Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blue Plate Special

by Nick Contor

The operating room was dim, but Javier preferred it that way. He could see well enough as he placed the medical equipment in the spot assigned to it. The doctors and nurses at Presbyterian Hospital (heck, any hospital) were very particular about the positioning of equipment. Seconds were often crucial in OR, and no one wanted to tell Mrs. McKenzie that her husband had passed away suddenly but couldn’t be revived because the defibrillator had been put away in the wrong spot.

Javier was in charge of OR cleanups because he was careful. Every box of gauze, every scalpel, every monitor was back in the proper place when he was done. He had been working at Pres for ten years now, and liked it much better than his previous job at Our Lady of Mercy. Too many priests and nuns around there, all of them decked out in their work clothes.

Presbyterian was much more ecumenical. You could walk through the halls here at Pres for years and not see anything resembling a religious artifact.

Javier had righted a fallen tray table and was about to go out to the hallway to fetch his mop and bucket when he saw the small blue basin, seemingly tossed carelessly in the corner. It must have fallen off of the table. Maybe the tray had been knocked over by a nurse in a hurry, or a tech carrying the patient out following surgery. The circumstances were unimportant, the tray was what mattered.

It lay forgotten, inside was a medium sized puddle of blood. Some of the blood had splashed up the side of the basin, and a few drops were splattered on the wall, but Javier ignored them. His interest was in the basin, which had retained almost all of the blood.

He licked his lips.

These were the times he waited for. The reason he was working here. He knew the Hazmat procedures backwards and forwards, knew about the proper disposal of biohazardous material. And no one ever complained about Javier’s work. The OR was always left spotless when he was finished with it.

He slowly lifted the basin. It was a relic from years past. Blue porcelain containing rich, red blood.

His lips parted to allow his tongue to snake out, slowly running along the rim to catch the splatters, which were not even dried yet. He tipped the basin, watching with anticipation as the blood flowed ever so slowly towards him. Just slightly congealed. Perfect!

His eyes closed as the blood flowed over the edge. His adam’s apple bobbed and a low moan escaped. He swallowed until the flow slowed, then tipped the basin further to lick along the inside surface until the blue porcelain gleamed with his saliva. He quickly examined the bowl to be certain he had not missed a drop before depositing it along with the other pieces destined for sterilization.

The few droplets on the wall were quickly taken care of with a bleach soaked rag. Javier had already taken quite a risk by feeding out in the open. He would have a tough time keeping his job if someone happened to walk by the OR and saw an orderly licking the walls. Very difficult to explain that one.

Javier smiled as he wheeled his cart outside to grab the mop and bucket. This was why he loved working in a hospital. He knew he would never starve.


Nick Contor was born in 1968, which explains all the protests. He has managed to survive thus far and writes things down occasionally in southern New Mexico, pausing now and again to eat, sleep and enjoy life with his wife and two children. This is his first published story.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Rise of Azaliel and Lorcas

by Michael Stone

(read "The Fall of Azaliel and Lorcas" if you want the first bit of the story)

I perch on a rock rimed with frost and gaze at the distant horizon. When my brother Lorcas and I became stranded during a routine reconnaissance of Hell, we’d expected God’s forces to mount a swift rescue operation—and been disappointed when none came.

And so, as the days wore on, we had squatted inside the Bottle—a brass cylinder mounted on cartwheels and powered by holy fire—and braced ourselves to have our squashy bits stamped into the earth by the legions of demons waiting impatiently outside. Instead, when the warding prayers finally expired and we were dragged through the aft porthole, the hordes had simply roughed us up a bit: a bite here, a gouge there, and lot of farting in our general direction. Positively a welcome by demon standards. Probably because we’d looked nothing like angels by then; the presence of sin had corrupted our immortal forms.

The frost makes my tail itch. I scratch it as I stare at the mile-high wall cutting me off from Heaven.

“Forget it,” a voice grates near my ear. “You’re not going back.”

I turn on my rock to face the speaker. “Don’t bet on it, you spiky-faced—oh! Sorry, Lorcas, I—I didn’t recognise you with the, um…” I avert my gaze. Lorcas had been such a beautiful angel with his rosebud lips, baby blue eyes and blond curls. Four days in Hell and his face looks like a porcupine is copulating with it.

Copulating. I shake my head. I shouldn’t even know words like that. The presence of sin has corrupted us spiritually as well as bodily. I go back to contemplating the far-off wall.

“They’ll come for us,” I say, stubbornly

Lorcas tips his head to the milling demons. “Face it, Azaliel, we are just like them now.”

I regard our bodies with sadness. The black scaly skin, stunted wings and the inchoate horns prove his point, and the thing that meets my eyes when I peek under my loincloth isn’t something an angel should be packing either. Lorcas, sadly, has been exploring new avenues with his beastly equipment. He even tried to have his wicked way with me. Only a swift prayer and an even swifter raised kneecap deterred him from exploring my avenue.

“But I don’t feel demonic, Lorcas. I miss life in the Celestial City. I miss—wait, what’s that?” I point to a star in the blood red sky. It descends and the blurry light concentrates into a golden disc. Only one caste of the nine choirs possesses a non-humanoid form.

Lorcas gasps. “It’s a throne!”

“Quick, Lorcas, to the Bottle!”

I run and dive through a porthole. The vessel creaks as the throne exerts its influence, and then lifts gently off the ground. Several demons try to follow. I thrust the stowaways out.

Lorcas is still standing where I left him.

The Bottle is gaining height.

“Lorcas! Quickly, before it’s too late!”

He shakes his head slowly, as one resigned to his fate, then runs and makes a desperate leap. I grab his wrists and haul him inside.

“For a horrible moment there I thought you’d decided to stay.”

The quills on his face wobble as he smiles. “It was something you said, about missing the Celestial City.”

“Yes, it will be good to get back to the choral singing, the mission briefings, the camaraderie…” I trail off when I realise that his smile is a bitter one. “What is it?”

“You think they’ll welcome us back when they see us like this?”

I had no answer, for I had given no thought to what sort of homecoming two corrupted angels would receive. Not a pleasant one, I suppose.

“Then why are you coming back, Lorcas?”

“Because someone missed his welding classes.”


He gestures to the battered Bottle with a talon. “Sin got in and touched us because someone screwed up the welds. We never stood a chance.”

“The cherubim do the welding.”

His coal-red eyes narrow to slits. “I know.”

We kick out a side panel as we pass over mile-high gates. Overhead, the throne hums a rousing hymn, while far below verdant fields form a pastoral quilt, pierced here and there by pearlescent minarets. There is an uneasy feeling in my throat. I think it is anger or resentment, or something equally foreign.

Lorcas follows my gaze, and the spines on his face rearrange themselves into a malevolent grin. “What say we go kick some cherubic ass, Azaliel?”

I try to hold back the words on my tongue, before succumbing to the uneven struggle.

“Fucking A, brother.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Sweetest Candy

by Joshua Rainey

Million Dollar Teeth smiled, and his gold teeth shimmered in the buttery light. In his hand was another jar of honey. Albert’s diet consisted solely of honey for the past two months. He vomited the sweet substance, he shit the sweet substance, and he dreamed about the sickening sweet substance.

Mjaltë Më shumë për ju njeri sheqeros.” The huge olive skinned man laughed. Albert didn’t understand a word that had been spoken to him since he had been taken captive.

Another man appeared in the doorway, Babyneck, an immensely fat man with an undulating neck like a baby huddled under his chin. “Si është gjë e ëmbël tona sot?” At that both men laughed.

Million Dollar Teeth set the jar down on the stone floor, and both of Albert’s captors left the room. Albert heard the door being locked and screamed, “What do you want from me, goddammit! Tell me! Someone speak fucking English!” Albert’s voice grew hoarse, and tears streaked his hollowed cheeks.

In the background Albert could hear a buzzing drone that never stopped. It was the bees. They never slept. Albert never slept.

Albert paced his chamber and stared at the amber liquid in the canning jar. They knew that eventually the gaunt American would eat the honey. He always did, it was just a matter of waiting. Albert stared down at his forearms. They were frail. His frame was dwindling. His teeth were loosening. Albert was probably losing his mind.

Hani, ju do të jeni nevojë për fuqinë tuaj.” Albert heard Million Dollar Teeth laugh outside his door. Every night he could hear him and his friends, Babyneck and MGD, playing cards and drinking.

The only light Albert had came from the other side of the glass window of his chamber, and it shone in through a wall of honey jars casting him in amber.

The bees never slept.

Hungry, Albert grabbed the jar and tore off the lid. He reached his curled fingers inside to scoop out the contents. The honey drooled down Albert’s chin and snarled in his chest hair. Albert scooped the liquid into his mouth greedily. Beads of honey had hardened in his hair the length of his naked frame. After two months Albert no longer cared.

Albert knew that soon Million Dollar Teeth would leave him a glass of water under the door. Besides the honey, it was the only nourishment he was allowed.

Albert looked up from his gluttony, and saw his three captors tapping on the glass and laughing. All three were smoking long thin cigarettes.

Ju duken aq i mirë sa mund të hani të gjithë ju lart.” Babyneck chuckled. Albert smiled at the fat man’s neck. He thought that it had to be a growth of some sort.

As quickly as Albert ate the honey it came up in a gut-wrenching wretch. Then everything went black.

Albert slept fitfully. The droning of the bees kept creeping into his mind. When he did awaken Million Dollar Teeth loomed above him. Albert was shackled, hands and feet.

Million Dollar Teeth waved for Albert to stand up.

Sot është ditë e madhe.” He smiled.

Albert stood on shaky legs. Obediently he followed Million Dollar Teeth out of the room, and down a long earthen corridor lit with bare bulbs hung on chains. Million Dollar Teeth whistled a solemn tune that made Albert’s skin crawl.

“Ah, here we are.” The bastard smiled at the trembling American.

They were in a large sparsely furnished room whose only distinguishing piece of furniture was a large rectangular box. The box was a sturdy, clear, plastic box that frightened Albert. Next to the box was an open earthen hole.

“You sonuvabitch.” Albert cried. Tears stained his emaciated cheeks.

“What? You don’t like your new accommodations?” Million Dollar Teeth asked. His voice was cocky and smooth. Albert wanted to punch him, but it took an effort just to remain standing. A part of Albert was relieved just to hear English again.

Albert stared at the box. “No.” He understood this to be his new accommodation, and nearly collapsed. “No!” MGD and Babyneck grabbed Albert by his arms and held him.

“Yes. You see you are going to be a confection of sorts. You are going to be placed in that coffin which we will fill with honey, and in a few years you will be dug up and fed to the rich as a holistic medicine.” Albert struggled to break free but they were too strong for him.

“Goodnight.” MGD said before Albert felt a prick in his arm.


Joshua Rainey lives in WA with his wife Delores and kids Billy, Dream, Sophia, and Aidan. He also has 3 cats Bronson, Cherry Darling, and Gumball. His short story "Scotch on Rocks" was published in Black Petals #42.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Picture This

by Anna Taborska

Picture this: you've been hanging around for years in Uncle Geoffrey's stinking dark house, waiting for the old codger to pop off so you can inherit his loot. You've wasted your youth listening to his plaintive gibbering and cleaning out his bedpan. Finally, you can't stand it anymore. You wait until he's asleep and then you put his pillow over his face and push down hard until he stops kicking. Then you dig a hole at the bottom of the garden and bury him in it. At last you're free to live your life the way you deserve.

But Uncle Geoffrey comes back. And he brings with him Aunt Mildred, cousin Hildegard and a dozen other decomposing occupants of the local cemetery. They shuffle grimly towards the house. You try the back way out, but are stopped by a rotting corpse with green guts dangling from its bloated belly. You bolt the doors and secure the windows, but from somewhere to your left you hear the sound of breaking glass.

Then the front door comes flying off its hinges, and enter Uncle Geoffrey, his face grey and his eyes still bulging from the strain of breathing mucus-covered pillow instead of air. He moves towards you stiffly, rigor mortis turning his fingers into talons and his legs into rigid planks of wood. He's drooling down the front of his gown, and his bloodshot eyes never blink. From the way he's staring at you, you can't tell if he's overcome with rage or if he just wants to rip your head off and eat your brains.

You fumble with the shells for the shotgun you've just wrenched from the cupboard in the corner. You aim at Uncle Geoffrey's head and pull the trigger. Uncle Geoffrey's head explodes. But Uncle Geoffrey just keeps coming...


Anna Taborska was born in London, England. She was first caught reading horror at age ten, when a teacher, impressed that Anna was sitting at her desk during lunch break and reading rather than playing with other children in the school playground, found that Anna’s science book was actually hiding Guy N. Smith’s Night of the Crabs.

Brainwashing at a posh girls’ school didn’t succeed in suppressing Anna’s horror obsession, and, alongside William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, Anna avidly studied such classic authors as James Herbert and Stephen King.

Following a misguided attempt to wean herself off horror by studying Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, Anna went on to gainful employment in public relations, journalism, advertising and the BBC, before throwing everything over to become a filmmaker and horror writer.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kill Your Darlings

by John Paolicelli Jr.

He sat in the dark living room holding the letter close to his chest. Finally, after hours of procrastination, Eddy opened it. The note from the editor simply read: “My advice to you is to kill your darlings.”

It wasn’t the in-depth response he had hoped for. What was supposed to be constructive criticism somehow managed to piss Eddy off. He crumpled the page into a ball and muttered, “Kill your darlings.”

He had heard it all before, but this rejection stung more than usual. “Stock Broker Massacre” was his favorite story, and he expected a better reception for the shorter version. After so many professors and editors had critiqued his writing as wordy, he concentrated on being succinct, and thought he nailed it with this, the eighth rewrite.

Okay, let’s clean this up one more time.

He tossed the manuscript onto his empty desk, pulled a file labeled “submittals” and a sharpie from a drawer, and placed them next to it. The rejection letters and writing projects from college once served as inspiration, but were now just painful reminders of his failures.

His dead eyes stared at the manuscript until the words blurred into gray haze. He shook his head, refocused, and then scribbled, “KILL YOUR DARLINGS” across the title page in giant letters. A sad laugh escaped as he exhaled.

He was introduced to the phrase by his first rejection letter. Eddy found it humorous, and had it printed on a t-shirt in jest. And though it wasn’t funny anymore, he pulled the shirt from his dresser drawer and put it on.

Maybe this will change my luck.

He leafed through the file, searching for hope in the scrap pile. Among the form letters were a few personal notes of encouragement. But as he came to the last, “Kill your Darlings” again jumped from the page. He grunted.

He pulled out a story he wrote in college. “While your attempts to cut out the fat are admirable, you still need to kill your darlings,” was written neatly in red below the C+ in the right hand corner.

Cut out the fat. Kill your darlings.

He reread ‘Stockbroker’ again. A red pencil circled and scribbled until the pages were left bleeding. An hour of intense self debate ended deadlocked, and in the end, he left the piece as it was. He sighed.

He read it aloud. The words seemed to dance rhythmically from his mouth. He shook his head, and threw the script across the room. He sat motionless for a long while, glaring at the pages scattered over the carpet.

“Kill your darlings,” he mumbled.

“Eddy it’s six a.m. Why are you still up?” his roommate Jim asked on his way to the bathroom.

“Just doing some editing.”

“Maybe someone should’ve edited that shirt. ‘Darlings’ is spelled wrong.”

Eddy pulled the shirt away from his chest and glanced down. He shrugged his shoulders. “It figures.”

Shouldn’t you be getting ready for work? Wall Street waits for no one.”

“No, got laid off last week. They blamed the economy.”

After a pregnant pause, Jim changed the subject. “Your story is good, but could be shorter. You need to visualize the story through the eyes of the killer. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t advance plot. Then go back and kill your darlings.”

Kill your darlings.

Eddy nodded absently, his eyes fixed on the folder on his desk. Before he looked up, Jim had dressed, grabbed his gym bag, and hustled out.

“Through the eyes of the killer,” Eddy whispered, as he trudged to his bedroom closet and grabbed his hunting rifle.

Through the eyes of the killer.

With the manuscript in one hand and the rifle in the other, Eddy went to the window and opened the shades. From his perch eight stories up, he watched the city awaken through the scope of his rifle.

Below, a pretty blonde waited for the bus. She fiddled with a blackberry, grinning as her fingers clicked away.

There’s the ex-girlfriend. She really doesn’t advance the plot.

Gotta kill your darlings.

Bang! The girl crumpled to the ground. A screaming man dove behind a dumpster, sending seagulls flying in every direction. Eddy watched through the scope with a satisfied grin.

Looks good.

He picked up the manuscript and wrote a few notes in the border, then turned his attention back to the street. A man in a dark suit came out of a doorway and strode toward the subway.

“Just doing some editing,” he whispered as he moved the crosshairs onto the man’s forehead.


John is a 48-year-old new writer that lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and five Ridgebacks. This charming sociopath works as a manufacturing manager by day and a breeder of champion Rhodesian Ridgebacks by night. When not cleaning up puppy crap, he attempts to write and watch TV. He is an active member of the Science Fiction Writers Workshop.