I’m imprinting myself in your memory committing myself to this page I live forever in ink in the black letters of this eulogy authors story note blood body dysmorphia amputation I’m fascinated by the beautiful grotesque by the welcoming of pain by the imperfections of self and what that means in regards to the human body and mind and as such my work tends to rise along the sidelines of cuts and bruises hacked jobs and botched surgeries I’m fascinated by Anatomy a fictional female Frankenstein if you will and despite centuries of doctors searching for ways to heal our meat sacks both physical and

mentally and is my job to peel back the flesh and show you what lies beneath the bodysuit when we can’t or prefer not to stitch ourselves back together again I ask readers what is really living inside the rotted damaged parts of our brain what happens when compulsion and phantom pain become too much to bear or when a broken heart starts to peek through the skin madness is an elusive awareness a heightened state of fear and worry and it is my pleasure to guide you through it on this side of bloodletting we hope you have enjoyed this production of year’s best hardcore horror vol 2 written by Michael armsan jasper bark Marvin Brown Krista Carmen Adam Caesar Matthew chavin jose cruz andrew darlington pea Lodi or Accio Stephanie Elric William Grabowski Sarah L Johnson Eric la roca Alessandro manzetti Tim Miller Alexandre Renwick Jeremy Thompson timwagon ur wrath James White and Stephanie my de vich edited by Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullen acts performed by Jo Hempel copyright 2017 by comet press production copyright 2017 by comet press thank you for listening audible hopes you have enjoyed this program

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