Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lil' Giggles

by Stephanie Kincaid

Jessie didn't tell her parents that the doll frightened her. She didn't want to seem like a cowardly little baby. She even worked the doll into her toy rotation, playing with it dutifully, then putting it away with relief. This was less for her parents' benefit than for the doll's. Jessie feared that if she didn't play with the thing enough, it might become angry with her, and she didn't want to think about the possible consequences of the creepy doll's anger.

The doll had come with its own name--Lil' Giggles--and it was supposed to laugh when you squeezed it. Mercifully, the noisemaking mechanism had broken in shipping, so Jessie never had to hear the creepy doll giggle. Still, its lips were frozen open, its little rounded teeth bared in an eerie parody of mirth. The thing sported a sculpted tuft of bright red hair that was set back just a little too far on its high bulbous forehead. Its dull black eyes were unnaturally wide, and they rolled when Jessie moved the doll so that no matter how she held it, Lil' Giggles always seemed to be staring at her.

She had tried setting the doll down so that it faced away from her, but she couldn't stop stealing glances at it, fearing that its oversized head would turn itself around so those dead eyes could find her again.

The longer the doll lived in Jessie's room among her lovable and nonthreatening bunnies and bears, the stronger Jessie's fear grew. After a while, she found herself checking the cabinet under the bathroom sink before she used the toilet just to make sure Lil' Giggles hadn't concealed itself among the towels, waiting for a vulnerable moment.

She engaged in lengthy staring contests with the doll, her eyes watering as she fought to keep from blinking, certain that during the fraction of a second that her eyes were closed, the doll would move.

It was during one of these tests of Jessie's will that she learned the true depth of ultimate horror. She was supposed to be trying to sleep, but she had unthinkingly left Lil' Giggles too near the night light, and the blue glow lent the doll's usual pallor a deathly cast. Jessie stared at it from across the room. She felt sure that if she closed her eyes for so much as an instant, she'd feel a cold little hand touch her, and as soon as she looked, she'd see that the silently laughing doll had abandoned its seat near the night light and crawled into bed with her and …

“Eee-hee-hee-hee! Eee-hee-hee-hee!” A high-pitched cackle shattered Jessie's thoughts. She screamed. It had happened! Lil' Giggles had come to life and was cackling maniacally over and over again. Any moment now, it would move toward her. She prayed that Mommy and Daddy would rescue her before the doll could get her.

The maniacal giggles continued. Jessie shrank back into the bed. It was just the opportunity for which the advancing teddy bear had been waiting. Its tiny fangs tore into the back of her neck. Powerless to help its owner, Lil' Giggles did the only thing it could: it kept up its shrill alarm. Jessie hadn't heeded its warning, but perhaps her parents would come before it was too late.


Stephanie Kincaid is a freelance editor and writer who lives in Oklahoma. She has an MA in literature and a weakness for bad horror movies. She highly recommends being very very nice to your toys.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Collection

by Harold Kempka

Jeremy spotted the tables of knick-knacks on the front lawn of a dilapidated old house and pulled over. After spending the morning perusing garage sales anyway, he figured one more wouldn't hurt.

He loved the rush of excitement in finding a rare piece of memorabilia someone considered an outdated piece of junk. He'd haggle, get it for next to nothing, and then sell it for a nice profit, capitalizing on other people's stupidity.

Jeremy found a box of hand-blown Christmas ornaments that appeared hand-painted on the inside in the style of Currier and Ives, and perhaps dated back to the late 1800's. He picked it up, and breathed the Christmassy, outdoors aroma of pine needles emanating from it.

The decorations appeared to be in good condition, except for their lost luster. Paint cracks marred the detailed images of people on sleigh rides or sitting hearthside staring outward at the ornament glass.

His hands trembled as he carefully examined each of the fragile glass orbs. The last one's highly reflective surface made it look nearly new, and not part of the set. A faint image on the inside that resembled a countryside scene of new fallen snow illuminated by a full moon, made it look like it was an unfinished piece.

“May I help you?” A gravelly voice from behind said.

“Uh, yeah,” he said, nearly dropping the ornament.

He spun around to find a hunched over, wafer thin old woman, brow furrowed and head cocked to one side staring up at him.

“How much do you want for this mismatched set of old ornaments?”

“Why would you want those old things?” she asked, waving her hand. “You can buy new ones for about the same amount of money.”

“I know, but there's a nostalgic feeling about them,” he replied, fighting back a broad smile that said he was about to screw her out of them.

She wrinkled her blood vessel road mapped nose. “How about twenty dollars?”

“Are you serious, lady?” he said. “Look at the paint cracks, and how faded they are. Besides, they're not even a complete set.”

“You trying to take advantage of an old lady?”

“No ma'am. They remind me of some ornaments my grandparents put on their tree when I was a kid,” he said, fighting back a smile that said she was about to be screwed. “I really loved Christmas at their house. I'll give you five bucks. That's a buck a piece, and I'll even take the one that doesn't match the others.”

She studied him for several seconds. “Well, it sounds like you want to relive better times. Tell you what, give me ten dollars, and it's a deal.”

“Great,” he said.

Jeremy hurried home, and checked the ornaments on numerous websites, but found nothing that even resembled them.

After awhile he felt tingly, like his arms and legs had fallen asleep. Jeremy stepped away from the computer and walked around to get the circulation going. Then, he poured himself a glass of wine and sat in his easy chair with the box of ornaments.

Jeremy re-examined each one until his eyes burned and the ornaments' images appeared blurry. The tolling Westminster chimes on the grandfather clock told him it was late.

He gulped the remaining wine in his glass, and rested his head against the back of the chair. As he rubbed his tired eyes, little specs of light flashed behind his eyelids.

A few hours later, he awakened shivering uncontrollable. He stood alongside a country road ankle deep in freshly fallen snow, wearing Victorian style winter clothing. It was nighttime and although there was no moon or stars, a silver sheen illuminated the wintery landscape.

He heard some bells jingling and the “clop, clop, clop” of a horse. Jeremy waved frantically and tried to run toward a couple approaching in a horse drawn sleigh.

“Help me, please!” he yelled, but his feet were stuck to the ground.

The couple drove by, smiling and cuddling up to each other. They ignored him as though he didn't exist.


The old woman stepped from the shadows in Jeremy's living room. She held the glass ornament up to the light.

“Ah, my collection is finally complete,” she said, admiring the silvery image of a man standing alongside a road waving to a horse-drawn sleigh.

She set the ornament in the box and closed the cover. Jeremy stood alongside the road screaming helplessly as a shroud of sudden darkness swallowed him up.


Harold 'Hal' Kempka is a former Marine and Vietnam Veteran. His short stories have been published in Dark Valentine, Thrillers Killers and Chillers, Night to Dawn, Golden Visions, House of Horror UK, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Night to Dawn, Blood Moon Rising, The New Flesh, Sex and Murder, and Death Head Grin, among others. Hal also has stories appearing in upcoming anthologies from Pill Hill Press and Blood Bound Books. He is a member of the FlashXer flash fiction workshop, and lives in Southern California. His email address is:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maid Marion

by Scott Davis

Step/creak, step/creak, the rough wooden stairs Marion used to ascend to the sanctuary didn't make for a surprise entrance. But that was OK. Marion was resplendent in a rouched white gown, veil and bright red roses, to symbolize her true devotion. Marion felt like a princess. She was envisioning the damsels of old, strong but delicate, in children's stories. Real princesses met bad ends in French tunnels, but stark reality did not intrude on her reverie.

The wedding guests due to the long wait had run out of small talk and so resorted to discussing the latest news.

“Did you hear about planet Sargasso?”

“No, what?”

“They're going to colonize.”

“But, it's only water! And, the sea life is primitive. Nasty predators!”

A third woman chimed in: “Excuse me, but I'm with Myth Engineering, and I can tell you they are well underway. The bioengineering folks are doing recombinant DNA for the Sargasso project. I'm working with Greek mythology about Neptune to provide cultural support for the shark people.”

“Well, at least they didn't stray too far from Earth norms with us! We had to compensate for the lack of quality protein for fetal development here, but we aren't fish!”

As Marion reached the top of the stairs, all eyes turned and rose to behold her. She felt dizzy with all the attention, trying to maintain her balance in the surging sea of attention. She couldn't look down, or she would catch her legs in the hoops of her skirt, her mother had warned her. Looking left or right was disorienting, so she looked ahead, where the minister and her beloved stood waiting. A ruffling sound that she imagined was angel's wings, sounded quietly, for this was a praying church. She made it to his side.

Wow, this is really happening, thought Marion, I'm really becoming an adult. Under her mother's loving gaze Marion stood and appeared to attend to the minister's words, but her own thoughts intruded. She caught snatches. “…as our progenitors of old Earth had done before us, he will supply the seed for new life as well as the nourishment to help the child grow…”

She hoped her wedding gown was hiding her changes, for Marion's body was growing in its excitement. How she wanted him! She remembered what her mother taught her about sex, to let him enjoy her fully, since he would never have a time like this again.

Her jaw loosened, reassuring her it would detach properly as she had prepared it to do in her pre-marital exercises. She quickly closed her mandibles demurely, since the minister was finishing up.

“You may now kiss the groom.”


Scott Davis has stories published at NovaSciFi, Ray Gun Revival, and Sonar 4 Magazine. Links are on his blog, Universe of Possibilities. He is of the opinion that changing the human genome will require less energy than terraforming planets. So, in the far future, we will be the aliens on other worlds. Mixing our DNA with terrestrial animals will be the safest way to adapt humans, since we know those genes work. However, such meddling will have far-reaching effects, including psychological and cultural adaptations, changes in religion and customs around procreation that may seem sacrilegious or monstrous at first blush.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Listener

C.L. Scarr

Chill winds rolled off the tundra to steal each puff of Semyon's labored breath as he clamped the heavy collar onto the bit. He and Boris stepped back from the drillstring as it started rotating. Like a dog in heat, it plunged back into the hole.

"Do you think there's anything left?" Boris asked.

Viktor, their boss, hawked a wad of phlegm from the back of his throat and spat onto the barren ground. "You're not paid to ask questions about the meteorite. You're paid to drill."

They watched and waited while the drill retraced its path through the rock it had already bored. They smoked cigarettes, stamping their feet, hunching their shoulders against the cold.

“More slurry!” Boris shouted when the drill slowed as it bit deep into undrilled rock. Semyon turned to fetch another bag and pain filled his head. Sharp shrieking noises rose from the earth with the plume of fine grey silt. Violation. Anguish. He clutched the sides of his head. Through tear-filled eyes he looked to his drill crew for confirmation. They hadn’t moved.

It wasn’t until he sagged to his knees that the other crewmembers gathered around him. They carried him to the small tent where their six cots crowded together and laid him on his bed. As darkness battled the pain in his skull for control, voices mixed within and without. "... finally cracked", "... hearing things ...". Darkness finally won, and he slipped gratefully into its embrace.

Semyon woke in utter darkness and tried to gauge whether the pain from earlier in the day was gone. He sensed an uncomfortable remnant of it in the back recesses of his brain, slowly drifting away from him like the resistant tendrils of a dream. Soft snoring surrounded him like a comforter, the crew resting after a hard day’s work. It would take an explosion or the morning chow bell to wake them. He sat up and found his boots, then stepped carefully outside. A vague sense of unease, a balled rock of doubt in his stomach, told him that all was not as it should be.

He picked up the sledgehammer next to the drill rig and hefted it in his hands. The weight was comforting, solid. A voice whispered in his head, Yes.

He turned back to the tent. Semyon tried to stop, but his body refused to obey. Sweat beaded his brow in the chill night air as he struggled to control his body’s actions without success. He watched like the passenger in the back of a car as he opened the tent flaps and secured them to let in the moonlight. He stepped inside.

Semyon's hands gripped the sledgehammer, his knuckles white against the sun-stained brown of his skin, then his feet carried him to stand over Viktor's cot. The arms raised up and brought the hammer down with a thud and a squelch on Viktor's head. Next it was on to Boris, and Pavel and Yuri and Mikhail.

The shaft of the hammer slipped from his grasp, sliding easily from his fingers due to the lubrication provided by blood and brain matter. Semyon stepped from the now quiet tent. He listened very hard. Over the sound of his pounding heart and panting breath came the memory song of the one trapped in the meteorite, disturbed by their drilling after so many years.

Primitive and victorious, it rang stronger and stronger from deep within. Semyon smiled.


C. L. Scarr currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, penning short fiction across a wide variety of genres, and is also a freelance editor with credits such as the wildly popular Secret Service Agent series by Stephen Templin and the soon-to-be-released Blade Red Press Anthology, Dark Pages Volume 1.