Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cell 34

By Michael James Gibbs

In the middle of the night, Frank Killmen woke up puking M.U.S.C.L.E. Men on the floor of his Tijuana jail cell. He had forgotten all about those Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere in the mid-to-late eighties. Him and his buddies used to swap the two-inch tall intergalactic pink wrestlers on the school bus. Charlie used to swear they were made from Pepto-Bismol. Frank had a McDonald’s Sand Bucket full of them. He even had the M.U.S.C.L.E Wrestling Ring.

Frank stared at the little wrestlers in disbelief as he wiped his wet mouth with his blue shirtsleeve. A significant portion of his cubical hell was lit by moonlight that shined through the iron bars of the only small window in Cell 34.
He had spurted them out three at a time. Each of them was whole with all limbs attached. Matter of fact, they looked to be in mint condition. They hurt his throat like hell when they came up, especially Ashuraman. Frank was sure the six-armed sonofabitch had lodged himself in his throat. DEATH had flashed before his eyes in big red letters.

One of them suddenly moved. His name was Apollo the Giant. He looked like a miniature pink Michelin Man with a Kenny Roger’s haircut and a face full of boils. The little wrestler twitched, sat up, and then used his tiny hands to push up off the floor. Then Frank noticed all of them were moving. Some stretched and flexed their muscles while others shook their heads as if to wake up their brains.

Frank began to recognize more of them. There was Iron Commando, who looked like a robot wearing a football helmet from the early nineteen hundreds. Scaly Erimaki Togaki had the face of an Australian frilled-neck lizard. Black Tomahawk, an ogre-looking creature, held an ax in each hand. The four-armed figure with wings, known as Satan Cross, wore a medieval battle helmet and carried a small sword and shield.

Seeing the M.U.S.C.L.E Men conjured up memories that Frank had long ago buried deep inside. Frank never met his father, probably just another john who banged his mom with a cheap gas station rubber that broke. He had spent most of his childhood locked up in his bedroom listening to his mother in the next room fuck guy after guy for cash. When his mom wasn’t doing tricks for cash, she was shooting black tar into any vein she could find. Some days she forgot to feed Frank.

Trapped in his bedroom, Frank made use of his imagination. He was King and ruled over his toy kingdom. GI Joe. Darth Vader. Batman. His favorite little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Men. Their fate was in his hands. Every time Erimaki Togaki won a fight, Frank had chosen the outcome. Each time the Night Rider wrecked the General Lee, Frank had caused the collision. When Skeletor convinced Battle Cat to savagely slaughter He-Man, guess who was plotting the destruction of the Master of the Universe? Each day, he created his own little world and got to play God. Fuck He-Man, Frank had the power.

In an instant, it became Crystal Pepsi clear why Frank had chosen the life of a hit man. The adult world, however, was much more different than the world he knew as a child.

Frank reflected upon his first hit. Big Al, owner of the Gold Rush Casino, paid Frank ten grand to kill a man who owed him money. Tom Pacific was the unlucky man’s name. Frank followed Tom home after a night of Texas Hold’em at the Argosy. He shot him in the head before the poor bastard even got his key in the lock. As if it happened yesterday, he could still see the blood and brain matter splatter across the white siding of the house near the black mailbox labeled “Pacific Residencd.” At that moment, Frank had felt powerful and once again in control.

Rage rushed through his veins as he starred back down at the miniature action figures of his youth. Frank grabbed for his gun, but it was not there. He felt so naked without his gun. He wanted to put a bullet through all six M.U.S.C.L.E Men. He raised his foot to stomp them. But as his foot came down, the little pink fuckers scurried underneath his cot and into the darkness.

Frank’s stomach suddenly rumbled. Then a sharp pain filled his chest as his diaphragm tightened. He projectile vomited eight Wacky Wall Walkers that stuck to the concrete wall. They looked like fruit-colored gummy spiders. Each Wacky Wall Walker had a soft, round head and five sticky legs that stuck to any vertical surface, then, after a few seconds, would slowly roll-walk down to the floor. But instead of moving down, the ones that Frank purged quickly ran up the wall and gathered in a dark shadowy corner.

Again, his stomach rumbled. This time the thunder came from his lower abdomen. Before he could even take one step toward the commode, a load of something filled the back of his pants. Whatever came out of him was cold like the metal of his cot and hurt something fierce when it shot out. Frank reached behind, dug into the back of his britches, and pulled out a hand full of Hot Wheels covered in a mix of blood and shit.

“Jesus, what’s happening to me?”

The headlights of each car popped on simultaneously. Frank flinched and dropped the matchbox cars to the floor. They raced off leaving small rubber marks on the concrete. He could feel the cars still inside his pants begin to move around. Tire burns on his ass felt like bug bites. Frank dropped his pants and hopped up on the cot. Different models of Hot Wheels raced out from each pant leg and disappeared into the various dark shadows of Cell 34.

Next were the army men. He up-chucked twelve of the little green fighters. They shot at him while running for cover. The tiny bullets penetrated Frank’s skin like multiple bee stings. Marbles and Jacks fell between his legs. Various toys from the 80’s kept shooting out of Frank’s mouth and anus. He could not take it any longer. Grabbing the thin sheet from his cot. He tied one end to the metal lamp on the ceiling. Twenty-five Lego pieces suddenly poured out of Frank’s mouth while a Barbie Doll dropped from his ass.

In spite of the unbearable pain, Frank continued his work. He quickly tied a slipknot. A john had once taught him how to tie a slipknot right before plowing his mom. He cherished the instruction, it being the closest thing he had had to a fatherly experience. He tied them regularly.

Eyes now bulging with fright, Frank’s felt his throat stretching out from something large and round. He gurgled and fought for air. A baseball popped out and flew across the cell. Tears poured from his eyes as he placed the noose around his neck.

“Coming to see you mom…FUCKIN’ WHORE!”

Frank stepped off the cot.


Prison guard Alfonzo Cruz walked the cellblock making his usual morning rounds. He wore a light, brown uniform. His belt held a large black stick, a can of pepper spray, and a ring of keys for each cell. He stopped just after passing Cell 34. He took a step back and looked inside.

Alfonzo called down to the guard standing post near the cellblock entrance. “We have another piñata.”

Alfonzo searched through his keys until he found the one with the number 34 on it. He put the key into the lock, turned it, and pushed the steel door open. Frank hung limp from the lamp wearing only his blue shirt. Four other guards stepped into the cell.

“Ready, amigos!” Alfonzo pulled out his stick.
The other guards did the same.

They all took turns giving Frank whacks. The watchers cheered on the hitter.

“Hit’em harder, puto.”

“Crack him open, essay”

“Amo a las piñatas humanas.”

Frank was now rocking back and forth, slowly twirling. The shortest guard kept hopping up and hitting him in the crotch.

On Alfonzo’s second turn, Frank cracked open. The guards all shouted in triumph as hundreds of toys fell to the floor. They all grabbed large handfuls of toys and shoved them into their pockets. Alfonzo picked up a baseball. Each guard thought about how happy his children would be when their padre came home bearing gifts.

Michael James Gibbs lives somewhere between reality and his imagination in SW Ohio. He is a student at Indiana University East majoring in English with a minor in Creative Writing. His work has been published in the e-anthology Bradley Sands is a Dick and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Martian Monocles

by Rhys Hughes

It's true we know more about the surface of Mars than the bottom of the ocean, but not for want of trying. The problem with diving so deep is that the pressure is enormous and only the strongest bathyspheres can survive a journey right down to the abyssal plain. Many vessels and explorers have been crushed over the years attempting to plumb the ultimate limits of the deepest marine trenches.

Every time a bathysphere implodes somewhere far under the seas of Earth, the most advanced beings on Mars shed big oily tears in sympathy, but not because they assign a high value to human life. No. They aren't even aware that those bathyspheres are crewed. Such misunderstandings are normal between the life forms of different worlds and only rarely can an authentic connection be made.

The Martians in question resemble giant eyeballs that have fallen out of colossal heads and a legend says that when they all weep together the ancient dry riverbeds of the red planet fill to the brim with doleful water, but in fact there aren't enough of them to produce sufficient liquid for that. What is true is that the eyelids that slam like shutters to protect them are the same colour as the desert.

These eyeball beings are clairvoyant and that's how they know about the bathyspheres on Earth. They see images in their minds that are almost as clear as the pictures they focus on for real. They dislike being stared at and are instantly aware when anyone or anything tries to study them from afar, and that's why it took so long to detect them. They aren't exactly shy but they do value their privacy.

The moment a telescope is trained on them or a probe passes overhead the eyelids close and they remain very still, so nothing can be seen but the endless desert with its scattering of spherical rocks. When the intruder has gone, the rocks turn back into eyeballs. They move by rolling like globes and they derive nourishment purely from photons. In other words they eat whatever they see, just like fat men.

It was only by accident that humans first made contact with them and the circumstances of that encounter are so unlikely they are worth telling again. A habitual sleepwalker on one of the first exploratory missions got out of his hammock in the middle of the night, suited up inside his rocket, opened the airlock and walked off alone. He was still fast asleep when he blundered into a group of eyeballs.

Because his eyes were closed all the time, and his conscious mind was switched off, the Martians didn't telepathically pick up his vibrations or take evasive action until it was too late. The astronaut woke up as soon as he hit the ground and then it was pointless for the eyeballs to pretend they still didn't exist. So Mars and Earth were introduced to each other. Formal trade links were rapidly established.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the Martians had nothing the humans wanted, and the humans only had one resource the eyeballs valued at all. Books. To be precise, the books of one author, Ray Bradbury. Try as they might, the humans couldn't interest the Martians in any other writer, not even Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert or Kim Stanley Robinson. So crates of Bradbury titles were rocketed to Mars.

As those rockets took off from the launch pads of Earth, the heat of the departing exhausts turned winter days into summer, melting snowdrifts and baking nostalgic cakes in ovens not yet lit. But that doesn't concern us now. Every Bradbury volume was reprinted and small-press magazines from the 1940s were trawled in an effort to retrieve those numerous short stories that the author had disowned.

The Martians devoured these works, but because the eyeballs were so big and the typeface in the books so small in comparison, severe eyestrain was the inevitable result. Soon every Martian was myopic. They bumped into each other constantly as they trundled over the desiccated continents and irritation turned to anger, then anger became a desire for revenge. An interplanetary incident was inevitable.

Disaster was averted by the resourceful owner of a spectacle shop who recalled an old fable about a Spanish lens grinder who made an enormous monocle for a cyclops. This was lucky, as nobody else seemed to know that story. He saw no reason why the spectacle factories of Earth couldn't make monocles for the Martian market. His idea was taken up by various governments and rapidly implemented.

Soon the eyeballs could see clearly again and the wearing of monocles even imparted to them an aristocratic air they hadn't possessed before and the reissuing of the entire Ray Bradbury back-catalogue was resumed and everything should have been fine, but a new problem arose in the wake of the solution. That's often the way. While wearing their massive monocles, the Martians were no longer able to roll.

An eyeball is a spheroid and spheroids move like balls, but a monocle is a disc and its flat surface impedes that kind of motion. Anger became a desire for revenge again. A second interplanetary incident loomed and it seemed that two worlds would be forced to engage in mutual destruction with futuristic rays because of a retrogeneric Ray, which sounds neat but isn't. All because of short sightedness!

Fortunately, the owner of the spectacle shop was also a transportation expert. Neat coincidence, that. He quickly grasped that the dry riverbeds of Mars could be utilised as roads, as twisting freeways that would enable joined eyeballs facing away from each other to employ their monocles as wheels, eating up the Martian kilometres on the transparent rims of those vision rectifiers. An ingenious solution.

Although the Martians were loose eyeballs and hadn't lived in sockets for aeons they still possessed residual optic nerves that dangled like short tails from behind, just as the coccyx of humans is a residual tail. A pair of friendly Martians could splice these nerves into a flexible but strong axle, and that's what they did, rapidly acquiring a taste for high speed cruising and irresponsible driving while blinking.

The owner of the spectacle shop had become an unofficial ambassador to the red planet and he warned the drivers to take more care, to cut their speed, to keep their eyes on the road, but the third part of that advice was a joke, because no matter how inept they were they couldn't do otherwise, and soon enough there was carnage everywhere and a third interplanetary incident was on the verge of erupting…

At this point the owner of the spectacle shop gave up. He couldn't be bothered to avert another apocalyptic war. It was somebody else's turn. He concentrated on relocating his entire stock into a subterranean bunker and living in close confinement with many wives. History doesn't record his name, partly because history no longer exists, but rumour maintains it was Yrubdarb Yar. Sounds foreign to me.

It just remains to explain the significance of the Martian empathy for bathyspheres. They think that bathyspheres are the true dominant form of life on Earth because of their shape, so when they implode under the sea and a perfectly round bubble of gas escapes and breaks the surface, the Martians believe they are observing a soul leaving its physical body and ascending to the realm of eyeball ghosts.

Bio:Rhys Hughes is the author of 495 short stories and many
books, including

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I saw what I was

by Willie Smith

Start with left leg. Well, no. Start with restarting Homelite. Amputate right right after left. Swing back – seated on stove top, arms elevating torso – to cauterize hip stumps on burners.
None of this feels good. Payoff is watching twitch bloody hunks no longer me. Sprouts an understanding of why.
Take off southpaw at shoulder. Topple over cauterize that. There glints the ring once linked to the wife sawed up earlier tonight. Callouses from where I carved out a living sawing down trees. Now saw off saw arm.
Prop device in lap. Lean into whizzing chain. Right flops to floor.
Next roll over on the Homelite to behead the daylights out of what remains. But think first a bit, peering over edge of stove at four limbs pickup-sticked between the Frigidaire, the sideboard, the kitchen sink:
Every step I took, every card I dealt, dumped on the floor, while next to my ear the Homelite – set to do so – roars and roars. Something no lion can. Either roar that loud that long or contemplate self-removed parts.
Stare at the limbs begin to assemble a dream. Swivel back onto the saw, sawing into tonight the claws of the hammer in the sentence I was.

Bio:Willie Smith is deeply ashamed of being human. His work celebrates this horror. His novel OEDIPUS CADET is available at or from Black Heron Press. His story collections SOLID GAS, GO AHEAD SPIT ON ME, EXECUTION STYLE and STORIES FROM THE MICROWAVE are collector's items. More of his work can be viewed by googling "deeply ashamed of being human."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009



It is dark inside, a failed abortion, a demonic coal mine fetus trying to rip its way out of the womb, still moments from a frightening dawn, within a single cube of liquid living onyx, in there. Deeper still, look through the eyes into the depth, further, through the maddening mud of primordial ooze, past the wall of rem, into the veil of secrets. There, into the center cut, this place that is a hypnotic tunnel of twisted shapes, into a coal matrix of uninmaginable terror, joy, pathos and final, as the black chemeleon of odd mazes and forms and faces. It is..."The Mind."

It is dark inside. Pad in hand she listens, terrified, exuberant and confused. Sure of her own genius, yet lost, no road maps here. No easy journey reaching into the core shadows and tring to grab onto an enigma, clutching the air, so lost of something that can neither be touched, seen, not loved. Unless a mad women, who knows tears of blood, grief, sorrow, her sisters and brothers, which within her turmoil, she sees, feels that she might comprehend. For help, or hell and damination awaits her charges, which twitch through crazed and wild eyes in her direction for a simply glimpse of hope for her to just stop it. Make the black carrousel of thought stop. Please they beg of her, and she does, sometimes, and her heart implodes when she fails.

It is dark inside, there, so very dark, the wraiths at times are in control. The inmates holding the keys to the asylum. Until who, until she, sitting across the table from them in her city penthouse cell, tapping a stiletto heel, and talks. A fearless goddess of unanswerable answers, she peers through the orbs of a seer. Or is she a charlatan peering into the world of pitch, of tar and flames and insanity, where open mind surgery without a cut, a stitch, bloodless, is enacted from her cerebellum and creative mind and bravado, mixed within a whirlwind power and terror trip. Unless she fails, then there is blood everywhere, mostly from the tip of a flaming hand gun barrel and a self inflicted gunshot.

It is dark inside. Why? Why must the artist be held for ransom? Their creativity a spear driven between their frontal lobes? You want this passion, this sin, pay for it with every waking moment of your life. You need to place images on white parchment? Do it with your blood. You actually care and feel in a dehumanized planet? Then let passion tear and rip your nerves and heart from your cadaver within its careless way and then we will see who holds what cards. For the women that fixes me, calms insanity is an illusion and I have to believe she is what she promises. We, them, us. We must trust that we can make it late at night when every demon in hells prison breaks Hades apart and B and E's through our window panes holding razors to our brains, the ones she promised that she could fix.

It is dark inside, as I wield a knife she promised me was not there...Well it is and I believed, and my god, this woman, this black technician actually choose to repair us, both of me. Lies whispered that she could reconstruct the dam and be there, as we create and roam within the unknown waters of our art, talent and dreams, fantasies and our feral driven passions that we do love.

It is dark inside. What gall, what eminence, what ego. Thank god for her bravery to think she can see us, the scrolls on the wall are evident as she delves into and assimilates out madness of the crayola world of the artist she call friends, patients and lovers. Brass Balls Baby Banging. I know she sees, she has to hear, someone must cry for us, weep and take the time to peel away the onion skin of agony that engulf us that make us pretty. I am fragile. I am broken. I am human. And I am alive.

It is dark inside, her words as flames help me see, to be sane that way. For this I empty the chambers of my thirty-eight and laugh at those copper smiles leering back at me. I return to poems, paint and spirits and tender thoughts of love. My mind again. How fickle. How beautiful. How she holds it so tenderly within her swaddled wings, a white swan resting, for we drain her of her power. Do you feel her feathers? Her down? How she protects us. How for a moment, even I, even you, feels safe, and more, as the gold watch second hand moves as a pendelum now, "Sleep the metronome whispers, sleep my child, rest, laze in and within the protection of my power and when you wake in the morning you will be fine."

Friday, July 10, 2009


By Michael R. Colangelo


“…Rappelez-vous l'objet que nous vîmes, mon âme,
Ce beau matin d'été si doux:
Au détour d'un sentier une charogne infâme
Sur un lit semé de cailloux…”

- Une Charogne, Charles Baudelaire, 1861


They call him Rapax.

And it never occurred to him when he was younger, that one day he might make enough of himself, to be called anything.

He has never died. He has never suffered an injury that might keep him from a fight.

He just keeps fighting and fighting and waiting indefinitely for the odds to slant the other way.

At some point when he was still young, they branded him. The words servo spiritus burned across his bronzed back with a heated iron. The words mean keep breathing in the language of the Church.

They explained the brand once. It's a catch phrase to make him more appealing to the crowd. His slogan has become a joke amongst the betting nobles and his adoring public. The temple-worshippers enjoy reviling him as a pagan villain. It is all theatrics.

He thinks he's a dangerous actor, though, and so do the fools who meet him on the sands.

He has fought so long that it now affords him a modest home inside the city walls. He has also been gifted four youths. But unlike many of his peers, his sexual tastes do not swim in these channels. So between his times training and spilling blood inside the arena, he teaches them how to fight too.

In the spring time, he will have enough victories to choose between buying his freedom from the games or purchasing a running water system for the house - the same design owned by the Emperor himself.

Except for the engineering of human slaughter, the mechanics of the arena do not interest him. He is not a stupid man, but he is an uneducated one. The workings of the betting tables make as much sense to him as the Gods - the Church versus the Temple - do.

All he knows is that he has amassed a small fortune in exchange for blood. He decided, long ago, that he likes the killing too much to ever end it.

So when the time comes, he has already decided that he will take the running water mechanism.

Vecchia handles all his business for him. Unlike his boys, she is a channel that he swims in with frequent enthusiasm. If he is one day crippled and unable to fight any more, he has discovered another sport that he enjoys almost as much as the fight.


Two of the boys massage his calves and his thighs with vigor. In his old age, he finds that his bones and joints are often sore under the burden of his muscle mass and his old injuries.

The other two spar on the stone floor before him. It's a little like watching himself out there. Only they are younger and faster... and more prone to making critical errors.

Tomasos, for example, loses his footing on a straightforward thrust. If this was the arena, he would be dead in moments. Even martyrs and galley slaves do not make such grievous mistakes.

Remarkably, Eisen does not catch the mistake. He retreats from the sloppy attack rather than press forward. He is too busy trying to outmaneuver an already outmaneuvered enemy. Both of them would be dead already if this was not practice.

Eisen still manages to hit Tomasos in the face with his wooden stick.

Tomasos' blood drips on the well-stained floor while Eisen glances in Rapax's direction. He expects some indication of approval. But there is none, for he was lucky - not skilled.

Rapax turns his thumb down for their poor performance. This is just a game of the... game, but the Emperor knows his entertainment. He would have both youths crucified for their atrocious display.

The pair shuffle away without a word.

Approval-seeking, enthusiasm, and hope - these are things that have no place inside Rapax's home.

That's when Vecchia glides through the open archway of his home.

He does not like her presence in the company of other men, and so he dismisses the pair at his feet with a swipe of his arm. They scatter away to join the others in the wings of the house.

After all of these years, he is still enraptured with the way that she moves. Although the long seasons have stolen some of her grace, there is still elegance to her motions that he has never seen before, inside or outside of the arenas. This small and simple mystery is the one thing that has kept him loyal after so lengthy a time together.

She sits on one of the raised steps near his chair and hands him a square of blanched parchment.

It's a flier for a fight that hasn't happened yet, filled with foreign language characters that he cannot understand.

There are the faces of two men drawn in the center of the flier. One man he recognizes as himself. The second man, a dark and swarthy visage with intensity highlighted in his eyes, he does not recognize.

He knows the faces of all of the fighters inside the city. He has killed most of them, or is planning on it.

She can tell that he is confused, and so she explains.

“They have been organizing games on the new continent for years and it has always been too expensive to transport you there... but the Emperor's engineers have designed a new boat, and you are about to make everyone very, very rich.”

She takes the flier from his hands and smoothes it out on the flat of the stone step.

“They have been doing this for years on the far side of the sea. Your opponent - he is a regional prince. He is your equal - very rich and undefeated in battle.”

Again they wish to use him as a monster. He will play the part of the foreign occupier intent on destroying their popular local leader.

He sneers. His expression is not pointed at her, but the sentiment is strong enough so that she rises to her feet and prepares to leave.

“I'm leaving. If you don't want to listen to me, you won't. But you should prepare, Rapax. You will be leaving soon, too.”

He lets her go, and suddenly everything seems soured. He is property of the city and he is sick of it. He has just finished planning to install a great plumbing system, and now they decide that he must uproot to travel overseas to fight for their amusement.

He realizes that it isn't the killing that he minds. It is them.

Eisen is summoned to the main chamber again. The boy looks expectant, as if Rapax has summoned him back to praise him for his poor display from earlier.

“There are enough monies in the vault to purchase my freedom from the games,” Rapax tells him. “Take it and deliver it to Senator Auxilius.”

The boy hesitates.

“What do I tell him?”

Rapax muses. Tomorrow's sunrise would bring him the first taste of his freedom, and for once, he did not need to prepare for the event.

“Tell him that I have retired.”


The morning does not bring freedom.

He awakes on his chair to find Eisen holding his bag of coins. The boy's battered and blackened expression carries a look of shame and failure upon it.

Auxilius has rejected his bid for retirement, and had his guards beat Eisen to show his full resolve regarding the matter.

Rapax is not surprised. The rich old men have not become rich old men without careful control of their assets. That is what Rapax is: an asset.

“Give me the coins and go.”

He climbs down from his stone chair. His back aches.

How many days has he sat on his mock throne without leaving? He has lost track.

The days blur.

The law states that he is not allowed to house his own weaponry. If their tools are not regulated and confined, the Senate fears their fighters will organize their own versions of the games, or worse, rise up and overtake the city themselves.

Before he leaves, he fetches a meat knife from the cooking room near the back of the house.

There is a sundial outside the old temple and Rapax notes that it is midday. This means that Auxilius is taking his meal between Senate proceedings - likely at the old city aqueduct.

The aqueduct has been uncovered and sealed at both ends by the city engineers. It has been turned into a small pool located within a Public House. It is where important political men go to relax when they did not want to face their public outside.

He finds the Senator quickly. Auxilius is lounging near the still waters of the open duct. He is chatting to a heavyset man who also wears the white robes of public officials. Rapax does not recognize him, but it is of little consequence. Auxilius has no time left for introductions.

The Senator's eyes manage to register Rapax's approach with fear. Moments before the point and edge of the knife go to work and sever all of his important veins and arteries with swift violence.

When he is done, he kicks Auxilius into the duct.

Then he rams his blade deep into the Senator's friends' gaping and surprised mouth, before sawing across his fat belly and emptying his steaming guts into the pool to join his dead friend Auxilius in eternity.

Nobody moves or speaks. Good. Death can come swiftly when he is in the room. He tucks the knife away and then retrieves his bag.

Without flourish, he dumps the contents. Coins spill from the bag to spin and bounce across the blood-slicked floor. The high, musical sound of the money echoes through the silent chamber and it amuses him.

Rapax laughs.


Vecchia is furious with his actions against the city officials.

There is a fight. Poor Tomasos is shoved with such force that he loses his balance and falls against a burning brazier of oil that sets him, and the house, aflame.

She stares at him with fury in her eyes. This is Vecchia's way of daring him to rise and make good on his words of violence.

But he could never harm her.

It's her expression, her eyes. They unsettle him the most. They remind him what might become of things - of him - if she was to go.

So he leaves first, and he finds himself, by himself, on the road outside of the city.

He is free and alone.

When the rich have problems, they turn to the Oracle. She lives up a mountainside among the old temple ruins.

The journey is a challenging one. By the time he has reached her home, he pulls himself onto the flat shield of granite breathing heavy. His lungs feel scorched by the climb.

She lives inside a dome carved from the mountainside. It is a marvelous construction, built by men far older than the Empire, who would put its engineers to shame. Still, the location of the dome makes it impractical to serve of any use to all but the Oracle herself.

He climbs between the broken remains of old columns and shattered pottery. Then he squeezes between the shattered pieces of the wall's structure. The main entrance to the dome is full of traps. It is rumored that the Oracle eats human flesh. Those journeying to the Oracle who do not know any better become dinner.

Her eunuchs greet him as he enters. The Senate has banned the practice of genital removal for many, many years, but distrusts the Oracle's lusts enough to make an exception with regards to the servants they send her.

She waits for him crouched low beneath her altar. On the stone, a mutilated corpse bleeds. Her victim has had the flesh flayed from its body. On the ground beneath her feet, she sorts through a pile of blue-black entrails and feces - seeking clairvoyance.

“I knew you would be along sooner or later,” she tells him.

“I barely believe in this. I barely believe in you.”

“Do you realize that many in the city do not believe in you?”

He supposes he has always feared this truth. In all of his years of fighting, of all of his victories on the sand, there is an acute possibility that the fighting has been fixed.

Still, he dismisses her prodding. It is a ridiculous assumption. No man agrees to his own painful death. The thought of such things is extraordinary.

“We are not playing shell games out there, hag.”

“You came for a reason, yes? Quickly, please. The season is turning, and it is one filled with chaos and death.” She gestures towards the remains on her altar.

He tells her what he is looking for and as he speaks steadily, she quietly strips off her rags to don the skins of her altar victim. When he is done speaking, she responds to him.

“I've worn a man's skin and witnessed the insides of your mind, Rapax. You are sick and festering. I am bemused that the maggot wishes to escape its carrion meal.”

It is an insult. She is an insult. Even as he approaches her, she continues to talk.

“Like the worm, Rapax, to escape is to transform into the blowfly, or die writhing outside of the rotting carcass.”

Dying, yes. He wraps his hands around her throat. He shrugs off her servants like the bear swats away biting insects.

Transformation. He is less pleased with the prospect, especially given his current company. But he realizes that he can do no better.

Pressing his thumbs into the soft part of her neck, he draws her close.

“I am aware of my shortcomings,” he whispers. “But I am interested in transformation - whatever that entails.”

“Then this is what you must do...”

She chokes out her instructions and he listens intently.

He listens so intently, that he misses the skinning knife she has managed to grab from beneath the pile of guts at their feet.


Darkness. Blackness.

No man agrees to his own painful death.

The thought of such things is extraordinary.

Bio:Michael can be found here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


by Adam Lowe

They named her Singer because she was half woman, half Singer sewing machine. Where her slender waist should have widened to hips, it widened into a black metal frame on an oak desk, with a wheel at her rear and a treadle between her four legs. She wheeled herself around on casters, as though a workhouse invalid.

Gris had never called her Singer, but rather Marlène. He, a mad child with curly tangles of black hair, had been an orphan. Barely fourteen, he had inherited his sponsor’s lighthouse workshop and built Marlène. He was the colour of slates, gun-barrels and stormy skies. Then the Great War came to town, and he left with it.

So Marlène lived with a neutered hyena who had the eyes of a child, and watered Gris’ flowers. Endless nights would be spent playing the oboe, which Marlène felt was the only mechanism, beside a Singer sewing machine, that could illustrate her longing for the lover/creator who had faded into mustard gas and the gauzy veils of history.

Together with her pet, whom she tagged the Marquis, she travelled the countryside and the cities during the summer months, draping a skirt over her mechanical breech and wearing a sequinned Venziana mask to hide her face, which was at once beautiful and terrible in its eerie symmetry and otherworldly perfection. Every year they would make this journey, leaving the petunias to grow wild, and when they tired of the smells and sights or it grew too cold, they would return, following the gaze of the lighthouse on the tide. There she would continue her business as a tailor, stitching Christmas stockings and Easter costumes.

Men with curious desires would also visit her, late at night, and pay preposterous prices for her passion. Dressed in lace, wielding a lash, she would penetrate them with her needle, exploring the weft and fabric of their bodies. They would leave, her name stitched into their chests, or perfect French poetry carved along their thighs. And when they returned, they would pay twice as much as they had before, and she would double-stitch their hems and serif their verse.

Fairgrounds and carnivals were always a blessing for Marlène, who could feel safe within their bounds. It was sixteen years after Gris the Cornflower left that Marlène heard of his inevitable return, and it was at a carnival that the news was given. Though she and the hyena creature did not grow old, she knew that time had passed and that by now Gris must be dead. But death could not keep Marlène from her love. She kept countless daguerreotypes pinned like sepia butterflies to the workshop walls. She dreamed violent dreams of his presence. She remembered the taste of his flesh and his knives. How they had rolled amongst bedsheets and sluices of blood!

So the news was not unexpected. Such love would traverse the grave—she knew that.

From behind glass, the mechanical fortune-teller gave her announcement. Even though the machine usually demanded a coin to function, as Marlène rolled past it fed a pink card onto the ground beneath her wheels for free.


At that, Marlène was satisfied. She had already known the truth. The Marquis had known it too; she could tell from the peculiar way he pissed, always on the southern wall of a given building, opposite to where Gris’ northern bedroom would be. Southerly-pissing and mechanical oracles proved their intimations. Though dead, Gris would be reborn to her, or return again to the lighthouse, with its workshop and flowers.

But the news provided problems of its own: if Gris was to return, then when? As time passed without respite, and wars sparked and fizzled out, she began to despair. Was she active enough in seeking him? The medium had claimed his return, not that she would find him. So what if he was back, getting married, growing old, and she had overlooked him?

She had to find him.

Marlène began to keep many companions. Frankensteins, the lot. Built by Gris to aid in his creations, she would stitch bodies together with her drug-tipped needle, cauterising and binding them with ecstasy. Of all the chimera they had built, the Marquis was her favourite. But there were others, and their number increased after Gris disappeared. Since she missed the sadistic plough of her needle over and through his body, stitching him up in elegant contortions, she took new lovers, hoping one might turn out to be her reborn creator.

And so she crafted centaurs, monsters, slaves; sewn together; threaded to machines and animals; their mouths needled shut or their eyes hemmed forever open; her serging, exquisite surgery. These barbaric golems stalked the lighthouse and the fields that skirted it, glutting on raw meat and fucking in brutal rituals of pain. But Marlène grew bored of them and their feasts, leaving them as per her wont and continuing her search for Gris with the Marquis. Carrying an oboe and a rifle, she abandoned the lighthouse to its own ends. She would come back when she was ready.

Only once did she use the rifle, and then only when a pimp refused to step aside and allow her to pass. Without a thought she blew his head open, spraying grey matter against the wall. His pack of retainers dispersed in frantic flight, leaving her path clear in the alleyway. From then on, she was left alone. Murmurs of the siren-woman who wheeled herself through the back streets of Paris soon spread in her wake; tales of a gorgon without legs, saddled on a trestle, passed into urban legend. Singer the machine-girl was a phantom with a hell-dog by her side.

Years passed, with her and the Marquis living out of a small apartment turned Sadeian dungeon, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. But still she had not found her lover.

It was the autumn of 1989 when she returned to find half her flock cannibalised. Those who remained were slow, their brains having grown dull from tireless decades behaving as animals. Thought turned to instinct, leaving them useful only as gardeners. But this didn’t bother Marlène, who felt calmer without responsibility. So they watered the petunias, and planted sunflowers and tulips too.

She still loved her creatures, stroking their blunt craniums and folding into their neanderthal arms. Now she merely felt resigned that they, too, would one day be gone, and that they could never be her Gris.

Come spring, she decided to leave early, heading to the cities disguised as a woman in a wheelchair with a rather exotic-looking dog. Then, whilst vaunting through the capital, she heard a mewling sound. The Marquis headed into the detritus of the alley, sniffing out some unseen truffle, and returned to his mistress with a baby in his mouth.

Despite the elements, the child was still alive. Covered in grime, its skin shimmered grey. Its eyes, too, were grey in that twilight. The whole world was smeared charcoal, and so she knew.

‘You have returned,’ she said, smiling, lifting the child to the light. ‘I knew you would come.’ She lifted him to her breast, it brimming with opiate nectar, and allowed him to sup freely. Her lover had returned. As he had fathered her, she would mother him; she would cover him; and when he was able, she would love him: again and again and again.

Bio:Bio:Adam Lowe, known to his friends as Beyonce Holes, is a libertine, writer, editor, publisher, promoter and piss-artist.

He writes kickass bizarro nightmares, postmodern punk-girl spec fic and surreal, erotic phantasmagoria and has been published in a variety of literary magazines and, more recently, some genre publications too.

His first book 'Troglodyte Rose' (an illustronovella with Kurt Huggins & Zelda Devon) will be released by CROSSING CHAOS enigmatic ink in the summer of 2009.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fairytale Ending

By Dustin LaValley

Once upon a leisurely hike, I came about two small children in the forest. Plump and pale were they, twin siblings of opposite sex. Curiously, secretly, I watched their sticky hands pluck sweet gumdrops from a house of gingerbread and frosting. Through a window I spotted a pair of vile eyes stalking, extricating my curiosity into suspicion. “Run, children, run!” I warned, leaping from my hidden roost. “Run, for surely you have fallen prey to a cannibalistic ol’ witch!” I quickened my approach as the door slid open, revealing a come-hither wave from a wrinkled hand. Stumbling forward I yelled, “No children, for sure it is a trick upon your lives!” Ignorant glances they spared my alarm - as though unaware of my presence the children strolled bug-eyed into a tasty demise, stimulated by sugar-filled desires. Halting to a shut door, I became overwhelmed by a realization - that one can forewarn but one cannot forbid.

Bio:Dustin LaValley is an author, screenwriter and martial artist from upstate New York. His most recent collection of short fiction, Lowlife Underdogs, is available from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Party Girl, his fifth film, is currently in production in Dallas, Texas. Among other academic awards, he is the recipient of the Parnassus Award for Outstanding Excellence in Creative Writing from the State University of New York. Other than writing, Dustin is a practicing Sensei of Shito Ryu karate and Okinawan ju jutsu. He can be found at

Friday, July 3, 2009

Woman in Red:When Gluttony Met Sloth

by Adam Lowe

Dust motes slide in shifts like honey down a knife and ancient musk lingers on the curtains. Amongst sheets of velvet and silk, she lies. She half-slumbers amongst her pillows, her chiffon dress torn open. Some say she is a bride, others a princess attending a ball which never occurred. Whatever she is, she has lain here for decades and never ages. She stinks and sleeps and weeps silently, always looking out beyond the balcony.

Men come to her. One by one they seek her out in the dark, sniffing her out on the night breeze and crawling over thorns to reach the palace. There they clamber vines to her window and enter her boudoir. Incense burns, waiting for them. These men say she stinks of sweet sweat, of brandy, of talcum powder. But beneath it all she stinks of her own cunt. So they dream of her with heavy tongues lolling and foam building in their mouths.

She is in Monteiro’s room, which is and is not a part of this house. I hear the men climbing onto the balcony, walking its length, and entering. They come through the woods, jumping the gates, or swim through the lakes, or navigate the labyrinths riddling the rock below. However, they find her.

I have never found her. I can open the doors to her chamber, breathe in her stink, and see only cobwebs, the bed that lies empty.

Tonight her stink is a particularly pungent funk. Tangy with menstrual blood. As though her female glory is before my face, nose to clit, tongue to labia, gushing into my mouth. As ever, I am hungry. I want it all. Her flavours beckon.

Because I can never see her, I decide to cheat the apparition. Rooting through the laundry basket, I lift Madam Strix’s ten denier stockings. They are fine caramel gauze; peering through them suggests the blurred lens of pornographers or whorehouse lampshades. Madam Strix’s perfume clings in ghostly whispers to the fibres, but the smell means nothing to me with the bride so prominent in my mind. From these stockings I fashion a blindfold or veil of sorts, through which the entire world is thrown into soft focus. This lack of clarity will, I am sure, encourage my imagination to see her.

Next I climb the stairs, taking deeply of her smell, and increasingly so, with every step. I want to envision her in preparation: blonde curls spiralling like whipper butter; pert lips dark as rose hips; eyes dewy blue; skin the colour of clotted cream; legs arching in a simulacrum of Venetian bridges. She will taste of sex and virginity all at once, being as she is so fecund and yet so untouched by time or nature.

I walk barefoot and the plush carpet sends rippling tingles over the backs of my knees. And here, on the landing, she fills my nose so intensely I gag. As I reach for the brass doorknob, static stings my fingertips. But when I open the door her smell is gone and just the night air pours in. irritated, I turn to leave, but then, flashing in my peripheral vision, I see her.

She is an exquisite Snow White; Sleeping Beauty pricked and ready to be pricked again. Hair ravels about her, from crown to toe. Golden birds nest in its thick, diaphanous coils and butterflies rest on her silken eyelids. Approaching her, I see her glorious dress: not white as I expected, but scarlet, bloody, crumpled, heavy and of extortionate worth. Glow-worms nestle throughout its folds the way beads might if ever they flashed. She is beautiful.

Her smell returns, but more subtle now, deflatingly human. Gone is the phantasm stench of sex, and here instead is the smell of a woman—maybe not any woman, and still a delicious smell, but a real smell nonetheless.

She stirs. The butterflies dance away as her eyes slowly open, caked with sleep in the corners. She is not afraid; she is not welcoming. She is simply aware.

I hunker down next to her, inhaling her and comparing the real scent with the illusory one. Her breath washes across my face, tidal as it draws back and forth, and I smell warmth and anise.

My cock stirs. I lift her dress, fumbling through layered skirts to her garters. Placing my hand in the crook, I feel her damp loveliness. Now the smell is richer again and my stomach rumbles.

I part her thighs and tear away the cloth at her crotch. Slipping a finger into her, I feel her slick heat. I taste her. She's bloody and sticky and aroused. Sweet, bitter, piscine. Then I fuck her, sliding in and out of her yielding thickness fast and hard, till I explode inside and draw out with a trickle of semen, turned pink and frothy inside her.

I hunger. I always hunger.

I stroke her hair back and her eyes tell me she’s aware. She knows what comes next. Still she’s not afraid. This time she smiles. She laughs as I tear her throat out and pull strips of flesh off her body with my fingers and switchblade. All I want to taste is her rich, ripe blood. Her perfect rare meat.

When I’m done only her hair, bones and clothes remain. I have eaten more than is humanly possible and now I can’t move. I’m full. I’m tired. I feel her energy in me, slow and rolling and lethargic. I feel it possess me.

I lie still I exhale deeply and feel myself drifting into sleep. A heavy sleep. A sleep bearing down on my muscles and turning them to marble. My neck stiffens, the joints seizing up. My heart slows, slows, impossibly near to stopping. As my mind begins to turn black, it dawns on me:

I will never move again.

Bio:Adam Lowe, known to his friends as Beyonce Holes, is a libertine, writer, editor, publisher, promoter and piss-artist.

He writes kickass bizarro nightmares, postmodern punk-girl spec fic and surreal, erotic phantasmagoria and has been published in a variety of literary magazines and, more recently, some genre publications too.

His first book 'Troglodyte Rose' (an illustronovella with Kurt Huggins & Zelda Devon) will be released by CROSSING CHAOS enigmatic ink in the summer of 2009.

Adam currently lives in a squat with a fallen angel, an Egyptian deity (Amaunet), a superspy (Lucifuge), three lovers and the crashed wreckage of the Roswell spaceship in his living room. We've heard he eats babies, bathes in the blood of virgins and drinks absinthe by the bucketload.