Friday, October 30, 2015

No Guts, No Gory by Nicole St. Onge

Nicole St Onge's protagonist is kidnapped by a group of creatures intent on violence.

I sat outside the house, as I had been for several days now, reminiscing about the time that I had spent silently hiding among the grass in a sprawling field. I remembered watching as they came, creatures in pairs and groups, sauntering along and stopping occasionally to pick up and observe my companions with eager eyes. If one was not satisfactory, he would be dropped back onto the ground carelessly, and the creatures would continue on, leaving us glad that we had survived another day. After a good time of evading the eye of the creatures and hoping that I wouldn't be the one to be taken next, it was to my dismay that I was selected.

Upon my arrival to their small dwelling, I was set on a table beside a few of my new acquaintances. We were terrified and curious as to what our fates would be, and we didn't have to wait long before we found out. The young lad on my right was chosen as the creatures' first sacrifice, and the rest of us were forced to watch in horror as the proceedings ensued. A knife shifted into our view, and we were shocked as one of the creatures dug the blade crudely into the top of our poor friend's head and began to cut around its perimeter. After the creature had separated one part from the bottom, several of its smaller offspring dug in, tearing out his innards and dropping them into a bowl with a sickening splat. Following the gutting of our poor companion, we found ourselves looking on and holding our breath as the larger creature stepped in once again, this time slicing a grotesque image into his front side as the younger ones cheered in sick excitement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Smart Car by Doug Hawley

Doug Hawley's funny short about a smart alec car.

I get into my car and am greeted by, "You're looking good today Duke. I see that your blood pressure has improved and your pulse is a healthy 63."

"Yes and you too are looking good Carl. I see that you are freshly washed and lubed. Did you do that last night?"

"Right, I was due for service, and I wanted to look good for you. I didn't want to disturb you, so I took off without telling you. Where do you want to go today?"

At that point, I spill coffee on my lap and involuntarily yell, "Hell!"

Carl asks, "In order of distance from our present location would that be Gresham, Oregon; Detroit, Michigan; or Capitol Hill in DC? I should add that the garage door squeaks something fearful. I'm afraid that is something I can't repair. You should have someone look at it."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Pictures on Dorian's Computer by Michael C. Keith

Dorian Wilder collects images of disfigured faces on his computer, until the computer rebels; by Michael C. Keith.

Isn't that the most perverse thing you've ever seen?
- John Waters

That Dorian Wilder possessed an extreme penchant for the macabre was clear. Why that was the case, especially given his seemingly bucolic childhood, was the question. But whatever disgusting and hideous things he could find on the Internet (and there was no shortage) excited and aroused him. He avidly searched for images of assaults, murders, explosions, car accidents, and bloody fights, but nothing pleased him more than videos or pictures of disfigured faces. His obsession had first been piqued as an adolescent when he came upon a picture of Joseph Carey Merrick - the so-called Elephant Man of the 19th century. This so intrigued and captivated his imagination that in the next few years he amassed a vast digital archive of grossly deformed countenances.

By the time Dorian reached full adulthood, his photo collection probably numbered in the thousands - he didn't know exactly. He had managed to plumb the depths of depravity and ferret out things he'd never known or even imagined existed. Among his gallery of grotesqueries were individuals with leprosy riven skin, burn victims melted beyond recognition, and mutilated heads smashed to a gooey pulp. When he attempted to engage friends with his hobby, their appalled reactions quickly convinced him to keep it private. They just don't appreciate the unique aesthetics these pictures contain, he told himself. They can't get beyond the surface and see the true beauty to be found there.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Worcester Weekends by Ceinwen Haydon

Jo enjoys her independence and freedom until she realises she is lonely; by Ceinwen Haydon.

1.

Jo sighed and logged out of her computer, no more work until Monday morning. It had been a busy week, and the TGIF feeling in the office was contagious. They were a tight team and they worked hard; tonight the unencumbered would sink a couple drinks together before going their separate ways. At forty eight Jo was the oldest of the group that had no need to hurry home to childcare or other domestic commitments. Jo looked out of the window and grimaced as she saw the fine drizzle that showed no sign of abating. She zipped up her blue Berghaus jacket and fell into step with Anna and Steve as they left the building. The two thirty-somethings had recently become a couple, and the novelty was as yet untarnished.

"So, Jo, what are you up to this weekend?" said Anna.

"I'm not sure yet, I..."

Before Jo finished her sentence Steve grinned and said, "Did we say? We're going to scope out narrowboats for sale. Anna's always wanted to get a mooring in the canal basin and live on the water, and she's got me going now. I'll have to learn to swim though."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pictures at an Exhibition by Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy's story of an ageing photographer who has built a cult of personality around him, but holds dark secrets.

He must have been at least six foot four tall. Lean, rangy, long limbed with a fluid stride.

He exuded the self contained air of'a man who felt that to him nothing was impossible, like a settler who had carved his home and life out of a grim unforgiving territory.

He certainly wasn't handsome or even young. His hair, a shock of thick grey tufts sprouting from his skull, looked like a well worn carpet.

His leathery dark skin a legacy not of a passion for tanning, but the direct result of years of working in areas where exposure to the sun's rays was unavoidable. A man bestowed with enormous self confidence, which was confirmed virtually every time he set foot outside his house.

He was not remotely interested in his appearance but aware of the reactions especially and inexplicably to him in young women, very young women, it provoked.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cure by Beryl Ensor-Smith

When Prentburg's water filtration plant threatens to break down, the Church Sisters intervene to help manager Jan Badenhorst overcome his stress headaches; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Jan Badenhorst first realised that his wife Charlene was going to be difficult when he couldn't find the Disprin, usually in the medicine cabinet. When he questioned her about it, she said crisply:

"You're becoming too dependent on those things, Jan. I know you suffer from headaches, but you're becoming an addict! I've chucked the lot into the dustbin, so there's no point in hunting for them."

He put up a fierce fight. "That's not fair, Charlene! You know my job isn't easy, what with lazy staff, increasing pressure from the squatters to provide jobs, free housing, grants, you name it, and on top of that, dealing with complaints about Eskom electricity blackouts every single day! You'd think I was to blame instead of Eskom." His voice became petulant. "Also, our water purification plant badly needs maintenance, which the government can't provide because they've got rid of skilled personnel to make way for relatives and friends, nepotism being rife, and people like me are left carrying the can!" He added angrily, "The stress is massive. Without Disprin I won't be able to cope." By the time his rant had ended, he was red in the face and breathless.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Trellises by Robin White

Robin White's poignant flash fiction about a widow as her children grow up.

We made the effort with mom for a little while, after our father died. That she was the pal, he the disciplinarian, was obvious to us all as we were growing up, but the change in dynamic (coupled with the the change in scenery) shifted our perceptions and we, one-by-one, came to realise how much we needed his influence upon the house. So we visited less and less.

Mom continued as normal for the first summer after he died and the house, as had been its wont for as long as we could remember, was a riot of colour by July, the plants in her garden embracing the seasonal vivacity as well as they ever had. The string of vines above the door were an exercise in ebullience and the neighbours nodded to themselves, placing wreaths about her shoulders in a show of collective endorsement, pleased with how well Mom was persisting with maintaining her life unchanged as it had been for the thirty years previous. Dignity is highly prized in our neighbourhood, especially when it's not at all showy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The End of Their Ways by George Allen Miller

A tribe bombarded by a mysterious force from the skies must adapt to survive; by George Allen Miller.

Finally, the madness ended. An ache filled Garuch's mind from the onslaught of images that had bombarded the village. Around him, the tribesmen shook themselves in the wake of the terrible storm. He helped as many as he could to their feet. They were weak now but each one managed to stand with his help. Garuch took a deep breath and remembered the old tree deep in the woods where he played when a child. Thoughts of running along the stream and chasing fish in the water filled his mind and made him smile. With all his strength he pushed those memories, thoughts and feelings outward. The people heard him, some smiled, some cried, but all shared the warmth and pushed the feeling of calm outward to the next.

"Garuch, I would speak with you."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Pink Victorian Lady by Patricia Crandall

When a neighbour is blackmailed, she turns to bottle miners Gert and Nina for advice; by Patricia Crandall.

In her bedroom, Hedy secured a gold hoop in her ear and closed the old, lopsided jewelry bureau. She gazed thoughtfully at the treasured wooden keepsake for a moment.

"I really need to put something special on top of this plain ol' piece, as Grandma Liz would say."

She fondly thought of Grandma Liz's whims to spruce things up.

The phone rang and her husband picked it up downstairs. "Hon, it's for you," Lee called. "Don't forget, we're leaving for the Lakeview Restaurant in twenty minutes."

Hedy smiled - as if she could forget. This was to be a special dinner, a celebration of one year of marriage. She could scarcely believe it...the time had gone by so fast.

Hedy gave the bureau a loving pat and answered the phone.

"Hello."

"Do you know who this is?" a voice whispered.

Hedy tightened her grip on the receiver.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Dream Warrior by Phil Slattery

Phil Slattery's powerful revenge epic about a man who visits his Mexican grandfather for spiritual guidance after a violent crime results in the death if his fiancée.

Laid out on the crude wooden table in front of Miguel were corn tortillas, roasted rabbit, a large bowl of pinto beans, and something unrecognizable made of dried corn. The old man sitting across the table from him seemed as anachronistic as the meal: long, thick, silver hair; narrow slits for eyes; leathery skin that seemed more fit on a shrunken head; a dirty headband; and a serape. Through the light of the kerosene lanterns and the logs burning in the fireplace, Miguel looked around at the objects hanging from the walls of the cabin: skulls of cattle, rattlesnake skins, coyote hides, a Bowie knife, bunches of dried chiles, ceremonial rattles, and paintings of human sacrifice that looked like they had been copied from Aztec temples. The flickering firelight made the figures seem alive, as if the priests were slicing and stabbing their prisoners over and over.

Miguel struggled for something to say. He had seen the old man only a few times in his life and the last of those was twelve years ago, when Miguel was eight. "So, great-grandfather, Dad tells me you're a sorcerer?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Bell Tower by DC Diamondopolous

Old Reverend Penniman of Montgomery Alabama is called on to intervene when a member of his congregation threatens to commit suicide; by DC Diamondopolous.

Reverend Langston Penniman sat on the edge of his bed, stretching his black fingers. Everything had either twisted up on him or shrunk except his stomach. Once six-foot-five, he now plunged to six two, still tall, but not the imposing dignitary he once was standing behind the lectern in front of his congregation.

His parishioners aged, too. So hard nowadays to attract the young, he thought standing from the bed he shared with his wife of fifty-two years. His knees cracked. He'd gotten his cholesterol under control, but at seventy-five, his health headed south as his age pushed north.

Born and raised in Montgomery, Reverend Penniman had a hard time staying relevant, what with tattoos, body piercing, rap music, not to mention homosexuals getting married and reefer being legalized. For a man his age, changing was like pulling a mule uphill through molasses.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Curvatures of Hurt by Ted Morrissey

Ted Morrissey's intense and mysterious story of three teenage girls whose friendships are plagued by visiting angels.

Α

Winter had lingered into spring, and patches of heavy, wet snow were melting in the cold sunshine as Frankie walked with urgency toward Shirley Donaldson's. Water ran in the gutters beneath disappearing canopies of ice. It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday, the sort of day Frankie and Rebecca would have spent entirely together not long ago, one of them having slept at the other's house. She had not heard from Rebecca since they left school the day before, with Rebecca hurrying because she wanted to get a jump on her homework, she said.

More and more, Rebecca was at Shirley Donaldson's house. Rebecca and Shirley had been friends before Frankie moved to the village, but Frankie's impression was that Rebecca barely cared for Shirley's company. Frankie didn't care for her company. Yet when Frankie knocked on the Phillips' door and Pastor Phillips, who always called her Miss Francine, said that his daughter was at Shirley's, Frankie was consumed by emotions that drove her to visit the Donaldsons too.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wrong Writing by Bruce Costello

The creative writing group from hell, as imagined by Bruce Costello.

Even on sunny days, the former Sunday School Hall behind St Jebusiah's Church seems to languish in shade. The community groups who rent it at fifty cents an hour complain about its airlessness and musty smell. A tradesman is said to be coming to open the windows, stuck shut when the building was painted years ago.

Inside, the carpet is threadbare, the wallpaper dangles in sad strips and the curtains are stained with mould. Hanging askew on one wall is a print in faded blue shades of a young Princess Elizabeth.

Against a lopsided bookcase leans a dust-covered brass plaque with a list of illegible names, and the inscription, barely discernible under green patina: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn."