Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bring Girls Home to Meet Mama

by Michael R. Colangelo

I went down to the store on the corner to get Mama some bread on Sunday. It was the only time I had out of the house with myself. Mama spent Sundays in the bathtub filled with milk to her neck. She said that it would help her age properly. Since Papa died, it was the only time that I was allowed to leave the house because she was busy sitting in the tub and we often needed groceries.

So it was inevitable that eventually I met a girl at the market and that we spent the afternoon chatting and even holding hands for a little while. When the sun began to set I realized I had been gone for most of the day. I apologized and said that I had to go right away, but the girl told me that it was okay and asked if she could come too.

It never occurred to me that any girl might like to come by the house, and so I grinned very large and told her that it would be excellent if she could. We hurried through the darkening streets until we reached my house.

Inside, I called to Mama to come and meet our visitor. I heard the milk sloshing about in the tub up the hallway, and while we waited, I showed my new girlfriend around. I was so fond of her that I even went as far as to show her the empty studio loft behind the wall. That was the place that Mama made me drywall over after I was born. I left a space you could crawl through anyway. The jagged charcoal sigils on the walls and the star-shaped symbols on the ceiling were pretty. I read in a magazine that girls were impressed with you if you acted sensitive towards these things.

The bones maybe scared her, but Mama's scintillating rainbow eggshells held her in place. Her mind was paralyzed, forever trying to comprehend the impossible surfaces of the broken eggs.

Then Mama came into the room, dragging her bulk down the hallway and leaving a trail of milky slime in her wake. She murmured approvingly of this new girlfriend of mine and then tasted her frozen body with her feelers. As she did this, she readied the sharp and dripping appendage that protruded from her private parts. This was how Mama made babies with the people that we brought home.

I stared down into Papa's black and hollow eyes and winked at his skull. There was comfort in knowing that the old man would probably approve of me—making Mama so proud.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Ballad of Willy Bragg

by Jeremy Kelly

See that dark-skinned man walking beneath a rust-colored sky beside the Wilderunion Railroad?

That’s Willy Bragg come down from Sasquatch country to lead the way back home with a song.

He’s all dressed up in hobo clothes: a pair of dusty trousers strung up over his shoulders with suspenders cut from plow rope and a ragged old railroader’s hat hanging off the side of his head. He’s got an old guitar case slung across his back.

Listen. He’s singing to himself low and deep, muttering a song he’s been working at while wandering towards the crossroads:

A sad world is the Wilderunion,
Where there’s no such thing as home.
Like there’s no such thing as God or Mama,
Just the rust in my veins and my iron heart.
Please lead this boy back home, Lord.
I hear my mama callin’ me home.

Before he knows it, Willy’s at the crossroads. He looks west out over the tracks and he looks east out into the fields.

There’s a mighty rumbling now and the ground shakes something severe. He’s got to bend over a tad just to keep balance while he holds onto his cap. He looks behind him and sees a great black train coming like a blight upon the land. The face of the engine is a grinning iron skull bellowing thick smoke as it howls like a rabid wolf down the Wilderunion Line.

As the locomotive passes, Willy gets the feeling that if there were any green grass around, it’d surely die with the passing of this train.

The Brethren engineer leans out over the side railing and hollers at Willy while another shovels coal into the blazing firebox. They’re both hulking creatures covered in wicked tattoos.

Behind the engine come all the wood-slatted boxcars. Hundreds of pairs of little hands poke out from between the slats. Willy takes off his hat and bows his head in silence. So many children lost in the dark. Working for the railroad.

The train passes. Willy looks up and sees a man at least nine feet tall, black as soot from head to toe like a walking eclipse upon the world, standing on the other side of the tracks. The man speaks and his voice comes out like the sound of crushing embers inside a giant firebox.

“Hello, Willy.”

“Hey mister.”

“You desire something,” says the night-lacquered man, thick smoke escaping from his lips. “And you have something to give.”

“Well, sir,” Willy says, pulling the guitar case off his shoulder and dropping it into the dirt. “I don’t know if you a bad spirit or a good one. But I been playin’ these blues for a long time. The children trapped here in the Wilderunion—and the rest of us too, I guess—we needs a song. To bring us together. I wanna be the one to play it.”

“Give me your guitar.”

Willy pulls out this old guitar with the words “This Machine Kills Brethren” scrawled into the wood, and he walks towards the Scratch Man, holding it out in front of him.

“I’ll teach you a song, Willy Bragg,” says the Scratch Man. “But hear me now. No matter whom you play for in the world—in the end, your soul belongs to me.” Scratch’s eyes are burning like smoldering coals.


The Scratch Man takes the guitar from Willy and cocks his head sideways as he tunes the strings. Then he plays a short song that Willy can’t hear.

The Scratch Man hands Willy the instrument and steps onto the railroad tracks. “Go,” Scratch says. “Play your song, Willy Bragg, but don’t forget our deal.”

“I won’t.” Willy feels the blood begin to run hot in his veins down through his fingertips. Words and rhyme begin to fill his mind like sweet honey collapsing into a mason jar surrounded by buzzing bees. As he bends down to put the guitar back in its case, the Scratch Man starts walking down the tracks after the train full of children.

By the time Willy Bragg stands back up, the Scratch Man has disappeared both from sight and memory, and Willy forgets why he ever stopped at the crossroads in the first place.

So he shoulders his old guitar case and heads back the way he came, humming a new tune.


When Jeremy Kelly is not in the backyard digging tunnels and looking for new "specimens", he spends most of the time in the closet writing scary stories. Sometimes his lovely wife and son attempt to slide food under the closet door and plead with him to at least turn on the lights once in a while, but Mr. Kelly knows better. His most recent work appears in Shroud Publishing's Northern Haunts Anthology as well as Malpractice: An Anthology of Bedside Terror from Stygian Publications. He has work forthcoming in Necrotic Tissue's premiere print issue, coming in July. Find out more about him at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hector's Last Stand

by Kurt Newton

Hector thought the first one was a dandelion, but it appeared to swivel its head and stare at him before going under the mower's blades. Hector turned to look.

Just a splash of wet on the green grass. Hector didn't know what to make of it.

When he turned back around, a newly planted sapling was dead ahead. He wheeled the zero-turn-radius mower sharply and narrowly avoided disaster. He glanced up at the office windows to make sure no one was looking.

The back of the research facility loomed above him like a concrete fortress. He wasn't sure what went on inside the building, but the people who walked through the front entrance looked like doctors.

Another of the dandelions appeared up ahead. Hector aimed directly for it. This time, the dandelion not only turned its head, it blinked! Hector got a good look at it before it disappeared beneath the mower's carriage. It was no dandelion. It was a human eye sitting atop a fleshy-looking stalk!

"Ay, Dios mio!" Hector gasped.

He scanned the thick mote of grass that stretched between the building and the outlying woods. It was flat except for a slight rise in the middle where a large underground pipe deposited wastewater into a woodland stream. Along the rise stood a small army of the bug-eyed blooms.

"Pequenos diablos!" Hector revved the mower's engine.

He cut across the lawn, not caring how it looked. They would thank him later, referring to the doctors inside the building. Obviously something had leaked out into the wastewater. Hector couldn't remember what his boss had told him about the work they performed there. All he knew was it was top-secret government-type work. Stuff scary movies were made of.

But Hector wasn't scared. He hit the clot of fleshy flora at full speed. A viscous spray hit him in the face; some entered his eyes.

He blinked, momentarily blinded. When he opened his eyes again his vision was slightly clouded, but he could still see. And what he saw frightened him.

Every few feet a yellow-eyed, swivel-necked sprout sprung up out of the grass. Each hooded orb was ringed with petal-like black lashes. Wherever Hector looked the eyes turned and stared back at him. Blinking. Watching.

Hector cut across the grass in a deadly game of connect-the-dots, mowing them under, leaving a trail of gooey mulch in his wake. But he couldn't mow them down fast enough. They popped up two and three in places where one had been just moments before.

And if that wasn't bad enough, he was now having vision problems. One moment he was on the mower, the next he was at ground level watching the mower hurtle toward him. And there were voices in his ears, a multitude of whispers speaking as one, entreating him to not be afraid, to join them, to lay down his arms…and legs…and torso…and be free…

Hector shrieked.

It wasn't due to the startling vision he'd just experienced; it was something much worse. The mower's gas gauge needle had dipped below E. Somebody must have tampered with the fuel line.

Men in white lab coats now lined the windows of the facility like department store manikins. Some held clipboards. Others held movie cameras.

Hector gazed across the growing sea of yellow. Don't worry, they whispered, they will be next.

The mower sputtered and stalled, and rolled to a halt.

Hector felt the world tip, and his life passed before him in the blink of an eye.


Kurt Newton tries to let the story dictate how long it wants to be. Sometimes that means a very short story, sometimes it means a novel. One thing for sure is he's written a lot of them -- both large and small. News about his latest can be found at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Murky Depths

by Brenton Tomlinson

Richard braced his foot against the back of the boat, a massive rod bent almost to breaking point in his hands. “Get the bloody chair organised.”

Andrew, his best mate since pre-school, gestured toward the waiting game fishing chair, but Richard couldn’t drag the rod backwards. He flipped the lever on the reel and allowed the line to spool freely into the water. The monster on the other end didn’t need a second invitation and took off; nylon zinged from the rig.

Shrugging off the thought of having to wind in all the line now disappearing into the deep blue, Richard settled into the chair and allowed his friend to buckle him in. “What took so long?”

“The pin securing the chair to the deck was bent, but I straightened it out,” Andrew said. “Should be fine now.”

Richard flipped the lever on his new fishing rig to stop the free spool of line and began winding the thick aqua blue nylon back on. The line went taut, causing the rod to bend. Leaning forward, Richard reeled as fast as he could before pulling the rod back, drawing the piscatorial wonder on the other end closer to the boat. “This thing is huge,” he gasped as he leaned forward and wound on again. “We won’t be needing to shop for seafood for some time to come.”

The grin on Andrew’s face matched the excitement Richard felt as the adrenaline coursed through his veins. This was life: the thrill of the hunt, the chase, the kill.

A hundred yards out from the boat, something big broke the surface and Richard’s line went slack. He leaned forward and wound on, squeezing his eyes shut as exhaustion threatened to overwhelm his muscles.

“Jesus,” Andrew said. “Quick, cut the line.”

“What, no,” Richard said, snapping open his eyes to see what was going on.

“We have to,” Andrew said, his face a deathly white, spittle flying from his sun chapped lips. “A Great White is chasing your catch, and it’s too big for this boat to handle. Sometimes you have to let one get away.”

Richard scanned the ripples and white caps in the boats wake. There, his giant sailfish broke the surface, pulling against the strain he’d setup on the line, almost dislocating his shoulders in the process. As it disappeared back into the water another grey torpedo shaped creature broke the surface.

“No,” Richard yelled.

Andrew bent forward, a knife poised to sever the line. “That shark can go to hell before I let it win.” He leaned forward and wound on another length of line, ignoring the screaming muscles in his back.

“You don’t have enough time or strength—” Andrew stood motionless as the pin holding the chair to the deck gave way. It was only meant for small game fish.

Richard sucked in a lungful of air as the chair broke free, but it was forced from him as he struck the rail and went over into the water. Instinctively he unclasped the belt around his waist and kicked free of the fast descending chair.

A black shape sped by him. The sailfish was magnificent as it shot through the water, the gleaming hook in the side of its mouth the only blemish. The heavy weighted nylon between the steel barb and the fishing rod still tangled with the chair snapped taught, cleanly severing Richard’s right ear and filling the water with blood.

Another shape sped past him.

Richard struggled to the surface. In the distance the boat was turning, Andrew, at the helm, waved in his direction. He tried to raise an arm in reply but his energy reserves were spent.

He dipped below the surface. Beneath him the darkness resolved into his worst nightmare: a gaping maw full of razor-sharp teeth. Freshwater tears and warm urine mingled with the sea as Richard tried to utter a final expletive.

Intense pain immediately dulled as he was shaken from side to side.

The sailfish streaked by, iridescent scales flashing in the red filtered sunlight.

Richard wished he was the one which got away as the Great White rose from the depths again.


Knowing nothing about writing when starting in 2006, BT has taken many false steps in an effort to harness the craft. With past publication credits in Fantasy, Erotica & Sci-Fi, it wasn’t until he turned to dark fiction that things began to fall into place. Publication in NVF print magazine, Yellow Mama, Fear & Trembling, and now Fifty-Two Stitches has seen him embrace his twisted soul. To find out what other blackened delicacies he has in store, and all sorts of other tips and advice for writers, visit